FINANCE

Starboard urges Office Depot to sell off interest in Mexican unit

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Boca Raton, Fla. — Office Depot largest shareholder Starboard Value said Wednesday it sent a letter to the office supply retailer’s board, urging it to sell its 50% joint-venture interest in the Office Depot de Mexico business as soon as possible.

Starboard, which owns a 14.8% stake in Office Depot, said it believes the value of the JV interest is not fully reflected in the retailer’s stock price.

JV partner Mexican retailer Grupo Gigante has offered $687.34 million for Office Depot’s half. That offer expires on Thursday, and an answer will require consent from OfficeMax under the terms of the office supply pair’s recently announced merger deal.

"If OfficeMax does not consent to Office Depot’s negotiations with Gigante or any other potential buyer regarding the sale of the JV Interest, Starboard would view this as both unreasonable and potentially anti-competitive," the shareholder said in the letter.

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OPERATIONS

Study: Grocers Publix, Trader Joe’s top experience rankings; Office Depot among most improved

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Waban, Mass. — Survey results released Wednesday by Temkin Group revealed that Publix and Trader Joe’s ranked the highest among 246 companies in terms of customer experience.

The 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings, which polled 10,000 U.S. consumers, were dominated by grocery chains and food purveyors. After Public and Trader Joe’s was Aldi, and rounding out the top 12 were Chick-fil-A, Amazon.com, Sam’s Club, H.E.B., Dunkin’ Donuts, Save-a-Lot, Sonic Drive-In, Little Caeser’s and Ace Hardware.

The five lowest scoring organizations were US Airways, Time Warner Cable, Days Inn, Empire BCBS, and 21st Century. The companies that made the largest improvement over 2012 were Citibank, TriCare, TD Ameritrade, Office Depot, EarthLink, Hardees and Regions Bank.

Temkin said in this year’s ratings, 37% of companies earned "good" or "excellent" scores, while 28% are rated as "poor" or "very poor." Companies with at least a "good" rating grew by nine percentage points since 2012 and by 21 points since 2011. Of the 203 companies that are included in both the 2012 and 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings, 57% firms had at least a modest increase.

"It’s wonderful to see that customer experience is improving, although many companies still have a long way to go," states Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group.

The survey examines customer experience across 19 industries: airlines, appliance makers, auto dealers, banks, car rental agencies, computer makers, credit card issuers, fast food chains, grocery chains, health plans, hotel chains, insurance carriers, Internet service providers, investment firms, parcel delivery services, retailers, software firms, TV service providers, and wireless carriers. It evaluates three areas of customer experience: functional, accessible and emotional.

Among other key findings:

  • RadioShack and Apple Store underperformed the retail industry averages;
  • Leaders in functional experience were Publix, Trader Joe’s and Costco;
  • The leader in accessible experience was Ace Hardware; and
  • The leader in emotional experience was Publix.
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Report: Always-on consumers, showrooming among 2013 retail trends

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — A new report by Experian Marketing Services finds that several key retail trends will impact how marketers shape their messages in 2013.

According to the 2013 Digital Marketer Report, consumers today are multi-device and multichannel shoppers, forcing digital marketers to adapt and evolve their message to reach consumers across channels and all along the path to purchase.

It also found that 74% of marketers surveyed have either coordinated, or are in the process of coordinating, customer interactions among both online and offline channels.

“The way consumers gain information from brands — the means by which they get it, even the ways in which they process it — is constantly evolving given the complexity of our multichannel world and evolving consumer behavior driven by economic variables,” said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research for Experian Marketing Services. “With the recent retail numbers coming out of January, retailers can anticipate consumer hesitation, making it imperative that marketers create integrated customer experiences and maximize digital marketing opportunities and return on investment.”

Among the key findings:

  • Showrooming will continue: Comparison shopping continues to be strong as shopping sites are the third largest driver of traffic to other retail sites. In fourth quarter 2012, shopping sites accounted for 19% of referral traffic on average to the top 500 retail sites;
  • Economic uncertainty will also continue, but online retailers will still benefit as consumers search for better deals and consumer awareness continues to improve with more retail information readily available;
  • Consumers are “always on”: Fifty-nine percent of adults say they email from at least two different devices during a seven-day period. Nearly one-third of adults under age 35 email from three or more devices each week; and
  • Maturing mobile market: 48% of adults ages 18 to 24 say that a conversation via text message is just as meaningful as a telephone call. A similar share of adults ages 25 to 34 feel the same way; in a given month, 8% of all smartphone owners report having shopped from their phones, whereas nearly 40% of tablet owners say they shopped from their tablets.
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