Thursday, February 18, 2010

The way of the whale...

Specialty apparel retailer Vineyard Vines has come a long way since it started selling neckties for men back in 1998. The Stamford, Conn.-based retailer now markets a full range of apparel and fashion accessories for men, women and children, selling its products through catalogs, call centers, 500-plus specialty and department stores, and nine brick-and-mortar stores on the East Coast.

(You know, it's the brand with that cute little whale logo).

Anyway, to keep up with its expansion and in order to create a cohesive brand experience through these various channels, Vineyard Vines sought a technology platform that would not only support growth but also tie its sales channels together.

To read how the company is doing so -- and how it's using social networking to reach customers -- read the full story by clicking here.

Did Sephora eat the Apple?

Sephora is joining the self-service wave by offering kiosk units in six airports nationwide. I recently heard about the retailer’s self-service initiative to provide some of its best-selling beauty essentials to on-the-go travelers, but I finally spotted one of its branded vending machines at the Indianapolis airport last weekend.

Operated by ZoomSystems, the kiosk is powered by touch screen technology and has a video monitor to walk customers through the process. The software is easy to use; the hardware sleek and a great extension of the brand. The units are also being tested in 20 JCPenney stores.

While playing around with the machine during my flight delay, I realized there used to be an Apple kiosk in the very same spot. What happened? Has Sephora gone and upped Apple?

Monday, February 1, 2010

McDonald's takes on Starbucks

While many retailers have lowered prices over the past year or so to retain a core-customer base, others have reaped big benefits by redefining its typical competition and targeting a new audience. For example, McDonald's is now taking on Starbucks by offering less expensive specialty drinks.

“Although McDonald’s has long promoted its dollar menu to reach its target demographic, the company started to take on a new community of consumers that were trading down,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, VP and principal at Forrester Research, during the session 'State of Online Retailing 2010.' “Instead, McDonald’s met them half way by trading up, and this worked really well for them.”

The idea of value messaging and offering the cheapest price around has worked retailers in the past, but many companies are thinking outside the box and gaining success by taking their veteran brands and trading up against new competitors, she added.

Case in point: How great is that McDonald's billboard?

(Image via

The poor little guy...

Ever since I wrote about the Twitter bird perched outside my cubicle, he often goes missing or ends up dead (as pictured above). Apparently my co-workers think they're very funny ...

Preventing social networking wildfire

As retailers expand its Twitter and Facebook initiatives, many are coming face to face with social networkers that have no problem slandering companies with negative feedback and comments left for all to see. Click here for a Chain Store Age exclusive that offers a few tips from Susan McKenna, CEO of Winnetka, Calif.-based McKenna’s Marketing, a firm specializing in social media, about how retailers can diffuse and put a quick stop to bad buzz on these sites.