OPERATIONS

Study: J. Crew has best online customer service in January

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York – J. Crew received top ranking among all major U.S. online retailers during the month of January 2014. According to the Stella Monthly Ranking from the StellaService customer service analysis firm, J. Crew, which held this ranking from July-September 2013, took the top spot from L.L.Bean.com, which held it in November and December 2013.

J. Crew topped all apparel retailers with the best issue resolution in the group of top performers, improving from second in the category the previous month. J.Crew was also the only retailer in the group to score 100% for product knowledge and policy knowledge.

Other notable performers included Fab.com, which replied to emails in fewer than two hours on average, topping the category for the second consecutive month. Fab.com also delivered packages about two days faster than the mass merchant category average and the retailer scored 100% for package quality.

Meanwhile, L.L.Bean.com was best for phone service not only in the apparel/accessories category but also among all retailers. The retailer improved from third in its category the previous month with best-in-class issue resolution. Four of five top performers in the category averaged less than a minute to connect StellaService Analysts to live agents.

The top 10 retailers in online customer service for the month of January are as follows: J.Crew, L.L. Bean, Ralph Lauren, Net-A-Porter, Fab.com, Kate Spade, Cabelas, Gap, HSN, and Zappos.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

New app delivers instant mobile e-gift cards

BY Dan Berthiaume

Laguna Beach, Calif. – The new Wonder e-gift card app from Wonder Technologies Inc. is available free in the iTunes App store. Wonder allows consumers to instantly deliver e-gifts from participating retailers to anyone with an email address or mobile phone number.

The user links the app to a credit card via the app itself or Wonder website, and can select an amount and also include a personalized message. The recipient can accept the gift and send a thank you note immediately from their smartphone or computer. The Wonder e-gift card never expires. Once accepted, the recipient can redeem the gift when they want. Balances are visible on the app, and GPS reminders tell recipients when they are nearby the merchant for redemption.

Other features include the ability to browse a friend’s favorites, select from curated picks, and group gifting. The cards are securely stored in the cloud. Wonder can redeem e-gifts using existing payment systems, enabling retailers of all sizes to participate and have access to advanced market data. Wonder targets brick-and-mortar businesses in the restaurant, health & beauty, activity & events, shopping, and hospitality categories

“Wonder connects gift card buyers and recipients in a more thoughtful and meaningful way and offers the best redemption experience by simply swiping your credit card,” said Gerry Goldstein, CEO and co-founder of Wonder Technologies. “Only with Wonder can consumers conveniently give e-gift cards from any merchant in the U.S., whether it’s a favorite local boutique or a national brand.”

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REAL ESTATE

Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets plans 60 stores in five years

BY Marianne Wilson

Chicago — Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets, a new specialty grocer format featuring value-priced healthy and organic offerings, announced Wednesday that it plans to open over 60 stores and create approximately 5,000 new jobs throughout the Midwest over the next five years. The company’s first store will open in Mt. Prospect, Ill., this spring, followed by eight more grand openings, spread out between Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, throughout the remainder of this year. The retailer will enter Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota in 2015.

"Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets will be a completely new grocery format for the Midwest," stated Chris Sherrell, president and CEO, Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets, and formerly CEO of Sunflower Farmers Market. "We’ve taken the experience of an outdoor farmers market and combined it with the convenience of a full-service grocery store. Shoppers will enjoy value priced natural and organic items throughout our store, making healthy food more attainable to the masses."

The heart of Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets’ 28,000-sq.-ft. stores will be produce, including locally sourced and organic fruits and vegetables. Additional features will include some 400 bins of natural and organic bulk items and small batch locally roasted premium coffee beans, a butcher shop featuring all-natural handmade sausage made daily in store, offering over a dozen varieties, and a Hops & Grapes department with an expansive selection of wine and local craft beers. Stores will carry more than 7,000 varieties of vitamins, supplements and natural body care products

For a complete list of the company’s store rollout, go to http://www.freshthyme.com/our-stores

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