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Retailers doing good: Ann Inc. donates millions to cancer research; Whole Foods fights against poverty

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — High-profile retailers can make a high-impact difference when they use their clout to do good.

Case in point: Ann Inc., parent to Ann Taylor and Loft, donated more than $4.3 million to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to fund groundbreaking cancer research. The brands parlayed successes from the 2014 spring and fall campaigns and have brought the company's total corporate donation to $22.3 million in the past 10 years.

Ann Inc. currently fully funds 17 pioneering research projects for the 2014-2015 grant period. Through the Ann Taylor brand, the company continues its longtime support of lifesaving breast cancer research with the launch of its annual spring campaign benefiting BCRF.

"As a company for women, we are acutely aware of the horrific impact that breast cancer has on the lives of women and their families. We are committed to supporting BCRF in the continued fight against breast cancer,” said Kay Krill, president and CEO of Ann Inc.

Beginning April 27, 90% of the purchase price of Ann Taylor Cares Cards, available at both Ann Taylor stores and Ann Taylor Factory Stores, will be donated to BCRF and those who purchase the card will receive a special discount in-stores through June 1, 2015.

Another big giver is Whole Foods Market, which raised $4.6 million for global poverty alleviation through thousands of shopper events held at Whole Foods stores around the country. The events were all part of Whole Planet Foundation’s 2015 Prosperity Campaign to boost awareness and support for microlending projects worldwide.

“Microcredit offers low-income individuals real, viable means for escaping the cycle of poverty, because it empowers them with the opportunity to take charge of their own life and financial future,” said Philip Sansone, president and executive director of Whole Planet Foundation. “With a loan of $200, a microcredit client can start or expand a home-based business, gain financial independence and carve a path for a better life for herself and her entire family.”

In addition to attending events, shoppers made donations from pocket change to full microcredit loan amounts at store checkouts and online. Online donors were able to view the overall impact of their generosity in specific geographic regions via Whole Planet Foundation’s Power of One tool. Donors could see how many people their contributions will impact over several decades as loans are repaid and re-loaned again and again in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

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Retailers glimpse future with data visualization

BY CSA STAFF

Analytics leader SAS has long promised customers “the power to know” and now a major enhancement to data visualization capabilities means retailers don’t have to be a Ph.D to do things faster and more effectively with their massive volumes of data.

It doesn’t hurt to have a data scientist on staff, as a study from SAS and MIT Sloan Management Review shows organization with a top data executive are more likely to have an effective strategy, but visualization is all about making it easier for the regular folks in an organization to work and develop strategies from data.

Accordingly, SAS unveiled a major upgrade to its visual data exploration software called SAS Visual Analytics and its predictive modeling software called SAS Visual Statistics that merges self-service data exploration and reporting with advanced analytics. In essence, business users and data scientists will be better able to collaborate.

“The new releases reflect the converging needs of business professionals and data scientists, as both sets of users seek to boost their productivity,” said Wayne Thompson, SAS chief data scientist. Some business analysts want to go beyond descriptive analytics and do more with predictive analytics. SAS provides an easy way to look into the future.”

The big reveal was announced on April 27 at the SAS annual Global Executive Forum and User Conference. Nearly 5,000 people came to Dallas for the three day event now in its 40th year. “We need to solve more complex problems than ever before,” SAS CEO Dr. James Goodnight told attendees Sunday night in reference to the unprecedented speed at which massive volumes of data are being created. “We never have and we never will stop innovating.”

For example, and not to get overly technical, SAS Visual Statistics adds even deeper statistical analysis to existing SAS Visual Analytics capabilities. Accessed through SAS Visual Analytics’ web-based, intuitive interface, the advanced tools solve difficult problems faster for better business decisions, according to the company. Data scientists can still use SAS Visual Analytics to visualize and disseminate information across an enterprise.

However, data scientists speak their own language and SAS analytics are designed to help the data talk back to them. For example, multiple users can concurrently analyze complex data on Hadoop clusters, relational database systems or SAS servers, build a regression model and then superimpose the predictions onto a geographic map with a few clicks. Business users don’t need to know what Hadoop is (an open source software framework named after the creator’s son’s toy elephant) or how to build a regression model.

Their biggest objective is to glean insights from the data to develop business strategies and drive sales. Data scientists can create models in SAS Visual Statistics and explore the predicted outputs in a variety of visualizations in SAS Visual Analytics, including predictive visualizations. The interactive elements in SAS Visual Analytics now extend to Excel, PowerPoint and Microsoft Office products, enabling better storytelling with data.

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Report: Sears Canada reacts to Target exit

BY Dan Berthiaume

Toronto – Sears Canada Inc. is reportedly reducing some departments while expanding others in a move to capitalize on the retreat of Target from the Canadian retail landscape. According to the Toronto Globe & Mail, Sears Canada plans to stop selling electronics altogether while also reducing its tool and hardware assortment by more than 50%.

Space once dedicated to electronics in Sears Canada stores will now house mattresses, a profitable segment where Sears Canada is a national leader. Sears Canada will also expand its apparel, home goods and footwear assortments.

To this end, the retailer has signed agreements to exclusively carry Cherokee apparel and footwear and Liz Lange maternity apparel, and will also launch a Wayne Gretzky men’s apparel line in fall 2015. Target previously held exclusive rights to sell Cherokee and Liz Lange goods in Canada, and still carries them in its U.S. stores.

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