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Changes Afoot at Gap

BY Marianne Wilson

A friend of mine recently called to ask my opinion of the “new” Gap. She had just returned from shopping at The Grove, an upmarket mall in Los Angles, and couldn’t get over how “different” the Gap seemed. It wasn’t just the merchandise as much as the overall environment that had struck her. Everything seemed so “fresh,” she said.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it, so I decided to visit my local Gap, which is in a suburban New Jersey town. But there was nothing new there to report. The same uninspiring, one-note décor. The rear of the store was taken up with fixtures packed with marked-down goods. The store seemed the way it has for a long time: tired. Maybe my friend was a less than reliable reporter.

As it turns out, she was right on the mark. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Gap is using its store at The Grove as a testing ground for reviving the once-great brand. Among the changes is a more cheery store environment, with more natural light. The new upbeat décor is in keeping with the upbeat, bright look of its spring and summer products. Other things being tested include dressing rooms in the center of the store, and an on-site stylist.

As a longtime Gap fan, I’m heartened to hear of these and other changes. For too long, the Gap story has largely been one of cutting costs and executive shake-ups. There is little doubt the stores suffered. I seem to remember rumors of store updates—or at least rumors of them—but such efforts never seemed to gain much traction.

According to the Times article, Art Peck, the president of Gap North America, wants to update Gap’s 1,000 North American stores. That’s a tall order, but it’s exactly what’s needed. Just like J.C. Penney, Gap has a big ship to turn around. But turning the entire ship around—and not just a few high-profile locations—is absolutely critical to any successful turnaround effort. So I’m hopeful when I hear about all the attention the retailer has focused on its store in The Grove. But I’ll be even more hopeful—and sure that the chain is putting its money where its mouth is—when I see some of those changes firsthand, at my local Gap. It’s been tired for too long.

Click here to read the Times article on the Gap.


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Millennial shoppers hit hard by economic downturn

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK — Millennial shoppers (consumers ages 18 to 34 years) now represent the highest percentage of Americans who do not have enough money to cover their basic needs, according to WSL/Strategic Retail, a leading authority on shopper behavior and retail trends.

The findings, which noted that nearly 25% of this young adult market said they are not able to make ends meet — as compared with 17% of adults ages 35 to 54 years and only 13% of those ages 55 years and older — was revealed as part of the company’s How America Shops MegaTrends report, "Moving On 2012."

"The young adult market has always been known for being the most fashion forward, first to respond to trends and first to adopt to new retail channels," WSL/Strategic Retail president Candace Corlett said. "But they’re also the group that’s been hit hardest by the economic recession, which has left them struggling to find jobs and pay down student loan debt."

The How America Shops MegaTrends report, "Moving On 2012," found that 80% of millennials believed it’s important to get the lowest price on most things and 60% are likely to choose a lower-priced brand over their usual go-to brand, if they can save money. It also found that 57% of the demographic make a point to search online for discounts before shopping, and 63% now are sticking to only those brands and stores they know they can afford.

The findings gain significance when compared with results of the 2010 MegaTrends study, showing a full 10% increase in those who now make getting the lowest price a priority — even over long-held brand loyalty.

"This decline in millennial spending power presents a significant challenge to brands and retailers who have long considered young adults to be the ‘golden ticket’ to sales growth. Businesses must begin rethinking their strategy to lure these shoppers to buy," WSL/Strategic Retail CEO Wendy Liebmann said. "At the same time, they must reevaluate the power of this generation to support new brands and stores."

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Next-Gen Digital Signage: Impacting the Bottom Line

BY CSA STAFF

By Ajay Joshi, [email protected]

It doesn’t take much to understand the intrinsic value of today’s next-gen digital signage. No longer limited to flat panel screens—digital signage has made the leap to multiple form factors—from crystal clear displays to the very latest in projected imaging and audio-visual technology that creates the illusion of a real person. Digital Signage’s engaging messages and overall allure fall well within any retailers’ dreams. The actual value of digital signage is the retailers’ dreams come true as it impacts the most important aspect of business—the bottom line. Perceptive retailers understand the ever-increasing need for engaging consumers at all brand touch points. This is especially true as today’s brand messages are expected to seamlessly cross platforms while exceeding consumer expectations and building awareness.

Next–gen digital signage is a key consideration when marketing powerful brands that have dynamic messages. The global digital signage systems market is expected to reach $13.8 billion by 2017—a marked increase despite stagnant growth from 2008-2009, according to a recent report from Global Industry Analysts. It’s no wonder; digitally displayed messages elicit higher rates of recall and retention among consumers. While the reasons to believe in the revenue generation potential of digital signage are vast, retailers should base their ignition with this medium with sound strategic planning.

Planning is key
Digital signage implementation is a worthy investment for brands looking to bridge the digital in-store divide. And while declining hardware costs have been the catalyst for more affordable LCD displays, media systems and components, hardware and software costs are not the only considerations. Platt Retail Institute recently recognized “undefined management responsibilities” and “lack of content planning” as common mistakes retailers make when venturing into the realm of digital signage for the first time. Through strategic planning, retailers can position themselves to expand their marketing arsenal to include digital signage. Many have enlisted the expertise of independent companies that provide complete digital signage solutions, covering all facets from installation to content creation and support.

Some industry experts recommend a “pilot deployment” prior to launching a full-fledged digital signage initiative. This will ultimately allow retailers to test and measure deployment, as well as secure corporate backing following successful trials.

Content is king
Unlike traditional signage options, next-gen digital signage provides retailers with much-needed and amazing content flexibility. Messages can remain relevant, fresh and be as dynamic as the brand they represent. It is imperative that retailers strategically plan their content to maximize the full potential of digital signage. Digital signage displays should feature messages that are clearly aligned with the overall brand positioning, yet tailored for the medium.

One way some retailers are beginning to take advantage of digital signage is through unique promotions that integrate multiple communication platforms. Digital signage content that carries the brand’s message from the sign to the consumer’s mobile device enhances the consumer’s experience and ultimately purchase consideration. Given the rapid pace at which retail promotions turnover, digital signage also puts content control more easily in the retailer’s hands. It ensures the consistency of brand messaging and ultimately the salience of the consumer’s personalized brand experience from touch point to touch point. This is especially key during times like product launches or store openings as savvy consumers are more likely to do preliminary product research online prior to visiting retail establishments. Consistent online content that is reinforced with in store content offers potential buyers a seamless path to purchase.

Be mindful of metrics
The bottom line should remain top of mind for retailers looking to implement digital signage. The proliferation of digital signage has spawned the development of new analytical tools that go beyond the world of traditional reach, frequency and awareness. Some digital signage solutions feature software that uses transactional data to create customer and product profiles, which further aids retailers in targeting the right message to specific audiences at the right time.

Know your audience
In a recent market research survey from BrandSpark/Better Homes and Gardens American Shopper, in-store signage was ranked second by consumers as the most useful way to learn about new product information. Research such as this further solidifies the importance for retailers to rely on a platform that can capture the consumer’s attention quickly and deliver the brand message consistently and effectively. Digital signage is an especially effective for medium for brands looking to target younger consumers, according to Global Industry Analysts. Coupled with staggering data that 98 percent of adults 18-24 use social media, retailers have even more compelling reasons for fully integrating in-store and online marketing initiatives.

Overall, it is important that retailers consider digital signage as one component of a multi-faceted marketing approach to improving the overall customer journey. This approach should be founded in solid brand messaging and positioning that is reflected at every consumer touch point. Implementing digital signage allows brands to remain nimble and more engaged than ever before with consumers who are more likely to respond to consistent and reinforced messages across all platforms. Retailers must consider how a next gen digital signage solution can enhance their overall brand and, most importantly impact their bottom-line.

Ajay Joshi, is head of Tensamedia Solutions, Tensator, a leading provider of queue management solutions. He can be reached at [email protected].


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