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Optimized Irrigation

BY Marianne Wilson

Utility expenses are Shari’s Restaurants’ third biggest operating expense, behind food and labor. In 2008, the 24-hour, family-dining chain began to take a closer look at how to minimize its utility costs. 


“We knew we couldn’t control the price of our utilities, but we could control the usage,” said Jodenne Scott, energy efficiency manager, Shari’s Restaurants, Beaverton, Ore., which operates 104 locations, primarily in the Pacific Northwest (all are corporate-owned). 


Scott subsequently launched a comprehensive program of water, energy and waste reduction. The initiative, called S.W.E.E.P. (Shari’s Water and Energy Efficiency Program), returned dollars to the chain’s operating budget, reducing energy usage from 2008 to 2010 by 22%. It expects to save an additional 5% this year. 


Most recently, Scott has focused on water efficiency. In 2010, she piloted a “smart” water management solution (HydroPoint Data System’s WeatherTRAK). The system, which utilizes irrigation controllers, rain sensors and irrigation system technologies, is designed to eliminate landscape overwatering and the problems it can cause, from soil erosion to foundation damage.


“The WeatherTRAK technology easily integrates with any existing irrigation system to optimize operational efficiencies and landscape health,” said Jeff Welch, VP business development, H20 Designs LLC, Battle Ground, Wash. The water management company brought the technology to Scott’s attention. 


The pilot application, at Shari’s Salem, Ore., location, ran from May until October 2010 (the conclusion of Shari’s irrigation period). 


“We reduced out outdoor water usage by 75%, which is astounding,” Scott said. 


The decreased water usage also translates into reduced energy. Both add up to utility savings, Scott added.


There are other benefits as well. The WeatherTRAK solution has a smart controller that automatically adjusts watering schedules based on landscape needs, moisture levels and local weather conditions. 


“We don’t want our restaurant managers micro-managing their site’s water system,” Scott said. “With this system, the manager doesn’t have to worry about a thing when it comes to landscape irrigation. It’s all automatic, and we get the reports at headquarters. The controller is dialed into a weather satellite system. If it’s going to rain, the grounds are not watered.”


Scott is equally pleased with the ROI of WeatherTRAK. 


“It’s about a one-year investment, which is great,” she said. 


Based on the positive results of the pilot, Shari’s is installing the system at 10 additional sites. 


“We are trying it in different climates to see if we realize the same type of savings,” Scott said. “If we do, we will roll it out.” 


In 2011, Shari’s is focused on reducing water use by 20% across its entire property portfolio.


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J.C. Penney Thinks Big

BY Marianne Wilson

J.C. Penney Co. is aiming to be a major player in a growing market niche — men’s big and tall — that is estimated to be a $6 billion-plus annual business. The segment is expected to grow 25% in the next decade. 


The chain’s new specialty menswear concept, The Foundry Big & Tall Supply Co., made its retail debut in May, opening 10 stores in a mix of in-mall and lifestyle centers in the Dallas and Kansas City, Mo., regions. By 2013, the fledgling business is expected to have expanded to 100 locations, with the number expected to triple to 300 stores within five years. 


The Foundry is the first initiative from Penney’s Growth Brands Division, launched in late 2010 to pursue high-potential opportunities in retail. Growth Brands initiatives have no external association with — and are separate from — the company’s namesake brand. But they are able to leverage Penney’s logistics, IT, merchandising, marketing, planning and allocation, and other back-office capabilities. 


The new concept offers an extensive head-to-toe assortment of menswear, with sportswear in sizes 1XL to 6XL and XLT to 5XLT and suits up to size 54L. (Even more extended sizes are available on the company’s website.) Shoes run from 10 regular to 16 wide. Price points range from $20 to $35 for a T-shirt to $175 to $200 for specialty suit coats. 


The selection includes casual, contemporary and traditional styles, and combines the retailer’s own private brand (mostly basics) with such national brands as Calvin Klein, Cole Haan, Geoffrey Beene, Levi’s, Callaway, Izod, Timberland and Marc Ecko Cut & Sew. Licensed team apparel and active wear give each store a local feel. 


Key to The Foundry’s strategy, and its appeal, is its distinctive shopping environment, which is designed to make big and tall men feel comfortable. The store design was a collaborative effort between Penney and the Seattle-based retail design firm Callison.


“Inspired by the look of a microbrewery, The Foundry Big & Tall Supply Co. stores feature an urban, industrial design where customers can relax, enjoy themselves and shop some of the biggest names in menswear — in sizes that fit,” said Steve Lossing, president, The Foundry Big & Tall Supply Co., Plano, Texas. A 20-year menswear veteran, Lossing has served with Penney in various management roles since 2002. 


With an average footprint of approximately 5,000 sq. ft., The Foundry has an urban, industrial look, with concrete and wood flooring, brick walls, exposed ceilings, and steel and wood fixtures. The space has a masculine feel, enhanced by such accents as big-screen televisions tuned to sports programming and a poker table. 


“In determining the design attitude, we identified familiar places where the big and tall guy feels comfortable,” Lossing explained.


The layout is divided into three distinct areas: the porch, the lounge and the loft. Customers enter through a porch area, which has open, exposed ceilings, and tile floors with a concrete look and feel. The modern collections are merchandised on one side of the floor, and traditional collections are on the other. This area also houses a bar-inspired customer service center and checkout.


The middle of the interior houses the lounge.


“It’s a great area for customers to hang out and relax, with worn wood floors and walls, and a drop-down ceiling with large, comfortable club chairs and ottomans, a large flat-screen TV and a unique poker table fixture,” Lossing said. T-shirts, denim/jeans and shorts also are merchandised in this area.


One of the most unusual design elements is the fitting room area, or “Tank Room,” which is located across from the lounge. 


“There are three fitting rooms, and they have the industrial appearance of large copper cylindrical brewery tanks, with sliding doors and piping handles,” Lossing said. 


The back third of the store, the loft, has open, exposed ceilings and a large red brick back wall featuring The Foundry logo. In addition to shoes, accessories and other goods, this area offers licensed team apparel and active wear — and a second large flat-screen TV.


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Focus on: Logistics


BY Marianne Wilson

When it comes to logistics efficiency, Pep Boys, a leading automotive aftermarket service and retail chain, is committed to staying ahead of the curve by managing cost, mitigating risk and driving best-in-class operations.


“Our ability to do so is rooted in the partnerships we have developed, and the technology we have employed to create a level of visibility that allows us to know our logistics characteristics and make fact-based decisions early on,” said Joshua Dolan, director of global logistics and U.S. Customs Compliance at Pep Boys, which operates more than 700 stores in 35 states and Puerto Rico. “This allows us to review and evolve constantly.” 


One of Pep Boys’ key partners is the transportation management services and logistics technology solutions provider Transplace. Since 2006, Pep Boys has utilized the Dallas-based supplier’s Web-based transportation management system (TMS) to manage the transportation planning, execution and analytics component of its logistics network — specifically the inbound transportation from domestic vendors to its distribution centers and cross-docks. 


The solution gives Pep Boys (and its suppliers) the technology and business intelligence tools needed to plan, monitor and optimize shipments. It also gives the chain the ability to access real-time reports and the drill-down capability to see information that is critical to effective business operations. 


“Speaking broadly, Transplace provides Pep Boys with the technology that we employ to execute our domestic logistics platform,” Dolan explained. “We use the technology not only from a transactional standpoint, but also from a strategic one, due to the data that we are able to pull out of the system. The visibility the system provides allows us to understand what’s going on in our business in real time, which helps us significantly.”


Pep Boys does not outsource its domestic transportation. It procures and maintains its own contracts with its carriers, who are required to have full connectivity with Transplace through EDI.


“This connectivity allows us to maintain visibility and have full access to how operations are being executed from the time shipment is planned to the day it is delivered,” Dolan said. “It also allows us to optimize shipments and manage carriers, in addition to providing the level of historical detail we need to plan and be more strategic about our decisions.”


This technology gives Pep Boys a virtual glass pipeline for viewing its freight, and provides it with what Dolan calls “actionable intelligence.” The chain has three in-house systems experts who navigate throughout the system on a daily basis.


“Because we have such good visibility to transactional data, we have the ability, for example, to go back and review data and find opportunities where we can synchronize inbound operations with our dedicated fleet’s outbound operations and leverage the fleet to eliminate empty miles and unnecessary fuel from our operations,” Dolan said. 


According to Dolan, the major benefit of the Transplace solution is that it allows Pep Boys to leverage its fixed expenses with its variable demand in driving waste out of the network.


“We have enjoyed significant cost savings by leveraging the Transplace technology,” he added. 


With its business growing, Pep Boys is determined to maintain capacity and costs even as it faces a number of challenges, including rising fuel expenses. “Also, the market is continuing to put pressure on shippers, with demand outstripping capacity in some markets,” Dolan added. “But by further utilizing the technology and improving how we run operations, we will continue to find ways to drive more efficiency throughout the entire company.” 


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