STORE SPACES

Walmart announces 10 new solar installations in Maryland

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Bentonville, Ark. – Wal-Mart Stores announced Tuesday it has completed solar projects at eight Walmart stores and two Sam’s Clubs across the state of Maryland that will generate clean, renewable electricity.

In partnership with SolarCity, the retailer has installed over 3.1 megawatts of generation capacity at the eight store locations. The energy produced by the new solar installations will generate approximately 4.1 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually — enough energy to power nearly 370 homes — and are expected to supply between 5% to 20% of each store’s overall electricity use.

This new series of solar-power systems in Maryland bring the total number of Walmart and Sam’s Club locations with SolarCity installations to almost 150 across multiple states, with additional locations in the works. Last year, SolarCity installed Walmart’s largest solar-power system at its distribution center in Buckeye, Ariz.

"Solar power makes sense for Walmart, and it makes sense for Maryland," said David Ozment, Walmart’s senior director of energy. "We are committed to increasing the use of renewable energy, including solar panels, at our stores in Maryland and throughout the country."

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Consumer confidence in June rises more than expected

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York – A report released by Bloomberg on Tuesday said that confidence among American consumers in June surpassed expectations, climbing to the highest level in more than five years.

The Conference Board’s index rose to 81.4, beating Bloomberg forecasts of 75.1 and reaching the highest point since January 2008. The index reached 74.3 in May.

“Unambiguously, the economy is showing signs of improvement despite sizable fiscal drag,” Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, N.Y., told Bloomberg.

The Conference Board’s figures are in line with the recently released Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which has been hovering at or around a five-year high reached in late April.

“Consumers are considerably more positive about current business and labor market conditions than they were at the beginning of the year,” Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “Expectations have also improved considerably over the past several months, suggesting that the pace of growth is unlikely to slow in the short-term, and may even moderately pick up.”

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Office Depot reinvents rewards program amid ongoing merger

BY CSA STAFF

Office Depot has launched a new rewards program with several loyalty enhancements even as it moves closer to consummating its merger with OfficeMax.

The company’s new program, called simply Office Depot Rewards, is designed to reward shoppers for spending money, sharing information about themselves and recycling. It is a novel approach that is intended to offer a more customized approach to shoppers’ unique behaviors and preferences.

"After analyzing several reward programs and listening to our shoppers, we wanted to develop a customer-centric program that gives members the flexibility to personalize their rewards," said Bob Moore, EVP and chief marketing and merchandising officer for Office Depot. "Office Depot Rewards is designed to offer shoppers more ways to earn points that reward them in ways that matter most to them."

Beginning July 1, customers can sign up for one of three membership types described as local businesses, loyal customers or star teachers. Members will receive personalized offers designed exclusively for them and receive rewards certificates monthly for every 1,000 points they earn. Points can be earned by spending money on products, sharing information with Office Depot and recycling ink and toner cartridges.

One unique advantage of the program, according to the company, is that customers can become "Choice Members" by spending $200 in a quarter, which provides more opportunities to save. By pre-selecting products, Choice Members will earn extra points on their favorite products including home, office and school supplies, writing instruments, computer accessories, furniture, cleaning and breakroom essentials.

The timing of the rewards program comes as the pending merger of Office Depot and OfficeMax moves toward completion. The deal was announced on February 20 and shareholders of both companies are scheduled to vote on the merger plan at a special meeting on July 10. The vote is being treated as a formality however as the companies have moved forward with a number of actions.

Within the past 30 days, Office Depot and OfficeMax said they had established an "integration management office" to oversee the integration planning process and also hired The Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm, to provide support for the process. In addition, the companies hired the global recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International to assist the CEO selection committee in locating an executive to lead the combined company.

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