Focus On Facilities Management


Keeping stores in peak condition remains the top priority of retail facility managers, who are increasingly being asked to do more with less. Chain Store Age spoke with Lauryn Blank, CEO of Global Facility Management & Construction, about the impact of technology on store maintenance and other trends. She also provided some timely advice for winter challenges.

What trends are you seeing in retail facility management?

There has been an increase in the use of score carding by retailers, and we are excited about the positive impact the trend is having on Global. With the data, clients can see how well we are performing and compare our numbers with our competitors for an apples-to-apples review.

Another trend is the use of GPS and mobile check-in tools. These provide an added means of validation that doesn’t interrupt store personnel through repeated use of their phone lines. With the adoption of smartphones sharply increasing year over year, we envision GPS and mobile check-in eventually becoming the standard in lieu of the widely used IVR (interactive voice response) systems.

In light of last year’s bad winter, what advice do you have regarding snow and ice removal?

The best thing retailers can do is to start planning early. The ability to negotiate rates prior to the season and secure materials that become scarce in a snow event is crucial to a successful plan.

The next step is ensuring access to forecasting tools, which advise in advance of an incoming event as early as possible. Monitoring weather forecasts for a large retailer can be a full-time job, so it helps to sign up for early warning forecasting tools. This enables you to receive notification of a pending weather event without having to devote time and resources to monitoring the forecasts for all of your locations.

Upon completion of the snow event, neutralizing the salt on the sales floor is key to preserving the asset. Salt eats through floor finishes and can damage wood and other flooring materials.

Tell us a little about Global Facility Management & Construction.

Since its founding in 2004, Global has been focused on providing facility maintenance services to commercial clients nationwide. It has grown into one of the leading facility management companies in the industry and has performed more than 475,000 work orders across more than 165 different clients to date.

Global provides real-time communication on every ticket we receive. Our proprietary management system, GEMS, is state of the art and facilitates our entry of real-time status updates for all work orders.

Our areas of expertise include repair services, floor maintenance and cleaning, rollouts, remodels and construction services.

How do you qualify your technicians and ensure high service levels?

Every technician we utilize has gone through an extensive qualification process by our procurement and compliance department. We have a dedicated team of specialists who work directly with our vendor partners to ensure compliance and negotiate the best rates.

We truly take pride in our relationship with our vendor partners. We pay them before we get paid, and for this reason, we receive better pricing and better service than our competitors. A core principle at Global is to value our relationship with our vendor partners as we do our retail customers.

Are you seeing much activity in terms of retail rollouts?

Retail rollouts happen to be a specialty of ours. We see a trend in terms of the scope of work being performed, in that many of our clients are going with lighter “refresh” type remodels as opposed to the more costly closed-store new concept full remodels.

These smaller, open store “paint and powder” style jobs are being performed on a rollout basis to refresh many or all stores in a chain. These are performed after-hours over the course of a few days as opposed to a four-to-six-week, closed-store full rebranding.

What criteria should a retailer use in evaluating a facility services provider?

To start, retailers should always check to make sure that the facility services provider is fully covered by acceptable levels of insurance, including workers compensation.

In addition, they should ensure that any subcontractor used by the service provider is also fully insured with the same levels and in possession of workers compensation. This should be included in the facility services provider’s documentation.

It’s also important to pay close attention to the quality of the service that is being provided. This can be determined by analyzing a company’s key performance indicators.

When evaluating new potential facility service providers, the best way to check on their performance is to speak with other companies they’re already working with. Ask for references and follow up with those that you receive.


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Ten Steps to Energy Efficiency

BY Sam Khalilieh

For multi-site retail companies, energy efficiency makes business sense. It allows retailers to reduce cost and risk, and create good will with investors, employees, customers and the government. Ultimately, it also helps improve the bottom line.

When it comes to energy management, reducing operating cost should be the focus where the cost of energy is a sizeable part of operating the business. The solution is often a multi-prong approach: The business should be flexible, pragmatic and, most importantly, relentlessly focused on the ripple effect of high energy use and cost.

Here are steps to help retailers become more energy efficient:

  1. Know what you have: An energy audit is a great way to show how much energy a store uses and where the related money is being spent.

  2. Fix what you have: Review the results of the audit and fix any deficiencies or problems.

  3. Improve what you have: Use technology to be in control and to help optimize equipment usage.

  4. Act on what you have: Analyze the data gathered, act upon it and continuously fine-tune the operation of the different systems.

  5. Evaluate what you do: Often the biggest waste of energy comes from operational and procedural issues that have been modified over time and are no longer applicable.

  6. Benchmark and innovate what you have: Always keep an eye on your competitors. Research different technologies and different industries, and never be afraid to copy what they are doing — especially if it makes sense for your business.

  7. Use an integrated approach: Leverage business operations, knowledge and expertise across different areas to capitalize on results.

  8. Invest in renewable energy: But do it only where it makes sense for your business. Doing it because everyone else is won’t be sustainable for the long run and is irresponsible to your shareholders.

  9. Educate and engage your employees: Companies must never underestimate the human factor. Employees must be engaged and educated on the benefit of these initiatives and how they will impact the bottom line.

  10. Repeat: Continuous improvementand energy-efficiency optimization are not static. Technological advances, business needs and operational issues are constantly changing. Companies must do likewise to remain competitive.

Savings: For companies big or small with high energy costs and a large real estate portfolio, the savings can be enormous. For example, a 10% savings for a typical large business that spends $50 million annually on energy bills and has a pre-tax earnings margin of 15% is equal to $33 million in additional revenue.

Restaurants spend 3% to 5% of gross sales on energy, and every $1 spent on utilities typically reflects $10 to $15 in sales. Consequently, a 10% reduction in energy costs is the equivalent of a $30,000 to $75,000 annual sales increase.

Supermarkets have energy expenditures that are the same as profit margin, about 2%. A 10% to 12% reduction in energy costs can boost profit margins by as much as 5% to 6%.

Energy-efficiency efforts typically can be classified into the following three categories, which, if implemented, can save on average 30%:

  • Passive: Refers to more efficient buildings that use efficient devices, materials and building techniques to save energy; typically these efforts yield 10% to 15% energy savings;

  • Active: Involves using technology, software and on-going maintenance, and commissioning programs to yield the most savings, typically between 5% to 25%; and

  • Proactive: Involves the use of new technologies, while continuing to benchmark against the competition. It’s hard to quantify savings, but a 5% to 7% savings would not be difficult to achieve.

With regard to energy efficiency, being proactive and strategic can yield enormous benefits for both existing and new buildings. With the right technology, analytics and vision, companies can reduce their cost and maintenance expenditure, while boosting efficiency, profitability and brand reputation.

One final point: When it comes to energy management, a commitment at the highest level of the organization is vital to success. Without it, all related efforts will fade and become meaningless slogans and empty promises.

Sam Khalilieh, P.E., P.Eng., LEED AP BD+C, is senior VP architecture and engineering at WD Partners, Dublin, Ohio.


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H&M Goes Big in the Big Apple


H&M’s new Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan is the fast-fashion giant’s largest store in the world, a whopping 57,000 sq. ft. — the size of a football field.

The interior is bright and buzzing with energy. Just inside the entry, mannequins are arranged on a tiered staircase display, echoing a fashion-show runway.

Beyond its sheer size, the store is a standout for a number of reasons. Let’s look at five.

The overall look: Befitting the Fifth Avenue locale, this is the Swedish retailer’s most upscale and fully realized store to date, with green and white marble tiles, herringbone woodwork, chandeliers, walls of mirrors, leather furniture and stylized mannequin groupings. There are even tufted-fabric walls in the fitting rooms.

The product assortment: With six floors of merchandise, this is the first H&M in the United States to carry all of the retailer’s assorted product categories under one roof. Along with the brand’s signature on-trend women’s and men’s threads and accessories, the lineup includes maternity, newborn, special sizes and cosmetics. There are also fully realized childrenswear and home goods departments, and in-shop stores for accessories, footwear and lingerie.

The openness: Featuring an impressive all-glass wraparound façade, the huge store has an open feel. A soaring four-story atrium is set off with a 26-ft. by 20-ft., state-of-the-art LED screen.

Free concierge shopping service: In a first for H&M, a personal-shopper service is available on an appointment basis — and at no charge.

It won’t be the biggest H&M for very long: The brand plans to debut an even larger outpost, a 63,000-sq.-ft. behemoth in Manhattan’s bustling Herald Square, by year-end.


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Do you think retail brands should steer clear of taking a stance on social and political issues?