FINANCE

Ritz Camera files for bankruptcy; to close 128 stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Ritz Camera & Image has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As part of its restructuring, the company, which has 265 stores in 34 states, plans to close 128 locations and cut its staff of 2,000 in half.

This is the second time Ritz has sought protection under the bankruptcy laws, having emerged from Chapter 11 two years ago.

The recent bankruptcy filing reveals that Ritz Camera has between $50 million and $100 million in assets and liabilities. Its largest unsecured creditors include Sony Corp. of America, Fuji Photo North America and Nikon.

Ritz operates stores under a variety of banners, including Ritz Camera, Wolf Camera, and The Camera Shop.

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CE industry expects spending boosts on improved consumer confidence

BY CSA STAFF

ARLINGTON, Va. — Consumers are feeling more positive about the overall economy and are growing more likely to make technology purchase, according to the latest CEA Index from the Consumer Electronics Association.

Consumer sentiment toward technology improved for a second straight month, reaching 89.5 in June. The CEA Index of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE) rose nearly two points and is at the highest June reading since the inception of the Index in January 2007. The ICTE, which measures consumer expectations about technology spending, is up more than seven points from this time last year.

“Despite continued global upheaval, gas prices are declining, which is likely relieving some pressure on consumer spending, which in turn is allowing consumers to feel like they can allocate more money to technology,” said Shawn DuBravac, CEA’s chief economist and senior director of research.

Consumer confidence in the overall economy also improved in June. The CEA Index of Consumer Expectations (ICE) climbed to 170.4, an increase of 2.6 points from last month. The ICE, which measures consumer expectations about the broader economy, is up more than ten points from this time last year.

“Sentiment about the economy is up from this time last year,” said DuBravac. “However after several months of declines, a flat equity market and continued volatility in global economies, sentiment will likely remain under pressure.”

The CEA Indexes comprise the ICE and ICTE, both of which are updated on a monthly basis through consumer surveys. New data is released on the fourth Tuesday of each month. CEA has been tracking index data since January 2007.

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The Globalization of Retail

BY CSA STAFF

By Nancy Chisholm, [email protected]

We operate in a global economy where businesses and consumers know no boundaries. Retailers are increasingly capitalizing on this opportunity to extend their brand beyond the web and existing stores, to set up shop in new markets around the globe, offering consumers the “in-store” experience to improve shopper loyalty. The successful execution of global store expansion today, however, requires that traditionally siloed retail store functions (inventory, security, traffic, etc.) operate in harmony to improve business performance and meet the demands of today’s savvy shopper. Meanwhile, global expansion also requires strict compliance with local regulations to ensure the highest level of efficiency, safety and security.

As the retail environment shifts, forward thinking retailers recognize that the strategic integration of key entities across the store — shoppers, inventory, store environment and associates — and around the globe, are paramount to long term success. By integrating these entities, retailers are armed with intelligent, real time information, equipped to make holistic, strategic decisions in the store, no matter where they are located. In addition, ensuring all local regulatory considerations are met will enable a seamless expansion process and contribute to a global retailer’s long-term success.

Why stores still matter
For shoppers, stores are an escape from their homes and offices into attractive, exciting spaces staffed by pleasant, well-informed people attentive to their needs and preferences. Stores let them browse and learn about multiple categories of merchandise, compare them by touch and smell as well as sight, assemble them into coordinated outfits or packages, and enjoy them immediately without delays or charges for shipping.

For retailers, stores are a way to engage shoppers face to face, building loyalty, trust, and revenue through expert personal service, up-selling and cross-selling. For all the doomsday predictions, stores remain as relevant today as they ever were. This underscores the value of new store global expansion as retailers look to increase visibility, build shopper loyalty and drive growth globally, but also puts pressure on retailers to make the right technology decisions at the onset to ensure a solid foundation is set to execute a seamless expansion process.

Compliance with local regulations
As retailers look to expand outside traditional markets, the rising complexity of regulations demand that store technology not only comply with local requirements, but seamlessly integrate with existing infrastructure to ensure all stores reflect the same look and feel customers are used to and mirror existing brand. Regardless of where a new store is planned, however, a retailer’s main focus should be on maintaining a consistent and relevant brand, and meeting the needs of their customers. Executives should not be bogged down by concerns about local requirements that may hinder the successful execution of global expansion. To alleviate these concerns, retailers are partnering with proven technology solution providers that deploy consistent technology, in a consistent manner and meet all local regulatory requirements, every time. This facilitates the efficient and accurate execution of new store development to ensure global expansion remains consistent with overall retailer brand. In addition, by collaborating with a technology provider that has the resources and commitment to ensuring all its products are safe for employees and shoppers, retailers can rest easy knowing local store openings will not be hindered by the lack of proper processes at the onset.

The integrated store is now
According to Bill McBeath of ChainLink Research, “Historically, each major retail store function has been managed in silos — security and loss prevention, labor/workforce management, inventory, promotions, and merchandising — each with its own separate systems, strategies, and personnel. That is starting to change. Loss prevention is being consolidated into other organizations. The management of promotions, labor, inventory, and merchandising is being integrated. We are moving towards the concept of the Integrated Store.”

As retailers look to expand, an integrated platform designed to support all the individual facets of a retail environment, is also critical to long-term success. An integrated store performance platform can help retailers address a number of objectives — optimize inventory, increase conversion rates, minimize shrink, drive employee productivity and/or enhance overall store performance — and arms retailers with unprecedented intelligence from around the world to make strategic business decisions. The unique ability to generate real time, operational reports, delivered directly to a retailer’s headquarters will further support successful global expansion by offering valuable intelligence at a moment’s notice.

With this intelligence, global expansion becomes a competitive advantage and not a potential risk as executives are better prepared to make smarter decisions to drive shopper loyalty and increase the bottom line. This benefit, in conjunction with a technology provider that can provide local intelligence to meet stringent regulations, will extend the value of the technology to a retailer’s overall expansion.

Conclusion
There are many factors to consider when it comes to global expansion but if done right, the benefits far outweigh the risks. To be successful and ensure all the moving parts are working in concert, retailers should consider the value of a technology solution provider that can offer on the ground support and intelligence within regions to ensure compliance with local regulations, as well as the innovative technology to support long-term growth and holistic decision making in the store. Combined, this offering will ensure long term global success.

Nancy Chisholm is VP and GM of Tyco Retail Solutions, a unit of Tyco International, is a leading global provider of integrated retail performance and security solutions, deployed today at more than 80% of the world’s top 200 retailers. Contact her at [email protected].


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