I was downtown yesterday and had to use the bathroom so I went to the old Marshall Fields store which is now Macy’s and used the bathroom. There are few places you can find a public bathroom downtown so I appreciated that when I was running to the train after having drinks with some friends at the Park Grill in Mellennium Park.
I entered the store and ran straight into a Martha Stewart section dedicated to displaying all her furniture, bedding, dishware, place settings, glassware and kitchen products together. I would find this same type of taking over the store setup in 4 other locations while walking around. And the biggest suprise was looking at this stuff thinking, it’s not that great, and it even kind of looks cheap and crappy really. I used to like Martha’s stuff when it was from the web store in her site. It was pretty ok stuff that was unique that you couldn’t find it anywhere else. She singlehandedly brought Jadeite back into style while reviving countless other early 20th century styles and traditions that the new techno generation had forgotten about when their grandmothers passed away. And it worked, it reminded us of a classier time and a more elegant and self crafted way to live. You knew what was in the food you ate because you made it from scratch, you didn’t throw out furniture you refinished it, you didn’t have a boring green box lawn you planted some trees and a flower and vegetable garden. It was what we all aspired to be.
Then her company went big time and since about 2005 (when this whole let’s be Oprah on TV thing started) her ideas have fallen flat. The magazine is still ok, but no where it once was. The TV show is a talk show and not a hot to show anymore. The web site has had more new faces and looks than Madonna in the past 10 years and every one keeps getting more difficult to navigate and the information is organized in deceptive ways to get you to click on adsense and other ads, rather than find, read and stick to the site for content. K-mart’s stuff was ok,we accepted that it was cheap-o, because it was from K-mart, but I didn’t buy more than 1 or 2 things. (and not the paper like bath towels) Her furniture line has been called a success, but while I think some of it is nice, I think all of it is grossly overpriced. No one pays that much for furniture unless they are millionaires or really stupid and like debt. So the ideas in the magazines I fell in love with in 1994 have long since gone away as Martha went to jal, came back and had a bunch of uber aggressive sales people running the company and magazine while young 20 something cooks and crafters came up with all the ideas. That’s where the wheels fell off the truck. It’s not unified anymore under what ”Martha” likes and wants anymore. It’s got too many people and too many goals to achieve that are counterproductive to one another. And, it is all in the name of the evil greedy need to increase REVENUE!!
So then I heard about this Macy’s co-branded line online, I clicked to the Macy’s site and saw that the stuff looked ok-ish but not really matching or complementing the original Martha Stewart green jadeite plates and silverware I have at home. I didn’t go any further then, because I don’t really ahve extra $ for buying more home stuff when I have more dishes and bedding than I alredy need at home and I didn’t see anything until I ran smack into it at Macy’s last night.
What I saw was some very nice displays but some very cheap chinese made stuff. The plates and dishware is thin and very breakable although it costs $8 dollars for a cereal bowl. My original Martha bowls I think cost 3 or 4 dollars each in the 2001-2002 days and they are thick heavy green glass. Why the markup on lower quality stuff? So it’s overpriced, nothing new huh? Some plates and bowls are somewhat pretty in white, but the patterned ones are just butt ugly. I don’t know what vintage pattern they used, but the colors and the gradient and the pattern should all be scrapped. I liked the ferns, but they are stupid expensive. Is this supposed to be fine china? I don’t think so…just every day dishes.
The Bedding was worse. I touched the duvet covers that had the 2004-ish coral patterns all over them in the signature beige, robins egg blue and green. They felt like copy paper. The towels were hard too, and had a very sparse loop pattern meaning they use less cheap thread in making the towels by spreading out the loops farther. Plus they weren’t even soft. There was no bounce or fluff at all. The sheets were papery too, and the shower curtain was cardboard. I am all for synthetic fabrics when they are soft to the touch, but who really wants to dry their face on cardboard? And at those prices???
The kitchen ware area was equally dissapointing. The melamie bowl sets looked ok, but were not in good color palletes and $30 dollars for something that cost about 2 dollars to produce? Are you kidding? They should be $12.00 and they would be flying off the shelves even in the bad colors. The collapsable collanders are interesting but not that great. They feel cheap and that takes away from the innovation there. The pots and pans are just par for the course and the teapot was not any different than the chinese ones offered at target for $9.99 but it was $40 dollars. What gives? I am not spending that for the name on it.
Whant to save the sinking ship martha??? Here’s what you do:
1. Fire all these people aranging these short term liscensing deals with companies that put your name on their ultra cheap products made in China. They have ruined your brand and name. You need to reclaim it.
2. Fire all the people who designed your site for monetization and not for content. Hire some content people from the Chicago Tribune or New York Times, who are not influenced by the green devil and have a background in online content publishing, search engine optimization and social networking. (those moms like to network and share tips you know, but you’re not launching a whole networking site, so don’t get carried away)
3. Start recoiling your products into specific lines and quality levels that make sense. Entry level (Kmart) and exclusive posh stuff (your own high end stores in NY, LA and Chi Like a Tiffany’s of homekeeping). (Skip Macy’s)You shouldn’t be able to get your products everywhere, just one store for each level, and online through your site. Stop cobranding everything from fridges to cleaning products. They are dumb and only make your popularity shorter.
4. Make your products as good as the vintage stuff you find and love and the exclusive stuff you personally buy in Europe or here in the US. Make it in the USA if possibe, but if you insist on getting it on a slow boat to China, get it made of only high high end materials and in classic styles.
5. Take back the magazine yourself, and have someone else host the TV show, just make occasional appearances. After all this time you have gone from looking awkward and halting on camera to kind of ok, but wouldn’t it be more popular if Jennifer Garner hosted your show? Then get back to the idea generation, organization and management of your company. Bring back those things you discover and craft and not your staff. Please work with them and not against them though, because they’re tallented. Only put the things in your magazine that you want to jump up in your chair and tell everyone about. Stop trying to pass mediocre or crap off as amazing. Give us amazing like you used to. (the only thing that hasn’t slipped is the amazing photography that changed the way magazines were photographed for back 10 years ago)
6. And don’t be afraid of saying no to money. Money isn’t what life is about, neither is global domination. It is far better to have your company last decades because it is so dependable, high quality and consistent rather than make a billion in 5 years and then crash out of business and loose it all. Run your business with the old time traditions that you cherish. Yearly traditions with cosumers, your staff and your products. Plus you have more money than you will ever need, and those other people at your company do too. Please lay off these six figure boss management people who know nothing about home keeping and are just about maximizing profts. You don’t owe them anything. They are exposing your brand to the world as a cheap replicatable brand right now because these people have talked you into offering cheap crap with your name on it. Take control and take your company back soon or people won’t know who you are in 5 years or buy anything with your name on it.