Industry News & Expert Views

Retailers Wrestle with How to Maintain Social Distancing During the Holiday Season

By Sheridan Fifer

Retailers are planning ahead for the holiday season, puzzling out how to maintain their coronavirus safety protocols in the face of crowds of bargain-hunters and holiday shoppers. A 30% jump in foot traffic at brick-and-mortar retailers is predicted between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and should shipping companies fail to keep up with deliveries of an increased number of online orders, shoppers are likely to head straight to stores. Some retailers' strategies involve sales stretched out over a period of weeks, rather than held all at once for just a day or two. Others are also expected to hold more online-only sales. 

“We are hearing a lot of worry about the holidays,” said Gabriella Santaniello, president of A Line Partners, a retail research firm.

Read the full story at the New York Post. 

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Along with Oracle, Walmart Agrees to Become a Minority Stakeholder in TikTok

By Sheridan Fifer

On Saturday, Walmart announced a tentative agreement to acquire a 7.5% stake in TikTok – the social media network the retailer had formerly issued a joint bid with Microsoft for. That bid failed, but now Walmart is making an investment in the company, along with Oracle, which could possibly take a 12.5% stake. President Trump approved the deal over the weekend, and the Department of Commerce pushed back the date of the threatened ban on downloads of the app in the U.S. to September 27. But there are already rumors that the president could withdraw his approval. 

“TikTok has delighted hundreds of millions of users and creators around the world, and we are looking forward to creating an even more exciting experience for that community,” the retailer said.

Read the full story at Footwear News.

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Walmart Has a New Private Fashion Brand

By Sheridan Fifer

Free Assembly is Walmart's newest private label clothing brand, developed by its in-house design team and marketed as an "elevated" modern fashion brand. It includes wardrobe staples such as jeans and easy-to-layer tops, as well as dresses and jackets. The collection has a total of 55 pieces, including clothing for men and women. As Walmart works to duplicate the success of rivals Target and Amazon in the fashion category, the retailer is sticking to its low price philosophy: Free Assembly's pieces are priced between $9 and $45. 

Denise Incandela, Walmart's senior vice president of elevated and online brands, said in a statement that the launch of Free Assembly demonstrates how dedicated the big box retailer is to becoming a bonafide "fashion destination..."

Read the full story at Business Insider.

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Walmart Raises Pay for 165,000 Associates

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart is boosting pay for 165,000 associates, specifically those in team leadership roles. In some cases, associates will see their pay raised from the $11 minimum to $15 an hour. In others, the raises could bring certain associates' pay up to $30 an hour. The changes will take effect in October. 

Walmart says the new wage structure “is built around higher-skilled jobs of the future, and the compensation for those roles reflects that.”

Read the full story at Fast Company.

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Amazon Makes a Play for Luxury Shoppers

By Sheridan Fifer

Amazon has made no secret of its fashion ambitions, rising to become the nation's top fashion retailer. Now the online retailer is making a play for high-end brands that might be wary of its traditional online marketplace. 

Amazon calls it Luxury Stores. Currently, it is open to Prime members by invitation only. Oscar de la Renta is the first luxury brand to come on board, and more are expected to make their Amazon debut in the coming weeks.

Chinese online retailer Alibaba launched a similar initiative in 2017. It proved hugely successful: the Tmall Luxury Pavilion now hosts more than 180 brands. Amazon wants to duplicate that success and become a fashion destination for luxury shoppers. 

Having a dedicated luxury brand platform could help Amazon bring in brands that may want to avoid association with discount goods or counterfeit products...

Read the full story at Business Insider.

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Walmart's Flipkart Plans Overseas IPO

By Sheridan Fifer

Indian e-commerce company Flipkart is planning an initial public offering, which could occur as early as the year 2021. The IPO could take place in Singapore, where Flipkart is incorporated, or in the U.S., where Walmart has its headquarters. The latter option would likely give the e-commerce company access to more funds. While the process has been largely kept under wraps until now, sources familiar with the matter say that Flipkart will soon seek guidance from advisors outside the company.

Flipkart is reportedly aiming for a valuation of between $45 and $50 billion. A valuation that big would indicate that Walmart had doubled its original investment. 

The discussions come as India drafts new regulations that could pave the way for domestic companies to directly list overseas.

Read the full story at Reuters.

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Amazon Wants to Open a Thousand Mini Delivery Hubs in Suburbs and Cities

By Sheridan Fifer

Amazon has a plan to make good on its same-day delivery promises and catch up to its brick-and-mortar rivals with their massive store fleets that double as delivery hubs. The online retailer wants to open a thousand miniature delivery hubs in suburban and urban areas, according to a report from Bloomberg. Rivals Walmart and Target have long leveraged their stores to deliver online orders to shoppers quickly. Amazon wants that same kind of geographical reach, even if it costs billions in real estate expenses to get it. 

An Amazon delivery hub may be coming soon to a suburb near you.

Read the full story at PYMNTS.com.

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Kohl's Lays Off 15% of Corporate Workforce

By Sheridan Fifer

Kohl's profits took a huge hit after the coronavirus pandemic forced the department store retailer to close stores and furlough 85,000 employees. Now, Kohl's has announced a round of layoffs that will affect 15% of its corporate jobs. The retailer did not provide an exact figure for the number of jobs it was eliminating, but the reductions in its workforce are expected to save it around $65 million a year. Kohl's has a goal to cut $100 million worth of annual costs. 

Kohl’s announced the job cuts amid a wave of retail bankruptcies sparked by the virus.

Read the full story at the New York Post. 

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