A bigger Belk
Charlotte, N.C. — Belk has announced a $12.6 million expansion and renovation of its store in Cool Springs Galleria, a 1.1 million-sq.-ft. mall in Franklin, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville. CBL & Associates Properties and TIAA-CREF own the center jointly.
Belk plans to create a new fashion flagship store for the greater Nashville region.
The project features two components. First, Belk will completely renovate its two-level main store. Second, it will construct a new 50,000-sq.-ft. men’s and kids’ store on the first level of the former Sears building at the mall.
Construction of the new men’s and kids’ store will begin in October and finish in March 2015. Belk intends to expand the men’s and kids’ merchandise departments currently located in the two-level main store when the move is made to the new space.
Women’s apparel, shoes, accessories, including handbags and fashion jewelry, and cosmetics will move into the men’s and kids’ space. The move will enable the ladies shoe department to double in size. Belk also plans to increase its selection of top shoe brands and styles in the expanded department. In addition, the store will update and expand the ladies accessories and fashion jewelry areas, adding open display jewelry and cosmetics fixtures to enhance presentations.
Another change will move Belk’s home merchandise departments, now located in two separate shops a the mall, will expand and relocate to an 18,000-sq.-ft. space on the second level of the main store.
All told, the expansion will increase the store’s square footage from 135,000 sq. ft. to 185,000 sq. ft.
“We’re creating the ultimate Belk shopping experience for our customers at CoolSprings Galleria with this expansion and remodel,” said Jan Clevenger, chair, Belk Western Division based in Birmingham, Ala. “The enhancements will feature the latest in retail design, décor and layout and the added space will allow us to greatly increase our merchandise assortments, including many new premium brand offerings for the whole family. All of these improvements combined will make the store one of our premier Belk flagships to serve Franklin and the entire Nashville region.”
Beat Bitcoin Blues With Your Own Electronic Currency
As I have previously expressed in this column, I am a Bitcoin skeptic. The recent news that major global Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox suddenly disappeared, possibly due to losing as much as $350 million to fraud allowed by a computer glitch, reinforced my reservations about Bitcoin and similar electronic currencies. In theory, independent electronic currencies are promising, but in practice, relying on third-party payment methods which are not backed by the full faith and credit of a stable government is a risky proposition.
However, retailers who are intrigued by the notion of alternate electronic currency but spooked by the uncertainties of third-party platforms have another option: creating their own electronic currency. Many retailers already have some sort of proprietary electronic currency, such as loyalty points or electronic discounts, but these common digital mechanisms are only the beginning of what is possible. Let’s look at a few other options.
Favorable social media postings from customers can provide tremendous value in terms of branding and consumer awareness. So why not turn those postings into a form of digital cash? During the recent Fashion Week, the fragrance division of Marc Jacobs opened a pop-up in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood that traded in social currency instead of money. The Daisy Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop conducted all transactions based on customers’ use of the hashtag #MJDaisyChain across Twitter and other social media platforms. Shoppers were able to exchange each tweet, Instagram post, or Facebook update for a single item.
While you probably don’t want to make unlimited amounts of your entire inventory available for the price of a tweet, with reasonable limitations social media posts can make a very effective form of electronic currency. Consider the monetary value of the goods you trade for social posts as an investment in marketing.
Playing the Game
Gamification is a hot topic in retail, and an increasing number of retailers are using online games as an inducement for consumers to visit their e-commerce sites. But points and prizes won in games can also be converted into digital currency customers use for tangible products.
To maximize the benefit they receive from what I’ll call “gamified” currency, retailers should tie games closely to actual shopping and marketing activities. For example, customers could earn electronic currency by identifying brands and products the retailer sells, recruiting the most new customers, checking in the most at different stores, etc. Games should be legitimately fun for the consumer, but any currency they generate needs to generate some type of real value for the retailer.
Be Your Own Mint
Another option for retailers to consider is “minting” their own electronic currency and selling it for actual money. Thus retailers can avoid problems such as uncontrolled exchange rates and platforms suddenly closing down. To avoid angering customers, retailers cannot ever set the value of their proprietary electronic currency at anything less than the going value of the dollar. What they can do is offer special discounts and sales for customers who use it.
For instance, a retailer might run an electronic currency special on out-of-season merchandise, or provide customers an electronic currency discount to help push a cross- or upsell. They can bank money ahead of purchase similar to a gift card purchase, and then stretch the value of that advance purchase further by steering it in a favorable direction. The consumer obtains convenience and value. Sounds like a profitable equation.
Sears: No indication of data breach yet
Hoffman Estates, Ill. — Sears Holdings Corp. on Friday acknowledged that it is reviewing its systems to see if it has been the victim of a security breach. To date, it hasn’t found any indication of a breach, the retailer said.
Sears issued a statement after Bloomberg News reported on Friday that the U.S. Secret Service was investigating a possible breach at Sears. The report cited a person familiar with the investigation.
“There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers, and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach,” Sears said in its statement. “We have found no information based on our review of our systems to date indicating a breach.”