Karl Heinz Kosse

Karl Heinz Kosse, our Opa, passed away on Wednesday.  He was surrounded by his wife and four children.  He was 88.


He lived an amazing life.  He was forced to leave his family and flee East Germany at the age of 12 during WW2 to avoid being captured and forced into the war by the Russian Army.  He lived alone in Berlin through High School and then moved to the US, alone, to go to medical school in Vermont.  There he met his wife of more than 50 years; she was from Haiti.  This unconventional but inspirational couple were married and moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota where he set up a successful Urology Practice.  For years his license plate read “2PCME”.  He and his wife made a series of great investments during his life.  One being a farm in Aberdeen that they sold for millions about 10 years ago.  His greatest investments, however, are his 4 children, all of whom learned the value of discernment, education and hard work from their father and have established themselves with successful careers while raising their children well.  He never stopped learning and always seemed to have a new project in the works, from learning Russian to baking elaborate cakes and pastries.  A soft-spoken man with a big heart, he battled Parkinson’s disease in his later years but was always finding ways to keep moving despite its progressive nature.  A wonderful story teller and a man full of knowledge, he will be fondly remembered by all who knew him. 

Brooks Concept Store

I had the opportunity to visit the Brooks concept store in Seattle this week and thought I'd share a few thoughts and pictures for the folks that haven't had a chance to see it yet. To address it upfront, I don't think that this store will compete head on with the local stores, and there's no indication that Brooks has any plan to open multiple stores. This seems to be a textbook case of a manufacturer creating a retail space at their home building to showcase their brand experience, just as brands such as Harley Davidson, Hershey, and Caterpillar have done. However, I do think there is an opportunity to connect visitors to their local shops, but you need to read on for that!

The store is located on the ground floor of the new Brooks headquarters building and carries the moniker "The Brooks Trailhead". The Brooks Run Happy brand was successfully infused throughout, with Skee ball and a bar-turned cash wrap.

 Being a concept store, I was hoping to see some things that pushed the envelope a bit and I was not disappointed. The most glaring gamble is the total lack of a footwear wall. Instead, all footwear is merchandised on tables. Evoking a page out of Apple's book, this set up invites guests to pick up and explore the footwear. The product seems more accessible, as the display is much less of a throne for the product to be perched but more of a resting place until someone plays with the shoe again.

For a single brand concept store, this worked great, but It would risk confusing or overwhelming someone in a standard specialty run shop with 6 or more vendors and upwards of 50 models. It might be worth a shot, though.

I was surprised by the amount of apparel inventory, but loved the merchandising of the product they did show. As an evangelist for increased use of tables, mannequins, and nonlinear wall displays, I was definitely picking up what Brooks was putting down. They proved that a relatively small amount of apparel can be leveraged to create a unique, shoppable display that the customer is likely to remember.  Additionally, they leveraged different merchandising methods throughout the store. Click any of the pictures below to see them all larger.

Now for 3 things I think they did great, and 3 things I think they could do to make it better:

Three Great Things!

  1. Challenged merchandising norms by eliminating the footwear wall.
  2. Conveyed the Brooks brand from the window displays to the fitting rooms (which were big, comfortable, and secured with very solid doors)
  3. Selectively assorted product without trying to represent the entire catalog.

Three Ideas!

  1. Play off of the history of Brooks and give customers and visitors a peek into what makes Brooks special. After seeing the Brooks lab, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to not see any sign of that in the store. A lot goes into a new product, and they have made a big investment in a top flight lab, so give the customer a peek at how the product ended up on the table in the store. Take a page from other companies with corporate stores that provide a peek into the R&D activity, manufacturing process, and the company's heritage.
  2. Add a "find Brooks near me" feature. If number 1 is successful, there will be a growing number of out of town visitors stopping in to check out the home of one of their favorite brands. Take the opportunity to remind them that Brooks has home near them, too, and supply a way to connect to their local run specialty shop. An interactive flatscreen or touchscreen tabletop could accomplish this. The same device could be used to provide a global picture of the company, an interactive history, and highlights of major events. This could possibly even include an option to pick up their selected items at their local shop (and have the sales credited to that shop).
  3. More apparel. If the Brooks corporate concept store still looks like a footwear centric space, how are retailers expected to change their game? Brooks took an opportunity and gambled on a new way to display footwear, but I think they need to have an equal or greater gamble in apparel. As an industry, we're not winning in apparel (newsflash), and we won't win unless we reinvent how we do it. That includes training, merchandising, and product, but Brooks has a great opportunity to take a leap on merchandising, and I feel they're only part way there. The front half of the store is a good shift, but the back is simply a good execution of what we've been doing.

Check out a few more pictures below (click any picture to view them all larger), including one of the very nice fitting rooms! You can also see a few on the Brooks blog here.

The Character of Accountability

I often equate accountability to responsibility.  I have a job to do.  If I complete it on time and do thorough work, then I have been accountable to my team.  Today, I came across a quote from Paul LaRue that I really liked.  Accountability is “the willingness to be of increasing value to the organization and the people you serve.”  This ideal shifts the notion of accountability from a work product to a mindset.  It digs into the attitude and behavior of a person rather than merely their performance.  Solid performance is important at work, but when leaders are considering their key players and building a culture of accountability, using LaRue’s definition can separate the wheat from the chaff.