No shirt, Sherlock

This past weekend, Steve Lackmeyer introduced the “leakage” theory of retail as an explanation of why we weren’t getting any of the “cool” stores here in the 405. An example, from August Partners consultant David Lobaugh:

Lobaugh’s surveys show that only 52 percent of residents’ apparel purchases are within Oklahoma City. Recipients of that leakage, he said, range from Edmond, Moore and Norman, to Tulsa and Dallas.

“You’re spending a lot of money in other places,” Lobaugh said. “Shame on you. Don’t do that anymore.”

Lackmeyer himself admits to contributing to the problem:

[L]ast month my wife and I went to the Whole Foods in Tulsa, but only because we couldn’t find products she was looking for here in Oklahoma City.

And I suppose I should admit to being a shareholder in Leakville: I buy my shoes from the New Balance store in Edmond, and a lot of stuff from catalogs.

But there’s a semi-vicious circle shaping up here, as noted by Shane down in Norman:

Chain of events: OKC isn’t shopping locally because it can’t get what it wants in OKC. So, in order to get the chain retailers we want, we have to start spending more locally — meaning we need to have local retailers to fill the niche of Urban Outfitters or Whole Foods. Once those local retailers are in place, and we are shopping locally more, the chain stores we wanted finally come in and destroy the local businesses we have built up? So the chains want to have mom and pop stores to destroy if they are going to come into OKC? That’s what the retail experts are saying?

This is what marketing people in every realm say: you want something totally different, yet exactly the same. As Fillyjonk said here:

It seems to me that Madison Avenue, Hollywood, programming execs, publishers, are all looking for something that is “distinctive, but is just the same as all that other stuff that’s popular right now.”

So here’s the deal. Both sides of the retail equation are highly risk-adverse: the sellers don’t want to lose their shirts, and the buyers don’t want to buy the same damn shirts they have already. Is anyone surprised that retail sales are not exactly soaring these days?


  1. CT »

    14 April 2010 · 8:21 am

    Finding that delicate distinction is the half the job of marketing. The other half, of course, is to make you aware of the stuff that you don’t know you want to buy. Once that 1+1 is added together for OKC, the consumerist impulse will kick in just fine…

  2. Brett »

    14 April 2010 · 9:36 am

    Maybe I’m not thinking about these things like they are, but I don’t consider buying things in Edmond or Moore or Norman as buying them “outside OKC.” Technically, it’s buying them outside the Oklahoma City city limits, yes, but the way all these areas (plus Bethany and Warr Acres) are smushed together, who can tell?

    If I buy something in Moore, Moore gets the sales tax money. but the clerk I bought it from lives in OKC and the store manager lives in Norman and they’ll spend some of their paychecks there.

    Which, I guess, is a long-winded way of telling Mr. Lobaugh that if he doesn’t tell me how to shop, I won’t tell him how to dress up snake oil and sell it as consulting.

  3. McGehee »

    14 April 2010 · 10:14 am

    So much for Big Business tracking our purchases and using that information to sell us stuff. It should occur to somebody to notice that if a lot of OKC residents are shopping at their stores outside OKC, that implies a demand in OKC for what they sell, and therefore indicate that opening a store in OKC might just make them a whole bunch of money.

    “Shame on you. Don’t do that anymore.”

    Lobaugh’s talking like an idiot. Shame on him, he shouldn’t do that anymore.

  4. fillyjonk »

    14 April 2010 · 10:49 am

    So, in other words, to get the stores we “want,” we need to buy the crap we really don’t want locally. Because companies seeing us accepting whatever is on offer is evidence of us wanting something different. Really.

    **head explodes**

    thank God for internet shopping. Now if they could just figure out a way for fresh goods like milk and produce to be orderable and shippable, I’d never have to deal with the local wal-mart and its whims again.

  5. Charles Pergiel »

    14 April 2010 · 10:58 am

    Risk adverse? Yeah, I’m risk adverse. I’m adverse to going into any retail store as it might have an adverse effect on my wallet, not to me mention my sense of well being.

  6. McGehee »

    14 April 2010 · 3:11 pm

    Lobaugh illustrates what should be a business-world corollary to “them as can do; them as can’t, teach.”

    Them as can run a business, do; them as can’t, consultant.

    If Scott Adams hasn’t already said it, it’s mine.

  7. McGehee »

    14 April 2010 · 3:12 pm

    Them as can run a business, do; them as can’t, consultant.

    And them as can’t type, add suffixes onto words inappropriately.

  8. Steve Lackmeyer »

    14 April 2010 · 10:01 pm

    For what it’s worth, I’ve enjoyed a nice payback from this coverage: readers have now assembled a list of several places closer to home that might provide us with the goods we’ve been looking for. Upcoming visits include Gourmet Gallery in Edmond and Forward Foods in Norman (still leakage, but not as bad, right?). And if this will spare us from traveling up to Tulsa just to go to a grocery store, my boys and I are happy campers (can’t speak for the wife).

  9. CGHill »

    14 April 2010 · 10:23 pm

    There is, incidentally, a satellite location of Forward Foods at NW 51 and Western.

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