Chain Store Age announces SPECS/2018 Advisory Board, new marketing

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Chain Store Age announced the selection of the Advisory Board for SPECS/2018, the annual retail event produced by CSA and attended by retail and food-service executives who plan, design, build, and maintain stores and restaurants nationwide.

Now in its 54th year, SPECS will host its 2018 conference in Dallas, at the Gaylord Texan, March 18-20. The event will focus on what’s next, and what is shaping the future of physical retail.

The SPECS Advisory Board, which is comprised of 46 industry leaders both from leading retail companies and key supplier organizations, will advise and direct the educational program for the 2018 conference. The packed slate of workshops, roundtables and panel presentations covers a wide range of emerging and evolving issues – and the Board, as industry insiders, plays a key role in the planning and creation of each.

Five veteran members were selected as Executive Advisory Board members, charged with team leadership and overall program direction:

Richard Elkins, director of construction services, Firehouse Subs; Craig Hale, associate, HFA; Lori Koeppe, operations coordinator, The Buckle; Lisa Smola-Hollo, project manager, growth and development, ULTA Beauty; and Wendy Whetton, senior facilities project manager, Harbor Freight Tools. Serving as a rotating Executive Advisory Board member to assist with team leadership is Renee Tobin, strategic sourcing manager, Brookdale Senior Living.

Following is a listing of the SPECS/2018 Advisory Board.

Aaron Ancello, VP, regional facilities manager, TD Bank

Dan Beeman, president, Beeman Development Group

Lisa Bien-Sinz, SVP marketing and HR, Inside Edge Commercial Interior Services

Dan Bilancia, business development manager, Johnson Controls/York

Brad Bogart, president, Retail Contractors Association

Mike Burton, director of construction and corporate facilities, The Home Depot

Brandon Collier, director of architecture, design and store planning, RaceTrac Petroleum

David DiCarlo, regional director of construction, rue21

Greg Duchane, director, retail-restaurant national accounts, Trane

Richard Elkins, director of construction services, Firehouse Subs

Brian Foster, senior VP, Paint Folks

Bridget Farrell, senior manager of architecture and building design, JCPenney

Mike Gordon, facilities maintenance manager, Fogo de Chao

Greg Green, divisional VP national accounts, Orion Energy Systems

Scott Griffin, director of store design, Stein Mart

Craig Hale, Associate, HFA

Nick Hanson, construction coordinator, Whole Foods Market, 365 by Whole Foods Market

Susan Hecht, VP, solutions development, sales, SMS Assist

Al Hellaby, senior project manager, development group, Wegmans Food Markets

George Holz, director of construction, Warby Parker

Angie Huff, VP/retail, NGS Films and Graphics

Keith Johnson, director of store design, Dollar Tree & Family Dollar Stores

Lisa Johnson, VP, Interstate Signcrafters

Bob Keingstein, president, BOSS Facility Services

Christie King, senior architect, proto and new formats, Wal-Mart Stores

Tiffany Ko, program manager, store development, lululemon athletica

Lori Koeppe, operations coordinator, The Buckle

Sally Lee, market segment manager-retail, Sylvania-LEDVANCE

Kevin Nolen, director of retail expansion and facilities, Z Gallerie

Jim Pagano, executive VP, Boston Barricade

Randy Pannell, VP of construction, Saks Fifth Avenue

Vaun Podlogar, president, State Permits

Terry Pratt, senior construction project manager, Academy Sports and Outdoors

Rob Reiter, chief security consultant, Calpipe Security Bollards

Kristen Roodvoets, senior manager of retail store planning and development, Alex and Ani

Eric Russell, director of construction, L Brands

Lisa Schwartz, president, ProCoat

Lisa Smola-Hollo, project manager, growth and development, Ulta Beauty

Kevin Tierney, VP strategic accounts retail, Tarkett

Renee Tobin, strategic sourcing manager, Brookdale Senior Living

Bennett Van Wert, national sales manager, DWM Inc.

Eric Voyles, director of Facilities Management, Dollar General

Wendy Whetton, senior facilities project manager, Harbor Freight Tools

Jason Woods, senior project manager, Tesla

Tracy Scanlan Zaslow, senior director of design and construction, Luxury Brand Holdings

Melissa Zimmerman, director of store care, Walgreens

Chain Store Age also unveiled a new tagline to be used in all SPECS 2018 marketing and promotional efforts: The Forefront of Physical Retail.

“SPECS has always been about brick-and-mortar retail,” said Katherine Boccaccio, executive director of events. “And we haven’t wavered from that position. Physical stores are here to stay, and our events are designed to present and discuss the latest innovations impacting brick-and-mortar stores as well as focus on the future of physical retail.

“The new tagline sums up that position, and reflects what our Board and our attendees come to SPECS to learn about,” said Boccaccio.

Are you interested in learning more about the qualifications required for SPECS Advisory Board consideration? Contact Katherine Boccaccio, Executive Director of Events, at[email protected], for details.


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Fast-fashion giant trying on vending machines

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Uniqlo will be popping up at airports and malls across the nation — but not through retail storefronts.

Putting a new spin on the term “fast fashion,” the Japanese retailer is launching 6-ft.-high vending machines that will enable customers to purchase T-shirts and lightweight down jackets, the Wall Street Journal reported. Merchandise is packaged in boxes and cans.

According to the report, Uniqlo intends to roll out 10 of the vending machines to airports and malls over the next two months in several key U.S. cities, including New York and Houston. The first unit launched on Wednesday in the Oakland International Airport.

Marisol Tamaro, Uniqlo’s U.S. marketing chief, told the Wall Street Journal, that the vending machines are a good fit for airports because hurried travelers “don’t have a lot of time to wait in line and explore a store. We’re trying to understand where we can be more successful without making a big commitment."

Customers use a touchscreen to select shirt and jacket styles, colors and sizes. Purchases can be made via credit or debit card, and unwanted items can be returned in-store or via mail.

The move comes after Uniqlo, faced with disappointing sales in its U.S. mall stores, has pulled back on its ambitious expansion plans. The company is using its U.S. flagships and unconventional concepts, such as the vending machines, to drive brand awareness.


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What will your company do with the tax-reform windfall?

Now Trending: Eight clicks-to-bricks retailers to keep an eye on

BY Marianne Wilson

Digitally native retailers are infusing the retail industry with something it can always use: new blood. Here are eight interesting newcomers to the physical space:


“Smart” luggage is Away’s calling card. The fast-growing start- up brand specializes in suitcases that combine external USB ports for phone charging with a sleek design and other features to help take the stress out of traveling. With stores in Manhattan and Los Angeles, Away has more locations in the pipeline.

Brilliant Earth

The ethically sourced bridal and new jewelry retailer is expanding in brick-and-mortar, with a showroom format designed to provide a high-touch, personalized experience for every customer. The brand donates 5% of its profits to help communities impacted by the jewelry trade build a brighter future.


Following a successful pop- up run at The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, the plus-size fashion brand just opened its first permanent space at the same center. The stylish outpost, which blends offline and online retail, is just the beginning. Eloquii expects to open upwards of 40 stores during the next three to four years.


This socially conscious clothing brand, whose promise of “radical transparency” has won it a devoted following, is set to open its first freestanding store in its San Francisco hometown. The company currently operates a showroom, the Everlane Lab, on the ground floor of its headquarters, and has also done pop-ups. Everlane discloses how much it costs to make each item, breaking it down by materials, labor, duties and transport, and also reveals its markup. Expect its store to reflect the minimalistic style of the items (for men and women) on display.


The made-to-measure menswear brand is on a roll, doubling its U.S. store count from five to 10 this year, along with opening three new stores in Canada. The goal is to open 100 locations during the next five years. Shoppers at Indochino are paired with a “style guide” who helps them design a one-of-a-kind suit or shirt. The associates take shoppers through a variety of personalization options.

The RealReal

The leader in online secondhand luxury goods is opening an 8,000-sq.-ft. store in Manhattan. The brand stands out in the resale market due to its rigorous authentication process, which it uses to weed out fake luxury goods and authenticate the price of its goods.


ThredUp, which just opened a location at Tanger Outlets in San Marcos, Texas, and has four more in the works, doesn’t look or feel like a typical thrift store. It has a clean, modern look with a minimalist aesthetic and sells secondhand fashions of the latest brands at a deep discount. The store is powered by proprietary technology and a massive amount of online customer data, with the inventory reflecting the items that are trending in each store’s locale.


Known for its signature shirts designed to be worn untucked, Untuckit recently opened its sixth store, in Dallas. Upcoming locations include Mall of America and King of Prussia Mall. The brand started out as a menswear retailer, but has added women’s shirts and tops to its mix. It reportedly plans to open 100 stores over the next five years.


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What will your company do with the tax-reform windfall?