FINANCE

Starbucks to provide free college education for thousands of workers

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Starbucks Corp. is launching an innovative program in partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) whereby the coffee giant will help pay for the cost of an online degree for its part-time and full-time associates who work at least 20 hours a week. In a twist from the standard tuition reimbursement program, Starbucks employees who participate in the program will not be obligated to stay on with the company after graduation.

“There’s no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind,” said Starbucks founder, chairman and CEO Howard Schultz. “The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try and do something about it. Supporting our partners’ ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make.”

Under the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, Starbucks workers admitted to ASU as a junior or senior will earn full tuition reimbursement for each semester of full-time coursework they complete toward a bachelor’s degree. Freshmen and sophomores will be eligible for a partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid for two years of full-time study. The workers can choose from about 40 programs, including engineering, retail management, nursing and business.

Schultz announced the program Monday in New York City, with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, ASU president Michael Crow and about 340 Starbucks workers and family members in attendance. One of the retail industry’s most outspoken executives, Schultz grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, New York, and was the first in his family to attend college.

“Starbucks is going where no other major corporation has gone,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, a group focused on education. “For many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education is the only reasonable way they’re going to get a Bachelor’s degree.”

In addition to financial support, Starbucks and ASU have developed a program to support the needs of working students. Partners will have a dedicated enrollment coach, financial aid counselor and academic advisor to support them through graduation. The program also will include adaptive learning services to help students progress at the right pace for them, networking and community-building opportunities and additional resources to help students plan their educations.

Arizona State University has one of the largest and most widely regarded online degree programs in the United States, and has become a leader among public universities in a field traditionally dominated by for-profits schools. Tuition for an online degree at ASU is about $10,000 a year, roughly the same for its traditional on-site educational programs.

Enrollment in the program begins Aug.15, and students can start online classes Oct.15.

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OPERATIONS

Report: Wal-Mart opens website for Indian small retailers

BY Dan Berthiaume

New Delhi, India – Wal-Mart Stores In. has reportedly opened an e-commerce site to serve the small retailers that shop at its members-only cash-and-carry stores in India. According to Bloomberg, Wal-Mart is piloting the site for small retailers located in the cities of Hyderabad and Lucknow, with full rollout across India planned in January 2015.

Cash-and-carry stores in India only serve small retailers, who must have special tax documents to purchase goods at them. Regular consumers cannot shop at Indian cash-and-carry stores. Wal-Mart is aiming the site at retailers located more than 12 miles from the nearest cash-and-carry store, and seeks to have 10% of all cash-and-carry purchases executed online after full nationwide rollout.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Survey: Retail marketers bullish on retail marketing

BY Dan Berthiaume

Austin, Texas – Three-quarters (75%) of retail marketers believe that digital advertising delivers a higher ROI than offline advertising, including circulars and direct mail. A survey of 200 retail marketing decision-makers and influencers commissioned by RetailMeNot Inc. and conducted by Kelton, shows that despite this belief, 51% of respondents said digital marketing spend in retail compared to offline marketing spend is still about 50/50.

More than four-in-five retailers surveyed (82%) believe that their digital marketing budget will increase in the next three-to-five years. In contrast, almost four-in-10 respondents (39%) think that their offline marketing budget will stay the same or decrease in the next three-to-five years. Just more than a quarter of retail executives surveyed (27%) said they were advanced in digital marketing and less than one-in-five (19%) said their current omnichannel strategy was extremely effective.

When it comes to mobile, nearly two-thirds (65%) believe that branded mobile platforms like apps are effective at driving in-store sales. However, only 19% of respondents said they were advanced in native mobile applications.

Retailers believe the top four opportunities to drive sales as they shift from printed circulars to digital formats are their own websites (23%), deal or promotion websites (23%), deal or promotion apps (22%), and e-tailers’ own apps (15%).

"Today, consumers are more connected and informed than ever, so reaching the right customer with the right message at the right time requires a consumer first, data-driven approach," said Jill Balis, senior VP marketing, RetailMeNot Inc. "With the reach and precision that digital and mobile affords, marketers are embracing these channels to efficiently engage the always-connected consumer. The most forward-looking retail marketers today are breaking down the silos in their organizations to more quickly integrate digital and mobile into their overall marketing strategy. The retailers who deliver a consistent and compelling experience across the customer journey will win the hearts and minds of consumers."

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