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Great Expectations

BY Marianne Wilson

Destination Maternity Corp. is thinking big. The world’s largest retailer of maternity apparel is bullish on its superstore format, with new locations in Paramus, N.J., and Virginia Beach, Va. The Philadelphia-based company has an estimated 35% to 45% share of the U.S. maternity market.

The two new stores vary in size and have different layouts, as well as some merchandising variations. But both are designed as customer-centric, one-stop shopping resources. And both share a common vision.

“Both stores recognize that for expectant or new mothers, it’s even more important to create an environment that is inviting, personal and can be navigated with ease,” said Ken Nisch, chairman, JGA, Southfield, Mich., which designed the two superstores. “It’s not untypical for the Destination Maternity customer to spend one or two hours in the store. Oftentimes, she doesn’t own any maternity wear and is buying an entire wardrobe. It’s all new to her.”

But fashion is only part of the equation. More than the average apparel shopper, Destination Maternity customers are looking for input and help as to what looks best on them.

“It’s a high-touch sell,” Nisch said.

The new superstores make it easy for customers to take care of all their wardrobing needs by showcasing the retailer’s full breadth of assortment via “lifestyle” zones for work, casual, sleep, intimates and nursing essentials. The zones encourage cross-shopping of all the brands the retailer sells.

“Historically, these categories weren’t brought together by end use,” Nisch added.

Also, both formats have defined areas that highlight the company’s very own Motherhood Maternity and A Pea in the Pod brands, with each department identified with subtle differences in materials, colors, accent fixtures and display techniques. Feature walls highlight layette and gifts.

The use of larger in-store imagery, enhanced visuals and displays, updated lighting and new fixtures and tables helps make for a more contemporary environment in both locations. But perhaps the key element is the enhanced fitting rooms, which are about 30% to 40% larger than traditional fitting rooms and temperature friendly, with extra air conditioning.

“Comfort is very critical to this customer,” Nisch added.

In a unique twist, the fitting rooms in both locations are in the center of the space, rather than off by themselves in the rear.

“The placement changes the shopping experience, and helps to reinforce the idea that this is a high-service environment,” Nisch said.

Featuring upholstered seating, accent lighting and mirrors with lighting that can be adjusted to simulate different environments, the fitting rooms have a level of visual merchandising akin to an upscale department store. The same is true for the stores’ mannequins, which are shown in conversation groupings, runway formats or as shelf accents.

Adjacent to the fitting room area is a lounge area with a flat screen TV, comfortable seating and a play space for children. Both locations also have a beauty bar that provides customized skincare consultations.

The materials and color palette is warm, with a soft mix of warm grays and taupe, and accent fixtures in wenge woods and gray tones. The palette is carried over in the floor finishes (ceramic or porcelain in Paramus, and vinyl wood in Virginia Beach).

LAYOUTS: At 7,700 sq. ft., the Paramus location is the larger of the two and is a remodel project. It has a “town square” format, with the fitting rooms and cashwrap and other related functions located in a central service hub, evoking a communal vibe. A wall of framed black-and-white baby photos accents the wall behind the checkout.

The Paramus superstore also has a learning studio, separated from the selling space by draped windows, that offers a variety of fitness and educational classes.

The all-new 5,000-sq.-ft. Virginia Beach location has a “discovery” floor plan that is less directed and features fewer straight lines compared with the standard racetrack layout. The layout sets customers on a pathway to explore the store.

Destination Maternity said it plans to use both of its new locations as “lab stores” where it can test adjacencies, shop formats, visual statements, customer service enhancements and new paths of navigation.

“As always, our underlying message that a customer doesn’t have to give up her personal style when she’s expecting shines through in both formats,” said Chris Daniel, president, Destination Maternity.

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Building Commissioning

BY CSA STAFF

By Sam Khalilieh

For a long time, commissioning was predominately associated with the process of testing and balancing (T&B) heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems based on specific standards prior to turning the building over to the owner. But commissioning has come a long way, and today it is a more formal and meticulous quality-assurance process of articulating and verifying that all of the building’s systems perform as they were intended.

In addition, commissioning recognizes the integrated nature of building systems and impacts on energy savings, environment, public health, workplace productivity and security.

There are different types of commissioning. It can range from a single piece of equipment (simple commissioning) to the commissioning of an entire building’s systems.

Some typical types of commissioning include:

1. Basic Commissioning: A process of performing functional testing of systems and equipment at the time of start-up.

2. Re-commissioning: A periodic commissioning exercise of repeating the original commissioning procedures

3. Retro-commissioning: A process for improving and optimizing a building’s O&M procedures beyond their original plan and specifications after construction and focuses on energy-using equipment.

4. Ongoing Commissioning: A process conducted continually for the purposes of maintaining, improving and optimizing the performance of building’s systems after initial commissioning or retro-commissioning.

5. Continuous Commissioning: An ongoing process to investigate, collect and address operating deficiencies, improve comfort, optimize energy use and identify solutions.

6. LEED Commissioning: A process offering an additional credit for “enhanced commissioning” (EC), which involves a more meticulous, integrated approach.

7. Total Building Commissioning: A process for achieving, validating and documenting that the performance of the total building and its systems meet the design intent and requirements of the owner.

Commissioning professionals are trained to understand and evaluate buildings’ systems to ensure their efficient operation and that building operators are properly trained in operation and maintenance procedures. That is crucial because equipment can be undermined by the human involvement and cause unintentional or improper use.

The benefits of commissioning include articulating and verifying design intent; optimizing energy performance, efficiency and safety; enhancing safety and risk management; and lower overall project cost.

Additional benefits are construction observation and warranty enforcement; reducing contractors change orders and call back; and addressing design and installation issues before they morph into major and expensive problems.

Quicker occupancy, better indoor air quality environment for the employees and customers, document operation criteria for use as a baseline for future; adjustments and troubleshooting; and extension of equipment life complete the list.

The need for commissioning cannot be overstated. It helps to identify common deficiencies, such as design flaws, construction defects, malfunctioning equipment and, in some instances, deferred maintenance. The cost varies depending on the size and complexity of the project. Showing occupant productivity gains in a well-commissioned building, versus a building that is not commissioned, is extremely difficult.

Studies have shown that the types of problems found during commissioning, left uncorrected, resulted in sub-optimal building performance, which could lead to sub-optimal employee performance. Consequently, commissioning can and will produce lower construction costs and lower operating costs.

Commissioning is the backbone of every project in that it ensures the different building’s systems perform according to the design documents. The bottom line is simple: A properly commissioned building is likely to have fewer complaints from occupants, lower energy costs, improved indoor air quality and improved equipment.

Sam Khalilieh is senior VP architecture & engineering at WD Partners, Columbus, Ohio. He will present a session on commissioning, “Building Commissioning: A Golden Opportunity for Operational Excellence and Reduced Energy Costs,” at Chain Store Age’s SPECS conference on Tuesday March 11, 2014 (specsshow.com).

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Spotlight on Hazardous Waste Laws

BY CSA STAFF

By Josh M. McMorrow, Tim Wilkins and Matt Haynie

“I’m a retailer, not a hazardous waste producer.” If that’s what you think, you may be wrong.

The fact is that any retailer that sells such everyday items as fertilizer, bug spray, nail polish, bleach or some over-the-counter medications generates hazardous waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state governments have recently turned their enforcement eyes on retailers’ role as hazardous waste generators, hitting these companies with tens of millions of dollars in fines based on violations of state and federal hazardous waste laws.

It should come as no surprise that ordinary retailers can be liable under hazardous waste laws. The days are long gone when federal and state agencies focused their hazardous waste enforcement efforts on major industrial operators. As recent cases show, retailers of common household goods must also take the steps necessary to comply with these laws or face serious civil and/or criminal consequences.

Waste Not, Want Not

A variety of federal and state laws apply to entities that handle hazardous waste. The most widely applicable of these is RCRA. Originally enacted by Congress in 1976 (and notably expanded in 1984), RCRA establishes a federal “cradle to grave” system for the management of solid and hazardous waste.

Subtitle C of RCRA, and its enabling regulations, set out a national hazardous waste management program. A threshold for coverage under these requirements is that an activity must involve “hazardous waste.” For a substance to be hazardous waste, it must be a waste — to greatly oversimplify, something that is intended to be discarded, abandoned or recycled, both before and after it is disposed or recycled.

The pre-disposal or pre-recycling storage element of the definition can be a special problem for retailers. Why? Because once a customer brings in a return, that item may already be considered a waste when the retailer receives it if it is destined for the trash or recycling.

Hazardous wastes include products that can no longer be used for their intended purpose. A product becomes a waste when the decision to discard has been made for a particular item. For years, retailers have put off the decision to discard until an item was transported back to a return center. Historically, retailers have claimed to lack the expertise to make the waste determination at the store level. This would seemingly allow a retailer to avoid making a waste determination, giving them the ability to legally transport the product without complying with RCRA. A recent Wal-Mart case specifically deals with this practice and makes clear the government’s view that the waste determination must be made at the store level for any product that cannot be used for its intended purpose.

Many waste items can be “hazardous wastes” — not just things that require a hazmat suit to handle but any waste that either is included on specific EPA lists of hazardous wastes or exhibits certain characteristics deemed to be hazardous — ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity. Materials included on the EPA lists or exhibiting those attributes cause problems for people or the environment due to their tendency, among other things, to cause fires or eat through storage containers. Common retail products falling into these categories are legion, including many beauty supplies, batteries, light bulbs, household cleaners, pesticides and paints.

Compliance

Entities that violate RCRA can face serious consequences. The civil penalties, for example, can be significant. Under RCRA, administrative and civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day are available for each violation of the regulations. Those penalties can add up quickly, especially because the government can often identify multiple violations — if a retailer fails to perform a proper waste determination and a hazardous waste ends up in the store dumpster, the retailer has likely violated quite a number of requirements, including failure to properly identify, label, package, mark, store, train, plan, manifest and dispose of the waste in question. Eight or 10 violations occurring over a period of months or years can result in mind-bogglingly large potential penalties.

Importantly, for “knowing violations” of various RCRA requirements, the federal government can also commence a criminal enforcement action, with penalties reaching up to $50,000 per day of violation, as well as imprisonment for responsible corporate officers and managers and involved employees for up to five years in some circumstances. Even more seriously, where such a violation would knowingly put someone in danger of death or serious bodily injury, the penalty can reach $250,000 for an individual or $1,000,000 for an organization, in addition to imprisonment for up to 15 years.

These financial and penal consequences are in addition to issues like legal and defense costs, damage to reputation, and potential injunctive requirements and oversight. Where these issues arise, public companies can be punished by their shareholders, credit agreements and other financial instruments can be violated, and entities that do business with the federal government can face potential exclusion from those activities. Plus, RCRA violations can be in addition to violations of other federal and state statutes that lead to similar consequences, as well as private party litigation that can be brought by persons claiming to have been harmed.

Josh M. McMorrow is VP and general counsel of PSC, a leading environmental and industrial services company based in Houston. Tim Wilkins is head of the environmental practice at the international law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP and managing partner of the firm’s Austin, Texas office. Matt Haynie is an environmental associate attorney in Bracewell’s Washington, D.C., office.

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