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IHL: Tablets and smartphones transforming retail experience

BY Marianne Wilson

Franklin, Tenn. — Tablets and smartphones are redefining the retail shopping experience and will be a $5 billion market per year by 2015, according to a new research report by IHL Group.

The study, Mobility: A Gutenberg Moment for Retail, A Threat to POS, found that the release of the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle Fire have created price points and form factors for mobile devices that are finally allowing retailers to arm their associates with tools that will transform the in-store experience.

“The advent of mobile devices is a Gutenberg moment that is revolutionizing many aspects of the shopping experience," said Greg Buzek, president, IHL Group. "A complete transformation of the customer experience will occur at clothing and department stores over the next three years. Store personnel will be able to greet shoppers with their device, access purchase history, help customers accessorize, and even walk around as a personal shopper and check out the consumer — all from the same device.”

Another area where consumers will see more tablets is in table-service restaurants, according to the report. Customers will be able to place their own orders on devices at the table as well as access games and other entertainment, and servers can use these devices as well instead of fixed POS terminals. This will lead to more efficient turnover; restaurants that have deployed mobile devices have seen a 25% increase in the number of times they can turn the table, thus serving more customers every shift.

Key findings from IHL’s report include:

  • Handhelds will have a dramatic impact on traditional POS shipments over time, reducing the growth of POS shipments by 11% in 2015 and in some segments as much as 20 percent from previously forecasted volumes. By 2015, annual shipments of mobile devices will be four times that of traditional POS terminals.
  • By 2015, over 2.7 million tablets a year will be shipped for use in North American retail and hospitality, an increase of 450 percent. Specialty retailers will deploy nearly half of all tablets shipped to retail.
  • Lower-priced consumer devices will NOT displace sales of rugged handhelds. Instead, this market will rise close to 30% over the next four years through more competitive offerings.
  • Non-rugged handhelds (mobile phones) will experience heavy growth over the next two years as well, with restaurants deploying nearly half of all such devices shipped to retail. These devices will experience heavy churn rates in the 2012–2015 timeframe, so the installed base will not grow as much as might otherwise be expected.

“The desire for the ‘Apple Store experience’ among retailers is being driven at the CEO level on down, and its momentum is undeniable,” Buzek said. “For years, retailers have been looking for technology to both provide associates with more data on the products they are offering, and recognize and reward customers as they come through that door. Mobile devices are making this possible.”

IHL’s new study includes forecasts for rugged handhelds, consumer smartphones and tablet computers to be used at the store level from now until 2015 in North America. It is available immediately at ihlservices.com.

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NRF joins in worldwide tributes to Steve Jobs

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Technology devotees and regular Apple fans flocked to Apple stores across the globe to express their sorrow at the death of Steve Jobs.

The Apple co-founder and tech visionary died on Wednesday at the age of 56 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Impromptu and makeshift memorials were set up outside of many Apple stores. Many people left flowers and notes. At New York City’s flagship Fifth Ave. store, someone spray painted "I Love Steve" on a nearby wall. In Paris, two bouquets of pale yellow roses beside the store door.

Jobs’ impact on the retail industry was noted by the National Retail Federation.

"The National Retail Federation and the entire retail industry mourn news of the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs, one of the most innovative leaders of our time who created an iconic retail brand through innovation and design,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “In a challenging economy, Jobs and the entire Apple team invented discretionary products that many Americans now consider necessities, from the iPod to the iPhone and the iPad. He leaves behind a legacy that will inspire retail companies for decades to come."

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Pier 1 Imports, Alliance Data sign long-term private-label credit card deal

BY Staff Writer

Fort Worth, Texas — Pier 1 Imports said Thursday it has, through a subsidiary, signed a new, long-term private-label credit card agreement with Alliance Data.

Under terms of the new agreement, Alliance Data, through its bank subsidiary, will provide end-to-end private-label credit card services from account acquisition to multichannel marketing and customer service for Pier 1 Imports.

Pier 1 Imports’ current private-label credit card program will remain in place until portfolio conversion occurs, which is anticipated in the first quarter of 2012. Alliance Data expects the program portfolio to be in the $120 million range by the end of 2012.

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