Posted by: findaaronsmith | May 24, 2011

The Mystery of H&M

So simple, yet so convoluted. If the discount, fashion-forward, hip, retro chic clothing store H&M were as simple and straightforward as its url ( and product positioning, it would probably be one of the best retail stories going.

But, alas, it’s not that simple.

My frustration and confusion with H&M started when a business trip to San Francisco first introduced me to the store there. I loved it… Great prices, reasonable quality, relevant styles and everything for kids on up. Why aren’t there more of these I wondered. Picked up a couple things for myself, kids and wife. Easy.

All was well received and in fact the shoes I got for my son turned out to be his favorite shoes ever. What a hit. So once he outgrew them, I looked to replace them. That’s where the trouble started…

I checked for local stores. One… about 45 miles away. No thanks. BUT, new one opening up soon nearby. Good to know, but I’ll just get them online since I know the size and style. That’s where the next problem arose. You see, that simple little url give you lots of pretty pictures, but if you’re in the United States…. no shopping.

Back to the drawing board. Ok, that new store is open now, I’ll just go there and get this done. It’s a madhouse and the staff honestly looked scared. I finally find an associate to help me, and I learn that THIS H&M doesn’t offer kids clothing at all. Their suggestion? Try online! (I didn’t both explaining that H&M didn’t foresee online shopping in the United States to be a lucrative business model.)

So, I’m left without my son’s favorite shoes. And I’m also left wondering who’s steering the ship at H&M because they certainly have left this – and I’m sure many other – consumers looking for answers.

Posted by: findaaronsmith | January 27, 2011

Why So Sweet?

Sprinkles Cupcakes La Jolla, CA

Cupcakes. Have you experienced what’s happening with cupcakes in the nation’s consciousness? Certainly the cupcake phenomenon will find its way into a future Malcolm Gladwell book or essay. After all, designer cupcake stores, cookbooksTV shows and competitions are springing up everywhere. But why cupcakes? Why now?

These questions and a few others sprang to mind when this morning I was leaving a shopping center and spotted a line forming down an unusual corridor of the shopping center. It caught my eye because there’s no reason there should be a line there at 10:45am on a Thursday… at none that I could immediately conjure.

So, with my social marketing hat on and curiosity piqued, I (re)parked and went to investigate. What I learned was that the oft-empty “nouveau” frozen yogurt store had been replaced by a “nouveau” cupcake store. I peered in, noting the sign on the window warning customers to keep the glass front door closed at all times to ensure cupcake freshness. Wouldn’t want any of that freshness escaping to the masses outside.

Not wanting to affect the delicate atmospheric pressure of the cupcakery, I moved down the line that had formed. I’d estimate it was a good 40-45 people strong, and most individuals, not groups. I reached the back and engaged a few recent additions to the line. I learned that there was no sale today. No special marketing. The store was relatively new, but by no means a grand opening. All this attention was just your typical day at Sprinkles in La Jolla, CA.

Astounding, really. At $3.50 a cupcake or $40 for a dozen, it leaves a lot of treat-style shops scratching their heads… especially the aforementioned frozen yogurt store that Sprinkles replaced.

So, that leaves us to ponder, why cupcakes? Is it the creativity that captures people’s imagination? Is it that $3.50 for a little piece of heaven seems digestible, even in a recession-era economy?

Whatever it is, it goes to show you that little ideas can quickly capture the hearts and minds of consumers. Roaming food trucks are another good example. Are cupcakes here to stay, or will we have a new crush in a couple of years?