At Orchard Supply, two robots hit the floor

Lowe’s Innovation Labs will introduce two autonomous retail service robots in an Orchard Supply Hardware store in midtown San Jose, California, during the upcoming holiday season to study how robotics technology can benefit customers and employees. Called OSHbot, the robots will assist customers to navigate stores by directing them to specific products and providing real-time information about product promotions and inventory.

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Costco works with Alibaba to limit risks as it enters China

CHICAGO — By selling directly to Chinese consumers on Alibaba’s platform, a move announced last week by the American retailer Costco Wholesale, it aims to employ local knowledge and a low-cost structure to avoid missteps that caused even Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, to stumble in China.

Many global retailers opening in China have struggled to find product mixes and store designs that appeal to local customers. In addition to Walmart, others like Best Buy and eBay have fallen short of expectations in one of the fastest-growing consumer markets.

Costco’s virtual storefront on the Alibaba site Tmall is designed to help the company study consumer shopping habits with no brick-and-mortar costs and fewer risks, signaling a new approach to expanding in China.

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Home Depot Names Mark Powers EVP U.S. Stores

The Home Depot promoted Marc Powers to the role of EVP U.S. Stores, effective Nov. 1, 2014.

“Marc brings a deep understanding of our operations, culture and customers, making him an ideal fit to oversee our U.S. stores,” said Frank Blake, chairman and CEO. “We’re truly fortunate to have such a deep bench with leaders like Marc.”

Powers will transition from his current role as SVP operations, U.S. Stores, which has put him in charge of store operations and customer service programs for the retailer’s nearly 2,000 U.S. stores. He began working for The Home Depot as a store associate in 1986.

In his new role, he will be charged with leading the company’s three U.S. operating divisions, as well as Pro, Tool Rental and Home Depot’s installation business.

Powers replaces Marvin Ellison, who left Home Depot to join J.C. Penney in a role that will eventually put him in the CEO post.

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Shelfie could put an end to ‘out of stock’ items

One of the most annoying aspects of grocery shopping for consumers is arriving at the store to find the items they wan’t are sold out. There’s typically nothing supermarkets can do about it at the time, but now Shelfie is giving customers rewards for tracking empty shelves, delivering the data to stores to help them avoid stock defecits.

Developed by Cincinnati-based marketing analysts Datacrowd, consumers that download the app can take a ‘shelfie’ — a picture of the empty shelf and accompanying product tag — every time they come across one. They can then send the image along with their GPS location to the Datacrowd team. In return, they’re offered reward points that can be redeemed in store, or used to spend on other participating brands. Datacrowd then alerts supermarkets with data about when, where and which products are out of stock, enabling them to tweak their inventories to reduce the incidence of empty shelves.

Shelfie is free to download from the App Store and Google Play, although it’s currently only available to US consumers. Are there other ways for national and international businesses to tap crowdsourcing techniques to monitor performance at even their most far-flung locations?



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