German grocer Aldi is spreading its upscale-ish-food-in-a-no-frills-box concept to 150 more U.S. stores this year, and BJ’s is eliminating the checkout line, while Ethan Allen and Shinola are looking to solve the shopper-personalization puzzle.
Aldi CEO: Investing $3.5 Billion To Boast 2,500 U.S. Stores By 2022
German supermarket retailer Aldi, whose barebones, warehouse-style stores that sell food like award-winning wine and cheese at prices that can undercut even Walmart, has made its U.S. expansion binge priority No. 1, Jason Hart, Aldi CEO, told me.
“This year, we’re forecasting over 150 additional openings, including new stores in existing markets such as Florida, Texas, California and the mid-Atlantic region,” he said.
Aldi operates more than 1,750 stores today in 35 states, and “we’re investing $3.4 billion to increase our store count to 2,500 by 2022.” The retailer will additionally remodel and expand 400 existing stores this year.
What’s more, Hart expects its ongoing focus on “providing fresh, good-for-you, on trend products” will continue to woo Aldi devotees.
BJ's CEO: Eliminating Shoppers’ Wait In Line
Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images
Boosting shopper convenience tops BJ's 2018 goals, president and CEO Chris Baldwin told me at a party held by boutique investment firm Financo during the NRF show last week.
To that end, the East Coast warehouse club chain is rolling out its scan-and-go, mobile checkout perk, whereby shoppers skip the wait in line to all 214 locations this year. (It debuted in October in a small set of stores.)
That push is not surprising amid rival Sam’s Club’s Scan and Go rollout and the hubbub surrounding Amazon Go, the online giant’s pay-and-go concept store in Seattle that debuted this week.
Sending shoppers more customized offers and coupons is another 2018 priority, Baldwin said. The warehouse club is now tapping predictive analytics technology to do just that, culling from the rich gold mine of consumer data from shopper memberships, Baldwin said. The tech has increased BJ’s ability to send “specific offers to specific members,” he said.
Ethan Allen CEO: Stoking A ‘Culture’ Of Personal Service
Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. President and CEO Farooq Kathwari Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg
Personalizing shopper interactions is also top of mind for Ethan Allen Interiors, said Farooq Kathwari, CEO of the furniture retailer, with 300 stores in the U.S. and abroad.
Stoking the one-on-one relationships between consumers and the chain’s 1,500 in-house designers is central to that goal, he said. The idea is to “create a culture” where the shopping experience combines personal service enhanced by technology. For example, “Every night, [hundreds of] designers are chatting with customers online,” he said.
To cultivate that dynamic, Kathwari asks employees to send him stories of how “they’ve worked with a client to create … a ‘wow’ experience.”
Ethan Allen is coming off a year marked by some untraditional partnerships. The retailer launched a design site on Amazon, debuted an exclusive Disney collection, and started shipping home furnishings orders to Department of State employees abroad. But the initiatives have to date yielded tepid results, according to Christina Fernandez, analyst with Telsey Advisory Group, in a research note this week. “Ethan Allen got a good share of the State Dept. contract, but the Disney collection underperformed projections and the Amazon design center that launched last September has not driven significant sales so far,” she said in the note.
Shinola President: Serving The ‘Voice Of The Consumer'
“Our greatest priority is product: What informs that is knowing the customer,” Jacques Panis, president of Shinola, told me following a Financo session. “I can’t make a bag for you unless I know you.”
The Detroit centric lifestyle brand, whose watches put it on the map, is diving into “voice-of-the-consumer” research this year, which includes deploying product teams to the homes of shoppers and taking their pulse on social platforms to get an in-depth read on the brands and shopping experiences that speak to them — and the ones that don’t, he said.
What’s more, “the most precious thing in life is time,” Panis said. Shinola will be looking for ways “it can save you minutes everyday in the shopping experience.”
Container Store CEO: Focusing On ‘Differentiators’
Home storage emporium The Container Store will play up its proprietary merchandise this year while focusing on nurturing an agile business that’s responsive to market shifts, said Melissa Reiff, chief executive officer of the 86-store chain.
“In 2018, The Container Store will continue to innovate across all areas of our business, testing and learning, making necessary and impactful changes to provide the best customer brand experience in-store and online, as our world of retail continues to rapidly evolve,” she said. “We will be nimble, decisive, and execute strategically and thoughtfully against our initiatives with intense focus on our [exclusive] Custom Closets business and our many other differentiators.”
In May 2017, The Container Store set forth a four-part optimization plan to boost profits, which included layoffs of certain full-time positions as well as cost-savings efforts. The retailer forecasted that the plan would generate annualized pre-tax savings of $20 million.
Story CEO Rachel Shechtman: California Dreaming
STORY CEO and founder Rachel Shechtman (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York)
Concept shop Story in New York City, which has revolving merchandising themes literally built around a story and has been the poster child for experiential retailing, is eyeing a second store in Los Angeles this year. Rachel Shechtman, CEO, told me that “growing the company” tops her 2018 goals.