RTG May Newsletter

From the Principal’s Office

Doing something a little different this issue.  We are listing some products and trends that look interesting and poking fun at some other things.

Bob Amster – Principal, RTG

What are we seeing?

Serious notes

There are sufficient bankruptcy and threatening-to-fold events to give us pause.  To wit, Pac Sun filed for Chapter XI bankruptcy, Nordstrom cut over 400 jobs, Macy’s to close tens of stores, Hancock Fabrics filed Chapter XI, Vestis Retail Group filed for Chapter XI and is closing Sports Chalet altogether, Things Remembered hires financial advisors, Sports Authority will probably liquidate, Aeropostale filed for bankruptcy protection this week as did grocery superstore chain Fairway, Gap is urged to close 175 stores, and Build-A-Bear is exploring strategic alternatives after profit plummets.  Getting nervous yet?

On the brighter side

A number of new product offerings for retailers out on the market which we believe hold great promise brighten the retail horizon.

One such offering is Theatro Labs.  We have been writing about and working with this maker and marketer of an enterprise, wearable, voice-activated, communications device intended for store associates.  Gathering lots of steam among well-known retailers.

A scientific analytics engine underlies the offering from Spark Analytics.  Spark Analytics delivers consolidated information from multiple data sources [such as POS Sales-and-Returns transactions], providing businesses with the ability to continually optimize decisions.  Their “operations module collects and analyzes location-specific data to create actionable recommendations to share with associates at each of a retailer’s locations.”  The solution also helps retailers understand where shrink is occurring and sends out actionable recommendations to control unnecessary loss.

Happy Returns was recently written about as a concept by which they will accept customer returns (of e-commerce purchases) on behalf of participating retailers, thus obviating the need to ‘put it in the mail’ or to go back to the nearest store.  There will be Return Bars (stores) opening in malls and other selected locations.  They will then aggregate the returned merchandise and ship it back to the original retailer, or dispose of it in closeout sales.  Retailers are charged a fee for handling the returns on their behalf, customers get an immediate refund, paid for by the retailer, they’re “happy.”

Sandeep Bhanote, founder of Global Bay – which was later sold to Verifone – has founded Radius8.  This is a suite of modules, some of which run on a smartphone and some internally, while communicating to the retailer’s systems.  Radius8 describes the product as “the intelligent, online-to-offline (O2O), cloud-native platform enabling retailers to activate the contents of their brick & mortar store for effortless online discovery by consumers who are both online and close to your store, what we call the digital radius.”  We found it particularly interesting that Radius8 has programed an important flow necessary to process products bought on-line/picked-up in store.

On what are we hot

We have been writing about what is the resurgence (hopefully, the industry-wide adoption) of item-level RFID (see Bob Amster’s comments in RetailWire).  We believe that RFID, in addition to being a loss prevention tool (EAS), is an integral component of a BOPIS initiative, as it is the only way to know exactly what a retailer has in stock, and where it is.  It can minimize the probability of sending a customer to a store to pick up the last of an item that is no longer there. In fact, if a retailer combines the implementation of item-level RFID with a solution like Radius8, one has closed the loop on the business process flow required to (almost) guarantee a successful pick-up-in-store paradigm.  We help retailers work through the proof of concept and piloting of RFID. For a variety of us cases.

In his recent Robin Report on New Metrics in Retail, Robin Lewis talks about new metrics required as a result of the changing format of most retail from pure brick-and-mortar, or pure anything, to the omni-channel model.  We have been espousing the same thought applied to employee compensation.  And that is, that as a result of the major influence of e-commerce on the rest of a retail business, performance and its derivative compensation has to be measured as the whole of the business and not just as what happens in stores, separate from what happens in e-commerce, separate from what happens in m-commerce.  Since now all employees have to pull in the same direction, and complement all the other channels to satisfy customers’ demands for higher service, the rewards to associates have to be measured in terms of what happens to the overall business (that’s what we now call unified commerce).

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