FINANCE

Department store retailer’s attempt to go private stalls

BY CSA STAFF

Nordstrom may not be going private anytime soon.

Attempts by the Nordstrom family to take Nordstrom private have stalled over financing difficulties, reported CNBC. According to the report, banks have become cautious amid today's unstable retail climate.

The Nordstrom family group owns 31.2% of Nordstrom. In June, the family said it was exploring a possible buy-out.

Click here to read the full report.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Nordstrom unveiling new ‘inclusive’ shopping experience

BY Marianne Wilson

Nordstrom is looking to appeal to a broader audience.

The retailer on Monday called on top brands to expand their size ranges by adding more items in sizes 14, 16 and 18, along with smaller sizes zero and 2. Nordstrom also said that it is launching an "extended sizing" initiative, beginning with its new store at Westfield Century City, Los Angeles.

The initiative will kick off in the denim department, which will feature women's mannequins in varying sizes — rather than the typical size 2 —in the denim department to create what the retailer described as a more inclusive shopping experience.

In addition, Nordstrom is integrating all denim sizes together, putting them side by side in one department rather than separating the petite and plus sizes. Participating brands initially include Topshop, Rag &amp Bone and Madewell as well as the company's private label brands Caslon and Halogen.

Looking futher out, Nordstrom expects to have about 40 brands committed to offering extended sizes in multiple categories online, including swimwear, activewear and ready-to-wear in time for the holiday season, with 60 brands on board for spring 2018. The inclusive in-store experience should be in place in 15 stores by spring.

Nordstrom said is not eliminating its existing plus-size or petite departments. Rather it is working toward filling the gaps in sizes and integrating all sizes together on the selling floor.

"We recognize the opportunity to serve customers better by having more sizes," said Tricia Smith, Nordstrom executive VP and general merchandise manager for designer, women's and kids apparel. "Style and fashion apply to everyone. They're not created for a limited group of sizes. We don't view being size inclusive any differently that the need to be more inclusive across the board — whether it's ethnicity, size or body type. In our opinion, petite and plus sizes shouldn't be considered special categories. They're just sizes."

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ECOMMERCE

Study: Store managers’ roles evolve in the unified commerce era

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

To effectively service shoppers at store-level, managers need to evolve beyond their sales roles and become “problem solvers.”

This means store managers must learn to master the combination of order fulfillment, inventory visibility and staffing to keep up with customer demands, according to the “Voice of Store Manager Survey,” a study from JDA Software Group. The second annual study is based on responses from 252 US-based retail store managers compiled in August.

As the lines between online and in-store continue to blur, order fulfillment (29%) and limited staffing (29%) are evenly split as the biggest challenges for retailers at the store-level. Meanwhile, inaccurate data (31%), and limited stock and slow replenishment (31%) are the biggest challenge for operations.

To solve these issues, the majority of store managers (64%) are using technology in some capacity to check store inventory availability in real-time. This could be via mobile or wearable devices (33%) or a central computer system (31%).

New fulfillment services are also being offered to deliver ease and convenience to busy shoppers, while luring traffic back into stores. Forty-four percent (44%) of respondents said their stores offer buy online ship from store services and 41% offer buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS). Meanwhile, 40% offer buy in-store ship to home, and 38% offer buy online return in-store (BORIS).

BOPIS services (41%) and buy online ship from store services (40%) have seen the largest increase in customer usage, though these options rely heavily on inventory visibility and staffing for pick, pack and ship to meet customer fulfillment timelines. In fact, respondents have staff allocated to support BOPIS (65%), BORIS (64%), buy in-store ship to home (61%), buy online ship to store (59%), and buy in-store ship to home/store from another store (49%).

Store managers believe lack of visibility across inventory (41%) is the biggest difficulty among BOPIS services. Despite this challenge, 36% of store managers said their stores currently offer a discount to customers who utilize BOPIS services. Another 14% are currently testing/researching options.

“As customer expectations continue to rise, it will be crucial for brick-and-mortar stores to streamline how they fulfill customer orders and work to draw in shoppers with incentives for in-store fulfillment options,” said Jim Prewitt, VP, retail industry strategy, JDA. “In the future, we foresee some stores evolving into distribution centers, fulfilling 100% of customer demand while others will morph into showrooms with centralized fulfillment.”

Another area needing improvement is the influx of inventory due to BORIS offerings — two in three store managers reported some difficulty with the service. Thirty percent (30%) of respondents are unsure of what to do with the additional inventory received through BORIS, and lack direction as to whether to keep it at the store, return to a distribution center or another store. Nearly 30% of store managers reported a staff-related concern with regards to BORIS.

While the “gig economy” is increasingly popular, more than 40% of store managers reported that only a small number of their store staff (less than 25%) are part of this segment. One in four store managers are exploring the possibility of leveraging additional labor – such as short-term contractors or freelance workers – outside of the traditional workforce.

Looking ahead to the 2017 holiday season, 60% of store managers plan to hire the same amount of temporary labor as they did last year 24% plan to hire more. However, the focus of the seasonal staff may be changing to meet customer demand. Over 40% of seasonal hires will be for fulfillment at stores/warehouses, not customer-facing. The other fulfillment area where store managers will increase hiring is BOPIS. One in three respondents will hire temporary staff specifically for the service this year.

“As store operations change with increasingly complex order fulfillment capabilities, the demands for staffing will change as well,” said Prewitt. “We predict there will be an uptick in tailored staffing hirers for both BOPIS and ship-from-store services.”

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