With HD as its platform, Quirky plays the smart home field
Quirky, the New York City-based start-up that stakes its claim on propelling everyday ideas into products, has set its sights on leveling the playing field within the burgeoning smart home industry.
According to a report in The New York Times, Quirky is launching a separate company, called Wink, in July, which will provide an integrated software solution to connect dozens of automated home products. Those products, in turn, will hit Home Depot shelves.
There will be one app to rule them all, so to speak — which is not dissimilar to Apple’s recent bid to introduce the "remote control" of smart home apps.
Companies on board with Wink include General Electric, Honeywell and Philips, as well as lesser-known start-ups in the field, according to the Times. The initial product assortment will total 60 Wink-enabled products, which will be displayed in nearly all Home Depot stores nationwide as of July 7.
Some of those products will be "Wink app ready," meaning they can be linked to an existing Internet router; some will be "Wink app compatible," which will require the purchase of a Wink hardware hub, to be sold in Home Depot stores and Amazon.com.
Quirky fields thousands of product submissions every week, which it whittles down to three using a participatory voting process. It then takes those products and brings them to fruition, ultimately marketing them through major retailers and putting profits in the hands of small-time inventors. When more and more ideas starting coming in for smart home products, the natural next step was to invest more resources in this market opportunity.
Lowe’s marches to omnichannel drummer
Mooresville, North Carolina-based Lowe’s CFO Bob Hull added color to the company’s effort to maximize its multichannel efficiencies and move away from a build-stores-and-they-will-come approach to growth.
[Read about Lowe’s first quarter earnings here.]
Speaking during the Oppenheimer 14th Annual Consumer Conference, Hull also said that 2013 was the best comp-store sales performance for the No. 2 home improvement chain since 2005, and he pointed to some of the reasons.
It begins, he said, with “improved capabilities within existing stores and across other channels,” as the company transforms into a “customer-centered omnichannel retailer.”
Two keys to that transformation, he said, is to sell seamlessly across channels and to expand fulfillment capabilities.
Also, in 2013 more than 1400 stores were reset with revised endcap strategy and promotional spaces combined with “value improvement” line reviews and resets.
The online e-commerce component is taking on new levels of sophistication, according to Mike Jones, Lowe’s chief customer officer, who also participated in the Oppenheimer presentation.
“For us, online is not just about transactions, although we do that really well,” he said. “It’s about how do you pull that whole project together and leverage our call centers and other assets to manage that project.”
Regarding the macroeconomic conditions, Hull pointed to a first-quarter survey in which customers said they are feeling better about the opportunity to invest in their home.
Gotcha: More shoplifters caught in 2013
Shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended in record numbers by U.S. retailers in 2013, according to a recent survey of theft.
The "26th Annual Retail Theft Survey" by Jack L. Hayes International shed plenty of light on the dark practice of stealing. Perhaps most worrisome, according to the survey organizer, is that theft seems to be on the rise.
For shoplifting, the apprehensions were up 2.5% and the recovery dollars 4.5%; and for dishonest employees the apprehensions were up 6.5% and 2.5% for recovery dollars.
Of those apprehensions, 78,085 were dishonest employees, and 1,102,635 were shoplifters.
"What is also of importance is these increases follow similar increases reported the previous two years,” said Mark R. Doyle, president of Jack L. Hayes International.
Twenty-three large retail companies with 23,204 stores and more than $660 billion in retail sales were represented in the survey. These participants apprehended 1,180,720 shoplifters and dishonest employees in 2013, up 2.8% from 2012.
While dishonest employees were far fewer in number than shoplifters, the amount recovered was much closer. Recoveries amounted to $80.7 million for shoplifters, and $53.8 million for dishonest employees.
Mr. Doyle added, "Retail theft is a serious problem, which is stealing retailers’ profits and causing consumers to pay higher prices to help offset these losses."