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FINANCE

Hhgregg deal falls through

BY Marianne Wilson

Bankrupt Hhgregg Inc.’s proposed purchase by an anonymous buyer has collapsed.

The appliance and electronics retailer filed Chapter 11 on March 6, 2017, saying that it had reached an agreement to sell the business to an undisclosed party. But late last week Hhgregg said it “terminated its previously announced nonbinding term sheet with an anonymous party to purchase substantially all of the assets of the company through a reorganization under Chapter 11,” due to a failure “to reach a definitive agreement on terms”.

The retailer said it has received interest from other possible buyers.

"We have received strong interest from third parties interested in buying some or all of the company's assets," stated Robert J. Riesbeck, Hhgregg's president and CEO, Hhgregg. "We and our advisors continue to work with potential acquirers to help them understand our business model for future growth and our value proposition."

The company has obtained interim approval of its $80 million debtor-in-possession loan facility to fund operations of the business during the sale process. Hhgregg said it will continue to operate in the ordinary course of business throughout the restructuring process. It still anticipated exiting Chapter 11 in early May.

The retailer currently operates 220 stores in 19 states.

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BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE/ANALYTICS

Supermarket chain taps AI to improve automated replenishment

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Time-starved shoppers expect their favorite grocers to have the staples they need when they enter the store — and supermarkets are hard-pressed to deliver.

U.K. grocer Morrisons is addressing this customer demand by adopting artificial intelligence to optimize replenishment and automate ordering among 26,000 ambient and long-life product SKUs in all its 491 stores. The Blue Yonder Replenishment Optimization technology automatically analyzes sales data and other data sources from Morrisons, and combines this with external data, such as weather forecasts and public holidays.

By applying data to the system’s machine learning algorithms, the solution learns as it goes and can manage a vast and complex amount of data to make highly accurate ordering decisions. This automated analysis can predict the level of demand down to the individual product and store location. Blue Yonder’s technology then fully automates ordering per store and per product.

Based on cloud technology, the system provides a low total cost of ownership and is highly scalable.

Since it launched in 2016, the technology processes data across the chain’s 491 stores, automates over 13 million ordering decisions per day, and has reducing shelf gaps by up to 30%, the company said.

“Our new automated ordering system has been our biggest new initiative. The system is capital light, and utilizes cloud technology and store-specific historic sales data to forecast stock requirements,” Morrisons’ CEO, David Potts said. “It is reducing costs and stock levels, while also saving time for colleagues, and providing a better offer for customers.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Report: Retail will look dramatically different by 2030

BY Marianne Wilson

Converging channels, customization and constant connectivity are expected to change the shopping sector in the years ahead.

That is the main theme of a new study by Synchrony Financial, which examines consumer perspectives and shopping trends that are expected to change the retail industry by 2030.

“The future of retail will look dramatically different in 2030 than it does today,” said Whit Goodrich, CMO retail card, Synchrony Financial.

According to Synchrony’s Future of Retail: Insight and Influences Shaping Retail Innovation report, technology will bring a new era of DIY shopping – changing how shoppers access, select and pay. The self-serve retail model, 24/7 stores with robot-assisted drive-thru windows, and interactive mirrors will become mainstream. Nearly half (47%) of consumers surveyed ranked interactive touchscreen mirrors in dressing rooms among the top three most exciting innovations of the future.

“Findings show shoppers seek self- and on-demand service, increased customization, and seamless home and in-store integration,” said Goodrich.

Brick-and-mortar stores of the future will focus on delivering genuine brand experiences to build both trust and loyalty – tapping into consumer desires. More than half of study participants (55%) are excited about blended in-store and entertaining experiences such as coffee shops, cafés, music, bars, or complimentary samplings of products or services.

In other findings from the report:

• Consumers will expect retailers to tap into the personal information they willingly provide to deliver better customized products and offers. From RFID in phones and wearables to biometrics such as finger and palm scanners, retailers will know shoppers well enough to direct them to preferred in-store items and send immediate and individualized sales offers. In-home chat bot devices and unbiased experts within “digital assistants” will become popular.

“One of the biggest disrupters in retail in the future could be 3D printing – footprints to create shoes and ways to produce many things faster and more inexpensively in a manner we never could before. It’s mass customization,” said Courtney Gentleman, CMO, payment solutions, Synchrony Financial.

• Increasingly, technology will give rise to a more demanding shopper base – one that expects what they purchase to be instantly available or returned. Among consumers surveyed, 77% anticipate better ways of making returns from online purchases in the future. Instant gratification will be an important part of the shopping experience offered in the form of stores on wheels, trunk stores, pop-up shops and subscription services; return buttons in retailer apps that re-package and pick-up items; and real-time inventory views and better ship-to-store options.

• The confluence of channels and high-definition camera technology will enable shoppers to access an interface through virtual or augmented reality to see how a new sofa, fabric and paint, garage door, flooring or other items will look in their house. Consumers will be able to secure in-home retailer services, purchase on demand using smart labels or QR codes, shop in 3D and use instant try-on features.

“Shoppers will be able to take a perfectly dimensioned picture of a person’s body, type and form and upload it to retailer apps. Bart Schaller, CMO, Synchrony Financial. “Without moving from the sofa, a pair of pants will arrive at their doorstep ready to go.”

• Instead of appealing to everyone, 57% of consumers agree that retailers must streamline and focus on doing one or two things well. Specialty retailers will remain a go-to in high-involvement categories, while online and automated reordering will reduce the need for as many one-stop-shop stores. Regardless of category, brands of the future must have a strong reason for being.

The Future of Retail report was developed from multiple research phases conducted January-February 2017 on behalf of Synchrony Financial with consumers and industry experts.

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