News

The Right Fit

BY Connie Robbins Gentry

Apparel retailers know success hinges on finding the right fit for their core customer — and that “fit” encompasses all aspects of the shopping experience from merchandise selection to customer service. The challenge is even greater for Casual Male Retail Group (CMRG), the nation’s largest retailer of big and tall men’s apparel and accessories.

“We need store associates who engage guests,” explained Dennis Hernreich, COO and CFO, Casual Male Retail Group, Canton, Mass., which operates 456 stores under several banners. “Our customer satisfaction index is in the 90th [percentile] when an associate interacts with a guest, but drops to the 70th [percentile] if there is no interaction.”

The epiphany that guests equate proactive interaction to positive service prompted the chain to redefine the in-store experience and what constitutes a “right fit” in terms of the professionals recruited to manage its stores.

When recruiting managers to create a customer-engagement culture, a candidate’s personality and behavior are bigger factors than prior retail experience. Casual Male partnered with Headway Workforce Solutions of Raleigh, N.C., to develop a centralized recruitment program integrating assertive sourcing with technology-based screening. Through online and live behavioral assessments, candidates who exhibit the defined characteristics of a “best-fit” assistant manager, store manager and district manager are identified.

Following the February 2010 implementation of the recruitment program, the company experienced a marked improvement in its hiring process that has translated to numerous benefits for the business.

“We’ve made great strides transitioning our stores to a customer-engagement model where guests receive better service because Headway has brought a wider selection of qualified candidates who are consistently capable of executing our culture,” Hernreich said.

While the chain anticipated improved recruitment processes, the most dramatic benefits were a pleasant surprise.

“The most significant improvement is that district managers (DMs) have more time to train and mentor store teams,” reported Walter Sprague, senior VP human resources at Casual Male. “DMs still interview every candidate who might hold a key to a store, but they don’t have to review thousands of applicants. Headway narrows the pool to a handful of candidates who are the best fit.”

Outsourcing the initial screening streamlined the interview process and freed DMs to focus on creating a customer-engagement culture that effectively improved overall productivity and performance in stores.

“All of the key metrics we use to gauge store performance have increased,” said Brian Reaves, Casual Male’s senior VP store operations, “including year-over-year improvements in dollars per transaction, sales per hour and number of units per transaction.”

Adopting the customer-engagement culture precipitated a hiring frenzy and, in the first 18 months, Headway screened 50,000 applicants, from which the chain hired 735 employees. To fully appreciate the time savings, consider how many hours district managers would have invested to assess the 50,000 candidates screened by Headway. In addition to store managers and assistant managers, 14 of the company’s 30 DMs were recruited through the new system, which Casual Male also utilizes for corporate positions, call center workers and seasonal help.

“We’ve certainly seen better-quality candidates since we began using this recruitment process, and the caliber of seasonal candidates is just as strong as for full-time management positions,” Reaves added.

Connie Robbins Gentry is a regular contributor to Chain Store Age.

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williamson says:
Mar-30-2013 09:34 am

applicants, from which the
applicants, from which the chain hired 735 employees. To fully appreciate the time savings, consider how many hours district managers would have invested Finance here to assess the 50,000 candidates screened by Headway. In addition to store managers and assistant managers, 14 of the company’s 30 DMs were recruited through the new system, which Casual Male also utilizes for corporate positions, call center workers and seasonal help.

williamson says:
Mar-30-2013 09:34 am

applicants, from which the chain hired 735 employees. To fully appreciate the time savings, consider how many hours district managers would have invested Finance here to assess the 50,000 candidates screened by Headway. In addition to store managers and assistant managers, 14 of the company’s 30 DMs were recruited through the new system, which Casual Male also utilizes for corporate positions, call center workers and seasonal help.

B.Low says:
Jan-03-2013 05:12 am

Good thoughts and well-written
Sant Ritz Sant Ritz is also near to Volkswagen Golf Centre and Kallang Side Riverpark. Entertainment for your loved ones and friends is therefore at your fingertips with the full condo facilities as well as the amenities near Potong Pasir. Thx

B.Low says:
Jan-03-2013 05:12 am

Sant Ritz Sant Ritz is also near to Volkswagen Golf Centre and Kallang Side Riverpark. Entertainment for your loved ones and friends is therefore at your fingertips with the full condo facilities as well as the amenities near Potong Pasir. Thx

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M.Donovan says:
Nov-26-2012 12:44 pm

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Focus on: Loss Prevention

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Despite the challenges in its category, Birmingham, Ala.-based book retailer Books-A-Million has embarked on an aggressive growth plan that added 41 new units to its store count in October and November 2011. The expansion, which put the 250-store retailer squarely in the No. 2 bookseller slot after Borders’ liquidation earlier in the year, has been accompanied by a newly honed focus on improving its loss-prevention program system-wide.

Books-A-Million teamed with shrink management supplier Checkpoint Systems, Philadelphia, to implement a loss-prevention solution focused around electronic article surveillance (EAS).

Rolled out in about 90 stores initially, the Books-A-Million implementation involves Checkpoint antennas located at the doors of each participating store, which detect radio frequency circuits on paper tags throughout the units.

By combining radio frequency technology with Checkpoint’s energy-saving ECO electronics brand of antennas, along with robust communications and remote alarm data-capture, the system maximizes loss-prevention effectiveness.

Books-A-Million is also using Checkpoint’s Alpha Keepers & Mini Spider Wraps with an RF circuit to protect DVDs. If the tagged product is not deactivated at the point of purchase or the DVD Keeper or wrap is not removed, the product will alarm the antennas, alerting store personnel that someone is attempting to take products without purchasing them.

“The system provides both deterrence and detection,” according to Chad Tice, VP loss prevention at Books-A-Million. The physical presence of the antennas at the door, and the tags, wraps and keepers on products, provide deterrence. The system provides detection if someone tries to leave the store with unpaid merchandise.’

The new system is already seeing positive results.

“Our mix of legacy loss prevention systems wasn’t well suited for books and didn’t enable us to utilize source tagging for greater efficiencies and a better customer experience,” Tice said. “We made a capital investment with Checkpoint because it provided a superior plug-and-play solution, has a national footprint and offers dedicated in-house experts who provide quality implementation results on a consistent basis. In fact, we’ve already seen an immediate impact by generating merchandise recoveries and expect a positive impact on shrink.”

A second phase of program implementation is scheduled for the first quarter of 2012, and will introduce the system to 50 additional Books-A-Million stores.

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An Online “Want” List

BY CSA STAFF

Move over, “Like” button. There’s a new feature on the social media block that makes it easy for retailers to know what shoppers really want.

Merchants are testing the waters with a new “Want” button that can be added to online product pages, so shoppers can keep track of items on their wish list and inform their Facebook friends about what’s on their radar. Brands are embracing this concept to get endorsements and learn more about customer preferences, while increasing conversion rates and average order values.

The Want button from Wanttt.com — where fans can discuss trends and popular items — is already gracing the online product pages of more than 200 retailers, including Finish Line, Moosejaw and Sharper Image. When a shopper clicks the button — often touted under an item’s product details — a small pop-up screen appears where users can add comments about the product. The news that a shopper is interested in a certain item goes straight to Twitter and their Facebook news feed, spreading details to their friends about which items they want.

“The ‘Want’ button is similar to an online wish list in that shoppers can keep track of what they want and inform their friends, but it does so much more for us than just that, from expanding the brand to driving sales,” explained Sam Grossman, director of marketing at San Francisco-based Sharper Image. (The consumer electronics and gifts brand, whose products are sold direct to the consumer and at department and specialty stores, was purchased by Iconix Brand Group in 2011).

Since Sharper Image implemented the “Want” button solution in late 2010, it has significantly boosted the company’s search engine optimization results.

“Adding links to our product detail pages from the Want site has enhanced our rankings for key products in organic search results, so we’re getting more brand recognition and click-throughs from natural search,” Grossman said.

Even more, Sharper Image has experienced a big jump in sales, as shoppers who use the feature convert at five times the rate of other shoppers. “Want” users’ average order value is also 21% higher than other shoppers.

“The button is similar to a positive review of a product — it increases shopper confidence in the product, consequently increasing sales,” Grossman said. “We’ve had great success with it so far.”

In addition to adding a “Want” button, retailers are also embracing other Facebook widgets such as “Like” and “Share” onto their shopping cart and product pages. The key to embracing all of these social media tools is to fully integrate them into the design and flow of the site and checkout system, according to Susan McKenna, CEO of Winnetka, Calif.-based McKenna’s Marketing.

“Making social widgets passive on the far right-hand side of the page away from viewing isn’t going to help much,” McKenna said. “Retailers need to place these buttons next to the product image or near its description text.”

Merchants can also prompt shoppers with a message on the checkout page to “share this with friends.” Incentivizing customers to do so is also a powerful tactic.

“Give shoppers, who refer friends to the site by using these features, coupons or ‘points’ that can go toward something they can benefit from, such as discounts,” McKenna said. “Incentives have a huge return on investment, and they don’t take too much effort to implement.”

Retailers can also extend their social media and online wish-list initiatives by integrating them with a mobile platform. For example, wish-list mobile software such as Myregistry.com for the iPhone allows users to not only create a wish list via a mobile device and pass it along via social networking sites and text messages, it also allows users to scan a bar code on any item in a store and add it to an existing list that can later be shared with friends and family.

“The growth and blending of social media and mobile platforms will undoubtedly change the way we shop for gifts, especially as smartphone saturation continues to grow in the U.S. and worldwide,” McKenna said. “Retailers need to start thinking more about how they can leverage this type of technology to truly stand out against competitors.”

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