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Japanese cosmetics provider goes mobile with IBM

BY Dan Berthiaume

Tokyo – Shiseido Co. Ltd., a global cosmetics manufacturer, will empower its nearly 10,000 beauty consultants in Japan with IBM mobile apps designed to provide new customer services, customer-centric product improvements and social innovations.

Shiseido selected the IBM MobileFirst Platform to develop and secure an enterprise app for its “Beauty Tablet.” The mobile app built on the IBM MobileFirst Platform has multiple modules and increasing capabilities for internal operations. Integrated to Shiseido’s back-end systems, this app is a Beauty Consultant’s one-stop mobile solution for communications, scheduling, reporting and other tasks that increase productivity.

One module in the app creates a virtual community for beauty consultants to learn from each other by sharing photos, tips, tricks, and commenting on each other’s work. Social data analytics identify best practices and incorporate knowledge and know-how into future training for beauty consultants.

“We are marking the 80th anniversary of the Shiseido beauty consultant – a role that continues to transform the relationship between the customer and our products,” said Chikako Sekine, corporate executive officer, Shiseido,Co. Ltd. “With new mobile apps, Shiseido beauty consultants continue to engage customers with ‘Omotenashi’ (the Japanese spirit hospitality) to differentiate the Shiseido customer experience.”

Since deploying the Beauty Tablet in 2013, Shiseido continues to support beauty consultants in Japan with the latest mobile enterprise use cases. The IBM MobileFirst Platform enables Shiseido to continue to provide consultants with access to new services and allows them to incorporate feedback into future product innovation and increase collaboration.

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Ace Hardware keeps cashing in on the corner store

BY CSA STAFF

Ace Hardware’s formula of localizing merchandise and offering individualized customer service is continuing to pay off for the hardware retail cooperative.

The company reported record revenues, profits and patronage for fiscal 2014. Ace had revenues of $4.7 billion, an increase of $546.3 million or 13%. Revenues increased $496.9 million or 12% as compared to fiscal 2013. Net income was $140.9 million for fiscal 2014, an increase of $36.4 million or 34.8%, from fiscal 2013.

"My congratulations and thanks to the entire Ace team for delivering our best year ever, in the same year we celebrated our 90th anniversary," said John Venhuizen, president and CEO of Ace Hardware Corp. "Our founders would be delighted to see our patronage distribution to shareholders exceed $135 million, an increase of 34 percent and a record for the company."

The approximately 3,000 Ace retailers who share daily retail sales data enjoyed a strong quarter as well, with increased customer count and average transaction size driving a 4.7% same-store-sales increase for the fourth quarter of 2014. Same-store-sales at these stores were up 4.2 percent for all of fiscal 2014.

"Strong same-store-sales growth at retail coupled with 201 new domestic stores and our strategic wholesale acquisitions fueled the double-digit growth," Venhuizen added.

Total revenues for the fourth quarter of 2014 were $1.16 billion, an increase of $139.2 million or 13.6%, from the fourth quarter of 2013. Net income was $12.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2014, a decrease of $10.7 million from the $23.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. This decline was caused by a 1.4 percentage point drop in the wholesale gross profit margin rate that was primarily driven by increased store-level merchandise reset spending and additional markdowns to clear closeout inventory.

Ace Hardware has more than 4,800 hardware stores locally owned and operated across the globe.

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Canada proves costly, but Target’s U.S. comps solid

BY CSA STAFF

Target’s better than expected 3.8% fourth quarter same store sales increase softened the sting of a massive $5.1 billion charge the company said it would take related to its retreat from Canada.

Target’s fourth quarter sales from continuing operations, essentially the company’s U.S. stores, increased 4.1% to $21.8 billion and same store sales increased 3.8%. Operating profits increased 13.4% to $1.6 billion as gross margins expanded to 28.5% from 27.6%. Gross margins benefitted from the company annualizing clearing activity following the data breach that occurred prior to the 2013 holiday season. The margins expansion was more than enough to offset an uptick in expenses, which increased to 18.6% from 18.4% of sales, the company said reflected higher marketing, technology and incentive expenses.

“We’re pleased with our fourth quarter financial results, which were driven by better-than-expected sales and particularly strong performance in our signature categories (of) style, baby, kids and wellness,” said Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell. “We’re seeing early momentum in our efforts to transform Target, and our team is entering the new fiscal year with a singular focus on continuing to differentiate our merchandise assortment and shopping experience while controlling costs by reducing complexity and simplifying the way we work.”

How much “transforming” is needed at Target is subject to debate, considering the company has a well-established strategy of differentiation embodied in its, “expect more, pay less,” brand promise. And when it comes to a reduction of complexity, Target is in the same boat as many other retailers who are challenged by the need to execute omnichannel initiatives which created new expectations for employees at store level where labor budgets face new pressures from wage growth.

In reference to the ongoing differentiation strategy and unspecified cost control and simplification strategies, Cornell said, “we’re confident that these efforts will allow us to grow our earnings while returning cash to our shareholders in 2015 and beyond, driving improvements in Target’s return on invested capital and creating long-term value for our shareholders.”

Target said its fourth quarter earnings per share increased 14.9% to $1.50, but that figure is adjusted to exclude a charge of $5.1 billion which resulted in an earnings per share loss of $5.59. The company did not provide a sales outlook for the first quarter, but did say earnings per share will range from 95 cents to $1.05, compared to 92 cents last year.

The company said it would provide a full year outlook when it hosts a meeting for investors on March 3.

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