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Change: Expect More of It

BY Marianne Wilson

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That was my first reaction when I looked over the listing of the nation’s largest retailers (begins on page 20A in the August/September issue of Chain Store Age). Wal-Mart Stores easily retained its No. 1 spot, with a staggering $405 billion in revenue. Even taking its foreign sales out of the mix, the Bentonville, Ark., giant was still far out in the lead, at $304.9 billion. By comparison, the No. 2 ranked chain, The Kroger Company, had revenue of $76.7 billion.

But don’t be fooled: While the cast of players in the Top 100 hasn’t really changed that much, retailing itself is in the midst of a profound evolution. Much attention has been paid—and rightly so—to the value and deal mind-set that so many consumers have embraced over the past 18 months. Many industry experts warn that shoppers’ frugal habits are likely to linger for some time. Others argue that the current appetite for stinginess may simply be a response to the downturn and the uneven, slow recovery. However it plays out, there is little question that the change in shopping behavior has, at least in the short term, had a dramatic impact on the industry, fueling the expansion and appeal of such extreme-value players as Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Aldi outside of their core markets.

But other forces are also at work, forces that seem likely to transform the industry in much more profound and long-term ways. As our annual State of the Industry Report (page 1A) makes clear, retail is being hit with wave after wave of game-changing technologies, from the rise of social media to the exploding growth of smartphones. More change is expected in the next five years than in the past 40. Indeed, the name of the report says it all: “Think Forward. In a Race with Change.”

The pace of the change chronicled in the report (prepared by Interbrand Design Forum) is nothing short of remarkable. At a time when many retailers are still developing their online channels and integrating them with their other silos, a new channel is suddenly demanding their attention. According to the study, almost one-third of American consumers already use their mobile phone for shopping.

There is little question that retailers have their work cut out for them, and getting customers to open their wallets is only part of it. The real challenge will be integrating and fully maximizing all the different channels that shoppers now have available to them. From brick-and-mortar and catalog to e-commerce, social media and mobile, each channel offers retailers the chance to extend and enhance their brand. To what extent they succeed in embracing this opportunity could well determine their future.

PS: The State of the Industry Report doesn’t just talk the talk about technology, it walks the walk (the same goes for the folks at Interbrand Design Forum). The report is embedded with QR codes that, depending on the article, take you to podcasts, white papers, videos and blogs. Just snap a photo of the code with your mobile phone and see where it takes you online! 

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Five ways to reduce risk and increase efficiencies with the right service provider

BY CSA STAFF

By Monte Boyer, [email protected]

For more than two years now, retail facility managers have been hunkering down; deferring maintenance and postponing facility upgrades until the economy shows signs of improvement. Although "waiting for the dust to settle" is an understandable strategy for survival, it is not without risk. Dollars deferred today may pale in comparison to the ultimate cost of postponed maintenance. Equipment that hasn’t been properly serviced can become increasingly inefficient, unreliable or — even worse — prematurely fail.

Retail facility managers can reduce that risk, and at the same time increase efficiencies, by partnering with the right service provider. A good HVAC partner can help facility managers overcome some of the challenges posed by today’s economic environment through consolidation of efforts across both facilities and services, and by creating operational and energy efficiencies.

As a facility manager, here’s how you can reduce risk and increase efficiencies with the right service provider:

1. Select a vendor with the largest reach possible
Do yourself a favor; reduce your dependence on multiple, local vendors to perform maintenance. Instead, select a vendor that partners with you across your portfolio — preferably someone with national capabilities. Whether you’re responsible for eight facilities or 8,000, you can drive down costs through consolidation to one vendor that can meet all your needs. They’re out there. Some national service providers have thousands of technicians in place across the country. Service providers that are backed by a national or global infrastructure offer:

  • Quality control: By working with a national vendor, you can eliminate the huge variations in quality that are inevitable when contracting for service with a variety of local vendors.
  • Efficiency: Consolidation streamlines the maintenance process. Instead of dispatching calls, statusing issues and reviewing invoices of multiple vendors, one call to a single point of contact is all that is required. With the time saved, you and your staff can turn your attention to revenue-generating activities.
  • Reliability: Service calls can’t always wait. Larger service providers are available 24/7/365.

2. Select a vendor with single-source accountability
Not only should you select a vendor that can execute nationally, choose one that delivers expertise across multiple services. Here’s where the efficiencies grow exponentially. Top-tier service providers offer expertise in everything from HVAC, janitorial, lighting, refrigeration, fire and safety to energy efficiency and sustainability; a suite of expert services managed by a single point of contact. One call ensures consistent performance, value and responsive service across all sites.

3. Select a self-performing vendor
Avoid working with a vendor who will manage contractors but outsource the work. Instead, partner with a provider whose employees actually perform the facility services. Self-performing providers make you their only priority. They take ownership of the work. And with a self-performing vendor, you can avoid subcontractor markups. With a national HVAC consolidator, you may have passed along the headache of managing multiple HVAC providers but you have not eliminated it.

4. Select a single-source provider to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness
Choose one provider that can see the big picture. If you currently work with 15 different HVAC vendors, and ask them to prioritize equipment replacement, you’ll get 15 different perspectives. Conversely, a single-source provider will consider all equipment from all facilities when identifying critical needs and setting priorities. By working with one point of contact who has a greater view of your portfolio, you can be confident that priority is given to issues most critical to your business. Strategic investments made today when costs are lower can provide your organization with a competitive cost advantage for many years.

5. Select a single-source provider to increase energy efficiency
Partner with a provider that can show you how to increase energy efficiency. The key will be getting access to facility data that’s relevant, meaningful and actionable — which the right service provider can deliver. Today’s most advanced technologies allow you monitor building performance in real time; identifying trends within buildings and across portfolios, spotting areas of concern and flagging underperformers. Some commercial control systems actually monitor themselves and send notifications when there’s a noteworthy event or when it’s time for a service call.

When priorities do call for the replacement of equipment, the right providers make sure you’re choosing the most energy-efficient solutions. Ideally, they even help to identify ways to leverage federally- or utility-sponsored rebate programs.

The right service provider
Choosing the right service provider requires careful consideration. Take the time to identify vendors who have national reach and are single-source, self-performing providers with demonstrated expertise in energy and operational efficiency. By partnering with a top-tier vendor, retail facility managers can reduce risk, increase efficiency and overcome some of the challenges posed by today’s economic environment.

Monte Boyer is VP and general manager, Johnson Controls National Service. Johnson Controls is an OEM supplier with over 125 years of experience in the HVAC industry. With more than 150 local branches throughout the United States and Canada, Johnson Controls National Service provides retail customers with innovative solutions and an expertise in HVAC, refrigeration, security and fire safety, as well as lighting applications. For additional information on Johnson Controls National Service visit www.johnsoncontrols.com or contact Monte at [email protected].

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Staples puts Kindle on Christmas list

BY CSA STAFF

Beginning this fall, Staples will offer several variants of Amazon.com’s popular Kindle wireless ereader device in its nearly 1,600 U.S. stores, the company announced Tuesday. Staples will offer a base model Kindle for $139, the Kindle 3G for $189 and the large-screen Kindle DX for $379.

“As part of our efforts to offer customers a wide range of top technology products and services at amazing values, the new Kindle is a natural fit,” said Jevin Eagle, Staples EVP merchandising and marketing.

Staples is the first office superstore to offer the Kindle, however, Target became the first conventional retailer to stock the product when Kindle endcap displays hit its stores several months ago.

The Kindle is Amazon’s best-selling, most-wished-for and most-gifted product for two years running. Although, it is unclear how much demand remains for the device after such strong sales, Staples has secured distribution of the compelling item just in time for what promises to be a challenging holiday season. Kindle promises to bring some needed energy to the office products retailer with interactive displays that allow customers to experience the product before they buy and to learn more about the product. Plans also call for Staples to offer a full assortment of Kindle accessories.

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