There are two interesting sociological business stories passing around through business circles today.
The first is, family owned general stores in the communities of Vermont and elsewhere in New England are closing one by one. The paradox is that it's the very place in the US where a great amount of effort was spent denying retail access to big box stores like Walmart.
Their customers are falling, one by one, to the lure of having everything they could ever want at their disposal through Amazon.
The second is that Sears, gasping for air for years, and that continues on the brink of bankruptcy, has decided to begin selling its appliance brand, Kenmore, on Amazon.
Meanwhile, the Sears' news caused the stock of Home Depot and Lowe's to have a significant drop.
Business continues to become more and more non-personal.
Henry S. Miller opened his real estate brokerage firm in Dallas in 1914, and with his name continuing on the door, built it into one of the largest independently owner firms in America.
American retail businesses and service businesses are fast becoming nothing more than brokerage businesses. There is no Stanley Marcus continuing the pride of ownership of Neiman-Marcus. Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck have long been gone, even Henry S. Miller no longer looks over the company he built.
In the latter part of May, Patty and I visited a store that sells flooring. The salesman came about five days later to measure the room we wanted re-floored. He works on commission. He's contract labor. He went back to the store where they ordered the materials from a supplier. The supplier delivered the boxes of flooring to our house, never coming close to the store where we had initiated the purchase.
A few days later, a subcontractor installer of the store came to put in our new floor. After he was 80% finished, he realized that he was short the material necessary to complete the job. The salesman has mismeasured.
He went back to the store, where they ordered more. About a week later, the supplier delivered the boxes to our house. Four days later, the installer returned to complete the job.
It was then that he discovered that the transition had been done incorrectly, and he could not complete the job. He reported the problem to the store, who by the way, was also the store whose tile installer had done that installation incorrectly.
The store not only took no responsibility for the problem, but also took no interest in fixing it so that the current job could be completed.
By now, more than one month had passed since we went to the store to select a product. I sent the final check to the store with a note that I would finish the installation myself. No response came from them.
What businesses have concluded is that by not having permanent employees, but contract labor and commissioned salespeople, they are not responsible for those non-employees' contributions to the customer.
When was the last time you went into a grocery store, Walmart, Target, or the many other stores and saw the store manager on the floor interacting with customers?
It hasn't happened, because the store doesn't want the manager identified other than by a name. At that point the ownership would become responsible for customer problems....no one else to blame.
They don't want there manager to know how displeased you are when you are standing in an endless line at one of the two or three open cash wraps because he would rather inconvenience you rather than have sufficient $8.00 an hour employees to make your visit an enjoyable one.
Real estate brokerage is becoming more and more a clone of the Walmart style rather than that of a Henry S. Miller.
<<== Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
For an example, the Texas Real Estate Commission proposed a licensing modification, and it was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. Here it is:
A licensed sales person no longer has to identify the name of the broker whose license he represents; further, he no longer has to identify on signs, ads, web sites, and the like, which real estate company holds his license.
It seems to me to be akin to the big box stores keeping their management from easy access to the customer. Everyone is now loosely connected.
Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Reuben
However, Neiman-Marcus' Dallas NorthPark store's manager, Malcolm Reuben, follows the great Stanley Marcus' management style. You'll find him on the store's floors for major parts throughout the day, easily identified by his impeccable style and his name tag proudly displayed on his suit jacket.
Try to figure out who the manager of Nordstrom, Dillard's or Macey's is.
Or how about this: You're a longtime client of one of the franchise real estate brokerage firms. Do you know who the managing broker is?
BILL CHERRY, REALTOR