Checking it Out
Cameras at the point of sale have become a routine feature of brick-and-mortar stores. They help ensure that items do not get stolen or accidentally passed through checkout lines without being scanned. But the “tale of the tape” by itself is not always obvious when it comes to detecting and preventing loss at the POS.
“I’ve been a cashier, so I know a cashier can miss something,” said Doug Haworth, director of loss prevention, Woods Supermarket. The Bolivar, Missouri-based independent chain, which operates nine supermarkets and two convenience stores, has an honesty and integrity program for all cashiers. Even so, when Haworth saw a demonstration of the ScanItAll computer vision solution from Stoplift Checkout Vision Systems at an industry conference in the first quarter of 2011, it caught his interest.
Driven to Distraction
Woods Supermarket tested the ScanItAll server in one store, connecting it to the existing POS camera system. It started getting results almost immediately. The system uses mathematical algorithms to analyze video of cashiers handling items at a pixelated level, detecting motions that indicate an item was not properly scanned, such as covering a bar code with a hand. It also analyzes items in a grocery cart, including hard-to-see areas such as underneath the carriage, to see if they have been scanned.
In the first 10 days of the pilot, the retailer detected 40 items that had not been scanned and would not have been detected through cameras alone.
“There was no ‘sweethearting’ [employees purposely not scanning items] or customer theft,” said Haworth. “Cashiers were distracted talking to customers and ran items, not noticing whether or not they beeped, or the bagger would be in ‘bagging’ mode and grab whatever items were on the conveyor belt and put them right in the bag before they could be scanned.”
Success Breeds Success
After running the initial pilot for 30 days, Woods had already saved a significant amount of money in recovered losses at the POS, and decided to implement a full rollout across the chain.
“We got the most hits in the first three months of installing ScanItAll in a store,” said Haworth. “Newer cashiers didn’t realize they had to slow down and look at the register. We calculated that we would achieve ROI within two months of implementation.”
As part of the solution, Woods also has a secure Web 2.0 interface running a live feed from its NCR Advanced Checkout Solution POS server to a remotely hosted video analytics platform that matches up the number of items detected passing through the checkout area to the number of items that have been scanned. Woods can obtain store-level performance reports and also view checkout video and receipt data, broken down by individual incidents at individual stores.
Since the initial rollout, Woods Supermarket has compared the data it gets from ScanItAll with data from its existing Shrink Trax POS exception reporting tool. And in the one store where the retailer runs a self-checkout terminal, it has implemented StopLift Self Checkout Accelerator that is designed to immediately flag unscanned merchandise and alert the attendant.
“We had eight cases in the past year where customers were caught not ringing an item up,” said Haworth. “If they showed intent, we called the cops.”
Bridging the Divide
Personalization, localization, interaction, “limited edition” retail and store experience. These are the top priorities — to varying degrees — for retailers as they look to bridge the divide between online and offline retail in the physical space. Here’s a look at how it plays out in three new stores:
Oakley: Sport lifestyle brand Oakley describes its new flagship on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue as a “disruptive display of science wrapped in art.” From its tectonic-plated exterior to its floating digital ceiling, the store entices customers with a dazzling combination of technological innovation, customization and iconic design.
The interior mixes the old with the new, preserving the 1906 building’s original brickwork, while adding a state-of-the-art digital ceiling. The installation — nine rows of 27 LCD screens suspended in fragment forms across the entire length of the ceiling — wraps progressively downward and helps draw shoppers in from outside. The content includes branded storytelling, art pieces, animations and footage of Oakley athletes. It is divided into four segments that run in alternating patterns and rhythms according to store hours and outside activity.
With some 2,100 sq. ft. of retail space, the flagship offers a full range of Oakley’s eyewear, along with apparel, watches, accessories and more. It includes a custom eyewear bar, where customers, aided by touchscreens, can choose from more than 20 different lens tints and 28 frames to build their own eyewear, with nearly 600 combinations possible. Customers can also custom-etch their lenses with personalized inscriptions and logos.
The store also houses Oakley’s new Rx center, which is being rolled out in Oakley locations across the country. Using advanced digital equipment that Oakley helped develop, certified opticians fit customers in Oakley eyewear with optimal fit and clarity.
(Store concept design: Oakley, Foothill Ranch, California; Ceiling installation: Moment Factory, Outremont, Quebec, in collaboration with SITU Fabrication, Brooklyn, New York; and Fulkra, Los Angeles)
Urban Outfitters: Space Ninety 8, a new concept from Urban Outfitters, prioritizes the store experience, offering fashion, food and other lifestyle elements in a one-of-a-kind environment designed to connect with the local community. Located in a renovated warehouse in the hipster Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the 38,000-sq.-ft., multi-level space has an industrial look, complete with exposed ceilings and brick walls — and lots of boho-chic accents. From DJ parties to temporary installations (most recently, a bicycle-repair solutions vending machine tailored to the needs of urban cyclists), the store offers a changing lineup of activities and displays designed to keep the store experience fresh and new — and keep customers coming back.
From the bottom up, Space Ninety 8 has local appeal. The basement level is dedicated to a pop-up — Adidas Originals is the inaugural tenant — and is accented with colorful, bold prints (the work of a local artist).
The ground floor has a market area, a dedicated space that showcases goods from local designers and artisans, all of whom have created goods exclusive to the store. The floor also houses a vintage shop called Urban Renewal, a funky shoe boutique, and two in-store shops, or smaller pop-ups.
The second floor features Urban Outfitter’s womenswear collections, accessories, beauty products and home goods. The third floor houses the brand’s menswear collections, along with a curated selection of books and music. There is also a seating area and an iPhone charging station.
A short staircase in the men’s area leads to a bar area, and up from that is the New York outpost of the trendy Los Angeles eatery, The Gorbals. There is an outdoor extension of the restaurant and bar on the rooftop, along with scenic views of Manhattan and a flower shop.
Time Warner Cable: Sleek and technology-driven, the first-ever flagship of Time Warner Cable, in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, invites customers to immerse themselves in the company’s diverse offerings. The 14,000-sq.-ft. store features an open floor plan where customers can jump from TV to laptop to oversized-wall-mounted-tablet to experience and interact with the latest in home entertainment.
Touchscreen monitors and hands-on demo stations are located throughout the store, along with multiple-screen video walls and smaller signage tablets that highlight offerings. The showpiece of the space is a giant, 90-in. custom-built tablet that works like a real mobile device.
The modern, digitally savvy vibe is balanced with warm accents. A cozy living-room vignette showcases a digital fireplace as part of a smart security and home-management experience. And the comfortable seating encourages customers to linger.
Time Warner Cable plans to roll out refreshed prototypes based on the flagship design to hundreds more stores across its footprint.
(Design: Fame, Minneapolis; Digital installations: Reality Interactive, Middletown, Connecticut)
Report: Product mix, creativity at Target suffered under Steinhafel
Minneapolis – Target Corp. reportedly experienced difficulties in areas including product mix and corporate creativity under ousted CEO Gregg Steinhafel. According to the Wall Street Journal, these difficulties preceded any problems relating to Target’s fall 2013 data breach or expansion into Canada and helped lead to Steinhafel’s essentially forced resignation.
Anonymous Target executives and employees say that where Target had once benefited from assortments that varied from store to store, Steinhafel instituted much more rigid controls over product mix. Target also started relying more heavily on consumer staples and goods from suppliers who would pay higher placement fees, rather than trying to offer new and unique items.
In general, marketing and merchandising became more bureaucratic. The data breach and loss of profits caused by Target’s Canada expansion exacerbated existing issues. On May 2, a number of executives who had stopped bringing grievances to Steinhafel told the Target board they would leave if he did not. Steinhafel announced his resignation on May 5. Steinhafel declined to comment in the article.