Change to Thrive: A Lesson from Your Mall

At the Christmas season, it may be hard to believe that malls are becoming scarcer, but it’s a trend that has been going on for the better part of a decade. A combination of overbuilding, online shopping, and demographic shifts has led to the demise of nearly 1/3 of America’s malls.

But there’s a silver (or green) lining in the retail cloud. Rather than let these massive malls stand empty, owners are following the green re-purposing movement and transforming old malls into new housing, new offices, and new types of retail. Retailers are downsizing their storefronts as they change from their traditional ways of doing business, opening up space in the malls that can be reconfigured into new forms: healthcare facilities, off-campus university learning centers, government offices, libraries, and housing ranging from low-income apartments to chic upscale condos.

Transformation is part of today’s design vocabulary. Warehouses become lofts, malls become community centers, and even the furnishings in offices, like the popular Swiftspace workstations, are reconfigured into whatever form suits the needs of the user at that particular time. Designing and planning for transformation adds longevity to an investment in almost anything: buildings, furnishings, even people. How is your business incorporating transformation into its long-range plan?

 

Photo © Minerva Studio/Fotolia.com

RFID Debate: Sheep’s Privacy is Violated

RFID technology has brought new levels of efficiency and accuracy to a host of industries. Manufacturing, logistics, retail, health care, museum curation — all kinds of businesses have benefited. While some have voiced concerns about privacy, their concerns have actually improved the quality of RFID tech, as developers address security issues.

But no previous privacy objections approached the level of protests of French farmers outraged by a government mandate that sheep be tagged with RFID chips. This may seem slightly ridiculous to us in the U.S., where we’ve been tagging animals with RFID chips for years. Even in France, horses have been RFID-tagged for more than 7 years. But the agriculture ministry’s demand that sheep be tagged was a step too far for the average French farmer. “We don’t need software to tell us how our ewes are feeling,” said one farmer.

Outraged shepherds marched in protest, and the ministry reviewed its decision. As it turned out, the farmers’ basic objection – beneath the hype of privacy for sheep – was the industrialization of farming and the threat to their ancient way of living in touch with the land and their livestock.

While it can be argued that RFID isn’t essential to the French small-scale farmer, the technology is undeniably a vital part of doing business in the 21st century. The ROI is well documented, and businesses that don’t adopt RFID may find themselves falling behind their competitors. In fact, some industry leaders make RFID capability a requirement for their suppliers.

Are you RFID-enabled? Tell us your story.

 

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The Non-Hospital: Healthcare Design Goes Retail

A century ago, “the customer is always right” became the motto for success in the high competitive retail market. In today’s similarly competitive healthcare environment, providers are adopting that same customer-centric approach, according to Rob Chartier in Health Facilities Management. Many hospitals and clinics are redesigning themselves to create a total customer experience, in the same way retailers do.

Other healthcare providers have opted to find a place in existing retail settings. Sarah Bader analyzes how consumers can be encouraged to utilize healthcare services in non-tradition settings. She recommends a number of retail design techniques which healthcare providers can use:

  1. Be accessible – Walgreen’s, a pioneer in retail health care, creates an inviting environment with large, bright windows and doorways, and encourages pharmacists to mingle with shoppers.
  2. Be specific – Retail is not a one-size-fits-all business. With market-specific services and designs, health care facilities can attract niche buyers.
  3. Be clear – Spaces that encourage communication result in better health care outcomes, just as they result in happier retail customers.
  4. Be nimble and flexible – Retailers are constantly adjusting store layouts to meet changes in consumer tastes. Health care designers, too, can incorporate flexibility into treatment facilities.
  5. Be virtual – Consumers are shopping at their favorite retailers’ online stores. Health care providers can leverage their online presence in the same way retailers do.
  6. Be visible – Brand identity is vital. Retail stores like Target and Nike are unmistakable because their brand identity is carried throughout the stores’ design. Likewise, retail health care can make use of signage and spatial design to establish a brand look-and-feel.

This new approach to healthcare delivery requires designers to rethink the entire healthcare environment, particularly secure storage of patient records and prescription drugs. Retail settings encourage free access, but healthcare demands patient privacy and safety. It’s the kind of design challenge that calls for a top-tier storage consultant.

 

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Trending: Retail Stores as “Museums”

Retailers have struggled with consumers’ growing habit of “showrooming” – shoppers come to stores to see, touch, learn about, and try on products which they then buy from a low-price low-overhead online retailer. Brick-and-mortar retail grew last year in the single digits, while e-commerce enjoyed a 22% growth rate. Are physical stores going to be phased out completely?

Not at all, says Natasha Baker, writing in Forbes.com. Retailers can and should embrace showrooming and turn it to their advantage. Baker cites one expert who recommends thinking of stores as “museums” where shoppers can go to explore, learn about products, and be entertained. Retailers can gather instant analytics about shoppers’ preferences, just as e-commerce sellers do. Proximity sensors and “smart shelves” can follow individual shoppers via smart phone apps, and they can suggest related products or alert shoppers to customized coupons (think of Amazon’s suggested products). As reported in RetailTouchpoints.com, stores like Bloomingdale’s are even using e-commerce to test new products by displaying them in the store but selling them only online.

By adopting the “store-as-museum” model, retailers can also manage inventory much more effectively. Rather than keep large supplies of inventory in back rooms, stores can keep a relatively small number of products on hand, supplemented by deliveries from their warehouses. With access to the stores’ customer analytics system, warehouses can prep inventory for shipment in advance of a shortage, or fulfill online orders placed in stores.

Embracing the technology of virtual commerce can represent real-world savings to savvy retailers. With less need for in-store storage, retailers can reduce their real estate overhead while maximizing their less-expensive warehouse space to supply both their online shoppers and their “museum” stores.

 

Photo © Ruslan Semichev/Fotolia

The Supply Chain Bottleneck at U.S. Ports

When the new mega-size container ship “Benjamin Franklin” docked in the Ports of Los Angeles in late 2015, it marked the beginning of a new shipping era. The ship can carry 18,000 containers. Placed end to end, the containers would reach from Boston to Hartford, a distance of nearly 100 miles. That’s a lot of containers!

And that number of containers has logistics experts worried. Their concern: The land-side infrastructure of ports on the US west coast cannot handle such a large influx of containers at one time. Trucks will not be able to get in and out of the ports quickly enough to move all those containers off the docks and make room for the next ship waiting its turn to unload, says Jared Vineyard, blogging for Universal Cargo.

This congestion starts a domino effect that is felt all the way down the supply chain – transportation delays increase, warehouses aren’t restocked on time, and retailers will feel the squeeze. Despite the increased shipping capacity, American shoppers may actually experience shortages of their favorite consumer goods. To keep retail shelves stocked, wholesalers and warehouse managers should be looking at ways to increase their own storage capacity ahead of the bottleneck that could be building at the seaports.

 

Photo © Jochen Binikowski– Fotolia.com

6 Design Tips for Health Care

As health care continues moving out of critical-care facilities and into consumer-friendly settings, designers are picking up a few design secrets from the retail industry.

Writing in Health Facilities Management, Sarah Bader presents six retail design techniques that can influence the behavior of consumers, encouraging them to make use of health care services offered in non-traditional settings like pharmacies and retail health clinics. Bader’s recommendations:

  1. Be accessible – Walgreen’s, a pioneer in retail health care, creates an inviting environment with large, bright windows and doorways, and encourages pharmacists to mingle with shoppers.
  2. Be specific – Retail is not a one-size-fits-all business. With market-specific services and designs, health care facilities can attract niche buyers.
  3. Be clear – Spaces that encourage communication result in better health care outcomes, just as they result in happier retail customers.
  4. Be nimble and flexible – Retailers are constantly adjusting store layouts to meet changes in consumer tastes. Health care designers, too, can incorporate flexibility into treatment facilities.
  5. Be virtual – Consumers are shopping at their favorite retailers’ online stores. Health care providers can leverage their online presence in the same way retailers do.
  6. Be visible – Brand identity is vital. Retail stores like Target and Nike are unmistakable because their brand identity is carried throughout the stores’ design. Likewise, retail health care can make use of signage and spatial design to establish a brand look-and-feel.

 A few years ago, retail consumer behavior was barely a blip on the health care radar. Now it’s a big part of the health care business model, and retail design can be a major influence in health care success.

Photo © Catherine Estevez – Fotolia

Fashion Designers’ Workplace Storage: Anything But Uniform

From conservative to outrageous, fashion designers incorporate whatever materials work best for their unique wearable designs. That same approach carries over into the design of their workspace, according to IA Interior Architects’ director of design John Capobianco.

Like many other professionals, fashion designers find that a mixture of private space and collaborative areas works best for them. Unlike some other businesses, however, fashion designers have a need to store objects that are irregular-shaped and bulky. For this, they turn to high-density storage systems with adjustable shelving, accommodating everything from boots to blouses.

Designers also need transformable modular storage that can display dresses one day and shoes the next. As Capobianco puts it in a recent blog post, “It has to be much more user customizable, where you don’t have to hire someone to facilitate the transition.” And when the designs go into production, designers use RFID to track the source materials and finished products, and create databases for their catalogues.

When it comes to practical storage solutions, these wildly imaginative fashion designers have a surprisingly down-to-earth point of view. As with their clothing designs, they find the right storage solutions for their needs and, in the words of fashion icon Tim Gunn, they “make it work.”

 

Photo © Diorgi – Fotolia

How RFID Is Saving Macy’s Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Surveys say 47% of shoppers prefer shopping online. Sounds like the end of retail is near! However, shopping online does not necessarily translate to buying online. Macy’s is using RFID’s rich data capabilities to make sure that whatever is advertised online is actually available in stores, giving shoppers the convenience of online shopping combined with the immediacy of in-store purchasing.

Bill Connell, Macy’s senior VP of logistics and operations, cites the speed and reliability of RFID inventory control as part of their omnichannel retail scheme. RFID allows store employees to scan inventory on the retail floor several times a day and replenish stock immediately, something that was completely impractical with other inventory control systems. Shoppers who see something on Macy’s website today and want to wear it tonight will always find that specific item in the store – a valuable advantage in the competitive world of retail. Read the complete story at http://bit.ly/1qEiRAS.

 

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