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Takeaway: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Editor's Note: This is a complimentary research excerpt from Retail Sector Head Brian McGough. For more information on our services, click here.

A Trip to the Mall

You don't often hear from us about our trips to the malls.

We're in there regularly, but the reality is that with about 1,100 malls in the U.S., it's just flat-out dangerous to go into a handful of stores and draw a conclusion.

That said, in a recent mall tour over the weekend, we took a bunch of pictures of things we thought were insightful. It’s not necessarily conclusive given the small sample, but interesting nonetheless.

Here's just a few of our takeaways:


This table of Sperry boat shoes in Lord and Taylor caught our eye in two ways. First, it looked horrible. But that's more to blame on Lord and Taylor. The second was that it was the only footwear display in the entire men's department that was not on sale. That sign on the right? It's marked as 'Everyday Value' at $89.95. 

Boat shoes are not going away.

The Mall Says it All - sperry


We have never, ever seen an athletic shoe store with more SKUs than this Skechers store. Seriously, it was almost painful to see all the models and color combinations.

Also, prominently displayed was its 'Designed for Speed' ad. Let's hope this foray into performance running works for Skechers, because it's been known to churn out a shoe that has a better chance of making your foot bleed than actually completing any marathon.

The Mall Says it All - skechers


Target looked simply horrible. The worst store in the mall. Full stop.

The biggest problem was being out of stock on items in key categories:

  • The two pictures on top show the footwear wall, where they sell vulcanized footwear, slides, and flip flops. 
  • The pictures in the middle were the most alarming, as they show the end-cap in the footwear department. Yes, this is the most valuable real-estate in the whole department, and it was completely barren.
  • The lower left photo shows how Target is getting ready for the spring bike season, which really should have been set a month ago. It was a wall of absolute nothingness.
  • Lastly, there's that picture to the lower right. I have no idea what this is. All I know is that it was painful to the eye. 

The Mall Says it All - target


This Coach store was rather sad. I stood outside waiting for someone to walk in. Total time elapsed was 5 minutes 30 seconds.

And for the record, the mall was otherwise reasonably crowded. 

The Mall Says it All - coach


On our trip to the mall, JCPenney was the anti-Target. Seriously. Everything was the exact opposite from Target. The store was clear, neat, and well merchandised.

The picture to the upper right shows a newly merchandised apparel area for women. It was very well lit, had great signage, and looked extremely inviting. The merchandise was not so bad, either.

Similarly, JCPenney’s footwear department beat Target’s poor showing. The athletic area -- albeit overly supplied with Nike products -- was clean and the product was competitive with what was in the Macy's down the hall. The women’s dress shoe department (shown in the lower right photo) was also world's above what we saw in Target. It was not just in how it was merchandised, but also in presentation and quality of merchandise.

And, one might say that JCPenney should  be well-above Target. Yes, that's true. But in the past, it wasn't.

The Mall Says it All - jcp


The worst thing about the FootAction store is that it was directly across from Abercrombie & Fitch, which soils the air with that horrible-smelling scent.   But we stayed in the FootAction store for a good 30 minutes (and bought something so we wouldn't be kicked out). After some painful accounting, our estimate is that 85% of the SKUs at FootAction are Nike/Jordan. That's simply astounding.

Finish Line had a great looking window, and the retailer is the only athletic store that dared dedicate some of its window space to a non-Nike brand. But we're puzzled that there's a big poster for the Spine footwear product, which is not the new UA footwear on the market (that would be the Speedform Apollo).

The Mall Says it All - footaction