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Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail.

The opening of innovation labs and technology centers has been a trend in the retail industry for a few years now. Leading brands such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Nordstrom, CVS and others have all opened digital innovation labs within the last few years — most of them in Silicon Valley to take advantage of the abundant tech talent in that area. Kohl’s is no exception, having opened its digital center in Milpitas, Calif., in April 2013. All of these retailers are trying to be at the forefront of digital technology so they can better engage today’s tech-savvy consumers. In that quest, Kohl’s is turning to an unlikely source to find inspiration: interns.

I've heard of retailers doing some unusual things — Moosejaw's breakup service comes to mind, in which customers can have the company's call-center reps call and break up with their significant other for them — but Patagonia's latest campaign takes the cake. Get this: it's all about buying less from the brand! Even more astounding? It seems to make perfect business sense.

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