All posts for the month April, 2016

I have this new thing where I go to the mall and walk around and count people. Not so much the total sum, but the local totals in each store.

Some background: my spouse manages a retail shop for a specialty chain. They typically locate in mid- to high-end malls and sell moderately expensive, highly functional product. They tend to be a destination shop for their clientele and do high repeat business.

This means that on Saturday evenings when he’s closing up, I often walk over there to check things out, maybe shop a little, and count people.

A while back, I noticed that the Apple Store tended to attract a large number of people. This is kind of a given, but I also noticed that the Microsoft store was dead. No one in there at all. Even Build-A-Bear had a family making bears at that hour. But Microsoft? Bupkis. Granted, this is at 20:30 on a Saturday night, but I did not expect completely devoid of customers. Other stores, like Macy*s, the Gap, and so on usually had a few guests. Eventually I worked it out to about one shopper per 1000sf of retail floor for the general mall. That is terrible. Except in the Apple store, where it was closer to one shopper per 50sf. If there was a line outside of the store waiting to get in, it technically could get even denser. At holiday time, the Pandora shop was so crowded that they had to pay for extra security to manage their line.

Few stores in any mall seem to attract this level of shopping destination intensity. Apple, Pandora, Starbucks, but everything else is hopes and dreams. Unless you are selling something truly unique, you are hosed for clientele in a mall. Everyone is there to get something, and you have to hope that you are interesting enough to draw them in. The conundrum is that if no one is in your store, how interesting is it to anyone who isn’t already interested in it? No shoppers means no one else is interested, either. It is critical to have people in the store, even if they are just browsing, so that people outside of the store see the interest.

I experimented with arriving earlier, at 20:00 on the dot. Total numbers were higher, and the spread was lower. It turns out that you can only jam so many humans into an Apple Store before the fire department start to look at you sideways. The more total people in the mall, the more people that I found in the non-destination shops like Vera Bradley and Buckle. Hot brands like Michael Kors also rely on the total shopper density, a smallish point.

There are some notable exceptions to the Apple phenomenon, but they are just that – notable. Stores like Hot Topic, Lush, lululemon, and (I kid you not) Paradise Pen attract smaller but continuous customer streams. Their markets and merchandise are more specialized, sufficiently so to draw people out of their homes to try, to sniff, to take in the atmosphere. I admit, I am a regular at Paradise Pen. I write with a fountain pen and love to try different cartridges and nibs. It’s my little thing.

This is, to be clear, a high-end mall. It has a Nieman-Markus – a store that closes at 19:00, ostensibly to avoid the after-hours riff-raff. The Saks 5th Avenue is forever under renovation. The Gucci, Tory Burch, and watch shops all cluster around those two anchors in a submall that was built out of the Saks in the 1980s. Those South Side shops are linked to the North side (Macy*s and Nordstrom) by a flying glass bridge, which may as well cross an ocean rather than a busy thoroughfare. Frankly, I’d shop at Niemans if they were actually ever open. They carry a very few precious things that I like (and can afford). I generally only make the trek across the bridge when I am so desperate for a kitchen gadget that I have to go to Sur la Table.

My conclusion from all of this counting and rambling is that the anchor phenomenon has changed shape and become a specialty retail thing. Where once you had big department stores as anchors to draw in traffic, now you have smaller specialty stores like Apple bringing the cars full of people. If the Apple count starts to swing to 100% of the traffic, you might have an issue with your customer base or store mix.

I wore my new boots for the first time on the bike today. I ordered the Dainese Svelta from Revzilla and they showed up a few days later, typical Revzilla efficiency.
I have worn three pair of different Dainese touring boots now. The Svelta is more of the same – the exact same fit as my two previous pair and the same (excellent) comfort. My prior pair are Lolas – possibly the nicest touring boot ever made. Seriously, until I wore through the GoreTex membrane, I planned to keep them for ever. But this is about the Svelta, so on with it.
The stiff sole of the Svelta protects my tender underfoot from the horror of the centerstand tang, and allows me to use my entire foot as an extension lever. It takes a bit of time to get used to the stiffness, and right about the time you are finally used to it, it starts to soften up a bit. It never becomes truly soft , but a bit of flexibility creeps in and it moulds to your foot nicely.
There is room for an Aetrex or TWC orthotic, which I use.
The Svelta is NARROW. If you have even normal width feet, you might want to think about a different boots. For those of us with narrow feet, it’s a godsend. I wear a AA width in normal shoes and the Dainese footbed is good for AA to B (regular width). If you squeeze into regular width shoes, you might not be that comfy in these.
The longer shaft is very welcome. The Lola was a shorter boot and I would occasionally hit my shins on the footpegs of my F650GS (single) at stops. The Svelta’s additional 1.5cm height is great here.
I don’t like the side zipper and velcro closure. Ok, I hate this. The back zip style of the Lola (and their Lady Avant ST race boots, which I also use) allowed my ankles to connect with the bike near the swingarm pivot point and increased my sense of connectedness with the machine. With the zipper and velcro in the way, I feel a bit disconnected. I hope that Dainese releases a back-zip touring boot again! On the scale of whining, this is a pretty low-grade issue, as nearly all boots use this closure configuration and I’m being super picky.
Overall, I highly recommend the Svelta if your feet can get into it.

Time to do some bike maintenance. This is what happens when your countershaft seal fails on a Rotax 652:


Disgusting doesn’t cover it. Oil-soaked grime? Getting closer. Regardless, it’s quite interesting because my intake valves are pristine. Gorgeous. No buildup whatsoever. This is in start contrast to the time when the BMW dealer in Germany set the timing wrong and I ended up with a non-running motor thanks to the generous crusting on said intake valves. Speaking of valves, I dug in to check valve timing, which was spot-on. It’s never been out of spec. I think I’m moving to 15000km checks rather than the 10K recommended.


Oh, those ITBs? That ITB. It’s a Dellorto.