I love some of the quotes that came out of this year’s Finance Forum, held in late January in Manhattan. The annual gathering of retail industry executives, suppliers and consultants has a reputation for lively chatter and it didn’t disappoint this year, thanks largely to J. Crew Group chairman and CEO Millard “Mickey” Drexler. The veteran — and notoriously outspoken — retailer wasn’t on the formal panel, but he had a few choice remarks to say from the audience during a question-and-answer session.
As widely reported, Drexler took issue with the upbeat assessment of the past holiday season and positive outlook for 2012 that kicked off the event.
“I don’t know what the optimism is about,” said Drexler, raising concern about the endless discounting and ratcheting up of promotions that retailers are engaging in attract shoppers and the continuing influx of “cheap players” into the retail marketplace.
Drexler also took issue with the nation’s malls and suggested that that mall operators should be doing more to drive shoppers to the stores.
“We pay a lot of rent,” he said. “I don't see any excitement or improvement in 98% of them [of the nation's malls].”
One thing that Drexler does not want mall operators to do, however, is sell popcorn next to one of his stores. He described visiting a store where the smell of popcorn was just too much for him to take.
As for those developers, one of the nation’s most prominent was in the audience.
“Mickey, God bless you. It’s not like you haven’t made a living off shopping malls, maybe two livings compared to a lot of us,” said Robert Taubman, chairman and CEO of Taubman Centers.
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