Category Archives: Innovation

Shopping List for Penney!!!


Still looking for a great gift for PENNEY VANDERBILT….your favorite blogger?

How about a R-42 subway car (the featured image)

Little steep for your budget?

The MTA is offering what it calls the perfect gifts this holiday season: old trash cans, stained bus seats and grimy subway signs.
“Authentic, unique and probably one of the most useful items in every home, work or office now can be yours,” the transit agency crows in a listing for its less-than-iconic trash bins — complete with marks from years of use. “Hurry and grab this rare item which is available in limited quantity.”

The beat-up refuse containers are selling for $300, while two ratty bus seats will put buyers back a cool $500. Meanwhile, a scratched and faded 11-foot-long subway bench is going for $650.

“These wooden benches are an iconic part of the subway experience. This is your chance to get your hands on this underground furniture!” an MTA ad reads.

For those riders whose pockets aren’t as deep, a strip map from the 2 line can be purchased for $25. Some of the items are newly listed on the MTA’s collectibles Web site.

“Anything deemed surplus is sold to the public,” MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein said in an e-mail. “As we say over here at the MTA, one person’s trash (can) is another person’s treasure. This is a great gift opportunity for subway enthusiasts.”


The Midwest doesn’t have enough early-stage capital – here’s one (radical) solution

Silicone Prarire News

Every founder, funder, and entrepreneurial support organization in the Midwest says the exact same thing: There just isn’t enough early-stage capital. Even a city with a relatively well-developed (by non-Silicon Valley standards) venture capital scene, like St. Louis, still faces a severe shortage of seed and pre-seed funding.

That problem led several organizations to create the $5 million Spirit of St. Louis fund, which focuses on the lack of early-stage funding in the St. Louis metro area.

The Spirit of St. Louis fund is great, but $5 million in one city does not solve the systemic lack of early-stage capital plaguing every startup scene in Middle America. However, the role the St. Louis Regional Chamber played in helping to create Spirit of St. Louis fund speaks to an important fact: The lack of early-stage money isn’t a problem that is going to be solved simply by the natural migration of capital to opportunities that are likely to get the highest return. If this problem is going to be solved, it will take leadership from outside of the venture capital world.

In other words, creating good jobs and strengthening local economies aren’t the jobs of venture capital firms. Yes, VC firms here in the Midwest seem to be very community-minded, and job creation is hopefully a byproduct of a successful investment—but the purpose of venture capital is to return the highest possible profit to the fund’s investors, not reinvent local economies.

That’s why addressing the lack of early-stage funding in startup ecosystems outside of the coasts may require the federal government to get involved.

It isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

Politicians from both parties have told us for the past several decades that entrepreneurs and small business owners are the engines of economic growth, and that we are all better off if those individuals are given the opportunity and the resources to create jobs.

For 40 years, one of the primary ways the federal government has tried to do that is through tax cuts.

That approach usually doesn’t work.

Research (and the words of actual CEOs) shows tax cuts for large corporations and wealthy individuals usually aren’t reinvested back into job-creating activities. Instead, large corporations often use the money for share buybacks. In the rare instances when those tax savings are (indirectly) invested in startups, the money flows into funds where it will get the highest return—which means the money isn’t likely to end up in early-stage funds focusing on Midwestern startups.

If you believe the reason for having a startup scene in St. Louis, Kansas City, Des Moines, or Omaha is to recreate Silicon Valley on a smaller scale, then the public sector shouldn’t play a role in solving the lack of early-stage funding. The government definitively should not be in the business of helping just a few people experience the windfall that comes with a billion-dollar exit.

But if you believe that the reason for having a startup scene in those cities is to help create good jobs, strengthen economies, and revitalize communities, then the government may have a role to play in helping early-stage startups access capital. In fact, it may have to play that role.

Of course, no one wants Washington, D.C., deciding which startups are worthy of an investment.

That’s why funding should come in the form of block grants distributed to state and local organizations like the Missouri Technology Corporation.

You could also label a concept like this “corporate welfare.” And, maybe it is—but at least it’s corporate welfare with intent. It isn’t cutting taxes on large corporations because in “theory” they will reinvest in the local economy. Instead, it’s investing money directly in the idea that entrepreneurs are our best job creators.

In most instances, the private sector is the best entity to solve a difficult problem. On occasion, it isn’t. And when the private sector is best suited to solve the problem, it tends to solve it quickly, because being the first to solve the problem means being the first to profit from the solution.

The fact that every founder, funder, and support organization identifies a lack of early-stage funding as a problem yet to be solved tells me that we should at least explore the idea of a public sector solution.

IBM is using the blockchain to speed up and simplify cross-border payments

The blockchain has long been seen as a method to quicken (and cheapen) cross-borders payments, and now that movement — which includes a number of startups making moves privately — just got its highest profile advocate after IBM announced its own solution focus on banks.

The computing giant has teamed up with blockchain startup Stellar and payment company Kickex to launch a cross-border payment system for banks which uses the blockchain to “reduce the settlement time and lower the cost of completing global payments for businesses and consumers.”

Currently, international transactions take days, if not weeks, to be completed. Frustration with that has seen services like TransferWise rise, but, great as they are, they remain solutions for savvy consumers or small businesses rather than all.

A blockchain solution for banks addresses the root cause, and it could minimize the potential for errors thanks to the ledger-based system while also providing transparency and flexibility to banks.

In one example, IBM said its service could be used to connect a farmer in Samoa with a buyer based in Indonesia, while covering more than just the payment itself.

“The blockchain would be used to record the terms of the contract, manage trade documentation, allow the farmer to put up collateral, obtain letters of credit, and finalize transaction terms with immediate payment, conducting global trade with transparency and relative ease,” it said.

That’s the longer term objective but already the system is being used in 12 currency corridors between the Pacific Islands and Australia, New Zealand and the UK. It is tipped to handle 60 percent of cross-border payments from South Pacific’s retail industry within the next year and there are wider plans beyond that.

More than a dozen banks are part of the initial group working with the program, which has plans to expand into South America, Southeast Asia and other areas early next year.

“With the guidance of some of the world’s leading financial institutions, IBM is working to explore new ways to make payment networks more efficient and transparent so that banking can happen in real-time, even in the most remote parts of the world,” Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President of IBM Industry Platforms, said in a statement.

The system runs on the IBM Blockchain Platform, which itself is based on the open source Hyperledger Fabric that powers IBM’s “Blockchain as a service” announced earlier this year. It is also an notable example of a public blockchain (IBM) working with a private blockchain (Stellar) since Stellar handles the actual settlement of transactions, as CoinDesk noted.

IBM recently partnered with Walmart and others to use the blockchain to improve food safety through increased transparency and traceability.

The demonetisation of housing By Kyron Gosse

It seems kind of counter-intuitive as a property investor to be sitting here talking about how housing might one day be free, particularly when so much of the current conversation around housing consists of unaffordability, intense capital growth and generations condemned to rent, writes Kyron Gosse.

Yet the signals are there for those who know where to look. There is an impending sea change just around the corner that may result in housing becoming demonetised to the point where we can no longer charge our tenants.

Now before you start scoffing and calling me a communist – I am not saying this is going to happen anytime soon, nor am I saying that it is going to happen everywhere. All I am saying is there are some signs pointing towards a decreasing cost in living which might one day influence rents and house prices.

When we look at the biggest costs of housing, there are four things that contribute to the bill: land costs, construction costs, council bureaucracy and living costs.

Yet with the advent of hyperloop and flying cars, we will be redefining what a city means. These technologies will open up large amounts of land to be a commutable distance from cities.

In fact, if we look at Sydney, considering the possibility of hyperloop in the near future, everything from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast would be considered a commutable distance from the CBD.

What’s more, in the years to come we might see a decline in our reliance on traditional farming. Between vertical farms in urban zones and plant-based meat there will be very few farms left. This will result in thousands of hectares of farmland now accessible from major cities becoming almost insignificant of value.

On the construction side of things, we have found ourselves as spectators in the race for a commercially viable house 3D printer. China and Russia are neck and neck in this race, with each party having proved they can print houses for as little as $10,000. Given these are simply the first prototypes, costs are sure to come down in the future.

Energy costs are shrinking thanks to solar. Solar is now the cheapest form of energy available, and with Tesla’s Powerwall we are able to store that energy better than ever before.

Also thanks to water collection and reverse osmosis technology, as well as breakthroughs in sanitation, it is becoming possible for nearly anyone to move off-grid. Or better yet, to sell excess energy back to the grid thereby offsetting their mortgage payments.

So, imagine being able to pick up a section that is a 30-minute commute to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra or Brisbane CBD’s for next to nothing. Spend $10,000 3D printing your home, utilising technology to be entirely self-sufficient and sell any excess to cover your mortgage.

However this plays out and how strategies might change, I will always remember something taught to me by my mentor Steve McKnight – “as long as people live in houses, there will be an opportunity to make money”.

How To Save The Mall

LOS ANGELES, United States — Do consumers still need shopping malls? One in four US malls won’t exist in five years, according to a June report by Credit Suisse. This year alone, American shopping malls will lose an estimated 8,640 stores to closures. That’s, in part, thanks to digital sales of apparel, which are growing fast and estimated to reach 35 percent of total apparel sales by 2030, up from 17 percent this year.

And yet, for those raised on the west side of Los Angeles, the Century City mall is an institution. On October 3, the latest, gleaming, iteration of the shopping centre — the third place of third places — will be officially unveiled to consumers by Westfield, the multinational mall operator which is doing its best to dispel the idea that the shopping mall is dead.

The new Westfield Century City, re-imagined in partnership with Los Angeles-based (and television famous) interior designer Kelly Wearstler, features outdoor dining spaces, acres of gardens, even a canopy of olive and palm trees. And yes, stores. Over 200 of them, including a three-storey Nordstrom, a Zara and a Bonobos.

Food, too: Lots of it. Along with Eataly, the first location of the high-end Italian food hall to open on the West Coast of the United States, there is an expansive location of the popular local grocery store Gelson’s and plenty of fast-casual and fine-dining restaurants, including Din Tai Fung (the first Taiwanese spot to receive a Michelin Star).

Fitness buffs can join the upscale Equinox gym, or take a class Gloveworx boxing studio. The company has even hired a “creative head of global entertainment” — well-regarded Broadway producer Scott Sanders — to run its live programming across its centres. Out of dozens of retailers, 50 of them have never before done business with Westfield.

But even with all the bells and whistles — Uber waiting lounge included — Westfield Century City is still, of course, a mall.

“The word ‘mall’ is a dated word,” says Steven Lowy, the corporation’s co-CEO. “It’s been lost in the vernacular.” The answer to making the word “mall” relevant again, Westfield and many of its competitors say, is to transform these properties into community centres that aren’t totally focused on apparel retail. The strategy rests on the hypothesis that the internet may be killing the mall, but humans still desire interaction.

In 2007, 42 percent of sales at Westfield developments came from department stores. Today, it’s only 28 percent. The company says that only approximately 12 percent of revenue from its two London malls — two of the most productive in its portfolio — come from department stores.

By shrinking its portfolio to 35 centres globally — which includes properties in the US, the UK and soon mainland Europe — the Sydney-based Westfield (which divested its Australian centres in 2014 to form a separate entity, the Scentre Group) says its properties, mostly located in urban areas instead of white-flight suburbs, are valued at $31 billion, with flagship assets currently making up 82 percent of the lineup. The rest are “regional” properties, many of which the company will likely sell off in the coming years.

“Ten years ago, Westfield had 69 shopping centres in the United States, today we have 33 and two in the UK. We probably will have quite a bit less over the coming years as we focus on being what we would regard as the highest quality retail real estate company in the world,” Lowy says. “We’re not far away from that right now, and the way we do that is by selling non-core assets and reinvesting that capital in assets like London, Milan, New York…Silicon Valley…etc.”

In 2018, after years of red-tape delays, Westfield will begin developing what is being touted as the city of Milan’s largest shopping mall, a €1.4 billion ($1.6 billion at current exchange) investment, built in partnership with Gruppo Stilo, which owns a quarter stake. Now scheduled to open in 2020, its crown jewel will be an outpost of the famous French department store Galeries Lafayette.

Westfield’s strategy is not unlike those of many of its competitors, who are betting that experience — including food, entertainment and health and fitness — will allow a certain sort of development to thrive even as consumers spend more time online.

“Changing consumer behaviours, attitudes and technologies have drastically altered expectations for a shopping experience, and we are facing this trend head-on by transforming our mall assets into community hubs, with varied offers that service each of our communities’ specific whole-of-life needs and aspirations,” says Skye Fisher, head of strategy at QIC Global Real Estate, a development firm with properties across the US and in Australia. “Offering more than a simple consumer transaction, we are creating places that encourage people to dwell, drawing in the community and ensuring people will visit again and again. By curating a more integrated, experience-led offer that responds to a broad range of customer needs, we’re supporting an uplift in sales across all categories including fashion and apparel.”

In the 12-month period ending June 30, 2017, Westfield said fashion sales in specialty retailers at flagship properties were up 1.5 percent, while leisure sales were up 6.4 percent. However, sales at general retail — which includes department stores — were down 5.8 percent. Today, food and dining make up 18 percent of the portfolio’s overall sales (from 15 percent a decade ago), while technology and auto make up 16 percent (from 9 percent a decade ago). “In some of our malls, Apple is the highest-grossing retailer, not the department stores,” Lowy says. “Apple is doing that out of 10,000 or 20,000 square feet. The department stores have 250,000 square feet.”

But can doubling down on these growing categories truly supplant the overall retreat from brick and mortar, and encourage consumers who visit these developments to actually shop? “I’ve seen the retail universe adapt to whatever changes consumers have thrown at them, but this generational change has created a conundrum for retailers of all types that it hasn’t been able to deal with,” says Richard Kestenbaum, a partner at Triangle Capital, a sell-side M&A and capital-raising advisory firm with a concentration in fashion and retail. “Every square foot of retail is worth less than it was 24 or 36 months ago. Once that is recognised, it changes the economics of retail. People will lose a lot of money in the transition, but there is money to be made.”

In order to eke productivity out of properties, developers not only have to change the mix of retailers represented, but retailers need to reevaluate the purpose of their brick-and-mortar stores. Today, many consumers view physical retail as a place to easily drop off online returns, rather than an opportunity to browse and shop. In October, the American value-driven department store Kohl’s will begin accepting Amazon returns at 82 locations in an unprecedented deal, underscoring the physical store’s role as a return centre.

Lowy, for one, is okay with that dynamic. “We all just need to evolve and not really care if the store is a store or a showroom. The consumer is going to shop how they want to shop,” he says, citing the prevalence of “click and collect” schemes in the UK and Europe. “I don’t really care whether the consumer comes to the mall and buys something or sees something and buys it elsewhere or returns something. We’ve just got to do what the consumer wants.”

What New York City’s subway system can learn from ones around the world

New York subway riders: At least we have Wi-Fi.

That may be the only bright side after years of worsening service and a “summer of hell” for the aging subway system.

Along with delays and derailments—and the constant bickering of Governor Andrew Cuomo and and Mayor Bill de Blasio—only 65 percent of subway trains ran on time during the first five months of 2017, down from 86 percent five years ago, according to MTA figures

The system seems to be physically straining under the weight of its popularity, handling 50 percent more passengers than it did in the ’90s with barely any additions in capacity and new cars.

“The costs of postponing improvements may be even more enormous” than the inconveniences of paying for them. Sadly, that clear-eyed assessment was written in 1981, before the MTA had as much debt (it now owes $40 billion).

Why have things become so hard for the New York subway system, and why do other systems around the world seem to do things better? It’s difficult to make comparisons between different subway systems, especially when it comes to the age and reach of each one.

The city’s own long history of deferred maintenance, especially in the ’70s, as well as its political peculiarities (Cuomo controls arguably the backbone of the city’s transit system, despite his assertions to the contrary), make it its own type of transit system basket case.

But, as Robert Puentes, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a non-partisan think-tank, and an infrastructure and planning expert, says, in this frustrating moment, riders, representatives, and leaders are talking about all the problems.

While it’s impossible to start from scratch and overhaul a 113-year-old mass transit system, comparing New York with its international peers does offer insight into the strengths and weaknesses of different systems, and perhaps some new ideas along the way.
Stockholm, Sweden, and maintenance

In New York City, many subway stations are covered in decades-old tile and layers of grit and grime, often with rusted-out infrastructure. It makes any comparison with Stockholm’s seven metro lines, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in the world, even more striking. Adorned with public art, Stockholm’s Metro isn’t called “the world’s longest art gallery” for nothing.

Many stations feature uncovered rock, with the jagged walls offering an additional aesthetic touch. The Kungsträdgården station even includes a fountain where the elevators meet the platform. Part of it is due to the city’s geography; rough stone allows the city to create au naturale subways stations, something that wouldn’t fly in New York City. (The subterranean schist would be unstable without tiling, which adds to capital and cleaning costs.) Natural cover, it turns out, is not just attractive but is also cost-effective.

Stockholm may have natural and manmade beauty, but its stations—and those of most other systems—have another advantage over New York City when it comes to maintenance: time, notably nights and weekends, when the system shuts down. While a 24-hour subway is convenient, it adds adds complications and costs to any potential repairs.

New York City has the highest operating costs in the world, says transit writer Alon Levy, at roughly $10 per train per kilometer—in Europe, it’s about $6 or $7 on average—and that’s mostly due to track maintenance and operations. Even other 24-hour train systems, such as the much smaller Copenhagen, are designed in such a manner that sections can be isolated for work much easier than inside the MTA’s vintage tunnels.

Another reason for Stockholm’s beauty may be its maintenance plan. According to Puentes, the city contracts out maintenance services to a private firm, and structures contracts to meet certain benchmarks. The city’s system manages to save money all while meeting strict standards.

“We’re good at building new stuff in the U.S., but we’re not good at maintaining it,” he says. “Infrastructure isn’t designed to last in perpetuity. Stockholm just makes sure to put these items on its budget and prioritizes them.”

There’s no magic formula here, he says, just sticking with maintenance goals and making them central to your budget.
Madrid and construction cost

New York has trouble maintaining the subway system, but at least it can build cool new stations, right? Who else has cool new Chuck Close murals? Well, it has grown, albeit incredibly slowly and at a cost multiple times more than more other cities across the globe.

Many blame the maintenance issues on the fact that local leaders (namely Governor Andrew Cuomo) in New York are fixated on shiny, new prestige projects instead of everyday, competent operations. But even when New York does create a new station or extension, it comes at an incredible cost.

The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway was most expensive rail construction project in the world. The costs were staggering: at $1.7 billion per kilometer, it was at least five to six times more than projects in other developing countries, according to Levy.

Numerous reasons have been given to explain the cost differential for the MTA: regulations, labor costs, local materials, even more costly design. But that doesn’t explain everything, says Levy. He posits that other countries are better at cost containment and organization. Take Madrid, Spain, where the MetroSur line, finished in 2003, is 41 kilometers long with 28 stations, yet was completed in four years at around $58 million per kilometer.

How can that be? According to Levy, the Spanish system has numerous advantages. One, they have a better bid and cost system. Overruns and additional materials requests are built into the contract, to help control overrun costs. And most importantly, they build quickly. Levy says Spanish infrastructure turns a typical saying about building—“fast, cheap, and well-made, pick two”—on its head by actually having a bit of all three.

Part of the reason is the way stations are built. There are two main styles of subway construction: cut and cover, where builders rip open a street and build underneath, and the tunnel-boring method, where teams set up large pits, and use large drills to work underground and build new tunnels.

The first is faster and cheaper and typically considered more disruptive, especially to surrounding businesses, but the Spanish go ahead and use it anyway. This makes their projects quicker to build. Levy even believes, in the long run, it actually isn’t as disruptive, because it’s faster and allows small businesses to plan ahead for disruptions. New York City used to do all cut and cover in the early days of the system, but it has become prohibitive as the city and system grew. (The Second Avenue Subway was built using tunnel boring, for example.)
Hong Kong and profitability

If we’re not getting private dollars, then New York City is back to its usual financial self: struggling to make ends meet. Like just about every other mass transit system in the U.S., it’s not making all its revenues at the farebox (that only covers roughly 45 percent of MTA’s budget), and by relying on a patchwork of city, state, and federal dollars, it makes it hard to plan ahead, much less afford capital improvements. Over roughly the last decade, the MTA’s costs have outpaced inflation by 50 percent, making it harder to dig out of any financial hole.

In Asia, another system is literally making billions every year, and it’s using a tool that New York has in abundance: high-priced commercial real estate. In Hong Kong, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR), which manages the subway, seems to print money compared to its peers; in 2012, it registered $2 billion in profits. Its farebox recovery rate, the percentage of operation costs covered by rider fares, was a staggering 185 percent.

But that’s not the true secret to the system’s financial success. It’s not just the stations; it’s what around them that matters. MTR owns much of the malls, shops, and stores clustered around its stations, and makes deals with owners, including co-ownership agreements and development fees. The MTR, in effect, creates its own transit-oriented commercial developments, funneling shoppers to stores it profits from, while getting them to pay for the trip. The system’s massive real estate holdings give it huge profit potential.

All this money allows the system to invest in state-of-the-art equipment and maintain a 99 percent on-time performance (“in 10 years time, everything will have changed,” the system’s operations director told CNN). Hong Kong now utilizes infrared cameras and an artificial intelligence system that maximizes limited overnight maintenance time (the MTA still has signal systems from the ’30s).

Like other comparisons to New York’s subway system, this one is also a bit flawed. For one thing, Hong Kong lacks suburbs, and has a much more captive rail market, with just a small percentage of cars owned for personal use (Hong Kong carries almost the same number of passengers yearly as New York with a third less track mileage). Like super-dense Tokyo, customer concentration means more rides. But when you think of all the valuable land near subways stations in New York, it makes you wonder what would happen if the MTA was more entwined with the real estate game.
Tokyo and efficiency

How do we fix these huge issues? Earlier this year, Cuomo announced that he was considering allowing private sponsors for certain subway stations, to help get private money to clean up at least some of the station’s mess.

But would privatization work? Wouldn’t creeping corporate control over the beloved subway, in the unlikely case it ever happened, turn it into a profit-driven system that loses its egalitarian mission?

If privatization looks anything like Tokyo, then it may not be so bad. In the Japanese metropolis, the city’s rail lines are run in tip-top shape by a handful of private companies.

The Tokyo subway handles twice as many riders as New York City (without 24-hour service), has train systems built after World War II with more efficient signaling systems, and benefit from being within one of the world’s most dense, massive metro area. Tokyo’s metro systems also benefit from land development in and around their stations.

Curbed NY Com

Artificial Intelligence in Brick and Mortar Retail

Retail Law Advisor Goulston & Storrs PC

Headlines about brick and mortar retail tend to be dominated by how these establishments are in decline while online retail is burgeoning. Fortunately for brick and mortar retailers, their demise is not preordained since tools from the online retail universe may also help them succeed. One such tool is artificial intelligence (AI), which is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years.

Online retail is able to target customers easily because of the large data collection that occurs with every transaction. However, brick and mortar retail establishments may employ various AI tools to collect data to tailor in-store shopping experiences and target consumers. For example, video and/or audio surveillance can be used to track shopper activity in stores, and stores can then predict customer preferences and behaviors by analyzing and conglomerating in-store surveillance. Such surveillance methods can use facial and/or voice recognition software to analyze facial and voice expressions to understand how customers react to particular products or experiences.

Robots are another AI tool that may help brick and mortar retail compete more effectively with online retail. Robots may enhance the physical shopping experience in many ways. Humanoid robots can be deployed into retail establishments to greet customers, answer questions, and guide them through the store. Lowe’s has piloted a robot program at its Bay Area stores, where robots help customers search for products and guide them in the stores. Also, robots are being used and expanded to check and resupply inventory, deliver products, and assist with checkout and payment.

Finally, the collection of sales data can help retailers personalize a customer experience and ultimately help increase sales – whether in-store or online. Data can be collected online and then used in stores, or data collected from a customer’s previous visit can be used to enhance his or her next visit to a bricks and mortar store. “Machine learning” can discover patterns in a customer’s behavior and then make suggestions or produce incentives, such as instantly printing coupons for products that are likely to be desirable to an individual customer. The same data collection can be used to better tailor inventory, customize shopping experiences, adjust pricing, and refine product selection. While all of these techniques are equally useful online retail tools, their utility in the bricks and mortar environment may help these physical establishments remain competitive with their online counterparts

How Retailers Can Stay OFF The Closing List


In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

Integrate Ecommerce and POS inventory
Omnichannel shoppers see no difference between your ecommerce and POS offerings and neither should you. Make every store’s inventory visible to online shoppers so that you can take advantage of the “buy online, pick-up in store” model. Integrated ecommerce and POS inventory management systems show real-time availability so consumers do not face unexpected out-of-stocks at brick and mortar locations. If an item is not available at the customer’s selected store, provide fast and free transfer from another store.

Use brick and mortar stores as fulfillment centers
Every physical store should also double as a fulfillment center for web orders. This opens up every item in inventory to sales from any channel and reduces time in transit for ecommerce orders. Orders that are automatically routed to locations closest to customers can reach front doors faster than from a central warehouse, often overnight or within two days without incurring express shipping charges.

Go mobile
It’s official — mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop traffic. If your website does not display properly on mobile devices, you’re missing out on a huge number of consumers. But just displaying properly is no longer enough. Navigation, inventory visibility and checkout must all be optimized for mobile users. This has massive benefits for brick and mortar as well when customers on the go can locate items in your stores; they may even make purchases from inside a competitor’s location.

Automate ordering with vendors
The long-time promise of just in time inventory management finally eliminated worries about out-of-stocks. Set minimum and maximum thresholds for SKUs and let your retail management platform automatically order the right amount of inventory from suppliers at the exact right moment. When you know every product you sell will be automatically replenished before it sells through, you do not have to keep as much inventory on hand and can open up shelf space for additional offerings likely to attract customers. You also don’t have to worry anymore about selling out on popular items and sending frustrated customers home empty handed.

Empower every employee as a checkout
One of the worst things that can happen in a store is when customers with intent to purchase leave upon seeing long checkout lines, or can’t find anyone to take their money. The in-store experience must be as smooth and easy as it is online — consumers are no longer willing to wait. Arm every employee with a tablet loaded with mobile POS software so they can complete transactions, look up inventory, and place customer orders from anywhere in the store.

Personalize direct marketing to customers
Target individual customer segments with the offers most likely to appeal to them through marketing automation. Integrate online and POS customer data to segment personas effectively and send promotions that are personalized to known preferences and likely to bring customers into stores. Specific behaviors should trigger customized messages, and look for opportunities to leverage ecommerce and in-store offerings. For example, an abandoned shopping cart may trigger a reminder message that could also include a note like, “this item is also available at your nearest store, would you like us to hold it for you?”

Expand inventory exponentially with drop shipping
Drop shipping today does not resemble what it looked like 15 years ago. Many vendors offer drop shipping that can use your branding and fulfill lightning fast. Offering items for sale that you do not have hold in inventory opens up your website to endless opportunities and it can also be integrated into “buy online, pick up in store.” Give customers the option of having the item sent to their homes or to their nearest store with no shipping charges. If they select a store, simply have the vendor pack the item along with your next regular order.

The next time you see a headline about a retailer closing stores, refer back to this list. It will become clear that one of the major reasons the merchant is in trouble is because it is not responding quickly enough to the changing demands of modern consumers. Provide the experiences today’s empowered shoppers expect and you will have much less to fear from predictions of impending doom.

GE’s New Global Operations Center only one in U.S.

GE is accelerating the establishment of shared services to deliver better outcomes at lower cost for our businesses and customers. Called Global Operations, It is centralizing and simplifying these services to work smarter and more efficiently. Teams of experts at the Global Operations Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, span many functions, including: Accounting, Finance, Communications, Customs, HR, IT, Legal, Logistics, Project Management, Supply Chain, & Enterprise Data Management. They apply their expertise to business processes to make them simple, fast and more reliable, enabling our colleagues to compete and win in the global marketplace.

Cincinnati is one of the four locations for GE’s Global Operations Centers worldwide, with the other locations in Pudong, China; Budapest, Hungary; and Monterrey, Mexico. The Cincinnati Center currently houses approximately 1,000 people working in functions such as Finance/Accounting, HR, IT, Supply Chain, Legal/EHS and Commercial Operations.

The building features open and collaborative work spaces, including a mix of huddle spaces and workstations, with floor to ceiling windows providing sweeping views of the Cincinnati riverfront and downtown. Flexible and productive workspaces underpin GE’s culture and mission, and add to the overall atmosphere, energy, culture and collaboration. These work spaces are extensions of GE culture and motivate employees to contribute their best while maintaining a good work-life balance. The infrastructure and spaces in the new building supports GE’s culture of FastWorks and Lean and promotes collaboration.

1,800 employees projected to be employed at the Center by the end of 2017
We celebrate diversity! Some interesting statistics about our center include:
21 Nationalities represented
25 Languages spoken
50% women
12% of the new hires in 2016 are Veterans

San Clemente approves plan to turn historic Miramar movie theater and bowling alley into events center

Orange County Register via California Rail News

A plan to renovate San Clemente’s historic Miramar Theater property – shuttered since 1992 – has won the approval of the city’s planning commission.

Commissioners voted 6-0 Wednesday, June 7 to approve permits so the owners can incorporate the former movie theater, built in 1938, with an adjacent former bowling alley built in 1946 as a single project – an events center with restaurants.

Both buildings occupy the 1700 block of North El Camino Real. The city designates them as historic landmarks in the city’s North Beach area.

The plan is to turn the former 7,836-square-foot cinema into a 435-seat performance and events center and convert the former 5,200-square-foot bowling alley into five specialty-cuisine restaurants with shared seating.

There would be 50 restaurant seats indoors and up to 150 seats in a landscaped outdoor dining area facing El Camino Real. The restaurants could cater for the events center.