Interactions taps former Acosta exec as VP of operations
Interactions, a company that organizes event marketing and product demonstrations for retailers and brands, has appointed Jerry Slater as VP of operations.
Slater will lead Elite Marketing Interactions, the company’s in-house group dedicated exclusively to Meijer, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer that operates 203 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. In his new role, Slater is responsible for overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations and will be based in the Grand Rapids office.
Slater joins Interactions with more than 28 years of extensive grocery industry experience. Prior to joining Interactions, he spent 14 years at Acosta sales and marketing where he most recently served as national client services director, responsible for managing six key clients within the Fresh Foods Division, including Sabra Dipping Company, Growth Ventures / Frito-Lay, Butterball, Heinz Deli, Michael Foods and GoodHeart.
During his time at Acosta, Slater also served as the fresh foods regional director for the Midwest, managing fresh food teams in 13 states. Throughout his career, Slater held executive-level positions for various grocery retailers and suppliers including D&W Food Centers, Family Foods and Roundy’s. Slater also served on the board of directors of the International Dairy, Deli, and Bakery Association for two consecutive three-year terms.
“Jerry is a proven leader and innovator in the grocery industry and his extensive operational knowledge will help us in our ongoing mission to deliver first-class product interactions and special event marketing services to Meijer,” said Jeff Engel, SVP of retail for Interactions. “Adding Jerry to the leadership team for Elite Marketing Interactions demonstrates our commitment to contribute to the success of our retail and brand partners, providing them the opportunity to drive sales and increase engagement with shoppers.”
Interactions creates and executes more than 2 million events every year, managing 5,500 events each day for major retailers and brands. Interactions offers integrated sales and marketing programs that engage shoppers in-store and outdoor, and provides insights into shopper behavior and customer service that enable retailers and brands to make smarter business decisions and drive significant sales increases. The company has offices around the globe and operates in North America, Europe, South Africa, Australia and Asia. Interactions is a subsidiary of Daymon Worldwide, a leading full-service, global retail branding and sourcing partner for retailers and manufacturers.
Toys ‘R’ Us gets digital makeover for Christmas
Shareable content, enhanced product images, live chat and improved search capabilities are among the key changes introduced Tuesday morning to the Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com websites.
The site are said to have a fresh design and layout, revamped navigation and new features to help everyone from deal seekers to last-minute shoppers easily discover savings and information about the company’s offerings. In addition, the sites have introduced social shopping functionality which allows customers to organize their most-wanted items in shareable toy and baby boards, while also viewing the most popular and trending products on the sites.
"Our e-commerce websites receive more than 450 million visits annually, and we are proud to introduce a new look and enhanced functionalities to improve the shopping experience for our customers," said Fred Argir, SVP and chief digital officer at Toys “R” Us, Inc. "Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com are the go-to destinations for a broad assortment of toys and juvenile products, and we have implemented helpful, interactive features, such as a new social shopping component that provides customers with insight into the most popular and trending products, plus improved navigation capabilities, that will make it easier to find the right gift for a child or expectant parent."
The social shopping upgrade allows customers to organize their most-wanted items in toy and baby "boards," which can then be shared with family and friends via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Users can also invite their friends to create boards. For example, a mom looking for inspiration for her daughter’s first birthday party can pull together different items across all categories into one, convenient and shareable collection, and get ideas from what others are planning for their child’s special event, according to the company.
Other key changes involve improved navigation, a familiar claim made by companies who redesign their sites. In the case of Toys “R” Us, the main difference visitors will notice is a cleaner design and layout, with a larger space for current featured products and promotions. The site also features the ability to move seamlessly between Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com with the brands presented in tabs at the top left of the page. New "Shop By" navigation gives each subcategory its own merchandising space to simplify the process of narrowing down from thousands of choices.
Individual product detail pages also have been given a new look with bigger and brighter images of products. Each page also features customer-supplied images and videos, special offers for the item and customer reviews. In addition, order fulfillment options are more visible to quickly indicate if the item is available to be shipped to the customer’s home, or if it’s available for free in-store pickup within an hour or free shipping to the store within five to seven days.
Customer service has been enhanced as well with live chat functionality, increasing common on all manner of Web site, now available at Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com. Other new elements of the site include an information center where details about services reside, a saving center which is home to the retailer’s deal offering and a revamped gift finder tool.
How I Would Save Sears
By Lynn Hinderaker, [email protected]
The future is knocking on the door of hedge fund manager and owner of Sears, Eddie Lampert. His decision to split off Lands’ End and Sears Auto Center from the core Sears brand would have been a good decision in 2004, one year after he purchased the deteriorating retail brand. Today, given the monumental shift in online purchasing behavior that has changed all of retailing, Lampert’s move is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Now is not the time for incremental tweaks in the Sears formula. Instead of focusing on “finding value,” Lampert and his team in Chicago should look at the broadest possible scenario and ask themselves two questions:
1. “Who in the retail world is winning and losing…and why?”
2. “How can we change the rules of the entire game by really understanding today’s retail ecosystem?”
After such inquiry, they will arrive at two conclusions:
Amazon and Wal-Mart are winning the digital and analogue retail game, respectively. They offer superior selection, price and convenience. Their highly efficiencies merchandising systems are supported by state of the art technology.
Sears cannot win on those fronts, although it has invested admirably in online infrastructure, massive data mining systems and sophisticated credit card operations. They also are masters at using digital algorithms to cross –sell.
These are the very skills and assets that another type of local retailer — the small, family-run specialty store — doesn’t have. About 500,000 small retailers (art supplies outlets, fitness equipment stores, jeans stores, auto specialty shops, tobacco shops and occupational apparel retailers) are having a difficult time surviving because their ecommerce efforts are inefficient and their pricing is non-competitive. Their product selection is not as unique as it once was and their one strength — hands- on, customized service — is becoming ignored by today’s here-today-gone-tomorrow-smart-phone-based shopper.
The suggestion that follows would have once been unthinkable; however, when the resources, skills and overall scale of Sears are combined — one market at a time — with the passion and imagination of family-owned specialty retailers and boutique owners, something miraculous could happen.
Amazon and Wal-Mart could face a formidable, hybrid competitor with a local service-after-the-sale advantage.
The core strategy is for Sears to recreate itself — market by market — as an aggregator of specialty items that are sold by local retailers. Local retailers would work with Sears representatives to get their product inventories — in combination with a some of Sears’ products — up on a super-functional web site that acts like a local mall. Most of Sears stores would be sold as soon as possible (yes, there are complications with real estate and employee pensions, but they are manageable) as Sears would come to be known as the “big-daddy-rescuer” of local retailers.
Of course, there are challenges that would seem too messy for a wheeler-dealer like Eddie Lampert. The Sears workforce would have to be trained to approach and assist the beleaguered specialty retailers themselves. They would have to provide some technology at no charge that would enable the retailers to keep track of inventory SKUs. Store owners would require some training. Retailers in the new Sears ecosystem might have to switch over to a new credit card processing supplier.
The Sears merchandising reps would be deployed similarly to the local reps that are used by Constant Contact — only there would be many more of them. These “boots-on-the-ground” advisors would, over time, save many a small store from being shuttered.
The small store owners will turn their inventory much faster because Sears will by motivated; they will collect a commission on every item sold. Store owners will control the pricing of the items on the Sears local ecommerce platform.
Small retailers’ revenues will grow, profits will grow and they will be connected to a high tech site, complete with shopper metrics and QVC-style video.
Sears will benefit because their site’s product selection will rival Amazon and Wal-Mart. They will cleverly bundle their Lands End or Kenmore items with items normally sold at Ken’s Championship Catfish Poles just across town; through collaboration, both Ken and Sears will generate new revenue neither would have ever known.
Despite predictable convulsions, this cooperative arrangement is the only way for both Sears and America’s specialty retailers to survive. If the system is set up right, the consumer will support this newly defined local retail ecosystem.
Note: the potential of the cooperative relationship discussed in this essay is being confirmed by a recent announcement from Amazon. The online retailer just announced a new program, Amazon Source, that would enable local bookstore owners to resell its Kindle reading devices, then receive a commission on all e-books sold to that Kindle owner thereafter. The proposed relationship, above, between Sears and specialty retailers is broader and more “synergistic.”
Lynn Hinderaker is a speaker, marketing consultant and expert in change management. He spearheaded one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the history of fast food for Taco Bell in the late eighties, introducing the first Value Menu. His “local” video website is Wowbiztv.com. He can be reached at [email protected].