FINANCE

MasterCard Advisors: Hurricane Sandy takes a bite out of early November sales

BY Marianne Wilson

Purchase, N.Y. — Spending in most of the key holiday categories, for the first two weeks of the retail month of November was down on a year-over-year basis, according to a SpendingPulse report released by MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of MasterCard. Apparel and luxury (excluding jewelry) were particularly hard hit, both showing year-over-year declines in the high 7% range.

Jewelry, a category that has recently shown signs of making a comeback, was up mildly, and ecommerce gained at a modest clip. The dip in early November runs contrary to both September and October, when SpendingPulse recorded that spending was up in nine of 11 categories for both months.

“Our research shows that Sandy clearly depressed the start to the early holiday season with the storm significantly impacting the year-over-year growth rates in key holiday categories over the first week of November. By the end of the second week, there were signs of a bounce back in several categories,” said Michael McNamara, Global Solutions Leader, MasterCard SpendingPulse.

For the pre-season period Oct. 28 through Nov.10, women’s apparel sales were down 6.3% against the same period last year. For the week that included Sandy, Women’s Apparel sales were down over 9% This number is a deceleration from October’s 5.8% year over year gain.

In the electronics category for the period through Nov. 10, sales fell 3.4% reversing October’s 2.4% increase.

“Black Friday is traditionally the largest day of the year for electronics with sales well over $1 billion. This “season in a day” can be almost twice as large as the next busiest day of the year which typically occurs later in December,” noted McNamara.

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REAL ESTATE

Walgreens restores historic Chicago building into flagship

BY Marianne Wilson

Deerfield, Ill. — Walgreens unveiled its newest Chicago flagship, in the historic Noel State Bank building in the city’s Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood (click here to see photos). This is the chain’s second flagship in Chicago and, like its downtown State and Randolph flagship location, features an extensive collection of innovative offerings, products and services unexpected from a drugstore.

The store preserves the architectural integrity of the historic building, which was constructed in 1919. (The original bank fell closed during the Great Depression, and the space has housed several different banks over the decades.) For the last two years, Walgreens worked closely with the city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks on the building restoration. The exterior is clad entirely in ornamental terra cotta. Large windows are divided by rising pilasters topped with Corinthian capitals, and a prominent cornice wraps around the rounded corner of the building.

Extensive restoration took place on the building’s coffered plaster ceiling, which features abundant non-symmetrical hexagons that frame griffins and other ornate designs, all of which form into successive yet subtle Star of David patterns. At the center is a large stained glass window with a six-point star design. Walgreens also restored the interior columns topped with pilasters and the original bank vault, which will be repurposed as a “Vitamin Vault” in the store’s health and wellness section.

The store’s features include:

  • Vitamin Vault: The original cast iron safe entrance, with visible locking gears, will lead customers into a unique vitamin and supplement section. Original bank lockboxes open and display various vitamin products.
  • An enhanced, state-of-the-art pharmacy designed to encourage greater interaction between pharmacists and patients. An iPad-equipped health guide will help pharmacy customers navigate a wide range of health and wellness products, services and resources including immunizations and health tests. The pharmacy also features an “Ask Your Pharmacist” desk, consultation rooms and Express Rx kiosks for swift checkout.
  • A juice bar featuring fresh fruits and vegetables and made-to-order smoothies. The chocolate malted milkshake, invented by a Walgreens soda fountain manager in 1922, also will be served.
  • Hundreds of fresh food items including produce and high-quality, on-the-go meal options such as wraps, sandwiches and salads made fresh daily. Plus, a wide variety of sushi and sashimi.
  • A best-in-class wine selection boasting more than 700 fine wines.
  • A Look Boutique beauty department featuring dozens of prestige and niche brands not typically found in drug stores. Specially-trained beauty advisors are on hand to offer guidance finding the best solutions for individual needs. Expert shaping and grooming services will be available at the Eyebrow Bar.

“It was thrilling to restore this architectural gem once again into a thriving business anchor in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area,” said Joe Magnacca, Walgreens president of daily living products and solutions. “This flagship store will provide customers with a unique shopping experience within an iconic building. It’s the latest example of how we are stepping out of the traditional drugstore format and helping people get, stay and live well.”

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OPERATIONS

Nordstrom and OfficeMax top list of retailers that keep employees happiest

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — For the second year in a row, Nordstrom topped the list of retail companies that keep their employees happiest, followed by Macy’s and OfficeMax, according to an annual survey by CareerBliss. The ranking takes into account employee reviews of their employer based on work-life balance, senior management compensation, benefits and job security.

“Happy retail employees tend to provide a happier customer experience and also help influence their fellow co-workers,” said Matt Miller, CTO and co-founder of CareerBliss. “Amongst the top ten retailers, we saw that employees ranked their co-workers as a large factor on their overall happiness at work.”

The Top 10 companies on CareerBliss’ Happiest Retailers in America 2012 are:

1. Nordstrom
2. Macy’s
3. OfficeMax
4. Best Buy
5. GameStop
6. Bath & Body Works
7. Office Depot
8. Dillard’s
9. Kohl’s
10. Sears

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