This is Starbucks’ fifth “signing store” globally, which aims to bring inclusion and convenience to hearing-challenged customers but also celebrate deaf culture and sign language.
The store, Starbucks’ fifth in the world, also employs 19 baristas and waitstaff who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“Starbucks has been hiring deaf and hard of hearing partners (employees) since we entered Japan in 1996, and these partners have made incredible impacts in their communities,” said Takafumi Minaguchi, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan.
“Inspired by their passion, we created this store as a place of belonging, where our partners and customers can stay true to who they are and be inspired. This store truly represents infinite possibilities for all.”
The design has the usual Starbucks colours and iconography, but it also includes original artwork inspired by sign language by Japanese artist Hidehiko Kado, whose parents are deaf.
There are a number of features to assist deaf or hard of hearing customers. Ordering options include contactless speech-to-text voice recognition through a tablet at the register, pointing to items on the menu or writing on a notepad.
Digital signage allows customers to track their order, and when their coffee is ready, a sign language animation notifies them.
Apple store closures across US – again
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in the US, Apple has closed more than two dozen of its stores across seven states again, bringing total closures to 77, according to Reuters.
Apple has taken a city-by-city approach to opening and closing stores, evaluating data for each community. In cities where stores remain open, Apple requires face coverings for employees and customers while also performing temperature checks and more frequent cleaning.
The company said its retail employees will continue to be paid throughout the closures.
Sears to sell more assets
Troubled US department store chain Sears is exploring a sale of its home improvement business following interest from potential suitors such as private equity firms, Reuters reports.
The division, long a relatively strong performer, has boomed during the pandemic as people in confinement have taken up home repairs and renovation.
It is estimated that Transformco, the owner of the Sears and Kmart retail chains in the US, could raise at least US$1 billion by divesting the home improvement business.
Sears went bankrupt in 2018 and was sold to hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert, already its biggest shareholder and creditor, for US$5.2 billion. Since then, the company has been closing stores and shedding assets.
It is expected that more stores will be closed in the months ahead, bringing its total store count, now around 90, to about 65.
Macy’s reports $5 billion loss
US department store chain Macy’s has reported a US$3.58 billion ($5.17 billion) quarterly loss as coronavirus-related store shutdowns resulted in a US$3 billion impairment charge, Reuters reports.
The retailer said that sales, currently about 35 per cent down from year-ago levels, are falling again in states such as Texas, where Covid-19 cases are on the rise.
Macy’s has also taken a hit as tourists disappear from the US. Its stores, particularly its famous flagship Herald Square location in New York, are normally a draw for shoppers from all over the world.
It is expected that the pandemic will accelerate Macy’s store closures. In February, it announced that it will close 125 stores over the next three years.
Two weeks ago, Macy’s announced plans to lay off about 3900 employees in corporate and management positions.
Steinhoff faces $14.6 billion in legal claims
South African retailer Steinhoff International, still battling the fallout from a massive accounting fraud, faces legal claims amounting to more than €9 billion ($14.6 billion), Reuters reports.
According to the company’s annual report for the year ended September 2019, numerous court cases are pending with claimants seeking payments or damages. The report also included Steinhoff’s annual results, and its full-year loss widened to €1.8 billion ($2.9 billion) from a €1.2 billion loss a year earlier.
Steinhoff said it was assessing the merits of and responses to the claims and no provisions had yet been taken as it was uncertain when, or if, it would have to pay.
Last year, the company said it could issue shares to cover legal payouts related to the accounting fraud.