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Business Observer Friday, May 16, 2014 4 years ago

Retailer looks for event-based theater

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Executives at Chico's FAS, the Fort Myers-based women's retailer, have ambitious goals for how customers interact digitally with the firm's brands.

Executives at Chico's FAS, the Fort Myers-based women's retailer, have ambitious goals for how customers interact digitally with the firm's brands.

“I want to cover every minute in a person's waking day and see if there's relevance in us being complementary to their lifestyle,” says Eric Singleton, Chico's senior vice president and chief information officer. That spreads from when a Chico's customer drives her kids to soccer practice to later when she's home researching her upcoming trip to Paris. When she looks up the top restaurants in Paris, he wants a relevant, original article by Chico's to pop up, including beautiful pictures of clothing to drive sales.

Singleton was one of several technology executives who spoke at a recent Tampa Bay Technology Forum event in St. Petersburg. He says Chico's utilizes 14 new technologies to create what he calls “a digital retail theater” for the firm, with nearly 1,500 stores among four brands: Chico's, White House | Black Market, Boston Proper and Soma Intimates. The idea is to deploy mobile technology and digital signage to complement its in-store and online experience.

The company is currently in test mode for the technology, including in-store tables with built-in touch screen tablets that “foster social activity” between associates and customers. Sales, so far, says Singleton, have “dramatically exceeded our expectations.” The CIO secretly visits stores on the weekend to double check that associates use the technology.

Singleton is driving Chico's toward a future of smaller stores aided by technology, with 60% of assortment in-store and 40% online. He hopes 200 Chico's stores will have iPads by this fall.

“I'd argue that the intimacy of a smaller store yields different behaviors,” says Singleton. “And if you capitalize on these behaviors with a theater...you have the opportunity to trigger an event. An event is the transaction.”

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