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Becker’s relaunches e-commerce site

BY Dan Berthiaume

Pennsauken, N.J. – Becker’s School Supplies has relaunched its e-commerce site using the WebLinc platform.

The WebLinc platform allows Becker’s to offer a branded user experience and also provides back-end merchandising and management tools. Since rolling out its new site, Becker’s has experienced a 120% jump in revenue compared to the same period last year, and saw transaction volume increase by 81% as a result of improved online performance.

“As a family-run business that was founded in the 1920s, Becker’s has always been focused on providing personal and attentive service, a philosophy that naturally extends to our online storefront,” said Robert Bonczkiewicz, catalog manager at Becker’s. “After a decade online, it was time to introduce a new site with cutting-edge functionally for our customers, and WebLinc delivered exactly what we needed, It’s exciting to see this level of success especially before launching pay-per-click and other advertising campaigns to capture new customers. Once our strategy is in full swing, we anticipate even higher growth."

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Changing of the guard at Saks

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK — Saks has announced that upon completion of its acquisition by Hudson’s Bay Company Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and CEO of Saks, and Ronald L. Frasch, president and chief merchant of Saks, will be leaving the company.

“Steve and Ron have been a great team throughout the last nine years. They are admired and respected throughout both the company and the retail industry. Their leadership, strategic focus, collaboration, creativity and enthusiasm for the business have molded Saks into an iconic omnichannel luxury retailer. Together, they have created an exceptional management team, a special company culture and a distinct fashion point of view. Through their leadership, the whole is truly so much greater than the sum of the parts," said Donald Hess, lead director of Saks’ board of directors.

“Saks has a great team, and working together, we have all accomplished so much over the last several years,” said Sadove and Frasch in a joint statement. “We have developed and executed focused merchandising, marketing and service strategies. We survived the recession and emerged a stronger, more disciplined organization. We have continued to modernize the Saks brand and elevate and differentiate our merchandise assortments. Our marketing efforts have become even more strategic and targeted, and our brand and image marketing is among the best in the industry. We have elevated our service levels and demonstrated our commitment to giving and to our communities through our very special charity affiliations. We have strengthened our balance sheet and improved our real estate. We have built a powerful saks.com business and transformed Saks Off 5th into an aggressive growth story. And, through key technology enhancements, innovative thinking and collaboration, our evolution to an omnichannel retailer has been a game changer. We have best-in-class talent, fashion and style authority, great vendor partnerships, and a record of innovation. We are extremely proud of the legacy that we are leaving to HBC.”

In January 2002, Sadove joined Saks’ management team as vice chairman. In March 2004, he assumed the additional post of chief operating officer of the company, and in January 2006 he assumed the position of CEO. In May 2007, he assumed his current position of chairman and CEO.

Sadove also serves on the company’s board of directors, a position he has held since September 1998. He served on the board of Saks Holdings from 1996 until its September 1998 merger with the company. He currently serves on the board of directors of Colgate-Palmolive and Ruby Tuesday. Sadove also serves as chairman of the boards of the National Retail Federation and Hamilton College.

Frasch was named president and chief merchandising officer of Saks Fifth Avenue in February 2007. He joined the company in January 2004 and served in a non-executive role through November 2004 when he was named vice chairman and chief merchant of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Taking over at the helm of Saks Fifth Avenue will be Marigay McKee, whose appointment as president will take effect shortly after completion of the company’s acquisition.

“Marigay McKee’s experience as an effective world-class leader in the international luxury retail space is well-aligned with our vision for the Saks Fifth Avenue brand,” said Richard Baker, governor and CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company. “She has a proven track record of success at the highest level of luxury and I’m very excited for her to head up our Saks business at HBC.”

McKee has deep experience in the luxury retail sector and more than 20 years of management and merchandising experience. As chief merchant of Harrods, she oversaw the planning and implementation of the merchandising and creative strategies since 2011. She has served on the company’s board of directors since 2005, where she worked closely with the company’s shareholders and owners to set the strategic vision for the organization.

McKee joined Harrods in 1999 and was appointed general merchandising manager of beauty in 2000. Throughout the next several years she added responsibilities for accessories, jewelry and womenswear. McKee was given responsibility for all beauty and fashion merchandising in 2007, where she is credited with doubling key businesses and driving profit and growth strategies. She also oversaw brand and merchandising strategy, marketing and visual merchandising. McKee is a member of the British Fashion Council board, chairman of the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund Mentoring Committee, a luxury adviser to the Financial Times and has done consultancy work in Russia with TSUM and Mercury Group.

“I am delighted to join Hudson’s Bay Company to head up Saks Fifth Avenue and work with their dedicated team,” said McKee. “Saks Fifth Avenue is one of the world’s preeminent luxury retailers with a rich history and tradition of exceptional customer service. Saks presents a great opportunity as a world class brand with new frontiers for development. I’m excited for this unique challenge as we embark on this new chapter at the company."

In addition, HBC announced the creation of a new office of the chairman, consisting of Richard Baker, Governor and CEO, and Donald Watros, chief operating officer. The senior executives of HBC’s retail businesses, as well as other key holding company executives and the heads of certain shared services units, will report to the office of the chairman. This new organizational structure is designed to advance the company’s development as a growing, premier North American retailer and ensure a seamless merger process with Saks.

“With the office of the chairman we are creating a robust leadership team that will focus on managing and growing HBC, along with our strong and expanding portfolio of brands,” added Baker. “Our goals for this new structure are to maintain the unique identity of each retail brand, to build an effective and cost-efficient platform of shared services, and to position the company for growth and expansion.”

“By creating a well-coordinated operating structure reporting to the office of the chairman, we can ensure that each business is managed in a consistent fashion aligned with HBC’s corporate goals,” said Watros. “Furthermore, this structure will provide each brand with the resources and investment it needs to best serve its customers and realize its growth potential, maximizing the performance of the company overall. I’m pleased to welcome Marigay to HBC and am confident that she is well positioned to lead the Saks team, in keeping with our goals to operate and grow Saks as a separate business unit under the HBC umbrella.“

Additionally, Marc Metrick, currently EVP of HBC, will become chief administrative officer reporting to the office of the chairman. In his new role, Metrick’s principal responsibility will be integrating the Saks business into the HBC portfolio.

Jennifer de Winter, currently EVP, director of stores for Saks, Inc. will take on the role of EVP, chief merchandising officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, where she will report to McKee.

“Our team is structured to ensure business as usual at Saks Fifth Avenue. We will continue to focus on customer service and fashion leadership, along with ensuring a seamless transition both internally and externally. Don and Marc were formerly executives at Saks, and bring with them a total of nearly 25 years there. Combined with Jennifer’s 18-year history with the company, we have a strong bench of executives with a deep appreciation for Saks’ culture, traditions and strengths,” Baker said.

The planned merger transaction between Saks and HBC has been approved by each company’s board of directors and is expected to close before the end of the calendar year, subject to approval by Saks shareholders and other customary closing conditions.

Saks currently operates 41 Saks Fifth Avenue stores, 69 Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th stores and an e-commerce site.

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A Storefront Lurks Under Every Digital Touchpoint

BY Dan Berthiaume

Technology is advancing to the degree where almost any digital consumer touchpoint has the potential to become a very real storefront. Video games, blog and social media postings, apps, and virtually any other digital environment that directly engages consumers either currently is or soon will be able to serve as a fully functioning storefront where transactions can be executed.

Chain Store Age recently covered two examples of the “storefrontization” of an ever-expanding array of digital touchpoints. Twitter is reportedly pursuing a strategy where retailers will be able to directly sell to consumers within tweets, and the new Amazon Mobile Associates API enables developers to sell physical and digital items from Amazon.com within their Android apps and games.

Surrounded by storefronts
These examples represent the tip of what will surely be a disruptive iceberg of digital storefronts that will crash into the consumer landscape in the near future. Full-scale shopping via text message, camera phone, barcodes and QR codes, and a host of other digital touchpoints inevitably awaits.

Retailers also need to consider the potential technologies wearable computing devices such as Google Glass, as well as augmented and virtual reality, hold for offering consumers life-like shopping experiences within personalized and digitized “stores.” Geofencing technology could potentially allow customers to automatically purchase an item and schedule its delivery simply by walking into a designated area. And the list goes on.

In the shorter term, retailers need to prepare for selling through non-traditional storefronts such as tweets and video games. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure success.

Break through the noise
Consumers have a remarkable capacity for screening out background noise like advertisements and marketing pitches. While digital storefronts operating in places like tweets will initially attract attention due to their novelty, as they multiply the novelty will fade and consumers will find the discovery of a digital storefront as exciting as the discovery of a promotional email that slipped through the spam filter.

To avoid blending in with the rest of the background noise, retailers must use creativity and selectiveness. This includes using relevant hashtags on storefront tweets, including purchase capability in location-based promotional texts and even creating real-time digital storefronts in response to newsworthy events such as this year’s power outage at the Super Bowl.

Tailor your assortment
Obviously downloadable products, like software and music, are ideally suited for sale through digital storefronts. But retailers should also carefully consider what types of physical products are best suited for this purchase experience. Customers will often encounter digital storefronts unexpectedly, so products that lend themselves to impulse buys, such as fast food and fashion accessories, are likely a good fit.

In addition, utilitarian products like basic household appliances and personal grooming items, where hands-on examination is not a big part of the purchase process, fit well in a digital storefront assortment.

Target your storefronts
Not every customer is going to be receptive to a storefront lurking inside a tweet, blog post, QR code or other digital touchpoint. Retailers should try to target their storefronts through means such as including them on an opt-in basis within location-based text promotions or targeted tweets, rather than including them in mass communications. Almost every digital touchpoint can (or soon will be able to) become a storefront, but that doesn’t mean every digital consumer will welcome every instance they encounter.


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