FINANCE

New Zealand approves Staples-Office Depot merger

BY Dan Berthiaume

Framingham, Mass. – The proposed $6.3 billion merger of Staples Inc. and Office Depot Inc. has cleared a global regulatory hurdle. Staples has received clearance from the Commerce Commission of New Zealand to acquire all the outstanding shares of Office Depot, which trades in New Zealand as OfficeMax.

Staples continues to work with regulatory agencies in the U.S., the European Union, Canada, Australia, and China. Office Depot is seeking a shareholder vote on its proposed $6.3 billion merger with Staples Inc. at its annual meeting on June 19. With all approvals in place, the deal would finalize by the end of 2015.

Some shareholders do not believe Office Depot executives negotiated the best deal, and are filing lawsuits against the company. As of March 2015, nine lawsuits claiming that Office Depot executives violated their fiduciary duties have been filed in Delaware; two lawsuits were filed in the Fifteenth Circuit Court of the State of Florida.

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FINANCE

PriceSmart grows May sales

BY Dan Berthiaume

San Diego – PriceSmart Inc. increased net and same-store sales during May 2015. Net sales increased 14% to $230.2 million, from $202.3 million in May a year earlier.

Same-store sales rose 4.6%. There were 36 warehouse clubs in operation at the end of May 2015.

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MOBILITY

RSR Research: Retailers underestimate digital influence

BY Dan Berthiaume

Walnut Creek, Calif. — Retailers underestimate how much digital technology influences physical shopping experiences, but their expectations are rapidly catching up to reality. According to a new study from RSR Research, “Commerce Convergence: Closing the Gap between Consumer and Brand,” while 84% of retailers surveyed say a digital presence is very important to build brand awareness, but only 64% say it is very important to drive traffic to stores.

However, retailers do show an understanding that having disparate digital and brick-and-mortar systems produces negative results. For example, 77% of respondents strongly agree or agree that their legacy POS system is holding them back from providing a consistent customer experience across all channels, and 82% are aware of viable customer order management systems that can traverse all channels.

Yet 68% of respondents strongly agree or agree that replacing legacy POS systems with newer omnichannel POS systems would be too expensive or disruptive. This is despite the fact that 95% of respondents strongly agree or agree the store and the digital experience must be brought together for a continuous, seamless experience.

RSR Research managing partners Brian Kilcourse and Steve Rowen conclude that to respond to the new consumer shopping reality, retailers must define a brand experience that is inclusive of all the ways the consumers “touch” the brand, both in the digital world (e-commerce, mobile, social) and the physical one (store, call center). According to RSR, “winning” retailers are already starting to enact strategies to create this type of brand experience.

Steps taken by retail winners (and recommended for all retailers) include designing a total selling environment around a seamless experience that reflects the unique context of the retailer’s brand, synchronizing core brick-and-mortar and digital functionality while maintaining different systems when needed, and training store employees to effectively use in-store omnichannel applications. RSR Research also advises that retailers follow either a centralized IT strategy or one that is managed via private or multi-tenant cloud solutions.

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