Industry

The Retail Industry

Retail has been facing quite a struggle as of late, particularly small retail businesses. It doesn’t help when the larger companies can use their power against the small fry.

Corporate Tricks

A typical trick is to buy a good company that is threatening to be a competitor, bleed it dry, then discard it or incorporate it into the larger corporate structure. P & G bought Tom’s Soap, for example. Snapple was also bought up. It went through a series of owners, the latest being Keurig Dr Pepper. Jessica Alba’s “natural source” company, Honest Co. was a ruse to lure a big corporate entity, it appears. After all, aren’t there enough soap-makers, all flogging basically the same product? (Read the labels.)

The whole retail sector is weak. Consequently, businesses are falling like dominoes — Retail Dive listed 19 major failures/bankruptcies in 2017. USA Today gives 26 major brands that have disappeared between 2010 and 2020. Offers.com lists 74 that have closed or severely curtailed operations in 2021.

Despite this, we’ve come to the day where businesses are involved in social modification schemes and “virtue signaling,” rather than actually running their business.

This isn’t unplanned. And it is financed by historically low interest rates, crony banks to crony businesses.

And what’s been happening with small businesses over the last while, told to close down while larger companies are free to do their thing, is shocking and self-destructive when they don’t fight back. You can imagine what will happen to prices if there are just a few mega-corps dominating everything.

Amazon

Amazon would have been “amazing,” all the things available you can’t get in stores, the prices, quick delivery, but there’s some nefarious force at work there.

At one point I was double-billed for my purchases at Amazon and the chuckle-heads at customer service seemed amused when I reported it. They never reversed the double-charge, after promising to do so. Fortunately my credit card company did reverse it, and sent a new card.

Amazon couldn’t and wouldn’t get away with this if it didn’t know it was basically untouchable, a protected monopoly. And of course their ability to do business unhindered while small retailers got, well, hindered, underscores this.

Target

When Target stores started allowing transgenders, into whatever toilets or change rooms they wanted, it was stupid on a whole deep level. And people started to boycott Target, with over 1.4 million signing a pledge to do so.

We don’t have to get into a whole debate about “transgenders” and moral issues. Just from a business perspective, it was a given that the majority of people was going to be offended or put off by such an act. The whole controversy it created with the new policy was avoidable.

All Target had to do from the start was put in a third, “Other” bathroom. Or how about, “Alternative?” Whatever term you’d need not to cause a “micro-aggression.” That they didn’t go this route is absolute proof of a shoddy attempt at social engineering.

The stock price drop after this debacle (in 2017 it was off about 30% from its 10 years’ peak) most likely had something to do with the new policy, yet the CEO blithely, point blank, said there was absolutely no fallout, and no connection with the stock price fall. You’d think he would have instead quickly back-pedaled to cover his behind, but no.

Well, there was one thing: Target introduced “Unisex” potties “at a cost of $20 million,” (why they mentioned the cost, I don’t know, because it’s peanuts if you have hundreds of stores). As I stated, they should have done this from the start. This whole controversy must have been planned. These scoundrels don’t do anything without consulting legal counsel and, undoubtedly, the government.

Maybe it doesn’t matter anyway, and they see the writing on the wall. Much of retail has to die a slow death, it’s just not practical in the form it is now: Excessive coverage (too many stores), the same merchandise appearing in store after store, competition from web retailers.

It’s funny, though: Target did have a potentially good idea they started and had to drop. It was going to open smaller outlets with less merchandise, but fronting a giant automated warehouse that would dispatch chosen items to you, the so-called, “Store of the Future.” Also they were planning to set up an “on-line marketplace” where other retailers and manufacturers could sell products.

That’s a next-generation implementation that I could see working out very well. Nipped in the bud from on high, it could probably have been good enough to fight Amazon. They probably balked at the high price of implementation, then flushed it all down the commode, in another display of mismanagement.

Speaking of which, don’t forget their billions in losses due to a botched attempted expansion into Canada.

Sears Stores

In a process unhindered due to corruption within the legal system, the western nations are being bled dry.

It’s depressing to watch the destruction, before a looming final take-down.

Tricks like short-selling stock in insider trades, while presiding over a failing company, get a pass from law enforcement.

Case in point: Sears.

Symbol of the wrongs of the failing retail industry, exhibit A: Eddie Lampert. “The most hated CEO in America.” Over only three years of his 10-year plus rule (though he became CEO in May 2013, he had control prior to that), he brought the stock price down by over 80%. Revenue plummeted, and net income fell deeply into the red. In fact, Sears needed $1.5 billion to stay afloat in 2017.

Sears Holdings, was an American holding company headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, the parent company of the chain stores Kmart and Sears. The company was founded after the former purchased the latter in 2005. It was the 20th-largest retailing company in the United States in 2015. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 15, 2018, the day Lampert stepped down as CEO of Sears Holdings, while remaining Chairman of the Board, as part of Sears bankruptcy actions.

Then Lampert stepped down as chairman of Sears Holdings Corp on February 14, 2019. Sears Holdings sold its assets to ESL Investments in 2019. The new owner moved Sears assets to its newly formed subsidiary Transform Holdco LLC and after that, Sears Holdings Corporation was closed.

While letting Sears (and Kmart) stores go to ruin, not performing repairs, Lampert used tricks to bleed money out, like selling Sears real estate to his holding company then renting it back to Sears, or leasing it to any other store willing to pay higher rates.

He also seems to be a fruitcake in the same vein as Bill Gates, making Mr. Burns from The Simpsons look like a saint. He works from a home office and communicates via videoconferencing. He quizzes his underlings until he finds the first question they can’t answer, setting up for the opportunity to lambaste them in a lunatic frenzy. That is a tell-tale for a sociopath or psychopath.

Oddly, he had no retail experience before Sears.

The method to this madness is that he continued to personally profit, though the shareholders were up in arms. Lambert spun off the Lands’ End brand, and sold the Craftsman brand. He licensed the Kenmore and DieHard brands for use by other companies.

It’s a similar strategy to what we saw a few years back with the North American end of Fiat-Chrysler, where the Ram truck badge was spun off of Dodge, meanwhile starving Dodge and Chrysler of new product. Almost all they produced going forward was old product with a little pancake makeup over it, model discontinuations and grandiose promises.

Isn’t this just good business? After all, the failure of many of these retailers is almost inevitable. However, those who think it’s “good business,” are forgetting the losses of tens of thousands of small investors in these companies. This is an indirect extraction of all of their investments.

Now, if it were a good model/strategy, you could argue that the stock would be going up, not down. Sears turning into a landlord, renting its properties and, licensing IP holdings and brands (“Craftsman,” etc.), could have become lucrative if done right.

But the scheme here, is to legitimize the con. If Sears is a public entity (trading on the stock market), the top executives are under a fiduciary duty, as I see it, to protect the stockholders, not suck them dry and individually profit off the exercise.

Well, it all came to a head — as documented in a August 25, 2017 article on Zero Hedge.

Sears Death Spiral Accelerates: Vendors Halt Shipments As Cost Of Default Insurance Soars

Back in 2017, Lampert was “helping” Sears eke out a few more death rattles by funding high-interest loans from his own pocket, like a line of credit of $200 million at 9.75%. He held other debt of Sears, secured by Sears’ fixed assets, like its real estate and inventory. He was well covered for any eventuality, as he had first crack at the assets, or in setting a new course for Sears, under bankruptcy.

Meantime, Sears’ suppliers couldn’t get insurance on their shipments.

This corruption is a microcosm of the general trend that we see in the political realm, the courts, the economy and other businesses. It flourishes because rich and poor support it: rich either directly benefit from, or can shelter from, bad policy, a bad legal system, and certain economic policies that the bulk of the population can’t escape from. And, of course, many poor parasite off the welfare state. The main losers are in the middle class.

It’s a commercial Big Bleed, corporate meltdown and squeeze leading to a final draining as the waning morsels of value are pulled from corporate entities, staged with a final, private sector assault, where average people’s assets are targeted, their homes raided and ransacked, their bank accounts robbed, in a lead-up to inevitable war that will “soften us up” to accept some radical social changes.

Not speculation. They’re already using asset seizure, negative interest rates, theft by cop, and other methods to implement this. To add to this, we see asset seizures by banks, and other tricks like engineered mortgage foreclosure. The mass of humanity stumbles on, oblivious to it all.

The “Economic Model”

The new economic model, rather: Insane exploitation by corporate entities through various sketchy justifications, fueled by abnormally cheap money.

There is no longer any profit in building for the future. What does that spell out for later on?

Look at the Sears example. It sold cars, houses, boats. If it had persevered, and managed to stay relevant, it would still have been well-established and profitable. Sears had the Sears Catalog, really a precursor to today’s Amazon. With foresight, by migrating that catalog to e-commerce, Sears could have been first in online retail, and itself been a potential Amazon. But it failed, as Kodak squandered its lead in photography, and didn’t keep up with the times and the digital revolution.

So what do you do in today’s world? It’s too hard or risky to build something from scratch, or sometimes even to preserve your business. It’s just not worth the bother, when you can make more money “the new way.”

So you do a controlled demo of your business, and buy up or control the successor and let others take the risk and expend the sweat equity. You use cheap and easy money from your banker cronies and approval from the controlled government to make this effortless. That is, you pick and choose the best new and successful ventures, offloading the risk of doing something new yourself, and re-emerge, “caterpillar to butterfly” style.

At the dying company, situate a CEO goon having no conscience or compassion, that won’t hesitate to cut, fire, slash and burn. Ever wondered why they hire CEOs with no experience in the industry? Nardelli, who helped bring down Chrysler, was brought in after getting the boot from Home Depot, for example. He had no retail experience when he went to Home Despot, no automotive experience when he went to Chrysler.

Muñoz came from the railway business and ends up at United Airlines. Ridiculous. If you or I go to a job interview, what is one of the first things they ask about? “What’s your experience? Do you have enough experience? Experience, experience, experience? By the way, let’s talk about your experience.”

One of the problems, though, with the thuggish insiders that companies like to hire as CEO hatchet men, is that they have no human compass, so they get into BS situations — like Muñoz did when he bungled the Dr. Dao incident at United Airlines. But it doesn’t matter — corporations do the CEO shuffle and move them around, exchanging them, crony for crony, or move them up, like they did Muñoz.

So, the fix is clearly in. But with the ruse having become obvious, it makes any “future shock” less impactful. That’s important, so as not to discourage a search for solutions. Ruthless corporate entities should not be allowed so much power that they can rob people and affect their livelihoods with impunity. So, it’s necessary to find new corporate structures that can’t get that power in the first place.

Frankly, corporations should be abolished, or at least brought back to their status as prescribed in the United States in the early 1900s, when they were only permitted to exist for a specified purpose, then dissolved when that purpose was accomplished.

And don’t let them bail out these industries. Yes, now we have the “bail out,” an ongoing plague. We’ll forever bail out, because businesses fail/renew/start all the time, as new methods and tech come to the fore — of course that will force some businesses to restructure or go under. It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility to bail them out.


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