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Mad for Mannequins

BY Marianne Wilson

A must-see fashion exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum in New York City is doing double duty, offering a retrospective of the 30-year-plus career of avant-garde designer Jean Paul Gaultier, while also providing a showcase for a collection of show-stealing, crowd-pleasing mannequins. But what do mannequins in a museum exhibit have to do with retail?

“The mannequins [in the exhibit] give retailers insight into how to turn ordinary window or in-store displays into a museum-caliber tableau that can make shoppers literally stop in their tracks,” said Lucie Jolicoeur, president and CEO, Jolicoeur International, Quebec, Canada, which designed and manufactured the mannequins.

Approximately 140 mannequins are included in the exhibit, “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.” All the mannequins were created specifically for the exhibition, which originated at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Of the 140 mannequins, some 30 are animated. High-tech and amazingly realistic, the animated mannequins actually seem alive at first glance. Some laugh, some wink; others smile or whistle; and still others speak. Gaultier is honored with his own look-alike form, which warmly welcomes visitors in both French and English.

The animation effects are accomplished by a high-definition audiovisual system that includes projecting facial images onto the mannequins. The animated mannequins are the result of a collaboration between Jolicoeur, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and UBU Creations, Montreal, which made the animated heads.

“The challenge for Jolicoeur was to ensure that the neck of each animated mannequin be constructed in such a manner that it securely holds the cumbersome equipment to project the animation onto the face,” Jolicoeur explained. “We achieved this by sculpting a lifelike neck and camouflaging any anomalies with coatings of fiber glass.”

The remaining 110 mannequins, while not animated, also break new ground, from their unique poses to the use of multiple color finishes. “The mannequins in the exhibit illustrate a strong trend toward more lifelike colors, textures and finishes,” Jolicoeur explained. “The days of one-color-fits-all are fast disappearing.”

The mannequins also stand out for their various skin tones, which closely match different ethnicities and nationalities. (Gaultier is known for his runway models, who come from different continents and different regions within those continents.)

“This is key for retail chains operating in fashion capitals around the world where shoppers come in a variety of skin tones,” Jolicoeur said.

LOOKING AHEAD

As to whether animated mannequins have a future in retail, Jolicoeur believes they do, but they will remain custom items.

“On the other hand, we will see more and more high-tech mannequins that incorporate the hardware and software to fulfill such functions as camera surveillance, traffic-flow monitoring and the dispensation of customer information,” he said. “Mannequin manufacturers, including Jolicoeur International, are right now gearing up to create molds that can accommodate the equipment needed to meet customer demands for this new ‘smart’ technology, and at prices that make such equipment affordable add-ons to a regular container order.”

The exhibition, “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk,” will be at The Brooklyn Museum until Feb. 23, 2014.

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Big Savings for REI

BY Marianne Wilson

Retailers are constantly on the hunt for energy savings, and data centers offer huge potential: By 2020, data centers could consume 10% of all U.S. power, according to some experts. Here’s how outdoor gear and apparel retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) is working to reduce energy costs and its environmental footprint in this critical area of operations.

REI has long been on the leading-edge of efforts to conserve energy and reduce its overall impact on the environment. Its most recent effort involves a retrofit of the layout and cooling system of its data center in Kent, Wash.

The initiative, done in partnership with Austin, Texas-based energy efficiency firm CleaResult, Austin, Texas, and utility provider Puget Sound Energy, has resulted in a 93% reduction in the cooling energy used to operate the facility.

The retrofit uses “free cooling” via a rooftop evaporator cooling tower to keep servers at optimal temperature. The system, from CleaResult, reduces the need for mechanical cooling nearly year-round, or about 8,672 hours annually.

REI estimates that the retrofit saves energy to power six of its stores, or approximately 2.2 million kilowatt hours a year. The efficiencies also translate into improved business resiliency and stability in the event of a regional power outtage.

In addition to rooftop cooling technology, the retrofit included the upgrade of backup battery banks, the removal of old power distribution units and the installation of floor brush barriers and curtain systems to contain cold air in critical areas.

Also, the subfloor cabling was rewired to optimize airflow under the raised floor. Because of the efficiencies gained, REI also reconfigured its redundant power supply.

“By examining our operations through a sustainability lens, we’ve achieved financial and environmental benefits and met our goals to increase efficiency, minimize disruptions and reduce our footprint,” said Kirk Myers, corporate social responsibility manager, REI.

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Paid in Full

BY Dan Berthiaume

Logic dictates that the easier it is for customers to pay for goods, the more likely they are to purchase them. Long lines, fumbling for cash or a payment card, and even the simple act of waiting for an associate to ring up a sale at a traditional fixed POS terminal are all impediments to converting sales from busy and distracted consumers.

In response, a number of retailers have recently leveraged a variety of leading-edge payment technologies to make the last, and arguably most crucial, step in the consumer’s “path to purchase” as streamlined and convenient as possible. Here are just a few examples of where retailers are taking the execution and processing of payments.

J.Crew Lets Customers Open Digital Wallets

J.Crew customers can take advantage of MasterPass at checkout, a digital wallet service from MasterCard that enables shoppers to use any payment card or enabled device to unlock a simplified and speedier checkout experience at any location.

With MasterPass, shoppers can pay for purchases through the click of a mouse, touch of a tablet or tap of a smartphone. The wallet securely stores shoppers’ preferred payment and shipping information, which is readily accessible when they click on the “Buy with MasterPass” button and log into their account.

Homeland Stores Hears Payment Opportunity

Homeland Stores, a 78-store regional supermarket chain headquartered in Oklahoma City, has successfully completed a mobile payments pilot program with mobile payments technology provider DoubleBeam. Launched in June of this year, Homeland’s SwiftScan mobile application allows customers to pay for purchases with a smartphone.

Once downloaded, customers can activate the payment option by taking a picture of a check and a photo ID. At the register, customers can then pay for purchases by scanning a QR code, and selecting the payment option.

Chili’s Brings Checkout to the Table

Chili’s Grill & Bar will bring tabletop tablets from Ziosk to all company-owned restaurants nationwide by the first half of 2014. With the primary purpose of enhancing the guest experience, the Ziosk 7-in. tablet will be displayed on each table in the restaurant, giving patrons the ability to interactively peruse menu items and specials, as well as order beverages and desserts.

In addition, customers can use the tablets to play games together, share their real-time feedback with the brand and pay the check right at the table.

Harris-Teeter Takes Mobile Wallets on the Road

In a pilot at its Matthews, N.C., store, Harris Teeter is exploring the potential of mobile wallets by using Paydiant’s white label mobile wallet solution as part of its Express Lane online shopping service. Express Lane customers can use the Harris Teeter mobile wallet solution called “HT Express Pay” to pay for groceries ordered online from within their vehicle at Express Lane curbside pick-up locations.

Once the Harris Teeter mobile wallet app is downloaded to the customer’s iPhone or Android smartphone and payment cards are linked to the wallet, the customer will simply scan a QR code presented to them on a Verifone handheld POS device and use the mobile wallet to choose which of their major credit cards to use to complete the transaction, tap the “pay” button, and have a digital receipt automatically sent to their mobile device.

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