STORE SPACES

Ikea to bring new store concept to U.S.

BY Marianne Wilson

Ikea is finally dropping anchor in the Big Apple — but not with its typical format.

Ikea will open its first-ever city-focused location in the United States next spring, in Manhattan. The store, called Ikea Planning Studio, will feature smart solutions for urban living and small spaces. It is designed to give customers the opportunity to discover, select and order Ikea products for delivery to their home.

Ikea opened its first store under the Planning Studio banner in October, in London. The shop, which specializes in kitchens and bedroom furniture, displays just a tiny portion of Ikea’s range of goods, all of which can be ordered online. It offers shoppers one-on-one advice with store staff. Nothing is available for take home the same day.

The new, scaled-down format reflects Ikea’s ongoing transformation and commitment to urban areas as it looks to be more accessible and convenient for all customers, regardless of where they live. The company recently announced plans to develop 30 locations in city centers during the next three years.

“We recognize that we are in a rapidly changing retail environment, and to be fit for long-term growth, Ikea is transforming in a way that lets us meet our customers where they are,” said Lars Petersson, country manager, Ikea retail U.S. “New York City is the natural choice to open the first city center store – the most vibrant, dynamic city in the US, and the epicenter of retail, business, and culture.”

The Manhattan store will open as Ikea U.S. has been making significant investments to enhance its e-commerce experience and service offerings, including click & collect, financing and TaskRabbit furniture assembly services.  Also, in January 2018, Ikea began rolling out a new, lower-priced shipping and delivery option starting at $29. Customers can purchase all that they want – the charge is the same regardless of weight and size.

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Walmart rolling out driverless floor scrubbers

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart is expanding its use of AI technology to free up its store associates from a time-consuming maintenance task.

The discount giant plans to have 360 automated floor cleaners rolling around its stores by the end of January. The machine uses software technology company Brain Corp.’s BrainOS platform whose computer vision and artificial intelligence libraries enable the development of smart systems that can learn and adapt to people and complex scenarios. Walmart is already using the platform to automate more than 100 of its fleet of commercial floor scrubbers.

Brain Corp.’s technology integrates with equipment — the company doesn’t make its own hardware. The platform provides the Walmart machines with autonomous navigation and data collection capabilities, all tied into a cloud-based reporting system. Its navigation stack provides advanced self-driving capabilities for cluttered and busy indoor environments.

Using the platform, Walmart store associates can map a route during an initial training ride on the scrubber and then activate autonomous floor cleaning with the press of a button. The robot uses multiple sensors to scan its surroundings for people and obstacles that may be in its path.

“We’re excited to work with Brain Corp in supporting our retail operations and providing our associates with a safe and reliable technology,” said John Crecelius, Walmart’s VP of central operations. “BrainOS is a powerful tool in helping our associates complete repetitive tasks so they can focus on other tasks within role and spend more time serving customers.”

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Another first for Selfridges

BY Marianne Wilson

U.K. retailer Selfridges continues to push the envelope of department-store retailing.

The company celebrated the launch of a new designer streetwear department in its London flagship by installing the U.K.’s only permanent and free indoor skateboarding bowl. Named “The Bowl,” the structure, made from blonde wood, is located in the menswear department, adjacent to the streetwear lines.

Members of the public can book a one-on-one skate session with a pro. It will also host open skate sessions for experienced skaters.

Earlier this year, Selfridge’s opened what it said was world’s first boxing gym a department store. The pop-up, a collaboration with boutique boxing club BXR London, was open through the month of February.

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