Fashion & Lifestyle from HETAIL


Smart ways to honor, or apologize.


Assiduously edited by TWIG & GRASS



Feeling Froggy?

Tuesday, March 31

Then Leap.

Here they go again. 

Time for this season's first to blink contest.

And the winner is ...............


After enraging the retail community last fall by doing markdowns +40% off in October (?!?), here comes the first, in recent memory, idea of pre-Easter promotions.

They are not the only one's doing crazy discounting.

As the previous article stated, Macy's is doing 80% off (and still have tons of inventory) without success, but at least that is Fall merchandise.

Nordstrom moved its annual June Half-Yearly Sale to early-MAY. 

And just about every retailer has maintained deep discounting on their websites, which are fall less scrutinized by the analysts covering the sector.

Well, I guess that's good news to the few people that seem to be in a shopping mood these days.

The troubling reality of all this is, mid-April begins the slow selling cycle for retailers, bottoming out in late-June through to early-August, at which time Back-To-School necessities bring shoppers back to the stores. 

Woefully sales figures thus far, early discounting and bigger inventory levels than 4th quarter 2008 continue to plague the industry. This is the start of failure season, when you will start to see companies filing for bankruptcy, liquidating and doing lay-offs. This happens because they understand the cycle and do not have any prospects for HUGE turnarounds for the next 6 months. 

The stores are thinking of helping the customers that walk through the front door of their establishment. However April marks a stark shift in planning and resource allocation in the minds of the Executive and Merchandising teams at 90% of retailers: 4th Quarter!

The stress being a little higher for this year's buy than any other. Mostly because, to the merchant teams who have the unenviable task of figuring out what you and I want 6 months from now, and more importantly, what we will pay for it, the reality is....

Get it right this year or their company more than likely will not be around in 2010.

I Am Legend

Saturday, March 21

Before we start, I promised a very helpful young lady that I would let my readers know about Lord & Taylor's free shipping for online purchases of $99 and more (click HERE). Since free shipping is New Economy, I have now done so.


I took a trip to a Chicago-area shopping mall last night with with a friend and, as you can imagine, I was moved enough to write about it. What you cannot imagine, is why?

We headed over to the Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Illinois, just about 7 miles northwest of the Chicago city limits. This outdoor mall is a notoriously busy shopping destination (especially on warmer days), as it houses the most complete collection of stores, entertainment and dining options that serve Chicago's monied North Shore suburban communities, such as Lake Forest, Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth and Glencoe, as well as the MASSIVE population center of Evanston, IL.

The 10-15 minute drive from Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood and ample public transportation make Old Orchard's many luxury destinations (Tiffany, Nordstrom, Subway) a desirable option for many city residents as well.

So, taking what you now know (or knew, if you you are an area resident) about Old Orchard Shopping Center and it's surrounding communities into account, you can understand why the following observations were so stunning to me and my counterpart.

1. We arrived at 7:00 pm, on a cool Friday night and immediately found parking (less than 45 seconds after entering the parking lot). The spot, second from the door of THE FOOD COURT, had two additional spots right next to ours, with very few other cars driving around looks for openings.

2. The food court was virtually empty, with over 60% of those eating having ingested, or were in the process of ingesting, Subway. $5 foot long is sooooooo New Economy. As a matter of fact, from this point forward, $5 foot long is the official meal of the New Economy! If someone can top it, I am open to suggestions.

3. No lines at any of the theaters (with the highly anticipated "I Love You Man", a new Nicholas Cage film and the first starring role for Julia Robert's in 4 years all opening last night), a virtually empty Barnes & Noble (less than 15 people inside), not one restaurant had a wait time for tables and much fewer than 1oo people encountered in the entire mall during our 2-hour trip.

4. Macy's was having one of those head-scratching sales where you cannot believe they are "giving away" the stuff for such low prices. For example: Table(S) of Ike Behar, Ted Baker and Ralph Lauren neckties, which all retail in the neighborhood of $125, were all $8.99!, racks upon racks of clearance at 75-80% off everywhere and 11 racks of men's shoes at 65% off. Yet, not a soul was shopping. 

Perhaps you think I am saying not many people were shopping the sale? I am not saying such a thing. I am saying exactly what I witnessed: NOT A SOUL WAS SHOPPING!

I talked to 3 sales people, who separately verified that "nobody is buying anything these days" and, based on the generally immaculate presentation of the sale tables and clearance fixtures, evidence suggests they were telling the truth.

Wandering past the women's areas of the store on our way out, we noticed no less than eight double-sided, 10-foot long clearance fixtures with $4.99 signs atop them. These fixtures were stuffed to the gills with merchandise. As I told my friend last night, perhaps that was the most telling sight of the evening: If QUALITY $4.99 dresses, blazers, jeans, sweaters, shirts and skirts do not get people into your store, what will? 

I truly believe America's shopping habit (sic, pricing threshold) may have changed for the foreseeable future, by which I mean the next 5-10 years, or so.

If you price a suit at LESS THAN a $5 foot long and nobody budges, you are experiencing the New Economy from a front row seat. 
To close out the Macy's story, they are in TROUBLE. Way over inventory, no customers and unable to find a pricing strategy that agrees with their customer's idea of fair value = retail molotov cocktail!

6. No Teens at the mall. I say this with great trepidation: If teens are opting out of spending time at the shopping mall (I counted 5 total last night) most, if not all, major shopping centers will be in bankruptcy by mid-June/early July. There will be no recovering from this development. It will take minimally 5-7 years to climb back from such a blow.

7. Every mall store had posted closing hours of 9pm, however, as we walked by stores at 8:15, we saw many a light out, with doors locked. By 8:35 most stores, save the large department stores, were locked and vacated. 

I am not saying this was the wrong idea (in fact it was exactly the right idea). What I am saying is, for this to be the general practice of the entire mall, my notes regarding the lack of shoppers during this trip is not out of the norm, and has had to be the case for quite some time. 

Lights out at 8:30 on the first day of spring at a major shopping center is not normal. As a matter of fact, it's unheard of!

So as we made our way through the mall, back to our car, I could not help identifying with Will Smith's character in the movie "I Am Legend", wondering if "anyone is out there?"

In the movie, after he has had the question answered in the affirmative, the larger question consumes him as the screen goes black and the titles begin to roll....."Can we (humankind) come back from this?" 

In short, I don't know?

Now that's how you let the beat build.

The Economy's War on Children

Friday, March 13

I have been reading a number of interesting developments in regards to companies that service children and young adults.

Hopefully you have already had that talk with your kids about the New Economy, because if not, some of their habits are going to be broken for them.

From the obvious (you can't charge 55.00 for the right to walk in the door and expect to get away with it forever!)...

To the tragic (can there be a more telling sign of the times?)...

Sesame Street’ Producer to Reduce Workforce by 20%

To downright disastrous (careful, this is a very sore subject for me. How can this be an option?)...

Economy may force school for autism students to close their doors

To the unthinkable...

The economy is having a big impact on the world our children have come to know.

But since there is no way I am leaving my first post on kids on a downer note, read this article and  know that we can do better and will be just fine:

Kids Market Sale Aimed At Helping Families Through Economic Slump

This idea is so inspiring, so New Economy, I hope we can see this instituted in communities across the country.

Let's make it happen America!

A Big Black Eye

This is a story you may, or may not, know about, but it is certainly something you should know is going on...and on it's way to your city (if it has not already arrived) once the weather breaks.

America is certainly better than this.

During the beginning of the Depression, several people wandering the nation in search of work started erecting, shanty-like, permanent shelters in large cities. These were comprised mostly of men, many of whom had left their families behind, with the understanding that once work was found, they'd be sent for.

As the Depression deepened, more shanty and tent communities started popping up all over the country, to the point where it was no longer looked upon as abnormal to see them. Because President Herbert Hoover was generally viewed (then) as the person responsible for ignoring the plight of the common-folk, thus allowing their situations to drift into such horrific conditions, these makeshift towns were named "Hoover-villes."

As more people started losing their homes and farms, ultimately being displaced from their longtime residences, the "cities" started to include entire families. 

Naturally the conditions in these camps were preposterous when compared with any standard of modernity. There were few schools, no plumbing, and mice, rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes only added to the miasma residents fought to overcome around the clock.

With this background in mind, I was floored when I saw this youtube clip:

The video you just watched was posted in January of 2008, who knows when it was actually filmed. 

Now, a year later, some major medias are starting to touch the subject. The only reason I want you to watch the following clip from the today show is to grasp how the subject is being dealt with. 

Any normal human being that viewed such circumstances probably wonders, first, "how did this happen", followed closely by "how can I help." The Today Show piece below focuses in on, well you make your own determination. I just cannot beliee Matt Lauer decided to end the piece, after looking at deplorable living conditions of his fellow countrymen, by saying (paraphrasing here), "people were living above their means"!?!?!

Well Matt, are they at their means now? And if so, does that make you sleep better at night?

Just a stupifying display of arrogance and indifference. It brings to mind a quote from the great architect and humanitarian, Charles Luckman"
"The trouble with America is that there are far too many wide-open spaces         surrounded by teeth."
Thousands of people saw the horror of this situation and decided to help, bringing food, money, bottled water and other goods to these unfortunate people, which is what I knew the American people would do. 

If you would like to send a donation to aid these people, the Fishes and Loaves organization in Sacramento has been assisting the residents of their tent city for months. 

Info for them is HERE.

This is development is not exclusive to Sacramento, California. Here are a few news articles I dug up on "Tent Cities" in other parts of the country if should you want to investigate the matter further:

The more fascinating articles come form sources that may explain why this has been swept under the rug until very recently. These are from news sources outside of the country and they are writing in a more stunned, disbelieving tone. To the readers of these publications, America has always been more than a country, it has been an idea.
America faces new Depression misery as financial crisis worsens

The credit crunch tent city which has returned to haunt America

If this economic downturn has not yet altered your habits, as well as your thinking, I hope this post has brought you one step closer to reality. Preparedness is not everything, but this is going to be a tough time for this country, so it cannot hurt any more by your being so.

Applying Pressure

Thursday, March 12

These are a couple of interesting articles on the New Economy applying pressure on the Old Economy. 

Some benefit us, some do not. 

However, the mantra is the same: 
It's evolve or die!

I hope you find them as useful as I did.

Sacha Segan from PC Magazine writes about:

JP Raphael at PC World has written the scariest article I have read in months:

People Search Engines: They Know Your Dark Secrets…And Tell Anyone

The folks over at OhMyGov write about the recent release of the International Innovation Rankings:

Banking on Sin

Wednesday, March 11

These are indeed dark times.

And in dark times, sometimes, cloudy judgement can catch on and go from shameful whisper to shout, then ultimately, a full-throated rallying cry.

This seems to be the case in the first forays into how we jumpstart the bad economy. There seems to be a growing outcry for solutions involving one form of business. Nothing innovative, or particularly visionary, for that matter. It is really an idea that has sat on the shelf waiting for times like these; when weakened souls and those with weary gazes see no way forward, leaving themselves open to accepting the preposterous as normal.

The business is sin.

Not religious sin, but the oft-mentioned societal sin industries.

Over the last decade we have heard nothing (or almost nothing) from any of the business constituencies I will discuss in this posting. However, since early-October what started as a trickle, has become a veritble dam-bursting wave of positive media, all giving copious quantities of airtime to interests representing the business of sin.

There have been a number of articles, news stories and forums on making the business of sin work for the American taxpayer. The government needs tax revenue, so the theory goes, so lets:

  1. Legalize land-based gambling in more communities accross the country.

  2. Make prostitution legal in more communities accross the country.

  3. Lower the age for legal alcohol consumption in all 50 states.

  4. Make drugs, such as marijuana, legal in certain states.

  5. Allow alcohol to be sold 24 hours a day, seven days a week in states where the practice is prohibited.

I am not making this up. Here are a few atricles that argue the merits of each of these as a solution to dwindling tax revenue.

Issue 1:

South Carolina Senator Seeks to Overhaul Gambling Laws

Texas Casino Gambling Bill Coming Tomorrow

Kansas Gambling Debate Begins, Even Though Lawmakers Say No

Issue 2:

Vegas pilot program for legal brothels killed

Should prostitution be legalized?

Issue 3:

Campaign on to lower drinking age

Minnesota Considers Lowering Drinking Age

Boulder police chief to advocate lower drinking age on '60 Minutes'

Issue 4:

It may be time to legalize marijuana

Ground breaking bill to legalize and tax marijuana in California

Los Angeles Daily News: “Time Has Come To Legalize Pot!”

Issue 5:

Georgetown OK's Sunday Drink Sales

Lawmakers Debate Sunday Alcohol Sales

Arkansas Eliminates Blue Law That Banned Sunday Alcohol Sales

As you can see, these are really being looked at as viable answers to our problems.

Anyone with a brain can deflate these arguments without much effort. Here are my reasons:

More land-based casinos - Here is a sentence I will hear the day after pigs fly, "My wife and I just got back from our summer home in Gary, IN." Enough said, as gambling was supposed to turn that city around.

Make prostitution legal in more areas of the United States - Have you lost your %&$# mind? Prostitution is, wait for it....wait for it.... HUMAN TRAFFICKING!!!! Also, whatever tax benefit your state could gain would be offset by the increase in expenditures for medical care to throngs of uninsured streetwalkers. Get a grip (pun intended)!

Lowering the legal age to drink - Why not lower the age to runaway? Why not lower the age to sign legal contracts? Why not lower the age to legally work in the U.S.? Why not lower the age for advised consent? I know my 10 year-old son would give his kidney for fair trade. Something like say, Mario Party for Nintendo Wii. This is s State's Right's issue, and I know the age varies regionally, but the idea of moving the age downward opens the door for further revision, which is scary.

Legalize marijuana, or other drugs - Doing so will IMMEDIATELY FREE between 800,000 and 1.2 million inmates from correctional facilities across the country, which is not the main issue. Mind you, these will be mostly unemployable, markedly different people than entered the system, even if they were only there for a short time. 

The real problem relates to one of America's dirty little secrets, small town America's financial dependence on the U.S. penal system for jobs and tax revenue.

Why are prisons dotting the landscape of so many small towns in America? Because those towns allowed themselves to buy into the "increased tax-revenue" argument during the last major economic downturn during the early-mid 1980's.

These small towns have seen everything else in their local economies wiped out during the massive corporate consolidation of the "Booming 90's", and now stand totally dependent upon the prisons to provide low-paying jobs and a pittance in taxes to sustain their rapidly eroding communities. 

So you see, halving the prison population is not going to help jump-start anyone's economy, as the unintended consequences are too great to consider.

Round-the-clock liquor sales - really the same argument as lowering the age for minors. As soon as this is allowed, look for the major distributers to start offering alcoholic "breakfast products". Think I am insane? Well think again, how do you think Bloody Mary's came into existence? 

The real problem is these are ALL Old Economy solutions. They have been stewing for their shot at daylight for the last 30-some-odd years. 

These people lack imagination, don't they?

When  applying New Economy thinking to the problem of sin, I think not of giving more access to the "sins" that already plague our society, but of exposing and eradicating ancient, entrenched ideologies that hide behind the banner of "righteousness." Let's review a few and see if you agree with me that positivity and inclusiveness would serve as better roads to travel on the road to recovery, economic and otherwise.

Gay Marriage
There is no reasonable reason two people that want to spend their lives in matrimonial bliss (or hell) should not be allowed to do so. "But the Bible says"..."But the Constitution says"... Well the Constitution said (still may say) I am "3/5 man." Which is no problem for me, but when I go to pay my income tax and only send 60%, I get a call from the IRS each and every year.

People that oppose the right for same-sex couples to engage in the ritual practice of marrying one another are not "thoughtful", "pragmatic" or " holding on to tradition", they are simply prejudiced, fearful fools. holding onto something that left their grasp the nano-second people started standing up for themselves.

Can anyone name an occasion where people spend more money than weddings? I thought not!

Letting millions of people know that, hey, by the way, your citizenship allows for you to pursue your happiness in whichever way you find most befitting YOU, is not just practical and economically sound, but is inevitable. Do this now, superstitious dogma is Old Economy.

Universal Healthcare 
To keep this short, a sick mind is only capable of  sick thoughts.

As long as we continue to deny 90% of Americans the access to everything the medical establishment has to offer, we are killing off generations of great, innovative ideas. 

An individuals health is not a personal responsibility, unless you believe the individual has the power to conceive themselves. And I am talking totally free, too. Not pay as you go, or any other ridiculous option on the table. Finance does not belong in the world of medicine. 

A healthy, fully-engaged populace can only bring about the radical creativity needed to pull the country forward. Best of all, every unintended consequence of this policy is positive.

Now if you want a boob-job, or Viagra, you are going to have to come out of pocket for that.

Members of the United States Congress (both Senators and Congressmen) are paid $174,000 per annum and receive FULL COVERAGE health and dental benefits for themselves and their families AT NO COST, how can they, in good conscience, vote no when the median income for a family with 2 working adults is just above $50,000? They cannot, and should not be allowed to get away with it any longer.

So there it is America, two quick ideas from a list of many. Sin may forestall a free-fall, but is never the way out of a mess. Utilize the principles of the New Economy and kill off dogmas to tap into new economic opportunities that await, while improving our society at the same time. 

It just makes cents.

The "New" Economy

Thursday, March 5

People, we are in a New Economy.

An economy that requires: a higher level of awareness, to be more connected to others than ever before, a new level of discipline and a new commitment to decisiveness than ever before. 

The only thing at stake is survival.

There are those that are resisting it, some that doubt it's existence, and a few more that are drawing a line in the sand, preparing for a battle they have already lost. 

But the facts are irrefutable, and everywhere. So start functioning as a participant in this New Economy or prepare for new levels of misery, not yet experienced.

There are 5 basic tenets to the New Economy:

Magnetism - Does the service or goods you are looking to purchase, or provide, seem like a natural fit? A no-brainer? For example: Stores that offer 10% off today's purchase for opening a store credit card are Old Economy. Stores such as Walmart, looking for new ways to grow their customer base, are broadening the areas they choose to compete in. The retailers has announced plans for new "smaller, neighborhood" stores that sure sounds like 7/11 and White Hen had better watch their bacon in the coming months (Read the article HERE). Providing fresh produce and "higher-end" products at significant savings just makes sense. I am, and you are too, attracted to that idea. They are, as stated before, the smartest peeps in the business!

Sacrifice - Can you do without? If not, your brain and the small satiety center deep inside of it are living La Vida Loca in the Old Economy. If you have not looked at reducing costs for your business in places other than lay-offs, you lack the imagination for operating successfully in the new economy. Companies such a Kamakura are using the video conferencing services of Vidyo to reduce travel expenses and lost man-hours that would be spent getting to and from meetings with their top clients (read more HERE).

Yes, nothing beats a face-to-face with your client, but we are in the age of survival; survive first and then become special. Pressing the flesh is not expendable in every line of work, but this company had to guts to take a gamble. Your employees will appreciate your NOT thinking of them when it came time for expense reductions. And the added perk being, employees get more time at home with their families. Win Win = New Economy.

Forward Thinking - Those that are solely focused on solving their, or their client's, CURRENT problem or problems are not operating in the New Economy. I hate to bring it up, but the best example of this type of thinking is the Chris Brown/Rihanna situation playing itself out daily on the front pages of every news source around the world. And make no mistake, this has everything to do with finance.

To every normal thinking person, Chris Brown has committed and unthinkably horrible act (or series of acts, depending on the source) by physically abusing a woman. And not just any woman, though this type of offense does not have degrees to me - all offenders are equal, but one of the most popular and well-liked women in the world, the pop star Rihanna. This to me, and I would think 90% of the population, is wholly unforgivable. However, his handlers, record company and others are "standing by him", because they cannot afford to drop a young, multi-platinum singer with the star appeal of a Chris Brown, then watch him go to the record company across the street and crank out more hits (no pun intended). 

Old Economy thinking! He did that in the Old Economy. He has no future in the New Economy. It's obvious by how much it makes my stomach turn when I hear his name. Remember, the first law of the New Economy is Magnetism, and magnets attract and repel. Everyone that attempts to refurbish his brand, which is most certainly the goal, will be the worst off for it, Including Rihanna! They are looking at solving their current problem without the benefit of seeing the negative tsunami that surely awaits. Apologists have no role in the New Economy as I see it. Click HERE before you tell me I am wrong about this.

Innovation - This is the true benchmark for exiting the mess of the Old Economy. New Products, New Services, New Science, New Educational Methods, New Moral Standards, New Methods of Communication, New and Binding Commitments to Ourselves and Our Communities. 

The way forward is not going to come from Madison Avenue creating a better slogan to sell more of the same crap. Advertising is literally at an all-time low as far as effectiveness is concerned. What will pull us out of this morass (Old Economy) and propel us to new, unseen heights as a country and individually is our ability to formulate, preen and find application for, new ideas!

What do James Hoge, William Potts and Garret Morgan Have in common? They all found ways to improve upon Lester Wire's invention, the traffic light. Each of them, some more than others, found ways to make a great thing better, and in doing so made the world a safer place to live. Considering the vast number of improvements to the traffic signal, you would think it needed no further improvement after figuring out the, "Red, Yellow, Green" system. However, the 1990's saw the implementation of Dynamic Control, which allowed for signals to change based on traffic, or lack there-of. A simple improvement, but one that added the brilliance of efficiency to the safety mechanisms of prior models. This "improvement" came along over 50 years after everyone thought the traffic signal was a perfect instrument. 


It is time we identify, nurture, develop, support and celebrate those among us that bring the spirit of innovation to the fore. They, and they alone, are the leaders of tomorrow in the New Economy. Listen to lectures from some of today's innovators HERE.

Balance - For every thing your are given, you will need to give back in full. If you have a mentor, become a mentor. If you go to school, be a tutor. If you are a fashion designer, make yourself available to new designers. If you are receiving any benefits from any organization, volunteer your time to that, or another organization. If you buy a new article of clothing, take an article of clothing to Salvation Army or Goodwill Industries. If the city you live in picks up garbage regularly, pick up the stray litter  at your feet when you are waiting for the light to change. 

The New Economy does not require you paying "rock bottom" for things, but instead settling for fair value, to you and the merchant. That way you can be sure there is a relationship in place for future exchange.

The age of "not my problem" is Old Economy. the New Economy is "How Can I Help?" 

A good place to start is HERE.

President Barack Obama borrowed the famous line, "We are the one's we have been waiting for", but the New Economy's slogan is "What were you waiting for in the first place!"

The New Economy is all about forward momentum, so keep the words of the brilliant Emperor/ Philosopher Marcus Aurelius in mind throughout the day:

"Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present."

We're Back!

After a month of: stockpiling information, sussing out news stories and travelling the country in search of new ideas, the Oasis is BACK!

New articles begin tomorrow morning.

Thanks for your patience.

By the way, anyone that can top this Star Wars poster will become a hero in my eyes (click pic for better detail). It is not the most cerebral poster for the series, but certainly the best in my opinion.

2009 ·clean needles by TNB