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Walgreens to present net zero-energy store at SPECS

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Walgreens will share learnings, insights and real-time performance data gained from building and operating the retail industry’s first net zero-energy store at Chain Store Age’s 50th annual SPECS Conference, March 9 -12, Gaylord Texan Hotel, Grapevine, Texas.

“I hope attendees will come away from the SPECS session excited and enthused to try something new,” Jamie Meyers, manager of sustainability, told Chain Store Age during a tour of the store, which is located in Evanston, Ill. “And by sharing what we’ve learned — what to do and what not to do — we hope to make it (net zero-energy stores) more financially feasible for others so that they can become mainstream.”

Meyers and design engineer Jason Robbins will present a real-time update on the store at the SPECS session, “An Industry First: Walgreens Net Zero-Energy Store,” Monday, March 10, at 2:10 pm.

Walgreens has previously used or experimented with many of the technologies featured in the Evanston store. But this is the first time the chain has put them all under one roof.

“We want to learn as much as we can from this store,” Meyers said.

Featuring two 35-ft. tall wind turbines, nearly 850 solar panels, a geothermal system burrowed 550 ft. into the ground, and daylight harvesting, Walgreens plans to generate electricity and reduce its energy usage in the store by more than 50%.

Some of the more unique elements include the use of directional LED lighting (leading to reduced energy use for lighting by 30%), carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration equipment, and wind turbines that allow wind to be captured from any direction. Also unusual is the sawtooth design of the building, which has separate roof planes.

“The roof is designed to maximize daylighting, “Meyers explained.

To provide as much roof space as possible for the solar panels, all the major equipment is housed in a mechanical mezzanine that is open to public view.

One of the biggest surprises since the Evanston location opened in late 2013, Meyers said, has been the number of people, ranging from other retailers to customers to local school groups, that want to tour it.

“It’s generating a lot of interest,” Meyers said.

As to how the store is performing, Meyers said: “Every day we are putting power back on the grid, and that’s what’s its all about.”

To see photos of Walgreens Evanston, click here.

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Google Capital invests in online real estate platform

BY CSA STAFF

Google Capital has invested $50 million in Auction.com, the world’s largest online real estate marketplace. As part of the investment, one representative from Google Capital will join the company’s board of directors and another will take a board observer position.

“Google is the world’s greatest Internet company and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with them. This will give us an opportunity to tap into their deep expertise in digital marketing and mobile, as well as in building world-class products,” said Jeff Frieden, CEO and co-founder of Auction.com. “More than $7 billion of commercial and residential real estate traded through our online marketplace in 2013, and we believe that having Google Capital’s support will help us expand our industry leadership, and carve out a bigger share of the global real estate market.”

Google Capital joins other strategic shareholders in Auction.com including Starwood Capital Group, Starwood Property Trust, Stone Point Capital and funds managed by affiliates of Fortress Investment Group. Auction.com annually handles tens of thousands of transactions across commercial and residential real estate for customers ranging from the largest financial institutions to individuals and brokers.

“Auction.com has quietly built one of the largest marketplaces on the web,” said David Lawee, partner at Google Capital. “We think Auction.com can fundamentally change how real estate, and particularly commercial real estate, can be bought and sold, leveling the playing field for smaller investors.”

Google Capital was formed in 2013 and previously invested in Survey Monkey, Lending Club and Renaissance Learning. It is a growth equity fund backed by Google. Google Capital invests in companies that use technology to change the way people experience the world. JPMorgan Securities LLC served as sole private placement agent for Auction.com in conjunction with the transaction.

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NRF weighs in on data security issue

BY CSA STAFF

The National Retail Federation has issued a statement for a hearing on data security being held by the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, reiterating the retail industry’s commitment to protecting Americans’ financial information.

NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan, who previously testified before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, urged Congress to examine the latest data breaches at card companies, government institutions, retailers and universities in a “holistic fashion.”

“It’s important to look at why such breaches occur and what the perpetrators get out of them so that we can find ways to reduce and prevent not only the breaches themselves, but the fraudulent activity that is often the goal of these events,” Duncan said. “If breaches become less profitable to criminals then they will dedicate fewer resources to committing them and our goals will become more achievable.”

NRF’s recommendations focused on the need for a more secure, transparent and competitive payments system that incorporates the latest technology. Duncan said new chip-based cards that banks plan to issue next year need to require the use of a PIN, not just a signature, in order to provide maximum consumer security and protection.

“We need PIN-authentication of cardholders regardless of the chip technology used on newly issued cards,” Duncan wrote. “We also need chip cards that use open standards and allow for competition among payment networks as we move into a world of growing mobile commerce. Finally, we need companies throughout the payment system to work together on achieving end-to-end encryption so that there are no weak links in the system where sensitive card payment information may be acquired more easily than in other parts of the system.”

Along with providing the committee with actionable recommendations to better protect consumer information, NRF expressed its support for a wide range of legislative proposals that include enhancing consumer protections when using a debit card, greater information sharing across industries to address emerging cyber threats, increased resources for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute cybercriminals, and a federal breach notification law modeled after state law.

“The payment system is complicated,” Duncan said. “Every party has a role to play; we need to play it together. No system is invulnerable to the most sophisticated and dedicated of thieves. Consequently, eliminating all fraud is likely to remain an aspiration. Nevertheless, we will do our part to help achieve that goal.”

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