Retailers Investing In Innovation

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NEW YORK – As the going gets tough in retail, a number of retailers including Sears, RadioShack and Staples got going by investing in innovative new concepts and enhanced e-commerce capabilities.

The latest CE initiative for Sears is its Connected Solutions pilot shops, which are now operating within three Sears stores in Illinois. The experiential boutiques provide an array of Internet-ready devices across the CE, fitness, automotive, home, and mobile categories, including smart watches, streaming-media devices, health monitors and the company’s own Craftsman Assurelink garage door openers, which can alert homeowners remotely when the door is opened or closed.

Jim Pearse, CE VP for Sears Holdings, said the 1,700-square-foot shops feature live product displays, enabling customers “to discover and learn how they connect, work and fit into their daily lives. No one else in retail is doing this today.”

Pearse said Sears is uniquely positioned to lead the category given its full service sales floor and dominance in the majaps, tools and fitness categories. The retailer has also created a dedicated department online at Sears. com/ConnectedSolutions.

Meanwhile, RadioShack has partnered with PCH International to help it fast-track the production and merchandising of innovative products from inventors and start-ups.

“We see so many exciting consumer products coming from start-ups and we want these differentiated products in our stores,” said RadioShack CEO Joe Magnacca.

The fruits of the new product pipeline, dubbed RadioShack Labs, will appear online and within special “Powered by PCH” display areas inside 2,000 RadioShack stores by year’s end. The chain is looking to add dozens of new products annually.

PCH partner products include Little- Bits, the popular modular electronics kits, which will be in select RadioShack stores in late summer.

“We believe we can rejuvenate our retail offerings,” Magnacca said

Elsewhere, Staples has opened an e-commerce research center in Seattle to further develop its online capabilities. The center, the company’s second West Coast e-tail facility, will focus on refining the office supply chain’s search, search engine optimization (SEO) and personalization functions.

Faisal Masud, global e-commerce executive VP, said the Seattle team will use big data to create a personalized shopping experience, and will develop elements of Staples’ global online platform.

“We’re building core components to power innovative e-commerce,” he noted.

The Seattle center joins the retailer’s Innovation Lab in San Mateo, Calif., which is tasked with personalizing the online shopping experience.

One of the world’s largest Internet retailers, the company said it is continuing to invest in its omnichannel capabilities to allow customers to shop however and whenever they want, across mobile devices, desktops and stores.


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