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Ikea’s new Midwest distribution center has a couple of firsts

BY Marianne Wilson

Ikea has broken new ground with opening of its Midwest distribution center, located in Joliet, Illinois.

The home furnishings giant built the 1.25-million-sq.-ft. facility to serve the inventory needs of stores throughout the Midwest, as well as customer fulfillment of online orders. The center is equipped with automation technology on a scale unlike anything currently in use within Ikea’s customer fulfillment network, and which allows for increased storage capacity.

The design of the Joliet facility increases co-worker efficiency due to the proximity of the dock doors to the automated storage system. Co-workers use forklifts to drive pallets into a machine called an interface station, which eventually feeds the pallet into storage. This technology allows the Joliet distribution center to provide 50% more storage capacity than any other Ikea facility.

In addition, the building is LEED Gold Certified, a first for Ikea properties in the U.S. A key environmental highlight is the 268,920-sq.-ft. solar array, which was built with 9,036 solar panels and currently the largest in Illinois. The array will produce approximately 3,377,000 kWh of electricity annually for the facility, the equivalent of reducing 2,513 tons of carbon dioxide, or the emissions generated by 538 cars or electricity provided to 377 homes yearly.

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Starbucks to help employees pay for backup child care

BY Marianne Wilson

Starbucks Corp. is extending its U.S. employee benefits package with an innovative perk: heavily subsidized backup child care as well as senior care.

The coffee giant has partnered with Care.com to offer [email protected], an online marketplace for a wide range of care providers and in-home services, to offer its 180,000 U.S. associates working at company-owned stores 10 subsidized backup care days a year for kids and adults. The employees will only pay $1 an hour for in-home backup child or adult care, or $5 per a day per child for in-center child care. (After the 10 backup care days, or for other services offered through Care.com, employees pay the full cost.)

The retailer, which noted that 2 million working parents quit their jobs in 2016 because of child care (according to the National Survey of Children’s Health), said it is among the largest retailers in the United States to offer the benefit.

Starbucks employees will also get a free premium membership to Care.com, which typically costs around $150 a year, and access to Care.com’s digital platform of caregivers.

“This is giving our partners resources for things that happen in regular life. We wanted to give them something to help fill in the gaps,” said Ron Crawford, VP of benefits, Starbucks.

In addition, Starbucks employees can access Care.com resources to help with senior care planning. They can connect with a senior care advisor for professional guidance and a customized plan for senior care to help understand long-term caregiver options, housing alternatives, finances and legal concerns – all at no cost.

“We all have needs at home, whether you have children, pets, parents or aging grandparents,” said Alyssa Brock, director of benefits at Starbucks. “This benefit supports the partner and their family. We are all more than who we are at work.”

The child care program is the latest in Starbuck’s already expansive suite of benefits. The company also provides mental health benefits through the Employee Assistance Program and offers parental leave. Earlier this year, the company also announced a partner and family sick time benefit, which allows U.S. partners to accrue paid sick time based on hours worked and use it for themselves or for a family member who needs care.

[email protected] is the final piece of the puzzle,” Crawford said.

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J.C. Penney extends financial services partnership

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

J.C. Penney has no intention of breaking up its nearly two-decade-old relationship with Synchrony.

The department store retailer announced a multi-year extension of their strategic partnership with financial services provider Synchrony, a deal that will enable J.C. Penney to continue offering customers financing options and using data analytics to deliver more personalized customer experiences. Through the agreement, Synchrony will also continue to manage and service payment cards for J.C. Penney customers at the retailer’s over 860 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, as well as online.

Throughout the partners’ nearly 20-year relationship, J.C. Penney has launched a private label credit card program and a J.C. Penney Mastercard Dual Card. Synchrony has also helped the retailer integrate credit payments into the J.C. Penney mobile app using SyPi, a Synchrony plug-in. The companies also leveraged data analytics to uncover new customer insights, further personalizing customer experience.

All J.C. Penney cardholders are also automatically enrolled in J.C. Penney Rewards, which enables them to earn points two times for store purchases. J.C. Penney Mastercard cardholders can also earn points when they use the card anywhere else Mastercard is accepted. (Points are converted into $10 in rewards for future purchases at J.C. Penney.)

“The J.C. Penney credit card is an integral component of our loyalty program, serving as a powerful savings tool for our customers to get access to enticing benefits only available to cardholders,” said James Ward, VP of credit at J.C. Penney. “We are pleased to renew our agreement with Synchrony, helping us deliver flexible financing options and valuable benefits to our best customers.”

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