News

Wall Panels with Maximum Impact

BY CSA STAFF

Faux wall panels are a cost-effective option for retailers that want to create an exciting visual environment without breaking the budget — or update an existing space with no downtime. Texture Plus CEO Brian Kampe discussed some of the trends he’s seeing and how retailers can utilize these types of panels.

What are some of the visual trends you are currently seeing in retail stores?

This year we are seeing a great blending of natural materials to bring a contemporary look to traditional designs.

Visual merchandisers are taking a clean stone or brick concept and adding in elements of texture and depth for an overall richer, rustic look. It’s bringing an overall softer feel to what might have been a harsher contemporary look.

Tell us about Texture Plus and its services.

Texture Plus creates high-quality, easy-to-install faux wall panels in extraordinarily realistic brick, stone, wood, bamboo, metal and other designs. Whether a retailer is designing a single store or a multi-space program, we can offer take-offs, special pricing, drop shipping direct to locations, coordination with the general contractor, specialized team instructions, date specific delivery if required or support as needed.

We integrate with any rollout system and enjoy working with such brands as Footlocker/Champs, Body Shop, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Mark’s Warehouse and Ashley Furniture Home Stores. Our team is ready for any challenge.

What looks are the most popular?

It’s been really fun to see what is trending this year. We just barely released a new Reclaimed Modern Timber Select wall panel design to our best customers, and they are clamoring to be first in line for delivery. Our Rustic Barnwood panel orders are through the roof. We’re seeing even more interest toward rustic designs, such as Tumbled Brick.

On the color side, distressed colors are trending. We create custom colors upon request, and we’ve seen great combinations of distressed colors paired with interesting neutrals. For example, a Tumbled Brick in a creamy beige or gray has been popular.

Our top best seller is white brick in any texture. It gives just the right depth, texture and richness to be the perfect backdrop. Our white brick wall panels allow the product to shine without being overbearing.

Next in popularity is our Rustic and
Weathered Barnwood faux wall panels. Cream Frost is a favorite color in any texture for designers. It has great impact — an appealing whitewashed color with a creamy, muted feel.

Where can retailers utilize the product?

The good news is that retailers can use Texture Plus faux wall panels anywhere. Storefronts, cash wraps, signage, interiors — you name it. Whether indoors or out, we have had thousands of successful installations in all climates.

In addition, retailers can use Texture Plus wall panels in places where, because of weight considerations, they have been unable to use cultured brick and stone products. Our products are also available fire rated.

Are there a lot of design options?

Yes. We have more than 850 design options ranging from brick to stone to bamboo and more. If a project warrants it, we can also create customized textures as well as colors. Since everything is handled in-house in our New York manufacturing plant, we have complete control of the product. We control the process from start to finish, which is why we can offer custom colors, design and manufacture specialty products.

What is the installation process like?

It’s very easy. Very simply, Texture Plus faux wall panels are truly a DIY product — all easily installed with basic carpentry skills and tools. It’s a quick, clean install that takes a fraction of the time required for traditional materials. This saves our customers time and money in labor and material costs without sacrificing a high-end look.

Does the store have to close when panels are being installed?

No, this is where Texture Plus wall panels can really help the bottom line. Because our install is so easy, a number of customers shut their doors at the close of business, work the install overnight and then open with a fresh new look in the morning — all without missing a sale or disrupting customers.

Do the products come with a warranty?

Yes, Texture Plus stands behind all our quality products, and our products carry a 25-year warranty.

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Tech Bytes: How Robots are Transforming Retail

BY CSA STAFF

The retail industry has reached a point of progress with robotics where it is not enough to look at how robots will drive business transformation, but at how they are already doing so.

Following are three key retail areas where robots have already begun to make their presence felt:

Fulfillment and Distribution
Many of the manual picking, packing and sorting activities that occur in distribution and fulfillment centers are undergoing robotic automation. Amazon purchased robot manufacturer Kiva Systems in 2012 and has since deployed 15,000 robots in 10 next-generation fulfillment centers throughout the U.S. Robots perform tasks including bringing items off shelves and out of bins to human employees for faster picking and packing.

In addition, Hudson’s Bay Company has announced plans for robotic automation of a distribution center in Toronto. Furthermore, delivery drones and self-driving vehicles will inevitably take over many delivery functions currently performed by humans.

So far, retailers have mainly used robots to make fulfillment and distribution more efficient and cost-effective, without seriously reducing the number of human workers involved. But as robotic technology may eventually reduce the number of people employed in retail distribution jobs by a significant percentage.

Customer Service
The idea of robots greeting and assisting customers as they enter a store may seem even more like something out of a Sci-Fi thriller than robots performing manual warehouse duties, but it’s starting to happen.

One well-publicized example of robotic customer service is a pilot Lowe’s has been running at its Orchard Supply Hardware subsidiary. Robots assist customers in finding specific products and obtaining real-time information on promotions and inventory levels. They also remotely connect with expert employees to answer project questions.

And anyone who has attended the NRF “Big Show” in New York in the past few years has seen a wide assortment of robotic helpers patrolling the expo floor. Current customer service robots are mostly limited to helping customers with basic tasks or providing remote access to human associates.

However, artificial intelligence and machine learning should be able to produce robots that can engage in natural language conversations with consumers to address their deeper needs in the not-too-distant future. Presumably robots will also become more human in appearance and behavior, as well. This means that like fulfillment center robots, customer service robots may start replacing human customer service associates over time.

Store Inventory
Robots are not only useful for helping manage inventory on the back end. Bossa Nova Robotics, which recently received $14 million in investment funding, is piloting autonomous retail robots that perform real-time inventory analysis for improved shelf stocking. The robots operate alongside store employees and can maneuver around browsing customers

In addition, according to Justin Patton, director of the Auburn University RFID Lab, retailers can use robots equipped with RFID readers to simplify the process of counting store inventory.

“You let it rip in the store at night and scan everything,” Patton said in a Chain Store Age interview.

All of these developments are already allowing retailers to operate more efficiently and save money. The prospect of staff reductions means robotic returns could be much greater in the future, although retailers must be careful not to “dehumanize” the shopping experience. We do not yet know exactly how robots will transform retail, but we know the transformation is happening.

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News

How Robots are Transforming Retail

BY CSA STAFF

The retail industry has reached a point of progress with robotics where it is not enough to look at how robots will drive business transformation, but at how they are already doing so.

Following are three key retail areas where robots have already begun to make their presence felt:

Fulfillment and Distribution
Many of the manual picking, packing and sorting activities that occur in distribution and fulfillment centers are undergoing robotic automation. Amazon purchased robot manufacturer Kiva Systems in 2012 and has since deployed 15,000 robots in 10 next-generation fulfillment centers throughout the U.S. Robots perform tasks including bringing items off shelves and out of bins to human employees for faster picking and packing.

In addition, Hudson’s Bay Company has announced plans for robotic automation of a distribution center in Toronto. Furthermore, delivery drones and self-driving vehicles will inevitably take over many delivery functions currently performed by humans.

So far, retailers have mainly used robots to make fulfillment and distribution more efficient and cost-effective, without seriously reducing the number of human workers involved. But as robotic technology may eventually reduce the number of people employed in retail distribution jobs by a significant percentage.

Customer Service
The idea of robots greeting and assisting customers as they enter a store may seem even more like something out of a Sci-Fi thriller than robots performing manual warehouse duties, but it’s starting to happen.

One well-publicized example of robotic customer service is a pilot Lowe’s has been running at its Orchard Supply Hardware subsidiary. Robots assist customers in finding specific products and obtaining real-time information on promotions and inventory levels. They also remotely connect with expert employees to answer project questions.

And anyone who has attended the NRF “Big Show” in New York in the past few years has seen a wide assortment of robotic helpers patrolling the expo floor. Current customer service robots are mostly limited to helping customers with basic tasks or providing remote access to human associates.

However, artificial intelligence and machine learning should be able to produce robots that can engage in natural language conversations with consumers to address their deeper needs in the not-too-distant future. Presumably robots will also become more human in appearance and behavior, as well. This means that like fulfillment center robots, customer service robots may start replacing human customer service associates over time.

Store Inventory
Robots are not only useful for helping manage inventory on the back end. Bossa Nova Robotics, which recently received $14 million in investment funding, is piloting autonomous retail robots that perform real-time inventory analysis for improved shelf stocking. The robots operate alongside store employees and can maneuver around browsing customers

In addition, according to Justin Patton, director of the Auburn University RFID Lab, retailers can use robots equipped with RFID readers to simplify the process of counting store inventory.

“You let it rip in the store at night and scan everything,” Patton said in an interview with Retailing Today's sister publication, Chain Store Age.

All of these developments are already allowing retailers to operate more efficiently and save money. The prospect of staff reductions means robotic returns could be much greater in the future, although retailers must be careful not to “dehumanize” the shopping experience. We do not yet know exactly how robots will transform retail, but we know the transformation is happening.

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Consumer confidence is high. Is that reflected in your stores’ revenues?

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