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Industry News - August 28th, 2009



Whole Foods Backlash on Facebook Grows to 26,000

Whole Foods, until recent weeks, has embodied a true social media success story. The grocer has a dominant presence on popular social media Web sites, Twitter and Facebook, boasting an impressive 1.2 million followers on Twitter and more that 100,000 fans on Facebook. However, recent controversy has catapulted Whole Foods into a cross-fire of severe backlash in which a user-generated Boycott Whole Foods movement has been launched.

Recent comments made by the company's chief executive, John Mackey, in an opinion piece about Obama's health-care reform initiatives published in the Wall Street Journal have created a consumer-driven Boycott Whole Foods group to launch shortly after. To date, the group has attracted more than 26,000 Facebook supporters. The group has a blog and a Web site, and even a picketing event scheduled. The group is advocating that consumers should spend their money elsewhere. The group also gives members a place to band to together, provides resources for buying elsewhere, and opportunities to reach out to Whole Foods.

Although the consumer-driven boycott has driven a public response from Whole Foods, that was shared last week via a Facebook note, it may be too little, too late since Facebook group members are growing daily by the thousands.

These recent rumblings are a warning to all retailers that there is ultimately an adverse side to social media. The true question is: could this all have been prevented if the retailer had a more comprehensive social media strategy? The recent controversy to hit Whole Foods is a telling indication that it is critical for retailers to create their own social media departments to handle these types of issues, in addition to developing plans that both satisfy customers and increase sales.


Sportsman's Warehouse Emerges from Bankruptcy

Sportsman's Warehouse has successfully exited from bankruptcy, becoming one of the few national retailers to make the transition. The reorganized company will continue to operate 26 retail stores in 14 states. Each store is staffed with employees that are knowledgeable about local hunting, fishing, camping and outdoor recreation product categories that are the company's specialties.

"Sportsman's Warehouse is privileged to have such a loyal customer base and we are grateful for their continued support throughout the bankruptcy process," said John Schaefer, the company's new Chief Executive Officer. "We hold ourselves to the highest standard of excellence in meeting our customers' needs and look forward to serving them in the future," he added. The reorganized company has received a new infusion of capital and has streamlined its operations.

"The company has never been in a more stable financial position," said Kevan Talbot, the company's Chief Financial Officer, "and we are grateful for the partnership and support from so many of the top vendors in our industry."

"Our philosophy has always been to provide the best product selection, most convenient shopping experience and superior service," says Larry Knight, the company's Vice President of Hard Goods. "We are excited to be able to refocus on delivering all these things, along with the local insights from our expert staff that our customers have come to expect. 


Shopko Adds E-Commerce, Fulfillment Services

Shopko Stores, a retailer of quality goods and services, adds end-to-end e-commerce services from SpeedFC. The e-commerce services include Web development, Web hosting, fulfillment and call center services.

After a detailed review of e-commerce and fulfillment providers, Shopko chose SpeedFC based on their technology and client-oriented services. SpeedFC provides a suite of proprietary services, which includes fulfillment, customer care, Web development, Web hosting, interactive online marketing and related services.

With more than 850,000 square feet of distribution space in Dallas, Texas and Columbus, Ohio, SpeedFC will ship apparel, home goods, electronics, jewelry, sporting goods, gift cards and an array of other product for Shopko..


Sephora Uses Video to Effectively Communicate with Global Workforce

Sephora delivers high-quality corporate communication and training videos to employees by using an enterprise video delivery system from Kontiki. The peer-to-peer video delivery technology can reach each Sephora employee with a desktop computer in any location around the globe.

Sephora, which attracts a high number of employees from the "YouTube generation," uses video to provide valuable information in an engaging way. Thus far, Sephora has found that video is much more effective than text- and audio-only based communications.

Kontiki, which is available as a Software-as-a-Service model, delivers live, video streaming, on-demand, download or push video. Its functionality offers multiple delivery options, e-mail integration, portal search and discover, as well as security and analytics.


Axsium Group Acquires LSI, Expands Workforce Management Services

Axsium Group, a Workforce Management (WFM) consulting firm, announces the expansion of its service offerings to include the development of Engineered Labor Standards, a key component of WFM solutions. Through an agreement with Labor Solutions International, Axsium Group has agreed to license the intellectual property of LSI's labor standards consulting practice and will hire several of LSI's industrial engineering consultants, including LSI's current president, Kevin Donnelly.

The addition of LSI's engineering experts enhances Axsium's service offerings in retail. Labor standards are used to determine workload demand and form the foundation of strategic process transformation initiatives. LSI's industrial engineers have developed labor standards for all retail sectors, and have developed "wall-to-wall" labor standards and integrated them into workforce management software packages.

The expansion also will further help customers understand, at a detailed level, the nature and cost of the activities and tasks their employees perform on a regular basis, information that is critical to systematically forecast the demand for labor.

Acquisitions amongst technology companies have been rampant in the first half of 2009. SAP recently announced in July its intent to acquire SAF. Earlier this year, Oracle announced it would acquire Sun Microsystems and DemandTec acquired privately-held Connect3..


Chico's Enhances Web Site with Live Help Options

Chico's plans to implement an integrated live help strategy across its Web channel and has launched ATG's eStara Click to Chat system. Currently running on the ATG Commerce Platform, the Chico's Web team last year adopted a streamlined customer experience with easy navigation for all three of its retail brands (www.Chicos.com, www.Soma.com and www.WhiteHouseBlackMarket.com).

Chico's turned to ATG to execute a live help strategy powered by ATG's eStara Click to Call and eStara Click to Chat. The company wanted to further drive customer loyalty and reduce site abandonment rates by proactively engaging visitors and directly connecting them with customer service associates who can answer questions, provide personalized recommendations, and assist with purchasing decisions.

"As our business continues to grow, it's imperative that we are able to provide a seamless cross-channel experience for our Web site visitors," said Jason Acevedo, director of e-commerce and DTC operations, Chico's FAS. "Different customers like to interact with a company in different ways, and therefore we wanted to add features to each of our sites that would help them quickly connect with associates in an efficient way. Each and every customer should have positive experiences with our brands so that they return to our Web stores and physical stores again and again."

With the launch of eStara Click to Chat from ATG, the sites will feature small buttons that enable customers to instantly connect with an agent for help with a simple click, automatically opening a text chat window. When Chico's launches ATG's eStara Click to Call, shoppers will also have the option of clicking a button to initiate a real-time phone conversation with an associate. Both eStara Click to Chat and eStara Click to Call will integrate with Chico's e-commerce operations, so that associates interacting with customers will have access to information that helps them assist each shopper in a more efficient and personalized way.

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