When Wesfarmers wanted to buy my Coles shares last year, my mailbox
seemed to be full every second day with various bits of paraphernalia
talking up the acquisition. If they walk as good as they talk I
thought, the revolution in Australian grocery retailing, that many
people (including myself) had predicted  was going to be a sure thing.
Perhaps it’s too early to tell, but I haven’t noticed much difference.

The other older part of those retail shares used to have the Myer
brand attached to them. Myer is middle Australia to perfection. It’s a
unique department store given its egalitarian approach – where else
will you find the blue collar labourer shopping next to the society
matron – and its stubborn refusal to bow to the critics who seem to
regularly suggest it is going the way of the dinosaur.

These days Myer survives for reasons I am not quite sure of.

Perhaps you are?

The move to young designer fashion hasnt hurt and the constant
sale mentality must be encouraging shoppers to at least put the store
down for the occasional visit. The latest news that I caught a sneak
peek of this week certainly suggests that the old retailer still has a
few tricks up its sleeve. For at least a trial period some Myer stores
will now feature Weight Watchers centres.

What they are terming a world-first retail concept will involve
the Knox City (Melbourne) and Roselands (Sydney) Myer outlets sharing
retail space with what is, almost unarguably, the leading brand
worldwide in the weight loss category. A publicly listed company in the
United States, Weight Watchers has been an admirable brand in many
marketing respects. Not only did they convince Fergie (the royal, not
the rapper) to be a spokesperson, but they also introduced that
super-neat count the points system to simply measure your daily food

That was pure marketing genius.

My bet is that Weight Watchers are on to a winner. By demystifying
weight loss, by bringing it right into the heart of a traditional
retailer, by focusing on convenience, they are going where their
customers are and breaking down the social barriers that may prevent
some consumers from seeking their services.

For Myer too it seems a great move. Nobody knows the value of retail
space better than a department store. For many years they anchored the
shopping centre while the competitors arrived and, in some categories
at least, proceeded to make department stores less relevant.

With their large, prime spaces perhaps the best way department
stores can hit back is to become a mini-shopping centre in themselves?