Coldwater Creek execs talk tech
New York — On their recent earnings (second quarter) call with analysts, Coldwater Creek CEO Jill Brown Dean and CFO/COO James Bell talked technology, specifically discussing the results of the company’s implementation of the new Oracle-based inventory planning system.
The implementation was competed in March 2013, Bell noted. He added that while the company had, in recent years, developed many inventory management disciplines, it was lacking adequate tools to fully maximize its inventory investment.
“The capabilities of this new system are significantly more robust than anything we’ve used in the past, providing a level of transparency that represents a meaningful opportunity for us to drive more consistent sales and margin improvement over time as we become more proficient with this new capability,” Bell said.
Dean noted that system gives the chain the “precision” to plan floor set-by-floor set, week-by-week to ensure that each of its big businesses and key categories is appropriately positioned in the preplanning phase and then appropriately reacted to, be it in promotions, slowing down inventory in the supply chain, or moving it up inventory.
“It’s giving us a tremendous level of insight and visibility that we have not had,” Dean said.
Bell explained that the system allows for preseason planning and the ability to look at historical performance in a way that “we haven’t before in terms of transparency.” With regards to in-season, the capabilities and visibility of the Oracle system allow the company to read and react in a much better way.
“So it’s both the pre- and in-season capabilities. I think those are the critical factors,” Bell said.
Ultimately, the system allows the chain to buy more efficiently upfront, and also be much more efficient in terms of the management of any particular item throughout its entire life cycle — when to go to a first mark, how deep to go to that market, how is it performing at full price, how long do you keep it there on a weekly basis, etc.
“These are all capabilities that we’ve been employing, but not with the level of transparency that this system gives us,” Bell said.
He added that the first season Coldwater Creek did preseason planning utilizing the system was for its holiday assortment upcoming.”
Sustainability Index reshaping the future at Walmart
Walmart held another one of its Global Sustainability Milestone Meetings on Thursday and shed new light on priorities and initiatives that promise to have far-reaching implications on suppliers as well as competitors.
The highlight of the meeting was an update on the company’s Sustainability Index which has been rolled out to 200 product categories and 1,000 suppliers with a total of 300 categories and 5,000 suppliers expected by year end, according to the company.
“We’ve reached an acceleration point where we are moving from measurement to results. We’re starting to really drive progress with the Index,” Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke said. “This is about trust and value. Using less energy, greener chemicals, fewer fertilizers and more recycled materials – all of this – is the right thing to do for the planet and it’s right for our customers and our business.”
The Sustainability Index is a measurement system Walmart created to track the environmental impact of products. Since the Index rolled out broadly to Walmart product categories in August 2012, it has shown a consistent trend of improved product sustainability, according to the company. For example, Walmart’s general merchandise department has improved its Index product sustainability score by an average of 20%, the grocery department by an average of 12% and and consumables and health and wellness by an average of 6%.
“With the Sustainability Index, Walmart is applying the science and research that we’ve developed to create a more sustainable supply chain globally,” said Kara Hurst, CEO of The Sustainability Consortium. “We’re excited about the significant progress Walmart and its suppliers are making and value their partnership with us to address big issues and drive real social and environmental change.”
As part of the progress update at the meeting, the company share details on five major initiatives underway:
•Increasing the Use of Recycled Materials. More than 29 million tons of valuable plastics are sent to landfills every year in the U.S. at a cost of about $6.6 billion annually. Walmart said it aims to grow both the supply and demand for recycled plastics so they can be diverted from landfill and get a second life. The company is working with cities to increase plastic recycling and with suppliers to increase the use of recycled content and make packaging more recyclable. Changes in packaging are already being implemented in product categories such as beverage, over-the-counter drugs, dairy creamers and berry containers.
•Offering Products with Greener Chemicals. Walmart provided an overview of its new Consumables Chemicals initiative, describing how it is working with suppliers to reduce or eliminate the use of priority chemicals used in consumables products in favor of greener alternatives. It will begin with household cleaning, personal care, beauty and cosmetic products, asking suppliers to transition to greener substitutes for priority chemicals.
•Reducing Fertilizer Use in Agriculture. Walmart is requiring suppliers who use commodity grains, such as corn, wheat and soy in their products, to develop a fertilizer optimization plan that outlines clear goals to improve performance based on Index research. Through this program, the company estimated along with its suppliers the potential exists to reduce fertilizer use on 14 million acres of farmland in the U.S. by 2020.
•Expanding the Sustainability Index to International Markets. Walmart said it will expand the Sustainability Index and measurement to international markets with the goal of improving product sustainability at the global level. Walmart Chile and Walmart Mexico will launch the Index in their respective markets in 2014. In addition, South Africa’s Massmart has begun to include key Index questions in its supplier sustainability surveys.
•Improving Energy Efficiency. The Index has uncovered the importance of energy efficiency in several product categories, such as televisions, plastic toys, small appliances and greeting cards. By working with suppliers to improve energy efficiency through the supply chain of these products, Index energy scores have already improved 23% in general merchandise categories. Walmart said it is now providing tools for suppliers to help track and reduce the energy used to produce these products.
Toys’R’Us unveils key holiday initiatives at special preview event in NYC
Toys"R"Us held a special preview event at its flagship location in NYC’s Time Square. Speaking about the company’s competitive advantages as it gears up for the holiday shopping season as well as the company’s omnichannel offerings and investments being made in its mobile capabilities were EVP and chief merchandising officer Richard Barry, as well as SVP and chief digital officer Fred Argir, respectively.
“As the holiday shopping season gets underway, our seasoned leadership team is executing an aggressive plan to fortify the rightful place of Toys“R”Us as the toy authority,” said Barry. “Our unmatched product differentiation, unique services and value offerings continue to set us apart, and we look forward to unveiling new and exciting initiatives throughout the holiday season that consumers will appreciate — today is just a small sampling of what’s in store.”
The company has made a significant investment in reinventing the toy box by generating a new and enhanced shopping experience in Toys“R”Us stores, expanding product categories that have experienced sales growth throughout the past few years and reducing the space dedicated to those areas that have underperformed.
Beginning this holiday season, Toys“R”Us will position itself as the education destination for kids, parents and teachers alike, offering exclusive learning products not widely sold by mass retailers. It will also capitalize on construction by instating a “Shop within a Store” in approximately 300 of its locations, showcasing major construction brands, such as Lego and Mega Bloks. The company will also create an experiential tablet destination in-store for kids and families, showcasing 25 tablets, including tabeo e2, which shoppers can test.
The company will also look to improve what it described as its already robust omnichannel capabilities by offering shoppers an improved wait time for “Buy Online, Pickup In Store” orders on Toysrus.com, expedited fulfillment time for “Ship to Store” purchases and secondary in-store pickup locations.
Shoppers can expect an aggressive marketing program this holiday, which will include personalized e-mails as well as deals every day from now until Christmas. The company also plans on enhancing its loyalty incentives throughout the holiday season, and plans to offer a Friends & Family 20% coupon and an extra 25% bonus for “R”Us credit cardholders.
Wanting to get a jump on the holiday season — even as other retailers begin stocking shelves with holiday gift wrapping paper and decorations — the company is offering consumers incentives to shop early to avoid stress. Some of those incentives include:
• Free layaway which will be offered through December 15 with no upfront service fee and no minimum purchase requirement. New this year, after an order is created in-store, subsequent payments can be made online at Toysrus.com.
• A series of new pricing initiatives, including the recently expanded Price Match Guarantee.
• A new extended return policy which will allow customers who shop early for the holidays to make any necessary returns through January 25.
For the approximately 35 million Rewards“R”Us loyalty program members, the company is offering the opportunity to earn 10% back, up to $100, on qualifying toy purchases through October 31. The earnings will be delivered via an e-gift card with no exclusions in November. Rewards“R”Us members who use layaway can also participate.