What A Mess! Nothing But Empty Storefronts And Unsold Condos.

What A Mess! Nothing But Empty Storefronts And Unsold Condos.

This weekend as I walked from 8th Street to Prince Street in Soho, I was appalled by what I saw. At least 50% of the storefronts were vacant. It is DISMAL to walk around NYC at the moment – nothing but scaffolding and homeless encampments in front of empty storefronts.

How did all the smart folk in Commercial Real Estate end up so unprepared and misinformed about what the future holds for them? Years after retail hit the skids, people like Abe Rosen (who I adore and respect) were still buying buildings and crowing about how the groundfloor space would make a perfect flagship for Hermes or whatever. I don’t get it. The writing was on the wall back in 2014 when I started this blog. Whether it’s Hudson Yards or Fifth Avenue or any other prime retail corridor around the country, the gig for retail and overpriced condos is up!

Commercial real estate in a meltdown AND out of touch

With empty storefronts as far as the eye can see, how long before the first commercial real estate giant goes belly up? Googling the subject brings up precious little but it’s going to happen I have no doubt.

Why? Because this is just the tip of the iceberg. for every 1% increase in online shopping, 8,000 stores close.

While there are thousands of articles blaming “greedy” landlords (and there are certainly some), I believe this reflects a much more systemic shift in how we shop and the changing value we place on “stuff.”

Ultimately, this will lead to commercial bankruptcies that will make the 2010 housing crisis look like a walk in the park.

I know real estate people take the long view and many of these projects were started decades ago but doing more of the same (when it’s not working) strikes me as ridiculous. Retail is not coming back even with rents dropping, e.g., rents along Upper Madison Avenue (57th to 77th Streets) dropped 11.7% from a year ago. No takers. Empty storefront upon empty storefront.

The building frenzy of high priced condos over the last decade, likewise, is not sustainable. It shows developers are out of touch with reality and out of step with the times. While the price for almost everything we buy these days has gone down, condo prices are skyrocketing. It’s totally out of wack.

Scroll down for more on retail as well as residential real estate
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Use The 3-Minute Rule To Make The Most Of Serendipitious Opportunities

Use The 3-Minute Rule To Make The Most Of Serendipitious Opportunities

Everyone I mention the 3-Minute Rule to finds it intriguing. Doubly so when they realize it has the potential to turn humdrum encounters into something truly serendipitous.

Still with me? Here are some details.
The 3-Minute Rule” by Brant Pinvidic has been my most important read on Blinkist

I consider it essential reading for anyone in the business world but I also see it being highly relevant and useful for social gatherings.

Here are 7 key takeaways from “The 3-Minute Rule”
  • Your pitch has 3 minutes to succeed. Modern audiences have short attention spans and zero tolerance for hot air and long-windedness.
  • You might have an hour booked (and a powerpoint to match) but by the end of 3 minutes your audience is either with you or they’ve checked out. You can spend the next 57 minutes yammering away but they’re hooked (or not) after just 3 minutes!
  • You have to be selective with your 3-minute content. Most details are irrelevant. To win the audience over to the thing you’re pitching you have to convey the general concept in a way that is so engaging that they’re begging you to tell them more.
  • Your pitch needs to answer 4 questions in as compelling a way as possible: 1. what is it? 2. how does it work? 3. are you sure? 4. can you do it?
  • Your 3-minutes of material must be synthesized into a total of 25 sentences: 9 for What is it? 7 for How does it work? 6 for Are you sure? 1 for Can you do it? An additional 2 sentences are granted for the opener.
  • The opener ideally brings an “aha” moment to life, e.g., the moment everything clicked and you realized you were onto something big with this concept.
  • Preempt skepticism by acknowledging any obvious problem that might jeopardize your idea. Bring it up and talk about how you’ll deal with it. You’ll lose your audience, and their trust, if you don’t address it.

You can see why having this 3 minute pitch/outline at the ready can be useful in a multitude of situations. And why serendipitous moments can be made even luckier with that 3 minute pitch at hand.

Scroll down for more on serendipitous moments and how they are enhanced by the 3-Minute Rule
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2020: New Year, New Decade. Are You Ready?

2020: New Year, New Decade. Are You Ready?

What a crazy decade it’s been, right? And as we head into 2020, all I can say is buckle up because it’s only going to get weirder. And while this post is NOT meant to offer any kind of all-inclusive list of trends, I do believe that every topic I have included will impact our lives in the future. One thing I am absolutely certain of: change is inevitable and it’s coming at us faster than ever, mostly because of technology and the power of social media.

My criteria for what to include (or not) in this “next decade” post is based on the work I’ve been doing with trends and culture shifts for the Opinionator since its founding in 2014. It’s been extremely helpful to see which themes have gradually become more prominent, what topics have received the most comments and shares, and, importantly, what countertrends are developing as we become a more pluralistic, multi-track society. Like it or not, we are increasingly moving away from being ONE nation and instead we’re seeking out “our” tribes among the myriad of micro-communities that have sprung up around us.

Looking ahead starts with looking back, then connecting the dots that define the present. Only then, can one get clarity about the future.”

Steve Jobs
Scroll down now to begin this journey into the future!
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Lackluster Holiday Sales? Blame It On The Backlash To Mindless Consumption.

Lackluster Holiday Sales? Blame It On The Backlash To Mindless Consumption.

I have not engaged in gift giving for over 20 years. I consider it a ridiculous waste of money, time and resources. This year, for the first time ever, I am hearing others talking about how pointless and burdensome they find it as well. Obligatory gifting suddenly seems so passé, completely out of the step with the times.

So what’s going on?

While most market analysts are still making their guesstimates about holiday shopping based on consumer sentiment and workforce data, more nuanced shifts in how Americans feel about consumerism are not yet filtering into the data (at least not that I’m detecting).

The trends I am listing below are based strictly on my personal observations. I have not seen any in-depth studies on this subject.

I will also be the first to admit it might all amount to nothing. Many people love shopping and enjoy getting gifts for their friends and family.

On the other hand, the confluence of so many trends and movements has the potential to significantly change how Americans consume and especially how they view marketing-driven gift giving.

scroll down for 5 observations about the changing nature of consumerism
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Chanel At The Standard Is The Most Instagrammable Pop-Up Of The Season

Chanel At The Standard Is The Most Instagrammable Pop-Up Of The Season

I’ve seen some interesting pop ups and retail “residencies” lately but this one takes the cake! An absolute wonderland. Plus it comes with an AR feature that plopped a gorgeous snow cone right into my living room (pics below).

The CHANEL N°5 IN THE SNOW pop up will be open to the public through December 15, 12 pm-10 pm. So if you’re in NYC, you’ve got a few more days to see this – highly recommend!

The special AR snow globe experience is available HERE.

Try as I might I could not find any info on who masterminded this pop-up experience. It’s one of the very best I’ve seen, every detail is perfect, and the execution is flawless. Bravo Chanel!

Scroll down for photos from my visit on Thursday, December 12.
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Is The Dry Cleaning Business Becoming Obsolete?

Is The Dry Cleaning Business Becoming Obsolete?

I’ve been thinking about dry cleaning a lot. Or more precisely, how to avoid it. And then on Thanksgiving on my way across town, I saw (for the first time ever) this sign which made me realize I’m not the only one cutting way back on my dry cleaning. And while I hate to see a small business face such an existential threat, dry cleaning is clearly facing an uncertain future.

What’s going on?

The rise of fast fashion and athleisure means that dry cleaning a garment can equal or surpass the cost of replacing it.

I became very conscious of my dry cleaning bills relative to the cost of the items being cleaned a few years ago after I started buying my wardrobe at COS. It dawned on me that a $100 item dry cleaned weekly would quickly cost more to maintain than the item cost in the first place. I set about trying to buy more items that were washable (and now I’ve invested in a steamer so we’ll see if that reduces the need for dry cleaning even further).

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How Did Helly Hansen Suddenly Get So Popular?

How Did Helly Hansen Suddenly Get So Popular?

I had no clue about this brand until a few weeks ago when I first noticed the HH logo on a guy in my neighborhood. And then on Black Friday at Hudson Yards, I spotted the logo twice. Once on a middle-aged Scandinavian man and once on a young Asian hipster. I was intrigued and needed to know more.

Here’s what I found

Helly Hansen is a 140-year-old Norwegian brand renowned among the sailing, skiing and workwear crowd for its functional and utilitarian gear. It’s a top workwear brand in Scandinavia.

Since 1997, the company has been bought and sold numerous times. In May 2018, it was acquired by Canadian Tire and appears to be on an upward trajectory as it re-focuses on outdoors functionality vs. trying to be a player in the cool streetwear arena.

The company had struggled in the ’90s after European and American teens and urban subcultures (from hip hop to skinheads!) discovered the brand.

“I went from Helly Hansen to mini-mansions”.


From what I read, HH was gobsmacked by their sudden fame and popularity. They did not know how to handle being a lifestyle brand. Their marketing was a mess and lacked uniformity as they gave each region free rein to design their own products.

Eventually, as the cool subcultures moved on to other brands, Helly Hansen was stuck with warehouses full of items nobody wanted to wear. They learned the hard way that their cachet came from being an authentic, functional workwear brand. Chasing streetwear cool made them uncool.

In doing a quick Google search, it looks like HH is once again emphasizing authentic performance outerwear.

2017 was a big year for them as they celebrated their 140th anniversary.

As luck would have it, HH was able to ride two major trends. One, the popularity of brands with history. Two, the appeal of functional workwear and outerwear. So kudos to their PR team for seizing the moment and getting the brand back on people’s radar.

“It’s fantastic to see that the ideas that are being designed in Norway strike interest in the rest of the world. There are only a few other Norwegian brands that have gained a position that strong in the global market. We initially became relevant because we used new technologies to keep people warm and dry. Today we remain true to who we are. We are very focused on the design, but our products will always be functional.”

Tor Jenssen, Category Managing Director, Helly Hansen
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Blinkist Update: Top 3 Books From November

Blinkist Update: Top 3 Books From November

I’ve now read almost 70 books since I signed up with Blinkist in late September. I read one book every morning at the gym while working out on the stationary bike. Best app ever and it does indeed deliver on its promise to “Serve Curious Minds.”

and Here are my top 3 reads from November😜
For The Record – – by David Cameron

Great read from the former Prime Minister of England who was brought down by the Brexit referendum. Until I read this book I hadn’t been aware of the role immigration played in the outcome of the vote.

I thought it was all about trade but according to Cameron’s book, the biggest factor in the decision to stay or leave the EU was the influx of immigrants to Britain from other EU countries (over a million when they had been told it would be 13K).

The Ride of a Lifetime – – by Robert Iger

The inside story of Disney’s comeback and how Iger’s career was shaped by his father and by preparedness for chance encounters (one especially fateful one at a hospital while visiting a distant relative).

Iger had several career-defining moments throughout his life but one of his biggest bets came just as he was named the president of ABC TV. ABC was failing and he knew he needed something groundbreaking to get it out of its doldrums. He staked his reputation on David Lynch and the cult TV show, Twin Peaks. It was a risky gamble but it paid off. He was suddenly getting calls from filmmakers like Spielberg and George Lucas who now wanted to work with him. It had been a dicey move to go with Lynch but it cemented his reputation as a visionary leader with good creative instincts.

The low point of his career came during his first years at Disney. All his efforts were stymied by Eisner who had a particularly poor relationship with Pixar. No sooner had that been resolved then 9/11 happened. It was a very challenging start for his tenure at Disney.

However, Iger had developed a great working relationship with Steve Jobs, which led to the acquisition of Pixar. Later, with the purchase of Marvel, Disney’s fortunes turned around. Most recently, he bet big on streaming and it appears to be paying off spectacularly. His leadership has been defined by such bold, risky moves.

The Surprising Science of Meetings – – by Steven G. Rogelberg

Fantastic read on how to organize productive meetings. Here are some highlights:

  • Most meetings are scheduled to last an hour but researchers have found that shortening meetings, makes attendees more productive.
  • One company found that by starting its meetings at a quirky time, e.g., 8:48 am, people were more intrigued and they were more likely to arrive on time.
  • Another tip is to make meetings very short, e.g., 15-minutes. These meetings, known as “huddles,” have been shown to boost performance. Huddles were very popular in the Obama White House.
  • And the most intriguing tip of all: the optimal number of people to have at a meeting? No more than seven! That’s the key number if you want to have the most productive meeting. All those extra people are dead weight, and actually counterproductive!
Bottom Line.

Based on having read almost 70 books, I’m now more on board with Blinkist than ever. I love everything about it and consider it the best $99 I’ve spent on self-improvement. I am also naming Blinkist my best product discovery of the year.

Happy Reading!!

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