FINANCE

Sears Canada is going out of business

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

It’s closing time for Sears Canada.

The long-struggling department store chain said on Tuesday that it is seeking court approval to liquidate all of its remaining stores and assets. The retailer expects the court to hear the motion on Oct. 13. Pending approval, liquidation sales could start as of Oct. 19, and continue for 10 to 14 weeks, according to the retailer.

In June, Sears Canada filed for protection from its creditors and announced it would be restructuring under Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. At that time, the company got court approval of a sale and investment solicitation process (SISP) to seek out proposals for the acquisition of, or investment in, the Sears Canada Group’s business, assets and/or leases, and to implement one or a combination of proposals.

Sears Canada received and implemented going concern transactions for various lines of business. Despite exhaustive efforts, no viable transaction for the retailer to continue as a going concern was received. Thus, Sears Canada, with the recommendation of its advisors and approval of the Monitor, FTI Consulting Inc., is seeking an order to commence a liquidation that would result in a wind-down of its business following court approval.

“The company deeply regrets this pending outcome and the resulting loss of jobs and store closures,” according to Sears Canada.

The store closures will result in in loss of about 12,000 jobs, according to Bloomberg.

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TECHNOLOGY

Warehouse club chain’s new digital tool drives in-store engagement

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Sam’s Club associates now have the information they need to improve shoppers’ in-store experiences in real-time.

By adopting the Medallia Experience Cloud solution, Sam’s Club is stepping up the functionality and performance of its Member Experience Voices (MxVoices) tool. This is a Web-based customer service feedback platform where members can rate their club experiences.

The platform is helping Sam’s Club’s fulfill its vision of engaging in two-way dialogue with members. Using a mobile device supported by the new architecture, associates can collect and access member feedback in MxVoices in real-time, and use the feedback to improve its member experience.

“With Medallia’s help, our associates have real-time and actionable data that help them provide the best possible shopping experience,” said Tracey Brown, Sam’s Club’s chief experience officer.

“Associates in every location have the information they need at their fingertips, 24/7, in an easy-to-use app,” she said. “That empowers them to take action to solve member problems, and we’re seeing member satisfaction scores rise as a result.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Specialty apparel retailer sells subscription boxes filled with baby clothes

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Gap Inc. is carving out a niche in the increasingly popular monthly subscription box segment.

The specialty retailer’s Baby Gap brand has introduced the “Baby Gap OutfitBox,” a quarterly subscription box focused on baby merchandise for sizes 0- 2T. Each box is customized with six Baby Gap mix-and-match pieces, based on customers’ selected style preferences. Gap plans to expand the program with additional sizes, 3T and 4T, in the near future, according to the company’s website.

Each year, members are entitled to four boxes, each worth worth more than $100, and each shipment will be packed with seasonally relevant pieces.

Here’s how the program works: Shoppers are required to create a new account online, separate from any accounts they use to shop online at Gap banners. Once their profile is created, customers are asked a few questions about their baby, including gender, sizes and style preferences, and Baby Gap uses these details to curate boxes.

Shoppers have 21 days to try each piece, and can keep the items they like. Unwanted merchandise can be returned for a refund. Customers are charged when the box ships. Shoppers can also postpone or skip boxes, and cancel their subscription anytime, according to the website.

The service is $70, but there are no additional membership, shipping or styling fees. Gap’s website also warned customers that there are only limited quantities available.

The service was initially introduced to a limited number of shoppers, and has been quietly expanding the program to a wider audience. In addition to a quiet ramp up, marketing has also been sequestered to social media, according to CNBC.

Gap is the latest retailer to jump into the subscription box game. Its offering is also helping the brand to carve a unique niche among more established wardrobe subscription services, such as Le Tote, Stitch Fix and Trunk Club that are already disrupting the apparel segment.

The “try-before-you-buy” element of BabyGap’s OutfitBox also takes a swipe at a similar service from Amazon, called Prime Wardrobe. The online giant’s service enables Amazon Prime members to order (and try on) from three to 15 items of clothing before they actually buy any of the items. Shoppers can keep the merchandise for seven days, returning unwanted pieces and paying only for the items they keep.

Where OutfitBox has an edge over the online giant however, is that Prime Wardrobe has a shorter try-on grace period — and does not focus on children’s apparel.

“This is a brilliant move as Baby Gap is serving a significant portion of the millennial, as well as Gen X, Y and Z audiences, and has created a connection in their preferable media channels and delivery options,” said Jim Fosina, CEO of Fosina Marketing Group. “Baby Gap could establish a foothold in this business, and eventually extend the subscriptions beyond clothing to other baby related products as the program moves forward.”

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