News

Nineties Nostalgia, Retail IT Style

BY Dan Berthiaume

I recently had the opportunity to engage in a little 1990s nostalgia by attending a package concert featuring a variety of popular bands from that decade such as Gin Blossoms, Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray. It was a chance to envelop myself in the sights and sounds of a bygone era that stays close to my heart as what some call a “Gen Xer.”

This brief sojourn to the past got me thinking about how in addition to being an influential decade in music and popular culture, the ’90s also marked an important time in retail IT. While some retail IT innovations of the era have fizzled out like denim shorts for guys, others still hang around in one form or another today, like tattoos on white collar professionals. Let’s take a quick gander at a few retail IT innovations from the days of grunge and flannel and see how they remain relevant today.

Building Your Network
The 1990s saw client/server or network computing — where computing devices running on linked individual servers shared common resources — take precedence over traditional mainframe computing where all devices on a network ran on the same central server. Client/server offered advantages including faster processing, greater network redundancy and easier distribution of a network over a broader area.

Today’s efforts to virtualize infrastructures to enable even faster and stronger processing that can handle volumes of Big Data and global network distribution with minimal overhead all build upon the original aims and capabilities of client/server computing.

Knowing Your Suppliers
Retailer-supplier collaboration was a hot topic in the 1990s. VICS introduced the CPFR model and retailers and suppliers finally began collaborating on basic activities like ordering extra inventory for products with scheduled manufacturers’ promotions. Supply chain collaboration has slowly improved since that time but most retailers still do not closely collaborate with their suppliers.

Advances in social and mobile communications and virtual infrastructures (see above) make sharing information with suppliers easier than ever before. The main barriers are cultural issues regarding mistrust of supply chain partners and a desire to keep proprietary data in-house. To maximize the potential of supplier relationships, retailers need to leave these apprehensions back in the ’90s where they belong.

Retailing like the Good Old Days
Of course, the most revolutionary retail IT development during the Clinton administration was the advent of e-commerce. In its early days, e-commerce was touted as a return to the “good old days” of retailing when a customer could walk into their favorite neighborhood store and the clerk would know exactly what they wanted to buy without asking.

Doubt remains whether customer service in days of yore was ever quite so rosy, but there is no doubt that despite advances in customer tracking, targeting and personalization, modern omni-channel commerce still has not totally fulfilled this promise. By combining data such as customer location, time of day/week/year, purchase/browsing history, social media activity and other personal and historic information, retailers can make highly personalized offers that serve precise customer needs at the moment of purchase decision and take all customer activity across all channels into account.

Anything less and instead of going back to the “good old days” you’re still basically stuck in the ’90s. Not that the ’90s were a bad place to be, but when was the last time you saw a Caesar haircut?


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Office Depot, OfficeMax narrow list of CEO candidates to five

BY Dan Berthiaume

Boca Raton, Fla. – Office Depot and OfficeMax have narrowed their list of CEO candidates to five, and expect to have the person in place in September. The rival chains are set to merge in a $1.2 billion deal that is expected to close by the end of the year.

In a joint press release, the two retailers said that after reviewing and vetting more than 100 candidates and interviewing eight, the CEO Selection Committee has narrowed the field down to five candidates it believes can lead the combined business forward following the merger.

“Our objective is to have a candidate in place prior to the closing of the merger to address critical issues such as headquarters location, company name, culture and strategy,” said Office Depot board member Nigel Travis, the chairman and CEO of Dunkin’ Brands, Inc.

Each member of the committee has been actively engaged in evaluating the slate of candidates, including several that were suggested by Starboard Value, LP, an investor in Office Depot’s stock. The criteria for evaluating qualified candidates included: public company CEO with Wall Street credibility and a global perspective, or strong executive from a Fortune 100 organization; high integrity, team building, transformational leader with a proven track record; and experienced business integrator.

As announced on June 11, 2013, the two companies hired executive search firm Korn/Ferry International to assist the CEO Selection Committee in its comprehensive search. The committee is co-chaired by OfficeMax board member Jim Marino, the former president and CEO of Alberto Culver Company, and Travis.

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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson joins Team Wheaties family

BY CSA STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS — Wheaties has chosen MVP Adrian Peterson as the face of three limited-edition cereal boxes, the first of which is available in stores this week.

As the latest "The Breakfast of Champions" athlete, Peterson will be honored at a celebratory event later this month by Wheaties.

"It’s an honor to add Adrian Peterson to our growing Team Wheaties family," said Jim Wilson, Wheaties marketing manager. "Adrian embodies the heart of a champion whether he’s scoring touchdowns or giving back to his community. Wheaties has been committed to providing athletes with the nutrition they need to help them perform at their best for more than 85 years and we are proud to continue that tradition with Adrian Peterson."

"I remember as a kid growing up and hearing my parents tell me that I’d better eat my Wheaties," said Peterson. "I never thought that as a kid that I would actually be on the same box that once had my childhood heroes on it. I am blessed and fortunate to have such an incredible honor. I would like to remind all of the kids that they better eat their Wheaties."

Peterson made his pro football debut in 2007 and had a record-breaking rookie season. In his sophomore season, he became his team’s first running back to lead in rushing by setting the team record with 1,760 yards. In 2012, Peterson returned to the game after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament and earned player of the year and MVP awards. Peterson is also actively involved in the community and gives his time to numerous charitable causes.

Peterson launched his All Day Foundation in 2008 to raise awareness and funds for programs that help build a better future for at-risk-children. The foundation promotes the well-being of at-risk kids by partnering with nonprofits and developing new programs in primary areas, including sportsmanship and leadership, youth education and enrichment and hunger.

For these limited-edition boxes, Wheaties is partnering with Blippar, an augmented reality platform that uses image recognition technology to bring the box to life through an instantaneous, interactive experience. Wheaties customers who download the Blippar app can then "blipp" or scan the box with their iOS, Android or Blackberry 10 device and unlock exclusive hidden content including an AP video game and some sharable photo opportunities.

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