TECHNOLOGY

Toys ‘R’ Us is getting ready to launch Black Friday deals — starting next week

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As a teaser to the anticipated Black Friday weekend, the nation’s largest toy retailer is launching its first deals next week.

Toys “R” Us is kicking off deals between Thursday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Nov. 18. These will include items from the company’s “Holiday Hot Toy List.” Customers will get a sneak peek into this merchandise in the retailer’s holiday catalog, “The Ultimate Guide to Play,” which will be mailed out on Thursday, Oct. 19 and available in newspapers on Sunday, Oct. 29.

In addition to buying merchandise in-store and online, Toys “R” Us is doubling down on its new brand positioning, “Today We Play,” and offering other options to scout out this year’s most-coveted toys.

For example, the company is hosting “Parents Night Out” events on Sunday, Nov. 12 and Thursday, Nov. 30 from 8-10 p.m. Here, shoppers can interact with a designated shopping expert, view toy demonstrations, and participate in games and sweepstakes.

On Sunday, Nov. 1, 42 Toys “R” Us locations across the country will feature Play Labs – a space where families can “play with” the season’s hottest toys.

The toy retailer also introduced an augmented reality (AR) app, called Play Chaser, an interactive gaming experience that strives to bring store aisles to life. Customers use the app to activate different AR mini games and play experiences on their smart device while in Toys “R” Us stores. For the holiday season, Play Chaser will also enable children to create an interactive list of their favorite toys, the retailer said.

The app started as a 23-store test earlier this month.

Toys “R” Us will also be honoring its price match guarantee and free layaway programs throughout the holiday shopping season.

Toys “R” Us’ holiday plans coincide with the company’s turnaround efforts. The toy retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 18 with a goal of restructuring its outstanding debt. In late September, it closed on $3.1 billion of financing facilities that will support its operations during its restructuring process allowing the chain to invest in various initiatives, including the renovation and modernization of its stores.

 

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TECHNOLOGY

Drug chain accepts Apple Pay online

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Rite Aid Corp. is accepting mobile payments online.

The chain’s customers can now use Apple Pay to make online purchases. Rite Aid is the first pharmacy to accept this mobile wallet online.

When using their Apple device to shop the nearly 12,000 items available on Rite Aid’s online store, customers select the Apple Pay button during checkout. The transaction will be processed in a manner similar to when Apple Pay is used in-store, according to Rite Aid.

“Mobility is critically important to our customers and patients. With our transactions growing on smartphones every week, adding Apple Pay, the most popular digital wallet, will be a welcome enhancement,” said David Abelman, Rite Aid executive VP of marketing.

“More than half of all visitors to RiteAid.com use their mobile device and the majority of our customers use their iPhone,” he added. “By accepting Apple Pay as a form of payment online, we’re staying true to our promise of making it easy and convenient for our customers to shop at Rite Aid.”

In addition to its e-commerce site, Rite Aid operates 4,507 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

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TECHNOLOGY

Discount giant’s innovation gala presented a glimpse into the future of retail

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Virtual reality (VR) was the star of Walmart’s Store No. 8 inaugural innovation gala — an event that exhibited how the technology will shape retail shopping.

Store No. 8, Walmart’s technology incubator focused on ideas that will transform the future of commerce, held its first innovation gala on Wednesday. Store No. 8 works with startups that specialize in areas that include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence. This event however, gave put the spotlight on the value of VR.

The gala, which took place at a private residence in Hollywood Hills, California, invited top brands, technology companies and venture capitalists to see how VR will impact how customers shop in the future. Each exhibit encompassed Store No 8, Thrive Global and Accenture’s vision for the future of VR.

The concepts came from five early-stage VR developers that Store No 8 chose from an open call it hosted over the summer. These winners received funding to develop a proof of concept for an immersive retail experience. Guided by executives from Store No. 8, and brands like Modcloth, Bonobos and Rebecca Minkoff, their ideas were brought to life at the gala.

“Innov8 is our opportunity to support and elevate the incredible pioneers of virtual reality who share our mission to explore nascent innovations that will emerge not in coming years but over the next decade,” said Katie Finnegan, principal of Store No 8. “During this process, our five Innov8ers have uncovered radical new technologies, approaches and applications across the virtual retail experience, that we know will play a major role in driving commerce forward at a time when technology influences all aspects of consumers’ lives.”

Among the winners highlighted at the event were a 3D image solution from 8i that enables customers to interact with a Bonobos Guide, select virtual shirts from a rack and understand fit on a hologram model. A 3D image solution from Fyusion created curated Modcloth products in a manner that gives shoppers more insight into merchandise before they make a purchase. A company called Obsess recreated a virtual Rebecca Minkoff store.

Innov8’s board of judges included Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, Marc Carrel-Billiard, senior managing director of Accenture Labs, Jason Welsh, managing director, Accenture Interactive, Kirsten Green, general partner of Forerunner Ventures, Tipatat Chennavasin, general partner of the Virtual Reality Fund, Jeremy Welt, President, Invisible Robot Corp., Store No 8’s Finnegan, and Marc Lore, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. eCommerce and founder, Jet.com.

The event was sponsored by key brands and organizations in the technology and retail industries, including HP, Silicon Valley Bank, and Microsoft.

To read more details about the highlighted VR innovations, click here.

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