On March 13, 2019, Fung Retailing Group’s convenience-store chain, Circle K, rolled out Hong Kong’s first AI-powered checkout solution using image recognition.
St Patrick’s Day Celebrations Look to be a Modest Event for Retailers, Despite Rising Numbers of US Celebrants
St. Patrick’s Day captures a lot of attention, but its retail impact is small compared to other holidays: Consumers plan to spend $40 on average for St. Patrick’s Day this year, less than a quarter their planned $162 Valentine’s Day spend.
Amazon plans to close 87 of its pop-up stores by the end of April, a company spokesperson confirmed to the Wall Street Journal. The pop-ups sell other brands of Amazon consumer electronics products, and their existence underscores Amazon’s willingness to experiment with various retail formats and make changes based on data collected.
Alibaba Group’s business-to-business (B2B) trading platform Alibaba.com announced a strategic collaboration with the US business services and supplies company Office Depot.
Amazon is reportedly planning to expand its presence in the U.S. grocery market through building new stores to be operated under a banner other than its acquired Whole Foods Markets and with a more typical product offering. Amazon is also considering the acquisition of several region chains. At the same time, the company is expanding its fleet of Whole Foods Market and Amazon Go stores.
The UK’s Marks & Spencer and Ocado Group have confirmed that they are discussing a potential joint venture. A combined M&S-Ocado offering would offer M&S a way to sell online while circumventing the unfavorable economics of its typically small basket sizes.
On February 20, 2019, the CMA published its provisional findings on the merger of Sainsbury’s and Asda, indicating that it could be a bad deal for consumers, through “a poorer shopping experience, and reductions in the range and quality of products offered.” The commentary was a shot across the bow for Sainsbury’s, which is effectively acquiring Asda, and throws the deal into serious doubt — driving down Sainsbury’s share price some 15.5%.
Retail and food-service sales in China during Lunar New Year (February 4-10) rose to a new high of ¥1.0 trillion (US$148.7 billion), but the 8.5% year over year growth was the slowest since 2005.
Ocado’s First Fully Automated Distribution Center Destroyed by Fire, Threatening Confidence in Its Robotics Offering
Fire devastated UK online grocery retailer and technology provider Ocado Group’s first robotic distribution center in Andover, England, which handled 10% of total capacity.
Americans Fall Out of Love with Valentine’s Day — But Those Celebrating Are Set to Spend More than Ever
Valentine’s Day in 2019 is expected to be very different than it was a decade ago, according to an annual survey released by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The percentage of people expecting to celebrate the day has dropped to 50.7% in 2019 from 54.7% last year and 62.8% in 2009, making likely 2019 participation the lowest in a decade.
General merchandise retailer Shopko filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on January 16, 2019. The company attributed its petition for financial restructuring to “excess debt and ongoing competitive pressures.” The retailer stated it would close an additional 38 stores this year, in addition to the 67 previously earmarked for closure, relocate 20 optical centers to freestanding locations and auction off its pharmacy business.
On January 28, Unilever announced it had acquired The Laundress, a premium detergent and fabric care company headquartered in New York. The Laundress was founded in 2004 by Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd after two years of research yielded a non-toxic line of laundry and home cleaning products. The portfolio now includes over 85 eco-friendly products. Unilever said The Laundress will continue to operate from its New York City headquarters and that the two founders will remain in place to lead the business and operate the brand’s flagship store in New York.
Legacy UK Retailers Tesco and Marks & Spencer Think Radically to Expand Margins and Revive Revenue Growth
In a press release on January 29, Tesco confirmed plans to close fresh-food counters in around 90 stores, with 700 further stores retaining a “full or flexible” counter offer. It will also simplify stock management at store level, close store canteens and make job cuts at its head office. The company estimates that up to 9,000 roles could be impacted but it expects up to half of these people could be redeployed.
The biggest spenders are those aged 35–44, who say they will spend an average of $123.26. The lowest are those 65 and older at $40.97. Viewers in the Northeast plan to spend the most, at an average $94.89, followed by the West at $84.01, the South at $79.09 and the Midwest at $69.24 — not surprising given the two teams playing are based in the Northeast and Southwest.
JD.com’s drone delivery is the first time a Chinese drone has been used for delivery in Southeast Asia, and is also the first time the Indonesian government has granted permission to use a drone for logistics purpose.