WWD.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/a-retail-conundrum-how-to-do-755638/

NEW YORK — Retailers have a tough decision to make in the next few weeks: how to mark the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and plan for the day’s trading.

This story first appeared in the July 24, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

It’s a difficult and sensitive situation, compounded by anxieties that will be heightened that day with fears of another attack. Retailers in and out of New York expect reduced traffic in their stores, but note that 9/11 falls on a Wednesday, which would not draw as much volume as much volume as a Saturday or Sunday, and that back-to-school selling is past its peak.

Saks Fifth Avenue is planning commemorative windows and considering opening its Fifth Avenue flagship an hour or two late, to accommodate those who wish to attend memorial services. Macy’s and J.C. Penney Co. have rescheduled sales events and pushed ads away from Sept. 11, and are considering ways to recognize the tragedy. Bloomingdale’s wants it to be a day of remembrance and for strengthening community ties. And at Lord & Taylor’s Fifth Avenue flagship, “we are going to install nonmerchandise windows with a message we feel is appropriate,” said Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising. Branch locations will have similar signing.

There is a consensus that the day should be low-key and noncommercial, although as of last week, many executives were waiting to hear what other stores are planning, or what politicians suggest, before setting their own strategies.

“I don’t know the answer,” acknowledged Allen Questrom, chairman and chief executive officer of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. “Normally, we have a big event, but we’ve moved it away. Clearly, it’s a day when I don’t think anybody would be doing a big event. We want to do something understated and very reverent. It’s not an easy call. You don’t want to be commercial.” One possibility is televising a memorial service to employees via Penney’s internal teleconferencing system, he said.

“It’s not just about running an ad,” said Michael Gould, Bloomingdale’s chairman and ceo. “It’s about an ongoing remembrance and helping our communities on an ongoing basis. Bloomingdale’s has been in the New York area for 130 years. We are an integral part of the community and a neighborhood store, whether it’s White Plains, Short Hills, Roosevelt Field or 59th Street. What we do in memory is not just about 9/11. It’s about how we strengthen our bonds with all of our associates and customers.”

Specifically, “Bloomingdale’s will work with children’s programs across the country to create art projects about hope and remembrance,” said Anne Keating, senior vice president of public relations. “All windows of our 59th Street store and our stores across the country will present the projects.”

“Saks is leaning towards opening up later,” said Michael Macko, the store’s director of publicity, who also sits on the families’ advisory council of Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

“The mayor’s position is that businesses do not stay closed,” Macko said. “I think Saks is looking at opening later, at 11 or noon, for people who may be going to a special ceremony.” Saks tribute windows might be kept simple, with only the words, “With Sadness.”

Hal Kahn, chairman and ceo of Macy’s East, said: “We haven’t put all of our thoughts together yet, but we know one thing for sure, it’s not going to be a commercial day. We’re still looking to see what other people are considering and what the government is doing, but we know it will be a day of remembrance, low-key and not a day that we exploit. Normally, we would have a one-day sale. We’ve moved it. We will do the right thing. Whether we stay open the whole day or not is to be determined.” Macy’s is considering memorial ads, special windows and a charity tie-in.

At Sears, Roebuck & Co., “we’ve had lots of discussions about it. We’re very sensitive to it and have not made any decisions about it yet,” said a spokeswoman. “We want to observe that day with great reverence.”

The New York Stock Exchange is “still in the planning stages for the day. We will be open for trading,” said a spokesman.

As for Liz Claiborne, “at this point, the company hasn’t planned anything for the memorial or commemoration of September 11. The topic will be discussed at an executive council meeting scheduled for August,” a spokeswoman said.

Designer flagships in New York are currently planned to remain open on Sept. 11, including those of Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger, as well as Hermes. DKNY stores are considering windows reflecting the spirit of Manhattan, through Karan’s voice, with an exhibition of Peter Lindbergh’s images of the city used in DKNY ad campaigns.

“Business should be conducted as usual, but with respect to the seriousness of what happened,” advised Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates. “The commemoration should be for those who innocently put it on the line. Retailers should not run great big advertisements, but should show some remembrance in their advertising and in their store presentations. Flags should be flying. Stores are public institutions. They should be in sync with federal, state and local governments and the patriotic spirit, without it becoming a Fourth of July parade.”

Galyan’s ceo Robert Mang said: “It’s a very solemn day and an opportunity for us to do something for charity, one that is related to the 9/11 effort.” Mang noted that other solemn occasions, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day, have evolved into major sales days and volume opportunities, but the hope is that 9/11 remains different. As Aronson said: “It’s possible to create an atmosphere of commemoration without becoming blatantly commercialized.’’

At Taubman Centers, “We are definitely looking for guidance from federal, state and local leadership,” said Karen MacDonald, director of communications. “Whatever we decide to do will be based on the guidance we get. It will be low-key and dignified.”

Colonial Properties Trust Malls, of Birmingham, Ala., also is organizing a range of events at its properties, including school bands and choirs — to honor local police and firefighters — fund-raisers and blood drives. And a mall in Decatur, Ill., is having a silent auction for a trip to New York City. Colonial Mall in Macon, Ga., along with local sponsors, will host a two-week display of photographs taken at Ground Zero. They will also invite children to draw pictures of “What It Means To Be An American.” The pictures will be laminated and displayed in the shape of a flag on the floor of the mall.

In Hackensack, N.J., Riverside Square will establish an 88-foot mural of commemorative artwork, poems and essays created by students.

What’s planned by governmental agencies will obviously affect retailers, including observances held at the time the jets crashed into the World Trade and when the towers collapsed. “The last thing we should do is close our doors,” said Cristyne Nicholas, president and ceo of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism bureau, who noted that, year-to-date, there have been 5 million fewer visitors to the city than there were in 2001. “We want to make sure the world knows that New York City is open on Sept. 11. We are preparing a list of events taking place on and around Sept. 11.”

“Business should be conducted as usual, but with respect to the seriousness of what happened,” advised Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates. “The commemoration should be for those who innocently put it on the line. Retailers should not run great big advertisements, but should show some remembrance in their advertising and in their store presentations. Flags should be flying. Stores are public institutions. They should be in sync with federal, state and local governments and the patriotic spirit, without it becoming a Fourth of July parade.”

Galyan’s ceo Robert Mang said: “It’s a very solemn day and an opportunity for us to do something for charity, one that is related to the 9/11 effort.” Mang noted that other solemn occasions, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day, have evolved into major sales days and volume opportunities, but the hope is that 9/11 remains different. As Aronson said: “It’s possible to create an atmosphere of commemoration without becoming blatantly commercialized.’’

At Taubman Centers, “We are definitely looking for guidance from federal, state and local leadership,” said Karen MacDonald, director of communications. “Whatever we decide to do will be based on the guidance we get. It will be low-key and dignified.”

Colonial Properties Trust Malls, of Birmingham, Ala., also is organizing a range of events at its properties, including school bands and choirs — to honor local police and firefighters — fund-raisers and blood drives. And a mall in Decatur, Ill., is having a silent auction for a trip to New York City. Colonial Mall in Macon, Ga., along with local sponsors, will host a two-week display of photographs taken at Ground Zero. They will also invite children to draw pictures of “What It Means To Be An American.” The pictures will be laminated and displayed in the shape of a flag on the floor of the mall.

In Hackensack, N.J., Riverside Square will establish an 88-foot mural of commemorative artwork, poems and essays created by students.

What’s planned by governmental agencies will obviously affect retailers, including observances held at the time the jets crashed into the World Trade and when the towers collapsed. “The last thing we should do is close our doors,” said Cristyne Nicholas, president and ceo of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism bureau, who noted that, year-to-date, there have been 5 million fewer visitors to the city than there were in 2001. “We want to make sure the world knows that New York City is open on Sept. 11. We are preparing a list of events taking place on and around Sept. 11.”