Industry News & Expert Views

Amazon's Corporate Workforce Is "Welcome" to Work from Home Until January 2021

By Sheridan Fifer

Amazon is extending its corporate work-from-home policy all the way to January of 2021. According to the company, any employee who can work from home is "welcome" to work from home until January eighth. 

In the meantime, Amazon has come under fire for allegedly failing to take adequate measures to protect the health and safety of its warehouse workers, for whom working from home is not an option. 

“We continue to prioritize the health of our employees and follow local government guidance. Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until January 8th,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

Read the full story at The Verge.

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Walmart Becomes Largest Retailer with a Nationwide Mask Mandate

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart announced on Wednesday that the retailer would be requiring customers at all U.S. stores to wear face coverings starting on July 20th, making Walmart the largest retailer to take this step. Best Buy, Starbucks, and Costco have made similar moves. The change comes after careful consideration, since retailers have been reluctant to risk angering customers and putting their employees in the sometimes hazardous position of enforcing the measure. 

"To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20," Walmart US chief operating officer Dacona Smith and Sam's Club chief operating officer Lance De La Rosa said in a blog post Wednesday. 

Read the full story at CNN Business.

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Retail Losses Surge as Shoppers Move Online

By Sheridan Fifer

No longer buoyed by in-store sales, retailers are paying the price for the high costs associated with selling more online. Mass store closings pushed consumers online to make their purchases, and now that the number of coronavirus cases is spiking, customers are showing reluctance to come into the newly reopened stores. With shopping dollars moving increasingly online, retailers are facing the consequences of a trade-off they made long ago: using in-store sales to help them cover the high costs of selling products online, which include fulfillment and shipping. With in-store sales falling, the retailers who depended on them are seeing losses mount.

When it comes to online sales, “retailers have always given away too much margin,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. “Now that more stores are closed and online penetration is higher, losses have exploded.”

Read the full story at Reuters.

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Walmart's Asda Faces Equal Pay Lawsuit

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart's Asda will soon face an equal pay lawsuit before the United Kingdom's Supreme Court. More than 15,000 employees brought the case against Asda, alleging discrimination in the way store workers are paid. These employees say that they should be paid the same wages as warehouse workers. The discrimination claim arises from the fact that most of Asda's warehouse workers are men. Asda maintains that the work in warehouses is different than work in stores, and that this accounts for the pay disparity. Should the group win their case, it could cost Asda up to 8 billion pounds, or just over $10 billion. 

David Pannick, Asda’s lawyer, said an equal pay claim was not applicable in this case, because store workers and warehouse workers were under different employment programs, in different areas.

Read the full story at Bloomberg.

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Retail Traffic Declines Again as Coronavirus Cases Spike

By Sheridan Fifer

Retail traffic numbers were improving as stores reopened and shoppers ventured from their homes once more. But as the number of coronavirus cases spikes, consumers in many states are once again avoiding stores. Thirty-seven states have seen retail traffic fall, while thirteen states have actually seen improvements. The difference seems to lie in safety precautions and the sense of security and confidence they instill in shoppers. 

Customers are retreating for a second time. Apple has made one of the boldest moves, so far, closing dozens of stores in malls for a second time. 

Read the full story at CNBC.

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Walmart Will Launch an Amazon Prime Competitor in July

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart has its eye on a key part of Amazon's strategy: an amazing loyalty program. The retailer initially planned the debut of its Amazon Prime competitor, known as Walmart+, for March or April, but postponed the launch in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, Walmart+ is about to become a reality, starting later in July. It isn't certain yet whether Walmart will launch the program nationally or employ a region by region approach. Regardless, the retailer has its work cut out for it, since over half of Walmart's top spending families are already members of Amazon Prime. 

Amazon may have a 15-year head start, but Walmart is close to finally unveiling its own membership program that it hopes will eventually become an alternative to Amazon Prime.

Read the full story at Vox.

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Amazon Delays Prime Day

By Sheridan Fifer

In the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus, Amazon announced it would postpone its shopping holiday Prime Day as it dealt with a deluge of online orders. The online retailer considered holding the event in September, but according to an email sent to third-party sellers, Prime Day may actually take place in October, if not even later. Any delay beyond October would have Prime Day coinciding with the holiday shopping season. 

Prime Day, which started in 2015, is typically held in July. The discount celebration is partially designed to secure new Prime members, as well as to promote Amazon’s own products and services and provide a sales boost in the middle of the year.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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Macy's Reports Almost $4 Billion in Losses

By Sheridan Fifer

Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette says he expects the coronavirus pandemic to continue to affect the country for the rest of the year, but what he doesn't expect is another shutdown. The first shutdown cost Macy's almost $4 billion in losses and forced the retailer to make big changes very quickly. Some experts say these changes needed to be made a long time ago. 

“Whether in staffing, fleet size, online initiatives or real estate monetization, it (Macy’s) is at last implementing the radical surgery that should have begun years ago,” said Craig Johnson, president at retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners.

Read the full story at Reuters.

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