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Today’s Top Retail Stories



February 19, 2016

2. Bebe brings back CEO, cuts jobs

3. Kroger executive to retire after 44 years

4. Amazon building locker network in Europe

5. E-commerce sales grew 15%

Also Noted

Nordstrom’s bad 4Q brings spending cuts

Stories from around the Web

News from the Marketing & Retail Industry


Today’s Top News

1. AT&T brings virtual reality to stores

Friday, February 19, 2016 | By Laura Heller


Retailers are testing the virtual reality waters, and AT&T is rolling out VR in partnership with Samsung Electronics to give shoppers a more immersive experience.

As of Feb. 19, 133 AT&T stores in 37 states will have a Samsung Gear VR by Oculus that lets users virtually experience a Carnival Cruise.

The program is basically an advertisement for the cruise line, but it is among the first VR experiences available to a public being treated to news stories and reviews, all extolling the virtues of this iteration of VR.

“Our customers know they can come to an AT&T store to experience the future of a connected life,” said Brian Shay, president, retail sales and distribution for AT&T. “We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show it off.”

The Samsung Gear VR is designed to work with Samsung’s Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ and Note5, all sold at AT&T stores. Mobile devices deliver the content, and the headset plunges users into the immersive experience.

The content was developed by Carnival, and shoppers will be able to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a seven-day cruise. While select stores will offer the full VR experience, another 1,100 stores will have the content available for customers to demo on the Gear VR headset.

Retailers are experimenting with VR in a variety of ways. SapientNitro showed off a virtual store at NRF’s annual conference and expo in January, complete with shoppable content. Users simply focused on an item through a VR headset, then pricing and product information appeared in the view.

Lowe’s showed off a Holoroom at the International CES in January, where VR was among the most buzzed-about technologies. The home improvement retailer is using a virtual product platform by Marxent called VisualCommerce to help shoppers connect smart home devices.

Holoroom is an in-store and at-home virtual reality design tool meant to help shoppers design kitchens and bathrooms with 3D representations of Lowe’s products using an Oculus Rift in stores and Google Cardboard at home.

For more:
-See this AT&T announcement

Related stories:
Tommy Hilfiger brings virtual reality to stores
North Face brings the outdoors to retail stores
Zappos Las Vegas pop-ups blurs virtual lines with new tech and endless-aisle
Lowe’s reveals Innovations Labs, sci-fi Holoroom
Birchbox includes virtual reality experience in monthly box

2. Bebe brings back CEO, cuts jobs

Friday, February 19, 2016 | By Laura Heller

Bebe Stores (NASDAQ:BEBE) announced that it is eliminating jobs and bringing back former CEO Manny Mashouf, as the retailer attempts to cut costs and re-energize its business.

Mashouf has rejoined Bebe’s management team as CEO, and Walter Parks has rejoined as president, COO and interim-CFO. Jim Wiggett is out as CEO and member of the board, and CFO Liyuan Woo has also left the company.

Bebe has also cut 45 positions—roughly 15 percent of its workforce across the design, merchandising, production, IT and support functions. As part of the reduction, Bebe is streamlining its design and merchandising teams, while reducing support functions.

This is the second round of corporate layoffs at Bebe. The company cut 50 jobs in October, and Mashouf rejoined the retailer in an advisory role at that time.

Mashouf founded Bebe and served as chairman and CEO until January 2013, when he turned the post over to Steve Birkhold. But Birkhold resigned in June 2014 after 17 months of declining sales, and Wiggett took the reins.

“I am extremely pleased to be returning to Bebe as CEO. I also look forward to working with Walter as his deep financial knowledge, as well as his long history with the Bebe brand, make him a great addition to our team,” said Mashouf. “We believe the changes we are implementing will enable us to become a leaner and more nimble organization, allowing us to increase our focus on profitability while enhancing our product offering.”

Bebe has struggled to compete with fast-fashion brands.

Said Mashouf, “We recognize that the overall macro environment has not been favorable to retailers in general, which is why we are taking steps that we believe are necessary to position the business for long-term success.”

For more:
-See this Bebe Stores press release

Related stories:
Bebe reorganizes
Bebe drops party-girl image
Bebe confirms data breach
Bebe names Jim Wiggett CEO
Bebe, Lucky Brand join ShopRunner

3. Kroger executive to retire after 44 years

Friday, February 19, 2016 | By Laura Heller

Marnette Perry, Kroger senior VP for retail operations and strategic initiatives, announced her retirement, effective April 29.

Perry joined Kroger (NYSE:KR) in 1972 as a part-time cashier in Portsmouth, Ohio. She went on to serve in several leadership positions, eventually establishing Kroger’s natural foods and floral departments and taking on her current role in 2012.

“Marnette’s story is one we can all be proud of: She joined Kroger for a job as a part-time cashier while in college, and stayed for a remarkable career that spanned operations, merchandising and executive leadership,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “Marnette’s significant contributions will leave an indelible mark on Kroger. The entire Kroger family thanks Marnette for her years of service and we wish her and her family all the best in retirement.”

Her successor will be named later.

For more:
-See this Kroger announcement

Related stories:
Kroger could buy Fresh Market
Kroger testing fresh concept Main & Vine
Kroger expands click-and-collect
Kroger charts path to digital transformation
Kroger CFO talks acquisitions

4. Amazon building locker network in Europe

Friday, February 19, 2016 | By Laura Heller

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is looking to build out a network of lockers in Europe where shoppers can receive online orders. It’s part of the online retailer’s efforts to expand delivery options and lower prices.

Amazon has job postings suggesting the move, according to Yahoo Finance.

“Amazon pickup locations, including Amazon Locker, are exciting, new delivery solutions that we are introducing into the German marketplace,” read one ad for a position in Munich. Amazon is also looking to fill positions in London, including a manager for “click-and-collect” to develop a range of pick-up locations.

Click-and-collect, with shoppers buying items online and picking them up from a designated location, is more common in Europe than the United States, where shoppers are more likely to have items shipped to the nearest store. Amazon’sdelivery initiatives here have focused more on getting purchases to a shopper’s home, although it does operate a network of pick-up lockers.

Solving shipping challenges and bringing down costs is imperative for Amazon, where shipping costs grew more than 18 percent last year.

For more:
-See this Yahoo Finance story

Related stories:
Amazon buys online payment platform Emvantage
A secret shopper’s view of Amazon’s first bookstore
Amazon plans more than just bookstores
Amazon could open up to 400 stores
Amazon’s big miss might be anything but

5. E-commerce sales grew 15%

Friday, February 19, 2016 | By Laura Heller

U.S. e-commerce sales grew by double digits in the fourth quarter of 2015, accounting for virtually all retail sales growth for the year.

The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce this week released its quarterly report estimating online sales; for the fourth quarter of 2015, e-commerce increased 14.7 percent from Q4 2014. Total retail sales increased 1.3 percent in the same period. E-commerce sales accounted for 7.5 percent of total sales in 2015.

Many retailers have been growing online sales even as those at brick-and-mortar stores have failed or remained flat. Amazon has captured the lion’s share of e-commerce growth, however, and commands a roughly 23.7 percent share of the U.S. online market, according to Reuters.

Traditional retailers are coming up short in terms of growth. Walmart’s online sales grew just 8 percent in its recent fourth quarter.

For more:
-See this Reuters article
-See this Census Bureau report

Related stories:
60% of shoppers would switch for a better digital experience
25% of physical stores successful at shopper personalization
Target digital sales jump 20%
50% of disappointed shoppers won’t return
Digital holiday sales to increase 16% in 2015

Also Noted

Nordstrom’s bad 4Q brings spending cuts

Nordstrom reported fourth quarter sales that fell short of expectations, and the Seattle-based retailer said it will reduce capital expenditures, especially in regards to technology investments. Story

Stories from around the Web

Is Walmart’s reality true for all retailers?

Ingles Markets could be the next Kroger target

Rite Aid offers Rx audio assist to the visually impaired

GameStop says no VR until fall, contradicts Sony

Just 22% of retailers ready with EMV

And finally… Lord & Taylor is trying to overhaul its brand, but the new logo has one critic wondering if “it was written by my wife on a brown paper lunch bag with a Sharpie marker.” Story

Industry Voices

Did Amazon endorse old-school brick and mortar?

If Amazon opens more brick-and-mortar stores, the e-commerce behemoth would throw yet another curveball at the retail scene. One word comes to mind: disruption. If you aren’t feeling it, check your pulse.

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