OPERATIONS

Kitchenware retailer cooks up delivery service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A new partnership is helping Sur La Table take the term “farm to table” to a new level.

Sur La Table is the go-to source for all things culinary — from cooking tools and kitchen gadgets to tableware. All it was missing was a way to be at their shoppers’ beck and call — and at a moment’s notice — as they prepared a stellar meal.

The retailer, which operates more than 100 stores, a website and catalog, had no problem connecting with shoppers, and delivering merchandise through its omnichannel operation. But it wanted more.

Eager to provide same-day delivery of its merchandise to its clientele of foodies, the chain began creating a business model to make that happen. It’s top criteria — to digitally align itself with grocers.

The next step was to evaluate the best courier partner. While it explored a variety of options, including programs from FedEx and UPS, the partner that made the most sense was Instacart, a third-party grocery delivery service that uses a team of “personal shoppers” who pick and deliver groceries from local supermarkets.

Sur La Table is the first non-grocery partner that InstaCart has aligned with. However, both companies believe the synergies they share make sense.

“This service solves two issues,” Ben Rosenfeld, the retailer’s senior VP of stores, told Chain Store Age.

“First, we now offer a logistics solution. It is not uncommon for customers to be in the middle of preparing a meal and realizing they are missing an ingredient, tool, roasting pan, or cooking gadget,” he said. “Rather than leaving the house for an item, they can get what they need the same day — even in two hours in some markets.”

Meanwhile, Sur La Table is known for its high-end small appliances, from espresso machines to cast-iron cookware. However, customers visiting stores in urban neighborhoods find it difficult to efficiently bring home cumbersome merchandise purchased in-store.

“The way people enjoy a dining experience is with their senses. Our shoppers experience our stores that same way — it is very tactile and visual,” Rosenfeld said.

“Rather than carry bulky items on a bus, train or Uber, people in participating markets can now go home, order it online, and get it quickly,” he said. “It is a way to ensure we don’t lose that face-to-face connection with our customer, and still create instant gratification during the last mile of delivery.”

All shoppers need to do to use the service is enroll in an Instacart Express membership for $14.99 a month. The subscription entitles members to free deliveries over $35.

Once enrolled, shoppers sign into Instacart online or via mobile app. By entering their ZIP code, the app’s geo-location technology serves up different grocers in the shopper’s region. Participating La Sur Table stores within the proximity will also be displayed.

Here, shoppers can browse virtual aisles, add merchandise to their shopping cart, pay, and select a delivery window. These include one- or two-hour, or same-day options.

Sur La Table launched their Instacart deliveries on April 26, in three markets: San Francisco, Portland and Chicago. By June, the company plans to expand the service to cover 70% of its store portfolio.

While the service is still new, the value of average orders are already double those purchased in-store. “When customers shop, they shop big,” Rosenfeld said.

“Even though the service has only been available a short time, we are happy with the program,” he added. “As it progresses, we hope to learn from our shoppers’ behavior, optimize the visit and push merchandise to shoppers in less clicks.”

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OPERATIONS

Washington Spotlight: Big Wins for Retailers

BY Joe Kefauver

As retail operators return to work this week after what was hopefully a busy Memorial Day weekend for them, they should be encouraged by some rare good news out of Washington, D.C. The industry had some big wins last week on very important issues. Republican House leaders wisely decided to remove language from the popular CHOICE Act that would have repealed the debit card swipe fee reforms the industry fought hard to pass in 2010.

Since the election in November and the subsequent announcement that Trump intended to seek repeal of the Dodd-Frank law, the banks and credit card companies began to salivate at the prospect of gutting it, including its hated caps on debit card fees they could charge retailers. The retail industry mobilized quickly and effectively. Republicans in Congress came to their senses knowing they faced a repeat of the bloody fight from seven years ago. Having little stomach for that battle and an unwillingness to face the wrath of Main Street retailers back home, leadership simply removed the language that would have repealed those caps. Finally, a win for the good guys.

If that wasn’t enough, after hearings in the US House last week, it appears that support has significantly eroded for the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) that would put levies of up to 20% on thousands of imported consumer items. This was a tactic to raise revenues to offset other tax cuts during the corporate tax reform process. Even though this is the favored approach of Speaker Paul Ryan and other House leaders, many Republicans have backed off of their support and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin voiced the administration's opposition again this week. It is hard to see how the proposal, in its current form, could move forward, which is good news for retail operators.

All in all, last week was a pretty good one for the retail Industry and this newfound momentum will be important if the industry is going to protect its interests during the healthcare reform and tax reform battles to come.


Joe Kefauver is managing partner of Align Public Strategies, a full-service public affairs and creative firm that helps corporate brands, governments and nonprofits navigate the outside world and inform their internal decision-making.

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Fast-casual chain reveals culprit of recent data breach

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Chipotle Mexican Grill is coming clean about a cyber-attack that targeted the chain last month.

An extensive investigation lead by leading cyber security firms, law enforcement and the payment card networks revealed that malware accessed payment card data used at point-of-sale (POS) devices at certain Chipotle and Pizzeria Locale restaurants between March 24 and April 18. Not all locations were involved, and the specific timeframes vary by location, according to the chain.

This is a more extensive description than the company’s initial report. Last month, Chipotle revealed that it detected “unauthorized activity” on its payment processing network, according to CNBC.

Specifically, the software searched for track data —which can include cardholder names, card numbers, expiration dates, and internal verification code — which is embedded in a payment card’s magnetic stripe. Hackers poached the information as it was routed through POS devices.

According to Chipotle, there is no indication that other customer information was affected. The chain declined to comment on how many payment cards have been affected.

During the investigation, Chipotle removed the malware and continues to work with cyber security firms to further improve its security measures. Besides continuing to support law enforcement’s investigation, the chain is also working with the payment card networks, a move that enables the banks that issue payment cards to heighten monitoring efforts.

Lists of affected Chipotle and Pizzeria Locale restaurant locations and specific timeframes are available at each brand’s website. In the mean-time, the company is urging “customers that used a payment card at an af-fected location to review their payment card statements for any unauthor-ized activity. All affected customers are urged to immediately report any unauthorized charges to their card issuer,” Chipotle said.

This is not the first public relations blow the Denver-based chain has faced. Chipotle, which operates more than 2,300 restaurants, continues to rebuild its reputation after a wave of food safety incidents in 2015 scared away customers, negatively impacting sales.

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