63% of retailers to increase IT spending in 2012

Survey results released Wednesday by CompTIA, the non-profit association for the IT industry, found that innovations in information technology continue to transform the retail sector, with digital signage, payment processing, customer engagement and other solutions playing increasingly important functions.

Seventy-two percent of retailers surveyed rate technology as important to their business, CompTIA’s Retail Sector Technology Adoption Trends Study revealed. That figure projects to increase to 83% by 2014.


Sixty-three percent of retailers expect to increase IT spending in 2012. Large retailers expect to boost IT spending the most – 4.8%. For all firms, the planned increase is 4.2%.

One in three retailers currently uses digital signage, with an additional 20% intending to do so soon. Sales and promotional announcements and other direct engagement with customers are the most popular uses, cited by 71% of respondents.

Among all emerging technologies, adoption intent ranks highest for geo-location services. About one in five retailers now use geo-location technologies and other location-based solutions to reach customers.

“One reason for the strong interest may be in response to ‘showrooming’, where consumers visit a physical shop to assess a product but make the purchase from an online retailer to get the lowest possible price,” said Tim Herbert, VP research CompTIA. “Location-based technologies can give retailers the tools to incentivize in-store purchases, such as special discounts for in-store customers who check-in via an app.”

Retailers are experimenting with technologies that improve upon point of sale systems or leapfrog those systems entirely and leverage new platforms for payment processing. In the CompTIA study, 13% of retailers are currently using a mobile payment system. Another 19% plan to do so over the next 12 months.

[via Chain Store Age]

Using Smartphones in Retail Store, In-Store Media

Consumers Calling on Smartphones for In-store Purchasing Decisions

A growing number of shoppers are using their smartphones to help them make in-store purchases. According to new Deloitte research, smartphones currently influence 5.1% of annual retail store sales, translating into $159 billion in forecasted sales for 2012, according to new Deloitte research.

Deloitte arrived at its 5.1% figure by examining in-store sales driven by consumers’ store-related smartphone activity such as product research, price comparison or other mobile application use.

While that figure may not be very high, Deloitte anticipates mobile’s influence, based on consumers’ smartphone use, will grow to represent 19% of total store sales by 2016, amounting to $689 billion in mobile-influenced sales. By comparison, direct mobile commerce sales will pass the $30 billion mark by that time, according to industry estimates.

Using Smartphones in Retail Store, In-Store Media

“Mobile devices’ influence on retail store sales has passed the rate at which consumers purchase through their devices today,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution sector leader. “Consumers’ store-related mobile activities are contributing to – not taking away from – in-store sales, and our research indicates that smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to convert and make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users. This means that mobile is an important tool for retailers to incrementally drive traditional in-store sales, strengthening the relationship between retailer and consumer to increase engagement and loyalty.”

Some findings from the study include:

  • Nearly half (48%) of smartphone owners surveyed say their phones have influenced their decision to purchase an item in a store, and the study shows that consumers’ smartphone use tends to be highest at or near the point of purchase. Based on Deloitte’s survey, more than 6 out of 10 (61%) of smartphone owners who use their devices to shop have done so while shopping at the store, and more than half (52%) reach for their phones on the way to the store.

  • Smartphone-toting consumers appear more likely to make a purchase than those who do not own one or do not use it to assist in-store shopping. When asked about their most recent shopping trip, nearly three-quarters (72%) of smartphone owners surveyed indicated they made a purchase on that day, compared with 63% of respondents who did not use a phone. Smartphone users were also more likely to eventually make a purchase: among those who did not buy anything on their last trip, 59% of those who used a smartphone eventually made a purchase, compared to only 22% of those who did not use one.

  • Mobile applications appear to be the inroads to consumer engagement. Nearly four out of 10 (37%) smartphone owners surveyed who used a smartphone on their last shopping trip utilized a third-party mobile shopping application, and more than one-third (34%) used a retailer’s mobile application.

  • As consumers buy smartphones, they are quick to tap their devices for shopping assistance, with smartphone use for store-related shopping increasing 40% after the first six months of ownership, according to Deloitte’s survey. Once these consumers are on board, they consistently use their phones for 50% to 60% of their store shopping trips, depending on the store category.

  • The survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted online by an independent research company between March 20 and 30. The survey polled a national sample of 1,041 random consumers and then augmented this sample with additional smartphone owners to reach a sample of 1,557 smartphone owners. The sample of smartphone owners has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    [via Retailing Today]

In-store Merchandising, Retail Localization, RBM Technologies

Building the Stores Shoppers Want

Retool marketing strategies to make in-store experiences more personal with information from the 2012 Shopper Experience Study

Here’s some good news: according to a new study from RIS/Cognizant, the future of the brick-and-mortar store is safe, provided retailers keep their stores and merchandising practices current. In light of the e-commerce boom over the past few years, shoppers still seek out in-store experiences. However, they have also grown more demanding.

In-store Merchandising, Retail Localization, RBM Technologies

Consumers want a more personalized experience the moment they walk into a store. The challenge to retailers is how to cater to the different tastes and personalities of their shoppers.

According to the RIS/Cognizant survey, “shoppers’ technology preferences and their criteria for positive store experiences vary dramatically by gender, age, income and product type … retailers must carefully define their target customers before investing their technology dollars.”

The common thread between all shoppers is their desire to be greeted at the door by retail associates who are knowledgeable, efficient and assertive. They are looking for people who can provide solutions more than products.

5 key elements retailers can incorporate into their in-store strategy, as outlined by Steven Skinner, vice president of Cognizant’s retail, hospitality and consumer goods practice:

  1. Price – The cost of products is key. If consumers feel your prices are too high, they can check the prices of your competitors before they even leave your store thanks to smartphones. Competitive pricing and promotions still hold the greatest sway according to the survey.
  2. In-store execution – Shoppers continue to seek out retail stores that have a diversified product assortment and can execute quickly and efficiently. According to the survey, four out of five purchases are still made in the physical store, but that does not always mean it will be in your store. If they are unable to find the item they are looking for, immediate access to the Web will help them find it at a store that has it in stock.
  3. Easy and efficient store checkout – Consumers want to get through the checkout process as fast as they can, with as little distraction as possible. They do not want to be cross-sold in the checkout line and prefer the sales associate to be a “unitasker” in this case.
  4. Reach beyond the basics – Few stores offer top-tier service across all channels to their key demographics. “Shoppers want personalized, attentive in-store experiences, and the more affluent younger shoppers expect retailers to seamlessly integrate personalization across channels.”
  5. Shoppers’ expectations vary – Depending on the type of store (specialty versus consumable products) the needs of the consumer may vary. A variety of options and proven experience from the sales associate is important to shoppers looking for specialty products, whereas printed materials such as packaging and displays are key for those looking for consumable goods.

In summation, the brick-and-mortar store is still king. However, retailers must recognize that providing an informed, efficient and multi-faceted in-store experience is paramount to retaining shoppers.

To read the complete study, please visit Moneyball Returns to Retail at

Dollar General, Store-specific merchandising, retail localization

Dollar General to ramp up store-specific merchandising

After testing the concept last year, Dollar General planning to roll out a merchandising program that will allow it to expand or pare back certain merchandise categories based on the geographic and demographic of its individual stores.

Dollar General, Store-specific merchandising, retail localization

In last year’s test, DG dropped some 5,000 independent merchandise sets into approximately 280 stores, evp/divisional president/cmo Todd Vasos said during the company’s annual Analyst Day presentation here this morning. When the rollout is complete – a three-year process – DG expects to deploy 45,000 to 50,000 individual sets across its store base, he said.

“There’s no complexity,” he said. “These are planograms that already exist. It’s about making sure the right planogram goes into the right store.”

In terms of store growth, chairman and ceo Rick Drelling said DG can add another 8,800 units in its exiting markets – where is already operates 10,100 stores. It sees the opportunity to establish 1,200 units in new markets.

One of the biggest opportunities: California, a market the company entered recently. DG will have 50 stores in the state by the end of the year and believes California could rival Texas, where DG operates more than 1,000 stores.

[via Home Textiles Today]


Shaping the Future Retail Experience Starts with the Right Technology…at the Right Time

Motorola Solutions helps retailers to meet demanding omni-channel shoppers’ expectations

NEW YORK – June 21, 2012 – Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI) today introduced its vision of the future retail shopping experience which is focused on connecting with customers, enabling store associates and empowering the IT organization to meet business needs without complexity. Motorola also unveiled its new retail experience center and the results of the 2012 Future of Retail study.


Moving forward, the shopping experience is a retailer’s biggest differentiator. The majority of respondents in the Future of Retail study stated that the store will still be a dominant channel for shopping activity. The challenge for retailers is that consumers are now routinely researching single purchases on the web before going to the store. This requires an omni-channel strategy to provide a more seamless experience between retailers’ online and in-store shopping experience to meet customer needs and offer accessibility no matter how or when customers are ready to shop.

Technology will have a leading role in shaping the future retail environment which will be:

  • Connected – Shoppers will be connected to associates, associates connected to one another, and both connected to all the necessary information regarding the store’s products.
  • Predictive – The collection, analysis and distribution of data regarding customers, products, and other operational elements will allow retailers and associates to anticipate customers’ needs and exceed expectations.
  • Personal – Only information that’s applicable to the user will be presented – cutting through the clutter of useless information.
  • Context-Aware – The store system recognizes location, identity, activity and time related to individuals and products to generate intelligent events.
  • Consistent – Customers will receive consistent experiences across all channels – information, purchase and return expectations, and branding.

Motorola’s study of U.S. retailers and shoppers revealed that:

  • Shoppers are least satisfied with the availability of coupons and discounts (45 percent). 42 percent are dissatisfied with the time they spend waiting to pay and the availability of store associates. 41 percent find dissatisfaction in associates’ knowledge regarding the status of in-stock items while 39 percent of those surveyed are not satisfied with the help or level of information offered by associates.
  • In five years, more than 4 in 10 retailers (41 percent) expect to provide personalized product details, based on previous behavior, to a shopper’s smartphone and more than 35 percent of retailers expect to recognize their customers in the store with geofencing or presence technology; 42 percent expect to send coupons based on a customer’s location in the store.
  • Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of the retailers surveyed believe that developing a more engaging in-store customer experience is going to be business-critical over the next five years. Half of the surveyed retailers felt that integrating their online and in-store experiences would be crucial over the next five years.
  • Surveyed retailers estimate that by 2017, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) fewer purchases will be completed at associate-staffed fixed point of sale (POS) terminals and instead, roughly half of all transactions will be completed via mobile point of sale (mPOS), or self checkout at a terminal or on a shopper’s mobile device.
  • Surveyed retailers expect their sales from online, mobile and social commerce sites to represent 42.5 percent of sales by 2017.


Connecting with Shoppers

Retailers can provide customers with in-store Wi-Fi to search for product information and inform them of products that may be of interest to them or provide real-time, location- based mobile coupons as they navigate through a store with Motorola’s guest access, Proximity Awareness and Analytics and Wi-Fi analytics solutions.

Store managers or associates can be instantly informed on their device when a loyal shopper enters the store through presence technology over a wireless LAN (WLAN) network.

Enabling Associates

Associates can perform product comparisons, look up items and close the sale at the point of decision with any form of payment, with assisted selling and mPOS solutions using Motorola’s mobile payment module, the new pocketable MC40 enterprise mobile computer or the ET1 Tablet.

Associates can instantly connect to back-end systems or the most knowledgeable people to answer shoppers’ questions, whether they are in the same store, another state, or a vendor’s location. This can be done through Motorola’s intelligent real-time task management Mobile Workforce Management software and Enterprise Voice Solutions with role appropriate devices like the ET1 Tablet or new SB1 smart badge, an innovative, cost-effective device that can be worn by a retail associate on a neck lanyard or clipped on a belt to provide real-time price checking, inventory look-up and product information.

Empowering the IT Organization

Retailers can team with Motorola to increase operational flexibility and reduce the time required to realize the benefits of investments in business-critical mobile device, WLAN network and mobile application technologies. Using services focused on outcomes rather than tasks, Motorola can help IT address key operations – planning, implementation, monitoring, and management – while ensuring the support, security and governance required to cope with the evolving demands of an omni-channel retail environment.

Retailers and their application developers can quickly and cost-effectively build enterprise-grade business applications with a consumer-style look and feel across multiple operating systems, devices and screen sizes with Motorola’s RhoMobile Suite.


Eduardo Conrado, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Motorola Solutions
“To understand your customers, you have to appreciate their business needs and challenges as well as know their end customers. That’s exactly what we’ve done at Motorola Solutions with respect to retailers, and we’re committed to helping them deliver on shoppers’ heightened expectations by providing innovative solutions and products to improve productivity and efficiency from the store floor to the backroom and throughout the supply chain.”


  • The Future of Retail survey was fielded from May 18 through May 24, targeted to IT management and management from a variety of retail establishments.
  • The survey was designed to reveal current technology usage in the retail industry and what is expected to be needed five years from now.
  • Respondents to the survey were selected from the Research Now Business panel to represent a distribution of respondents from a variety of retailers. 250 respondents completed the survey without knowledge of Motorola Solutions sponsorship.
  • The e-Rewards® Opinion Panel, operated by Research Now, is the largest “by-invitation-only” online research panel serving more than 900 research firms with over 3 million respondent members.


Website: Motorola Solutions Retail Solutions
Website: Motorola Solutions Retail Press Kit
White Paper: What’s Driving Tomorrow’s Retail Experience
Website: Motorola Solutions’ 2011 Holiday Shopper Survey
Press Release: Retailers Connect Shoppers and Store Associates in New Ways
Press Release: Tablet Designed for Retail Shopping Experience Gets Even Better with New Update
Twitter: Motorola Solutions Retail
Facebook: Motorola Solutions

[via Motorola Solutions]

mobile retail solutions, motorola solutions

Moto Solutions Talks Mobile Retail

Time was, the market for industrial strength retail computers, such as handheld scanners, was dominated by three companies, Symbol, Telxon, and Psion.

All three of those companies now belong to Motorola Solutions (MSI), which split off from Motorola Mobility (MMI) in late 2010. (The Symbol deal happened in 2007, the Psion deal was just announced last week.) Moto Mobility, of course, is in the process of being acquired by Google (GOOG), but Moto Solutions continues as its own ball of wax.

mobile retail solutions, motorola solutions

I spent some time this afternoon talking to Eduardo Conrado, Moto Solutions’s chief marketing officer, about the company’s newly announced efforts in retail.

Retail businesses provide 11% of Moto Solutions’s total annual revenue, as part of the company’s “enterprise” division. So, increasing Moto’s sales to retailers can have a measurable impact on Moto’s growth.

In a loft on Mercer Street in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, Moto was showing some simulated shopping environments with different kinds of technology to make the whole buying experience in a store more mobile, as the company sees it.

For example, Moto unveiled a new handheld based on Google’s Android software that looks and feels pretty much like a ruggedized version of one of the Moto handsets. It has a built-in product label scanner, to gather product information, and a card swipe. The idea is that by having a handheld to check inventory or take a purchase, the store attendant can spend more time with a customer selling, rather than running back and forth to the stock room.

A second device is an employee badge that has a display based on the e-ink technology found in‘s (AMZN) “Kindle” and other gadgets. This is less sophisticated than the Android handheld, but Moto thinks it will make some staff more productive by letting them swipe an item on the show floor and see immediately on the badge’s grayscale display whether there is inventory on site, for example.


Moto's SB1 "SmartBadge" is worn around the neck by sales associates and sends and receives information about inventory, tasks, etc.

Yet another example is where a shopper has an app on their smartphone for places they frequently shop. When they enter the store, news of “deals” can be pushed to the phone, and store staff can be alerted to the customer’s arrival.

A couple questions arise, of course. Will customers be into using apps on their smartphone regularly? And will store staff be capable of realizing the wild scenarios imagined for the technology?

We shall see. Browsing the aisles of major electronics retailers, something clearly needs to be fixed, as the experience is not great. Not only does the average shopper know more these days than many sales associates about the latest tablets or smartphones. The in-store displays are usually a disaster, with test units in disarray, or just plain broken, confusing or incorrect signage placed next to the devices.

I don’t know if Moto can fix any of those aspects of the retail “experience,” but here’s hoping.

[via Barrons]


Motorola shares vision for future of retail

Connecting with customers, enabling associates to become knowledgeable and empowering the IT organization to meet business needs should be the top three priorities of retailers, according to Motorola Solutions. The company unveiled several solutions Wednesday designed to help retailers meet those three goals with an end result of delivering “the shopping experience of the future.” From mobile POS solutions to smart badges that deliver tasks and product info to employees, Motorola executives demonstrated their vision of the retail future in a mock store setting in New York City. The “store” featured the company’s newest solutions in action, showcasing how technology is changing the customer experience. Before seeing the product demonstrations, however, attendees sat in on a panel with Motorola execs, and a couple of retail experts, that discussed the future of retail and technology’s vital role.


Motorola also revealed results from a study it conducted in May that polled 250 U.S.-based retail executives about how omni-channel retail trends are changing their business models and about their plans to implement mobile technologies within the next five years. The survey found that merchants today are struggling with meeting consumers’ “want it here, want it now” mentality while finding the right balance between their online presence and brick and mortar store locations.

It also found that 74 percent of retailers believed that developing a more engaging in-store customer experience is going to be business-critical over the next five years. And half of the surveyed retailers felt that integrating their online and in-store experiences would be crucial over the next five years.

Connecting with customers

To keep shoppers in their stores, retailers must provide customers with in-store Wi-Fi capabilities, said Allison Kenney Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail distribution leader at Deloitte, a consulting service that researches consumer behavior.

“Consumers are so used to being connected 24/7 already today that when they cannot make a connection — when the shopper can’t reach the babysitter at home or can’t get on their Facebook page and tell their friends they are about to buy something, the anxiety drives them out of the store,” Paul said during Wednesday’s discussion.

Retailers who don’t provide Wi-Fi, fearing customers will use it to find similar products online for cheaper prices, are actually the ones missing out on sales; disappointed customers will leave.

“We have an opportunity here to be connected with the consumer in-store and use that opportunity to communicate with them, to offer them special offers and in the future even be able to track their movements throughout the store,” Paul said.

Being able to tell where customers are inside the store provides retailers with other valuable info, such as which displays or merchandise gained the most attention. Managers can also use it to monitor the location of their employees.

SLIDESHOW: Motorola predicts the future of retail

Enabling associates

Shoppers often enter stores armed with more information than employees, which leads to an expectation that associates should be able to quickly answer questions about product pricing, stock status and other information. Providing employees with product knowledge is essential to improving the customer experience, which is why Motorola has created new solutions — SB1 smart badge, MC40 Enterprise Assistant, new accessories for its E1Tablet and Mobile Workforce Management software — to transform employees from task workers into knowledge workers, said Jim Welch, senior vice president and general manager, North America Sales and Field operations, Motorola Solutions.

“To serve today’s educated and connected shopper, retailers have to equip their staff with the latest technology in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing trends affecting their business,” he said.

It’s also key to give employees easy-to-use solutions, considering most retailers don’t spend a lot of money on training since the industry’s turnover rate is so high. The solutions should be so intuitive that nearly any new employee should be able to pick one up and immediately start helping customers, Paul said.

“It’s not that you have to hire brain surgeons to work in the store, it’s that the technology is really enabling the retailer help the consumer. And the minimum wage worker is becoming a more valuable member of the organization because they’re much more knowledgeable,” she said.

SB1 badge: A majority of retail associates told Motorola they would benefit from a device like the SB1, which allows them to scan an item to check price and availability, have immediate access to product information, accept tasks and connect to managers and other employees via a push-to-talk feature.

The solution, which runs HTML5 server-based applications that enable task management, price checking, inventory look-up, and product information, is accessible to all associates on the sales floor. The badge contains a 3-inch e-ink screen, and is designed to be worn by associates on a lanyard, belt clip or armband.

MC40: The MC40 is a mobile device that provides the associate access to in-depth product information, data collection and mobile POS capability without leaving the customer’s side. This can result in fewer lost sales, a better shopping experience and greater shopper satisfaction, Welch said.

ET1 Tablet and accessories: Motorola’s retail study found that 39 percent of shoppers were least satisfied with the level of help or information that store associates were able to provide. The company thinks its ET1 Tablet could solve that problem by providing employees with the tools they need to answer questions, provide feedback and close a sale without leaving the customer’s side, said Girish Rishi, corporate vice president and general manager of mobile computing, Motorola Solutions.

With the ET1 scan module, store associates can provide an improved shopping experience by offering more product information and better sales support. The imager enables the capture of multiple barcode symbologies, including the ability to read mobile barcodes from cell phones, Rishi said.

Mobile Workforce Management: Motorola developed its Mobile Workforce Management software to help retailers manage tasks. More than three-quarters of all retail supervisors surveyed told Motorola that they assign tasks verbally or with handwritten notes during the day, and most (63 percent) have no method for electronically tracking task completion. This leads to a poor shopping experience because associates and managers don’t have an efficient way to coordinate the completion of work or respond to customer requests.

Motorola expects MWM to fix this problem by allowing managers to deliver tasks to employees’ mobile devices, reducing the need for store managers to physically walk the store and track the progress of each employee on their to-do list. The real-time exchange of information between associates and supervisors streamlines retail operations, Welch said.

MWM can integrate with all in-store and corporate business systems — including time and attendance, labor planning, project scheduling, promotion management, POS, kiosks and RFID sensors. The company said it also simplifies communications with a range of mobile devices and allows user information, group information and skill set data from partner systems to transmit back to the MWM server.

[via Retail Customer Experience]

Home Depot Mobile Device Deployment, tablets

Home Depot Rolls Out New Mobile Devices for Workers

Home Depot has started to roll out a scaled down, second generation mobile device for its sales associates, allowing more workers to use wireless technology to assist customers, CIO Matt Carey told CIO Journal. The 25,000 device roll-out is intended to make it possible for more store workers to help customers locate items and give information on products, even in areas for which they don’t have specialized expertise. It’s also an example of how Home Depot is attempting to use technology to increase the amount customers spend on each trip to the store, as well as sales to new customers, an area of focus as the chain has slowed the opening of new stores.

Home Depot Mobile Device Deployment, tablets

The device, called First Phone Junior, is a scaled-down version of the Motorola phone the company put in the hands of some associates two years ago, which allowed employees to better manage inventory, assist customers and speed checkout lines.

Home Depot only purchased approximately 15 of the first generation devices for each store, Carey said. The broader roll-out of the new device will add around 12 more devices per store and is part of an effort by Home Depot, over the past three years, to use technology to improve customer experiences.

Carey says that when he arrived at Home Depot in 2008, the company’s retail technology was comparable to what other chains possessed “in the year 1990.” To determine which products were out of stock, sales associates had to physically inspect shelves. The chain’s version of mobile computing was a computer terminal on top of a cart “powered by a boat battery,” with a scanner attached, Carey said. When merchandise was determined to be running low, the store’s manager re-ordered the items himself – there was no automatic system.

“That’s not a way to run a modern retailer,” Carey said.

Back in 2008, items were often out of out of stock because the inventory system was so poor, said Scot Ciccarelli, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets. The cost of shipping inventory to stores was higher because it was done on a smaller scale—one store at a time. And store employees spent 60% of their work day on stocking, and just 40% helping customers. The company set a goal to reverse that pattern.

Over the past few years Carey, who previously worked at eBay and Wal-Mart, helped bring in an automated inventory management system, which replenishes items by predicting depletion of stock, rather than waiting for items to run out. The new system includes 19 centralized warehouses located across the country, which order in larger quantity for all the stores in the region. The system took day-to-day general stock level decisions out the hands of local managers, automating those orders, and allowing them to concentrate more on purchases for special store displays or other areas that are specific to an individual location.

“We want our managers dealing with the exceptions,” Carey said.

Meanwhile, Home Depot invested $64 million to deploy 34,000 First Phones, which allowed associates to use a scanner on the device to continuously update and view inventory levels, according to a spokesman for the retailer. The First Phone gave associates instant access to product information, making them more helpful to customers, who often need specific, technical information on tools and parts. Jennifer Smith, senior director of store operations for Home Depot, said this allowed employees to develop a “stronger emotional connection in the aisle” with customers. This connection is helping the chain combat the effects of “showrooming,” when a customer comes to a brick-and-mortar store just to browse, only to make the actual purchase online.

Smith, who appeared at an event with Motorola Solutions in New York to unveil the new devices, said the First Phone devices empower store associates and make them “confident [enough] to have those conversations” with customers. She sees those conversations as a competitive advantage, she told CIO Journal.

The mobile device also helped speed checkout times, allowing employees to scan items for customers as they wait on line, instead of waiting until they reach the cashier. Last spring, the chain also began to allow payment through a PayPal account, requiring only a customer’s phone number and account PIN.

Putting mobile technologies in the hands of store associates won’t solve every problem a retailer may have. “Technology will not solve the basic issues, like cleanliness,” said Alison Paul, a senior retail analyst with Deloitte. She also said customers of some class of retailer, especially in the mid-market price range, are uncomfortable when they’re approached by a sales person bearing a tablet or other mobile device. “Shoppers are not all as tech savvy as [retailers] thought,” she told CIO Journal.

But she said retailers, often gun-shy about investing in technology because the returns aren’t big enough, should experiment with relatively inexpensive tools such as these. The new Motorola devices are “cheap enough that you can afford to try it out in a store, and then you can tweak it,” she said.

So far, the changes have helped the company move toward the goal of providing more customer service, Carey said. By the end of 2011, sales associates were spending 53% of their time helping customers, a spokesman said. And inventory is turning over more quickly. But, at the same time, Home Depot’s chief competitor Lowe’s began last year to arm employees with an iPhone that has many of the same capabilities.

“They have their play and we have ours,” said Carey.

[via Wall Street Journal]

Starbucks opens Tazo tea store, retail localization

Starbucks to open Tazo tea store

Starbucks opens Tazo tea store, retail localization

Starbucks Coffee Co. keeps branching out. After opening its first juice store (Evolution Fresh), the company plans to open a tea store under its Tazo brand in Seattle this fall, Bloomberg reported.

The shop will sell more than 80 varieties of loose-leaf tea, which will be priced by the ounce, the report said. It will also offer pastries, baked goods and packaged chocolates.

[via Chain Store Age]


Dollar General eyes Northeast Expansion

Plans for a new distribution center near Philadelphia will allow Dollar General to more effectively replenish its rapidly expanding store base.


Dollar General said it planned to build a new 900,000-sq.-ft. distribution center on 109 acres in Bethel Township located near the intersection of I-78 and State Route 501 just west of Philadelphia. The company said it still needs to purchase the land and receive the necessary governmental permits and development approvals, but those requirements appear to be mere technicalities as construction is expected to begin this fall. Hiring would begin in the fall of 2013, according to the company.

The total cost for the facility, including equipment and fixtures, is expected to reach approximately $100 million. At full capacity, the facility will likely employ more than 500 people to serve more than 1,000 stores in the northeast. Additionally, Dollar General’s third-party transportation provider expects to employ 75 drivers.

Once open, the new facility will bring much needed distribution capacity to a company intent on growing its store base in the Northeast. Dollar General already operates 440 stores in Pennsylvania, but its closest DCs are located in Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

Announcement of the new DC, the company’s 12th such facility, follows the first quarter opening of new distribution centers in Alabama and a California. The increase in distribution capacity comes as Dollar General earlier this year opened its 10,000 store and has confirmed its view that the U.S. can support as many as 20,000 of its small format general stores that offer low prices on a broad assortment of food, consumables and general merchandise.

[via Retailing Today]