DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

Innovative retail concept in store expansion mode

BY Marianne Wilson

A tech-savvy retailer with an unusual business model is expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint nationally.

b8ta announced plans to open four new stores, designed by Gensler, with locations in San Francisco, San Jose, Calif. (Santana Row), Houston (Galleria), and New York City. The expansion, which brings the company's total store count to nine, kicks off with the opening of a store in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood on Sept. 29.

b8ta stores are designed to give shoppers a hands-on demonstration of cutting-edge tech products and gadgets — most of them from start-up companies that lack the resources and/or know-how for entering traditional retail channels. Indeed, most of the featured companies (or “makers” in b8ta speak) sell products directly on their websites or through crowd funding campaigns. Each store feature a mix of more than 100 products, and customers are encouraged to see, touch and try out the products.

b8ta is different than the traditional retail model in that the company makes its money essentially by leasing space in its stores to the product makers/manufacturers. Proceeds of all in-store sales go directly to the makers themselves.

Data powers the entire enterprise and b8ta’s inventory changes month-to-month based on performance, offering frequent opportunities for new makers — and novel experiences for customers. The product makers have access to detailed data and the ability to test and control the experience of their product in store.

b8ta opened its first store in late 2015, in California. The company was founded by Vibhu Norby (CEO), William Mintun (COO), and Phillip Raub (CMO).

“In December 2015, we opened our first b8ta store in Palo Alto to prove that retail wasn’t dying because consumers had lost interest in shopping, but because the makers behind the best products had lost interest in working with retailers," said Norby. "After opening our first five stores, filling them with hundreds of unique products, and engaging 25,000+ customers a month, we’ve proven our thesis. In the next few months, we’re extending our reach coast to coast, allowing our amazing makers to meet their customers across the country.”

b8ta has also launched its e-commerce platform, giving customers the opportunity to purchase products online from any of the store locations. The company’s growth has been fueled by a $19.5 million funding round led by Khosla Ventures, Fifth Wall Ventures, and TriplePoint Capital with participation from Comcast Ventures and national mall operator Macerich.

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FINANCE

Target ups minimum wage—with even bigger hike planned by 2020

BY Marianne Wilson

Target Corp. is raising the stakes in the battle for retail store talent — and giving its employees a holiday surprise in the process.

The discounter on Monday announced plans to raise its minimum hourly wage for all associates to $11 in October. It also pledged to increase the rate to $15 by the end of 2020. The retailer said the move will help it better recruit and retain top-quality staff and provide a better shopping experience for customers.

The pay increase will go to thousands of Target employees across the country before the holiday season. The increase will also apply to the more than 100,000 hourly team members that Target is hiring for the holiday season. The move to a minimum hourly wage of $15 will be implemented between now and the end of 2020, the company said.

Target's new pay increases put it ahead of rival Walmart in minimum wage increases. Walmart had raised its entry-level hourly pay for workers to $9 in 2015 and then to $10 in 2016.

“We care about and value the more than 323,000 individuals who come together every day with an absolute commitment to serving our guest,” said Brian Cornell, CEO and chairman of Target. “Target has always offered market competitive wages to our team members. With this latest commitment, we’ll be providing even more meaningful pay, as well as the tools, training and support our team needs to build their skills, develop professionally and offer the service and expertise that set Target apart.”

Target noted that it currently pays market competitive rates above the federal minimum wage at all stores nationwide. The chain's last major wage increase was in 2016, when the company moved to a $10 minimum hourly wage, which is higher than the minimum wage in 48 states, and matches the minimum wage in Massachusetts and Washington.

Also on Monday, Target reiterated its most recent sales and EPS guidance for third quarter and full year 2017, signaling that its increased salary expenses are not expected to impact the company's bottom line.

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News

Butler employs social media to tame Irma’s effects

BY Al Urbanski

As Hurricane Irma moved northward up the Florida peninsula, Butler Enterprises was ready with a plan to use social media to keep beleaguered Gainesville residents supplied with necessities.

On Sept. 5, director of marketing Mary Reichardt put Butler Plaza’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to work as emergency notification services. At the height of the flooding and power outages in Gainesville, Butler posted ongoing updates on which stores at its nearly 300-acre complex had received supplies of gas, water, flashlights, batteries and bread.

Updates continue to be posted by Butler as locals still labor to take things back to normal.

“At first, I and the property manager did regular tours of the stores and posted photos and reports of products on shelves,” Reichardt said. “Before long we started receiving updates directly from tenants like Lowe’s because their customers were coming in and telling them they’d read on the Shop at Butler Facebook page that they had lumber.”

The same occurred when Sam’s Club received the first truckload of gasoline to enter Gainesville post-storm.

One Facebook friend posted a thank-you note on the Facebook page that said, “Not only is Butler Plaza the best place to shop in Gainesville, you also performed a valuable public service in a very difficult time.”

A side-benefit for Butler was forging new bonds with tenants. “Our relationships grew significantly because of the storm,” Reichardt said.


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