STORE SPACES

Target Open House closed — but just for a couple of months

BY Marianne Wilson

Target Corp. its updating its experimental concept store in San Francisco, Target Open House, which opened in summer 2015 as a showcase for smart, “connected” home technology.

In a blog on its website, Target said Open House has closed for a significant remodel project. It will reopen to the public on Friday, Feb. 10.

“We built Open House as an iterative space that is all about research and development around the connected consumer,” said Target’s VP of consumer IoT, Gene Han. “We’ve measured guest traffic and sales and listened to what guests and entrepreneurs had to say about their experiences. And we’ve learned a lot about perceptions of connected home technologies. Now, with this feedback, we’ll renovate Open House in ways that will help better engage, educate and excite guests and the IOT community.”

In the blog, Target revealed five of the most exciting new features and experiences being installed as part of the remodel:

• A new space, called “The Garage,” where companies can showcase or launch early-stage products on a retail shelf, get valuable quantitative and qualitative feedback on their products and have direct visibility to Target buyers. The space will preview 16 products that will rotate every month.

• A personalized experience within the space’s acrylic home installation that more effectively demonstrates the potential of various connected products for the user. Guests will be asked to answer a series of questions, which allow the house to show a personalized example of how connected products could fit into their lives.

• A new, flexible event space to accommodate Open’s House’s popular and frequent gatherings. The refreshed space will be modular, allowing Open House to more easily transition from a store during the day to a community gathering spot in the evening.

• An updated interactive space, including vertically mounted touchscreen monitors. In all, the new space will feature around 70 Internet of Things products.

• Enhanced feedback and analytics for partners, including the ability to do A/B testing, view product interactions and comparative engagement data, see event recaps and receive qualitative feedback from guests.

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ECOMMERCE

Report: Gadgets, robotic toys are best-sellers on Amazon this holiday season

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon set new records this holiday season, and its first-party sellers, especially those selling gadgets, are reaping the rewards.

Besides shipping more than 1 billion items worldwide the week following Christmas, Amazon welcomed 3 million new Amazon Prime members who signed up in the days leading up to Dec. 25, according to the retail behemoth.

These shoppers also made Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot, the voice-activated speakers which connect to Amazon’s intelligent Alexa Voice Service, the retailer’s best-selling items. However, the company’s first-party (1P) sellers that sell directly on Amazon.com also racked up sales. The most popular gift in December was the PlayStation 4 Slim video game console, logging 2.5-times more sales than other game consoles.

This was according to One Click Retail, which analyzes sales data among its brand manufacturer clients selling on the world’s top e-commerce platforms.

Overall, the top 10 most popular 1P gifts for December 2016 on Amazon were:

1. PlayStation 4 Slim 500GB Console – Uncharted 4 Bundle

2. Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Wristband, Black, Large

3. Xbox One S 500GB Console – Battlefield 1 Bundle

4. Instant Pot 1P-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker

5. GoPro HERO5 Black

6. Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones

7. iRobot Roomba Vacuum Cleaner

8. Anki Overdrive Starter Kit

9. Keurig Coffee Maker

10. HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System

If Echo and Echo Dot sales are any indication, the real star this holiday was gadgetry. For example, video gaming takes three of the top spots while Fitbit, GoPro, a Roomba and a set of Bose headphones all secure a place. The only true “toy” on the list is a gadget as well: the Anki Over-drive Starter Kit, a toy car set with a customizable racetrack that, once built, can be raced on by robotic cars controlled by the player via an app on their mobile device.

As expected, the toy category earned Amazon’s top product group during the 2016 holiday season, with medium growth to total $1.2 billion in sales. This was the first year however, that robotics dominated this group.

Sitting in second place behind Anki Overdrive is Anki’s Cozmo, the intelligent robot for kids. The only traditional, non-computerized toy in the top five is the party game, Watch Ya’ Mouth, in third place, followed by Bloxels in fourth, and the Osmo Genius Kit in fifth, One Click Retail reported.

The 2016 holiday shopping season may have marked Amazon’s busiest holiday shopping season so far, but now it’s time to look ahead.

“With continued expansions into Australia and elsewhere, the growth of their Prime Air fleet of drones and 767s, the introduction of Amazon Go stores in the US and the continued roll-out of private brands, 2017 is already shaping up to be the most exciting year in Amazon history,” the firm said.

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FINANCE

Postal Service calls it quits with Staples

BY Marianne Wilson

The partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and Staples has come to an end.

The program started as a pilot in late 2013 and was eventually expanded to about 500 Staples locations. It effectively placed mini post-offices in the chain’s stores, with Staples’s non-union employees providing some of the same services that the Postal Service’s union employees performed.

The American Postal Workers Union, which represents some 200,000 postal workers nationwide, protested the program, saying that it put the post office on the road toward privatization. The union, which waged a national and very public “Stop Staples” campaign, said it is immediately ending its boycott of the retailer.

The Postal Service said the move resulted from a November order issued by a National Labor Relations Board requiring “the Postal Service to discontinue its retail relationship with Staples,” Darlene Casey, a Postal Service spokeswoman, told The Washington Post.

“The Postal Service intends to comply with that order.”

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