Academy Sports: First-Responder Retailer

The Wall Street Journal: “A sporting-goods retailer found itself at the center of the rescue effort in flooded Houston, first opening its stores to rescuers in need of boats, life preservers and other supplies, and then converting its headquarters into temporary residences for hundreds of police and other emergency responders. As of Wednesday morning, retail chain Academy Sports + Outdoors was hosting more than 400 rescue-team members at its corporate campus west of Houston, with people coming to work in 12-hour shifts from as close as Waco, Texas, and as far away as Connecticut.”

“Academy has a history of contact with law enforcement because it sells firearms in its chain of 235 sporting-goods stores. Dealing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies is a daily part of its business. So when the first call came in Sunday from the Houston Police Department requesting flat-bottomed jon boats and paddles, Academy brass weren’t all that surprised. But the calls kept coming … they wanted kayaks, canoes, ponchos and pontoon boats. In many cases, Academy opened the doors of closed stores so first responders could grab what they needed.”

“As waterlogged evacuees made it to dry land, they needed more. Sleeping bags, air beds, backpacks, fresh T-shirts, socks, shoes and underwear. Rescuers needed all those goods, too, and a safe, dry place to rest. So Academy opened up its four-story sport-themed headquarters, which hasn’t flooded and still has power. It also has gyms for sleeping and places to shower … Academy is offering financial assistance for immediate needs like hotels for about 150 employees … (and) is deciding where to donate $1 million worth of clothes and shoes later this week.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Yelp Closes In On OpenTable

The New York Times: “A new crop of competitors is challenging OpenTable as never before, picking off the high-profile restaurants that are critical to attracting consumers, by offering better deals and newer technology. And for all the diners they do seat, neither OpenTable nor its competitors have yet loosened the telephone’s grip on reservations, roughly two-thirds of which are still made by phone, according to Yelp, which once partnered with OpenTable and is now a rival.”

“Yelp now offers several features to help restaurants manage their reservations — a surprising twist for a company that many restaurateurs love to hate for its sometimes-withering user reviews. Yelp says more than 4,000 restaurants now use its service for reservations. The company doesn’t need to attract marquee dining spots to entice users, who are already coming to it for reviews, giving it a major advantage.”

“Yelp Reservations charges a restaurant $249 a month … the flat-monthly-fee model used by most of the new reservation services helped discourage a restaurant practice that infuriates customers: holding back tables during prime hours. Some restaurants do that because they know they can fill the tables on their own at those times, and they like to seat valuable guests who show up at the last minute.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Driverless Cars To Deliver Domino’s Pizza

The New York Times: “The Domino’s pizza chain this week plans to start testing deliveries using a self-driving Ford Fusion sedan outfitted with enough sensors, electronics and software to find its way to customers’ homes or offices in a section of this city 40 miles west of Detroit.” Dennis Maloney, chief digital officer at Domino’s, comments: “It’s going to be a real learning experience. No one really knows what’s going to happen when customers walk out to the car. They’re faced with a car. There’s no human interaction. What happens if they approach the car from the wrong direction? Will people mind coming out of their house? We want to understand all that.”

“For the Domino’s trial, Ford is providing a self-driving Fusion that scans the road with radar and cameras. It also uses lidar – a kind of radar based on laser beams – that can be found in a rooftop unit featuring distinctive spinning canisters. The images collected are compared instantaneously with highly detailed digital maps to ensure that the car knows precisely where it is on the road and how to reach its destination.”

“Because there is no delivery person to bring pizzas to the door, customers will have to walk outside the retrieve their order. They will be alerted by text when the car is nearing their home and when it arrives. A red arrow on the car’s rear, passenger-side window tells customers to ‘start here’ and directs them to a touch screen. Keying in the last four digits of the customer’s phone number causes the window to open, revealing an insulated compartment large enough to hold five pizzas and four side orders. One customer advantage of taking delivery from a self-driving car: If there’s no driver, there’s no tip.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hitting Home: Best Buy’s Traveling Salespeople

The Wall Street Journal: “Best Buy is hiring hundreds of salespeople to sit down with consumers inside their homes and recommend electronics to buy, part of a free service it has been testing in several cities and plans to roll out across the U.S. this fall. The company hopes its in-home salespeople will help drive sales of TVs and gadgets at a time when fewer people are visiting shopping centers, as well as drum up business for Best Buy’s Geek Squad, which provides tech repairs and in-home installations for a fee.”

Best Buy Chief Executive Hubert Joly comments: “What we’re finding is people in the home tend to spend more because we address a bigger need for them compared to what they spend in the store.”

“Unlike its Geek Squad workers who fix gadgets, Best Buy’s in-home advisers are traveling sales consultants who are paid a salary or on an hourly basis, not commissions. Based on the customer’s needs, they provide product recommendations, ranging from HP and Apple laptops to Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. The prices cited are the same as in the company’s store or website.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Dominos Delivers Its Promise: Gross Bro-Food

Fast Company: “In the age of Instagram, food is no longer designed to just be food … Yet in this new wave of food-as-influencer, there is a single, curmudgeonly brand that insists on photographing its dishes on conference room tables, under fluorescent lighting, and from all sorts of unflattering angles. It’s a brand that looks art directed by your 65-year-old parents who bought some no-name Android smartphone, hired based upon their portfolio of blurry photos on Facebook. It’s Domino’s.”

Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer, comments: “In this space, we actually are finding that less than perfect is sometimes actually perfect. A lot of customers are out photographing their food. They know, depending where you take it and the light you’re under, food looks different. It feels much more honest and transparent when the images are imperfect … Even if it is a little bit gooey, greasy, the packaging isn’t perfect, and there’s a bit of a burnt spot, that’s the pizza you get. And that makes you think how good it was last time you had it.”

“But let us be clear about something when it comes to Domino’s social feeds. It’s not just full of realistic photography without a food stylist on the set. It’s often downright gross bro-food, like what you might see waking up at 5 a.m. on the floor of a frat house. We’re talking about grease-stained boxes, mozzarella cheese that has a white balance set to the color of earwax (17,000 likes) … We’re talking about congealed chicken wings sitting in a pool of lukewarm buffalo sauce (8,000 likes) … In theory, Domino’s will only drive more loyalty with every person who sees a deflated pile of cheese sticks on its feed and orders them in real life, because Domino’s is delivering on its promise.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Cornell & Ferrero: Technology & Chocolate

The Wall Street Journal: “Global chocolate giant Ferrero International S.A. plans to bring its open innovation science division to the Bridge at Cornell Tech … At first glance, Ferrero may not seem to fit the mold of a typical technology firm, but the company and its technological pursuits are compatible with the broader mission of the Bridge.”

“The building was designed to foster connections among Cornell Tech faculty and students, established companies, startups, government agencies and nonprofits. The goal is to attract companies from a wide range of sectors looking to tap into entrepreneurial ideas and new technologies generated by Cornell Tech, as well as to recruit graduates. Ferrero’s team plans to explore improvements of products and operations, as well as ways to enhance farming methods and sustainable food production … Ferrero hopes to expand its innovation team on the campus in part by hiring Cornell Tech graduates.”

“We will develop cutting-edge research and technologies that will have transformational effects on our products and business,” Giovanni Battistini, Ferrero vice president of open innovation science, said in a statement.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Somali Graffiti: The Art of Retail

Quartz: “If you visit any major city or town in Somalia, chances are that you will come across the colorful artworks that dot the walls of both private and public establishments.”

“These painted signs are the work of skillful artists, who in broad brushstrokes, advertise the goods and services offered at different business outlets. These include the availability of electronic appliances, vehicle spare parts, beauty products, foodstuff and beverages, and the sometimes graphically-drawn dental, medical, or circumcision services.”

“The hand-drawn signs gained popularity in Somalia after the collapse of the central government in 1991. Artists who couldn’t sell their paintings after the breakout of the civil war offered their talent to local businesses. Economic stagnation in rural areas also pushed many Somalis with low literacy levels into urban areas—forcing many businesses to visually depict what they sell to people who couldn’t read.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Blockchain Grocery: How Walmart Delivers Food Safety

Quartz: “Thanks to technology originally designed to monitor cryptocurrency … something that could put a significant dent in the number of foodborne illnesses that occur every year. It’s part of a new program in which IBM is partnering with Walmart, Nestlé, Dole, Tyson Foods, Kroger, and others, to use blockchain technology to track food throughout the complex global supply chain.”

“Under the new system, if a consumer falls ill from E. coli traced to a batch of lettuce, a food-safety investigator could conceivably scan a barcode on the packaging to quickly learn where it came from and where other lettuce from the same batch went. Retailers will be able to quickly remove contaminated products from shelves, thus stopping the spread of illnesses.”

“Walmart has been using a pilot version of the technology, showing how blockchain can be expanded beyond the financial, health care, and natural resources sectors to be applied to the foods that consumers interact with every single day. Coupled with companies’ efforts to stop food-borne illnesses early on, this could signal a major moment in how humans keep the food system in check.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Quote of the Day: Stew Leonard, Jr.

“I’ve been in retail since I was a kid, and I’m always nervous. Costcos were opening, then Walmarts, then Whole Foods. But at the end of the day, you just have to try and get the freshest corn out there on the sidewalk.” ~ Stew Leonard, Jr. CEO of Stew Leonards, in The New York Times.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail