Sonos Builds a ‘Wall of Sound’

Engadget: “The new Sonos store in NYC “features seven listening rooms designed to let consumers experience Sonos products firsthand. But the most outstanding decor is … known as The Wall of Sound. It’s a 17-by-24-foot installation made up of roughly 300 Sonos speakers, of which eight are plugged in and active.”

“The store is intended to provide a home feel. For example, each listening room is laid out differently, giving you the sense you’re sitting in a study room, home theater or kitchen as you jam out to a Play:1, Play:3, Play:5 and Playbar.”

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When Labels Say … They Really Mean …

The Wall Street Journal: “Government regulators forbid ouright dishonesty, but labels with narrowly defined, cleverly deployed or unregulated buzzwords can confound shoppers trying to figure out what’s what.” For example: “‘Made with’ often means ‘made with very little,’” said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Many consumers assume it means made only of whole grain. That’s simply not true.”

“Cage-free: Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. are confined in small, wire cages that measure 67 to 86 square inches per hen … Cage-free birds, on the other hand, are allowed to roam in a room or open area—but they are not guaranteed access to the outdoors. Free range: These chickens … do have outdoor access, although producers may provide minimal outdoor space or use screened-in porches with floors made of concrete, dirt or grass to provide the access.”

“Hormones aren’t allowed in poultry or hogs … Nonetheless, some producers label those products ‘no hormones added’ … Natural: This refers to the preparation of a product, not how a plant or animal was raised, and the label is supposed to include a statement explaining what it means … ‘Free’ means there is less than 0.5 gram per serving of a nutrient that has a daily value … ‘Low’ means there are 3 grams or less per serving … And ‘reduced’ means there is at least 25% less of the nutrient compared with another food.”

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C.O. Bigelow: Retail Magic Since 1838

The New York Times: “At a time when chain drugstores are seemingly colonizing every block of New York City, the family-owned C.O. Bigelow, on the Avenue of the Americas between West Eighth and Ninth Streets, has managed not only to survive but to flourish.”

“The store was opened in 1838 by Dr. Galen Hunter as the Village Apothecary Shop at 102 Sixth Avenue, and he eventually sold it to an employee, Clarence Otis Bigelow, in 1880. Mr. Bigelow moved it two doors north, to the current location in 1902, where the original brass finishes, including the gas chandeliers, are still intact.”

“If you count the original store … C.O. Bigelow claims it is the oldest pharmacy in the United States. It has had a devoted following for much of its existence, and was said to be favored by Mark Twain, Thomas Edison and Eleanor Roosevelt. Today, with an inventory of nearly 500 beauty brands, both mainstream and boutique, it is a destination for beauty-product junkies.”

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Small Rivals Trip Big Brands

The Economist: “For a time, size gave CPG companies a staggering advantage. Centralising decisions and consolidating manufacturing helped firms expand margins. Deep pockets meant companies could spend millions on a flashy television advertisement, then see sales rise. Firms distributed goods to a vast network of stores, paying for prominent placement on shelves.”

“Yet these advantages are not what they once were. Consolidating factories has made companies more vulnerable to the swing of a particular currency … The impact of television adverts is fading … At the same time, barriers to entry are falling for small firms … Distribution is getting easier, too: a young brand may prove itself with online sales, then move into big stores.”

“Most troublesome, the lumbering giants are finding it hard to keep up with fast-changing consumer markets … As their economies grew, local players often proved more attuned to shoppers’ needs. In America and Europe” shoppers “can choose from cheap, store-brand goods … But if a customer wants to pay more for a product, it may not be for a traditional big brand. This may be because shoppers trust little brands more than established ones.”

“EY, a consultancy, recently surveyed CPG executives. Eight in ten doubted their company could adapt to customer demand.”

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Amazon Is Dropping List Prices

The New York Times: Amazon “built a reputation and hit $100 billion in annual revenue by offering deals. The first thing a potential customer saw was a bargain: how much an item was reduced from its list price. Now, in many cases, Amazon has dropped any mention of a list price. There is just one price. Take it or leave it.”

Larry Compeau, of Clarkson University comments: “They are trying to figure out what product categories have customers who are so tied into the Amazon ecosystem that list prices are no longer necessary.”

“In some categories, like groceries, Amazon seems to be using just one price, the buy-it-now price. If Amazon brings the milk and music into your house, not to mention videos and e-books and the devices to consume them on, as well as a hot dinner and just about any other object you could want, that presents a pricing challenge of a different sort. Untangling what those deals are worth — as opposed to what they cost — is probably impossible.”

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Story-doing: The Kellogg’s Café

The Wall Street Journal: “Who would go to a restaurant to eat Frosted Flakes—and pay $6, maybe even $8 for it? What if the bowl was topped with a sprinkle of lemon zest, toasted pistachios and fresh thyme, and was singularly delicious? Kellogg’s will find out the answer on July 4, when it opens its first-ever restaurant, in New York’s Times Square … a sleek, intimate space in which to challenge eaters’ conceptions.”

“The playful recipes … include the pistachio- and lemon-spiked bowl of Frosted Flakes and Special K … and ice cream topped with Rice Krispies, strawberries and matcha powder. Customers will pick up orders via a set of ‘kitchen cabinets,’ a kind of un-automated automat. Inside the door will be their food and a little surprise, like those found in a box of cereal. Most days, it will be a small treat—a plastic ring or a morning newspaper. But there are also plans in the works to give away several tickets to the Broadway smash, Hamilton.”

“This is story-doing versus storytelling,” said Andrew Shripka, the associate director of brand marketing. “We could have put a great recipe on the box. But this is so much more powerful.”

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Selfridges Stages ‘Refashioned Theater’

The Stage: “London department store Selfridges is to launch a 100-seat theatre that will allow customers to watch a Shakespeare production being rehearsed and performed. The department store has also teamed up with drama school RADA to provide two weeks of workshops and masterclasses for shoppers. Called the Refashioned Theatre, the venue will have a traverse stage, a box office, a designer royal box and a bespoke lighting rig from White Light.”

“The theatre company will offer audiences the chance to watch rehearsals, which Selfridges compared to the experience shoppers get while looking at its own window displays. The play will feature nine actors, plus five “digital cameos”, where digital images will be projected on to mannequins.”

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Project Sync: Home Depot Streamlines Shelves

The Wall Street Journal: “Instead of filling its warehouse-style racks to the ceiling with Makita drills, rolls of Owens Corning insulation and cans of Rust-Oleum paint, Home Depot wants fewer items on its shelves and it wants them to be within customers’ reach … It is a shift happening across the retail sector as companies try to figure out ways to profitably serve the growing needs of online shoppers while making their network of stores less of a financial burden.”

Home Depot has “instituted ‘Project Sync,’ a series of changes that include developing a steadier flow of deliveries from suppliers into its network of 18 sorting centers … When the shipments get to stores, workers move them right to the lower shelves, eliminating the need to store and retrieve products from upper shelves using ladders and forklifts … Savings can be used to have more workers on the floor or finding orders for shoppers who are picking them up.”

“This also keeps stock from collecting dust out of reach. ‘You would stack it high,’ says Jessica Thibodeaux, manager of a Home Depot just outside Houston, ‘but it wouldn’t fly’.”

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Indie Bookstores: Something Better Than Amazon

The New York Times: “The pronounced stock shortage inside the Librairie des Puf … is not the result of an ordering mistake, but the heart of the shop’s business model. There are books, but they are not delivered in advance from wholesalers. They are printed on request, before the customer’s very eyes, on an Espresso Book Machine … It is a radical reinvention of a store that first opened its doors in 1921.”

“Independent bookstores … are beginning to carve a path out of their business’s decade of decline. ‘It’s an industry which is very much starting to rebound,’ said Nick Brackenbury, one of the founders of NearSt,” which “aims to help local shops adapt to the needs of the modern customers by making local shop inventories ‘shoppable’ from a smartphone, allowing customers to search for titles, find local stores that sell them and see routes there.”

“We just want local stores to be able to offer customers something which is just better than Amazon,” Mr. Brackenbury said.

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