Focus on facility maintenance trends

BY Michael Fickes

Retail maintenance work isn’t what it used to be. For one thing, it started to turn eco-friendly several years ago. The trend remains strong, and the good news is that green is finally becoming affordable, thanks to growing demand.

When it comes to facility maintenance, going green starts with the purchase of environmentally sensitive cleaning supplies, agents and equipment. The materials must be disposed of or recycled, and the tools needed may be different from traditional ones.

In another major trend, technology, such as building automation systems and computerized maintenance management systems, has made it possible to improve the quality of maintenance while making it more efficient.

Affordable green

“Today, green cleaning costs are finally falling more in line with the less environmentally friendly cleaning products,” said Barry Wood, director of operations for Chicago-based JLL Retail. “This improved cost-effectiveness has helped make green cleaning more of a normal practice.”

Wood cautioned, however, that the retailers’ corporate offices must clearly communicate green cleaning policies at the store level to ensure that local vendors get the message.

Another green trend noted by Wood is the growing use of recycled water for cleaning. It is used in automatic floor scrubbers and in pressure-washing equipment for sidewalks and parking structures. This trend is only likely to grow in importance given the increased emphasis on water conservation.

“Many areas that have been impacted by drought are mandating the use of recycled water,” he said.

Automated building systems

The growing importance of technology and technology expertise to facility maintenance departments cannot be overstated. Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and building automation systems are becoming more commonplace in retail, a trend that will continue to grow, according to Wood.

Maintenance teams are more likely to be equipped with smartphones and tablets. These and other mobile tools enable real-time connections to CMMS and other databases, allowing for faster decisions and better cost management.

As for building management systems, they can greatly improve energy efficiency, but they are not without their challenges, according to Wood.

“I have seen problems arise, particularly with heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, when parameters developed by the home office fail to match up with store-level needs,” he said.

Also, HVAC systems are becoming much more efficient. As a result, Wood said, these systems require more maintenance thanks to the complexity of the internal controls needed to boost efficiency.

There are growing pains related to maintaining these systems in stores. Local service providers not familiar with automated building management system needs may fail to communicate with management about control policies and sensor settings. As a result, diagnosing the problem and solving it according to policy can take several site visits.

In another facilities trends, more and more retailers are implementing sensors and controls that dim the lights to an appropriate level when the sun shines through.

“Daylighting is growing and not only reduces energy costs, but the use of more natural light creates a more comfortable environment,” Wood said.

Roofing trends are contributing to the drive for more efficient energy use. According to Wood, stores in cold climates are using dark roofing that absorbs heat, while stores in hot climates are moving to white or light colored roofs that reflect heat.

Stores with a lot of square footage on the roof are evaluating the opportunities presented by today’s more powerful solar panels, he added.

Smartphones and tablets

Maintenance teams out in the field today are more and more likely to carry smartphones and tablets. Mobile tools enable real-time connections to CMMS and other databases important to speeding decisions and managing costs.

Mike Fickes is a contributing editor to Chain Store Age.


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Guest Commentary: Twitter tips for holiday sales

BY Marianne Wilson

New York – A sophisticated marketing mix—one that includes social media, mobile and digital campaigns—is crucial in today’s fragmented retail environment. Twitter be can be especially helpful in targeting customers, according to one industry expert.

“With keywords, shops can find out who is looking for their merchandise via Tweets,” said Bernard Perrine, CEO and cofounder, SocialCentiv, a Twitter marketing app. When they find someone, they can Tweet directly back with an offer or discount to get that customer in the door.”

Here are five Twitter tips from Perrine to help retailers ring up holiday sales:

1. Use a holiday-themed contest to increase engagement. Twitter and its hashtag language are especially great for creating a network around a contest. Ideas are limitless – anything that provides a good incentive (like winning a holiday gift set) and incorporates a hashtag works well. This will get more people engaged, make your business more visible via Twitter and increase purchases.

2. Promote holiday specials. More than 90% of users say they follow businesses on Twitter to get discounts and promos. Since potential customers look to Twitter for deals, providing them with holiday specials is sure to boost sales. Share holiday discounts via Twitter by running a Promoted Tweet or by sending @Replies to specific users that would be interested in the special.

3. Increase sales and engagement with “Twitter-specific” offers. In addition to promoting existing holiday specials, create Twitter-specific specials that people can only learn about by following you on Twitter. Fun example: Cupcake bakery Sprinkles uses this tactic especially well. They post phrases on their social media accounts that users can whisper while in the store to get a discount. Not only will the discount encourage users to buy, but you will also be able to directly attribute these sales to your Twitter efforts to track their social return on investment.

4. Engage your Twitter community with the excitement of the season! Most shoppers love a little holiday cheer. Celebrate the season with your customers and post holiday-spirited, shareable images via Twitter. Customers are likely to favorite and Retweet images, drawing more visitors to your Twitter profile and increasing the chance of holiday sales.

5. Leverage Tweets – both positive and negative – about great holiday purchases, shopping experiences and highlights from followers suggesting others buy from your shop. Twitter’s primary purpose is for users to share thoughts, experiences and ideas through the platform. If you have great customer service, good deals and cool merchandise, you are likely to read about it. Join in the conversation with hashtags, Retweets, replies and favorites.

If negative comments pop up, take the chance to apologize, offer a second chance or improve.


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CVS Health Goes Platinum

BY Laura Klepacki

On the site of a former gas station in West Haven, Connecticut, CVS Health has unveiled its most environmentally progressive and energy-efficient store so far.

For starters, the LEED Platinum-certified drug store boasts daylighting, a landscape design that doesn’t require irrigation, super-efficient HVAC units and LED-lit coolers that light up when approached. (Platinum is the highest distinction in the LEED program.)

“Our long-term green building goal is to take successful green building elements from our West Haven store and incorporate them into our future prototype design,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior VP, corporate communications & community relations, CVS Health.

The 7,800-store chain, Boone added, has already “completed thousands of energy-saving projects, including LED lighting retrofits at 566 existing stores and distribution centers in 2013. She said evaluating data on resource efficiencies and cost savings has become an ongoing endeavor throughout the company.

While costs to build the West Haven store were higher, the tradeoff comes in on-going energy savings and increases in customer satisfaction, which “can drive traffic into the store,” Boone pointed out. This is CVS’ eighth LEED store, but its first to reach Platinum level. Certification opportunities for other CVS units is being done on a site-by-site basis.

UNIQUE FEATURES: The project began on a site with contaminated soil.

“Not only did remediation help revitalize this area of West Haven, but it also makes this piece of land safer for future generations,” said Boone.

The building’s materials were selected to minimize environmental impact, such as use of recycled material (27%) and sourcing locally where possible (33%). Additionally, 73% of new wood used in the project came from sustainably harvested forests.

The use of high-efficiency plumbing fixtures is cutting water usage up to 50% compared with a standard store of comparable size. The toilets use one gallon per flush compared with a typical home unit using 1.6 gallons, and the men’s room has a urinal for additional savings.

More than 60 rooftop solar panels and an array of daylighting features, including daylight and occupancy sensors, sun shades, translucent panels, window blinds, light shelves and skylights, combine to cut energy usage by 40%.

The new HVAC units are “extremely efficient,” said Boone. “These units combined with the high R-value insulation in the walls and roof help to maintain heating and cooling inside the building.”

The store also has reduced its irrigation water usage from the typical 450,000 gallons annually to zero.

“Outside the store we planted hardy drought-tolerant landscaping like trees, scrubs and flowers that are native to Connecticut, which eliminates the need for an irrigation system on site,” said Boone.

All the resulting utility cost savings will go back into the store’s operating profit.

To encourage community participation, the store provides recycling bins, carpool parking spots, bike racks and an electrical car-charging station. To create awareness, there is a LEED Platinum plaque on the store facade and a brochure on the store’s unique features.

“When you walk through the store, you see lights turn on when you approach coolers and turn off when you leave, and you see natural light coming through the windows and skylights — it’s almost like a smart store,” said Boone.

Employees find working here enjoyable, added Boone. “One employee provided this feedback, ‘We love all of this natural light; it certainly brightens up our workday, and our customers seem to really like it too.’ ”

Based on positive results in West Haven, CVS has already decided to incorporate LED lighting for coolers, LED exterior site lighting, LED building lighting, LED ground signs and a single lane drive-through canopy in all new stores.

CORPORATE EFFORT: CVS’ sustainability strategy is driven by its Executive Environmental Management Council, comprised of senior-level corporate executives representing all business units of the company, and advises the CEO on the program, explained Boone.

In addition, the chain has a Sustainability Leadership Council, which meets quarterly, and an Energy Technology Assessment Committee, a cross-functional team that monitors initiatives and stays on top of trends. The Sustainability Committee, a group within ETAC, focuses on recycling and lighting and tracks performance.

Laura Klepacki is a contributing editor of CSA.


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What will your company do with the tax-reform windfall?