Retail TouchPoints - Your Source For The Latest Retail News And Trends Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:07:49 -0400 RTP en-gb JCPenney Finalizes Chairman Transition During Tumultuous Times For Department Stores JCPenney Finalizes Chairman Transition During Tumultuous Times For Department Stores

0mikeullmanMyron “Mike” Ullman III, the longtime and former CEO of JCPenney, is retiring from his position as company Chairman, effective August 1, 2016. Ullman will be succeeded by JCPenney’s current CEO, Marvin Ellison, as part of the transition plan the company outlined in 2014.

Ellison has been working as President and CEO-Designee since November 1, 2014.  He came over from The Home Depot, where he served as EVP of U.S. Stores from August 2008 through October 2014. With a target goal of helping JCPenney reach $1.2 billion in profitability, Ellison has helped engineer a reversal in fortunes for JCPenney despite the disappointing Q1 results of other department stores. While JCPenney’s revenue dipped 1.6% in the quarter, the retailer narrowed its losses from $150 million to $68 million.

{loadposition GIAA}Ullman first led JCPenney from December 2004 to November 2011. He was succeeded by Ron Johnson, whose attempt to reinvent JCPenney’s branding and pricing strategies resulted in a steep dip in profits and revenue.

In April 2013, Ullman returned as CEO to lead a turnaround effort until passing the position to Ellison on August 1, 2015. In the span between Ullman’s first retirement as CEO and the Ellison’s appointment, the retailer endured a net loss of $1.6 billion, a $3 billion cash drain, and a market cap drop of $4 billion (a 56% loss).

“Mike has demonstrated great leadership, twice as CEO, and for the past year as our Executive Chairman,” Ellison said in a statement. “For someone who started his retail career as a $4.35 per hour store security officer, it is a blessing and an honor to be named Chairman of JCPenney. I look forward to continuing to work with our talented board and management team as we continue to take the steps necessary to drive the resurgence of JCPenney."

Ronald Tysoe will continue as the Lead Independent Director of the JCPenney Board of Directors.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Retail Movers & Shakers Mon, 25 Jul 2016 09:23:55 -0400
PayPal-Visa Deal Signals Some Agreement Within Fragmented Mobile Payments Industry PayPal-Visa Deal Signals Some Agreement Within Fragmented Mobile Payments Industry

The longstanding rivalry between PayPal and Visa appears to have been quelled, with the companies striking a deal designed to make it easier for Visa cardholders to use the online payments system.

With mobile payment transactions expected to reach $27 billion in 2016, many companies are seeking a place at the table. As mobile payments overall continue to grow, PayPal and Visa are essentially bending to consumers’ will, with an understanding that a more open, inclusive payments platform will reel in more transactions for everyone. But more importantly, they’re showing that two major payments businesses can play nice in an environment that often has been characterized more by exclusion than cooperation.

{loadposition GIAA}Mobile payments remains a largely segmented industry, with Apple, Google and Samsung all making plays with their own technologies. Even within these hardware universes, there are restrictions: Apple Pay online can only be accessed by users with an iPhone 6 or later, while Samsung Pay users have to own a recent Galaxy or Edge smartphone.

Even retailers have sought to play expanded roles in payments, with a collective of major brands forming the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) in 2012. The consortium attempted to launch its own mobile payment platform, CurrentC, which ultimately failed to get beyond the testing phase.

Amazon and Walmart have broken through with their own competing systems despite the widespread use of other mobile payments platforms at their retail locations, with the latter finally releasing the service in all its stores in July 2016. More recently, MasterCard introduced its multi-channel payments solution, Masterpass, designed to work online, via mobile sites and apps and in stores.

What The Visa-PayPal Partnership Means To The Consumer

While retailers may remain guarded regarding payment options, the PayPal-Visa relationship may be a step in the right direction to break down barriers on the service end of mobile payments.

Consumers with a Visa card and a PayPal account will assuredly gain the biggest benefits from the partnership. For example, Visa debit card customers can move money instantly via PayPal and its Venmo mobile wallet service. Previously, there has been a waiting time for funds to clear in those transactions.

As part of the partnership:

  • Visa cards will be presented as a “clear and equal” payment option during enrollment and subsequent payments, where consumers can set their preferred payment method;

  • Visa digital card images will be incorporated into payment flows;

  • PayPal will not encourage Visa cardholders to link to a bank account via Automated Clearing House (ACH) network; and

  • PayPal will support and work with issuers to identify consumers who choose to migrate existing ACH payment flows to their Visa cards.

PayPal also will join the Visa Digital Enablement Program (VDEP) to expand POS acceptance for the PayPal digital wallet to all physical retail locations where Visa contactless transactions are enabled.

“Giving consumers choice in how and where they pay is essential to our goal of being a customer champion and we welcome the opportunity to work with more partners like Visa who share our vision,” said Dan Schulman, President and CEO at PayPal. “This agreement opens new avenues for PayPal to collaborate with Visa, financial institutions, and others in the payments ecosystem to deliver greater value, more choice, and new experiences for our joint customers wherever they transact — online, in-app or in-store.”

While the partnership is designed to build a better working relationship between PayPal and Visa, the companies will still remain competitive to an extent, especially while Visa continues to operate its own payment service, Visa Checkout.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 22 Jul 2016 14:22:35 -0400
Eastern Mountain Sports, Bob’s Stores Merged Into New Holding Company

1easternPrivate equity investment firm Versa Capital Management has formed a new holding company. Dubbed Eastern Outfitters, LLC, the company brings together two restructured and recapitalized retail operations: Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) and Bob’s Stores.

Both retailers will operate as business units of Eastern Outfitters, which earns more than $400 million in annual multi-channel revenue, according to company data. The holding company will be headquartered in Meriden, Conn. and led by CEO Mark Walsh.

The news follows an announcement that Vestis Retail Group (an entity of Versa that operated Bob’s Stores, EMS and Sport Chalet) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2016. Vestis later shuttered all of its Sport Chalet stores in order to focus on the advancement of Bob’s and EMS.

“With an enhanced capital structure and healthy balance sheet, EMS and Bob’s now have the flexibility they need to prosper in the current retail environment, which rewards brands that offer unique products with highly attentive customer service at attractive price points," said Gregory L. Segall, Chairman and CEO of Versa in a statement. 

]]> (Klaudia Tirico) Mergers & Acquisitions Thu, 21 Jul 2016 17:35:11 -0400
Is Off-Price Now The New Normal? Is Off-Price Now The New Normal?

While many traditional retailers had a weak Q1, off-price retailers such as TJX, Ross Stores and Five Below did quite well for themselves in the same period. Unlike department stores that often feel the need to mark down inventory for the sake of getting the merchandise off their hands quickly, off-price retailers already purchase their inventory at a discount.

A recent RetailWire article spotlighted what appears to be a trend: most consumers now purchase their clothes at off-price outlet stores. The article noted that off-price shoppers now represent two-thirds of all consumers, according to a study from The NPD Group. The study also indicated that off-price buyers represent 75% of apparel purchases across all retail channels.

{loadposition GIAA}With so many department stores counting on apparel to drive sales, these retailers must understand the shift in consumer preferences to off-priced merchandise (that is also of top quality).

"You have to understand, this country has changed,” said Jim Cramer, host of the CNBC television program Mad Money. “Americans want off-price retailers to give them high quality branded apparel at everyday low prices…That's the attitude of the modern consumer. We are not willing to pay up for things when we shouldn't have to.”

RetailWire BrainTrust Weighs In On Off-Pricing’s Role

In a discussion attached to the RetailWire article, retail industry executives and experts debated whether off-price chains are making department and specialty clothing stores irrelevant in the minds of consumers; and how department stores and full-price retailers can take consumer attention away from off-price outlets.

The following quotes were posted as part of the RetailWire discussion, titled: What does it take to compete in an off-price retail world?

Zel Bianco, President and CEO of data analysis and reporting solutions provider Interactive Edge, is of the belief that off-price clothing and online shopping are both major factors in the diminishing relevance of department stores, making customer service more important than ever: “If department stores want to entice their customers to shop, they need to be more competitive and go back to focusing on the consumer by providing excellent customer service and keeping retail in stock. I will be curious to see the long-term effects of discount stores like Macy’s Backstage. I think this is an excellent opportunity. One that should have probably been implemented years ago.”

While the department stores’ own discount brands such as Macy’s Backstage and Nordstrom Rack create an off-price alternative for price-conscious consumers, the number of discounts already implemented at nearly every store may be oversaturating the market, making the whole concept of "off-price" moot.

Mohamed Amer, Global Head of Strategic Communications for Consumer Industries at SAP, argued that the present off-price strategy is defined on a full-price standard that isn’t viable in today’s retail environment: “Consumers’ easy 24/7 access to information, product comparisons including prices and digital offers have made the notion of paying full price a 20th century dinosaur — just note Amazon’s wild success to date. What’s surprising to me is that so called 'off-price' shoppers represent only two-thirds of U.S. shoppers. Outside of the top 1%, there’s no motivation not to shop retail’s new pricing paradigm.”

Max Goldberg, President of Max Goldberg & Associates, agreed that bargain-hunting behavior has become baked in for a large segment of the population: "Many consumers are still feeling the pain of the Great Recession, as wages have not kept pace with the general market recovery," he said. "They want value when shopping for clothes and are finding it at off-price chains, where one sacrifices some of the selection for significantly reduced prices. In a way, the leading department stores have brought this phenomenon on themselves by opening these stores, as well as outlet shops."

Millennials Critical To Reversing Trend

Despite consumers aged 45 and above representing more than half of off-price apparel buyers, according to NPD, the success of retailers within the new pricing paradigm hinges on understanding Millennial shopper behavior, according to Ken Morris, Principal at Boston Retail Partners.

“The disappointing sales in the department store category will continue to persist until they figure out a way to attract younger shoppers to brands that have traditionally catered to the baby boomers,” Morris wrote in the discussion. “Department stores need to make their stores a destination and appeal to consumers’ love for the theater of shopping. European retailers like Galeries Lafayette, Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason are successfully attracting customers with special events, exclusive products, interactive games and other strategies that make shopping entertaining and fun. U.S. retailers should emulate some of these strategies to make their stores a shopping destination.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Pricing Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:00 -0400
Twitter And Instagram Execs Share Social Media Best Practices Twitter And Instagram Execs Share Social Media Best Practices

1klaudiaI’ve been an advocate of social media since the early days of Myspace, but I didn’t realize how important platforms such as Twitter and Instagram are to brands and retailers until I first started my career as an editor. Social media is, in my opinion, the best way to generate buzz for your brand, engage with customers and gather insight into what your competitors are doing. Not to mention it’s pretty fun, right?

I recently attended an event hosted by Women’s Health Magazine, which presented an interesting panel on social media featuring Twitter’s Brand Marketing Specialist Erin Dress and Instagram’s Global Lead Kay Hsu. Both panelists had some fascinating things to say regarding social media content, how brands are using video, and more. I also spoke to Erin Dress after the panel, who provided me with some social media do’s and don’ts for retailers. Read on!

It’s All About Content, Content, Content

The best thing about social media is that retailers and brands of all sizes can be successful. It’s really all about experimenting with intriguing content and knowing your audience.  

“Being experimental is a good thing in terms of social media campaigns,” said Hsu. “A good campaign starts with well-written content, really paying attention to production value, and also telling a story that really resonates and makes sense for the brand.”

For Twitter, visual content is growing rapidly. “We’ve seen video grow over 200x in the last year alone and it continues to grow,” Dress said. “So thinking about telling a story in a more engaging way that is going to have stopping power while people are scrolling through their timeline is really important.”

I was shocked to hear how well videos do on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, as I’ve always noticed less engagement with them on my feeds. But I was wrong.

“We found that in the last six months, video consumption has actually gone up 40%,” said Hsu. “That’s a huge growth for us and we responded with a bigger array of tools for video, because we know there is a desire for this storytelling that video can play a part in.”  

Instagram now offers 15-, 30- and 60-second video options, which allow brands and retailers to really get their story across to fans. Additionally, the platform has launched tools such as Boomerang, Hyperlapse and video carousels that provide unique content creation with little effort.

Q&A With Twitter’s Erin Dress: Use The Network To Reach Early Adopters

After the panel, I sat down with Erin Dress to pick her brain on social media best practices.

Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What are the top three ways brands and retailers can maximize their social media experience?

Erin Dress: One way is definitely customer service. It’s such an important element of why people are on Twitter, and why they’re connecting with retailers especially. So making sure that the response is fast and represents the brand, because social is also public so people will see your response as part of your brand. And they’ll judge you accordingly.

Another is deal-seeking: When you’re having a sale and are offering coupons, consumers are looking for that information from retailers. The mobile phone and Twitter have kind of replaced news for a lot of people. So using Twitter to get that deal information out is really important.

Finally, Twitter is full of people who consider themselves early adopters (3x the rate of the normal population of early adopters are on Twitter). They’re the most important people to reach first, so you want to make sure when you’re having a product launch or a special offer — Lilly Pulitzer for Target is an amazing example — you want to make sure to get heard with that audience first because they’re going to be the ones that start sharing.

RTP: What’s one big no-no when it comes to social media?

Dress: I think a massive no-no is overusing hashtags or emojis. It’s something people think is cutesy, and while it can fit your brand to either use emojis or hashtags, it has to be authentic and you don’t want to over-communicate. In fact, the clearest and best performing tweets are under 100 characters. So often, the shorter the better. You don’t want to extend it all the way out to 140. Even below 50 can be really powerful. I think Chipotle is an example of a brand that does an amazing job with very short content; and Denny’s as well. So make sure you’re concise.

RTP: Should all (or most) tweets be accompanied by an image?

Dress: 100% yes. Not only do image tweets perform better than non-image tweets (so always include an image), but video tweets, we’re finding, are performing even better than image tweets.

We’ve recently had a personal care brand where the sales lift with the video tweet was 2x that of the image tweets. It can be very engaging and really have that stopping power (when scrolling) that get people to absorb the information that you’re presenting.

RTP: Have you found longer or shorter videos to be more successful?

Dress: For Twitter, shorter video is better. I think that the most power we’ve found from our studies come from the first three seconds.

Hopefully this article has convinced you to seriously consider using social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. Social media is here to stay, and your brand may be missing out if you’re not leveraging it to its fullest potential. Just remember: more images and video, and less hashtags and emojis.

]]> (Klaudia Tirico) Editor's Perspective Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:53:04 -0400
MasterCard Buys UK Payments Provider VocaLink For $920 Million MasterCard Buys UK Payments Provider VocaLink For $920 Million

Mastercard newlogoIn another sign that MasterCard is determined to stay relevant in a rapidly changing payments landscape, the company will acquire a majority stake in payment systems provider VocaLink for £700 million (approximately $920 million U.S.).

London-based VocaLink offers products including ZAPP, a mobile payments app leveraging Fast ACH technology. The company operates payment technology platforms supporting Faster Payments, a real-time account-to-account service enabling payments via mobile, Internet and phone, as well as the UK ATM network LINK. In 2015, VocaLink reported revenues of £182 million and processed more than 11 billion transactions.

{loadposition GIAA}"We're excited about the opportunity to play a bigger role in payments in the UK, a very strategic market for us," said Ajay Banga, President and CEO of MasterCard in a statement. "VocaLink is a unique company with outstanding technology, assets and people. We look forward to investing in and maximizing the technology, and embedding it in our products and solutions both in the UK and around the world."

The purchase agreement, which is subject to regulatory approvals, gives MasterCard 92.4% of VocaLink Holdings Ltd. VocaLink's existing shareholders have the potential for an earn-out of up to an additional £169 (approximately $220 million U.S.). Under the agreement, a majority of VocaLink's shareholders will retain 7.6% ownership for at least three years.

MasterCard also recently announced the expansion of Masterpass, a unified global payments solution that allows customers to purchase items online, via mobile apps or in brick-and-mortar stores.

]]> (Adam Blair) Mergers & Acquisitions Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:34:54 -0400
Nuance To Acquire TouchCommerce For $215 Million Nuance To Acquire TouchCommerce For $215 Million

1-nuanceSpeech and interface tech company Nuance Communications, Inc. announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire digital customer service and engagement solutions provider TouchCommerce for a total consideration of $215 million in cash and stock. 

Massachusetts-based Nuance plans to integrate TouchCommerce’s customer service products into its suite of systems designed to help big companies engage with customers over Web, mobile, and social messaging channels. 

“The combination of Nuance and TouchCommerce promises to disrupt the customer service industry by bringing together the best of self-service and the best of assisted-service solutions, each magnified by the power of artificial intelligence,” said Robert Weideman, Executive VP and GM for Nuance Enterprise Division in a statement. “The result provides enterprises with a customer engagement solution that connects with consumers anytime and anywhere, across voice, digital and mobile devices — delivering superior customer experiences and business results.”

{loadposition GIAA}

The transaction has been approved by both companies’ Boards of Directors and is expected to close by the end of Nuance’s 2016 fiscal year.

In the past five years, Nuance has acquired more than a dozen companies, including SVOX, Swype, Vlingo, Tweddle Connect, and Varolii.

]]> (David DeZuzio) Mergers & Acquisitions Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:07:33 -0400
Font Company Monotype Buys UGC Startup Olapic For $130 Million Font Company Monotype Buys UGC Startup Olapic For $130 Million

1-Monotype Wordmark web.jpgDigital typesetting and typeface design company Monotype has acquired Olapic, a user-generated content (UGC) startup, for approximately $130 million. 

The acquisition will enable Monotype to leverage Olapic’s Earned Content Platform to help brands collect, curate, use and analyze user-generated content in the form of images and videos in their e-Commerce experiences and across multiple marketing channels.

“Olapic will extend Monotype’s ability to help brands express their story and engage with customers in a richer, more impactful way,” said Scott Landers, President and CEO of Monotype in a statement. “Our value has always been predicated on type, technology and expertise, and Olapic strengthens us on all three fronts. Whether an ‘asset’ is type, branded emoji or chat, and now user-generated content, they all serve a similar purpose, which is to elevate a brand’s identity both online and offline.”

{loadposition GIAA}

“By joining a company with such a deep history working with prominent brands, we believe that we’ll be able to accelerate our go-to-market process by fueling and investing in continued innovation of our Earned Content Platform,” said Pau Sabria, CEO and co-founder of Olapic. “We’re excited about expanding the reach of both Monotype and Olapic offerings into the marketing and design teams at some of the world’s most popular brands.”


]]> (David DeZuzio) Mergers & Acquisitions Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:59:17 -0400
EBay Raises Revenue Guidance, Citing StubHub Success, Data-Driven Focus EBay Raises Revenue Guidance, Citing StubHub Success, Data-Driven Focus

Helped by a consistently strong revenue generator in StubHub, eBay has posted its second straight quarter of sales gains, pulling in net revenues of nearly 6%. With the revenue boost, eBay raised its full year 2016 guidance to a range of $1.85 to $1.90 per share. EBay is also investing in high-level analytics to gain a greater understanding of pricing and purchasing behavior.

While the retailer had a dip in net income of 4%, earnings per share beat estimates, growing 2%. The company’s marketplace business pulled in a 1% revenue increase, but the e-Commerce site had help from three factors:

  • A gross merchandise volume (GMV) increase of 4%;

  • A 15% jump in Classifieds sales; and

  • StubHub’s revenue increase of 40%, taking in $225 million.

While the StubHub revenue total is just a drop in the bucket as far as its percentage of eBay’s total revenue goes, the ticket reseller has become a consistent revenue fixture that the marketplace has welcomed since PayPal’s split away in July 2015. Since the split, eBay has been shifting its focus from its traditional auction-laden roots to a fixed-price business to further compete directly with Amazon, and to get more brands to sell on its online marketplace.

{loadposition GIAA}As part of a buyback program, eBay repurchased $500 million of its common stock in Q2. The board approved an additional $2.5 billion stock repurchase authorization, with no expiration.

eBay also has aimed to ramp up its own competitive positioning with the acquisition of predictive analytics company SalesPredict, backing up the brand’s increased emphasis on structured data. While Amazon has made its name by using data for product recommendations, eBay will leverage data to understand the price-differentiating attributes of products sold on the site.

“The company will continue to invest behind the structured data initiative, which is improving underlying traffic and conversion rates for the SEO channel, by extending its next phase to approximately 100 million relevant listings by the end of the year and shifting some brand spend to the top of the funnel,” wrote Michael Graham, Managing Director and Senior Internet Analyst at ‎Canaccord Genuity in a note to Barron’s. “We also are encouraged by the continued buyback momentum, and believe it should help create a floor under eBay’s stock.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Financial News Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:20:07 -0400
Target Appoints Former Apple Exec To Lead Supply Chain Processes

1bencookTarget has appointed Ben Cook as Senior VP of Global Logistics, Inventory Allocation and Replenishment. Cook will be responsible for leading the company’s inbound and outbound supply chain processes, including carrier transportation and last-mile delivery. He will report to Target’s Executive VP and Chief Supply Chain and Logistics Officer Arthur Valdez.

“Our guests expect us to deliver product quickly and reliably, and that means we need a supply chain that’s increasingly fast and precise,” said Valdez in a statement. “Ben’s expertise and proven track record in cutting cost and reducing complexity in the name of speed will be an incredible asset to our team. We believe he’s the right addition to the work we’re doing to strengthen Target’s supply chain so we can offer an even faster and simpler guest experience.”

Cook joins Target from Apple, where he was the Director of Logistics and Supply Chain strategies, and led the transformation of the company’s omnichannel distribution model. Prior to Apple, Cook held operational roles at Kimberly-Clark and The Home Depot

]]> (Klaudia Tirico) Retail Movers & Shakers Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:28:49 -0400