OPERATIONS

RILA report details retailers’ ongoing progress in sustainability

BY Marianne Wilson

Arlington, Va. — Sustainability teams in retail companies are growing, and reporting levels are gaining seniority, according to a new survey by the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

The report, RILA’s second Retail Sustainability Report, was done in sponsorship with Ernst & Young, The survey uncovered six significant trends, specifically that:

1. Sustainability teams are growing. Most companies surveyed have full-time sustainability teams. Teams are growing, and reporting levels are gaining seniority.

2. Sustainability investment payback requirements are two- to three years. Most companies act on sustainability investments that expect a two- to three-year payback.

3. Breadth of sustainability activities are increasing. Companies project that the responsibilities of the sustainability function will significantly increase in scope over the next two years.

4. Tracking of sustainability metrics will grow in prevalence. Most retailers measure energy, fuel, material usage, and waste generation. More than 25% more retailers will begin to measure code of conduct compliance, water usage, suppliers audited for social compliance, renewable energy generation and chemicals of concern over the next two years.

5. Three key stakeholders are applying pressure. Pressure for retail sustainability efforts is strongest from employees, competitors and regulators.

6.There are identifiable attributes of top performing companies. Certain concrete attributes contribute to the growth and success of a retail sustainability program.

The report is divided into two sections. The first, Managing Sustainability, outlines the structure of sustainability teams, and companies’ investment, planning, measuring and reporting strategies. The data showed that most respondents have full-time sustainability teams, which have been growing in staff size over the last four years — to keep pace with the growing breadth of responsibilities.

However, despite the growth in staff, sustainability budgets are remaining the same. This staff growth can in part be attributed to the primary benefits that respondents perceive as attributable to their sustainability programs, namely reduced costs, brand enhancement and risk management.

The second part of the report, Implementing Sustainability, discusses operational strategies for buildings and supply chains, as well as stakeholder engagement. Waste and energy reduction are the top facility-related improvements that retailers are undertaking, though managing greenhouse gas emissions and water use and building with green techniques will grow significantly over the next two years.

Supply chain improvements have focused on transportation fuel efficiency, materials, including chemicals of concern and packaging design. Managing all aspects of the product life cycle, from design through use and disposal will become increasingly prevalent practices over the next two years. Transparency remains a key trend: disclosing the social and environmental impacts of product supply chains is a growing practice.

The report can be viewed at Retailsustainability.com.

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FINANCE

SAP survey: Mobile payments need to be targeted at retail

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — More than half (53%) of industry leaders believe that improving customers’ retail experience is essential to creating a successful mobile payments scheme, according to a recent survey by SAP.

The study, SAP’s third consecutive GSMA Mobile World Congress survey, found that the “secret sauce” for creating a better retail experience includes POS services such as near-field communication (28%), facilitating universal acceptance of mobile payments (25%) and location-based point-of-sale offerings (24%).

Other services included targeted offers based on consumer preferences and shopping history (12%) and integration with mass transit (9%).

“We are seeing a maturing of the mobile payments market, as we move from a service that is driven by person-to-person payments to one that must tackle the challenges of the retail environment,” said Diarmuid Mallon, lead, global mobile marketing programs, SAP. “It is clear from our survey that in addition to improving the payment experience, mobile wallet apps need to support a multitude of services such as loyalty and couponing.”

In other results, 34% of the respondents felt that applications such as Apple Passbook will speed up brands offering wallet services. In regard to changes in the mobile wallet, only 28% of mobile insiders expected new ticketing and coupon services, such as Apple Passbook, Google Now and the Samsung wallet app, could become an alternative to true mobile wallets. And 38% believed that the lack of consumer awareness and too much confusion around the offerings were holding back mobile wallet services.

The anticipated leaders of future successful mobile payments offerings included banks (29%); online payment schemes, such as PayPal, Apple iTunes or Amazon Payments (28%); credit cards (26%) or a consortium of operators (26%).

The SAP survey was conducted on-site at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.

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Gap’s February Q4 same-store sales rise 3%, topping estimates

BY Staff Writer

New York — Gap Inc. said Thursday that its February same-store sales rose a better-than-expected 3% for the four weeks ended Feb. 25. Analysts expected a 2% increase.

The chain was due to release the sales figures after the market closed, but put them out at midday after they were found in a leaked transcript of prerecorded comments.

By division, same-store sales rose 2% at Gap and 6% at Old Navy. They fell 5% at Banana Republic.

Total revenue increased 11% to $966 million for the four weeks ended Feb. 25, boosted by a calendar shift.

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