STORE SPACES

‘Virtual Assistant’ technology makes retail debut at Duane Reade

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Next-generation digital signage that uses the latest in holographic imaging and audio-visual technology to create the illusion of a real person is making its U.S. debut at Duane Reade’s new flagship in downtown Manhattan.

The technology, the Tensator Virtual Assistant, is provided by Lawrence, a Tensator Group Co. Completely customized for Duane Reade, it takes the form of a female greeter who welcomes entering customers and provides information on everything store-related. Currently, the greeter has seven different scripts, each of which speaks to a different store element.

“All seven run on a continuous loop,” explained Keith Carpentier, senior business development manager-retail, Lawrence, a Tenstaor Group Company, Bay Shore, N.Y.

Carpentier added that an updated, version of the Virtual Assistant is in the works, with more interactive and dynamic capabilities.

Duane Reade is the first retailer to deploy the Virtual Assistant technology. The other commercial applications to date have been in the United Kingdom, at London Luton and Birmingham Airports.

“Our Virtual Greeter is an essential part of the ‘wow factor’ we have built into our newest store and serves as ambassador of the new Duane Reade experience,” said Paul Tiberio, senior VP merchandising and CMO, Duane Reade. “The virtual aspect captures shoppers’ attention from the moment they enter the store — engaging their visual and auditory senses.”

Click here for more on the new Duane Reade.

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News

Thomas Dowd steps in as GNC’s chief merchandising officer

BY CSA STAFF

PITTSBURGH — Thomas Dowd has been named GNC EVP, chief merchandising officer and general manager, the company announced in an SEC filing Friday.

Dowd has served as EVP store operations and development since April 2007.

The move follows the announcement in June that Beth Kaplan would be stepping down from her role as GNC president and chief merchandising officer. Following that announcement, GNC CEO Joe Fortunato reassumed his role of president.

GNC last month appointed Amy Lane to serve as a member of its board of directors in place of Kaplan. Lane, who serves as director for off-price home and fashion apparel conglomerate TJX Cos., also will serve on the board’s audit committee.

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OPERATIONS

Survey: Rising salaries, career moves in store for fashion, retail

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York City — Survey results released Tuesday showed that higher salaries, job mobility, and a strong emphasis on “quality of life” benefits are redefining the job market in retail and fashion.

According to 24 Seven’s Fifth Annual Salary Survey, conducted in collaboration with the American Apparel & Footwear Association, 68% of respondents plan to make a career move in the next year, with nearly half already looking for a new job.

Among other key findings, design, digital and e-commerce are emerging as the most active areas. Ranking as the job categories in greatest demand were apparel design; social media-related positions such as strategist, campaign manager and blogger; and luxury brand management and sales. Visual merchandising and graphic design jobs are also expected to grow.

“The fashion and retail job marketplace is experiencing a period of transformation driven by renewed optimism and the retail industry’s need to reinvigorate brands,” said Celeste Gudas, president and founder of 24 Seven. “The recession has re-shaped job expectations, and we’re now seeing star talent on all levels leaving to create their own opportunities, redefine their career paths and increase their on-the-job satisfaction level. Companies need to become more attuned to the desires of employees in order to attract and retain talent and remain competitive in this post-recession environment.”

The survey found that base salaries for respondents who moved into a new job within the last 12 months are up almost 20%. For employees who have held their current positions between one and five years, salaries have risen 9%. Across the entire survey sample, salary increases during this period have occurred in all job categories.

Flex-time and ability to telecommute represent new non-traditional benefits that are driving employment satisfaction. The top three reasons for considering a job change are higher base salary, better growth potential and improved quality of life, according to respondents. But, the No. 1 factor that can positively impact job satisfaction is work/life balance. Beyond medical insurance, non-traditional benefits such as more flexible work schedules and telecommuting options are highly valued by respondents.
\
Fashion and retail professionals are upbeat on the job market. Sixty two percent of survey respondents believe their salary will increase in the coming year, and 43% expect their bonuses to rise in 2011.

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