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Home improvement retailer launches AR in-store navigation app

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Lowe's is making it easier for in-store shoppers to find exactly what they're looking for.

The home improvement giant has introduced Lowe's Vision: In-Store Navigation app, which taps into the power of augmented reality. Billed as the first retail application of indoor mapping using augmented reality, the app is designed to simplify the home improvement shopping experience.

The solution, which is the newest creation developed in Lowe's Innovation Labs, leverages Google's augmented reality technology Tango, allowing shoppers with Tango-enabled smartphones to search for products, add them to a shopping list and locate the product within the store.

Specifically, the navigation tool uses Tango-enabled motion tracking, area learning and depth perception to guide customers through the store using a mixed reality interface. When a customer enters a Lowe's store, they can use their Tango-enabled smartphone to create a list of their required items in the app and access product reviews and information to make an informed decision. Directional prompts overlaid onto the real-world setting guide the customer to each item using the most efficient route around the store, the retailer explained.

"Our research shows that helping make it easier for customers to find products in stores not only makes for a better shopping experience, it allows our associates to spend more time advising on home improvement projects," said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs. "With Lowe's Vision: In-Store Navigation, we've created a more seamless experience using breakthrough technology so customers can save time shopping and focus more on their project."

The technology will be launched in Sunnyvale, California and Lynwood, Washington stores in April.

This is Lowe’s second app based on Tango. Lowe’s first Tango app, Lowe’s Vision, uses spatial perception to help customers embark on a home improvement project. The technology enables the user to measure spaces and visualize how products like appliances and home décor will look in their home.

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NRF: A late Easter could spur record spending

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

With Easter being almost a month later than last year, Americans are on track to spend more than ever, according to the National Retail Federation.

According to the study, which was conducted among 7,411 consumers between March 1-9, holiday spending is expected to reach $18.4 billion. Besides being up 6% over last year’s record $17.3 billion, spending is on pace to hit a new all-time high in the survey’s 14-year history. Those celebrating plan to spend an average of $152 per person, up 4% from last year’s previous record of $146.

“Most consumers have almost an entire extra month to shop for Easter this year, and by the time the holiday comes the weather should be significantly warmer than last Easter,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said.

“That should put shoppers in the frame of mind to splurge on spring apparel along with Easter decorations,” he added. “With the economy improving, consumers are ready to shop and retailers are ready to offer great deals whether they’re buying Easter baskets or garden tools.”

Consumers will spend $5.8 billion on food (purchased by 87% of shoppers), $3.3 billion on clothing (50%), $2.9 billion on gifts (61%), $2.6 billion on candy (89%), $1.2 billion on flowers (39%), $1.1 billion on decorations (43%) and $788 million on greeting cards (48%).

Meanwhile, the 50% of consumers planning to buy clothing is up from 45% last year — the highest level in a decade. The anticipated $3.3 billion total spend on clothing is up 9% from last year, the study reported.

Armed with their Easter shopping lists, 58% of consumers will head to discount stores, 46% will go to department stores and 26% will shop at local small businesses. In addition, 27% will shop online, up from 21% last year. Among smartphone owners, 28% will research products on their devices, while 18% will use their phones to make a purchase. Another 9% will use apps to do their research or purchase product, according to the study.

“Easter continues to be a traditional holiday for consumers of all ages, especially young families who are planning to spend a bit more for this celebration,” Prosper principal analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “With the later timing of Easter, we will see more consumers shopping for special deals, especially on apparel and decorations.”

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Young women’s apparel chain exploring options

BY Marianne Wilson

Industry experts are predicting that Bebe stores will be the next apparel retailer to declare Chapter 11.

The fashion retailer on Thursday said it had retained B. Riley & Co.as financial advisor, and has also has hired a real estate advisor to “assist with options related to its lease holdings."

According to reports, Bebe is trying to conduct turnaround efforts that would have it close its stores and shift its focus entirely online without filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. But Bloomberg reported that it may have no choice but to file if its landlords are unwilling to negotiate. Although Bebe has no significant debt, it has lost about $200 million over the past four years, and negotiating with landlords to get out of leases may prove challenging.

Bebe currently operates 134 retail stores, 34 outlet stores and an e-commerce site. In addition to its stores in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada, Bebe also distributes and sells Bebe branded product in approximately 75 doors through its licensees in more than 21 countries.

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