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GNC authorizes share repurchase; increases term loan

BY Dan Berthiaume

Pittsburgh – The board of directors of GNC Holdings has authorized a multi-year program to repurchase up to an aggregate $500 million of the company’s Class A common stock. The authorization is effective immediately. The GNC may finance any repurchases with cash, potential financing transactions, or a combination of the foregoing.

All previous share repurchase authorizations have been completed. The company also increased its term loan to $1.35 billion. Under the new terms, the maturity date was extended by one year to March 2019 and repriced. In connection with this repricing, lenders will receive a 1% premium if the company consummates a "repricing transaction" within six months.

The continuation of our share repurchase program and evolution of our capital structure reaffirms our commitment to consistently return capital to shareholders, and reinforces our confidence in the fundamental strength and long-term prospects of the business," said Joe Fortunato, chairman, president and CEO of GNC.

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Shoptology bolsters digital business

BY CSA STAFF

Independent agency network Project: WorldWide and its shopper engagement agency, Shoptology, have named Ken Madden as head of digital at Shoptology. Madden will report directly to Shoptology CEO Charlie Anderson.

Charged with overseeing Shoptology’s digital, social and mobile strategy teams, Madden will play a lead role in the agency’s ongoing capability development, digital thought leadership and e-commerce practice, working across all of Shoptology’s clients, including Pepsi-Lipton partnership, Blistex’s Stridex, Lifeway Christian Resources and DSM.

“Investing in top digital leadership has never been more important,” said Anderson. “Madden is an incredible talent that has dedicated his career to the creative use of technology and data driven insights to solve client problems — his hire not only supports our vision for Shopper Marketing 2.0, but also signifies a pivotal point in our industry that is focused on digital, shopper engagement.”

Madden joins Shoptology from Geometry Global, where he served as EVP, head of digital, North America. Prior, he worked at OgilvyAction, serving in various leadership roles throughout the course of his tenure focusing on and developing data and analytics, research, digital strategy, technology and e-commerce capabilities.

“We are at a decisive point in time where our industry is rapidly changing — the retail experience is completely transforming and shopper marketing for brands is about to be a different game altogether. We have a unique and rare opportunity to re-envision the shopper agency of the future and I have no doubt that Shoptology has the team and focus to get it right,” said Madden. “This new role is going to allow me to use the full breadth of my experience in technology, data and analytics, digital marketing and strategy, and I can’t wait to get in and start building.”

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Survey: Companies failing to deliver on omnichannel customer service

BY Marianne Wilson

San Francisco – Seventy-three percent of consumers think that companies are paying more attention to generating sales across multiple channels than they are in delivering a seamless customer service experience across those same channels, according to a global survey of 7,000 consumers in seven countries. Meanwhile, when consumers can’t get an answer or fast response elsewhere, they are falling back to phone support as their primary contact method.

The report, “The Omnichannel Customer Service Gap,” was produced by Loudhouse, an independent research agency based in London, on behalf of Zendesk, a provider of cloud-based software for better customer service. It is based on surveys of 7,000 online shoppers between the ages of 18-64 in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K.

In the survey, more than one-third (37%) of consumers said they increasingly expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative regardless of the channel they use, and another 47% expect to be able to return goods or purchases through a different channel than the one they purchased from. Despite those expectations, only 7% are extremely satisfied with the omnichannel experience for customer service.

“The customer journey doesn’t end at checkout,” said J.D. Peterson, VP of marketing at Zendesk. “Brands are failing to match their omnichannel efforts in sales with their customer service experiences. To meet the demands of today’s consumers, they need to create seamless customer service across every channel.”

Poor service across channels is leading consumers to turn to phone support as a failsafe. When an email is unanswered, 71% will then phone; when social media is unanswered, 55% will then phone; and if the phone is unanswered, 54% will try to call again. Because of their perception that the phone has the quickest response, 54% of consumers still use it as their first contact for support.

U.S. shoppers are the least likely than shoppers in any other country surveyed to use multiple channels for a purchase. Only 51% of Americans reported using multiple channels when making a purchase in the past six months, compared to the worldwide average of 67%. Brazilian consumers reported the highest levels of multiple channel usage at 86%.

A company’s rewards program and its reputation for good service matter more to U.S. consumer than shoppers in other countries. Seventy-one percent of U.S. shoppers believe being rewarded for purchases, feedback, and referrals is important, compared to the global average of 66%. Additionally, 84% of U.S. shoppers consider a company’s reputation for customer service as being important when choosing a vendor, compared to 78% of consumers worldwide.

Speed of service also falls short of expectations in the United States. While 88% of U.S. consumers surveyed cite the speed of response and resolution as important, only half of respondents believe that brands are “good” or “excellent” when it comes to speed of response (50%) and resolution (51%).

The full report is available at here.

Click the graphic below for a larger view.

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