OPERATIONS

Harris survey ranks Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Target and Walgreens highest in their categories

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Kohl’s, Nordstrom and Target ranked first in their categories in a new survey by Harris Interactive The 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend (EQ) study surveyed Americans about brands across several retail segments, revealing which brands prompted them to open their hearts—and consequently—their pocketbooks.

While all brands in the department store category dropped in 2012, Kohl’s came out on top as the Department Store Brand of the Year. Kohl’s edged out J.C. Penney in 2009 and has maintained its lead in the rankings ever since. Kohl’s shows the highest overall brand equity score, carried by a strong performance in purchase consideration.

Nordstrom led the ratings in a new category and was named Luxury Department Store Brand of the Year. Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale’s, included in the study for the first time, placed second and third respectively in the luxury ratings.

In the value retailer category, Target was the Value Retail Brand of the Year, surpassing Walmart. While this is just the second year of this award category, in 2007 Target supplanted Walmart in overall retailer rankings, and has maintained its lead ever since. Top scores for all three elements of brand equity – Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Intention – drove this strong performance.

Walgreens takes the top spot as EquiTrend’s first-ever Drugstore Brand of the Year, while CVS and Rite Aid came in second and third, respectively, in this new category for 2012. Top scores for Familiarity and Purchase Consideration boosted Walgreens to the top.

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REAL ESTATE

Australian brand Lorna Jane set to open second U.S. Location

BY Marianne Wilson

Los Angeles — Lorna Jane, the premier Australian activewear brand for women, will open its second U.S. location, in Marina del Rey, Calif., this month.

The company’s other U.S. location opened in March 2012, in Malibu, Calif. A third flagship store is scheduled to open in June in Santa Monica, and an online retail store will launch later this year.

“Bill, my husband and Lorna Jane CEO, and I have visited Marina del Rey many times on our trips to the US and have always enjoyed the active lifestyle there,” said founder and chief creative officer Lorna Jane Clarkson. “The brand and my own personal philosophy, Move Nourish Believe, resonates with the healthy and vibrant nature, and we hope the women in the area will embrace Lorna Jane and love what we have to offer.”

The new store’s decor is representative of a classic Australian Lorna Jane store so that the culture and history of the brand can be conveyed to the U.S. customer. The walls are whitewashed, complemented by timber floors, and soft furnishings. Inspirational sayings and inspiring images greet you as you enter and the color scheme is warm and uses neutral tones.

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OPERATIONS

Walgreens launches retail job training program for people with disabilities

BY Michael Johnson

Deerfield, Ill. — Walgreens on Monday launched its national Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative, an in-store training program designed to help people with disabilities gain retail and customer service skills that works closely with community organizations and vocational rehabilitation agencies to train and develop candidates.

Another similar initiative at Walgreens distribution centers resulted in 10% of the workforce being made up of people with disabilities at all levels across all 20 DCs. The company hopes to see the same success with REDI.

In 2010, the drugstore chain piloted the REDI program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, bringing together Walgreens store managers and job coaches funded by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services to train candidates. After more than 200 trainees and 66% of REDI graduates were recommended for hire, the program grew to more than 150 stores throughout Texas, New York and Connecticut. To date, nearly 400 externs have completed training, and more than 46% have been employed by Walgreens or other retailers.

“We are committed to helping customers live well, stay well and get well, and to do that you need team members who are dedicated to excellent customer service,” stated Mark Wagner, Walgreens president of operations and community management. “This program highlights ability and gives candidates the tools to be successful in any retail setting. This is a meaningful program for everyone touched by the initiative. Already, one enthusiastic REDI graduate now working for Walgreens in New York was named Customer Service Employee of the Month, just three months after being hired.”

According to a 2012 Allsup disability study analysis based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities continues to be much higher than for those with no disabilities.

The first phase of REDI will begin in parts of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin, with plans to reach all states by the end of 2013. Once a local agency is identified, there is a four-week training program, which takes place in up to five stores per district. The goal is to prepare qualified candidates for employment in store positions, as well as positions in any retail setting that requires similar skills. Responsibilities include cash register operations, customer service, merchandising, store inventory and maintaining store signage and displays.

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