OPERATIONS

Office Depot rolls out omni-channel initiatives

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Boca Raton, Fla. — As part of its plan to support a customer-focused omni-channel experience, Office Depot said that, effective July 28, its associates will be enabled with mobile hand-held devices across all stores to provide instant access to extended product information, availability, customer reviews and on-the-spot checkout from anywhere in the store.

Designed to launch in tandem with the back-to-school push, the mobile technology will also allow associates to order out-of-stock items from Officedepot.com (with free shipping) via their mobile devices.

The office supply retailer is also rolling out in-store touch-screen kiosks and workstations to allow customers to research the full assortment of items available at Office Depot and order for delivery. Consumers can also download the Office Depot App to scan any barcode in-store to read reviews and additional product details, or use the company’s free Wi-Fi service in-store.

“Technology is constantly changing the way people shop,” said Christine Buscarino, VP customer experience, Office Depot. “We are continuing to refresh our services and our omni-channel offerings to ensure customers get what they need, when they need it. It’s about shopping for and receiving products at a time and in a way that is most convenient.”

Additionally, Office Depot has introduced a “Buy Online, Ready in One-Hour” program, which allows customers to purchase online and pick up at a store in one hour.

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ShopperTrak weighs in with BTS outlook

BY CSA STAFF

CHICAGO — Retail sales and traffic will increase during the back-to-school season, reflecting a recovering economy, according to ShopperTrak, the world’s largest counter and analyzer of retail traffic.

The company found that national retail sales, when compared to the same period last year, will rise 4.3% in August, and retail foot traffic will increase 0.6%.

“Back-to-school shopping is the first major ‘shopping season’ of the calendar year, and has the potential to set the tone for the holidays,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. “The economy is, in many ways, stronger than it was last August. We expect that the 2013 season will continue the growth trend of both retail sales and foot traffic.”

In 2012, back-to-school sales increased 5.9% compared to the previous year. In 2011, those sales increased 4.5% over 2010.

Likewise, while this year’s retail foot traffic increase may seem incremental, it continues the positive trend. In 2012, foot traffic turned around and increased a substantial 11%, compared to the back-to-school traffic in 2011. That year, foot traffic declined 5.1% from 2010.

The expected increases in August reflect the U.S. economy’s slow but steady gains. For instance, unemployment this year is lower than it was during last year’s back-to-school time. Though consumer sentiment does not impact retail sales immediately, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index recently reached its highest level since the beginning of the recession. The last time consumer sentiment was as high as it was in May 2013 was in Sept. 2007.

In recent years, back-to-school shoppers had focused on stores with the best values. But with this positive consumer sentiment, shoppers may be more willing to “shop around” at more stores — not just the value locations — thus adding to the increased foot traffic and sales.

“On the whole, more people feel better about their financial situation than they did last year in August,” said Martin. “Parents are ready to spend on their children’s school necessities. The consumers will be browsing. In order to seize this opportunity, smart retailers must prepare their marketing and operations to increase their foot traffic, sales and ultimately, their shopper conversion rates.”

ShopperTrak measures foot traffic in more than 60,000 global locations and analyzes the data in a proprietary, econometric model to create its ShopperTrak National Retail Sales Estimate (NRSE) of general merchandise, apparel and accessories, furniture and other sales (GAFO).

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Former AT&T Cloud Solutions exec jumps to a new cloud

BY CSA STAFF

ATLANTA — Red Book Connect, a global, cloud-based software solutions company serving the broader retail and restaurant industries, has appointed Arnab Sur as SVP of global sales, a previously unfilled position since the formation of the company in January 2013.

Sur was most recently the global sales VP for AT&T Cloud Solutions, where he increased revenues 300% after building and integrating an industry leading portfolio of cloud, applications and hosting services. Under Sur’s leadership, AT&T Cloud Solutions transformed from a US-based business to a global leader servicing a broad range of Fortune 500, Global 1000, small-to-medium (SMB) customers and several industry verticals. Throughout his career, Sur has managed large teams of direct, indirect and technical sales, and also brings software application expertise to his new role at Red Book Connect. Sur has also held senior sales positions at USInternetworking, Appshop and Quovera. He will be based in San Francisco.

"It’s a pleasure to welcome Arnab to the Red Book Connect family," said Larry Abramson, CEO of Red Book Connect. "We have created a portfolio of elegant cloud-based software solutions that are used by more than 128,000 businesses around the world. Arnab is the perfect choice to extend our global leadership in the services industry. His successful track record, experience and personality make him the ideal leader to mentor our worldwide sales team."

“It is very exciting to be joining Red Book Connect at a time of explosive growth and opportunity with our market-leading portfolio of technology solutions,” said Sur. “Our sales teams bring service-industry experience to addressing real-world needs for a truly unique interaction with our customers. I look forward to working with an extremely talented and energetic team to build the Red Book Connect business globally.”

Sur earned a master’s of science degree in manufacturing systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and a bachelor of technology degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, India.

Red Book Connect offers solutions and products from Red Book Solutions, HotSchedules, Macromatix, GoHire and Schoox. Currently serving more than 1.2 million users in more than 128,000 locations across 26 countries, Red Book Connect has offices in Atlanta, Denver, Austin, Thessaloniki, Greece, Sydney, Australia and Shanghai, China.

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