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Looking to the Future

BY Marianne Wilson

Think brick-and-mortar retail is doomed in an increasingly digital world? Visit Sephora, where consumers line up to sample the dizzying array of beauty products. Watch as a bunch of excited kids go through the rounds at Build-A-Bear-Workshop. Listen as a pharmacist at Walgreens gives some advice to a harried mom whose kids are coming down with something. Stop in at H-E-B, Whole Foods Market or some other great supermarket and breathe in the tantalizing aromas. Fool around with the latest gadgets at Apple or one of the new generation of AT&T and Verizon stores. Sign up at Lululemon for a yoga class.

I could go on (and on), but you get the idea. The stores above are just a tiny sampling of all the great retail experiences that exist in the brick-and-mortar space. They are my rebuttal to all those pessimistic pundits who claim that e-commerce, via smartphone, desktop or some other device, will, by and large, be the death of physical retailing. Enough already.

The truth is the digital onslaught is reshaping brick-and-mortar retail in ways that will ultimately make it stronger going forward. Savvy retailers across the board, from Macy’s to Walmart to Gap, are reinvesting in their store experiences to make them more entertaining, interactive informative and fun. The smartest are focusing on their trump card: tangibility.

Brick-and-mortar naysayers often point to the slowed pace of expansion and store closings as evidence of brick-and-mortar’s decline. There is no denying that many big players have pulled the reins of expansion and shuttered locations. But in the apparel sector at least, this has as much to do with new com petition and changing tastes as anything else. New fashion powerhouses such as H&M, Uniqlo (both of whom have serious U.S. expansion plans) and Forever 21 have taken market share from more established chains, wooing customers with their fast fashions and value prices.

And while big-box chains may not be building big anymore, they are still building. Walmart has doubled the projected growth of its small-store format, and now plans to open from 270 to 300 Walmart Neighborhood Market and Walmart Express stores in its current fiscal year. This July, Target will test a smaller (20,000-sq.-ft.) footprint, TargetExpress, in Minneapolis.

At the same time, new retail concepts continue to pop up across the board. Take, for example, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, a new specialty grocery format featuring value-priced healthy and organic offerings. The company, headed up by the former CEO of Sunflower Farmers Market, plans to open more than 60 stores in the Midwest in the next five years. It will open its first store this spring, in Mt. Prospect, Ill., with eight more locations to follow by yearend. One of my favorite new concepts is Polaroid Fotobar, where customers can turn photos taken on mobile devices into custom photo products.

I’m not naive. Retailers that fail to keep up with evolving technology and increased shopping sophistication are unlikely to thrive going forward. But there is plenty of opportunity for those that seize the moment and put the spotlight on the in-store experience.

Marianne Wilson

[email protected]

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General Mills unveils limited-time, in-box promotion

BY CSA STAFF

General Mills Big G cereals now include four collectible comic books featuring DC Comics’ Justice League characters, on shelves now through April 2014.

Four specialty issues created exclusively for General Mills, in partnership with DC Entertainment (DCE) and Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP), can be found in grocery retailers nationwide, with a bonus fifth issue available only in select boxes of Cheerios at Target.

"There is a certain shared fanaticism among cereal lovers and comic book fans, which is why Big G cereals, WBCP and DCE make a super team," said Lisa Tomassen, integrated communication manager at General Mills. "We’re excited for people young and old to discover these comic books in their favorite cereals, giving them a strong, confident start to the day."

Each specially marked box of Big G cereal also features several DC Comics Super Hero costume piece cutouts on the back. Fans are encouraged to put them and post to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using #SuperHeroing.

Consumers who have read part one of each in-box comic book can then visit www.BigGCerealHeroes.com to read part two.

Participating Big G cereals include Cinnamon Toast Crunch (12.2 oz. and 21.25 oz.), Lucky Charms (20.5 oz.), Honey Nut Cheerios (12.25 oz. and 21.6 oz.), Trix™ (10.7 oz.), Cookie Crisp (11.25 oz.) and Reese’s Puffs (13 oz.).

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Weis Markets elevates EVP Kurt Schertle to COO

BY CSA STAFF

Weis Markets has promoted Kurt Schertle, previously the company’s EVP, to COO.

“Kurt has taken on increasingly important roles at our company over the past five years,” stated Jonathan Weis, Weis Markets’ president and CEO. “During this period, he has helped develop and implement our go to market strategies, particularly in loyalty marketing while helping to drive improved store level performance and increased supply chain efficiencies. With this promotion, Kurt will take on a broader oversight role in these areas while remaining deeply involved in the day to day operation of our company.”

Schertle will continue to oversee all aspects of the company’s marketing, merchandising, procurement and advertising for its center store, perishable and pharmacy departments; store operations; and the company’s supply chain, including its distribution and transportation teams, Weis noted.

Schertle joined Weis Markets in 2009 as VP sales and merchandising. He was subsequently promoted to SVP and EVP, overseeing all aspects of merchandising, marketing, store operations and supply chain.

A graduate of Towson University, Schertle has more than 25 years of food retailing experience.

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