Store Operations - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints Tue, 15 Oct 2019 19:25:26 -0400 RTP en-gb Are Retailers Ready For A Potential Cashierless Tech Boom? Are Retailers Ready For A Potential Cashierless Tech Boom?

While cashierless stores aren’t quite mainstream, they are gaining a foothold: 14% of retailers responding to the 2019 Retail TouchPoints Store Operations Benchmark Survey said they operate cashierless stores, and another 4% say they plan to open them. So while cashierless stores may currently be a niche phenomenon, they represent the next disruptive stage in the industry’s evolution.

Some of the forces shaping the adoption of cashierless retail include:

  • Customers: Shoppers already are comfortable with cashless payments and self-service, which has primed them for further friction-reducing efforts;
  • Providers: The technology is still relatively new and expensive, but this will likely change as larger players enter the market; and
  • Strategies: One of the hurdles to mass adoption may be retailers themselves — adopting new, unproven technology is much riskier than sticking with tried-and-true operations.

Amazon is the best-known operator of cashierless stores, and the e-Commerce giant has been steadily (if slowly) adding to its Amazon Go footprint. Additionally, CNBC recently reported that the company plans to make its cashierless technology available to OTG’s CIBO Express stores at airports and Cineworld’s Regal movie theaters. Amazon has not confirmed its plans in this area.

It’s only a matter of time before retailers adopt this technology at scale, according to Jerry Sheldon, Retail Analyst at IHL Services, who describes himself as “bullish” on the potential of cashierless technology. He estimated that cashierless checkout will be as prevalent in 15 years as self-checkout is today.

“Self-checkout is somewhat of a disruptive technology, mobile POS has been somewhat disruptive and consumer mobile self-checkout is somewhat disruptive, but I don't really know how to compare those to the change that cashierless checkout is going to bring to the marketplace,” said Sheldon in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “And when you look at the addressable market for point of sale hardware and software on a worldwide basis, it's billions of dollars, so the opportunity is absolutely massive.”

Cashless Tech Set The Stage For The Cashierless Revolution

The consumer-facing technology underlying cashierless experiences is already mainstream: 91% of consumers in developed markets made or received a digital payment in 2017, according to the Resilience, Replacement, and Renewal report by A.T. Kearney. As these payments grow more ubiquitous, it will become easier for retailers to remove the remaining points of friction from stores.

"Whenever we have new innovations like this, it creates opportunity for further innovation,” said Terry Toland, Associate in the Global Business Policy Council of A.T. Kearney in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The more that it gets adopted, the more opportunities [there are] to improve upon it, and find new ways to use it to streamline the consumer experience and try to maximize the potential benefits.”

Shoppers already are used to paying with the wave of a device, and the first generation of cashierless stores are preparing them for the next step. Amazon Go is the most well-known example of this technology, but Standard Cognition, Zippin, and Inokyo run their own stores, and Standard Cognition plans to open a cashierless souvenir shop in partnership with the Worcester Red Sox. Additionally, Ahold Delhaize is piloting a portable, cashier-free Albert Heijn convenience store in the Netherlands with AiFi, while Tesco entered a partnership with computer vision startup Trigo to pilot cashierless checkout technology in the UK.

Three Scenarios For Reaching The Next Tipping Point

The next step in the development of cashierless tech will be the involvement of bigger companies on the provider side. One possible path forward would be through the involvement of a major POS solution provider, one that could acquire these early startups and infuse their operations with an influx of cash to reduce installation costs and boost capabilities.

"I think the tipping point is going to occur when one of your traditional POS hardware players buys one of these VC-backed companies,” said Sheldon. “That's really what's going to get the market rolling, because then every other vendor is going to recognize that they have to have a competing technology to get into the game. When you have all these big-dollar companies with these large amounts of capital supporting them, that's going to really help expedite the development cycles."

Major tech-focused companies and retailers also could add cashierless store services to their broader portfolios, according to Suketu Gandhi, Partner in the Digital Transformation practice of A.T. Kearney. Retailers such as Kroger already have become involved in advertising, CRM and the supply chain, so they could easily see cashierless checkout as a natural extension of their existing offerings.

A third possibility is that one or more venture capital-backed startups manages to become a major player on its own. These companies aren’t standing still: Standard Cognition recently acquired DeepMagic, an automated retail startup, to use the company’s machine vision technology to accelerate its own cashierless retailing development.

Retailers Can’t Be Afraid To ‘Get Punched In The Mouth’

Even if the technology is getting there and shoppers are ready, mass adoption will require retailers to rethink the shopping paradigm they’ve been following for decades, according to Gandhi. While costs are currently prohibitive, they won’t be for long, and retailers need to be ready to break out of old mindsets before they become obsolete.

One aspect to consider is that eliminating cashiers isn’t an opportunity to eliminate positions — rather, it lets retailers put their associates in places where they will have a bigger impact. Workers freed from register duty can restock shelves to eliminate out-of-stock “holes” or patrol the floor to help customers.

Additionally, cashierless technology allows retailers to experiment with different layouts, since customers no longer need to be funneled towards a single checkout area. Larger retailers in particular can test a variety of approaches to find the one that will boost sales when applied chainwide, even if these early pilots run a risk of failure.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” said Gandhi, quoting Mike Tyson. Retailers need to prepare for and accept that punch so they can refine their plan and move on.

"Go with bold pilots — don't shoot for the ground,” said Gandhi in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “For large retailers, playing with a pop-up as a cashierless experience is easy. What stops me from taking a 140,000-square-foot store and saying ‘I'm going to take 10,000 [square feet] and make them into this physical-digital experimental space right now?’ Nothing.”

Smaller retailers also can benefit from cashierless stores, even if they don’t have as many resources to support experimentation. Freeing more associates can make the local shopping experience even more personal and convenient, increasing their primary advantage over the industry giants. Reducing friction improves sales just as well for a small specialty store as it does for a Walmart.

Perhaps the biggest advantage cashierless technology offers all retailers, regardless of size, is minimizing the gap between the brick-and-mortar and e-Commerce experiences. Web sites don’t have cashiers, but the most successful ones offer plenty of personalization and deep product info, and a frictionless store would be well-equipped to offer these same benefits.

“The journey right now is almost 180 degrees from what it was,” said Gandhi. “In the past, online guys learned from how physical retailers did it, and used their terminology. Now, physical guys are learning how to do retail from the online guys.”

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Mon, 14 Oct 2019 08:51:07 -0400
McKinsey & Co. Debuts Combination Store-Learning Lab In Mall Of America McKinsey & Co. Debuts Combination Store-Learning Lab In Mall Of America

McKinsey & Company has opened its first brick-and-mortar retail store in the Mall of America near Minneapolis, which includes Elevé Cosmetics, Kendra Scott, ThirdLove and type:A Deodorant. The nearly 3,000-square-foot concept, called Modern Retail Collective, is designed to serve as both a retail store and a learning lab — a place where brands can test new technology and learn what resonates with their customers prior to implementing at scale.

“For the first wave, we wanted to pick a couple of brands that we thought were going to have an integrated experience for the customer,” said Tiffany Burns, Partner in McKinsey’s Atlanta office and leader of the consultancy’s retail stores practice in North America. “If you think about the store as it is today, with the combination of jewelry, intimates and beauty products throughout the store, it’s targeted towards a younger female demographic.”

For example, the Kendra Scott area of the store enables shoppers to walk up to a “Color Bar,” pick up RFID-activated stones to assemble a personalized bracelet and virtually see what it would look like in various configurations on a screen.

“On that screen, the shopper can design the bracelet on their own versus waiting behind people in line,” Burns said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “You can design it yourself with unlimited combinations and metal types, colors and texture, and then have it shipped to you. It was a feature Kendra Scott already has in its stores but we basically took it and created the next generation of it.”

Mobile Product Access, Data Collection, Smart Mirrors Spearhead In-Store Tech

Solutions deployed throughout the store include:

  • Interactive mobile hotspots throughout the store designed to provide customers with single-tap access to product details, including reviews, and allow them to add to their virtual baskets as they go;
  • Smart mirrors with extended product catalogs and fit predictor software, allowing customers to try on items outside the fitting room;
  • Integrated cloud infrastructure capturing cutting-edge data across the customer journey, turning the store into a data collection hub; and
  • Payment options including RFID, mobile checkout and cryptocurrency capabilities designed to support faster purchases.

Participating technology partners include Microsoft, Square, RetailNext, Zebra Technologies, Chatter Research, Compass Marketing, ComQi, FaceCake, Farfetch, Flexa, MSM Solutions and Smartrac.

The technology augments the “learning lab” experience and empowers both McKinsey and the brands to discover more about shopper habits both within and outside the store. The concept and its data collection feel similar to b8ta, which focuses on getting shoppers to try out new tech products in its stores, giving its up-and-coming e-Commerce partners access to massive troves of data. The company, which recently opened a store in New York City’s Hudson Yards, can test everything from pricing to capture rates and dwell times, helping brands get a feel for how their products perform in a live setting.

“Everybody’s seeing the pressure and trying to figure out ‘How do I drive more people into my brick-and-mortar store?’ and ‘How do I make sure when they’re there that I deliver a new customer experience that makes them want to stay there, spend time and engage with the product so that they ultimately buy more?’” Burns said. “The traffic equation and then the in-store experience to get you to buy more stuff is what everyone’s trying to figure out on the revenue side of things. That’s why with these experiences, we’re aiming to track what customers do throughout their journey and which of those things are analytically proven to show that people buy more.

McKinsey Store Journey: From Internal Lab To Serving Customers

Burns noted that McKinsey talked to approximately 30 retailers about potentially being involved in the store. The majority were elated with the idea, largely because of the difficulty they’ve experienced navigating a sometimes overwhelming technology space where new platforms are launched frequently. Additionally, retailers that wanted to trial these technologies didn’t want to disrupt their own stores yet, and felt they may not have had the right people internally to prepare the integration.

The McKinsey team initially planned on building an internal lab to test how the technologies would integrate in a retail environment, but various retail partners suggested that they create a customer-facing lab in a freestanding store.

“A lot of our clients are having a challenge trying to navigate all the potential technology and different customer experience opportunities out there and trying to figure out what really works, what really makes sense in their business context, where they should be thinking about retail investments and where the business case makes sense,” Burns said.

McKinsey says it will need at least 10 full-time store associates within the store. In early 2020, McKinsey will welcome new retail and technology participants, with each rotation of participants anticipated to last three to four months. McKinsey is forecasting that the Modern Retail Collective will remain open for at least 12 to 18 months.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Store Operations Mon, 30 Sep 2019 08:00:00 -0400
Walgreens Launches Chainwide Rollout Of Hands-Free Communication Solution Walgreens Launches Chainwide Rollout Of Hands-Free Communication Solution

Better communication can lead to a host of improvements for retailers, from enhanced customer service to lower labor costs. Walgreens is starting to reap the benefits of instant communications through the Theatro platform, which lets associates contact each other through hands-free devices. The retailer is deploying the solution at 1,000 locations in 2019, with plans to eventually equip associates at all 9,560 stores.

The tool lets associates communicate both with each other and with an AI-powered assistant to retrieve information, request assistance and help them handle customer-facing tasks, without abandoning the shoppers they are dealing with.

“The key focus with Theatro is driving better communication among team members throughout the store so they spend less time walking around trying to find items,” said Andrea Farris, VP of Development and Head of Solution Planning & Partnerships at Walgreens in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “For instance, they now have direct access to other team members, so they don't have to leave the customer’s sight if they need to retrieve an item from the stock room."

The system also lets associates remotely call for register backup, price checks and inventory lookups using automated commands. Taken together, these functionalities help the retailer offer better customer service in terms of both speed and responsiveness.

Additionally, Theatro helps with cross-department communication — an important benefit for a retailer that sells multiple types of medicines. In the past, customers who had questions about over-the-counter products had to either wait for an associate to get an answer or take the product to the pharmacist themselves. Providing a direct link between the sales floor and the pharmacy significantly expedites the process.

"In the pharmacy space, especially when it comes to interactions between departments, the team members on the sales floor may not have the expertise on over-the-counter products that our pharmacists have,” said Farris. “The solution lets them engage with the pharmacy on behalf of the customer and keep them more directly involved than ever before."

Communication Doesn’t Just Stay In The Store

Associates are the prime beneficiaries of the new solution, but it’s capable of improving communications across the entire business. For instance, managers can use the tool to record messages, such as morning briefings, and have associates play it back when they start their shifts, saving time that would otherwise be spent having multiple meetings across the day.

Leaders in corporate offices also can take advantage of these capabilities. A visitor to an individual store may not have the time to stop and thank every individual team member for their work, and an encouraging voice message that can be sent to every worker feels more personal than a letter posted in the break room.

"Every team member is connected, so our leadership can speak directly to them,” said Farris. “We leverage it for some of the initiatives that we run in our stores so team members can hear directly from our President or our CEO, in his or her voice, thanking the team for their accomplishments. It has gone a long way in making the team feel engaged."

Additionally, voice communication lets Walgreens inform associates about safety and weather concerns in real time. The retailer has used voice capabilities to stay in touch with associates during hurricane season in Florida, ensuring that they are kept aware of the latest developments regarding any active storms.

Hands-Free Is Part Of A Larger Mobile Ecosystem

While the hands-free messaging system has its advantages, Theatro is just one piece in a larger puzzle. Earlier this year, Walgreens deployed Zebra handheld devices for its staff. These also improve customer service and efficiency, but their capabilities and use cases are different from the new system.

"From my perspective, it's an ecosystem of solutions,” said Farris. “I don't think there is one silver bullet for everything, it's a combination. The tablets and the Zebra handheld devices continue to have a role when it comes to inventory management and performance metrics, like when you need to see a planogram for research and revisions. There is definitely an advantage to the scanners and screens that are available on the handheld devices."

The ability to connect multiple devices into a single, cohesive network is one of the key traits Walgreens looks for in these types of solutions, according to Farris. Together, these mobile tools help the retailer empower associates in ways that can best help them deliver an efficient, memorable customer experience.

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Wed, 11 Sep 2019 08:59:28 -0400
The Container Store Stays Modern With Custom Closet Concept The Container Store Stays Modern With Custom Closet Concept

Keeping up with consumer trends is the cornerstone strategy of any successful specialty retailer, and The Container Store is matching modern shoppers’ interest in customization options through its Custom Closets store concept. While the brand’s proprietary Elfa Classic and Elfa Décor lines have existed for more than 40 years, current shoppers’ desire for more than functional storage space means this market is on the rise.

“We are seeing a trend of customers using storage bins, baskets and drawers that they are proud to display in their home and not hide away in a closet,” said Val Richardson, VP of Real Estate at The Container Store in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Especially with smaller spaces, storage has to help maximize space but also blend in with the interior design of the home. Our customers want to have a resource for complete storage and organization solutions; we provide both the expertise and the products to accomplish their projects.”

The new Custom Closets store, which is located at a remodeled location in Los Angeles, shows off its style with more than 65 closet and lifestyle displays for rooms including the pantry, garage and office. Sales of Custom Closet items have been a major driver for the retailer even outside of the dedicated shop: overall same-store sales at the retailer grew 7.8% in Q1 2019, of which five percentage points were generated by custom closet items.

The custom closet revolution spurred the addition of the Avera line earlier this year. This flexible design was created to help shoppers give their closets a built-in look at an affordable price, and marked the fourth brand in The Container Store’s custom closet portfolio. By combining its wide selection with a dedicated location, the retailer is poised to both ride sales growth in this area and educate customers about its possibilities.

“We see a huge opportunity to increase our share of the approximately $6 billion custom closets market,” said Richardson. “Locally, our [Los Angeles] store will increase awareness of the breadth of opportunities our custom closets offer through more than 65 closet and lifestyle displays, which is nearly 3X what we have in our traditional retail stores. Along with complementary products, this store is perfectly positioned to be the one-stop resource for our customers.”

Experts And Visuals Are Part Of The Equation

The Custom Closet store also differs from traditional locations by including space for interior designers to hold meetings with clients, playing to shoppers’ interest in speaking and meeting with experts during their journey. The area is designed so that The Container Store’s own associates can also use it to educate customers and show off the range of products available.

“This area is also used for walk-in customers or those with appointments for closet and space designs and solution ‘reveals’ with store personnel,” said Richardson. “This gathering space is surrounded by smaller displays of the four closet lines including every finish and accessory so trade members, designers and customers can touch, feel and experience the options while working on a project with a client.”

The visual aspect of the design station is particularly important in today’s Instagram-obsessed world. Shoppers often come in with an idea of what they want their custom closet to look like, and having tangible samples on hand makes it easier for them to choose items that will best match their vision.

“Customers increasingly show store employees photos from social media of ‘the look’ they want to achieve,” said Richardson. “Organization has become more of a focus in the past year with the rise of organization influencers like The Home Edit and Marie Kondo, and accomplishing projects in the home is something people are proud to showcase.”

The Custom Closet concept has proven successful in an urban environment, and the next step is testing out a store in a more suburban part of North Dallas. The popularity of custom closets means both geographies should offer growth potential, according to Richardson.

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Fri, 06 Sep 2019 08:50:45 -0400
Exclusive Q&A: Why The Modern Workforce Needs Coaches, Not Bosses Jim HarterRetaining today’s retail associates requires giving them a reason to stay, which calls for a manager who does more than bark orders. Their skills should be cultivated and refined, and they should feel they have an important role within the organization. It’s not just about the end-of-year review and the potential for a raise; the modern manager-associate relationship needs to be an ongoing process of communication.

Jim Harter, Chief Scientist, Workplace at Gallup, dug through data from a survey of more than 37 million people to assess how companies must align their purpose and culture with their employees and workplaces in his book It’s the Manager, co-authored with Gallup CEO Jim Clifton.

In this exclusive Q&A, Harter discusses some of the insights and best practices he has discovered in his examination of the workplace, including:

  • Why Millennials react better to “coaches” than “bosses,” and how managers can live up to this ideal;
  • How both full-time and part-time employees can be cultivated and given a future within the company; and
  • How retailers can encourage a culture that helps place employees where they can succeed and do the most good for the company.

Retail TouchPoints (RTP): Your research has found that Millennials prefer their managers to be “coaches” as opposed to “bosses.” What is the difference between the two, and what makes a good coach?

Jim Harter: To put it in a nutshell, a boss is someone you think of as a delegator, while a coach is someone who involves, encourages and develops individuals by having ongoing conversations.

You might think about it as a sports analogy: it probably wouldn't work too well to just delegate to the players and then then give them an annual review after you watch them play the entire season. It works better if you coach them by helping them know what they're doing right in the moment, before and after they play their games, and even during their games. It’s also about providing them the right kind of critique as well.

That feedback component needs to be meaningful and needs to be ongoing and immediate. Don’t wait until the end of the year. A boss might delegate to you what you should do, and then give you feedback at the end of the year. A coach is in the moment and they're giving you feedback continuously, and making sure that it's meaningful.

RTP: Another thing mentioned in the research is that the new workforce isn’t as interested in “climbing the ladder” as previous iterations. Are there alternate incentives that can be used to keep these workers on board?

Harter: The primary thing that people are looking for is career growth, so they want to be able to see where they can head in the organization. That needs to start with attraction, and onboarding once they're hired. I think a lot of organizations overlook the importance of putting clear career growth options in front of people.

I think some people are still going to want to climb the ladder, and I think one of the things that's unique to retail is that, traditionally, if you stick around in an organization you can climb the corporate ladder. That doesn't always result in the best outcomes, because what it means is that everybody aspires to be a manager — but not everybody is well suited to be a manager. What people really want is career growth, and you have to help them know what career growth looks like in the optimal path for them as an individual.

That starts with getting to know their individual strengths and helping them think about what their future might be in the organization and the different options that there might be. That's where retail maybe could use a bit of a change. We shouldn't just assume that climbing the ladder in the sense that you move up the ranks to manager, then to manager of managers, etc. is the right development for everybody. There should be individual contributor positions where people can excel and become stars even if they're not naturally suited for managing others.

RTP: Part-time employees often have a different relationship with their employer than full-time employees. How can retailers nurture and grow their part-time associates to match the capabilities of their full-time workers?

Harter: Engagement is just as possible with a part-time worker as it is with a full-time worker if you focus on basic human needs in the workplace. That starts with clarifying expectations, what's expected of them and their role and what the priorities are, and then getting people what they need to do that work — and when people do good work, giving them recognition for helping them utilize their strengths effectively.

Whether it's part-time or full-time, it's really about what you do in the time that they're there. People tend to develop through experiences, which don't have to be long, drawn out discussions: development could happen in a 10-minute conversation, or it could happen in a half hour to an hour. There are developmental conversations that can change people's lives that don't have to be really long. It comes down to having those kinds of coaching relationships with individuals where there's clear expectation setting, ongoing conversations between the manager and the employee and some method of accountability so people know how well they're doing. That can happen just as easily with a part-time employee as a full-time employee.

The risk of a part-timer is that they might be more likely to leave because they might think of the work as temporary, but I think organizations have to help those part-time workers see what their career might look like if they were to join permanently. You're really competing with other organizations for the future employment of these part-time workers.

Some people want to stay part time and treat it like a gig because that fits their lifestyle best, but they're still providing value to your organization that you can leverage both for their own development and for the organization by doing those three things: setting clear expectations, having ongoing coaching conversations and accountability.

RTP: While individual store managers set the culture for their stores, a retailer’s overall culture starts at a higher level. How can leaders create a culture that reflects the needs of their store-level employees?

Harter: The leaders of organizations really create a culture when they coach the people that they manage directly. There's a cascade effect in organizations that we see in the data that starts with leadership, which has to set a clear purpose that says, ‘Here's what our organization is about in a succinct way that everybody can relate back to their jobs.’

They need to make it clear what the brand represents, and they need to make it clear what kind of culture they want to develop. Then they need to coach the people that directly report to them, because that's going to set the standard for how those people then coach others. That cascade is really important.

They also need to set a standard for what they expect the role of manager to be to start that transition from boss to coach. They've got to aim everything at developing a culture of coaching throughout the organization — if they do that, they begin to set the standard and then they've got to put the systems in place so that their managers can continue to become better coaches. A systematic process for identification of high-potential managers and continuous learning and development is essential.

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Thu, 05 Sep 2019 08:17:43 -0400
How One Chinese Supermarket Is Leading The Global Grocery Revolution How One Chinese Supermarket Is Leading The Global Grocery Revolution

During a recent visit to the newly opened T11 Food Market (located in the Chaoyang District in Beijing) Du Yong, CEO and Founder of the supermarket, provided a personal behind-the-scenes tour to Retail Store Tours.

The visit was arranged by Kevin Peng, Secretary-General of The China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA), and Philip Cheng, the Association’s Manager.Founded in 1997, CCFA is the national representative for franchise chains in China, and a leading resource for existing and potential franchisors and franchisees. Sharon Shi, strategic partner for Retail Store Tours in China, also attended the tour.


The executive team at T11 Food Market in Beijing hosted Retail Store Tours and China Chain Store & Franchise Association for a VIP experience.

How T11 Delivers A Five-Star Experience

T11 Food Market opened in June 2019 and is a work of both beauty and function. The attention to the smallest detail is flawless. Retail Store Tours gave T11 its highest rating: five stars (see evaluation criteria below).

Here is some context to the rating: Retail Store Tours evaluates thousands of stores and retail concepts each year and maintains a large database of stores across all retail categories. The group evaluates stores based on six criteria: The Human Touch, Store Design, Use Of Technology, Business Model, Customer Management, and Unique Value Proposition. Here is an overview of T11 based on these factors.

The Human Touch:
From the moment shoppers enter the store, they are greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable store team member. This continues in every part of the customer journey throughout the entire store experience.

Store Design: 
The T11 store design leaves no detail untouched. The store uses LED lighting throughout the entire building, which beautifully illuminates the products and departments. This can boost dwell time: when used properly, lighting in a retail store extends the customer time in the store by 17%, according to a study by Philips Lighting. The product merchandising was outstanding, with each product illuminated by its own focused LED light. Additionally, the packaging was organized by color, making it easy to identify.

Within the bread and bakery section, shoppers can view and select fresh French breads cooked behind transparent glass windows. The pastries are inviting to look at and even tastier to eat. T11 also offers a comprehensive assortment of the best wines in the world with suggested pairing and wine ratings. The wine section accounts for approximately 20% of the store area, offering more than 2,000 SKUs of red wine, beer, white wine, and sake available from 150 purveyors.


The wine section and wine cooler area at T11.

The Spirits Locker contains a broad range of spirts from very affordable to rare.


Du Yong, CEO and Founder (center) of T11, provides an overview of the spirits section.

The Market Bar is a beautifully designed and immersive and private setting for shoppers who want to get away from the store.


The supermarket also has a restaurant with multiple dining options, where shoppers can select a fish from the seafood department that the chefs then cook to order.

Use Of Technology: 
The fascinating fact about T11 is that it was founded by technologists and developers. Upon opening the market, they created a software to manage and sync the supermarket’s back end retail operations such as supply chain, stock replenishment and employee scheduling. And they’re not keeping this technology for themselves — T11 plans to offer software as a service to supermarket chains around the world.

Employee Training:
All T11 team members are courteous and trained to service the needs of the customers.

Business Model: 
T11 is designed as a tech-driven supermarket targeting middle class consumers, and was built by software engineers and designed with today’s and tomorrow’s technologies in mind.

Customer Management: 
T11 can track consumer purchases and make recommendations, both with the intention of fostering shopper loyalty. 

Unique Value Proposition:
T11 offers an unbeatable shopper experience and can deliver grocers a software solution to run their business with the latest technology, potentially powering mobile experiences for consumers through features such as AI and voice shopping.

After the primary store evaluation is complete, Retail Store Tours provides a secondary rating on the use of touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste in the retail experience, which impacts the overall customer journey.

The Retail Store Tours research illustrates that when more senses are activated during the shopping experience, higher satisfaction levels are generated, which helps foster customer loyalty. In the U.S., Eataly and the Starbucks Roastery are examples of companies that have mastered a thousand little details executed with excellence. Casinos have long mastered the use of customer design to control traffic and time spent in the casino. In comparison, T11 rates very highly in these areas.

T11 also is above average in its use of frictionless payments and self-checkout systems. The Chinese market is already at the 90% level for frictionless payments, according to the Retail Store Tours Institute (RSTI). Retail Store Tours recommends that retailers and grocery stores make all efforts to reduce friction at checkout.

‘New Retail’ Experiences At Hema, 7-Fresh Streamline In-Store, Online Shopping

T11 is not the only grocery innovator in China. There is a term in China called “New Retail,” coined by Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-Commerce giant Alibaba.

Alibaba’s supermarket, Hema (headquartered in Hangzhou), takes the online shopping experience that Alibaba’s customers already enjoy and transposes it from the virtual space into the physical world. Hema CEO Hou Yi is focused on ensuring that customers have the same digitized shopping experience in-store as they have online. To that end, shopping at a T11 or a Hema store is similar to shopping online at Alibaba, except that in-store customers can actually inspect the food they are buying.’s Beijing-based 7-Fresh stores also function as both offline markets and online distribution hubs. Much like Hema, 7-Fresh integrates online digital technologies extensively into the shopping process. The brand’s most remarkable innovation, the RoboCart, is a souped-up shopping cart that customers link to their smartphones while in-store. Typically, the cart follows a shopper around the store without having to be pushed. If the shopper can’t find an item, it can also lead the way. As customers find what they want and place those items in its basket, the RoboCart automatically registers products, eliminating the need for scanning.

When the shopper is finished, the RoboCart makes its way to the checkout. 7-Fresh charges the cost of the items to the customer’s digital wallet and JD’s fleet of delivery vehicles delivers the items to their desired location. As with Hema, 7-Fresh guarantees delivery in 30 minutes within a three-kilometer radius.

Some aspects of New Retail already have made their way into the American marketplace. Amazon Go stores, for example, have done away with checkout. Shoppers use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take what they want from the shelves and simply walk out. Amazon’s technology identifies what has been taken and charges the cost of those items to the customer’s Amazon account. No scanning, no checkout. Shoppers also can use the Amazon Go app to find out remotely what items a particular store has in stock.

The business implications of New Retail are profound and far-reaching. T11, Hema and 7-Fresh require customers to download apps and open accounts; they essentially bind customers — and their data, including shopping preferences — to Alibaba, and T11 respectively. In terms of new customer acquisition, if nothing else, New Retail is clearly the winning play and T11 is a leader in this category.


Dan Hodges is Founder & CEO of Retail Store Tours. Retail Store Tours is an experience specially curated for organizations to discover and explore the driving forces changing retail around the world today. Participants see and experience the best of retail innovation in a two-hour plus experience led by an industry professional. You will meet with and talk to the companies creating the "new" retail. The opportunity to network with professionals in and outside your organization and to share expertise is one of the benefits of the experience. Retail Store Tours are available in 25 cities around the world and at leading industry events. Retail Store Tours was launched in China in August 2019 with programs in Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou.

]]> (Dan Hodges, Retail Store Tours) Trend Watch Thu, 29 Aug 2019 08:57:10 -0400
Target Will Launch Disney Shops Within 25 U.S. Stores Ahead Of Holiday Season Target Will Launch Disney Shops Within 25 U.S. Stores Ahead Of Holiday Season

Photo Credit: Target

Disney will launch “shop-in-shop” stores within 25 Target locations across the U.S. on Oct. 4,with 40 additional locations opening by October 2020. The stores will take up an average of 750 square feet and will be strategically located adjacent to kids clothing and toys. Target also will launch an online Disney page at and will position the Disney merchandise together with Target’s kids apparel and toys on its web site.

The shops will feature an enhanced Disney assortment of 450+ items, including more than 100 products that were previously only available at Disney retail locations.The offerings include a variety of merchandise from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, including collectibles. Target is timing the October opening for when Disney’s Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker lines hit store shelves.

“Disney is undeniably the most desired license brand available,” said Shikha Jain, Senior Director at Simon-Kucher & Partners, in a RetailWire discussion. “It has something for almost everyone. Target is more likely to benefit since the incremental revenues for them from Disney are likely to be more than the other way around. Target will likely see higher-than-average basket sizes for shoppers, but I am unsure whether having Disney will drive traffic. Essentially, the move will help increase in-store purchases for existing shoppers.”

The stores also will include music, interactive displays, photo opportunities and a seating area where families can relax and watch Disney movie clips and Disney theme park event promotions.

Both companies share “a strong guest overlap with a focus on families,” according to a joint statement.

“Our products help fans and families live the magic wherever and whenever they want,” said Brian Cornell, Chairman and CEO of Target in a statement. “And we know the way consumers shop for those products is changing — so we’re making the magic easier to access than ever before through this collaboration that will bring Disney store magic to Target stores.”

Target’s expanded partnership with Disney brings yet another major national brand presence within its stores, which have become a significant asset for the retailer in an era where many merchants are struggling to figure out what to do with their retail space. As many as 500 Target stores already have been remodeled as part of the retailer’s goal to remodel 1,000 stores by the end of 2020. CVS, which acquired Target’s pharmacy business back in 2015, is another national brand helping power the Target store experience by operating pharmacies and MinuteClinics within Target stores.

As part of the partnership, a new Target store will open at Flamingo Crossings Town Center at the western entrance of the Walt Disney World Resort in 2021.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Mon, 26 Aug 2019 10:33:24 -0400
Target Hits Halfway Point Of 1,000-Store Remodeling Goal, Doubles Same-Day Services Revenue Target Hits Halfway Point Of 1,000-Store Remodeling Goal, Doubles Same-Day Services Revenue

Target’s $7 billion investment initiative into its stores is in full swing, with the retailer revealing it has remodeled 500 of the 1,000 stores it committed to updating by the end of 2020. In total, Target expects to remodel 300 stores in 2019. The company also has opened 100 small-format stores since the investment plan was established in February 2017.

The small-format shops average 40,000 square feet in size, or one third of a full-size store, with smaller locations having only 15,000 square feet of space. Target reaffirmed that it is still on pace to open 30 small-format stores across the U.S. each year, particularly in urban areas and college campuses, with the intent of localizing the merchandise the stores will offer.

Like top mass merchandise competitor Walmart, Target had a great showing in Q2, seeing comparable sales increase 3.4% (ahead of 2.9% growth estimates by Refinitiv)and online sales climbing by 34%. In total, Target Q2 sales rose 3.6% year-over-year to $18.2 billion, while net earnings increased 17.4% to $938 million.

Same-day fulfillment continues to be a growth driver for the retailer, further justifying Target’s massive brick-and-mortar and supply chain investments. Revenue from Target’s curbside pickup, in-store pickup and Shipt delivery services has doubled from a year ago, accounting for nearly 1.5 percentage points of Target’s overall comparable sales growth during the quarter. In Q2, these services represented one third of digital sales for the retailer, according to John Mulligan, EVP and COO of Target in an earnings call.

“Q2 could not have gone better for Target,” said Charlie O’Shea, VP and Lead Retail Analyst at Moody’s in commentary provided to Retail TouchPoints. “Every measurable metric demonstrates continued acceleration and validates the company’s strategic shift articulated in February 2017, proving that short-term pain can generate long term gains if the strategy is well executed.”

Target also has beefed up its grocery business with the introduction of its private label grocery brand Good & Gather. Good & Gather products are scheduled to hit Target store shelves Sept. 15, and by 2020 the brand will offer 2,000 products. Grocery sales represent approximately one quarter of total revenue for Target.

In the earnings call, CFO Cathy Smith said Target projects $3.5 billion in capital expenditures for the full fiscal year, driven mainly by the remodel program but also including investments in new stores, supply chain and technology.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 23 Aug 2019 14:27:28 -0400
Robotics Move Beyond Warehouses To Stores And The Last Mile Robotics Move Beyond Warehouses To Stores And The Last Mile

Robotics technologies deployed within retail, food service and hospitality already are reducing the number of humans needed to perform their jobs. But the growth of these technologies also can provide help for employees handling a wide range of functions — whether it’s tracking inventory, identifying where a store aisle needs to be cleaned up or even assisting on last-mile delivery.

The latest change comes in where robots are being tested and deployed. While retailers have been using robotics for years within warehouses and distribution centers, advances in the technology are extending use cases into stores, where there are multiple opportunities to automate tedious, repetitive tasks. In fact, a survey from Bossa Nova Robotics indicated that:

  • 76% of retailers say the introduction of robots in stores would improve employee productivity; and
  • 74% said that while inventory accuracy would improve as a result, increased profits would be another direct result of introducing in-store robots.

At this stage, a select few major retailers are on board with robotics pilots of their own, with merchants such as Walmart, Ahold Delhaize’s GIANT and Stop & Shop chains, Albertsons and Lowe’s all implementing the technology at different points within the retail ecosystem.

MIT Professor: Don’t Fret Retail Job Losses

During a presentation at eTail Boston, Dr. George Westerman, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, noted that using robots is becoming much more than a nice-to-have within retail environments, especially if retailers are committed to transforming their store operations.

“Here’s one thing people hate to do — ‘Hey, I have this screw, can you help me find it on the shelf somewhere?’” Westerman said. “Can you imagine what a horrible thing this is for an associate to do? But it happens to them all the time in both The Home Depot and Lowe’s — so Lowe’s has the Lowebot. You show this screw to the Lowebot and it says, ‘Come here, sir’ and walks you right over to it. This is replacing people in jobs where people don’t want to do that job anyway. What I mean is it’s not about the robots, it’s the transformed process. It’s using it the right way and changing your company for the better because of the technology.”

Walmart Will Deploy 350 Mobile Robots In Stores To Monitor Pricing, Out-Of-Stocks

Walmart has been one of the first to deploy autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) from Bossa Nova Robotics in 50 Walmart stores across the U.S. The AMRs roam up and down store aisles, checking for pricing issues, product out-of-stocks and shelf irregularities. For example, they can identify whether a slot within a shelf is empty or full, correctly identify which SKU is in the slot and identify the price associated with the slot.

After the success of the initial pilot, Walmart is increasing the presence of the AMRs to 350 stores by the end of 2019. Martin Hitch, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Bossa Nova Robotics, told Retail TouchPoints that the larger implementation within a closer subset of stores will further enable Walmart to test the support infrastructure of the robots and learn more about scalability. “There is a requirement to get to a statistically relevant store sample size that will inform what scale looks like in my chain of stores,” Hitch said.

Walmart provides just one example of how retailers are continuing to adapt to the technology both in and out of stores.

“In order to respond, traditional retailers with stores also will have to become more efficient,” said Martin Ford, futurist and author of Rise Of The Robots: Technology And The Threat Of A Jobless Future in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Walmart and others have been testing robots for taking store inventory by counting the things that are on the store shelves. Part of the nature of robotics is that it’s easier to make one designed just to observe something, versus building a robot that physically does something like pick up a box. Eventually, however, robots will be unloading trucks or putting items on shelves, particularly in areas where the products are standardized. That’s probably inevitable.”

Cleanup On Aisle 6: ‘Marty’ Robots Patrol Stores For Spills, Shopper Safety

Ahold Delhaize has launched nearly 500 robots at its GIANT and Stop & Shop stores to patrol the aisles for spills and, eventually, out-of-stock items. These six-foot-three machines have been outfitted with “googly eyes” and nametags that read “Marty” to deliver personality within the store.The robot’s functions also are expected to expand to include planogram compliance.

The robots are equipped with the same type of navigation system as a self-driving car, allowing them to accurately map and navigate the store. They can detect and travel around unexpected barriers and can differentiate these obstacles from shoppers: when Marty observes a person walk within several feet, it stops and waits for them to get out of the way before resuming its patrol.

“Retail has initially invested in robotics for back-of-the-house or even supply chain with great success,” said Joanne Joliet, Senior Director Analyst within Industry Advisory Services, Retail at Gartner in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We’ve seen absolute optimization in supply chain practices including fulfillment. As tech continued to evolve and as retailers were trying to evolve the customer experience in-store and create a differentiated experience, that has shifted a little further back toward the operational side, where we’re seeing more robots being used to understand out-of-stocks within the store and taking care of maintenance issues.”

Last Mile Delivery: The Next Robotics Frontier?

The most recent (and thus, least studied) area of retail robotics implementations has come outside the store and distribution center in the form of autonomous last-mile delivery, with examples such as the FedEx SameDay Bot pilot and Amazon’s Scout delivery system being piloted in 2019. Originally developed for the Pacific Northwest, Scout expanded to select Southern California test neighborhoods earlier this month, for deliveries Monday through Friday to Prime members during daylight hours. Of all the technologies in deployment, these are the ones that likely need to undergo the most tests, according to Joliet.

“I’ve had a conversation with the head of Scout and they looked at every permutation and test for that before rolling out, and that’s what I mean when I say test and test again,” Joliet said. “To remediate an issue down the road is going to be challenging as you roll out and have more places to fix it beyond the pilot markets. Now I’m in the Carolinas, and there are some rural parts around here — is Scout appropriate to go into rural areas? Likely not. So again, you have to look at the technology and still determine how it can best serve a specific environment and roll that out.”

For any last-mile robotics delivery initiative to be successful, Joliet pointed out that retailers will have to take operational factors into account including battery life, monitoring and security concerns, such as whether a delivery recipient puts an unauthorized item back on the robot. Of course, these technologies must integrate with their environment without becoming a nuisance to others.

“When crossing the street, how would it integrate with the traffic lights and the cars so that it doesn’t create an unsafe situation for anybody?” Joliet said. “How does it yield to a pedestrian or a child or a dog on a sidewalk? The technology is all there, but it’s about putting it together in a cost-effective way before retailers can roll this out.

‘Stores As DCs’ Gives New Meaning To Robotics Implementation

With robotics technologies now being tested on the last mile, it’s clear that retailers are taking steps to continue improving shopper experiences from the warehouse all the way to product delivery. But now that more iterations of these technologies exist, retailers have the opportunity to blend how they approach robotics for store employees across the organization. Bossa Nova’s Hitch noted that as retailers continue to turn stores into distribution centers, robotics technologies of all kinds will be valuable throughout the physical retail ecosystem, and merchants must treat them as such.

“People have been talking about it for a long time, but the reality is there’s an awful lot of brick-and-mortar assets around the country that put any of those retail brands closer to the customer, and leveraging that is key,” Hitch said. “This to me is where we’ll see a lot of evolution across multiple technologies. I don’t think there will be one single winner. There will be a combination of different robotics technologies that will be required to shift stores to distribution centers. Having 10% of a store as a stockroom right now clearly isn’t the right model if you want the store to act as a distribution center. There will be a shift in how much is floor space, and how much is warehouse space, to determine what technologies will go into that.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Trend Watch Thu, 22 Aug 2019 12:04:16 -0400
Report: Avenue Will Close, Liquidate All Stores Report: Avenue Will Close, Liquidate All Stores

Women's plus-size fashion retailer Avenue plans to close all its stores in the coming weeks, employees were told Friday in a conference call, according to Retail Dive.

The New York Post reported earlier this month that Avenue had 60 days to find a buyer, or it would have to shut down its 260 stores.Store-level managers at two separate Avenue stores reached out to Retail Dive with information about the notice to employees, and employees at two additional stores independently confirmed that they found out all stores were closing. 

There has been no public confirmation of the store closures, and it is unclear whether the e-Commerce site will be affected. The plus-size retailer is working with Hilco Global to conduct its going-out-of-business sales through September. Employees have been instructed not to accept customer returns or sell gift cards, the report said.

In April, Avenue underwent a “strategic recapitalization” with a $45 million loan from PNC Bank, meant to finance the retailer's capital needs and strategic initiatives. Avenue's owner, private equity firm Versa Capital Management, also provided a new, undisclosed amount of capital at that time.

There have been recent rumblings of individual store closings from local media outlets in recent months. New Jersey document filings confirmed that Avenue will let go of 152 employees, effective Sept. 30, related to the Rochelle Park, N.J. location. 

Versa acquired Avenue in a bankruptcy auction in 2012, when the retailer operated 433 stores. In May 2018, Avenue named a new CEO, Mark Walsh, a board member who had been advising the company since 2017.

Avenue’s difficulties are likely similar to other retailers such as Ascena Retail’s plus-size Lane Bryant and Catherine’s businesses, or bankrupt-and-back FullBeauty. As more consumers want diverse, inclusive clothing options and sizes and more major brands increase their sizing spectrum in response, brands that specialize in specific size ranges lose their point of differentiation.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Tue, 13 Aug 2019 17:41:39 -0400