From the “Weekend News” segment on Saturday Night Live, November 5, 2011:

“Macy’s announced this week that its flagship store in Manhattan will undergo a $400 million renonvation that will create the world’s largest women’s shoe department, featuring more than 300,000 pairs of shoes, and—as always—one cashier.”


“Several department stores have announced that on Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season—they will open their stores at midnight because nothing puts people in the giving spirit like enduring a long, stressful holiday with their family, hopping in the car half drunk in the middle of the night, and battling an angry mob over a tennis bracelet.”

On behalf of the mom and pop businesses everywhere, thank you, Seth Meyers. Big time.

(If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Keep the Cheer HereThe 3/50 Project’s 2011 holiday campaign.)



This is the kind of stuff that makes my blood boil.

The stationery industry has faced it for years—brides come in to touch, feel, and get professional advice while searching for wedding invitations, then take that valuable knowledge online, or worse, home as a DIY project.

The assumption that stores provide floor samples and professional advice for free is absurd; they pay for those samples, floor displays, and employee training, all for the purpose of making a sale. Using those resources with no intent of purchasing from the providing retailer is just this side of shoplifting. Yes, my language is strong on this point, but as a past retailer who watched the practice first hand, I know what it costs in very real financial terms.

A lot.

This past weekend, USA Today pushed the “use-em-and-leave-em” concept to the extreme, actually instructing consumers to peruse computers in local stores, then go online to make the purchase, complete with a list of online discounters happy to make the sale (on a brick and mortar’s back).

States are gasping for air as their sales tax revenues drop. Commercial property tax roles shrink as brick and mortars go dark. And our quality of life, directly connected to emergency services, sidewalks, streets, state agencies, school programs, park systems, etc. suffer.

I understand the high cost of outfitting kids for school. No question. But telling consumers it’s okay to “use” a local store’s resources with zero intent of making a purchase is just plain wrong.

Here’s the article—I hope retailers reading this will head on over there and add their two cents to the comments. Your voices need to be heard.


An email arrived today that began with a website link and a simple sentence: “What planet does this guy live on???”

I clicked the link…and found that “a certain retail consultant” is recycling his old material, telling merchants to delay participation in consumer awareness campaigns (again singling out only The 3/50 Project by name).

Yeah. Right. Limit your store’s visibility during these days of stiff internet and big box competition. Not exactly the advice I’d give. (Ever.)

In keeping with the recycling theme, here’s my original response.

(Is it just me, or do you also get the impression someone has a sour grape caught between his teeth? Sorry, but it’s sure beginning to look that way.)



One of the bonuses to attending the A.I.R. (Advocates for Independent Retail) Summit is that we were among the first to see Civic Economics’ latest study, the Indie City Index. Based on their always-thorough methodology, CE was able to rank the top 363 metropolitan regions (not cities, since many MSAs are in extremely rural areas) according to how “independent brick and mortar healthy” they are. The more active and supported local independent businesses are in an area, the higher the score; the less active and supported, the lower the score. Here’s how the overall list shook out: [click here to continue…]


I’m spoiled rotten.

One of the perks to networking and traveling all year, focused on independent businesses, is that I get to visit some pretty stellar retail stores along the way. The happy memories are endless…All Good Things (Madison, IN), where real bubbles roll out from under the front awning…Man in the Moon Candies (Oswego NY) that continues a multi-generational tradition of selling “sponge candy”…Toy House (Jackson MI) that makes ToysRUs look like a wannabe…

Being a big believer in high fives, following is my 2010 list of businesses and individuals who redefine smart, savvy, and independent, doing it better than any chain or big box ever could. Please forgive the fact the list is incomplete; there were simply too many to fit into a blog post. Or ten. Or one hundred. [click here to continue…]


Did you spend at least $50 this month with three locally owned businesses while shopping for the holidays? Great! Now…how ‘bout we give you a $350 gift card as thanks for doing the right thing?

We’re into the final days of our “Small Boxes Big Rewards” contest, giving away ten (count ‘em, ten!) $350 American Express gift cards.

Pick 3, spend 50, get $350. How much better does it get than that?

Here’s the skinny: [click here to continue…]

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From The New Yorker, circa 1980’s (presumably written by an independent retailer whose name is missing from the piece):

A Nation of Shopkeepers
England has been called “a nation of shopkeepers,” and rightly so. We know a man living in London who comes home very Thursday to find his refrigerator newly stocked by the grocer across the street. This particular grocery store is about the size and shape of a butler’s pantry, presided over by a Dickensian character named Hughes. [click here to continue…]


Just learned about this from a couple of retailers I met during The 3/50 Project Northern California Tour earlier this year. The fine folks of Willows, CA put on an annual holiday parade, which Holly and Dolores, owners of Gathering Better Junque, saw as an opportunity to remind residents to support their local, independent brick and mortar merchants.

Gotta tell you, when I put the graphics together for the Big Things campaign, it never occurred to me just how creative you’d get with the theme. From Atchison, KS Chamber adorning an entire stage in purple and gold packages to the Gathering Better Junque Danali (complete with a fully lit Christmas tree and our Big Things posters), well…color me impressed.

And proud.

And touched.

You folks are what makes the Project sing. Thanks for your glorious voices and unbridled enthusiasm; that’s what makes this work!