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Industry News - November 25th 2011



FCS Computer Systems Rolls Out Hotel Search Mobile App

FCS Computer Systems, a comprehensive hospitality solutions provider, announces the launch of FCS i-Guest Hotels Finder, an innovative smartphone application that lets users search for hotels and play the directions to the hotel and the nearest airport in the local language of the hotel, for the benefit of taxi drivers and other native speakers.

Guests are able to interact with their hotels prior to arrival via the app, ensuring maximum personalized attention and stay customization. In addition to creating FCS i-Guest Hotels Finder to benefit travelers, FCS wanted to reward its base of hospitality customers, acquired over their nearly 30 years of business, with a mobile app to help promote both hotels and brands to their potential guests at no additional cost.

The FCS i-Guest Hotels Finder app lets travelers search for hotels by brand, region, country or city. By simply tapping either the "Directions to Hotel" or the "Directions to Airport" button on a hotel's profile page, an audio recording in the local language is played, simplifying the often-frustrating interaction between a foreign-speaking traveler and the taxi driver or other native-speaking local guide. The app--which requires no login or password to use--also features integration with Google Maps, showing the local map in multiple languages for easy understanding.

Prior to arrival, the app can also act as a hotel-branded platform for the hotel and guest to interact. Guests are able to make a variety of service requests--room service ordering, housekeeping inquiries, dinner reservations and more--from the intuitive i-Guest app interface, which can be launched within i-Guest Hotels Finder.

Hoteliers can also take advantage of advertising banners within the app to promote specials or property features. The hotel's company website will be automatically launched when the banner is selected to ensure that the banner drives traffic to the designated offering page.

According to the company, this latest app will provide its customers with an effective tool to reach and communicate with their guests, and to provide a complimentary service that will augment their current FCS technology.

VeriFone Acquires Payment Solutions Provider Point for $810M

VeriFone has signed a definitive agreement with Nordic Capital Fund V to acquire Point International, a Northern European provider of payment and gateway services and solutions for retailers. VeriFone will pay approximately $810 million (€600 million) to acquire Point and will also close existing Point debt of approximately $230 million (€170 million). During the first 12 months, VeriFone expects the acquisition to add approximately $260 million in sales.
Point, based in Stockholm, has operations in 11 Northern European countries and serves a captive network encompassing almost 475,000 merchant contracts. Through this network, Point offers retailers a full range of services and solutions including point-of-sale technology and support, gateway services, card encryption services and multi-channel e-commerce processing.
"We are delighted to welcome Point customers and Point employees to VeriFone," says Douglas G. Bergeron, CEO of VeriFone. "For the past two years, we have been transforming our business to respond to the rapidly evolving needs of consumers, retailers and payment innovators worldwide. Our vision is to offer retailers everywhere a managed service to easily accept all existing payment types, including the evolving alternative and mobile payment methods being offered by Google, PayPal, Groupon, Isis, Visa, MasterCard and American Express. At the same time, we can increasingly offer the new payment entrants easy and accelerated access to our worldwide installation of more than 20 million merchant lanes."
"We are committed to maintaining the high growth and entrepreneurial culture that has driven our success over the past two decades," says Johan Tjarnberg, CEO of Point. "We have known and worked with VeriFone for 20 years and their fast-paced culture is the Point culture."
The acquisition is expected to close by the end of 2011.

New POS, Merchandising Systems to Improve Allocation at Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree has completed its installation of new point-of-sale and merchandising systems, providing the chain with sales data that is critical to improved planning, allocation and replenishment efforts.

"Systems and equipment have been installed and stores have been trained," reported Dollar Tree CEO Bob Sasser during a recent conference call discussing Q3 financial results. The new systems will improve the chain's visibility into its inventory and provide a trailing sales history by store and by SKU, "key factors in the management of an efficient supply chain and improving customer satisfaction," he added.

The retailer is seeking to create more localized inventory assortments at its 4,300-plus stores. "We've gotten better with looking at stores as far as clustering them and determining¼what inventory categories are going to be important store-by-store," said CFO Kevin Wampler. "A lot of it is technology that we've been able to implement and continue to gain efficiencies with.

"We've had less inventory for the past two or three years now, and really it has not hurt our sales at all," he added. "So it really does show that you can gain these efficiencies and not hurt your sales."

Dollar Tree has shown continued growth this quarter: sales increased 11.9% over the same period last year to $1.6 billion, and comp store sales climbed 4.8%.

Year-to-date, Dollar Tree has added 257 new stores and expanded or relocated 88 units, ending Q3 with 4,335 stores. The retailer also expanded its Savannah, GA distribution center from 600,000 square feet to one million square feet, a capital expenditure of $19.5 million.

Dollar Tree Direct, the retailer's e-commerce business, is also expanding its offerings. Customers can now purchase smaller quantities on over 600 online items while the site continues to offer more than 2,500 items for sale by the case, said Sasser. He added that there is now a Spanish-language version of the website and that Dollar Tree Direct is also now available to mobile users.


eBay Opens Mobile Pop-Up Shops Worldwide

Online auction site eBay is experimenting with physical stores this holiday season, having opened virtual pop-up stores in the U.S. and UK. The stores allow customers to scan QR codes to take them straight to the product's page on eBay and complete a purchase or make a charitable donation through their smartphones.
In the UK, eBay will open the Ebay Christmas Boutique in central London for five days, December 1 through December 5. The store will have a "huge selection" of popular items including clothing and toys at discounts of up to 70%. When customers scan the QR code, it will send them straight to the item on eBay's website where they can complete the transaction and have the item shipped to their home.
For customers who don't have a smartphone, eBay has teamed up with HTC to lend a handset in the store. A section of the store will have eight tablets that customers can use to browse and buy from eBay's entire offering of products.
Continuing to leverage mobile technology, eBay opened two charitable "Give-a-Toy" store window pop-ups in San Francisco and New York City to benefit Toys for Tots earlier this month. At the stores, shoppers can use their smartphones to scan the QR codes for prices. When the codes are scanned, the toys in the window come to life and cheer in gratitude. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this campaign will be donated to Toys for Tots. The U.S. stores will be open through December 9.
Visitors can also make donations, play virtual games and share their activities on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook users can also like the Give-a-Toy page and customize virtual toys. For each virtual toy a user customizes, eBay will contribute $1, up to $50,000 to Toys for Tots.
"This holiday season, we are leveraging our technology and platform to power The Give-a-Toy Store, which offers a differentiated experience for shoppers who wish to give using their mobile phone," says Richelle Parham, CMO of eBay North America. "Consumers are more inclined to give to charity during the holidays, and eBay is gearing up for what we believe will be our biggest mobile shopping season ever."


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