DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

Microsoft to plant retail flag in London

BY Marianne Wilson

Microsoft will open its third flagship location, which will also be the company's first retail store in London.

The company announced plans to open a flagship on Regent Street at Oxford Circus. The location, which in the heart of the city's retail district, is just down the road from an Apple flagship.

"We couldn’t be happier to be opening a flagship store in the heart of central London at Oxford Circus, where two of the world’s most iconic shopping streets meet," said Cindy Rose, head of Microsoft in the U.K. and the company's partner throughout the location selection process. "This will be so much more than just a great place to experience all that is possible with Microsoft, but a real hub for the community where we’ll be bringing to life our passion for helping people explore their creativity through an ambitious program of workshops and training along with moments that work to unite the community.”

Microsoft did not say when the store would open or reveal any design details. But similar to the company's other stores, it's expected that the London outpost will showcase Microsoft's hardware and software offerings, allowing for hands-on experiences by customers, and host free workshops and other events.

Currently, the tech giant operates approximately 100 mostly mall-based stores, with a flagship in New York City and Sydney, Australia.

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DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

Uniqlo to debut new specialty store concept

BY Marianne Wilson

Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo is going all out for denim in Los Angeles.

The company, part of Fast Retailing Group, will open a special store dedicated to denim in the Arts District of Los Angeles this fall/winter. The new "denim concept" shop will be Uniqlo's 47th location in the U.S., and ninth in the L.A. region following the opening at Westfield Santa Anita mall earlier in September.

The denim store will take its inspiration from Uniqlo's new Jeans Innovation Center, a sustainable R&D facility located in Los Angeles. It will highlight Japanese craftsmanship and the fabrics that go into the development of the brand's jeans.

Every element of the shop will be an homage to denim and the L.A. community. Upon entering, customers will be introduced to the brand’s heritage in Japanese textile innovation, showcasing the research and development that comes from parent company Fast Retailing’s Jeans Innovation Center through visuals and prototypes.

The latter part of the store will feature an area for customers to test, try and shop the full range of Uniqlo's denim offerings. Each fit will be highlighted within mini-concept areas styled with complementary Uniqlo apparel, including T-shirt collaborations, sweaters, blouses and outerwear. Included in the lineup will be product from L.A. denim brand, J Brand, which is also a part of Fast Retailing Group.

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BREAKING NEWS

Drugstore chain uses analytics to gain insight into IT performance

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walgreens is relying on data analytics to ensure all of its IT systems are working as efficiently as possible.

Through a partnership with IBM, the drugstore chain is taking steps to drive more IT support across its enterprise. The first step is to integrate hardware and software from different vendors under one roof. This centralization will make it easier to stay abreast of performance.

Next, the drug chain is utilizing IBM retail analytics at more than 8,100 locations nationwide to help improve the efficiency of field service support for these locations. Finally, IBM Cloud will determine the level of support that will likely be needed at each Walgreens location based on service request history.

In the future, this information may enable better anticipation and coordination when dispatching field technicians, so they arrive at the right time to resolve an issue. These data-driven insights may help to identify the most frequent service calls at a given location and bundle those requests into one service call to minimize repeated instances of system downtime.

These tools are also changing the way IT professionals approach IT support in the field. By shifting to more proactive, predictive solutions that isolate the root cause of a disruption, the company can eliminate repeated problems and free up time for IT professionals to focus their skills and attention on higher value initiatives.

These processes could manage even more locations going forward as the drug store chain announced Tuesday that it has finally secured regulatory clearance for a revised deal that gives Walgreens the green light to buy 1,932 stores, three distribution centers and related inventory from Rite Aid for $4.375 billion (and other consideration). The original proposal, announced in June, had included 2,186 stores and related assets for $5.175 billion.

Store purchases are expected to begin in October, with completion anticipated in spring 2018.

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