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And the top CEOs are….

BY By Marianne Wilson

Executives from retail and restaurant chains grabbed some of the top spots in an annual ranking of the nation’s top CEOs.

Rite Aid chairman and CEO John Standley was rated the number one executive on ExecRank’s 2015 Top Mid Cap CEOs list. Taking the number two spot: Sally J. Smith, CEO and president of Buffalo Wild Wings. Gary Friedman, chairman and CEO of Restoration Hardware Holdings, took the third spot.

"John's done an incredible job and has an ubelievable pedigree across a whole number of positions at Rite Aid," Jonathan Aspatore, CEO ExecRank, told TheStreet in a video interview. "He's been there since 1999, and he's had the role of chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief administrative officer. That multitude or roles has really helped him excel in bringing the company forward.”

"The earnings per share over the last five years is [up] over 40%, which is incredible for a mature retailer," Aspatore added. "And with the potential acquisition looming from Walgreens, there's a lot of different variables that brings into play. … We think he's done just an incredible job of managing all of it."

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, was named the No. 1 CEO among large-cap companies. Also in the top five was Wal-Mart Stores president and CEO Doug McMillon, at No.4.

"As CEO, Doug leads a strong management team that is working to deliver Walmart’s mission of 'saving people money so they can live better,'" ExecRank said in its writeup of McMillon.

ExecRank produces c-suite executive rankings based on statistical and algorithmic analysis of executive performance across 24 key areas, including experience in the executive role; business results during tenure; company earnings per share growth this year; and industry/professional reputation.

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IDC: ‘Mobile first’ looks like a smart strategy

BY Dan Berthiaume

Retailers who are focusing on mobile as a means of digitally engaging customers have some solid data backing up their approach.

According to a new study from the International Data Corporation (IDC), “How the World Uses the Internet,” more than 2 billion people globally will be using mobile devices to gain access to the Internet in 2016.

In total, IDC estimates that 3.2 billion people, or 44% of the world's population, will have access to the Internet in 2016. This means close to two-thirds of global web users will be mobile in the coming year.

The total number of mobile Internet users is forecast to rise at a pace of 2% annually through 2020, unless significant new methods of gaining access to the Internet are introduced. Efforts by Google, SpaceX, and Facebook among others to make the Internet available to the world’s remaining 4 billion people via high altitude planes, balloons, and satellites are underway. However, IDC advises it remains unclear how successful these endeavors will be and when they will be operational at scale.

In good news for retailers, IDC finds that more people than ever before are making purchases online across all channels. In 2015, more than $100 billion will be spent online on each of the following categories: travel, books, CDs and DVDs, downloading apps, and online classes. According to IDC, these purchases are enabled by online payment platforms that are making payments, online and off, easier and more secure.

Furthermore, IDC data indicates that as more people are spending more time and money online, increasingly through mobile devices, advertisers are shifting their spending accordingly. Almost all of the growth in advertising spending across all of its forms is attributable to the growth in mobile advertising and online video. Advertisers are able to direct ads to users based on their preferences as indicated by online behavior, which allows them to better understand how their content is being absorbed than ads on television and radio.

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Consumer clash: Don’t call me ‘old,’ don’t call me ‘young’

BY Andrea Bell

Move over millennials, there are two demographics ready to shake up the consumer landscape and impact retail sales.

Based on the growing monikers used to describe the generation that follows millennials, they could be dubbed 'the multi names'. While dispute rages over parameters, the post-millennial generation are loosely defined as those born in the mid-90s to 2010. Sometimes referred to as iGens, digital natives or the conflict generation, the most widely used and globally recognised name is Generation Z (Gen Z).



While the name debate rages on, marketers, researchers and analysts agree that Gen Z is "first and foremost a population tsunami" with current estimates at 2 billion Gen Z-ers globally.

Euromonitor International's 2011 Strategy Briefing details record growth in both emerging and established economies: more than a quarter of the U.S. population belongs to Gen Z (25.9% compared with 24.5% millennials), and as of 2009, India and China counted the largest numbers of teens and tweens with 286 million and 215 million respectively.

Still questioning the market impact of this young consumer group? Current estimates by Fitch (a design and brand consultancy) suggests that Generation Z will grow to be the single largest group of consumers worldwide within the next five to seven years.

However, before we start chasing the fountain of youth, don’t discount boomers – this group spends big (in the U.S., this generation currently has more discretionary income than any other age group, controlling most of the net worth of American households and accounting for 40% of total consumer demand), and plays hard.

In recent years, the term 'baby boomers' has transitioned to 'super boomers', as this demographic becomes increasingly tech-savvy, trend-driven and culturally aware.

Add in dedication to health and wellness, an active approach to travel, and a new breed of fashion and social-media influencers, and the result is a mature demographic that is a force to be reckoned with.

Surprisingly, Gen-Z and Boomers have similar consumer priorities, which means retailers can engage both demographics with similar engagement strategies – as the cool kids say, #winning.

WGSN is tracking global best practices, a few of which are outlined below:

Avoid age labels

Gen-Z is maturing more quickly than previous generations with one study suggesting that modern childhood ends at age 12, making “tween” sound passé for the majority of Gen-Z.

For boomers, age labels are often associated with pre-existing stereotypes, so avoid terms like old, elderly and senior.

Multi-generational merchandising

Boomers spend lavishly ($52 billion annually) on their children and grandchildren, and the addition of multi-generational visual merchandising (VM) and product displays yield great ROI with very little work.

Plan ‘reminder merchandising’ around key family events such as spring break and back-to-school; ahead of spring break, a Los Angeles Uniqlo store added multi-generational VM in high foot fall areas depicting a family at Disneyland.

A recent department store display Tom Dixon’s modern display of desks under a canopy of floating textbooks is a prime example of this retail strategy, as the subtle display is a great reminder for Boomers that school’s back in session.

Mix URL with IRL

Boomers and Gen-Z rule the internet. Boomers average 27 hours per week online (two hours longer than Millennials and Generation Xers) and are the largest growing demographic on Facebook. As the first generation raised on technology, Gen-Z is the ultimate consumer of bite-sized data and communication, averaging five screens while multi-tasking including a TV, smartphone, laptop, desktop and either a tablet or a gaming device.

Retailers need to create in-store environments that are easily shareable on social media. Outdoor Voices’s flagship store exterior is prime for Instagram pics and reminds us of a text message exchange. Once inside, the interior is a clean, curated environment; it’s bright and airy (no filter needed), and the tumblr inspired mood board changes weekly.

Another bonus? The center seating area ticks to important in-store boxes; Boomers can kick up their feet and Gen-Z can Snapchat away.

Community is key

We know that seating areas extend dwell time in store, but for both generations, a communal space is key for retailers and we don’t just mean seating near fitting rooms.

Shelter is a new concept store in Auckland, New Zealand, which, alongside selling contemporary fashion, homeware and lifestyle products, has an indoor cafe and outdoor patio area with relaxed seating.

Hip, young fashion brand Mardou & Dean’s new boutique in Oslo incorporates a cafe, seating area, gallery space and a winter garden in a light setting. In the warmer months, the outdoor seating area becomes a meeting place where shoppers are served coffee while browsing newspapers and lifestyle magazines.

The newly opened YME concept store in Oslo features a cafe annex bookshop on its third floor, stocked with relevant books and magazines from across the globe, while the rooftop terrace offers a lush green getaway. Adding to the shopping experience are exhibitions, product launches, book signings and other events.

These communal retail spaces create a consumer call-to-action to return to the store as the experience steadily changes. In an era where customer poaching is the swipe of smartphone away, in addition to product offer, give your shoppers a reason to return.

Andrea Bell, Think Tank Director, WGSN

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