OPERATIONS

Staples opens lab in Seattle to test, launch online selling models

BY Staff Writer

Framingham, Mass. — Staples announced the opening of its Development Center in downtown Seattle. One of two Staples’ west coast offices, the new center is made-up of e-commerce and engineering teams responsible for driving major initiatives to enhance areas including search, SEO and personalization.

“Seattle has a wealth of talented engineers and leaders who are perfect matches for the opportunities at Staples, primarily around using big data to develop a personalized shopping experience , and developing innovative global services,” said Faisal Masud, executive VP, global e-commerce, Staples. “At the Development Center, we’re building core components to power innovative e-commerce. Our marketers and merchants will test and launch rapid innovative online selling models, targeting the right customer with the right products at the right time.”

The new facility joins Staples Innovation Lab, in San Mateo, California, which focuses on personalizing the shopping experience and allows the company to tap into the wealth of engineering and e-commerce expertise in the Silicon Valley area.

Staples is adding software development, product management, usability, analytics and online merchandising positions as it continues to invest in omnichannel capabilities that let customers shop however and whenever they want, across mobile devices, desktops and stores.

“We have several exciting challenges ahead of us in the areas of search, big data development and personalization, along with our global platform components, and the Seattle office positions us well to find the right talent to meet those challenges.” said Prakash Muppirala, VP, e-commerce engineering, Staples.

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OPERATIONS

RadioShack and PCH team up to create new retail pipeline for start-up products

BY Marianne Wilson

Fort Worth, Texas — RadioShack is partnering with hardware manufacturer and accelerator PCH International to create RadioShack Labs, a collaboration to help inventors and start-ups bring their products direct to the market — and hopefully boost store traffic. As part of the agreement, the retailer will open dedicated areas in RadioShack stores that feature new and innovative products from startups. The shops will utilize a direct-to-store model for select products, reducing inventory requirements and increasing inventory turn in the stores.

PCH, through its PCH Access division, helps startups and inventors overcome the hurdles of logistics and get their products in the hands of consumers. RadioShack will offer select PCH Access companies special retail terms, and create a direct path to up to 2,000 RadioShack stores along with preferred positioning on radioshack.com. The first products are expected to be in RadioShack stores by the fall, displayed in a six-ft. section called “Discover It, Powered by PCH,” according to a report by the Star-Telegram.

"It’s long been our belief that innovation and collaboration go hand-in-hand,” said Joe Magnacca, CEO of RadioShack. “As we transform RadioShack, it’s important that we simplify and streamline the channels that encourage inventors and entrepreneurs to join us in the retail environment. We see so many exciting consumer products coming from startups and we want these differentiated products in our stores. Traditionally, big retailing requires big inventory, but we can improve our supply chain and be a more nimble partner.”

Magnacca said that PCH has a proven track record of bringing unique ideas and products to market.

“We have been closely collaborating with them since January of this year. With the combination of new retail terms that support innovative startups, and PCH’s experience in manufacturing, packaging and delivering product direct to stores, we believe we can rejuvenate our retail offerings,” he said.

"Every day we talk to startups and see new products," said Liam Casey, founder and chief executive officer of PCH. "But the retail model, which demands large capital in the channel, doesn’t typically work for startups and this hurts innovation. Together with Joe and the RadioShack team, we looked at removing the barriers that prevent unique products from getting on to shelves, and as a result created a partnership that supports product innovation, while freeing up capital that would otherwise be tied up in the inventory channel."

In addition to products that come through the PCH Access program, RadioShack Labs invites new product ideas from innovators, inventors and makers. To learn more about how to collaborate with RadioShack and PCH, go to Radioshack.com/RSLabs. Inventors can submit information and a notice will be sent when the site is live and ready to take ideas in the coming weeks.

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Ace Hardware tops customer satisfaction ranking for eighth consecutive year

BY Marianne Wilson

Oak Brook, Ill. — The J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Home Improvement Retailer Store Satisfaction Study has ranked Ace Hardware “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Home Improvement Retail Stores” for the eighth year in a row. Ace has captured this ranking ever since the organization began this study eight years ago.

“We are honored and humbled to receive this recognition from our valued customers for the eighth year in a row,” said John Venhuizen, president and CEO, Ace Hardware Corporation. “We believe we are blessed to be in the business of serving others, so it is encouraging to see our local Ace owners and their teams of ‘helpful hardware folks’ ranked so highly by consumers.”

The J.D. Power study is based on responses from more than 2,900 consumers who purchased home improvement products or services in the previous 12 months. Ace Hardware ranked highest among major retailers with an overall satisfaction index score of 791 on a 1,000-point scale. According to consumers, Ace performs particularly well in the staff and service category.

The score is based on performance in five areas: merchandise, price, sales and promotions, staff and service, and store facility.

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