IKEA not coming to India, not yet

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, June 14, 2009

IKEA has scrapped their plans of setting shops in India.  The Sweden-based Furniture giant shelved plans to foray into retail business in India until the Indian government allows 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in single-brand retailing in the country.

From Economic Times:

IKEA, which was hoping to invest $1 billion in India to establish a retail chain including stores in Delhi and Mumbai, was disappointed by what it perceived to be a lack of an early government action in the issue, the officials said. The investment was to flow through the single-brand FDI window and the furniture giant had hired staff for the retail venture and was preparing for a significant foray into the Indian market.
Swedish company was hoping that the government will raise the FDI limit in this segment to 100% from the existing 51%. With the government indicating that it has no immediate plans of raising the FDI limit for single-brand retail, the company has indicated that it did not want to enter the Indian market now. A number of global brands, such as Reebok and Louis Vuitton, French Connection and Jimmy Choo, are present here through the single-brand retail window.

Unilever to Test Mobile Coupons

by Deepak Sharma on Friday, May 29, 2009

Unilever is beginning a trial to test a new technology that lets consumers redeem digital coupons by having a supermarket cashier scan their mobile phones. Interest in Mobile coupons is growing day by day and these tests will allow Unilever to understand the use of them.

Unilever to Test Mobile Coupons - WSJ.com

The test, being conducted at a ShopRite store in Hillsborough, N.J., will include discount offers for some of the Anglo-Dutch packaged-goods company's most popular brands, including Breyers ice cream, Dove soap, Hellmann's mayonnaise and Lipton tea. Samplesaint, a Chicago mobile-technology firm, developed the system.

"This has been a Holy Grail thing that people have been trying to figure out," says Marc Shaw, director of integrated marketing at Unilever, the first major marketer to test such a service in the U.S. "I think this is on target for where consumers' heads are at right now."

To get the coupons, customers must visit the Web site Samplesaint.com, from which they can transmit the Unilever discount offers to an Internet-enabled cellphone. At checkout, the cashier scans the bar code on the phone's screen, redeeming the coupon and deleting it from the phone. The test will run for four weeks, and Mr. Shaw says he hopes to see it extended to other stores after that.

12 Worst Mistakes in Retail Technology and How to Avoid Them

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, May 24, 2009

Watch Retail Speaker & Retail Consultant Jim Dion talk about 12 worst mistakes in Retail Technology and how to avoid them.

Retailers continue to invest in future development despite recession

by Deepak Sharma

According to a recent survey from SAP (done in conjunction with British Retail Consortium), more than 51% retailers are looking at different channels to increase revenue and are moving online in a big way. Another big outcome was the fact that 54% of respondents to the survey believe that focusing on improving the customer experience will be the key driver to surviving the downturn.

Read More: Improving the customer experience is key to surviving the downturn

More competition to Pharmacies from Wal-Mart

by Deepak Sharma on Monday, May 04, 2009

WSJ.com is reporting that Wal-Mart is offering businesses low-priced drugs if they sign up to buy directly from Wal-Mart's network of in-store pharmacies, rather than contracting to buy drugs through third parties known as pharmacy-benefit managers. This will heat up competition for other Pharmacies and Retailers by increasing footfall to Wal-Mart stores. And you all know what happens when you visit a store like Wal-Mart, you tend to buy lot more than what you go in for.

Apparently the Pilot companies have already seen benefit from buying directly from Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart began a trial of its program in September with heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar Co., which provides prescription coverage for 70,000 employees and their dependents. Wal-Mart negotiated a fixed markup over its cost for the drugs it sells to Caterpillar's employees under the heavy-equipment maker's in-house insurance. Though Wal-Mart doesn't reveal the costs to Caterpillar, they are verified by a third party. The markup guarantees a profit for Wal-Mart, while reducing the cost to Caterpillar.Todd Bisping, who manages Caterpillar's drug-benefits program, said the company was able to reduce its drug costs enough that it waived copayments on generic prescriptions bought from Wal-Mart.

Video: How Best Buy Uses Social Technologies To Change Internal Culture

by Deepak Sharma on Friday, April 17, 2009

Jeremiah Owyang has a video on how Best Buy uses social technologies internally. I agree with Jeremiah that success of Social Media hinges on how many employees really believe and are active users of all things Social. Check it out here, Video: How Best Buy Uses Social Technologies To Change Internal Culture.

Virtual Reality for Shopping Research

by Deepak Sharma

Virtual Reality Simulations of Stores can provide a peek into the mind of consumers while being easy on Retailers pockets. Brandweek has a story on how consumer research firms are offering programs which allow Virtual Reality simulations of Stores, Virtual Shopping, Real Results

“We instruct respondents to shop as they normally would and ask them which displays capture the most attention,” said Covkin. “Because it’s virtual, you can change things on the fly.”
Testing new products in a real store environment would be too expensive and time-consuming, Covkin said. “In the perfect world, we’d be testing everything in a real store environment. However, due to the time it takes to implement an effective test and get compliance with retailers, the cost is enormous.”

Crowdsourcing coming to Retailers

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, April 05, 2009

Over the last couple of years, we have been seeing a surge in the crowdsourcing idea and innovation sites. Dell has Ideastorm, P&G has Connect+Develop. All the sites express their needs clearly and allows customers and partners to suggest new ideas. Retailers have picked the trend, first it was Starbuck with Mystarbucksidea, now Campbell has joined these companies by launching CampbellIdeas.com.

From Supermarketnews:

Campbell Soup Company (NYSE: CPB) is inviting scientists, entrepreneurs and inventors to submit their ideas via a new Web site called “Campbell’s Ideas for Innovation.” The site, which can be accessed at www.campbellideas.com, has been established to provide an easy way for people to submit their innovative ideas to Campbell for evaluation.

Campbell is focused on generating ideas in the areas of new products, packaging innovation, product line extensions, environmental sustainability, business processes and marketing. The company also is interested in new technologies related to sodium reduction, vegetable nutrition and healthier fats and oils.

We will see more and more retailers coming on board and using customers and partners for Idea Innovation.

SAP for Retail Solution Adoption Increases in India

by Deepak Sharma on Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SAP has been making giant leaps in India with increased adoption of its software in retail industry. I had blogged about the same few months back and that time SAP had over 60 Retailers to talk about, the list now has gone upto 72.

Over 72 leading retailers, including DLF Retail, Khadim Jewellers, Fresh & Honest Cafe, Super Religare Laboratories and Religare Wellness Limited, Dimexon Diamonds and C Mahendra, have simplified business processes, reduced cost and adapted to the changing industry landscape with the adoption of SAP for retail solutions.

Retailers are using SAP for building end to end solutions and not just as ERP.

In the retail sector, technology is deployed not only in accounting and human resource management, but also in core functions like buying, merchandising and store management.
"IT applications are witnessing adoption from the very beginning till the 'last mile' of the business operation for most retail functions and the key solutions being looked upon by retailers in India today are ERP/ERM solutions, supply chain management (SCM), inventory management and security solutions," said Arpan Gupta, manager-services, BPO & Industry Verticals Research, IDC India.

Retailers across the board are using SAP technology for greater visibility into consumer spending trends. Among the latest implementation of SAP in India is DLF's foray into retail - adopting SAP for retail solutions including SAP POS.

5 Key Trends From NRF Which May Separate The “Has Beens,” The “Survivors” & “Thrivers”

by Deepak Sharma on Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Via Microsoft Retail & Hospitality Newsletter, got to read the Retail TouchPoints insightful article on the 5 key trends they observed in this year’s NRF event.  The retailers who are able to manage the following 5 trends will emerge the winners in this downtrend. The Key trends include, Efficiency/Cost Savings, Analytics/Business Intelligence, Customer Centricity, Connected Channels and The Arrival Of Mobile Commerce.

Read more here, 5 Key Trends From NRF Which May Separate The “Has Beens,” The “Survivors” & “Thrivers”

StorefrontBacktalk -P&G’s Decision To Pull Back From Wal-Mart RFID Trial Quite Understandable

by Deepak Sharma on Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thought provoking article by StorefrontBackTalk on P&G’s decision to pull back from Wal-Mart RFID Trial. Key takeaway, The test failed and not the technology.

P&G’s Decision To Pull Back From Wal-Mart RFID Trial Quite Understandable

Say what you will about RFID, but it is the picture-perfect companion for hyperbole. Any development is either instant death for RFID or the magic trend that will make item-level RFID universal by late Friday morning.

It’s therefore not surprising that so much has been made of the decision by Procter & Gamble (P&G) to abandon its tagged promotional displays at Wal-Mart. On the one hand, this can be seen as a setback for such tagging projects. P&G touted the effectiveness of its display tagging project often.

Given P&G’s reputation for ROI worship, many assumed the company pulled the plug because RFID was failing the test.

What is closer to the truth is that the test failed, not the technology. And to the extent that Wal-Mart was as much a player in this trial as P&G, it could also be said that the test didn’t fail, the tester did.

NRF Annual 2009 Coverage

by Deepak Sharma on Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For all those who are not able to go to the NRF Annual Convention (which is currently on, Jan 11-14), here are few links which gives the dope on the big things being announced/discussed in the convention.

-- NRF's event blog – Covers Q&As with speakers, show highlights etc.

-- A lot of news coming from Microsoft, 1. Accenture, Avanade and Microsoft Announce Multi-Channel Retail Initiative, 2. Microsoft Releases Windows Embedded POSReady 2009, 3. Microsoft launches The Retail Experience Center. You can read other Microsoft NRF related stories here, Microsoft Retail: Press Materials.

-- Shop.org Member blog – Good coverage of the convention, some recent topics discussed included Digital Retailing , Investing in E-Commerce in 2009.

Microsoft Tag – Endless possibilities for Retailers

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, January 11, 2009

In the recently conducted Consumer Electronic Show, Microsoft launched Microsoft Tag, real innovative concept to connect mobile barcodes (or tags) on physical objects to online content (opening mobile content, videos, music, contact information, promotions etc). The tag appears as shown below (this one will tag you to my blog, Retail Technology Blog).


From Microsoft Tag website:

Microsoft Tag creates unlimited possibilities for making interactive communications an instant, entertaining part of life. They tranform physical media (print advertising, billboards,product packages, information signs, in-store merchandising, or even video images)—into live links for accessing information and entertainment online.

With the Microsoft Tag application, just aim your camera phone at a Tag and instantly access mobile content, videos, music, contact information, maps, social networks, promotions, and more. Nothing to type, no browsers to launch!

The sophisticated technology powering Microsoft Tag, High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs), was invented by Microsoft Research. It was designed from the ground up for maximum performance with the limited cameras on most mobile phones. Advanced image-processing techniques decode even out-of-focus barcode images, which means Microsoft Tag works with the fixed-focus camera lenses common in most mobile devices.

The advanced computer imaging of HCCBs employs different symbol shapes in geometric patterns and multiple colors to provide more information in less space.

The possibilities are endless for retailers, consider the following scenarios:

-- You go to a store and check out a box of cereals, you see Microsoft tag on the box, you use your Mobile phone Microsoft Tag Reader and you could be shown promotion around the box, you can compare prices with other brand of cereals etc.

-- You go to a store and check out Morningstar Farms Maple Flavored Sausage Patties box and using Microsoft Tag Reader app on your iPhone you are taken to the MSN Chef to the rescue website and are shown Recipes around the product. You are also shown the nutrition information about the product. This will ensure that you buy other ingredients along with the product for the recipe you just decided.

-- You buy a Laptop from Electronics and see a Microsoft Tag on the backside of Laptop. You click it using Microsoft Tag Reader app on your mobile and voila, you just registered your Laptop. You may also be shown the accessories you can buy for your laptop.

These are just few uses I could think on top of my head, there could be 100’s of such scenarios both offline and online. I definitely see Microsoft Tags being targeted by Retailers soon. You can try the app out, here, http://www.microsoft.com/tag/content/download/.

Holidays over, now comes the returns

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, January 04, 2009

With holiday season over and most of the purchases done, now comes the time when consumers are expected to return holiday purchases. And to make it worse, this time it will be more than the usual.

Returned merchandise in 2008 is expected to make up 8.7% of overall sales, up from 7.3% in 2007, according to retail trade group National Retail Federation.

It will be weeks before most retailers disclose the size of their holiday returns. However, a survey of 1,000 shoppers conducted on Christmas found a whopping 86% of parents said that if their children didn't love their gifts, they would take them back for a refund or exchange, says America's Research Group, a consumer research firm.

The Charleston, S.C., firm predicts returns and exchanges during the week after Christmas would rise 50% over the same period a year earlier.

Another reason that analysts expect higher return rates is that some retailers relaxed their return polices this year to boost their appeal to jittery consumers. More than half of the 82 major retailers that the NRF surveyed in November said their holiday return policies were more lenient this season. In 2007, that was the case for only 35% of retailers that the NRF surveyed.

J.C. Penney Co., for example, allows returns for customers without a receipt if they present the credit-card used to make the purchase. Target Corp. gives customers gift cards for items up to $35 without a receipt, up from $20 last year.

CBSNews also carried a segment on Retail Returns, check the video below:

So what do Retailers do in such a scenario? Multichannel Merchant has a list of do’s and don’ts on exactly the same, Making the Most of Retail Returns.

Related: Stores loosen policies to make it easier to return holiday gifts

India’s Wal-Mart sailing through difficult times

by Deepak Sharma on Saturday, January 03, 2009

Kishore Biyani’s Future Group seems to be buoyant and is expecting all store formats to do well in current quarter.

“I don’t see a problem in this quarter. February and March are traditionally good months for us and with interest rates coming down, we hope to do well (in the quarter),” Future Group chief executive officer Kishore Biyani said.

With regard to Future Retail, Biyani said October and November were “two good months” for them in terms of sales. Then in December, it announced the three-week long Great Indian Shopping Festival, which would end on 4 January.

The Big Bazaar brand of Future Group has resonated well with the consumers for both in terms of price and value, qualities which is making Wal-Mart thrive in the downturn.

Worst Holiday Performance since 1970

by Deepak Sharma on Thursday, January 01, 2009

In what turns out to be worst holiday performance since 1970, International Council of Shopping Centers, says that based on its estimate sales in the week ended Saturday fell 1.8% below year-earlier levels, it now expects same-store sales in December to decline by at least 1%.

Discounts Fail to Save Retailers' Holiday - WSJ.com (registration reqd)

The outlook for many retailers, however, is even worse. Excluding the results of discount giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has been outperforming its rivals, sales at stores open at least a year -- a key barometer of retail performance -- could fall as much as 8% below year-earlier levels, according to Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the shopping-center group.

The ICSC expects December same-store sales to decline by 11%, 10% and 8% at J.C. Penney Co., Kohl's Corp. and Target Corp. respectively, compared with an increase of 3% at Wal-Mart.

The industry's poor performance in December follows an even more dismal November, when same-store sales at retailers tracked by the ICSC fell 2.7%, the biggest monthly drop since the group began recording year-to-year changes in sales in 1970.

The only silver lining, Wal-Mart outperforming other Retailers.

Happy New Year 2009 !!

by Deepak Sharma

Here’s wishing all the readers of this blog, a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2009 !! Hope this year brings cheers to all Retailers and Consumers and we all learn quickly to be recession proof.