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Reduced Costs With Site-Recovered Energy

BY Marianne Wilson

Retailers and other building owners are caught between two powerful and conflicting forces: the need to lower energy and equipment costs, and the need to meet or exceed outdoor air ventilation regulations for the health and comfort of customers and employees alike. Indeed, studies have proven that outdoor air ventilation creates a healthier work environment. However, as outdoor air rates increase, so does the size, cost and operating expense of HVAC systems.

To address the challenge, many owners are deploying site-recovered energy technologies, such as energy recovery ventilation (ERV). Designed to operate with new or existing HVAC units, ERV technology provides an affordable means to simultaneously cut HVAC energy costs without compromising outdoor air ventilation requirements.

“Energy recovery wheels, also known as enthalpy wheels, resolve the conflict between indoor air quality and energy conservation by recovering site energy contained in building exhaust air,” said Stephen J. Pargeter, VP product engineering, Airxchange, Rockland, Mass., which manufactures energy recovery ventilation wheels. “Up to 80% of this energy is recycled to precondition outdoor air, resulting in reduced HVAC load and operating cost.”

For new and replacement projects, energy recovery costs are typically offset by lower HVAC system first costs, while up to 80% reductions in outdoor air fuel consumption provide healthy returns for the life of the HVAC system, according to Pargeter.

Energy recovery wheels may also be used to improve the efficiency of relatively new HVAC systems by up to 40% with one- to three-year paybacks when supported by the local utility. They also can help retailers with their environmental initiatives.

“Energy recovery wheels enable building owners interested in marketing green, healthy buildings to increase outdoor air levels above minimum code, earning LEED points and reducing the risk of indoor air quality complaints,” Pargeter explained.

Energy recovery wheels work by transferring energy by rotating between outdoor air and exhaust airstreams to transfer heat and moisture from one airstream to the other.

The total energy saved depends on the wheel’s effectiveness and the difference in temperature and humidity between the two air streams. A bigger differential drives larger energy savings.

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How to stop the retail executive exodus

BY Christine Rivers

Compared with most other industries, retail companies face shorter time horizons and tighter metrics. The pressure to perform is great, which perhaps explains why many retail firms are having trouble holding onto their top executives.

For example, one major U.S. retailer recently suffered the departures of a senior marketing executive, a division president and another executive VP, all within the space of a few months. One of those executives had lasted only five months, while another had a tenure of less than two years.

This high turnover problem goes right to the top of the retail executive ranks. A recent study (2011 Russell Reynolds Associates U.S. Retail CEO Study, “A Perfect Storm: CEO Succession Challenges in Retail”) of more than 80 major U.S. retailers with more than $1 billion in annual revenues found that retail CEOs were 80% more likely than their Fortune 1000 CEO peers to leave within two years of being hired.

How can the retail industry find a way to reduce executive turnover and improve retention? Here are five suggestions:

1.Make hiring decisions based on where the company is headed, not where it has been.

Operational excellence should be an important consideration in CEO succession, but it should not be the determining factor. Rapid technological change is pushing companies to reinvent their business models and rethink the way they reach customers. In this environment, it is crucial to have executives at the top who are willing to take risks, make mistakes and focus on top-line growth, even if such actions fly in the face of conventional operational excellence beliefs.

2.Realign the culture to embrace innovation.

Your best executives can have excellent alignment with your strategic goals as a retailer, but they will still end up exhausted and thinking about jumping ship if they have to fight constant battles with the corporate culture. Hiring an executive for his or her capabilities as a strategic thinker does not make sense if the overall organization continues to worship at the altar of operational excellence.

3.Build bridges; break down silos.

Retail companies want their leaders to be innovative, but most innovation requires the interplay of opinions, perspectives and ideas. When a work force is segregated into silos, there is little room or opportunity for innovation to take place.

One way to start breaking down silos is to make sure that leadership development tracks give executives a chance to experience both the functional and commercial side of the business. As long as silos are allowed to persist, they will impede innovation, causing frustration among creative senior leaders and ultimately making it harder to retain the sort of forward-thinking executives that companies need most.

4.Don’t ask an individual to move a mountain.

Individual leaders may be talented, strategic and creative, but they do not operate in a vacuum. Asking an executive to lead change in a static and entrenched organizational culture is like asking a single person to move a mountain northward when thousands of others are being paid to push the mountain in the other direction.

Yes, it is important for companies to have innovative executives in key positions, but it is equally important to develop governance structures, systems and processes to support these executives, foster a culture of debate, and encourage calculated and strategic risk-taking.

5.Make sure HR has a seat at the table.

Beyond showing that the CEO understands human capital is a strategic concern, having an HR representative on the top leadership team gives companies an opportunity to map out the organization’s talent demands several years into the future. This talent map gives companies the ability to build, develop and recruit leaders whose skills, temperament and vision match the company’s own culture, strategy and objectives.

Christine Rivers is a VP and leader of Hay Group’s Leadership and Talent practice for the Retail sector. Hay Group is a global management-consulting firm.

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Digital Signage Goes Portable

BY Marianne Wilson

Portable digital displays proved the ideal solution for a temporary installation at a Gap store in Manhattan. The application takes the hassle, along with the unsightly cords and wiring, out of digital signage.

The retailer deployed tabletop digital signage displays that run on rechargeable batteries, eliminating the need for any external power. The freestanding portable displays, from BrightSign, measure 10.5 in. by 19.9 in. by 9.9 in. and feature a built-in 12.1-in. high-resolution screen and media player. They are self-contained and enclosed in a sleek steel display tower.

“There aren’t a lot of electrical outfits on the floors of most retailers, and that has dictated where digital signage displays are placed, which is often on the perimeter of the store,” said Jeff Hastings, CEO, BrightSign, Los Gatos, Calif. “But with the battery-operated portable displays, the retailer can place the signage directly on merchandise tables and check-out counters, and right where the shopper is making the buying decision.”

The batteries in the BrightSign tabletop displays provide 15 hours of life. Gap recharges the batteries overnight, similar to how a consumer would recharge a cell phone, while the store is closed.

Gap installed the displays in the small shop adjacent to its flagship on Fifth Avenue and 54th Street. The space is routinely made over to spotlight limited-time Gap partnerships and special collections. At the beginning of the summer, it was dedicated to the Gap-Threadless summer collection of graphic T-shirts. (In February, Gap entered into a partnership with the Chicago-based Threadless, which works with emerging artists to produce unique T-shirt designs.)

The chain used the digital displays — 15 in all — to draw attention to the individual artists who designed the 15 T-shirts on display and to tell the story about what inspired the design. (The displays were positioned on the top of the fixtures.) Threadless used BrightSign’s BrightAuthor PC software application to create the content (video, which plays as a slide show) that ran on the players. The software is available free to the supplier’s customers.

“This type of display takes the customer from being interested to being engaged to purchasing,” Hastings said.

The screens, which provide full-motion high-definition video, are designed with a 180-degree viewing angle, he added.

The BrightSign tabletop displays are equipped with Wi-Fi adaptors that allow for content updates through store networks or other remote locations.

“New content can be downloaded very quickly with the Wi-Fi connection,” Hastings said, “which makes the displays very dynamic in nature.”

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