Remarkable Retail

2023 Retail Predictions (Part 2)

Episode Summary

Last week we released the first batch of Steve's predictions. This week we conclude with six more, centering on how "hybridization" will steal the crown from omni-channel, how trading-down (in product and format) will define the year, the likelihood that big consumer credit troubles emerge, why strong balance sheets reign supreme, how the Metaverse is still not ready for its close up, while AI just might be. We wrap up with three bonus long-shot prognostications (aka "wild ass guesses") involving a Nike acquisition, bold moves at Whole Foods, and a blockbuster merger among struggling department stores.

Episode Notes

Last week we released the first batch of Steve's predictions. This week we conclude with six more, centering on how "hybridization" will steal the crown from omni-channel, how trading-down (in product and format) will define the year, the likelihood that big consumer credit troubles emerge, why strong balance sheets reign supreme, how the Metaverse is still not ready for its close up, while AI just might be. We wrap up with three bonus long-shot prognostications (aka "wild ass guesses") involving a Nike acquisition, bold moves at Whole Foods, and a blockbuster merger among struggling department stores.

But first we kick off with our hot takes on the week in retail news, including the US Census Bureau monthly sales report, how the National Retail Federation did with its holiday forecast, and some encouraging signs of inflation moderation. Then we turn our attention to Nordstrom's earnings warning amid continuing troubles at its Rack division. 

We also dig into the potential impacts of big layoffs at Alphabet, Microsoft, Wayfair and more, before wondering whether some brands' (Gap, Peloton, Rent the Runway) decision to sell on Amazon smacks of desperation or of genius.

ShopTalk (Las Vegas)

ShopTalk (Barcelona)

World Retail Congress

Presented by MarketDial.

About Us

Steve Dennis is an advisor, keynote speaker and author on strategic growth and business innovation. You can learn more about Steve on his       website.    The expanded and revised edition of his bestselling book  Remarkable Retail: How To Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption is now available at  Amazon or just about anywhere else books are sold. Steve regularly shares his insights in his role as a      Forbes senior contributor and on       Twitter and       LinkedIn. You can also check out his speaker "sizzle" reel      here.

Michael LeBlanc  is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice.   He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career.  Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast,       The Voice of Retail, plus  Global E-Commerce Tech Talks  ,      The Food Professor  with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois and now in its second season, Conversations with CommerceNext!  You can learn more about Michael   here  or on     LinkedIn. 

Be sure and check out Michael's latest venture for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue,  his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!

Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:06

Welcome to Remarkable Retail podcast, Season 6, Episode 2, presented by MarketDial. I'm Michael LeBlanc.

Steve Dennis  00:13

And I'm Steve Dennis.

Michael LeBlanc  00:15

Well, Steve, it's wonderful to see you and break bread together, amongst other things in the Big Apple at the Big NRF Show, a special treat for me as well to share the stage with you talking about the remarkable The Container Store.

Steve Dennis  00:26

Yeah, I'm still recovering. It was exhausting, fast paced, inspiring, etc, etc. So, but yeah, it was a lot, it was a lot of fun. Definitely a lot of fun. And I feel like the people are back into full conference mode at this point.

Michael LeBlanc  00:40

And for the audience listening, we're not going to talk much on this episode today about the NRF Show, we've got a whole dedicated bonus episode coming up in a few days, Friday, if you're listening to these in sequence, where we'll share our thoughts and why we were at the NRF Show. In addition to being on the stage, we did some fantastic interviews. And we, you and I were just talking off mic about how blessed we were to have such great content coming up for our listeners,

Steve Dennis  00:50

We're gonna have to figure out exactly how to, how to sequence those among some other things we're working on. But yeah, stay, stay tuned over the next couple of months for some really rich discussions.

Michael LeBlanc  01:14

This might be the first time we're together, you and I in person 2023. But it's certainly not the last we'll be podcasting at Shoptalk in Vegas, and then at the World Retail Congress, Barcelona and I think you're speaking at least two or more of those. And then one more if I got that straight.

Steve Dennis  01:31

Yeah, I'll be on the stage at Shoptalk in Vegas. I guess that's the end of March, then the World Retail Congress in Barcelona at the end of April. And then this is a little bit weird. I'll be back in Barcelona, in just a couple weeks after that for Shoptalk Europe, where I'll be moderating a session. So, more details on that over the coming weeks.

Michael LeBlanc  01:52

This episode is the second of our 2023 prediction episodes, the back half plus a few baker's dozen WAGs as the industry calls them "wild ass guesses" to wrap up the predictions. So, before we get to that, though, let's get to the latest retail news. All right, so everybody's on pins and needles, so to speak, trying to figure out how the holiday was. We've got some numbers coming out from the US Census Bureau, which gives you good US numbers. What, what do you think of the numbers you've seen so far?

Steve Dennis  02:23

Well, we got a couple of things. Yeah, the US Census Bureau monthly report came out for December. And I guess two things really came from it. One, where or one is, that clearly, there are even further signs that sales growth is moderating. If you look at, kind of the trajectory of the month-over-month reports throughout the year, pretty much the increases keep decreasing, so flattening, a flattening curve, but sales were still up year-over-year, close to 6%. If you assume we are closer to 6%, now, with inflation, that's pretty much flat activity. So, that's not awesome. 

Steve Dennis   02:57

The other data point we have is that the National Retail Federation put out their holiday sales. So, this is sales for November and December. And their estimates were that sales grew just over 5%. Year-over-year, their forecast had been six to 8%. So again, perhaps keeping up or barely keeping up with inflation, I think we're just getting a lot of signs that the post-Thanksgiving period was a lot weaker. We'll talk about a couple other examples of that in a second, but a lot weaker than people were forecasting. Online and non-store sales, which is really a kind of mail order catalog, and a few other miscellaneous things did show improved growth rates, almost 10% year-over-year increase. And then just one other data point, it's not specific to the holiday, per se, is that NPD reported that discretionary retail spending for the entire year fell by 2%. That doesn't quite line up with some of the other data. So, I'm not sure exactly why.

Michael LeBlanc  04:17

What do you think is in that number like, we, I mean, I guess, obviously food would not be in that number. But you know, my freezer breaks. I need a freezer, it's no longer discretionary. What do you, how do you think they compile that number?

Steve Dennis  04:28

That's a good question. I don't know all the component pieces. It is a wider definition than the NRF and the Census Bureau number. I do, I do know that. So, I do think there are some spending at retail establishments that are more service oriented, for example, 

Michael LeBlanc  04:39


Steve Dennis   04:40

They are in that number. So, it is a wider definition. But yeah, it doesn't quite line up. On the one hand, it's not all that surprising because 2021 was an unusually high year for spending. So, this you know if you look at it on a longer-term trend, it's not necessarily way out of whack but anyway, generally, you know, continuing signs that things are slowing down. Similarly with inflation, we did see some moderation and some other reports we got across the last week, most of the moderation was driven by gas prices going down and. 

Michael LeBlanc  04:55

Right, right, right. 

Steve Dennis  04:58

But food prices continue, even though they're getting better, they continue to be one of the big drivers of inflation. And, you know, maybe some of the interest rate hikes are starting to really take hold. We should mention that in a couple of weeks. Instead of the two of us, the amateur economists speaking, we will have Ira Kalish, the Chief Economist for Deloitte on we recorded that great episode, earlier this week. And we'll dig into some of this stuff in a little bit more detail and I think that'll be not only really interesting, but I think a really helpful perspective for us as we move forward into 2023.

Michael LeBlanc  05:58

Well, as they say, when you look at all these numbers, retail is a detail and, and you know, as everyone has slightly different definitions, it's very important to pay attention to what they're talking core retail, discretionary, retail, you know, your-over-year, month-over-month, you know, all these different things it's very important to not get that, you know, brushed over and look at the big numbers. What do you think of this in Nordstrom news, they seem to say, you know, as I was reading through their, their release, they say we're, we're you know, we cleaned out some inventory and took some hit margin, we're ready for 2023. Is that your interpretation of their performance?

Steve Dennis  06:35

That might be a little bit of spin from there, from their perspective? Yeah, what we're talking about is, because Nordstroms is not reporting earnings until, I think March 3, maybe, something like that. But they did warn given an early perspective on where they expect to be for the quarter, which was largely around pretty weak holiday performance. They basically said that they expect sales to be down. The sales are, underperformance of sales, largely driven by especially weak performance and the Nordstrom Rack division, that's our off-price division. They generally said that their real higher-end part of their business was pretty good. But the more price sensitive part of their business was not very good. And they expected your point about getting their inventories in shape, they expected to take some pretty good margin hits to, to move through that merchandise. So yes, they may on one hand, they may be going into the spring in a much better inventory position. So, they won't be needing to mark down as much stuff. But this kind of sales performance on top of not, not great results across the last couple of years, I think is concerning. I will mention it really quickly. I was in the Nordstrom Rack; a couple Rack stores over the last few weeks and they do not look good. I'm very unimpressed by, 

Michael LeBlanc  07:04

Like, disheveled, (crossover talk). 

Steve Dennis   07:07

Disheveled and lots of merchandise, not very shoppable, the lighting levels are not great. I mean, it doesn't really feel like they've put much money into those stores. And you know, trying to be a discount-oriented concept, while not expecting it to look like a full line store. But here in Dallas, one of the Nordstrom Rack stores is right next door to a Saks OFF 5th store. And there's a Bloomingdale's outlet right across from it. And I was in all three stores. And a very big difference in terms of the merchandise presentation and the shop ability. And so, I think from an execution standpoint, they got some real work to do there. I'm not saying that's the source of all their issues. But that's definitely has really been a challenging area for them, I think going on, you know, three or four years now. And it is troubling because strategically they always position the Rack and amongst other things as, as the new customer generator right, bringing in younger customers, 

Michael LeBlanc  08:01


Steve Dennis  08:02

Get them used to Nordstrom through the Rack and then upgrade them so to speak, you know when, when they're, when people's lives, you know, when people get more established. So, it's, it's concerning that, you know, if you're not successful in the Rack it is one leg of the stool that's not driving in new customers. So, it is a bigger issue than just, you know, not, not hitting a sales number on a particular week. 

Michael LeBlanc  08:20

Let's talk about layoffs every day, it seems the big tech folks have been taking it in the teeth in terms of making, making layoff announcements. So, what, what have you read? What have you read this week? 

Steve Dennis   08:29

Well, just in the last couple of days, we got an announcement of very large layoffs at Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, smaller numbers at Wayfair, which seems to be really, really struggling. We won't hear from them on their earnings for a while, but I don't think this, this bodes well. And I'll come back to Amazon in a second. But you know, on the one hand, when you see, you know 10,000 layoffs, 15,000 layoffs, you know, that seems very concerning. I have seen some people point out that as a percent of the workforce, it's a, it's a pretty small percentage and that if you actually look at how many (inaudible). I think really, the source of the issue is not so much that their businesses are falling apart. It's really that they expected that they would need (crossover talk) a lot more people. 

Michael LeBlanc  09:16


Steve Dennis   09:17

Yeah, and then if you actually looked at their employee growth over time, this kind of gets them back on the trend they were on, you know, 2019-2020. And it was really that they overshot the runway. But nevertheless, obviously, this is affecting a lot of people. And there will be ripple effects, I'm sure on the economy. Amazon, you know, which we previously talked about, because they were rumored to be doing a bunch of layoffs. They apparently started these layoffs this week. And we, there was an article I saw that had pulled messages off of the Slack channel from Amazon where people were sending them screenshots. So, you kind of get a sense of where some of the layoffs were occurring, not details around the numbers. But it definitely seems like, as had been previously suggested, that a lot of the layoffs were occurring, really outside of AWS and advertising in the retail area, in voice commerce, even in Just Walk Out. So, as we talked about a little bit already, like what this actually means strategically for them going forward, I guess, remains to be seen. But as far as letting the spending kind of run wild, I think it's pretty clear those days are over. 

Steve Dennis   11:19

They also announced that they cut this, it's called their smile program. I don't know if many people are familiar with this, but it's where they take a portion of the referral or the affiliate marketing fees they get, and you can designate them for charity. And they're cutting that program, probably not a huge cost savings in the scheme of things. But I did see a couple articles saying that in the years they've had this program, they've, they've redirected funds, about $500 million in funds to, (crossover talk) organizations. Yeah,

Michael LeBlanc  11:49

That's, that's turning a frown upside down. That's, uh, you know.

Steve Dennis  11:52

I see what you did there. Yeah, yeah. (Crossover talk). 

Michael LeBlanc  11:56

Well, you know, my one quick comment on that is, you know, all these layoffs, I said before, and I'll say it, again, are actually good news for retail because there's 10s of 1000s, if not 100,000 jobs in retail technology that are left unfilled. And, you know, it's hard, it's a hard transition. It's not always wanted like, for like, but there's a lot of retailers looking for a lot of skilled people that could be coming out of, you know, Microsoft, Alphabet, Wayfair, Google, you know, wherever, right, so.

Steve Dennis  12:26

Sure, which is. I mean, it remains to be seen whether it will stay this way. But, you know, we have seen other layoffs, you know, large layoffs be announced across the last several months. And yet here in the US anyway, the unemployment rate has actually gone down. So, it certainly seems like the vast majority of people, to your point, are necessary, not necessarily one-to-one, but lots of people are able to get employed quite, quite quickly. So, (crossover talk).

Michael LeBlanc  12:52

These tech guys, grab the headline, these tech guys grabbed the headline, but I think it's a bit of a jazz hands in terms of Yeah, you know, it's, I think it has an outsized influence on the way we think about the performance of the economy. And, 

Steve Dennis  13:08

Yeah, absolutely.

Michael LeBlanc  13:10

What else should we talk about? So, food prices continue to grow, and they will this year, that's for sure. Let's talk about Rent the Runway. So, interesting news, they've opened their own online storefront on Amazon. Is this, is Amazon now the distributor, ma-, that central distributor, master distributor for brands now is this how it works?

Steve Dennis  13:24

Well, maybe the distributor of last resort you know if folks aren't familiar, we've talked, we've talked about Rent the Runway, which is really after a nice run is really struggled the last couple of years, both in terms of their stock price and, and earnings and management changes and layoffs and things like that. Like a couple of other businesses, the Gap, for example, not too long ago, Peloton, you know, had a different distribution model. They're now supplementing their distribution with their own online business and some stores to have a storefront on Amazon. So, you know, I assume these moves are driven by getting more awareness for the brand, being where obviously, lots of traffic goes. So, you know, hopefully, it's incremental. And you know, changing the equation, you know, taking a shorter margin, presumably, to sell on Amazon but not having all the other related marketing and distribution costs from their core model. So, (crossover talk).

Michael LeBlanc  14:24

I wonder if there's an element. I wonder if there's an element there that's taking advantage of the Amazon retail Media Network. Hey, maybe we'll just spend money with Amazon advertising instead of spending it with the platforms. What do you think of that idea?

Steve Dennis  14:36

I think that's likely part of it. I think everybody, not everybody, but a large number of companies that have really struggled to get their cost of customer acquisition and just general marketing costs, in line as they grow, are experimenting with, with different ways. So, a lot of these disruptive brands that we've talked about a million times now and are part of the predictions about some of their struggles are just experimenting with different ways to change the equation. So, in some cases, that's wholesale, you know, more traditional wholesale distribution, you know, online, I guess, you know, selling through Amazon is another way of a different kinds of wholesale distribution. But yeah, they also have the ability to, to market and advertise in a different way. So, you know whether this turns out to be a savvy strategy, or sort of a last gasp of desperation, I guess we'll, we'll have a clearer idea about that as the year goes on.

Michael LeBlanc  15:23

All right, well, that's a wrap on the news of the week. Now just before we get to the back half of the prediction episode, let's hear from our presenting sponsor MarketDial. 

Michael LeBlanc  15:38

MarketDial is an easy-to-use testing platform, emboldens great decisions, leading to reliable, scalable results. With MarketDial, you can be confident in the outcome of your in-store pilot initiatives before rolling them out across your fleet. In a challenging retail climate of supply chain disruption, labor shortages and dynamic customer behavior, the need for reliable insights has never been greater. Validate your remarkable ideas with MarketDials in-store testing solution, the proof is in the testing, learn more That's 

Michael LeBlanc  16:02

Number seven, the "hybridization" of retail steals the crown from omni-channel. Now you mentioned omni-channel when we're talking about retail media networks. And we're trying to figure it out. And we've talked about "hybridization", but tell me how it's found its way into your prediction?

Steve Dennis  16:28

And this may be more hope than prediction. You know, I just want to put a stake in omni-channel because I just, you know, hate, hate the notion of channels and this idea that it's about being everywhere. But I hope, and I think what needs to happen is the conversation needs to be much more about the blending, and the hybrid nature of retail, whether we're talking about the overall shopping experience, the blend of digital and physical, whether we're talking about how supply chains work, like the way Target has pieced together, the supply chain, leveraging both stores and direct to take care of the customer in the speediest most cost efficient way, or whether we're talking about the go-to-market strategies of having smaller stores with destination stores, and all these kinds of things. 

Steve Dennis  17:03

I think, I think those go-to-market strategies in the way you take care of the customer in a harmonized or hybridized way, is really most important. And it's less about trying to be kind of a little bit of everything to everybody everywhere and getting hung up on that kind of channel lingo. So again, maybe a little bit more hope. But I have actually started to see more people kind of challenge the shortcomings of omni-channel more recently, as well as more people talking about blended commerce or hybrid commerce or what have you. So, we shall see.

Michael LeBlanc  17:51

Number eight, trading down a largely defined year.

Steve Dennis  17:55

Yeah, there's kind of two things here. I mean, we have seen hyper-growth, you know, both in terms of overall sales, but also store openings in the value segment. So, I expect that to continue. I'm not as optimistic about luxury doing especially well unless you're talking about luxury brands in China, but sort of the, the global luxury market I think is not going to perform especially well this year. I know that's a little bit of a counter narrative to some people believing that it will so that's kind of embedded within this prediction. So, I think when we look at the best performing sectors, both in terms of market share and profits and I guess ultimately stock price, although I'm not trying to predict stocks here, I think value retailers across the board whether it's dollar stores, discount mass merchants, you know, the Trader Joe's of the world etc, will perform really strong. But I think the other thing is within retailers the private brands will perform disproportionately while compared to national brands you know, but the basic premise is that private brands offer more value for the money than those national brands. So, as customers become more challenged economically and inflation continues to be an issue they will choose private brands more so than national brands. 

Michael LeBlanc  18:10

Hmmm, okay, (crossover talk).

Steve Dennis   18:14

So, trading down to format as well as trading down within format. Well let's talk about troubles emerging in consumer credit. So, I guess it is connected to the Buy Now, Pay Never phenomenon. 

Michael LeBlanc  18:17

What is that all about? 

Steve Dennis 18:19

Well, originally, and this is where I'm hedging my bets because I can go back and like if I'm, if I'm wrong, I can say well, I didn't really lead with it. And if I'm right, I can say well it kind of buried the lead. Originally this is going to be titled Buy Now, Pay Later blows up or something like that, which is part of it. I do think we will see considerable trouble on the Buy Now, Pay Later space sometime during the course of the year. I also think when we talk about more traditional credit, that we will see troubles emerge there as well. The way we'll tell that this is happening is when the big credit card providers or the consumer credit card providers, (inaudible) any kind of consumer finance providers, I guess more broadly, start raising their lost provisions. And not to get too into the, into the weeds here, but, but their loss, 

Michael LeBlanc  18:43

Yeah, yeah. 

Steve Dennis  18:45

And the write down rates will start to go up considerably. And usually, that leads to restriction of consumer credit, which is generally not so great for spending. So, this is where these troubles could not only affect the particular companies that are in the business of lending money, and they don't get paid, they don't make money. But it also could lead to a more restrictive credit environment, which generally will, you know, revert back to people's ability to spend. So, I think this is probably more a second half of the year phenomenon. But I definitely think we're gonna see some serious, serious troubles here, probably most notably, with the Buy Now, Pay Later guys, because they have, you know, their whole business model kind of riding on, on this all working out.

Michael LeBlanc  21:08

Number 10, strong balance sheets reign supreme. Now, you know, you're not talking here about consumers, you're talking about retailers, what, what do you, why do you think it's so important this year of all years?

Steve Dennis  21:18

Well, I think in general, you know, this is not a great thing, necessarily is that the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker. I think it's going to be particularly important this year, because the broader market gets, you know, as the broader market gets challenged, the weaker players tend to get more conservative, or in some cases, if they really have weak balance sheets, you know, they have to lay off people and you know, that generally doesn't lend to market share gains, and so forth. So, I think it's really an opportunity for the strong players, both in terms of their business model, but their financial capabilities, to really double down on the strategies, you know, this is the time to maybe make that strategic acquisition, this is the time to open more stores or invest in the stores you have, or invest in new technologies, invest in those experimental programs that may turn out to not pay dividends this year or next year, but will pay dividends over time, whereas the other players will not be in a position to invest for the, for the long term. So, I think we will see the big strong players just really extend their leads.

Michael LeBlanc  22:26

Yeah, and I think that extends both so to speak, as well to real estate deals. You know, if you're interested in buying real estate, maybe that's warehouse real estate, maybe that's store real estate that there's some deals to be had for those with a strong balance sheet, right. And while others flee, others will run into that and get some great deals.

Steve Dennis  22:43

That's taking advantage of right, fire sale pricing. Yeah. Yep. The Metaverse, so the Metaverse still not ready for its close up. I have my own thoughts about the Metaverse, but what are you thinking about? Well, well, yours might be more interesting than mine. I mean, I think you know the Metaverse activity and experimentation and a few high profile, I guess proofs of concept will, will continue. So, I'm not suggesting we, what is it called the Gartner Hype Cycle, the trough of disillusionment or something like that. I don't, I don't think we're going to be going backwards. But I think if you try to get your head around, like what is really the problem that is being solved by most of these Metaverse experiments, it's kind of hard to come up with what big problem they're really solving. And at the same time, consumers do not seem to be significantly increasing their interest. There are a bunch of studies about you know what percent of people are even aware of the Metaverse or a particular application. You know, what percent of people own a, you know a virtual reality headset answer like nobody. And so, there's a lot of the foundational pieces that are not in place, and are I think very unlikely to change so significantly, that the Metaverse will be an interesting revenue opportunity this year. 

Michael LeBlanc   23:59


Steve Dennis  24:03

But what do you think?

Michael LeBlanc  24:06

Yeah. Or never? I think it's a hustle. I think the Metaverse has succeeded for one company wildly beyond its dreams of reframing some problematic issues. I do think beyond that there's a small niche, and I say a hustle at this large scale that we're talking about. But we're even talking about it in the kind of retail for most retailers. I mean, Apple is going to come up with their own device, probably, though it'll be priced premium, I'm sure. You know, $10 billion, put in by one company is going to generate something but you know, I know there's a lot of people having conferences and meetings with retailers and let's talk about your Metaverse strategy, which I think they're just bored of talking about supply chain strategies because it's boring. So, call me a Metaverse skeptic. Metaverse, spendaverse is what I have to say about the Metaverse.

Steve Dennis  24:18

That sounds familiar.

Michael LeBlanc  24:56

Well, let's talk about something I'm more positive about, let's talk about AI your number 12, AI on the other hand compared to the Metaverse.

Steve Dennis  25:00

Yeah, well, I think in terms of the new applications of AI and machine learning, I don't know that I could argue that the business cases will be or the, or the revenues will be as obvious or more, you know, significant compared to the Metaverse. But I think the possibilities beyond some of the things that were already going on from, from Ai, you know, it's just way more, way more interesting. You know, I mean, there is, you know, an acronym soup here, but you know, ChatGPT, GPT-3, GPT-4. Companies like Stable Diffusion. I mean, there's so many companies that are attracting a lot of venture capital, a lot of interest. And the ability to replace basically, other systems or humans performing functions at a much lower cost, and in some cases, much greater efficacy is (inaudible). Those are real business cases to me, because we know that labor looks, at least for the foreseeable future, to be in short supply, 

Michael LeBlanc  26:20


Steve Dennis  26:21

The ability to deal with mountains of data quickly. We know that's incredible, you know, that's got all sorts of different applications, you know, artistic renderings that can be done. I am sure some people have seen some of these apps and whatnot. And you know, we are just in the early days. So, I think the level of interest in this, and the business cases that are solving real problems that are big dollar problems are already much more apparent in many cases than the Metaverse opportunity. But I certainly think in the next year, it's just going to explode. And so, I think it is way more interesting, at least in the next couple of years than the Metaverse.

Michael LeBlanc  26:58

As a group of one, I've actually been using ChatGPT. I've been using ChatGPT to write the introductory comments for some of my podcasts, and it's remark-, (crossover talk). 

Steve Dennis  27:09

I think I actually was talking to you but you weren't a real person.

Michael LeBlanc  27:15

And it actually is pretty good. Like, (crossover talk).

Steve Dennis  27:16

I can't quite get the Canadian accent right, though. I can't quite get it right.

Michael LeBlanc  27:18

But you know, what, what it is, as a comic in all seriousness is, you know, like, if you write it, you know, this is a writer, sometimes you get you, when you write, you start using the same words and the same phrases and, you know, it takes a lot of work to break out of that and, and that's what I've been using it for is to kind of help me break out of saying, "on this episode", you know, those, those repeatable things. So, you know, as a very micro example, it's kind of, it's kind of interesting. All right, well, that's 12, that's your dozen. Let's talk about a bit of a baker's dozen bonus now you've got a couple of long shot, kind of bonuses that you want to share.

Steve Dennis  27:20

The first is Nike buying Peloton. 

Michael LeBlanc  27:24

Everything in threes by the way I like that, I like that. 

Steve Dennis   27:28

Yeah, that's right there's always three even if I don't know what the third is yet there'll be one by the time I get there. Nike buys Peloton, I think Nike you know, looking for growth vehicles, they're investing a lot in, kind of, this membership-based platform. Obviously, they're in the fitness business. Peloton needs a lot of help, so they could probably pick it up for a very attractive price. So, that would be one. 

Steve Dennis  27:47

Second, related to one of my other predictions, in terms of big things happening is that Amazon unloads Whole Foods. Either they spin it out, I don't think they would shut it down. Because I think there's too much you know, underlying value there. But you know that they have owned it for a long time and it has gone nowhere. There is some new leadership there. So perhaps, Jason, I think is his name, will come up with a better plan, but Whole Foods really needs something, something needs to happen big there. And I think Amazon might, in the chassis era, give up on it. 

Michael LeBlanc  28:32

Wholesale changes, (crossover talk). 

Steve Dennis  28:36

Wholesale changes (inaudible). Yeah, they needed a better title. Sorry, you know, if I had I used chat anyway. And the last one, which you know, it's not a totally original idea, but is an idea that, that kind of died, but that Kohls and Penney’s merged.

Michael LeBlanc  28:52

Oh, interesting. 

Steve Dennis  28:54

In which I don't think this is a great idea because a mediocre brand with a lousy brand does not equal a remarkable brand. 

Michael LeBlanc  29:03

Yeah. Yeah. 

Steve Dennis   29:06

But I think that the pressure on the owners of Penney's, that heat is gonna rise and Kohl's is very much in trouble. And I think they may pull a Sears and Kmart and what could go wrong?

Michael LeBlanc  29:39

Well, it's funny that you say that because of course, there's a direct pipeline, the two of them, the two leaders both worked for Levi Strauss. So, maybe they, at the Christmas party, and then you know, they can get together and, hey, we worked together you know at Levi's. Maybe we can make that happen here.

Steve Dennis  29:59

Stranger things have happened.

Michael LeBlanc 30:00

Stranger things have happened and I'm sure strange things are gonna happen this year. I love the predictions, one through 12 with a few, with a few baker's dozen extras. It's a great episode and a reminder to all the listeners that we will be revisiting these and scoring you and scoring us, scoring mostly on how you did. So, we do hold ourselves accountable. And we do like to come back and chat about these. So, we'd be, we'd be coming back. For now. let's leave it there. And we'll see you in our next episode. 

If you like what you heard, please follow us on Apple Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform. So, catch up with all our great interviews, including “organizing for growth”. Our interview with Satish Malhotra, CEO of The Container Store. New episodes of Season 6, presented for another season by our friends at MarketDial will show up each and every Tuesday. And be sure and tell all your friends and colleagues in the retail industry, all about us.

Steve Dennis  30:53

And I'm Steve Dennis, author of the bestselling book, ‘Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption’. You can learn more about me, my consulting and keynote speaking at

Michael LeBlanc  31:08

And I'm Michael LeBlanc, Consumer Retail Growth Consultant, keynote speaker and producer and host of a series of retail trade podcasts including this one. You can learn even more about me on LinkedIn, and you can catch up with Steve and I in person at Shoptalk in Vegas March 26. And a month later in Barcelona at the World Retail Congress, April 25. 

Until then, safe travels everyone.


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