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Left to right: Brent Paulsen, UNTUCKit; Janet Jensen, Indochino; Chris Delusky, Shinola; Robert Thompson, Punch Bowl Social; and Eslam Khalil, sweetgreen.
Robert Thompson, founder and CEO, Punch Bowl Social
Janet Jensen, VP of experience, Indochino
Chris Delusky, head of store development, Shinola
Brent Paulsen, managing director and head of retail, UNTUCKit
Eslam Khalil,director of store design and construction, Sweetgreen
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CSA honors Breakout Retailers winners at SPECS

BY CSA Staff

Chain Store Age honored five dynamic retail and restaurant brands at its annual Breakout Retailers Awards presentation, held at CSA’s annual SPECS Conference in Dallas.

The winning lineup for 2018 included Indochino, Punch Bowl Social, Shinola, Sweetgreen and Untuckit. The awards were sponsored by Heritage Fire and Security.

“The Breakout Retailers awards recognize innovative retail and restaurant concepts that are redefining their industry segment and are on their way up … brands that have crossed the “newbie” line, and are on track for growth,” said CSA editor-in-chief Marianne Wilson during the event.

Executives from the five winning brands were on hand at SPECS to accept their awards, and to share insights into their companies during a panel discussion. Representing their companies were:

• Janet Jensen, VP of experience, Indochino;
• Robert Thompson, founder & CEO, Punch Bowl Social;
• Chris Delusky, head of store development, Shinola;
• Eslam Khalil,director of store design and construction, Sweetgreen: and
• Brent Paulsen, managing director and head of retail, UNTUCKit.

Here is an overview of the Breakout Retailers concepts:

Indochino: A digitally native brand, Indochino offers made-to-measure suits and shirts with thousands of customization options. The company opened its first permanent retail space in fall 2015 and has since expanded to 22 locations.

Indochino’s brick-and-mortar format brings its online personalization experience to life in a contemporary, stylish-looking space that reflects its overall brand aesthetic. Customers are assisted with style guides who help each shopper build his one-of-a-kind suit, which is then delivered directly to their door within three weeks. The company plans to open 18 locations in 2018.

Punch Bowl Social: An expanding player in the “eatertainment” category, Punch Bowl Social offers a multi-dimensional experience that combines diner-inspired, made-from-scratch food and craft beverages with an array of social games and activities, including bowling, Ping-Pong, , karaoke rooms, shuffleboard, and more. All that takes a lot of space— Punch Bowl Social locations average 25,000 sq. ft. and some are even larger.

The Punch Bowl environment is playful and visually dazzling, with Victorian, mid-century modern and industrial design details. With 11 locations to date, the company has six new locations in the works for this year.

Shinola: Shinola is brand with a single goal: American job creation through the manufacturing and sale of expertly crafted, well-designed watches and other lifestyle goods. Its dedication to craftsmanship and community has earned Shinola a loyal following.

A similar commitment applies to its stores, which are designed as stylish destinations, each one unique to the community around it. With 31 stores nationwide, Shinola continues to expand. Its goods are also sold by select retailers around the globe. Shinola is based in Detroit, where it operates a watchmaking factory and a leather goods factory. Later this year, it will branch out in a new direction with the opening of the Shinola Hotel in its Detroit hometown.

Sweetgreen: Sweetgreen offers a healthy and customizable take on fast-food eating — with the added bonus of seasonal dishes and sustainable sourcing. The restaurants are designed to emphasize the chain’s food transparency, its healthy, cook-from-scratch focus and local community orientation. Sweetgreen’s embrace of technology includes a no-cash policy, an online ordering platform and a strong mobile presence. It even has its own video channel on YouTube.

With 86 locations and the trend to healthy eating accelerating, Sweetgreen sees plenty of room for national expansion. It will open at least 10 sites this year.

UNTUCKit: A simple idea — men’s shirts designed to be worn untucked — proved just the taking off point for UNTUCKit, which has expanded its lineup to include boy’s and women’s offerings. Mirroring its strategy online, the brand’s growth in physical retail has benefitted from high-touch customer service. Associates help customers choose from the selection of “try-on” sample shirts on display. When the customer has decided on the style, size and fit, the associate retrieves the fresh item for purchase.

UNTUCKit opened its first store in 2015, and has since grown to 26 locations. It plans to double its store count by the end of 2018.

For a more detailed look at the 2018 Breakout Retailers, click here.

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Eataly drops anchor in Los Angeles

BY Marianne Wilson

Upscale Italian marketplace Eataly has opened its largest location to date and first on the West Coast.

Eataly L.A., resigned by Studios Architecture and built by Clune Construction Company, is located at the newly renovated Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles. The three-story, 67,000-sq.-ft. space includes four restaurants, multiple kitchens, nine take-away food counters, a cooking school, extensive retail, and two chilled wine storage rooms. Two interconnected spiral staircases link all three floors.

The project included the construction of a clean room designated for the on-site preparation of gelato and mozzarella. Customized pasteurizers were installed to replicate the authentic taste of gelato and mozzarella from Italy.

Eataly L.A. was designed by Studios Architecture and built by Clune Construction Company. It is the fifth Eataly in the United States, and 39th globally.

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Sears’ CEO gives rare interview—here are some highlights

BY Marianne Wilson

Eddie Lampert, the reclusive chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings Corp., has given a rare interview (to Vanity Fair) in which he discusses everything from his decision to manage his embattled company from a distance as to why he chose to invest in Sears’ online business as opposed to its stores.

Here are some highlights from the article, which author William Cohan calls Lampert’s first one-on-one first-person interview in 15 years.

• Lampert, who lives in Florida, dismissed criticism that he rarely visits Sears’ headquarters (some say only once a year, for the annual board meeting), and said he is a big believer in handing over power to his management team.

“There are cultures where people work from home, and they still get things done,” he said. “The ability to trust people, the ability to empower people, that’s the model.”

• With regard to the merger of Sears and Kmart in 2005, Lampert believed that Sears and Kmart were differentiated enough from Walmart to be complementary, not competitive. Lampert said he invested a lot of capital in Kmart stores, but did not get a return on his investment.

“I’m not sure Kmart on its own could ever be a great retailer,” he says. “But you put Kmart and Sears together, in combination they had a chance … Kmart had the locations and Sears had the brands.”

• In recent years, the company has been heavily criticized for the deteriorating condition of Sears and Kmart stores. Lampert defended his decision to target his capital on improving customers’ online experience rather than on the in-store experience.

“I could have put a lot of capital in a Kmart or Sears store and it could look like Bloomingdale’s or it could look like Saks, but we didn’t have access to products that would be consistent with that,” he said. “In other words, if I built an equivalent of Nordstrom’s, it’s not like all of a sudden Nike would be selling to us.”

On the other hand, Lampert believed the company had a better chance of competing with retailers like Nordstrom and Saks online than in stores.

“I did believe that people are going to be one click away from the best possible experience, the cheapest price, and whatever product they want,” he said. “And I could have a better website than Nordstrom’s. I could have a better website than Bloomingdale’s. In other words, I don’t need to invest in fixtures, but I do need to invest in the features and the experiences.”

• Lampert did not sugarcoat Sears’ current situation.

“We’re fighting to survive — that’s pretty clear,” Lampert said. “I believe in what’s possible, and we’re doing things that are necessary to keep the company going …. It’s definitely not just humbled me, but it’s expanded my awareness of real issues that exist in our society…. I feel like I can make a contribution by being involved, O.K.?”

• He still holds out hope.

“If I didn’t believe that this company could be transformed still — the window is definitely shrinking — but if I didn’t believe that, I would try to take a different path,” he said.

To read the Vanity Fair article, click here.

 

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