News Briefs


Cole Haan Implements Open Architecture Commerce Tech to Modernize the Store Experience

Cole Haan

Shoe and outerwear retailer Cole Haan is modernizing its store experience, implementing technology that will unify and streamline its commerce platform. 

The composable architecture, provided by retail tech company Aptos, will allow Cole Haan to improve its flexibility, meet shifting consumer demands, and deliver new innovations. This will help support the retailer’s more than 90 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and over 300 international store locations.  

Ron Edwards, chief operating officer of Cole Haan, said the retail experience has changed dramatically in recent years. 

“Our investment in Aptos ONE reflects our commitment to keeping pace with consumers’ evolving expectations,” Edwards said in a statement. “Aptos ONE gives Cole Haan enterprise-grade point of sale capabilities that are delivered mobile first and cloud native, with highly resilient offline capabilities that give you the confidence of omnichannel transacting anytime and anywhere.” 

Aptos CEO Pete Sinisgalli said, through the investment, the company will be able to more tightly integrate the customer experience and the enterprise to continue providing high-quality craftsmanship, customer obsession, and technological modernization.


Crate & Barrel Taps Long-time Nike Exec as New Chief Operating Officer

crate and barrel store exterior

Crate & Barrel Inc. is tapping former Nike executive Mike Brewer as their new chief operating officer. Taking up the role from February 1, 2023, Brewer will be responsible for CBH's entire brand portfolio, including Crate & Barrel, CB2, Crate & Kids, and Hudson Grace.

Brewer held various sourcing, manufacturing, and supply chain roles during his twenty-year tenure at Nike. Most recently, Brewer held the positions of VP, global sourcing and manufacturing and VP, global operations and logistics.

“I look forward to the leadership and expertise Mike will bring to CBH with his customer-centric and purpose-driven mindset,” said Janet Hayes, CEO of Crate & Barrel Holdings. “We are confident his experience will further our goals of operational excellence and elevate the modern shopping experience and products our customers turn to brands for.”

This is not the first time Crate & Barrel has brought a Nike executive into the leadership fold. In 2021, the home goods retailer tapped former Nike vice president of technology Jason Booth as their new chief technology officer. In May of 2022, Crate & Barrel also built out their senior leadership team, promoting Sebastian Brauer to senior vice president for product design, development and metaverse.

“I admire Crate & Barrel Holdings' commitment to creating meaningful connections with customers across its omnichannel offerings," said Brewer. “I'm excited to join this ambitious team and drive solutions that positively transform our customer journey and meet current and future retail challenges.”


RetailROI SuperSaturday Event Raises Almost $400,000 to Help Vulnerable Children

microsoft nyc hq

Over 220 retail leaders recently met at Microsoft’s New York headquarters to network for a great cause. The RetailROI SuperSaturday event – held annually at NRF – raised $384,000, which will go towards helping orphans and children in the foster care system. 

Leaders in attendance at The Retail Orphan Initiative event included Sharon Leite, CEO of Ideal Image, who talked about her time as a contestant on “Undercover Boss, “ as well as executives from Avande, IBM Consulting, KPMG, Verizon for Business, Amperity, AWS, and many more. 

This was the 14th SuperSaturday in NRF’s history, with the event generating over $4.2 million USD in proceeds since its inception 13 years ago. In the past, these funds have gone towards providing clean water, renovating schools, installing computer labs, and more. It’s estimated that 311,000 children in 28 countries have benefited from these projects.

“We are humbled by the spirit and the support of the retail community,” said Greg Buzek, president of the Retail Orphan Initiative. “To see all of these executives giving up a day with their own families to help children they may never meet is truly inspiring. The combined annual revenues of the companies represented surpassed over $2.48 Trillion USD, an amount greater than the total GDP of Italy. Together we can make a HUGE difference to help children in need.”


Kroger Strengthens Workforce Productivity With AI- and ML-Powered Tools

Kroger storefront

Kroger is elevating its store leadership and associate experience by tapping advanced tech like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics to improve real-time operational decisions. 

The company is working with Google Cloud and Deloitte, leveraging cloud tech across its 2,800 stores across the U.S. such as a new task management solution for night crew that improves merchandise visibility, provides store staffing information, and communicates stocking needs. Additionally, through a new store management application, store leaders can utilize a standardized audit checklist with a customizable walk path for audits. 

Managed via an Android device, these capabilities use AI and ML to build tasks lists based on inbound signals like delivery data and staff availability. Additionally, through an event-driven ledger, the company can determine how associates will be most productive across stores, days, and times. Lately, using a Dataflow tool, Kroger can capture and analyze data from different sources like labor rates, transportation logistics, sales forecasting, and out-of-stock information. 

Jim Clendenen, vice president of enterprise retail systems at Kroger said that tech and digital tools are fundamental elements of how the company continues to improve its associate experience, which then trickles down to an enhanced customer experience in stores. 

"Google Cloud and Deloitte brought us a technology architecture and application framework that we could implement in record time,” Clendenen added. “We're already seeing results across our stores, with associate tasks being optimized and overall productivity increasing."

Jon Yoo, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, added that today’s retailers are prioritizing and investing in tech as a strategic differentiator, “making share-of-wallet choices based on those investments.”

Jose Luis-Gomes, managing director, retail and consumer, at Google Cloud said retail is in the details. 

“One of the most important ones many retailers struggle with is how to maximize the time and talents of their associates when every store and every day is different," Luis-Gomes added. "Kroger doesn't just have the latest and greatest technologies — the grocer is literally putting them into the hands of their associates so their time can be used on what matters most for Kroger's customers."


Walmart Plans Hourly Wage Increase Amidst Competitive Retail Labor Market

walmart teaser

Over the next few months, retail giant Walmart plans to roll out wage increases and a set of new learning and development opportunities for its workforce.  

In a memo circulated to all U.S. associates, Walmart president and CEO, John Furner outlined four key areas of planned investment and growth, starting with higher salaries. Starting in March, associates stand to see the store’s average hourly wage rise to over $17.50 and $14 an hour for store employees. Currently, Walmart associates can earn between $12 and $18 an hour, meaning around 340,000 store employees – or 21% of Walmart’s 1.6 million-strong workforce – will have received a raise in the next few months. 

Among the other plans on the agenda, the retail giant plans to invest in their Auto Care Center associates, implementing better-paid team lead positions and pushing ACC tech positions into a higher-paying bracket to reflect the specialized skill sets required for the role. 

Thirdly, the company plans to build out their Live Better U (LBU) education program, covering full tuition for college degrees and certificates in areas that the company says focus “on where our business is headed.”

Walmart plans to expand their Associate-to-Driver Program – a development program open to all associates which covers all fees for commercial truck driver training and licensing.  

Speaking at NRF 2023, Furner gave an overview of the current state of retail, highlighting opportunities and acknowledging the many challenges on the horizon. The tight labor market has been one of the most acute of these difficulties for retailers, and these latest additions to Walmart’s value proposition represent another step towards trying to remedy persistent staff shortages.


Karl Lagerfeld Streamlines Inventory Management With AI-Powered Allocation

Karl Lagerfeld

Fashion brand Karl Lagerfeld is automating allocation across its network, tapping artificial intelligence to streamline inventory management.

The company is working with supply chain planning software ToolsGroup to improve customer satisfaction, elevate sell-through potential, and increase financial performance by expediting the planning process, reducing inaccuracies, and fine-tuning forecasts to ensure ideal stock placement. 

Timothy Justin Dreijer, senior vice president of retail, supply chain and operations, IT and legal affairs at Karl Lagerfeld, said the company was looking to implement a solution that would prepare it for its current and future business growth goals. 

“The fact that these solutions are backed by services teams who explain technical concepts in easily digestible ways and communicate openly and clearly only bolstered our confidence in this partnership,” added Dreijer.

“Today’s supply chains have the potential to be differentiators in the market. Innovative retailers understand that realizing this potential depends on powerfully simple AI solutions that enable optimal decisions at the speed of business,” said ToolsGroup CEO, Inna Kuznetsova.