DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

Eco-friendly home improvement retailer in a retail first

BY By Marianne Wilson

TreeHouse practices what it preaches.

The retailer, which specializes in supplies and services that promote healthy and sustainable spaces, has expanded beyond its Austin home base, opening in Dallas. Its new 35,000-sq.-ft. outpost is billed as the nation's first energy-positive (meaning it will generate more energy than it uses) big-box store.

"This building sets a completely new standard for ecological and human health and is an embodiment of what our company hopes to accomplish for homes as well," said Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of TreeHouse. "This store is a signpost to what the future will be like for both homes and retail."

TreeHouse, dubbed the "Whole Foods of home improvement," offers shoppers a curated selection of green products, materials and technologies — some of which are not available elsewhere. It also offers turn-key services and programs, including kitchen and bath design. solar energy kits, home insulation and "smart" home installation.

San Antonio-based architectural firm Lake/Flato used TreeHouse's approach to products and materials selection, in combination with sustainable design practices, to create the store.

"For so long, net-zero energy was this magical aspirational goal," said Ballard. "This building is beyond net-zero…completely new territory."

The architecture of the store is crucial to its energy efficiency. It boasts saw-tooth roofs that are positioned to maximize the effectiveness of its giant, ultra high-efficiency SunPower solar rooftop solar array. (This feature solved the need for extra space for solar panels). The standing-seam metal roof collects rainwater and reflects heat.

In addition, the north facing clerestory windows allow for indirect sunlight to effectively illuminate the interior without the impact of direct heat. This allows for a cooler baseline temperature in the store and minimizing the use of electricity.

A Tesla Powerpack (a rechargeable battery storage system for utility and commercial applications) is located at the center of the store. It stores the power produced by the rooftop solar array, deploying it for evening use and allowing the building to return excess renewable energy to the city's grid.

TreeHouse Dallas is the anchor tenant in The Hill, a North Dallas shopping center that is being refreshed and repositioned by CAPREF Manager.

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BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE/ANALYTICS

Retailers getting serious about artificial intelligence

BY By Marianne Wilson

A new survey suggests that retailers are ready to invest in artificial intelligence and other new technologies.

Forty-five percent (45%) of retailers plan to utilize artificial intelligence within three years to enhance the customer experience, according to the BRP (Boston Retail Partners) 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey. Virtual reality is also in retailers' sights, with 34% of respondents saying they plan to deploy it within the next three years. Another 34% of retailers plan to implement augmented reality within the same time frame.

Additionally, 55% of retailers are focused on optimizing the customer experience to increase customer loyalty by improving the mobile shopping experience and creating a unified experience across channels.

"Stores must now encompass both worlds – the sensory experience generally available in the physical world, such as touching and feeling merchandise and personally interacting with a knowledgeable associate – whether simply human or a combination of AI and human characteristics – married with the unique and personalized shopping experience common in the digital world," according to the report. "The physical and digital worlds are forever intertwined as we look to the future."

In other key findings from the report:

•Most retailers have plans to implement new technologies to identify customers via their smartphones, mobile apps and other emerging technologies. Within three years, 59% of retailers plan to use Wi-Fi and 63% plan to use mobile apps to identify customers in their stores.

*Eighty-nine percent (89%) of retailers are now using social media comments as a critical customer satisfaction measurement.

*Sixty-seven percent (67%) of retailers are offering a consistent product offering across channels. But many are still struggling with manual processes, with 43% indicating the process needs improvement.

•Enhanced networks are a key requirement for a unified commerce environment, with 76% of retailers planning to enhance or replace their network within the next three years.

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ECOMMERCE

Amazon brings two-hour deliveries to Denver

BY By Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Shoppers in Denver are getting their first taste of Amazon Prime Now.

The service, which is exclusive to the online giant’s Prime members, provides free two-hour delivery on tens of thousands of items, from household and daily essentials to electronics, games and outdoor supplies. Area Prime members can order through Amazon’s Prime Now app, available on iOS and Android devices, Amazon’s web site, or “speak” orders to their Alexa device.

Members can also order fresh grocery products through Amazon’s partnership with from Sprouts Farmers Market. This merchandise includes seasonal and organic produce, fresh meat and seafood, baked goods and natural vitamins.

Fresh orders are also eligible for free two-hour delivery. One-hour delivery is available for a fee of $7.99. Prime Now and Sprouts deliveries are available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, according to Amazon.

“We are excited to continue enhancing the Prime experience for customers in Denver with Amazon’s fastest delivery method yet, Prime Now,” said Simoina Vasen, director of Prime Now.

Prime Now is available in more than 30 cities in the U.S.

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