Spencers
ERP/CRM

Spencer’s Gifts overhauls merchandising backbone

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Managing a diverse inventory and high transaction volume is no laughing matter.

This process becomes even harder when data is being supported by a legacy merchandising system. Ready for a change, Spencer’s conducted “an exhaustive search of the enterprise retail systems market,” according to the chain’s CIO Carey Lowrey.

In the end, the chain selected Mi9 Merchant merchandising platform from Mi9 Retail. The new merchandising architecture, which will be the retailer’s core merchandising solution, will centralize information and provide "best of breed" functionality, including advanced allocations.

The scalable infrastructure, which will function as the backbone of Spencer’s enterprise retail system, will replace Spencer’s legacy merchandising technology — a solution that had been customized over many years to support the unique, complex characteristics of its business. Mi9 Merchant is designed to manage significant transaction volumes and diverse inventory and assortments.

The system will manage merchandising operations for more than 600 Spencer’s stores in the United States and Canada, as well as the company’s seasonal Spirit Halloween pop-up stores.

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ECOMMERCE

Study: Apparel retailers still seek the perfect technology fit

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As more shoppers embrace digital solutions, apparel retailers must merge online and offline experiences to drive e-commerce sales.

This was according to “Apparel Trend Report: Reconciling the Tech with the Tactile,” a report from Criteo that highlights the latest shopping trends in the apparel and accessories retail category. The report offers insight into shifting shopper behavior and actionable intelligence for retailers and brands as they seek to fully capitalize on the apparel e-commerce ecosystem.

On average, there are more than three products in every online shopping cart. Carts with an apparel item averaged $95.21 during the third quarter of 2016, highlighting the need for marketers to maximize cross-selling opportunities. Meanwhile, one-third of all apparel purchases were made via mobile phones during the weekends in December 2016 at the height of the holiday shopping season — a factor that suggests marketers need to adopt ‘mobile first’ strategies to capitalize on this trend.

Specifically, the Sunday peaks reflect the omnichannel nature of e-commerce. The average cart size hit $126 on Sunday, Nov. 13, and the second biggest day was Sunday, Dec. 7 — with shoppers likely identifying clothes in-store and purchasing online at a convenient time, the report said.

“The apparel and accessories category is witnessing a massive transformation,” said Jonathan Opdyke, president, Brand Solutions, Criteo.

“Millennial shoppers purchase the majority of their clothing and accessories online and retail storefronts are shifting to showrooming, in which shoppers can experience in real life and then purchase online,” he added. “Apparel brands and retailers must embrace the new ‘always-on’ retail paradigm, where seasonality plays less of a role and in-store and online technology innovation enhances the shopper experience.”

To attract the omnichannel shopper who is merging offline and online experiences, retailers should:

Embrace in-store and online tech innovation: Augmented Reality experiences, as well as in-store technology, like eBay magic mirrors, enhance the shopping experience.

Leverage sponsored product listings to drive awareness and sales: Sponsored products, which are relevant to the purchaser and multiple SKU categories like Apparel and Accessories, reach shoppers at the point of need.

Explore your retail lifestyle: The top retailers all treat their sites like a combination of a store and Vogue: they tell lifestyle stories in which shoppers can ‘see themselves’ as they go through the purchase process.

Use paid search to help increase organic rankings: Paid search is proven to drive immediate product sales with the added benefit of lifting search rankings overall.

Personalize everything: The word “bespoke” is suddenly back – but this time it defines how an item of apparel is tailored through technology to be something unique and special, whether in the fit of the garment or other elements.

Make e-commerce marketing an always-on strategy: E-commerce has fundamentally changed retailing seasonality. Marketers’ brand budgets must be able to cover not just traditional retail seasons like holidays and spring, but the entire year.

Try before you buy: With subscription boxes like PopSugar and Bespoke Post, marketers can – and should – get their brands into the hands of shoppers. Cultivate these sampling programs that work especially well for accessories.

Ditch print in favor of digital: There is no more effective way to build up your customer email database than permission to email shoppers their receipts. It’s a technique that consumers increasingly expect and can be used to connect offline shopper data sets to online ones for retargeting online based on offline purchasing patterns.

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Insights

An architect’s take on building experiences

BY CSA STAFF

Store closings are commonplace. Online shopping options grow. From time immemorial, stores were built with brick-and-mortar. Better materials for today would be innovation and experiences.

We in the field of store design are seeing some promising signs that an evolution is underway.

While the majority of these innovative steps are taking place in town centers and other hybrid and mixed-use developments, enclosed malls stand to benefit from these strategies as well. If the underlying demographics are still strong for struggling retail spaces, there are a number of techniques mall owners and operators can employ to step up their games.

Get local

A shopping center’s surrounding community is invaluable. The cure for a center owner’s woes could lie somewhere within a five-mile radius. Large common areas can be created or transformed to host farmers’ markets or pop-up shops for local crafters, designers, or musicians. Millennials are charged about giving back to the community and being involved. In the retail environment, they are eager to support local producers, causes, artisans, and growers.

Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio, has a store called Celebrate Local that features the products of area artists and vendors. It’s something of a brick-and-mortar Etsy, and it capitalizes on a growing national trend of people eager to celebrate and display local civic pride. The Northstar Café, an eclectic organic eatery at Easton Town Center, is locally owned and offers a menu made from locally sourced ingredients. Northstar has fared so well that it now operates five locations.

Get creative

Think about turning empty stores into assets by offering them ups as gallery and studio spaces for local artists and craftsmen. This can infuse a tired center with a spark of creative energy. Shoppers get a rewarding experience from the peek behind the curtain, while center owners add popular artisans to their paying tenant rosters. To see how effective this can be, look to the Short North Arts District in Columbus, a popular arts-based community destination with a wide range of studios, galleries, and retail and dining options.

Get fit

Empty anchor spaces are often ideal locations for a health and fitness-based concepts like yoga studios, rock climbing retailers, spin classes, and martial arts. New activity-based entertainment concepts are proliferating, with creative golf and bowling concepts, rock climbing, and indoor skydiving. Opportunities to be social and get active are increasingly popular. Brands like lululemon host yoga sessions. Bass Pro Shops and REI offer classes, gear tutorials, and special events.

Get tech

Consider helping to create a tech lab for startups and entrepreneurs. Not only does this provide a community space for people to develop ideas and build businesses, but the mall or surrounding retail area offers a great benefit to the entrepreneurs: people to test their products! A mall in San Francisco opened a similar concept, Bespoke, over a year ago and has seen a significant increase in shoppers with the help of this space. Adding interactive technology — from wayfinding to kids’ play areas — is another way to encourage shoppers and guests to engage with the space and elevate a passive experience into an active one.

Get residents

Millennials, and even many Boomers, are increasingly looking for walkable communities and residential options that deliver a true live, work, and play experience. Arcade Providence in Providence, Rhode Island, (one of America’s oldest malls) transformed a deserted mall space into micro apartments, giving residents direct access to shopping and entertainment. These micro apartments, mostly one-bedroom units that are approximately the size of a hotel room, are an ideal addition to the Arcade. The former indoor shopping mall is now two stories of micro lofts — 48 units — over first floor retail. Situated adjacent to downtown Providence, Arcade Providence offers residents the convenience of living in a walkable downtown environment at an affordable price — a win for the developer as well, as the previously vacant space is well occupied.

Struggling malls in still-vibrant residential areas need to re-think and re-market their square footage. Ultimately, they need to give people a compelling reason to get off the couch and visit — and these days it takes more than a food court pretzel or a generic sweater to make that happen.


Jessica Neal is a project manager at M+A Architects, a Columbus, Ohio-based architecture firm. You can reach her at [email protected].

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