Big-Bang Retail: Hershey Chocolate World To Triple Size

“Hershey said it would open a new New York City flagship location triple the size of its existing Times Square store,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “At a little more than 2,200-square feet, Hershey’s Chocolate World store at West 48th Street and Broadway is popular, but its size limits the number of brands and experience the company can offer, a Hershey spokeswoman said.”

“Hershey will join other Times Square tenants creating more interactive or engaging retail environments … Last month, the National Football League, Cirque du Soleil and the National Football League Players Association announced they would open an NFL Times Square experience, a four-story, 40,000-square foot permanent exhibit also at 20 Times Square. The exhibit will include an NFL store, a 350-seat theater, and high-tech, interactive displays designed to re-create an immersive experience of a football game for fans.”

Andrew S. Goldberg of CBRE Group comments: “If you look at all the stores now [in Times Square], it’s not traditional retail being done in the old format way. Everyone is looking at how to keep the customers engaged longer and having them stay and be more involved in the store.”

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Macy’s: Putting the ‘AI’ Into Retail

The Washington Post: “Macy’s … has teamed up with IBM Watson to use artificial intelligence as a customer service tool in 10 of its stores. The retailer dubbed the pilot program ‘Macy’s On Call,’ and it will allow customers to type in questions on their phones and receive answers. Unlike some chatbots that can only regurgitate pre-programmed responses based on keywords, IBM Watson will learn over time to give better answers that are customized to individual stores.”

“Macy’s move is an acknowledgment of what a habit it has become for consumers to swipe and tap on their smartphones while they’re on the go. And it’s a bid to figure out how to channel that behavior into an advantage — not a threat — to in-store shopping.”

“Macy’s is not the only retailer that is experimenting with some use of artificial intelligence. IBM Watson has already dabbled in using its tools to power other shopping experiences such as a collaboration with outdoor apparel brand North Face on a website that helps shoppers find the right jacket.”

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Luxury: It’s Not What It Used To Be

USA Today: “People around the world who usually flock to luxury goods are worried about events that threaten global stability including terrorism fears, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and China’s slowdown. At the same time, luxury retailers are losing share to online sellers, the same issue bedeviling mainstream store chains. They’re also suffering at the hands of discounters and fast-fashion luxury lookalikes.”

Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, comments: “The story with luxury is it’s just not as a exclusive and it doesn’t justify the price like it used to. Too many of them are discounting and there’s not enough consumer demand.”

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Theater as Retail: El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Boredpanda: “Tucked away in Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires is a beautiful bookshop called El Ateneo Grand Splendid … which currently welcomes over one million visitors each year … It is built within the almost 100-year-old Grand Splendid Theater, which opened in 1919.”

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The Strand: A Culture of Quizzes

The New York Times: “The Strand is the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores, a giant in an ever-shrinking field … The Strand employees are known for being ‘curmudgeonly’ but also clever, even cool: Former employees include Patti Smith … For about four decades, however, applicants have confronted a final hurdle to enter its ranks: the literary matching quiz.”

“Over time, the reputation of the Strand’s quiz has grown … The legend has become larger, in fact, than the quiz itself, which is only 10 lines long, covering a few inches of the photocopied application … Fred Bass, who with his daughter, Nancy Bass Wyden, owns the Strand, called the quiz ‘a very good way to find good employees,’ regardless of their duties.”

Carson Moss of The Strand says the quiz is not a make or break for applicants: “In a sense we feel it’s a reward for passionate readers, after they’ve slogged through an application,” he said. The Strand’s Constance Fox comments: “What I find most interesting is when people don’t answer, but then write: ‘I’m an artist. I know all about Picasso,’ or ‘Here’s what I know about children’s books.’”

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Cadillac House: Not Your Father’s Dealership

The Verge: “The next stage in transforming Cadillac is to bring its 925 dealers up to snuff. That’s where the Cadillac House comes into play, a chic public space where anyone can drop by and steep in the brand’s past, present, and future. Each detail of the facility has been carefully considered — it sells Joe Coffee (a local favorite), offers free Wi-Fi, stages art installations … it hosted a block party bash featuring a short set by My Morning Jacket. The Cadillac House has a few cars on view, but it’s not a car dealership. Discreet product specialists are trained to answer questions about features on new models like the CT6.”

Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen comments: “Our office, the Cadillac House, this is what our dealer experience should be like. Our focus here must be on increasing the overall quality of the business. It must be about increasing transaction prices. It must be about brand positioning and upgrading quality of the dealer and doing so in a way that we continue to build the relationship between Cadillac the manufacturer and our dealer network. We have to navigate a very difficult path.”

He adds: “It’s really those small dealers that we want to turn into powerhouses. We want to create a boutique experience, separate from the rest of the GM brand, and we want to help our dealers.”

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50 Ways to Kill ‘Pokémon Go’

The Wall Street Journal: “Already some local businesses lucky enough to be near a key location have latched on to Pokémon Go … one New York pizzeria manager who dropped a ‘lure’ in the game for $10 to attract trainers to its proximity—and business spiked 75%. A Brooklyn bar noted that the Pokémon inside were for paying customers only … ‘sponsored locations,’ where companies would pay to become locations in the virtual world in order to drive foot traffic, will be coming to the game.”

“For example, a brand could pay for Wi-Fi at a popular Pokémon location. Or hand out samples … Or put up real world signs or video screens touting their message.”

“Dario Raciti, U.S. director of Zero Code, the gaming and virtual reality division of OMD … noted that one of the worst things the creators of the app could do would be to overload the game with ads, turning every Pokémon adventure into a walk through the virtual version of a billboard-filled Times Square.”

Meanwhile: “Gizmodo has learned that … every McDonald’s restaurant in this country will either be a PokéStop or a gym.”

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Supermarket Bars: Drinking & Shopping

The Wall Street Journal: “Some high-end supermarkets are serving alcohol. Many have set aside space for wine bars and beer gardens where they host tasting events, with drinks and appetizers. Some stores encourage shoppers to ‘sip ’n’ shop,’ drinking while pushing a shopping cart for a more relaxed shopping experience.”

“At nearly 350 Whole Foods locations nationwide, shoppers can carry open beverages out of the bar area and around the store as they shop around. Some stores have added cup holders to their shopping carts or placed racks around the store where shoppers can place empty stemless wine glasses. In some Texas locations, the $1 cans of beer rest in ice-filled buckets labeled ‘walkin’ around beer’.”

“Shoppers perceive drinks at supermarkets to be a better value than drinks in a traditional bar or club … Bars stretch out the time shoppers, especially 20-somethings, spend in the store. That helps new shoppers get to know the store, even if they had planned to make just a quick stop.”

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The Mall Experience: Armed & Dangerous?

“Amid a wave of gun violence in public venues across the U.S. and around the world, mall shoppers are paying more attention to safety,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Some said they want to see more guard patrols or signs at shopping centers warning of random bag checks. Others suggested mall security officers be armed.”

“The spate of shootings in public areas in recent months has put the issue of security squarely on the minds of both consumers and landlords, who now must balance the need for safety with the need to create pleasant environments for their customers.”

“Shopping centers are more vulnerable than other public areas like transport hubs because they have multiple exits and people often carry large parcels. It can be difficult for private property owners to balance visible and intrusive security while looking to attract customers to shop, relax and be entertained.”

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