DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

Department store retailer plans $40 million investment in remodels, new stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Not all department store retailers are closing stores.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Belk said it plans to open three new stores, part of a nearly $40 million investment in store remodels, capital improvements and new store openings in 2017.

The first two of the new stores will open on October 11, 2017, at Mullins Colony shopping center, Evans, Georgia, and at Greenwood Mall, Bowling Green, Kentucky. The third store will open in 2018, at Valley Mall Hagerstown, Maryland. The new stores will focus on the customer experience through a variety of ways, including a "buy online, pick up in store" service, phone charging stations and a service desk at the store entrance for quick, convenient access to services such as gift wrapping, returns and Belk Rewards Card payments.

In 2017, Belk also plans to remodel 12 existing stores across its 16-state footprint, an investment of nearly $10 million. An additional $15 million in funding will be used for capital improvements such as parking lots, paint and roofing.

"We've been successful in making a personal connection between our brand and our customers," said Lisa Harper, CEO, Belk, which operates 292 stores. "Our customers truly believe they know us and we are a part of their community; and they feel Belk is their store. We want to provide that level of personal connection in every community we enter."

Harper, the former CEO of Hot Topic and Gymboree Corp., took the reins of privately owned Belk in July 2016, becoming the first one outside the Belk family to run the company. She succeeded the retiring Tim Belk, who had served as CEO of the chain since 2004.

Belk was founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk. The long-time family-owned company was acquired by Sycamore Partners in a $3 billion deal at the end of 2015.

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ECOMMERCE

Online giant’s new delivery system targets apartment dwellers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon’s new delivery system makes a play for a customer segment initially targeted by Walmart’s e-commerce arm.

The online giant introduced a new delivery locker designed for apartment blocks and other housing complexes that may not have services to accept or store packages. Called The Hub by Amazon, the modular system features compartments where packages can be stored for pickup.

Depending on the module, the customizable unit can feature between 42 and 55 lockers. There are indoor and outdoor models, which stand 6 ft. high and 7 ft. high, respectively.

To retrieve a package, customers enter the pickup code into the system. Upon authorizing the code, a corresponding door will open, revealing the stored items. The Hub accepts delivery from all carriers, according to Amazon.

The program takes a swing at a similar service recently introduced by jet.com. Walmart’s e-commerce operation is teaming up with Latch, a provider of smart building access technologies, to integrate a reader-style electronic access product in 1,000 buildings in New York City. The installation, which is being paid for by the partners, will give more than 100,000 residents the ability to retrieve orders electronically, according to TechCrunch.

Using their smartphone as a key, participating residents can grant access to delivery companies, dropping off packages even if they are not home. The solution, called the R Access system, also provides a visual audit trail of guests, as well as management tools that enable users to add users and share access, according to Latch’s website.

All 1,000 buildings will be set up to provide access to Jet’s delivery partners. The program could be a catalyst for Jet to streamline deliveries in metro and urban areas, according to the report.

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MOBILITY

Amazon still exploring ‘cashier-less’ checkout projects

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Don’t expect Amazon to stop experimenting with cashier-less grocery stores anytime soon.

Despite announcing in June it would acquire Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion, the online giant will continue evolving its Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go concepts, among other efforts. Its goal: to reinvent the way consumers shop for food, according to Business Insider.

According to the report, Amazon officials said the company is still determining how customers want to shop for groceries. Until they learn which solutions make sense, Amazon has no plans to shut down any of its current experiments in grocery sales and delivery.

“We'll see how the customers respond. We believe there will be no one solution,” Brian Olsavsky, Amazon's chief financial officer, said on the company’s second quarter earnings call.

The online giant experienced big sales for the quarter, but they weren't enough to offset a big drop in earnings. Net income for the second quarter, ended June 30, was $197 million, or $0.40 per diluted share, compared with net income of $857 million, or $1.78 per diluted share, in second quarter 2016. Earnings also drastically missed analyst expectations of $1.42 per share, according to consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters.

Net sales climbed 25% to $38.0 billion, compared with $30.4 billion in the second quarter of 2016. Excluding the $502 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 26% compared with second quarter 2016.

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