OPERATIONS

Cisco study: CE retailers should market products and services to less tech-informed consumers

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — There is a new opportunity for retailers to market beyond the technology savvy and often male consumer pool to a larger group of less technology informed with customer service programs that provide basic device educational training around devices and product bundling to ease the buying experience, according to a survey by Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG).

The study finds that while the early adopter segment for consumer electronics is comprised largely of young affluent males, the leaders in digital content consumption — including Internet-based video, digital imagery and social media — are women. However, companies that sell consumer technology devices may be are singularly ill-equipped to maximize device sales because their messaging and in-store marketing efforts are skewed to young male early adopters. With females noted as the leaders in digital content consumption, retailers need to rethink their marketing, the report recommends.

In other findings:

  • More than 20% of the industry’s most active users seldom or never buy accessories, and more than 36% of that same group seldom or never buys go-with items. There is a clear correlation between a respondent’s confidence in using advanced device features, and how much they buy at retail.
  • Roughly one-third of today’s most active personal technology users don’t know how to use the products they purchase. They lack confidence in their ability to choose, operate, and connect today’s devices – and that’s even among the early adopters of the latest devices and digital content. Customers simply don’t have the knowledge to take full advantage of the devices’ capabilities.
  • According to Cisco, retailers can increase revenues by bridging the confidence and knowledge gap with “orchestration” services that include: aggregating all elements required to create a solution for device usage; assembling all the elements to complete a solution; and educating consumers about what’s available, what’s possible and how to put it all together.

The report notes that one of the best examples of orchestration is the Genius Bar found in Apple’s retail stores. Other examples include personal shopping and wardrobe services provided by the likes of Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus; wine and cooking classes offered by upper-end grocers; and virtual kitchen design services tested at select Home Depot locations. With few exceptions, including Best Buy’s Geek Squad, few CE retailers offer orchestration services, according to the report.

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REAL ESTATE

Ann Taylor sets date for international debut with store in Toronto

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Ann Taylor on Oct. 5 will open its first store outside of the United States, in the Toronto Eaton Centre. The company will open a second store in Canada, located in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, in November.

The Canadian stores will feature Ann Taylor’s updated store design, which is inspired by a stylish modern contemporary home. The residential influence is brought to life through white washed maple hardwood floors, luxurious crystal chandeliers, modern tufted furniture and sleek feminine fixtures inspired by the ultimate closet.

Wardrobing niches allow for strong fashion stories as well as a broad assortment of product. Special attention was also given to the design of the styling rooms, which feature unique floral wall coverings, luxe ottomans, plush carpeting, and a new proprietary lighting system with flattering back lit mirrors.

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S.Anderson says:
Mar-25-2013 12:51 pm

I wish you shared some
I wish you shared some pictures with it, I would have loved to see these design elements put together. I was also hoping to find popular flooring choices, I could use some directions here.

S.Anderson says:
Mar-25-2013 12:51 pm

I wish you shared some pictures with it, I would have loved to see these design elements put together. I was also hoping to find popular flooring choices, I could use some directions here.

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FINANCE

NRF seeks to block swipe fee lawsuit settlement

BY Staff Writer

Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation announced that its board of directors has authorized the Federation to go to court to block the proposed $7.25 billion settlement of a federal antitrust lawsuit over skyrocketing Visa and MasterCard credit card swipe fees that cost consumers hundreds of dollars a year.

“The National Retail Federation categorically opposes the proposed settlement,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “It does nothing to curb the anticompetitive behavior of Visa and MasterCard, and instead ensures that swipe fees paid by retailers and their customers will continue to rise while barring any future legal challenges. The proposal is a lose-lose-lose for merchants, consumers and competition. NRF will take any and all steps necessary to oppose the settlement as it is currently proposed and will work toward real reform of the swipe fee system.”

A resolution approved by the board authorizes NRF to take steps including “intervention in pending actions” in order to reach a solution “equitable to the broad merchant community.” NRF is exploring what form the legal action might take. NRF is not a party to the lawsuit, and U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson has not yet fully outlined how outside groups will be allowed to intervene, or if the case qualifies as a class action.

Shay announced the Board’s decision at the Annual Summit being held in Denver by NRF’s Shop.org division. While swipe fees affect all merchants, online retailers are particularly impacted because most of their sales are paid for by plastic and the “card not present” rates Visa and MasterCard charge for online transactions can be a third higher than those paid by other merchants.

“A key question for the judge is whether this settlement is fair to the nation’s retailers,” Shay said. “From what we have heard, it unequivocally is not. NRF’s membership reflects the vast majority of retailers from Main Street small businesses to some of the nation’s best-known brands. Short of a company-by-company poll, a vote by the NRF board is the clearest test of what merchants think.”

NRF is concerned by a number of provisions of the proposed settlement:
• The $7.25 billion amounts to pennies on the dollar. If the case went to trial, a verdict in favor of retailers could result in a judgment totaling hundreds of billions of dollars given the eight-year time period of the case and rules allowing for antitrust damages to be tripled.

• Nothing is done to block future increases in swipe fees. Without competitive restrictions, the card industry would quickly recoup the cost of the settlement from the very retailers who have been harmed, and increases that have averaged 16% a year over the past decade could continue indefinitely.

  • Nothing is done to reform the anti-competitive, cartel-like system by which Visa and MasterCard each set fee schedules that all banks issuing their respective cards agree to follow. NRF has testified before Congress that the system is a violation of federal antitrust law.
  • Nothing is done to require the card industry to disclose the fees on the cards or otherwise create the transparency needed to bring about competition to lower fees.
  • A highly publicized provision allowing merchants to surcharge customers who pay by credit card is pointless because merchants are seeking to reduce prices for customers, not increase them. It also includes myriad restrictions that would make it difficult to surcharge even if someone wanted to.
  • Visa and MasterCard have promised to recognize merchant bargaining groups, but no requirement is made for the card companies to negotiate in good faith.

NRF is particularly concerned by a provision barring all merchants – including those that do not yet exist – from ever again suing Visa and MasterCard over swipe fees.

“We represent the nation’s retailers and that means not just today’s retailers but tomorrow’s as well,” Shay said. “It is our duty to foster an environment that is supportive of young, new entrepreneurs who will create the Walmarts and Amazons and Main Street shops of the future.”

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