Breaking News in the Industry: October 29, 2018

commercial burglary

Apple devices worth $150K stolen

Upwards of $150,000 worth of Macs, iPads, and Apple Watches was stolen this week from a Best Buy stores in Peoria, Illinois. The theft took place overnight on Wednesday. It was noticed by the manager early the following day, who filed a report with the Peoria Police Department. The theft is described by Lt. Mike Boland, who leads the department’s detective bureau, as one of the largest heists in terms of dollar value in recent memory.

An employee who was questioned reported seeing two people in that part of the store, presumably earlier that same day. After asking if they needed anything, the pair said no and then left. Surveillance footage is currently being reviewed. Unfortunately, the cameras at a nearby Target store, which could have revealed information about the theft, were out of action due to a store remodeling.

This Apple store robbery comes on the back of a spate of thefts targeting Apple stores across the state of California. These robberies took place over multiple weeks, across 19 counties. In the end, 17 people were arrested for more than $1 million in retail device thefts. Apple products are frequently targeted by thieves due to their high resale value.   [Source: Cult of Mac]

Employee steals $2,600 worth of merchandise from distribution center

Digital Partners

A 33-year-old Milwaukee woman has been charged with theft after her employer said she was caught stealing $2,649.97 worth of merchandise at the Target Distribution Center, 1100 Valley Road, Oconomowoc. Carlotta Evelyn-Renee Brown was charged in Waukesha County Circuit Court on October 16. Police were dispatched to the distribution center after they were called October 15 by security specialists at the center to investigate a theft.

Police were told that the distribution center had conducted its own internal investigation of stolen merchandise from October 2-7. The investigation began when a Target store contacted the distribution center saying that it was missing an item. After looking at surveillance cameras, security personnel noticed that one of the videos showed Brown stealing from the trailer truck she was loading on two different occasions.   [Source: Journal Sentinel]

Retailers up their game after Toys R Us closures

When Toys R Us closed its doors, customers mourned the loss of a beloved brand that conjured memories of their own childhood. Retailers, on the other hand, saw an opportunity. Rather than cede any more ground to online behemoth Amazon, companies like Target, Walmart and Party City ramped up their offerings. Now, ahead of the pivotal holiday season, they’re going even further by focusing on making their stores a dynamic shopping experience. That means creating play areas for kids, offering demos of new toys and staging events like scavenger hunts in the stores.

Retailers are trying to grab a piece of the nearly $3 billion left on the table by Toys R Us, or 12 percent of the U.S. toy market, according to NPD Group Inc., a market research group. Last month, Party City opened 50 Toy City pop-up shops that feature six-by-eight-foot Lego dinosaurs and other interactive displays. Walmart says 30 percent of its holiday toy assortment will be new. It will also offer 40 percent more toys on from a year ago. In November and December, the company’s toy area will be rebranded as “America’s Best Toy Shop.” Starting in late October, Target will devote extra space at 500 stores located near former Toys R Us stores for bigger toys like electric capostrs, playhouses and musical instruments as well as adding nearly 200 more products. And 100 Target stores will see new layouts and fixtures in the toy area. The company is also expanding the number of kids’ events it hosts. Most recently, it had a Lego Minecraft event that featured a scavenger hunt.

At least one foreign toy retailer is looking into the US market after the demise of Toys R Us. Mexico-based Distroller World, an experience-based retailer with more than 60 stores in Mexico and Latin America, is set to open its third store in the US in October. And it will be approaching U.S. department stores to open shops to replicate its model in Mexico, says CEO Daryn Fillis. At the center of the experience: Parents and children create their own adventure to adopt an alien baby delivered in a space capsule. “It’s all about the demonstrations, the hands-on experience,” said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of TTPM, a toy review site. “When you get your hands on a toy and you can touch and feel, it does lead to greater sales. And those are the experiences that shoppers enjoy.”

Meanwhile, Amazon is reportedly planning a toy catalog to be distributed at its Whole Foods stores. The company declined to comment on the catalog, but analysts say Amazon could grow its market share in toys from 15 percent to 20 percent this year. Toy sellers had been long taking advantage of Toys R Us woes, but it stepped up its efforts when the chain filed Chapter 11 in the fall of 2017 and accelerated the pace when the chain announced it was liquidating its operations in March. As of early this year, Toys R Us had more than 800 US stores. It closed the last 200 stores at the end of June.

But no one can replicate Toys R Us’ constant supply of hot products to its stores until December 25. In fact, NPD expects 20 percent of Toys R Us sales will “simply evaporate.” It’s not issuing a holiday toy sales forecast, but others expect the figure to be unchanged compared to a year ago, when it was up about 2 percent. With reports of the retailer’s demise, there was an outpouring of nostalgia from shoppers, and some analysts credit that empathy for helping to drive an uptick in toy sales for the first half of the year. US toy sales from January through June increased 7 percent to $7.9 billion, according to NPD. Last year, toy sales increased 1 percent to $20.7 billion from 2016.   [Source: St Louis Post Dispatch]

Shoplifting spree ends with gun drawn and teeth bared

 A shoplifting spree took a dangerous turn in Kentucky earlier this week, when police say one suspect pulled a gun and the other started biting. In a release, Elizabethtown Police say 39-year-old Joey Smith was stuffing merchandise into her purse at Belk around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. When someone from loss prevention confronted her, Smith reportedly became combative, throwing elbows and trying to bite the LP associate.

That’s when investigators say 36-year-old Michael Moody pulled out a gun, chambered a round and pointed it at the employee. Police say the suspects then got into a Chrysler minivan and took off. They were eventually stopped on North Dixie Avenue and taken into custody. Officers found the gun and stolen merchandise in the van. Smith and Moody are charged with first degree robbery. Moody is also charged with possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.   [Source: WDRB News]

Woman caught with 40 fraudulent debit cards

Metro Nashville police arrested a Tennessee woman late Wednesday, accused of debit card fraud. According to the arrest affidavit, it happened at the First Bank branch on Conference Drive. Wednesday night, police said Alina Ciuciu pulled up to the bank branch to take money out of several accounts. That’s when the security team was alerted about transactions happening on accounts that had been compromised.

Goodlettsville police responded to the bank and identified Ciuciu as the woman in the ATM surveillance photos. They found 40 prepaid cards in her possession. Each of the cards originally had no value on them, until money was fraudulently loaded onto the cards. The Secret Service is joining the investigation. More charges are possible. On top of the original charges, the woman was identified as European and not a US citizen. She now has an immigration detainer placed on her.   [Source: NewsChannel5]

How voice tech is shaping shopper behavior

Voice-assisted technology is “at the tip of the iceberg right now,” said Eric Bisceglia, vice president of go-to-market at Voysis. At NRF’s conference in Las Vegas, Bisceglia joined a panel with Shrenik Sadalgi, director of next gen experiences at Wayfair, and Mark Taylor, chief experience officer at Capgemini, to discuss voice tech today and how it’s likely to shape the consumer behavior of tomorrow.

Voice technology presents great opportunities for retailers if developed authentically. When Taylor’s team asked consumers about voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Home, they found the vast majority of consumers loved them. Voice is the “humanization of the digital experience,” he said. Brands can use voice to develop customer intimacy by scaling human connections and learning what customers think and feel. Empathy is what makes interactions authentic.

But when it comes to implementing voice technology, “Don’t do it for the sake of technology,” Sadalgi said. Retailers that apply voice tech well use it as an extension to interfaces and to provide a solution to customer needs. For example, customers can order Domino’s Pizza delivery through an in-home voice assistant… this is a natural extension of ordering over the phone.

The reality is, voice tech is everywhere. Finding the right moment to apply a voice-backed solution is the trick, and for Taylor, it’s in the store. So far, consumers use voice mostly for commands like asking for the weather forecast or controlling other smart home devices. But as people get used to using voice assistants, they’re increasingly asking more complex questions.

The future looks promising for voice tech, Bisceglia expects voice assistants to develop full dialogues and mimic human conversation patterns, while Sadalgi urged retailers to consider the intention behind voice commands. If context can be built into voice with the help of machine learning, “that’s a winner,” he said. Taylor sees the future of voice assistants developing in two ways: Tailoring the technology so retailers can build relationships with customers and shaping the tech to make voice search easier.   [Source:]

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