OPERATIONS

Apple granted trademark for its store design

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Apple Inc. has been granted a trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its store design. The trademark covers the furniture and fixtures, floors, lighting and shelves found in Apple stores, along with the “Genius Bar.”

In addition, the trademark covers Apple’s all-glass storefront design.

According to various reports, Apple first applied for the trademark in 2010, but its application was rejected by the patent office. A second application by the company also was rejected. According to the Apple retail news site Ifoapplestore, the earlier rejections came because the company failed to prove the design was "inherently distinctive.”

The third time proved the charm for Apple. According to reports, Apple submitted some 681 pages of materials with its third application.

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Most Canadian retailers ready for penny phase-out

BY Alaric Dearment

Toronto — Most retailers in Canada are ready for a phase-out of one-cent coins, a national retailing trade group said Wednesday.

The Retail Council of Canada said the majority of the country’s retail businesses were prepared for the disappearance of the penny and will follow the government’s proposals for determining prices.

The Canadian Mint stopped producing pennies last spring and will begin phasing them out of circulation starting on Feb. 4. At that point, retailers are encouraged to round prices up and down to the nearest five cents when exact change is not available. For example, an item that costs $1.01 or $1.02 will be rounded down to $1, while an item costing $1.06 or $1.07 will be rounded to $1.05; an item costing $1.03 to $1.04 will be rounded to $1.05, while an item costing $1.08 or $1.09 will be rounded to $1.10. Rounding will not be needed when payment is made by check or electronically.

"On Feb. 4, most of Canada’s retailers will be ready at the cash register to handle the phase out of the penny," RCC president and CEO Diane Brisebois said. "While we have been supportive of this initiative all along, we are grateful that the government delayed implementing the changes until this point, as retailers have needed the extra time to prepare."

According to an RCC survey, 55% of retailers are prepared for the phase-out, while 74% of small retailers and 75% of large retailers will round manually at the cash register. At the same time, 63% of large businesses will change their point-of-sale systems, which could cost them more than $100,000.

"While smaller businesses will do the rounding manually and then determine the appropriate course of action, both in relation to cost and customer service, it is not a practical approach for retailers 0with thousands of employees," Brisebois said. "This of course represents a substantial cost for retailers to enable them to maintain standardization and meet consumers’ needs and expectations."

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Future consumer trends include emphasis on human services and artisan goods

BY Marianne Wilson

Chicago — Automation and mass production will continue to make life easier in the years ahead, but consumers and companies will react by valuing – and promoting – human services and artisan goods. That’s one of the key trends research firm Mintel predicts will be impacting consumer behavior in the next five to 10 years.

As part of its lunch of Mintel Futures, a new program designed to forecast long-term industry trends, Mintel identified six key trends affecting the global consumer market in the near future:

1. Human: Today’s consumers are chiefly experiencing automatic service in the form of storefront retail technologies, such as self-checkout terminals and mobile self-scanners, and many are warming to the concept. But moving forward automation is going to be about cutting to the chase and skipping past laborious processes to allow consumers to get to the experience or the product more quickly.

"For companies this means offering a choice between human expertise and automated fast-tracking in service, and adding customer customization and artisan suppliers to the product supply line,” said Richard Cope, director of insight and trends at Mintel.

2. Generation Next: A poor economy is challenging teenagers’ ability to rebel, to progress and to stay healthy, but they are also better connected than their parents and growing up in an era where sustainability and gender equality are higher on the agenda. This means teens need – and expect – more from companies, according to Mintel.

“To capitalize on the potential of this next generation of key consumers, companies must acknowledge that teens are growing up in the midst of debates surrounding sustainability, ethical sourcing and gender equality and may need to be more transparent, more ethical and more progressive to win their favor and custom," said Cope.

3. Old Gold: Whether retired, working or in need of care, the elderly are the key consumer demographic.

4. East Meets West: Asia can become the key cultural, as well as commercial, influence.

5. Access Anything Anywhere: Our smartphones and tablets won’t just change the way we communicate, they will change the way we live.

6. Brand Intervention: The state will force corporations to become more responsible for consumers.

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