Redbox, CIW YOU(th) Chart the Future of American Retail

Outerwall, Redbox’s parent company, has been quietly changing the face of retail for over 20 years. The DVD and video game kiosk joined Outerwall’s portfolio—which previously had included the coin exchange service Coinstar—in the early 2000s. In 2013, Outerwall purchased ecoATM, which allows consumers to exchange their used cell phones for cash in hand.


A CIW YOU(th) participant looks at a Redbox kiosk, specially designed for the CIW Lab.

And now, if CIW YOU(th) have their way, the company will add a school supplies vending machine to its roster of consumer-friendly retail services. The kiosk would allow students to purchase pen and paper on campus, when they most need them.

The idea was just one of many put on the table at a 2014 Lab that invited CIW YOU(th) to Redbox’s River North office location for a brainstorming and educational session. The Lab—and the ideas it generated—fit into Outerwall’s broader mission to develop unique retail solutions for the “everyday consumer,” its ability to seamlessly blend technology with consumption, and, most importantly, its commitment to providing educational opportunities to the communities it works in.

“Every time we have [students] out, we’re not just showing them the facility and what it’s like to work in a corporate environment,” Jeremy Kruse, Outerwall’s manager of talent acquisition, said. “We’re always trying to have major leaders in each line of business—within technology, within marketing, within strategy—to come by and have a conversation and let them know what that department is responsible for.”

Thirty-four percent of Outerwall employees are involved in volunteer programs, and 88 percent of employees view their company as a “responsible corporate citizen.” In addition to its work with CIW YOU(th), Outerwall’s Chicago area locations have volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club, local elementary schools and Chicago Tech Academy High School.

“People here really care not only about what they do, but the impact they’ll have on their environment,” Kruse said.

“What makes our [company culture] different is how involved we are with…these groups to get kids involved,” he concluded.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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