There’s been a lot of discussion about the impact of on-line shopping replacing the physical store space. In South Africa it’s a slow process that quite frankly seems to be very sluggish taking off. And that doesn’t surprise me. Although Amazon.Com is amongst the world’s largest e-commerce companies it has still to show a significant R.O.I. It’s my belief that people continue to prefer to enjoy a more tactile experience when shopping. Feel the cloth, try on the look, test the make-up, even taste and smell the foodstuffs.

I have been looking at the world’s top 10 retailers by turnover and find that as well as being household names most of them are innovators too: –

1. Walmart operating in 28 countries

2. Cost Co operating in 10 countries

3. Kroger operating in the US only

4. Schwarz operating in 26 countries

5. Tesco operating in 13 countries

6. Carrefour operating in 34 countries

7. Aldi operating in 17 countries

8. Metro operating in 32 countries

9. Home Depot operating in 4 countries

10. Walgreen Boots operating in 2 countries

And what of their innovations? Walmart’s supply chain process is recognised as world beating. It is based on 3 pillars; distribution practices, operating its own fleet of trucks and technology. Costco invented the concept of the warehouse club where members benefit from huge buying power and an entrepreneurial spirit. Today, along with its massive range it offers merchant accounts, banking and financial planning, web development and group health plans, so there is often little need for members to venture anywhere else. Kroger has installed a technology into 2,300 stores across US which has cut average time to be served at their check out points down to less than 30 seconds from 4 minutes. The technology uses infrared sensors and predictive analytics to provide store managers with real-time data to make sure cash registers are open when customers need them. For the rest some have been responsible for roof top garden projects, growing fresh produce on rooftops of stores and selling it on to customers. Can there be any fresher? Another has introduced high-tech robots to retrieve shoes from stock shelves and offer them for fitting. Thereis a virtual fitting room whereby you can see how a look works for you without removing a single item of your clothing and so the list goes on.

Yet despite all of these innovations, a recent international study has shown that many retailers pay too much for their IT products. The most extreme example of excessive margins is regularly found on those lower volume, spontaneous, ‘as and when’ purchases. These are typically unplanned purchases consisting of items such as memory sticks, power adapters and cables.

Today’s procurement managers don’t have endless amounts of time to talk to multiple suppliers to find the best price. What they need is for there to be greater transparency between suppliers and customers. Perhaps a brokerage that does the leg work for them. That is certainly our approach at FDM when it comes to sourcing hardware, installing it and managing content. And we keep abreast of the latest trends in audio technology.

We are always happy to talk to clients about systems and products that can save them money.

Have a joyous July!


We have already established that the days of “In-Store Radio” and “Background Music” have largely been consigned to history. So where are we headed?
Pavia University in Lombardy, Northern Italy has done extensive research into how humans respond to music. This seat of learning is one of the oldest in the world and is well respected for the high quality of its research. Their project showed that people are very affected by music. It can have an impact on heart rate, blood pressure and obviously, mood.
It is this type of research that drives us in our choice of music for our clients. We focus as much as possible on the response we want from customers. Challenges can be intense. Take for example a café or restaurant environment. During a trading day it can change from a quiet personal space to a raucous conversation pit full of patrons, eating, drinking, laughing. Include as well the kitchen sounds, coffee grinding, coffee making, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery all being crashed about in this hive of activity.
Firstly, you need to consult on the finishes. I have sat in environments where the hard surfaces of the ceilings are so reflective that when the place is full the volumes of people speaking and laughing have been so loud that it’s hard to even think. That makes for a very unpleasant and uncomfortable experience. So be sure to break up the ceiling finishes to make sure that the sound waves are also broken down into manageable portions. We use a combination of speaker power and direction and would prefer to use some form of AGC or automatic gain control. This reads the ambient noise levels and adjusts the music level accordingly. The AGC filter attempts to make the audio level constant, without causing noticeable changes in the sound.
A day in a café, coffee shop or restaurant should start with bright, toe tapping sounds to get patrons and staff to get the dopamine levels increased. Happy yet relaxed. And a quality speaker installation that includes a three-way system (tweeter, mid-range and woofer) is the way to go as it produces a much more pleasing quality of sound and as we have discussed previously, this reduces listener fatigue in a big way.
By mid-morning the music can be more mellow and relaxed so as not to impinge on those patrons who are either working their lap tops or just chilling for a mid-morning coffee break. Lunch is a busy time and again the music needs to drive the mood – busy, excited, happy! Mid-afternoon is back down to more mellow moods and then picks up the pace again towards closing time.
We think it important that the style of music matches the brand. When the brand is Chinese or Japanese cuisine then the music should complement it. When it’s French or Italian the same applies. But not the complete play list; just a flavour of tunes to create the desired atmosphere.
Check out the effective use of music in the various zones of the Woolworths mega-store at the Mall of Africa and it will assist you in understanding the philosophy.
And going forward we shall be creating very specific soundscapes for particular display areas. Jeans, fragrances, foods, fashion, homeware to name just a few.


When you’ve been in the music industry as long as I have the chances of becoming jaded increase exponentially! That said don’t get me wrong. I still love what I do and still learn something new and exciting every day. As they say it’s what floats my boat! And my boat turned into a luxury ocean liner at the opening day of the Mall of Africa. The Woolworths store there is truly world class and our sound system and music management system is the same. Yes, I am a very proud CEO!

The quality of this store is due largely to the vision of the Woolworths design team under Errol Solomon and Nick Criticos. For us the brief was to find a speaker that not only provided a great sound but also matched the look of the beams installed throughout the store. With the assistance of suppliers, we found exactly the perfect solution in the TOA F1000BT speaker and the DSPPA DSP6061B speaker. Driven by TOA and Bosch power amps and mixer amplifiers and controlled by Giada Media Players, this system provides high quality sound throughout the whole store.

As is usual there are separate playlist for the 3 main merchandising areas of the store, fashion and textiles, food market and café. The tunes are specially chosen to reflect the brand and we believe that the Woolworths sound is a unique experience designed to keep shoppers and staff in a happy and positive frame of mind.

The quality of this sound allows the system to be driven at quite high levels of volume which creates a real vibe in the environments.

By virtue of the white noise created by the cooling fans on refrigeration units it is paramount that music levels in the Food Market need to be adjusted to compensate. This we have achieved.

The concept of background music is a thing of the past. Today’s shopping space demands a more theatrical approach. Industrial theatre is a more appropriate concept to develop than in the previous generation of stores. Woolworths Mall of Africa buys into this in a very big way. There are different “stories” and themes that now abound. Everything is light and airy and displays are dramatic focussed to draw the customer’s eye and engage with them. And the music choice compliments this buzz.

All of these aspects have been successfully achieved in this store. It’s a delight, an experience, an extravaganza, a shopper’s paradise and a pleasure to walk around and enjoy.

Frankly when I saw the state of the Mall on the Tuesday before its official opening I thought it would never be ready by deadline. The only store that looked as if it might get there was Woolies. However, working full shifts for a straight 48 hours saw the finishing touches completed just in time. Then 97,000 Gautengalings descend on day 1 and 100,000 on day 2. All involved in getting ready for the big push on opening day breathed a sigh of relief and the verdict from all was “This is a winner!”

It is reputed to be the largest single phase shopping precinct under one roof in Africa and the Woolworths is the largest store in the group. Love it!  Congrats to all!!

Mike and the FDM team.


If you don’t know as yet successful music programming is much more of a science than you might believe. Let’s face it getting a bunch of songs together is a pretty simple exercise but making them work for your target market and keeping those fine folk in the best of possible moods is another story altogether.

Let’s begin at the start of the day. Your store has just opened and the shelves are bristling with product. Waking every one up is a good goal so bright, tuneful, finger snapping, toe tapping sounds are the order of the day. Keep it light, fresh and appealing and run like that until around midday when you can inject a little more of the contemporary top hits of the moment approach, mixed in with some classic “golden oldies.”

From midday to 2.00pm is usually peoples lunch time and those who have to shop and get back to the office need the fillip of happy, urgent music to keep them moving along at a good pace and keep them in a positive frame of mind.

The afternoon is a more mellow and laid back time and this is the time to feature the gentler sounds, great ballads and occasionally some romance but from around 4,00pm until closing time this is when the pace can pick up again and bring the tempo back up to where it should be.

If you are using messaging to communicate with customers keep the sound bites short, uncluttered and clearly enunciated. Don’t bombard them with information. Short and sweet is the order of the day. A short message of welcome for the first hour of trading is a good start to the day and a short message regarding the closing time is also a useful inclusion near the end of the day. It creates an awareness in the customer and clears the floor by closing time so that staff can repack shelves and do the other “housekeeping” necessary. And the volume ratio of speech to music is important. Run the levels of each element on a 60/40 basis. 60% speech to 40% music. You need that higher volume for the speech in order to cut through the ambient noise and make sure that the spoken element is heard with ease.
Of course the type of music you programme depends on the demographic of your customer and the type of customer you wish to attract. It’s not rocket science but as with most things, listening to the customer as well as the department responsible for in-store marketing and design is the way to go.

Don’t just take the easy way out. Do your research and be sure that your decisions are correct. And if you are not sure ask. It’s what we do here at Future Dimensions Media and with many years’ experience of music programming under our belts we can offer you good advice.

Are you reaching your customers?

Are you reaching your customers? The key is knowing who they are and what they want. To appeal to retail customers, you need to understand what makes them tick. What better way to do that than by studying actual consumer behaviour?

The other point is to use every possible means at your disposal to communicate with them. And this is where we come in. At FDM we spend most of our time researching what music customers prefer and we install audio replay systems that are close to being state of the art. Yet many clients don’t use the systems for their primary function. Communication.

Now I am inclined to agree that a continuous bombardment of badly recorded and equally badly voiced material probably does more harm than good. So as with all good business decisions exact stratergising and planning is essential.

We suggest start small. How about a greeting in the morning and an announcement before closing that the store closes in 15 minutes time. Use your system to provide useful information that customers may not always know. Support whatever customer loyalty plan you have in place. Offer added value through your discounting policy and then move on to short informative product and service offers. Nothing too brash but exciting enough to get the desired response. Many large retail brands now have offers in the area of insurance, funeral plans and the like. In store is the ideal place to promote such services.

Try a feature of the song of the week played regularly every hour. Look at the possibility of your own brands Top 20 on a Saturday or Sunday and offer streaming of your playlists onto mobile devices. And if you are able run in-store promotions and competitions.

Examine the messages you’re sending. Are they the right ones for your customers? Are you getting them across? Many communication errors stem from a naïve belief among marketing people that they’re necessarily trying to connect with people exactly like themselves. For example, many retailers overlook issues of nationality, language, ethnicity, and age.

We’d be more than happy to come and discuss possibilities with your marketing team and come up with some concepts and solutions that really can make a difference.


The way in which we access music has changed completely. Although you can still purchase CD’s, DVD’s etc. at a personal level most access to songs these days is an online digital process.

The latest addition to the world of music streaming is huge. According to revered music mag Rolling Stone “Apple Music, contains many features that streaming-music fans will expect (playlists galore, algorithmically guessed genre spotlights) in addition to an emphasis on music recommendations by real-life humans. The heart of the service is Beats 1, the Trent Reznor-conceived radio station that will be free to everyone and feature programs by Dr. Dre, Elton John, St. Vincent, Zane Lowe and others. It also contains a section curated based on users’ individual musical tastes with playlists and other features, another offering new music, a quasi-social network called Connect and a place to play a user’s iTunes collection.“ It appears that it will provide streaming access to the whole i-Tunes library.

The superstar rapper and entrepreneur Jay Z made headlines recently when he bought the previously little-known Swedish streaming service Tidal. Tidal had previously been an also-ran in the streaming wars, but Jay invited the world’s biggest music stars, including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Madonna, Alicia Keys, Daft Punk and members of Coldplay, the White Stripes and Arcade Fire, to run the company with him. The artists pledge to fix the streaming business so it pays more royalties to those who make the music, but Tidal hasn’t outlined exactly how it will achieve this — Vania Schlogel, a senior executive, says it’s simply a matter of not offering the service for free. Will that be enough? We’ll see, especially after the Apple launch.

“Music is a really important part of the YouTube experience,” the company’s chief executive Susan Wojcicki said a year ago, shortly after taking over. Just about every piece of music ever recorded appears on YouTube, for free, and any Spotify or Beats that attempts to charge listeners for streaming must contend with this reality. “YouTube is the world’s largest freemium service, and that is frustrating,” says Ian Montone, manager of Jack White, Vampire Weekend and others. “It can also be a discovery tool.” Google owns it and is just too powerful to regulate in the traditional way through licensing deals.

Then there’s Spotify. Daniel Ek is the head honcho here. Spotify is about to raise US$400 million in new funding, which would bring the streaming service’s value to US$8.4 billion — a ridiculous number considering the U.S. record industry’s entire revenue is roughly US$12 billion. After Taylor Swift ripped Spotify last year as a “grand experiment” that doesn’t properly compensate artists and songwriters, major labels have pushed to limit the free side of its “freemium” service.

But the service with 60 million users refuses to budge. Ek, the company’s founder, wrote a long and detailed blog post last autumn in response to Swift and others, saying the company has paid $2 billion to rights holders and “we’re working day and night to recover money for artists and the music business that piracy was stealing away.” Any road to winning the streaming wars goes through Ek and Spotify.


Technology moves further ahead with the release of software that can be embedded in an audio track during playlist compilation, then identifies and activates smart phones bringing them to life to download short messages that indicate that the phone user has been recognised in the environment and making them aware of other any other useful information.

The data is hidden in the music track so cannot be heard and does not interfere with the quality of the music or speech being transmitted. It triggers the smart phone and if you are an account holder or are on the store’s data base in another way, such as being a member of a loyalty programme, it welcomes you personally and passes on information regarding special offers, promotions etc. This save a customer time if they are visiting the store for a specific item or makes them aware of items that they may not previously have known about.

It won’t be too long before such systems become interactive, in other words you will be able to ask the information centre questions:-

  • Do you stock a particular brand or item?
  • What minimum payment should I make on my account?
  • Is short term insurance available?
  • What is my current credit limit?
  • Can I pay by debit order?
  • Do you stock XXXL sizes of clothing?
  • What is the price of new potatoes a kilo?

And where retailers have multi-brands and other stores within the group it will also be possible to provide information from them as an added value to shopping at a given branch within the group.

You are in Woolworths and a special offer becomes available at Re or JT-One. Your phone lets you know.

And other platforms can be offered to the client through complimentary software which a store can advise them about. “Oooh! I love this song. What’s it called?” Go to and find out. Download it on to your phone’s MP3 player through iTunes, Spotify, Shazam, Sound Cloud, Mix Cloud or any other legal music download site.

These exciting developments are becoming a reality and if you watch our web site at you see how to access them for your business.

Good vibes and good listening!

Pharrell Williams

This man is a modern phenomenon. Super talented and obviously a very skilled businessman to say nothing of being a great time manager! The word prolific just doesn’t seem to cut it.

Williams launched a multimedia creative collective and record label called “I am other” in May 2012 that serves as an umbrella for all of his business endeavors including a record label, apparel, textiles, design and a dedicated YouTube channel.

Williams co-founded the clothing brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Footwear. He has a boutique store in New York City on West Broadway.

In 2008, Williams co-designed a series of jewelry (“Blason”) and sunglasses for Louis Vuitton. He has also worked on designer furniture with Emmanuel Perrotin and a French manufacturer, Domeau & Pérès. In 2009, Williams unveiled a collaborative sculpture with Takashi Murakami at Art Basel, which spoke to the metaphor of value. In May 2011, it was announced that Williams would serve as Creative Director of KarmaloopTV alongside founder and CEO Greg Selkoe and former AMC president Katie McEnroe.

On August 1, 2011, Williams launched his new YouTube channel, “i am OTHER” as part of YouTube’s $100 million original channel initiative.

In August 2013, Williams created a line of sunglasses for Moncler called “Moncler Lunettes”. In 2014, Williams entered a long-term partnership with Adidas.

In February 2014, Williams announced a collaboration between G-Star Raw and his textile company Bionic Yarn called “RAW for the Oceans,” a collection of denim made from recycled plastic that is found in the ocean. The project was presented at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Williams released a collection for retail giant Uniqlo in April 2014 entitled “i am OTHER“. It was created with Nigo, creative director of UT, the company’s T-shirt division. In June 2014, artist collective Rizzoli published a book by FriendsWithYou called “We Are Friends With You” that featured contributions from Williams, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Peter Doroshenko.

Williams then co-composed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Hans ZimmerJohnny MarrMichael Einziger and David A. Stewart.

Williams owns a non-profit organization called “From One Hand to AnOTHER” (FOHTA). FOHTA is an educational foundation. According to its website, its mission is to “change the world one kid at a time by giving them the tools and resources to meet their unique potential”. FOHTA’s vision is to modernize the community center concept by empowering kids to learn through new technologies, arts, media and motivation.

And to top it all Pharrell is now working with South Africa’s most caring and successful retail brand Woolworths.

Woolworth’s chief executive Ian Moir has announced that the retailer is collaborating on the “Are you With Us?” campaign with this US Superstar across a series of sustainability-focused projects.

The campaign has four layers: pure entertainment, showcasing young talent, fundraising for education, and driving sustainable fashion.

Pharrell will be putting on a private concert for 5 000 Woolworths customers.

Moir expressed his desire for Williams to spend some time at some of the country’s schools who are recipients of the funds generated when customers swipe their MySchool cards. It ties in with the “Sing with Us” initiative, where school singing groups will be given the opportunity to perform live alongside Williams during his one-night-only concert. Entrants will be shortlisted and chosen personally by the musician.

Williams and MySchool will also be calling on customers to help the brand raise R100-million for schools in need across the country through swiping their MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet cards.

It’s a great initiative and a fascinating meeting of two outstanding brands.



Maximize Your In-Store Marketing Efforts

While advertising can bring customers to a store, it can also work from within your store. Today many retailers realize how important in-store Marketing can be to their base line.

A common strategy among retailers is to first release sufficient marketing and advertising in order to draw people to their place of business and then to advertise and promote heavily inside of their business. The theory is that people come into a retail establishment with one or a few key items in mind; the goal is to tempt these shoppers to buy more with well-planned advertising and marketing within the store.

In-store advertising can:

  1. Trigger recall. The human memory is far more likely to recall an item upon seeing it again. In-store advertising can serve to trigger such recall.
  2. Introduce new products. Unfamiliar products may not draw people to a store, but within the store such products can attract attention through their look, feel, or smell.
  3. Promote sale items. While a “one day only” newspaper ad can draw people to your store, in-store sales place those lower prices in front of your customer and encourage additional — and even impulse — buys.
  4. Provide more information. Whether you use a plasma screen or simple signs to highlight your featured merchandise, you want to communicate the information to your customers that will convince them to make smart purchases.

Of course, in-store advertising is most effective with a strategy. This means to first determine where to place racks, cubes, platforms, mannequins, and especially your well-designed signage in order to best display your merchandise. High-traffic areas — doorways, cash registers, fitting rooms, for example — should be your first consideration.

Other considerations when planning your in-store advertising include:

  • Creativity. Position your products in an interesting manner or on an original backdrop. Remember: You want to catch the eye of your customers as they pass your displays.
  • Lighting. Make sure all areas where advertising is present — whether it’s as a display or as signage — are well lit and attractive.
  • Hands-on activities. Toy stores have displays where kids can play. Supermarkets have in-store samples. Tech stores let you test much of the merchandise. What can you do to tempt your customers?
  • Themes. Is it back-to-school time? Mothers’ day? Thematic in-store advertising can focus around a specific season, holiday, or even a new trend or fashion.
  • Store layout. If your toys are in the back of the store, batteries should be as well. If women’s clothing is located on the lower level, fashion accessories should be advertised and displayed en route to and from those escalators. Consider the layout of your location and how your customers get to the goodies that they seek. Then, advertise along the routes that they have to take, just as you see ads for hotels and restaurants along interstate highways.
  • All five senses. You’ve already designed the look of your advertisements and displays, but sound and smell should not be left out of in-store advertising. Customers will be curious about the music they hear or the enchanting aroma they smell. If you sell edibles, feature samples of a particular product each day. These are all things that can encourage purchases and repeat patrons.

In-store advertising and promotion can be a huge boost to your business. Of course, the subtlety of the advertising and the type of displays will need to match the tone and ambiance of your retail establishment. From bargain bins to haute couture, never underestimate the potential for additional sales when you work to lure customers to “unwanted” merchandise, or those items that they did not anticipate wanting or needing when they first entered.

In Store Advertising

Located within supermarkets, drugstores, or convenience stores, in store displays come in a variety of forms: shopping cart panels, above-aisle or end-aisle displays, digital message units, clocks, floor graphics, backlit front aisle displays, and digital screens.

In Store Digital Screens 
TV monitors located at the checkout counter in convenience stores deliver advertising messages in a continuous, content-driven loop of custom programming providing information and entertainment.

Checkout Counter Dividers 
Used to separate one shopper’s groceries from the next person in line, These dividers can claim an exposure time as long as five minutes.

Floor Graphics
Vinyl displays affixed to the supermarket floor near the product being promoted.

Primary Uses
Used to provide stimulus to shoppers at the moment of a purchase decision.

The broadest programs reach thousands of grocery stores, drug stores, and convenience stores. Virtually all of the top 100 markets have in store media.

Research/Market Information
Audience data are provided by sellers. Some employ research firms for studies of audience size and effectiveness.

Method of Purchase
Varies by format. Units are generally sold in multimarket store networks or as single market buys for four week cycles.