OPERATIONS

HP debuts mobile point-of-sale tablet for retailers

BY Marianne Wilson

Palo Alto, Calif. — HP on Thursday announced the company’s first mobile point-of-sale solution for retailers, intended to help them to deliver a more personalized shopping experience to their customers. The HP Retail Mobile Point-of-Sale Case attaches to the newly announced HP Slate 2 Tablet PC adding an integrated magnetic stripe reader (MSR) and a barcode scanner.

With the new HP solution, salespeople can complete customer transactions anywhere in the store, reducing long lines at fixed checkouts and boosting sales and productivity. Retailers also can use the HP Slate 2’s integrated Wi-Fi or Bluetooth wireless technology to check product availability, find alternate colors and styles, track orders and email customer receipts. The 8.9-inch screen is ideal for employees wanting to share videos or inventory selections with their customers, HP added.

“Providing customers with memorable, differentiated shopping experiences is a key to building loyalty and driving repeat purchases,” said Ray Carlin, general manager and VP, Retail Solutions, HP. “The HP Slate mobile POS solution achieves these goals by increasing the efficiency of the checkout process, engaging customers and offering better, more personalized services.”

According to Greg Buzek, president, IHL Group, a leading research firm for the retail industry, the purchase of tablets for store employees is the biggest trend in retail since stores added Internet as retailers look for new ways to help associates engage customers at a deeper level in the store.

“An advantage of a Windows-based tablet, such as the HP Slate 2, is that it could provide a smoother integration with retailers’ existing software infrastructure and applications, thus lowering their cost of adoption,” Buzek said.

The HP Retail Mobile Point-of-Sale Case will be available in early December in the United States and Canada.

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News

October sales generally up, but short of estimates

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK — With fewer retailers following in Walmart’s footsteps in not disclosing monthly sales, it has become harder to gauge the overall health of the industry. Still, enough of them reported this monht to show that consumer spending slowed in October, sending a note of caution as retailers head into the holiday season. Eleven retailers missed expectations for same-store sales, while three chains beat estimates, according to a preliminary tally by Thomson Reuters. However, while the October results were not as promising as some retailers had hoped, sales for the most part rose and most chains reported results that were only slightly off from analysts’ estimates. Some analysts blamed Wall Street for underestimating how much caution is still out there.

"This is expectations getting ahead of reality," said AlixPartners managing director Joel Bines, in an Associated Press report. "It’s still a solid performance.”

October is the third-smallest month for sales.

Costco, Macy’s, Saks and Target are among the companies that reported results that fell slightly below Wall Street analysts’ expectations.

Limited Brands reported a 6% rise in same-store sales, just off the 6.2% expected, and raised its third-quarter earnings outlook. Victoria’s Secret stores led the growth, with a 9% jump in same-stores sales. Bath & Body Works reported a 6% rise.

On the apparel side, The Buckle reported an 8.7% rise in comparable-store sales, better than the 6.3% that was projected. American Eagle Outfitters, which no longer reports monthly sales, raised the low end of its third-quarter profit guidance, and said third-quarter revenue rose 11%, with a 5% rise in same-store sales. Both were better than analysts had expected.

Other apparel same-store sales results for October included:

  • Zumiez reported a 3.3% increase, ahead of analysts’ expectations for 2.8%.

  • Wet Seal’s same-store sales fell 9.7%, well-below expectations, and the company lowered its quarterly profit outlook.

  • Gap Inc.’s sales fell 6%, worse than expected. By division, sales were down 5% at namesake stores, 9% at Old Navy and 7% internationally. Sales were up 1% at Banana Republic.

  • Cato Corp.’s sales fell 3%.

  • Hot Topic reported a 1.6% decrease, citing disappointing sales for its Halloween-related merchandise.

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FINANCE

Whole Foods Q4 income surges 31%

BY Marianne Wilson

Austin, Texas — Whole Foods Market reported that its fiscal fourth-quarter profit rose 31% to $75.5 million on higher sales, beating analysts’ expectations. But the company’s outlook for next year’s profit fell just short of what analysts forecast on average.

Revenue increased 12% to $2.35 billion.

"Our outlook for fiscal year 2012 reflects consistent identical store sales growth, a record number of new store openings, EBITDA of close to $1 billion, and significant operating margin improvement,” said John Mackey, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market.

For all of fiscal 2011, Whole Foods reported net income of $342.6 million, compared with $245.8 million in fiscal 2010. Revenue in 2011 was $10.1 billion, compared with $9 billion in 2010.

The chain opened five stores, including two relocations, in the fourth quarter and has opened five stores so far in the first quarter. It expects to open one additional store in the first quarter. IT currently has 316 stores totaling approximately 12 million sq. ft.

Whole Foods said it recently signed nine new leases averaging 32,100 square feet in size in Phoenix; Tucson, Ariz.; Davis, Calf.; Littleton, Col.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Tulsa, Oak.; Addison, Texas; Katy, Texas; and London, England. These stores are scheduled to open in fiscal year 2012 and beyond.

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