Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why Shopping Independent Stores This Holiday Season Should Be On Your To-Do-List


written by: Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, Forbes Contributor
Did you know that on average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores? This data, shared by the American Independent Business Alliancealong with countless other reasons are why it’s so important to support your local LOCM +1.38% businesses this holiday season and always.
"Shopping should be an enjoyable experience with interactions that leave us feeling good versus feeling like we have to do a chore. I find that’s far more likely to happen when I’m patronizing local independent businesses, plus I also find independent merchants usually beat the chains or the online mega retailers when you add up the key factors. These include product quality and durability, getting expert advice without having to waste time doing my own research and ease of return if an exchange is needed, as well as price. I think the discount chains have brainwashed America into valuing cheapness above all, but the best value isn’t always – or even usually – the cheapest product or vendor,” shares Co-Director of the American Independent Business Alliance Jeff Milchen.
Expanding on this is Ellen Divita, Director of Community Development in DeKalb, Illinois, which is home to Northern Illinois University.
"Keeping purchases close to home helps communities in countless ways, and consumers need to recognize this as they make their purchase decisions. Local shopping – whether at small or larger stores – impact community economics, and too often purchases are being made online nowadays. Browsing the shelves of your local store is an experience which cannot be replaced by shopping on-line, even if cheaper and quicker,” Divita states.
Additionally, Divita shares that DeKalb recently lost a major retailer and as a result, they’d like to attract independent merchants to make up for this loss while also bringing value to their community.
"We intend to work with our businesses to focus on customer service and build the customer experience. We are hopeful to attract an independent book seller as a key downtown revitalization strategy yet know this will be a challenge,” Divita further states.
Advantages to Shopping Local 
With internet shopping at our fingertips and big box stores always competing to one-up the other when it comes to offering consumers deals, independent merchants and other small businesses too often get lost in the dust. This trend, however, doesn’t have to continue and thanks to movements that include Small Business Saturday – which takes place the Saturday following Thanksgiving – and the increasingly popular Shop Small message that is shared year round, consumers are becoming more in-tune with the value of shopping local.
"More and more people are recognizing how important it is for their local economy and quality of life to patronize local businesses that support their community. That includes not only job creation and taxes, but support for local charities, events and more,” Milchen of the American Independent Business Alliance states. 
To expand on this, consider why shopping local impacts your immediate community beyond economics. For starters, independent businesses help bring character and charm to communities – as well as help communities stand out and become more exciting, more enjoyable and more memorable than others. This ultimately leads to strong economic growth and long-term vitality, as well as helps bring new residents and jobs into the community.

Consider your own firsthand experience, as well. It’s likely fair to say that you’ve experienced towns worth visiting and towns only worth driving through simply based on the unique small shops that exist within them. Collectively, these small businesses help shape and create the community in which they reside – as well as bring together residents and out of town visitors alike.

If charm isn’t reason enough to get you shopping local, consider the value that small, local businesses bring to your local employment options. Independent businesses help increase employment rates, as well become the customers to local accountants, lawyers, printers, marketing agencies and more. The domino effect is simply too good to ignore – yet unfortunately, too many consumers do.

Online or at big box stores, remember that every time you spend even a dollar, you are impacting your local economy, vitality and overall livelihood. The schools, public services, parks and recreation and so much more are all impacted by local businesses, as well, and again, impacted by your choice to support your community at large… or not. So this holiday season – and even beyond – consider where you want to spend your dollars and how it will impact the big picture of your hometown.

To view the original article please visit:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Need Some Holiday Inspiration? Here Are Some Campaign Ideas From Top Retailers

By Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor, Retail TouchPoints

It’s always interesting to see the different approaches retailers take to their holiday marketing and promotions. Sure, there may be the standard Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, but retailers are thinking outside of traditional promotional calendars and tactics in order to stand out.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve made a point to track all the different announcements from retailers outlining their holiday sales and campaigns. As I hoped, they cover a broad scope, touching on everything from sweepstakes and giveaways, to doorbusters, events and experiential marketing campaigns.

Since we’re somewhat early on in the holiday game, there’s still time for retailers to take a look at their peers and see how they can revise and refine their marketing strategies. While you won’t be able to complete a chain-wide beacon deployment by Black Friday, here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing and even thinking about next year!

Encourage shoppers to discover new things: Last year, we covered Barnes & Noble’s inaugural Discovery Weekend, which was developed to “bring the spirit of fun and discovery to the holiday shopping experience and help customers find the perfect gifts for the people they care most about,” said Mary Amicucci, VP of Adult Trade and Children’s Books at Barnes & Noble, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. Due to its success, the retailer held the event again this year! Throughout the weekend, Barnes & Noble will provide family-friendly events, interactive activities, complimentary story times, and book signings and appearances from authors and celebrity personalities. Additionally, the retailer will hold a series of contests, including the #BNSweaterContest, which encourages consumers to wear their most outrageous holiday attire and post pictures to social media. Winners will receive a series of must-have gifts for the holidays and Barnes & Noble gift cards.

Although these are two very different approaches, they both encourage consumers to further engage with the Barnes & Noble brand. While Discovery Weekend drives in-store traffic and creates highly immersive and fun shopping experiences, the #BNSweaterContest encourages shoppers to interact on social. Taking a multichannel approach like this is key, especially as more consumers use their mobile devices in stores. 

Establish new partnerships: Connecting and building relationships with similar or like-minded brands can be valuable for expanding your consumer base and generating buzz. This year, Target has established a partnership with TOMS to release a collection of unique apparel, footwear and even home goods for the holidays. TOMS is a really hot brand now, and has been recognized for its charitable business model. Because of this partnership, Target has a very positive association with the brand, which improves consumers’ overall perception of the retailer.

Macy’s is thinking bigger with its holiday partnerships. The retailer has introduced the Holiday Arcade, which is a series of in-store gifting shops offering a variety of different products for different types of consumers. The Holiday Arcade gifting shops have been rolled out in six locations across several cities, including New York City and Chicago. Macy’s generated partnerships with Build-A-Bear Workshop, Paddington Bear and Curious George, among other brands, to roll out the Arcade. Because this store concept is limited time, it creates a sense of excitement for shoppers, which encourages them to visit participating stores before the products are gone!

Embrace charity and good will: After all, contributing to the overall good of mankind is what the holidays are about after all! Retailers can build customer loyalty and improve sentiment by partnering with charities or holding special events and campaigns for local or even national organizations. For example, Macy’s is inviting customers to participate in its annual Believe campaign, which has raised more than $8.7 million to Make-A-Wish.

From November 7 to December 24, customers can visit their local Macy’s store to drop stamped letters addressed to “Santa at the North Pole,” into special Santa Mail letterboxes. Now, consumers can even visit to create and send their letters to Santa. For each letter collected in-store and online, Macy’s will donate $1, up to $1 million, to Make-A-Wish, helping to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
  Have some fun: Yes, it’s really that easy! Look at how Kohl’s and Disney Interactive are getting families to participate in some holiday fun. Up to 4,000 adults and children submitted videos of themselves singing the theme from Frozen, “Let it Go.” The videos were submitted on the Disney web site and through the Disney Applause app for iOS and Android devices. Americans can select their favorite singers, who will then be included as a part of Kohl’s holiday commercial, which will air during the American Music Awards on November 23.

In a way, the campaign approach is not directly associated with Kohl’s as a brand or retailer. But a variety of Frozen products are sold in the retailer’s stores, and Disney is most likely a great partner for the retailer. In fact, Kohl’s even is encouraging shoppers to share their favorite “Frozen finds” on social media using the hash tag #FrozenFunAtKohls. This was a great way for Kohl’s to be included in a nationwide campaign that generated a lot of buzz and participation. Although your retail business may not have the same bandwidth or reach as Kohl’s or Disney, this example confirms that your campaigns don’t always have to focus on getting customers to make a purchase.

As we venture further into the holiday season, I’m sure more fun campaigns and tactics will emerge.

Are there any interesting approaches you’ve seen so far? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Written By: Peter Pishko, VP of Operations

My apologies to Andy Williams; No, not that time, by the time you’re reading this post everything is set and you’re off and running in the great holiday race. Shelves are stocked, everything is decorated and business is booming. I am writing about the next most wonderful time of the year: Physical Inventory.  The key to a successful Physical Inventory (PI) is organization. I have some organizational steps that have proven successful in my past and continue help our customers today.

Start the old fashion way with pen paper and a calendar.

Select the dates that you will be performing your physical inventory count.  Make these dates known now so you are not besieged with vacation/time off requests for that week. Make it a blackout period no one is off. It is very important to have the support of your staff in getting this task accomplished successfully. Taking into account your dates, set some guidelines for your purchasing and receiving areas. You should cut off merchandise delivery for a period of time prior to your PI (I used to cut off two weeks before my count date). A full PI is best scheduled during a period of time when your stock levels are at a low point, obviously less to count and more room for organization of merchandise.  If merchandise is received during this period set it aside and do not enter it into your system until after you have completed your counts.
Ensure that you have allocated adequate staff for the task at hand. The physical count should be performed by teams of two, a caller and a recorder. The actual purpose of these individuals has changed from the days of pencil and paper tallies to having teams give credibility to the actual count in terms of checks and balances. It speeds the scanning process along as well (if you are using scanners) and as the count progresses a second count can be completed. It is easier to verify the electronic count with teams of two and expedite recovery after the count is completed.

Draw a map of your store. I use graph paper but this can be done in excel or using various CAD (computer aided design) programs, which is a critical tool for successful preparation for a PI. You probably already have maps of your store(s) that are used for planning layouts, displays etc.  Be sure to include all window displays, warehouses, storage closets, back office spaces,  offsite storage and any place you can possible have stored inventory. The idea of a having a map is to make sure you have gone through all of these locations thoroughly and that everything is counted. Check absolutely everywhere; in cabinets under cabinets on top of shelving units. I have found merchandise in old display units in storage, on top of and under all warehouse shelving (it’s good to check these odd locations where you have found merchandise after the PI has been completed; hidden merchandise is a Loss Prevention issue).  Desk drawers, closets, the rest rooms, I used to check drop ceilings as well. I found a stack of denim in the ceiling once (I’m sure it was just misplaced!). Verify that each of these locations has been checked before your inventory using your map for reference. 

Label the map so each of your fixtures, every shelf, hang bar, t-stand and merchandise peg have a number and letter. A corresponding spreadsheet should be created listing each location and fixture; this spreadsheet and map will be used the day of your physical inventory to verify a physical count has been entered and verified by your team. I used to highlight the map to verify that an area has been counted and then check it off on the spreadsheet. Starting with Yellow for first count and then blue, green would mean that an area was finished.  Count your fixture in numerical order not randomly; this is a time for order!

Nothing can hold up a physical inventory like merchandise without tags or incorrect tags. It is important to have your staff verify that all merchandise has a bar code label prior to your count. Set up an area in your stock room for your team to place merchandise so it can be properly labeled before your PI and have it retagged. Faded or torn tags should be reprinted so that everything is counted properly.

 If you are scanning tags verify that your scanner can read your barcodes. I once attempted a physical and none of my tags scanned and I did not check prior to the team arriving and so I had to reschedule. It was an expensive mistake I will never make again.

Pre-counting merchandise can save you a lot of time. Have a plan for difficult to count items; counting bath beads by hand is not the most efficient way; use a scale.  Chocolates, coffee, soaps and those small items at the POS should be pre-counted.

(Now all of this is simply preparation for entering the counts into your software system and that process will differ based upon the software you’re running.  I am not getting into that process in this post.)

 Remember this is not something that happens every day and it should be made into a special event. I always brought in food throughout the day and held a contest for the team member who found the most items with missing tags etc. The point is that it is a time for cleaning up and getting on to the next page.  Spring cleaning and setting order is actually happening after the holidays at the begging of the New Year for most of you because you are setting the tone for the New Year. Embrace Physical Inventory; it’s the most wonderful thing.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why I Can’t Stop Thinking About Rebecca Minkoff’s Connected Store

Written by 

Alicia head shot
I can’t seem to contain my excitement after seeing the new Rebecca Minkoff flagship in SoHo, New York City yesterday.

For those of you who or are unfamiliar with the New York City area, Greene Street — where the Rebecca Minkoff store is located — is basically the Mecca of fashion. Luxury names, such as Jill Stuart, Jack Spade, Tiffany & Co. and Stella McCartney are dispersed along the block. Startup darlings, including Warby Parker and Piperlime also have flagships nearby. 

But let’s get to the fun part of the story, shall we? Upon entering the flagship I was taken aback by an enormous display showing b-roll footage of Rebecca Minkoff videos and fashion shows. A representative eventually greeted me and proceeded to walk me through the connected retail experience, which starts at the front display and ends in the fitting room.

Let me tell you: I’m not usually one to get super excited over these types of experiences. We’ve seen so many “potential use cases” and “hypotheticals” that after a while they tend to be underwhelming. You can only hear “there are no retailers implementing this” so many times. But there it was! The connected store in the flesh!

I felt like a young child on her first day of school: Excited but suspicious. Would this meet my expectations or fall short?

We started out going through the interactive display experience. When you tap the screen, the b-roll footage moves to the back and you can sift through lookbooks and product pages. When you find an item you like, you select your size and press “add to my fitting room.”

When you’re done digitally browsing, you enter your mobile phone number so you can be alerted when your fitting room is ready. Feeling thirsty? That’s fine, because you can order a glass of champagne, water, coffee or tea through the digital interface so you can rehydrate while you wait.

After you walk into your fitting room, the interactive mirror turns on. Thanks to RFID technology, the mirror recognizes all the items you’re trying on, and provides product recommendations straight from Rebecca Minkoff herself. You can adjust the lighting in the room to reflect the environment you’ll be in. For example, if you’re going to a black tie event, you can dim the lighting a bit. If you’re looking for a dress for a daytime wedding, you can make the lighting brighter. Goodbye, ugly florescent lighting that I so dread!

What I personally loved about this part of the experience is that we saw a benefit to RFID that is not often discussed. Typically, RFID is included in conversations regarding inventory accuracy and supply chain management. This time, it played a key role in engaging the shopper, and showed retailers another reason to invest in the technology.

Now, back to the shopping experience. Should you need a new size for an item you try on, or are interested in taking a recommended product for a test run, don’t fret! You just tap on a button on the interactive mirror to alert a store associate that you need some assistance.

At the end of the shopping experience, you can either purchase your items or save them to your digital shopping bag. All items browsed, added to cart and purchased are saved to your Rebecca Minkoff mobile app.

Throughout the entire demo, there was not a single technology glitch. Everything ran swiftly and smoothly, and definitely made me sad that I had to head back to the office and couldn’t shop anymore!

Apparently, this is the first store implementing this type of experience, but Rebecca Minkoff will be implementing this connected store concept in a west coast location very soon. Be on the lookout for what’s to come from Rebecca Minkoff and the folks at eBay Inc., because I’m sure they’ll be making more moves very soon!

It’s safe to say, the future of retail is officially here and it definitely is going to make my life easier!

To view the original article please visit: 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The 2014 Ultimate Holiday Shopping Guide

Once the turkey settles, holiday shopping season officially begins. This year, shoppers can expect more than 40,000 deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and retailers are expecting November and December sales to top $616.9 billion.

The following infographic examines what consumers and retailers can expect during the first few days of the 2014 Holiday Shopping Season, beginning with Thanksgiving and running through #GivingTuesday.

Click to enlarge

To view the original article visit: