TECHNOLOGY

South African merchant improves in-store omnichannel fulfillment

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Woolworths is taking steps to bolster its online shopping experience.

Woolworths South Africa, a division of Woolworths Proprietary Limited, is known for its vast assortment ranging from groceries, fresh produce and prepared food to clothing, beauty products, home goods and general merchandise. As the company entered into the world of omnichannel, it knew it had to deliver easy access to its merchandise, and provide a painless experience for online customers.

Its first step was to establish its stores as online fulfillment centers. However, a manual, paper-based system made it inefficient to serve an increasing number of online customers. Staging was also difficult due to the limited space in-store available to sort items into the proper containers.

Eager to improve picking accuracy and efficiency across its stores, Woolworths added the Retail Advantage in-store fulfillment solution from HighJump. The system is designed to create the best pick paths for store-based personal shoppers, and offers real-time performance reporting. Woolworths also invested in new trolleys, totes and crates, as well as wearable rugged device scanners to complement this software.

“HighJump Retail Advantage will help us standardize processes, increase productivity and improve pick accuracy,” said Zoey Rylands, Woolworths head of selling operations. “The increased efficiency will enable us to scale more rapidly across our stores as our e-commerce operations keep growing. The solution includes valuable reporting tools that will deliver the key metrics management needs to make informed decisions.”

The system initially will be implemented within 30 stores, according to Woolworths.

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TECHNOLOGY

Consumer confidence slips in May

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Wary about business conditions and jobs, consumer confidence dipped a bit further in May. But consumers still remain optimistic on the whole about the economy.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 117.9 in May, from a revised 119.4 in April. The index hit 124.9 in March, its highest mark in 16 years.

"Consumer confidence decreased slightly in May, following a moderate decline in April," said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "However, consumers' assessment of present-day conditions held steady, suggesting little change in overall economic conditions,” Franco added. “Looking ahead, consumers were somewhat less upbeat than in April, but overall remain optimistic that the economy will continue expanding into the summer months."

While the Expectations Index dropped to 102.6 in May from 105.4 last month, the Present Situation Index increased marginally to 140.7 from 140.3. This sentiment also impacted consumers' appraisal of current conditions. Those saying business conditions are "good" edged down to 29.4% from 30.8% last month, but those saying business conditions are "bad" was unchanged at 13.7%.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market still remains wary. Those stating jobs are "plentiful" declined marginally to 29.9% from 30.3%, however, those claiming jobs are "hard to get" decreased to 18.2% from 19.4% in April.

Consumers remain equally cautious about short-term improvements. Specifically, the percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 21.3% from 25.1%. On a more optimistic note, however, those expecting business conditions to worsen declined marginally to 10.1% from 10.4% last month.

Consumers also remain torn on labor market expectations. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 18.6% from 21.9% last month, but those anticipating fewer jobs decreased to 12.0% from 13.8% in April.

On an optimistic note however, the percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase edged up to 19.2% from 18.7%. However, the proportion expecting a decrease also rose to 8.7% from 7.6% in April.

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TECHNOLOGY

Online home furnishings retailer teams up with hit cable series

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Wayfair is making it easy for customers to emulate decor trends from one of cable television's most popular series.

Wayfair is collaborating with HGTV home improvement and house flipping series “Brother vs. Brother.” The popular show features siblings Jonathan and Drew Scott competing to see who can make the biggest profit when flipping renovated properties. The Wayfair-HGTV partnership will enable viewers to shop the looks featured on the show directly on Wayfair.

This is the fourth year that Wayfair is offering the shopping program in the United States. However, this is the first time that viewers in Canada can participate in the program, according to the retailer.

The six-episode competition series will showcase the Scott brothers renovating and reselling homes along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The properties will be outfitted with furniture and coastal decor from Wayfair’s vast selection of more than 8 million products. Viewers can shop their favorite looks from the series through daily sales events on Wayfair.com in the United States and Wayfair.ca in Canada.

“HGTV is a valued partner of Wayfair and we’re excited to launch another integration that brings accessible decorating solutions to everyone,” said Nancy Go, VP of brand marketing, Wayfair. “This fun and competitive series will not only inspire viewers, but it will show them how they can achieve the looks they see on TV from the comfort of their home, by shopping Wayfair.”

Brother vs. Brother will premiere in the U.S. on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET on HGTV, and in Canada on Monday, June 5, at 9 p.m. ET. Wayfair’s “Brother vs. Brother” daily sales event will run through July 13 on its U.S. site, and through July 18 on its Canadian domain.

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