Neiman Marcus sells submarines. Is that for real, or is it for April Fools?
Whichever it is, it won’t likely stay that way for long, which is why April Fools’ Day may be a holiday lost on retail. Every day, merchants test futuristic concepts and take substantial risks to wow us, from shoe elevators (real, at DSW) to pillow rentals (West Elm and Rent the Runway). Would it be so weird to sell submarines, if there are people out there wanting to buy them?
And from those efforts to please spring some unusual retailer facts that are, indeed, true. In the spirit of April Fools’ Day, here are 10.
- Barneys runs a Hollywood head shop. Luxury retailer Barneys New York in March opened a boutique dedicated to selling cannabis products, in Beverly Hills, California. The store, called The High End, dubs itself a lifestyle and wellness concept shop featuring custom-blown glass bongs and pipes, luxury rolling papers, jewelry, CBD-infused beauty products and a $1,500 sterling silver pot grinder. No word on whether Barneys is trafficking in Mallomars, but we have high hopes. Barneys is planning on more locations.
- Trader Joe is German. Though founded in 1959 by Californian Joe Coulombe, Trader Joe’s today is owned by the same German family that founded Aldi. However, they are separate companies, the result of a fallout between brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht. In the split, Karl got Aldi Süd (southern Germany and the United States) and Theo took over Aldi Nord (in northern Germany). The arrangement prevented Theo from opening Aldi stores in the U.S., so he acquired Trader Joe’s in 1979. Theo died in 2010, and Joe’s remains a subsidiary of Aldi Nord.
- CVS fills seven prescriptions for every American annually. Drug store chain CVS Health fills or manages roughly 5 billion prescriptions a year. That’s nearly seven prescriptions annually for every man, woman and child in the U.S. The dispensing doesn’t quite work out that way, however. Rather, CVS’s pharmacies serves an average of 5 million people daily, which shakes out to 1.8 billion people served a year (take that McDonalds!).
- McDonald’s is banned in 10 countries. McDonald’s actually sells more than 75 hamburgers a second, but not in North Korea, Iran, Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda, Macedonia, Bolivia, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Montenegro. These countries have banned the fast food chain from entry, but that has not stopped McDonald’s from being one of the largest owners of retail property in the world. It owns an estimated $30 billon in real estate, generating a profit of $4.5 billion, which is likely more than it makes from burgers.
- Neiman Marcus trades sales for sails. The high-end department store’s annual Christmas Book catalog is known to feature outlandishly extravagant gifts, from a Dolce & Gabbana toaster to a three-day espionage adventure in Las Vegas. But in 2018 Neiman went overboard: It featured a 74-foot, one-of-a kind yacht, with a full kitchen, satellite TV, wi-fi and (perhaps best of all) ample closet space. Neiman called it the largest solar-powered yacht in the world, which may justify the price tag of $7.1 million.
- There are enough Starbucks Rewards members to populate Florida. The My Starbucks Reward program includes nearly 22 million Americans, edging out the population of Florida by about 350,000 (which is the population of Honolulu). Those memberships represent close to 7% of the U.S. population, and many are new — enrollments rose 18% in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2018. Of those memberships, 7.3 million are active, or are used within 90 days.
- Crate & Barrel is as old as Walmart. Despite its youthful, contemporary look, Crate & Barrel was founded in the same year as more conservative-seeming Walmart: 1962. Turns out 1962 was a good year for retail. In addition to Walmart and Crate & Barrel, Kohl’s, Pier One Imports, Wet Seal and Rite Aid were founded in that year, and the first Target store opened as well (by the Dayton Co.). Despite how young they look, all chains are older than the founder of their leading rival, Amazon — Jeff Bezos was born in 1964.
- Amazon’s first sale was in computer science. The first book Amazon sold, on April 3, 1995 (when Bezos was 31) was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogiesby Doug Hofstadte. The book, a study of computer modeling and the mechanisms of intelligence, set off the first ringing of an actual bell that Amazon workers used in the early days. Within a month, Amazon sold at least one book to shoppers in each of the 50 states and eventually retired the bell.
- Macy’s had first dibs on happy hour. When the National Prohibition Act was lifted in December 1933, the Manhattan department store R.H. Macy & Co. ordered up, and received, the city’s first liquor license. Today, Macy’s customers from across the country can buy wine from the retailer, through its online Macy’s Wine Cellar Club.
- Target outlaws Girl Scouts. Well, not exactly outlawed, but Target does follow a no-solicitation rule that prevents Girl Scouts and other third parties, including the Salvation Army, from hanging out at its entryways. The purpose of the rule is to provide customers a “distraction-free shopping experience.” Target has found a middle ground with the Salvation Army by supporting the charity in other ways, and it gives 5% of its profit to local communities.
Retailers continuously generate more surprising facts, and some may look foolish in years to come. In December 2016, for example, Nordstrom sold out of a leather-wrapped rock that went for $85. (Bet that was an interesting holiday for many.)
As for Neiman Marcus and its holiday surprise — the company did feature a submarine in its 2007 Christmas Book, for $1.4 million.