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Innovation Builds Consumer Advocacy

BY Deena Amato-mccoy

The annual NRF Convention & EXPO, sponsored by the Arlington, Va.-based National Retail Federation (NRF), is known for featuring the latest technology innovations—and this year’s show was no exception.

However, two topics seemed to resonate during sessions, as well as on the EXPO floor: the deployment of more green technologies, and using more mobile solutions to shape the retail experience.

While the two strategies may seem unrelated, industry executives expect both to be strong factors that could help build customer service and consumer advocacy.

While all retailers seem focused on improving their customer-service efforts, “Clearly, there is work to be done,” Juhi K. Jotwani, director, marketing and strategy, Retail Store Solutions, IBM Systems and Technology Group, told Chain Store Age at the show.

Jotwani’s comment is based on a recent customer-service study that IBM, Armonk, N.Y., conducted among 19,000 retail customers, most operating in North America. “Findings proved that a mere 20% of shoppers are actually advocates of retailers,” she reported. “That leaves 80% of shoppers who do not advocate, let alone give their loyalty, to any specific retailers.

These sobering details prove that there is room for improvement, “and retailers need to get serious and make an investment in customer service,” she said.

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Lampert, the Eli Manning of retail?

BY CSA STAFF

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. The New York Giants triumph over the highly favored New England Patriots in the Super Bowl earlier this month, has become an example of coming from the bottom to win it all. Sears Holdings chairman Edward Lampert is one of the latest to use the Giants win, even going as far to compare himself, and the leaders of his company, to quarterback Eli Manning.

The Giants analogy, and Eli Manning comparison, is applied mainly to the company’s Kmart division. In a letter to investors, posted on the Sears Holdings investor relations Web site, Lampert said during Kmart’s bankruptcy in 2002, the unit was “like an undrafted free agent who nobody thought had a chance to play in the big leagues.” Lampert went on to say, “Like Eli Manning, we know what it’s like to be underestimated and questioned, but we intend to keep working on our game to achieve our full potential.”

Sears Holdings reported net income of $426 million, or $3.17 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 2, compared with net income of $811 million, or $5.27 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 3, 2007. For the fiscal year ended Feb. 2, 2008, net income was $826 million, or $5.70 per diluted share compared with net income of $1.5 billion, or $9.58 per diluted share, for the fiscal year ended Feb. 3, 2007.

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Circuit City investor seeks to replace board

BY CSA STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. Circuit City Stores today acknowledged that it has received two proposals from shareholder Wattles Capital Management regarding its board of directors. Wattles holds approximately 6.5% of the outstanding shares of the company’s common stock.

Circuit City reported that Wattles proposed the idea of replacing the company’s Circuit City 12-member board of directors with its own nominees. Circuit City said its board of directors will review carefully the shareholder’s proposals and the qualifications of the nominees in accordance with its fiduciary duties, mindful that the proposal would give the shareholder absolute control of the entire board, which would be disproportionate to its relative ownership of the company’s shares.

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