OPERATIONS

Starbucks switches course; asks customers not to bring guns into its stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Seattle — Starbucks Corporation is requesting that customers no longer bring guns onto its property, either inside or outside its stores — even in states where “open carry” laws permit them to do so — with the exclusion of law enforcement personnel.

Company founder, chairman and CEO Howard Schultz made the request in an open letter posted under his name on the Starbucks website. The company plans to buy ad space in major national newspapers to run the letter.

In recent months, Starbucks has been thrust into the middle of the gun control debate. In August, Starbucks closed its store in Newtown, Conn., early after gun rights supporters held events there. At the same time, supporters of gun control have become more vocal that the chain, known for its progressive policies, put a ban on guns in its stores.

“In recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate,” Schultz wrote in the letter. “That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.”

Schultz noted that the company’s longstanding “open carry” approach has been to follow local laws, which means permitting guns in stores in states where allowed and prohibiting it in states where such laws don’t exist. Most other retailers and restaurant chains follow a similar policy with regards to firearms.

“We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement — not by Starbucks and our store partners,” he wrote. “Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.”

To read the full letter, click here.

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OPERATIONS

Duane Reade finds ROI and engagement success on Twitter

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — New York City drug store Duane Reade, a division of Walgreens, on Tuesday celebrated an important social milestone — surpassing one million followers on Twitter — with a gala event at the chain’s flagship on Wall Street. From September 2012 to date, the regional retailer has organically grown its Twitter following by 6,709%, making it one of the fastest-growing accounts on Twitter year over year. With 1.1 million followers at latest count, the chain is believed to be the most followed retailer in the drug, food and mass arena.

“Duane Reade went from 10,000 followers last July on the platform to one million currently,” said Chris Riedy, senior sales manager, Twitter. “That really is a significant accomplishment. “

The drugstore chain has averaged a 4% engagement rate for “Promoted Tweets.”

“That’s very very strong,” Riedy said. (The industry average is 2%.)

Riedy credited three crucial elements for the chain’s success in growing its Twitter base.

“They had an outstanding team…the team was able to put in place an authentic voice…and the team understood how to leverage the Twitter ad platform,” he explained.

Reedy noted that Duane Reade has been successful in using social media not only to drive engagement but also to drive sales. He cited the Duane’s Reade’s “Show Us Some Leg” social amplification vendor campaign, which bolstered ROI, including a 28% lift in sales of the chain’s legwear. (Post campaign performance numbers for the vendor have been equally impressive, with sales up 21% year-over-year as of July 2013, according to Duane Reade.)

“The marketing power of Twitter cannot be overestimated,” said Calvin Peters, digital communications manager, Duane Reade.

Duane Reade has developed an “always on” Twitter Ads strategy that is driven by consumer-generated media and is integrated across channels to connect with new audiences — and keep existing followers engaged.

“Our goal has been social community building and expanding relevant engagement to enhance our overall experience,” said Calvin Peters, digital communications manager, Duane Reade. “Achieving this while also creating social communication vehicles that can generate tangible ROI results for both corporate and vendor initiatives have proven successful.”

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FINANCE

Toys “R” Us loss triples in Q2

BY Marianne Wilson

Wayne, N.J. — Toys "R" U widened its loss in the second quarter on lower sales at its stores in the United States and Europe. The company reported a loss of $113 million, compared with a year-earlier loss of $36 million.

Net sales for the quarter, ended August 3, dropped 6.9% to $2.38 billion. Same-store sales declined 3.5% in the U.S. and 3.8% abroad. The retailer attributed the decline primarily to decreases in the juvenile and entertainment (which includes electronics, video game hardware and software) categories.

Interim CEO Antonio Urcelay said the retailer is “intensely focused” on finalizing plans for the holiday season to ensure it is well-positioned to compete.

“We believe that the initiatives we have recently announced in the U.S., including an enhanced Price Match Guarantee and a comprehensive suite of programs to encourage early buying, in combination with our expertise in the identification and ownership of the hottest toys, will strongly appeal to consumers as they develop their holiday shopping lists,” he said.

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