OPERATIONS

Lumber Liquidators names HR head

BY Staff Writer

Toano, Va. — Lumber Liquidators, the largest specialty retailer of hardwood flooring in North America, announced the appointment of Sandra C. Whitehouse as senior VP chief human resources officer, effective later this month.

Whitehouse most recently served as chief human resources officer for Earthbound Farm. Previously, she led the human resources department at Orchard Supply Hardware.

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OPERATIONS

SD Retail: Retailers slow to adopt store ops strategies to omni-channel world

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Some of the largest retailers in the United States and United Kingdom are not keeping pace at adapting their store operations to changing consumer buying habits.

That’s the conclusion of a study by SD Retail Consulting, a leading strategic retail advisory firm and unit of Hilco Trading. It found that 80% of the surveyed retailers are not effectively training their in-store staff to accommodate the complex needs of the new multichannel shopper. For example: Only 29% of U.S. retailers surveyed have implemented in-store pick-up options, and only 24% are planning to unveil a pilot program by late 2013. And only 18% have rolled out mobile POS systems across a significant number of their stores.

“The seamless customer experience and speed of change led by pure play e-retailers such as Amazon is setting a high bar for retailers operating both bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce channels,” said Antony Karabus, president of SD Retail Consulting. “The pace of change to meet this high bar needs to accelerate as the pressure from these new competitors continues to grow. The largest retailers must examine every customer touch point and how they play their part in creating that seamless customer experience. For the minority of retailers who are successfully transforming their store environments, the rewards will be substantial.”

Key findings of the report include:

Mobile POS is rare. Only 18% of U.S. retailers have implemented mobile POS systems across a significant portion of their stores, and in most of those cases, retailers have only rolled it out to select groups of stores, rather than entire chains.

Further, mobile POS is still typically utilized for only one or two specific uses (i.e. line busting or search/assistance within specific departments), rather than leveraging the full extent of its capabilities (CRM, labor scheduling, traffic counters, etc.)

There is no store associate incentive and recognition for cross-channel selling. Less than 10% of retailers surveyed are currently compensating their associates in some way that recognizes their contribution to cross-channel sales. Retailers with cross-channel customers acknowledge that while the store may not ring the sale, their associates play a critical part in driving company top-line sales, yet methods for compensating employees for contributing to the sale by servicing the shopper in-store (before they actually transact on-line) have yet to be formalized

Store staff are not getting effective cross-channel training. Eighlty percent of retailers surveyed said they have not invested sufficiently in training their store staff on how to handle multichannel customers in-store, whether on how to handle “show rooming,” competitive price-matching, in-store pick-up requests, or addressing specific product knowledge customers may have gained from the web.

Additionally, fewer than 25% of retailers surveyed indicated that their field management was providing the leadership necessary to drive improved productivity through their physical stores in this new multichannel environment .

According to Joe Madigan, VP store operations, SD Retail Consulting, “multichannel is disrupting store operations across real estate footprint, inventory “location,” customer service and selling and is the most significant challenge to store operations that I have seen in the last 25 years.”

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OPERATIONS

NRF: Los Angeles, New York and Chicago are top cities for organized retail crime activity

BY Marianne Wilson

Washington, D.C. — Los Angeles, New York and Chicago top the list of the cities with the highest organized retail crime activity, with Miami and Atanta rounding out the top five, according to a study by the National Retail Federation.

The NRF’s ninth annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Survey found that while organized crime has inched down slightly, it remains widespread. Over 90% (93.5%) of retailers said they had been a victim of organized retail crime during the past year, down from 96% the prior year.

"Though retailers continue to make great strides in their fight against organized retail crime, savvy, unconscionable criminals are selling stolen merchandise for a profit that doesn’t belong to them,” said NRF VP of loss prevention Rich Mellor.

The survey revealed that concerns over store merchandise credit and gift card fraud schemes are growing. Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they had experienced a situation where thieves returned stolen merchandise without a receipt for the sole purpose of receiving store credit via a gift card to sell for cash to secondary markets that include kiosks, pawn shops and check cashing stores.

"This is an important crime to keep an eye on, as this could easily turn from being an organized tactic to one that amateurs could adopt," Mellor said. "In conversations with retailers and law enforcement, we’ve learned that there are already defrauding processes being put in place, but retailers continue to lose millions of dollars to this enterprise scheme."

Cargo theft activity is growing. Almost half of survey respondents said they have been a victim of cargo theft in the past year. Cargo theft impacts every moving part of the supply chain and costs retailers billions of dollars.

In other findings, online anonymity pushes e-fencing as a preferred method for organized retail crime gangs. Six in 10 retailers surveyed this year say they have seen an increase in e-fencing activity in the past year, up significantly from 49% last year. Online auction sites and other third party selling sites have given criminals the anonymity that fencing locations often don’t offer, the report said.

One of the most distressing trends in organized crime activity, according to NRF, is the propensity for thieves to resort to violence to avoid being apprehended, putting store personnel, law enforcement and customers at risk. According to the survey, retailers said on average two in 10 (18.3%) apprehensions lead to some level of violence, up from 15.2% last year and 13% the prior year.

Individuals connected to "gateway crimes," or crimes that are known to lead to bigger crimes, such as the use of or sale of drugs and weapons, are often found to be associated with organized crime gangs. According to the survey, retailers say on average 44.8% of those apprehended for ORC are involved in gateway crimes.

The survey included participation from 77 loss prevention executives representing all retail channels.

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