REAL ESTATE

Stride Rite opens Milestone store in Ohio

BY Dan Berthiaume

Lexington, Mass. – Stride Rite Children’s Group has opened its latest “Milestone” concept store at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio. The Milestone concept includes features such as shelves at varying heights so children can easily see all of the styles available, a dedicated “Fit Station” where children can get their feet measured and find out how tall they are by standing against the Fit Totem Pole, rainbow carpeting and a more open floor plan.

"We are excited to continue exploring new potential store locations that both fit the needs of our customer and help our busy mom by providing more convenience and access to the brands and styles that both her kids love and she trusts," said Stephen Donnelly, SVP/GM direct-to-consumer at Stride Rite Children’s Group. "This has been an exciting year for us, between unveiling the new store designs and being named by Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America as the top performer in the full service category."

Stride Rite has confirmed plans for three additional specialty stores to open this fall in Augusta, GA, Houston, and Columbia, MD. The first Milestone store opened in Burlington, Mass., in March of last year.

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Serving up Savings

BY Marianne Wilson

Arby’s Restaurant Group has taken an aggressive stance with regard to its third largest and most controllable expense: energy. Faced with rising costs, the chain developed a strategic energy management plan that identified more than $5.5 million in potential annual savings.

Arby’s worked with Ecova, a Spokane, Wash.-based energy and sustainability management company, to develop a short- and long-term road map for actionable energy savings and measurement. (Arby’s has a history with Ecova, using its expense and data management solution.) The chain’s leadership team met regularly with Ecova to develop a plan that would ensure energy management becomes a norm of Arby’s culture and standard operating procedures.

"Ecova’s unique approach to strategic planning engaged Arby’s leaders across different functional groups to help us develop an energy strategy that was truly built for our success — considering the unique strengths, needs, concerns and constraints of our organization," said Scott Boatwright, senior VP operations, Arby’s Restaurant Group, Atlanta, which has more than 3,400 restaurants system-wide.

The planning process resulted in a clear, data-driven, actionable plan, one that made a strong business case for energy reduction. The plan emphasizes brick-and-mortar investment opportunities and initiative management recommendations. Regarding infrastructure investments, Ecova supported Arby’s finance team in prioritizing opportunities and developing a multi-million dollar capital expense proposal that generated an internal rate of return of 97%.

The proposal was approved by Arby’s board, and the project was started in the first quarter of 2013. It’s now in the install phase, which will continue through the end of the year.

"We will be analyzing results of the project well into 2014," Boatwright said.

The program involves mostly those locations owned by Arby’s, with varying levels of participation. Some are getting new equipment, but all are being asked to participate in the new behaviors emphasized by Ecova, according to Boatwright.

As part of the process, Ecova conducted energy and water audits in a sampling of Arby’s units. The audits identified a target list of 11 low-cost energy-efficiency measures and capital investment opportunities with an annual energy savings of more than $1 million. The measures include behavior modifications to on/off schedules, including water (average water use per restaurant), kitchen equipment, HVAC and lighting.

Other changes and equipment modifications highlighted by Boatwright include:

  • Reducing water heater thermostats to supply 135-degree water to meet dishwashing and hand-washing needs;
  • Installing low-flow faucet aerators on hand sinks and vegetable sinks and programmable thermostats and low-flow spray valves at the dish sink;
  • Adding more energy-efficient refrigeration and lighting solutions; and
  • Changing out electronically commutated motors in the walk-in freezer and coolers.

"Additional work will take place in 2014 to include items like additional lighting upgrades and irrigation controls, which will yield incremental savings," Boatwright added.

Employee buy-in to the plan, particularly with regard to behavior change, has been critical.

"We’ve modified our on-boarding materials, as well as employee training materials to drive the ‘efficiency matters’ philosophy through the organization," Boatwright said.

Arby’s has set an initial goal of reducing overall energy intensity by at least 6% (from 2011 baseline) for 2013 and 15% by 2015, the VP added.

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Crafting a New Experience

BY Marianne Wilson

Framing and arts supplies retailer Aaron Brothers is reinventing its stores with a new design that celebrates artistic expression and the creative process. The space, which has an urban, modern look, recalls an artist’s loft and is set up to provide shoppers with all the tools they need to make better-informed decisions.

The store features three distinct zones that call out the brand’s core categories: do-it-yourself framing, custom framing and art supplies. The Frame Workshop offers a hands-on experience: Customers can bring in their photos and artwork, choose a frame, a mat and then assemble everything on-site. The ready-made frames are arranged by finish and size and displayed on a sliding panel system. A "Use Our Wall" section allows shoppers to compose frame groupings that can be recreated at home.

The Custom Framing area offers private consultation areas for custom jobs. It also has a window into the professional frame shop.

A Southern California-inspired, colorful wall mural draws customers back into the space, where art supplies are housed in the new Art District, which houses everything artists might need. The space includes a Brush Bar, where brushes are organized by paint medium.

Aaron Brothers worked closely with Chute Gerdeman, Columbus, Ohio, in developing its new store experience. The chain applied a new quantitative research tool developed by Chute Gerdeman, called CG Fusion, that combines customer and financial data, resulting in a clearer picture of how a retailer can most effectively respond to changing customer needs.

Aaron Brothers applied the tool to identify what categories offered the best growth potential from existing customers — and who the most vulnerable competitors were in those categories. The resulting data led the chain to expand two strong categories, including art supplies, which were also given a more prominent position in the store. Gifts, which had previously been made up of mostly impulse items at the cashwrap, were also given a dedicated area with upgraded fixtures for jewelry and accessories. The data also led Aaron to maintain core categories and edit assortments in categories that offered less opportunity.

According to Chute Gerdeman, looking only at sales data would have pointed the chain in the wrong direction. Instead, CG Fusion helped Aaron Brothers determine where its core customers wanted the retailer to go. And it supported the recommendations with monetized options.

To date, Aaron Brothers has rolled out the new design in West Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Irvine, and Hermosa Beach (all in California), with more on the way.

"The new stores have far exceeded our financial expectations," said Jim King, CEO, Aaron Brothers, which is owned by Michaels Stores.

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