Business Strategy

Shop Talk: Diana Oreck, Vice President Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center
October 18, 2006

“You tend to find ‘ah-ha’ moments in business when you look at other types of companies, step away from your environment, and open your the Ritz-Carlton, we’ve learned that it’s all about emotions, really, the connections you’re making with your customer. At the end of the day, people want to be love and be loved. I wish it wasn’t so warm and fuzzy, but it is. We take care of emotional needs, and happy people spend more money.” -Diana Oreck, Vice President Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center

Retail Promotions That Work
October 16, 2006

At Gramophone in Timonium, Md., Brian Hudkins, president, uses in-store events for purposes that can be at opposite ends of the spectrum. They range from blowout clearance sales to high-toned pow-wows for the architect/interior designer crowd, as well as more traditional come-ons that fall somewhere in between. What’s common about the events is that they are all strategized down to the smallest detail. One notable clearance sale that set the tone for future events of its type took place “on a Sunday, when we’re normally closed,” he explains. “We did a direct-mail piece and backed it by using the Real Call phone messaging service on

Rebate Alert: HD Radio
October 13, 2006

In preparation for what is bound to be a competitive holiday season for consumer electronics dollars, iBiquity, the company behind HD Radio, announced a rebate program for purchases of HD Radios—around 20—from multiple vendors. This is in addition to a number of radios the company announced it would be giving away for free in a special holiday promotion. The program started yesterday and runs through January 14, 2007, with rebates in either $25 or $50 amounts. The goal is to bring prices for consumers below around or below $200. The rebate will be offered a number of retailers, including RadioShack, Tweeter, select Circuit City

Will That Be Cash, Charge or Fingerprint?
October 12, 2006

A midwestern supermarket chain will serve as the test case for a new form of payment that doesn’t require a single piece of plastic or shred of cash. A customer need only press his or her finger to a scanner to initiate a transaction. Hy-Vee stores in Illinois and Iowa will partake in a pilot program with Pay By Touch that withdraws cash from a customer’s bank account based on a scan of their fingerprint. After spending a few minutes going through a one-time enrollment, consumers can use Pay By Touch in any participating store. During finger-initiated transactions, account numbers

MERA Opens Membership to Expediters
October 11, 2006

The Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association (MERA) announced that its opening its doors to expediters, a segment of mobile electronics not always associated with retail, but a growing one nonetheless. According to MERA, the group has expanded its Class “A” membership to allow expediters to join MERA, effective Oct. An expediter sells after-market electronics (or other mobile products) to auto dealerships, and often provides the installation services as well. While some mobile dealers count expediting as part of their business, many expediters do not operate business-to-consumer retail operations. “A number of our retail members have expanded into expediting,” said MERA’s president, Robert “Bob” Graham. “We realize, too,

The Roller Coaster Economy
October 10, 2006

The fourth quarter holiday selling season is upon us. What’s in store? Wild ride? A crash? Or just another frenetic three months of selling before everybody heads to Las Vegas for CES? In mid September, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated U.S. retail sales in August 2006 were $368.2 billion, up 0.2 percent from July and up 6.7 percent from August 2005. Total sales for June through August 2006 were up 5.6 percent from the same period a year ago. However, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased moderately in July, posted a sharp decline in August to 100.2, with an uptick

Sales Slowing, But By How Much?
October 1, 2006

The fourth quarter holiday selling season is upon us. What’s in store? Wild ride? A crash? Or just another frenetic three months of selling before everybody heads to Las Vegas for CES? In a Summer 2006 Retail Sales Outlook written for the National Retail Federation (NRF), Rosalind Wells of Wells & Associates reported U.S. retail sales averaged 7.8 percent retail sales growth in the first quarter, followed by an estimated 7.0 percent in the second quarter. Citing a “slow-down in progress,” NRF expects retail sales rates to “moderate for the balance of the year” and track at a 6.0 percent increase for

A New Look Every Minute
October 1, 2006

Cliff Crosbie, the head of global retail operations for the Finland-based Nokia corporation, had a vision a few years back for a store that would feel different every time a customer walked in the door. He sketched out some ideas … walls that constantly change color, multimedia screens instead of signs, a lounge area for adults to play with the latest smartphones … and set out to find architects and designers who would take him seriously. “I didn’t want our flagship stores to be just a ‘guy store’,” says Crosbie. “We wanted more of a boutique feel.” Crosbie ended up partnering with a variety

Changing the Definition
October 1, 2006

It’s happened to many an independent retailer who’s just dropped a couple grand updating the show floor to display the latest 1080p flatpanels: the LCDs are on the wall, HDMI cables are plugged in, and the sets are all set to illicit customer goosebumps with whatever high-definition content the local cable company is offering. Only one problem: the cable programming happens to include paid advertisements from a big box competitor, not exactly the inspirational content storeowners were looking to show off. In a year when high definition content offerings haven’t quite caught up with manufacturers’ exuburance to push microdisplays, independent retailers, especially those doing

Site Specifics
October 1, 2006

Less than a dozen years after first entering the commercial sphere, it’s fair to say that the World Wide Web has revolutionized the consumer electronics industry. For manufacturers, it has provided a way to finally present the compelling value propositions to consumers that many felt weren’t adequately provided by the retailer. For retailers, it has changed business models, with increased reliance on customer self service and much-reduced reliance on commissioned sales personnel. For consumers, it has been both a research assistant and shopping aid, and in many cases, substitutes completely for the in-store retail experience. As a result, virtually every consumer electronics company now