REAL ESTATE

AT&T opens ‘Retail Innovation Center’

BY Staff Writer

Chicago — AT&T announced the opening of the AT&T Retail Innovation Center in Arlington Heights, Ill.

The 10,400 sq.-ft. space — more than twice the size of a conventional AT&T store layout — is designed to showcase the company’s most innovative products and serve to gather customers’ feedback on new retail concepts — all designed to help shape the ultimate customer experience across AT&T’s more than 2,300 stores nationwide.

“Our customers want to learn how they can make the most of today’s technology to improve every aspect of their lives,” said Kent Mathy, AT&T president, North Central Region. “Our retail Innovation Center is uniquely designed to provide that education. Customers will interact with our products and get a first look at our most innovative customer service strategies at this location before we launch them nationally.”

The store includes interactive, touchscreen walls, where customers can check out the latest apps on a large scale and see how to make the most of any smartphone and tablet, and demonstration areas where customers can try out the latest in AT&T technology.

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REAL ESTATE

Infill Alert

BY Katherine Boccaccio

By industry estimates, concrete-slab moisture-related floor-covering failures cost retailers, building owners and contractors more than $1 billion every year. But it’s not just new spaces that present a challenge in this regard. With infill the name of the game in retail development, retailers that open stores in existing spaces also need to be on full alert to the potential for flooring problems.

According to Lee Eliseian, president of Concord, Calif.-based Independent Floor Testing & Inspection, infill locations, while attractive on many levels, can potentially present issues that could lead to short-term flooring problems or even long-term flooring failure.

“The obvious advantage to moving into an existing space is that occupancy cost tends to be lower, but sometimes the rent and construction savings can be more than offset by flooring problems due to age, neglect or substandard construction,” Eliseian said. “Any retailer moving into an existing space should take measures to ensure the substrate is in good shape.”

The biggest culprit is concrete-slab moisture, which can wreak havoc on moisture-sensitive flooring finishes. The trick is uncovering the adverse condition in time to mitigate it.

“There are so many unknowns with existing spaces,” Eliseian explained. “The building’s concrete slab could be five years old, or it could be 30 years old. You may not know what it was used for previously, whether it’s been contaminated or how it was constructed.”

To compensate for unknowns, Eliseian recommends surveying the floor in advance of move-in for moisture-related problems, general conditions and new-product compatibility.

“Any time you have early warning about what potential problems may lie ahead, you are better equipped to deal with them in a more cost-effective way,” he said. Moreover, up-front knowledge may deliver negotiating leverage with a landlord, who when presented with documented problems may pay all or part of the tab for the repairs.

The last thing you want to do is uncover flooring problems after a store has opened, Eliseian noted, because not only has leverage with the landlord been lost but it is far more costly and disruptive to repair.

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Forest City to use mobile technology in study

BY Staff Writer

Cleveland — Forest City Commercial Management announced that it will test a new survey technology by U.K.-based Path Intelligence to track mall shopping behavior and flow by using mobile phones.

The surveys will be conducted at Promenade Temecula in Southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va., from Black Friday to New Year’s Day. They mark the first use of this kind of technology in a mall setting.

The survey system, called FootPath Technology, consists of a small number of monitoring units installed throughout the center. The unit recognizes signals from shoppers’ mobile phones and sends the data to be evaluated. Personal information is protected, according to Jane Lisy, senior VP of marketing for Forest City Commercial Management.

“Before agreeing to test this technology, it was essential to determine and guarantee that the personal information of our shoppers would be completely anonymous to all parties involved and legally protected,” said Lisy.

Signs have been posted at both shopping centers to inform customers that the survey is taking place.

Lisy said the survey data will be analyzed and compared with industry benchmarks about shopper behavior, including shopping patterns and length of stay, to identify trends.

FootPath Technology will show where shoppers cross-shop and whether they will go out of their way to visit a specific store. “Cross-shopping patterns can provide information to relocate retailers that are visited frequently to improve shopper convenience,” said Stephanie Shriver-Engdahl, VP of digital strategy. “The information will also help inform leasing as to what type of retailer might be added to further enhance an already successful shopping cluster, and data will also be provided on what events and promotions are most beneficial to retailers and attractive to shoppers.”

Among other benefits, Shriver-Engdahl said, being able to address congestion during the busy holiday shopping period is of particular interest and importance. Data can also potentially improve operational efficiencies, from basic maintenance to security.

“In the big picture, we can see using this additional insight in our marketing, operations, leasing and other programs to enhance the overall shopping experience for our customers and to help retailers maximize their opportunities,” Shriver-Engdahl added.

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