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TECHNOLOGY

Beauty powerhouse adds high-tech tool to its stores

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Ulta Beauty chain is adding a new “consultant” to its in-store team.

Through its partnership with hair color brand Madison Reed, Ulta is deploying a color-recognition chatbot (called Madi) that gives consultations similar to those customers receive from a professional colorist in a hair salon.

Described by Madison Reed as the industry’s first-ever color-recognition chatbot, Madi combines artificial intelligence and selfies to engage in-store shoppers.

Here’s how it works: In- store customers looking for a hair color text “Hello” to 34757, activating Madi on their mobile device. The tool will prompt the shopper to upload a selfie focused on her face and hair, then followup with a few quick questions. Based on the guest’s responses, Madi will recommend the perfect Madison Reed hair color.

“For traditional hair color companies, technology is an add-on at the very end,” said Amy Errett, CEO and co-founder of Madison Reed. “For us, it’s a starting place for everything around an enhanced customer experience. We are proud to partner with Ulta Beauty to give customers access to our prestige hair color products and introduce them to Madi, which is convenient, seamless and fun.”

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DayBreaker

Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Georgetown (Washington, D.C.)

BY CSA STAFF
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Peet’s Coffee & Tea’s three-level outpost in historic Georgetown marries a contemporary design with the locale’s storied colonial past.

Designed by Peet’s in collaboration with MBH Architects, Alameda, Calif.,the modern interior reflects the expectations of the trendy, high-end district and utilizes a mix of dark bronze, wood and brick materials. Custom painting by a local artist and a green “living” wall that extends from the mezzanine to the community gathering space on the third level area” reinforces Peet’s as a retail destination.

The age of the building and heavy usage by previous operators meant that the structure and utilities of the building were in deteriorating condition. To accommodate this, MBH replaced large portions of the roof for the building’s infrastructure and conducted extensive restoration of the existing exposed brick finishes at the interior and historic building facade, allowing the storefront to blend with the rest of the neighborhood.

Based in Emeryville, Calif., the 400-store Peet’s is owned by JAB Holdings Co., which recently acquired Panera Bread.

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FINANCE

Supervalu in $375 million acquisition

BY Marianne Wilson

Supervalu Inc. has entered into a deal that will expand its wholesale business into the West Coast.

The company announced it will acquire Unified Grocers, a California-based wholesale grocery distributor, for approximately $375 million.

The transaction, expected to close in mid-summer, brings together two complementary grocery wholesale organizations with combined sales of approximately $16 billion in 2016. The combined company will operate 24 distribution centers supplying customers in 46 states with a combined customer base of over 3,000 stores.

By the end of the third year of operations, the combined business will achieve a run rate of at least $60 million in cost synergies, according to Supervalu, while will be primarily result from utilizing the scale and expertise of the combined company as well as consolidation of select back office functions. The company expects to incur transition and integration costs of up to $60 million within the first two years following the completion of the transaction.

“By acquiring the Unified business, including gaining a wealth of expertise and talent, we will become a stronger and more efficient organization,” said Mark Gross, president and CEO, Supervalu. “The transaction will enhance our ability to help our customers better compete in the evolving grocery industry. We’re also excited to serve Unified’s dynamic retailer base.”

The acquisition also provides new growth opportunities across multiple geographies, including the expansion of Unified’s Market Centre division, a growing business providing specialty and ethnic products to independent customers.

“Unified’s members and customers operate some of the country’s most exciting and progressive Hispanic and multiple other ethnic formats, specialty, gourmet, natural/organic, price impact and traditional stores,” Gross said. “They complement our existing customer base and we look forward to facilitating collaboration and innovation across such an impressive collection of creative merchants.”

Following the completion of the transaction, Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Supervalu will maintain a visible presence in Unified’s headquarters in Commerce, California, and throughout the West Coast, including management and employees of the combined company.

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