OPERATIONS

Report: Lowe’s looking to hire two senior executives

BY Staff Writer

New York — Lowe’s Cos. is seeking to hire two senior executives that could play a role in its CEO succession plan, according to the Associated Press.

The chain is looking for a chief merchandising officer and a head of supply chain. The positions were left vacant in May due to a reorganization.

Lowe’s is looking both internally and externally, the report said.

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News

Walmart likes Facebook — and vice versa

BY Staff Writer

New York — Some Facebook investors may be feeling a bit disgruntled, but Walmart couldn’t be happier with its experience with the social network.

Walmart executives have had nothing but positive things to say about how they are leveraging the platform to engage with shoppers and drive business results. That was the case this week at the Emerging Trends in Retail Conference, organized by The Center for Retailing Excellence at the University of Arkansas. Facebook’s Mike Fox, director of global vertical marketing, and Wanda Young, Walmart’s director of social media strategy, delivered a joint presentation at the conference.

Currently, Walmart has 23 million Facebook fans, which Fox called an "amazing asset," because it is the largest and highest quality Facebook fan base in the United States.

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Getting all those fans doesn’t happen by accident. It requires the company to engage with shoppers by providing content, which Fox described as an important foundational step to getting it right on Facebook.

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He recommended that content be engaging, useful and frequent for maximum effect.

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Walmart detailed some of its Facebook initaitives at its recently-held annual investor conference. The company, which has individual Facebook pages for each of its stores, is now looking to leverage the platform, as well as other social media, to drive sales this holiday season.

"We’re going provide value to our Facebook members with more than two billion impressions during the season," Walmart chief merchandising and marketing officer Duncan Mac Naughton said at the meeting. "That’s three times greater than last year. We’re going to align all of our social media against our marketing platforms so we have a consistent message no matter where you are, whether you’re on your digital phone, whether you’re in the store, or your home computer."

One example Mac Naughton shared is a program called Toy Land Tuesday that features roll back prices based on Facebook fan votes. On Saturday and Sunday, Facebook fans vote what toys they want a rollback on and then new prices are implemented on Tuesday.

A program called Get Connected involves specific deals served up to Facebook fans. And at the end of October, a program called Walmart Gifts is set to launch that looks at top trending toys and offers gift suggestions based on Facebook friends’ wish lists.

Walmart must be doing something right on Facebook. Just a few months ago, when promotional materials were put together for the Emerging Trends conference, Walmart was said to have 17 million fans. At the investor conference, the number cited was 22 million. This week the figure had grown to 23 million and is surely headed higher as holiday activity intensifies.

“There isn’t a single person in the U.S. who doesn’t have at least one friend who is connected to Walmart,” said Facebook’s Fox.

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OPERATIONS

Survey: Dollar stores put increased competition on supermarkets

BY Gail Hoffer

Fort Lee, N.J. — Supermarkets are facing increased competition from dollar stores, according to a new survey from Perception Research Services International.

Supermarkets continue to be the primary channel where consumers purchase groceries but are continuing to face challenges from other retail formats. PRS’ survey results indicate that supermarkets are still where most shoppers (91%) have purchased groceries in the past three months (in line with last year’s 92%), and mass merchandisers are still their largest competitive threat (73% purchase groceries there – down from 76% in 2011).

But this year’s data shows that dollar stores are gaining momentum as the percentage of shoppers who purchase groceries at dollar stores has increased, from 32% in 2011 to 35% in 2012. Alternatively, levels at drug and convenience are holding steady relative to last year (46%/47% and 23%/24% respectively).

While consumers purchase beverages and food generally at the same rate across mass merchandisers and dollar stores, cleaning supplies and personal care items are purchased more often at dollar stores. In addition to these items, shelf stable products at dollar stores are most competitive with mass merchandisers.

This survey also revealed that shoppers prefer supermarkets for selection, mass merchandisers and dollar stores for price and drug and convenience stores for price.

During 2012, more shoppers utilized sales/coupons (83%) and quantity/size control (70%) to save money than in 2011, the survey found. Most importantly, this year significantly more shoppers claimed to have switched brands to curb costs (61% versus 49%).

“Our latest findings on grocery shopping indicate how very discerning today’s shoppers are – about their venue preferences as well as brand choices,” said Jonathan Asher, EVP at PRS. “Retailers must understand their competitive strengths and capitalize on them, while also making the necessary adjustments to their offerings to seize opportunities for a larger slice of the pie as shoppers are more open to new shopping possibilities than they have been since the 1950’s with the advent of large, supermarket chains.”

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