Store Operations - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints Sun, 16 Jun 2019 20:22:17 -0400 RTP en-gb Dressbarn Will Shutter Retail Operations, Close 650 Stores Dressbarn Will Shutter Retail Operations, Close 650 Stores

Dressbarn is closing all 650 stores and its e-Commerce site, marking the end of a 57-year run for the women’s apparel retailer. For now, the stores and e-Commerce site remain open and conducting business as usual, while Dressbarn says it will share more specific information related to the store closings at a later date.

The retailer, which reorganized under its parent company Ascena Retail Group in 2011 and operates alongside brands such as Ann Taylor, LOFT and Lane Bryant, has retained A&G Realty Partners to assist on the closures.

Ascena, which operated 5,000 stores across its brands as of 2016, has been on a downward spiral in recent years, dealing with many of the problemsthat its mall-based specialty contemporaries have struggled with before restructuring or filing for bankruptcy. By the end of 2018, the company’s store footprint shrank to 4,486 as part of its “Change for Growth” plan, which is on track to cut $300 million in costs by July 2019.

Ascena’s major weakness across its banners is relatively low sales per store compared to competitors. The company’s average store sells 43% less than the average Express store, 68% less than the average Gap store and an estimated 72% less than the average U.S. Inditex store, according to 2018 data from RetailNext. In its most recent quarter, Ascena’s retailers saw 2% comparable store sales growth, but total net losses widened to $71.5 million from a $39.3 million loss last year. 

Ann Taylor and LOFT remain the company’s strongest brands, driving the best comparable sales growth rates at Ascena at 10% each in Q2.

Not counting the Dressbarn closures, Ascena expects to close 260+ more stores after July 2019. As part of its bounce-back attempt, Ascena recently sold its majority stake in the value fashion chain Maurices, to OpCapita for $300 million.

Ascena is seeking to steer its business back in the right direction under a new CEO, Gary Muto. The retail group saw both CEO David Jaffe and President/COO Brian Lynch step down from their roles in early May, with the former remaining on the company’s Board of Directors.

The Jaffe resignation was significant, marking the first time a Jaffe did not run the company in its history. Jaffe’s parents, Elliot and Roslyn, founded Dressbarn in 1962 in Stamford, Conn. Elliot served as a director since 1966, Chairman of the Board until 2011, CEO until 2002, and as non-executive Chairman of the Board until his retirement in December 2016. Together, Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe still own approximately 25% of Ascena stock.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Tue, 21 May 2019 12:46:59 -0400
Why Hudson Yards Represents Retail Excellence And Innovation

0aaaDan Hodges RetailStoreToursHudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in the U.S. by area and home to more than 70 stores and restaurants, represents the best of what retail has to offer. The first of its two phases opened in March 2019 and comprises a public green space and eight structures that contain residences, a hotel, office buildings, a mall, and a cultural facility. The second phase, on which construction has not started yet, will include residential space, an office building, and a school. Both phases are projected to be complete by 2024.

You can think of Hudson Yards as a living museum of contemporary retail. Each floor has a theme that highlights many of the winning trends in current retail.

Floor One: Elegant Innovation

Brooks Brothers: The oldest men’s clothier in the U.S., Brooks Brothers is introducing a new global design concept at its Hudson Yards location. Working to stay competitive in today’s marketplace, the company has introduced in-store mobile clienteling as well as AI to help with supply chain challenges.

Conservatory: The Conservatory’s retail model is based on cultivating a sense of exclusivity: if you want to buy from the brand online, you have to begin in-store at Hudson Yards. Shoppers speak with a sales associate who creates an online customer profile/account; then they can access the ‘hidden’ e-Commerce site.

Floor Two: Discovering Innovative Retail Models, From Digital To Brick-And-Mortar

B8ta: B8ta was founded to allow shoppers to try products in-store that they previously could only view online. B8ta also offers Retail-as-a-Service to help brands place their products in a b8ta store and use software to manage and analyze the store experience. 

M.Gemi: In its first brick-and-mortar space, Italian shoe brand M.Gemi is featuring a charging station, lounge seating and a coffee bar. The store also will offer VIP shopping appointments powered by Resy, as well as ongoing community events.

Mack Weldon: In its first physical store, Mack Weldon’s mission is to make sure the basics (and beyond) are smartly designed and shopping is easy and convenient. Customers are invited to learn more about the brand via tablets displaying information on the brand's innovative fabrics, loyalty program and try-on guarantee.

Stance: Stance socks, underwear and T-shirts are designed by “Punks & Poets” — artists and athletes who have championed the brand. Starting with a tired socks category, Stance ignited a movement of art and self-expression that has drawn athletes, performers, and iconic cultural influencers to the brand.

Frankie CoLab: Frankie CoLab combines customers’ love of contemporary fashion and art. Conceived from the combination of New York's incomparable energy and the unique spirit of Los Angeles. Frankie supports artisans and craftsmanship by producing its collections in Los Angeles and New York with high-quality materials sourced from the best mills in Italy, France and Japan.

Milk & Honey Babies: Women-owned Milk and Honey Babies started as a beach-inspired brick-and-mortar baby boutique in Costa Mesa, Calif. Its store features a modern selection of high quality, eco-friendly and non-toxic baby products.

Lovepop: In its first brick-and-mortar store, Lovepop cards is bridging the physical-digital gap by offering a digital catalog in a touchscreen mirror and featuring a complimentary shipping option. Lovepop Cards are 3D paper pop up greeting cards for all occasions.

Snark Park: Design studio Snarkitecture has opened Snark Park, featuring a blend of art, architecture and retail. The space will host three installations each year, beginning with “Lost and Found,” a display of gray columns with secret compartments. Visitors also can purchase ice cream desserts from KITH Treats, and play a “claw game” filled with Snarkitecture-branded stuffed animals (available for purchase).

Batch: Women-owned and presented to feel like your stylish friend’s home, Batch brings ever-changing brands and online products to its second brick-and-mortar location. New “Batches” appear six times a year.

The Drug Store: Founded in 2018, The Drug Store is a conceptual retail experience used to test new beverage concepts before they’re produced in bottled format on a national scale. The format of each Drug Store location enables intimate, shareable experiences for customers to enjoy. The innovative cocktail experience serves all-natural alcoholic and non-alcoholic elixirs on a rotating menu.

Floor Three: Retail As An Experience Destination

Lululemon: Although still primarily focused on its female customers, athleticwear brand Lululemon is working to expand its men’s, digital and international sales. The company emphasizes strong employee training to deliver a relevant in-store customer experience.

Athleta: Designed for women and by women,Athletaproducts integrateperformance and technical features for active women and girls. To engage with local customers, Athleta offers numerous in-store and community events throughout the year.

Sephora: Owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH as of 1997, Sephora is dedicated to a unique and compelling in-store experience. Customer engagement technology that interacts with shoppers in-store is a winning play. Sephora’s Color IQ allows a shopper to select makeup while looking at themselves with Color IQ in-store.

Verizon Wireless: Featuring a minimalist approach to store design in its new Hudson Yards location, Verizon Wireless has created an inviting environment for shoppers to try out products with the help of educated store staff.

Floor Four: Experiences That Inspire Shopping

Micro Kickboard: Featuring an in-store test track, Micro Kickboard shoppers can try before they buy in the company’s first flagship store. The selection of children’s and adult kickboards, scooters and ride-on luggage employ a combination of elegant Swiss design and cutting-edge technology, Micro’s designs have won more than 50 awards worldwide.

3DEN: 3DEN is a pay-as-you-use space, charging $6 for 30 minutes, to access Casper nap pods, showers, a meditation room, soundproof phone booths and coffee and snacks. Customers can view availability and reserve time on the app.

Floor Five: Out-Of-The-Box Retail

Forty Five Ten: Occupying four storefronts on the fifth floor of Hudson yards, the brand is divided into four different apparel categories, featuring known brands as well as emerging labels. Contemporary artists and architects created the space to merge art, design and fashion.

Neiman Marcus: In its first namesake flagship in New York City, Neiman Marcus is focusing on offering immersive experiences, including a performance stage, three dining venues, a personal shopping suite and a demo kitchen. Digital directories offer an intuitive interface and 60 signage screens delivering real-time content.


Dan Hodges is founder, CEO and Chief Experience Officer of CIM Tours, which is an experience program and platform for B2B innovators. Uniquely wired as connector, executive, strategist and writer, Hodges has helped thousands of busy executives keep ahead of the rapid pace of change. He does this with three programs: EXPO Connect  helps executives navigate the world’s most important industry events.  Retail Store Tours facilitates learning by experiencing the most innovative retail stores combined with executive networking. Custom Curated Experience VIP program clients routinely report that they achieve months of business development and critical business insights in just days with these programs.

]]> (Dan Hodges, CIM Tours) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 20 May 2019 09:10:08 -0400
Walmart Q1 Revenue Jumps But Grocery, Supply Chain Investments Weaken Profits Walmart Q1 Revenue Jumps But Grocery, Supply Chain Investments Weaken Profits

Walmart had its best Q1 comparable store sales growth in nine years, achieving 3.4% growth with total revenue climbing 1% to $123.9 billion. E-Commerce sales continued to rise, boosted by a mid-single digit expansion in online grocery offerings and strong sales in home goods and fashion accessories, which were up 37% in the U.S. during Q1. Walmart now targets U.S. e-Commerce sales growth of 35% for the full fiscal year.

Market penetration of private label grocery offerings increased by 156 basis points, or 1.56% in total, demonstrating the retailer’s continued emphasis on producing and supplying its own food. For example, Walmart is creating its own new Angus beef supply chain that will bring premium meats to nearly 500 stores by early next year.

Walmart stocked more merchandise across the board; inventories increased 5.9% in Q1: The retailer accelerated buying in some categories and bulked up product quantities in its e-Commerce fulfillment centers as it works to deliver online orders more quickly.

The quarter has been an eventful one for Walmart: the retailer is rolling out next-day delivery on 220,000 products only a few weeks after Amazon revealed its one-day delivery investments. The retail giant also introduced Walmart Voice Order via Google Assistant, which will add items directly to shoppers’ mobile Walmart Grocery cart. Additionally, Walmart is significantly expanding its pet health care network, aiming to have 100 veterinary clinics open in its stores within the next 12 months and launching an online pet pharmacy.

These significant investments both in-store and online, as well the increase in lower margin online sales, continue to put profits under pressure. Walmart’s Q1 operating income fell 4.1% to $4.9 billion, in part because its $16 billion purchase of Indian e-Commerce giant Flipkart last year is weighing on profits, as expected. However, operating income in the U.S. did grow 5.5%, beating expectations.Adjusted earnings per share slipped 0.9% to $1.13, still ahead of the $1.02 share that had been projected.

Walmart’s wholesale unit Sam’s Club saw Q1 comparable sales growth of 0.3%, but that number increases to 3.0% when excluding tobacco, which the company stopped selling last year. E-Commerce sales at Sam’s Club grew 28% during the quarter.

Tariffs Remain Concerning, But Growing Grocery Business May Limit Impact

Perhaps the biggest concern for Walmart going forward will be tariffs, which could impact apparel and footwear sales. Walmart faces higher potential product prices after the Trump administration’s move last week to increase tariffs to 25% from 10% on approximately $200 billion of goods imported from China. With threats of further tariffs on all Chinese imports, executives have said they are working to bring in some imports earlier than previously planned ahead of rising tariffs.

The company sources approximately two-thirds of its goods domestically, largely because of its massive and growing food business. The food business may limit the impact of the tariffs, according to Charlie O’Shea, VP and Lead Retail Analyst at Moody’s: “We also believe Walmart has the wherewithal both financially and via its vendor relationships to minimize the impact on both itself and its shopping base,” O’Shea said in commentary provided to Retail TouchPoints.

The remaining one-third of Walmart’s merchandise comes from overseas, including from China.

“As we have said before, our goal is to be the low-price leader,” Walmart CFO Brett Biggs said in an earnings call. “We want to manage margins with customers and shareholders in mind. We have mitigation strategies that have been in place for months. But increased tariffs will increase prices for customers.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Thu, 16 May 2019 12:26:53 -0400
Amazon Opens First ‘Go’ Store In NYC…And It Accepts Cash Amazon Opens First ‘Go’ Store In NYC…And It Accepts Cash

Amazon is opening its first Amazon Go store in New York City in lower Manhattan’s Brookfield Place, marking the twelfth Go store overall. The 1,300-square-foot space also is the first Amazon Go store that will accept cash for payment.

The cash option is a major departure from other Amazon Go stores that have opened in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago, which include no checkout points. Shoppers seeking to pay cash will have to be swiped in by an employee, then have their chosen products scanned by a staffer, who conducts the checkout process for them.

Amazon expects many of its customers to be local workers looking to pick up a lunchtime salad or sandwich, people who live in the area or tourists visiting the nearby World Trade Center.

The move not only caters to cash-paying consumers but also gets around potential legislative challenges to no-cash policies.New Jersey made it mandatory for retailers to accept cash as payment on March 18, and in July, Philadelphia will become the first major U.S. city to institute a ban on cashless stores. Legislators in New York City are considering a similar ban.Amazon had threatened to scrap plans to bring the concept to Philadelphia if the law was passed, but the New York Go store reveals that the company is willing to introduce cash payments to this business model.

While payment cards have become a major fixture of American society, consumers used cash for approximately 30% of all payments in 2017 — still the most of any option — according to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Cash outranked debit cards (27%), credit cards (21%) and other payment methods (22%), including checks.

At the other Amazon Go locations, customers must download the Amazon Go app (separate from Amazon's other apps) before entering the store, then check themselves in with the QR code in their app. They then pick up anything they want in the shop, then leave. Powered by a combination of in-store cameras, machine learning and computer vision technology, the stores’ item tracking system knows what a customer has selected — even if they put it straight into their pocket — and bills them automatically via the app.

The New York store, like the other Amazon Go locations, will offer grab-and-go food options for meals throughout the day, and also will sell Amazon meal kits.

Amazon reportedly aims to open 3,000 Amazon Go convenience stores in metropolitan areas by 2021.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Store Operations Tue, 07 May 2019 12:30:34 -0400
Tour 21 Of The Hottest Hudson Yards Retailers Courtesy Of RIC19 Tour 21 Of The Hottest Hudson Yards Retailers Courtesy Of RIC19

One of the highlights of the fifth annual Retail Innovation Conference will be the Hudson Yards Store Tours that will be held from 2-5 p.m. on Monday, May 6. These curated, guided tours will be led by the Retail Store Tours group and feature retail leaders showing off the latest innovations at Hudson Yards, New York City’s newest luxury shopping destination. The tour will be divided into five “floors,” each one focusing on a different aspect of the shopper experience.

Floor One: Elegant Innovation And Discovery

The first floor of the tour is focused on the discovery aspect of the customer journey and stores that disrupt the traditional shopping experience. The highlighted retailers are Brooks Brothers, which will show off a new global design concept that features in-store mobile clienteling and uses AI to assist with supply chain challenges; and Conservatory, an exclusive e-Commerce site exclusively for Hudson Yards shoppers. Customers can speak with a sales associate in-store to get an account that lets them access the “hidden” online site.

Floor Two: Innovative Retail Models: From Digital To Brick-And-Mortar

More and more e-Commerce pure-plays are entering the brick-and-mortar space. The second series of stops on the store tour will look at how these online companies are using physical spaces, including three whose first stores will be on full display:

  • Lovepop, a greeting card retailer that specializes in 3D paper pop-up cards, has an in-store touchscreen mirror that shows off the retailer’s entire digital catalogue at its first physical location;
  • M.Gemi, an Italian shoe brand, includes a charging station, lounge seating and a coffee bar in its first-ever store, along with VIP shopping appointments and ongoing community events;
  • Mack Weldon, a men’s apparel retailer, uses tablets to show off the brand’s innovative fabrics, loyalty program and try-on guarantee at its first store;
  • B8ta, which allows shoppers to try e-Commerce-only products in-store, harnesses retail as a service technology to help brands place their products in-store, and to manage and analyze the experience;
  • Stance, a sock, underwear and T-shirt retailer, shows off its “Punks & Poets” aesthetic at its Hudson Yards shop;
  • Frankie CoLab combines New York's incomparable energy with the unique spirit of Los Angeles in its apparel;
  • Milk & Honey Babies, an eco-friendly baby products retailer, encourages purchases with a beach-inspired boutique;
  • Batch, a home goods retailer, designs its stores like a stylish friend’s home and introduces new “Batches” six times a year to keep things fresh;
  • Drug Store is a conceptual retail experience where shoppers can drink cocktails and try out new beverage concepts before they’re produced on a national scale; and
  • Snark Park, a blend of art, architecture and retail that will host three different installations every year.

Floor Three: Retail As A Destination

Creating a unique shopping experience is important, particularly for a luxury-focused location like Hudson Yards. Several well-known retailers will why their stores aren’t just stores, but destinations in and of themselves, including:

  • Lululemon, which puts an emphasis on strong employee training to deliver a relevant in-store customer experience;
  • Athleta, which engages local customers through numerous in-store and community events throughout the year;
  • Sephora, which is enhancing the in-store experience through interactive technology such as Color IQ, which allows shoppers to select makeup and see how it looks on them; and
  • Verizon Wireless, which created a store with a minimalist design where shoppers can try out products with the help of educated associates.

Floor Four: Experiences That Inspire Shopping

The fourth stop on the tour looks at two locations that are about more than just shopping. Micro Kickboard features an in-store test track at its first flagship store that lets shoppers try before they buy the brand’s kickboards, scooters and ride-on luggage. 3DEN offers shoppers a break from the rush with a pay-as-you-use space that includes access to Casper nap pods, showers, a meditation room, soundproof phone booths, and coffee and snacks.

Floor Five: Out-Of-The-Box Retail

The final floor delivers retail experiences that go above and beyond what shoppers expect. Forty Five Ten occupies four different storefronts, each with a focus on a different apparel category, while the new Neiman Marcus flagship brings experiential retailing to a whole new level with a performance stage, three dining venues, a personal shopping suite, a demo kitchen, digital directories and 60 digital screens delivering real-time content.

While the Store Tours end there, the Retail Innovation Conference features two more days of insightful content and valuable networking opportunities with an array of retail industry executives. Other highlights of the event include:

Retail executives interested in attending the RIC19 Store Tours can register by securing an All-Access Pass to the Retail Innovation Conference. Spots on the tour are limited, so register now.

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Tue, 30 Apr 2019 09:03:11 -0400
Walmart AI-Powered Lab Store Emphasizes Real-Time Grocery Inventory Control Walmart AI-Powered Lab Store Emphasizes Real-Time Grocery Inventory Control

Nearly six months after Walmart revealed it would open an Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) within a Levittown, N.Y. Neighborhood Market, the retail giant has offered a peek into the store’s transformation. Powered by a massive data center, the 50,000-square-foot store uses AI to ensure in-stock position and freshness of perishable items like produce and meat.

IRL is set up to gather information about what’s happening inside the store through an array of weight-measuring sensors, 1,500 AI-enabled cameras and 100 data processors. These tools help the team focus on product inventory and availability, particularly by providing associates with real-time information enabling them to restock products, so items are available on shelves when they’re needed. For example, the inventory tracker for Walmart’s meat counter can identify every type of meat sitting on the product shelf.

The overall goal: to remove the need for associates to continually comb the store to replace products running low on the shelves. Out-of-stock notifications automatically trigger internal mobile apps that alert associates when to restock, so that they know what to bring out of the back room before customers show up. 

The technology also is designed to track a range of in-store operational factors, such as identifying spills or hazards that need attention or keeping count of grocery carts so they can be replenished when taken by a consumer.

The IRL store is equipped with educational kiosks upfront where customers can learn more about the technology, and an interactive wall demonstrating to consumers how AI can track shopper body positioning within an aisle. All the store tech is connected to 150,000 feet of cabling, linking it to local servers that sit behind transparent glass, in the customer’s view. 

Walmart placed IRL within the Levittown location due to the store’s high traffic concentration. While there are no plans to duplicate the lab environment anywhere else, Walmart anticipates sharing the store’s key findings and developments across other locations in the future.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Store Operations Mon, 29 Apr 2019 13:11:04 -0400
Stance Deploys Cashierless Self-Checkout Across 14 Stores Stance Deploys Cashierless Self-Checkout Across 14 Stores

Cashierless checkout has for the most part been limited to major grocers thus far and is perhaps most commonly associated with Amazon Go, but one retailer — best known for selling socks — is showing that this technology can be deployed just as effectively in an apparel setting. Stance has deployed self-checkout technology from Moltin within its 14 U.S. stores, designed to let shoppers skip lines and check out via a browser-based mobile progressive web app (PWA).

The goal for the technology was singular: eliminating lines, according to Paul Zaengle, EVP of Direct-to-Consumer at Stance. While Zaengle had followed self-checkout technologies for years, he said it wasn’t until 2018, when Apple allowed iOS to access cameras through a web page, that the Stance team was able to envision a realistic application.

“Instantly, it opened the door that we were looking for, which is that we didn’t have to ask our customers to download an app to check out on their own phones,” Zaengle said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We never wanted to install kiosks or devices, because you can go into a Target or Home Depot and often those have lines behind them. Those don’t often scale and can be expensive. Since we’re a small retailer, we were looking for an efficient solution that didn’t require extra equipment or an app download. It’s accessible to everyone.”

While the pilot location, a Stance store that sells exclusively to employees at the company headquarters in San Clemente, Calif., went live in approximately seven weeks, the remaining stores took only two weeks each to deploy the technology.

Accessing the PWA instead of downloading and using a mobile app expedites the checkout process. Upon entering the store, the customer can scan a QR code or navigate to a short URL from their phone; scan the barcodes on product tags; then complete the checkout using Apple Pay, Google Pay or a credit card. On the backend, Moltin powers the self-checkout solutions with APIs that submit product information to the application, create the cart, add products and process the checkout.

Each store has signage to drive awareness of the technology with phrases like “skip the line” and “try our self-checkout.” White bags are placed right under each sign, signaling to the store associates that the shopper will use self-checkout when they’re done shopping.

Since Moltin’s API backend allows the solution to integrate with Stance’s existing infrastructure, including its POS system and Stripe payments stack, the retailer can capture consumer data to help understand shopping habits in-store.

“It’s basically like a lightweight e-Commerce checkout so it has traffic, conversions, AOV and other metrics like that,” Zaengle said. “In terms of qualitative feedback, we do that with our store teams just like we would capture product feedback. They keep a running list of enhancements to products, and they keep a list of enhancements to everything else about the store. We’re learning to be a retail company.”

Moltin hosted an “open house” launch event on March 27 at the Stance Soho store to showcase live demos of the In-Store Self Checkout solution.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Shopper Experience Thu, 25 Apr 2019 17:15:26 -0400
At Half Price Books, Empowered Associates Create Curated, Store-Specific Assortments At Half Price Books, Empowered Associates Create Curated, Store-Specific Assortments

While most physical booksellers are contracting and consolidating, Half Price Books has been slowly and steadily growing. Multiple factors, all of which are aimed at creating intense customer loyalty, contribute to the retailer’s success in a difficult industry:

  • A focus on choosing highly promising locations for new stores;
  • Comfortable store layouts built to encourage browsing and discovery; and
  • An enthusiastic staff of associates who are empowered to shape each store’s inventory.

“People always ask me, ‘How are you opening stores when other people are closing stores?’” said Kathy Doyle Thomas, Chief Strategy Officer at Half Price Books in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Part of the reason we are growing is because we’re privately held — we don’t have to open stores if we don’t want to, and if we can’t afford it. If we don’t have enough money in the bank and we know that store won’t make money for three or four years because it needs to build its brand and customer base, then we don’t do it, and we don’t have any debt. We grow and expand when we want to and how we want to.”

This process includes taking a careful look at the overall retail market. Half Price Books opened fewer stores than it had planned in 2018 due to high real estate prices and the fact that its existing markets were already well-saturated with stores. The retailer currently operates 120 stores, and is looking at new cities and states, including Boise, Idaho and the Detroit area.

Half Price Books is unafraid to take its time when expanding to new markets. The retailer needs the right combination of demographic makeup, population growth and size for a city to become a good target, and it recognizes that not every scouting mission will be successful.

“Unlike a shoe store, we need lots of people, just because such a small percentage actually buys the printed word,” said Thomas.

Homey Stores And Devoted Associates Generate Strong Loyalty

With such a small audience, the key to success is making sure those that do shop there are dedicated. One way Half Price Books achieves this is through its ambiance. The retailer builds its own wooden shelves for a “homey feeling” inside the store, and its eclectic selection of both popular and unknown authors recalls the experience of visiting the famous Strand, an independent New York City store that claims to house 18 miles of books.

“Stores are a destination,” said Thomas. “If you’re a reader, and you live in New York City, you go to Strand. You want to browse their sections and discover new authors and discover new books, and we are a browser’s paradise. People love treasure hunting.”

The other key to the Half Price Books shopping experience is the staff. These associates aren’t just passionate readers who are experts on their favorite genres — they are also the ones purchasing used books from customers to further develop their relationships. Half Price Books uses a comprehensive onboarding process that includes author and category tests, as well as training on how to price incoming books.

“We give them a lot of autonomy and a lot of responsibility and authority,” said Thomas. “We’re giving our employees a pot of money and telling them, ‘You decide how much to pay for this book.’ So they feel an ownership, they love it, and they know how important it is. We have to train them thoroughly because we have 3,000 employees, and over 2,500 are deciding what to buy that book for, and what to price that book at.”

The extra effort and responsibility gives the staff more to do than the average retail associate, creating a deep sense of investment in the company. The buying process also means local selections are highly tailored to their shoppers — a Half Price Books located next to a university will make a large volume of purchases from students and professors, which can then be sold to students looking for the same books during future semesters.

The combination of carefully curated, comfortable stores and highly empowered associates has earned the retailer an extremely loyal customer following who will happily share stories about their “HPB Hauls” online. While used book shoppers represent a limited market, Half Price Books has fashioned a business model that perfectly fits their needs.

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Store Operations Fri, 19 Apr 2019 09:00:03 -0400
Stage Stores Accelerates Off-Price Conversion Strategy, Anticipates 300 Gordmans Stores By 2020 Stage Stores Accelerates Off-Price Conversion Strategy, Anticipates 300 Gordmans Stores By 2020

Stage Stores is accelerating the conversion of its department stores to Gordmans stores after the off-price banner has achieved considerable success. Michael Glazer, President and CEO of Stage Stores, revealed that through mid-March 2019, sales in the nine converted Gordmans locations completed in 2018 grew by more than 150% compared to their department store counterparts.

The retailer has converted 37 stores so far in 2019, but the 35 store conversions that it had previously planned for the back-to-school season will now be completed by June. An additional 10 to 15 stores will be converted to the Gordmans format in Q3. Gordmans sells name brand apparel, accessories, cosmetics, footwear and on-trend home decor at discount prices.

Most of the conversions have taken place in small Midwest markets.

Stage Stores acquired 48 stores and a distribution center from Gordmans in March 2017 after Gordmans filed for bankruptcy and decided to liquidate. Stage Stores turned the acquired chain into an off-price retailer, with successful results — so positive that Stage Stores has been converting its own stores to the off-price banner. The success of the Gordmans banner comes as Stage Stores closed 41 department stores in 2018. During the recent holiday season, Gordmans saw comparable sales increases of 2.4%, well ahead of the overall Stage Stores decrease of 0.1%.

Stage Stores is a public company, but it was in danger of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange after failing to maintain a 30-day average closing price of at least $1 per share. Stage Stores notified the NYSE of its plan to regain compliance, which must be achieved within six months of notification. The company promoted interim CFO Jason Curtis to the permanent position of VP, CFO and Treasurer after the delisting warning.

As of March 28, 2019, Stage Stores operated 688 specialty department stores under several banners (Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal, Peebles and Stage) and 105 Gordmans off-price stores.

With approximately 85 total conversions now planned for 2019, Stage Stores expects to end the year with nearly 150 Gordmans off-price stores. Stage Stores plans to convert an additional 150 stores to the Gordmans banner in the first half of fiscal 2020. The 300 Gordmans stores will represent approximately half of Stage Stores’ total sales volume, according to Glazer.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 29 Mar 2019 12:41:29 -0400
Only 23% Of Retailers Leverage In-Store AI, While Just 19% Deploy IoT Devices Only 23% Of Retailers Leverage In-Store AI, While Just 19% Deploy IoT Devices

Retailers often describe the “store of the future” having multiple customer service options, such as automated returns or cashierless checkout, and offering disruptive technologies such as AI, VR, AR, virtual mirrors and IoT. But many of these brick-and-mortar upgrades remain saved for just that — the future. For example, only 19% of retailers have implemented IoT within their stores, with 23% implementing AI-powered platforms such as voice-activated POS and digital assistants, according to a report from BRP.

In another sign that adoption of these technologies is still a long way off, only 5% of retailers said they have implemented each technology and that it is working well.

The BRP report, titled The Future Store, is based on findings from the BRP Consumer Study and the 20th Annual POS/Customer Engagement Survey, which are designed to offer insights into customer expectations for the store of the future as well as how retailers’ current capabilities match up with these expectations.

In total, 55% of retailers believe they will have implemented IoT in their stores within three years, while 53% say they will implement AI in that time frame.

The slow adoption rate extends to various other technologies that have been hyped in recent years:

  • 9% currently offer augmented reality; another 29% plan to add it within three years;
  • 7% offer virtual reality to customers; another 23% plan to add it within three years;
  • 9% offer virtual mirrors to allow customers to virtually see products in use; an additional 23% plan to add within three years; and
  • 21% currently offer videoconference capabilities; another 25% plan to offer it within three years.

Customer interest in these technologies is outpacing retailer adoption: 32% of consumers are likely to shop at a store offering an AR experience over a retailer that doesn’t offer AR, and 29% would like a virtual reality VR experience as part of their shopping environment.

Consumers Want More Automation, But It’s Not The Answer Yet

If retailers need additional motivation to add these technologies, shoppers display more interest in relying on them, rather than human interaction, during the purchase process. For example, 55% are more likely to shop at a store with self-checkout vs. a store without, and 57% will choose a store offering automated returns to avoid human interaction, the report said.

While automation can be a way to cut costs and improve customer service options in some retail segments, a number of highly personal product decisions and luxury brands likely will not adopt automation to replace humans. The trend of identifying customers in real time and guiding them through the sales process via human interaction won't soon be replaced by automation.

Factors that inform the effectiveness of consumer engagement require a finesse that robotics will likely not perform as well as humans, such as context (time of day, how the customer is dressed, what department they are shopping, if they are wearing a wedding ring, etc.); responsiveness to visual cues; and cross-selling and up-selling.

As Store Concepts Evolve, Retailers Must Prioritize Next-Gen Customer Service

The store itself is evolving as more retailers experiment with different formats, such as pop-ups and store-within-a-store, or even stores as mini distribution centers. While 48% of retailers are increasing the number of brick-and-mortar stores, 23% are planning to increase the number of store-within-a-store concepts and 16% say they will add more showrooms and pop-up shops.

Whichever type of store the retailer is seeking to build, merchants still need to prioritize new customer service options. But as with the adoption of disruptive technologies, implementation rates of these services remain low:

  • 43% currently offer an electronic receipt with personalized suggestions, with 30% more planning to implement this service within three years;
  • 37% offer scan-and-deliver functionalities, in which a customer purchases an item by scanning a barcode and then gets the item delivered to their home (or other desired location), with 20% planning to offer it within three years;
  • 36% offer virtual inventory, with 27% more within three years;
  • 32% offer personalized promotions based on real-time location, weather or other analytics, with 38% more within three years; and
  • 25% offer persona-based user interface for POS, with 39% more within three years.
]]> (Glenn Taylor) Store Operations Mon, 11 Mar 2019 10:06:28 -0400