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NRF projects growth for retail industry

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Retail industry sales are expected to rise, albeit not at the same pace as 2011, according to the National Retail Federation.

Retail industry sales will rise 3.4% to $2.53 trillion, NRF said, compared with a pace of 4.7% in the year-ago period. The expected slowdown in consumer spending, NRF said, will be influenced by a number of factors, including stalled unemployment rate and lack of newly-created jobs. But despite the lower projection, the industry is expected to garner stronger numbers than other industries, NRF said.

“Over the last 18 months, retailers have been on the forefront of the economic recovery — creating jobs, encouraging consumer spending, and investing in America,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Our 2012 forecast is a vote of confidence in the retail industry and our ability to succeed even in a challenging economy. Retailers have played a key role in driving growth, but to continue this momentum we need Washington to act on proposals that will spur job creation and unleash the power of the private sector.”

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AisleBuyer upgrades mShop platform

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — AisleBuyer has unveiled the latest edition of its commerce platform and self-checkout application.

AisleBuyer CEO Andrew Paradise said the platform upgrade of mShop "was designed to meet the needs of retailers at any stage of mobile commerce development." The company said the latest edition of mShop, which debuts at the National Retail Federation Show this week, includes such upgrades as:

  • Software development kits — available for iOS and Android — which enable retailers to customize their applications to include features and technology readily available via Web application program interfaces;

  • New Web APIs, designed to allow users to easily integrate merchandising data from other retail systems into the AisleBuyer mobile commerce platform;

  • A merchant dashboard, now available to brick-and-mortar retailers, provides a real-time view into all in-store activity, including individual shopper analysis; and

  • A redesigned consumer interface.

 

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Target gives small shops mass appeal

BY Gail Hoffer

MINNEAPOLIS — Target is bringing the experience of small, independent shops to the masses with its next design partnership, “The Shops at Target.”

Launching May 6 for a six-week run in all Target stores and online, “The Shops at Target” will provide customers with the feel of visiting some of the world’s most unique boutiques without having to travel beyond their nearest Target store.

The series will begin with five U.S. specialty stores: The Candy Store, Cos Bar, Polka Dog Bakery, Privet House and The Webster. According to a Target press release, the collections will include nearly 400 exclusive products ranging in price from $1 to $159.99. (Click here to view a video describing each store and its partnership with Target.)

“One of the reasons our guests love shopping at Target is our design partnerships. They create excitement and leave even the most loyal Target shoppers wondering what we’ll do next,” said, Brian Robinson, director of fashion and design partnerships, in a press statement. “With The Shops at Target, we’re building on that sense of discovery by offering our guests a chance to experience one-of-a-kind specialty stores and boutiques through collections that have been specifically tailored to their wants and needs.”

Robinson noted at a press event Thursday that Target purposefully focused on shops outside of New York City and Los Angeles in order to bring lesser-known shops to Target’s customers.

Rather than trying to change the stores’ to fit Target’s model, or redesigning Target to fit the stores, Target said it worked with the owners to create store-within-a-store concepts that capture the essence of the boutiques without compromising Target’s sensibilities.

This sentiment was echoed by Polka Dog Bakery co-owner Rober Van Sickle, who told Retailing Today that “working with Target was a very collaborative process, and (he and and co-owner Deb Gregg) were allowed to do what they wanted with the store.” A freedom, Van Sickle noted, not often allotted with other big-box partnerships.

According to Robinson, this level of cooperation was key to making the design series “an utter celebration of these shops,” and giving the owners the chance to bring their signature store experience to Target customers.

For The Candy Store owners, Diane and Brian Campbell, this means eliciting that feeling of nostalgia when customers see their favorite childhood treats. Diane Campbell said she wants visitors to her Target store to feel like a kid in a candy store, and believes people will react with pure joy.

As with its other design partnerships, Target expects “The Shops” to deliver spikes in demand on its website. Stacia Andersen, SVP merchandising for home, assured press that the retailer’s Web team is in place and that they learned a great deal from the unprecedented popularity of its Missoni collection.

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