Industry News & Expert Views

Costco, Sam's Club Bring Back Free Samples

By Sheridan Fifer

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, warehouse club retailers Costco and Sam's Club pulled free samples from the sales floor, citing heath concerns. Now, many months later, their return marks the beginning of a gradual return to normalcy. Costco is reintroducing free samples in its clubs in phases, and Sam's Club will reintroduce them with added safety measures. 

Sam’s Club has had a sampling program for more than 35 years, but the company said it was paused in March 2020 “out of concern for the health and safety of members and associates during COVID-19.”

Read the full story at USA Today.

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Amazon Confirms Prime Day Dates

By Sheridan Fifer

On June 21st and 22nd, Amazon will host its annual Prime Day sales event. The online retailer boasted that the shopping holiday would feature millions of deals this year. Last year's Prime Day was delayed until October due to skyrocketing demand during the early days of the pandemic. Amazon used those months to scale its operational and logistical capabilities. Now, Prime Day is back on schedule, taking place in the summer – and mere days before a major leadership change. On July 5th, Andy Jassy will take the helm as Amazon's new CEO.  

Since its inception in 2015, Amazon has leveraged the global shopping event as a way to retain Amazon Prime subscribers, which now top more than 200 million, and bolster sales during what is often considered a slow period for retailers

Read the full story at The Verge. 

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Target Reopens Fitting Rooms

By Sheridan Fifer

After more than a year, Target is reopening its fitting rooms as the coronavirus crisis recedes in the United States. A spokesperson for the retailer said that Target would have dedicated team members to disinfect fitting rooms throughout the day.

The news comes on the heels of another change at the store level: Target recently joined other retailers in amending its mask policy for fully vaccinated customers. 

Target spokesperson Brian Harper-Tibaldo told USA TODAY that one exception is a "small number of fitting rooms being used for vaccinations."

Read the full story at USA TODAY.

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Walmart and Gap Team Up on Home Decor Brand

By Sheridan Fifer

In a partnership that both parties say isn't a one-time deal only, Walmart and Gap are teaming up to launch an exclusive home decor brand. Gap Home will launch on Walmart.com later in June, and the most popular items in the collection will eventually find their way into stores. Walmart's executive vice president for home Anthony Soohoo called the partnership a relationship that Walmart wants to build. 

Financial terms and the duration of the deal were not disclosed. Yet both companies said the brand is the start of a long-term partnership.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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Amazon Acquires MGM for Over $8 Billion

By Sheridan Fifer

Amazon's latest acquisition has some analysts scratching their heads a little. They're saying that dropping more than $8 billion on a Hollywood studio won't turn Amazon into another Netflix – certainly not into a Netflix-killer. But Amazon has never spent a great deal of time worrying about what the analysts have to say. Only time will tell if this latest acquisition was spending too much for too little. 

And on its own, it’s hard to believe that the MGM acquisition will make Prime Video a serious Netflix competitor in earnest.

Read the full story at The Verge.

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Best Buy Reports a "Blockbuster" Q1

By Sheridan Fifer

Best Buy saw its comparable sales grow 37% in the first fiscal quarter. Of course, some of that growth was a result of the company emerging from the pandemic era, when stores were closed and Best Buy relied on curbside pickup to get its products to customers. But even when compared to the figures from 2019, before the coronavirus appeared on the world stage, Best Buy's sales grew by more than 27%. CEO Corie Barry cited extraordinary customer demand for the numbers, stating that some pandemic era trends continue to boost Best Buy's business. 

Executives did note, though, that the second half of this year could be shaped by shifts in consumer spending back to eating out, traveling and other experiences cut off by the pandemic.

Read the full story at Retail Dive.

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Washington DC Attorney General Files Suit Against Amazon

By Sheridan Fifer

Amazon is facing a lawsuit from Washington DC Attorney General Karl Racine. Racine says the online retailer has created a monopoly that violates antitrust laws by limiting competition and innovation while raising prices for customers, harming both consumers and vendors. According to the lawsuit, Amazon's third-party sellers are not permitted to offer their products at lower prices on any other platform – not even their own online stores. And because Amazon is so dominant in the e-commerce space, these vendors must choose between setting fair prices and retaining access to the market, Racine claims. This isn't the first time Amazon has faced scrutiny of its business practices, and according to the experts, it isn't likely to end here, either. 

Aaron Edlin, a professor of law and economics at the University of California, Berkeley told the Post that the D.C. attorney general’s suit will likely be followed by a broader federal suit in the coming years. 

Read the full story at the New York Post.

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J.C. Penney Bets On Apparel Rebound

By Sheridan Fifer

When the coronavirus appeared on the world scene, apparel retailers took a big hit. Between the temporary store closings and a quarantined customer base, these retailers were hard pressed to move merchandise like dresses and skirts. But J.C. Penney is hoping that time is behind it. Former Target merchandiser Michelle Wlazlo is touting the latest private label brand from J.C. Penney as a big step up, one that will set the tone for the retailer's future offerings. Ryegrass includes dresses, blouses, skirts, shorts, vests, and jackets – with sweatpants conspicuously absent. The retailer is betting that demand for more formal attire will surge as the pandemic recedes. 

This collection in particular raises the bar for Penney's women's portfolio, Wlazlo said in a statement, adding that it "sets the tone for JCPenney's view on approachable, luxurious apparel and commitment to high-quality style at a tremendous value."

Read the full story at Retail Dive.

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