September 22, 2011

New Technologies Enhance Service, Convenience and Customer Engagement at Macy's and Bloomingdale's

Macy's & Bloomingdales product lookup, personalized product configurations, tablets & skin care, NFC at POS and digital receipts.

CINCINNATI, Sep 13, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) --

Macy's, Inc. (NYSE:M) today outlined a series of technology-related innovations being launched or piloted in its stores and online sites as part of the company's omnichannel strategy to drive sales growth at Macy's and Bloomingdale's. These innovations are designed to engage customers and to make their shopping experience more convenient, fun and interesting.

"As we build our culture of growth at Macy's, Inc., it is important that we develop and test new ideas so we can learn and continue to improve. We are committed to leading in the adoption of technology that resonates with our customers, recognizing that not every idea will prove to be successful in the long-term," said Terry J. Lundgren, Macy's, Inc. chairman, president and chief executive officer. "In particular, we are using technology in our stores to mirror the online shopping experience, and adding functionality and content online to provide customers with additional assistance in product selection. The ultimate goal of our omnichannel strategy is to build deeper relationships with customers and to ensure Macy's and Bloomingdale's are accessible no matter how or when our customers prefer to explore or shop."

Macy's, Inc. enjoys a growing reputation as a technology leader in the retailing industry. L2, a think tank for digital innovation, recently named Macy's and Bloomingdale's among its Top 10 retailers in Digital IQ, based on digital competency and mastery of mobile and social platforms. Macy's was ranked #1 among 64 retail brands included in the study.

Here are a few examples of tests and rollouts currently in progress across the company involving new technology to benefit customers:

Macy's nationwide Search & Send initiative is being expanded through fulfillment of orders by a growing number of stores across the country. Initially with Search & Send, every Macy's store register was enabled to find products that are out of stock or unavailable in that particular location by accessing the macys.com online inventory. Search & Send now has been expanded to also include fulfillment from 23 selected Macy's stores across the country. In 2012, more than 100 Macy's stores with broad merchandise assortments will be part of the Search & Send fulfillment network - providing customers in every Macy's location with easy access to an expanded volume and variety of inventory. Products bought in-store through Search & Send are delivered to the customer's home or workplace, with free shipping for orders of $50 or more. The company also is testing the use of Macy's store fulfillment for selected items purchased online. Bloomingdale's provides fulfillment from all of its stores, as well as its online inventory.

By early October, Macy's will begin testing Beauty Spot, a new cosmetics concept that allows customers to search and select products from various product categories across multiple brands from a custom-designed kiosk to be located prominently on the selling floor. Customers interested in lipstick or foundation, for example, can explore a wide range of alternatives, supported by detailed product information, new ideas and testers. A dedicated Beauty Spot concierge associate will be available to assist customers and process credit card transactions using a hand-held mobile device. Powered by the 2nd generation Intel(R) CoreTM processors, Beauty Spot with interactive touch screens will be tested in four Macy's stores in New Jersey, Texas and Virginia. Six Macy's stores in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas will test Beauty Spot without touch screens. Intel and Macy's collaborated to create an innovative solution using the latest technology, including spot touch screen technology enabled by Intel. The application was developed by Possible Worldwide in partnership with Macy's.
Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores have begun testing computer tablets and hand-held devices to engage customers in selected merchandise areas. This fall, about 350 stores will be using tablets to help customers research and select skin care products at Macy's and Bloomingdale's Clinique counters. In shoes, Bloomingdale's will be using tablets and hand-held devices in five stores to help customers view and shop from the largest possible variety of styles and colors, including products at other Bloomingdale's stores. In fine jewelry, 25 Macy's stores are beginning to use tablets to demonstrate product features and offer coordinating jewelry pieces that may not be available in that particular location. These items can be purchased via the Macy's Search & Send system.
Macys.com has launched a new denim fit finder for women. Powered by True FitTM fit personalization software, the function allows online shoppers to select the perfect pair of jeans among all denim brands offered by macys.com using an easy-to-use three-step process based on a customer's unique body and style preferences. Recommended styles can be saved on the customer's personal profile page for future reference.
At the end of October, all Macy's and Bloomingdale's furniture/mattress delivery associates will be equipped with computer tablets to plan daily routes, find locations via GPS, record delivery verification signatures, and access product and sales transaction information on-site to answer customer questions. This use of technology will improve customer service by more accurately predicting arrival times and delivering furniture and mattresses on schedule.
Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores have begun to replace signature pads at all 50,000 point-of-sale terminals with new customer response units developed by Verifone. The rollout will be completed by fall 2012. These new customer response units enable the company to test emerging transaction-processing technologies. Among them is Google Wallet, a smartphone application currently being tested in 219 Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores in five markets (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) that allows customers to "tap, pay and save" when they use their phone as their wallet. Currently, Google Wallet is available on a limited basis to users of Android Nexus S 4G smartphones on the Sprint Network who are holders of certain Citi MasterCards.
Beginning in late October, Macy's will experiment with digital receipts in 50 selected stores across the country. When making a purchase, customers can choose to have a copy of their receipt emailed to them. In spring 2012, Macy's customers will also have the option to select digital receipts only, thus eliminating the unnecessary use of paper receipts. Digital receipts are a convenience for many customers and will support the company's sustainability objective of reducing the use of paper in its business operations.

Macy's and Bloomingdale's have begun installing free Wi-Fi service in stores nationwide to enable customer use of smartphone applications and/or tablet technology for shopping. By the end of October, full public Wi-Fi access will be activated in about 230 Macy's and nine Bloomingdale's stores. In another 79 Macy's stores, Wi-Fi access is being installed in junior's and young men's departments to support the company's youth initiatives.
Macy's and Bloomingdale's have added live chats to their online shopping sites, allowing customer service representatives to provide real-time assistance to customers as they complete transactions.

Macy's, Inc., with corporate offices in Cincinnati and New York, is one of the nation's premier retailers, with fiscal 2010 sales of $25 billion. The company operates about 850 department stores in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico under the names of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, as well as the macys.com and bloomingdales.com websites. The company also operates four Bloomingdale's Outlet stores.

All statements in this press release that are not statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Macy's management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results could differ materially from those expressed in or implied by the forward-looking statements contained in this release because of a variety of factors, including conditions to, or changes in the timing of, proposed transactions, prevailing interest rates, changes in expected synergies, cost savings and non-recurring charges, competitive pressures from specialty stores, general merchandise stores, manufacturers' outlets, off-price and discount stores, new and established forms of home shopping (including the Internet, mail-order catalogs and television) and general consumer spending levels, including the impact of the availability and level of consumer debt, the effect of weather and other factors identified in documents filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

(NOTE: Additional information on Macy's, Inc., including past news releases, is available at www.macysinc.com/pressroom).

SOURCE: Macy's, Inc.

Macy's, Inc.
Media - Jim Sluzewski, 513-579-7764
or
Investor - Matt Stautberg, 513-579-7780


Press Release - Investor Relations - Macy's, Inc.

Posted by staff at 08:12 AM

August 19, 2011

Disney, Colleges Get Best Buy Kiosks As Deployment Ramps Up

MINNEAPOLIS -- Disneyland and college campuses are among the sites that will make space for Best Buy Express consumer electronics kiosks. The retail giant says it plans to add nearly 100 kiosk locations over the next year.

Disney, Colleges Get Best Buy Kiosks As Deployment Ramps Up | Articles | Articles | Vending Times Inc.

The machines, which rolled out in 2008, dispense computer accessories, digital cameras, storage devices and headphones, among other products. They currently serve consumers on the go in some 150 airports, train stations, casinos and rest stops.

The company reports that it has doubled the number of sites it serves with the kiosks, which are made by Zoom Systems, over the past year.

Emily Jed
Emily@vendingtimes.net


Disney, Colleges Get Best Buy Kiosks As Deployment Ramps Up | Articles | Articles | Vending Times Inc.

Posted by staff at 07:19 AM

June 13, 2011

Somebody forgot to tell Macy's that it was extinct

Great article on the reality in retail and Macys. With Walmart and Target treading water, the department stores like Macys and Dilliards have been going great guns thanks to omnichannel strategy.

Somebody forgot to tell Macy's that it was extinct | StarTribune.com


The Macy's store in downtown Minneapolis doesn't look or smell like a retail boneyard. Live people walk its floors. Some are even buying things.

What gives? For the past decade we've been assured that department stores, if not already dead, were slouching toward extinction as their customers abandoned them for hipper, cheaper or more convenient specialty stores, big-box retailers, discounters and online outlets.

Those forecasts apparently did not reach Cincinnati, home of Macy's, the nation's biggest department store operator. In May, sales at Macy's stores open at least a year -- a key retailing metric known as same-store sales -- surged 7.4 percent. Last year, same-store sales rose 4.6 percent -- Macy's best annual gain in at least 15 years and one of the highest among all large retailers.

That's surprising, given that high unemployment and general economic uncertainty would seem to favor the fortunes of discount-oriented merchants. But Wal-Mart Stores saw sales fall 1.1 percent at its namesake stores during the first three months of 2011, while Minneapolis-based Target posted a weak 2 percent gain in same-store sales.

To be fair, the dire forecast for department stores wasn't concocted out of thin air. David Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas, points to U.S. economic census data showing that only 2 percent of retail spending occurred in department stores in 2007. The sector's market share had plunged almost 50 percent since 1997.

The institutional decline of the local department store can be seen in the demise of Minneapolis' once-magisterial Dayton's chain. First it suffered the indignity of having the name of its longtime Chicago rival, Marshall Field's, imposed upon it. Then it was sold downriver, and down market, to St. Louis-based May Department Stores Co. Less than a year later it was sold again, to Macy's, which eventually brought another name change.

These gyrations generated a fair amount of trumped-up nostalgia. Sure, today's department store may lack a certain grandeur or seem somewhat generic, but merchants had begun ripping out the dark paneling and pushing their own private labels long before Macy's came to town. It may be "too bad" that you can't buy toys at a department store today, but that's something consumers inflicted on department stores, not vice versa.

Rest of article

Posted by staff at 08:20 AM

May 16, 2011

Pepsi's 'Social Vending' Machine Features 'Gifting' Function

PURCHASE, NY -- New from PepsiCo is the Social Vending System, a networked vending machine with large "full-touch" screen designed to enable consumers to connect with Pepsi brands (and one another) at the point of purchase. It made its debut in prototype at the National Automatic Merchandising Association's 2011 OneShow in Chicago

Pepsi's 'Social Vending' Machine Features 'Gifting' Function | Articles | Articles | Vending Times Inc.

Novel features of the system include provisions for a patron to "gift" a friend by selecting a beverage, then entering the recipient's name, mobile phone number and a personal text message – and, if desired, a short video recorded at the machine. Standard text message rates apply for the "gifting" function.

The gift is delivered with a system code and instructions for redeeming it at any PepsiCo social vender. The recipient may thank the original sender by dispatching a gift in return, or "pay it forward" by presenting a beverage to someone else.

The machines are equipped for remote monitoring, giving operators the ability to manage inventory levels and schedule deliveries remotely. Digital content also can be updated online, allowing easy changing of messages and media content.

"Our vision is to use innovative technology to empower consumers and create new ways for them to engage with our brands, their social networks and each other at the point of purchase," said Mikel Durham, chief innovation officer at PepsiCo Foodservice. "Social vending extends our consumers' social networks beyond the confines of their own devices and transforms a static, transaction-oriented experience into something fun and exciting they'll want to return to, again and again."

Social vending also makes it possible to perform a "Random Act of Refreshment" by purchasing a drink for a stranger through any other Social Vending System. For example, a consumer could send a message of encouragement to someone in a city smitten by challenging weather, or a congratulatory beverage to a student whose college or university has just won a championship.

The Social Vending System was conceived by PepsiCo's newly formed Equipment Innovation group, whose task is to apply emerging technologies to the delivery of relevant brand experiences for consumers through equipment. The design and user interface were created in collaboration with Milwaukee, WI-based DCI Marketing and Protagonist of Venice, CA.

"Our approach to technology innovation is driven by what we know consumers want," explained PepsiCo vice-president of equipment innovation Christine Sisler. "We're working with some of the best minds in the business to develop equipment that provides customization, personalization and choice."

PepsiCo explained that it sees large, prestigious accounts like colleges, universities and malls as offering a good fit for social vending. Further development of the platform is ongoing; a limited consumer test is underway now, and PepsiCo plans to test the concept with key strategic partners later this year.

The company reports that it respects its customers' privacy: email addresses and phone numbers are not stored unless expressly permitted by a user. PepsiCo does not share contact information with any other partners.


Pepsi's 'Social Vending' Machine Features 'Gifting' Function | Articles | Articles | Vending Times Inc.


Posted by staff at 07:43 AM

February 08, 2011

JCPenny Expands Findmore Interactive Smart Displays to More Than 120 Additional Stores

PLANO, TX - J. C. Penney Company, Inc. has announced that they are expanding their Findmore Interactive Smart displays to more than 120 additional stores across the United States. Additionally, in conjunction with the launch of JCPenney's Modern Bride concept, the Company will begin rolling out the findmore experience using iPad to 50 fine jewelry departments.

These new initiatives are part of JCPenney's overall findmore strategy which encourages store associates and customers—whether using the fixture, iPad, jcp.com enabled point-of-sale register or in-store marketing pieces—to "find more" by providing access to the expanded assortments and product information available on jcp.com. Having access to jcp.com in the store ensures that customers find what they are looking for when they visit a JCPenney store and also serves as an associate selling and education tool, allowing store associates to deliver exceptional customer service.

"We've always seen the value of integrating the online and in-store shopping experience offering customers the opportunity to have access to a greater merchandise selection by offering access to online purchases in the stores," said Tom Nealon, group executive vice president of JCPenney. "Offering an in-store digital experience that drives additional sales is a true differentiator for JCPenney, and continues to build on our leadership in the digital space as we merge our online and in-store shopping experiences.

JCPenny Expands Findmore Interactive Smart Displays to More Than 120 Additional StoresWith the findmore fixture, JCPenney is able to take its digital platform directly into the store. More than just a kiosk linking store users to jcp.com's 250,000 online products, the 42-inch touchscreen findmore smart fixture provides a unique, interactive digital experience that naturally fits into the store. Serving as an anchor for the merchandise department, the fixture elevates the in-store shopping experience, allowing users to:

jcpenny_findmore_ipad.jpg

• View jcp.com's vast assortment of merchandise and "find more" sizes, colors, styles and items not available — or out of stock — in the store.

• Experience the power of jcp.com in-store, with strong, interactive, media-rich editorial content, such as jcp.com's Little Red Book experience, which highlights key seasonal women's trends.

• Check the availability of merchandise in-store or nearby stores.

• E-mail images and information about an online item to themselves or a friend.

• Use 360 degree views and zoom features to see all details of a product.

• Scan the barcode of an in-store item to learn more about the product's features, additional colors and sizes available, and even washing instructions. The findmore fixture will also provide product recommendations for complementary items (ex. A customer scans a pair of pants and the findmore fixture will suggest tops and accessories to go with it).

• View items and outfits and add them to an online "dressing room." The customer can then print out a page listing the items, locate the items in the store and try them on.

• Purchase online items from the findmore fixture and have them shipped to their home. Items can also be shipped for free to the local JCPenney store. Additionally, customers can also print out a receipt and purchase an online item at an in-store register, with the rest of their in-store purchases.

JCPenny's Findmore Experience Launched On iPad:

JCPenney is also bringing its findmore strategy to the Fine Jewelry department with a smaller, hand held concept using the revolutionary iPad. Fine Jewelry associates will be able to use iPad to showcase JCPenney's full offering of bridal fine jewelry collections for customers — highlighting a variety of styles, cuts, sizes and metal options — all available under the Company's new Modern Bride concept. Incorporating features from the Modern Bride™ experience on jcp.com, the iPad app will include a notebook feature that allows users to add rings to a virtual notebook, where they can compare ring features side by side.

JCPenney's findmore experiences are part of its overall investment in its digital platform, which also includes jcp.com, as well as its social and mobile initiatives. The Company's commitment to technology innovation continues to deliver new opportunities to connect with its customers.

Posted by staff at 12:00 PM

January 18, 2011

FAQ - Why every retailer should consider interactive wall-mount kiosks

Nice writeup on KioskMarketplace on why retailers should consider wall-mount systems. Writer is Rich Bernstein with Phoenix Kiosk.

Why every retailer should consider interactive wall-mount kiosks | kioskmarketplace.com

There's a simple way for every retailer to showcase products, increase sales, use space more effectively and save money. And this little Godsend is called an interactive wall-mount kiosk. Although these four benefits are surely welcomed by any retailer, it's surprising how many of them are either not using kiosks or not getting the most bang for their investment's buck.

Before we break down some specific applications for big-box, medium-to-small-sized retailers, convenience stores and restaurants, let's touch on some ways retailers could improve their businesses by incorporating wall-mount kiosks:

Showcasing products/advertising/branding
Although the main purpose of implementing a wall-mount kiosk is often to invite users to approach the kiosk and make a purchase, kiosks are valuable tools by themselves. They provide an excellent opportunity to increase brand awareness, and they can also introduce customers to new products. Many retailers utilize dual-screen kiosks that provide an interactive screen on the bottom with an advertising-only screen above that, in order to captivate potential customers.

Increase efficiency
In-store kiosks provide an efficient way for users to peruse a retailer's entire inventory. Depending on the application (perhaps an auto-parts store, for example), this can allow employees to maximize their time performing essential tasks. Although face-to-face customer service will never disappear, millions of people purchased their Christmas gifts online in 2011. Customers are not afraid to use kiosks and Web-based applications to make purchases.

Increase sales
Although it's hard to predict the percentage of additional sales that can be generated with an interactive wall-mount kiosk, the units provide a way for customers to make a specific search, which makes it more likely they will find the item they need. Kiosks are especially valuable for retailers that have an additional, out-of-store inventory that can be placed on the kiosk, which allows a customer to efficiently order and pay for products that are not in front of them.

Utilize wall-space more efficiently
Of course, every square foot of space is valuable to a retailer. Wall-mount kiosks take up very little space, come in a variety of sizes and can run numerous applications. They can be outfitted with card readers, barcode scanners and even printers. The return on investment can be substantial, based upon the benefits listed above, and the kiosks' small footprints.

Below are more specific benefits listed by the type of retailer that implements wall-mount kiosks:

Big Box
It's easy for customers to be overwhelmed in a large store, and kiosks can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes a customer to find specific items. Wall-mount kiosks can also be used for way-finding purposes, in order to direct the customer to the correct department and specific location of the product. The end result is happy customers with more time to spend in the store, which will hopefully increase their purchases.

Medium/small stores
Many retailers utilize wall-mount kiosks to make life easier for customers in a number of ways. Of course, in-store cataloguing is one of them. However, some stores incorporate additional forms of order fulfillment, such as back orders, "build-your-own" solutions and virtual inventory. If the retailer is part of a chain, he can incorporate his inventories into a network that shows product at all store locations.

Convenience stores and restaurants
Many small retailers use kiosks for a variety of applications that are not product specific. For instance, users might place an order for food, play the lottery, apply for a job or get directions to museums or other landmarks around town.

Summary
As you can see, there's no hiding the benefits of wall-mount kiosks in a retail setting. Retailers have the ability to provide any number of applications for their customers, and they can incorporate optional, larger-sized LCD monitor sthat provide more space on which to advertise, inform and interact. Based on the buying habits of the American public, as well as their high comfort level with interactive kiosks, wall-mount kiosks are something that every retailer should seriously consider.


Why every retailer should consider interactive wall-mount kiosks | kioskmarketplace.com

Posted by staff at 09:43 AM

NRF: NCR debuts kiosk designed to enhance cross-channel shopping

New Slimline kiosk introduced at NRF by NCR. Attractive.

NRF: NCR debuts kiosk designed to enhance cross-channel shopping | kioskmarketplace.com

NCR Corp. showcased a kiosk enclosure, engineered with a sleek, modern design this week at the National Retail Federation's BIG Show in New York City.

The NCR SelfServ Slimline allows retailers to makes it easier for consumers to shop seamlessly across multiple channels while giving them a more interactive, self-service user experience in-store, according to Lyle Sandler, NCR's vice president of Design and Consumer Experience.

"Every element of the new design is focused on the consumer, making its use in a variety of self-service solutions approachable and natural," he said in a company press release. "The enclosure establishes a new aesthetic that is complementary to both contemporary store design and visual merchandising displays, in order to encourage consumers to engage with self-service solutions as a positive aspect of their total shopping experience."

Slimline is designed for consumers who want to connect with a retailer out of the store — via the Internet, at home or on a mobile device — and then continue their shopping journey in-store.

This converged shopping experience is delivered by applications including Endless Aisle, where customers can order out-of-stock items at an in-store kiosk or select from an expanded base of merchandise online and have it shipped to their homes or to stores.

With Slimline, based on NCR's SelfServ 60 kiosk hardware combined with the company's Netkey digital-signage software, retailers can quickly develop and deploy converged channel solutions, according to the press release.

Integrated peripherals and devices include a standard 17-inch, all-in-one touch screen with integrated motion sensor, speakers, dip-reader and thermal printer. Custom options include an imaging scanner, PIN pad and full-page printer. Future releases will include integrated digital signage options designed to engage customers with rich, multimedia content.

The NCR SelfServ Slimline is also designed to be flexibly customized, readily adapting to store brand schemes. Retailers can easily wrap or customize the kiosks to complement their existing brand identity.

The new kiosk was designed by NCR's Customer Experience Consulting team. Its domain experts include specialists in design, human factors, cognitive engineering, user interface design, consumer psychology and industrial engineering.


NRF: NCR debuts kiosk designed to enhance cross-channel shopping | kioskmarketplace.com

Posted by staff at 09:34 AM

NRF: Retailers learn about C-tailing from NCR (VIDEO)

NCR demo at NRF of kiosk ordering by Bob Ventresca by SelfServiceWorld . [video]

NRF: Retailers learn about C-tailing from NCR (VIDEO) | selfserviceworld.com

NCR representatives were at the National Retail Federation's Big Show last week in New York City to sell retailers on C-tailing, a solution that converges Web, mobile and kiosk technology to allow consumers to set up personal accounts that track their purchases, store payment options and history and print coupons and offers tailored to buying history.

"Retailers today need to be aware of the fact that consumers want to interact with them in the method and preference they prefer," said Bob Ventresca during an interview at the show with Cherryh Butler, editor of KioskMarketplace.com.

Ventresca demonstrated how a kiosk can be implemented in a grocery store to allow customers to identify themselves via phone number and see what they ordered last time. They can place orders, shop and then pick up the order when done.

"This is an application that allows you to streamline the deli-ordering process, reduce the wait time but also increases sales for the retailer," Ventresca said. "People tend to buy more because they're offered more product through the kiosk."

Click below to watch the interview.


NRF: Retailers learn about C-tailing from NCR (VIDEO) | selfserviceworld.com

Posted by staff at 09:26 AM

NRF: Motorola showcases kiosks with printing applications

Motorola demo from NRF with MK500 "kiosks" scanning bar codes. Kioskmarketplace video.

NRF: Motorola showcases kiosks with printing applications | selfserviceworld.com

Motorola showcased its kiosks with printing capabilities at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City.

Motorola, creator of MK500 kiosks used for price checking, partnered with Zebra Technologies, a company specializing in kiosk printing applications, to design a printer for the machine. The kiosks allow customers to check inventory, look up merchandise and check prices and then print tickets to take with them to the check-out counter.

Click below for a short demo.

NRF: Motorola showcases kiosks with printing applications | selfserviceworld.com

Posted by staff at 08:52 AM

December 15, 2010

Best Buy Admits To Misleading Customers With Kiosks

Article on Best Buy settlement when they ran dummy pricing on the internet kiosks (pricing on kiosks was higher than the web). We wonder if this was company wide initiative when they did it, or they targeted regions/zip codes.

StorefrontBacktalk � Blog Archive � Best Buy Admits To Misleading Customers With Kiosks

EXCERPT

Written by Evan Schuman
December 15th, 2010

After more than three-and-a-half years of courtroom battles with the Connecticut Attorney General’s office, Best Buy on Monday (Dec. 13) admitted that its in-store kiosks tricked consumers out of Web price-matching and agreed to pay consumers in that state $399,000.

The chain also said it would stop showing higher prices on its in-store kiosks and would “conspicuously disclose to consumers” if the kiosk was displaying lower prices. Although the settlement is unlikely a cause for celebration at Best Buy, the chain actually fared quite well and will sustain little pain from it.

Editor’s Note:

Page 1 of this Best Buy Kiosk Deception Settlement Special Report covers The Overview Of The Case, Implications.

Page 2 covers The Different Web And In-Store Pricing Quicksand.

Page 3 covers How Little It Will Help Consumers

Why little pain? A $399,000 settlement is not a huge deterrent for a $50 billion chain, but it might become more annoying if it spreads to many other states. (If every other U.S. state and Washington, D.C., reached a similar settlement, it would still only be $20 million. At this stage, though, three years after Connecticut filed its charges, it’s unlikely any other states or territories would begin actions.)


READ FULL ARTICLE

Posted by staff at 03:24 PM

October 12, 2010

ToysRUs Introduces Wish List Kiosks in Stores Across The Country

Toys"R"Us today announced the rollout of Wish List self-service kiosks in all stores nationwide, making it easier than ever for gift-givers to grant little ones' wishes this holiday season. The kiosks are arriving in stores now and will be available in all stores nationwide by early November.

Toys'R'Us Introduces Wish List Kiosks in Stores Across The Country, Making it Easier... -- WAYNE, N.J., Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ --

Toys"R"Us® Introduces Wish List Kiosks in Stores Across The Country, Making it Easier Than Ever to Grant Christmas Wishes

Company Extends Alliance with Make-A-Wish Foundation® to Help Grant More Wishes Than Ever For Children with Life-Threatening Medical Conditions This Holiday Season

WAYNE, N.J., Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- It's that time of year again…kids are making their Wish Lists at Toys"R"Us® and checking them twice! As parents prepare to shop for the gifts their children are dreaming of this Christmas, Toys"R"Us today announced the rollout of Wish List self-service kiosks in all stores nationwide, making it easier than ever for gift-givers to grant little ones' wishes this holiday season. Once a Wish List is created either in-store or online, busy holiday shoppers can now enjoy the convenience of quickly accessing and printing a Wish List in-store with the simple touch of a button. The kiosks are arriving in stores now and will be available in all stores nationwide by early November. Together with their children, parents can also browse and select products with scanning devices to create or update existing Wish Lists.

In conjunction with this latest addition to Wish List, Toys"R"Us, Inc. is proud to continue its support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation® to help make Christmas brighter for children with life-threatening medical conditions. This year, Toys"R"Us, Inc. has donated another $50,000 in Toys"R"Us gift cards to the world's largest wish-granting organization to fund shopping spree wishes in its stores. In addition, the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund, a public charity affiliated with the company, also has provided the Make-A-Wish Foundation with an additional $200,000 grant, enabling even more wishes to come true.

"At Toys"R"Us, we understand the joy of creating Christmas Wish Lists and want to provide a helpful way to assist gift-givers in selecting the perfect presents. We're pleased to offer another convenient way for time-strapped shoppers to "wow" kids on Christmas morning," said Greg Ahearn, Senior Vice President, Marketing and e-commerce, Toys"R"Us, Inc. "At the same time, our associates nationwide look forward to making the holiday wishes of some courageous children come true again this year through our extended relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation."

Introducing Wish List Kiosks*

Known as the ultimate toy registry, the Toys"R"Us Wish List is a service parents and kids can use together to create a tailored list of toys based not only on what the child wants, but on his or her age, interests and abilities. To make the Wish List process more convenient than ever, all Toys"R"Us stores nationwide will feature a dedicated Wish List self-service kiosk, allowing gift-givers to print out their loved one's Wish List quickly with the click of a button. These four-foot stands feature a 17-inch monitor to browse and print Wish Lists. Kiosks also feature other popular "R"Us® services, including the widely-used Baby Registry and appearing later this month, Geoffrey's Birthday Club sign-up. Together with their children, parents can continue to browse and select products with scanning devices in Toys"R"Us stores to create or update existing Wish Lists and can also access, update and print their wish lists online at Toysrus.com/WishList.

Making More Wishes Come True Through Partnership with Make-A-Wish Foundation

Toys"R"Us, Inc. is proud to continue its support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in making Christmas special for some truly extraordinary children. The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Wish kids often request visits to amusement parks, vacations for their families or meet-and-greets with favorite celebrities; however 12 percent of all wishes are for shopping sprees to their favorite stores, and many desire to shop at Toys"R"Us. This Christmas, Toys"R"Us employees will help create memorable shopping experiences for wish kids when they visit stores nationwide.

Last year, the company's $50,000 Toys"R"Us gift card grant to the Make-A-Wish Foundation enabled children's shopping spree wishes to come true in stores across the country. This year, Toys"R"Us, Inc. expands its alliance with one of the world's leading children's charities, which has been making children's wishes a reality for the past 30 years.

"Wish kids have told us that their medical conditions were put into perspective by the chance to experience all the good and kindness in everyday people, and to that end, we are grateful to join with Toys"R"Us, Inc. to help make this Christmas extra special for children and families who deserve it most," said David Williams, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America president and chief executive officer. "Whether kids are hoping for a special toy or a magical day filled with holiday surprises, granting their wishes is rewarding to all parties involved, and we look forward to fulfilling more wishes than before with Toys"R"Us."

The company will raise awareness for its sponsorship of the Make-A-Wish Foundation by featuring the charity's logo on its in-store kiosks and online at Toysrus.com/WishList.

Granting Wishes for Little Ones

Wish List is available in-store and online year-round for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. The company supports Wish List with a comprehensive marketing program inclusive of in-store signage, print and online promotions, as well as through its Facebook page at Facebook.com/Toysrus.

In addition, to create extra fun in gift-giving this year, the company is holding a special Wish List Sweepstakes in conjunction with The Hub from Hasbro, Inc. from Monday, October 18 through Sunday, October 31. The Hub is a multi-platform joint venture between Discovery Communications and Hasbro, Inc. that launched earlier this week to entertain, enlighten, empower and educate children and their families. To enter, participants must simply create a Wish List in-store or online and register on The Hub's dedicated website, Hubworld.com/wishlist. One randomly selected, lucky shopper will win all of the items they added to their Wish List**, plus 200 second prize winners will receive a $100 Toys"R"Us gift card, perfect for gifting to a loved one or to keep as a present for themselves.

Customers who create a Wish List for their child will enjoy the following benefits:

Customize a Child's List with the RIGHT Toys – Wish Lists guide gift-givers to products that are age-appropriate and suitable for an individual child's skill level, helping to ensure that a child is not frustrated or bored with a toy.

Set Expectations in Advance of the Big Day – The exercise of building a Wish List can be used as an opportunity to teach kids about the cost of certain products and which items are within a family's budgetary reach, so they are not disappointed if they do not receive a particular toy.

Rely on Expert Advice from THE Toy Authority – In making Wish List selections, toy-buyers can consult with the store's knowledgeable associates or utilize the Gift Finder application on Toysrus.com for toy suggestions for a child's Wish List.

Share Wish Lists Easily with Gift-Givers Near and Far – Notifying friends and family of a Wish List is as easy as sending insert cards that include the registrant's Wish List number. Wish Lists can be printed in-store at Wish List kiosks. They can also be shared via e-mail or through social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Avoid Duplicate Gifts – Once a gift is purchased, it is deducted from the Wish List, just like a gift registry, so kids do not receive more than one of the same gift.

Simple Returns – Another perk of creating a Wish List is that registrants do not have to worry about keeping receipts in the event they wish to make a return or exchange an item in-store that was purchased from their Wish List. Store employees can look up any Wish List transaction simply by revisiting the purchase history on the registrant's list for easy returns. All other return guidelines apply.

About Toys"R"Us, Inc.

Toys"R"Us, Inc. is the world's leading dedicated toy and juvenile products retailer, offering a differentiated shopping experience through its family of brands. It currently sells merchandise in more than 1,560 stores, including 845 Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores in the United States, and more than 510 international stores and 200 licensed stores in 33 countries and jurisdictions. In addition, it exclusively operates the legendary FAO Schwarz brand and sells extraordinary toys in the brand's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. With its strong portfolio of e-commerce sites including Toysrus.com, Babiesrus.com, eToys.com, FAO.com and babyuniverse.com, it provides shoppers with a broad online selection of distinctive toy and baby products. Headquartered in Wayne, NJ, Toys"R"Us, Inc. employs approximately 70,000 associates worldwide. The company is committed to serving its communities as a caring and reputable neighbor through programs dedicated to keeping kids safe and helping them in times of need.

About the Make-A-Wish Foundation

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Founded in 1980 when a group of caring volunteers helped a young boy fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, the Foundation is one of the world's leading children's charities, with 64 chapters in the United States and its territories. With the help of generous donors and nearly 25,000 volunteers, the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants a wish every 40 minutes and has granted nearly 200,000 wishes in the United States since its inception. For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visit wish.org and discover how you can share the power of a wish®.

* Kiosks are featured in all permanent Toys"R"Us locations, not Toys"R"Us Express stores.
**Grand Prize up to $5,000 maximum value.

SOURCE Toys"R"Us

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http://www.Toysrus.com


Toys'R'Us Introduces Wish List Kiosks in Stores Across The Country, Making it Easier... -- WAYNE, N.J., Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ --

Posted by staff at 10:45 AM

Self-service charging stations at BestBuy

The retailer has just announced a partnership with ECOtality, which will be providing Best Buy with some of its Blink EV charging stations that will be installed at twelve stores in Tucson, Phoenix.....

Best Buy teams up with ECOtality to install EV charging stations at 12 stores -- Engadget

Best Buy teams up with ECOtality to install EV charging stations at 12 stores

Best Buy has already started selling some electric scooters and motorcycles in its stores, and it's now about to expand even further into the EV business. The retailer has just announced a partnership with ECOtality, which will be providing Best Buy with some of its Blink EV charging stations that will be installed at twelve stores in Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle by March of next year. That's being done as part of the government-funded EV Project that ECOtality is overseeing, and Best Buy says that it may install chargers at additional stores if the initial test phase proves to be successful. Full press release is after the break.

ECOtality to provide Blink EV Charging Stations at select U.S. Best Buy stores as part of The EV Project

Customers can connect electric vehicles to the Blink Network, charge up while they shop

SAN FRANCISCO – Monday, October 11, 2010 – ECOtality, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECTY), a leader in clean electric transportation and storage technologies, today announced an agreement to provide Blink electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at select U.S. stores of leading electronics retailer Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY).

Under the terms of the agreement, Blink EV charging stations will be installed at 12 select Best Buy stores in Tucson, Ariz., Phoenix, Ariz., Los Angeles, Calif., San Diego, Calif., and Seattle, Wash. Charging stations at these stores, within pilot markets of The EV Project, will be installed by March 2011.

"As the private sector will ultimately drive consumer electric vehicle adoption, our goal has been to establish a charging network that is conveniently placed in familiar places to meet consumers' needs. Aligning ourselves with major retailers is a key part of achieving that goal," said Jonathan Read, CEO of ECOtality, Inc. "Blink is about charging where you live, work and play-it's about making the electric vehicle lifestyle fit the lifestyle of drivers nationwide. In order for EV infrastructure to be a success, it is essential that private enterprises take an active role. Best Buy has shown true leadership as becoming a launch partner for The EV Project and exemplifies how corporate responsibility initiatives can directly benefit the customer experience, environment and society."

As part of the agreement, ECOtality will initially install Blink chargers at 12 strategic Best Buy locations as part of the pilot program. Throughout the experiment, ECOtality will analyze real-world experiences of EV users to continually develop best-practices for creating EV infrastructure in a variety of regions. The data gathered from the Blink EV charging stations at the 12 Best Buy stores will provide a characterization of consumer charging behavior and identify potential incentives for EV host sites. Contingent upon the findings of the pilot program, ECOtality and Best Buy may expand the installation of Blink charging stations to include other store locations.

Based on the results of ECOtality's EV Micro-ClimateTM process in the pilot regions, the deployment of these charging systems will take into consideration geographic location, distance to major interstates and transportation routes, distance to other EV Project charging facilities and population density in making its decisions.

"We are excited to announce our partnership with Best Buy to host Blink commercial electric vehicle charging stations as part of The EV Project and believe these locations will be an ideal destination spot for consumers purchasing electric vehicles," said Don Karner, President of ECOtality North America. "We are eager to work with a forward- thinking company like Best Buy to better understand the true business case and value of offering commercial EV charging access to their customers. Together, we will work to grow our network of commercial chargers and speed the adoption of electric vehicles."

The commercial Blink Network charging locations will complement the residential Blink Network charging stations that ECOtality will install as project manager for The EV Project. The Blink Network is designed to allow EV drivers the freedom to travel wherever they choose with residential and commercial locations conveniently located at their normal destinations. Blink Network chargers are fully interactive with color touch screens, and connect to a web portal that provides users with charge status, statistics, history, and billing information in addition to ease of payment options. This information is also available through the Blink Network smartphone application.

ECOtality is project manager of The EV Project, and will oversee the installation of 15,000 commercial and residential charging stations in 16 cities and major metropolitan areas in six states. The project will provide an EV infrastructure to support the deployment of 8,300 EVs. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through a federal stimulus grant of $114.8 million, made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The grants are matched by private investment, bringing the total value of the project to approximately $230 million.

About ECOtality, Inc.
ECOtality, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECTY), headquartered in San Francisco, California, is a leader in clean electric transportation and storage technologies. Through innovation, acquisitions, and strategic partnerships, ECOtality accelerates the market applicability of advanced electric technologies to replace carbon-based fuels. For more information about ECOtality, Inc., please visit www.ecotality.com.

Best Buy teams up with ECOtality to install EV charging stations at 12 stores -- Engadget

Posted by staff at 09:15 AM

September 23, 2010

Geos Communications Subsidiary, D Mobile, Inc., Partners with Gome, China's Leading Electronics Chain

Mobile content kiosks in China at their BestBuy equivalent.

Geos Communications Subsidiary, D Mobile, Inc., Partners with Gome, China's Leading Electronics Chain - MarketWatch


SOUTHLAKE, Texas, Sep 23, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Geos Communications(TM), Inc. (GCMI 0.09, 0.00, 0.00%) , a leading developer and distributor of mobile applications and services, today announced that its subsidiary D Mobile, Inc. ("Duo Guo") has signed a retail partnership agreement with Gome, a leading electronics retail chain in China. The terms of the agreement allow Duo Guo, China's leading mobile content retail provider, to initially launch kiosks within Gome's 50 plus Shanghai area stores.

Gome is one of China's largest electronics retail chains with over 1,000 stores in over 50 cities throughout the country. It is anticipated that based on the success of the initial launch in the region the partnership would be expanded to other cities in China.

Jonathan Serbin, President of Duo Guo, said, "We are very excited to enter this partnership with Gome. They are a leading electronics chain and mobile phone retailer in China, and this is an ideal platform for Duo Guo's interactive mobile content kiosks. We look forward to serving Gome's extensive customer base, helping them discover and download the most exciting mobile content and value-added services available for their devices."

"This is an exciting deal for Geos," said Andy Berman, CEO of Geos Communications. "We believed the acquisition of D Mobile earlier this year would lead to significant opportunities in China and the new relationship with Gome is evidence of this growth post merger."

Duo Guo is the primary and only legitimate retail channel for the discovery and download of licensed mobile media content in China by operating an innovative kiosk based distribution business. The kiosks enable mobile device users to discover and quickly download games, movies, music, ringtones and applications. The kiosk network also serves as a channel for a wide range of mobile downloadable services such as ticketing, coupon distribution and advertising. Duo Guo has established partnerships with major media content providers including Paramount Pictures, EA Mobile, Cartoon Network, Warner Music Group and others.

About Geos Communications, Inc.

Geos Communications, Inc. is a digital content distribution company creating solutions for the rapidly growing global, mobile community, leveraging a unique combination of transformational technology, intellectual property as well as strategic and pervasive distribution channels. For more information please go to www.geoscommunications.com

Duo Guo owns and operates China's leading retail distribution platform exclusively selling mobile content and services. Based in Shanghai, the Company has developed partnerships with China's largest retailers and leading global media companies to bring the best games, ringtones, software and other mobile services to China's 500 million mobile phone users in an exciting retail setting. The Company is privately held and operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of D Mobile, Inc. For more information please go to www.duoguo.cn.

Safe Harbor Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act

With the exception of the historical information contained in this release, the matters described herein contain forward-looking statements that involve risk and uncertainties that may individually or mutually impact the matters herein described, including, but not limited to, product acceptance, economic, competitive, governmental, results of litigation, technological and/or other factors which are outside the control of the company. Actual results and developments may differ materially from those contemplated by these statements depending on such factors as changes in general economic conditions and financial or equity markets, technological changes, and other business risk factors. Geos Communications, Inc. does not assume, and expressly disclaims, any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

SOURCE: Geos Communications, Inc.

Posted by staff at 09:58 AM

July 13, 2010

Reviews coming in for Wine Kiosks

Long process but not too many complaints. Advantage is consumers can shop one-stop at the grocery store (rather than second stop at liquor store).

Wine kiosks getting feedback - CBS 21 News - Breaking news, sports and weather for the Harrisburg Pennsylvania area

People CBS 21 News spoke with say it's a long process, but so far it doesn't look like there are too many complaints.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board says once you get the hang of it, the only part that may take you a while, is deciding which wine you want to pick.

After sliding in their I.D. and credit card in the machine, and blowing to check their alcohol level, people in are sailing through the kiosk and coming back.

The P.L.C.B. is speaking with manufacturers about bringing more wines and with grocery stores across the state to see where they will put more kiosks.

Posted by staff at 08:08 AM

June 24, 2010

What Were They Thinking? Wine Kiosks get a turned up nose

Nice article on Wine kiosks in Pennsylvania and Wegmans/Giant. Buying wine from a vending machine isn't the best experience (except in Tenderloin district maybe...).

Pennsylvania is known for having some of the tightest alcohol control laws in the United States. The distribution system is owned and operated by the state government, which issues licenses to retailers under a quota system. Retailers in the state have a number of hoops to jump through if they want alcohol on their shelves, including a restricted list of brands that they are allowed to carry.

In December, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (the agency that issues the licenses) announced it would test self-service wine-dispensing kiosks in a select number of grocery stores, and yesterday, the first two opened for business at Wegmans Food Market and GIANT Food.

Designed in roughly the same shape as a Zoom Shop but longer, the kiosk's touchscreen guides the shopper through the wine selection process and offers food pairing tips. On checkout, the user is asked to scan his driver's license and credit or debit card, then must breathe into a breathalyzer unit to check for intoxication. A live agent at the PLCB looks at the shopper through a two-way video connection to personally ensure that the buyer is the person on the driver's license. The shopper then walks to the appropriate door on the unit, where a single bottle of the chosen vino awaits, while the rest of the bottles in the machine remain behind security gates.

To say the wine enthusiast community's reaction has been negative would be an understatement.

At the blog The Wine Culture Project, the kiosk has been singled out at the "worst wine idea of the year." Writer John Kafarski laments what it will do to the wine-buying experience, turning the product into "nothing more than soda in a vending machine." Shoppers will not be able, for instance, to look at a bottle, hold it in their hands and read the labels before committing to the purchase.

Alder Yarrow of Vinography feels the same way, saying that locking the bottles away in a secure cabinet where people cannot touch them is a perfect way to reduce wine sales:

So if you had a bunch of grocery stores, and those grocery stores sold wine, but you didn't really want people to buy any wine, what would you do?

You might force people to peer through the front door of this cabinet to try to read the name of the wine they think they might want to buy, and force them to remember it until they walk down to the end of cabinet where they are forced to swipe their credit card in order to buy the bottle. That is, if they don't have to stand on line waiting to use the machine, which is, of course, the only way to buy a bottle of wine.

And then if you wanted to add insult to injury, you might make sure that people could ONLY pay by credit card, and give them a touch-screen kiosk, with a lousy user interface that forces them to browse through inscrutable categories of wine or many pages of search results to find the wine they're looking for. Then you'd provide them with really crappy information about each wine.

And finally, you'd install a breathalyzer and force everyone who wanted to buy a bottle to use the breathalyzer, and then to swipe their government issued ID just to make sure they weren't drunk AND under-age.

Think I'm joking? Welcome to Pennsylvania, and the bizarre alternate universe of the Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board. You want to buy wine in grocery stores, you're going to have to convince a passive aggressive computer to open the pod bay doors, first.

That last comment is a not-so-subtle reference to the fact that part of the machine bears an unsettling resemblance to HAL 9000, the murderous computer from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," something that commenters on the discussion site MetaFilter are having a lot of fun with ("Give me a Pinot Noir, HAL." "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.").


Rest of story -- Pennsylvania's new wine kiosks get panned | RetailCustomerExperience.com

Posted by staff at 01:46 PM

June 15, 2010

IBM Builds a Recipe Kiosk

MARKHAM, Ontario — IBM here has introduced a new kiosk that enables grocery retailers to provide shoppers with meal suggestions, in-store coupons and special offers they can print or download to smart phones to redeem at checkout.

Metro is the first grocery retailer to pilot the kiosks, which can be programmed and updated by cell phone. In total, 45 units were installed in 15 of Metro’s Toronto-area locations in April.

In the first month of the six-month pilot, shoppers viewed more than half a million pages, printed 35,000 recipes, researched more than 8,000 products and conducted more than 12,000 keyword searches for meal suggestions. The Metro stores reported an approximately 5% sales increase for those items featured on the unit.

IBM built the self-service kiosk unit, which includes an intelligent video display demonstrating preparation of a feature recipe and a touchscreen with access to more than 3,000 recipes as well as content on topics including meal-planning for diabetics or the glucose-intolerance, health tips and how-to tips on selecting, storing and preparing fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood.

IBM worked with Mediatile, St. Joseph’s Media and ShopToCook.com to develop the software and content that runs on the shopping assistant. Mediatile uses its cellular, WiFi-enabled technology to maintain and update the instructional content provided by St. Joseph’s Media and ShopToCook.com’s recipes.

“Vendors and retailers have invested significant resources into finding new ways to reach consumers in the grocery environment with a meaningful message and experience,” says Gillian Kerr, senior marketing director of Metro, in a statement. “The new kiosks are the first medium in which we can provide both the ‘Wow’ and ‘How’ factors for the time-pressed shopper.”

A recent IBM study of Canadian consumers revealed technology is giving shoppers a new source of power, driving an increasing need for retailers to engage them in new ways, with personalized offers and coupons. The study also revealed shoppers are becoming increasingly comfortable using different types of retail technologies. Thirty-one percent of respondents said they would use an in-store kiosk, with those 20 to 43 years old most likely to do so.

Metro Piloting IBM Recipe Kiosk

Posted by staff at 08:53 AM

June 14, 2010

Kohls to deploy to 1000 stores by Fall

Not sure if it qualifies as news when a company says they are going to deploy 1000 kiosks 6 months from now. Having some indication that a company plans on doing something at a later date is a mixed message at best these days.

by Judy Mottl * • 11 Jun 2010


Mega retailer/e-tailer Kohls is on target to deploy customer service kiosks to all its stores by this fall following successful testing and pilot kiosk programs held this year.

The kiosks will let store shoppers order any item not in stock and have it shipped to their home at no charge.

The goal is to boost the customer shopping experience, improve customer service and foster sales when consumers aren’t able to find a specific product, or product size or color, in a retail location.

"We are very focused on implementing technology to improve the customer experience and provide excellent customer service, including the rollout of our new in-store kiosks," said Vicki Shamion, VP of public and community relations for Kohls.

Store shoppers can from an expanded assortment of items not available in the store, she added.

"We have tested these kiosks and have been very pleased with the results in the pilot stores," Shamion said.

The in-store, self-service e-commerce kiosks will be deployed to more than 1,000 stores in 49 states. Each features a "call box" shoppers can use for customer support if there are glitches with the order or transaction.

As of the end of January, Kohls had 1,058 store operations and recorded $17.2 billion in sales in 2009 and currently employs 133,000 sales associates. In comparison, in 1992, there were just 79 stores run by the Wisconsin-based company.

The new kiosk effort is part of the company’s diverse multi-media broadcast, print, online and in store marketing and advertising effort. In 2009 Kohls spent $846 million for its promotional commerce efforts.

While Kohls declined to provide specific program goals or figures on consumer sales that are lost in retail locations due to a lack of inventory, one industry watcher says the kiosk program will prove valuable and should be applauded for its customer service effort.

"At a time when many retailers are licking their wounds from the economic downturn, it takes significant foresight and fortitude to launch a major technology initiative," writes David Weinfeld, principal of The Preset Group, a consulting partnership in the digital signage industry, in his blog Digital Signage Insights.

Weinfeld notes that Kohls is in the minority when it comes to retailers investing big capital in tech efforts where return-on-investment is not easy to predict or determine.

Rest of article

Posted by staff at 08:21 AM

April 07, 2010

Kohl's announces a new in-store kiosk initiative

Over the past year, Kohl's has tested in-store kiosks that provide customers an easy way to order an item that may be out-of-stock in size or color in that store. The customer also has the option to choose from an expanded assortment of items not available in store and the item is shipped free of charge.


source link

Kohl's announces a new in-store kiosk initiative, remodel plans at 85 stores and its new marketing program which has driven 900,000 Facebook fans.

Over the past year, Kohl's has tested in-store kiosks that provide customers an easy way to order an item that may be out-of-stock in size or color in that store. The customer also has the option to choose from an expanded assortment of items not available in store and the item is shipped free of charge.

"The test was very successful and we're rolling out our in-store kiosk initiative to all stores by the beginning of fall 2010," says Kevin Mansell, Chairman, President and CEO, Kohl's. "We expect these to be another major driver of market share."

Kohl's also announced plans to remodel 85 stores in the spring season, an increase from the previously planned 65 stores and the 51 remodels in 2009.

Mansell continues, "We continue to invest in our future, by improving our businesses, business processes through technology, investing opportunistically in new stores and accelerating and improving our remodel strategy.

The retailer plans to increase investments in e-commerce and store experience infrastructure elements such as the kiosks strategy.

"The efforts we put behind our marketing programs are resonating with our customers," says Mansell. "We see it in our research and from more than 900,000 Facebook fans. In addition to sharing their experiences with their friends and family, our Facebook fans communicate to us and to each other in real-time."

Mansell adds, "We continue to see high customer service scores as a result of merchandized content, inventory management and marketing initiatives as well as the efforts of our store teams to engage the customer and achieve the 7 percent improvement in our customer service scores in our stores over the last year."


Posted by staff at 09:08 AM

January 11, 2010

Hot Topic Implements NCR Netkey

Hot Topic release talks about 1500 kiosks & digital signs for listening to music, signing up loyalty program and checking their loyalty status. Release doesn't specify quantities of kiosks compared to digital signs. Digital signs play movie trailers and music videos that are associated with merchandise in store. Vendor here is "NCR Netkey".

Business Wire

Self-Service Kiosk and Digital Signage Applications Enhance Customer Choice, Help Retailer Drive Digital Strategy

DULUTH, Ga.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR) today announced that Hot Topic, Inc. (NASDAQ: HOTT), a mall and Web-based specialty retailer of apparel and accessories, has implemented NCR Netkey self-service kiosk and digital signage applications. The NCR Netkey solution is a core part of the retailer's digital strategy, including in-store self-service kiosks, e-commerce and Hot Topic's new HT+1 customer loyalty program, which was launched in Nov. 2009.

Approximately 1,500 NCR Netkey self-service kiosks and digital signs are now in use in Hot Topic's retail stores. Hot Topic's customers can use the self-service kiosks to conveniently listen to music, sign up for their HT+1 loyalty program and also check their loyalty status. The next phase of the rollout, slated for early 2010, will allow guests to shop for items on hottopic.com and have them shipped to the store or to their residence. It will also allow for the download and purchase of music. Digital signs are prominently placed in the front of the stores, primarily focused on cross-promotional merchandising. For example, Hot Topic can play movie trailers or music videos that are associated with its licensed merchandise.

The NCR Netkey enterprise software platform uses a proven scalable architecture that enables fast and flexible development of applications for kiosk and digital signage-based solutions. Self-service applications such as Endless Aisle, Guided Selling, Human Resources and Gift Registry help businesses increase sales, enhance the customer experience and improve communications with both consumers and employees.

"Consumers want more convenience and more options in their shopping experience," said Dusty Lutz, general manager, NCR Netkey. "By delivering a fully integrated self-service platform that unifies point-of-sale, e-commerce and customer loyalty, retailers can establish new revenue channels, reduce sales lost due to out-of-stock inventory, build affinity for their brands and keep customers engaged."


Hot Topic Implements NCR Netkey

Posted by staff at 07:12 AM

September 30, 2009

Self-service kiosks boom, saving time for shoppers and costs for stores

Great writeup on Dallas News complete with data on self-service kiosks. The writer emphasizes the deli and dining market as emerging (another way of saying disappointing so far...).

07:46 AM CDT on Monday, September 28, 2009

Source link on Dallas News

By MARIA HALKIAS / The Dallas Morning News
mhalkias@dallasnews.com / The Dallas Morning News
Bryon Wiebold does self-checkout at the supermarket, self-check-in at the airport and self-banking at ATMs.

And last year, when the 43-year-old McKinney resident discovered self-service DVD rentals for $1 at Redbox kiosks, he was all over that, too.

Also Online
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Review: With Best Buy kiosk, trade-ins a breeze

"Anything I can automate, I do for the sake of time," Wiebold said. "It's not that I want people totally eliminated, but I appreciate the option if I'm in a hurry or in a bad mood."

Do-it-yourself customer service continues to creep into everyday life via kiosks, smart-phone applications and the Internet. Consumers are using touch-screens everywhere from supermarket delis to hospital check-in stations. There are even machines that give vision exams and scan feet to produce custom insoles.

Kiosk transactions are expected to surpass $775 billion this year, up from $607 billion in 2008, according to IHL Group, which tracks the self-service industry. The total could hit $1.6 trillion by 2013.

It's not surprising that kiosks are rapidly taking hold in the movie rental business. Six years after the first Redbox test in Denver in 2004, kiosks could account for nearly 30 percent of the U.S. market in 2010, according to NPD Group. Dallas-based Blockbuster Inc. said this month that it would close as many as 960 unprofitable stores by the end of next year and install 10,000 kiosks in their place.

The tipping point for kiosks came in 2001, when Kroger and Home Depot installed self-checkouts, said Lee Holman, lead retail analyst for IHL Group. "After some hand-holding, consumers have embraced it. Now there's a perception ... that 'I can do this quicker.' "

In a 2008 IHL survey, almost 90 percent of consumers said they used self-checkout "even if they don't like it," Holman said.

But it took a long time for Americans to make the leap, starting with ATMs and paying at the pump in the 1980s.

Airports were next. Today, 77 percent of Southwest Airlines passengers obtain their boarding passes online – 13 percent via airport kiosks and 64 percent from southwest.com as they turn their own computers into kiosks.

Hertz first put a kiosk, fluent in several languages, at Orlando International Airport in 2007, and now about 80 percent of the car rental firm's transactions there take place at kiosks. More and more, consumers are coming to prefer self-service, say retail anthropologists.

"People want control, and self-service gives it to them," said Marcia Crossland, who uses her doctorate in engineering psychology to tell kiosk maker NCR Corp. whether people will use a technology.

Kroger has installed 10 kiosks at Dallas-area deli counters. Consumers use a touch-screen to select the product, thickness and quantity, then keep shopping until they're ready to pick up their items. On average, about 400 people per store use the service each week, said Gary Huddleston, a Kroger spokesman.

"It's awesome," said Mary Skyrde, 40, of Irving, a busy mother of three.

For stores, the self-checkouts cut costs, with one associate able to monitor up to six scanning counters, Huddleston said.

To be sure, self-service options are adding to the millions of jobs already lost to automation. The average Blockbuster store has 10 employees, so the mass closures will have an impact, even if the company shifts some workers to other locations.

More broadly, U.S. statisticians forecast that ticket agent employment will rise only 1 percent from 2006 to 2016, even as a growing population travels more. And they expect the number of cashiers to decline 3 percent over the same period as online shopping and self-checkouts increase.

'Human judgment'
United Food and Commercial Workers spokeswoman Jill Cashen said the effect on cashier jobs is gradual.

"As cashiers retire, their positions aren't being filled," she said.

"We believe human judgment can't always be replaced," she said, citing scrutiny over whether minors are using self-checkouts to buy alcohol.

Before companies can benefit from self-service, consumers must accept it. Women tend to lead the way, said Paco Underhill, shopping behavior expert and chief executive of the research firm Envirosell Inc.

"The ATM was embraced by the pink-collar woman as a way to save time over the lunch hour," he said. "Putting a kiosk holding basically the new-release wall of a Blockbuster in the front of the supermarket saves time and money."

Dining next?
Dining self-service counters and tables could be the next frontier.

It's a rare family whose members all want to order from the same vendor at a food court, so NCR is pushing touch-screen tables that let each person order from a different eatery. The family then picks up all the food and pays in one transaction at one place in the food court.

Efficiency aside, some will always prefer people to kiosks, Underhill said. "That face-to-face interaction is a way that many deal with loneliness. Getting a newspaper from a vending machine may not be as satisfying as buying it somewhere that you can say hello."

Some of the new restaurant technology will reduce, but not eliminate, human contact.

Dallas-based TableTop Media is testing a "Ziosk," an on-table device that allows casual-dining patrons to read the news, order dessert and pay with a credit or debit card.

"We're trying to support the server," said Jack Baum, chief executive. "One of the most frustrating things to people is when they want to pay" and the server isn't around.

Almost 900 self-service kiosks selling everything from iPods to skin care products to language instruction software have popped up in airports and malls since 2005.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has 15 ZoomSystems Inc. kiosks, with more coming as the San Francisco company adds categories and brands.

ZoomSystems founder and chief executive Gower Smith said kiosk sales have grown even as airport and mall foot traffic have fallen by up to 25 percent.

Mini-electronics stores
Macy's Inc. uses ZoomSystems' kiosks in about 400 stores to sell electronics, including PlayStation Portable gaming consoles and Sony eBooks. Branded as eSpots, the kiosks put the chain in the electronics business in 28 square feet per store, said Roger Zuberbier, corporate merchant over the kiosk business. Kiosk transactions have risen as overall sales have declined.

But Smith admits that not all merchandise is right for kiosks.

And Underhill, the shopping behavior expert, agrees."It can't just be technology in search of a customer," he said. "Saying, 'We can do this, and isn't it cool?' alone won't work. It's not ready if it doesn't result in money or timesaving."

Staff writer Karen Robinson-Jacobs contributed to this report.

SELF-SERVICE NATION
THINGS YOU CAN DO AT KIOSKS

•Check in for a mammogram at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco or Lake Pointe Medical Center in Rowlett.

•Weigh a letter or package and buy postage at the post office.

•Call home or play a video game after a day of soldiering in Iraq and Afghanistan.

•Turn a piggy bank's contents into a gift card at a Coinstar machine.

•Get a free vision exam and eye-care referral at one of SoloHealth's EyeSites.

•Buy movie, ski lift, museum, train and bus tickets.

•Apply for a job at Walmart or Target.

•Print documents at Staples.

•Browse additional, off-premises inventory at some J.C. Penney stores.

•Research and buy a camera at a Macy's eSpot.

•Pay utility bills at 7-Eleven.

•Rent a car from Hertz.

•Reload prepaid phone cards.

•Flash a prescreened passport after entering the country at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

•Buy and load a game card at Dave & Buster's.

•Get directions and a directory at a mall or office building.

•Check out at a grocery store.

•Rent DVDs.

•Get cash or deposit a check at an ATM.

•Pay at the pump for gas.

MORE USES ON THE WAY

•Best Buy and Walmart are testing kiosks that will buy used video games.

•Blockbuster plans kiosks that will rent video games and DVDs.

•Sam's Club is testing a kiosk that scans feet and either produces or orders custom insoles.

•Google and OnDemandBooks are teaming up on paperback printing/vending machines.

GOT ANOTHER BIG IDEA?

Coinstar Inc. is holding "The Next Big Idea Contest" to find other promising uses for kiosks. The deadline to enter is Oct. 8, and the prize is $10,000. For more information, visit www.coinstar.com/ideas.

SOURCES: NCR Corp.; IHL Group; Conifer Revenue Cycle Solutions; Dallas Morning News research

Posted by staff at 07:46 AM

July 10, 2009

Wal-Mart,Video Games, Kiosks and Data...

carnival-110.jpgArticle by Evan Schuman on Retail Realities: How Data from a Wal-Mart Test May Wind Up Determining How Consumer Information Gets Used

Trusting Wal-Mart to do the Right Thing

(CBS) This column was written by Evan Schuman, the editor of StorefrontBacktalk.com, a site that tracks retail technology, e-commerce and security issues. Retail Realities will appear each Friday. Evan can be reached by e-mail and on Twitter.

Wal-Mart recently became the latest major retailer to experiment with self-service kiosks, selling space in 77 stores for units that buy back used video games and issue credits directly to various payment cards. But Wal-Mart isn't playing games with this trial, which has a huge potential to change how consumer information is used, how widely available consumer's private credit card data will become in addition to a host of other legal implications threatening both retailers and consumers.

The potential for a dramatic impact is based on two things. First, as the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart's moves are always watched-- and almost always copied-by many other major retail chains. (Heck, if $375 billion in annual sales can't buy a little influence, what good is it?) On that basis alone, if Wal-Mart likes the results of this trial, you could see similar kiosks in Wal-Mart times 1,000 by next year.

The second issue is based on where Wal-Mart takes this first trial. Initially, they are rolling it out in a very limited fashion, with the kiosks having no access to the rest of Wal-Mart. If it stays that way, the impact will be minimal, beyond having a line-avoiding way to get rid of old video games. But Wal-Mart has said that it's considering allowing these machines to issue in-store gift cards. To make that happen will require Wal-Mart opening its network much more and that's where things could get dicey.

There are quite a few technical and legal issues prompted by the Wal-Mart kiosk trial that primarily impact retailers. But the key consumer issues involve perception. If two consumers walk into a Wal-Mart and see a kiosk inside that store and the kiosk has the same logo colors that Wal-Mart does, would those consumers believe that the kiosk is owned by Wal-Mart? Put more bluntly, if anything goes wrong with that transaction, ranging from monies not paid to cyber-thieves breaking in and stealing that consumer's credit card and driver's license, will they blame Wal-Mart? Should they?

In the Wal-Mart trial, the retailer is stressing that they will not own the kiosks and that, therefore, all of the liability for any problems should be borne by the vendor that does own those kiosks. Although that is a legally sound position, how will consumers feel? If they feel wronged, will they punish the retailer by shopping elsewhere? Will the nuance that the kiosk is owned by a Wal-Mart supplier be meaningful to them?

The "who owns the kiosk" issue is actually an issue of trust. Consumers tend to shop at particular retailers because they have developed some trust in that chain. They trust that the retailer will make sure that the food isn't poisoned, that the pricing on the shelf is what they'll be charged and that the store will later stand behind that purchase. That trust is crucial when it comes to payment. Many consumers will (wisely) refuse to give their credit card number and related data to a site that they've never heard of, especially if they think that it looks suspicious.

Read rest of article

Posted by staff at 07:55 AM

March 30, 2009

Thinking of Going Blond? Consult the Kiosk First

novelties_120.jpgMore "wouldn't this be cool" factor from Intel being proposed. And those stodgy ones dispensing train tickets? Those are completely ADA and they are real-life. The intel kiosk is a rendering here and it unfortunately is a what-if that will never make it to the playing field. Maybe they can couple it with one of the MS Surface we heard so much about last year...

SALES clerks still ask customers, “May I help you?” on the floors of many department stores, but some shoppers may soon choose to be served instead by a computer kiosk with clever software.

The new kiosks aren’t the stodgy kind that have long dispensed boarding passes, train tickets and family snapshots. Instead, they have sleek lines and large touch screens — as well as software that, depending on the application, can recognize customers, know what they’ve bought in the past, point out bargains and even let them try out virtual clothing, hair colors and cosmetics onscreen.

Many of these kiosks will serve as automated checkout counters, but will offer much more personalized information than those now in use. Others, like those for cosmetics departments, will let customers create the looks they want.

Intel has built three prototypes of kiosks that may find a place on the floors of department stores. But customers who walk up to them won’t see the usual sales counter with its bar-code reader, cash drawer and credit-card pad — and they won’t necessarily see a sales associate.

novelties_600.jpg

Instead, they will find a tall screen at eye level and another screen embedded in the counter. When they flash a card — perhaps one similar to those now offered by many drugstores and grocery chains — the kiosk recognizes them. “Greetings, Mr. Smith,” it might say, before presenting the latest specials and promotions for products, including ones that might go well with what Mr. Smith is already buying.

(Some kiosks may also have an additional screen for sales associates to assist customers.)

Scan in a blazer by passing its price tag across a screen, and it may then recommend several styles of pants and shirts to go with it, along with prices and possible discounts.

The kiosks can give customers a depth of detail — whether product specifications or customer reviews — comparable to what they can find in shopping on the Internet, said Joe Jensen, general manager of the embedded-computing division of Intel in Chandler, Ariz.

“The prototypes are a vehicle for showing the direction we see retailers needing to move,” he said, as brick-and-mortar stores lose ground to Web sites.

Jeff Roster, a research vice president at Gartner, the market research firm, said the self-service kiosks would eventually become ubiquitous in retailing.

“Our studies show that what shoppers want is information without a hassle,” Mr. Roster said, information that kiosks can provide if retailers build appropriate software applications. The software can also handle what retailers call up-selling and cross-selling — making recommendations for other products that customers might consider.

“Then you don’t have to have a highly trained sales staff available 24/7,” he said. “And you can scale the application across hundreds of stores. It’s an almost perfect technology, and it’s hitting at the right time in retail.”

The Intel system, modular and customizable, was created by Frog Design, a firm in San Francisco.

In devising the prototypes, “we looked at standard checkout counters,” said Mark Rolston, chief creative officer. “The standard cash register takes the money well, but it doesn’t help with the selling process,” for example, suggesting accessories and pointing out what’s on sale, he said. “On the Internet, people get tons of guidance and information. We wanted to bring that volume of information inside the store, too.”

The kiosks have an uncluttered look. “We wanted to hide necessities like the cash drawer and the printer,” he said. “All of that is integrated into the form.”

Customers can pay with cash or plastic. In the future, they’ll even be able to pay with cellphones that can be waved, recognized and billed by the computer, Mr. Rolston said.

Within the prototypes are the same chips that Intel uses for power management technology in laptop computers. A screen becomes active only when customers step near; it goes to sleep within a second of their leaving, said Mr. Jensen at Intel, so power use is reduced.

A number of manufacturers are building kiosks inspired by the prototypes, Mr. Jensen said. Intel does not plan to make the kiosks itself.

Mr. Roster of Gartner predicted that kiosks with varying shapes and applications would soon be found throughout the retail industry, including department stores.

ONE new application, the Virtual Mirror kiosk, was created by I.B.M. and its business partner EZface, to let customers experiment virtually with beauty aides like new cosmetics or hair coloring. The kiosk has a camera to capture the shopper’s image and a scanner to record the product the shopper wants to try.

Consumers can walk up to the kiosk, swipe a barcode for a foundation cream, and see how it looks on the onscreen image of their faces. Norma Wolcott, manager of I.B.M.’s retail self-service business in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said the kiosks would be tried out in stores within 60 days.

Microsoft is working on kiosks too, said Tim Gruver, director of technology and strategy for Microsoft worldwide distribution and services. Customers are building prototypes, he said, including one for a 103-inch wall screen that will run with Microsoft’s coming Windows 7. Users will be able to manipulate images on the screen — to expand a display of electronics or clothing, for instance — the way people now do with images on iPhones.

“These kiosks won’t be dull ones,” he said. “We like to think of them as a different sort of self-service experience.”

E-mail: novelties@nytimes.com.

Posted by staff at 06:09 AM

March 09, 2009

Electronic kiosk creates customized insoles

Kiosks for shoes just never end. Not sure but it seems there is a new one every year. This time the eSoles system uses an air pillow that inflates around the foot allowing a precise 3D scan to be done. A week later you receive your perfectly dimensioned insole. Former teammate of Lance Armstrong.

Cycle Loft has system for custom sneaker inserts
By Donna Goodison | Monday, March 9, 2009 | http://www.bostonherald.com | Business & Markets

Photo by Nancy Lane
Burlington’s Cycle Loft is now offering new 3-D scanning technology to help cyclists and other athletes improve their performance and comfort with customized insoles for their shoes.

The retailer is the first in the nation to offer eSoles’ 3D TruCapture Kiosk Scanning System. The interactive system digitally analyzes customers’ feet so they can buy semi-custom insoles immediately constructed in the store or order fully custom ones from the manufacturer.

bike_foot_03092009.jpg

The eSoles system was developed by Glen Hinshaw, a former teammate of cyclist Lance Armstrong, and podiatrist Bill Peterson. The self-service kiosk, which looks like a mini stair climber, includes a touch-screen computer monitor, a pressure mat, an air pillow that inflates around the foot, and a digital scanner and printer.

Using data from more than 50,000 foot scans and information about the customer’s planned use of the insoles, the kiosk spits out a ticket with data that allows the Cycle Loft to produce the eFit semi-custom insoles using modular insole base, arch unit and metatarsal pad components in stock. The fully customized ePro insoles can be ordered and received within a week.

“The reason why I was interested in the system was because during my career, as it were, in cycling, I was always looking for the best foot bed because I have some pretty strange feet,” Cycle Loft owner Jeff Palter said. “The more support inside the cycling shoe, the more comfortable they are and the better the pedaling motion, power transfer, etc. Every foot bed I used in the past was a disappointment.”

Palter learned about eSoles’ scanning technology at a 2007 cycling trade show in Las Vegas and has been using the Arizona company’s ePro insole since then.

View image

EPros are worn by several hundred professional athletes, including Arizona Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, and over 20 Olympic athletes who competed in last summer’s games in Beijing, according to the company.

Editor note: pretty this sure the enclosure design is from Olea





Posted by staff at 06:23 AM

January 13, 2009

Intel designs new kiosk concept for consumers

intel-100.jpgToday, Intel announced new hardware designs for retailers. The multi-touch screen-based kiosks allow consumers to get information about products, shop around and ultimately purchase items directly from the self-service terminal.

It is designed to reduce the retailer cost of maintaining a store front. Users will see glitzy animations and details, while the bulk of inventory remains in the back without fancy storefronts. While not quite as extreme as Minority Report, it's a definite step in that same direction.

Revealed at the National Retail Federation Convention (NRF), Intel calls it a proof-of-concept point-of-sale demo, part of their Wipro effort. It employs a 45nm Core 2 Duo processor with Intel's vPro and Active Management technologies, an interesting stylish design incorporating either a single multi-touch-screen on one side, or a dual multi-touch-screen on the other. It is designed for consumers to use for shopping and checking out. Because of the Core 2 Duo design, Intel claims it uses up to 70% less power than other point-of-sale terminals.

The software presents something similar to an online website. It has suggestive selling abilities and real-time inventory access for the store. It can be used to show promotions, product details and customer reviews.
intel-400.jpg

Intel's use of vPro technology allows system administrators to manage these kiosks remotely for common tasks, such as turning them on or off during store hours. Also, vPro allows remote system access - even in the event of a total system crash - so that administrators can reset the PC, boot from an alternate source, correct the problem and then restart the machine for continued use.

Because Intel's vPro technology utilizes out-of-band communications, it was the subject of a previous TG Daily article entitled Big Brother potentially exists right now inside our PCs whereby TG Daily examined the possibility of vPro technology being used for non-IT-related purposes.


Slideshow

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Posted by staff at 06:49 AM

December 19, 2008

Retail Kiosks - tracking customer interaction

New to self-service terminals -- normally reserved for web traffic tracking and pathing we now have Webtrends developing solutions for in-store kiosks to try and analyze and predict customer interactions.

LONDON, Dec 18, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Web optimization specialist WebTrends is today announcing a partnership with HMV to deliver insight and track user interaction with the retail giant's in-store transactional and information-point kiosks. The kiosks, launched Nov. 19, bring the rich content and information of the online entertainment experience into HMV stores.

The kiosks, which are a key element in HMV's next- generation store format, will serve as docking stations for customers to download music onto USB keys and flash drives. Customers also can view trailers for films and games, access product information and check in-store product availability.

"This is an exciting project and represents a blurring of the lines between the online and offline shopping experiences," said Nick Sharp, vice president and general manager of WebTrends EMEA. "We are working closely with HMV to inform development decisions by providing key insight into customer interactions with the kiosks -- from the products users search for most frequently to the primary drivers behind kiosk use."

HMV is conducting trials of transactional, information-only and combined kiosks at five UK stores. WebTrends will be reporting on the kiosks throughout Christmas before the rollout is continued in the New Year.

"Bringing the kind of rich content and information that would previously only have been available online into our stores is a key step forward in successfully adapting the offline shopping experience to modern consumer behavior," says David Elston, ecommerce manager for HMV. "However, having brought the online environment into stores, it was crucial to understand how people interacted with the kiosks, and web analytics plays a pivotal role in that process. When you're working with the web site it's much easier to see what's going on, but to have the same level of insight for the kiosks it would literally be a case of watching over people's shoulders."

HMV worked closely with manufacturer Neo Products on the kiosks.

Posted by staff at 07:38 AM

May 15, 2008

Kiosk Case Study - marketing firm uses kiosks to qualify customers

Nice video from triauto enterprises showing how they use kiosks in automotive retail setting to qualify leads for dealership. [video]

Click here for video

Knowing the number of ups you generate from your marketing is essential. Gaining qualified leads with post-sale contact information can help you sell more vehicles AFTER your sales event. Tri-Auto provides both baseline and cutting edge marketing tools to help you track results.

More Information

A Marketvision™ sale provides:

1. Professionalism: Kiosk brings an air of sophistication that just a prize banner cannot.

2. Bonding and Rapport: Controls the customer traffic better than a prize banner. No more just grabbing a gift and running out!

3. Closing Tool: Call-to-action voucher turns more "gift grabbers" into buyers.

4. Automatic Customer Follow Up: Our data collection creates the ability for post-sale follow up to your customers that came in during the sale but did not purchase. Sell a few more cars from the follow up letters included in Marketvision™!

5. End of Sale Reports: For analysis to improve the marketing and sales performance of future sales:
* Salesperson Tracker
* Promotion Analysis
* Close the Sale Report
* Customer Name/Address/Phone Report
* Target Customer Map and Zip Code Ranking Report

Toll-Free Call Tracking

Know exactly where your prospects are calling from. Our toll-free tracking numbers allow you to:

* Understand when people first start calling, so your team can be ready.
* Know how many people called, providing you a start on the success of your sale.
* View the zip codes the prospects are calling from, so you can target those areas in the future.
* Have the phone number they called from to make follow up calls.
* Record every call to uncover training opportunities for specific salespeople.

Internet Lead Generator

Collect hot leads for immediate follow-up.

* Buyers often prefer to submit their credit information to a third party from the privacy of their own home.
* Approximately 83% of people who visit one of our credit websites complete an application.
* Hot leads with complete credit applications are sent directly to you through websites maintained by Tri-Auto.

Posted by staff at 10:10 AM

May 05, 2008

Fujitsu to Strengthen Self-Service Solutions

Fujitsu Transaction Solutions Inc. today announced that it has formed a self-service organization to develop and market comprehensive self-service solutions and services to the retail industry, among others.

Fujitsu to Strengthen Self-Service Solutions

Peter Wolf, previously the company's vice president of marketing, has been appointed vice president of self-service strategy, and will lead the overall strategic direction of the group. Wolf joined Fujitsu in 2006 with a strong background in customer-centric retail technology strategy and solution development.

Fujitsu's Pervasive Retailing(TM) Framework has led the industry in facilitating customer interactions through application interoperability, seamless integration and relentless cost reduction. This unit will build on that framework to deliver end-to-end, self-service solutions by creating and combining several hardware, software and services offerings, including the use of self-checkout systems, self-service kiosks, mobile computing and more. Its goal is to develop an interoperable retailing environment with other store and enterprise systems, thus empowering retailers, store associates and customers.

"Fujitsu has always had a strong reputation as a self-checkout and self-service hardware provider, and we want to expand upon that success by combining all of our self-service solutions under a single banner," said Ed Soladay, chief operating officer at Fujitsu Transaction Solutions. "We want to develop and provide a total self-service solution for retailers in multiple segments, and we believe Fujitsu has a strategic advantage to achieve that goal."

Bruce Kopp, previously vice president of sales and client management, also will assume responsibility for the marketing function as senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Kopp joined Fujitsu in 2006, and has more than 23 years of management and sales experience in the retail industry. Kopp was an executive of IBM's Retail Strategy team prior to joining Fujitsu.
Advertisement

About Fujitsu Transaction Solutions

Fujitsu Transaction Solutions Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu Limited (TSE: 6702), collaborates with retailing companies to relentlessly reduce their costs and facilitate consumer interactions that improve their profitability. Fujitsu's Pervasive Retailing(TM) approach enables companies to minimize the time; cost and risk of creating interoperability between disparate applications and devices that support a multitude of consumer touch points. Fujitsu's offering includes solution software, point-of-sale store technology, U-Scan(R) self-checkout systems, U-Serv(R) self-ordering systems and multi-vendor lifecycle services. Customers include Canadian Tire, Chevron Corporation, Hallmark, H-E-B, Kroger, Loblaws, Nordstrom, Payless ShoeSource, Regal Cinema, Staples, Stop & Shop and The TJX Companies, among others. Web site: us.fujitsu.com/retailing.

Posted by staff at 07:44 AM

February 14, 2008

Retail - Borders Unveils New Concept Store

Borders announces new concept store open in Michigan which includes new "Digital Center". You can download and/or listen to music (Mix&Burn), research your genealogy, personal publishing (that's new...) and also photo printing. Release includes pictures and video.


BORDERS UNVEILS FIRST CONCEPT STORE - With Video


BORDERS UNVEILS FIRST CONCEPT STORE
Breakthrough retail concept incorporates digital and Internet features to create a uniquely satisfying and interactive customer experience

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 14, 2008 / PRNewswire / – After more than 18 months of development and testing, Borders will unveil the first of its highly anticipated new concept stores when grand opening festivities kick off Feb. 22 at its new store on Lohr Rd. in Ann Arbor, Mich., the company's hometown. The 28,900-square-foot concept store—the first of 14 the company expects to open nationwide this year—represents a significant enhancement over existing Borders stores inside and out and fulfills the company's mission to be a headquarters for knowledge and entertainment.

"This is a completely new shopping experience that sets Borders apart from every other store," said Borders Group Chief Executive Officer George Jones. "We've stayed true to what our customers have always loved about Borders—deep and intelligent selection, knowledgeable staff, and a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. Yet, we've brought a fresh new look and an exciting interactive dimension to the store with a Digital Center where customers can do everything from mix and make their own custom CDs, download books and music, publish their own books, explore their family history, and create photo books—all without being computer experts because we have trained people there to help every step of the way," he said.

"In addition, we've put a strong focus on popular categories—including Travel, Cooking, Wellness, Graphic Novels and Children's—by incorporating digital options and the online world, making these sections of the store interactive destinations where customers can not only shop our vast selection of books, but also take advantage of computer kiosks featuring recommendations from our expert buyers, related video content including interviews with experts and authors, and much more. In addition, in select destinations, there are large in-section LCD screens broadcasting a depth of content featuring some highly recognizable names in these subject areas, as well as Borders' own exclusive programs," Jones continued.

"Overall, this new concept store is a key part of our long-term strategic plan. We set out to differentiate Borders and give customers a reason to choose us over other retailers and we've achieved that goal spectacularly with this new concept store. And, once we've launched the new Borders.com, we'll be able to truly deliver on our cross-channel retail strategy including the option for customers to access the site in our stores to view wish lists and conveniently order from millions of titles for delivery to their homes within two days. I'm proud of what we've created and am confident that customers will really embrace it."
Modern Architecture

Beginning with the exterior of the concept store, shoppers will see that this new Borders is a bit bolder with a modern fascia featuring enormous windows, a large illuminated and underlined red Borders logo, and a louvered construction that evokes images of the pages of a book. There is a cafe with an adjoining outdoor seating area for warm weather and dramatic up-lighting and exterior fixtures that make the store stand out against the evening sky, providing a welcoming glow.
Fresh New Interior

Once inside, customers will immediately recognize that a new and exciting experience awaits them. Curved feature tables highlight the latest book titles front and center and a special illuminated stand spotlights noteworthy items that customers simply cannot miss. A large round rotunda with three skylights fills the space with light, and the warm, neutral color scheme, cozy seating, and walnut- and ash-stained fixtures suggest comfort and an invitation for shoppers to stay as long as they like. Throughout the store, there are large, illuminated drums suspended from the ceiling that feature dazzling graphics and guide customers to destinations within the store. Overall, the layout remains conducive to exploration while also being extremely intuitive for customers to navigate with ease.
Digital Center

Dramatically distinctive against the neutral backdrop of the store is a new Digital Center marked by a three-dimensional, 15-foot illuminated fixture and sign package. Within the Digital Center there are multiple computer kiosks and stations dedicated to unique new services including music and book downloading as well as mixing and making custom CDs through "Borders Digital Music," which features millions of titles to choose from.

Customers interested in tracing their roots can access "Borders Genealogy Services" provided by Ancestry.com, and because many Borders customers are authors looking to publish their own work, the Digital Center also includes "Borders Personal Publishing" powered by Lulu.com. Some customer-written books may eventually be sold in Borders stores and select customer authors could even host in-store signings. Photos are important to many Borders customers who can use "Borders Custom Photo Books" for special projects featuring family and friends, and they can print their photos in the store via "Borders Digital Photo Printing."

Throughout the Digital Center, there are seats at the various computer stations where customers are encouraged to sit and take their time working on their projects. Importantly, Borders knows that not all customers are computer experts, so the company is staffing the Digital Center with trained, dedicated personnel ready to guide customers of any technical level through the process to achieve their project goals.

In addition to the Digital Center, Borders has retained its popular computer information stations—"Borders Search"—to help customers locate titles within the store and outside of the store and learn about in-store events, among other services. As in existing Borders stores, these stations are located throughout the concept store allowing customers to help themselves.
Destinations: Travel, Cooking, Wellness, Graphic Novels and Children's

Certain categories within the new Borders concept store—Travel, Cooking, Wellness, Graphic Novels and Children's—are so popular and rapidly growing that Borders has designated them as special destinations within the new concept store—giving these categories their own "shop within a shop" look and feel. For example, in the Travel Destination, customers can not only choose from more than 3,200 book titles, but will also find related items such as maps, GPS navigation systems, the Reader Digital Book from Sony®, and portable DVD players that customers can use on their travels. Within the section, there is an interactive computer kiosk where customers can research, plan, and even book a trip in the store. On the kiosk, there is a "Borders Featured Destination" highlighting various U.S. and international locations and customers can use the feature to learn everything about the locale they plan to visit, including Frommer's favorite experiences and upcoming events. For featured destinations, Borders also makes available on the kiosk an article written by travel expert Pauline Frommer who offers additional advice and tips for planning a trip to the destination.

In addition, the kiosk within the Travel Destination also features a "Borders Trip Recommender," teamed with Whatsonwhen and Frommer's, to provide customers with a list of suggested travel destinations based on preferences and criteria set by the shopper using a brief questionnaire regarding the type of trip desired and other parameters. The "Borders Trip Recommender" suggests potential destinations, and by clicking on recommended locations, customers will access related book, DVD and other resources selected by Borders' expert buyers to enrich the travel experience. Using the "Search and Book" feature on the kiosk from Sidestep.com, recently acquired by Kayak.com, customers can even book an entire trip online from the in-store kiosk. Within the Travel Destination, the new concept store also offers customers travel programming on a large LCD screen that features a mix of travel tips, guided visual tours, author interviews, and nature programming from locations around the world.

Similar deep selection and various interactive opportunities are available in the Cooking and Wellness Destinations, where customers can watch topical programming on the large in-section LCD screens and use the computer kiosks to learn about recommended titles and receive advice from the experts. In the Graphic Novels Destination, there is an amazing selection of titles as well as related gift items and even software that customers can purchase to create their own comic books.

In Children's—the largest destination with over 9,000 book titles as well as music CDs, DVDs, toys, games and puzzles—kids and their families will be impressed that Borders has divided the section into sub-categories including infants/toddlers/preschoolers, beginning readers (age 4-8), and early readers (age 7-9), which cater specifically to the very different interests and developmental levels of those age groups. In addition, in the new concept store, Borders has relocated the independent reader (age 10-12) section from Children's and given it its own separate area to appeal to older children.

Visually, children and adults will be captivated by a massive mural that spans three walls above the book shelves in the Children's section. Created exclusively for Borders by Australian author and illustrator Colin Thompson, the mural features incredibly intricate and colorful images of castles, underground cities, and flying books, among other images. Two large cut-out hot air balloons are suspended from the ceiling in the Children's section, adding to the special experience offered to Borders' youngest visitors.

"Overall, customers need to know that there is something you offer as a retailer that they cannot find anywhere else," Jones said. "That's just what we are doing with these unique destinations within our concept store. We are putting a stake in the ground when it comes to these categories by making the assortment and the experience so interactive and compelling, that customers will bypass competitors to come to us to shop within these key categories as well as the rest of the store."
LongPen

The new Borders concept store in Ann Arbor is the first retail location in the nation to feature a revolutionary new technology called LongPen™. LongPen makes it possible for Borders to host book discussions and signings with authors, as well as music events and appearances by celebrities who are not physically present in the store. Video conferencing allows the authors and performers to connect personally with their in-store fans; seeing and speaking with each other in real time as they would in person. Yet, amazingly, LongPen also allows the authors and performers—who may be at home or at another location—to personalize and autograph their books, CDs and DVDs with an authentic signature for customers in the store. It is made possible using an electronic signing implement used by the authors and performers that sends an Internet signal to another signing implement in the Borders store to precisely duplicate what the author or performer is writing. Piloted initially only in Ann Arbor for potential rollout in other locations, LongPen will allow Borders to greatly expand its event offering and help unite fans with their favorite authors and performers even when they are not there in person.
Community

All Borders stores nationwide—with a multitude of free in-store events as well as outreach and sponsorship efforts—are a vital part of the communities they serve. At the concept store in Ann Arbor, Borders has included a specific community space with a unique "pull-down" stage to accommodate everything from local book discussion groups and music performances to national author signings and children's events.

"Borders embraces our role as a vital, contributing member of the community that reaches out to connect people with each other and with the things they are passionate about," Jones said. "Our concept store design takes this community commitment even further by providing so many interesting ways for our customers to explore their individual interests and also interact with each other. It's what we've been known for all along, but now we've advanced the idea and truly created something unique that we believe will ultimately redefine our business," he concluded.
About Borders, Inc.

Borders is a subsidiary of Borders Group, Inc., (NYSE: BGP) a $4.1 billion global retailer of books, music, movies, periodicals and gift and stationery items with over 30,000 employees and more than 1,100 stores worldwide primarily operating under the Border® and Waldenbooks® brand names. For more information, visit www.bordersgroupinc.com.

Posted by staff at 08:22 AM

January 10, 2008

People in Retail - JCPenney person to head shop.org

JCPenney new business development VP Richard Last has been tapped to be the chairman of shop.org, the digital arm of the National Retail Federation, the trade group said Wednesday.


Penney VP to head online shopping trade group - Dallas Business Journal:


JCPenney new business development VP Richard Last has been tapped to be the chairman of shop.org, the digital arm of the National Retail Federation, the trade group said Wednesday.

Last, who oversees jcp.com, is part of a new executive committed for the group. He replaces Elaine Rubin, president of Ekrubin Inc., who had been chairwoman for the past eight years.

Jupiter Research retail analyst Patti Freeman Evans is shop.org's new vice chairwoman.

Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, is the world's leading membership community for digital retail. It was founded in 1996 and counts the country's 10 largest retailers as members, and more than 60 percent of the top 100 online retailers as members.

Posted by staff at 02:10 PM

December 21, 2007

New Marketing Tactics in Traditional Retail

Story today on WSJ --- Customer Testimonials: It is one of a number of strategies that retailers are borrowing from the Internet these days. For example, alternative payment services such as eBay Inc.'s PayPal and Bill Me Later Inc. have now become available in the physical world as cards that can be swiped at checkout or a line of credit that can be tapped at store kiosks. More stores also feature kiosks that promise Web-like comparison-shopping technology, online gift registries, and product "configurators," or software for manufacturers that want to customize products. LINK

Posted by staff at 01:12 PM

December 03, 2007

GM Kiosks Shown at Tradeshow

MxN Middle East announced that it has just completed the supply of self service Kiosks to General Motors Middle East that were launched at the 9th Middle East International Motorshow held in Dubai. Photo of units provided.

image-motorshow-GM.jpg

The kiosks featured a survey that once completed would provide the customer with an opportunity to win a free car of their choice.

'In today's Digital world, solutions like the one we have recently supplied to GM will increasingly become the norm. We provided them with a full turn key solution including the hardware, content and technical support.' said Raad Raad, Managing Director of MxN.

The GM Kiosks were the first of their kind at the Motorshow in Dubai. Customers were asked to complete a short survey and in exchange they would get a voucher for a gas card or dealership services, with the purchase of a GM vehicle if made before December 31st, 2007.

They were also entered into a draw to win the GM vehicle of their choice.

'We are really pleased with being the first to rollout this kind of technology at the Motorshow. This step is in line with our constant quest for innovation and use of the latest technology ' said Shereen Harris, CRM Manager for General Motors Middle East.

MxN is one of the only companies in the region to be able to provide a full turn key solution for its customers. The delivery of the GM kiosks is just another example of MxN's commitment to maintain this dominant leadership position in the area of Digital Media.

'In choosing MxN one of the determining factors was their ability to deliver on all aspects of this project from hardware and technology to content, including round-the-clock support to ensure smooth implementation.' continued Shereen.

The kiosk program will now move on to the Kuwait International Automobile Exhibition to be held at the Kuwait International Fair Grounds in Mishref, Kuwait from November 28th to December 4th 2007.

About General Motors
General Motors has been the global automotive sales leader for 75 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 284,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM markets its cars and trucks in 33 countries.

In 2006, 9.1m GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. It marked the third time (2006, 2005 and 1978) GM has sold more than 9m vehicles in a calendar year.

GM has been operating in the Middle East since the 1920s. GM's vehicle brands sold in the region are Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer, Opel and Saab supported by a unique set of customer-focused services. GM parts and accessories are sold under the GM Parts and ACDelco brands. The regional office in Dubai covers the company's operations in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE and Yemen.

In 2006, GM sold 140,509 vehicles in the Middle East, representing a 24 percent increase over figures recorded in 2005, and the company continues to introduce pioneering programmes in the region. One example is GMs' unique Nationalisation programme in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been officially recognised by the Saudi government as a benchmark for training young nationals.

More information on GM and its products can be found on the company's consumer websites www.gm.com and www.gmarabia.com.

For more information:
Saada Hammad
Communications and Public Relations Manager
General Motors Middle East
Tel (+9714) 3143350

About MxN
MxN provides technology, consultation and content services to clients and customers throughout the Middle East, Europe and Asia. MxN has its corporate headquarters in Dubai's prestigious Dubai Media City. MxN focuses on providing innovative, robust and flexible technologies that fuel the digital communications industry. MxN delivers solutions giving its partners and clients the ability to effectively communicate with their targeted audiences providing customizable digital marketing tools that include first of its kind features, such as multi-zone video and multi-channel audio playback.

The MxN Network is powered by the most robust, flexible and scalable digital content management softwares in the market today. MxN designs and develops world class technologies that fuel the emerging digital communications industry. As this industry spans over the reach of many others, we understand that each business has its own individual needs. This is why we have developed all our products using flexible, modular architecture in order to provide powerful functionality with the ability to quickly deploy, modify, and upgrade your systems.

For information or opportunities in the region please contact:
Raad Raad
Managing Director
Middle East and North Africa
www.mxnmena.com

Posted by staff at 08:35 AM

October 15, 2007

Product customization and in-store visualization Kiosk self-service

krasner.jpgNice article by Andrew Kasner of Fry...In a merging of the online and in-store worlds, some bricks-and-mortar stores are beginning to use employee-assisted kiosks to show the final product before a special, customized order is placed. This twist on traditional retail affirms a shopper’s preference to see the finished product before purchasing and provides an online experience in the store.

Product customization and in-store visualization

Product customization and in-store visualization

By Andrew Krasner, Fry Inc.
October 15th, 2007
Andrew Krasner

Some multichannel merchants say customers really need to touch or try on certain products before purchasing, and those experiences can’t be replicated online.

However, with retailers offering customized products, the Internet can be an even more effective multichannel tool to provide a visualization of the product.

In a merging of the online and in-store worlds, some bricks-and-mortar stores are beginning to use employee-assisted kiosks to show the final product before a special, customized order is placed. This twist on traditional retail affirms a shopper’s preference to see the finished product before purchasing and provides an online experience in the store.

Traditionally, retailers selling personalized products such as wedding invitations carry large sample books that show how certain colors and fonts look on various invitations. Retailers had no way to show what the final product would look like.

The next generation of the traditional in-store kiosk allows sales representatives to use the store’s e-commerce site to demonstrate the visualization of a custom product. The transaction is assisted by a sales associate, and the order can be placed online through the kiosk.

A sales representative can show customers how their wording in the chosen color and font looks on the specific invitation they’ve selected. With this use of technology, the buyer doesn’t have to wait for a proof and can immediately approve the design on the screen. When the order is placed online at the kiosk, the customer can have access to tracking numbers to monitor the shipment.

Using customization takes retail out of the commodity game. A merchant may sell a bathrobe in a nice color, but shoppers can go online and find the least expensive one by searching several sites.

When a retailer offers customization, such as printing, engraving and embroidery, it becomes the only place to find that unique product.

And retailers are beginning to offer even more personalization options including photo uploads, custom color combinations and licensed characters on everything from baby strollers to neckties.

Retailers that connect their in-store kiosks with their e-commerce sites will help their sales staff improve a shopper’s multichannel experience by providing the personal experience of an in-store environment coupled with the online benefits of visualization and long-distance gifting.

Andrew Krasner is director of strategic services at Fry Inc., Ann Arbor, MI. Reach him at akrasner@fry.com.

Posted by staff at 08:31 AM

May 25, 2007

Retail Kiosks -- When a website ain't a website?

Here's a new spin on an Internet kiosk...Consumers checking prices at kiosks in the Best Buy store think they are browsing main Best Buy internet site but instead are browsing different one (with different prices).

'Best Buy'? Lawsuit Says 'Bait-n-Switch'

Lawsuit Claims Best Buy Isn't Living Up to Its Name
Connecticut AG Files Suit Claiming In-Store Kiosks Part of a 'Bait-and-Switch' Scheme
By DANIEL ARNALL
ABC News Business Unit

May 24, 2007 —

The Connecticut Attorney General is taking electronics super retailer Best Buy to task for a system he says is a "bait-and-switch scheme" that deceives customers.

According to a lawsuit announced today, customers were lured into Best Buy stores by prices quoted on the company's Web site, only to find the items at higher prices once they got to the store thanks to a lookalike Web site available only in the store.

The issue came to light after a columnist for The Hartford Courant wrote about a man who found a laptop on BestBuy.com advertised for $729.99.

When the man went to the store to look for the computer, an employee checked a Web kiosk that appeared to be the company Web site, only to find the same computer for $879.99.

"Best Buy used in-store kiosks to conceal lower online prices and renege on its price match guarantee," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in a press release. "Consumers seeking bargains were led to believe that lowe

Posted by staff at 09:08 AM

January 19, 2007

Kiosk Case Study : Personalized Retail offers

Pay By Touch announced their Smart Shop this week. It generates offers personalized to the consumer. Oldtimers to the industry will perhaps think of Sainsbury and Catalina. We saw it noted out on Interactive Kiosk News first. It's unusual in that they have an iteration where there is no lcd. We've included a picture of the unit.

paybytouch1.jpg

Pay By Touch, the biometric payment company that let's you charge with your fingerprint, has announced that it's putting all of that personal data it collects to good use by installing loyalty kiosks at some of its supermarket clients' locations.

The system, dubbed SmartShop, provides participating shoppers with relevant discounts and promotions based on purchase history, and is being pitched as the quick and easy alternative to clipping coupons. Here's how it works (courtesy of the press release they put out):

1. When shoppers enter the store, they simply scan their finger at the SmartShop kiosk to get personalized offers based on their purchase history.[2]

2. Shoppers receive an 8 ½ x 11 print out with 12 to 16 customized offers for the products they buy most, and then head into the aisles to shop.

3. Shoppers scan their finger again at check-out to automatically redeem their offers. They do not need to bring the print out; no paper coupons are required.

The first grocer to trial the system was Green Hills Market of Syracuse, New York, who apparently found some value in it:

"The SmartShop service has been extremely popular, and shopper participation is already impacting 50 percent of store revenue," said Gary Hawkins, CEO, Hawkins Strategic and Proprietor of Green Hills Market.[3] "We have seen offer redemption rates exceeding 20 percent. Of the customers enrolled in SmartShop, who also shopped last year during the same period, their shopping visits have increased by 10% per week."

"Most importantly," Hawkins added, "SmartShop is driving a significant increase in revenue in a time of new market competition from big box stores. It has given us the tools to compete more effectively and not only retain customer loyalty, but attract new customers."

We can assume that the overall effect has been positive, since many grocers assume -- and in fact count on the fact -- that only a tiny fraction of printed coupons will be redeemed. But I'm sure that if these kiosks prove to be popular those models would be revised. Typically, though, when customers frequent your store more often and buy more product, there's a way to profit from it, even if you are giving out more discounts in the process.

Posted by staff at 07:29 AM

January 16, 2007

NRF Announcements -- Circuit City and Kiosks

At NRF show this week one of the Circuit City VPs talks about building 200-300 more stores and showed a video clip of kiosk that is installed in 50 stores now and assists the customer in his buying decision.


Circuit City to roll out new prototype store - Jan. 15, 2007


Circuit City sets smaller store, new kiosks
Consumer-electronics retailer testing new store type, will open 300 new stores in next two years: executives.
By Parija B. Kavilanz, CNNMoney.com staff writer
January 15 2007: 8:06 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Circuit City will roll out new, smaller stores in June that showcase consumer-friendly innovations such as in-store kiosks that enable "real-time" chats between customers and the retailer's Firedog technology support staff, CEO Philip Schoonover announced Monday.

Schoonover unveiled the technology during his presentation to an industry gathering at the National Retail Federation's annual conference in New York.

John Mulleady, Circuit City's vice president for real estate and construction, said he's now working on building 200 to 300 new stores in the next two years - a jump for a retailer that has been building 10 to 12 stores a year, according to Reuters.

A short video clip presentation showed a Circuit City (Charts) customer struggling to decide whether he wanted to wall-mount his new flat-panel TV or put it on a stand. He walks over to the kiosk, touches the screen and a Firedog staff member pops up on the screen to offer "live" assistance. After a brief Q&A, the customer makes his decision.

Circuit City, the No. 2 electronics retailer after Best Buy (Charts), has already deployed the system in 50 stores and will be adding the kiosks to more locations, including new prototype stores that will roll out in June, Schoonover said.

The latest store format will be smaller - approximately 20,000 square feet - compared to the typical 30,000- to 35,000-square-foot existing Circuit City stores, Circuit City spokeswoman Jackie Foreman told CNNMoney.com.

In addition to the kiosks, the retailer will also arm employees with new wireless "tablet PCs." Schoonover said the tablet PCs act as a "guided selling tool" to help employees to better understand customers' needs and help decide on product choices - what type of flat screen TV they want, for example.

Using the PC tablet, employees can quickly sketch a sample diagram of the customer's living room and enter specifics such as size of the room and height of the walls. Based on other variables such as brand preference and price, employees can then recommend the best options for the customer.

"This kind of technology and innovation, we believe, can delight our customers and maintain sustainable growth despite the challenges," Schoonover said, referring to the company's surprise third-quarter loss, which he blamed on the cut-throat holiday price wars on consumer electronics, especially flat-panel TVs.
Check retail stocks

"We believe technology is a key enabler for us and our multi-channel strategy from here on. Our goal is to be at the forefront of change," he said.

While Circuit City has stores in Canada, Mulleady said "not today" when asked if the retailer was looking at additional international expansion. Mulleady, a former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Charts) executive, said many U.S. retailers run into problems internationally by not understanding the local markets.

"They are trying to repeat the model that works in the United States overseas," he said.

He said success depends on finding the right local partner, and often companies need to be able to absorb many years of losses to succeed abroad.

Mulleady made the comments as part of a panel discussion on retailers' real-estate strategies.

James Bersani, Limited Brands Inc.'s (Charts) executive vice president for real estate, also spoke on the panel. The two executives said retailers are constantly testing different store formats to accommodate ever-changing customer tastes and shopping patterns.

Bersani said that 80 percent of Limited's roughly 3,500 stores are mall-based and as such, the retailer keeps a close eye on the health of the malls it occupies. With no new malls being built, he said the healthiest ones are those that reinvest in and upgrade their properties.

While Limited is buying Canadian lingerie retailer La Senza Corp., profits are a reason Bersani said the retailer has not opened up its stores internationally.

"We all want sales growth," he said, "But we want profitable sales growth."

Posted by staff at 09:47 AM

March 09, 2006

Retailers, Internet Service Kiosks & Multichannel

Third Floor: Slacks, Shoes, and an Internet Kiosk
J.C. Penney made one billion dollars in online sales last year, outperforming competitors like Wal-Mart.

Source Article

NEW YORK (AP) -- J.C. Penney Co. may have steered through a turnaround, but there are shoppers like Janice Bernache who still think of the store as a place where ''mother used to shop.''

But as the 27-year-old Manhattan resident peered through the retailer's temporary showcase store in Times Square, she was pleasantly surprised.

''It looks really young,'' said Bernache, eying bikinis, metallic skirts and men's slim jeans.

The three-level showroom -- which showcases the retailer's store brands in home furnishings and fashions -- allows customers to shop at any one of 22 Internet kiosks. The store, open through March 26, is part of an ambitious campaign to convert trendier, more affluent shoppers like Bernache into Penney's fans.

The Plano, Tex.-based department store is using its online business not only to drive store traffic, but also as a key tool to polish its image among new customers, many of whom still think of the chain as dowdy. With 50 percent of America's households not having shopped at Penney in the past three years, executives see a lot of untapped opportunity.

''We are excited about the turnaround, but we know we are not reaching all of our customers,'' said John Irvin, head of J.C. Penney Direct, which comprises its catalog and Internet businesses. ''We think our message needs to get out not only to our existing customers, but to the new customers.''

The retailer views its online site as the ''hub'' of its overall business, which generated sales of $18.8 billion last year. Penney passed the billion dollar mark in online sales in its recent fiscal year, surpassing e-commerce sites from discounters and department stores like Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Online shoppers tend to be more affluent and younger that the store shopper. The median age for Penney's online customers is 45 years old, compared to 49 for its store shopper and over 50 for its catalog customer, said Tim Lyons, a company spokesman. He noted that the median household income is 10 percent to 15 percent higher than that of the online and catalog shopper, whose income ranges from $35,000 to $80,000.

Penney's online site offers pricier items that are not available in the store.

Penney's turnaround began in late 2000, when the then Chief Executive Allen Questrom launched an effort to upgrade stores and merchandise. He sold off the Eckerd drug chain, closed underperforming department stores and spruced up the remaining Penney's stores.

In its fourth quarter, Penney reported a 65 percent profit increase over the same period last year and posted its 11th consecutive quarterly gain in same-store sales, considered the best indicator of a retailer's health.

Chairman and Chief Executive Myron E. ''Mike'' Ullman III, who joined in late 2004 from Macy's and the luxury-goods business, is trying to position Penney as more upscale and upgrade its collection of store-label brands. The labels, which include names like fashion designer Nicole Miller and home furnishing maven Chris Madden, account for 40 percent of sales.

Customers will see more changes in the stores and online as Penney further blends both businesses.

''Penney's is moving fast into this new frontier of multichannel consumer retail experience,'' said Richard Hastings, retail analyst at Bernard Sands. ''People are experiencing the brand in a dynamic way.''

Penney is adding touch screens to its cash registers which allow sales staff to order online for customers who couldn't find what they were looking for at the store. The rollout in half of its 1,000 stores is expected to be complete by year-end.

The retailer is also testing Internet kiosks as well as monitors in a selected number of stores that show looks that can be found only on the Internet, according to Ken Hicks, president. The Web site now allows customers to search for fashions according to their lifestyle, from trendy to traditional. Shoppers can also click on streaming video of Penney's new ads -- which launched on Sunday's Academy Awards broadcast -- to buy any of the featured fashions.

With 250,000 different items on line, the site offers a deeper selection in such categories as maternity wear, children's furniture and big and tall clothing. In children's furniture, for example, a typical Penney's store only offers six choices of children's beds; online, customers can find over 100 choices.

''Penney's is definitely at the forefront of adopting all this new type of technology,'' said Heather Dougherty, an analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, an Internet research firm.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart -- which expects to post a 40 percent increase in the number of visits to its site this year over last year -- is making some big strides too. The world's largest retailer, which does not break down its online sales figures, is always evaluating such technology as Internet kiosks and touch screen monitors at cash registers, said Raul Vazquez, vice president of marketing at walmart.com.

At Penney, a big challenge ahead is to get store associates to actively pitch to shoppers all three ways to shop. At a Penney store in Queens, N.Y., placards throughout the store encouraged customers to check out offerings online and in the catalog. But when a reporter approached a salesman in the furniture area about children's furniture, he just replied: ''We don't sell them.''

It was only after being pressed a few times that he did encourage the shopper to check online.

Posted by keefner at 07:21 AM

January 29, 2006

Multi-Channel Shoppers Create Opportunity for Self-Service Kiosk Providers

adrheadshot.jpgInterview with Alex Richardson on the next wave of opportunities for kiosk deployers. Government, Voting and yes, Multi-channel retail returns...

Ask Alex: Expert Says Kiosk Execs Must Adapt and Innovate

Meeting Demands of Multi-Channel Shoppers Create Opportunity for Self-Service Providers

What should kiosk-related companies be focused on in 2006? There�s no better expert to answer that question than Alex Richardson, former CEO and Founder of Netkey and currently managing director of a consulting firm, Selling Machine Partners. Richardson has followed the fortunes of various self-service technologies for two decades, and is frequently sought out as an advisor by companies considering self-service initiatives.

KioskCom.com picked his brain on a variety of issues facing kiosk executives in 2006.

KC: What should kiosk executives do to accelerate business in 2006?

AR: Turn off your computer, get out of your office and visit at least 25 different retail and public locations. Refresh your memory about what it feels like to be a customer and observe the Customer Experience at a variety of retail locations.

What I left Netkey in the fall of 2003 to start Selling Machine Partners, I made it a point to do all the grocery and holiday shopping for my family and visited about 50 retail locations (and Web sites). I observed how frustrated consumers are as they walk down the grocery store aisle, looking for a can of lime juice. Count the number of seconds it takes for the average coffee and doughnut shop to deliver a simple cup of coffee. See if the checkout clerk makes eye contact, smiles or complains about a co-worker.

The Net-Net was that the consumer experience for both online and bricks & mortar merchants is dreadful and still ripe for rapid improvements through the use of the industry�s self-service solutions.

After this experience, you�ll find you�ll be much better at technology innovation. Instead of creating another useless cool feature, trumpeted by your engineering staff, you�ll learn how to focus on a higher priority key customer problems. Your development costs will be lower and you�ll have a much better value proposition for your customer.

Watch out for endless feature comparison charts between your offering and your competitors. Just think about how many features you really use on commercially available software products such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Word or Excel (I bet it�s less than 10 percent). Focus on low-cost high-value solutions. Know your market niche better than any other competitor in the marketplace.

KC: What happened on this year�s Black Monday in retail, and what does it mean for the kiosk industry?

AR: Black Monday this year showed the growth of the multi-channel shopper. People got out to stores and shopped, then went back home to buy on the Web. Customers are doing more on the Web. So the stores� advantage of simply getting customers in stores is being taken away, because they�re not always closing sales. And when a customer goes online, they might not buy from the same retailer.

For stores, knowing the Web people will use a kiosk can help in closing the sale in the brick and mortar location. If they can lure the multi-channel shopper to use the kiosk, they can close the sale at the retailer. The kiosk must facilitate closing of the transaction at the store � that�s the opportunity to innovate.

Some retailers are still living in the 20th century. What does the next generation shopper want? They�re a multi-tasking generation, they�ve got the Web, instant messaging, television, cell phones and homework all going at the same time. They�ve got to innovate and reach this new generation.

KC: What changes do you see in how large customers create and deploy kiosk solutions?

AR: In the last few years, I�ve worked with a lot of top retailers, including Home Depot, Ticketmaster, and Ahold Giant Foods. Kiosks are becoming just another customer-facing technology, integrated with CRM. Demand is picking up because C-Level executives are seeing self-service in a variety of locations, from airports to stores, and they want self-service incorporated into their own businesses.

In 1998-2000, big companies were hiring fancy Web firms to develop Web sites. Now those companies and gone and they do it themselves. The large retailers are bringing software development in-house. That�s good for software-enabling companies. Most of the �plumbing� is managed by in-house staffs, though the creative design and advertising strategy is contracted outside the firm.

Large firms will continue to use large system integrators. I�m seeing more and more projects being developed in-house by the Web development teams.

Larger projects require more robust software, and the stakes are higher. There�s a big difference between a hundred kiosks and 10,000. Security is a big issue. It may take eight weeks to get a project through the legal department.

KC: What industry seems ripe for change in 2006?

AR: Certainly, the photo industry appears to be the largest deployer of consumer kiosks. I was at Wal-mart recently and there were 10 people in line at the Kodak machine. When is someone like Kinko�s going to wake up and put 20 photo kiosks in the store?

I�m convinced that Kodak will be sold within two years, probably to Hewlett-Packard or 3M. They�ve lost their focus. They�re a great company, but won�t survive as a stand-alone company. Their investors are impatient.

KC: What segment is ready for rapid growth?

AR: I�m surprise at the pace of adoption in all levels of government. You�ve got state, local and federal governments, departments like Social Security, Passports, and Motor Vehicles, which are still very much available for self-service. They will accelerate and have capital budgets. The problem is the government agencies are so fragmented.

Take voting. The obvious problem is finding the solution that works best, but every town has a different method, so it�s hard for everyone to agree on a technology solution.

KC: You say digital downloads of media content will grow in retail settings. Why do you think so?

AR: Shopping is a social experience, and it is part of the reason for getting out of the house. People will want to download media in a store, with their friends, not in front of their home computer. That�s why you�re seeing companies having success with it. Retailers will use it to drive traffic. For Starbucks, it�s a way to get you in the store.

Article Detail


Also nice companion piece on Making Multi-Channel Shoppers Happy
article link

Posted by keefner at 08:55 PM

January 15, 2006

Retail kiosks at NRF Retail Show

KIOSK Information Systems to show DVD, Photo and HR kiosks at the NRF show next week in New York.

Show Link

KIOSK Information Systems will be exhibiting at the upcoming NRF "Big Show" in New York City next week. With 400 exhibitors, including every major retail supplier, the show fills New Yorks Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Jan. 15-18 with every conceivable retail product and innovation.

KIOSK will be located at booth 2060 which is the Kiosk Com Pavilion. The KioskCom pavilion will be set up as a comfortable lounge, encouraging guests to escape the frenzy of the show floor in a relaxed atmosphere.

Solutions being shown by KIOSK will include the DVD Selling Machine for unattended previewing of DVD, also a new countertop solution for photo, digital media and mini-lab functionality. Rounding out the solutions will be an HR solution for Retail. The unit is designed for assisting self-service employees to manage their benefits.

For more information email craig at kiosk.com

Posted by keefner at 04:06 PM

October 15, 2005

Case Study: A Microcosm of the Multichannel Experience in Manhattan's SoHo

A look at multi-channel marketing efforts by a couple of companies. Multichannel customers are known higher spend so the attention is warranted.

Story link

Oct. 13, 2005

By: Chantal Tod
Senior Editor
ctode@dmnews.com



NEW YORK -- L.L. Bean is the latest cataloger to commit to opening retail stores and truly becoming a multichannel merchant. The benefits are ostensibly worth the investment because customers who shop a brand in multiple channels have proven to be more loyal and spend more than single-channel buyers.

However, simply opening retail locations doesn't a multichannel merchant make. DMers need to promote their multichannel abilities on the Web, in their catalogs and inside their stores.

Unfortunately, in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood -- one of New York City's trendiest and largest shopping districts -- many catalogers with stores in the area fail to highlight their multichannel offerings or do so in such a piecemeal way that it doesn't suggest a cohesive in-store strategy.

Of 16 apparel, specialty and home furnishings stores visited between August and late September, nine of them either don't offer a catalog in the store or were out of catalogs at the time of the visit. And only three -- Sephora, J. Crew and Crate & Barrel -- promoted their brand's Web site in any meaningful way. In fact, industry experts who reviewed notes taken during the visits expressed disappointment at how little these merchants were doing to showcase the multichannel experience.

"The catalogers doing a really good job [promoting their multichannel benefits] are few and far between," said Bill LaPierre, vice president of catalog brokerage at Millard Group, Peterborough, NH.

"Not one of [the stores reviewed here] is presenting a truly integrated multichannel organization. It's all hit or miss," said Debra Ellis, president of direct marketing consultancy Wilson & Ellis Consulting, Barnardsville, NC.

The stores visited were: Ann Taylor Loft, Anthropologie, Bliss, Bloomingdale's, Crate & Barrel, Eddie Bauer, EMS, J. Crew, Patagonia, Pottery Barn, Room & Board, Sephora, Smith & Hawken, Staples, Sur La Table and Victoria's Secret.

There were exceptions to the poor showing. The Eddie Bauer store on Broadway near Prince Street had a telephone kiosk stocked with recent issues of the catalog, a phone for placing orders and signs underscoring the wider product selection available via the catalog. To entice use, a sign above the kiosk informed shoppers that they can get free shipping and handling when they order from the in-store phone. Also, postcards at checkout offered $20 off a next purchase to shoppers who signed up for e-mail.

LaPierre said he was pleased with Pottery Barn's well-stocked catalog rack at the front entrance of its Broadway and Houston Street store. The rack held the brand's many different titles. Also on the mark was a simple sign-up card near the cash register for customers who wish to receive the catalog and/or e-mails.

Farther south on Broadway, Staples was the only location visited to have an in-store Internet kiosk. Kiosks "are probably the most underutilized [multichannel strategy]," Ellis said. When they are present, they should be promoted throughout the store, she added, something Staples didn't do.

However, kiosks are a good idea only if the staff knows how to use them and deliver shoppers to them when an item is unavailable in the store, LaPierre said.

"I have had a number of experiences where store personnel has said, 'You can order from the kiosk if you want to, but I don't know how to do it,' " he said.

"I was amazed at how many stores didn't have catalogs," said Lilliane LeBel, vice president of Decision Direct Research, Millard Group's research division. Picking up a catalog in a store is just like getting one in the mail. "It will prompt shoppers to go to the Web site or bring them back to the store." This strategy is especially important because 50 percent to 60 percent of Americans don't shop from catalogs.

Ellis, on the other hand, isn't so sure of the need to offer catalogs in stores.

"A lot of folks operate on the premise that [consumers] came into the store so they're a viable prospect," she said. "Still, catalogs cost around 50 cents apiece, so you have to look at the return on them."

Many companies reviewed here are losing a chance to promote their Web sites, LeBel said. This is especially important given that while catalogs, the Internet and a retail store all work synergistically to drive overall sales for a brand, catalog and retail sales on average are being lost to the Internet, according to Decision Direct Research's post-holiday spending survey of online/catalog buyers.

The amount of respondents' holiday spending in the Internet channel grew from 43 percent in December 2002 to 47 percent in December 2004. Spending in the period decreased from 19 percent to 18 percent via catalogs, and it fell from 38 percent to 35 percent for retail stores.

Patagonia's Wooster Street store limited promotion of its Web site to printing Patagonia.com on the front door.

"This is typical of what a lot of retailers do, and what I call weak branding," LaPierre said, adding that retailers think they can slap ".com" at the end of everything and consumers will recognize what they should do.

Sephora and J. Crew, on the other hand, had large signs explaining the benefits of shopping online while Crate & Barrel had signs overhead at every cash register directing shoppers to its Web site.

Smith & Hawken was the only store that promoted a loyalty program, with a brochure explaining the benefits available near the cash register in its West Broadway store.

"By promoting a loyalty program, you're building that bond by letting shoppers know they are important," LeBel said, who noted that she was surprised more stores weren't doing this.

One reason many stores don't promote a brand's multichannel capabilities is that the individual store managers don't always understand the significance of a multichannel strategy, LaPierre said. This can be an operational issue with the performance of individual stores based on how much sales they bring in, so managers don't see the benefit of promoting other channels. To overcome the problem, DMers may need a new business model, Ellis said.

"If the store matrix is the only measure of the location's success, then the managers will continue to be reluctant to offer access to other channels," she said. "[However,] if you can make all of those channels work together, you have a branding machine that just won't quit. If you're doing it haphazardly, you're actually undermining your existing business."

Chantal Tod covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

Posted by keefner at 03:42 AM

September 14, 2005

Health & Nutrition Retail Kiosk

Healthnotes Inc. (HNI) today announced the launch of its latest EasyAnswers Touchscreen Kiosk, the Low-Profile. Available in nine design variations, the Low-Profile Kiosk offers retailers the flexibility of choosing the color and graphics scheme that works best for their stores.

healthnotes-lowprofile.jpg
Over the past eight years of helping retailers deploy information kiosks in-store, weve found that one of the key challenges they face is designing a kiosk thats engaging and easy-to-use for their customers, stated Skye Lininger, HNI president and CEO. With our new Low-Profile Kiosks, HNI has leveraged our years of design expertise to address these challenges and are proud to offer an easy, affordable way for retailers to tailor a kiosk to their stores.

The Low-Profile Kiosk is a plug-and-play unit preconfigured to run Healthnotes applications. The kiosk stands five feet tall and includes engaging graphics to grab customers attention and motivate them to use the kiosk to find answers to their health, food, and lifestyle questions and help them make purchase decisions. Its available in 3 standard colors (red, green, and blue) and 3 signage treatments to match the department where the kiosk is located; Healthy Living, Food and Recipes, and Pharmacy. Additional customization, such as adding the retailers logo or other branding elements, is also available.

Self-Service Application Kiosks - KIS Kiosk Health and Nutrition Kiosk in Retail

Posted by keefner at 02:34 PM

August 10, 2005

Pepsi, Lounge Lizards and Kiosks

Featuring Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox consoles, videos, and cozy seating areas, Pepsi Zone's plan is ambitious, but it certainly isn't original. Two years ago, rival Coca-Cola(NYSE: KO) hoped to win over the mall rats by opening a pair of Red Lounge hubs not too far from where two of the three Pepsi Zones have decided to set up camp.

Meanwhile Sony does PSP kiosks in shops and cafes in Japan...

Coke has been slow to expand the concept, though it did open up a lounge in Singapore earlier this year.

The hangouts are free to the public. Guests can purchase beverages from state-of-the-art vending machines, but that's not the real driver here. Pepsi and Coke are simply trying to reach out to folks who are too busy playing video games or zipping past soft-drink ads on their TiVo(Nasdaq: TIVO) boxes to notice the soft drink industry's more conventional marketing approach.

But does any of it matter? Because venues such as restaurants, movie theaters, and amusement parks tend to have ties to just one of the two beverage giants, most soda drinkers have grown up as brand-agnostic. Even in the democratic platform at the corner grocery store, where consumers have a choice, it often boils down to which brand is discounting the deepest.

Still, selling syrup concentrate to bottlers is a high-margin business, and Coke and Pepsi can afford to pump money into brand ambassadorship if it means that the company's name will be seen in a favorable light.

So is product placement giving way to kiosk placement? No way. The companies will still find clever ways to wedge their presence into televised content. However, they at least know that they own their captive audience in these lounges. The kids belong to them -- at least until they find out about the sale at Aeropostale(NYSE: ARO) three shops over.

Pepsi, the Lounge Lizard - Motley Fool - MSNBC.com



Meanwhile Sony does it in Japan. Article from 1up.com a few days earlier.

PSP Kiosks Attack Japan
Drawing in hipsters from shops, cafes, and beauty parlors.
by Patrick Klepek, 07/26/2005

The hardcore understand the PSP. The minute Sony announced a handheld take on PlayStation, million of sales were guaranteed upfront. To expand the portable market's reach as Nintendo has with niche games like Nintendogs, Sony's has started pushing PSP in front of a different kind of Japanese audience.

ITmedia reports apparel shops, cafes, and beauty parlors in Japan will all start receiving PSP kiosks primarily showing off the upcoming release of Mercury, but also showcasing the hardware's multimedia capabilities through movies, anime, and music. Some will even have unique promotions like PSP-stylized deserts and kiosks running at the establishment's tables.

The lack the popular software for PSP is only one of the many reasons Sony needs to push the extra features. In the US, UMD movies have proven ridiculously popular despite their higher-than-desired price point, and it's likely Sony will continue riding similar multimedia waves until developers catch up.

For those lucky enough to find themselves situated in the land of the rising sun and reading 1UP, you can catch these new promotions at Beams T Daikan-yama, B-in Yoshida, The W Cafe and Beautrium starting today and running through August and, in the case of Beautrium, September.

Posted by keefner at 04:02 AM

June 07, 2005

In-store Kiosks Charging More Than Internet Sites?

Being able to charge different customers differently is one of those strategies that companies constantly explore implementing. Here is article from Techdirt that indicates one major retailer doing just that (lower price shows on internet browser outside the store compared to internet browsing shopping kiosk inside the store).
story link

Posted by keefner at 03:58 PM

April 25, 2005

Best Buy Proving Customer Centric Model

customer.jpegThe customer-centric strategy started last year at consumer electronics retailer Best Buy will be turned up in 2005, the company says. And in the process, it could change the entire competitive retail landscape.

From Peppers and Rogers Group

"Best Buy is having success maximizing the value of each consumer," says Gary Arlen, a veteran consumer electronics industry analyst. "It will change the way every other retailer does business now. The more its competition sees its success, the more are going to follow that customer-centric strategy. Get ready for the ripple effect."

In announcing that its 2005 earnings rose 17 percent over 2004, Best Buy gave high priority to the customer value groups it has identified and targeted as a key to its growth. At the end of 2004, 85 of its 830 U.S. stores operated under a customer-centric model in which it identified customer groups such as premium or high-ticket purchasers, early adopters, and small business owners as key groups from which to grow value and revenue. It also pays less attention to low-value customers who frequently return items or make relatively low-value purchases.

Those 85 stores, according to the company's April financial statement, booked average sales gains 8.4 percent last year, compared to 2.3 percent at "non-segmented" stores. "There's no turning back," said CEO Brad Anderson. The company will convert 150 to 200 more stores to the customer-centric model this year.

"Over time, we believe that our customer centricity work will help us attract new customer segments to our stores, which leverages our existing assets," Anderson said in a recent press release. "In addition, it gives us an engine for continuing to innovate and respond to changing customer needs."

Not only is Best Buy showing that creating customer groups and treating them differently can work, it is also putting the concept of customer value on the map for many retailers. The mass retailing world that has been based on aggressive discounting and mass market ad spending is now taking notice of Best Buys efficiency and success.

"It is doing what every retailer should do," says Judy Bayer, Ph.D., director of Advanced Business Analytics for Teradata. "It is identifying its hero customers. It is developing strategies for how to acquire those high-value customers, it is developing the behaviors it wants to see from its high-value customers and they are treating different customers differently."

And it may be starting to crack the case on how to compete successfully with Wal-Mart. The uber-retailer does not compete with Best Buy on its high-end plasma screen TVs or connectivity services such as satellite and cell phone service. But it definitely competes on price for CDs, video games and low-end electronics. Best Buy has chosen to let Wal-Mart have the low end. That's part of its success, but it has also beaten Wal-Mart at customer-centric retailing in this category.

"Best Buy has taken a phenomenal step forward. It has raised the bar for everyone," says Janice Mayo, Vertis SVP of Sales & Marketing, whose company has worked closely with many regional retailers to identify customer groups and customize interactions with them. "It is competing correctly with Wal-Mart because it is putting into practice the belief that at the end of the day you have your brand and your unique customer set. You can only really leverage one of those things. And it's the customer."

According to Anderson, all Best Buy stores will operate under the customer-centric model "within three years."

Posted by keefner at 02:12 PM

February 22, 2005

Winn-Dixie Files Bankruptcy

It's been expected for a couple of years given the debt load but its finally happened.

NEW YORK (Reuters)--Winn-Dixie Stores has filed for bankruptcy protection, citing increasing operational challenges since reporting a wider quarterly loss earlier this month.

The supermarket operator said on Tuesday it and 23 of its U.S. subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but its 920 Winn-Dixie stores remain open and serving customers.

The company said it had lined up an $800 million debtor-in-possession financing facility from Wachovia Bank, which replaces its previous $600 million credit line.

eWEEK.com Special Report: Mergers & AcquisitionsThe bankruptcy filing comes as the grocer struggled despite a restructuring and a push to improve store operations to draw more customers and cut costs.

Earlier this month, Winn-Dixie said its quarterly loss widened, leaving analysts to wonder how long it could avoid filing for bankruptcy protection. Speculation heated up again last week that a filing was on the way after the company said it had incorrectly calculated a measure of earnings.

The Jacksonville, Florida company said that as part of its Chapter 11 restructuring, it will seek additional asset sales and cut expenses. It also said it is taking steps to reduce its lease obligations on previously closed stores.

Winn-Dixie said it is continuing to pay its associates, with their health and welfare benefits expected to continue without disruption.

Posted by Craig at 02:31 PM

February 17, 2005

Motorocycle SQL Kiosks

Suzuki Revs MySQL Kiosks

Needing to kick into high gear the proficiency and management of its national dealerships' sales expertise, American Suzuki Motor Corp. relied on open-source software development to create a new virtual purchasing world for its finicky motorcycle audience.

Challenges include multiline dealership responsibility, limited floor space and on-site inventory, extensive accessory options, and cold weather, which slows sales during winter months. In addition, customers come in prepared with Internet research.

Upon visiting various Suzuki dealerships across the United States, Steve Bortolamedi, dealer network manager for Suzuki, in Brea, Calif., realized that regardless of the promotionsuch as for new models or optionsthe ultimate difference in customer satisfaction and sales lies in strengthening the dealership salesperson.

"Motorcycling is a real hobbyist sport, and they're real tech heads. They know every little piece that's on the bike and every little detail, and they want more knowledge than the salesperson has," said Bortolamedi. "You want to build a relationship and trust [with] the customer, and if you spend whatever time you have with not knowing the product, then you're going to have problems. ... That was very disruptive to the sales process."

Bortolamedi said that without sufficient knowledge ofor quick access toinformation on myriad motorcycle makes, accessories, nuances and technical knowledge surrounding Suzuki and key competitors such as Kawasaki Motors Corp., American Honda Motor Co. and Yamaha Corporation of America, sales staff would often take the path of least resistance and let the customer lead the sales process.


To remedy the situation, Bortolamedi, with the help of Suzuki Marketing Manager Rob Lopusnak, decided to create a three-dimensional virtual-tour kiosk that could also act as a centralized database, training tool and tracking application.

"The biggest thing we were trying to bring out is we wanted the salesperson to be involvedwhat better to have than one place to gather all that information and take the customer through the whole sales process, right up to the point of purchasing," said Bortolamedi.

To develop the application, called Suzuki Sales PRO (Professional Retail Outlet), Suzuki recruited Matrix Consultants Inc., of Santa Monica, Calif., to build the program and system to update 600 kiosks slated to be deployed around the country.

"Every dealership does something different, so we took the best practices of all the dealerships in the country, and we built a selling-approach system. Then we added in Matrix's expertise," said Bortolamedi.

Working off a 3-D model designed by EON Reality Inc., of Irvine, Calif., Matrix had originally prototyped the product on Microsoft Corp.'s Access to manage the database. However, the database's size forced Matrix to consider Microsoft's SQL Server, but that move proved too costly.

That opened the door for open-source database alternatives such as MySQL AB's MySQL, said Margo Zenk, senior partner and technical director for Matrix.

"I was looking for an easy method to act as database from a Microsoft .Net platform, and I already had the experience of accessing MySQL using the ODBC interface to pull it into Microsoft [development] tools," said Zenk.

"We did look at PostgreSQL and some other open-source options, but it was the maturity of the [MySQL] technology. I was crunched for time, and I just knew it was going to work because I've made it work doing similar things in the past. We're moving to open source for the price."

Zenk said she was able to get the Suzuki Sales PRO application up and running on MySQL in just under two weeks and had little difficulty getting the ODBC and MySQL interfaces operating smoothly.

Application developers are agreeable to using MySQL because of the technology's accessibility and simplified use within production environments, said Alex Roedling, senior product manager for MySQL, in Cupertino, Calif.

"We support close to 50 platforms, so if they're trying to deploy on Windows, Solaris or Mac OS, the portability of the database makes it attractive," said Roedling. "We have drivers for JDBC [Java Database Connectivity] and ODBC, so you can use basically any developer environment you want with their existing tool sets to develop against MySQL."


Matrix's Zenk said Suzuki Sales PRO will be "100 percent" Linux-based by the end of the year. The application currently features an open-source database using Windows software to manage the visual 3-D model.

Despite suggestions that open source is a community-based technology lacking support, rising cost pressures are leading greater numbers of organizations and application developers toward the software-licensing flexibility that open source provides, analysts say.

"Do I buy more Oracle [Corp.] licenses and Sun [Microsystems Inc.] Solaris machines, or do I go with MySQL and commodity hardware? People are hesitant, but it's becoming more and more clear that open source is something that needs to be looked at, especially if they're using a big-iron database for their smaller applicationsthat tends to be overkill," said Roedling.

The patent-pending Suzuki Sales PRO kiosks are located in 540 U.S.-based dealerships, excluding Hawaii, with another 40 to 60 sold. Fifty percent of the dealerships bought the kiosk on its introduction. Matrix has bought licenses to build 900 kiosks, and plans are under way to expand the kiosks to Europe, with minor model changes and language issues to be overcome.


The kiosks basically consist of Dell Inc. 260, 270 or 289 workstations atop a specialized stand. Matrix performs remote synchronization to install nightly content updates to every kiosk Monday through Thursday. The kiosks are backed up daily.

The customizable Suzuki Sales PRO kiosks let customers choose different motorcycles and select and configure accessories. The application provides competitive comparisons on models and makes, as well as videos and third-party reviews of some vehicles.

During each selection by a consumer, a finance calculator keeps a running total of what the person is spending on the motorcycle. The idea, Zenk said, is to show buyers that $2,000 worth of accessories does not translate into $2,000 extra per month but rather a slight monthly payment increase. Labor costs are also accounted for.

For those not yet ready to purchase, the kiosk produces a color brochure that includes their choices and specifications, the salesperson's name, and part numbers for checking inventory, said Zenk.

A reporting feature within the application lets dealers check on up-to-the-minute performance of sales staff, how many accessories are being added and who may require additional training.

Kiosk enhancements under development include additional reporting tools and an interface from the kiosk data repository to the dealership management systems for streamlining contract production. Direct marketing tools using e-mail and an upgradable sales text-based ZIP code feature are designed to help dealers compute financing more quickly.

Check out eWEEK.com's Database Center for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.

Posted by Craig at 02:18 PM

January 21, 2005

Circuit City Customer Service

Circuit City's "Surprise and Delight" IT Strategy

full story link

Circuit City's New IT Approach to Customer Service
January 17, 2005

By Evan Schuman
When major customers walk into a Circuit City location, CIO Mike Jones wants to whisper customized sales pitches into their earsliterally.
Jones's scenario is simple: As customers walk into the store, they receive a very light wireless headset. As they walk through the store, the device uses sensors to learn where the customer is. When the customer stops in a certain area, the headset can explain items, present audio from a TV demonstration and potentially even connect the customer live with a centralized sales assistant. In theory, that sales assistant might be 2,000 miles awayassuming no one in that store is available.

The headphone helper is just one of several non-traditional ideas that Jones is trying to push through the $10 billion retail chain's corporate structure. As senior vice president and CIO, Jones knows how much of a structure the chain's 1,648 U.S. and Canadian locations pose.

Jones uses the popular corporate phrase that retailers today must "surprise and delight" their customers. Many chains mouth a "surprise and delight" strategy while unveiling marketing strategies as radical and unexpected as Fourth of July clearance sales.

But Jones is trying to put mental muscle behind that phrase. Why? In many respects, the answer is long-term survival.

"The consumer marketplace today is very much a polarizing place. You have to decide where you want to play, and we are not going to win on price," he said. He reasons that radically improving customer experience is mandatory, especially when selling products thatfor the most partare also offered by their largest competitors.


The CIO of another consumer electronics chainTweetersis also looking at letting customers literally into their living rooms. To read more, click here.

For example, most retailers today are offering buy online, pick up in store programs. Jones wants to do that one better. The system will know the ZIP codes of registered users. When orders are placed, the system does a lookup and determines if there is a Circuit City within so many miles of the customer. If there is, the system can offer to have a store employee deliver the merchandise to the home, Jones said.

Putting aside the delivery charge issue, this program has several strategic benefits over a delivery from Federal Express or UPS. First, this sidesteps the inventory problem by giving the retailer a little extra time to find the product. Second, there is the branding and customer service advantage of having the product delivered by "a Circuit City-logoed shirt driving a Circuit City-logoed truck," Jones said. And there is the future potential for having that employee install the system. With that installation comes the CRM (customer relationship management)-oriented intensive knowledge of all of the other electronic components that customer owns.

Another Jones scenario: When customers are at the checkout line making a large purchase, have an alert go to the chain's CEO. In theory, the CEO could phone that checkout aisle and speak with the customer, thanking him personally for the order. "That's surprise and delight," Jones said. Can he make it happen? Jones said he is still working on it.


Next Page: RFID customer tracking. The CIOwho also wants to sell MP3 systems with that customer's favorite music already installedsaid that he truly likes RFID embedded into loyalty cards and is trying to figure out ways to creatively leverage it. "When you come into my store and you break my beam, a coupon dispenser that is standing right at the door could spit out specific coupons because of your behavior," he said.

With Web-offline integration, Jones hopes to know, for example, that a customer entering the store was evaluating plasma TVs on the Web site over the weekend andwhen he breaks another beamis now standing near the plasma TVs.


"It's now obvious that he's evaluating plasma TVs. He's been in my stores and walked through the TV area, watched a demo and walked out. He had looked at those pages on our Web site," Jones said. "Let's say I have year's inventory of RCAs. Maybe I offer him a $500 coupon right on the spot."

Jones said the chain is currently upgrading and replacing major systemsall POS (point of sale) systems are being replaced with new Linux unitsbut he wants to see more software intelligence built in. Software should be able to do a lot of the monitoring and decision-making referenced above, he said. "You've got to build in a sophisticated neural learning engine." Jones is working with various technology partners, including Yantra, IBM and 360Commerce.

One sophisticated retail approach today is predicting the weather before the weather reports do. Does it work? To read more, click here.

Most of the things he is exploring have to happen in the store, preferably soon afteror whenthe customer walks in the store, he said. "The point of sale is not the point to be doing this. It's too late," he said.

Jones also sees cultural and community changes in a post-9/11 world, which is what fueled his "store employee delivering to the home" concept. "There are going to be a lot more gated communities. We're talking home schooling and having to digitally accommodate people in their homes.

"We can have a debate about who is going to own the customer in the store. That customer walks into the store and puts on Circuit City headsets, where we pipe in promotional material based on GPS input. I own the customer at that point," Jones said, adding that integrating digital signage into the equation helps.

Posted by Craig at 02:21 PM

January 18, 2005

NRF Show News

Retail CIOs Demo RFID Prototypes at NRF

story on EWeek

NEW YORKSpeaking to an overflow crowd at the National Retail Federation's Redefining Retail show Monday, Metro Group CIO Zygmunt Mierdorf beamed in live footage of the company's prototype RFID-enabled stores from Germany, showing interactive changing rooms that make clothing recommendations and have clerks bring additional pieces, a cashier shelf that instantly scans items (so the cashier doesn't have to) and a privacy system that literally leaves the chip in the store.

Mierdorf also demonstrated smart shelves that display the clothing sizes on them so that customers need not rummage through clothing piles.

The customer in the dressing room can interact with a touch screen. If the clothing selected is not the right size "or if the customer accepts a computer-recommended accompanying piece of clothing" an attendant is automatically alerted and brings the items to the customer in the dressing room. This is helpful when customers may not want to go through the bother of getting dressed, go into the sales area to pick up the replacement items, and then return to the dressing area and repeat the dressing process, Mierdorf said.

eWEEK.com Special Report: RFIDMierdorf's presentation was one of three that teased attendees with the prototype potential of RFID, along with a brief update on initial RFID deployment activities from Wal-Mart's CIO, Linda Dillman.

Dillman opened the presentation with references to her company's highly publicized RFID trials, with the extensive attention to Wal-Mart's announced plans to deploy this month. "As my vendors have told me repeatedly, 'January' does not mean 'Jan. 1,'" she said.

Dillman said little new about the rollouts beyond what analysts were briefed on in late December. But she did reveal the small bugs discovered during the trial process, such as discovering that one manufacturer's system kept issuing a sleep command to another vendor's chip.

Wal-Mart will soon have forklift-mounted RFID readers and product visibility within 30 minutes of merchandise movement, Dillman told the crowd. She also said that an immediate advantage of their trial is that when associates try to place manual orderssomething Dillman promised would always be permittedthe system can now alert the associate if the product being ordered is already in the backroom. Today, it's just an FYI alert. In 60 days, Dillman said, they are considering making it mandatory, where the system will not permit a manual order if it knows the merchandise is already there.

The Wal-Mart executive also showed video of a handheld devicewhich she described as more closely resembling a small Geiger counter than a typical PDAthat associates can use to track wayward merchandise on the back of a store shelf. Just like that Geiger counter, the Wal-Mart unit beeps progressively faster as it approaches the hidden product.

eWEEK.com Special Report: Retail's Big ShowAs is the rule with live demonstrations, not everything went perfectly. Colin Cobain, the U.K. IT director for Tesco, had created on-stage a live working demo of the company's RFID system. The demonstration was intended to show that the system would detect merchandise changes. On the first try, the system properly flagged a flawed crate with a red light. After it was repaired, though, it was supposed to show a green light. It didn't, leaving some in the audience to comment that it was perhaps a more realistic demo than had been intended.

Posted by Craig at 03:40 PM

November 16, 2004

Debit Cards Are King Now

NRF: Debit Cards Pass Credit as Most Popular Payment Method this Holiday Season

--Average Person has Completed 24.4% of Shopping--

Washington, DC, November 16, 2004--Credit is no longer king when it comes to holiday spending. According to the second installment of the NRF 2004 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, the use of debit/check cards is soaring, with 34.7 percent of shoppers planning to use debit or check cards as their primary form of payment during the winter holidays, up from 30.7 percent last year. The survey also found that fewer consumers will use credit cards to pay for merchandise this holiday season (29.5% vs. 30.1% in 2003). Dependence on cash (25.9%) and checks (9.9%) has also subsided this year.

"Consumers have been budgeting and planning ahead for the holiday season, so it's no surprise that credit will take a backseat to debit cards this year," said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. "With debit cards, consumers can keep a handle on the money they have to spend without worrying about carrying cash."

Shoppers will be heading to the stores for a variety of merchandise this holiday season. According to the survey, consumers plan to purchase books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games (60.1%), clothing and clothing accessories (59.5%), and gift cards (51.8%) this holiday season. Also, 43.3 percent of consumers will purchase toys.

Though many consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than ever this year, most of them still have far to go on their gift lists. As of November 12, the average person had completed about a fourth (24.4%) of their shopping. Although most consumers have completed less than ten percent of their list (68%), some shoppers are ahead of the game. According to the survey, one in 20 consumers is almost completely finished with holiday shopping (more than 75% complete).

"Consumers had the best of intentions to get a head start on shopping this year, but the holiday season has snuck up on shoppers once again," said Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy at BIGresearch. "The weekend after Thanksgiving will be extremely important for retailers this year, so shoppers will be greeted with great sales and discounts when the doors open on Black Friday."

NRF continues to project that holiday sales will increase 4.5 percent this year to $219.9 billion.

About the Survey

The NRF 2004 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey, which polled 7,349 consumers, was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch from November 3-10, 2004. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch's syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 7,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet and independent stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 23 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2003 sales of $3.8 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.

###

Posted by Craig at 06:27 PM

November 15, 2004

Wal-Mart, and Predictive Technology

NY Times: What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits

By CONSTANCE L. HAYS

URRICANE FRANCES was on its way, barreling across the Caribbean, threatening a direct hit on Florida's Atlantic coast. Residents made for higher ground, but far away, in Bentonville, Ark., executives at Wal-Mart Stores decided that the situation offered a great opportunity for one of their newest data-driven weapons, something that the company calls predictive technology.

A week ahead of the storm's landfall, Linda M. Dillman, Wal-Mart's chief information officer, pressed her staff to come up with forecasts based on what had happened when Hurricane Charley struck several weeks earlier. Backed by the trillions of bytes' worth of shopper history that is stored in Wal-Mart's computer network, she felt that the company could "start predicting what's going to happen, instead of waiting for it to happen," as she put it.

The experts mined the data and found that the stores would indeed need certain products - and not just the usual flashlights. "We didn't know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane," Ms. Dillman said in a recent interview. "And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer."

Thanks to those insights, trucks filled with toaster pastries and six-packs were soon speeding down Interstate 95 toward Wal-Marts in the path of Frances. Most of the products that were stocked for the storm sold quickly, the company said.

Such knowledge, Wal-Mart has learned, is not only power. It is profit, too.

Plenty of retailers collect data about their stores and their shoppers, and many use the information to try to improve sales. Target Stores, for example, introduced a branded Visa card in 2001 and has used it, along with an arsenal of gadgetry, to gather data ever since. But Wal-Mart amasses more data about the products it sells and its shoppers' buying habits than anyone else, so much so that some privacy advocates worry about potential for abuse.

With 3,600 stores in the United States and roughly 100 million customers walking through the doors each week, Wal-Mart has access to information about a broad slice of America - from individual Social Security and driver's license numbers to geographic proclivities for Mallomars, or lipsticks, or jugs of antifreeze. The data are gathered item by item at the checkout aisle, then recorded, mapped and updated by store, by state, by region.

By its own count, Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on mainframes at its Bentonville headquarters. To put that in perspective, the Internet has less than half as much data, according to experts.

Information about products, and often about customers, is most often obtained at checkout scanners. Wireless hand-held units, operated by clerks and managers, gather more inventory data. In most cases, such detail is stored for indefinite lengths of time. Sometimes it is divided into categories or mapped across computer models, and it is increasingly being used to answer discount retailing's rabbinical questions, like how many cashiers are needed during certain hours at a particular store.

All of the data are precious to Wal-Mart. The information forms the basis of the sales meetings the company holds every Saturday, and it is shot across desktops throughout its headquarters and into the places where it does business around the world. Wal-Mart shares some information with its suppliers - a company like Kraft, for example, can tap into a private extranet, called Retail Link, to see how well its products are selling. But for the most part, Wal-Mart hoards its information obsessively.

It also takes pains to keep the information secret. Some of the systems it uses are custom-built and designed by its own employees, the better to keep competitors off the trail. Companies that sell equipment and software to Wal-Mart are bound by nondisclosure agreements. Three years ago, Wal-Mart summarily announced that it would no longer share its sales data with outside companies, like Information Resources Inc. and ACNielsen, which had paid Wal-Mart for the information and then sold it to other retailers.

"When you look at their behavior, you can tell that Wal-Mart considers data to be a top priority," said Christine Overby, a senior analyst for consumer markets at Forrester Research. Over the years, she said, Wal-Mart executives have spent handsomely for their systems, paying $4 billion in 1991 to create Retail Link and signing onto innovations like bar codes and electronic data interchange, a forerunner of the Internet, well ahead of the pack. Wal-Mart is also driving manufacturers to invest in radio frequency identification. By next October, the company will require its biggest suppliers to tag shipments to some of its distribution centers with tiny transmitters that would eventually let Wal-Mart track every item that it sells.

With so much data at Wal-Mart's corporate fingertips, what are the risks to consumers? Most have no clue that their habits are monitored to such an extent. There are no signs - like the ones for Wal-Mart's anti-shoplifting cameras - advising customers that information is being collected and stored. And there is no giveback: Wal-Mart doesn't use loyalty cards and rarely offers promotions based on past purchases.

It is aware, however, that shoppers are concerned about privacy. On its Web site, Wal-Mart posts a privacy policy that states, in part: "We take reasonable steps to protect your personal information. We maintain reasonable physical, technical and procedural measures to limit access to personal information to authorized individuals with appropriate purposes."

NOT everyone agrees. "People don't know that Wal-Mart is capturing information about who they are and what they bought, but they are also capable of capturing a huge amount of outside information about them that has nothing to do with their grocery purchases," said Katherine Albright, the founder and director of Caspian, a consumer advocacy group concerned with privacy issues. "They can find out your mortgage amounts, your court dates, your driving record, your creditworthiness."

One source of information can be a credit card or a debit card, Ms. Albright said. Wal-Mart shoppers increasingly use the cards to pay for purchases, particularly in the better-heeled neighborhoods where the company has been building stores recently.

Some companies specialize in what is known as data enhancement, in which a customer's name and address, or a telephone number, can open the door to additional information. "If Wal-Mart had a customer database and wanted to start e-mailing their customers, we could append their e-mail addresses," said Sarah Stansberry, director of marketing for AccuData America, a company based in Fort Myers, Fla., that specializes in such services but does not use credit card records. With e-mail addresses, AccuData can track names and home addresses, she added. Other information follows: "We can access what they paid for their house, and their mortgage," though not driving records. The company has not done any work for Wal-Mart, she said.

Ms. Dillman said that she did not think Wal-Mart had ever tried to squeeze data from credit cards to learn more about customers' buying habits. Indeed, she said, it wouldn't be necessary. "We can do that without the credit card information," she said. "We can look at what's happening in the market, and look at what's happening in other markets that are similar."

WAL-MART uses its mountain of data to push for greater efficiency at all levels of its operations, from the front of the store, where products are stocked based on expected demand, to the back, where details about a manufacturer's punctuality, for example, are recorded for future use. The purpose is to protect Wal-Mart from a retailer's twin nightmares: too much inventory, or not enough.

"They recognize that technology is a critical tool for them to have an efficient supply chain," said Kathryn Cullen, a principal at Kurt Salmon Associates, a consulting firm, who said that she has not advised Wal-Mart. "They track the purchases and very quickly route that back to their suppliers so they can be replenished. They are very strict with their suppliers, but they give them the data that they need."

Armed with sales results from past weeks and months, Wal-Mart meets with each of its suppliers to establish sales goals for the coming year. Suppliers are actively encouraged, so to speak, not to miss those goals. A manufacturer that fails to meet its sales target - or has data-documented problems with orders, delivery, restocking or returns - can expect even tougher negotiations in the future from Wal-Mart, which is renowned for its steeliness in such situations.

Still, achieving sleeker operations is not the whole story. In many ways, data are used to forecast and drive Wal-Mart's business. "We use it in real estate decisions, understanding what the draw is like and what the customers will be like," Ms. Dillman said, referring to the company's planning for new stores, including the number of shoppers it expects to attract to each.

When it comes to Sam's Club, Wal-Mart's membership warehouse chain, "we know who every customer is," she added. So Wal-Mart does a kind of outreach, contacting nearby convenience store owners, for example, to let them know that "the items they buy, they could save money on by buying at Sam's."

AT Wal-Mart, problems are referred to as "exceptions," and technology is essential for what Ms. Dillman calls "exception management." Within the company's empire, "we keep watching everything that just happened," she said. "We are pretty near real time. We can tell people that they need to go do something, and we are within hours, depending on the event."

The "event" may be a truck's failure to drop off or pick up something, or the delivery of a load of shoes missing their mates. It could be the absence of an important product in a store's backroom, or in the distribution center that serves that store. Or it could be an act of nature like the hurricanes that descended, one after another, on Florida and other parts of the Southeast this year.

Eventually, some experts say, Wal-Mart will use its technology to institute what is called scan-based trading, in which manufacturers own each product until it is sold.

"Wal-Mart will never take those products onto its books," said Bruce Hudson, a retail analyst at the Meta Group, an information technology consulting firm in Stamford, Conn. "If you think of the impact of shedding $50 billion of inventory, that is huge."

The impact will probably be felt by suppliers, he added, but none are likely to complain.

"You can see the pattern of Wal-Mart's mandates, and as Wal-Mart grows in power, it is getting more dictatorial," he said. "The suppliers shake their heads and say, 'I don't want to go this way, but they are so big.' Wal-Mart lives in a world of supply and command, instead of a world of supply and demand."

Consumers willingly turn over plenty of information. For example, cashing a payroll check at Wal-Mart requires a two-step process, said an assistant manager in a Wal-Mart in Saddle Brook, N.J., who asked to be identified only by her first name, Mary. "First you enter your Social Security number into the system, twice," she said, pointing to the number pad hooked up to a register in the checkout lane. "The cashier can enter it, but some people don't like to share that information." Next a customer must enter his or her driver's license number, the assistant manager said. If payroll checks are cashed regularly at Wal-Mart, there is no need to keep punching in the Social Security number, only the driver's license number: "The system will recognize you the next time."

All of that information winds up at the company's office in Bentonville, the assistant manager added.

Ms. Dillman said it was "separated out, along with any personal identifiable information," and warehoused in a way that requires special permission to gain access. For check approval - when a customer writes a personal check to pay for something at a Wal-Mart, for example - "we don't keep it any longer than we need it for that transaction," she said. "All it's linked to is the checking account number, when we scan your check," she added. "We don't mine that data. We don't use it for anything other than the transaction."

Historically, Wal-Mart's focus has been on the products it sells, not to whom it sells them. One of the most difficult pieces of information to harvest is which customer bought what. Such information is expensive, too.

"When you are in the everyday-low-price market, you tend not to gather a lot of information about customers directly because you don't spend a lot of time with them gathering name, address, telephone numbers through a loyalty card," said Gene Alvarez, a vice president at the Meta Group. "That is the proper focus, because when you want to get customer-intimate, you have to offer a loyalty program, and there's the cost of that loyalty program."

Wal-Mart has discovered the potential of its own Web site in learning more about customers. Ms. Dillman said the site was beginning to allow users to buy a product online and have it delivered to a store near them, an option that Sears, Roebuck and other retailers have had for years. Naturally, some personal information would have to be submitted as part of the transaction. "You can do some association there, what products are of what interest," Mr. Alvarez said.

But Wal-Mart executives tend to care more about how products sell as part of a larger basket. "Me knowing what you specifically buy is not necessarily going to help me get the right merchandise into the store," Ms. Dillman said. "Knowing collectively what goes into one shopping cart together tells us a lot more."

Analyzing what ends up together in that cart drives Wal-Mart's pricing, other experts said. Shoppers might buy cold medicine along with chicken soup and orange juice during flu season, but not all of those products need to be priced at rock-bottom, said Ms. Overby, the Forrester analyst. "They might say, 'If we get really good at pricing the cold medicine and promoting it and letting people know that, hey, we have that product in stock and also at the best prices,' then they get people into the store," she said. "The other items in the basket might not be the lowest price in town, but the entire basket will be 10 to 20 percent less."

STILL, as Wal-Mart recently discovered, there can be such a thing as too much information. Six women brought a sex-discrimination lawsuit against the company in 2001 that was broadened this year to a class of about 1.6 million current and former female employees. Lawyers for the women have said that Wal-Mart has the ability to use its human-resources database to calculate back pay for the plaintiffs as well as to determine whether women were fairly promoted and paid. The judge hearing the case, which is pending in a federal court in San Francisco, has agreed.

The database is unusually detail-rich, said Joseph Sellers, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. "They've put into their work force database the information that bears on virtually every facet of compensation," he said. "They have performance reviews, along with seniority, the time spent with the company, which store they worked in. So you can compare people working in the same store, to measure whether men and women are paid differently."

If that comes to pass, it will be a rare moment indeed, with Wal-Mart's carefully assembled data being channeled for a purpose Wal-Mart did not desire.

From NY Times

Posted by Craig at 04:26 PM

October 25, 2004

Price Checking Leads Point of Decision Kiosks in Retail Space

Frost & Sullivan new report on little price check terminals.

October 25, 2004 09:05 AM US Eastern Timezone

Price Checking Leads Point of Decision Kiosks in Retail Space

PALO ALTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 25, 2004--Point of decision (PoD) kiosks, also known as mini-kiosks, are emerging as the retail industry's solution to offering a superior in-store customer experience.


PoD Kiosks are defined as stand-alone or networked interactive self-service devices whose primary interface with the customer is via a touch screen or programmable buttons. They have a diagonal screen size between five and nine inches, resolution no less than quarter VGA (video graphics array) and possess multimedia capabilities including moving pictures and sounds.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (www.it.frost.com), U.S. Point of Decision Kiosk Markets, reveals that this market generated revenue of $36.4 million in 2004.

"In a climate of converging positioning strategies among retailers, the focus on in-store experience as a differentiator is being renewed. PoD kiosks are meeting the need for cheaper and smaller alternatives to the standard full-form factor kiosks," says Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst Vineeta Kommineni.

Amendments to item pricing laws (IPL) are ushering in a wave of growth in this industry. Nine US states currently have IPLs that require most items sold in a retail environment to have a price label attached to them in addition to price labels on shelves. In 2003, Massachusetts amended its IPL to exempt retailers who install at least one electronic scanner for every 5000 square feet of store selling space from this requirement. This is now prompting retailers and supermarket associations in other states such as Michigan and California to appeal for similar changes.

"In order to capitalize on their investments in price checkers, retailers are showing interest in PoD kiosks that enable customer-facing applications other than mere price verification. These include guided selling, loyalty programs, and paging of sales associates for assistance," says Kommineni.

For PoD kiosks to succeed, however, they must carry compelling content to motivate usage by customers. For maximum impact, this content needs to be repackaged into short selling messages designed specifically for the PoD kiosk. The impact of full motion content at the point of decision needs to be reinforced.

Since this is an emerging market, content providers are yet to develop best practices for optimum message length, number of messages to be strung together, and so on. Issues of content control also abound.

"While content management is expected to pose a strong challenge in the short term, it is likely to diminish considerably in the medium term once best practices for content creation and content ownership are developed and alliances between content production houses, retailers and PoD kiosk software vendors evolve," concludes Kommineni.

If you are interested in an overview to this new research service, please e-mail Dustin McVey (dmcvey@frost.com) with the following information:

-- U.S. PoD Kiosk Markets (F037)

-- Name

-- Title

-- Company

-- Phone #

-- E-mail Address

U.S. Point of Decision Kiosk Markets is unique in its exclusive coverage of these emerging markets, providing forecasts and key drivers and restraints. It discusses pricing and interchangeability of PoD kiosks and cart-mounted devices in detail. It also assesses which retail segments are most likely to adopt PoD kiosks and provides a comprehensive competitive analysis. Executive summaries and interviews are available to the press.

Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company, has been partnering with clients to support the development of innovative strategies for more than 40 years. Its advisory expertise integrates growth consulting, growth partnership services and corporate management training to identify and develop opportunities for clients. While serving clientele ranging from virtually every Global 1000 to emerging companies, Frost & Sullivan's comprehensive industry coverage includes a global perspective of all vertical and horizontal industries. Its unique coverage combines our ongoing analysis of markets, technologies, econometrics, and demographics. For more information, visit http://www.frost.com

U.S. Point of Decision Kiosk Markets

F037

Price Checking Leads Point of Decision Kiosks in Retail Space

Posted by Craig at 09:01 PM

October 05, 2004

Gift Card Retail Kiosks

St. Clair and KIS Introduce Gift Card Retail Kiosk

LOUISVILLE, Colo., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- St. Clair Interactive and Kiosk Information Systems will be displaying a new self service gift card solution for retail kiosks. The new solution will be shown at the upcoming Digital Retailing tradeshow in San Francisco October 11 and 12th in booth 1218.

ADVERTISEMENT
Shoppers can purchase gift cards and also check values of existing cards without lineups or delays at check outs. The kiosk dispenses and updates values both on the card and in the database. Transactions can be linked to POS. The application can transact with almost any Gift Card / prepaid / PIN database that has xml capability (such as ewi prepaid, Mosaic, etc).

Rick Malone, CEO of Kiosk Information Systems Inc said, "We're happy to work with St. Clair on another joint product. Gift Cards have a strong ROI and self-service makes the return even higher. We like products that offer real services and real returns for our retail customers!"

Kiosk Information Systems designs and manufactures touch screen, self- service kiosk solutions for retail, human resources, employee benefits, CRM, Wi-Fi, loyalty, gaming and many more self-service applications. With more than 28 standard kiosk models, custom models, turnkey vending units such as public internet terminals and photo kiosks, KIS has the largest self-service product and services line from which to choose. For information about KIS products and services please visit www.kis-kiosk.com/ , call KIS at 303-466-5471 or email pr@gokis.net

St. Clair Interactive Communications is a pioneering designer, developer and producer of interactive touch screen self-service transaction applications. Its client list spans the globe and includes major companies in the retail, telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing, health care, transportation, education and public utilities sectors. Since it was established in 1983, St. Clair has delivered more than 460 interactive multi- media projects, each developed for specific business applications and each using its own combination of hardware / software / network / data / user interfaces. For more information about St. Clair Interactive please visit www.stclairinteractive.com or call 800-461-8335 or email info@stclairinteractive.com.

St. Clair and KIS Introduce Gift Card Retail Kiosk

Posted by Craig at 05:07 PM

August 31, 2004

Retailers Turning to Tech

With e-commerce gaining steadily, bricks-and-mortar outfits are embracing new technologies to keep shoppers happy -- and spending

Newbie shoppers entering a Food Lion in Mooresville, N.C., might think they've come to the wrong place. The shop looks more like an electronics emporium than a traditional grocery store. Customers bustle about brandishing handheld scanners. Information kiosks dish out maps on how to find any item, such as that lattice pie crust hiding between aisles 7 and 8. And near the pharmacy, a high-tech blood-pressure monitor takes shoppers' readings and keeps the data for a year.

While this Food Lion experimental store seems extraordinary, technologies assembled within it could become commonplace within two years as retailers prepare for a makeover as dramatic as any on the Mix It Up home-design TV show. Gone will be today's cashier stations, price tags, paper sales signs, pharmacy waits, and deli lines. Hold on to your cart, because your shopping experience might soon have little resemblance to anything you experience today.

"BIOLOGICAL PROBLEMS." What's behind this shift to technology? With consumers growing more accustomed to the quick convenience of shopping on the Internet, bricks-and-mortar retailers are having to hustle like never before. They increasingly find that new technologies are often the only way to keep costs down while offering customers a better shopping experience. Buyers appreciate kiosks that can suggest the perfect recipe to go with white wine. And a self-checkout that halves the time spent waiting in line can be a big draw.

Add changing demographics, and the time is ripe for shopping to get a tech infusion. As the population ages, buyers look for technologies that offset their declining capabilities. Baby boomers, for example, like gadgets that make up for their deteriorating eyesight -- such as the hand-held scanner Food Lion is testing out that displays an item's price and description in larger type. "A lot of the high technology is really addressing some biological problems that our society is having," says Craig Childress, director of prototype design research at human-behavior consultancy Envirosell in New York.

"If you really want to be here down the road, you have to look at consumer trends and change accordingly," says Susie McIntosh-Hinson, a senior vice-president at Food Lion. As a result, the $3.6 trillion U.S. retail industry now spends about 2.1% of its sales a year on technology, up from 1.8% in 2001, according to IBM Global Services' 2003 survey of 78 chief information officers and tech managers.

"The retailer is going to know you -- your size, your brand preferences -- better than you know yourself"

Early results indicate the payoff can be sizable. New gizmos and software can speed up sales growth from about 5% today to 7% to 8%, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with consultancy NPD Group. Consider this: By recommending curtains that go with the bedding a customer has picked, an in-store kiosk can increase that buyer's spending by 25% or more, estimates Francie Mendelsohn, president of kiosk consultancy Summit Research Associates in Rockville, Md. And an interactive digital store sign that chipmaker Intel (INTC ) is working on might notice that a buyer has put a bottle of shampoo in his cart and suggest a conditioner that complements it.

SAFE DATA? This type of technology has one drawback, however, which could slow its adoption. To make shopping more convenient, "the retailer is going to know you -- your size, your brand preferences -- better than you know yourself," predicts Cohen. That means buying habits, preferences, and personal data will be collected by retailers, potentially sparking privacy concerns. Already, some customers avoid preferred-shopper, or loyalty, cards and make purchases with cash only. As stores get more high-tech, retailers will need to persuade shoppers that they won't sell or misuse their data.

If retailers can ease concerns, the store of the future will unfold. You can catch an early glimpse at chains like Stop & Shop Supermarkets, which is testing a device called a Shopping Buddy. This gizmo is the size of a large purse that attaches to a shopping cart's handlebar. It sports a flat screen that can scan a customer's preferred-shopper card to reveal a list of past purchases. A shopper can then use the data to compile fresh grocery lists, and the Buddy will direct them to the aisles where the items can be found. Research shows that most customers leave a grocery store still having something they wanted to buy but couldn't find.

Made by tech companies Symbol (SBL) and Cuesol, the Buddy can also suggest an entree to make for dinner and provide customers with a related list of ingredients and cooking instructions. And at three experimental Stop & Shop stores, it allows shoppers to place an order with the deli: Just hit "the usual" button to order your favorite chicken sandwich. The contraption will notify the shopper when it's ready to be picked up. Stop & Shop is about to roll the Buddy out chainwide.

VEGGIES' CLOSE-UP. Other clever technologies will boost retailers' profit margins by encouraging customers to take on some of the work typically done by store workers. IBM Research (IBM ) has developed a special scale allowing shoppers to weigh their own produce and get a price printout, so they can move through checkout faster.

Using five factors, including the products' color, size, and texture, the scale's camera is so precise it can differentiate between two different kinds of apples, which is something most produce managers struggle with. (That's why in many stores different kinds of apples are typically sold at the same price.) With this scale, retailers will be able to charge more for some kinds of produce. Better yet, the scale's software -- the same one NASA uses to enhance space photos -- can even identify fruit and veggies through plastic grocery bags.

Self-checkouts, representing about 5% of U.S. cashier lines today, reduce staffing needs as well. Typically, such setups allow one worker to oversee four lines instead of one, says Mendelsohn. As these are rolled out en masse in the next two years, they'll either reduce the total number of people hired or free workers to greet shoppers or demonstrate new products.

BUYING WITH A FINGERPRINT. Another area where technology can play a pivotal role is by reducing fraud and identity theft, which costs consumers billions annually. San Francisco startup Pay By Touch has developed a fingerprint-based electronic wallet already used at several Roundy's and Piggly Wiggly grocery stores. To sign up, customers scan a finger and swipe their debit and credit cards at an in-store kiosk. The next time they come to a cashier, their fingerprint reading will open a customized screen, with a list of their payment options.

"We guarantee that no one else can be interpreted as being you," says Craig Ramsey, Pay By Touch's CEO. This technology also reduces transaction time by 34%, allowing stores to handle more customers with fewer employees, he says.

However, the bulk of innovation will happen behind the scenes. Cuesol, for example, has developed a device the size of a cell phone that attaches to the front of shopping carts, pinpointing their exact location within a store. Then the carts all show up on a computerized map. If a manager sees scores of consumers heading to the pharmacy, staff can quickly be sent there to reduce lines. Cuesol will begin testing the system at select Stop & Shop stores in three months.

TECH LIMITS. The jobs of the rank-and-file will get easier, too. Software giant Microsoft (MSFT) is developing a location-based information database that workers can use to get answers to customer questions. If a shopper asks a salesperson in the TV section how to get cable service, the database might retrieve a local provider's number. But the same question, when asked by someone in an area selling various cables and hardware components, might generate an answer like "coaxial cable." "This will enable employees to get up to speed and become educated quicker," says Brian Scott, general manager for the retail and hospitality industry solutions group at Microsoft.

Of course, high tech won't solve everything. Much can be accomplished by simply making stores less cluttered and their layout more immersive -- like the cosmetics sections in department stores, says Tom Gibbs, Intel's worldwide director of industry strategy. And it's important to keep in mind that "people can only handle so much change," Gibbs says.

Still, retail technology is about to take a giant leap. And it promises to be a profound -- and profitable -- one for both retailers and consumers.


By Olga Kharif in Portland, Ore.

BW Online | August 31, 2004 | How Retailers Are Turning to Tech

Posted by Craig at 03:24 PM

Store-Within-Store

Circuit City to Launch Verizon Wireless Store-Within-a-Store Concept

RICHMOND, Va. (August 31, 2004) - Circuit City Stores and Verizon Wireless, Bedminster, N.J., announced yesterday that they have signed an exclusive agreement to create a Verizon Wireless store within each of more than 570 Circuit City superstores around the country. Verizon Wireless will operate the Verizon Wireless stores and be responsible for the employees, wireless and wireless-related inventory, displays and signage.

Circuit City shoppers will have access to the same features they would find in Verizon Wireless Communications stores, including account look up, bill pay and other benefits previously only available at Verizon Wireless Communications stores.

The rollout will begin in September and is scheduled for completion in November. Verizon Wireless signs will be displayed on the exterior of each Circuit City Superstore that has a Verizon Wireless store inside.

Executive Technology

Posted by Craig at 03:19 PM

August 12, 2004

Retail News

Toys 'R' Us Says It May Leave the Toy Business

By CONSTANCE L. HAYS

Published: August 12, 2004


attered by intense competition from discounters like Wal-Mart Stores, Toys "R" Us announced yesterday that it might bow out of the toy business altogether.

The $11 billion company, which rose to become the nation's largest toy retailer by developing a once-successful formula that pushed its rivals out of business, said in a statement that it was determined to split its toy business and its faster-growing baby supplies division, Babies "R" Us, into two companies. It also said it planned "to explore the possible sale of the global toy business."

Abandoning the world of Barbie and Lego would be a startling denouement for a company that rose to supremacy during the 1990's. Behind the bobbing head of its corporate mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, it surpassed rivals like F. A. O. Schwarz, which filed for bankruptcy late last year.

But the troubles at Toys "R" Us show how Wal-Mart and other large discounters, once seen solely as a threat to mom-and-pop stores on Main Street, are now squeezing previously strong national chains. Bookstores, music retailers, electronics chains and supermarkets have all struggled to compete with Wal-Mart's low prices and its enormous power over its suppliers.

During last year's December holiday season, Wal-Mart, Target and other discounters captured a large share of the $27 billion United States toy business by expanding their selections and slashing prices. Wal-Mart now has about 20 percent of the market, said Chris Byrne, a toy consultant based in Manhattan, and Target has about 18 percent, while Toys "R" Us has dipped to 17.

Ten years ago, Toys "R" Us held 20 percent, followed by Kmart, Sears and Ames, Mr. Byrne said. Wal-Mart and Target were insignificant players.

"It's the ultimate corporate capitulation,'' Burt Flickinger III, a retail consultant, said of the Toys "R" Us announcement. "They killed off all their competition, like Child World and Kiddie City, and declared victory worldwide. But they never saw Wal-Mart catching up."

Company executives would not comment further on the statement, which came just a week before Toys "R" Us was scheduled to discuss second-quarter earnings in a conference call. The discussion has been postponed until Aug. 23.

Sean P. McGowan, managing director of the Harris Nesbitt Corporation, an investment bank, said the announcement created further confusion with too few details about the company's future. "If Toys 'R' Us gets sold and Babies 'R' Us is spun off, what's left of the company?" he said.

Toys "R" Us, which lured its chief executive, John H. Eyler Jr., away from F. A. O. Schwarz four years ago, has made several attempts to redefine itself since then, as sales began to flag. In 2001, it opened a flagship store in Times Square that, with its indoor Ferris wheel and roaring bipedal dinosaur, has become the tourist attraction that F. A. O. Schwarz once was. Sales were at least $50 million, according to a person who has seen the figures.

As recently as early 2002, the company was busily redesigning its 683 United States stores, at a cost of $600,000 apiece, after closing unprofitable locations and changing its assortment to try to stand out from warehouse-style retailers. Meanwhile, competitors faltered, like FAO Inc., the parent of F. A. O. Schwarz, as well as Kaybee Toys, which has run into problems of its own.

While the company has acknowledged difficulties at Kids "R" Us stores, it has consistently indicated that its domestic toy business, which accounts for the bulk of sales, held more promise.

The poor results from last year's holiday season, during which Toys "R" Us was squeezed on profits, prompted clamor from Wall Street that led to an internal review of the company's various segments, analysts said.

While it has always encountered some competition from Wal-Mart and Target, last year the two giant discounters began carrying more toys than ever, with wider variety and lower prices in many cases that brought shoppers running. Store specials advertised as early as September helped the discounters draw business away from Toys "R" Us even before the crucial holiday shopping season began.

The New York Times > Business > Toys 'R' Us Says It May Leave the Toy Business

Posted by Craig at 10:03 PM

August 09, 2004

Store PickUp

Store-pick-up is a win for Sears

One of the advantages over their catalog and pure-play brethren that chain retailers bring to their web operations is their physical presence. They can allow customers to pick up their orders at the store for near-instant gratification. But retailers have wrestled with how to make that happen and whether its worth the extra trouble. Sears.com , which rolled out a pick-up-at-the-store policy about a year ago, reported on its early results at eTail 2004 East in Fort Lauderdale, FL, this week.

Sears.coms call? Its worth it. We have found (store pick-up) to be very lucrative, Bill Christopher, director of customer care, said. Its been a win for Sears Direct and a win for the stores.

He reported that 27% of store pick-up sales are incremental sales. In addition, 22% of store pick-up customers make additional purchases while in the store, with an average ticket of $200.

Store-pick-up has the added benefit of being a less expensive transaction in that Sears does not pay the 5% of revenue to fulfill and ship the orders. And it does not incur inventory costs, as the items are in the stores already. Stores average three to four pick-up items a day, he says.

Among initiatives for the next year at Sears.com, No. 3 in Internet Retailers Top 300 Guide to online web sites, is to reduce the ready-to-pick-up time from two hours to 45-60 minutes, Christopher said. Another initiative is to allow third parties to pick up the order at a store so, for instance, someone in Chicago can buy an item for a family member in Des Moines and the recipient can pick up the order in a Des Moines store. Now, the person picking up the order must present the credit card that paid for the order.

InternetRetailer.com - Daily News for Thursday, August 5, 2004

Posted by Craig at 09:47 PM

August 04, 2004

Retail Store Expansions

Family Dollar Planning to Open 109 Stores Next Month

AUGUST 04, 2004 -- MATTHEWS, N.C. - Family Dollar Stores, Inc., the fast-growing North Carolina-based discount store chain, opened 44 stores during the four-week period ended July 31, bringing the chain's total to 5,358. Next month the value retailer will open 109 stores -- the most ever opened by the company in a single month.

The locations will be traditional-sized Family Dollar stores, ranging from 7,500 to 9,500 square feet, Familly Dollar e.v.p. George Mahoney, told Progressive Grocer.

The newest stores are in the following states and the District of Columbia: Six in Florida; five in Texas; four each in Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, and Ohio; two each in Arizona, Colorado, and New York; and one each in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

"Since our stores are relatively small, we have a lot of flexibility in where we open them," said Mahoney. "We can open them in very small towns or even major urban markets with a storefront location."

To meet the challenge of staffing these stores and to help interested contractors put out bids, Family Dollar posts FAQs on its Web site. "The Web site helps get the resources, not only from the standpoint of contractors and vendors, but also to help us staff all of the new stores with managers and assistant managers and other store associates," said Mahoney.

For the fiscal year beginning Aug. 29, Family Dollar plans to open between 500 and 560 stores and close 60 to 70 stores, which will result in about 8 percent to 9 percent net new-store growth, and 9 percent to 10 percent net square footage growth.

Family Dollar Planning to Open 109 Stores Next Month

Posted by Craig at 05:50 PM

June 14, 2004

Malls

Sony rolling out stores in high-end malls

Electronics giant Sony Corp. is rolling out stores in top-end U.S. malls.
So far it has units in Beverly Center, Los Angeles; Copley Place, Boston; Houston (Texas) Galleria; and South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, Calif. The companys goal is to open five more in similar centers by the end of the year, says Sony spokeswoman Marcy Cohen.

Its all about integrating technology into peoples lifestyles, she said.

Sony has operated its own stores for about 25 years in Canada, and currently has 71 units there.

The 5,000-square-foot U.S. stores will educate consumers about Sony products, and are not meant to compete with the many retailers that sell Sony electronics, some of whom could be in the same malls, Cohen said.

Observers have compared the concept to Apple Computers high-design Apple Store. Sony says it has not decided how many U.S. stores to open next year.

Sony operates two 20,000-square-foot SonyStyle units, in New York City and San Francisco. (It closed one this year in Chicago.)


Compiled by the staff of Shopping Centers Today. June 11, 2004 International Council of Shopping Centers.

ICSC SCT Newswire

Posted by Craig at 03:46 PM

Retail Merchandising

Store Wars: How Retail eCommerce Executives Can Win the Battle for the Last Aisle

Four Tips for Success for In-Store Digital Merchandising & Customer Self-Service
By: Alex Richardson

In the next two years, leading eCommerce executives in the retail industry will see a growing need to implement an in-store, digital merchandising strategy in order to gain sustainable competitive advantage and to improve profitability.

Despite the success of Amazon.com, most leading banks and retailers have beaten most of the dotcoms at their own game. According to The New York Times, an estimated 200 consumer eCommerce sites have folded in the past five years, such as ToySmart, eLuxury, Toys.Com, NetGrocer, Webvan, just to name a few. By leveraging decades of advertising, strong merchandising and improved retail storefront networks, as well as investing billions into the basic building blocks of eCommerce: (IP, Email, Web Stores, CRM, Supply Chain,HR/Intranets, Pricing), leading retailers have taken back consumers in droves.

Consumers now have the ability to order most goods at their home computer screen, yet nearly half the US population visits a Wal-Mart Store or a grocery store once per week. Why? One could argue that it's hard to order hamburger meat and bagels online, but I suspect that it is a result of our basic need for convenience, immediate gratification that comes from doing business with trusted retail brands. Branded retail stores provide consumers a safe (aka "trusted") way to quickly purchase goods without the wait. It will be difficult if not altogether impossible for eCommerce Execs to continue to ignore the storefront, especially with the convergence of a myriad of in-store applications including: Web ordering/In-Store Pick-up, In-Store Special Order Taking, Upselling/Cross-Selling Systems, Product Demonstrations and Configurators, Employee Training and, of course, Self-Service Checkout and Couponing.

Retail Stores Close Sales

In the next two years, eCommerce Executives should consider shifting the battleground back to the physical store since they have rediscovered the importance of the storefront as a key "point of influence"; physical stores close sales efficiently and reinforce the brand to consumers better than many other sales channels such as catalogs and eCommerce. The battle for the "last aisle" will be one of the biggest challenges for eCommerce and retail executives in the next 36 months.

Over the past decade, retail consumers have demonstrated an insatiable demand for convenience and time-savings since they have 12% less free time than only eight years ago. The DNA of consumers is also rapidly changing due to their 24/7 diet of digital information; consumers can access thousands of product choices and prices at the touch of a finger. Year round sales by retailers have reset consumer expectations to buy only when they see 20% or more discounts on products. The new breed of retailer marketers must embed the expectations of the next generation of consumers inside their stores through digital merchandising and self-service solutions to allow for consumers to extend, seamlessly, the consumer's passion for solving buying problems through digital technology.

The Multi-Channel Shopper

Today's consumer has also been trained as a multi-channel shopper, which is a fancy way of saying that consumers like to buy products through stores, catalogs, websites, direct mail, TV, and telephone. Today's consumers tend to use catalogs to build awareness about a company's products. Retailers use websites to nudge consumers from a consideration to a preference. Then consumers, armed with new buying intelligence, get into their cars and purchase products inside of retail buildings since retail stores are a "trusted" place to "close the sale". In short, the in-store eCommerce channel will transform from a "nice to have" to a "must have" in order for retailers to create and maintain a loyal and profitable customer base.

Ready To Go Solutions

On the technology supplier front, retailers now have a wide variety of affordable, retail-hardened, digital merchandising solutions to choose from. Low-cost Web POS, smart screens & kiosks, wireless in-store networks, digital signage, shelf-talkers, web-based packaged software, off the shelf /small footprint PCs, Web-POS, Inventory Extension Software and reliable system security are just a few of the tools that allow retailers to affordably deploy and maintain in-store consumer applications while keeping their capital expenditure budgets in tact.

Retailers can also deliver sophisticated live and on-demand, high-quality video efficiently at the time and place most likely to influence the buying decision: the point of purchase. This same communication mode can also serve internally for more effective employee training and corporate communications that ultimately drive sales.

On the services side of the fence, many interactive agencies and the media are moving rapidly into the physical world in order to capture incremental advertising and marketing dollars. Since interactive agencies and media already control the digital marketing assets of their clients, the redeployment of these assets to the storefront channel should be a natural extension of their marketing strategies.



Stores Within a Store - 60,000 SKUs in Six Square Feet

I believe that the growth of "Stores within a Store" will also grow dramatically as leading marketers realize the potential of using their marketing assets (DNR-Digitally Network Ready!) to improve customer service and sales through branded "digital touchpoints", without the expense of building physical storefronts.

Banks, which typically spend about $1 Million in construction for a new branch, have practiced this approach for many years with ATMs and mini-branches inside of grocery stores. Behr Paint kiosks, located in the paint department in Home Depot stores, allows customers to instantly find the right paint color for their home at the touch of a finger - without waiting for customer service staff. At 7-Eleven stores, customers can use VCOM ATM kiosks to pay bills, order flowers, cash checks, and buy lottery tickets. It's just a matter of time before other retail categories, historically dependent of retail staff to close the sale (such as cosmetic counters), to convert to digital automation.


How Can You Win the Battle for the Last Aisle?

I believe that Retail eCommerce Executives can leverage this wave if they focus on a few key issues.


1) Forget the K word. Learn the "M" word: Merchandising

Initially, many retailers think about in store technology from the point of view of hardware first and then the software application. The discussion begins with what type of kiosks or display monitors do I need to fit inside my venue? How will it be branded? What kind of hardware, and so on. From my experience, this type of thinking leads to a failed pilot and rollout.

In my opinion, in-store eCommerce was put on the planet to solve a specific problem on the mind of the consumer, within that moment of time and in that specific six square feet of space. My hope for the retail industry would be to transcend from a constant vocabulary focused on cool hardware/software components to one that focuses on merchandising - defined as the promoting and selling of products.

A good exercise to help your mind make this shift in thinking is to stop pretending that you are a technology expert like Bill Gates and visualize for a moment that you are the director of merchandising for a shoe retailer and have to position 500 products on the floor. Also imagine that 100% of your salary is based on incremental store sales.

As Director of Merchandising, what questions would you ask? Would I create a "Men's Department"? Where would I place Woman's Shoes? Would I place men socks adjacent to men's shoes or create a general sock department? Where would I want to sign up for the loyalty program? How would I allow customers to buy gift cards? How would my customers want to pay for their shoes? How would my sales staff keep informed about new pricing? How would I promote special sales from Nike or Adidas without going broke on printed signage? How would I promote shoes that are out of stock?

As you can see, this exercise forces you to get inside the head of the consumer and ask simple buying decision questions. I would suggest you go through this exercise specific to your customer prior to any discussion about digital merchandising technology. And remember that the more your digital merchandising technology strategy is based on contextual placement, the more you can define the consumer experience.

Learn about the World of Category Management

The subject of "Category Management" has been adopted rapidly by retailers and brands in order to facilitate the answer to many of these questions. With the right approach to merchandising, it is my perspective that Category Management leaders will soon adopt the tools from the Digital Merchandising industry in order to increase same store sales and will leverage their eCommerce assets for a myriad of consumer-activated applications such as "Web Ordering" and In-Store Pickup, In-Store Special Order Taking, Upselling/Cross-Selling Systems, Product Demonstrations, Employee Training and of course, Self-Service Checkout.

2) Create a Customer Showcase, Not a Technology Showcase: Keep it Simple and Avoid Designing Spruce Gooses

Another obstacle to success will be the typical urge by the technology providers and internal IT departments to create complex hardware/solution solutions that push technology as the main project goal. As with other technology industries, smart people are often attracted by the "gee whiz" element of various solutions and focus on building "technological showcases" that demonstrate the high levels of their intelligence. I call this the "Spruce Goose" syndrome. In the late 1940s, Howard Hughes received funding from the US Government to build the most expensive aircraft in history. As with many technology projects, the Spruce Goose was behind schedule, over budget and highly over-engineered - for example it had Mahogany instrument panels and consequently was not able fly more than fifty feet off the ground. I highly recommend that you get a poster of the Spruce Goose and tack it up in your CTO's office as a reminder of how not to build a digital merchandising application.

Marketing leaders must rally together in order to allow their companies affordable and scalable solutions that clearly demonstrate ROI in a matter of months... and not years. Focus on "Making it Work" first and then jazzing it up later. This is a good strategy for ensuring that your kiosk project transforms from a small pilot to a large-scale rollout. I strongly believe that digital merchandising applications must improve the consumer experience and connect brands with consumers, seamlessly. And, they must work 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, without a coffee break.

3) Is ROI Important?

In general, I've always felt very strongly that the best way to improve customer service at any location is by hiring great, well-trained people. But as the CEO of Toys"R"Us had pointed out, most retailers put their lowest cost employees in front of the customer. And, it's no secret that employee turnover ranges from 50% in the auto industry to over 100% in the retail industry, costing the industry billions of dollars in recruiting, screening, and training.

In regard to return on investment issues, my experience is that if you can't explain the simple ROI of a digital merchandising project on the back of a napkin, you'll never move the project from pilot to rollout. For applications that have repeatable consumer applications such as airline boarding passes, ATMs, movie ticketing, store checkout, the paybacks are fairly easy to comprehend.

Despite the arguments from the CFO, generally ROI is typically the number third or fourth reason why projects are adopted, although self-service has an intrinsic ROI through labor savings, especially in this time of high employee turnover. In combination with the reduced costs of eCommerce hardware and software, I believe that the burden of the investment will segue from the retailer to the manufacturers and vendors that want to win the battle inside this increasingly important real estate.

The battle for the last aisle will be funded by brands that understand the importance of these new "points of influence" while Retail eCommerce leaders will focus on technology standards, channel convergence, POS Integration, Inventory Extensions, pricing/bill back and Security. The management of this exciting new eCommerce asset will become rapidly profitable to retail if the right vendors are selected as category partners that have the same level of digital merchandising assets, expertise and fulfillment.

4) Practice eCommerce Basics Inside the Storefront

A good reminder of eCommerce 101 is to recall the four basic elements of a successful Consumer eCommerce application:

1) Attraction: This is not pretty pictures or rapid MPEG movies. It's the ability to quickly demonstrate to the consumer how this application solves one or two problems.

2) Interaction: the ability of the application to allow the consumer to find the answer to their problem. This also involves the cross and up-selling of the consumer to more profitable goods and services

3) Transaction: the ability of the application to make the cash register ring. Does the application leverage the consumer's email address to allow for forwarding of selected products for purchase by the consumer to their home or work?

4) Satisfaction: Can the retailer's application fulfill the promises? Will it be delivered in-store? Or, at the consumers home? Is it a secure and private transaction? Does the application work?

Summary: Self-Service is the Best Service!

In the self-service industry, as well as in other facets of life, success will be determined on how your vision helps consumers solve simple problems through the basic self-service value proposition. The eCommerce leaders that can help customers answer that question will be the winners in 2004 and beyond.

Internet Grows for Multi-Channel, Especially in Women

Nielsen/NetRatings recently reported that some 204.3 million, or nearly 75% of Americans, have access to the Internet. In comparison, Internet access penetration hovered around 66 percent in February 2003, rising nine percentage points in the past year.

"In just a handful of years, online access has managed to gain the type of traction that took other mediums decades to achieve," said Kenneth Cassar, director of strategic analysis, Nielsen/NetRatings.

Women represent a higher proportion of Web surfers, with over eighty percent, some 34.6 million women between the ages of 35-54, accessing the Internet at home. Men in this same age range reached an access penetration rate of 80%, accounting for nearly 32.4 million surfers. Seventy-seven percent of females within the 25-34 age group are Web surfers, while 75.6 percent of males in this age bracket have Internet access.

"Women make the majority of purchases and household decisions, so it's no surprise that they are utilizing the Internet as a tool for daily living," said Cassar.

Source: Nielsen/NetRatings Enumeration Study, February 2004

About the Author
Alex Richardson is the Managing Director of Karter Capital Advisors and Founder, Director and Former CEO of Netkey, Inc., a software and solution provider for digital merchandising. With over twenty years of experience, Alex's teams have won over 40 awards for software, design and eCommerce excellence for a variety of leading clients including: BMW, JC Penney's, Starbucks, Bank of America, Disney, Target, US Postal Service, AOL, Borders Books, Fidelity Investments, E*Trade and other worldwide companies. Alex also co-invented two US Patents for multi-channel technology and is completing a book on Digital Merchandising. Prior to founding Netkey, Alex worked at Oglivy & Mather Advertising in New York, and ICF Kaiser Consulting.


KIOSK Magazine Online - informermj04

Posted by Craig at 03:11 PM

May 14, 2004

Retail Research

STATE OF THE RETAIL KIOSK MARKET

STATE OF THE RETAIL KIOSK MARKET
Taking the customer from a state of clueless to queueless
By Vineeta Kommineni, Research Analyst, IT Practice

Kiosk Industry - Small victories, Big Lessons

The Interactive Kiosk industry has risen from the ocean floor.
Inarticulate ROI had sheared the rivets off the industrys hull. Shallow entry and exit barriers
made for icebergs below the waterline. Neither crew at customer nor supplier end had a captain.
Cheap peripherals set projects adrift. The non-mission-critical image of kiosks drove a forceful
gash. The economy swept a violent storm.

However, applications with solid business case are helping weather the storm. Improvements in
remote management software are seeing the industry cruise along steadily and acceptance of
self-service by the consumer is chumming the waters. The industry strung small shells of project
successes and ran a tight ship to resuscitate by over 21 percent from 2002 to breathe easily at
$463.7 million, as estimated by Frost & Sullivan for 2003.

Retail - Pearl in the Oyster

Frost & Sullivan segments the kiosk industry by customer segments into Retail, Banking &
Finance, Government, Telecommunications, Tourism, Transport & Entertainment (TTE) and
Others. The retail segment continues to be the pearl in the oyster for the kiosk industry, ever
since weve been tracking the market since 1997.

Walmarts relentless pricing pressure has intensified competition in a retail industry characterized
by clenched-fist net margins of 1-2 percent, employee turnover upwards of 50% and labor, a
sizable 15% of revenues. To battle with the Beast of Bentonville, throughout the nineties, retailers
hustled for growth by focusing on cost efficiency, range rationalization, inventory management
and space optimization. The spate of consolidation that marked 1996-98 connived with the
Walmart factor, resulting in a convergence of positioning strategies among the large retail
chains. The focus on in-store experience as a differentiator is being renewed.

According to Bob Ventresca, Director of Marketing, Netkey Inc, Retailers first used kiosks to
leverage their investment in e-commerce sites, connecting a companys physical presence to its
online presence. When connected to the retailers back-end systems, kiosks can be a virtual and
infinite shelf for the company. This is particularly important in an environment where product
assortments are evaluated on a daily basis on measurable parameters such as sales per square
feet. A typical supermarket has no less than 25,000 SKUs. By allowing customers to touch and
feel samples and offering products without adding shelf space or floor space, kiosks present the
retailer with the best of the online and physical world.

Retailers IT strategy has been to address two key areas of concern: high employee labor and
turnover costs and customer satisfaction. Kiosks when well implemented can emerge as the
nerve-center of such an IT strategy. HR kiosk applications are increasingly being used to
automate employee benefit selection and related changes. Furthermore, they are being used to
automate employee scheduling; kiosks that allow employees to view their work schedules,
register requests for leave, allow managers to re-allocate schedules, and increase efficient
resource utilization. They are also being used from a hiring and recruiting perspective; the cost
savings from paper-work reduction is a significant driver for growth of this application.

In-store web-based kiosks and product catalogue kiosks characterize the Point-of-Information
kiosks application are an efficient sales adjunct. They have an edge over store employees who
may not have an aptitude for clarifying questions on technology-intensive products, in addition to
up-selling and cross-selling at every opportunity and providing a consistent experience to the
customer. The kiosk can be customized to communicate with customers through several
languages. Kiosks thus not only enable retailers to cut the cost out of training but also to heighten
the customers in-store experience. Further, the decline of mass media and the fragmentation of
audiences have led marketers to rely more on the point of purchase to communicate their product
positioning.

Apart from retailers, third-party kiosk networks such as Coinstar and Blackstone are leveraging
the prime retail space and offering applications such as coin-counting, bill-payment and topping
prepaid long-distance, prepaid wireless and prepaid cards.

More reasons abound. Tom Weaver, Vice President, Sales & Marketing at Kiosk Information
Systems says, Retail is a huge market and by nature is in walking distance to the public no
matter where they are. Government, Gaming and other segments are more selective in the
demographics they attract. In addition, there are so many different applications that can apply or
can be considered retail applications. Human Resource kiosks, Point of Information, Gift Registry,
Photo Kiosks, Loyalty program kiosks, Couponing kiosks that let customers look up and print
coupons freeing them of the hassle of remembering to clip them at home...much more than in any
kiosk vertical.

Sylvia Berens, Vice President, Apunix Computer Services adds to the argument, All other market
segments except maybe travel and tourism have relatively high barriers to entry. In the financial
market, security and interface to back end banking systems is an issue. Gaming is a highly
regulated market, plus, it is very costly to deploy into. The Government market suffers from redtape.
Retailers also have the benefit of economies of scale that is not inherent in other vertical
markets. Frost & Sullivan calculates that the average number of stores of the top 100 US retail
chains is around 1500.

Challenges include retailers nursing the notion that they can pull content from their website on to
the kiosk, without realizing that the chains vision statement or latest earnings results are unlikely
to enthuse the average store visitor. Pilots based on such a kiosk model invariably fail and deter
further investment. Internal politics also plays a role with IT personnel sometimes unwilling to
house kiosk projects initiated by marketing personnel on their network, on the grounds of security
and bandwidth limitations. The greatest challenge is in convincing retailers that kiosk projects are
too complex to be developed in-house. As Berens puts it, Retailers dont go out and deploy their
own POS system, they dont deploy their ATM system but they want to deploy their own kiosk
system. A kiosk is a customer facing application and can be as complex or even more than their
other IT projects.

Enter Mini-kiosks

The average price of a kiosk deployed in a retail setting hovers around $5750. Since aesthetics
and visual presentation are key to branding, retail chains focus more on design aspects of kiosks
than other kiosk customers. Cort Johnson, Manager Kiosk National Practice at IBM says, Size
and cost aspects are prime to retailers. Retailers have very limited floor space and measure the
profitability of stores by sales per square foot. Retailers therefore see the cost of kiosks from an
additional dimension - the cost of floor space they occupy. Emerging to fill this gap for a cheaper
and smaller device to interact with customers is a breed from Symbol, Handheld Products,
Unicomp, NCR Copient and RedDotNet. These Windows CE based kiosks, priced sub $1500 and
weighing around 3 lbs typically have a 6.4 touchscreen display, and are equipped with
multimedia capabilities and programmable buttons. Smart card readers and magstripe readers
can be added optionally. Another breed of kiosks such as the ones from Data Display USA that
do not use operating systems, but instead are Compact Flash, Video CD or DVD driven and do
not support network or transaction capabilities. These kiosks are priced between $350 and $800.
Doug Blatchford, National Accounts Manager, Data Display argues the merits of these kiosks,

What most of my customers need is just a 'simple' solution that helps sell the product,
demonstrate how a product works and/or should be installed, or shows a preview of a song or
video. As a support mechanism in a retail environment, these 'simple' kiosks are much more
effective by allowing the retailer to install up to 10 times the number of interactive devices in place
of a single large kiosk. The traditional kiosk performs a lot more tasks than what my customers
really need and does not justify demands on cost or time to implement.

Scott Hallihan, Worldwide Consumer Service and Kiosk Manager, IBM vouches this argument, In
our experience, information-only kiosks havent been the best sellers. Generally it is going to be
kiosks that can deliver something tangible, like say a photo-kiosk. Digital music is a potential
powerful application that can deliver DVDs or CDs with content on them. You need functionality
thats more connected with the transaction, driving revenue for retailers.

These kiosks can be placed unobtrusively mounted on shelves or end-caps as against the front of
store, in the corner or end of an aisle occupied by traditional kiosks. Says Chuck Mallory, Senior
Consultant for Self Service, Radiant Systems, The smaller it is, the closer you can get it to the
point of decision and hence more effective

Tech-averse consumers who may be conscious about approaching a traditional kiosk may feel
less inhibited using these smaller devices. However, as Dave Zoerb, Senior Vice President,
Frank Mayer & Associates rightly points out, It is not so much a consumer preference as it is a
retail reality. That consumers will get more intimate with these devices is a pertinent issue.
However this is not a driver. The real driver for the growth of these kiosks will be the cost and
availability of retail real estate and how products are merchandised.

Unlike traditional kiosk projects that call for dispersed decision making at Marketing, IT and Store
Operations due to the significant capital outlay involved, sales cycle for the mini-kiosks are
considerably shorter as they usually involve only Store Operations personnel.

Says Bryan Jorett, Director of Business Development, Unicomp, Customers are actively asking
for smaller unit devices. The education curve for retailers in deploying these units is not as steep
as it is for traditional kiosks.

The applications ported on these smaller devices so far include mainly price-checking and
product information. Marsh Supermarkets has just deployed MyMarsh, a wireless interactive
marketing display developed with NCRs Copient, which prompts customers to swipe their loyalty
cards at the checkout to receive customized promotional offers. According to Kenneth Bhella,
Kiosk Product Manager, Symbol, To boost the ROI of these kiosks further, store operations have
also decided to leverage these devices to guarantee employees receive in-aisle access to
mission-critical information from any location on the floor. These types of employee-facing
applications include SKU management, access to work schedules, and time and attendance.

In-store promotional servers that broadcast offers in real-time to customer displays allows
marketers to create promotions instantly without revealing the coupon or promotion value for
competitors to match. Terry Kasen, Business Unit Director, Agilysys Retail Solutions Group
suggests, "Promotions can now be displayed on multiple devices throughout the store based on
where the customer is shopping, day of week or time of day, and with targeted messages based
on their shopping interests. With a well thought out media plan, one-to-one marketing can be
enabled." David McBride, Executive Vice President of Sales, Taurus Display adds, Interactive
Displays can be purchased or coordinated by retailers. The retailers could lease the space and
time to consumer products goods companies. Since these devices can be leased by retailers to
multiple consumer products companies, promotion of seasonal products through these displays
can benefit tremendously, as otherwise it would not be cost-efficient to build the kiosks for short
promotions. Such a model also facilitates evaluation of promotions in real time.

According to Randy Moderhack, Marketing Manager, AGI Schutz, Currently, these kiosks are
primarily being used for non-branded communication. As they move up the product life cycle, fast
moving consumer goods companies that are increasingly being threatened by private labels are
likely to use these kiosks as a channel for their marketing content. However, as Berens points
out, Retailers at this point are more familiar with the print media than any other mediait will be
a while before this model roots itself among retailers. If it does, online content experts such as
Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL who have the wherewithal in targeting digital content could move
into the physical world.

On the flip side, these devices pose a security risk the security of the device; being small they
can be easily misplaced or stolen. Also they may not be as rugged as the larger devices. While
lesser moving parts mean the devices can be easily maintained, hardwiring and cabling for the
units on the shelves as well as battery life and replacement issues require additional attention.
Pilot fish or shark?

There is no doubt that traditional kiosks have a secure place in the retail firmament,
notwithstanding the advent of the mini-kiosks or shopping carts with Tablet PCs that provide oneto-
one interaction with the customer throughout his shopping sojourn. Applications like photokiosks
or gift-registry kiosks that rely on peripherals such as printers are more suited for
traditional kiosks, just like applications where visualization is more important than personalization.

Says, Nick Daddabbo, Retail Product Marketing Manager, HHP, Retailers are looking at these
smaller devices as an extension of the functionality offered by larger kiosks. They view the two
technologies as complementary. The smaller kiosks take customer interaction to different parts of
the store. Where you dont have the room to put a large kiosk for certain applications, you can
hang one of these on a pole and have the same kind of functionality.

According to Weaver, In retail, more and more companies are coming to us with known,
established ROI in hand. The ratio of educate to fulfill requests has reversed. It used to be more
education on why.

While these mini-kiosks may cannibalize sales of traditional kiosks to the extent applications are
more suitable to their limited form, it is also equally likely that the latters success spurs retailers
to commission the former. The emergence of these mini-kiosks signifies an evolution in the
positioning of traditional kiosks deployed in a retail setting. Retailers kiosk bet will be a sum of
well defined parts.

In an age of category captains and slotting fees, the various owner-operator models of deploying
kiosks also needs to be addressed.

Watch this space for more on this from Frost & Sullivan.

Posted by Craig at 05:44 PM

April 02, 2004

Burning Software CDs

Hard-to-find software burned to CDs in retail kiosk system.

Yardena Arar
From the May 2004 issue of PC World magazine
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Can't find the software you want at your local computer store? A new software-on-demand system that is now debuting at a major computer retailer's stores seeks to make the problem of out-of-stock and hard-to-find titles a thing of the past.


Advertisement




At the push of a few buttons, SoftwareToGo can create CDs--complete with logo labels and DVD-style cases--for 1500 software titles from some 240 publishers. Warranties and prices for the products are identical to their shrink-wrap versions.

SoftwareToGo is already in use at about two dozen CompUSA stores in Dallas, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, and the company behind it, New York-based Protocall Technologies, expects to complete its rollout to all 227 CompUSA outlets by fall. The company is also negotiating with other major retailers.

The system isn't intended to eliminate shrink-wrapped software from CompUSA's shelves, company officials say. Its main benefit is to enable retailers to sell high-end and specialty software that they normally might not carry, such as heavy-duty business applications and advanced computer-aided design tools.


Burn It, Baby
Compusa customers encounter SoftwareToGo as a kiosk about the size of a video arcade game (see photo, above). The company calls this stand a Product Preview Station.

Once a customer decides to purchase a SoftwareToGo title, he or she obtains an order receipt and brings it to a sales clerk to produce the CD, which is burned in a matter of minutes at a separate machine. The final product is an attractively packaged CD, down to the vendor's custom label and a DVD-type case.

Bruce Newman, Protocall's president, says that you're more likely to get the latest version of a program from SoftwareToGo than from a retailer's shelf, because the company can install updates in a matter of days or even hours. Most software packages include documentation on the CD, but Newman says that Protocall can mail out printed manuals if the publisher so desires.

Newman says that the publishers his company has distribution agreements with include seven of the top ten in the United States--Microsoft and Symantec among them.

SoftwareToGo doesn't necessarily offer all of a given publisher's titles, however: Microsoft, for example, has not yet permitted Protocall to offer its top selling Windows XP and Office. And as of this writing, Protocall has yet to sign agreements with Adobe, game publisher Electronic Arts, and finance/accounting market leader Intuit.

Could SoftwareToGo eventually replace shrink-wrapped products altogether? Dewey Thoes, senior buyer for CompUSA, thinks not: "People like to see stuff and touch it before they buy," he observes.

Analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group agrees, but says that if shrink-wrap does disappear, it is more likely to give way to online delivery of software.

In the meantime, SoftwareToGo can help ensure that a brick-and-mortar store will always have the software package you're looking for.

PCWorld.com - Out of Stock? No Problem

Posted by Craig at 04:25 PM

April 01, 2004

Circuit City Acquisitions

Circuit City Stores, Inc., to Purchase Assets of MusicNow, Inc.

RICHMOND, Va., and CHICAGO (PRNewswire) - RICHMOND, Va., and CHICAGO, March 31 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Circuit City Stores, Inc., and MusicNow, Inc., announced today that the two companies have signed a definitive agreement for the purchase by Circuit City of the assets of MusicNow, a leading digital music platform.

"MusicNow is on the cutting-edge of digital music delivery over the Internet," said W. Alan McCollough, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Circuit City Stores, Inc. "MusicNow has developed a strong platform to deliver digital media directly to consumers and to partner with other companies to allow them to power their music download and subscription services."

"In addition to being one of the leading music and electronics retailers in the world, Circuit City brings to our business an important set of resources," said Scott L. Kauffman, president and CEO of MusicNow. "Having a company with those characteristics to support MusicNow is essential for competing in this dynamic market. With the acquisition, we are now strongly positioned to play a major role in the next chapter of the digital media revolution."

MusicNow will retain its own brand and continue to execute on its strategy of empowering third parties to launch digital music services.

"We're thrilled to be gaining the knowledge and expertise in the digital media space that MusicNow brings, and of equal importance, to welcome its world class team," said Fiona Dias, president of Circuit City Direct. "Circuit City will integrate MusicNow's platform into Circuit City's Web site at circuitcity.com as well as our nearly 600 Superstores across the country."

The transaction is not expected to have a material impact on Circuit City's fiscal 2005 earnings and is expected to close in April 2004.

About Circuit City Stores, Inc.

With headquarters in Richmond, Va., Circuit City Stores, Inc. puts the customer first with high-quality service and more than 5,000 consumer electronics products available in its stores and online at http://www.circuitcity.com/. Top-quality, low-priced products; detailed product information; and product specialists, who complete extensive online and in-store training programs, are all part of Circuit City's promise to provide superior consumer electronics solutions to its customers. Circuit City's store revitalization program reflects the changing needs of consumer electronics shoppers, the stores are brighter and more open, the aisles are wider and virtually every product Circuit City sells is on the sales floor for easy customer access. Circuit City operates 599 Circuit City Superstores and five mall-based stores in 157 markets.

About MusicNow, Inc.

MusicNow, Inc., formerly known as FullAudio Corporation, develops a legal online music store and service with more than 40 channels of original music programming and content from all five major labels -- BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and the Warner Music Group--as well as the independent labels Koch and Sanctuary. Customers have the option to either purchase tracks and albums a la carte or subscribe to MusicNow's subscription service, which provides unlimited access to the music in MusicNow's library for a monthly subscription fee. MusicNow is primarily marketed through distribution partners, which include SBC Yahoo DSL, Charter Communications and Microsoft. Founded in April 1999, MusicNow manages the software and systems that cover every aspect of music content aggregation and delivery including content acquisition and management, media storage, secure delivery and digital rights management to ensure that all rights holders are fairly compensated for their work. MusicNow is based in Chicago, with offices in Palo Alto, CA. For more information or to subscribe to MusicNow, please visit http://www.musicnow.com/.

Forward-Looking Statements

This release contains forward-looking statements, which are subject to risks and uncertainties, including without limitation statements regarding the timing and ultimate completion of the proposed acquisition of the MusicNow assets, Circuit City's ability to integrate and operate MusicNow successfully and MusicNow's ability to achieve projected operating results. Additional discussion of factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from management's projections, forecasts, estimates and expectations is set forth under Management's Discussion and Analysis or Results of Operations and Financial Condition in the Circuit City Stores, Inc. Annual Report for fiscal 2003 and Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended November 30, 2003, and in the company's other SEC filings. A copy of Circuit City's annual report is available on the company's Web site at http://www.circuitcity.com/.

Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20010709/CCLOGO

Circuit City Stores, Inc., to Purchase Assets of MusicNow, I... - Mar. 31, 2004

Posted by Craig at 05:44 PM

March 26, 2004

Retail In-Store Ordering

Internet kiosks throughout the store will allow shoppers to order anything a larger Best Buy would offer, with same- or next-day delivery, Weaver said.

Electronics for DeKalb
Best Buy to celebrate opening of DeKalb store with ceremony today

Thursday afternoon, workers were busy sweeping the parking lot clean in preparation of Best Buys grand opening.

The 20,000 square-foot electronics retailer at 2074 Sycamore Road is preparing to open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. today.

Were all set, ready to go, Assistant Manager Dan Weaver said.

The store will hand out gift bags to the first 300 customers Sunday.

Inside, the store smelled of new stereo and television equipment, compact discs, DVDs and carpet.

Lacking are the larger appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines.

They were left out of the store just because of the size of them, Weaver said.

Internet kiosks throughout the store will allow shoppers to order anything a larger Best Buy would offer, with same- or next-day delivery, Weaver said.

The store, about half the size of most Best Buys, is part of a new tactic for the chain based in Richfield, Minn.

Its smaller because were expanding into a market where we wouldnt ordinarily have gone, Weaver said.

The DeKalb store focuses more on electronics and entertainment media because of the large population of college students in the market, Weaver said.

Weaver called the merchandising and layout of the store more efficient and high-tech, including much of Best Buys normal offerings in less space.

The store, which signed its lease in July, is the latest addition to the Sycamore Road corridor.

I was floored by the companies that are here now, said Weaver, a 1998 NIU graduate.

When I went to school, the big news was Super Wal-Mart opening up, he said.

Now DeKalb shoppers can stop by a variety of book stores, discount stores and a host of other businesses.

Weaver, who has worked at Best Buy locations throughout the Chicago area, said he never has seen so much excitement over the opening of a Best Buy.

People have been asking constantly about the new store, Weaver said.

Its like youre a rock star, he said.

Jay Stech, a senior electrical engineering major, is looking forward to Fridays opening.

Its nice to have something like this and not have to drive out of town, Stech said.

DeKalb resident Trevor Faivre said he would rather leave town if he needed to shop at a Best Buy.

Its another store that DeKalb doesnt need, Faivre said. All its going to do is bring a bunch of rich yuppies into town. I dont think we need to turn into another St. Charles; we already have one.

Best Buy will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Northern Star Online | Metro

Posted by Craig at 02:31 PM

March 23, 2004

Retail and Online Music

Wal-Mart starts selling songs online

Tuesday March 23, 02:30 PM


Wal-Mart starts selling songs online

By Reuters, CNET News.com

The US retail giant has officially open the doors of its online music store, which charges 88 cents a song

Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, says that it has officially launched its online music store, which it began testing in December.

The store, which allows customers to download a song from the Internet for 88 cents (48p), has added new artists and been expanded by 50 percent, the retailer said on Tuesday.

Wal-Mart, whose service competes against 99-cent songs from Apple Computer's iTunes music store, said that for the next two months it would be the exclusive supplier of songs from artists carried by the Curb Records label.

Curb's artists include country music stars Tim McGraw and LeAnn Rimes. Wal-Mart said its site would also carry exclusive songs from artists including Jessica Simpson, Shania Twain and Shakira.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment on whether the music service is profitable. Apple's song service loses money.

Analysts have said that the goal for Wal-Mart is to bring more people to its Web site. Even if the music service sold 100 million songs, that would add up to just $88m -- insignificant for a company that recorded nearly $260bn in revenue last year.

Wal-Mart is the dominant force in US retailing, but it was relatively late to the dot-com world and has been adding online services in hopes of boosting its Web presence. It recently started offering contact-lens prescription and DVD-rental services.

Wal-Mart starts selling songs online

Posted by Craig at 03:48 PM

March 12, 2004

Gift Registry

REI Launches New Integrated Gift Registry

03-11-2004 -- Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), a national retail cooperative providing quality outdoor gear and clothing, has launched an integrated multichannel gift registry that makes it easy to create and edit gift lists at any REI store, online at REI.com or by phone.

REI has provided a registry service as an alternative for engaged couples for 20 years. Popular products have included classic camping gear, cook sets and high-tech gadgets, such as radios and GPS units. The new service, which can be used for any occasion or holiday, is enhanced with leading edge retail technology.

Couples planning spring weddings can create a gift registry at home online or by phone, or select gear in a store using hand-held scanners to register items. Once created, the gift list can be easily monitored and edited online. When a gift is purchased anywhere in the country the integrated database is updated in near real time.

The registries can be accessed by gift purchasers online, by phone and through Internet kiosks in all of REIs stores. Purchasers can select a gift box and card and have the gift sent directly to the couple or they can choose to wrap and deliver the gift themselves.

"The gift registry is an example of how REI is leveraging technology in a way that blurs the lines between stores and e-commerce and provides great services that meet customers high expectations," said Joan Broughton, Vice President for Multichannel Programs. "We are particularly pleased to be able to offer this new gift registry service to couples who share a love of the outdoors. When registering for their wedding they can choose the gear and apparel they really want to enhance their outdoor adventures together."

The investment in the enhanced service is a response to customers who have been seeking out REI as an alternative to traditional gift registry service. Here is a list of the top 10 most popular gift registry products in 2003:

1. REI Half Dome Plus 2 tent
2. Kelty Eclipse Double-Wide +35 sleeping bag
3. Motorola Talkabout two-way radios
4. Coleman 424 Dual-Fuel two-burner stove
5. GSI Hard-Anodized No-Stick Extreme Cook Set
6. Garmin eTrex GPS
7. Century Matchless two-burner stove
8. Nikon Action 7 x 35 binoculars
9. REI Half Dome 4 tent
10. Therm-a-Rest Performance UltraLite sleeping pad

REI is a national retail co-op founded in 1938 by a group of Pacific Northwest mountaineers. REI sells outdoor recreation products from all of the top brands for camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, paddling, snow sports and travel, including its own line of award-winning gear and apparel. While anyone may join or shop at REI, members pay a one-time $15 fee and receive a share in the companys profits through an annual member refund based on their purchases. A portion of REIs profits is set aside each year for support of outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship causes, with $2 million to be awarded in 2004. REI currently operates 69 stores in 24 states, two online stores REI.com and REI-OUTLET.com and an adventure travel company, REI Adventures.

Contact:
Mike Foley
REI
Public Affairs
Senior Public Relations Associate
253-395-8252
Cell: 206-920-2391
mfoley@rei.com Source: Internet Retailer

KioskCom Industry News

Posted by Craig at 01:58 PM

February 20, 2004

Music Downloads

Low-tech trick gives free iTunes

Friday February 20, 08:35 AM


Low-tech trick gives free iTunes

By Jim Hu, CNET News.com

Collecting free songs from an iTunes promotion in the US is as simple as peering through a bottle

It doesn't take a code breaker or a math whiz to lift songs from Apple Computer's iTunes online music store -- it just takes a good pair of eyes and a trip to the corner store.

iTunes fans have "hacked" a high-profile Pepsi promotion aimed at giving away 100 million songs through special codes marked on the underside of bottle caps. The codes can be entered on the iTunes site to download a single for free. One in three bottles is a winner, but it turns out that the markings can be read without removing the cap.

CNET News.com confirmed that it is not only possible to pick out winning bottles in advance; careful scrutiny can reveal the full 10-digit redemption code, meaning no purchase is required to get a free iTunes single courtesy of Pepsi.

"I've always been looking under caps whenever they had a giveaway," said Jon Gales, Webmaster for MacMerc.com, an online community for Macintosh users and developers, which published a detailed description of the code-grabbing technique on Wednesday. "I thought it was human nature. People have been doing it for years."

The bottle cap loophole could disrupt Pepsi's ambitious marketing campaign, which kicked off with splashy TV spots that aired during the Super Bowl and also took a shot at file-swappers. The giveaway comes amid growing interest in music as a promotional tool for soft drinks and other products. Pepsi's archrival, Coke, has also jumped into digital music, launching a digital download store in Europe.

Pepsi said that as a precaution against prying eyes and other shenanigans, the company restricted the number of codes a given customer could redeem in a day.

"We always put redemption limits in place on promotions like this," said Dave DeCecco, a Pepsi spokesman, "but we found that most consumers played by the rules."

Apple declined to comment.

Technology buffs were buzzing over the Pepsi "hack" this week. Gales' site crashed on Wednesday after it was featured on Slashdot, a popular Web site devoted to open-source programming. The "hack" was also spoofed in a fake security posting to the influential Bugtraq security mailing list.

"This attack is not new," the posting noted. "Prior soft drink distribution versions have been vulnerable to this attack in the past. Known vulnerable versions have included the Mountain Dew "Free Soda" giveaways."

Apple typically sells singles for 99 cents and albums at rates comparable to those found at brick-and-mortar stores. Despite the popularity of iTunes, the business as a standalone doesn't make money. Apple's real purpose for selling music is to drive sales of its popular iPod digital music player, which does make money. For this reason, Apple took the unprecedented step of launching a Windows version of the iTunes store after years of developing software solely for its own operating system.

The iTunes music store only lets people transfer songs onto their iPod. No other hardware device is supported by iTunes.

Apple is not the only company that has expressed interest in the music download business. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has also publicly mulled opening a music store using the software giant's Windows Media Player software. Gates admitted that the venture would not be a significant revenue driver, but a way to keep people loyal to Microsoft's software.

Web giant Yahoo has also begun exploring ways to step into the business. The company recently acquired a start-up called Mediacode to develop a Yahoo music player and download store, sources said. At the same time, Yahoo has been approached by companies such as Roxio's Napster, BuyMusic.com and MusicMatch to partner with, or acquire, them.

RealNetworks, Microsoft's main competitor in digital media software, has pinned its future on selling music subscriptions and downloads through its Rhapsody subsidiary.

All of these companies argue they cannot overlook the growing number of consumers buying music off the Internet, even if it means losing money for a while. In the meantime, they hope to make up the loss through sales of other products, such as concert tickets and soft drinks, and the partnership deals such sales suggest.

Macmerc Webmaster Gales said he discovered the exploit shortly after seeing the bottles in stores. But he said he paid for the bottles after selecting winners.

"The store's happy because they're still making a sale, and Pepsi is happy too," Gales said. "The difference between this game and other games is you don't have to save caps, send them away and wait 8 weeks to get a T-shirt. The instant gratification made it more fun to get a winner."


More news from ZDNet:
RIAA scales up legal attack
Apple sends out iPod Mini
Yahoo rethinks music downloads
Red tape holds back European iTunes

Low-tech trick gives free iTunes

Posted by Craig at 10:52 PM

Mobile Phone Kiosks

BT offers games via net kiosks

19/02/2004
Veronique De Freitas

BT has teamed up with mobile games company Gameloft to offer video games for download via its high-street internet kiosks.


Touch the link on the kiosk screen for free access to the BT Ringtones website and choose the game you want.


Games available include Earth Invasion, where as a pilot youre mankinds only hope of resisting alien invasion, Gamelofts Solitaire and Marcel Desailly Pro Soccer.


Paul Hendron, director of BT payphones, said: Games can liven up your phone. This is a great new convenient way of downloading them if you haven't got an internet connection.


Games are available for Nokia, Motorola, Siemens and Sharp handsets and cost 4 each if you pay by cash or 4.50 by credit or debit card. The game is then sent to your mobile phone by Wap.


At BT's 1,500 internet kiosks across the UK you can also buy and download polyphonic tones, MMS backgrounds, logos, picture messages and send email, text, photo and video messages.


BT offers games via net kiosks - Web User News

Posted by Craig at 09:34 PM

Home Improvement Kiosks

Menards opens largest store ever

West Duluth, Minn. - February 19 - After more than seven months of renovations, Menards has reopened its store here, near the shores of Lake Superior. And the remodel proves to be the retailers largest store to date, while boasting a broader assortment of product categories and new merchandising.

The 250,000-square-foot store features new departments, including an expanded appliance section and garden center, which are new to Menards stores. Part of the original building, which dates back to the 1930s, remains intact and brightly lit by sunshine beaming through glass, block windows and skylights.

"We believe that you have to see what you are buying," said Dennis Dixon, Menards assistant operations manager.

Dixon told HCN that the retailer had simply outgrown the previous store, despite neighboring locations in Superior and Hermantown. "We have a lot of skus and we wanted to bring new skus to customers," Dixon said, although he declined to disclose just how many products the store carries.

"All departments received much more of everything," Dixon said.

The former incarnation of the store, which originally opened as a Menards in 1992, carried only small appliances. Now Menards appliance section contains a large assortment of refrigerators, ovens, dryers and washers, including brands such as Bosch, Maytag, Jennair, Roper, Magic Chef and Whirlpool.

A giant rotating signboard, provided by Maytag, sits above and highlights the section. "People are buying their kitchens here and their appliances too," Dixon said.

Other renovations include wide service aisles that both surround the store and penetrate the interior in designated locations. The increase in space allows inventory to be moved and stocked around the store without clogging aisles or getting in the way of customers.

"We prefer this size for getting merchandise in and getting guests around the store," Dixon said. Self-service kiosks are located throughout the store, which provide estimates and product information to allow customers to make better purchasing decisions. For instance, in the home storage section, customers can flesh out the shelving that best suits a walk-in closet based on measurements and an assortment of products.

Since the stores opening on Feb. 13, merchandise has been moving at a quick rate. Store manager Tom Hanson indicated that customers were burning through pallets of the scented candles offered in the stores dcor section. Other dcor offerings include framed prints, floral arrangements and decorative cutting boards.

For Menards pro customers, a massive interior lumberyard makes up nearly a quarter of the store. The retailer also expanded its exterior lumberyard behind the store, which measures in at nearly five acres. The yard includes a 10,000-square-foot shed that allows pros to drive through to pick out the materials they need and leave.

While Dixon would not elaborate on how much of Menards business is made up of pro sales, he did say it was "huge."

"Our building material sales are a strength over our competitors," Dixon said while noting the West Duluth lumberyard is a "medium-sized" yard compared to other locations.

Future Menards openings and renovations will be similar to the West Duluth stores size and merchandise mix, according to the company. "This is the direction were headed in," Dixon said. "Were not going to have the most stores, but were going to have the best stores."

Home Channel News - View Online Story

Posted by Craig at 09:32 PM

January 21, 2004

Multi-Channel Retailing

Becoming multi-channel retailer is hard work, but worth it, NRF panel says

Plenty of research has documented the value of the multi-channel customer, but little is known about why customers shop across channels and what it takes to entice them to shop multiple channels. Thats the assessment of Krishnan Menon, executive vice president, global business development of Carlson Marketing, who moderated a 7:30 a.m. panel discussion on multi-channel retailing Monday at the National Retail Federations annual convention in New York City. The panel also featured Shelley Nandkeolyar, vice president of interactive marketing and e-business for Home Depot, and Susan Neal, vice president of business development for childrens clothing retailer Gymboree.

That multi-channel customers are more valuable is by now a given, with research showing that a three-channel shopper shops more often and spends more than a one- or two-channel shopper. Thus retailers have an incentive to create a strong multi-channel presence. But thats easier said than done, Menon said. For retailers who have been barraged with statistics about the value of multi-channel shoppers, Menons observations are surprising. He told attendees:
Little is known about what drives the multi-channel shopper
Retail IS systems do not move fast enough to make a true multi-channel presence felt
Online operations have huge interface, performance and reliability issues. E-commerce software is second only to Microsoft Windows in software put out with bugs, he said.

A recipe for multi-channel strategy, he said, should include order online, pick up at the store; ability to return purchases to any channel; online catalog quick shop; cross-channel customer i.d.; brand consistency; and integrated communications--the same offer in all channels.

More retailers havent adopted a unified multi-channel strategy because of competing priorities and the lack of a clear understanding of the value of a consistent multi-channel approach, Nandkeolyar and Neal told the audience. Its important, but it takes resources, investment and commitment across the board, Neal said. Added Nandkeolyar: Its still early and its difficult to understand the feedback from customers. There are still a lot of trials going on.

Nandkeolyar, who also served stints with the online operations of Williams-Sonoma and Martha Stewart, said that once an organization gets behind a multi-channel strategy, it must move forward decisively. Dont dabble, he said. If you do it, get behind it and make it happen. Be an evangelist and be ready to take the push back that it cant be done.

Story link

Posted by Craig at 06:14 PM

January 14, 2004

Wrap on NRF by Lief Larson

Nice wrap by Kiosk Magazine on NRF show.

Kiosk Technology Prevalent at NRF
By: Lief C. Larson

This year's National Retail Federation (NRF) show, Retails Big Show 2004, was a plethora of the latest and greatest in retail science and technology. Having been my fourth year in a row attending the event, I was pleased to see that interactive, self-service kiosk technology has continued to be a highlight at the event.

For those of you unfamiliar with the event, it is held the second week of January each year at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. The setting for the venue is prime since its location is in the heart of where American retailing began (just blocks off the famous garment district of Manhattan.) The NRF uses the slogan Everything Retail, and they mean it.

Upon entering the doors of the conference, a multitude of retail technology became immediately apparent. Highlighting the show this year was the Store of the Future booth. This huge, 80x80 display, was demonstrating the new technologies for retail environments. The booth, featuring vendors including Metro Future Store Initiative Group, Microsoft, NCR Corporation, SAP America Inc., Wincor Nixdorf, was a kiosk paradise. Not only did the elaborately colored booth (see pictures below) demonstrate kiosk technology, but they were also using touchscreen kiosks to show off other new retail technologies.

Other kiosk vendors at the event included Nanonation, Kiosk Information Systems, Blackstone, Apunix Computer Services, IBM Corporation, Preh Electronics, and Sun Microsystems. Kiosk component vendors were also displaying their kiosk-related devices, including: Cherry Electrical Products, Elo Touch Systems, Epson, Fujitsu, Givex Corp., HHP (Handheld Products), Instruments & Equipment Co., Intel Corporation, MagTek Inc., MarCole, Mosaic Software, Netkey, Star Micronics, Symbol Technologies, and Zebra Technologies.

Overall, the event went smoothly and was well attended. Having had the opportunity to speak with numerous retailers attending the event in the hopes of finding solutions for their business, I'm pleased to report that kiosk technology remains high on that list and my informal survey indicated that over 40% of those I spoke with are planning to create a new kiosk program or expand on their existing program in 2004.

Other points worth mentioning about NRF were the buzz surrounding RFID and the speaking engagement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. On the subject of RFID, I came away from the event underserved. It seemed that most of the technology was conceptual and would not be ready for implementation for at least 3-4 years. The one company I did want to speak with because of their agressive development of RFID technologies that can be used today was Texas Instruments. I was eagerly hoping to put the question to them about the impact kiosks will have on the customers' experience with RFID. Unfortunately my interview with the VP of their company was cancelled at the last moment. I'll be doing a follow-up on the phone upon my return to the KIOSK magazine offices.

Now Hillary was definately exciting. Even this Republican could see her in the white house some day. Besides her brilliant presence and excellent speaking skills, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from her. Upon her walking out on to the stage, the first question I asked in my head was, "What does this woman know about retail?" She quickly put my question to rest with her antidotes and the fact she was the first woman to sit on the board of directors for Wal-Mart (an interesting fact that came as a surprise and added tremendous credibility to her authority on the retail subject). She said that not only retail, but the country as a whole needs to focus on building a Wi-Fi network and having a wireless networking infrastructure build around the country to make us all more efficient workers. Although she did not mention kiosk technology specifically, she did discuss how technology is an important part of what separates America from the rest of the world and how we need to be much more progressive. I walked away from her presentation feeling a renewed passion for this area of technology and optimistic about the road we are about to travel. In addition, I felt full (thank you NRF for the free box lunch.)

KIOSK Magazine Online - nrf2004

Posted by Craig at 06:27 PM

January 12, 2004

Computerized kiosks let C-store customers help themselves

Convenience stores tap self-serve terminals to improve accuracy, efficiency of foodservice

By Alan J. Liddle

(Jan. 12) - Even as national quick-service restaurant chains garner trade and consumer media attention for tests of computerized customer-activated order terminals, or kiosks, three foodservice-focused convenience-store groups are operating daily with such technology at more than 900 locations.

Kiosk pilot tests and the potential uses for such self-service systems in the restaurant business were hot topics at the recent International Foodservice Technology Exposition, or FS/TEC, in Long Beach, Calif. At that show, which is co-produced by Nation's Restaurant News and Robert Grimes of Accuvia, information systems executives for some of the nation's largest quick-service companies, including McDonald's and Hardee's, urged foodservice technology vendors to accelerate development schedules for some systems by borrowing ideas from other industries.


Tim Hortons tries Web-based project tracking

Palmer 'Revelation' regarding POS



To some people at FS/TEC, the convenience store industry came to mind as one of the potential sources of outside inspiration for kiosk development.

Among the leading users of personal-computer-based kiosk technology in C-store circles are 290-plus-store Sheetz Inc. of Altoona, Pa., and 540-plus-location Wawa Inc. of Wawa, Pa. Sheetz, which helped pioneer the technology beginning in the mid-1990s, and Wawa both use customer self-service kiosk products from Atlanta-based Radiant Systems.

Another player in the C-store arena, 100-plus-unit Royal Farms of Baltimore, uses technology from InterMedia Kiosks of Owing Mills, Md.

All three of those convenience-store chains have significant made-to-order foodservice operations selling a wide variety of goods, including deli-style sandwiches, soups, salads, bakery items and coffee and fountain drinks.

John Cunningham, director of store operations technology for Wawa, said that while foodservice is not the greatest sales generator for the chain, "it accounts for two-thirds of our gross profit." Royal Farms' executive vice president, John Kemp, explained that foodservice does not yet contribute more sales than fuel, tobacco or traditional grocery items do, but "it will shortly." And according to Sheetz executives, that organization rang up foodservice-only sales of $199.3 million for the fiscal year ended in September 2002.

Speaking of the rollout of customer-activated order kiosks, Wawa's Cunningham remarked, "It's done a ton of things for us." His company completed the conversion to kiosk-only foodservice ordering in late 2002.

Cunningham, Sheetz's director of store operations, John Moulton, and Royal Farms' Kemp all indicated that their kiosk systems do the following:
# Increase order accuracy and otherwise enhance customer satisfaction by giving guests more control over the order process.
# Improve the efficiency of kitchen operations by electronically routing order components to the appropriate preparation stations and by permitting foodservice workers to focus on order fulfillment rather than splitting their time between order taking and making.
# Boost sales through more consistent application of upselling techniques and through the use of multimedia marketing materials to hawk combo meals or new or promotional items convincingly.

Royal Farms' Kemp confirmed reports and vendor statements that the installation of the kiosk system, which was completed in 2003, has contributed to a 20-percent increase in foodservice sales. Also true, he indicated, is that the system has cut food costs by between 5 percent and 10 percent because it has lowered waste by improving order accuracy. He added that the suggestive selling programmed into the interface has tripled the number of combo meals sold by the chain.

"Lots of restaurant companies have experimented and piloted with this [technology], but it has not been embraced by them as it has in C-stores, grocery stores, department stores, movie theaters, at gas pumps and at airports," Radiant Systems' vice president, Scott Kingsfield, said. "We believe one of the next big waves will be self-service technology."

Kingsfield said his company actually developed the systems now used by Sheetz and Wawa for the restaurant market, but the C-store chains "just happened to roll it first."

Paul Knight is president of InfoAmerica Inc. of Fort Collins, Colo., the company behind the software used by McDonald's in some recent and highly publicized tests of order kiosks. Among other foodservice installations, his company was involved in extensive tests of customer self-service by Taco Bell in the mid-1990s that ultimately was shelved, reportedly because of kitchen throughput issues and a reorganization of the chain's top management.

Knight said the difference in focus between restaurants and C-stores might account for the difference, to date, in the two industries' adoption rate of customer self-service technology. "Foodservice is only a piece of what C-stores do," Knight noted. "but if you install this technology in a quick-service restaurant, it totally changes the operation," because "you can't control the volume of orders to the kitchen."

The bottom line, Knight contended, is that restaurateurs who want to enjoy "the big benefits" of order kiosks need to "re-engineer" their facilities and operational procedures. Radiant's Kingsfield agrees that when it comes to a self-service system, "The challenge is less technology related and has more to do with operations: You need to train the customers to use it and then reconfigure operations to deliver the food."

Both Kingsfield and Knight reported that restaurant companies are showing "a great deal of interest" in kiosk technology. "We came out of FS/TEC with a big pipeline [of customer leads]," Kingsfield said. He added, "There are three or four [vendors] pitching this stuff, and it's my guess that they came away with a big pipeline, too."

Knight suggested that a number of factors might be behind foodservice operators' interest in kiosks. Among them are the growing number of entry-level workers with limited English-speaking skills; the general public's increasing comfort with computers facilitated by bank ATM machines and the growth in popularity of the Internet; and rising credit and debit card acceptance among quick-service restaurant chains.

Greater credit acceptance, along with a new generation of automated cash-handling machines, now makes it feasible to complete self-service transactions without intervention by restaurant cashiers, Knight and other technology experts have pointed out.

The Jack In The Box quick-service chain is among the foodservice parties interested in kiosks. A recent report by technology vendor NCR Corp. said the restaurant chain had ordered $14 million in kiosk components. JIB officials could not be reached for comment about the order and how the chain will use the technology.

Sheetz turned to kiosk technology nearly a decade ago because of shortcomings in the paper-based, self-service order system in place at the time as part of the chain's made-to-order or "MTO" food program.

Customers at Sheetz Inc. convenience store chain use Radiant Systems' kiosk to order prepared foods. Latest-generation kiosk technology features a touch-screen interface, multimedia content playback capabilities and support for remote content management.

Moulton explained that order errors resulted then because guests were not always precise about where they placed check marks on preprinted order pads or because Sheetz employees made mistakes reading the orders. What's more, he indicated, the chain had to reprint order pads whenever there was a new product rollout or adjustment to the menu.

"Customer acceptance is always something we have to be diligent about," Moulton said of the challenges inherent in using a self-service system. To nip potential customer comfort issues in the bud, he said, the chain trains employees to "watch for folks who don't understand the concept" and to "walk around the counter to help them."

"Once you help them do it once, the fear goes away," Moulton said.

Wawa's Cunningham said the Radiant kiosk and kitchen production system used by his chain on average "took eight hours of labor out of the store" weekly. He said the system enables the chain to take multiple orders simultaneously during rushes, which reduces lines and contributes to greater customer satisfaction and overall efficiency.

"The important thing is that the order is right, and [customers] don't get an unpleasant surprise when they get back to their car or office," Cunningham said. Kiosk-related questions on customer satisfaction surveys indicated that a full 97 percent of Wawa's guests approve of the arrangement, he added.

Along with touchscreens and graphical user interfaces, the latest generation kiosks include audio prompts for users as well as multimedia-rich marketing content. Some systems, including those by Radiant and InterMedia Kiosks, support centralized management of menu and pricing data, which is pushed down to the store level from headquarters across dial-up connections or wide-area networks. Kiosk hardware and software that facilitates credit or debit card payment as well as some cash-handling systems also are offered by some vendors.

The degree of integration between kiosks and point-of-sale systems varies among C-store users.

At Sheetz, which also uses Radiant Systems POS technology, foodservice-order details are transferred to the POS terminal after the counter clerk enters the order number provided to the customer on a receipt printed out at the kiosk. Systems that permit the clerk merely to scan a bar code version of the foodservice order number to speed transaction processing at the POS terminal are in test or being rolled out at both Sheetz and Wawa, officials of those chains said. However, Royal Farms counter clerks must key in foodservice order details at the POS terminal to complete the transaction, pending integration of the chain's order and transaction systems, which reportedly is now under way.

Royal Farms' Kemp confirmed that the InterMedia Kiosks system used by his company, including management applications, costs about $20,000 for a two-kiosk configuration. That system can be upgraded to three order points for an additional $8,000.

Kingsfield of Radiant Systems said that while there are "lots of variables involved," including the number of kiosks ordered and the degree of integration with POS or kitchen production systems, a two- to three-kiosk configuration can be had for between $10,000 and $12,000. He added that the return on investment for self-service technology can be as short as 12 months, but "certainly no longer than 18."

Wawa has tested self-order from the gas pumps outside its stores, and "we think there is an upside" in terms of increased frequency of foodservice purchases, Cunningham said. Nevertheless, he added, the chain is taking a "wait-and-see" approach, with no immediate plans to expand the trial.

To further facilitate line busting, Cunningham said, Wawa also "is working with Radiant to have a wireless kiosk that can be added during peak periods and removed at nonpeak times."

Moulton said Sheetz has the ability to accept credit card and stored-value card payments for foodservice orders at kiosks in two stores, but the chain still is analyzing the costs and benefits of the arrangement. Many foodservice customers buy products from other areas of the store, so accepting payment at the prepared-foods order kiosk won't always save people time and just might spur some to forgo the additional purchase in an effort to hasten their departure, he indicated.

According to Moulton, Sheetz's new, one-of-a-kind, prepared-foods-only, mall food court operation in Winston-Salem, N.C., is one place where it might make sense to feature pay-at-the-kiosk functionality.

Royal Farms' systemwide implementation of kiosks with both English and Spanish audio prompts is believed to be a first for the industry.

http://www.nrn.com/technology/index.cfm?ID=91590049&SEC=technology

Posted by Craig at 07:09 PM

January 05, 2004

Why Self-service

Two things are set to drive technology spending by local corporations in the coming year: cost savings and growth.
KnoxNews: Technology

Posted by Craig at 04:34 PM

December 31, 2003

Simon Malls To Italy

Simon closes on $227.3 million Italian mall partnership

Simon Property Group closed on a $227.3 million (182 million euro) deal today through which it will own and develop malls in Italy.

The payment gives Simon a 49 percent interest in the 38-mall portfolio of Italian developer Rinascente Group. Simon has also acquired a similar-size stake in Rinascentes future development opportunities under the joint venture, which is called Gallerie Commerciali Italia. Those new developments could total up to 6 million square feet over the next five years.

The centers, which range in size from 35,564 square feet to 547,840 square feet, are in various Italian cities and mostly anchored by Auchan hypermarkets. A joint venture of Auchan, a French company, and The Agnelli Group, an Italian investment firm, controls Rinascente.

Simon's equity investment was funded by a three-year, unsecured term loan at LIBOR plus 60 basis points, provided by Bank of America, Citicorp, J.P. Morgan and UBS. Simon is the largest U.S. mall owner, with 245 retail properties in the United States. It also has holdings in nine Canadian, French and Polish centers.

Simon is not the only U.S. developer to recently make a foray into Europe. The Mills Corp. opened the 1.4 million-square-foot Madrid (Spain) Xanad in May. Mills is also looking for development opportunities in Italy.

Posted by Craig at 04:31 PM

December 30, 2003

Retailers finding better methods for keeping track of their inventory

...An intranet kiosk inside a store would let shoppers order whatever they want, regardless of the inventory at hand, he said...Walgreens and Sears profiled...

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December 30, 2003

BY SANDRA GUY Business Reporter

Shoppers know the dreary drill all too well: A department-store chain has your size or a certain brand at one of its stores -- but it's 30 miles away.

At a time when online sales are booming, why are brick-and-mortar stores still struggling to make merchandise easier to find?

Many retailers still rely on buyers' and merchants' gut feelings when they decide how much merchandise to order and where to display it.

That's slowly changing.

Planning and merchandising software has burst onto the scene, and retailers are starting to use these and other analytical techniques to find out how to give shoppers what they want where they want it.

"Retailers are finding that the cost of carrying inventory is very high, and they are not keeping inventory consistently across their chains," said Ted Dinsmore, president of Conchango Inc. in New York, part of the U.K.-based technology consulting firm.

Retailers are installing software that crunches numbers from store sales, analyzes marketing strategy and spits out inventory-control and cash-register data. It goes beyond the traditional Excel spreadsheet by drilling deeper into sales and supply-chain data in a variety of ways.

"Rather than being reactionary, waiting for an item to sell out, retailers are starting to be analytical," Dinsmore said.

Conchango has a deal with a large bookstore chain that Dinsmore cannot yet identify to use computer technology to analyze the company's sales. The issue arose when the company's executives wanted to confirm their suspicions that they could boost sales by gaining greater insight into hot and slow-selling titles.

Sears Roebuck and Co. evaluates demographics, seasonal weather predictions and each store's location and square footage to figure out the right merchandise mix, said spokeswoman Lee Antonio.

The demographics of Sears' store in the Loop show customers are a multiracial, multicultural mix of urban dwellers.

As a result, a young men's "Urban Shop" occupies a prominent spot surrounding the escalator on the second floor. Its sales are better than the company's average for the 50 shops in targeted stores nationwide.

Sears introduced the Urban Shop this fall to appeal to young men with labels such as FUBU, Icewear and Russell Simmons' Run Athletics sportswear.

The Loop store also carries a larger-than-normal assortment of cold-weather wear such as women's hats, gloves and scarves. As a result, the store has become the chain's No. 1 seller of cold-weather apparel.

The Hoffman Estates-based retailer keeps an eye on local events and happenings to help it keep items in stock.

For example, Sears on State will expand its assortment of church hats next spring because the Goodman Theater will be showing "Crowns," a gospel musical that celebrates African-American women and their church hats.

Walgreen Co. uses a similar approach by using a home-grown strategic inventory management system.

The system comprises hardware and software that analyzes data from cashiers' sales scanners to manage inventory and feed information back into the supply chain so supplies don't run out, said John Gleeson, vice president and treasurer for the Deerfield-based retailer.

Walgreen will enhance the system in February by adding a forecasting tool.

It will feed store sales projections into the company's distribution centers, helping prevent excess or inadequate inventory. Stores also might be able to stop carrying backup stockpiles. And finally, Walgreen hopes the forecasting tool will help it save costs to pay people to handle and stock products a store doesn't sell.

Walgreen also stocks items in different quantities and at varying shelf heights in each store, depending on its demographics. The fast-growing drugstore chain's customers can range from tourists to retirees to wealthy suburbanites.

"A single presentation doesn't provide the flexibility we need to manage our inventory well and to present the right items to the customers," Gleeson said.

Jay McIntosh, a retail analyst for Ernst & Young's Chicago office, sees opportunities for retailers to incorporate more of their dot-com operations into their brick-and-mortar stores.

An intranet kiosk inside a store would let shoppers order whatever they want, regardless of the inventory at hand, he said.

Posted by Craig at 05:52 PM

Best Buy ReInvents Itself

Best Buy gets major writeup (Company of the Year) in Forbes on its direction in 2004.

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Who knew the digital revolution could be such a rush? Best Buy did--and it's selling more pricey gadgets and hookup services than anybody.
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Best Buy
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The temperature outside is five degrees above zero. But that seems to have escaped the dozen shoppers waiting on a recent morning for Best Buy Co.'s latest concept store, in suburban Minneapolis, to open at 10 a.m. Inside, salesclerks in blue shirts and khakis scramble to finish restocking.

A three-story-high display of flat-screen TVs blares on the rear wall--an inviting tower of babble at the center of pricey multimedia gadgets. This is try-and-buy at its most tempting. Play with videogames. Burn a CD. Watch or, better yet, make movies. One interactive pod in the center of the 45,000-square-foot store offers a leather recliner with power assist ($1,299). Hit the remote and the 42-inch Zenith liquid-plasma flat-panel screen ($2,999) roars to life. Another button surfs the Net or downloads tunes from a PC ($1,349). The video resolution is as good as you'll find in a theater. Check out the four sets of Klipsch speakers ($1,886): A $500 woofer is cleverly concealed inside the chair's seat, earning it the nickname "butt kicker." Total price for the complete "digital life room": $15,419--cables and service plans could add 20% or more. The displays, the wares, the bundled offerings--all part of Best Buy's latest attempt to separate your wallet from you.

The Maple Grove, Minn. store is one of a few dozen Best Buy outlets putting on the glitz. It's offering more of the latest in the growing acreage of really cool stuff that's now widely available--MP3 players, digital cameras, giant TVs, DVD burners, satellite notebooks and radios, wireless gizmos. People can't get enough of these fun devices, and those who've already bought them can't seem to upgrade fast enough. More and more toys are on the way, thanks to the constant innovation that makes them more powerful, faster, cheaper, smaller in many cases and better able to "talk" to each other. So overhyped, so overly long in coming, the digital revolution is finally here (see chart),--and Best Buy has become its mightiest foot soldier.

If successful, such company outlets will spread to its other 576 U.S. stores. Yes, the retailer that is best known for grab-and-go electronics, videogames and software at low prices is reinventing itself again--the fourth distinct incarnation in its 37-year history. This time the focus is on bundling high-end electronics with service and installation--without losing its low-price reputation. If it sounds lunatic, it is. "Nobody has been able to do this before," says Bradbury H. Anderson, the chain's 54-year-old chief executive. "If we can only figure out the puzzle." He's muddling through with the support of founder, friend and Chairman Richard M. Schulze, who hired Anderson as a stereo salesman in 1973 and gave him the top job in July 2002.

Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy is reinventing itself at the top of its game. Its 750 North American locations, including Canada, give the company a 16% share of the $130 billion-a-year market for electronics and packaged media, the number one spot. It's rolling toward its best results in five years, with earnings per share projected by analysts at $2.37, up 24%, on sales of $23.5 billion for the fiscal year ending Mar. 1, 2004. Same-store sales rose 8.6% in the third quarter. The retailer has $1.8 billion cash and is buying back up to $400 million in stock; last year it started paying a 40-cent annual dividend. Despite a recent drop, shares have better than doubled in the last year.

So why mess with success? Anderson sees trouble ahead. Long term, the store base is maturing. Best Buy still plans to open 60 to 70 new stores a year. But a lot of future growth will come from 20,000-square-foot stores (less than half the standard size) in smaller markets. Keeping annual returns on invested capital at 20% could be as tough as selling a used Betamax.

More worrisome are the short-term problems. The flood of imports and shorter product cycles exert severe price pressure on some of the most profitable products--digital TVs, cameras and home entertainment systems. A 60-inch Samsung DLP television that sold for $5,000 three months ago now sells for $4,700. No one believes that digital TVs can escape the price-plunging fate of PCs and anything else with transistors inside. Anderson counters that the lower the price of an LCD TV or a camcorder, the more of them he can sell.

But then there is Wal-Mart. Its share of the electronics market has galloped from 6.9% in 1996 to a current 11%, reports Credit Suisse First Boston. "If we do nothing, Wal-Mart will surpass us by the simple fact they are adding more stores than we are each year," says Anderson. With operating margins on electronics averaging 5% or so, there is no way Best Buy can win "trying to chase the customer out of Wal-Mart."

If it can't compete on merchandise alone, Anderson believes Best Buy can still get a leg up on Wal-Mart. One way is by bundling those goods with add-on services, from reselling Rhapsody, which charges $10 a month for Internet music plus 79 cents a song to burn CDs, to offering complete wiring packages to new-home owners. Another is to tap into private-label goods--not junk at low price points but gizmos that compete directly with major brands. In September Best Buy opened an office in Shanghai with the intent of sourcing goods directly. (Details remain scarce.) If it can increase its share of such merchandise from essentially zilch today to 15% of the mix by 2008, estimates Colin McGranahan with Sanford Bernstein, it could add a percentage point to its operating margin.

These are risky moves in the ever-shifting tides of retail. The company is spending an estimated $80 million a year on what it's calling "customer centricity," a massive effort to identify and serve its most profitable shoppers by rebuilding stores, adding to staff and upgrading wares. Best Buy has little choice. It also has some experience in navigating through the most treacherous storms. Twenty-two years ago, when the chain was called Sound of Music, a tornado ripped through its largest store, in St. Paul, resulting in a $200,000 loss for the year and a near-brush with bankruptcy. "We'd forgotten to buy business-interruption insurance," says Anderson. The water-damaged inventory was sold at a "best buy" sale--resulting in a cash bonanza for the company and a name change.

Best Buy's first superstore opened in 1984, a carbon copy of Circuit City Stores, which was then nearly 40 times its size. A year later Best Buy went public and began a climb that sent it past its chief rival in 1995; it has enjoyed the lead ever since. Then came the next calamity--a 1989 price war with Highland Superstores, which hurt Best Buy's bottom line and shoved Highland into bankruptcy. Emerging from the cocoon this time, Best Buy was then a bare-bones, warehouse-style electronics retailer and looked it every square inch: open ceilings, concrete floors, fluorescent tube lighting. Staff on commission gave way to hourly employees who did their best to make themselves invisible to shoppers simply wanting cheap electronics. Best Buy grew rapidly from sales of $240 million in 1987 to $7.2 billion in 1996.

And nearly drove itself off a cliff. A year later Best Buy squeaked out a profit of $1.7 million on $7.7 billion in sales. Why? A problem familiar to watchers of Motorola camera phones: Best Buy missed out on the introduction of the new Intel MMX microchip--powering PCs that could run more sophisticated games, better graphics and music synthesizers, and video conferencing--during the Christmas season. Cheap credit promotions by others eroded Best Buy's top line.

Time for another makeover. Trimming overhead and revamping its supply chain, the company reshuffled its product categories into home office, electronics, entertainment software and appliances. Customers saw the difference, as higher-margin DVD players and camcorders replaced PCs, and they bought. Best Buy's gross margins climbed from 13.5% in 1997 to 21.3% in 2002.

During those fat years the company for the first time reached outside for growth, spending $1.2 billion to buy three electronics and music retailers--with mixed results. Magnolia Hi-Fi, a chain on the West Coast, and Future Shop, in Canada, put Best Buy into higher-end electronics, wares made by the likes of Mitsubishi and Klipsch. That proved to be a good move against Ultimate Electronics and other pricey competitors.

Acquiring Musicland, which operated as Sam Goody, Media Play and On Cue stores, proved less of a bargain. The acquisition was supposed to give Best Buy a national presence in malls and greater concentration in so-called packaged media. Although CDs and DVDs were a break-even proposition, they could stimulate sales of CD and DVD players. Moreover, Musicland's 1,300-plus stores would give Best Buy sufficient heft to negotiate bigger discounts with record companies and Hollywood studios. Or so the theory went. But weak sales, high rents, music piracy and a post-Sept. 11 drop in traffic forced Anderson to dump the moneylosing chain in June 2003 for $500 million (in assumed debt alone), booking a $70 million charge to earnings.

Not a huge setback, in Anderson's view, but an opportunity. . . to refocus. Musicland fiasco aside, maybe there was a better way to combine hardware and software sales--and marry them to services. The slippery business of retail always comes back to figuring out what the shopper wants. So, store by store, Best Buy began reviewing each of 25,000 or so SKUs to see what sells and what doesn't in order to adjust merchandise according to the income level and buying habits of shoppers at every location. To help sketch that customer profile, Anderson last summer introduced a Reward Zone program, which costs $10 to join and gives $5 in gift certificates for every $125 worth of purchases. By year-end the company was predicting 2 million members. That comes at a cost: up to an estimated half a percentage point of full-year gross margins, which were 26% for the year.

One thing learned from such numbers games and focus groups was the near universality of customer frustration. People loved the idea of buying the latest gadgets. But once they left the store and opened the box, many of them didn't know how to hook up the home entertainment center or how to make the remote-control surround-sound system talk to the DVD player. Digital warriors need some form of boot camp.

So changes in staff, as well as inventory, were built into Best Buy's new 45,000-square-foot stores, like the one in Maple Grove. Out went the lower-end toasters, blenders and coffee-makers (more pricey versions stayed). Photofinishing labs replaced racks of CDs in the center of the larger stores, allowing customers to get instant prints by popping a memory stick into a self-service printer. And everywhere the eye alights, high-ticket office and home entertainment equipment are found. Sales folk might push a new DVD player on the poor schlub who comes in to buy the $30 set of the recent Rolling Stones tour, a four-disk DVD box set produced for and sold exclusively by Best Buy, until February. But they're really after bigger fish.

Best Buy will gently sic specialists (paid an estimated $20-$30 an hour, no commission) on shoppers in order to close a more lucrative deal. Buying a new house? Remodeling? You're a candidate for a new audiovisual system. For a $150 consultation fee, applied to the purchase of equipment and installation, you get someone to visit your house and help you draw up a plan. Such bundling raises the average ticket ($230 or so) and pumps up gross margins, particularly on high-end items like digital TVs (30%), by an additional 5% to 10%, says Sandeep Chungani, a retail consultant with A.T. Kearney. In Minneapolis and Dallas, Best Buy has partnered with ten of the nation's largest home builders, including Pulte, Ryland and William Ryan, and has so far wired 6,000 new homes. That service raises the price of the home an average of $1,000 to $1,500--plus the cost of the equipment, of course.

You don't have to be a new homeowner to buy services. Last year Anderson acquired a computer-maintenance company called the Geek Squad and installed its employees (men wear white shirts and skinny black ties; women put on skirts and black tights) in the new concept stores. They're herded into 500-square-foot offices, where they work on computers behind large picture windows. They'll install hard drives for $50 and do tune-ups ($30) on any desktop computer, not just those sold by Best Buy. The minimum diagnostic fee is $60--or $150 if a geek in a black-and-white VW Beetle has to drive up to your door. "Sometimes," smiles Jeremiah Rush, head geek at the Maple Grove store, who sports spiked hair and a modest pair of earrings, "it's more economical to just buy a new machine."

Trained staff costs money, and Best Buy will have its hands full keeping expenses under control. Sales, general and administrative expenses rose to 22% of revenues in the first nine months of fiscal 2004 from 16% in fiscal 2002, despite an 8% reduction in the corporate head count. Those costs can only rise with the need for better-educated personnel to explain ever more complicated technology. This is not lost on Anderson. Says he, "You don't have a lot of margin for error."

Happiest Holidays
Best Buy was expecting a very merry Christmas going into the season with a 6%-8% comp-store sale gain, hoping to steal even greater share from rivals.

Canon Elph Digital Camera SD100
Price: $300. Projected digital cameras sold during holidays: 505,000 units

Canon MiniDV Camcorder with 2.5' LCD Viewscreen
Price: $400. Projected camcorders sold during holidays: 257,000 units

Sony 23-inch Wega LCD TV
Price: $2,300. Projected flat-panel TVs sold during holidays: 56,000 units

Rolling Stones
Price: $30. Projected Rolling Stones DVD sales: 138,000 units

Posted by Craig at 05:50 PM

December 29, 2003

Self-service Checkout Takes Over

Grocery clerks' real nightmare. A good look at value proposition for self-serve checkout and its payback in real dollars.

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Many pickets mindful of what may be toughest obstacle in their futures

By Leslie Berestein
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

December 28, 2003


Optimal Robotics Corp. photo
Automated self-checkout machines generally consist of a scale, a computer screen and payment slots for ATM cards, credit cards and cash.
One fall afternoon outside the Ralphs grocery store in Hillcrest, two grocery workers stood with their picket signs in hand, arguing back and forth about the potential competition inside.

"I don't think they'll take our jobs any time soon," said a checker, Linda Trombley.

"Anytime soon," shot back grocery clerk Renme Alfaro. "What about the future?"

They weren't talking about the temporary workers inside, but about competition of a steelier sort.

For the past several years, grocery workers throughout the United States have increasingly worked side-by-side with robots, automated self-checkout machines that, in theory at least, perform all the duties of a human checkout clerk minus the smile and the "thank you, ma'am."

The grocery store cousins of ATMs and pay-at-the-pump, automated self-checkout machines come in different makes and models but generally consist of a scale, a computer screen and various built-in payment slots for ATM cards, credit cards and cash, all built into a boxy structure resembling a small checkout counter, sans clerk.

Kroger, the parent company of Ralphs, has installed about 5,500 of the machines nationwide since the late 1990s. Other leading chains that have installed them

include Albertsons, Publix, A&P and a host of others, including mass-merchandise retailers Wal-Mart and Kmart, and non-grocery retailers Home Depot and Walgreens.

Automation in grocery stores is relatively new in California, where the technology has been embraced more slowly than in other parts of the country. Ralphs began installing the machines about two years ago, so far putting them in 30 stores throughout the state, including seven in San Diego. A few other grocery chains, including Albertsons, have installed them in a handful of stores.

The machines are not any faster than human checkers. But retailers, the technology firms that make the machines and some retail industry analysts are quick to tout the many virtues of automatic self-

checkout: shorter lines, more engaged shoppers and, to the dismay of grocery workers and the union that represents them, labor savings.

The typical set-up for the U-Scan Express, the machines found at Ralphs, is a set of four machines overseen by one human cashier. Installing this system usually entails removing three traditional checkout counters, resulting in two fewer cashiers.

"A cashier is not generating income," said Greg Buzek, president of Tennessee-

based IHL Consulting Group, which helps retailers choose technology for their stores. "They are more a cost of doing business."

The average grocery store in the United States must sell $15 worth of groceries per transaction to break even on labor and benefits, said Buzek. That figure jumps to around $20 per transaction in California because wages are higher.

Install an automated self-checkout system for $80,000 to $90,000, the thinking goes, and once it's paid off, instead of $20 "the break-even point may drop to $12," Buzek said, resulting in savings for the retailer.

Yet try to sell that logic to some grocery workers, 70,000 of whom have been walking picket lines in Southern California since October, in part because they oppose a proposed two-tier wage and benefits system that would make them costlier for their employers to maintain and thus potentially less desirable to retain than cheaper new hires.

If low-wage workers are considered a threat, then what about robots that don't take vacations, collect overtime or need health insurance?

According to the grocery workers' union, jobs have not been lost thus far because of automation. Yet more machines mean fewer job openings, said Greg Denier, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

"Because of turnover, it's not a matter of people being laid off, but new people are not being hired," Denier said. "Plus people have their hours restricted. That's an issue in the strike."

The idea behind employing automated self-checkout machines is not to cut down on the need for employees, said Buzek, who believes that union resistance is one reason grocery automation has been slow to take root in California.

Instead, he said, the idea is to deploy them elsewhere in the stores, preferably to "profit centers." These are the service-

oriented areas of the store, such as the deli and the bakery, where more available staff can help move merchandise faster and boost profits.

"This is what the union doesn't get," Buzek said. "They (stores) have got to move people to profit center positions. They can't compete on price. It's the only way they can survive against a Wal-Mart. Self-checkout could be the very thing that saves their jobs, not the other way around."

Marketing message

Nonetheless, the Canadian company that manufactures the U-Scan Express and other self-checkout models does market its machines as a labor-saving tool.

"We still do market it as labor-saving because it always was and is a labor-saving item," said Leon Garfinkle, a spokesman for Montreal-based Optimal Robotics Corporation. However, "it's not something that works 24/7. There always has to be someone supervising."

"I can't tell you there are no exceptions, and that in some places you don't have a loss of labor," he said. "But that's not how it is designed."

Workers at the Hillcrest Ralphs recall losing one cashier to attrition after automated self-checkout was introduced, but no layoffs.

In general, grocery workers are divided over whether automation is a genuine threat. Many don't think the machines are sophisticated enough to compete with human intelligence. For example, in one well-publicized mishap last fall, the U-Scans initially rejected newly issued $20 bills.

"It's supposed to be perfect technology, but the system is really sensitive," said Trombley, the checker. "It goes by weight. You can't put your keys or your purse on there. It'll say 'please put your items back on the scale.' People literally scream at the machine, 'Shut up!' "

There are customers who like the machines. But they also recognize their limitations.

"It really helps if I am going to get just a couple of things," said Ralphs customer Tere Harris, 41, who in the past made her small purchases at more expensive convenience stores. However, "I don't think we have ever gone all the way through without having to turn to the cashier for help."

Hillcrest example

The need for human supervision became evident in the early days of the grocery strike, when the Hillcrest Ralphs had to temporarily shut down its automated section because employees who knew how to work the machines weren't around.

According to Garfinkle, retailers' demand for new U-Scans has slowed in the past couple of years. He attributes this not to a lack of customer satisfaction but to capital spending drying up in a tight economy.

"The bottom line is we haven't lost customers," he said. "No one has told us they don't like it and are un-installing it. I think it is a technology that works."

Buzek predicts the industry will pick up as the economy lifts. Already, Albertsons has ordered about 4,000 new self-

checkout machines from NCR Corporation, another manufacturer, with plans to install them in the coming year.

In addition, potentially better technology is on the way. In some Eastern states, Stop & Shop and Jewel stores the latter owned by Albertsons have been testing small cart-mounted tablets and hand-held scanners with which customers can scan and bag their own items as they wheel their carts along the aisles.

Both devices are manufactured by Symbol Technologies of Holtsville, N.Y. Customers receive extra discounts for using them, with special deals popping up on their screens that customers who stand in checkers' lines have no access to.

Denier, of the grocery union, finds the idea of consumers being rewarded for taking on additional work ridiculous.

"Pretty soon they (the stores) are going to tell customers, 'For your convenience, we are going to let you unload the trucks,'

" he said. "It really reflects a negative trend in society where we eliminate service from society altogether."

Symbol Technologies does not market their self-scanners as a labor-saving device, but the implications are obvious to grocery employees. With the use of self-

checkout machines already widespread and additional technology in the testing phase, the handwriting is on the wall as far as some grocery employees are concerned.

"These will take jobs, just like ATMs took tellers' jobs," said Sabrina Ruiz, a striking Ralphs checker. "I just feel like we are all going to be extinct." Leslie Berestein: (619) 293-1542; leslie.berestein@uniontrib.com

Posted by Craig at 05:30 PM

December 16, 2003

Multi-Channel Differs By Retailer

Multi-channel organization should differ by retailer type, Forrester says


Online retailers have taken strides to improve their merchandising metrics and results show it, according to new findings from Forrester Research Inc. For example, Forrester reports that an investment in site analytics has paid off for Petco, which has seen a gross margin increase of 100% in online SKUs for which it uses the tools to analyze conversion and make pricing and promotional adjustments.

But as merchants move to the next level of online merchandising and try for greater cross-channel merchandising consistency, technology and organizational issues are throwing up roadblocks, Forrester says. For example, cross-channel merchandising and buying groups formed by some retailers may create redundancy in the organization, assign merchandising duties to technology staff ill-equipped to handle it, or burden on less tech-literate merchandising staff.

Recognizing that improving online merchandising alone doesnt serve a long-term multi-channel strategy, retailers must build the right mix of merchandising people and technology, Forrester says. To accomplish that, they should review their value proposition to customers, define their profile, and choose the combination that supports it. For example, retailers such as such as Eddie Bauer that sell products by selling lifestyle should maintain both web and offline merchandising groups. In a category where merchandising skills drives sales, product display, content and cross-sells across channels cant easily be automated by technology, Forrester says.

By contrast, retailers like Wal-Mart that win on price alone can automate some merchandising functions to a greater extent with investment in the technology and technology staff to do so. For such retailers, a centralized merchandising function that plans, buys and reconciles price and product information across all channel makes sense, Forrester says.

Story Link
InternetRetailer.com - Daily News for Thursday, December 11, 2003

Posted by Craig at 02:50 PM

December 11, 2003

Wal-mart - A Long Look

As Wal-mart nears the unheard of level of $300B in revenue, FastCompany takes long look at their practices.

story link

The Wal-Mart You Don't Know

The giant retailer's low prices often come with a high cost. Wal-Mart's relentless pressure can crush the companies it does business with and force them to send jobs overseas. Are we shopping our way straight to the unemployment line?

A gallon-sized jar of whole pickles is something to behold. The jar is the size of a small aquarium. The fat green pickles, floating in swampy juice, look reptilian, their shapes exaggerated by the glass. It weighs 12 pounds, too big to carry with one hand. The gallon jar of pickles is a display of abundance and excess; it is entrancing, and also vaguely unsettling. This is the product that Wal-Mart fell in love with: Vlasic's gallon jar of pickles.

Wal-Mart priced it at $2.97--a year's supply of pickles for less than $3! "They were using it as a 'statement' item," says Pat Hunn, who calls himself the "mad scientist" of Vlasic's gallon jar. "Wal-Mart was putting it before consumers, saying, This represents what Wal-Mart's about. You can buy a stinkin' gallon of pickles for $2.97. And it's the nation's number-one brand."

Therein lies the basic conundrum of doing business with the world's largest retailer. By selling a gallon of kosher dills for less than most grocers sell a quart, Wal-Mart may have provided a ser-vice for its customers. But what did it do for Vlasic? The pickle maker had spent decades convincing customers that they should pay a premium for its brand. Now Wal-Mart was practically giving them away. And the fevered buying spree that resulted distorted every aspect of Vlasic's operations, from farm field to factory to financial statement.

Indeed, as Vlasic discovered, the real story of Wal-Mart, the story that never gets told, is the story of the pressure the biggest retailer relentlessly applies to its suppliers in the name of bringing us "every day low prices." It's the story of what that pressure does to the companies Wal-Mart does business with, to U.S. manufacturing, and to the economy as a whole. That story can be found floating in a gallon jar of pickles at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is not just the world's largest retailer. It's the world's largest company--bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. The scale can be hard to absorb. Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year. It sells in three months what

number-two retailer Home Depot sells in a year. And in its own category of general merchandise and groceries, Wal-Mart no longer has any real rivals. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined. "Clearly," says Edward Fox, head of Southern Methodist University's J.C. Penney Center for Retailing Excellence, "Wal-Mart is more powerful than any retailer has ever been." It is, in fact, so big and so furtively powerful as to have become an entirely different order of corporate being.

Wal-Mart wields its power for just one purpose: to bring the lowest possible prices to its customers. At Wal-Mart, that goal is never reached. The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don't change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year. But what almost no one outside the world of Wal-Mart and its 21,000 suppliers knows is the high cost of those low prices. Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.

Of course, U.S. companies have been moving jobs offshore for decades, long before Wal-Mart was a retailing power. But there is no question that the chain is helping accelerate the loss of American jobs to low-wage countries such as China. Wal-Mart, which in the late 1980s and early 1990s trumpeted its claim to "Buy American," has doubled its imports from China in the past five years alone, buying some $12 billion in merchandise in 2002. That's nearly 10% of all Chinese exports to the United States.

One way to think of Wal-Mart is as a vast pipeline that gives non-U.S. companies direct access to the American market. "One of the things that limits or slows the growth of imports is the cost of establishing connections and networks," says Paul Krugman, the Princeton University economist. "Wal-Mart is so big and so centralized that it can all at once hook Chinese and other suppliers into its digital system. So--wham!--you have a large switch to overseas sourcing in a period quicker than under the old rules of retailing."

Steve Dobbins has been bearing the brunt of that switch. He's president and CEO of Carolina Mills, a 75-year-old North Carolina company that supplies thread, yarn, and textile finishing to apparel makers--half of which supply Wal-Mart. Carolina Mills grew steadily until 2000. But in the past three years, as its customers have gone either overseas or out of business, it has shrunk from 17 factories to 7, and from 2,600 employees to 1,200. Dobbins's customers have begun to face imported clothing sold so cheaply to Wal-Mart that they could not compete even if they paid their workers nothing.

"People ask, 'How can it be bad for things to come into the U.S. cheaply? How can it be bad to have a bargain at Wal-Mart?' Sure, it's held inflation down, and it's great to have bargains," says Dobbins. "But you can't buy anything if you're not employed. We are shopping ourselves out of jobs."

The gallon jar of pickles at Wal-Mart became a devastating success, giving Vlasic strong sales and growth numbers--but slashing its profits by millions of dollars.

There is no question that Wal-Mart's relentless drive to squeeze out costs has benefited consumers. The giant retailer is at least partly responsible for the low rate of U.S. inflation, and a McKinsey & Co. study concluded that about 12% of the economy's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s could be traced to Wal-Mart alone.

There is also no question that doing business with Wal-Mart can give a supplier a fast, heady jolt of sales and market share. But that fix can come with long-term consequences for the health of a brand and a business. Vlasic, for example, wasn't looking to build its brand on a gallon of whole pickles. Pickle companies make money on "the cut," slicing cucumbers into spears and hamburger chips. "Cucumbers in the jar, you don't make a whole lot of money there," says Steve Young, a former vice president of grocery marketing for pickles at Vlasic, who has since left the company.

At some point in the late 1990s, a Wal-Mart buyer saw Vlasic's gallon jar and started talking to Pat Hunn about it. Hunn, who has also since left Vlasic, was then head of Vlasic's Wal-Mart sales team, based in Dallas. The gallon intrigued the buyer. In sales tests, priced somewhere over $3, "the gallon sold like crazy," says Hunn, "surprising us all." The Wal-Mart buyer had a brainstorm: What would happen to the gallon if they offered it nationwide and got it below $3? Hunn was skeptical, but his job was to look for ways to sell pickles at Wal-Mart. Why not?

And so Vlasic's gallon jar of pickles went into every Wal-Mart, some 3,000 stores, at $2.97, a price so low that Vlasic and Wal-Mart were making only a penny or two on a jar, if that. It was showcased on big pallets near the front of stores. It was an abundance of abundance. "It was selling 80 jars a week, on average, in every store," says Young. Doesn't sound like much, until you do the math: That's 240,000 gallons of pickles, just in gallon jars, just at Wal-Mart, every week. Whole fields of cucumbers were heading out the door.

For Vlasic, the gallon jar of pickles became what might be called a devastating success. "Quickly, it started cannibalizing our non-Wal-Mart business," says Young. "We saw consumers who used to buy the spears and the chips in supermarkets buying the Wal-Mart gallons. They'd eat a quarter of a jar and throw the thing away when they got moldy. A family can't eat them fast enough."

The gallon jar reshaped Vlasic's pickle business: It chewed up the profit margin of the business with Wal-Mart, and of pickles generally. Procurement had to scramble to find enough pickles to fill the gallons, but the volume gave Vlasic strong sales numbers, strong growth numbers, and a powerful place in the world of pickles at Wal-Mart. Which accounted for 30% of Vlasic's business. But the company's profits from pickles had shriveled 25% or more, Young says--millions of dollars.

The gallon was hoisting Vlasic and hurting it at the same time.

Young remembers begging Wal-Mart for relief. "They said, 'No way,' " says Young. "We said we'll increase the price"--even $3.49 would have helped tremendously--"and they said, 'If you do that, all the other products of yours we buy, we'll stop buying.' It was a clear threat." Hunn recalls things a little differently, if just as ominously: "They said, 'We want the $2.97 gallon of pickles. If you don't do it, we'll see if someone else might.' I knew our competitors were saying to Wal-Mart, 'We'll do the $2.97 gallons if you give us your other business.' " Wal-Mart's business was so indispensable to Vlasic, and the gallon so central to the Wal-Mart relationship, that decisions about the future of the gallon were made at the CEO level.

Finally, Wal-Mart let Vlasic up for air. "The Wal-Mart guy's response was classic," Young recalls. "He said, 'Well, we've done to pickles what we did to orange juice. We've killed it. We can back off.' " Vlasic got to take it down to just over half a gallon of pickles, for $2.79. Not long after that, in January 2001, Vlasic filed for bankruptcy--although the gallon jar of pickles, everyone agrees, wasn't a critical factor.

By now, it is accepted wisdom that Wal-Mart makes the companies it does business with more efficient and focused, leaner and faster. Wal-Mart itself is known for continuous improvement in its ability to handle, move, and track merchandise. It expects the same of its suppliers. But the ability to operate at peak efficiency only gets you in the door at Wal-Mart. Then the real demands start. The public image Wal-Mart projects may be as cheery as its yellow smiley-face mascot, but there is nothing genial about the process by which Wal-Mart gets its suppliers to provide tires and contact lenses, guns and underarm deodorant at every day low prices. Wal-Mart is legendary for forcing its suppliers to redesign everything from their packaging to their computer systems. It is also legendary for quite straightforwardly telling them what it will pay for their goods.

"We are one of Wal-Mart's biggest suppliers, and they are our biggest customer, by far. We have a great relationship. That's all I can say. Are we done now?"

John Fitzgerald, a former vice president of Nabisco, remembers Wal-Mart's reaction to his company's plan to offer a 25-cent newspaper coupon for a large bag of Lifesavers in advance of Halloween. Wal-Mart told Nabisco to add up what it would spend on the promotion--for the newspaper ads, the coupons, and handling--and then just take that amount off the price instead. "That isn't necessarily good for the manufacturer," Fitzgerald says. "They need things that draw attention."

It also is not unheard of for Wal-Mart to demand to examine the private financial records of a supplier, and to insist that its margins are too high and must be cut. And the smaller the supplier, one academic study shows, the greater the likelihood that it will be forced into damaging concessions. Melissa Berryhill, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, disagrees: "The fact is Wal-Mart, perhaps like no other retailer, seeks to establish collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with our suppliers."

For many suppliers, though, the only thing worse than doing business with Wal-Mart may be not doing business with Wal-Mart. Last year, 7.5 cents of every dollar spent in any store in the United States (other than auto-parts stores) went to the retailer. That means a contract with Wal-Mart can be critical even for the largest consumer-goods companies. Dial Corp., for example, does 28% of its business with Wal-Mart. If Dial lost that one account, it would have to double its sales to its next nine customers just to stay even. "Wal-Mart is the essential retailer, in a way no other retailer is," says Gib Carey, a partner at Bain & Co., who is leading a yearlong study of how to do business with Wal-Mart. "Our clients cannot grow without finding a way to be successful with Wal-Mart."

Many companies and their executives frankly admit that supplying Wal-Mart is like getting into the company version of basic training with an implacable Army drill sergeant. The process may be unpleasant. But there can be some positive results.

"Everyone from the forklift driver on up to me, the CEO, knew we had to deliver [to Wal-Mart] on time. Not 10 minutes late. And not 45 minutes early, either," says Robin Prever, who was CEO of Saratoga Beverage Group from 1992 to 2000, and made private-label water sold at Wal-Mart. "The message came through clearly: You have this 30-second delivery window. Either you're there, or you're out. With a customer like that, it changes your organization. For the better. It wakes everybody up. And all our customers benefited. We changed our whole approach to doing business."

But you won't hear evenhanded stories like that from Wal-Mart, or from its current suppliers. Despite being a publicly traded company, Wal-Mart is intensely private. It declined to talk in detail about its relationships with its suppliers for this story. More strikingly, dozens of companies contacted declined to talk about even the basics of their business with Wal-Mart.

Here, for example, is an executive at Dial: "We are one of Wal-Mart's biggest suppliers, and they are our biggest customer by far. We have a great relationship. That's all I can say. Are we done now?" Goaded a bit, the executive responds with an almost hysterical edge: "Are you meshuga? Why in the world would we talk about Wal-Mart? Ask me about anything else, we'll talk. But not Wal-Mart."

No one wants to end up in what is known among Wal-Mart vendors as the "penalty box"--punished, or even excluded from the store shelves, for saying something that makes Wal-Mart unhappy. (The penalty box is normally reserved for vendors who don't meet performance benchmarks, not for those who talk to the press.)

"You won't hear anything negative from most people," says Paul Kelly, founder of Silvermine Consulting Group, a company that helps businesses work more effectively with retailers. "It would be committing suicide. If Wal-Mart takes something the wrong way, it's like Saddam Hussein. You just don't want to piss them off."

As a result, this story was reported in an unusual way: by speaking with dozens of people who have spent years selling to Wal-Mart, or consulting to companies that sell to Wal-Mart, but who no longer work for companies that do business with Wal-Mart. Unless otherwise noted, the companies involved in the events they described refused even to confirm or deny the basics of the events.

To a person, all those interviewed credit Wal-Mart with a fundamental integrity in its dealings that's unusual in the world of consumer goods, retailing, and groceries. Wal-Mart does not cheat suppliers, it keeps its word, it pays its bills briskly. "They are tough people but very honest; they treat you honestly," says Peter Campanella, who ran the business that sold Corning kitchenware products, both at Corning and then at World Kitchen. "It was a joke to do business with most of their competitors. A fiasco."

But Wal-Mart also clearly does not hesitate to use its power, magnifying the Darwinian forces already at work in modern global capitalism.

Caught in the Wal-Mart squeeze, Huffy didn't just relinquish profits to keep its commitment to the retailer. It handed those profits to the competition.

What does the squeeze look like at Wal-Mart? It is usually thoroughly rational, sometimes devastatingly so.

John Mariotti is a veteran of the consumer-products world--he spent nine years as president of Huffy Bicycle Co., a division of Huffy Corp., and is now chairman of World Kitchen, the company that sells Oxo, Revere, Corning, and Ekco brand housewares.

He could not be clearer on his opinion about Wal-Mart: It's a great company, and a great company to do business with. "Wal-Mart has done more good for America by several thousand orders of magnitude than they've done bad," Mariotti says. "They have raised the bar, and raised the bar for everybody."

Mariotti describes one episode from Huffy's relationship with Wal-Mart. It's a tale he tells to illustrate an admiring point he makes about the retailer. "They demand you do what you say you are going to do." But it's also a classic example of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't Wal-Mart squeeze. When Mariotti was at Huffy throughout the 1980s, the company sold a range of bikes to Wal-Mart, 20 or so models, in a spread of prices and profitability. It was a leading manufacturer of bikes in the United States, in places like Ponca City, Oklahoma; Celina, Ohio; and Farmington, Missouri.

One year, Huffy had committed to supply Wal-Mart with an entry-level, thin-margin bike--as many as Wal-Mart needed. Sales of the low-end bike took off. "I woke up May 1"--the heart of the bike production cycle for the summer--"and I needed 900,000 bikes," he says. "My factories could only run 450,000." As it happened, that same year, Huffy's fancier, more-profitable bikes were doing well, too, at Wal-Mart and other places. Huffy found itself in a bind.

With other retailers, perhaps, Mariotti might have sat down, renegotiated, tried to talk his way out of the corner. Not with Wal-Mart. "I made the deal up front with them," he says. "I knew how high was up. I was duty-bound to supply my customer." So he did something extraordinary. To free up production in order to make Wal-Mart's cheap bikes, he gave the designs for four of his higher-end, higher-margin products to rival manufacturers. "I conceded business to my competitors, because I just ran out of capacity," he says. Huffy didn't just relinquish profits to keep Wal-Mart happy--it handed those profits to its competition. "Wal-Mart didn't tell me what to do," Mariotti says. "They didn't have to." The retailer, he adds, "is tough as nails. But they give you a chance to compete. If you can't compete, that's your problem."

In the years since Mariotti left Huffy, the bike maker's relationship with Wal-Mart has been vital (though Huffy Corp. has lost money in three out of the last five years). It is the number-three seller of bikes in the United States. And Wal-Mart is the number-one retailer of bikes. But here's one last statistic about bicycles: Roughly 98% are now imported from places such as China, Mexico, and Taiwan. Huffy made its last bike in the United States in 1999.

As Mariotti says, Wal-Mart is tough as nails. But not every supplier agrees that the toughness is always accompanied by fairness. The Lovable Company was founded in 1926 by the grandfather of Frank Garson II, who was Lovable's last president. It did business with Wal-Mart, Garson says, from the earliest days of founder Sam Walton's first store in Bentonville, Arkansas. Lovable made bras and lingerie, supplying retailers that also included Sears and Victoria's Secret. At one point, it was the sixth-largest maker of intimate apparel in the United States, with 700 employees in this country and another 2,000 at eight factories in Central America.

Eventually Wal-Mart became Lovable's biggest customer. "Wal-Mart has a big pencil," says Garson. "They have such awesome purchasing power that they write their own ticket. If they don't like your prices, they'll go vertical and do it themselves--or they'll find someone that will meet their terms."

In the summer of 1995, Garson asserts, Wal-Mart did just that. "They had awarded us a contract, and in their wisdom, they changed the terms so dramatically that they really reneged." Garson, still worried about litigation, won't provide details. "But when you lose a customer that size, they are irreplaceable."

Lovable was already feeling intense cost pressure. Less than three years after Wal-Mart pulled its business, in its 72nd year, Lovable closed. "They leave a lot to be desired in the way they treat people," says Garson. "Their actions to pulverize people are unnecessary. Wal-Mart chewed us up and spit us out."

Believe it or not, American business has been through this before. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., the grocery-store chain, stood astride the U.S. market in the 1920s and 1930s with a dominance that has likely never been duplicated. At its peak, A&P had five times the number of stores Wal-Mart has now (although much smaller ones), and at one point, it owned 80% of the supermarket business. Some of the antipredatory-pricing laws in use today were inspired by A&P's attempts to muscle its suppliers.

There is very little academic and statistical study of Wal-Mart's impact on the health of its suppliers and virtually nothing in the last decade, when Wal-Mart's size has increased by a factor of five. This while the retail industry has become much more concentrated. In large part, that's because it's nearly impossible to get meaningful data that would allow researchers to track the influence of Wal-Mart's business on companies over time. You'd need cooperation from the vendor companies or Wal-Mart or both--and neither Wal-Mart nor its suppliers are interested in sharing such intimate detail.

Bain & Co., the global management consulting firm, is in the midst of a project that asks, How does a company have a healthy relationship with Wal-Mart? How do you avoid being sucked into the vortex? How do you maintain some standing, some leverage of your own?

This July, in a mating that had the relieved air of lovers who had too long resisted embracing, Levi Strauss rolled blue jeans into every Wal-Mart in the United States.

Bain's first insights are obvious, if not easy. "Year after year," Carey, a partner at Bain & Co., says, "for any product that is the same as what you sold them last year, Wal-Mart will say, 'Here's the price you gave me last year. Here's what I can get a competitor's product for. Here's what I can get a private-label version for. I want to see a better value that I can bring to my shopper this year. Or else I'm going to use that shelf space differently.' "

Carey has a friend in the umbrella business who learned that. One year, because of costs, he went to Wal-Mart and asked for a 5% price increase. "Wal-Mart said, 'We were expecting a 5% decrease. We're off by 10%. Go back and sharpen your pencil.' " The umbrella man scrimped and came back with a 2% increase. "They said, 'We'll go with a Chinese manufacturer'--and he was out entirely."

The Wal-Mart squeeze means vendors have to be as relentless and as microscopic as Wal-Mart is at managing their own costs. They need, in fact, to turn themselves into shadow versions of Wal-Mart itself. "Wal-Mart won't necessarily say you have to reconfigure your distribution system," says Carey. "But companies recognize they are not going to maintain margins with growth in their Wal-Mart business without doing it."

The way to avoid being trapped in a spiral of growing business and shrinking profits, says Carey, is to innovate. "You need to bring Wal-Mart new products--products consumers need. Because with those, Wal-Mart doesn't have benchmarks to drive you down in price. They don't have historical data, you don't have competitors, they haven't bid the products out to private-label makers. That's how you can have higher prices and higher margins."

Reasonable advice, but not universally useful. There has been an explosion of "innovation" in toothbrushes and toothpastes in the past five years, for instance; but a pickle is a pickle is a pickle.

Bain's other critical discovery is that consumers are often more loyal to product companies than to Wal-Mart. With strongly branded items people develop a preference for--things like toothpaste or laundry detergent--Wal-Mart rarely forces shoppers to switch to a second choice. It would simply punish itself by seeing sales fall, and it won't put up with that for long.

But as Wal-Mart has grown in market reach and clout, even manufacturers known for nurturing premium brands may find themselves overpowered. This July, in a mating that had the relieved air of lovers who had too long resisted embracing, Levi Strauss rolled blue jeans into every Wal-Mart doorway in the United States: 2,864 stores. Wal-Mart, seeking to expand its clothing business with more fashionable brands, promoted the clothes on its in-store TV network and with banners slipped over the security-tag detectors at exit doors.

Levi's launch into Wal-Mart came the same summer the clothes maker celebrated its 150th birthday. For a century and a half, one of the most recognizable names in American commerce had survived without Wal-Mart. But in October 2002, when Levi Strauss and Wal-Mart announced their engagement, Levi was shrinking rapidly. The pressure on Levi goes back 25 years--well before Wal-Mart was an influence. Between 1981 and 1990, Levi closed 58 U.S. manufacturing plants, sending 25% of its sewing overseas.

Sales for Levi peaked in 1996 at $7.1 billion. By last year, they had spiraled down six years in a row, to $4.1 billion; through the first six months of 2003, sales dropped another 3%. This one account--selling jeans to Wal-Mart--could almost instantly revive Levi.

Last year, Wal-Mart sold more clothing than any other retailer in the country. It also sold more pairs of jeans than any other store. Wal-Mart's own inexpensive house brand of jeans, Faded Glory, is estimated to do $3 billion in sales a year, a house brand nearly the size of Levi Strauss. Perhaps most revealing in terms of Levi's strategic blunders: In 2002, half the jeans sold in the United States cost less than $20 a pair. That same year, Levi didn't offer jeans for less than $30.

For much of the last decade, Levi couldn't have qualified to sell to Wal-Mart. Its computer systems were antiquated, and it was notorious for delivering clothes late to retailers. Levi admitted its on-time delivery rate was 65%. When it announced the deal with Wal-Mart last year, one fashion-industry analyst bluntly predicted Levi would simply fail to deliver the jeans.

But Levi Strauss has taken to the Wal-Mart Way with the intensity of a near-death religious conversion--and Levi's executives were happy to talk about their experience getting ready to sell at Wal-Mart. One hundred people at Levi's headquarters are devoted to the new business; another 12 have set up in an office in Bentonville, near Wal-Mart's headquarters, where the company has hired a respected veteran Wal-Mart sales account manager.

Getting ready for Wal-Mart has been like putting Levi on the Atkins diet. It has helped everything--customer focus, inventory management, speed to market. It has even helped other retailers that buy Levis, because Wal-Mart has forced the company to replenish stores within two days instead of Levi's previous five-day cycle.

And so, Wal-Mart might rescue Levi Strauss. Except for one thing.

Levi didn't actually have any clothes it could sell at Wal-Mart. Everything was too expensive. It had to develop a fresh line for mass retailers: the Levi Strauss Signature brand, featuring Levi Strauss's name on the back of the jeans.

Two months after the launch, Levi basked in the honeymoon glow. Overall sales, after falling for the first six months of 2003, rose 6% in the third quarter; profits in the summer quarter nearly doubled. All, Levi's CEO said, because of Signature.

"They are all very rational people. And they had a good point. Everyone was willing to pay more for a Master Lock. But how much more can they justify?"

But the low-end business isn't a business Levi is known for, or one it had been particularly interested in. It's also a business in which Levi will find itself competing with lean, experienced players such as VF and Faded Glory. Levi's makeover might so improve its performance with its non-Wal-Mart suppliers that its established business will thrive, too. It is just as likely that any gains will be offset by the competitive pressures already dissolving Levi's premium brands, and by the cannibalization of its own sales. "It's hard to see how this relationship will boost Levi's higher-end business," says Paul Farris, a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. "It's easy to see how this will hurt the higher-end business."

If Levi clothing is a runaway hit at Wal-Mart, that may indeed rescue Levi as a business. But what will have been rescued? The Signature line--it includes clothing for girls, boys, men, and women--is an odd departure for a company whose brand has long been an American icon. Some of the jeans have the look, the fingertip feel, of pricier Levis. But much of the clothing has the look and feel it must have, given its price (around $23 for adult pants): cheap. Cheap and disappointing to find labeled with Levi Strauss's name. And just five days before the cheery profit news, Levi had another announcement: It is closing its last two U.S. factories, both in San Antonio, and laying off more than 2,500 workers, or 21% of its workforce. A company that 22 years ago had 60 clothing plants in the United States--and that was known as one of the most socially reponsible corporations on the planet--will, by 2004, not make any clothes at all. It will just import them.

In the end, of course, it is we as shoppers who have the power, and who have given that power to Wal-Mart. Part of Wal-Mart's dominance, part of its insight, and part of its arrogance, is that it presumes to speak for American shoppers.

If Wal-Mart doesn't like the pricing on something, says Andrew Whitman, who helped service Wal-Mart for years when he worked at General Foods and Kraft, they simply say, "At that price we no longer think it's a good value to our shopper. Therefore, we don't think we should carry it."

Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize about globalization: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences. Says Steve Dobbins, president of thread maker Carolina Mills: "We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world--yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions."

Randall Larrimore, a former CEO of MasterBrand Industries, the parent company of Master Lock, understands that contradiction too well. For years, he says, as manufacturing costs in the United States rose, Master Lock was able to pass them along. But at some point in the 1990s, Asian manufacturers started producing locks for much less. "When the difference is $1, retailers like Wal-Mart would prefer to have the brand-name padlock or faucet or hammer," Larrimore says. "But as the spread becomes greater, when our padlock was $9, and the import was $6, then they can offer the consumer a real discount by carrying two lines. Ultimately, they may only carry one line."

In January 1997, Master Lock announced that, after 75 years making locks in Milwaukee, it would begin importing more products from Asia. Not too long after, Master Lock opened a factory of its own in Nogales, Mexico. Today, it makes just 10% to 15% of its locks in Milwaukee--its 300 employees there mostly make parts that are sent to Nogales, where there are now 800 factory workers.

Larrimore did the first manufacturing layoffs at Master Lock. He negotiated with Master Lock's unions himself. He went to Bentonville. "I loved dealing with Wal-Mart, with Home Depot," he says. "They are all very rational people. There wasn't a whole lot of room for negotiation. And they had a good point. Everyone was willing to pay more for a Master Lock. But how much more can they justify? If they can buy a lock that has arguably similar qual-ity, at a cheaper price, well, they can get their consumers a deal."

It's Wal-Mart in the role of Adam Smith's invisible hand. And the Milwaukee employees of Master Lock who shopped at Wal-Mart to save money helped that hand shove their own jobs right to Nogales. Not consciously, not directly, but inevitably. "Do we as consumers appreciate what we're doing?" Larrimore asks. "I don't think so. But even if we do, I think we say, Here's a Master Lock for $9, here's another lock for $6--let the other guy pay $9."

Charles Fishman (cnfish@mindspring.com ) is a senior writer at Fast Company . Andrew Moesel provided research assistance for this story.

Posted by Craig at 05:36 PM

Retail News

Boise Cascade buys OfficeMax for $1.3 billion

Boise Cascade has acquired Shaker Heights, Ohiobased office products chain OfficeMax for $1.3 billion. Shareholders of both companies approved the deal on Tuesday.

Boise Cascade, a Boise, Idahobased paper products maker and office supplies distributor, runs about 100 Boise Office Solutions stores in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. OfficeMax has about 1,000 stores in the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico and Australia.

Boise Office Solutions will eventually change its name to OfficeMax, the company said. Gary Peterson, OfficeMaxs former president and COO, will run Boise Cascades retail operations.

"The combination of Boise Office Solutions exceptional strength in the contract customer segment with OfficeMaxs proven retail expertise and strong brand creates a platform for growth, particularly in the small- and mid-sized business segment," said Boise Cascade Chairman and CEO George Harad in a news release.

Retail analysts have said the Boise acquisition will strengthen OfficeMaxs business and make it more competitive with discounters by improving distribution and cutting costs.

story link

Posted by Craig at 02:55 PM

December 09, 2003

Opinion: The Retail Landscape

WHY SEARS AND KMART SHOULD MERGE
After All, They Have Stockholder Eddie Lampert in Common -- Ad Age Opinion


Story link

December 08, 2003
QwikFIND ID: AAP20N
By Bradley Johnson

Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Kmart Holding Corp. have two things in common: They've been beaten by Wal-Mart, and they have the same top shareholder. Financier Edward S.
Photo: AP
Financier Edward Lampert owns 45% of Kmart and 12% of Sears.
"Eddie" Lampert owns 45% of Kmart and 12% of Sears. The solution for these also-rans may be to merge.

Troubled retailers
To be sure, two troubled organizations could make for a troubled marriage. In this case, two wrongs could make a right.

When I visited a local Kmart, it was as if the store had died and gone to Target. I found style, selection and value (if not a lot of customers).

I take back almost all the mean things I've said about Martha Stewart, whose name appears on everything at Kmart except the Joe Boxer shorts. But Kmart still conjures up images of the dowdy Kmart of my youth. In the end, it can't compete with Wal-Mart on price and lacks the cheap-chic mystique of Target.

Reclusive billionaire
Mr. Lampert, a reclusive billionaire money manager and dealmaker, brought Kmart out of bankruptcy in May, emerging as chairman and lead shareholder. He's taken an active role, helping pick Grey Global Group to do advertising and even cold-calling some people he's wanted to consider for key management posts. Yet it's still Kmart. If it remains a stand-alone chain, I bet it will fail.

Enter Sears, where Mr. Lampert took a sizable stake in 2002. Sears sells the right stuff: Craftsman, Kenmore, Lands' End. But it cannot easily match discounters on price because its cost structure is too high. It's testing a new format,
Photo: AP
A Sears Grand just after its opening in Utah in September.
Sears Grand, with shopping carts and wide aisles. Early reports are mixed: a nice store that matches rival supercenters on selection but not necessarily on price. Sears has to change. As discounters stock better goods at lower prices, there's less reason for a fabled department store like Sears.

Sears Smart
Consider what could happen if Mr. Lampert produced a merger of his two big holdings. First, the name: Ditch "Kmart," which has too much baggage; keep "Sears," a resilient brand in search of a viable retail format. Maybe tweak the name to show this is something new -- Sears Smart, perhaps.

Then the cost cutting: Watch Mr. Lampert gut merged corporate staffs, slash marketing and close overlapping stores.

Now take Kmart's big boxes in the suburbs and think Target, but with a unique set of strong brands: Craftsman tools, Lands' End clothes, Martha Stewart home furnishings, Kenmore appliances. Take Kmart's older city stores -- often far from newcomers like Wal-Mart -- and restage
Photo: AP
Martha Stewart smiles from all directions in Kmart stores.
them with the best mix from Sears and Kmart, targeting multicultural groups where it makes sense. Add shopping carts and Kmart's soft lines to Sears' old mall locations.

There are big obstacles here. Turning a department store into a low-margin discount store would be tough. Then again, it could be risky for Sears and Kmart to remain as stand-alones while better retailers race ahead.

A $245 billion Goliath
Sears and Kmart were once the two biggest U.S. retailers. Sears is now No. 5 and Kmart No. 11, according to Forbes' math. A merger would make Sears No. 2. Sears has about 870 stores; there are 1,500 Kmarts. Wal-Mart Stores has nearly 3,000 U.S. Wal-Marts. Sears' and Kmart's sales last year were $41 billion and $31 billion, respectively. Wal-Mart sales (including Sams Club) were a bit bigger: $245 billion.

Sears succeeded by making radical moves at the right time. Richard Sears started by selling watches in 1886; he moved into catalogs to serve rural America. Sears opened its first store in 1925, bet right on the postwar boom and became the nation's No. 1 merchant till a small-town retailer, Wal-Mart, swept past it.

Sears can adapt, and Kmart could be the opportunity. Maybe Mr. Lampert should arrange a marriage.

~ ~ ~
Bradley Johnson is Advertising Age editor at large.

Posted by Craig at 06:14 PM

Krispy Kreme Distance Learning

Mixed-media Methods Support Commitment to Employee Education
Krispy Kreme ensures consistent delivery of its unique product with video training delivered to all sites

story link

By Jennifer Korolishin

Jennifer Korolishin is a Philadelphia-based writer with extensive retail
industry experience.

Several times every day, in hundreds of locations, hot, fresh Krispy Kreme
doughnuts are snatched straight off the line and served to mobs of waiting
customers. One key to the brands popularity and success is consistency;
its the same sugary goodness whether youre devouring a Krispy Kreme
doughnut in Australia or Alabama. To enable that consistency, Krispy Kreme
has made a strong commitment to employee training.

We think that our growth and success is a natural result of the positive
customer experience we provide, which is due, in part, to the development of
our people, says Rob Bateman, vice president of training and organization
development at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.
Within our culture, we have very strong values around learning and
sharing, he says. We want everyone in our company to have the opportunity
to be successful, so we have a strong commitment to providing learning
opportunities that enable people to understand their roles and perform
well.

The foodservice retailer also views its commitment to employee training as
the right thing to do for customers. We cannot provide the optimal customer
experience, unless we have people who believe in the brand and are
thoroughly trained and given the opportunity to deliver our brand promise,
he says. We feel people are fundamental to our success.

Founded 67 years ago, the Krispy Kreme phenomenon was for many years largely
confined to the Southeastern United States. During the last decade, the
retailer has evolved into an international brand by choosing franchisees
with proven foodservice experience to develop territories.

The rapid expansion and explosion in popularity has extended to stores in
Canada, Australia and England, all of which met with the type of
record-breaking crowds that tend to accompany U.S. store openings.

As Krispy Kreme grew, however, so did its need for training and for new
methods to efficiently deliver that training to far-flung locations. When
you grow so quickly, it stretches your infrastructure, explains Bateman.
Krispy Kreme has always invested in training and in people, but it was
mostly instructor-led and technical in nature. As we grew, we knew we needed
options to provide a blended learning solution.

CUSTOM LEARNING
Krispy Kreme found its answer in a product from Productivity
Point, a learning solutions company based in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
We focus on custom learning solutions, including e-learning and classroom
training, where companies turn to us for full support and management of
their corporate education programs, explains Krista Fuller, director of
marketing at Productivity Point.

Krispy Kreme uses Productivity Points Knowledge Publisher solution, a media
authoring system that enables clients to create audio- and video-based
material for training, marketing and corporate communications. With
Knowledge Publisher, users can synchronize audio and video with web-based
presentations, including Power Point slides, animations and simulations,
polling and assessment questions, and e-mail and chat.

Presentations and videos can be published on a web portal, which is how
Krispy Kreme uses the application. By integrating the Productivity Point
solution with the Krispy Kreme portal, employees can access training
materials through a single sign-on log-in.

We noticed over the years that a lot of the on-line communication tools
that were available were primarily text-based, says Jerry Gschwind,
director of U.S. professional services for Productivity Point. For certain
business applications, text just doesnt seem to cut it. For those business
applications where you really need to exert a high amount of influence or
impact, audio or video provides a much better message.

Krispy Kreme already had a tradition of employing e-learning applications,
but Productivity Point added a new tool to use with its existing model. The
challenge they faced with developing and maintaining some of their
e-learning was that in the past, they found that the process of ongoing
production and maintenance required them to continually go back to vendors
at additional expense that was difficult to always justify, says Gschwind.
What we gave to them to help address this was Knowledge Publisher, which
was a way to help them create and maintain high-quality, video-based
e-learning on their own, without the typical time and expense associated
with this type of production, he adds.

Knowledge Publisher is designed for non-programmers so companies can save
the time and expense of sending technical staff to each location. Tools
like this traditionally have required a great deal of time to learn or the
necessity for an organization to have a skilled technical professional to
operate the tool, notes Gschwind. With Knowledge Publisher, weve designed
a system that requires none of that. You can be up and running in a matter
of hours with just a little bit of training.

GOLD STANDARD
For Krispy Kreme, being able to provide the same visual
demonstration of certain in-store procedures to all of its outlets has
helped to ensure the consistency needed to deliver its unique taste to
customers.

We want to ensure that a customer who knows the brand in Winston-Salem,
N.C., has exactly the same experience in Los Angeles or San Francisco, says
Bateman. Our people have to be able to perform consistently, to the same
gold standard of quality.

The company has invested greatly in equipment innovation, so we have
tremendous tools for our people to be able to perform and provide a quality
product, be it a doughnut or a great cup of coffee, he says. Now we want
to help people learn how to do that on a consistent basis.

While merchants will always need to publish policies and procedures manuals,
the advent of rich media tools, such as Knowledge Publisher, gives retailers
additional ways to appeal to employees various learning styles.

If you want to teach somebody something that is a physical procedure,
showing them is a lot easier than describing it or drawing a diagram that
illustrates it, notes Gschwind. Many of our clients use Knowledge
Publisher because they want to influence the behavior of their employees by
presenting corporate executives or people who need to convey an emotional
message, not one thats stripped of emotion, which is what you tend to get
with text. When you really want to make an impact, nothing really beats a
video of your CEO delivering that message first-hand.

According to Fuller, one of the reasons the application works is because
it provides a multi-dimensional experience. When you have an instructor in
front of you, you learn by seeing, by hearing, by doing. Knowledge Publisher
lets you see a face, she says. You can see demonstrations of technologies
and tools. It stimulates the senses.

Krispy Kreme selected the Productivity Point solution for several reasons,
including the ability to update its training videos quickly and provide a
resource to store managers. What we were looking for is a mechanism in our
blended learning solution that would enable us to accomplish three things,
explains Bateman.

We wanted to provide consistent, just-in-time learning. We wanted it to go
across the web so wed have scalability. And we wanted to provide a tool
that managers could access easily instead of sorting through a library of
tapes or manuals.

What Productivity Point provided for us was an ability to provide short,
specific training tools we call hot topics videos, continues Bateman.
Were building a library of training and troubleshooting videos. We also
have search engine capability for problem-solving and coaching.

If a manager sees a particular performance issue, he can type in keywords
and the search returns a list of hot topic videos. The videos are five to
seven minutes in length, so a manager can access the video, show it and
discuss it and have a tremendous coaching session in 15 minutes, Bateman
says.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Krispy Kreme also uses Knowledge Publisher to regularly
communicate its financial position to employees. The foodservice retailer
conducts a quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts.
Afterward, the company tapes an informal discussion of the quarters results
and expectations for the next quarter with the CEO and COO, which are made
available to all employees via the portal.

In the first six months of using the Productivity Point solution, Krispy
Kreme has built a library of five training videos on topics such as
calibrating the coffee grinder and unjamming the fryer, all of which have
been enthusiastically received by employees.

The initial reaction has been tremendous, says Bateman. Our store
managers, who are always looking for new training tools, have been really
excited. They have been delighted with the concept and say they want a great
deal more. Our training team has asked for suggested topics, and the demand
is much greater than our ability to supply right now.

Last year, for example, Krispy Kreme rolled out a drip brew coffee program
with four coffee blends. The company also produced hot topic videos to
demonstrate coffee product knowledge and teach associates how to communicate
the product characteristics to customers.

From a learning standpoint, its been tremendous, says Bateman. The
feedback weve gotten is that its been very helpful in the technical arena,
as well as in some of the soft skills, like customer interaction.

At Productivity Point, Gschwind notes that when developing comparable
on-line learning and communication experiences, its about 50 percent less
expensive, in terms of time and dollars, to use Knowledge Publisher,
compared to other available tools and services.

The business benefits vary because it depends on what business process
youre trying to improve, but weve had tremendous results from our
clients, he says.

Posted by Craig at 02:54 PM

December 08, 2003

Sams Club and Wireless

SAM'S CLUB Canada Names TelePlus to implement and operate Franchise of in-store retail wireless kiosks

MONTREAL, Dec 08, 2003 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via Comtex/ -- TelePlus Enterprises, Inc. (ticker "TLPE") today announced that it has entered into a major agreement with SAM'S CLUB Canada, a division of Wal-Mart Canada Corp., to implement and operate a chain of retail wireless kiosks within the Sam's Club family of stores. The new state-of-the-art SAM'S CLUB branded wireless kiosks will provide Sam's Club members with a wide range of TelePlus' wireless products and services from major Canadian carriers, including advanced international GSM world phones and satellite systems.

In conjunction with the closing of the agreement, TelePlus further announces the official opening of new kiosks in four SAM'S CLUB locations situated throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Etobicoke and Pickering Ontario Canada opened the same day. TelePlus Enterprises will be opening additional kiosks according to Sam's Club's new club roll-out schedule.

"The agreement with Sam's Club is a milestone development for the Company and one that aligns TelePlus with one of North America's most respected and successful mass business and consumer retailers". Stated TelePlus Enterprises President and CEO, Mr. Marius Silvasan. SAM's CLUB'S dedication to delivering value to its members mirrors TelePlus' commitment to superior customer service. TelePlus will continue to aggressively expand its store presence under the Sam's Club banner and the mandate over the coming years will be to ensure that SAM's CLUB becomes the dominant player in the sale of wireless products and services in the Canadian marketplace." Said Silvasan

Currently Sam's Club operates over 500 clubs in the USA and is expected to open several new clubs in Canada over the upcoming years. TelePlus expects to generate $250,000 USD in revenue from each kiosk operated within Sam's Club.

About TelePlus

TelePlus Enterprises, Inc. through two wholly owned subsidiaries owns and operates 22 TelePlus branded stores in major shopping malls and 4 kiosks in Sam's Club selling a variety of wireless and portable communication devices. The company's product line include wireless handsets and services from major Canadian carriers, international phones, satellites, home phones and other mobile electronic devices including an exclusive line of international GSM world phones.

About SAM'S CLUB Canada

SAM'S CLUB Canada is a division of Wal-Mart Canada Corp. and operates four membership warehouse clubs in the Greater Toronto Area. The clubs offer their members more than 4,000 low priced, brand name products and an assortment of food within a spacious warehouse setting. SAM'S CLUB caters specifically to the needs of Canadian small-business operators and consumers, including those who like to purchase larger pack sizes of merchandise and food, at wholesale prices.

------------------

The statements which are not historical facts contained in this press
release are forward-looking statements that involve certain risks and
uncertainties, including but not limited to risks associated with the
uncertainty of future financial results, additional financing
requirements, development and acquisition of new product lines and
services, government approval processes, the impact of competitive
products or pricing a technological changes, the effect of economic
conditions and other uncertainties.

SOURCE TELEPLUS ENTERPRISES, INC.

Investor Relations, Toll Free, 1-866-699-3388,
Email: info@teleplus.ca; Site: www.teleplus.ca

Posted by Craig at 06:07 PM

December 06, 2003

Best Buy Poll Center for NHL

Voting is being conducted by electronic ballot on the league's Web site (nhl.com), through broadband kiosks at 580 Best Buy locations

December 06, 2003 06:08

Coach, general manager blast falling Stars

By Mac Engel

SAN JOSE, Calif. _ The Dallas Stars were so bad Thursday that coach Dave Tippett actually allowed himself to get angry in front of a microphone.

The Stars were so bad Thursday that general manager Doug Armstrong allowed himself to get angry over the telephone.

Their message was simple: The Stars' big-money skill players continue to underperform. Their case was made during Thursday's 3-0 defeat against the Kings in Los Angeles.

"We have highly skilled people that are paid to make plays and we expect them to do that, and they aren't getting it done," Tippett said after the game in his first public tongue-lashing of his team. "This was about our skill players not (being) willing to play hard enough to make their skill effective. This was about making mistakes that end up in the back of your net. Let's call a spade a spade: Our skill players, five-on-five and on the power play, created very little."

And ...

"We've got high-end skill players that have to be difference-makers in the game, and they aren't even close right now," Tippett said.

Armstrong was equally critical of a team that is one game under .500 despite a $67 million payroll, the NHL's third-largest.

"(Thursday) was a prime example of hard work beating skill every time," said Armstrong, who is in Florida scouting. "Until the skill players are willing to commit to their teammates, it won't happen. ... If problems were there (last season), our goaltender (Marty Turco) solved a lot of them. Our goaltender is part of the problem. Last year, he was part of the solution.

"When you couple our goals-against average and our team's save percentage with ... the way our top players are underachieving ... Those are the players who have salaries that dictate they can make a difference, game in and game out. We're hard-pressed to say Rob DiMaio isn't doing everything he can to give us a chance to win."

The names are easy to figure out.

Mike Modano.

Bill Guerin.

Sergei Zubov.

Marty Turco.

"(Tippett) is right," Guerin said. "I hate to say it, but we are relied on and we have a responsibility to do certain things and bring certain things to the game. We looked like we've never played the game before.

"With our responsibility, it's unacceptable."

But it's becoming normal.

After the game, the Stars had their third closed-door meeting this season.

That's three in 25 games.

"That's too many," Guerin said.

Tippett also admitted that he's used what he calls a "mulligan." That is, the chance to openly rip his team. He gives himself three a year, and said Thursday he's used two already.

"A lot of weight comes on our shoulders. We have other guys too, and we need contribution from everybody," Modano said. "I've always been a point-a-game guy, so are we asking for three or four now? That's not going to happen. We need scoring from everybody.

"It's clear as day what the situation is. You don't need to stand up and try to explain it."

The explanation is right now is that the Stars' best players aren't their best players.ALL-STAR STARS?Bill Guerin ranks fifth in the voting for Western Conference wingers in the NHL All-Star balloting and Jere Lehtinen is 12th. Mike Modano is second among centers behind Colorado's Peter Forsberg. Marty Turco is second among goalies behind Vancouver's Dan Cloutier. Sergei Zubov is sixth among defensemen.

The NHL All-Star balloting will continue through December 31.

Voting is being conducted by electronic ballot on the league's Web site (nhl.com), through broadband kiosks at 580 Best Buy locations in the United States, via paper ballots at all 30 NHL arenas and, for the first time, via Nextel phones in the U.S.

The All-Star Game is scheduled for February 8 in St. Paul, Minn.BRIEFLYThe Stars took forward Pierre Turgeon off the injured list Friday. They sent wing Rob Valicevic down to minor league Utah to clear a roster spot. ...

Coach Dave Tippett said injured center Jason Arnott (sore groin) might skate today but said no immediate plans are in place to have him rejoin the team. ...

With games on back-to-back nights, Tippett said backup goalie Ron Tugnutt could start tonight. The start would be his second of the season.

___

(c) 2003, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Visit the Star-Telegram on the World Wide Web at http://www.star-telegram.com.

Posted by Craig at 03:14 PM

December 03, 2003

Marshall Field's Adds Eight New Product Assortments at State Street

And for another wonderful way to shop, Marshall Field's offers guests the "best of Marshall Field's Direct," featuring several exclusive items from inspirational gifts, home decor, jewelry and accessories. The fully web- enabled kiosk also provides a direct phone line and online access to the full assortment at fields.com. Marshall Field's recently added more than 20,000 items to its online assortment - giving it one of the largest online product offerings for a department store.

Marshall Field's Adds Eight New Product Assortments at State Street
Jump to first matched term

Biomega, Sonic Impact and Bose Are Latest New and Unexpected Additions At Marshall Field's

CHICAGO, Dec 03, 2003 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Marshall Field's today announced the addition of eight kiosks featuring eight new product assortments within its flagship State Street store in Chicago. From contemporary, urban bikes to all the batteries needed to power the holidays, guests can enjoy one-stop shopping with new offerings from Biomega, Chicago Tribune, Energizer Battery, Duluth Pack, Sprint PCS, Sonic Impact Technologies, Strange Cargo Custom Tee Shirts and fields.com.

The kiosks, known as "Field's Row," occupy approximately 1,600 square feet on the lower level and are the latest example of the department store's ongoing strategy of bringing new and unexpected experiences to its guests.

In addition, Marshall Field's recently opened a Bose Home Theater Store with Philips at its State Street store. The 3,400-square-foot shop is the first and only permanent Bose location in a department store that features the company's innovative audio equipment. Marshall Field's also rolled out seasonal Bose kiosks at its Minneapolis, Ridgedale and Southdale stores in Minnesota and the Woodfield store outside Chicago.

"Marshall Field's is differentiating itself among department stores by presenting unique merchandise in stores that's fun for our guests," said Ralph Hughes, Marshall Field's regional director. "We're reinvigorating our shopping experience by injecting newness into our assortments to further create excitement and convenience for our guests just in time for the holiday season."

In the Field's Row area, guests will also find high performance, contemporary-designed bikes and accessories from Biomega, the world's first and only high-end urban bike company. The kiosk presents many of the minimalist, functional products inspired by retro-modernism car designs and range from approximately $1,000 to $5,000.

Marshall Field's is also offering "Chicago Days - 150 Defining Moments in the Life of a Great City," written by the staff of the Chicago Tribune. With colorful storytelling and period illustrations, the book pays tribute to the Chicago metropolitan area and its people in a vivid portrait of one of the world's great urban areas. The book is available for $19.95 at the Chicago Tribune kiosk at Marshall Field's.

For a full range of unique portable audio components, guests can look to the Sonic Impact Technologies kiosk at Marshall Field's. The flat panel adaptable speaker systems are lightweight, battery-operated and can plug into virtually everything from MP3 players to portable laptops. Sonic Impact Technologies, the maker of the world's first flat-pack, corrugated cardboard speakers, breaks the sound barrier with its unique audio components, state-of- the-art technology and sound quality.

Guests can also discover rugged, old- fashioned canvas canoe packs, durable travel bags, briefcases, totes and accessories from Duluth Pack at Marshall Field's. Duluth Pack, based in Duluth, Minn., offers durable products that are handcrafted from the highest quality hardware and all- natural canvas and leather. Guests can purchase items directly from the kiosk or via a web-enabled connection.

Batteries not included? Guests can locate all the batteries needed to power their holidays at the Energizer Battery Store at Marshall Field's. Energizer, one of the world's largest manufacturers of batteries and flashlights, features nearly every battery under the sun, including batteries sure to fit the smallest gifts during the holidays.

In a retro return to personalized apparel, Marshall Field's is offering tee shirts made to order from Strange Cargo Custom Tee Shirts, a Chicago-based vintage and novelty store. Strange Cargo's urban designs are custom-made right at the kiosk for approximately $16 at Marshall Field's.

In addition, Sprint PCS features a variety of wireless phones and service plans guests can order from its kiosk at Marshall Field's. Sprint PCS offers the largest 100-percent digital, nationwide PCS wireless network in the United States.

And for another wonderful way to shop, Marshall Field's offers guests the "best of Marshall Field's Direct," featuring several exclusive items from inspirational gifts, home decor, jewelry and accessories. The fully web- enabled kiosk also provides a direct phone line and online access to the full assortment at fields.com. Marshall Field's recently added more than 20,000 items to its online assortment - giving it one of the largest online product offerings for a department store.

Newness abounds at Marshall Field's. Beginning with the evolution of the company's State Street store, Marshall Field's is transforming into a shopping experience unlike anything else in retail. Expected and unexpected merchandise in a fun shopping environment have taken Marshall Field's to a new level and raised the bar in retail.

About Marshall Field's

Marshall Field's full-service department stores have a 150-year legacy of fashion leadership and retail excellence. Marshall Field's inspiration for unexpected merchandise originates from its legendary State Street store in Chicago, which sets the bar as the most exciting destination in retail. Marshall Field's had annual revenues of $2.7 billion in 2002, generated from more than 14 million square feet of retail space. Marshall Field's operates 62 stores in eight states and offers online shopping at www.fields.com . Marshall Field's, along with its parent company, Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT), gives back more than $2 million each week to local communities through grants and special programs.

CONTACT: Jennifer McNamara of Marshall Field's, +1-612-375-4163.

SOURCE Marshall Field's

Jennifer McNamara of Marshall Field's, +1-612-375-4163

Posted by Craig at 08:48 PM

December 02, 2003

New Creative Cashiering System for Self-Payment of DayCare Bills

MEIGlobal - New_Creative_Cashiering_System

Posted by Craig at 07:47 PM

Home Depot Modernizes

The Home Depot Inc., facing a growing challenge from rival Lowe's Cos. Inc., is undergoing a transformation

story link

Home Depot reconstructs image

Rival Lowe's cuts into service, sales

By Harry R. Weber
The Associated Press

ATLANTA - The Home Depot Inc., facing a growing challenge from rival Lowe's Cos. Inc., is undergoing a transformation, becoming a retailer with more polish, better merchandise and a new service-oriented attitude of "do-it-for-you."

Home Depot is spending $400 million this year alone to modernize many of its 1,643 stores, making them appear more welcoming and less like cold warehouses. And it's retraining employees and installing computers in stores to teach workers about the products they sell.

"We found that there were customers we weren't reaching," chief executive Bob Nardelli said.

A key part of the company's overhaul is refocusing its 300,000 employees on service, once a Home Depot hallmark that some customers say has become inconsistent from store to store.

"There isn't that extensive contractor-type knowledge that Home Depot originally built its reputation on," said Burt Flickinger, a retail consultant who has studied Home Depot shoppers. "To Nardelli's credit, he's realized it's no longer a strength and needs to be addressed."

Nardelli said the change will take time but is necessary for the nation's largest home-improvement store chain if it is to grow amid increasing competition.

Some analysts say Home Depot is on the defensive due to Lowe's growing success. With about half as many stores, Wilkesboro, N.C.-based Lowe's reported a 33 percent increase in third-quarter profit behind a 12 percent rise in sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales. Home Depot reported a 22 percent increase in third-quarter profit behind a nearly 8 percent rise in same-store sales.

As part of the restructuring, Home Depot surveyed employees about their concerns last year, and reported that 70 percent of the written comments dealt with customer service. Many workers complained there wasn't enough staff assigned to help customers.

Home Depot customers interviewed recently said they pick and choose among Home Depot stores because the service is unsatisfactory at some. Lee Anderson said he bypassed his hometown Home Depot in suburban Acworth and drove 30 miles to Curtis' store because employees provide better service.

"If I'm shopping for a saw blade or drywall materials, I like shopping here because they know their stuff," said Anderson, who owns a drywall company.

Besides retraining employees, the company has started a leadership program that is recruiting former military officers and people with strong business backgrounds to manage stores.

"The biggest challenge always is customer service with knowledgeable people and enough aprons on the floor at all time," said Mitch Hart, a Home Depot director. "We're getting better at it. We're not perfect, but I've seen progress." Hart credits Nardelli for being open to others' ideas.
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Posted by Craig at 07:15 PM

December 01, 2003

Retailers: Increase Sales and Building Customer Loyalty

New CRM suite gives retailers the power to directly target promotions to specific customers at Point-of-Sale (POS) systems, information kiosks or the Internet.

Triversity Enables Retailers to Deliver Individual, Targeted Promotions with Allegiance 1-to-1; New CRM Tool Helps Retailers Increase Sales and Build Customer Loyalty

TORONTO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 1, 2003--Triversity Inc., the leader in customer-centric retail solutions designed to enhance the Customer Experience and improve operating efficiencies, today announced the introduction of Allegiance 1-to-1, a real-time personalization tool that allows retailers to deliver targeted promotional offers to consumers when and where they shop. Allegiance 1-to-1 gives retailers the power to directly target promotions to specific customers at Point-of-Sale (POS) systems, information kiosks or the Internet.

Allegiance 1-to-1 incorporates the newest release of Triversity's market-leading Allegiance, a powerful CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution designed specifically for retail. Allegiance gives retailers the ability to capture and analyze valuable customer and transaction data, then transform it into a meaningful information base to build stronger, more profitable and long-lasting customer relationships. The rich data mining and analytical capabilities of Allegiance enable retailers to identify and retain their most profitable customers, while managing and measuring customer marketing programs across all channels.

Combining Allegiance 1-to-1 with Allegiance, retailers can optimize each and every customer transaction. The sophisticated analytics contained within Allegiance use historical data to target customers who are most likely to accept a given promotion. Allegiance 1-to-1 then enables real-time delivery of the promotion to the POS, kiosk or other customer touch point. This process greatly increases the success rate of promotions, increases customer satisfaction and improves profitability.

Allegiance 1-to-1 also significantly reduces the cost of managing customer data by eliminating the need to have full customer databases resident in every store. Instead, customer information and point balances are kept in a central repository, and the Allegiance 1-to-1 system manages the data and provides real-time delivery directly to the POS.

"Allegiance and Allegiance 1-to-1 are best-in-class solutions that allow retailers to understand the value of each customer, and know how to better sell to them from any touch point," said David Thomas, president and CEO of Triversity Inc. "For example, customers could enter the store, swipe their loyalty card at an informational kiosk, and receive targeted promotions before they begin shopping. And sales associates can make intelligent shopping suggestions that not only boost revenue but increase customer loyalty."

"These products were designed to help retailers analyze transactions with precision and accuracy, and then make merchandising and promotional decisions that will ultimately translate into greater profitability," he concluded.

About Triversity Inc.

Triversity is the fastest-growing international provider of customer-centric retail solutions. Triversity's portfolio of solutions enables retailers to transform the Customer Experience throughout the retail enterprise while dramatically improving their operating efficiencies. Retailers around the world have built their businesses around Triversity's market-leading solutions for Point-of-Sale/Point-of-Interaction (POS/POI), Loss Prevention, Retail CRM, Returns Management and Sales Audit. Triversity extends its offerings through partnerships with the industry's leading technology vendors, allowing the company to deliver complete sell-side solutions and services.

Triversity's retail solutions are installed in over 500 retailers in 32 countries, processing billions of transactions a year. Retailers using Triversity's technology solutions include the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), The Children's Place, Discovery Channel, Dollar General, Hallmark, Pep Boys, Rite Aid, Staples - Business Depot, The Shoe Company, The Sports Authority, The TJX Companies, Wawa and Williams-Sonoma. Triversity's world headquarters is located in Toronto, with U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia. Triversity Asia Pacific Ltd. is headquartered in Hong Kong. For more information, please visit www.triversity.com.

Contacts


Triversity Inc.
Bob Amico, 215-785-4321, ext. 573
ramico@triversity.com
or
KetnerBarnes Inc.
Jeff Ketner, 512-794-8876
jeff@ketnerbarnes.com

Posted by Craig at 06:28 PM

November 28, 2003

Software Kiosks in CompUSA

Known as just-in-time electronic software distributions systems, these in-store kiosks offer customers a way to purchase software quickly and conveniently. Consumers simply use a touch-screen to search for software titles, such as Red Rock DeltaGraph 5. Once a user has selected the title they would like to purchase, the kiosk prints out a purchase ticket that can be given to CompUSA store employees. Employees use the ticket to instantly create a nicely packaged CD-ROM or DVD of the software right there in the store.

Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 Now Available in CompUSA, the Nation's Leading Retailer and Reseller of Personal Computer-Related Products and Services

SALT LAKE CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 24, 2003--

With New "Software-To-Go" Kiosks, Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 is Always in Stock and Ready to Take Home

Red Rock Software today announced that Red Rock DeltaGraph 5, its powerful, award-winning, data analysis, charting and graphing software, is now available in select CompUSA(R) stores in cities throughout the United States including Dallas, Texas; San Francisco, Calif.; Hauppauge, N.Y. and Tacoma, Wash. Through new, on-demand, SoftwareToGo(R) kiosks, Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 for the Mac(R) or Windows(TM) is now guaranteed to always be in stock.

Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 for the Mac or Windows is one of hundreds of new titles made available for purchase through the SoftwareToGo kiosks in CompUSA. Known as just-in-time electronic software distributions systems, these in-store kiosks offer customers a way to purchase software quickly and conveniently. Consumers simply use a touch-screen to search for software titles, such as Red Rock DeltaGraph 5. Once a user has selected the title they would like to purchase, the kiosk prints out a purchase ticket that can be given to CompUSA store employees. Employees use the ticket to instantly create a nicely packaged CD-ROM or DVD of the software right there in the store.

"We are pleased to have Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 made readily available to so many people," said Craig Hopson, CEO at Red Rock Software. "With the SoftwareToGo technology, CompUSA is making it possible for us to deliver applications, upgrades and information to our customers faster than ever."

Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 helps researchers, analysts and managers collect, analyze and present their findings in a visually compelling and memorable manner. Offering more than a formula driven spreadsheet, Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 software contains over 80 chart and graph types, including a broad spectrum of 2D and 3D, with over 200 styles allowing users to create custom, beautifully rendered graphs and charts.

The CompUSA SoftwareToGo fulfillment system distributes single-user, special academic and commercial licenses of Red Rock DeltaGraph 5. For those not currently serviced by CompUSA, Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 is available for purchase through the Web. For more information, visit the Red Rock Software Web site at www.redrocksw.com.

About Red Rock Software

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Red Rock Software (www.redrocksw.com) is the developer of Red Rock DeltaGraph 5 for both Mac and Windows. In addition to its data analysis and charting software, Red Rock offers a comprehensive set of software design, engineering and management services. Red Rock Software has produced custom desktop, Web and enterprise-level applications for companies in the science, medical, publishing, multimedia and office automation fields throughout the United States.

Posted by Craig at 04:36 PM

November 21, 2003

Survey on Gift Cards

The inaugural NRF Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch for NRF, found that 69.9 percent of consumers plan to buy gift cards this holiday, spending an average of $34.24 per card.

Gift Cards Emerge as Perfect Choice
for Person with Everything
--Consumers to Spend $17.24 Billion on Gift Cards this Holiday--

Washington, DC, November 20, 2003 There will be less guesswork in gift buying this holiday, according to the findings of a new National Retail Federation (NRF) survey. The inaugural NRF Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch for NRF, found that 69.9 percent of consumers plan to buy gift cards this holiday, spending an average of $34.24 per card.

Gift cards are a great selection for the person who has everything, said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. They are more convenient than the gift certificates of years past and theyre no longer considered the lazy mans giftpeople love to get them. In fact, nearly 50 percent of consumers (48.4%) in an earlier NRF holiday survey said they would like to receive gift cards this year, up from 41.3 percent last year.

NRF experts think the economy may be driving much of the gift card excitement. Most consumers have been avidly watching their wallets for over a year and havent been spending much on themselves, said Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy for BIGresearch. Receiving a gift card for the holidays and actually being able to go to the store and browse for yourself can be a liberating and much more rewarding experience than opening up another shirt and tie.

The study also found that:

Consumers plan to spend $17.24 billion on gift cards this holiday, which would account for nearly 8 percent of all holiday sales.

The average person purchasing a gift card will be purchasing more than three card (3.34), spending a total of $114.44.

Older consumers are spearheading gift card growth. Consumers over age 65 plan to buy 3.90 cards, on average, spending $130.62. Consumers 55-64 will purchase an average of 3.61 cards, spending $134.80.

Men plan to spend $120.57 each on gift cards while women plan to spend $109.23.
Gift card facts:

Many retailers do not count a gift card as a saleinstead, they wait until the gift card is redeemed and merchandise is exchanged. As a result, some of the $17.24 billion spent on gift cards this holiday may not show up in holiday sales, but instead as sales in January or February, when the gift card is redeemed.

Most of todays gift cards differ from traditional gift certificates because they are stored value cards. When a consumer spends $25 from a $50 gift card, the card automatically updates the balance. This is more efficient than the retailer reissuing another gift certificate to the consumer for the balance.

Retailers have different policies for gift cards. Some stores gift cards expire over a certain period of time (usually 12 months or more) and some stores cards depreciate month-by-month if a card has been inactive for a certain period of time. This is often the result of retailers using third-party companies to process and maintain their gift card systems. Often, third party companies charge retailers for inactivity on gift cardsa charge that retailers then pass to consumers who have not used their cards. As always, NRF recommends that consumers understand individual retailers policies before purchasing gift cards.

Due to improved technology, some retailers are able to reissue a lost gift card if consumers have kept the original purchase receipt.

Another convenience factor is that many stores are able to carry gift cards at their check-out counters because todays gift cards are not active until scanned. Also, many retailers like grocery stores carry a variety of different gift cards at their registersfor movie theaters, coffee shops, and clothing stores.
NRF continues to forecast that holiday sales will increase 5.7 percent this year to $217.4 billion, which would be the largest increase since 1999.

About the Survey

The NRF 2003 Gift Card Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey, which polled 6,551 consumers, was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch from November 6-12, 2003. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearchs syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 7,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet and independent stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 20 million employees about one in five American workers and 2002 sales of $3.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com

Holiday by Age

Source: BIGresearch
6551 Respondents, 11/6 - 11/12/03 All 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Regarding the upcoming holiday shopping season (Christmas, Chanukah/Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa) do you intend on spending more, the same or less than you did last year?
More 12.2% 19.1% 16.9% 12.8% 10.1% 9.4% 5.3%
Same 52.1% 52.0% 46.8% 49.2% 50.9% 53.7% 62.0%
Less 31.6% 25.0% 32.1% 35.2% 34.9% 31.9% 27.9%
Don't holiday shop 4.0% 3.9% 4.1% 2.8% 4.1% 5.0% 4.8%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
How much of your holiday shopping have you completed?
10% or less 64.9% 77.6% 65.1% 66.1% 61.6% 58.0% 61.5%
11% to 25% 11.5% 8.9% 13.1% 11.4% 13.0% 11.1% 10.5%
26% to 50% 9.6% 3.9% 10.8% 10.6% 10.5% 11.0% 9.4%
51% to 75% 7.4% 5.3% 6.3% 6.4% 9.0% 9.9% 7.8%
76% to 100% 6.7% 4.3% 4.6% 5.6% 6.0% 10.0% 10.7%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
What types of gifts do you plan to buy this season? (Check all that apply)
Clothing or clothing accessories 62.2% 59.0% 64.6% 67.3% 63.5% 59.0% 56.4%
Toys 45.4% 37.1% 62.7% 51.5% 39.1% 39.5% 36.0%
Books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games 60.8% 68.9% 75.5% 68.1% 60.5% 50.1% 37.4%
Consumer electronics or computer-related accessories 25.1% 27.1% 29.6% 30.3% 26.2% 20.7% 14.0%
Sporting goods or leisure items 16.2% 20.2% 17.8% 19.9% 16.9% 11.9% 8.6%
Home dcor or home-related furnishings 24.3% 27.7% 30.5% 22.8% 24.6% 22.8% 17.6%
Jewelry or precious metal accessories 23.0% 26.9% 20.8% 28.3% 23.3% 21.5% 16.3%
Gift cards / gift certificates 50.4% 54.1% 50.6% 54.1% 49.4% 46.2% 46.8%
Personal care or beauty items 25.2% 20.4% 30.6% 29.1% 26.4% 24.2% 17.6%
Other: 21.9% 15.8% 19.7% 19.4% 20.2% 24.9% 31.8%
*The sum of the % totals is greater than 100% because the respondents can select more than one answer.
Is it likely that you will go shopping the Friday, Saturday, or Sunday after Thanksgiving?
Yes 18.0% 18.6% 22.4% 21.2% 18.8% 15.6% 9.3%
Maybe 38.9% 40.0% 47.7% 37.9% 37.5% 33.5% 35.4%
No 43.1% 41.5% 29.9% 40.9% 43.6% 50.9% 55.4%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Which payment method do you plan to use MOST OFTEN when purchasing holiday gifts?
Cash 26.9% 33.8% 24.9% 30.2% 27.3% 26.6% 19.0%
Check 12.3% 5.4% 10.4% 13.2% 14.9% 13.8% 14.6%
Debit card/Check card 30.7% 38.4% 40.5% 32.3% 30.1% 25.2% 16.7%
Credit card 30.1% 22.4% 24.2% 24.3% 27.6% 34.4% 49.7%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Will you purchase at least one gift card this holiday season?
Yes 69.9% 61.7% 72.7% 75.5% 70.1% 68.3% 66.9%
No 30.1% 38.3% 27.3% 24.5% 29.9% 31.7% 33.1%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
If yes, how many gift cards will you purchase?
1 17.2% 32.7% 18.3% 15.2% 13.2% 13.5% 15.3%
2 29.7% 34.7% 31.6% 28.9% 29.2% 28.6% 26.5%
3 21.2% 22.0% 22.7% 24.3% 22.0% 19.0% 15.1%
4 10.7% 4.2% 9.6% 11.0% 12.5% 14.4% 11.8%
5 6.0% 2.4% 6.0% 6.6% 5.6% 6.7% 7.3%
6 or more 15.2% 4.2% 11.8% 14.0% 17.6% 17.8% 24.1%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Average 3.34 2.30 3.12 3.35 3.56 3.61 3.90
Approximately how much money in total will you spend on gift cards this holiday season?
Less than $20 13.4% 18.0% 12.6% 11.0% 12.5% 12.8% 15.9%
$21 to $50 26.7% 35.8% 28.4% 24.3% 23.9% 24.1% 26.9%
$51 to $75 13.0% 21.2% 15.0% 13.9% 11.7% 9.7% 7.5%
$76 to $100 16.0% 13.3% 14.8% 16.2% 18.9% 16.5% 15.4%
$101 to $150 10.2% 5.1% 10.2% 11.6% 10.9% 10.1% 10.7%
$151 to $200 7.7% 3.0% 7.0% 10.2% 7.9% 8.8% 7.0%
$201 to $300 5.6% 1.8% 6.0% 4.9% 6.5% 8.3% 6.2%
$301 to $400 1.7% 0.0% 1.0% 2.0% 2.5% 2.9% 1.7%
$401 to $500 2.7% 1.2% 3.2% 2.5% 2.7% 2.1% 3.9%
$500 or more 3.0% 0.6% 1.9% 3.4% 2.3% 4.7% 4.8%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Average $ 114.44 $ 65.50 $ 107.03 $ 121.61 $ 116.42 $ 134.80 $ 130.62
Average Per Card $ 34.24 $ 28.51 $ 34.28 $ 36.33 $ 32.69 $ 37.31 $ 33.53
Est. Gift Card Expenditure (in billions) $ 17.236 $ 1.146 $ 3.108 $ 4.123 $ 3.272 $ 2.448 $ 3.111


BY REGION

BY GENDER

Posted by Craig at 02:45 PM

November 19, 2003

Clienteling Retailers

Obstacles aside, retailers embrace new strategies. Loyalty, redemption, preferences, For Hallmark, The strategy, the systems, the analytics, the marketing programs-all are integrated horizontally into the business.

Story Link

Obstacles aside, retailers embrace new strategies

In a business that's all about selling to the customer, it would make sense that the retail sector would be a quick study when it came to better serving the customer.
But it's not.
Retail has been slow to adopt customer-centric principles and practices. CRM experiments at retail focused on store-based efforts like branded credit cards and frequent-shopper programs, some of which have taken root and been extended year after year. "There are pockets of CRM success in retail," observes Adam Sarner, CRM analyst at Gartner. "We are seeing some interesting programs in email marketing, in customer service, and in customer segmentation."

At the high end of the sector, several creative new CRM strategies have emerged. Both Nordstrom and Prada, for example, are experimenting with "clienteling," which means automating the "black book" traditionally maintained by store sales personnel on their own customers. It contains purchase history, preferences and contact information. Salespeople will be able to pull up customer profiles and email their best customers about upcoming events like trunk shows or the arrival of new merchandise. "This is the 'last mile' of CRM," says Sarner. "It supercharges the salesperson's ability to manage the existing relationship."

At the mid-level of the retail sector, the focus is on loyalty programs. In the grocery business, early efforts produced discount cards, many of them still anonymous, that offered little more than the equivalent of manufacturers' coupons for periodic specials. But grocers are now beginning to upgrade. The Food Emporium chain, a division of A&P, launched a new program in March 2003 called Gold Points. The points can be redeemed for cash savings at purchase or for other rewards such as travel or consumer electronics. Gold Points reward network is a coalition loyalty program managed by Carlson Marketing Group that includes 8 million customers from over 100 marketers, such as TGI Friday restaurants, Radisson Hotels, FTD florists and Thrifty Car Rental.

Value at the food chain
According to Janet Sparkman, executive VP of consumer strategies at Carlson, the Gold Points program was an immediate success for The Food Emporium. In its first five months, the program converted 250,000 members from the previous program, and recorded 52 percent of store sales on the card. Spend per member was 37 percent ahead of the previous year. "The earlier program was anonymous and offered little value," Sparkman says. "Cashiers would swipe for cardless customers, which taints the data. With Gold Points, we move from a discount card to a reward card. It has more value, and it's more fun."

Hallmark also manages a successful loyalty program for its 4,500 independently owned retail stores. Launched in 1994, the Gold Crown Card has more than 12 million members, with data on their purchase history, contact information and demographics. Hallmark segments the customers by purchase pattern (greeting cards-only shoppers, cross-product shoppers, and promotion responders) and sends messages through direct mail and email, targeted to preferences.

Jay Dittmann is Hallmark's vice president of consumer one-to-one marketing. Activities reporting to him include the call center, a marketing analytics research group, the Gold Crown Card program, and Hallmark.com. Dittmann notes that Hallmark evolved its enterprise-wide customer strategy over time. "We are not organized solely for CRM. Instead, we are organized for the capabilities," he says. "The strategy, the systems, the analytics, the marketing programs-all are integrated horizontally into the business."

Hallmark's customer strategy concentrates on tailoring products and offers through all Hallmark brand touchpoints, from the Hallmark stores, to the mass retailers that carry Hallmark cards, such as Wal-Mart and CVS, to Hallmark.com. But Dittmann admits his customer strategy cannot be called global. "Our dedicated retail network is strictly U.S. based," he says. "In the U.K. and elsewhere, we face a very different retail environment. Abroad, our customer strategy must be handled locally by the Hallmark marketing arms in each country."

These store-based incentive programs are effective, but they are hardly on the cutting edge of CRM thinking today. What is in the way of faster CRM development in the retail sector? The root causes are many.

Perhaps the largest barrier is the natural tendency toward decentralization endemic to the industry's structure. "The job description between central operations and store operations will be split forever," observes Erin Kinikin, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Store people operate independently. To develop a single view of the customer, you need considerable cooperation across stores. Retail will never move to a single ownership model."

Razor-thin margins
A corollary structural issue is the industry's traditionally thin margins. Store manager attention is on cost-cutting and operational efficiencies. Technology investments tend to be earmarked for systems that support merchandising, inventory and supply chain, tools like markdown optimization software and bar-coding systems. "When we ask retailers about their IT budget priorities," says Christopher Boone, retail industry program manager at IDC, "customer-related programs fall to the bottom. Store systems are where the money is going. When we asked about CRM spending, nearly 60 percent said they were not using CRM tools and had no plans to use them in the next 12 months."

Another barrier lies in the challenges of multi-channel marketing. As new channels are built-catalog, for example, and e-commerce-retailers have struggled with the systems integration necessary to link customer records. "It's easy at a single-channel outfit like Amazon," says Gartner's Sarner. "But Williams-Sonoma is another story. It's rare to find CRM enterprise-wide."

At the customer level, the fundamental barrier to CRM at retail is anonymity. How can a retailer develop ongoing customer management strategies when there is no record of the transaction linked to an individual customer? Much of the retail industry's CRM activity to date has focused on overcoming this essential problem. Over the years there have evolved a handful of distinct approaches, none of them perfect:

Store cards, whether a branded credit card or a discount or loyalty card. Only a fraction of customers will use the card, and even then, usage can be sporadic.

Data matchback from syndicated credit card purchases, where addresses are appended by credit bureaus and added to the store's marketing database. This option that was essentially eliminated by the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which now forbids address append. Training reps at point of sale to collect and record customer contact information. Today, only a small percentage of retail customers will provide contact information when asked.

Understanding the customer
The next stage for retail CRM, after loyalty programs, is likely to be multi-stage marketing, where stores track buying patterns and develop up-sell and cross-sell strategies accordingly. "The best retailers are moving toward using an understanding of how customers buy, and turning it into a plan for marketing to them," says Kinikin. The key tool needed to drive this development are point-of-sale systems that can quickly and accurately capture customer data at the transaction stage.

As long as the retail sector is focused on cost savings rather than revenue enhancements, its customer strategies will be limited. Few retailers have reached the level of developing an enterprise-wide customer strategy, with an understanding of customer value and a plan to increase that value. Today, retailers are just looking for the quick hits of CRM, like call centers and email campaigns to drive traffic. As Kinikin observes, "In CRM, retail is just picking up the pennies."

Posted by Craig at 07:40 PM

November 17, 2003

Boots Implant at Target

Boots to Test U.S. Market with Help of Target, CVS

NOTTINGHAM, England (November 17, 2003) - Leading U.K. health and beauty merchant Boots Group plans to march into the U.S. market by opening designated sales areas in U.S. partners stores.

Boots, which operates 1,400 Boots the Chemist drug stores in the United Kingdom and Ireland, signed a deal last week to sell its branded goods in 32 stores operated by Target, Minneapolis, and CVS, Woonsocket, R.I., according to reports. In addition to its retail operations, Boots is a leading U.K. manufacturer of over-the-counter medicines, toiletries and cosmetics.

Last year the company scuttled a loss-making attempt to operate free-standing stores in Japan. It has had more success in Hong Kong with an implant retail program similar to the one being attempted in the United States.

More News on Boots from Executive Technology

Posted by Craig at 02:48 PM

November 14, 2003

Multi-Channel Retailers Increasingly Rely on Internet-Based Kiosks

Nice case study on the NCR site about VANs and KIS

Multi-Channel Retailers Increasingly Rely on Internet-Based Kiosks to Bridge Gap Between Channels

by Timothy P. Henderson, Editor-in-Chief
STORES Magazine, October 2001

Despite advances in technology and consumers' tech savvy, retailers must ensure that kiosk applications provide definite customer value

Three million consumers are projected to purchase nearly $200 million in goods and services via kiosks during 2001, an average of $57 per buyer. By 2006, and in large part due to the ever-increasing number of retailers launching kiosks, those figures are projected to increase to 23 million users, $6.5 billion in purchases and an average of $289 per buyer, according to a Jupiter Media Metrix report, "Kiosks, Empowering Customers to Close the Sale."

Although kiosk technology has been available for almost two decades, it's only been over the course of the past several years that such diverse retailers as Kmart, Crate and Barrel, Gap, Barnes & Noble, 7-Eleven, Wal-Mart and Staples have begun widespread implementation of the devices to help their customers with everything from purchasing out-of-stock and gift registry items to obtaining product information and creating customized products.

Industry observers say the lag time is due in large part to the lowering of technology barriers. Widespread Internet usage and high-speed connections have replaced yesteryear's relatively slow laser discs and CD-ROMs, and PC costs have decreased dramatically.

"Fundamentally, the failure in the initial implementations of kiosks were in and around the technology and the deployment of the technology," says Nelson Gomez, general manager for kiosks at Dayton, Ohio-based NCR.

"The connotations of kiosks in the industry are, 'Temporarily out of order' or 'Please see clerk' -- very bad connotations. That was primarily around the technology that was originally implemented," Gomez continues. "Today, we've had the fortune of technology advances that have enabled us to provide high availability and highly reliable kiosks with management systems that allow us to remotely detect and understand exactly the state of the device."

Despite such advancements, however, retailers must still jump several hurdles to attain successful kiosk implementation. While 77 percent of consumers have noticed kiosks in stores and 41 percent have used one, the Jupiter Media Metrix report also found that of those consumers who have not used a kiosk, 76 percent avoided them because the devices were unable to provide any service they needed at the time.

"This has to be integrated properly. It has to be part of an overall strategy for the retailer that says that this is just another channel or another information portal for the customer to access my value proposition as a retailer," explains Bob Henshaw, business line manager for retail POS and kiosk hardware at IBM. "If it doesn't have that integration, it'll fail."

KID MAGNET
Parallel with the technology advancements that have helped retailers increase their kiosk usage, consumers -- especially younger consumers -- have become more familiar with kiosk-type technology. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report, entitled "Home Computers and Internet Use in the United States: August 2000," indicates that nine out of 10 school-age children (6 to 17 years old) had access to a computer during 2000.

Such data is not lost on Vans, a Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based retailer of branded, active-lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories aimed at the youth market of skateboarders, in-line skaters and BMX freestyle riders. At the merchant's 150 stores, customers typically are in their 20s or 30s and are both computer and Internet savvy.

That tech savvy increases among customers at the merchant's eight skateparks, a hybrid of retail store, entertainment venue and alternative sports arena, where the average customer is a 14-year-old male. Vans currently operates eight skateparks, with another four under construction. In addition to the skate areas, the parks offer lounge areas with customized videos, custom-built furniture and a bank of eight kiosks.

"We call it a kid magnet," says Neil Lyons, president of retail stores for Vans. "It's actually a retail footwear, apparel and accessory store. It has a full-service pro-shop that sells over 500 skateboards, all the way down to nuts and bolts. We sell bicycles, BMX bikes, helmets, pads, anything that goes into the sports."

Like some other retailers that have created a lifestyle around their products, Vans is a culture, says Lyons. "We built everything we do around alternative sports," he explains. "We're not a fashion company. We're an athletic company. Our shoes are influenced and signatured by pro skateboarders, bikers, motocross riders, surfers -- all those people. That culture builds around our products."

In addition to e-commerce, the Vans touchscreen kiosks include information on sports, events, tours, athletes, contests, music and other items of interest to customers. Providing Vans shoppers with such information is vital, Lyons says.

"We're a Generation Y company. Kids are our business. Unless you're in touch with the Internet and have a huge Internet site, you're not in touch with kids," says Lyons. "We want to bring that image of Vans to those kids, and the best possible way to do it is to give a kid the opportunity to walk into one of our stores or our skateparks, go into the Vans website and see what we're up to and what we're all about."

While Vans only recently began the roll-out of new kiosks supplied by Broomfield, Colo.-based Kiosk Information Systems, the retailer has actually been using kiosks for much longer. They were custom-built and bulky, however, and involved a process that Lyons says finally became too labor- and cost-intensive. "First of all, they were ugly. Second, we were buying way too many. We needed to go to an expert," Lyons notes, recalling how the merchant first came to work with KIS.

In addition to the skateparks, the KIS kiosks are being rolled out to the retailer's traditional stores. Vans' in-house IT staff handles upkeep of the units. "When we go out to the parks and open them, we have an IT team that goes out and makes sure that they're all unpacked and ready to go," says Lyons. "We also have a manual in the stores and a hotline number to call. We don't like things to go down -- it's very negative. If they have a problem, all they do is call the hotline and they bring it back up."

Vans is using one of the standard KIS kiosk designs: the slim, simple and metal KT-110 Stealth kiosk. "It fits their image, fits the type of thing that they're looking for, the types of transactions they plan to conduct, the types of applications they plan to use. It just worked," says KIS president Rick Malone.

'THREE-TAIL' GLUE
Internet-based kiosks like those installed by Vans are becoming integral to the overall retail strategy, according to Francie Mendelsohn, president of Summit Research Associates, a Rockville, Md.-based kiosk consulting firm.

"It's sort of the glue of retailing, three-tailing as someone put it -- catalog, web and bricks-and-mortar. Kiosks really transcend all those. I consider it the glue of three-tailing," she says. "By itself, could it stand alone? Not really. It's got to be tied in."

At KIS, Malone foresees a time when retail kiosk integration will virtually reach a store fixture level. But he also cautions that kiosks are not the next retail revolution. "I don't think that kiosks can be taken in the same light as retailers and the dot-com economy of a couple years ago like it's going to take over the world. It's simply a supplemental tool that retailers can use to improve their operations," he says.

It's precisely because of the need to properly and carefully integrate retail kiosks that some implementations have failed, and industry pundits predict more such failures. Indeed, says Raymond Burke, a researcher at Indiana University's Center for Education and Research in Retailing, retailers have been struggling for years to develop a kiosk application as compelling as the ATM, which is considered by many to be the grandfather of all kiosks.

The most successful applications, notes Burke, have been those that increase shopping convenience by solving a problem, such as checking product inventory or prices and ordering items. But because kiosks can do so many different things, he adds, retailers are sometimes tempted to do too much.

"One of the areas where retailers could do a better job of implementing retail technology is in understanding how the consumer shops the store and tailoring the kiosk applications to the stage of the purchase process that the consumer is in," Burke explains. "The kind of application that might work well in a dressing room is going to be different than the application you have as the consumer enters the store."

Most industry experts agree with Burke's assessment that retailers need to conduct market tests of various kiosk applications to ensure a successful and larger roll-out that provides definite consumer value, while also providing various in-store kiosks tailored to immediate consumer needs. Both are made possible by the falling price of kiosk technology and shrinking of the typical device's footprint.

"You start with a few, and you get the kinks out," explains Mendelsohn. "You need to be flexible, you need to understand that what you think is the killer application, the public might not. You have to be able to swallow your pride and go with what the customer dictates, what they've shown is of value to them."

ONGOING EVOLUTION
At NCR, Gomez applies the adage "measure twice, cut once" to kiosk implementations. "Do your planning up front, get buy-in, and make sure you have a strong business model around the first-out application," he advises.

"I truly believe that kiosk technology will be, from a retailer's perspective, one of the major points of differentiation in the shopping experience. It will be a competitive advantage," Gomez continues, adding that a retailer's initial application needs to pave the way to a successful implementation.

"This is going to be continuum and an evolution. It's not going to happen overnight," Gomez cautions. "You'll have first-out applications that can warrant the investment in the technology and the infrastructure, and then you'll see an overlay function of additional applications on a specific device."

One company that has developed several unique kiosk applications is Netplex Systems, an Edmond, Okla.-based provider of industry-specialized business system solutions. In 1999, Netplex worked with the now defunct Custom Shop to develop an application that allows for custom design of shirts via Internet-based kiosks. Unfortunately, two weeks prior to completion, the retailer filed for bankruptcy. "That left Netplex holding the bag," recalls Larry Davenport, senior vice president and general manager at Netplex.

The silver lining, however, was that Netplex retained ownership rights to the application. Since then, the company has renamed the application and is marketing it to other component-driven customers. "When you go to build a shirt, for example, you have the ability to choose from a variety of colors, materials, collar settings, pockets, cuffs, whether you want it monogrammed, the buttons you want, do you want a tailored look, a blousy look, a suit-type of shirt and so on," explains Davenport.

"Now this application extends itself to, for example, a bicycle manufacturer that may want sell bicycles over the Internet. They could use the same basic engine, but instead of having a collar, they may have different types of wheels or different types of calipers for the brakes," he continues. "It's a component-driven engine now as opposed to being purely customized, tailored clothing."

Netplex has several prospects interested in the application, according to Davenport. In addition, a number of retailers and cosmetics manufacturers are looking into the company's Kiosmetics application, which allows consumers to interact with a kiosk to select and purchase cosmetics based on their personal input. Users can peruse favorite brands, select their season and enter information on hair and eye color, skin tone and type, and wardrobe style and color. The kiosk then produces a list of cosmetic recommendations.

The Kiosmetics application is still being developed. "The skin tone is one piece of it. What has to fall out of that, in order for it to be something that is extremely attractive for a consumer, is the tie-in from that skin tone back to a specific foundation color, for example," notes Davenport, adding that with any single cosmetics manufacturer, there may exist many different foundation derivatives.

"Somebody has to write the parameters that say, 'When it's this specific skin tone, it goes to this specific foundation model number,'" Davenport continues. "You have to get the manufacturer's involvement in that and their willingness to participate. At the same time, you're getting a retailer to say, 'Yes I want to put it in my retail stores.'"

pdf link

link: http://www.ncr.com/repository/articles/store_automation/sa_stores_oct01.htm

Posted by Craig at 03:42 PM

November 06, 2003

US payments firm buys out loyalty marketer

The real-time marketing solutions firm, Ernex Marketing Technologies, is to be sold by its parent company, RBC Financial Group, to the North American payment processing company, Moneris Solutions Corporation.

US payments firm buys out loyalty marketer

Wednesday November 5, 2003


The real-time marketing solutions firm, Ernex Marketing Technologies, is to be sold by its parent company, RBC Financial Group, to the North American payment processing company, Moneris Solutions Corporation.

Ernex, which markets privately branded loyalty programmes, stored-value gift cards, and real-time electronic marketing solutions for merchants, will continue to offer its electronic marketing solutions to businesses in a variety of industries throughout North America. In addition, combining its expertise with the Moneris payment solution, Ernex will be able to bring new benefits to current and future Moneris merchants. This article is copyright 2003 TheWiseMarketer.com.

"Our decision to acquire Ernex was based on demand from merchants for this suite of products, our recognition of the value offered by the depth of Ernex's expertise, and the strength of their staff," explained Jim Baumgartner, president and CEO for Moneris.

Expanding operations
With its established merchant base, Moneris will now be able to provide opportunities for Ernex to expand its loyalty marketing and stored-value gift card operations. Furthermore, Brad Lambert, senior vice president for RBC, has confirmed that RBC will continue to use Ernex for its Avion and RBC Reward loyalty programmes.

Stored-value (electronic) gift cards and loyalty programmes are increasing in popularity in the consumer's mind, opening up new marketing and revenue opportunities for merchants. Research collected by Moneris as part of its inaugural Report to Merchants (Spring 2003), found that 46% of Canadians reported having used a gift card, and 24% have not yet purchased one but would consider doing so.

"Ernex's established customer base across North America and strong history of creatively using technology to manage and respond to customer transaction information make it a formidable partner," added Baumgartner.

For additional information:
Visit Moneris at http://www.monerischargeit.com
Visit Ernex Inc at http://www.ernexinc.com

Source: Moneris Solutions

Posted by Craig at 02:58 PM

November 05, 2003

Retail: Will that be Cash or Credit?

New STORES Consumer Credit Survey Answers
Critical Question: Will That Be Cash or Charge?

story link

New STORES Consumer Credit Survey Answers
Critical Question: Will That Be Cash or Charge?
--Inaugural Study Examines Payment Landscape and Consumer Credit Behavior--


Washington, DC, November 5, 2003 With a variety of payment options and benefits available, consumers are able to make more payment choices today than they were just a year ago. The STORES Magazine 2003 Consumer Credit Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, examines todays changing payment landscape, studying which cards consumers carry and how they are using them.


According to the survey, the average consumer has at least two credit cards in his wallet; affluent consumers have several more. The majority of consumers carry VISA (64%), and nearly as many carry MasterCard (54%). Ranked third was the Discover Card (24%), and 11 percent hold American Express cards.


One interesting finding in the study is how consumers are using debit cards, said Rick Gallagher, NRF Vice President and Publisher of STORES Magazine. The study demonstrates that people are using debit cards responsibly, using them for consumables like grocery and gasoline, he said. Consumers are clearly using debit cards as a replacement for cash and checks.


Through an analysis of what cards consumers own and use for specific purchases such as apparel, groceries, gasoline, electronics/furniture, health and beauty aids and utility bills, the study takes an in-depth look at three key trends that emerged: the power of the affluent shopper, the rise of the practical consumer and the dynamics of debit cards.


Consumers are clearly changing the way they shop, said Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy for BIGresearch. Understanding how consumers choose to pay is the first step on the path to improved marketing campaigns, more precise targeting of rewards and understanding what motivates the consumer to make a purchase.


The study also addresses the effectiveness of incentives for consumers when choosing payment options such as lower interest rates, cash back, airline miles and rewards programs.


Key findings of the survey:


  • VISA is the most popular card to own (64%) and use (42%) for personal purchases.
  • Most consumers said they would be motivated to use a credit card if their interest rates were lower (62%). Cash-back (51%) was the second largest motivator and rewards/points programs (40%) were third.
  • Women are more likely than men to use debit cards.
  • Most consumers use a credit card (41%) when purchasing big-ticket items such as furniture or electronics.
  • The majority of consumers prefer using cash (33%) or their debit card (32%) when purchasing groceries.
  • Consumers were fairly split on how they buy apparel with 25 percent each choosing cash, debit card and credit card.
  • When paying utility bills, the majority (72%) chooses checks, with 9 percent choosing debit cards.

About the Survey

The 2003 STORES Consumer Credit Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to various payment options. The survey of 8,399 consumers was conducted September 4 11, 2003. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.


STORES Magazine is the official magazine of the National Retail Federation.


BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearchs syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 7,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.


The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet and independent stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 20 million employees about one in five American workers and 2002 sales of $3.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.


###


Complete results for the STORES Consumer Credit Survey are available in
the December issue of STORES Magazine and online at www.stores.org.

Posted by Craig at 06:37 PM

October 29, 2003

Circuit City, Sears lead in study of in-store pickup

Circuit City Inc. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. stood out among the other surveyed retailers due to their personalized service, it says.

story link

Circuit City, Sears lead in study of in-store pickup

Although only half of stores surveyed had online-ordered products available for same-day pickup, multi-channel retailers are showing strong execution of in-store pickup services, according to a study by The E-Tailing Group Inc. Circuit City Inc. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. stood out among the other surveyed retailers due to their personalized service, it says.

"Overall we found that this feature was very well executed," said Lauren Freedman, president of The E-Tailing Group, which surveyed ten retailers. She added that retailers pick-up locations were clearly designated, and that pick-up transactions typically took under five minutes to complete. For 9 out of the 10 retailers surveyed, she added, ordered items were readily available at the pick-up area as scheduled.

Among Circuit Citys strong points: Merchandise was ready for pick-up the same day; dedicated staff processed pick-ups; the store pick-up area was easy to find; and it allows 14 days to pick up merchandise.

E-Tailing cited Sears for the self-service kiosk it provides in the customer pick-up area. After the customer types in her phone number, a screen shows the order to be picked up. When an e-tailing researcher tested the system, the kiosk noted on its screen that the order would be ready in less than five minutes and promised a discount on a future purchase if it took longer than 5 minutes. "The associate came out less than four minutes later with the item," E-Tailing says. It adds that Sears had e-mailed an order confirmation explaining how to pick up the order with detailed instructions on how to use the kiosk.

While only 5 of the 10 surveyed retailers had the ordered items available for same-day pickup, it the average wait among the other stores was seven days, the study found. It also found that 8 of the 10 retailers e-mailed a notification advising that the ordered product was available for pick-up; of those, 75% included store hours and 63% included pick-up processing instructions.

The survey also noted that half of the retailers e-mailed customers about the number of days that a product would be held for pick-up, and that the average number of days was 10.75. Four of the 10 retailers provided a separate designated pick-up area, while three provided pick-up at a cash register and three at a customer service area.

Freedman offers the following checklist for providing best-in-class store pick-up of online orders:
1. Train your personnel in how your store pick-up process works;
2. Make it free to deliver the product to the store;
3. Provide clear and intuitive instructions on how the pick-up process will work: how many days the product will be held along with the store location including store hours and phone number;
4. State allowable time frame to pick-up merchandise on Web; in email confirmation and allow for a reasonable number of days to pick-up once customer has been notified (14 days);
5. Alert customers by email when merchandise is ready for store pick-up;
6. Follow-up with subsequent store pick-up email reminders;
7. Have at minimum a designated customer service area for pick-ups and adequately man those counters with trained personnel;
8. Store packages in a specific location known to all customer service personnel;
9. Encourage shoppers to make additional purchases while visiting the store;
10. Facilitate an easy return should the merchandise not be right for the customer.


Posted by Craig at 08:48 PM

Ross-Simons new store uses kiosks

Special kiosk system for viewing and ordering of tabletop and specialty collectible items from china to crystal

October 29, 2003 10:29

Ross-Simons Unveils Luxurious New Location at Garden State Plaza; Retailer Continues Expansion with its 15th Store

CRANSTON, R.I., Oct 29, 2003 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Ross-Simons, one of the nation's largest retailers of fine jewelry, china, glassware, home decor, gifts and collectibles, will open a new location at the Garden State Plaza on Saturday, November 1, 2003. The Paramus store is Ross-Simons' 15th location and its second retail store in New Jersey. Ross-Simons has operated in The Mall at Short Hills since 1998.

"Ross-Simons is excited to open our doors and unveil our newest store concept at the Garden State Plaza, one of the premier malls in the country," stated Darrell Ross, President of Ross-Simons. "I am confident that our more than 50 years of retail experience, combined with the best merchandise we have to offer will impress new and past customers."

The Garden State store represents a smaller footprint than the company historically has had, with the new store being under 5,000 square feet. This new model features a selection of fine jewelry, diamonds and elegant timepieces along with a special kiosk system for viewing and ordering of tabletop and specialty collectible items from china to crystal from around the world. This new store designed by JGA Inc. of Michigan, in collaboration with the Ross-Simons' retail team, features warm wood-toned showcases that appear to "float" over the black granite and white marble floor. Glowing light elements and mahogany display cabinets also complement display merchandise throughout the Garden State Plaza location. The new look will maintain Ross Simon's sophisticated environment and continue to offer the same affordable luxury items that customers have come to expect. The Paramus Grand Opening will also feature a $5,000 shopping spree sweepstakes.

"Clearly, our ability to grow our business geographically, while still maintaining a high degree of customer satisfaction and service, has proven to be the recipe to our success," continued Mr. Ross. "It is this commitment to our customers that set us apart and allows us to deliver what today's busy consumer wants, needs and expects."

Ross-Simons is a leading luxury fashion brand and specialty retailer of fine jewelry, tabletop, gifts, collectibles and other home decorative merchandise. Founded in 1952, Ross-Simons mails over 60 million catalogs annually and provides an online shopping environment that is both convenient and thriving at www.ross-simons.com. In addition, the company now operates a total of fifteen stores in nine states, with new stores being planned.

For more information, contact Linh Calhoun, Retail/Marketing Manager at 401.463.3100 x 859; e-mail at lcalhoun@ross-simons.com, or Dante Bellini, Jr. at 401.521.2700, x131, or via e-mail at dbellini@rdwgroup.com.

SOURCE: Ross-Simons

RDW Group
Dante Bellini, Jr., 401-521-2700 x131
or
Ross-Simons
Linh Calhoun, 401-463-3100 x859

Posted by Craig at 04:18 PM

October 28, 2003

Retail News -- Borders

Borders Books & Music to Open Two New Stores in Chicago (Title Sleuth)

Borders Books & Music to Open Two New Stores in Chicago; Borders Coming to Lincoln Park and Uptown in Early 2004

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct 27, 2003 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Borders Books & Music(R) will open two new stores in the Chicago market in early 2004. A store in Lincoln Park on the southeast corner of North Avenue and Halsted Street is scheduled to open in February, and a store in Uptown at the intersection of Broadway Street and Lawrence Avenue is scheduled to open in April. Each store will be approximately 25,000 square feet and occupy two stories of their respective buildings. Borders currently operates 29 stores in the greater Chicago area; the Lincoln Park and Uptown stores will bring the total to 31.

The new Borders stores will provide area residents and tourists a comfortable place to explore a vast selection of book, music, DVD and periodical titles. Each store will also include a Cafe Borders, offering customers a variety of gourmet coffees, teas, beverages, desserts and light food items.

The Lincoln Park Borders store will be located in the heart of the Clybourn Corridor retail and residential area, on the site of the former YMCA building. The store will have its own parking deck. Other retailers in the area include Whole Foods, Pottery Barn and Urban Outfitters.

"Clybourn Corridor is an important destination shopping district that caters primarily to Chicago residents," said Randy Rohde, regional director for the Lincoln Park and Uptown stores. "The famed Steppenwolf Theatre is one block away, and there are several upscale restaurants and shops surrounding the new site. We're very excited to be a part of this neighborhood."

The Borders in Uptown will be located in the Goldblatt's building, near the historic Riviera and Aragon Theatres. Uptown is home to the Green Mill Jazz Club and is also a thriving theater district that attracts both residents and tourists. The location was selected based on a variety of factors including demographics, traffic patterns, the availability of parking and the attractiveness of the site.

"The Goldblatt's building is gorgeous and we've taken great care to preserve this historical landmark," said Rohde. "In the last few years, Uptown has been redeveloped into a first-rate residential and entertainment quarter."

The Lincoln Park and Uptown stores will each offer corporate discounts to schools, libraries and businesses in the area. Free events like lectures, author signings, musical performances, children's activities and 'Benefit Days' that support local charities will be held throughout the year.

Borders is an industry leader in selection, customer service and convenience. Borders stores offer up to 200,000 book, music, DVD and periodical titles, as well as cutting-edge service technology through Title Sleuth(TM) self-service computer stations located throughout the store. Title Sleuth allows Borders customers to easily determine if a particular book, CD or movie is in stock at the store they are visiting or at a nearby Borders location and offers access to more than 15 million used, out-of-print and hard-to-find titles worldwide. For Borders.com and Amazon.com shoppers, "In-Store Express Pick Up" service combines the ease of ordering online with the convenience of paying for their purchase and picking it up the same day.

Exploring contemporary books and CDs by innovative authors and artists is easy with Borders' "Original Voices" program - featuring the works of more than 200 contemporary authors and illustrators from around the world in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, young adult and children's picture books throughout the year. For those unsure of what they're looking for, Borders' "We Recommend" titles and reviews are displayed throughout the store and knowledgeable booksellers are happy to suggest titles well suited to each customer. In the multimedia section, Borders B-Listening(TM) lets customers preview nearly every CD in store and view trailers of DVDs. In addition, Borders' experienced buying staff recommends music and movie titles everyone should have in their personal libraries through in-store "Borders Essentials" lists.

About Borders Group

Borders Group (NYSE:BGP) is a leading global retailer of books, music and movies. Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., the company employs 32,000 people worldwide and operates over 425 Borders domestic superstores; 36 international Borders stores located primarily in the U.K. and the Pacific Rim; 36 Books etc. stores throughout Great Britain; and approximately 755 Waldenbooks stores in malls across America. Teamed with Amazon.com, the company also offers online shopping through Borders.com (www.borders.com) and Waldenbooks.com (www.waldenbooks.com). More detailed information on the company is available at www.bordersgroupinc.com. Information on Borders stores title selection, events and locations is available through www.bordersstores.com.

SOURCE: Borders Group, Inc.





Note: KIS has delivered solutions for Borders. Visit the Title Sleuth next time you are in Border.

If you are interested please contact
info at gokis.net

Posted by Craig at 02:39 PM

October 25, 2003

Home Depot tries to cut waiting times

Home Depot is taking steps to streamline the checkout process at its stores.

Story Link

Home Depot tries to cut waiting times

By TONY WILBERT
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Local contractor Tony McAllister likes shopping at Home Depot, but he says the checkout process can be frustrating.

Sometimes lines are too long because cashiers are scarce, says McAllister, who shops various Home Depots several times a week. At other times, it's hard to maneuver carts of bulky building materials through the checkout lanes.

So it pleases him that Home Depot is taking steps to streamline the checkout process at its stores.

"That would be a great idea," McAllister said, "especially when you have a big old stack of lumber and three or four carts."

The Atlanta-based company kicked off its program to improve "front-end," or checkout, efficiency late last year, when it began installing self-serve checkout stations. Self-serve checkout is now available at about 750 Home Depot locations, including 22 in metro Atlanta.

The next steps to shave seconds off of customer wait times include installing cordless scan guns and touch-screen registers. The scan guns are used to read price codes attached to items and can be used for customers standing in line, while the touch screens are aimed at speeding up cashiers' work.

Committing time and money to reduce long checkout lines is important as Home Depot strives to improve customer service and fend off archrival Lowe's, retail analysts said.

The money Home Depot spends on the technological upgrades will pay off if it leads to better service, said Michael Baker, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities.

"It's an important initiative," Baker said. "The key is to improve customer satisfaction. If it does reduce customer checkout time and increase accuracy, yes, it would improve customer satisfaction."

Service complaints

Complaints about customer service have dogged Home Depot, especially since it increased the percentage of part-time workers more than a year ago. The company has since returned to using more full-time workers, who tend to be more knowledgable about home improvement issues than their part-time counterparts.

Moreover, Lowe's has stressed customer satisfaction and has been helped by the perception that its service is better than Home Depot's.

While Home Depot doesn't agree with that perception, it continues to find ways to improve its customer service. The company's latest front-end changes will work in conjunction with self-checkout lanes to reduce waiting times, said Troy Rice, senior vice president of operations.

"This is just a rollout of all these components into an integrated strategy for us," Rice said. "This isn't about a new [point-of-sale] system or about self-checkout. It's about a combination of things working together to really transform the front end of our stores."

Home Depot refused to say how much it is spending on self-checkout stations, cordless scanners and touch-screen registers. But Rice said the expenses are part of $360 million the company will spend on information technology this year.

The new initiatives will further separate Home Depot from Lowe's. North Carolina-based Lowe's does not have self-checkout, touch-screen registers or cordless scan guns, spokeswoman Chris Ahearn said. The company is evaluating whether to eventually install self-checkout stations, she said.

"We're still investigating technology options for our customers," Ahearn said.

The cordless scanners that Home Depot plans to install in all its stores by next spring will incorporate two-way communication that will allow cashiers to ring up merchandise for customers waiting in line.

The scan guns will display items that are rung up and send the information to the cash register. Cashiers then will return to the register, hit a "complete" button, collect payment and send the customer on his way.

Other large retailers use one-way cordless scanners that send information to the register but do not display what has been rung up on the scanner itself. Rice calls them "dumb guns."

Just touch the screen

The new touch-screen registers will save time because they will virtually eliminate the need for price-list books currently used at Home Depot. Cashiers will find prices by touching electronic icons on the register's screen.

"Instead of having the big black cashier look-up book they have on the register today, which takes an average of 23 seconds to look up one item, cashiers can find items right there on the register," Rice explained. "It's going to help cut down on wait time, absolutely."

Instead of having to physically amend the price books, Home Depot will be able to change prices and add items electronically across the company on a monthly basis, Rice said.

As for self-checkout stations, Home Depot plans to have them in 800 stores by year end.

At stores with self-checkout, customers should see shorter lines and a reduction in waiting times of as much as 30 percent, the company said.

But the kinks still need to be worked out, contractor McAllister said.

"I always have a hassle with self-checkout," he said. "It seems easier for me to go to a clerk. And at certain Home Depots, they never have enough clerks."

Posted by Craig at 04:37 PM

Nation's Retailers Are Staffing Up for Holidays

With a larger hiring pool, job seekers should not expect the same bonuses and flexible scheduling retailers offered during the late 1990s, Challenger said. The lean staffing could lead to poorer customer service as stores rely on computerized kiosks to help shoppers instead of salespeople, Challenger said.

Nation's Retailers Are Staffing Up for Holidays, but Cautiously

By Janet Adamy, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Oct. 25--Retailers are hiring cautiously for the holiday season -- a sign they're wary of predictions that holiday sales will pick up after three disappointing years.

Several large retailers say they plan to hire the same or slightly more workers as last year, widely considered one of the worst Christmas selling seasons in decades. Instead of bulking up now, they're planning to take advantage of an abundant labor pool that makes it easy to get workers if customer traffic picks up closer to Christmas.

Stores typically boost their staffs by one-third during November and December to handle the influx of holiday shopping. That hiring fits into a bigger Christmas buying picture that experts use to predict the strength of the coming year's economy.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will increase 5.7 percent this year to $217.4 billion -- the biggest jump since 1999.

But retailers aren't staffing to handle a sales spike. Macy's West plans to hire about 22,200 workers to staff its 110 western division stores, which is about the same as last year, said Human Resource Director Helen Harris. Target Corp. plans to hire between 50 to 80 seasonal workers per store, flat with the past two years, spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear said. David M. Brian also plans to keep hiring even with last year by adding 100 workers to its 15 East Bay gift stores. Nordstrom plans to keep hiring flat, too.

"You never know until the doors open in December," said David McCaulou, president of David M. Brian. "We're going cautious, and we're not concerned because there's a lot of availability of Christmas help on the market this year."

In the late 1990s, the Bay Area technology boom left retailers scrambling to find seasonal help. But since the economy soured in 2001, holiday applications have soared, giving retailers the upper hand. After being lucky a few years ago to find a college student to staff their registers, retailers say they're getting applications from overqualified professionals looking to make ends meet.

This may be one of the most competitive holiday job markets in years, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., which tracks the job market. He predicts stores will add only slight more than the 555,000 workers they took on last November and December. During the three years ending 1999, stores added 655,000 workers for Christmas selling.

"There's a lot of competition out there," Challenger said. Since large retailers typically add stores each year, the hiring decrease is particularly significant.

Like most retailers, David M. Brian started hiring seasonal workers earlier this month. Already it's received 50 applications, McCaulou said.

Unemployment in Contra Costa County was 5.1 percent in September, slightly down from 5.4 percent during the same month last year. In September 1999, it was 2.8 percent.

With a larger hiring pool, job seekers should not expect the same bonuses and flexible scheduling retailers offered during the late 1990s, Challenger said. The lean staffing could lead to poorer customer service as stores rely on computerized kiosks to help shoppers instead of salespeople, Challenger said.

Some stores are upping their hiring by a notable amount. Gap Inc. plans to increase hiring by as much as 30 percent at its Banana Republic, Old Navy and namesake stores nationwide. That amounts to 25,000 new hires at its Gap stores, spokeswoman Jordan Benjamin said. Borders Group Inc. will increase hiring between 6 percent and 7 percent from last year because it's expanding its temporary holiday store business, spokeswoman Anne Roman said.

Harris said Macy's stores can hire last-minute workers more quickly because they've shifted some hiring to the Internet.

Although stores may hire through Thanksgiving, experts caution against waiting to apply.

"The time to look for those jobs is now," said Ellen Tolley, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.

JOB HUNTING TIPS: Experts say this may be one of the most competitive holiday job markets in years. Some tips:

-- Offer to start working now as an on-call fill-in for vacationing or sick staffers.

-- Apply to stores that suit your skills. For example, if you're a golfer, look for a job at a sports store.

-- Look beyond the sales floor. Stores also hire for back-office positions, including shipping, receiving, warehousing, accounting, information technology and security.

-- Promote computer skills: Some stores are changing from traditional registers to computer-based systems.

-- Dress up for your interview. If you own a suit, wear it. It will make you stand out among all the applicants who come to interview in tattered jeans and T-shirts.

SOURCE: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

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To see more of the Contra Costa Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.bayarea.com

Posted by Craig at 04:32 PM

Best Buy and Digital Cable In-store Qualification

The new tool will be available starting Sunday, October 26th at more than 400 Best Buy retail locations.

MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 24, 2003--

New In-Store Activation Tool Offers One of the Largest Selections
of Digital Cable Options Available at Any National Retailer

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) today announced that through its new in-store Digital Cable Activation Tool, customers now have access to one of the largest footprints of Digital Cable providers available at any national retailer. The new tool provides an automated way for Best Buy Product Specialists to qualify customers for Digital Cable and High-Definition TV services, provides a list of available plans for the customer to compare and choose, and the ability to purchase digital cable and high-definition services quickly and easily. The new tool will be available starting Sunday, October 26th at more than 400 Best Buy retail locations.

Expanded Selection at Competitive Prices

Best Buy will offer one of the largest footprints of top-tier digital cable providers from across the country. Customers will now have easy access to seven of the top 10 cable providers including: Adelphia, CableVision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Insight, and Time-Warner.

The expanded digital cable offerings available through Best Buy build on the company's experience and success in marketing connectivity products and services through the retail channel.

"Our goal with digital cable service has always been to make it easy to understand, simple to compare, and fun to purchase so consumers can make informed decisions about which service is best for them," said Dave Sprosty, vice president of Subscription Services for Best Buy. "Now by expanding the choices available to customers, we're helping to ensure that they will find a service that fits their lifestyle needs both by feature and price."

Added Chris Caffrey, Vice President of Retail Sales for Comcast, "We're pleased to expand our relationship with Best Buy, who has proven to be a leader in the high-speed Internet and digital cable space by providing industry-leading solutions for consumers, including a best-in-class customer experience. This gives us an opportunity to reach even more customers and provide them with information about the tremendous value and breadth of communications and entertainment services Comcast offers."

Simple to Qualify, Compare and Buy

In addition to offering consumers the best digital cable options at competitive prices, Best Buy's new Activation Tool also makes selecting any additional features, such as premium channel packages, High Definition, or High Speed Internet, simple and straightforward. In a matter of minutes, customers can enter their address, qualify for service, select a plan, select additional services (like HD or premium channels), bundle broadband, and finalize their order. Upon submitting their order, the customer receives a confirmation page, which provides instructions on how to complete their installation.

Leading the Industry

The kiosk interface was developed in partnership with GetConnected, Inc., the leader in online service qualification and activation solutions, who also developed Best Buy's Broadband Activation Station, and CableLabs(R), the non-profit research and development consortium for the cable industry, which provides the Go2Broadband(SM) cable service locator.

Posted by Craig at 04:29 PM

September 17, 2003

Wal-Mart HR Unit

Here is a picture of the Wal-Mart HR Job kiosk.

Posted by Craig at 06:08 PM

Nationwide Cybersystems

Here is a picture of the Nationwide unit.

Posted by Craig at 06:06 PM

September 02, 2003

Supermarket Wars

DallasNews.com | Dallas-Fort Worth | Business -- New concept stores combat Wal-Mart

"Wal-Mart is a driver behind all these upgrades in Dallas," said Mark Chandler, principal at retail and consumer goods consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates.

"Albertsons and Kroger, they're all making tremendous investments," he said. "All of this is being done to try not to be Wal-Mart."

Wal-Mart's share of the Dallas grocery market was more than 16 percent last year, twice its share in 2001, according to annual data released this year by MarketScope, a publication of TradeDimensions International Inc.

Wal-Mart is expected to rank No. 1 in the Dallas area, surpassing Albertsons, when year-end 2003 rankings are published.

Posted by Craig at 04:49 PM

Wireless kiosks

KIS the leader is providing Hotspots.

All of the Nationwide systems (2000+ and growing...) come equipped with Airpath wireless Access Points which allow for hotspots to sign up their own customers and create their own revenue streams.

Posted by Craig at 04:23 PM

KIS wins Wal-Mart

The contract for the HR Human Resources terminals for Wal-Mart was awarded to KIS of Colorado. The solution is a thin client model together with Wyse.

Posted by Craig at 05:02 AM