Industry News & Expert Views

Walmart Will Test New Home Delivery Tech in Its Hometown

By Sheridan Fifer

The race to master the last mile is on, and Walmart is leaving no stone unturned. From drone delivery to in-home delivery, the retailer has created a dizzying series of partnerships and pilots to get customers' online orders to their doorsteps as efficiently as possible.

On Tuesday, Walmart announced another innovative delivery solution, which it will be testing this spring in its hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. HomeValet has developed a "smart box" that Walmart intends to use to store shoppers' orders at optimal temperatures right outside their homes. The boxes are divided into three zones, one to hold pantry goods, another for refrigerated items, and another for frozen foods. They unlock electronically when a delivery provider arrives with the order. 

Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product for Walmart U.S., acknowledged that the technology theoretically allowed for grocery deliveries at any time of the day or night, but said that the retailer won't be extending delivery hours that far just yet. 

"While we don't have plans to do 24/7 delivery today, it certainly has a nice ring to it," Ward wrote.

Read the full story at Retail Dive. 

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Can Target Keep Up the Rapid Sales Growth in a Post-Pandemic World?

By Sheridan Fifer

Essential retailer status and extensive prior investments in its omnichannel operations have served Target well during these months of pandemic. The retailer had a fantastic holiday season, reporting a 17.2% increase in same-store sales during the months of November and December. As impressive as its sales growth was, it was still slightly lower than the surge Target recorded in the third quarter, raising questions that future quarters will answer: Can the retailer keep its "pandemic gains," or will the vaccine put the brakes on its rapid sales growth? 

Target has been one of the bright spots in a hard-hit retail industry. It has reported eye-popping sales growth and $6 billion in market share gains as many other retailers have been pummeled by temporary store closures and even filed for bankruptcy during the pandemic.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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Walmart Wades Deeper Into Financial Technology with a New Startup

By Sheridan Fifer

Though details are scarce at the moment, Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner made it clear that there is demand among the retailer's customers for financial services, and Walmart is prepared to deliver. On Monday, the retailer announced that it is founding a financial technology startup with venture capital firm Ribbit Capital.  Walmart will own the majority of the startup, and its board will include several of the retailer's executives. 

The big-box retailer did not share the name of the new company or say when its services will be available. It said it will develop unique and affordable financial products for Walmart employees and customers.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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Major Retailers Opt for Returns-Free Refunds on a Case by Case Basis

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart, Target, and Amazon are picking their battles when it comes to returns. If the merchandise in question isn't going to be resold, and the cost of processing its return is as much as or more than the cost of the merchandise itself, these retailers may refund shoppers' money and tell them to keep the item. Walmart and Target confirmed the story, first reported in The Wall Street Journal. The Journal also reported a statistic by return processing firm Navar, which found that online returns spiked by 70% in 2020. 

Given the sharp increase in online sales, it's no surprise that major retailers are reconsidering the expense of processing returns that incur shipping costs.

Read the full story at Business Insider.

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2020 Left Retail Carnage and Record Store Closures in Its Wake

By Sheridan Fifer

For some retailers, it was as if they had been preparing for a contingency like the pandemic for years. Retailers such as Walmart and Target shone during the global health crisis, and their essential retailer status allowed them to reap the benefits of the scale and sophistication of their operations. Other retailers, largely mall-based, had been in a downward spiral for years, and the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant shutdowns and restrictions sent some into bankruptcy. The year 2020 set a record for retail store closures, which totaled 12,200, compared to 10,000 in 2019, as well as for corporate bankruptcies. 

But even successful companies have put the brakes on store fleet expansion plans. Old Navy and Ulta Beauty, for example, are both recovering well from the shutdowns and still plan to open hundreds more stores in the coming year but are now giving themselves more time to do so.

Read the full story at Fortune.

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It's the Moment of Truth for Drugstore Chains

By Sheridan Fifer

Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid are about to have a chance to show consumers that they are still relevant, and that goal stretches beyond the vaccine.

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a blow to drugstore chains as shoppers cut down on their number of store visits and had more prescriptions delivered to their homes. But the COVID vaccine promises to send many of those shoppers straight to their nearest drugstore to receive their shots, and that presents an opportunity for the chains to prove the value of their investments in their businesses.

As rivals such as Walmart and Amazon encroach on drugstores' traditional territory, all three of these drugstore retailers have made big changes, including modernizing stores, opening primary care clinics, and emphasizing wellness. 

The companies have had their share of internal changes, too. CVS and Walgreens are both getting new CEOs. Rite Aid is in the midst of a turnaround effort complete with a new logo and store design.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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Macy's Begins "Rightsizing" Its Store Count

By Sheridan Fifer

Starting with 45 stores, Macy's is implementing a three-year plan to close 125 locations by the year 2023. The department store retailer is trying to reduce its dependence on struggling malls, without abandoning its anchor store status altogether. Macy's itself is struggling: In November, same-store sales fell more than 20%, and the surge in the retailer's e-commerce sales was not enough to make up for the dismal in-store numbers. Macy's stated goal is to operate stores in high-performing malls. It hopes that a mix of standalone and mall locations will strike the right balance with consumers. 

Macy’s Chief Executive Jeff Gennette had previously said the company was still betting on the best malls in the country, but that it would look to grow off-mall in the future.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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The Post-Holiday Shipping Crush Is Here: UPS Predicts a Record Week of Returns

By Sheridan Fifer

Faced with data that pointed to a post-holiday shipping crush, shipping companies have been preparing for this season of returns for months. UPS says that this week will break the company's record for the highest weekly total of returns. An estimated 8.75 returns will be entrusted to UPS this week. That's a 23% increase over last holiday season's biggest returns week.

As e-commerce adoption grew by leaps and bounds, so too did demand for delivery, and for convenient returns options. The growth of e-commerce increased behaviors seen only in online shopping – behaviors that contribute to the much higher rate of returns for online orders versus in-store purchases. For example, bracketing occurs when shoppers order multiple sizes of an item with the intention of returning all but the one that fits best. 

The good news, according to John Morris, executive managing director of CBRE's Americas industrial and logistics operation, is the returns are coming after months of capacity building on the part of logistics players, he said in early December.

Read the full story at Supply Chain Dive. 

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