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Sam’s Club, Amazon top retail customer experience rankings

BY Dan Berthiaume

Waban, Mass. — Sam’s Club and Amazon.com deliver the best customer experience in the retail industry, according to the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings, an annual ranking of companies based on a study of 10,000 U.S. consumers. Sam’s Club and Amazon.com continue their reign as the highest-rated retailers for the third straight year, each earning an "excellent" rating.

Sam’s Club narrowly beat out Amazon.com for the top spot, receiving an 81% rating and an overall rank of eighth out of 268 companies across 19 industries. With ratings of 79% each, Costco, PetSmart, Ace Hardware, and BJ’s Wholesale Club also earned high marks from customers. At the other end of the spectrum, RadioShack and Foot Locker tied for last place among 45 retailers. This is the fourth straight year that RadioShack has been at the bottom of the industry.

Here are some additional findings from the retail industry:

• The top 10 retailers in the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings are Sam’s Club (81%); Amazon.com (80%); Costco (79%); PetSmart (79%); Ace Hardware (79%); BJ’s Wholesale Club (79%); Lowe’s (78%); Dollar Tree (78%); Barnes & Noble (77%); and Home Depot (77%).

• The bottom 10 retailers are Wal-Mart (69%); Macy’s (68%); Toys “R” Us (68%); Sears (67%); Kmart (67%); Apple Store (67%); GameStop (66%); Gap (64%); Foot Locker (62%); and Radio Shack (60%).

• Lowe’s (+6 points); T.J. Maxx (+6 points); Best Buy (+6 points); and the Apple Store (+5 points) improved the most between 2013 and 2014.

• Sears (-7 points); Nordstrom (-5 points); Staples (-5 points); Office Depot (-5 points); Dollar General (-5 points); Toys “R” Us (-5 points); Kmart (-5 points); and GameStop (-5 points) declined the most between 2013 and 2014.

• The retail industry averaged a 73% rating in the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings and tied for third place out of 19 industries. Retail was one of only four industries to decline in the ratings since last year, decreasing its average by 1.0 percentage point.

"Sam’s Club and Amazon.com continue to set the standard in retail customer experience," said Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group.

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Men’s Wearhouse launches omni-channel inventory visibility

BY Dan Berthiaume

Fremont, Calif. — Men’s Wearhouse is launching its omni-channel inventory program, which gives customers visibility and access to all merchandise within the company’s distribution center and its 900-plus retail locations from one location. Now, regardless of whether a customer is shopping in a single store or online, they can see all merchandise available to them throughout the company and pick up any item at the store of their choosing.

To facilitate this endless aisle experience, Men’s Wearhouse has developed an employee-facing custom mobile app called "Find-It" and has introduced iPads in more than 650 retail locations for employee use. The Find-It app utilizes the company’s e-commerce website and allows employees to check inventory levels across the entire network and add an item to the customer’s order regardless of its location.

Online customers now have the option of shopping nearby stores’ inventory as well as the company’s distribution center to expand the merchandise choices available to them from Menswearhouse.com. If they find an item they like at a nearby store location, they can reserve it online and pick it up at that store when it’s convenient. Once an online customer selects merchandise from a local store, they will be notified within an hour when the item has been located and put on hold at the selected store for pick-up. This not only saves time for the customer, but allows the stores to provide better customer service by being a step ahead in the sales process.

After a successful pilot in the Houston market, Men’s Wearhouse launched the reserve online, pick up in-store program in all stores company-wide.

"By giving our customers visibility to each store’s inventory, we can better serve their needs," said Adam Harris, director of innovation at Men’s Wearhouse. "The Find-It app and reserve online, pick up in-store rollout allows us to provide a truly omni-channel experience for ultimate convenience. And this is just the tip of the iceberg — by putting iPads in the hands of our employees in over 650 stores, we can rollout a multitude of other apps to increase efficiencies, improve productivity and continue to provide world class customer service to our customers."

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PacSun profit picture challenging as Q4 comps rise

BY CSA STAFF

Pacific Sunwear overcame weak mall traffic and bad weather to log its eighth consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth with a 2% comp increase in the fourth quarter.

The teen and young adult retailer said sales from continuing operations during the quarter ended Feb. 1 totaled $218.6 million compared to sales of $222.8 million during the fourth quarter the prior year, a period which included the benefit of an additional week which added sales of $9 million. PacSun ended its most recent fiscal year with 618 stores compared to 644 in the year earlier period.

"We continue to be encouraged by our positive momentum within a challenging retail environment throughout the year, marked by eight straight quarters of positive comparable store sales, sustained gross margins, and reduced operating costs, all contributing to a significant improvement in our operating performance compared to fiscal 2012," said Gary H. Schoenfeld, PacSun’s president and CEO. "Looking ahead to fiscal 2014, our key priorities include showcasing our premium brand portfolio through curated assortments, managing inventory with on-trend fashion and speed to market, and continuing to elevate both our in-store and digital experience.”

Despite some modest top line growth and store base purged of underperforming units, PacSun continued to lose money in the fourth quarter. The company reported a loss from continuing operations of $22 million, or 32 cents a share, slightly better than a prior year fourth quarter loss of $22.2 million, or 32 cents a share.

On an adjusted basis to exclude non-recurring expenses, the financial situation didn’t look much different. The adjusted loss from continuing operations was $11.8 million, or 17 cents a share, compared to a loss of $11.6 million, or 17 cents a share.

For the full year, the company’s sales from continuing operations were $797.8 million versus $784.7 million the prior year. Full year comps rose 2%.

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