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Alex & Ani boosts Facebook revenue with EBay

BY Dan Berthiaume

Cranston, R.I. – During the 2013 holiday season, Alex and Ani turned to EBay Enterprise, an EBay Inc. company, to help drive sales and achieve higher ROI through its Facebook ads. Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, the company’s Facebook ads drove $1.6 million

EBay Enterprise partnered with Kenshoo Social, an advanced technology platform, to optimize Alex and Ani’s highly targeted social marketing campaign. The retailer currently leverages several EBay Enterprise commerce offerings, including Magento Enterprise Edition, to customize and extend its e-commerce efforts with best-of-breed capabilities such as its marketing solutions programs affiliate, search and paid social to exceed its online goals.

“The strategies and best practices championed by the EBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions team helped drive insights that refined our Facebook advertising program, making it a force for our direct response goals,” said Ryan Bonifacino, VP of digital strategy at Alex and Ani. “The Kenshoo Social platform coupled with our team at EBay Enterprise gave us the horsepower that allowed Alex and Ani to come out of the gate strong during the second half of 2013, and we plan to continue to scale our investment in Facebook advertising as a result of the performance we’ve seen.”

When comparing performance of Facebook ads for the six months before and after launching with EBay Enterprise, Alex and Ani noted significant performance gains. ROI increased by 80%, while revenue saw a 4,388% boost. In addition, average order value rose from $14 to more than $75, an increase of 434%.

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Tough times continue for Cato customers

BY CSA STAFF

Playing in the value priced fashion space is a challenging proposition and one of the leaders in the segment doesn’t expect conditions to get easier this year.

The Cato Corporation, operator of 1,320 stores focused on value conscious shoppers, had a challenging fourth quarter like a lot of retailers and chairman, ceo and president John Cato expects the pain could linger this year.

"Results for 2013 were negatively impacted by the continuing difficult economic situation our customers have faced for some time now," Cato said when the company reported fourth quarter results. "Even with the very challenging environment, we have continued to grow our store base, manage our inventory, control costs and, most importantly, remain profitable.

That said, Cato indicated 2014 could be another tough year characterized by a challenging sales environment due to continuing slow job growth and higher costs which reduce customers’ discretionary income. Same store sales are expected to be flat to down 2% this year, according to the company. Gross margins are also expected to contract resulting in 2014 profits below 2013 levels.

Sales at the company declined 7% to $215 million during the fourth quarter ended February 1, compared to sales of $232 million during the fourth quarter period the prior year which benefitted from an extra week. Same stores sales declined 3%.

Profits for the 13 week quarter fell 52% to $3.8 million, or 13 cents a share, compared to $7.9 million, or 27 cents a share during the 14 week quarter the prior year. Full year net income was $54.3 million, or $1.86 per share, compared to $61.7 million, or $2.11 per share for the 53 week prior fiscal year.

Despite the top line challenges, Cato has continued to invest in its store base, opening 32 units last year and closing 22 stores. This year it expects to open 64 stores and close as many as 17 locations.

“We have also continued to invest in our business by renovating and expanding facilities, upgrading systems and launching an e-commerce website in November. The e-commerce website launch went very smoothly and has been well received by customers,” Cato said. “However, we do not expect e-commerce to have significant impact on 2014 results. In regard to the fourth quarter, earnings were impacted by a very promotional holiday sales season as well as a number of winter storms in December and January. Also, the comparison of fourth quarter results to the prior year is negatively impacted by the fact this year had one less week than the prior year period."

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Mobile workforce provider secures more funding

BY CSA STAFF

Gigwalk, a leading provider of crowdsourced solutions to retailers and CPG companies, just surpassed the 500,000th member of its mobile workforce and celebrated the occasion by securing an additional $10 million in funding.

The three year old San Francisco-based company operates a software platform for consumer brands that delivers local visibility of in-store conditions to foster better collaboration with retailers. The company executes against that value proposition with a crowdsourced labor model of smartphone equipped workers known as “Gigwalkers” who are able to perform a wide range of functions in stores nationwide.

“Inefficiencies in retail execution account for hundreds of billions of dollars lost globally each year,” said Bob Bahramipour, CEO of Gigwalk. “Our enterprise software platform brings transparency and accountability to local operations, eliminating these problems and improving how brands and retailers work together.”

The most recent round of funding was led by Nokia Growth Partners (NGP) and also included new investor Randstad Holding nv and existing investors August Capital, Harrison Metal and SoftTech. Paul Asel of NGP has joined Gigwalk’s board. The funding will be used to further develop and scale Gigwalk’s software platform, expand partnerships with consumer brands and retailers, as well as support company growth and hiring.

“NGP is excited to invest in Gigwalk as they are disrupting how enterprises get local work done. The company’s robust technology platform and massive Gigwalker network is changing the speed, cost and effectiveness of doing distributed local work,” said Paul Asel, Managing Partner at NGP. “Gigwalk has a capable, visionary team that can deliver on this disruptive opportunity.”

Amsterdam-based, Randstad Holding nv, the world’s second largest human resources service provider, joined the round under their just launched Randstad Innovation Fund.

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