DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

Planet Hollywood puts a new, immersive spin on theme dining

BY Marianne Wilson

Planet Hollywood has taken the wraps off its Orlando, Florida flagship, which has been totally transformed with a dazzling, multi-million dollar renovation.

The 36,000-sq.-ft. restaurant, which closed for nearly a year, has reopened as Planet Hollywood Observatory. Located at Disney Springs, the dining, retail and entertainment district located at Walt Disney World Resort, it has been redone into a four-story stargazing observatory with new spaces that include an outdoor terrace and lounge, and a new look and feel. The space invites patrons of to "dine amongst the stars" with an immersive theatrical dining experience. The restaurant also boasts a new menu.

Designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects, each floor was created to provide a different experience. Walls and glass displays throughout the restaurant are adorned with imagery as well as a curated collection of memorabilia that pays homage to filmmaking and to the new, rising stars of the entertainment industry.

Along with a state-of-the-art 4,500-sq-.ft. video wall, Planet Hollywood Observatory features three-dimensional interiors that come to life through Trompe L'oeil 3D technology, an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist not on the screen but in the space itself.

"We wanted Planet Hollywood Observatory to re-invent what is expected from themed dining. What we've created here is a stand-alone destination that evokes the feeling of early 20th century Florida and fits into the greater story of Disney Springs," said Planet Hollywood International founder and chairman Robert Earl.

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FINANCE

Macy’s sells chocolate brand

BY Marianne Wilson

Macy’s is exiting the chocolate business.

The department store retailer is selling its Frango chocolate brand to Garrett Brands, owner of Garrett Popcorn Shops, for an undisclosed amount.

Macy’s had inherited Frango, whose roots date back to 1918, from Marshall Field & Co., which was acquired by Macy’s in 2005.

Garrett Brands said it plans to develop, create, sell and distribute Frango products. Macy’s will continue to sell Frango products in the Frango Café at Macy’s State Street store in Chicago, at more than 350 Macy’s store locations in the United States, and online at macys.com.

“Frango is a perfect fit for our company’s portfolio, aligning well with our strategy to preserve and grow iconic brands that have historic franchise value with a unique and storied past,” said Lance Chody, owner and CEO of Garrett Brands. “This is an exciting opportunity to expand the reach and offerings of the delicious Frango confections consumers know and love to more people in more places, just as we have done with our other brands.”

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TECHNOLOGY

NRF’s Big Show: A hopeful shift in focus from Amazon to the customer

BY CSA STAFF

Every year, 30,000 retail industry professionals descend on Manhattan for the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show.

It’s a once-a-year opportunity to take the pulse of one of our most familiar industries. Amazon conspicuously abstains from the event, but it is nonetheless the focus of many conversations, distracting some retailers from the real opportunity: innovations in customer experience. Thankfully, this year a healthy shift seems to have begun.

Over the past decade, retail-focused events have become general technology events. Out are the shelving, printing and shipping vendors. In are companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, and a mosh pit of smaller Silicon Valley companies competing to help retailers reinvent themselves. Nowadays, the Big Show is first and foremost a tech event centered on innovation.

Given Amazon’s mammoth size, continued growth (26% year-over-year in Q3), and their staggering market share for online commerce, it’s understandable that they’re a topic of conversation in every retailer’s board room. Amazon is the pacesetter in online commerce.

But competition among traditional retailers is significant and growing, owing to their omnichannel capabilities and brand strength. Retailers are finding ways to deliver integrated online-offline experiences, services that can only be delivered in person, and offerings reflecting regional tastes and trends.

Kohl’s, for example, while seeing foot traffic decline, has grown its omnichannel business to nearly a quarter of its total online revenue. A quarter of all transaction value was either picked up in-store or shipped from a store to a consumer. Kohl’s claims that 90% of all transactions are now delivered in fewer than two days.

Despite this progress, it became clear from dozens of conversations this week that the stubborn industry focus on Amazon is dangerously reductionist. While Amazon represents the winner in a massive market shift, it is not the customer. Retailers, their suppliers, and partners must shift their focus to the underlying trends that are driving consumers into the arms of Amazon. Their deep understanding of what today’s buyer wants has enabled them to deliver a superior customer experience.

It’s easy to forget that Amazon’s rise is a response to a shift in consumer trends that has already occurred. It begs the now-cliched Wayne Gretzky adage of skating to where the puck is going to be: the winning retailers will create customer experiences that reflect an understanding of emerging trends, and apply their unique strengths to create customer experiences around them. Amazon is part of the equation, but it’s not about Amazon.

Innovations in customer experience go far beyond knowledgeable staff or clean stores. We often focus on the interaction between a consumer and a retail employee. But with today’s buyer, that’s an outdated framing of the customer experience. A far-reaching Accenture study showed that while 82% of Millennial shoppers prefer shopping in brick-and-mortar venues, they also demand a consistent journey across their online, mobile, and in-person experiences.

Amazon cannot deliver this experience, at least not yet. Leveraging the assets of brand, physical stores, and, most importantly, the intelligent human beings distributed across a retail or restaurant chain equip offline retail with both online and offline advantages in providing an experience that can differentiate retailers from the Big Bad Wolf.

What’s more, the next cohort of buyers behind Millennials, the so-called Gen Z, are yet again a different beast, bearing characteristics that play to the geographically localized strengths of traditional retailers. Surprise! Gen Z shoppers show a preference http://www.fitch.com/think/gen-z-and-the-future-of-retail for good human interaction.

For today’s retailer, the challenge is not Amazon. The challenge is correctly identifying the consumer trends that enable a next-generation customer experience, and then executing toward realizing a vision that aligns. Retailers must independently innovate around customer experiences to capture the next wave of growth. After all, every great innovation in every industry must eventually give way to the next. In retail, with history as our guide, we can be sure the next great innovator won’t look anything like Amazon.


Matt MacInnis is CEO of Inkling.

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