ECOMMERCE

Home furnishings giant launches augmented reality design app

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Ikea is allowing its shoppers to virtually test drive merchandise before making a purchase.

The home furnishings giant is preparing to launch a new augmented reality (AR) app. Called Ikea Place, the app allows customers to virtually place furniture in any space in their home, office, school or studio — and share the images.

The app, which will be supported by Apple’s iOS 11 platform, will launch in late September.

Here’s how it works: After downloading the app, users scan the floor of the room they want to decorate. Customers can access a list of products directly through the app, and select a product to stage.

Merchandise is presented as 3D images. Using their finger, they can move and place the product into their virtual room. The app automatically scales furniture with 98% accuracy. The AR technology also highlights fabric textures, as well as how light and shadows are rendered on furnishings.

Users can also use the app to share images of their virtually staged choices with friends. Purchases can be made through their local Ikea website, according to the company.

More than 2,000 items will be available when the app launches. The first release will focus on larger furniture products for the living room, including the company’s full assortment of sofas, armchairs, footstools, coffee tables and top-selling storage solutions.

In the future, the app will play a key role in the launch of new product lines, according to Ikea.

“Ikea Place makes it easier to make buying decisions in your own place, to get inspired and try many different products, styles and colors in real-life settings with a swipe of your finger,” said Michael Valdsgaard, leader digital transformation at Inter Ikea systems. “Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster.”

The app will be available in Apple’s App store.

The service competes directly with options already available through its rivals. For example, Wayfair’s WayfairView app enables shoppers to see virtual furniture and décor in their homes at full scale before they make a purchase.

Meanwhile, Ashley Furniture was preparing to launch its own virtual reality (VR) and AR initiatives this year. First, the retailer planned to launch an AR shopping app, which will help shoppers see how home furnishings fit into an existing space. It will also feature in-store virtual reality tech bars that will combine a guided iPad-based space configuration experience with VR headset visualization — a move that will allow shoppers to design and visualize their bedrooms, dining rooms or living rooms.

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FINANCE

Department store retailer steps back from the off-price retail game

BY Marianne Wilson

Off-price retailing is hot, but Neiman Marcus is emphasizing what it knows best.

Neiman Marcus will close 10 of its 38 off-price Last Call stores in order to focus on its full-line luxury department stores. Prior to the news, the retailer has already closed three Last Call outlets this year, including its locations at Allen Premium Outlets, Allen, Texas, and Legacy Place in Dedham, Mass.

"This decision is about optimizing our Last Call store portfolio to deliver the best customer service and freeing up resources to support new initiatives for our full-line Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman channels," said Elizabeth Allison, senior VP of Last Call. "We are investing in our strengths as the clear leader of high-end luxury retail."

The news was not all that surprising. In July, the retailer said it was assessing its Last Call portfolio "to ensure it had the right mix of brick-and-mortar stores and online stores" to meet our customers evolving demands."

The 10 Last Call stores that are being shuttered include the ones at Arundel Mills, Arizona Mills, Great Lakes Crossing, Gurnee Mills, Lenox Marketplace, Livermore Premium, Philadelphia Premium, Philadelphia Mills, and Potomac Mills.

The closings will leave a total of 28 Last Call stores.

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C-SUITE

Home improvement giants taps Neiman Marcus exec for supply chain post

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Lowe’s Cos. has appointed a 20-year retail veteran to lead supply chain field processes

Michael West will join Lowe's as senior VP of supply chain field operations, effective Sept. 25. He will report to chief supply chain officer Brent G. Kirby.

West joins Lowe's from Neiman Marcus, where he served on the company's leadership team as senior VP, supply chain. He led distribution, transportation and fulfillment for all brands in the Neiman Marcus Group.

Prior to Neiman Marcus, West was senior VP, global logistics and distribution at Ann, Inc. He also spent 12 years with Target Corp., where he held various leadership positions, including VP, global logistics.

In his new position, West will lead operations for Lowe's regional and flatbed distribution centers, millwork facilities and bulk distribution centers. He will be tasked with driving efficiency and flexibility to best meet the needs of customers.

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