BOOMERBROADcast

Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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The Hudson’s Bay Company welcomes new CEO and this shopper couldn’t be happier


Helena, girlfriend, I really need you to listen. I’m only trying to help.

Canada’s venerable 300-year-old Hudson’s Bay Company (for non-Canadian readers it’s comparable to Macy’s in the U.S.) is getting a new C.E.O. Her name is Helena Foulkes and she comes from CVS, a health-care company with about 9,700 pharmacies in the United States. Since January 2014, Foulkes was the company’s executive vice-president and president of subsidiary CVS Pharmacy. As a shopper, loyal Canadian and feminist I’m thrilled with the news and thought I’d take the initiative on behalf of all baby boomer women and make her feel welcome:

Dear Helena:

Welcome to Canada. When I heard you were taking over the reins at The Hudson’s Bay Company, I was so excited I could hardly pour my Geritol this morning. For more than twenty years I’ve been lobbying The Bay, making suggestions about how they could improve business and keep their retail stores prospering. And for as many years I’ve been ignored. Maybe we finally have someone who will listen. After all—I’m just the customer—what do I know? I hope you don’t mind me calling you Helena. I feel we’re BFFs since I wrote that complimentary post about you on my blog recently: (Click here to read Brushing away wrinkles and imperfections doesn’t fool anyone.”). I was soooo impressed that you took a stand against digitally altered beauty ads (Photoshopping) in CVS stores.

Anyway, Helena, as I said, my emails, snail mail, blog postings and letters to a series of Hudson’s Bay CEOs have all been ignored over the years and I really want The Hudson’s Bay Company to do well. To make your job easier, here are a few simple things you can do that I guarantee will improve sales and sustain your retail business. This is a simple a point-form summary but you’re free to read links to previous posts with further details about the issue which I’ve conveniently included at the bottom of this posting.

  1. Hire more sales associates. If it means eliminating a few pairs of designer jeans from inventory to come up with the money to pay these people, it’ll be a worthwhile investment. Unlike in European stores, it’s impossible to find knowledgeable staff to assist shoppers in Hudson’s Bay stores. This is particularly critical in suburban mall stores which are severely understaffed compared to your downtown Toronto flagship store.
  2. Make the cash register/sales desks easier to find. I once stood in the middle of the second floor of the Square One Bay store in Mississauga and literally yelled for help. The place was abandoned.
  3. Train your sales personnel to take pride in their work. And what about paying these people a more attractive salary to improve morale? Coming from a corporate marketing background myself, I’ve always felt that valued employees should be treated like clients. Happy employees are the secret to the success of the company, just like those ‘contented cows’ who produce good quality milk. Nordstrom sales associates are trained to walk around the counter and hand me my little silver shopping bag like it’s a special gift and they value my business. I like that.

    We really want you to succeed.

  4. Up the ante on the on-line experience for your customers. American retailers have nailed this and Canadian retailers are woefully late to the game. I’m a dedicated on-line shopper who prefers to do business with established retailers. As baby boomers age, we’ll come to depend on this service even more.
  5. Speaking of baby boomers—I just want to remind you that we’re a huge, overlooked target market. We have time; we have money; we love fashion. But no one acknowledges us anymore because we’re not the 18-45 demographic.
  6. On the subject of listening, have you ever considered appointing customer feedback mechanisms? Perhaps on-line surveys or better still, customer councils?

I appreciate you taking the time to read this, Helena. I really do want Hudson’s Bay Company to succeed and grow. If you’ll just take my advice, I think you’ll find the boss will want to give you a raise. Feel free to just call me anytime. Let’s have a cup of tea and sort things out. No charge.

Sincerely, Your friend, Lynda

P.S. To give credit where it’s due, I’m glad someone responded to my earlier plea to upgrade the ladies washrooms in suburban mall stores. They were pretty disgusting and I’m pleased The Bay is making an effort to correct this.

P.P.S. Here are the links I mentioned above:

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2017/06/09/top-10-suggestions-for-hudsons-bay-to-survive/

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2018/02/01/its-my-fault-retail-stores-are-closing/

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2013/10/31/retail-rant-hits-home/

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2013/10/29/the-solution-for-canadian-retailers-is-as-easy-as-1-2-3/

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2016/11/07/what-on-earth-was-the-hudsons-bay-company-thinking/

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2014/08/31/support-is-growing-for-truth-in-advertising/

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2014/01/29/hello-saks-goodbye-bay/

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2013/09/14/how-to-improve-sales-at-hudsons-bay/

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2018/01/19/brushing-away-wrinkles-and-imperfections-doesnt-fool-anyone/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/hbc-cvs-helena-foulkes-1.4520526

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Praying for the victims and their families does nothing


Doesn’t it just make you sick! The wave of finger-pointing following the latest school shooting with seventeen people dead in Florida is enough to whip up a hurricane. It’s not guns – it’s mental illness. What we need is better school security. If teachers had guns they could have taken him down . . . excuses and rationalization abounds. The Americans just don’t get it and it’s their everlasting tragedy that they never will thanks to their ongoing misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.

Other countries have problems with mental illness. Other countries have schools with far less security than those in the United States. Other countries even have guns. What other countries don’t have is the high concentration and incidence of abuse of guns that results in mass shootings. In Canada, the only people who have guns are the police, our military, hunters, a few collectors and some bad guys. Most of us live our lives without ever seeing a real gun—it’s just not part of our psyche. We’ve also had a mass shooting in a school so we’re not impervious but no other country in the world has a gun problem like the United States. Their psychology is warped and that’s never going to change which means these tragedies will continue. Remove guns from the general population and remove the problem. That’s all I’m going to say.


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Who do you love most?


Valentine’s Day prompted me to reflect on the gift of love. Most of us give and receive love from family members, friends or a life partner which helps us cope with the ups and downs of life. One of the pitfalls of love when we’re young is the tendency to focus so much of our devotion on our new love that we lose ourselves in the process. It’s a relationship hazard stemming from lack of experience. After you’ve done this once or twice, you get smart and realize you’re actually a pretty cool person in your own right. In the sixties I dated a trucker who had the bad-boy swagger and looks of a young Jack Nicholson. Before I knew it, I was going to country and western bars, drinking beer and smoking Export A’s. While liking country music is not a bad thing, some of the other behaviours I adapted to be “closer” to him were not so positive. And he ran with a group of very unsavoury friends.

I recently watched a rom-com movie called Fever Pitch starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon. Her character bends to his all-consuming love of baseball to the point she becomes exhausted, frustrated and bitter. It perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of burying our authentic selves to further the relationship. It’s a really entertaining and instructive movie you might want to check out.

One of the greatest benefits of getting older is the advantage of hindsight. We can look back on the compromises we made in the name of love that were not aligned with who we really are. Getting older usually means getting smarter. That includes not bending our personalities to become the ones we think we love. This is not the same thing as compromising on smaller issues for the sake of keeping the peace or accepting minor differences. For example, my husband loves golf. I find football1it excruciatingly boring.  I love words and writing which are anathema to him. I’ll never “get” football but I have no problem with him watching it 24/7 as long as I don’t have to listen to it, which is why headphones are marriage-savers. Accepting and appreciating our inherent differences can actually enrich a relationship when you don’t expect your partner to be your everything. That’s unrealistic. It’s fun sharing your common interests and fun sharing stories about things you do not have in common. Having differences of opinion is natural. Bending your opinions to always be the same as your partner’s is not.

In earlier times when lifespans were shorter, people often died before they racked up 40 years of marriage. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for couples to divorce loversafter 20 or 30 years when they come to the realization they may have totally compromised themselves for the sake of the relationship and that’s not the way they want to spend the rest of their lives. And our criteria for an optimal mate change over the years. When we’re in our 20s we want a cute guy with a sense of humour who’s a good dancer. In our 60s we want a healthy guy with a sense of humour and a good RRSP. Spending the rest of your life with someone who encourages the best in you is infinitely more agreeable than living out your years with someone who expects you to sell your soul. Life is precious, particularly your own. Loving another person is beautiful but loving yourself first is essential. Happy Valentine’s Day my loves.

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To remain fashionable, I might have to get a job . . . again


Blazers are making an encore performance.

The reason? Blazers are back in fashion and I love blazers. I gave all my office clothes to charity when I retired but kept a couple of items that I was particularly fond of. One was a beautifully constructed double-breasted gray pinstripe wool blazer with matching vest that was part of a suit (due to waistline issues, the pants retired too). It was made by Mondi, a German brand that no longer exists but I paid a ridiculous amount of money for it thirty years ago and I just can’t bring myself to part with it.

It’s fun to reflect on the spectrum of fashions boomer gals have worn to work over the years. In the sixties we were just starting out and riding high on Twiggy and our newfound fashion and lifestyle freedom. We had a collection of mini dresses and skirts that make me cringe now when I think of bending over filing cabinets, riding up escalators or climbing steps in the subway. But that was when we still had firm thighs and no cellulite so we bounced around without a thought about modesty. The seventies ushered in maxi length skirts in Laura Ashley prints with go-go boots and form-fitting finely knitted turtlenecks. Those skirts often had matching cowl scarves and we felt oh-so elegant. Our sky-high hair was permed within an inch of its life and sprayed until it wouldn’t move in hurricane.

In the eighties the rules were clear and we abided by them.

By the eighties we were maturing into our ‘careers’ and dressing for success with neat little suits and soft bow ties. Power dressing was the big news in fashion and that’s when I bought that Mondi suit. One year I received a particularly generous bonus at work which I immediately blew on a burgundy-coloured ‘Ultra-suede’ skirt suit that cost me a fortune. I wore it for only one season. The memory of that folly is still a major ouch. Ports was a big brand name back then. We loaded up on their corduroy suits, dresses and silk blouses with dry cleaning bills that nearly bankrupted me. That was before I realized that despite the warning label, silk can be hand washed.

Our fashion tastes in the nineties were restrained by the nearly decade-long recession. Most of us were lucky to even keep our jobs and I was on the receiving end of downsizing that was characteristic of that terrible decade. Discretionary spending on our wardrobe was severely curtailed. By the time we bounced back, Jones of New York was the safest and most affordable fashion brand for working women. Once more we suited up for power but at a better price point and using a little more common sense. By the time I retired in 2005, casual Friday had grown to nearly every day of the week. Pantyhose became a thing of the past, bare feet appeared in open-toed shoes. The old career-advancing adage “dress for the job you aspire to” soon became irrelevant as everyone turned up at work in whatever struck their fancy.

I never felt more powerful, however, than when I was turned out in a smart, tailored blazer with a classy silk blouse. There was something about the structure, the shoulders, the architecture of a blazer that gave me a feeling of supreme confidence when I walked into a meeting. I never had that same sense of empowerment when dress codes relaxed and I wasn’t wearing the blazer and serious wardrobe. Now they’re back and I’m loving the wonderful Glen plaids, houndstooth and windowpane checks. I’ve always loved the look of a well-cut blazer and today we can wear them casually with skinny denim jeans and good shoes or boots. Proper blazers cover errant bums and disguise long-gone waistlines. It makes me want to go out and load up on wonderful blazers again but I’d be all dressed up with no place to go.

Take your time, dear. We don’t have to go back to the office anymore.

I still have an off-white cotton twill Michael Kors blazer trimmed in black grosgrain and leather that I bought nearly twenty years ago. Maybe it’s time to haul that and my Mondi pinstripe out of the back of the closet, brush them off and feel the power once again—even if it’s just to go the grocery store or the mall. It would save me having to get a job to show off my power blazers. Or, better still, I could meet my boomer gal pals for lunch. The best part? After lunch, we don’t have to rush and head back to the office any more. We’re retired, just like those lovely old blazers, but there’s still lots of life left in us yet.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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Sleeping on Jupiter is a clash of dreams and reality


This book first came to my attention when I heard the author of Sleeping on Jupiter, Anuradha Roy being interviewed on CBC Radio. Listening to the background story of a young girl from India being told in the author’s lyrical accent prompted me to immediately put it on my ‘To Read’ list. The characters’ stories are linked by their common voyage to the seaside temple city of Jarmuli. It’s beautifully written with many sensory touch-points that take the reader deeper into the scents, sounds and texture of India.

Two story lines run parallel. Three grandmothers have decided to make a pilgrimage to Jarmuli for what baby boomers would call a girls’ week. They have never been away from their families and this act of independence allows them to communicate and explore their separate and different personalities. Latika is slender, not religious and the most modern of the three. She dyes her hair deep burgundy and is the most adventurous. Gouri is devout, traditional and the most conservative. She’s also in the early stages of dementia and its ravages are becoming evident to the point her two friends realize they have to keep close tabs on her to prevent her becoming lost or worse. Vidya is the intermediary and the one least inclined to rock the boat. During their travels and excursions their different personalities both irritate and reassure each other, which is common among old friends.

The fourth woman Nomi’s story begins with a guerilla attack on her family in their local village when she was only seven years old. Her father and brother were killed while her mother managed to escape with Nomi on her back. After days on the run, her mother turns Nomi over to an unknown man on the beach who embarks on a journey with a dozen other young girls to a distant ashram where they are left in the care of a famous guru. They are told he is God and they are to be fed, clothed and educated while in his protective care. Nomi meets the three traveling grandmothers as an adult when she shares a cabin on the train at the beginning of their trip to Jarmuli. As their lives intersect we are introduced to secondary characters whose lives are equally complicated and challenging.

Sleeping on Jupiter is beautifully written. The narrative alternates between first person (Nomi) and third person, and times in Nomi’s life as a child and an adult. The characters and their experiences are described in language that is compelling and descriptive. The darker side of life in India such as child sexual abuse and poverty are handled with sensitivity and understanding. My only complaint with the book is that it ended too soon. There were loose ends and unfinished story lines that I would have liked to be wrapped up. But life does not always have happy endings and satisfactory answers; this book is a slice of life.

To order Sleeping on Jupiter from Amazon.com click here.

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It’s my fault retail stores are closing


Girls just wanna have fun!

No one enjoys browsing through the mall every couple of weeks more than I do. My day usually includes a nice lunch out, either in the new and improved food court with an amazing selection of international foods and beverages, or at one of the lovely tenant restaurants where a nice server named Ryan or Stacey brings me a plate of healthy greens with grilled chicken or salmon artfully arranged on top. I enjoy perusing the stylish mannequins decked out in the windows wearing the latest fashion trends. Browsing the merchandise, feeling the nap of brand new jeans or caressing a display of soft, colourful sweaters gives me a gentle sense of pleasure. I slip on saucy new shoes and admire myself in the store’s full-length mirrors; drape a divine leather purse over my shoulder to assess its balance and heft, spritz a new perfume on my wrist, and hold cute earrings up to the side of my face for a preview of a potential new me. The sensual pleasures are unlimited.

The truth is I’m a traitor. Unless I see something at a knock-down irresistible sale price in the store, I inevitably go home and look for the same thing on-line at a better price. I’m loyal to several brands and years of trial and error have nailed down my taste and sizes. For clothing and fashion items, I’ve had tremendous luck with a site called SHOPSTYLE.COM. They take the legwork out of on-line shopping by searching the web for specific items I like and linking me with the stores offering it at the best prices. If I tag something, they’ll notify me when it goes on sale. I’ve scored wonderful Eileen Fisher pieces for 70 percent off which makes them pretty unbeatable.

I’m embarrassed to tell you how many pairs of FitFlops I own but these Superskates are my favourites.

Much as I would like to buy my wonderful FitFlop™ sandals and shoes at The Hudson’s Bay store in the mall, I prefer to watch FitFlop’s website where they’re sometimes offered at sale prices as low as $30.00 or $40.00 a pair compared with more than $100.00 in the store. Some stores have better on-line shopping than others and the ones that do get my business. Nordstrom’s superior in-store experience is matched by their on-line shopping. Their sales are equally attractive and I love to follow their latest offerings.

I should support Canada’s own stalwart Hudson’s Bay Company, but they’ve been ignoring my letters and emails about poor customer service for years. I warned them that unless they start listening to their customers they’ll die but they choose to ignore me. Their stores are bereft of informed sales associates and even finding assistance or a checkout counter is like Where’s Waldo. That’s no way to do business in a highly competitive world. Nordstrom understands me.

I’m sold.

As a retired baby boomer, I must say that my consumer loyalties have now shifted to high-tech as I let my fingers to the walking on my iPad mini. I blame Amazon Prime. For $99.00 a year I get (amortized) ‘free’ delivery within two days on all orders. And I take full advantage. Over the years, I’ve realized that it’s so much easier to sit in front of my laptop and tap out a few commands than it is to put on some makeup and decent clothes, start the car, drive to the store, walk across a giant parking lot and hike through several stores where I may or may not find what I’m looking for. It’s just so much easier to carry a giant bag of dog food from my front door to the kitchen than going to a big box store with all its challenges. I’ve ordered everything from tiny replacement stoppers for the bottoms of salt and pepper shakers to cookware, vitamins and cosmetics to printer cartridges, shoe horns and books. Nothing is too big or too small to order on-line. Amazon Prime also has free movies and other services but I’ve never figured how to access the movies I want for free.

Introducing . . . my new BFF.

On-line shopping can only get more appealing as baby boomers age, especially in winter when we reach the point we won’t be able get out as easily or escape to Florida anymore. Mississauga is apparently on Amazon’s short-list for their new distribution centre and wouldn’t it be wonderful for Canada if they landed here. The job creation would be an enormous boost for our economy and we seniors are going to need all the taxpayers we can get to keep us in hip replacements and medicinal gummy bears. I’m doing my part to support on-line shopping but I still enjoy those Tuesday’s at the mall. Oops! The doorbell just rang. My special tea bags from Britain have probably arrived. It’s a wonderful world we live in.

P.S. I am not compensated in any way by the brands or suppliers mentioned in this post.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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Is there a future for romance in the workplace?


Workplace romances have always and will always exist.

Birds do it. Bees do it. Cleopatra, Angelina Jolie, Bridget Jones and even John F. Kennedy did it. I’m talking about love affairs in the workplace. With all the attention on the #metoo movement and the exposing of predatory bosses, it’s easy to be confused about what is now considered acceptable or unacceptable flirting in the workplace. A group of high profile women including Catherine Deneuve in France is speaking out against extremism in reporting bad behaviour. The French women maintain that flirting and bantering between the sexes is normal and acceptable. I don’t think anyone can argue with that but when one person crosses the line and infringes upon another’s personal boundaries or uses their position to jeopardize and manipulate another’s security or career, then it’s a whole different ball game.

A large percentage of the population met their spouse or partner at work. I’m one of them. In fact, I met both my first and second husband through work. It’s an ideal place to go prospecting as you get to see people at their worst and best behaviour.  Being exposed to someone for eight, ten or more hours a day, five days a week provides a pretty accurate indication of that person’s true character. We see how they respond to stress, whether they’re honest and ethical, smart or lazy, and if they’re known as the office gigolo we can opt out. Finding a romantic interest at work eliminates a lot of the guess work.

The power dynamics depend on who’s on top.

The political dynamics of office liaisons, however, are rather tricky. Peers are the safest bet while cross-pollinating between upper, middle and lower ranks is riskier. The inherent problem is if or when the relationship disintegrates, how do the parties handle the fallout? Participants are left in the uncomfortable position of working together when there may be considerable animosity or one partner may be left to witness the other embarking on a new relationship. Not fun and often painful. There’s also the career/business advancement component and women are most often the losers when the male in the relationship is in a more senior position. Chances are one of the parties will have to change jobs and probably leave the company. With all the potential risks associated with office or workplace liaisons, people are advised to enter into relationships with a large dose of caution.

Negotiating the hazards of an office romance can be tricky.

So, what’s a person to do? Long hours at the workplace, particularly early in one’s career often make socializing outside work difficult. When you’re young, single and beginning your career, the opportunities outweigh the pitfalls and if the relationship fails the fallout is less likely to be as damaging. During my forty years in the corporate world I lost count of the number of successful, lasting relationships I saw launched at office baseball games, Christmas parties or after-work drinks at a local pub. Some of these pairings that resulted in marriage and children have successfully produced second generation employees who became part of the corporate ‘family’.

As long as there are men and women, they will pair up in logical, illogical, beneficial and destructive relationships. It served Cleopatra well, but only for awhile; not so for Marc Antony. Brad and Angelina’s relationship fell off the rails in an industry known for risky outcomes. If J.F.K. were alive today, we would like to think his shenanigans would not be tolerated, but consider the track record of the current President of the United States. Workplace romances certainly have their place and will always be part of life but there are no guarantees and should be entered into only after carefully considering the consequences. Not all stories have happy endings.

The #metoo movement is making everyone pause and reconsider what we once considered acceptable behaviour. All flirting is not just cause for dismissal. Not all accusations automatically denote guilt. That’s the challenge. If there are multiple accusers, then odds are “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. But perpetrators also deserve a fair hearing.

Workplace romance is a complicated business and with the increasing awareness of sexual harassment and pushback from opposing viewpoints the discussion is far from over. The current spotlight on the issue will ultimately generate positive change but not without some bumps in the road. As women become more empowered, the rules will become more clearly defined. In the games people play, it’s essential that everyone understands the rules. Both men and women stand to benefit from the outcome.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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