Store Operations - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints Sun, 16 Dec 2018 16:13:26 -0500 RTP en-gb Sears Reportedly Hires JLL To Gauge Real Estate’s Value; Burlington, DICK’S Express Interest Sears Reportedly Hires JLL To Gauge Real Estate’s Value; Burlington, DICK’S Express Interest

In the wake of Eddie Lampert’s $4.6 billion bid for Sears and its assets, the retailer has hired real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to market its portfolio of approximately 500 U.S. Sears and Kmart stores, and so far has seen high interest in major markets, according to a Bloomberg report

Burlington Stores, At Home, DICK’S Sporting Goods and U-Haul are among those that have expressed interest in some Sears properties, along with potential buyers interested in converting stores into residential or office space, the report said.

“We have taken advantage of some of the Sears closures, where we'll take a piece of the building and somebody else would take another piece of the building, and they'll divide it up,” said Thomas Kingsbury, CEO of Burlington Stores in an earnings call last month. “I think Kmart is more of an opportunity for us, because they’re in very good locations. We’d have to carve up the box based on the current size of our box as we desire.”

At Home has been scouting Sears and Kmart stores for “about four years” as they became available on the market, a company spokesperson told CNBC.

Upon filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after years of financial turmoil, Sears has reportedly entertained bids from retailers, mall owners and liquidators, all of which are due by the end of the year. The bankruptcy auction for the retailer is expected to take place in mid-January 2019.

Lampert, the often-criticized Chairman of Sears Holdings, made the $4.6 billion bid through his hedge fund, ESL Investments. If the hedge fund’s offer is approved, Sears wouldn’t have to liquidate the remaining 500 Sears and Kmart stores. It could save the jobs of approximately 50,000 of the company’s 68,000 employees, Lampert wrote in a letter to investment banker Lazard Frères.

Sears presently owes $2.6 billion in loans to Lampert and his entities, which are the retailer’s largest creditors. But many of Sears’ unsecured creditors have questioned whether Sears has a viable future as an operating company. These parties believe Sears will be more valuable in pieces than as a company run under ESL ownership.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Thu, 13 Dec 2018 10:54:27 -0500, Alibaba Reach Outside China To Empower Retail Innovation, Alibaba Reach Outside China To Empower Retail Innovation and Alibaba are partnering with tech companies and retailers to collaborate on new ways to drive the industry forward. joined with Intel to launch a joint lab that will explore the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) in smart retail solutions, while Alibaba is working with Spanish retailer El Corte Inglés in a joint effort to complement each other’s logistics expertise. and Intel have formed the Digitized Retail Joint lab to develop vending machines, media and advertising solutions and other retail-focused technologies. The team already has merged Intel’s RRI edge computing and OpenVINO computer vision architecture with JD’s computer vision algorithms to analyze customer traffic and in-store purchasing habits — data that can be used to improve personalization efforts.

“This lab will combine our collective strengths to develop cutting-edge solutions to bring the precision of online shopping to offline players,” said Zhi Weng, VP of and head of JD Big Data Platform in a statement. “We look forward to expanding our cooperation with Intel to deliver a best-in-class, personalized shopping experience wherever consumers shop.”

The partnership between El Corte Inglés and Alibaba will span retail, payments, cloud computing and the entire Alibaba New Retail initiative. El Corte will tap a number of Alibaba solutions, including data analytics and AI-based tools, and open a sales channel for “made-in-Spain” goods on Tmall. El Corte also will provide support for Alibaba, which could leverage the department store’s shipping capabilities and distribution centers in Spain to support AliExpress, the retailer’s international e-Commerce service, in the nation.

“This agreement will allow us to combine both the physical and online worlds, in order to offer the best shopping experience to our customers,” said Victor del Pozo, CEO of El Corte Inglés in a statement. “Together, we are writing the future and placing ourselves at the forefront of trade and technology.”

Alibaba is no stranger to working with other retailers to enhance its offerings: the retail giant partnered with Guess in July 2018 to launch a FashionAI concept store that featured Guess apparel on smart racks, smart mirrors and next-generation fitting rooms. Guess plans to introduce the technology to its own stores in the future.

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Mon, 10 Dec 2018 13:05:20 -0500
Walmart Harnesses Apps And AI To Fuel Associate Efficiency Walmart Harnesses Apps And AI To Fuel Associate Efficiency

Walmart is putting the power of e-Commerce in its associates’ hands, letting them use their devices to place orders for out-of-stock items on the spot. The retail giant will further increase associate efficiency with the use of AI-powered floor scrubbers that will be able to handle floor cleanup on their own.

Associates will have access to the entire stock of, and shoppers can choose whether they would prefer to have their items shipped to the store or their home. Customers will then receive a receipt or an email, which they can use to pay for their purchase at any register in the store.

While this e-Commerce app is its most recent addition, Walmart has introduced several other behind-the-scenes apps this year:

  • PlanIT: Keeps associates up to date on the latest company and store announcements, and helps managers track projects;
  • The Receiving App: Tells backroom associates exactly which products have just arrived at the store, eliminating the need to manually count inventory;
  • The Downstock App: Lets associates know what needs to be restocked and where;
  • The Price Change App: Plans out a route to help associates efficiently update in-store price tags;
  • The Availability App: Tracks out-of-stocks and when they occurred to help managers determine what is causing them;
  • The Claims App: Outlines the options for handling returned merchandise, such as whether it should be sold at clearance price or simply discarded; and
  • The Sales App: Tracks product sales so that associates can see how departments and even individual products perform over time.

Technology also will help Walmart associates spend more time with customers and less time cleaning, with a fleet of autonomous floor scrubbers. Brain Corp. has provided the AI being used to power the machines’ navigation and data collection capabilities. Walmart will roll out 360 robots by Jan. 31, 2019.

"We're excited to work with Brain Corp. in supporting our retail operations and providing our associates with a safe and reliable technology," says John Crecelius, Walmart's VP of Central Operations in a statement. "BrainOS is a powerful tool in helping our associates complete repetitive tasks so they can focus on other tasks within role and spend more time serving customers."

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Wed, 05 Dec 2018 12:12:07 -0500
Kroger Adds Curated 2,300-Item Assortments At 13 Walgreens Pilot Stores Kroger Adds Curated 2,300-Item Assortments At 13 Walgreens Pilot Stores

Expanding on the pilot program that began in early October, Kroger will add Kroger Express, a curated assortment of 2,300 products, at 13 Walgreens stores in northern Kentucky. The items will be selected using customer data and insights provided by Kroger subsidiary 84.51°. The first concept store already is operational in Florence, Ky., and the remaining 12 pilot stores are scheduled to go live in early 2019.

The Kroger Express selection will include Home Chef meal kits, national products and Kroger’s Our Brands private label items, along with dairy, meat, produce, frozen and meal SKUs. The Walgreens stores also serve as pickup points for online grocery orders placed on

“We are excited to enter the next phase of the pilot,” said Robert Clark, SVP of Merchandising at Kroger in a statement. “The Kroger Express concept creates easy access to our most popular Our Brands products through a fill-in grocery shopping experience for Walgreens customers, and our Home Chef Express meal kits provide customers with an on-demand solution for tonight’s dinner.”

Kroger and Walgreens also are integrating their product offerings in a larger market, making Home Chef Express meal kits available in 65 Chicago-area Walgreens stores. The kits already are available at certain Kroger banners in the area, including select Mariano’s stores.

During this pilot program, Walgreens will offer three unique Express meal kit options, with recipes rotating bi-weekly. Other recipes are available for delivery through

“We’re pleased to continue working together to explore new concepts that expand product selection to provide a better shopping experience and greater value for our customers,” said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens President of Operations in a statement.

]]> (Adam Blair) News Briefs Tue, 04 Dec 2018 12:14:03 -0500
Gap Implements Mobile Shift Swapping Across All Brands Gap Implements Mobile Shift Swapping Across All Brands

Gap Inc. has deployed Shyft  as its mobile shift scheduling platform across all brands including Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta.

“As a company that seeks to attract and retain the best talent in the business, we recognize the importance of finding ways to enhance and improve the store experience for our employees and customers alike,” said Amy Solliday, VP of Store Operations at Old Navy, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our partnership with the shift swapping mobile app, Shyft, provides flexibility to employees, while ensuring our stores are staffed appropriately.”

Gap first piloted the app in its Old Navy stores, while testing other solutions across other brands at the same time. The success of the Old Navy pilot led Gap Inc. to deploy Shyft across all stores in its portfolio of brands, Solliday reported.

Shyft is designed to enable employees to message one another about availability and swap work shifts using a mobile app. This helps retailers solve labor inefficiencies by allowing individual store employees and managers to respond in real time to fluctuating business needs.

Shyft recently secured $6.5 million in Series A financing, bringing the company’s total funding to $8 million. The company will use the new capital to work on product development and innovation initiatives.

Bob Kelly, Managing Partner of Ignition Partners, and S. Somasegar, Managing Director of Madrona Venture Group, will join Shyft’s Board of Directors following the new funding round.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 30 Nov 2018 10:25:23 -0500
E-Commerce Sales Help Department Stores Start Holiday 2018 Strong E-Commerce Sales Help Department Stores Start Holiday 2018 Strong

Coming off a solid Q3 that saw overall top-line revenue growth, department stores are finally reaping the rewards of their e-Commerce investments. These retailers appear to have grabbed a sizeable slice of the $20.8 billion consumers shelled out online over the Thanksgiving Weekend. Sales totals for Cyber Monday alone show that the “big four” department stores significantly improved their online offerings at the start of the season, according to analysis of 3 million anonymized and aggregated email receipts from Edison Trends:

  • Kohl’s boosted revenue 42% on Cyber Monday;
  • Macy’s improved revenue 30%;
  • Nordstrom revenue climbed 33%;and
  • Even struggling JCPenney saw a slight sales boost (3%).

Overall, this sector’s leading players performed well on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday as well, with all four major department stores increasing sales at least 16% over the two days (Macy’s boosted sales 34% and Kohl’s bumped up its sales 27%).

Kohl’s was the weekend winner for its share of all online transactions across the top 50 retail web sites, according to research from Hitwise. While Amazon predictably dominated Black Friday at a 56.8% share, Kohl’s 4.8% share took third place overall, behind Walmart’s 8.4%. On Cyber Monday, Kohl’s had the fourth-largest market share (3.8%), behind Amazon (60.0%), Walmart (7.2%) and Target (5.9%). This result is a big win for Kohl’s given that the three retailers ahead of it are mass merchants, which shows that consumers are very attracted to its product line.

“A much stronger assortment presented in a more compelling way is a key reason for Kohl’s success with customers,” said Neil Saunders, Managing Director at GlobalData Retail in a RetailWire discussion. “Activewear has been a particular area of strength which, given the general slump in the sector as a whole, is positive. Brands like Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas are proving popular. These things have been underpinned by changes to the rewards program which have been rolled out across a number of markets, and better presentation in stores with a more localized assortment.”

Department Stores Learn The Big Lesson: Adjust Experiences For Every Channel

Department stores are still a major destination for shoppers throughout the peak shopping season, with 65% of consumers anticipating that they will spend money at these retailers, according to ICSC. That’s compared to the 87% who will shop at mass merchants such as Target and Walmart, and 66% that will spend at dollar, discount and variety stores.

Consumers’ continued desire to shop at department stores shows that these retailers are adjusting to altered shopper preferences, according to Christina Boni, VP and Senior Credit Officer at Moody’s. While malls were the main traffic drivers in holidays past, department stores now must be responsible for driving their own traffic and customer relationships through all channels, whether the shopper journey starts online or on mobile.

“It’s always going to be about creating an environment that draws the customer in,” Boni said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Clearly, the customer is using every channel and they use it fluidly. They can buy online/pick up in-store and once they’re in the store, you want to capitalize on that opportunity of being able to convert that customer. These stores have a lot of square footage, but it’s now about figuring out how to use that square footage effectively, and to the extent that it can be used, maybe finding alternative uses for it. It’s about making a connection, it’s not just about a transaction.”

Despite Department Store Turnarounds, JCPenney Still Has A Long Way To Go

While the overall landscape for department stores has been positive, with Nordstrom, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Dillard’s increasing comparable sales for the past four quarters, JCPenney continues to underperform. In Q3 the retailer posted a disappointing sales decrease of 5.8% and a comparable sales decline of 5.4%, and reported $151 million in net losses. Reduced sales in higher-ticket home goods areas such as appliances, along with deeper discounts, hurt results. The company, which is readjusting its online offerings, also took a hit to its e-Commerce sales.

In October, JCPenney named a new CEO, Jill Soltau, to fill the role of departed chief exec Marvin Ellison. Soltau has the task of turning around a lagging business that has nearly $4 billion in unpaid long-term debt. While the holiday season is a golden opportunity to boost revenues, the retailer can’t expect to complete any substantial turnaround in the short term.

“The good news is they have very good liquidity — almost $2 billion,” Boni said. “This gives them time to be able to enact plans made by the new management team. Clearly, they have flexibility to make significant investments. Their real estate is not as strong as the others’, and they have some structural challenges they need to face. But ultimately, what they need to do is get back to core and offer products that people really want. They need to figure out who their customer is, and what they really want…but that may take a little time.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) E-Commerce Fri, 30 Nov 2018 08:39:37 -0500
IKEA Will Cut 7,500 Redundant Positions But Forecasts 4,000 Net New Jobs IKEA Will Cut 7,500 Redundant Positions But Forecasts 4,000 Net New Jobs

IKEA Group plans to eliminate 7,500 jobs globally that the company says will become redundant over the next three years. The eliminated positions mainly include administrative staff in central support functions. But the Group, which owns 367 IKEA stores, estimates that it will create 11,500 jobs during the same period, through the opening of approximately 30 new touch points and investments in its fulfillment network and digital capabilities, according to a company statement.

The expected redundancies amount to nearly 5% of the company’s current workforce, according to Reuters.

IKEA is in a transformational period, boosting its digital, delivery and other services while testing new, more accessible store formats. In the U.S. over the past three years, the retailer has opened 12 new stores and five new fulfillment and distribution units. IKEA plans to open two new stores in 2019, in San Antonio, Texas and Norfolk, Va. that will create approximately 500 new job opportunities.

“We need to simplify the way we are organized,” CEO Jesper Brodin told Reuters. “Over the last few years, we have invested resources in many different ways. And, to be honest, now we see that in several parts of our organization we have a bit of duplicate work.”

The job cuts will affect central functions and global service offices as well as local service offices across markets, but are “not geared towards the store operation or distribution units,” said Brodin.

]]> (Adam Blair) News Briefs Wed, 21 Nov 2018 14:05:29 -0500
Multiple Pop-Ups, One Roof: Neighborhood Goods Tells A New Kind Of Retail Story Multiple Pop-Ups, One Roof: Neighborhood Goods Tells A New Kind Of Retail Story

Today’s retailers try to tell a story that shoppers can “read,” using the grammar of visual merchandising, interior design and displays, and the products themselves. Consumers may not be aware of all the nuances at work, but they know when a shopping journey makes sense to them. Neighborhood Goods is attempting to tell a story, but with a bigger and more complex set of building blocks: a changing collection of pop-up stores, all housed under one roof.

Neighborhood Goods’ reinvention of the traditional department store will debut on Nov. 17 in Plano, Texas, where it will showcase a rotating collection of brands across categories including fashion, accessories, beauty, home decor, family, wellness and consumer tech.

To attract customers and encourage them to stay longer in the space, Neighborhood Goods will:

  • Host a restaurant called Prim & Proper in cooperation with a local culinary innovation lab;
  • Hold daily event programming that will complement individual retailers’ experiential offerings;
  • Publish a magazine and podcast that highlight local retailers, restaurants and entrepreneurs; and
  • Decorate the communal space with custom artwork.

The store aims to take the same approach many direct-to-consumer retailers use for their digital presence: creating a unique narrative around the products being sold, according to Neighborhood Goods Co-Founder and CEO Matt Alexander. Each brand will be given the space to stand out and tell its own story, but there won’t be walls between sections — letting the individual retailers meld into a single, continuous experience.

“The core principle that we settled on was a focus on creating a more dignified, communal, sociable, friendly and approachable concept in the retail space,” said Alexander in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The goal is to shed some of that traditional pretentiousness that you can often see from the higher end of retail — and also some of the elements of self-consciousness and confusion that come from some retail experiences, where you feel like the entirety of the experience is built around trying to extract dollars from your wallet in a very overt way.”

Curated Layouts, Shorter Leases Encourage Experimentation

The layout is designed to make each visit a narrative journey for shoppers, for example by placing similar brands next to each other. Some areas will be based around a theme such as bedrooms, allowing multiple brands to share a single space with complementary products to enhance the overall display.

“They benefit from brand adjacency, which is where you see another similarity between us and traditional retail,” said Alexander. “In the fashion industry, one of the questions you would ask a potential wholesale channel is less about their potential sales, and much more about who you might be positioned next to on a shelf. That’s certainly what we’ve been thinking about.”

The constituent retailers won’t be tied to long-term leases, giving them more leeway to experiment with how they display their products, according to Alexander. Signing up for a three-month or one-year tenure is much less expensive than a 10-year commitment, giving brands an opportunity to take risks that might not be possible in a traditional retail space.

“A lot of the experience comes from how we’re talking to these brands and what we’re encouraging them to think about,” said Alexander. “Insofar as we’re using the space to capture data around customer behavior, and insofar as we’re trying to create areas within [the space] where people can spend time, we’re also trying to come up with a way we can introduce a product or a brand in a way that feels really natural, really interesting and really gives you a good reason to visit.”

Retailers pay a monthly fee for their space in the store, which includes the costs of staffing, education, editorial and design for the brand. Initial partners include:

  • Stadium Goods, a sneaker and streetwear marketplace;
  • The Inside, a direct-to-consumer home furnishings brand
  • Desmond & Dempsey, a UK-based luxury pajama brand;
  • Allswell, a direct-to-consumer mattress and bedding brand;
  • Draper James, a Southern-inspired lifestyle brand by Reese Witherspoon;
  • Primary, a colorful children’s clothing brand;
  • hims, a men's wellness brand focused on personal care;
  • Hubble, an affordable contact lens brand;
  • Sonos, a multi-room wireless home audio brand;
  • LOLI Beauty, a zero-waste, organic beauty brand; and
  • The Residency, Neighborhood Goods’ own retail concept, which curates products from new, local and pilot brands.

Food, Events And Products Create Compelling Narratives

Neighborhood Goods will have some ongoing elements in addition to its changing roster of pop-up stores. A restaurant called Prim & Proper will be located at the center of the store and will collaborate with Front Burner Restaurants, a culinary innovation lab for Dallas-based brands, to provide shoppers with food and drinks. The eatery will use custom cookware from Made In that will be available for purchase at The Residency.

Additionally, live events will give brands an opportunity to show off their products and give customers more reasons to visit. Some retailers will include their own experiential offerings.

Neighborhood Goods also will extend the storytelling focus outside the retail space in the form of a magazine and a podcast. The editorial content will include articles about local stores, restaurants and brands, while the podcast will feature entrepreneurs and investors with tales about the industry. By engaging in storytelling both in-store and outside, Neighborhood Goods is aiming to generate compelling narratives across the entire shopping experience.

“Ultimately, retail is about human anxiety and who they want to be,” said Alexander. “They want to buy these products, often because they want to buy into a particular identity or enforce a particular identity. You’re not able to do that if you don’t have a story about those products.”

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Fri, 16 Nov 2018 09:00:00 -0500
Johnnie Walker Uncorks Experiential Whisky Store In Madrid Johnnie Walker Uncorks Experiential Whisky Store In Madrid

With competition heating up — within the whisky market and among other types of wine, beer and spirits products — brands are stepping up their marketing game. Winning global whisky brands will be able to grab a growing share of the segment, expected to reach $7.4 billion by 2023, a 5.3% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) 5-year increase.

Johnnie Walker is looking to compete by targeting European consumers (and tourists) with a new experience-focused store in Madrid this year. Offering features including a virtual tour of Scotland, an interactive hosting area where customers can learn the art of cocktail-making, and a personalization station, the first Johnnie Walker flagship store opened in Madrid, Spain on Nov. 8. And if all that’s not enough, the store also sells whisky.

The experiential store, located in the fashionable Barrio de Salamanca district of Madrid, will offer whisky appreciation classes and tastings. Products include a special collection of Johnnie Walker whiskies; some of the rarest single malt scotches from which Johnnie Walker is crafted; and limited edition curated collaborations exclusive to the new store.

The virtual tour, Discover Scotland through Johnnie Walker, takes customers to the four corners of the country, including the Highlands, the Islands, the Lowlands and Speyside. Seasonal offerings include an in-store cocktail expert demonstrating how to pair frozen Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve with Scottish chocolates. At the personalization station, shoppers can find unique gifts and add bespoke engravings and labels.

“We’re always looking for new ways to surprise and engage our customers and this kind of experiential Johnnie Walker flagship store does just that,” said John Williams, Global Brand Director for Johnnie Walker in a statement. “It also adds a sense of fun and discovery to shopping and is a whole new way of experiencing the diversity and rich heritage of Johnnie Walker.”

The Madrid store opening follows the announcement of a £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism by Johnnie Walker’s parent company Diageo, including plans for a Johnnie Walker visitor experience in Edinburgh. The Johnnie Walker brand will celebrate its bicentennial in 2020.

]]> (Adam Blair) News Briefs Fri, 09 Nov 2018 12:28:02 -0500
Walmart Opening AI-Focused Retail Lab In A Long Island Store Walmart Opening AI-Focused Retail Lab In A Long Island Store

(Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information provided by Walmart since it was initially published.)

Walmart is planning to open an in-store Intelligent Retail Lab, but not at its usual Store No. 8 tech incubator located near the company’s Bentonville, Ark. headquarters. The lab will operate inside a Levittown, N.Y. store, according to TechCrunch. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to empower associates and improve the shopper experience, for example by better calculating when stock needs to be replenished, identifying when items are on the wrong shelf and quickly reporting spills.

The retail giant’s Kepler team is responsible for putting together the lab, which includes installing hardware, software and other equipment. Walmart has been pushing the technological envelope through Store No. 8 and other sites with initiatives that include:

Many of these initiatives are based on improving convenience, a benefit that’s shared by the retail technologies seeing the most mainstream success, according to the Q3 Retail Innovation Radar report from HighStreet. Shoppers place a particularly high value on friction-reducing solutions such as mobile technology as well as fast and easy checkout.

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Fri, 09 Nov 2018 12:11:59 -0500