The Store Is TOPSS
As the industry braces for a recession, retailers are already evaluating how to present the best store-level customer experience in the most inventive, cost-effective way possible. They can find an array of ideas at the fifth annual Technology & Operations Store Summit (TOPSS) this spring.
The event, produced by Chain Store Age and Retail Technology Quarterly, will be held June 10-12, at the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa in Las Vegas. To engage attendees, TOPSS will again feature its popular relaxed, “interactive meeting” format designed to encourage intimate, serious discussions among peers from all lines of the retail business.
It also has a very targeted focus: issues that impact the store. “TOPSS is the only retail event that focuses on the store, and improving the store experience,” according to Cathy Hotka, principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates, Washington, D.C.
“To grow the retail experience, you need a balance of retail operations and IT,” she added. “That said, you need participants from every piece of the business to dive deep into issues so the business will evolve.”
Attendees will notice that the show has been moved up from its typical fall schedule. This strategic move will benefit retailers as they create a plan to operate within a sluggish economy.
“By moving up the meeting, we are giving attendees actionable information that they can apply right away, and help them compete more effectively for the rest of the year,” said Hotka, who co-created the show’s program.
One session that promises to shed light on this very topic is “Good News in Bad Times.” Ken Brame, former CIO, AutoZone, Memphis, Tenn.; Tony Briggs, VP of IT, Payless ShoeSource, Topeka, Kan., and Jeff Chasney, CIO, CKE Restaurants, Carpinteria, Calif., will explore “bulletproof processes” needed to increase store growth, and what operations and IT solutions need to be in place to support expansion going forward.
Realizing this growth requires significant investments, retailers are concerned with how to ensure they are getting the most out of their efforts. During the session, “Assessing Store Performance,” a panel comprised of AutoZone’s Brame, Alan Barnett, former senior VP of merchandise planning and information systems, Barneys New York, and former VP, merchandise planning, allocation and replenishment, Levitz Furniture, New York, and Bob O’Hern, COO, Ritz Camera, will discuss how to make process and IT investments work. They will also reveal the right practices and metrics needed to assess store performance.
TOPSS will deliver insights into how to step up operations and appeal more to shoppers—not an easy task as consumers continue to pull back their discretionary dollars. During “COOLEST! Innovative, Interactive Applications That Are Changing the Retail Game,” a panel of retailers will share how they have applied daring technology innovations to their operations.
Meanwhile, retailers sitting in on “Get Closer. Sell More. Protect Information,” will learn about innovative marketing approaches and other new ways to engage shoppers—especially younger ones—while still protecting sensitive data.
TOPSS will also address the everyday challenges that stymie retailers. These topics include wireless and broadband issues, task management, loyalty programs and getting the most out of IT vendor relationships.
Retailers will have plenty of time to network with peers. In addition to networking breakfasts, attendees can share tips and experiences during topic table discussions at Wednesday’s networking lunch. Here, retailers can weigh in on a variety of issues, including point of sale, biometrics, PCI and security, as well as human resources, telecommunications and return fraud.
Of course, attendees can unwind during relaxing cocktail receptions following each day’s last session.
“While attending industry trade shows, I was always shocked that hosting companies didn’t encourage attendees to mingle. Instead, many would go back to their hotels and order room service,” Hotka said. “Our networking opportunities encourage attendees to meet, visit sponsors at their booths, and make dinner plans to keep the conversations going.”
Wal-Mart to sell earth-friendly CDs
SANTA MONICA, Calif. As part of Wal-Mart’s “Earth Month” the company is selling more than 20 Universal Music Group titles that come with special earth-friendly inserts. The inserts are made with special seed paper and, according to the companies, can actually bloom into wildflowers.
The inserts, in addition to being good for the environment, also offer consumers three free digital downloads from Universal Music. Universal also said that a number of its new CDs will be packaged in third-party certified, renewable recycled board and recyclable paper.
ODP urges rejection of Levan nominees
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. Office Depot is continuing to urge its shareholders to reject dissident nominees and elect the company’s nominees to its board of directors at its annual shareholders meeting this April.
In a proxy statement sent to investors, Office Depot said that Alan Levan’s proposed nominees would do little to help improve shareholder value. According to the statement, Levan’s company, Levitt Corp. has seen its share price fall about 93% over the past three years and that its subsidiary, Levitt and Sons, is in bankruptcy. Office Depot also noted that BankAtlantic, of which Levan is chairman and ceo and one of his nominees, is president of real estate, construction and development, share price has dropped approximately 75% over the past three years.
Office Depot also cited news reports that commented on Levan’s failing business ventures, as well as others that said that his nominees are not qualified to serve on Office Depot’s board of directors.
The company pointed out nominee Mark Begelman’s experience with Mars Music, a company he founded in 1997 that went bankrupt in 2002. According to Office Depot, many news reports attributed this failure to a flawed business strategy.
According to Office Depot, when Levan’s other nominee, Martin Hanaka served as chairman of Sports Authority from 1998 to 2003, the company saw its price fall by about 13%.
Office Depot stressed that its directors best understand the company and are well-suited to help the company grow.
“We strongly believe that removing two of the most experienced retailing executives from our board, including our current ceo who is driving the implementation of our strategic turnaround plan, would be highly disruptive, could delay the implementation of internal and external initiatives and could damage prospects for a successful turnaround,” Office Depot said in the proxy statement.