STORES Trends: October 2016

#STOREStrends is a monthly roundup of fresh retail ideas from STORES Magazine.

Shaping a Legacy

This might make you feel old — or it might bring a big smile to your face.

Last month marked the 60th anniversary of Play-Doh. Since the debut of the iconic yellow can, Play-Doh has been a toy box staple and the source of endless joy. Inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998, Play-Doh has remained relevant for several generations of kids — a testimony to parent Hasbro’s commitment to it through numerous updates and innovations.

Play-Doh was first offered in primary colors; the palette was expanded to eight colors in the 1980s, and over the years glitter and glow-in-the-dark iterations have been introduced. And if you’re of a certain generation, you’ll surely recall the Play-Doh Fun Factory.

The company commemorated Play-Doh’s past by looking to the future, imagining what fashion, food, science and life will look like in the next 60 years. Parents from around the world were invited to share their children’s imaginative predictions on social media.

Did you know:

Mirror, Mirror

While models outfitted in the latest designer togs and celebrities seated in the front rows grabbed the headlines during New York Fashion Week, a new mirror quietly snagged its share of attention among retailers. Samsung America debuted Mirror Displays — a technology that adds a new dimension to digital signage.

“Digital signage is static. Mirror Displays use the power of digital to deliver messaging that can be updated regularly,” says Ron Gazzola, vice president of product marketing with Samsung Electronics America. “It’s display technology that can help retailers stay competitive and enhance the in-store customer experience.”

Mirror Displays look like any other mirror but are equipped with proximity sensors that spring into action when a shopper is nearby. Samsung developed the platform with an eye toward making fitting room mirrors a vehicle for productive and engaging interaction.

Shoppers standing in front of the mirror see not only their image, but also other content such as suggestions for accessories, information about sales or promotions and branding messages.

“The type of content showcased really comes down to the vision of the marketers’ creative mind. We can help them to develop content or they can take that on. It really depends on what they’re trying to accomplish,” says Gazzola, who notes that Bluetooth or beacon technology can be integrated. “It’s possible to link the display to a brand’s app and serve up unique messaging.”

Mirror Displays, built for enterprise use, are currently available in two sizes, 32-inch ($1,100) and 55-inch ($2,500).

Gazzola says that the benefits are far reaching. “It takes the concept of digital signage from a basic one-dimensional approach to a branding and creative messaging medium. It also allows retailers to engage shoppers with brand messaging that has the potential to drive sales and lift brand loyalty,” he says. “Once a shopper is in a fitting room, there’s a decision about to take place. Mirror Displays can play a role in making this space more productive for retailers. It has the potential to upsell, cross-sell — even offer a coupon for the next purchase.”

Shoppers are accustomed to digital messaging and there’s a good chance they’ll be receptive to this type of augmented selling. Time will reveal its success.

New Twist on Shopping Lists

During the back-to-school rush, parents may have missed one of the most cutting-edge breakthroughs in shopping. Staples, the go-to resource for so many shoppers needing to stock up on notebooks, pens and folders, conducted a beta test on the retailer’s mobile iOS app.

Parents could send a photo of their child’s back-to-school list (typed or hand-written) via the Staples Easy System on the app. Within 48 hours, a Staples associate created a shopping cart, consisting of the most suitable options for the products on the list. Once it was complete, shoppers were given the option to “buy now” or customize the items in the cart. They could also pick up the order at a nearby store or have it shipped to them.

“We listened to customer feedback about their limited time for back-to-school shopping and delivered an experience utilizing the power of mobile,” says Faisal Masud, executive vice president of e-commerce and customer experience for Staples.

“We know parents are busy. … This new experience enables us to do the hard work on behalf of our customers, and we’re already seeing 10 percent of our iOS users interact with the chat feature on a daily basis.”

The test is nothing short of groundbreaking, and the possibilities for replicating it across retail sectors are far-reaching. Imagine how much easier filling holiday wish lists could be if toy stores — or Santa — had this sort of technology.

Malls Deliver

Seeking yet another example of the convergence of physical and digital retail? Look no further than the local mall — that is, if you live near one of the 15 East Coast shopping centers that will offer Amazon Lockers.

A first-of-its-kind partnership was announced last month by publicly traded real estate investment trust PREIT that will allow shoppers to pick up Amazon packages at secure locations within PREIT malls.

PREIT CEO Joseph Coradino considers this an “ongoing commitment to innovation and optimizing the shopper experience for customers — both in-store and online. We fully embrace the growing intersection of physical and digital retail, and through this program, are expanding our shopper base to welcome new consumers to our properties to rediscover the contemporary retail experience.”

Amazon shoppers who have concerns about having packages delivered to their home or office can select an Amazon Locker during checkout; customers can see the nearest locker locations or choose what’s most convenient for them. Shoppers are notified by email when their package has been delivered — they can also return their purchases using an Amazon Locker location.

Among the shopping centers featuring Amazon Lockers are Dartmouth Mall in Massachusetts, Francis Scott Key Mall in Maryland, Moorestown Mall in New Jersey, Willow Grove Park in Pennsylvania and Springfield Town Center in Virginia.

The goal for retailers and mall operators is to optimize the experience for customers across channels. PREIT’s commitment to providing lockers is a clear indicator of their willingness to adapt to changing shopping behaviors.

Waste Not, Want Not

Approximately 40 percent of food in the United States goes to waste; sadly, that figure holds fast for most industrialized nations. In the United Kingdom, a new app is devoted to reducing food waste. Too Good To Go links users with food that would otherwise be thrown away — at a heavily discounted price.

Once users download the app, they can order surplus food from nearby restaurants, cafés and bakeries. Diners cannot choose a specific meal; they’re given whatever is available when they arrive. Users are given a designated time window in which to pick up the food. When they arrive, they simply show their confirmation number and the food is ready to go. TGTG provides the restaurants with environmentally friendly boxes made from sugarcane. There’s also an option to donate meals to people in need.

TGTG was introduced in June and is available in several large U.K. cities.

According to TGTG, if global food waste were a country it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. What’s more, half of the food that is lost or wasted would be enough to feed the entire world.

Shiny Fresh Apple

Have you visited Apple Union Square in San Francisco? The store, which opened in late May, is billed as Apple’s first global flagship. Among features that set this store apart:

  • 42-foot-tall glass doors slide 40 feet to open the space onto the square.
  • The two-story space features a pair of $1 million glass staircases.
  • This the first store to include all five new Apple Store design elements, including the Avenue, the Boardroom, the Forum, the Genius Grove and the Plaza.
  • The Genius Grove includes a mini orchard of live ficus trees situated in leather planters that double as seats.
  • The Forum is a gathering place, centered around a 6K video wall, used to host classes for artists, photographers, musicians, gamers and other entrepreneurs.

Hands-on Experience

The growing demand for handcrafted goods shows no signs of abating; nor does consumers’ desire to create. Both ideas make Zowoo, a Chinese workshop in Shanghai’s Joy City Shopping Mall, a concept that retailers might want to consider in the context of their own businesses.

Zowoo — “make objects” in Mandarin — is a relatively new shop that’s part store and part workshop. Shoppers can purchase handcrafted pieces made from fine woods, or choose to put on an apron and try their hand at carpentry.

Shop owners and long-time friends Zhu Li and Chen Lei-Yu have developed classes for aspiring creative types, providing the chance for a more tactile experience. There are four course levels — entry, foundation, lathes and advanced — and projects are designed accordingly. Entry-level classes might teach would-be carpenters how to make small items such as chopsticks and drink coasters; more advanced classes might offer the chance to make stools and tables.

The idea of creating something offers another dimension for shoppers who crave new experiences and learning. Upscale cooking and dining specialty retailers have experienced the benefits of providing shoppers with hands-on experiences. The idea of weaving some type of interactive concept into the mix — especially in a mall setting — seems worthy of exploration, especially when you consider that today’s 20-somethings were among the first to experience the Build-A-Bear concept

Up On the Roof

It’s become quite chic for retail stores to operate rooftop gardens. Some use them as a nod to sustainable food production; others outfit them as café settings that welcome consumers to drink and dine.

Two landmark luxury retailers on Paris’ residential left bank, Le Bon Marche and La Grande Epicerie, have added a chic new spin. The two have turned their joint rooftops into an urban garden for staff who can grow their own crops in their free time. The employees grow 60 or so kinds of fruit, vegetables and herbs including strawberries, zucchinis, mint and lavender.

Two hundred of the stores’ 1,500 employees were selected by lottery to be a part of the unique project intended to put the stores at the forefront of the city’s urban gardening drive. By 2020, the Paris city government wants to have about half a square mile of green roofs, sidewalks and walls, with one-third dedicated to the production of fruits and vegetables.

Shoppers who visit the luxury stores are not made aware of the garden and cannot visit it, but the initiative has drawn visitors from other companies in France and abroad who want to set up similar rooftop gardens for staff.

“Given the impact this has on staff morale, the cost of investment was minimal,” says technical director Hubert Genet, who says that the stores’ technical staff built the planters and converted the narrow rooftop into an urban garden.

Sometimes companies shy away from activities that are outside the scope of their business, yet Genet’s observation seems spot on. Watching something grow is good for morale — not to mention providing a respite from routine tasks, allowing employees to take home the vegetables and fruits they grow and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

Has CEO Pay Peaked or Paused?

CEO pay is a trendy topic.

In August the spotlight was on Heather Bresch, CEO of EpiPen maker Mylan, which came under fire for the steep rise in the cost of that device. The outrage only grew when it was reported that Bresch’s total compensation rose 671 percent — to $18.9 million — in eight years.

CEO compensation has also been one of the few topics upon which the two major party presidential candidates seem to agree. “When you see that you’ve got CEOs making 300 times what the average worker’s making, you know the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top,” Hillary Clinton said.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump said huge CEO paychecks were a “joke” and a “disgrace” — the result of boards of directors stacked with “cronies.”

According to the Equilar 200 Highest-Paid CEO Rankings, conducted for The New York Times, the average compensation among the top executives in 2015 ($19.3 million) declined 15 percent year-over-year. Cash and stock awards, considered to be main components of pay packages, also shrank.

In late August, Equilar published the finding of a compensation trends report that looked at CEO pay at S&P 500 companies over the last five fiscal years. In this instance, the median reported total compensation for CEOs of S&P 500 companies was $10.4 million in 2015, up from $8.9 million in 2011.

Fresh-brewed Factoids

Are you a java junkie?

Here are some fun facts about coffee, compiled by Staples — which does its part to keep large and small businesses and their employees caffeinated by selling brewing machines, coffee, filters, creamers, sugars and disposable cups.

  • A 20-person office drinks 62 cups of coffee per day.
  • A survey of more than 300 singles revealed that most favor a coffee-shop environment for a first date.
  • There are 95 milligrams of caffeine in one cup of brewed coffee, compared with 27 mg in a shot of espresso, 40 mg in one can of Coke and 80 mg in a can of Red Bull.
  • Approximately 25 percent of Americans skip breakfast, but 50 percent drink coffee in the morning.