What Lies in Store for Apple Stores?

It would be safe to say that eyebrows were raised at news that Apple is hiring John Browett, the chief executive of British technology retailer Dixons, to head Apple Inc.’s global retail division.

Presumably Mr. Browett interviews really, really well, and perhaps Apple CEO Tim Cook has yet to visit a PC World or Currys (Dixon’s face of retail in the U.K.), but the two retail experiences are poles apart.

Apple stores are the epitome of tasteful design, with no visible cash registers, highly trained staff and an exacting attention to visual appeal; think gleaming white counters, bleached wood floors, minimal and tasteful signage.

Currys and PC World are more in the “stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” end of retail, with all of the associated aesthetic appeal of that school of selling: garish purples, violent yellows, stacks of products, cluttered, aggressive, frenetic.

Apple Store, Retail Localization

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was known to be obsessive about his stores. In Mr. Jobs’s biography, Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle and longtime friend of Mr. Jobs, said: “If you look that the stores and the products, you will see Steve’s obsession with beauty as simplicity—this Bauhaus aesthetic and wonderful minimalism, which goes all the way to the checkout process in the stores.”

Bauhaus aesthetics and wonderful minimalism aren’t words that could ever be applied to PC World. So if not for his design flare, why Mr. Browett?

Apple Store, PC Mag, Retail Localization

“Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met,” said Mr. Cook. “We are thrilled to have him join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple.”

PC World was slated in a 2009 report as the worst place to buy a computer on the high street, receiving a 42% customer score. The same survey put Apple at the top, with customers rating it at 88%.

Although such searches are, of course, self-selecting, a quick search online finds little evidence that much has changed in the last three years.

To be fair to Dixons and Mr. Browett, who was previously at tesco.com, the U.K.’s first online grocery site, he has steered Dixons well through some very difficult times. While rivals Best Buy pulled out, and Comet was sold to the French electronics consortium Kesa for just £2, Dixons reported a not-awful Christmas period.

While like-for-like sales were down 7% in the 12 weeks to January, margins held firm as customers turned to its IT help service, Knowhow.

It is hard to imagine that Apple will be looking to Mr. Browett to take its rich retail outlets downmarket. The U.S. company must be hoping his ability to squeeze margins will enable them to extract even more value from its customers; its stores have one of the highest sales per square foot of any major retailer.

[via WSJ.com]

Petrobras Distribuidora, Cisco Cius, Retail Localization, Tablets

Cisco’s Cius tablet aids customers at futuristic Brazilian gas station

Petrobras Distribuidora, a subsidiary of both Intel and leading gasoline supplier Petrobas, implemented Cisco’s Cius tablet at a ‘Gas Station of the Future’ in Rio de Janeiro last month.

Petrobras Distribuidora, Cisco Cius, Retail Localization, Tablets

Cisco says that the 7-inch Cius is being used by the gas station so that customers can approach the tablet and talk to Petrobas Distribuidora specialists in real-time via TelePresence. The customers can also use this videoconferencing solution to gather information on maintenance activities (such as oil changes) offered through the station.

The tablet can also be used for voice access to customer service agents, for viewing product catalogs and for searching monthly promotions. Furthermore, the tablet can be used to search for specific addresses in the city. The home screen of the Cius has been customized for the gasoline station, and a picture of how it looks can be seen below.

The Cius weighs just 520g and offers a host of collaboration tools, including TelePresence, its video conferencing solution. The tablet is based on Android 2.2 and offers enterprise-grade security, as well as a raft of business-friendly tools.

The tablet was launched in the US last August and has since come to an array of other countries, including India. Cisco recently said that it plans to upgrade the Cius to Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), and launch two additional enterprise tablets later this year.

[via TabTimes]

Union Bank, RBM Technologies, Visual Merchandising Manager

Union Bank Launches RBM Technologies’ Visual Merchandising Solution to Enhance Campaign Execution Across Retail Branch Network

Corporate Marketing Managers to Deploy Fixture-Specific Marketing Campaigns Using RBM’s Visual Merchandising Manager

Union Bank, RBM Technologies, Visual Merchandising Manager

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan 30, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — RBM Technologies, provider of the only retail communications platform that supports fixture-based planograms and localized execution, today announced that Union Bank, N.A. has selected RBM’s visual merchandising management platform to localize campaign messages across the bank’s 400 plus retail branch locations.

RBM’s Visual Merchandising Manager(TM) (VMM) is a Web-based solution that empowers Union Bank’s corporate marketing managers to deliver instant directives on where, when and how to place collateral within a branch, right down to the fixture level. The VMM database will also be accessible to Union Bank corporate real estate and facilities staff to better plan and manage branch assets.

Running VMM gives retail banks an unparalleled level of localization and execution, resulting in the most optimized branch experience. Using VMM, Union Bank branch managers can now:

— Access a location-specific VMM database that accurately details each retail branch location’s layout, fixture count and type

— Empower corporate marketing managers to deploy fixture-specific marketing campaigns using details from the VMM database

— Precisely compute point-of-purchase order amounts eliminating waste and extra merchandise

“Union Bank is a market leader in today’s financial services industry,” said Dan Wittner, chief operating officer at RBM Technologies. “Implementing solutions like VMM will not only provide the bank with an enhanced centralized communications system, it will allow the bank to ensure precise localized campaign execution across its entire network of retail branches.”

About UnionBanCal Corporation & Union Bank, N.A.

Headquartered in San Francisco, UnionBanCal Corporation is a financial holding company with assets of $84 billion at September 30, 2011. Its primary subsidiary, Union Bank, N.A., is a full-service commercial bank providing an array of financial services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, and major corporations. The bank operated 404 full-service branches in California, Washington, Oregon and Texas, as well as two international offices, on September 30, 2011. UnionBanCal Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd., which is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. Union Bank is a proud member of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG, NYSE:MTU), one of the world’s largest financial organizations. Visit http://www.unionbank.com for more information.

About RBM Technologies

RBM Technologies provides the only retail communications platform that ensures store compliance with fixture-based planograms and localized execution. The company’s Web-based visual merchandising management solution cuts the cost of in-store merchandising and promotions and drives revenue with localized campaign planning and compliance reporting for some of the world’s largest brands including AT&T, Verizon, Capital One, BMO/Harris Bank, T-Mobile, O2 and Rogers. Founded in 2000 and headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., RBM is led by a team of retail and technology visionaries who have redefined the concept of visual merchandising management through a unique set of solutions and services. For more information about RBM Technologies visit http://www.rbmtechnologies.com , call (800) 532-2468 or email [email protected].

SOURCE: RBM Technologies

Signature App, Retail Localization, Brick and Mortar

Signature Launches To Bring A Personalized, Mobile Shopping Service To Brick And Mortar Retailers

As I wrote in December, brick and mortar retailers will need to personalize and make the in-store shopping experience unique to compete with online e-commerce sites. Today, Signature is launching to help retailers deliver a more personalized experience for consumers at retail stores. The Signature mobile app is essentially a personal shopping assistant, providing a curated shopping experience, with up-to-date product information, and customer service.

Signature App, Retail Localization, Brick and Mortar

Signature, which is available as an iPhone app, will deliver notifications around shopping events and information such as updates on preferred items and brands, or when new arrivals hit the floor. Customers will also get an in-store greeting with a summary of what’s new, the latest fashions on the floor, and any relevant sales or events.

The app will also deliver real-time visibility into when preferred sales associates are in-store, along with the ability to make appointments and leave messages for associates. And sales associates, using their own app, will tailor the shopping experience to shoppers’ preferences, favorites, and sizes.

On the retailer side, Signature provides sales associates with iPad apps which allow them to access customer information and product catalogues at their fingertips. Sales associates can see when a customer has entered a store, and what items the customer is looking for.

Already, Signature has signed a handful of top retailers as paying customers, including Seven For All Minkind. The company is rolling out pilot deployments nationwide, and plans to launch publicly with a number of well-known retailers in Spring 2012.

Retail Localization, TechCrunch, Brick and Mortar

As CEO David Hegarty explains to me, the value add for both retailers and consumers is clear. Signature provides a more personal, and mobile shopping experience for consumers, and offers a way for retailers to improve in-store engagement and conversion, which is going to help differentiate the experience from online purchasing. Already, startups like ShopKick are catching on to this trend.

Hegarty says that the startup offers a universal iPhone app for consumers (instead of branded store apps) because most consumers don’t want to download several different apps for different stores. This way, consumers can open one app and simply choose the store they wish to shop in.

The startup is definitely onto something when it comes to helping retailers provide a more personalized experience to consumers. Basically, Hegarty wants to be able to recreate the experience you receive at an Apple store at other retail stores, he explains.

Signature has raised $1.1 million in seed funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Triangle Peak Partners, Amicus Capital, Don Hutchison, and Dave Pell.

[via TechCrunch]

Walmart Superstore, Chicago, Retail Localization

Walmart opens second superstore store in Chicago

Walmart Superstore, Chicago, Retail Localization

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Wednesday opened its second supercenter and fifth location overall in Chicago.

The opening of the 157,000-sq.-ft. store, located on the city’s South Side, followed the resolution of a seven-year battle between the retailer and the city’s labor unions and community activists. But sentiment changed as the recession-weakened economy and high unemployment supported Wal-Mart’s case for opening stores in Chicago that would create jobs and bring in sales tax revenue. The chain also agreed to pay Chicago employees at least $8.75 an hour, which is 50 cents above Illinois’ minimum wage.

Wal-Mart slated to open a third supercenter in Chicago next year, on the city’s Far South Side.

[via ChainStoreAge]

Bodega Boston, Visual Merchandising, Retail Localization

The World’s Best Merchandisers & America’s Close Second(s)

[Courtesy of The Huffington Post]

Bodega Boston, Visual Merchandising, Retail Localization

I spent the last week of 2011 and first week of 2012 in Japan traveling between Nagano, Kyoto and Tokyo employing roughly one-fifth of my college education, a minor in Japanese, as best I could.

In between snowboarding in Nagano, seeing temples and shrines in Kyoto and riding trains in Tokyo, I managed to check out some 150 boutiques. I even, somewhat, bypassed the online shopping craze during the holiday season in preparation for the trip. And let’s just say my more financially prudent self did not make the trip.

In the midst of going over my self-imposed spending limit (us Americans aren’t so good at spending limits, I guess), I was able to learn at least one thing worth sharing. No offense, but the Japanese could teach classes to American retailers and boutique owners about meticulous customer-centric merchandising and shop upkeep.

During the mornings, you’d see shop owners and employees doing everything from scrubbing the floors while on all fours to double-counting how many items were folded on each table. When the stores opened, the focus was solely on the products the customer touched and seemed to desire. The decorations, fixtures and racks were set up in such a way that you couldn’t help but touch a few things in every store.

Words just cannot do justice to places like the Isetan men’s department store in Shinjuku, designer Tsumori Chisato’s shop in Aoyama (where they refused to allow photos), any of the United Arrows shops around Tokyo, and even the small, locally-owned shops in Kyoto or Nagano.

Major fashion retail companies like J. Crew, Forever 21 and Target should send all of their merchants and store managers to Japan to check out the setup and service at places like Beams, Loveless and Tokyu Hands. If not all of their merchants and managers, at least the ones in fashion-forward cities like New York, LA, Chicago and San Francisco. Cities where European and Asian retailers appear to be targeting for hand-to-hand consumer combat.

Upstart boutique owners and shoppers may not be able to afford the trek to the Far East, so I’ll meet you halfway by suggesting some U.S.-based shops that meet the type of merchandising acumen I’m referring to having seen throughout Japan. Some of these shops were mentioned on my previous go-to shopping list here.

I’m not sure when I’ll next be visiting Japan, but I know the next time I visit these cities and shops, I’ll think back to the merchandising prowess displayed by our friends on the other side of the Pacific.

1. Bodega — There were plenty of awesome sneaker shops in Harajuku. Similarly, there are several well-designed sneaker boutiques here in the U.S. Undefeated is a behemoth and Alife Rivington Club is always worth a visit. But this Boston shop is second to none when it comes to merchandising. You have to experience the entrance and mahogany heaven for yourself.

2. Canopy Blue — You’ll see and hear words like “unassuming” and “nestled” describe this boutique when someone describes the experience of stumbling upon this shop in the Madison neighborhood of Seattle. This dreamland doesn’t feel like Seattle, which is not to say that it’s not right at home, but to say that its design truly stands out. The airy space feels like falling into a retail day bed. Canopied dressing rooms, blue walls and chandeliers and seashells may have you thinking you’ve landed in Greece or, at least, Southern California by mistake.

3. Confederacy — The shop’s owners — That 70’s Show actor Danny Masterson being one of them — are wonks for customer service and have laid the store out primarily to enhance the shopping experience. Vintage-inspired phone booth-turned-dressing rooms, ’50s-themed Tea Room and 16-foot ceilings make it easy to spend more time looking at the shop than the collections they sell. Also, the employees are dressed in uniforms by the likes of Rag & Bone and Shipley and Halmos.

4. Mellow Johnny’s — Does a more interesting place to buy a bike exist than this Lance Armstrong-owned one? Probably not. Sure, they’re missing fixed-gear options for the hipster bunch, and the Nike imprint in the shop is a bit overbearing (along with Lance’s other brand affiliations), but you can’t not be impressed in here. The sad part is that the shop probably makes more money online selling yellow gear to people who’ve never had the privilege of walking into the shop.

5. Opening Ceremony — It’s not the most accessible shop, from a price standpoint, but the brands — Rodarte, Topshop, Rachel Comey — represent a great mix of what’s now and what’s next, what’s “in” now and what never goes out of style. The Olympics-inspired design is both concentrated and evolving reminding me of what Japan’s best stores had to offer.

6. Saturdays Surf NYC — A surf shop in SoHo. Last year, I had coffee here with a friend in the midst of Manhattan’s record snowstorm. The shop’s coffee offerings, surfside collection of clothing, books and boards, and hip staff made this place a cocoon of cool and a warm retreat from the weather outside.

7. Self Edge — You won’t find a more interesting place to buy a pair of designer jeans than this San Francisco style stalwart. Its owner Kiya Babzani has built a following through educating the rest of us on high-quality denim, with an obvious passion for emerging Japanese brands.

8. Sir & Madame — This black-owned Chicago gem is located in the Ukrainian Village, not far from the popular Wicker Park area. The shop may be the smallest on this list, but they’ve packed it with stellar brands, salvaged furniture and a comforting, soulful personality that could only come from a husband-and-wife team.

Apple Store, Shopper Marketing, Retail Localization

Apple’s global sales per square foot average a whopping $4,709

Apple Store, Shopper Marketing, Retail Localization

Apple stores around the world are pulling in an annual average of $4,709 sales per square foot, CNN Money reported.

While a handful of super-high-end luxury retailers with limited floor space in New York City and foreign capitols may do better, Apple’s numbers make it by far the most valuable chain in the United States. Apple’s closest chain competitor is Tiffany & Co., which garners an average of $2,974 per square foot, according to the report.

[via ChainStoreAge]

Family Dollar, NASCAR, Retail Localization

Family Dollar on track for 450 to 500 stores this year

Family Dollar, NASCAR, Retail Localization

Family Dollar plans to continue aggressive growth in the current fiscal year, with 450 to 500 new stores on tap, CEO Howard Levine said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting Thursday, The Charlotte Observer reported.

The discounter also plans to open its 11th distribution center this year, to serve its stores in California where it has started expanding, the report said.

Levine said Family Dollar will continue its store renovation program, making over another 1,000 locations.

[via ChainStoreAge]

Minority Report, Retail Localization, Store 3.0, Deloitte LLP

3 Key Elements for Upgrading your Brick and Mortar Store

At their National Retail Federation “Big Show” Super Session, Alison Paul, Vice Chairman and U.S. Retail and Distribution Leader at Deloitte LLP presented the company’s findings from an executive summary they published entitled The Next Evolution: Store 3.0. The report focused on three key areas crucial to transforming brick and mortar stores into retail outlets that keep in step with shoppers’ tendencies and emerging technologies.

Minority Report, Retail Localization, Store 3.0, Deloitte LLP

Deloitte’s Store 3.0 Survey found that “79% of surveyed retail executives either agreed or strongly agreed that the store will continue as the primary place to shop in the next five years.” Respondents added that the in-store experience would remain the central channel for customers to engage with brands and interact with sales associates for the foreseeable future.

The three areas retailers need to reexamine, according to the study, are:

  1. Talent – Mobile technology allows customers to compare prices and shop around without leaving your store. Sales associates can play an important role in helping to educate and inform the customer’s decision.

  2. Physical Space – Store footprints are shrinking and the store within a store model is becoming increasingly more commonplace. Retailers should consider looking at their lease terms and store footprints, as larger inventories are available online.

  3. Store Processes and Systems – Retailers should familiarize themselves with new and emerging technologies to determine if they can benefit the customer’s experience and how they can be deployed within the store.

Motorola Solutions, RBM Technologies, Tablets, Retail Localization

The executive summary offers this disclaimer: “There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for retailers. And the answers to these questions will vary dramatically across retail formats.” The challenge retailers now face is to keep up with changes in the environment and with the customers themselves. They must alter their approaches to meet their customer’s expectations.

According to David Jaffe, CEO of Ascena Retail Group, “brick and mortar stores need to create a pleasurable store experience.” He cited one store’s efforts to renovate their fitting rooms, making each one unique and inviting, as a way to improve customer/retailer relationships.

Retailers should examine their workforce, physical space and technology deployed to ensure that the customer has a unique and informed in-store experience.

Retailers, Customers, IBM Survey, Shopper Marketing

IBM Survey: Consumers willing to share information with retailers

Consumers are looking for a more personalized shopping experience, and are willing to share select details about themselves with their favorite retailers to help educate brands on exactly how, when and where to approach them, according to the third annual consumer survey by IBM.

The survey of more than 28,500 global consumers finds that consumers are willing to provide information to retailers about their media usage (75%); demographics (73%); identification, such as name and address (61%); lifestyle (59%); and location (56%) for a more targeted and smarter shopping experience.

Retailers, Customers, IBM Survey, Shopper Marketing

Increasingly, savvy retailers are responding to this need and using sophisticated technology to make sure every interaction with customers is spot-on, based on individual preferences, location and lifestyle. IBM’s ongoing research shows that retailers must provide clear compelling reasons to shop; deliver personalized offerings and reach shoppers when and where they prefer, in order to win over their wallet share. According to the IBM survey, consumers are more than willing to give retailers the data to make this experience possible.

“The speed of technology innovation, consumer adoption and access to information has created an environment where everything is known and the consumer is truly the one in power, coalescing around shopping communities of ‘we,’” said Jill Puleri, global retail leader, IBM Global Business Services. “Retailers can win over this empowered consumer based on re-establishing a trusted relationship and building loyalty through improving the store environment, product assortment and store communications.”

Key consumer findings include:

  • 71% desire to shop digitally using technology (e.g. website, mobile, social network, retailer website to co-create products, TV using remote control, social videos like YouTube, electronic games);
  • 29% desire to use one technology, 18% use two and 24% use three ;
  • 85% of consumers believe social networks will save them time;
  • 87% of consumers willing to use TVs because of convenience;
  • 74% believe electronic games will be a convenient, fun way to shop;
  • 66% of consumers are optimistic about the future of their income;
  • 31% believe their income will stay the same;
  • 35% believe income will increase by 20% in the next 5 years; and
  • Optimism driven by China (95%), Brazil (91%), and Mexico (63%) in their belief that their incomes will increase.

For more information, go to ibm.com/iibv

[via ChainStoreAge]