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Retailers adding iPads to boost sales

Major retailers are jumping on the iPad bandwagon in an effort to boost sales.

Merchants including Gucci Group and J.C. Penney Co. are experimenting with ways to use electronic tablets in their stores. No retailer has the formula quite figured out yet, so most have limited their tests to just a few stores.


FOR THE RECORD:
Retailers’ use of iPads: A Business article in the Feb. 28 Section A about retailers experimenting with iPads in stores described Gilles Kortzagadarian as vice president of retail for Make Up For Ever. He is the general manager of Make Up For Ever North America. —


But experts predict that within the next year, iPads and other electronic tablets will make their way into all manner of merchants, including supermarkets, mattress stores and luxury jewelers.

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“Everybody has something in development,” said Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA, a retail design firm in Southfield, Mich. “This is not going to be a novelty. It’s going to be a sea change in how retailers transact and interact with customers.”

Since Apple began selling the iPad in April, retailers including Burberry, Puma, Things Remembered, Converse and Nordstrom Inc. have rolled out tests of tablet computers at select stores around the country. The move is all part of retailers’ response to how consumers are shopping everywhere — on their computers, on their smart phones and in the stores.

Retailers are using iPads as mobile catalogs so salesclerks and shoppers can browse inventory not available on store shelves. They are arming sales associates with the electronic clipboards to gather customer data. And they are testing the device’s potential as a portable cash register.

“It is taking retail outside the four walls to where the customers are,” said Sandeep Bhanote, chief executive of Global Bay Mobile Technologies, a retail software firm in South Plainfield, N.J. “You’re talking about changing the way you do business. That’s what this is all about.”

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Make Up For Ever, a unit of French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, was among the first retailers to give the technology a try. The cosmetic company set up iPad stations in October at its boutiques inside Sephora stores in Costa Mesa, Las Vegas and New York’s Soho neighborhood.

The stores’ iPads enable shoppers to update their Facebook pages, tweet about their shopping experience and access face charts for browsing makeup combinations. Eventually customers will be able to upload a digital photo of their faces for a virtual makeover.

Jessica Hair-Anderson, a Make Up For Ever store manager in Costa Mesa, said having Apple’s hot gadget on the counter adds a “cool factor” that helps attract younger shoppers.

“When people come into the boutique, it’s all very new and exciting visually,” said Hair-Anderson. “It also makes our jobs easier, because if we are busy with another customer, it gives our clients something to do, so it doesn’t feel like they’re waiting.”

The Make Up For Ever pilot program has been successful enough at capturing shoppers’ attention that the firm is expanding the iPad stations to its traditional beauty counters at about 60 Sephora stores nationwide this fall.

“It enables us to create a connection between the brand and a client in the stores where we don’t have our own staffs,” said Gilles Kortzagadarian, vice president of retail for Make Up For Ever. “We can tell that clients are spending more time in the store and are interacting with the brand, so it can only be good for the business.”

Nordstrom is testing the iPad at its bridal shops and special-occasion dress departments at several full-line stores. Sales associates use the iPad to help customers search for dresses in colors and styles that aren’t available in the store.

The Seattle-based retailer is measuring the iPad’s efficiency at the cash register at some Nordstrom Rack outlet stores, including a store in Burbank that opened last fall. Shoppers can log on to Facebook and tell their friends what they were buying. Nordstrom is also looking into ways to enable shoppers to buy products without standing in the traditional checkout line.

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“We’re now in the process of developing additional mobile capabilities on our sales floor, including testing mobile checkout and equipping our salespeople with better tools at point of sale,” said Blake Nordstrom, president of the department store chain. “We should be able to implement this on a broader scale later this year, and we will continue to explore ways to make our sales floor more responsive to the mobile customer.”

J.C. Penney announced this month that it would roll out iPads to 50 of its fine-jewelry departments, giving shoppers access to ring styles, cuts, sizes and metals not in the store and enabling them to compare ring features side by side on the iPad.

Converse and Puma are using iPads in their stores to enable shoppers to design their own shoes. Gucci installed iPad stations temporarily in some stores last fall to showcase its social media site Gucci Connect and to promote its custom handbags.

Consulting firm Deloitte predicts that in 2011 more than 1 in 4 electronic tablets sold will be bought by businesses. And the New York firm forecasts the figure will rise in 2012 and beyond. Retailers are among the most likely early adopters of the device, Deloitte said in a January report, projecting that retailers would buy and deploy more electronic tablets than any other industry this year.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” said Jon Watschke, retail strategist at Kurt Salmon Associates. “So when a salesperson shows a customer the item they want on a brilliant screen like an iPad, that’s much more compelling. If someone’s on the fence, you can show it on the iPad and say we’ll have it delivered to your home tomorrow.”

smjones@tribune.com


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