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How Sweet It Is

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Retailers are finally harnessing the power of the Web and its role in a successful multichannel strategy. But now they are confronted with how their networks can support a new dimension in this strategy—mobility.

By adopting a platform that allows consumers to shop via their wireless personal communications devices, Godiva Chocolatier is exploiting the potential of mobile retailing.

New York City-based Godiva creates and sells premium chocolate concoctions, from candy and truffles, to coffee, cocoa and ice cream. The company is best known for the goodies it sells through 450 boutique stores (more than 200 locations in North America), department stores, via catalogs and online.

An e-commerce pioneer, Godiva launched its Web site in 1995. “But we always look at ways to stay ahead of the curve,” said Kim Land, VP, Godiva Direct.

For Godiva, that newest wave is taking the form of smart phones. Until now, busy shoppers in North America used their Web-based handheld devices purely to search for and compare merchandise. But with the help of a mobile platform from Digby, Austin, Texas, Godiva is one company that is merging browsing and shopping functionality across this emerging retail medium.

The power of convenience: Godiva’s first foray into the mobile genre was through its participation in the Digby Marketplace, which it joined over a year ago. This mobile-shopping platform, established by Digby, features approximately 25 retailers, including Godiva, Barnes & Noble and 1-800- Flowers.com .

Consumers who carry BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile smart phones and units with mobile browsers can access the marketplace and purchase products anywhere, anytime, through their personal devices.

“Once we saw the sales and customer affinity increases that the Marketplace provided, we began considering the benefits of having our own mobile store,” Land said.

Godiva got the ball rolling by implementing a mobile e-commerce software platform and network access (created and hosted by Digby) in the spring.

Godiva provided Digby with a logo and sends product catalog-data feeds that include merchandise photos, descriptions and prices. This information is uploaded onto a server that resides at a data center operated by Digby. The location also houses the service’s telecommunications network and e-commerce platform.

As shoppers access www.Godiva.com through their wireless device, they are prompted to download software that gives them access to Godiva’s user interface and Digby’s network.

Mobile shoppers navigate the site based on specific categories, including Chocolates & Truffles, Gift Baskets, Party Favors and Business Gifts. After selecting their merchandise, customers input their name, shipping address and credit-card information.

The order is encrypted and transferred through the e-commerce server to Godiva’s e-commerce system, which authorizes the user’s credit card and processes the order. Encrypted credit-card information is further protected since it is stored locally on the user’s device.

The service launched just before Mother’s Day, and Godiva has already tracked “a good degree of downloads,” she said. “We expect to get more traction in the fall as we head into the holiday season.”

Land also expects to see a return on investment following the holiday season.

Mobile shopping is still evolving, but Godiva is already exploring additional ways to take advantage of the service.

“We are talking about partnership opportunities with a carrier that would make Godiva.com a default application on some devices,” Land explained. “It could be a strategic way to build out our mobile store and commitment to mobility.”

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Wal-Mart to sell earth-friendly CDs

BY CSA STAFF

SANTA MONICA, Calif. As part of Wal-Mart’s “Earth Month” the company is selling more than 20 Universal Music Group titles that come with special earth-friendly inserts. The inserts are made with special seed paper and, according to the companies, can actually bloom into wildflowers.

The inserts, in addition to being good for the environment, also offer consumers three free digital downloads from Universal Music. Universal also said that a number of its new CDs will be packaged in third-party certified, renewable recycled board and recyclable paper.

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ODP urges rejection of Levan nominees

BY CSA STAFF

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. Office Depot is continuing to urge its shareholders to reject dissident nominees and elect the company’s nominees to its board of directors at its annual shareholders meeting this April.

In a proxy statement sent to investors, Office Depot said that Alan Levan’s proposed nominees would do little to help improve shareholder value. According to the statement, Levan’s company, Levitt Corp. has seen its share price fall about 93% over the past three years and that its subsidiary, Levitt and Sons, is in bankruptcy. Office Depot also noted that BankAtlantic, of which Levan is chairman and ceo and one of his nominees, is president of real estate, construction and development, share price has dropped approximately 75% over the past three years.

Office Depot also cited news reports that commented on Levan’s failing business ventures, as well as others that said that his nominees are not qualified to serve on Office Depot’s board of directors.

The company pointed out nominee Mark Begelman’s experience with Mars Music, a company he founded in 1997 that went bankrupt in 2002. According to Office Depot, many news reports attributed this failure to a flawed business strategy.

According to Office Depot, when Levan’s other nominee, Martin Hanaka served as chairman of Sports Authority from 1998 to 2003, the company saw its price fall by about 13%.

Office Depot stressed that its directors best understand the company and are well-suited to help the company grow.

“We strongly believe that removing two of the most experienced retailing executives from our board, including our current ceo who is driving the implementation of our strategic turnaround plan, would be highly disruptive, could delay the implementation of internal and external initiatives and could damage prospects for a successful turnaround,” Office Depot said in the proxy statement.

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