GUEST OP-ED: Deck the Halls, Not Your Customers: Tips for Handling Customer Complaints This Holiday Season

RonKaufmanheadshotFor the customer service sector, the holiday season is crunch time. With more shoppers, more sales, more shipping, more advertisements, and more product demand, there’s (so much) more potential for something to go wrong. At the same time, shoppers’ expectations are never higher. They don’t just want to check every item off their lists; they expect their shopping experience to be fun, festive, and full of good cheer. It’s the holidays, after all! No pressure, right?

Author Ron Kaufman admits that the holiday shopping season does seem like a minefield of potential customer complaints. But he’s also adamant that, handled sensitively, complaints can be a catalyst for improving customer satisfaction and capturing new business. [Read more...]

The Hess Toy Truck Still Cruising at Age 50

HessToyTruckThis Friday, the newest addition to Hess’ line of toy trucks, the 2014 Hess Toy Truck and Space Cruiser with Scout, goes on sale at participating Hess, Hess Express, and WilcoHess retail stores. The three-in-one toy vehicle, which is also the 50th anniversary Hess truck, can be pre-ordered now at the official Hess Toy Truck site.

The 2014 Hess Toy Truck is a space cruiser with retractable landing gear, flashing lights, and button-activated and motion-activated special effects, riding on top of a flatbed truck. A cargo door on the space trucker opens to reveal the scout, which features folding wings and working lights. The flatbed truck doubles as a launch pad that includes button-activated launch ramp, hydraulic lift, and sound effects and lights. In addition, the chrome detailing on the cab includes an embossed 50 to mark the Hess Toy Truck’s 50th anniversary.

The 2014 Hess Toy Truck and Space Cruiser with Scout is on display as part of the Hess Toy Truck Mobile Museum, which is currently touring the east coast.

Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us Open Approximately 90 Stores Worldwide Throughout 2014

ToysRUsLogo copyToys “R” Us plans to open approximately 90 stores, which include new, relocated, and licensed stores. They will be located throughout 21 of the 37 countries and jurisdictions in which Toys “R” Us Inc. currently has a presence through its wholly owned and licensed businesses. The list also includes the company’s first licensed store in Namibia, which opened in October.

Toys “R” Us’ most significant expansion plans for this year are in China and Southeast Asia, where it has already begun operating several of 22 brand-new stores in China and eight planned new locations in Malaysia. By the end of the year, Toys “R” Us will operate 76 stores in 35 cities throughout China.

The new stores that the company plans to open this year include both Toys “R” Us locations and a number of side-by-side formats, which combine Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us under one roof. Meanwhile, new store sizes vary by country and range from 3,000 to 45,000 square feet.

New and relocated store locations are scheduled to open this year in the following countries: the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Namibia, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

Macy’s Holiday Arcade to Offer Toys from Build-A-Bear, Madame Alexander, Gund, and More

MacysLogoMacy’s will be introducing the Holiday Arcade, in-store gifting shops offering customers an eclectic assortment of distinctive and playful options for their holiday shopping lists. These shops will launch at six Macy’s locations between late October and mid-November:

The Holiday Arcade at five locations including Macy’s South Coast Plaza, Macy’s Union Square, Macy’s State Street, Macy’s Herald Square, and Macy’s Center City will be home to exclusive Build-A-Bear Workshop shop-in-shops. Visitors will have the opportunity to customize Build-A-Bear stuffed animals, as well as licensed products such as figures from Disney’s Frozen and Marvel’s superheroes. [Read more...]

Lionel Opens New Brick-and-Mortar Store and Headquarters in North Carolina

Lionel.NewStoreThis past Monday, Lionel opened its first retail store in Concord, N.C. The new location will serve as a central station for popular train sets, replicas, and collectibles, as well as store-exclusive gifts and keepsakes.

To celebrate the new store, which will also serve as the company’s new headquarters, Lionel President Howard Hitchcock drove festivities with J. Scott Padgett, the mayor of Concord, and Donna Carpenter, the CEO of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Lionel.NewStore2The store will become a terminal for field trips, new product testing, and company announcements. The 1,100-square-foot space will house one of Lionel’s fully decorated layouts, which will feature different trains throughout the year. Kids can control the layout with handheld remotes and test the newest trains.

Lionel has made numerous expansion efforts of late, including partnering with the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to debut its first life-sized trackless train ride, The Lionel Train Adventure, earlier this month. The company has also continued to add licenses for new train models through partnerships with DC Comics, Coca-Cola, Crayola, and other brands.

NRF Offers Optimistic Forecast for Holiday Sales and Hires

The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects sales (excluding auto, gas, and restaurant sales) to increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion in November and December, higher than 2013’s 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame. This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent.

Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, including 2014’s estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion.

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. It now includes direct-to-consumer, kiosk, and online sales.

Additionally, NRF expects between 725,000 and 800,000 new seasonal employers for the holiday shopping season, potentially more than retailers hired in 2013.

NRF’s shop.org division expects online sales to grow 8 to 11 percent more than last holiday season.

Click here for more information about the studies.

Toys “R” Us to Hire 45,000 for Holiday Shopping Season

toysrusToys “R” Us will hire 45,000 seasonal employees at its stores and distribution centers nationwide, more than doubling the company’s workforce as it prepares for the busy holiday shopping months ahead. These seasonal positions will include sales associates, stock crew and omnichannel fulfillment teams, as well as distribution center workers and department managers.

Interviewing for holiday positions at Toys “R” Us stores begins at the end of this month, and new hires start working in early October. Staffing continues to build throughout the holiday season right up to Christmas. Seasonal store employees typically work 16 to 20 hours per week with flexible schedules offered during the week, weeknights, or weekends. Employment opportunities are also available at the company’s distribution centers nationwide, which began hiring in July and will continue through November.

Job seekers can visit www.toysrusinc.com/careers/holiday to apply and learn more about working at Toys “R” Us during the holiday season.

GameStop to Exit Spanish Market, Sell Locations to GAME

GamestopGameStop intends to exit the Spanish market via the sale of retail locations to specialist video game retailer Game Digital Plc (GAME), in combination with closures of its remaining locations. Under the terms of this proposed agreement, GameStop will transfer ownership of a portfolio of GameStop stores located in Spain, with the remaining retail sites winding down this year.

GAME already has a consumer presence in the country, in addition to its retail operations in the UK. GameStop’s strategic decision to exit the Spanish market was made after a careful review of the market’s financial performance and future opportunities, which indicated that the company would be better served by curtailing its operations in Spain, and focusing its resources in other countries where GameStop has significant market share. GameStop expects to maintain and expand its presence in the other European countries in which it currently operates.

During the coming months, GameStop will work closely with GAME to ensure continued support for GameStop’s customers in Spain. The proposed deal will require Spanish Competition Authority approval, which is expected in October. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Toys “R” Us and Claire’s Enter into Global Partnership

Feature Shops, FAO and Times Square, Hot ToysToys “R” Us and Claire’s have entered into a strategic global partnership to bring trendy, fashion-forward products to Toys “R” Us customers in select stores around the world. Following a successful pilot program in Europe, Claire’s-branded shops within Toys “R” Us stores will expand to nearly 100 locations across the continent, including stores in the UK, France, Germany, Austria, and Spain. They will also be set in 12 Toys “R” Us stores in the U.S. by the end of this year.

Shoppers will be able to choose from Claire’s jewelry, headbands, hair and fashion accessories, jewelry holders, legwear, seasonal items, and more. The shops will vary in size by location.

Two Claire’s locations in the U.S. will officially debut this week in the company’s flagship Toys “R” Us Times Square and FAO Schwarz stores in New York City. The additional 10 locations in the U.S. are expected to be open by the end of October and will be located in Murrieta, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Jensen Beach, Fla.; Florence, Ky.; Waldorf, Md.; Henderson, Nev.; Toledo, Ohio; Tulsa, Okla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Houston, Texas.

Bazooka Candy Brands and Hasbro Cross-Promoting for Digital and Retail

Hasbro logoHasbro and Bazooka Candy Brands are joining forces for a cross-promotion launching this month. Favorite childhood games and tasty, classic candies such as Juicy Drop, Baby Bottle Pop, and Jumbo Push Pop will be co-mingling.

The promotion will feature a campaign with retail, digital, and social elements:

Retail: The strong in-store presence will include shippers with $3 off any one Hasbro game coupons. Family prize opportunities sponsored by Topps will include chances to win a Carnival cruise or one of 100 Hasbro game and Bazooka Candy Brand prize packs.

Digital: Bazooka Candy Brands’ site, candymania.com, will be re-branded and skinned to feature Hasbro game themes. Along with the redesign, the site will host an interactive online promotion sponsored by Topps, featuring an instant win game where fans can play for a chance to win game and candy prize packs, which include Hasbro games such as Monopoly and Twister and Bazooka candy.

Social: There will be cross promotions on both Bazooka Candy Brands’ and Hasbro’s social media platforms.