NEW YORK — Jack Welch, the hard-driving former chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric, had a saying: “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” Gary Williams would tend to agree.
Williams, the founder of wRatings, an independent research firm that annually ranks the most competitive retail and consumer goods companies, believes a firm’s success rests on its ability to earn a consistent profit and protect it — that’s the competitive advantage.
The 2008 Most Competitive Retail and Consumer Goods Study, sponsored by software provider SAP AG, lists 20 companies in each category. On the retail side, Publix Super Markets Inc. captured the top slot for the second year in a row. Williams suggests the fact that Publix is employee-managed has something to do with the food retailer’s success. “If you’re an employee and you own stock, you’re going to do a better job,” he said, adding this should be incorporated into best practices for many firms. “Why don’t other companies look at giving employees stock? It shows up in their customer service rankings.”
Coach Inc. holds the second spot on the list this year. “Coach has had great economic profit for years,” Williams said. “It keeps getting better. Coach is enormously consumer-oriented and has a huge database of what consumers want and tracks [products] from all over the world. Coach is also very good at introducing products that are attuned to the next generation of things.”
Commenting on the phenomenon that very young consumers are buying Coach, Williams suggested the handbag and accessories retailer take a page from Victoria’s Secret, which created the Pink brand to appeal to younger customers while protecting the sexy image of its core brand.
Evidence of the lackluster economy could be found in the presence of chains such as Family Dollar Stores Inc., which weighs in at number three. Interestingly, everyday-low-priced Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is absent from the 2008 list. “Wal-Mart is doing well,” Williams said, “but Wal-Mart is not a choice that consumers enjoy making. They don’t say, ‘Oh great, I can go to Wal-Mart now.’ Will Wal-Mart do well in 2008? Probably, because they’ve got everyday low prices. If there are other choices, like Family Dollar, consumers will go there. Family Dollar is sort of a Wal-Mart alternative.”
Other apparel retailers on the list are Gap Inc., Ross Stores Inc., Neiman Marcus Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc., J. Crew and Nordstrom Inc., (numbers seven, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16, respectively).
Williams said Gap appears on the list year after year, probably due to high brand recognition. “We keep seeing Gap and they should be doing much better than they’re doing financially,” he said. “They have started to make some headway on the economic side. They’ve turned a corner at Gap. We believe that based on the ratings, they’ll have steady performance for the rest of this year.”
On the consumer goods ranking, Williams notes more cosmetics companies than in previous years. “Estée Lauder moved from number 34 to number nine,” he said.
While there’s little pricing power in apparel, cosmetics is one of the few categories that has it. “It’s a form of a small indulgence,” Williams said. “Revlon [number 16, up from 38 in 2007] typically doesn’t do well financially. Revlon’s really started to come around on the consumer side. They’re in the right category in 2008.”
Another beauty brand, Avon, rose to number 12 this year from 18 in 2007. “Cosmetics every year for the last few years has been a top-ranked industry,” Williams said, adding that it’s not surprising considering companies spend so much money on marketing. �
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye