6 articles STORES Magazine readers loved

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Looking back at all the great content STORES Magazine produced in 2018, it’s hard to narrow down a favorite. Sure, the Top 100 and Hot 100 retailers, along with industry predictions and ideas to steal, are perennial favorites. However, readers may come for the lists, but they stay for the in-depth reporting. Here are a few other articles readers found compelling over the past year.

The rebirth of private label

Any conversation around private label quickly brings up an image of 1970s-era white labels with black type and the term “generic.” But that idea is as outdated as bell bottoms and feathered hair. Private labels and private brands are proving to be a powerful brand differentiator.

The current economic boom has done nothing to blunt the rise of private labels or private brands. Instead, they are enjoying something of a resurgence — and proving to be a powerful brand differentiator.

“At this point in time, private brands have never been more critical to retailers’ strategies,” says Carol Spieckerman, a retail strategist and trainer. “Digital has driven the ubiquity of national brands, so price comparisons are a click away. Private brands are one of the only ways to differentiate, drive destination shopping and blur price comparisons.”

A taste for success

Run by entrepreneurs, celebrity chefs and some of the most creative next-generation chefs, food halls are turning what was once an urban phenomenon into a nationwide trend. They’re also becoming a favorite among mall operators and real estate developers who see food halls as part of an experiential retail strategy.

It’s not a new idea. Macy’s Cellar was the go-to foodie spot in the 1970s and 1980s, and long-established food halls like Harrods department store in London, Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, the labyrinthine Pike Place Market in Seattle and Boston’s iconic Quincy Market — which has been hosting food merchants since 1742 — have become a key part of city culture and a destination for tourists and locals.

In Europe, a culinary explosion designed to immerse customers in a total food experience has resulted in over 100 food halls; about 200 venues are in the pipeline for major cities like London and Paris over the next decade, according to “Food Halls of Europe,” a report by global real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield.

Combating the potential of theft at self-checkout

Demand for self-checkout is growing from both retailers and consumers. As retailers adopt new payment and scanning technologies, though, the systems may be further opening the door to theft, creating more headaches for loss prevention departments.

According to a report by Global Market Insights, self-checkout and mobile pay commerce will top $4 billion by 2024. A survey by SOTI revealed that 66 percent of shoppers prefer self-checkout, and 77 percent said they would be “somewhat comfortable” in a retail setting where self-checkout was the only technology offered.

Nevertheless, allowing shoppers to scan their own items can also create more headaches for loss prevention departments. In Europe, where self-checkout is more common, there’s some evidence of higher rates of theft.

Coupon company Voucher Codes Pro surveyed more than 2,600 people and found nearly 20 percent admitted to stealing from self-checkout in the past; half said they did so because they didn’t think they would get caught.

DSW strides toward the future with new store concepts

A couple of years ago, customer intercepts, exit interviews and store data from DSW showed that the footwear and accessories retailer was indeed delivering on its famed breadth of assortment. But the other shoe was about to drop: Along with the positives came a more challenging revelation that was “a bit of a shock.”

“Customers were saying it feels like an open football field, layered in shoes, and they weren’t really sure where they should go on the journey,” says Simon Nankervis, DSW Inc. chief commercial officer. “We’d always seen that as one of our core strengths … . It was almost like juxtaposition: ‘We want this large breadth of assortment you offer, but we want you to give it to us in a different way.’”

So DSW, long known as an innovator in the big box space, pushed that innovation a few steps further. Its recently announced new brand mission tackles not only the presentation of assortment; it also revamps its rewards program, blurs the lines between online and in-store experiences, adds spaces for services like pedicures and shoe repair, advances philanthropic connections and introduces proprietary technology for store associates.

The Home Depot’s digital strategy to exceed customer expectations

Picture the dusty, hard-working professional contractor at the end of a long day, tapping out the next day’s job orders — a new supply of nails, screws and bolts, or perhaps additional two-by-fours — from a laptop, smartphone or tablet into The Home Depot’s app.

Come the next morning, the “pro,” the home improvement chain’s branded reference for its professional-contractor customers, shows up at a nearby store to grab the needed supplies ahead of the day’s work.

This is an image relished by The Home Depot as it focuses on ensuring its customers have an array of digital tools on hand during their engagement with the retail leader, whether those customers are pros, do-it-yourselfers seeking expert help on projects or casual shoppers. Going all out to connect its more than 2,200 stores across North America with customer-facing digital applications has been an aggressive priority for the company — one that shows no signs of letting up.

6 ways Gen Zers are extraordinary consumers

If retailers thought millennials were a tech-driven, hard-to-understand generation, they might be in for a surprise with their kids. Members of Generation Z — already totaling 2.5 billion across the globe with 60 million in the United States alone — have access to $44 billion in buying power with a high ratio of discretionary spending.

Born into the world of connectivity as “digital natives,” Gen Z already has the highest digital expectations. Superior customer service is a bare minimum, many expect same-day shipping, and any retailer that doesn’t offer an exceptional mobile experience is seen as irrelevant. Despite their digital preferences, members of Gen Z are also more traditional shoppers, embracing the in-store experience as a form of not only education but entertainment.

To be successful in coming years, retailers must start appealing to this generation now by refining the in-store experience, optimizing mobile and social media strategies and creating a digitally connected personalized experience across all channels.

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