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Getting Ready for Snow Days

BY Rich Arlington

Winter is fast approaching — is your facility ready? Statistically speaking nearly 80% of all slip and falls are due to snow and ice, and they occur mainly in parking lots and sidewalks. As an expert witness and consultant in the field of risk and liability due to snow and ice, I see incidences that could have been avoided had the facility performed a pre-season property assessment.

Store and property managers often ask me how they can determine the readiness of their facility for snow and ice. The time to consider your store’s parking lots and pedestrian areas (P.A.s) is now and not when the first snowflakes fall. The first step is to organize your assessment into four focus groups: Drainage, Grounds, Parking Lots/P.A.s and People/Plan. This will allow your team to tackle each effectively.

Drainage Dictates: When performing site reviews, pay close attention to where downspouts drain. Does water empty onto your parking lot or P.A.s, which will pool and then freeze with temperature drops? What type of roof/awnings does your store have? If the roof is sloped, make sure all gutters function properly.

Decide how snow sliding off awnings is handled, include in your plan and discuss with your service provider or in-house team. This seems basic but it’s amazing how often a facility’s drainage is overlooked and becomes a leading cause of a slip and fall.

Facility owners/managers must consider whether the building has any heat loss to cause creation of ice cycles that thaw and refreeze, jeopardizing the safety of patrons and employees. Devise a plan for roof snow removal to avoid collapse due to significant snow/ice accumulations.

Grounds Control: Here are some questions to ask yourself as you perform site reviews of your facility’s surfaces:

What is the current state of concrete on the property?

Are there cracks that show heaving potential to create a trip hazard?

What is the current state of turf in relation to curbing?

Is turf graded such that water will run off into the parking lot causing ice buildup during times of thawing and refreezing at night?

Consider areas of heavy use by patrons and employees, such as outdoor smoking sections and delivery locations. You should include a safe passage snow and ice plan for time frames these areas are in use. Consider too the location of your facility in relation to trees and other buildings. Sunlight aids in the melting of ice and snow, while shading limits it. Wind plays a factor; what is the prevailing wind direction of your site? Knowing this will help you evaluate drifting conditions.

Prep Parking Lots/Pedestrian Areas: What is your facility’s plan for placement of snow piles? How closely will patrons and employees park to the snow pile? Will this cause a thaw refreeze event that may create black ice?

You should have a plan in place to remove or relocate snow piles when necessary. Parking lots should be reviewed for potholes, depressions and cracks, all of which can easily hold water that later freezes. Downhill water runoff can cause a trail of water that freezes or forms black ice. These areas must be addressed prior to winter. Facilities should perform pre-season maintenance of parking and pedestrian-area lighting. Review/plan lighting both for increased patron safety and potential heat sources, which can cause thaw and refreeze of nearby snow accumulation.

People/Response Plan: Who is responsible for the snow and ice management of your sidewalks? If performed in-house, determine when it will occur and how it will work in conjunction with plowing operations by a service provider. Where will the snow from the walks be pushed? Leaving snow along a sidewalk can cause a slip hazard to pedestrians.

Key to preparation is a written Snow Response Plan that addresses all areas of concern, including when temperatures drop at night. All store personnel should know the plan. They should understand their areas of responsibility and be trained every pre-season on every piece of snow equipment. If you outsource, it is critical to discuss the plan with the provider prior to winter.

By performing a pre-season property assessment, you give your team the opportunity to foresee issues and time to address potential hazards. In the unfortunate event that a slip and fall from snow/ice occurs, you will be able to demonstrate that your team performed important pre-season procedures to try to reduce the chances of an accident.

Rich Arlington, CSP, CLP of Rich Arlington & Associates, is a consultant to the facility management industry with more than 25 years of experience. ([email protected])

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Focus on: Energy Management

BY Marianne Wilson

Michaels Stores is taking its energy conservation efforts to the next level. The arts and crafts retailer has rolled out several advanced extensions to its energy management system. The extensions are expected to bring Michaels’ total EMS-related savings to more than 30%.

Michaels deployed its present energy management system — Site Controls, from Siemens Building Technologies Division — in 2006. Since installing the system, the chain has seen substantial reductions in energy consumption across its fleet of more than 1,000 Michaels stores.

“Energy is our second highest store-level line item expense behind labor,” said Robin Moore, VP store development and construction, Michaels Stores, Irving, Texas. “Through regular KPI (key performance indicator) reviews and process improvements provided by Siemens’ Client Services team, we have been able to sustain and increase our energy savings over time, and these new extensions will take those savings even further.”

Prior to rolling out the new capabilities, Michaels undertook a thorough system analysis after a 30-site pilot and subsequent 200-site expansion. The pilots were followed up with a comprehensive measurement and verification study, which validated the savings delivered.

The new extensions include the deployment of Siemens’ Intelligent Demand Control Ventilation, which allows retailers to reduce energy consumption by automatically controlling the amount of outside air intake based on the occupancy of each store without expensive hardware retrofits. Psychrometric controls, which dynamically adjust temperature set points to factor in both temperature and humidity while maintaining customer comfort, have also been deployed.

In addition, lighting automation upgrades have been rolled out. The upgrades enable more precise controls of lighting circuits, such as stocking zones and employee areas.

“Some of the software extensions, such as Psychrometric controls and Intelligent Demand Control Ventilation, can be deployed remotely, while the lighting automation upgrades require a Siemens crew to visit each store,” Moore said. (The rollout was due to be completed by press time.)

In addition to existing locations, the energy-saving features are being specified for new construction.

“The new extensions are now included in the design of the EMS package deployed with each new Michaels location,” Moore added.

What does Michaels think will be the biggest advantage of the extensions?

“It’s all about energy savings and ROI,” Moore explained. “We expect these savings will bring total EMS-related savings to more than 30% without negatively impacting shopping conditions or customer comfort.”

The new capabilities have a cash-on-cash payback of 20 months, and an ROI exceeding 90%, according to Siemens. The investment will also drive further reductions in Michaels’ footprint to the equivalent of removing 5,600 cars from the road annually.

While Michaels is already reaping significant savings, the chain believes even more opportunities exist.

“We definitely believe there are opportunities, and we are always willing to evaluate and deploy the ones that demonstrate savings,” Moore said. “Certainly the energy savings yielded to date are a home run. But job No. 1 is to maintain these savings over time — and we have institutionalized the operating processes and KPI reviews necessary to do this.”

Moore added that one of the great benefits of Michaels’ partnership with Siemens is the supplier’s history of bringing the retailer continuous technology enhancements.

“That makes us confident we will create even more savings opportunities in the future,” Moore said.

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P.Lopez says:
Apr-01-2013 08:01 pm

The industry has dithered about adding doors to dairy, beer, lunch meat and bagged salad and other medium temperature coolers for years. ChatRandom

J.Hams says:
Mar-30-2013 06:47 am

. But most importantly, they will be able to back up their sustainability message with actions that truly make a difference. AodhfionnAonghus

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Focus on: Gift Cards

BY Phillip M. Perry

Retailers looking to add sparkle to this year’s Christmas season may want to take a new look at their gift card programs. Last year, more than half of consumers bought at least one gift card for the holidays, according to a report from First Data Corp., an Atlanta-based e-commerce processor.

Indeed, consumers seem to be taking more of a shine than ever to these types of spending vehicles.

“The average value of a closed loop card purchased in 2011 rose more than 23% year over year, from $34 in 2010 to $42 in 2011,” according to the First Data report. (A closed loop card can be used only at a specific store. An open look card, issued by credit card providers, such as Visa and American Express, can be used at any store).

The reason for consumer interest? Choice: Sixty-five percent of participants in a First Data survey said they valued the ability to select their own gifts.

“More than half of consumers would prefer to receive a $25 gift card than a gift valued at $45,” according to the report.

The message for retailers: Launching a new program or fine-tuning an existing one might pay off. Here are some tactics to consider:

• Go virtual. “Offer e-gift cards where possible,” suggested Shelley Hunter, a San Francisco-based gift card consultant. “The ability to send a gift from your phone gives the customer a way to quickly take care of last-minute gifts.”

Indeed, a report by digital gift card company Giftango Corp. noted that fulfillment of a gift card purchased from a retailer’s website generally takes three to five days from time of order to mailbox delivery, with the time frame even longer the week prior to Christmas. The report, “A Case for Digital Gift Cards: eGift Cards Turn Slowest Gift Card Sales Days into Busiest for Retailers,” found that gift card sales decline dramatically starting nearly two weeks before the gifting event.

However, this trend is reversed when instant digital delivery is presented as an option, according to the report. It found that the highest gift card sales days for retailers that offered both delivery options was Dec. 19, a full week later than the highest sales days for retailers that offered only plastic delivery.

• Incentivize the staff. “Reward store personnel who make gift card sales,” suggested Bob Phibbs, a retail consultant based in Coxsackie, N.Y. “Individuals on a commissioned sales team usually only get credit when gift cards are used, which can lessen efforts to sell them.”

• Liberalize return policies. If the recipient of a gift card buys something they end up not liking, will you refund their purchase or only issue a new gift card? You might prefer the latter option, but it can disappoint your customer. “You don’t want your employees angering customers about what the store can’t do with a gift card,” Phibbs noted.

• Encourage reloading. Only 9% of consumers reloaded a gift card they’d bought or received in the past year, according to First Data. Punch up that figure by offering cash bonuses or free items each time a customer adds cash to a card.

• Offer gift card substitution. Is a certain item out of stock? Post a “purchase gift card instead” sign at the in-store display, or on your website catalog. Train all the staff to offer gift cards when items are stocked out.

• Add value. Many people still hesitate to purchase gift cards, looking upon them as cold and impersonal. Warm things up by offering exciting combinations of cards and small merchandise items, Hunter suggested.

“Customers quickly catch the vision that adding a little something to the gift card turns otherwise impersonal plastic into a thoughtful act,” Hunter said. “Keep ribbon on hand to encourage the upsell.”

• Reward givers. Offer gift card buyers an incentive, suggested Hunter. “For example, customers who buy a $50 gift card might receive a $10 coupon toward their next purchase.”

Phillip M. Perry is a New York City-based business writer.

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P.Lopez says:
Apr-01-2013 08:01 pm

ChatRandom
Turn Slowest Gift Card Sales Days into Busiest for Retailers,” found that gift card sales decline dramatically starting nearly two weeks before the gifting event. ChatRandom

P.Lopez says:
Apr-01-2013 08:01 pm

Turn Slowest Gift Card Sales Days into Busiest for Retailers,” found that gift card sales decline dramatically starting nearly two weeks before the gifting event. ChatRandom

J.Hams says:
Mar-30-2013 06:48 am

suggested Hunter. “For
suggested Hunter. “For example, customers who buy a $50 gift card might receive a $10 coupon toward their next purchase.” Barry

J.Hams says:
Mar-30-2013 06:48 am

suggested Hunter. “For example, customers who buy a $50 gift card might receive a $10 coupon toward their next purchase.” Barry

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