CSA-Mar/Apr 2023

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March/April 2023 Target, Sam’s Club Go Big EV Charging: What retailers need to know Focus On Open-Air Centers REIMAGINING BRICK-AND-MORTAR Stores evolve to keep pace with changing landscape

Uptime is everything. When revenuegenerating assets go down, don’t get stuck without a bounce-back strategy.

Increased stress on the FM team. Longer hours. Additional repair and maintenance costs. Putting out fires to repair critical assets over other work. It all leads to more delays and a backlog of work orders.

Disruptions to service. Longer wait times. Reduced quality eroding the customer experience. It all leads to decreased customer satisfaction and loyalty. In other words, lost business.

Lost revenue. Increased repair costs. Premature asset replacement. Decreased productivity impacting the bottom line and damaging the brand reputation, potentially leading to legal or regulatory/health safety compliance issues.

At SDI, we understand that uptime is everything. That’s why it’s critical to work with a supply chain partner to develop a proactive strategy to measurably minimize downtime.

Find out how Critical Stock-as-a-Service (CSaaS) can help you improve uptime and reliability of critical revenue-generating assets by checking out SDI.com/supply-chain-services/CSaaS

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Trending Stores: Glossier continues to expand in brick-andmortar; online Babylist plans first physical store. 26

Robotic floor cleaning devices help Kum & Go free up staff for other tasks; Sam’s Club adds inventory scanning to its floor-cleaning bots.

Federal law provides incentive for investments in energy-efficiency equipment such as lighting, HVAC/hot water systems and building envelope upgrades.


Commercial lighting rebate for 2023 update finds rebate programs are getting harder to use.

4 MARCH/APRIL 2023 CHAINSTOREAGE.COM CSA (USPS 054-410; ISSN 0193-1199), is published bimonthly by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631, on a controlled basis to qualified retailer titles and architects. Real estate and shopping center owners and developers $75 per year. All other non-qualified in the United States: $80 one year; $155 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $105 one year; $185 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $115 one year; $215 two year; $16 single issue copy. Digital edition subscription: $55 one year digital; $105 two year digital. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to CSA, Circulation Fulfillment Director, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription changes may also be emailed to contact@chainstoreage.com, or call 1-877-687-7321. Vol. 98, No. 2, March/April 2023. Copyright ©2023 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. 8 from the editor’s desk 30 On the Level: A real estate column 39 tech viewpoint: a retail tech column Contents VOL. 98 MARCH/APRIL NO. 2 10 RESHAPING BRICK-AND-MORTAR With an eye on flexibility, retailers are creating stores to keep pace with the fast-changing retail landscape. COVER STORY
stations 19
What retailers need to know about EV charging
27 Special section on Chain Store Age’ s 59th annual SPECS Show, with agenda and exhibitor listing.
Store Spaces Q&A: Forbo Flooring’s Jamie Thorn talks flooring trends, sustainability, selecting the right surface for the right location and more. 24
zipwall.com info@zipwall.com 800-718-2255 DUST BARRIER SYSTEM Stay Open for Business During a Renovation! ZipWall ¨ –A Temporary Dust Barrier in Minutes  Up to 20' high  Protects store from dust  Conceals messy worksite  Easy to set up and take down
Contents VOL. 98 MARCH/APRIL NO. 2 6 MARCH/APRIL 2023 CHAINSTOREAGE.COM 30 30 Open Airs Are Everywhere Open-air centers reconfigure with greenspaces, outdoor dining, and events to keep traffic flowing all through the week. TECH REAL ESTATE 38 40 42 Retailers are leveraging more sophisticated apps that perform tasks across the enterprise. Ahold Delhaize USA sees a bright future for its retail media network. Three steps retailers should take now to take advantage of e-commerce boom 42

Five Brands to Watch in 2023

Curious about which brands will come out on top this year? So is foot traffic analytics firm Placer.ai, which has identified 10 fast-growing brands to keep an eye on in 2023.

At first glance, the brands have little, if anything, in common. But as Placer. ai noted, the companies all have one thing in common: a winning strategy for 2023.

Here’s a brief look at five of the brands.

•Whataburger: The quick-serve restaurant chain, which enjoys a cult following, grew its footprint by more than 100 locations between 2019 and 2022 to 923 units, and visits have increased accordingly. From January to November 2022, Whataburger significantly outperformed 2019, and also dramatically outperformed nationwide quick-serve traffic.

Whataburger is known for staying open 24 hours a day, a significant draw at a time when more and more restaurants are closing earlier.

“The combination of Whataburger’s cult status, its new focus on expansion, and its late-night hours in the context of a shifting dining landscape all bode well for the chain heading into 2023,” Placer. ai said.

•Wawa: Overall foot traffic at one of the Northeast’s most popular convenience store chains has increased steadily in recent years — and so have its menu offerings. Elevated food offerings and an extremely loyal customer base have helped fuel its growth.

With nearly 1,000 locations, Wawa has unveiled plans to expand to several new states, including Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. It’s looking to nearly double its footprint during the next 10 years.

•Grocery Outlet: The extremevalue grocer gets most of its products via opportunistic buying, explained Placer.ai, and works with brands with excess inventories or whose packaging changes force them to offload items at bargain-basement prices.

Amid today’s elevated food prices, Grocery Outlet has emerged as a key destination for bargain-seeking shoppers.

Based in Emeryville, Calif., Grocery Outlet has ramped up its cross-country expansion in recent years, growing from 316 stores in 2019 to more than 400 locations in 2022. It continues to expand, and recently opened its third location in New Jersey.

•Five Below: A signature $5 price threshold, on-trend products and a colorful environment have made Five Below a go-to destination for tweens and teens.

With more than 1,300 stores, the discounter has one of the most aggressive expansion programs in specialty retail, with plans to triple its footprint by 2030. The company is looking to open another 1,000 stores by 2025.

Five Below has also initiated an ambitious remodel program as its customers have proved willing to trade up. The retailer is converting 400-plus stores this year to its new “Five Beyond” format, which houses a dedicated in-store shop featuring higher-priced items.

•Boot Barn: The California-based, Western-focused shoe and apparel retailer found success by expanding into underserved markets — with a focus on areas considered “flyover states” by some retail execs.

Boot Barn’s recent growth came as the chain has deftly widened its appeal to a larger and more diverse group of customers, including fashion-forward shoppers.

As it focuses on expanding in the Northeast, Boot Barn, which has 336 stores, has upped its long-term store count to 900 locations.



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FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631 (773) 992-4450 Fax (773) 992-4455 www.chainstoreage.com 8 MARCH/APRIL 2023 CHAINSTOREAGE.COM



CSA is now accepting nominations for “Retail’s Top Women Awards” program, which is designed to put a spotlight on the achievements of female retail executives in the following categories:

The program encompasses all sectors of the retail industry, including, department stores, discounters, grocers, specialty stores, convenience stores, DTC brands and more.

All Retail’s Top Women winners will be recognized at a virtual gala awards celebration in June.

Only women who work in a senior executive role for a retail company are eligible for consideration.

The nomination deadline is April 3, 2023

For more information or to submit your nomination(s), visit chainstoreage.com/nominate-retails-top-women

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E-commerce. New real estate strategies. Staffing shortages. Increased operating costs. Personalization. Buy-onlinepickup-in-store. Changing shopping behaviors.

These are among the considerations that retailers are factoring in as they plan new stores and retrofit existing ones. More than three years after the disruption of in-store shopping, many retailers are rethinking and reimagining their stores, with an eye to creating spaces that work for shoppers as well as staff and incorporate features that gained momentum during the pandemic.

BOPIS, for example, has emerged as a must-have strategic element for many retailers and increasingly figures into a store’s design. So have dedicated spaces for curbside pickup.

“We’re working with several retail clients now to explore new format ideas and how existing stores will need to evolve,” said Joseph Bona, founding partner, Bona Design Lab, New York City.

Retailers across the spectrum are rethinking their box, Bona added, including convenience store chains who are joining other retailers in embracing technology that supports quick in-and-out.

Depending on the format, a fast-and-efficient shopping experience is often top of mind for today’s in-store shopper.

“This means retailers need to provide quick checkout options, speedy delivery and pickup, and other ways to minimize wait times,” said Jeff Nader, design services, api(+), Tampa, Fla.

In a trend that continues to pick up steam, more and more retailers are integrating online convenience within their physical locations. Walmart, for example, recently closed two locations (one in Bentonville, Ark., and the other in Lincolnwood, Ill.) devoted exclusively to pickup and delivery operations. The reason behind the closings: The retail giant has added those very services to thousands of full-service locations since the two stores opened.

Target Corp. has been rolling out new features for its curbside pickup service. The chain is going nationwide with an option that allows customers to use the Target app to return an item to the store from the comfort of their car.

Flexible: MJ Munsell, chief creative officer at MG2, Seattle, said that retailers need to be nimble to accommodate ongoing shifts. Operational issues, she added, especially location volatility, are affecting all retailers. Now, more than ever, it’s time to check under the hood.

“Retailers need to carefully consider co-tenants, traffic counts, proximity of amenities, ease of access and real estate costs,”

Munsell advised. “It’s no longer a given that going into an inline mall location is the best strategy.”

Bath & Body Works is among the companies re-examining its real estate strategy. The specialty retailer plans to open about 90 off-mall stores and close some 50 mall locations this year. It shuttered 48 stores last year, with the majority in malls, and opened about 95 off-mall locations last year.

Retailers are also paying attention to outside-the-box selling spaces.

“We’ve seen an uptick in pop-up stores and other temporary retail formats, which offer retailers greater flexibility and lower overhead costs,” noted api(+)’s Nader. “These formats allow retailers to showcase new products and concepts without committing to long construction schedules and permitting delays.”

Alternative spaces also include retail trailers or sampling vehicles that reach customers where they live or work.

The notion of flexibility extends beyond location. Layouts and open concepts that can be easily reimagined offer retailers the adaptability they need to keep up with today’s fast-changing retail environment. Modular furnishings do the same.

As retailers reconsider their boxes, many are taking a more flexible approach to store size. Target Corp. has debuted a larger-format store that, at 150,000 sq. ft., is more than 20,000 sq.ft. larger than its average location.

The company plans to open about 20 new stores this year in a variety of sizes. (See story on page 12.)

The discounter will include design elements that reflect the local community, from native landscaping to localized product offerings, in many of its new and remodeled stores.

Target debuted its new larger footprint in Katy, Texas. At nearly 150,000 sq.ft., the store is more than 20,000 sq. ft. larger than the chain average.
With an eye on flexibility, stores evolve to keep pace with shifting retail landscape

Technology: As store designs evolve, back-of-house and frontof-house technologies are now driving changes for an increasing number of retailers. Think automated inventory management systems, robotic shelf scanners and even autonomous shopping carts that follow customers around the store.

“Retailers are using automation to improve efficiency and reduce costs,” said Nader.

Experts agree that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AI) are gaining wider acceptance in store environments. Nader said his firm’s clients are looking to use more VR and AI to provide customers with immersive shopping experiences.

“For example, he said, “customers can use VR headsets to try on clothes, visualize furniture in their home, or see how a product will look in real life and, in some cases, catch a meet and greet with a brand ambassador.”

Amid all the changes, however, the traditional tenets of good retailing still apply, including overall experience, assortment and accessibility.

“Shoppers still want the [shopping] experience to exceed their expectations,” said Munsell. “They want brand authenticity, inventory levels that are inspiring, and service levels that meet their needs.”

The in-store experience remains the strongest marketing tool for a brand, and formats need to be nimble to accommodate ongoing shifts, she added.

Munsell envisions a flexible physical environment that meets customers on their own terms — service when they want it, self-service when they want it. The environment might include moments that surprise and delight as well as technology that offers friction-free transactions, access to inventory and use of personal tablets for customer files, preferences and records.

Technology is allowing the MG2 design team to extend the notion of BOPIS for Brilliant Earth, a digitally native brand offering ethically sourced fine jewelry. Brilliant Earth has grown to nearly two dozen stores since its founding in 2005 as an online retailer. MG2 handled design duties as Brilliant Earth sought to expand its appointment-only showrooms.

“We want technology to create a seamless flow from the digital

interface to the in-store experience,” Munsell explained. “It involves systems that enable a customer to select pieces [online] in advance and have them available by appointment when they come into the store.”

The system allows Brilliant Earth to keep a very limited inventory on location, which reduces the total amount needed in any one region.

In contrast, technology is used primarily for entertainment — live in-store feeds, Instagram moments and the like— as well as brand awareness and engagement for another MG2 client, iconic footwear brand Hush Puppies.

For selling environments, the MG2 team a created a kit of scaled parts with fixtures, flooring, shelving, furniture, lighting, ceiling baffles, environmental graphic designs and display graphics (including a hand-illustrated wallcovering of the brand’s basset hound mascot).

The elements are all adaptable to specific locations in a variety of formats, from flagship locations to in-store shops and kiosks.

Looking Five Years Out

How will physical stores evolve during the next five years?

Chain Store Age spoke with Richard Hodos, vice chairman, retail, JLL, offered these predictions.

• Stores will be smaller and more efficient. Larger flagshiptype stores will continue to exist in major cities across the globe, but will be limited in number. Many chain retailers will want to have smaller stores closer to where people live (and now, in many instances, also work.) The neighborhood store will thrive.

“Chains will need to adapt to become unique versions of themselves in order to be considered part of the local community,” Hodos said.

• Great design will be paramount. Store environments will become less “static” and more adaptable as seasons change. Luxury stores will become a refuge — almost a spa-like experience — to create a mental “vacation” for the luxe customer apart from what is happening in the real world.

• Artificial intelligence (AI) will play an increasing role as more and more technology is added to physical stores. AI will be used to assist in higher degrees of personalization and for store wayfinding.

• Combining experiences with shopping will gain even more momentum. More apparel stores, for example, will provide food and beverage experiences within.

• The store will “do more.” Increasingly, physical stores will delight, entertain and serve multiple functions, from acting as showrooms for items ordered on line to fulfillment centers for items to be picked up or returned in store.

Janet Groeber is a Cincinnati-based business writer and director of the Retail Design Institute. Technology is used mostly for fun, including live in-store feeds, and brand awareness at Hush Puppies.


Target, Sam’s Club go bigger to meet needs of omnichannel shoppers

At a time when many retailers are downsizing to smaller-format stores, Target Corp. and Sam’s Club are betting that bigger is better — especially when it comes to supporting same-day services.

Target Corp.’s new store strategy involves a bigger footprint with more space for fulfillment of online orders. At 150,000 sq. ft., the discounter’s new larger-format store, which made its debut in late 2022 in Katy, Texas, is more than 20,000 sq. ft. larger than a typical Target.

The store is designed with a larger backroom fulfillment space to help support Target’s continuing growth in fulfilling sameday online orders from its stores. (Target stores fulfill more than 95% of the retailer’s digital orders and same-day services accounting for more than 10% of its overall sales.)

The larger stores also give Target extra space to offer a more complete assortment of merchandise, from expanded food and beverage offerings to exclusive brand partnerships.

In addition to the larger format, Target has reimagined its store design, with a more open layout and new elements to better serve customers and employees. Larger windows and a more open layout bring in more natural light.

The design infuses elements such as plants and regionally sourced reclaimed wood to create a welcoming space. Community-focused elements, from native exterior landscaping to localized product offerings, help connect the store to the surrounding locale.

To serve its employees when they are off the sales floor, the updated design has flexible rooms — complete with comfortable furniture — that can be easily rearranged to serve a team’s varying needs.

Target stores and operations play a pivotal role in its goal to

achieve net zero emissions by 2040. The retailer’s new stores and remodels will include updates such as natural (CO2) refrigerants to help lower emissions and EV charging ports for customers Many locations will include rooftop solar panels.

Starting in 2023, more than half of Target’s full store remodels and almost all the retailer’s new stores will include elements of the new design. Beginning in 2024, all of Target’s remodels and new stores will feature the majority of the reimagined design elements.

Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club is embarking on its most aggressive expansion in years. The Walmart Inc.-owned membership warehouse club retailer plans to open more than 30 new clubs across the United States during the next several years. Sam’s, which operates approximately 600 stores in the U.S., including Puerto Rico, has not opened a new club in years.

Notably, the new Sam’s Clubs will be approximately 160,000 sq. ft., which is about 20,000 sq. ft. larger than most current locations. The extra space will allow for significant expansion in the stores’ omni-fulfillment footprint, with a dedicated space for curbside pickup, delivery to home and ship-from-club orders. The area will include walk-in coolers and expanded doors for outgoing delivery truck efficiency.

The new clubs will also boast a larger healthcare space, with a patient waiting area, health services suites, private consultation rooms and dedicated hearing and optical centers.

Sustainable: Sustainability will play a prominent role in Sam’s new locations . The company is designing its future clubs with zero-emission strategies built in through electrification of equipment, including electric ovens, HVAC equipment, water heating systems, and low-emissions refrigeration systems.

The retailer is also committed to installing energy-efficient LED lighting, electric vehicle charging stations for delivery vehicles and new “green” refrigerant in its new locations.

An outdoor carport canopy marks the dedicated drive up space at Target’s larger-format store in Katy, Texas. Sam’s Club’s new locations will average approximately 160,000 sq. ft.
Reimagine. Innovate. Execute. March 19-21 Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Grapevine, TX Exclusively produced by: chainstoreage.com Visit SPECSshow.com

The Future Is Electric

What retailers need to know about EV charging stations

Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations add a new and valuable amenity to brick-and-mortar locations, acting like a magnet to attract loyal, repeat customers. Once inside, EV drivers stay longer — and shop — so that their cars can charge. It’s a win-win.

Today, perception and reputation are currency in the retail industry — how customers think about a retailer is consequential. And as customers become more environmentally conscious, a focus on sustainability goes a long way.

Providing EV charging on-site also contributes to a business’s sustainability strategy. Supporting the transition to electric transportation demonstrates a retailer’s care for the environment. It’s not just a sustainability conversation or a business decision. It’s both.

When considering adding EV infrastructure as a future-proof amenity to your physical locations, here are four key things to consider.

1Charging Speeds

EV charging isn’t overly complex but there are decisions to make. The first decision involves what charger type will be used. There are two main options: Level 2 (or “L2”) and DC fast chargers (or “L3”). Using an L2 charger an EV charges in three to eight hours, while fast chargers can get an EV to 80% fuel after 15 to 45 minutes.

While many equate faster with better, not every business is best suited for fast chargers. A movie theater or restaurant — locations with longer dwell times — would be well-positioned for an L2 charger. On the other hand, a pharmacy where customers are hoping to get in and out quickly would be better served by a fast charger.

Charger speed can also be used strategically to shape the desired customer behavior. A restaurant trying to encourage its customers to stay for an extra course,

drink, or dessert (or all three) would benefit from an L2 charger.

2Power Source

Next, it’s time to decide where the power for the station will come from. L2 charging stations require less power and the electricity needed can be pulled from the business and existing power capabilities.

Fast chargers are different because they need a lot of power to charge an EV rapidly. In this case, utilities must be engaged because a direct source of energy is needed. The EV charging provider must have a clear line of communication and a good relationship with the utility to ensure an easy integration process, taking the responsibility off the retailer’s shoulders.

3Ongoing Maintenance

It’s easy to forget about what happens after that red ribbon is cut and shiny new charging stations are turned on — but here’s a reminder not to. EV charging providers differ in maintenance policies. Some only sell their equipment and place the responsibility of installation and upkeep on the buyer. Others offer end-to-end maintenance. Representatives from these charging companies might even check in on their station and its functionality.

Depending on a business’s resources and capabilities, this factor may be of great or little importance. But when it comes to EV charging, reliability is crucial. Drivers count on charging stations, and they will remember the one that didn’t work in their moment of need. They will also fall into the habit of visiting the stations that always work. If businesses want to own these stations, a strong maintenance plan of action is imperative.

4Location of Charger

It’s vital to consider where on the

property the charging stations will provide the most user-friendly experience. By placing EV chargers in front of the business, the customer is provided with a premium parking spot and a valuable amenity.

Non-EV driving customers should ideally have a clear view of the EV charging stations, giving them increased confidence that charging is available where and when they want it should they decide to switch to electric.

One last point on the location: The size of the charging station will also affect where the station goes. There is a perfect balance of optics, space, and charger demand for everyone, but it may take patience to find it. Ultimately, front and center charging stations convey convenience and increased confidence, all while strengthening the perception of the businesses’ sustainable practices.

EV Charging Will Be Expected

EV adoption is growing exponentially. Soon, everyday charging stations will be an expectation by customers.

EV chargers offer a unique business opportunity. When planned carefully, they can communicate your sustainability commitment, attract loyal customers and even promote products available in the store through the use of media screens. The fact is that EV infrastructure can be more than just “infrastructure.”

As is the case in nearly all technology advancements, the variances will be wide and numerous, which means decisions on what, where, and how to build, maintain and monetize will be key to keeping pace. What makes a business stand out today will be the norm tomorrow. So, get ahead of the curve now before the road gets crowded.

Rick Baker is executive VP of charging solutions at EV charging network Volta.

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Glossier’s return to physical retail continues with the opening of a 7,000-sq.-ft. flagship in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. It’s the beauty brand’s ninth location since it re-entered the physical space in 2021 after closing its two stores amid the pandemic. The SoHo outpost has a sleek look, with details that reflect the city locale, including a floor-to-ceiling subway tile mosaic, wooden subwaystyle benches and barrel-vaulted ceilings. Plush sofas add a softer, more residential touch to the space. As at

other Glossier stores, customers are encouraged to test products. Other store features include a 500-sq.-ft. lounge and a “selfie room,” with a constant live feed that broadcasts the selfie moments in-store. Coming up next are locations in Chicago and Boston. … The ADdress, a store for consumers who want to dress stylishly but not reveal too much skin, has opened at American Dream, the mega retail and entertainment center in East Rutherford, N.J. Billed as the “world’s first modest clothing department store, The ADdress opened with a lineup of some 35 women’s fashion brands, with more categories, including bridalwear, to come. … LoveShackFancy, the U.S. women’s clothing brand known for its feminine, vintage-inspired designs, opened its first international location, in London’s Notting Hill. The brand has 16 U.S. stores, seven of which opened last year. LoveShackFancy

stores are outfitted with vintage furniture pieces and antiques, with the brand’s iconic pink-hued floral patterns serving as a main motif. … BabyList, an online baby registry that served over nine million new parents and gift-givers in 2022, will open its first permanent store this summer, an 18,000-sq.-ft. flagship in Beverly Hills, Calif. The store will offer an experiential and interactive experience that gives parents-to-be the opportunity to test products, including baby carriers and strollers in a “celebratory” environment.

Glossier BabyList

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Chain Store Age’s annual SPECS Show

March 19-21

SPECS is the premier event for store planning, design, construction and facilities professionals. Now in its 59th year, SPECS offers targeted educational sessions, dynamic keynotes, a best-in-class exhibitor floor and networking opportunities.


SPECS Agenda-At-A-Glance

Exhibitor Listing

Reimagine. Innovate.
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Grapevine, Texas



2:20pm - 3:10pm 3:20pm - 4:10pm 4:20pm - 5:10pm


RCA SESSION: How Technology is Changing Construction

Best Practices: Building and Remodeling a Sustainable Store

New Trends in Materials and Store Finishes


High Plains 1 Taking a Holistic Approach to Energy Management & Sustainability Leadership: A Conversation With Starbucks

Understanding Emissions: What You Need To Know

Emergency Response and Readiness


Escondido 2

Taking a CrossFunctional Approach to Sustainability

How to Drive Exceptional Project Outcomes Via Collaboration

Project Completion: Punch List & Closeout Best Practices


High Plains 2

Women in Retail: Top Strategies for Women to Emerge as Leaders

Top Ways to Attract, Retain & Develop Next-Gen Talent

Diversity Without Tokenism


Reimagining Mall Anchors

Using Software and Analytics for Site Selection

How to Improve Leasing Communication Between Landlords and Tenants

SUNDAY, MARCH 19 1:00pm - 2:00pm Exhibitor Welcome Luncheon and Orientation Panel Discussion Tate 3 2:30pm - 3:00pm Retailer Orientation Panel Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yellow Rose Ballroom 3:00pm - 4:00pm Retailer-Only Networking Reception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Longhorn Hall A Foyer 3:00pm - 4:00pm Exhibitor-Only Networking Reception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Longhorn Hall BCD 4:15pm - 5:45pm Exhibit Hall Open (Refreshments Served) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Longhorn Exhibit Hall BCD 6:00pm - 7:30pm SPECS 2023 Welcome Reception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tate Ballroom B-C MONDAY, MARCH 20 7:15am - 7:45am Networking Breakfast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tate Ballroom B-C 7:45am - 9:00am Keynote Address – DAYMOND JOHN, Founder & CEO of FUBU and Shark Tank Investor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tate Ballroom B-C 9:15am - 10:30am THE MAIN STAGE presentation – IAN KHAN, Futurist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tate 3 9:20am - 11:00am Face2Face: Retailer/Exhibitor Information Exchange . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Longhorn Exhibit Hall A 11:00am - 2:00pm Exhibit Hall Open - Lunch (12:00pm - 1:00pm) & Refreshments Served . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Longhorn Exhibit Hall BCD 5:30pm - 6:30pm Women in Retail Networking Reception – Sponsored by Cummings Resources . . . . . . . . . Tate 3 6:30pm - 8:00pm SPECS 2023 Evening Reception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tate Ballroom B-C


7:30am - 8:05am Networking Breakfast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tate Ballroom B-C 8:05am - 8:20am Breakout Retailers Awards Presentation – Sponsored by Stantec. . . . . . . . . . Tate Ballroom B-C 8:20am - 9:20am Keynote Address – EMMITT SMITH, pro-football Hall of Fame running back and accomplished entrepreneur Tate Ballroom B-C 9:45am - 10:45am THE MAIN STAGE (Meet the Breakout Retailer Winners) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Texoma 2 9:45am - 11:25am Face2Face: Retailer/Exhibitor Information Exchange . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Longhorn Exhibit Hall A 11:30am - 2:00pm Exhibit Hall Open - Lunch (12:00pm - 1:00pm) & Refreshments Served Longhorn Exhibit Hall BCD 3:45pm - 4:15pm Exhibitor Wrap-up Meeting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . San Saba 3 4:20pm - 5:10pm THE MAIN STAGE presentation – MARK ZINDER, Economic Expert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tate 3 5:15pm - 5:45pm Retailer Wrap-up Meeting San Saba 3 6:30pm - 10:00pm SPECS 2023 Appreciation Party – Featuring The Spazmatics . . Glass Cactus at Gaylord Texan TRACKS 2:20pm - 3:10pm 3:20pm - 4:10pm CONSTRUCTION Mesilla 2 How to Identify and Survey Existing Buildings Construction: The Latest Strategies to Keep Projects on Schedule WHAT’S TRENDING Escondido 2 Supply Chain Planning: Best Practices Looking Ahead Equipment Tips: Maintaining & Replacing in Challenging Times FACILITIES High Plains 1 In-house vs. Outsourced Facility Management Services: Options, Opportunities and Outcomes Facilities: Using Technology to Improve Maintenance Operations STORE EXPERIENCES High Plains 2 A Step Inside the Retail Experience: It’Sugar New Strategies for Successful Experiences REAL ESTATE Texoma 2 Top Retail Center Experiences Leveraging Roof Space for Profit – and Sustainability
22 MARCH/APRIL 2023 CHAINSTOREAGE.COM 1-800-GOT-JUNK? 115 AAFM 600 Abby Solutions Group 521 Academy Fire Life Safety, LLC 920 Academy Service Group 900 Advanced Facility Solutions, LLC 219 American Interstate Signcrafters 132 Anchor Sign, Inc. 706 Apex Imaging Services 418 Arch Painting, Inc. 333 Atlas Sign Industries 519 Axis Portable Air . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215 Bass Security Services 907 Bedrosians Tile and Stone 831 Benchmark Group, Inc. 819 Benjamin Moore 700 BlueSky Paving 613 BOSS Facility Services, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 426 Boston Retail Solutions 500 Branded Group 308 BrandPoint Services 712 Brinco Mechanical Management Services, Inc. 814 Broadway National 319 Carrier 225 Case FMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 929 CBRE Retail & Multi-Site . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301 Century 360° 409 Cleaning Service Group, Inc. 818 CO2Meter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203 Construction Specialties 807 CS Hudson, Inc. 213 CS Mechanical CO. 332 Cummings Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401 Discount Waste, Inc. 601 Divisions Maintenance Group 126 DuraFlex 212 DuraServ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218 EarthCam, Inc. 312 EMCOR Facilities Services 412 Entera Branding 313 ES&A Sign & Awnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 933 Evo Door & Window, LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 913 Excel Dryer 721 Exposed Design Group 324 Ezzi Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 625 Facility Solutions Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 624 Ferrandino & Son, Inc. 615 FlexPost Inc. 531 Floor & Decor Commercial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 627 Forbo Flooring Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 Freshco 515 Global Facility Mgmt. & Construction 806 Graves Construction 503 Grimco Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 903 Groom Construction Co, Inc. 930 H.J. Martin and Son 607 Healy Construction Services, Inc. . . . . . . . . 221 Herc Rentals 506 HFA 731 Identiti Resources 119 IKIO LED Lighting 813 Image National Signs 825 Image One Industries 201 Immersion Data Solutions 233 Inpro 303 Inside Edge Commercial Interior Svcs. 612 iVueit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 433 KBS 812 KFM 247 Ltd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207 Lakeview Construction 908 Legacy Group 330 Lennox Commercial 413 Let’s Pave LLC 715 LSI Industries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 630 Mad Jack’s Asphalt & Concrete, LLC 726 Madix, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 533 MaintenX International 801 Maul National . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 MCS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 331 Milliken & Company, Flooring Division. . . . . . 709 MMI Storage 631 National Distribution Service, Inc. 530 NEST. 307 N-STORE Services 912 OnPoint Facility Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 OpenSpace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 Paramount Construction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300 Permit Place 424 Persona - Triangle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 602 Philadelphia Sign 414 Pivotal Retail Group, LLC 230 PODS Enterprises 101 Porcelanosa 231 Portico Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 Principal Industries 318 Pro Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 532 Professional Retail Services 527 Progressive Flooring & Services, Inc. . . . . . . . 901 Randal Retail Group 431 Regency Lighting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 306 Retail Contractors Association (RCA) 815 Rheem Manufacturing 200 Rogers Electric 924 RoofConnect 315 Rose Paving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430 Rubicon 724 Salzer Products, LLC 619 Salzer Products, LLC 618 Scout Services. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 827 SDI: The Digital Supply Company 110 ServiceChannel 702 SGA Design Group, P.C. 403 Shields Facilities Maintenance 327 SLM Facility Solutions Nationwide . . . . . . . 116 SpaceLinks Enterprises, Inc. 925 Spectrim Flooring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 Springwise Facility Management 407 Stantec Architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 707 State Permits, Inc. 906 Stratus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425 Tarkett 507 TCS|The Genius of Simple 130 Total Comfort Group 918 Total Restroom 524 TrueLook 919 Victory Sign Industries 719 W Services Group, LLC 400 Walker Property Services, LLC 526 Walton Signage, Ltd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 ZipWall 320 EXHIBITORS BOOTH EXHIBITORS BOOTH First-time Exhibitor Exclusively produced by: chainstoreage.com www.SPECSshow.com INTERESTED IN ATTENDING THIS EVENT? Send your request to MMurphy@ChainStoreAge.com INTERESTED IN EXHIBITING AT THIS EVENT? Send your request to RRuzalski@ChainStoreAge.com MARK YOUR CALENDAR MARCH 10-12, 2024 Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Grapevine, Texas SPECS2024_SaveTheDate_1/3PgAd_0223.indd 1 2/27/23 11:18

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The only industry newsletter dedicated to store planning & design, construction, and facilities management.

Get the latest news on retailers’ expansion and remodeling programs, new store prototypes, green initiatives, facilities updates and more. Find out who’s opening stores and where. CSA Store Spaces covers retail development and facilities management inside and out.


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DOCK LIFTS VERSUS CONVEYOR UNLOADING: Conveyor unloading is 2 to 3 times slower than using a dock lift. It leaves personnel at risk of shoulder, back and metatarsal injuries and goods are at risk.

DOCK LIFTS VERSUS TRUCK TAILGATES: Tailgates and their maintenance are more expensive than dock lifts. Tailgates reduce truck payload and increase vehicle wear Tailgate platfor ms are smaller and do not offer handrail protection available on dock lifts, more risk for operators and cargo.

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Smart Floor Cleaning

Robotic floor cleaners help retailers free up staff for other tasks

The use of autonomous floor cleaning robots is starting to grow as retailers deal with persistent staffing shortages and an increased focus on store cleanliness. As facility managers do more with less, floor cleaning bots are beginning to make inroads in the retail industry — and not just in grocery stores.

Convenience store chain Kum & Go plans to deploy autonomous floor scrubbers across all of its more than 400 locations starting this year.

The Iowa-based, family-owned retailer is partnering with floor cleaning equipment and technology company ICE Cobotics to utilize the firm’s Cobi 18 automated floor cleaning device. The robots , which can clean 5,000 to 7,000 square

feet per hour, can be deployed multiple times per day to clean floors.

The Cobi 18 robots are designed for

small spaces and for navigating tight aisles and moving around stationary objects. By leveraging autonomous Cobi 18 technology, Kum & Go said it will free up employees from repetitive work and allow them to focus on keeping shelves and coolers fully stocked, provide fresh food offerings and increase engagement with in-store customers.

The ICE floor cleaning robots are available via a three-year subscription service that the company says allows users to to avoid the burden of ownership. According to its website, the subscription price includes equipment, customer support, repairs, replacement parts, software, training and shipping.

“Kum & Go’s continuous improvement

Kum & Go plans to deploy autonomous floor scrubbers across all its locations. JPMORGAN CHASE

culture drives us to find equipment and process improvements that make it easier for our store associates to execute,” said Marty Roush, VP of operations at Kum & Go. “The choice was easy given the full support model ICE Cobotics provides.”

“Our associates and customers think Cobi is fun, which means it gets used more than any scrubber we have utilized in our stores to date,” added Roush.

Kum & Go is the second U.S. convenience store retailer to work with ICE Cobotics. In October, Phillips 66 deployed the company’s autonomous floor scrubbing robot in its more than 7,000 Phillips 66, Conoco, 76, and Phillips 66 Aviation locations.

Bots Get Smarter

Meanwhile, Sam’s Club has added more capabilities to its fleet of Tennant Co. autonomous floor scrubbers. The warehouse club division of Walmart has completed a chainwide rollout of inventory

scan towers that have been added to its existing fleet of robotic scrubbers in partnership with Brain Corp.

The new scanning accessory has been fitted to the approximately 600 autonomous floor scrubbers already deployed within Sam’s Club locations nationwide. Powered by Brain Corp’s AI operating system, BrainOS, the cloud-connected inventory scan tower captures data as it moves autonomously around the club.

The tower can capture and report realtime data such as product localization, planogram compliance, product stock levels, and verification of pricing accuracy, eliminating the need for manual processes and improving accuracy and efficiency.

“Our initial goal at Sam’s Club was to convert time historically spent on scrubbers to more member-focused activities,” said Todd Garner, VP In-Club product management. “Our autonomous scrubbers have exceeded this goal. In addition to increasing the consistency and

Solutions for buildings. Designed for people.

frequency of floor cleaning, intelligent scrubbers have empowered associates with critical insights.”

The rollout is the first commercial application of Brain Corp.s’ new inventoryscanning technology, Sam’s Club parent Walmart been using BrainOS-powered Tennant automated scrubbers in at least 1,800 stores across the U.S. since 2019.

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Sam’s Club has added inventory scanning capabilities to its fleet of robotic scrubbers.

Incentives For Green Buildings

New federal legislation expands tax deductions

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, signed into law on August, 16, 2022, makes the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, which is good news for retailers and building owners looking to open facilities that are energy efficient and/or upgrade existing locations with energyefficient equipment.

The IRA expands the benefits of the Commercial Building Tax Deduction (CBTD), Section 179D of the tax code. Created as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the CBTD provided a financial incentive — in the form of an accelerated tax deduction taken in a single year — for building owners to invest in energyefficiency equipment such as lighting, HVAC/hot water systems and building envelope upgrades.

The IRA significantly expands the CBTD from its previous $1.80 per square foot to a sliding-scale deduction of $2.50 to $5.00 per square foot. It also adds a new alternative framework for existing buildings to qualify for the same $2.50 to 5.00 per square foot deduction by improving their existing energy use intensity (EUI).

To qualify, a project is expected to result in a reduction of total annual energy and power costs for interior lighting/HVAC/ hot water systems by 25% or more compared to a reference building, which is a building that satisfies the minimum requirements of the 90.1 standard. (Receiving full credit requires meeting prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements.)

Retrofits can qualify by demonstrating at least a 25% decrease in energy use

intensity (measured in BTU) compared to the pre-retrofit building. A qualified retrofit plan is required, and the building must have been placed in service at least five years before producing this plan.

EV Chargers: In addition, the IRA reinstated the tax credit for businesses and other organizations that install EV chargers at their facilities, extending it through Dec. 31, 2032. The maximum amount of the tax credit has increased from $30,000 to $100,000 for projects completed after Dec. 31, 2022.

In a change, however, the credit now requires that projects pay the prevailing wage for labor and meet certain apprenticeship requirements. It also limits availability of tax credits to installations completed along approved “census tracts,” typically lowincome or non-urban areas.

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Remodels & Refreshes! DID YOU KNOW?

Focus On Flooring

With flooring safety, health, maintenance and sustainability important priorities for retailers, Chain Store Age spoke with Jamie Thorn, director of national accounts & new business development for Forbo Flooring, about the importance of selecting the right flooring solution for retail and restaurant environments.

What are some flooring trends Forbo is seeing in retail environments?

We are seeing a definite shift in the industry as retailers move away from traditionally used products. Along with better visuals, retailers are looking for products that don’t require as much maintenance. The staffing shortages that companies experienced during the past few years have meant that retailers have had to think differently to provide the same high-quality experience for their customers. Selecting quality products that require less maintenance has been a solution that retailers have embraced.

Retailers are also incorporating a health, safety or sustainability standard into their selection criteria. And we’re also getting many inquires regarding moisture issues both in the slab and topically. In terms of aesthetics, looks of wood, stone and concrete are popular.

What are some of the most common mistakes retailers make in selecting a flooring system?

The most common mistake is not understanding how the floor will perform in a particular retail environment. Each environment has its nuances that require a certain product and this can vary or even location. It’s important to take note of those and find products that offer a correct solution.

Often, retailers pay attention to the visuals or purchase price as opposed to the total cost of owning the floor. A great way to calculate the true cost of the flooring material is to ask what’s involved in maintaining the floor properly once it’s installed. Remember, there’s no such

thing as a maintenance-free floor — especially in a retail setting.

What are the key factors to consider when selecting a flooring system?

Understanding the challenges associated with the current flooring is a great start — identify the issues and prioritize those. Make finding solutions that address those needs the highest priority: Do you have acoustic or slip/fall issues? What about scratching, scuffing or floor staining?

Knowing how long the floor needs to last and selecting the right product for that time period is equally important. All these factors need to be considered during the selection process. Don’t get distracted by bright and shiny or the latest decorating trend. Keep the focus on the challenges you have identified. In addition, there are ways to add years to the flooring investment with a quality entry system that will capture damaging particles at the door.

What products does Forbo offer for retail settings?

Our product portfolio delivers solutions that range from the entrance of the store to the rear door — including back of house. Our products perform long-term with ease of cleaning and maintenance.

What makes Forbo stand out from other flooring companies?

Our solution-driven products and postsale service are what makes up unique. We offer an attractive collection of products at a low cost of ownership with a focus on durability, health, and safety. Our dedication to transparency on the

sustainability front makes Forbo truly special in the marketplace.

Tell us more about Forbo’s sustainability advantages?

This is really where Forbo shines. Forbo has always focused on transparency and sustainability, including the toxicity impacts. Our core product, Marmoleum, is made of natural renewable ingredients. It is truly a sustainable product and can also be maintained using healthy cleaning procedures.

Marmoleum has been identified as the best resilient flooring solution available in the market. Being a natural product, Marmoleum combines beauty, durability and health into one solution. It also is ideal for wall and furniture applications.

What are the key benefits of Forbo products?

Our key benefits are durability, cleanability and sustainability while also delivering on design and color.

With safety, health and maintenance as top priorities, Forbo offers product that can address acoustical needs and the four Ss: slip, stain, scuff and scratch. It is these benefits that make Forbo a value-added solution provider.

Is there any type of retail setting where you would not recommend a Forbo floor?

If a retailer is looking for short-term situational flooring‚ for example, for a very short-term lease, a commodity type product might make more sense. Forbo’s flooring delivers durable products at a low cost of ownership for the long term.

Jamie Thorn, director of national accounts & new business development, Forbo Flooring

2023 Commercial Lighting Rebate Trends

The good news is that rebates for commercial lighting upgrades are still plentiful. The bad news is that rebate programs are getting harder to negotiate.

That’s according to BriteSwitch, which helps find and capture local, utility, state and federal rebates and incentive programs for commercial buildings across the United States and Canada.

As in past years, the most robust programs are still in the Northeast and Northwest. Three of the most populated states — California, Florida and Texas — have some of the lowest rebate potential, with programs that are so restrictive they offer little value for most projects, advised BriteSwitch.

Here is an update on 2023 lighting rebate trends from BriteSwitch.

General Service Lamps

The most significant change for rebate programs in 2023 is in response to the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Phase 2 of that legislation will go into full effect in July and will increase the minimum efficacy requirement of many general service lamps, including A19s and PARs, to 45 lumens per watt. That significantly changes the marketplace and has created two big changes with rebate programs.

With this upcoming change, programs are pushing hard to complete projects with these lamps in the first half of the year. Many of these programs are offering bonuses or increased dollar amounts in an effort to capture the savings while they still can. With the increased push, the average rebate for a screw-in/incandescent replacement lamp shot up an impressive 71% from last year to $7.66 per lamp. Projects at restaurants and other businesses that often use these lights should plan their projects in the first half of

this year while the higher funds are still available.

For the second half of the year, many programs plan to discontinue the rebates for general service lamps. It should be noted that EISA does not explicitly prohibit rebates for these products. However, it does mean that inefficient lighting will no longer be available for sale starting in July. Consequently, many programs question if customers still need to be motivated to make the switch. Also, since the new baseline wattage will be much lower, the utility can claim less savings.

Other Categories

For most other lighting types, the 2023 incentive amounts have stayed relatively consistent year-over-year. It’s the third year the rebates have remained stable, bucking the historical trend of a 10% to 20% decline each year. The motivating factor for the stability is likely due to increased LED costs and inflation.

The product categories with the highest dollar amounts are typically the lighting fixtures that offer the most energy savings, such as high bay fixtures and pole lights. These fixtures have historically had the highest rebates, and the 2023 amounts are on par with their record-high levels. Rebates for lighting controls also remain

consistent over the previous year. For basic controls such as wall and remote-mount occupancy sensors, the rebates still cover a good portion of the cost, making it a great add-on to most energy efficiency projects.

Harder to Use

A concerning trend in rebate programs is that they are getting harder to use. Over the years, many of the incentive programs have shifted to online portals in an effort to cut costs and streamline work on their end. Those portals are usually poorly developed, full of glitches and slow down the application process.

The time spent per application increases significantly for the person entering the information. A simple pre-approval application with just one line item can easily take up to 20 minutes now, a significant change from the days of paper or PDF applications.

As programs “streamlined” their applications, they’ve also cut staff, and it’s increasingly hard to connect to someone. When there is a problem with a project or an application, reaching someone typically involves calling a general call center where an assistant with no knowledge of lighting or the rebate program takes your contact information and passes it to the utility’s staff.

These issues make the rebate process, which was already cumbersome, even worse. As a result, people looking to file rebates in 2023 need to focus on allowing enough time to complete all the steps in the process and have a project management system in place for tracking each rebate application from start to finish.

Businesses can outsource the entire rebate process to BriteSwitch. The company’s offerings include a self-service option, “Rebate Pro for Lighting,” that lets the user quickly find all the incentives available for a specific project.


Restroom Design Evolution

With cleanliness a top priority of customers, restrooms in retail stores and restaurants are increasingly touchless and, in some instances, more private. Total Restroom’s Scott Krueger spoke with Chain Store Age about restroom trends and what’s coming next.

What is the most common mistake that retailers make when planning for restrooms?

One of the most common mistakes is also an excellent opportunity. When retailers commit to a narrow set of products for their restroom design, they incur higher costs and delays because some products carry longer lead times, become outdated, or cost twice as much as a competitor’s equivalent.

We recently worked with a national brand that specified their toilet flush valve from one manufacturer and the urinal flush valve from another. The retail brand was amazed at the savings they gained by changing their specification to use one manufacturer for both valves. Restroom users are not brand loyalists, so that product flexibility can produce significant opportunities.

What are some specific product trends in the restroom?

In addition to implementing a complete touchless restroom, there is increased interest in two areas. We’re seeing a significant movement towards offering additional privacy for bathroom stalls.

We also see that the “connected” restroom has been generating interest. While the technology is still in the earlier phases, it will eventually provide facility teams with real-time data to ensure that flush valves are operational, faucets are working, and soap dispensers are stocked.

Have there been any changes concerning material types or product finishes?

In the last year, we have seen an exploding interest in alternate finishes for faucets, dispensers, receptacles, mirrors,

and grab bars. In addition to the standard chrome and stainless steel, brands can now utilize brass, bronze, and matte black finishes to create a unique restroom design.

What are some of the most common aggravations customers have with retail restrooms?

Bradley Corporation, a top restroom product manufacturer, releases a “Healthy Handwashing Survey” every year. One item on their survey asked about frustrations, and 68% of respondents pointed to water collecting on the floor, with 50% saying they would choose not to use such a restroom.

When talking with restroom owners, we like to point to the “handwashing triangle” — sink, drying method, waste receptacle — as an area to consider thoughtfully. Dragging water to a back wall to get to a hand dryer will always cause a problem for other users. Additional frustrations include empty and poorly operating dispensers.

How can Total Restroom help retailers respond to customers’ expectations of restrooms?

The most significant impact that our experts can make is in the product selection phase of the project. By working with the design and facilities teams, we can offer valuable insight that will impact your construction schedule and customer experiences.

When the architect specifies a product that consistently carries long lead times from one manufacturer, we can help identify a direct replacement from another manufacturer that will keep the

construction schedule on track. And when the facilities team suggests cheap plastic dispensers provided for free from the paper product suppliers, we can offer low-cost dispensers that work within the design and deliver the reliability that customers expect.

What services does Total Restroom offer?

Total Restroom works directly with brands and their contractors to provide restroom packages, repair parts, and replenishments through a streamlined purchasing and delivery process. We’re there from design through delivery, helping your team finish the job on time and on budget.

We offer detailed material sourcing support and advanced logistics management for all your locations.

How does the company differentiate itself in the marketplace?

Total Restroom differentiates itself in two ways. The first is through our expertise. The restroom may seem simple, but it’s incredibly technical, and product options are endless. We’ve worked with over 100,000 customers comprised of global corporations, national retailers, government agencies, small businesses, and more, and that experience provides great insight for our future clients. Whether with layouts, product selection, or logistics coordination across numerous locations, our team features expertise in a material sourcing partner

The second point is the depth of our offering. By working with all the manufacturers, we don’t push our clients towards one manufacturer or a limited choice of materials because that’s all we can provide. Our suggestions prioritize the specific needs of your project.

Scott Krueger is the VP of Total Restroom.


Post-COVID consumers crave convenience, not splashy sales, and open-air retail centers provide them with it.

It’s a balmy afternoon in August at the Cross County Center at the intersection of the Cross County and Major Deegan parkways in Yonkers, main arteries linking Westchester and New York City. Kids are climbing jungle gyms in the greenspace concourse that links Macy’s and the Hyatt Place Hotel. Young adults are lolling in Adirondack chairs, chatting and eating takeout from Shake Shack. Shoppers come and go from the H&M, Zara, and Steve Madden stores that line the way. The parking lots are packed with cars.

It’s 2:00 on a Wednesday. Why aren’t these people at work?

“The open-air retail sector has been battle-tested through COVID and has emerged as the most durable sector of retail,” said Tim Perry, a managing director at North American Properties who participated in the development of the directionsetting, highly activated Avalon center in Alpharetta, Ga. “The mixed-use concept has become the darling of retail real estate because the consumer wants a mix of uses.”

That started well before the pandemic did, but COVID accelerated the consumer appeal of open-air.

“People spent the better part of a year-plus living in a very digital and a very low-experience world,” noted Steven Levin, CEO of regional center operator Centennial, which acquired

highly creative mixed-use developer Bayer Properties last year. “Being almost void of experience, it was like people got a B-12 shot. They began saying, ‘We’ve gotta get outta here! This is no fun at all!’”

Cross County Center opened in 1954 as one of the nation’s first open-air “malls”—even before that appellation became a marquee designation for prime retail real estate. Now centers in every sector of the category are remaking themselves with multifamily housing, medical tenants, restaurants, green spaces, and events that are turning their doors inside-out. Chain Store Age called upon some of the top center developers and operators to learn what key strategies they were pursuing in opening up their centers in the post-COVID age.

Parking lots are vital puzzle pieces

Not long after Regency Centers acquired Blakeney Town Center in Charlotte in late 2021, the leasing and development teams involved in the site started calling it “The Terducken.”

“It’s a lifestyle center wrapped up in a grocery-anchored center wrapped up in a power center,” said Nate Smith, VP and market officer at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that operates more than 400 lifestyle, neighborhood, and power centers nationwide.

Blakeney Town Center in Charlotte includes a grocery-anchored center and a power center.
castoinfo.com We know the market because we helpe buil it. buil it.

“The merchandising at that center satisfies daily needs, but also provides that elevated experience. It’s three distinct centers and the connectivity is phenomenal,” Smith noted “What we did was react to consumer needs.”

A big factor in that was different parking configurations in very different places.

In the lifestyle portion of Blakeney, people are more willing to park farther away because they want to shop more than one store, or eat dinner, or work on their laptops on a weekday while they watch their kids at the playground.

In the power center portion of the development, Target used to carry click-and-collect orders to customers’ cars. Now it is reworking some interior space on the side of the store where there was little-used parking space so online buyers can drive up and get their orders.

Adam Ifshin, the CEO of Elmsford, N.Y.-based DLC Management Corp. that operates more than 70 open-air centers in the eastern half of the United States thinks that tenants like Target and Walmart are increasingly going to continue to use parking lots on the sides of their stores and turn them into minifulfillment centers.

“These retailers are talking about big renovation programs that include classic refreshes, but also new sides-of-houses and backs-of-houses to do fulfillment of online orders,” Ifshin said. “You can’t fulfill out of a mall. In a mall, retailers’ stockrooms are in a different place with no access to a dock. You can’t load stuff out; you can only load it in. For tenants like Target, the side of the store is going to be the new front.”

From 2018 to 2022, online’s dollar share of total purchases in the U.S. rose from 12% to 20% and it is expected to hit 24% in 2025. The general rule for malls used to be five to 10 parking spaces for every 1,000 sq. ft. of gross leaseable area in a property. Not anymore.

“The requirements for parking among municipalities has dropped to 3.5 to four spots per thousand. That frees up a lot of land for adding residential with subterranean parking,” said Steve Plenge, CEO of Los Angeles-based Pacific Retail, which repositions A-market malls, lifestyle, and open-air centers.

Thurber Village: The 21st Century Urban Mixed-Use Center

In the early 2000s my company, Casto, a fully integrated real estate organization, bought a five-acre neighborhood center in the Harrison West neighborhood of Columbus, adjacent to Victorian Village and the Short North. It was one of the best sites in the city--tree-lined avenues and classic Victorian homes nestled close to the campus of Ohio State University and immediately adjacent to Columbus’ central business district and the expanding Arena District.

The center Casto bought was a conventional set-up, anchored by a supermarket and a CVS drug store, with a surface parking lot between the storefronts and Neil Avenue, the main arterial serving the property. When the grocery user left the site, Casto leadership had a vision to densify the site by adding multifamily residential component to the site while relocating the retail presence to the Neil Avenue frontage to transform it into a mixed-use center with an urban flair.

Grocery was the most sought-after use in dialogue with the surrounding community. But how do you do that and still end up with a modern, urban mixed-use project on a city block? Also complicating that challenge was the relocation of a busy CVS store from an in-line presence to a hard corner with a drive-through that was internal to the site. Additionally, the inline CVS had to stay open while construction commenced on the new CVS building, parking structure, multi-family units and the new Lucky’s Market.

Our solution was a re-imagining of the parking lot. We’re using landscaping to hide it from view without blocking visibility for the retailers by screening the conventional surface lot desired by the retailers to keep the visual focus on the Lucky’s Market, CVS, and apartments ringing the project. Cars entering the site to pick up prescriptions at CVS will do so on the internal side of the CVS building, rendering the drive through virtually unnoticed by passersby.

We believe that when this project opens with a 21,000-sq.-ft. Lucky’s Market, a 13,000-sq.-ft. CVS, and 225 apartments, it will serve as a shining example of how to blend a modern town center into an urban setting while incorporating conventional elements for the retail to maximize functionality.

Eric Leibowitz is VP of development and leasing at Columbus -based Casto. Easton Town Center’s public space is a “string of pearls” that leads guests through the property.

Negative spaces are the uniters of users

In a lecture Steiner + Associates CEO Yaromir Steiner delivered at Harvard Business School last year entitled “How to Develop a Mixed-Use Lifestyle Hub,” he said that, for place-making, negative space geometrics is the primary consideration and that public spaces should be designed like a “string of pearls” that unconsciously lead visitors through the entire complex.

The operator of Easton Town Center in Columbus also stressed that public spaces are made to come alive from their interaction with retail locations. If tenants are necessary or desired by consumers, he said, then their sales should be equal to those of anchor tenants.

“Downtowns are going to come back,” said Steiner. “The biggest problem with downtowns, however, is you have 50 store owners all doing their own thing. There’s not a coordinated merchandising effort.”

It’s Steiner’s contention that, in a mixed-use environment, retail components should include goods, services, dining, and entertainment, no matter if the anchor of a section is a wantbased name like Crate&Barrel or a discretionary-based luxury brand like Louis Vuitton.

“A restaurant can go anywhere,” Steiner said.

For NAP’s Tim Perry, a central plaza is the keystone of an open-air project.

“Where’s the plaza? Where’s the heartbeat? Seas of asphalt are not what people want to walk around and through,” he said.

When NAP was redeveloping Atlantic Station in Atlanta, it turned its largest negative space into a positive. The project already had a large common area, but it wasn’t activated. That was remedied with a stage for concerts, a screen for movies, and better lighting.

“Prior to that change, people just hung out there, so if you have an area like that in your center, you need to get productive and produce events,” said Perry.

Oakbrook Center in the western suburbs of Chicago was always an open-air mall, but in 2013 Brookfield Properties underwent an extensive renovation that set out to transform

it into a “village” with green spaces and warming pavilions. Walkways are tenanted with a varied roster of eateries such as The District food hall, Old Town Pourhouse, and Cooper’s Hawk—a new concept launched by Cooper’s Hawk.

“We were fortunate that the interior of the center had ample greenspace to begin with. Our thinking was let’s bring people into the interior, and we’ve succeeded in doing that,” said Brookfield’s chief development officer Adam Tritt. “If you give them parking that’s easy to navigate, they are willing to walk further.”

Residents energize more hours

Regional and super-regional malls in growing markets are extending their customer bases and center hours by partnering with multifamily developers to fill empty anchors and parking lot spaces with residential tenants. PREIT is doing it at two of its malls in the Philadelphia metro and Pyramid Management Group has plans to bring permanent residents to more than a dozen malls and centers in New York and Massachusetts.

Pacific Retail is also heavily involved in residential developments at its well-located malls and outdoor centers, and its chief executive Steve Plenge believes that the strategy is a deft reaction to consumer wants in the post-COVID era.

“Living on the center property and having easy access to a great sports bar and restaurants like Capital Grille near your home so you don’t have to drive anywhere is appealing. People like that ecosystem,” Plenge said. “We tie the indoor portions and the outdoor portions together with good design, and that’s a big thing.”

Residential developments in retail or mixed-use centers can also be a boon to towns in high-population regions where multifamily housing is often frowned upon by local municipalities.

Tuscan Village--the 4 million-sq.-ft. mixed-use development whose first phase opened in Salem, N.H., in 2021 during the height of the pandemic--called upon that experience to double the number of apartments in the center to 1,500. (See box on p. 35)

“In New Hampshire, multifamily has been met with a lot of resistance. Bringing in all those new residents at one time puts a strain on the staffing and cost of schools, police, and life safety,” said Michael Powers, Tuscan Village’s senior VP of retail. “But because our development was constructed and developed under a special district contract with the town, we weren’t regulated by the typical zoning and were able to add capacity. There hasn’t been any new multifamily built in southern New Hampshire in a long time.”

New tenants drive new traffic

Just west of Chicago in Joliet, Ill., another brand new mixed-use development is being built by East Peoria, Ill.-based Cullinan Properties that has taken a measured and calculated approach in determining the tenants that will fill its 500,000-sq.-ft. of retail space.

“What we’re trying to do is cater to the local community and bring to it a sense of place where they can do their daily needs shopping, enjoy dining and entertainment, and can live and work there,” said Cullinan CEO Matthew Beverly.

Bergen Town Center in Paramus will transform this space into a restaurant row with outdoor dining.

They’ll also be able to roll the dice there.

Last October, Cullinan did an anchor deal with Penn Entertainment, operator of 43 casinos and racetracks throughout North America, to build one of its Hollywood Casinos at Rock Run. The size of the space has not been announced, though Penn’s Hollywood Casino Kansas City covers 240,000 sq. ft.

“Our Rock Run site, with its master-planning, was extremely attractive to them. So was our visibility from I-80 and I-55,” Beverly said. “We feel that the casino will attract visitors who can drive to the center within two hours, and that’s really significant. We’re close to Iowa, Indiana, and Southern Illinois, so our reach is immense.”

Last year Peterson Companies--which owns and operates ambitious mixed-use projects like National Harbor outside of Washington, D.C.—began building a 228-unit residential property in a reclaimed parking lot at its Fairfax Corner center. The space will also include 35,000 sq. ft. of retail space with two anchors, one already signed. Fairfax County is one of Virginia’s wealthiest, with current household incomes expected to rise from $115,000 to $133,000 in the next five years.

“What we’re doing is enhancing the amount of people at the property where, 20 years in, we have this really unique opportunity to re-merchandise Fairfax Corner,” said Paul Weinschenk. “A lot of the retail categories that made sense 20 years ago make sense today, but the players have changed.”

Peterson relies heavily on data intelligence tools to keep in constant touch with the demographics and tendencies of local consumers.

“We use Spatial.ai to track what mobile devices are showing up in stores. We use Esri to monitor psychographics and get more understanding from the U.S. Census Bureau. We can use this to find out if there might be merchandising voids or overabundances in the marketplace,” said Mark Kufka, assistant VP of researching and leasing technology at Peterson.

“End of the day,” observed Weinschenk, “in 24 months we’ll have a very different project. Our tenant population will be fresh and dynamic, we’ll have more people living in Fairfax Corner, and people will have compelling reasons to come back to their offices.”

Bringing the city to the suburbs

Paramus, N.J. bills itself as “The Retail Center of the Country.”

Routes 4 and 17 that delineate this town are lined with three super-regional malls and an extensive roster of centers that lead millions of shoppers from Manhattan (via the nearby George Washington Bridge) and North and South Jersey to spend $5 billion there a year.

One of those malls, Urban Edge’s Bergen Town Center, was open-air to begin with, then, some years ago, added an enclosed concourse that would give shoppers the choice to shop several stores from a climate-controlled concourse or drive up to an outdoor entrance and shop a single one.

How COVID-19 Remolded Tuscan Village

Brick and mortar retail was battered and beaten when COVID-19 struck in 2020. Patterns of Americans life were re-arranged, perhaps for good. Work weeks are now commonly composed of two or three days in the office and two or three days at home. Consumer demand is now heavily oriented to the value of time. The less time people spend commuting or driving back and forth for the goods and services they desire, the better. Consumers of all ages now long to be in an environment where all of their needs will be more convenient. Time has become people’s top priority.

At that time, we were still building and adding to the success of Tuscan Village, a 4 million-sq.-ft. mixed-use development off I-93 in Salem, N.H., 30 miles north of Boston. The onset of the pandemic caused us to tear up some of our original plans and refashion the property.

We scaled back a lot of the office space in our blueprints and doubled down on the amount of residential from 700 units to more than 1,500. Because New Hampshire has no state income tax and many people were working from home, we attracted many remote workers from Massachusetts and, because new multifamily inventory is not abundant in New Hampshire, we have been serving many in-state residents as well. Seventy of the new units under construction will be high-end condos.

Since the development has opened in phases, we’ve witnessed how people connect within the village to date—riding their bikes, hanging out at Lake Park listening to live music and enjoying the Beer Garden, or just grabbing a bite at the spacious outdoor patio of the Tuscan Market run by Tuscan Village owner and developer Joe Faro.

As for retail? First of all, sales are great so far and Phase 1 is 100% leased with a lineup of first-class tenants like Arhaus, L.L. Bean, Pottery Barn, Nike, Container Store, and Williams Sonoma. Most open-air centers are destinational, and there’s not a lot of magic to that. Unless and until you pull the total environment together, you’re not going to maximize sales for retailers.

Unexpectedly, COVID helped us put it together at Tuscan Village with a plan quite different than the one we started out with.

Michael Powers is Senior

“Back in the Sixties, it was the only mall with no roof. It was one of the most unbelievable things to shoppers,” said Danielle DeVita, executive VP of development at Urban Edge.

One big consumer longing suburban open-air centers are latching onto is sidewalk or patio dining. Bergen Town Center is reconfiguring its south side with a row of restaurants—one being Ruth’s Chris—and reclaiming some of the parking lot to create a row of sidewalk cafés.

“We think people will stop at the nearby Whole Foods and decide to walk over and have some lunch or dinner outdoors at this new restaurant row,” DeVita said.

At its outbreak, COVID-19 convinced many millennial city dwellers to leave packed streets and buses behind and break out for the suburbs. They didn’t, however, want to leave behind all the things they loved in the city—one of them being outdoor café dining.

“They move to the suburbs but they want the same experiences of an urban environment—outdoor walkability, outdoor seating and dining, a very urban feel in a suburban setting,” explains Centennial’s Levin.

This shift in the consumer base led Levin to think back to an earlier time in his career, when he himself was a retailer working

Placer.ai’s Ethan Chernofsky on the new shopper

Shopping traffic-tracker Placer.ai’s January 2023 Mall Index report showed YOY traffic increases of 5.2% and 4.1% for the Top 100 open-air centers and indoor malls. We asked Placer’s senior VP of marketing Ethan Chernofsky to elucidate.

Placer’s most recent numbers show traffic up across all segments, especially open-air. Are post-COVID consumers demanding something different? My question is, is it open-air, or is everything going well? Really good centers are doing really well, open or enclosed. There are tremendous headwinds in the marketplace we haven’t seen in years. But yes, the customer is changing, so what can be done with retail space is changing, too. As a result, forwardthinking center operators are adjusting to the new climate.

for his family’s chain of women’s specialty stores.

“Malls and centers grew to be a mass of homogenous stores after the oncoming of Amazon and online. It posed a very big challenge to physical retail. It became hard to get these big national chains to make long-term commitments, whereas the newer retailer has a strong passion, a mindset of making more of a commitment,” Levin said. “We’re getting back to a time when retailing is being merchant-led, and that’s the best of retail.”

to react to their online customers. And look at the aggressive expansion of off-price players. What they do is messier, it’s a treasure hunt. It’s so counter to traditional retail, but it works. Shoppers are shopping differently.

One thing very different after COVID is the structure of the American workweek. How is that changing the makeup of the typical retail center?


or enclosed. There are tremendous headwinds in has an identity, Walmart has an identity, and

If you look at consumer behavior now versus five years ago, you see a notable increase in visit duration. People visit a center and shop, get lunch, or take in a movie. It’s a more extended trip, and shopping centers are adapting to that. They’re asking, “How do we adapt to the new professional?” There used to be two distinct modes of time—workweek mode and weekend mode—and weekends were when malls did all their business. Now during the workweek, people have an hour free and retail centers are working hard at getting that hour.

when you think? Digitally native and local brands are

It’s also changing standard tenant creations, don’t you think? Digitally native and local brands are taking up lots more space.

Centennial’s chief Steve Levin, once a retailer himself, says merchants are taking back control of retail real estate, and that’s what’s causing developers to remake their properties. Do you agree?

I completely agree with Levin. Sears and Kmart don’t work anymore for consumers. But Target has an identity, Walmart has an identity, and they’re adjusting what they do in their stores

No question about it. Retail real estate developers are starting to take closer looks at local market demographics when considering their tenant curations. It reminds me of when I was kid growing up in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It’s a real blue-collar, middle-market town. I’m Jewish and grew up in a Jewish neighborhood there, and our local Giant reacted to that by opening a Kosher bakery. They drew lots of loyal customers that way.

Atlanta’s Atlantic Station activated its central plaza with events to build traffic.


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The Apps Have It

Retailers pursue mobile innovation

Retailers are leveraging mobile apps to enable a variety of leading-edge features and functions.

As smartphones become a ubiquitous part of daily consumer life, retailers are developing more sophisticated apps that perform tasks across the enterprise. Here’s a look at how Amazon, Home Depot and Pottery Barn are delivering next-generation capabilities via mobile app.

Amazon gets ‘inspired’ by TikTok Amazon is adding a Tik Tok-inspired feature to its shopping app. The e-tail giant began rolling out the feature, called Inspire, to select customers in the U.S. in early December, with availability expanding to all U.S. customers in the coming months.

The in-app shopping experience is designed to provide customers with a new way to discover ideas, explore products and seamlessly shop from content created by other customers, influencers and brands. When customers see an item in Inspire, they can shop for it in real time on Amazon.

In a few clicks, customers can tap on a video or photo to see product details including average star rating and reviews, color and style options, and price — and then add it to their cart.

Inspire is designed to learn more about a customer’s preferences through their interests and engagement to continue tailoring their feed of shoppable content. As it rolls out, Amazon plans to add more shoppable features, in-app functionality and content, with the goal of building a more immersive shopping experience for customers.

The company is also positioning Inspire as a way for brands and influencers to grow their businesses on the Amazon mobile shopping platform. Especially as TikTok faces intense government scrutiny and even a possible U.S. ban, Inspire may

present an appealing alternative to many online sellers.

Home Depot provides app, device to employees

Store associates at The Home Depot have a new, machine learning (ML)-based mobile “sidekick” developed to help them prioritize tasks more effectively. The home improvement giant’s new proprietary app, called Sidekick, is an addition to mobile devices it recently provided to associates called hdPhones.

Home Depot’s hdPhones are equipped with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, a long-range scanner and all-day battery strength, allowing employees to locate products quickly and assist customers both inside the store and in exterior areas such as the parking lot. The phones are designed to help employees remove friction from customers’ in-store shopping experiences.

Leveraging a cloud-enabled ML algorithm, the app guides associates to prioritize the highest-demand products. Sidekick also utilizes machine vision to identify which shelves associates should restock, as well as the location of excess product on overhead shelves.

In addition, the app alerts specific employees which tasks need to be completed first via a common tasking engine, and showcases where and how to complete a task in a dashboard with associate and manager views. Sidekick also integrates with other platforms to ensure all data and task prioritization is up-to-date and aligned with the retailer’s broader business needs.

Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Teen play with new shopping apps

New mobile apps from Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen include innovative features such as 3-D augmented reality (AR) shopping. The children’s and teen furniture and accessories banners

of home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. are launching new native shopping apps for iPhone users.

The new apps are designed to offer enhanced functionality and an easy-to-use interface. Features of the new Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen mobile apps include the ability for customers to share favorite items with contacts and on social media directly through the apps.

Shoppers can explore and shop virtual 3-D rooms using augmented reality (AR) technology to design a space in their home directly from the apps, as well as track, manage and add items to a Pottery Barn Kids registry through the new app platform.

The apps also provide seamless browsing of both customer favorite and best-selling products, with customized recommendations by age. An Apple Pay checkout option provides a seamless, secure checkout experience. Customers can use the app to request an appointment with a design expert for a free in-store, in-home or virtual appointment.

Amazon is offering a TikTok-like product discovery feature in its app.

ChatGPT: What it means for retail companies

A new artificial intelligence (AI) platform holds the potential to transform retail.

By now, you have most likely heard of ChatGPT, a new AI model from research and deployment company Open AI. Using 570 GB of publicly available data on the internet, ChatGPT interacts with users in a conversational style that mimics human interaction and uses machine learning (ML) to continually refine and improve its responses.

Other companies, including retailers, are already launching efforts to develop their own AI engines with ChatGPT functionality. These include Chinese e-commerce giant JD, as well as Microsoft and Google.

ChatGPT is clearly coming to U.S. retail — and sooner rather than later. Here are three key areas the technology is likely to have a significant impact.

• Customer service/help desk

The most obvious retail application for ChatGPT technology is customer service, especially the help desk function. AI-based chatbots are nothing new in the retail help desk space. Retailers have been using them for years to automatically handle lower-level inquiries and filter higher-level requests for human intervention.

However, many consumers are not sold on the chatbot model of customer service. According to data from a recent Ipsos poll, 77% of respondents who have used a customer service chatbot prefer interacting with a human for customer service needs. In addition, 77% of these respondents report that customer service chatbots are frustrating.

ChatGPT holds the promise to enable next-generation chatbots that can truly mimic human understanding and interaction during a customer help desk session, resulting in more satisfying resolutions and fewer follow-up inquiries.

Chatbots using ChatGPT technology will also be able to handle much higher-level customer service requests, giving human agents more time to focus on truly complex issues that are beyond the scope of AI (at least for now).

• Marketing

The conversational nature of ChatGPT also makes it an ideal marketing and promotional tool. A ChatGPT-based marketing solution could generate much of a retailer’s more broadly targeted promotional content, with the input of some basic information and proofreading by a human.

In addition, a ChatGPT-enabled promotional engine could streamline the process of segmenting promotional messages and offers by specific customer demographic. Marketers could feed granular customer data into the solution to receive detailed suggestions on the structure and wording for promotions aimed at different consumer segments.

Also, ChatGPT analysis could assist marketers in maximizing the effectiveness of cross-sell and upsell prompts, as well as aid the development of longer-form “storytelling” efforts.

•HR/Workforce management

ChatGPT functionality holds tremendous promise as an enabler of HR/workforce management activities. Many retailers screen job applications with AI-based solutions; leveraging ChatGPT they could also automate virtual interviewing and onboarding tasks.

In addition, ChatGPT offers the potential for retailers to offer highly personalized training at scale. Retailers are already streamlining training efforts with tools such as mobile apps and video. ChatGPT could allow employees to ask specific, individual questions in response to virtual training sessions that could be instantly answered via AI or screened and forwarded to a human for rapid response.

In the store, associates with ChatGPT apps could obtain instant support to ensure they are properly answering customer questions and providing correct information on topics such as product specifications.

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Ahold Delhaize USA Continues Advertising Innovation

Grocery giant was early out of the gate in launching a retail media network

Ahold Delhaize USA sees a bright future for its retail media network.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Bobby Watts, head of AD Retail Media at Ahold Delhaize USA, about the grocery retail group’s latest efforts with its AD Retail Media Network.

In-house retail media networks like AD Retail Media Network provide retailers’ brand partners with direct promotional access to shoppers via channels such as in- store digital displays, online advertisements and connected television. They emerged from the grocery sector, which remains the primary sector where retail media networks are found.

Ahold Delhaize USA was an early entrant in the retail media network space, partnering with digital media and promotions solutions company Quotient Technology to launch what was initially known as Peapod Digital Labs Media Partnerships in 2018.

Since then, the grocery retailer has partnered with Quotient to release a new promotion amplification tool as part of the vendor’s Retailer Performance Media Platform, and also teamed up with Catalina to create additional opportunities for in-checkout lane media and

digital circular personalization.

The company also collaborates with Neptune Retail Solutions (NRS) to serve sign, display, shopping cart and shelf-impact ads at more than 1,800 of its brands’ store locations.

What are some of the main issues with retail media networks today? Retailers and advertisers are all seeing the potential for growth in this space as CPG

The End of Third-Party Cookies

Third-party “cookies,” or browser-based tracking software applications that advertisers have historically used to follow the digital path of Internet users who click on their websites and ads, are being phased out. Google has announced it will stop enabling cookies on its Chrome browser in 2024, and other leading browsers, such as Safari, have or are planning to eliminate their use.

Already, many sites on Google Chrome are giving visitors the option to opt out of or limit the use of third-party cookies to track their online behavior. This potentially increases the value of retail media networks, such as AD Retail Media, which can serve personalized digital ads without the need for cookies.

brands and others are looking at their national media budgets and wondering if there is a more effective way to leverage their spending — especially as we all continue to contemplate what a cookieless world will look like and whether shift of revenue may occur as a result.

As a retailer, Ahold Delhaize USA is counting on a shift and trying to make sure that we are ready. On a macro scale, it’s about being prepared now. Also, at this level, it creates a ton of complexity for our advertising partners.

Because instead of being able to do one big national programmatic advertising campaign, they [adverting partners] may have to work with a multitude of retailers and their retail media networks to reach the same number of consumers. So on the retailer side, our responsibility is to try to make it as easy as possible.

If you are going to start a retail media network, you need to ask yourself as a retailer, how you can make it as simple, easy

Ahold Delhaize USA is moving forward in connecting advertisers to shoppers.

and seamless as possible for the advertisers. I believe whichever retailers have the easiest platform and connection for their advertising partners will be the ones that wind up getting far more than their fair share of those programmatic dollars as they do shift.

What do you see as the biggest trends in retail media networks for 2023?

There is going to continue to be a trend in measurement where advertisers look for a methodology that everyone can align to and is consistent across the industry. This would eliminate the possibility of an inflated metric that might include ‘attributable sales’ outside of what the media actually produced.

Another big emerging trend is using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to personalize retail campaigns to consumers by taking full advantage of our first-party data and moving into the idea of ‘hyper-personalized’ campaigns.

Omnichannel is, in my opinion, a little overplayed. Also, the metaverse is very interesting, but I think its retail

media network usage and impact are still to be determined.

What is your opinion of the nextgeneration video channels, such as connected TV and livestreaming?

They are powerful channels that carry a premium CPM [cost per thousand ad impressions]. Next-generation video is a great way to reach consumers. Ahold Delhaize USA can target customers through these channels, as well.

What specific plans does Ahold Delhaize USA have for its retail media network offering in 2023?

In January, we launched our new platform with CitrusAd and Epsilon with a unified onsite/offsite platform. It provides one platform for buying media and for measurement. The other thing that we are focused on is continuing to build out our ad tech ecosystem.

We are starting to bring all these endpoints into one ad serving solution, so that we can understand all the touchpoints. This means we will be able to serve a social post or onsite posts to


While retail media networks began in the grocery vertical, they are also found across the retail industry. Discounter Target was an early participant, launching its Roundel ad network in 2019 as a tool for CPG brands to create personalized digital ad campaigns aimed at Target customers. Roundel helps advertisers connect directly with Target’s customers through personalized, relevant marketing messages across Target’s owned platforms and hundreds of select off-platform channels.

Meanwhile, Target’s chief discount rival Walmart operates the Walmart Connect media platform, as well as a demand-side platform for suppliers and their media and ad agencies (both Target and Walmart offer a grocery assortment at some stores and online).

Home improvement titan Lowe’s offers the Lowe’s One Roof Media Network, which includes data-driven insights integrated with analysis of consumer behaviors and home category trends, as well as customized advertising products. The company moved the network’s advertising sales and operations departments in-house in early 2023.

Meanwhile, leading consumer electronics chain Best Buy operates

customers on path to purchase.

We will also be able to hit customers with a programmatic billboard on their way to the store, or via in-store digital screens. But our idea is to be able to do all that through one platform and then bring that around with closed loop measurement to understand what was the most effective media that drove conversion once they convert.

Also, Ahold Delhaize USA wants to know that we can make more use of that space so that we aren’t repeating the serving of ads to someone who has already seen them and then converted somewhere along the path to purchase. There are other great things we’re looking at, such as connecting with consumers in their vehicles. But that’s further down the pipeline.

Editor’s Note: Ahold Delhaize USA, a division of Zaandam, Netherlands-based global grocery conglomerate Ahold Delhaize, operates more than 2,000 stores across 23 states under the Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Co., Hannaford, and Stop & Shop banners, as well as e-grocer FreshDirect and Peapod Digital Labs, the company’s digital, e-commerce and commercial platform.

Best Buy Ads, an in-house media company designed to help its suppliers provide shoppers with targeted, timed promotional messages based on its customer relationships and insights.

And you don’t need physical stores to participate. Digital department store retailer Lord & Taylor got in on retail media networks in 2022, using InMobi Commerce technology to provide partner brands and ad agencies with a full-funnel retail media platform, including shoppable videos, designed to move immersive product discovery from third-party social platforms back to its owned channels.

The convenience sector is also seeing some growth in the retail media network space. 7-Eleven has introduced a retail media network called Gulp Media Network. In addition, on-demand delivery platforms Instacart, DoorDash, amd GoPuff, which all have access to inventory from partner convenience retailers, offer some type of media network service to advertisers.

Even regional convenience retailers are joining the retail media network trend. Midwest convenience store retailer Casey’s General Stores launched its own retail media network, called Casey’s Access, earlier this year. The network enables CPG companies and other vendor partners to leverage Casey’s customer data to connect audiences with relevant promotions, offers, and marketing content across digital and in-store touchpoints.


Leveraging The E-Commerce Boom

Three tech-related steps retailers should take — now

E-commerce has become a very big business — and retailers need the right systems in place to handle it properly.

According to the “State of Digital Commerce” study from ComScore, U.S. digital spending rose roughly 11% to $1.09 trillion in 2022 from $904.3 billion in 2021. This made 2022 the biggest-ever year for e-commerce and represents the first time digital spending has passed the $1 trillion mark.

Last year’s impressive e-commerce results set up 2023 to serve as a watershed year for online retail. No matter the product categories a retailer sells or its core customers, companies can expect to conduct a lot of sales in the digital space.

Here are three technology-related steps a retailer should start taking now to ensure as much of that $1 trillion as possible flows into its coffers.

Native Mobility

The ComScore study also indicated that mobile commerce’s share of overall digital spending for the fourth quarter of 2022 reached an all-time high of 38%, or $127.5 billion, growing at twice the annual rate of desktop commerce. Desktop PCs will still be the dominant digital commerce device for a couple of years anyway, but one look at how everyone is on their smartphone all day long gives a clear indication of where interface trends are heading.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to develop native mobile experiences for your customers. This means mobile websites that are specifically designed for smartphone interaction and not merely scaled-down desktop sites, as well as native mobile apps hosted directly on a device’s operating system rather than its browser.

And retailers, especially those with a younger-skewing customer demographic, should consider a “mobile first” development approach, where digital experiences are initially designed for mobile interaction and then modified for desktop.

Commerce at All Touchpoints

In addition to ensuring customers can digitally shop via every device, retailers should also enable customers to browse and purchase products in every virtual environment. Along with traditional e-commerce and m-commerce sites and apps, this means setting up customer experiences in formats such as social media, livestream video, shoppable ads, QR codes, and yes, the metaverse.

These additional digital commerce channels also allow retailers to reach customers in creative and innovative ways. For example, select retail windows in New York City streamed live shopping through the 2022 holiday season, as a result of a program from livestream commerce platform TalkShopLive that included live shopping with celebrities and influencers such as Gloria Estefan and Drew Barrymore.

Also, retailers with brick-and-mortar stores should not forget the importance of connecting their physical outposts to their digital commerce efforts. Digitally influenced retail sales — those that consumers pay for online but pick up in-store — currently account for 62% of total retail sales and will account for 70% by 2027, according to a Forrester report cited in a new study from CBRE.

Deliver It Today

Consumers have been trained by an increasing number of online retailers and

delivery platforms to expect fulfillment almost as quick as they get in a brick-andmortar store.

According to the “2022 Bringg Barometer: State of Retail Delivery & Fulfillment” survey of 500 enterprise retailers in the countries including the U.S., U.K., and Canada, an overwhelming 99% of respondents said they will be doing same-day delivery within the next three years, compared to 35% able to do so today.

And survey after survey reveals that customers do not have patience for a delivery experience they believe to be subpar. A recent Voxware shopper study reveals that two-thirds (65%) of respondents report that they will abandon shopping with a retailer altogether after two to three late deliveries.

In addition, seven in 10 respondents said that they are likely to share a negative experience online when a purchase is late or incorrect. Seven percent will cancel an order after receiving an incorrect item instead of waiting for a retailer to send the correct item.

Fortunately, numerous third-party delivery platforms exist to help retailers quickly start up fast delivery. Retailers can also use stores as local delivery hubs, or convert underutilized or closed brickand-mortar locations into delivery-only “dark stores.”


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