The 4 Steps Needed To ‘Save Our Stores’

Although more than 3,200 U.S. stores are set to close in 2018, a majority of shoppers still want to go to the store when they can: 73% of consumers still go to stores to touch and feel products, according to a report from Astound Commerce. But consumers are demanding more from the store experience. The “Save Our Stores” report revealed four keys to keeping a brick-and-mortar store viable:

  • Stores must be inspiring and build on customer loyalty
  • Stores should offer valuable promotions and exclusive products to drive traffic;
  • Customer service is a critical differentiator, with 64% of consumers reporting poor customer service as the top reason to leave a physical store; and
  • Retailers need to stress the efficiency of store shopping, particularly in speeding up purchase and returns processes

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Only 35% Of Retailers Effectively Train Employees; 32% Don’t Train At All

While 57% of employed adults think that training is very effective in helping them do their job well, retail employees are far less confident about its success rate than their peers, according to a survey from Axonify. Only 35% of retail employees believe training is effective, well below the averages of respondents in fields such as:

  • Financial advising/professional sales (66%);
  • Manufacturing/logistics (68%), and
  • Call centers (63%).

Nearly one in three (32%) of retail employees say they don’t receive any formal training at all, a higher percentage than any other industry surveyed.

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Zara To Deploy Click-And-Collect Robots In Stores

Zara has long been known as a fast fashion leader, but the retailer has been slow in one area: fulfilling buy online/pick up in-store (BOPIS) orders. The bottlenecks are a particular problem for Zara, a division of Inditex, because one third of its global online sales are picked up in store locations, including the 85 shops located in the U.S.

The retailer will deploy robots operating behind the scenes in stores, according to the Wall Street Journal. Shoppers will scan or enter a code at in-store collection points, which will trigger the robot to search for the correct package in a small warehouse, then deliver it quickly to a drop box.

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Kroger Launches Innovation Center To Research And Test Grocery Offerings

Kroger is the latest retailer to create its own innovation lab, opening the Culinary Innovation Center in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio on Feb. 15.

The opening of a food-oriented Innovation Center is timely as the grocer moves ahead with its Restock Kroger plan. Kroger launched the initiative to invest in technologies that improve the company’s store offerings, personalize communications with customers, revamp product assortment and leverage data-driven shelf optimization.

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JD, Alibaba Introduce Tech-Driven Supermarkets To Chinese Consumers

Following in the footsteps of chief rival Alibaba, Chinese e-Commerce giant JD has opened its first supermarket, a 4,000-square-meter location in Beijing. The 7FRESH grocery chain will be stocked with thousands of fresh products, including fruit, flowers, imported meat and freshly-caught seafood, prepared and cooked on-site. JD may open more than 1,000 7FRESH stores in the next three to five years, according to China Daily.

7FRESH is JD’s largest brick-and-mortar endeavor yet. The launch coincides with Alibaba’s decision to expand its fleet of Hema supermarkets by opening 30 stores in Beijing in 2018.

While JD maintains full control of its supply chain and sources its own inventory, Alibaba primarily acts as a platform for other merchants. But these moves into grocery widen the reach of both brands.

JD And Alibaba Leverage Both Online And Offline Data

Both retailers are combining e-Commerce and traditional technologies to better manage inventory and customer data, and are leveraging this data to improve their online experiences — particularly by shortening delivery times.

JD is using data from 266.3 million e-Commerce consumers to craft the 7FRESH shopping experience. The supermarket integrates several technology elements designed to deliver a “personal and educational” hands-on shopping experience. For example, 7FRESH is testing “magic mirrors” that sense when customers pick up an item of produce, and automatically provide product information such as nutritional facts. The stores also will soon feature smart shopping carts that can follow customers as they browse the aisles, allowing them to shop with children, hands-free.

Shoppers using the self-checkout option can even pay using a facial recognition system connected to the 7FRESH mobile app. Customers in the neighborhood can either carry their goods home themselves or have them delivered in 30 minutes. 

Like the Hema stores, 7FRESH also offers a restaurant and imported fresh food cooked on-site.The average daily store traffic during test operations from Dec. 29 to Jan 3 was 10,000 people, according to a company spokesperson.

Grocers Have Lost 29% Of Their Market Share Since 1991

0aaRR IDCGrocery ImageWith societal changes driving consumers from cooking at home to preferring takeout food, fast casual dining, restaurants and other eateries, grocers and other food retailers have lost 29% of their total market share since 1991, according to a survey from IDC. The report reveals that only 35% of food spending takes place in food stores.

The fragmentation of shopper spending continues to complicate matters for grocers. While 25% of consumers today prefer shopping at multiple stores to satisfy their grocery needs, this figure is projected to grow to 32% within just two years. As many as 75% are looking for better prices, while 60% are searching for specific products.

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Retail Gives Back: How Best Buy, Target, Walmart Helped Those In Need In 2017

2017 may have given the retail industry its fair share of bruises, but that didn’t deter retailers from giving back to those in need. While Walmart and Rite Aid focused their charitable efforts on those affected by the devastating natural disasters in the U.S. and Mexico, others, including Target and the Container Store, focused on today’s youth. Ace Hardware and Belk were among the retailers that took a localized approach, empowering individual stores and their customers to select charities that work effectively in their communities. 

Read on to learn how these and other retailers gave back in 2017. 

Ace Hardware Achieves 98% Philanthropy Participation Rate

Every year, Ace Hardware is committed to giving back to the communities it serves and even conducts an annual survey to gauge each store’s philanthropic efforts. In 2017, the retailer revealed that 98% of stores that participated donated money, products or services to nonprofit or charitable organizations or causes. The types of organizations the retailers and its employees helped included veterans’ organizations, youth education and advocacy programs, local business commerce organizations and more.

Belk Builds Home, Launches Localized Charitable Initiative 

Over the holidays, department store retailer Belk partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a family in need. The company asked for donations from customers and each store was responsible for raising the funds for an area in the home, such as the kitchen or bedroom. Belk and its customers raised $320,000 and the family received the special news during the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29, 2017.

Additionally, at the end of 2017, the retailer announced Belk: Project Hometown, a $15 million commitment over the next five years to organizations that support their hometowns and local communities.

Rite Aid Foundation Helps Wildfire Victims, Kids In Need

December 2017 was a giving time for the Rite Aid Foundation, which made hefty donations to the American Red Cross and KidCents. The organization helped victims, families and communities in Southern California following the devastating wildfires there with a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross. The donation was used to help shelter, feed and provide comfort to those impacted by the disaster.

Additionally, Rite Aid Foundation awarded $2.2 million to its partner charities through its KidCents Holiday Wishes program. The KidCents charities were asked to pick the wish they felt would have the most impact for those they serve. More than 440 charities participated in the KidCents program, and each received a $5,000 grant to help make a holiday wish of their choice come true. Organizations and their wishes include: 

  • Miracle Babies, San Diego, Calif. — The nonprofit organization, which provides education, support and financial assistance to families with critically ill newborns, created holiday care packages for 500 parents.
  • The Children’s Village, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. — The nonprofit organization, which provides innovative residential and community-based programs to at-risk children, teens and families, is creating a new game room for the 300 kids who live at the facility.
  • Northeast Youth Center, Spokane, Wash. — The youth center, which offers educational and recreational activities to children ages three to 17, is helping kids stay warm this winter by providing winter coats and boots.

Best Buy Supports Tech Career-Building For Teens

Best Buy sees the importance of enabling young people to develop the skills necessary for the jobs of the future, many of which will rely heavily on technology. Through its Community Grants program, the retailer is supporting 337 local nonprofits across the country to provide underserved teens opportunities to develop tech skills that will help them prepare for careers and post-secondary education. In September 2017, the Best Buy Foundation awarded more than $2 million to these 337 local nonprofits.

Examples of the Community Grant recipient organizations include:

  • Techbridge Girls, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-focused after-school program for girls;
  • I Have A Dream Foundation of Boulder County, which provides career-readiness internship programs; and
  • IT-oLogy Foundation, a virtual reality, mobile app and gaming enrichment program.

Target Kicks In To Help More Youth Play Soccer

{loadposition GIAA}According to a Target release, more than nine million kids played in youth soccer leagues in 2016 alone. While the game is clearly popular, it doesn’t mean that getting on a team is easy — costs for equipment and registration fees are not always feasible for some families.

To encourage more kids to play soccer, Target made a $14 million commitment to local youth soccer through two new national initiatives: an $8 million local soccer grant program, and a $6 million partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build 100 new soccer play spaces by 2020.

“Target’s commitment to soccer brings the game to more kids and families across the country, and increases involvement at all levels, from local youth leagues to professional teams,” said Rick Gomez, CMO of Target in a statement. “Our multi-dimensional approach allows us to engage with players, fans and families, no matter how they participate in the sport. These two new programs reinforce the importance the game plays at the local level. Both unlock access to youth soccer and give Target the ability to connect with our guests and team members in new ways.”

Walmart Supports Victims Of Natural Disasters

The world was not prepared for the devastating disasters that occurred in 2017. Hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires plagued parts of the world and, like many other organizations, Walmart was committed to helping those affected get back on their feet. In September and October 2017 alone, the Walmart Foundation:

  • Announced $565,000 (10 million pesos) towards Mexico earthquake relief and recovery. The commitment added to the $2.2 million (40 million pesos) commitment of cash and 300 tons of product donations made by Walmart de México y Centroamérica to assist those in need;
  • Made a $5 million commitment for Hurricane Maria Relief, which supported organizations helping with local relief efforts in Puerto Rico. This built on the $35 million commitments the Foundation made to support Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma relief;
  • Supported response and relief efforts in California by committing up to $250,000 in cash and product for those affected by the wildfires. This included funding for nonprofit grants supporting the American Red Cross and Salvation Army for shelter and feeding efforts as well as product donations to support first responders; and
  • Made a $500,000 commitment to Operation Homefront to support military families impacted by recent hurricanes.

Lowe’s Supports Affordable Housing, Local Blue Santa Program

For Giving Tuesday 2017, Lowe’s announced a $1 million commitment to affordable housing in Charlotte, N.C. to provide more stability for low-income families. The funds were received by Habitat for Humanity Charlotte and Our Towns Habitat for Humanity to build and repair homes for 20 families in the Greater Charlotte area. The retailer also provided hands-on volunteer support from Lowe’s employees.

“Lowe’s is committed to helping make our community a place of opportunity for all families and children who call Charlotte home,” said Jennifer Weber, Lowe’s Chief Human Resources Officer in a statement. “We’re proud of this expanded partnership with our local Habitat for Humanity chapters to help provide families more access to safe, affordable homes.”

Philanthropy also happened at local levels. During the holiday season, a Texas-based Lowe’s store donated more than $6,500 in toys to a local sheriff’s department’s Blue Santa program.

Container Store Raises Funds For UNICEF

During the summer of 2017, Container Store launched an effort to help raise money for UNICEF USA. By September 2017, the retailer raised $236,000 to provide educational opportunities to children all over the world and give them the tools they need to help lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. The funds had a particular impact on the Let Us Learn program, which brings innovative educational opportunities to the world’s most vulnerable children.  

Physical Stores Will Remain Crucial To Retail Revenue And Branding Through 2020

Physical retail stores will still be the predominant revenue channel for U.S.-based omnichannel retailers and critical to their brand identities in 2020, according the Retail Real Estate Beat, a survey conducted by FTI ConsultingEven though retail survey respondents expect their e-Commerce revenue share to increase by 50% over the next three years, from 16% to 24%, they still anticipate that physical stores will be responsible for 76% of revenue at that time. 

The survey, conducted in Q2 2017, explored the perceptions of mall and shopping center landlords and their retailer tenants about the role of brickandmortar stores over the next three years, as well as retailers’ top business concerns within that time span 

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Order Fulfillment, Short Staffing: Big Barriers To Well-Executed Store Experiences

As retailers feel the pressure of integrating channels to improve the customer experience, store managers continue to face daunting tasks involving both store execution and operations. Store managers feel order fulfillment (29%) and limited staffing (29%) are the biggest challenges at the store execution level, while the biggest operations challenges are inaccurate data (31%) and limited stock and slow replenishment (31%).

Order fulfillment challenges have kept retailers from catching up with shoppers’ desires. Buy online/pickup in-store (BOPIS) services have increased 41%, and buy online/ship-from-store services have jumped 40% — the largest increases in customer adoption, according to the survey.

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The Store Needs A Data-Driven Facelift

As e-Commerce shopping increases every year, all omnichannel retailers must assess the role of the store in their future strategies. But not every segment feels equal confidence in their stores going forward: only 13% of retailers that primarily sell consumer packaged goods believe that stores are more important to their future strategy than digital, according to the 2017 Digital Selling Report from Retail Systems Research (RSR).

However, three times as many (39%) hard goods retailers — companies that sell merchandise such as electronics, furniture, home improvement products, appliances and sporting goods — still believe that stores are more important to the company’s future.

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