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Toxic Psychology Dooms Once Great American Retailers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I closed my last article on physical retail -- Death At Sears, Best Buy, JCP Hurts America -- with this:

These guys need to vision a new way forward. They need to devote all of their resources not to stabilizing and, subsequently, making the misguided decision to preserve the current business, but to conceiving something different from but just as game changing as Amazon conceived in the late 1990s.
It's not within the imaginative capacities of the present regimes in big box retail to take on such an admittedly extraordinary and next to impossible task. They require new blood. People who understand the Amazon way, but aren't going to just feebly mimic it.

Sears Holdings (SHLD), J. C. Penney (JCP), Best Buy (BBY) and other dying members of the retail establishment have something in common that could trick them, from intellectual standpoints, into death.

Here's the text of part of an email I received from a senior executive at a major big box retailer last week:

Here is the thing, however. You have to stabilize things to some level before you can change everything ...

That's conventional MBA-type thinking.

And, within the context of brick and mortuary's (thanks, Josh Brown) dire situation, it's potentially dangerous.

Here's why ...

I know ... Why bother stabilizing something not worth stabilizing? But, for the sake of addressing the executive's argument, let's suspend disbelief.

During this period of what executives label stabilization, seemingly good things happen. I don't need to reprint the press releases these companies float alongside earnings warnings and such. They call bad news "speed bumps" and claim progress re-executing slightly altered versions of what brought them to their knees in the first place. Anything even remotely new consists of chasing what Amazon.com (AMZN) and others conceived and continue to master -- online sales, multi-platform consumption points and beefed-up rewards programs.

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