Industry News & Expert Views

Target Will Give Another Bonus to Frontline Workers

By Sheridan Fifer

After accelerating the implementation of its $15 hourly minimum wage and giving out bonuses in April and July, Target has announced another round of bonuses for hourly workers. This bonus will come to $200 per employee and will be paid out in early November.

Target was one of the retailers to introduce "hero pay" for its employees when the coronavirus arrived in the United States. The retailer temporarily raised hourly wages by $2 in March. Such pay raises have since expired, both at Target and at most other retailers, but a couple retailers are giving out bonuses to employees who continue to work in the midst of a pandemic that is still going strong. 

These bonuses come as daily new Covid-19 cases are rising once again in the U.S., approaching a third peak.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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Amazon Uses Debt to Finance Spectacular Growth

By Sheridan Fifer

Moody's analysts are calling it a "race" for market share. E-commerce has taken off now more than ever as the pandemic continues to drive shoppers online. Amazon had to take steps in the early days to limit the number of orders it was handling, and now the online retailer is spending at a spectacular rate to catch up with demand. In June, Amazon issued $10 billion in new debt. Analysts say that the online giant's borrowing power is huge, giving Amazon plenty of resources to continue on its trajectory of rapid growth. 

The analysts also suggested that a multi-billion dollar brick-and-mortar acquisition or investment, similar to Amazon's $13.4 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, "might make sense to enhance its fulfillment capability."

Read the full story at Retail Dive.

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Macy's Tests Dark Store Concept

By Sheridan Fifer

As e-commerce sales soar, Macy's is testing a concept designed to meet rising demand as efficiently as possible: the dark store. Dark stores are closed to in-store shoppers. They function instead primarily as fulfillment centers for online orders. Macy's is converting two stores into dark stores, one in Delaware and the other in Colorado. Neither of the stores are very high-performing, so Macy's won't lose too much by forgoing in-store sales. Closing the stores to shoppers will allow the department store retailer to organize and staff for the purpose of fulfilling online orders, rather than having the stores perform two functions as Macy's has in the past. 

Macy's says that this is to meet the surge in e-commerce demand it has experienced lately. (Digital sales jumped 53% year over year last quarter.)

Read the full story at The Motley Fool.

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Walmart Splits Black Friday into Three Events

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart has revealed its plan for Black Friday, a plan designed to encourage online shopping while still giving fans of the traditional shopping holiday a reason to come into stores. The retailer will launch three separate events in November. All three will begin as online only sales, arriving in stores days after the initial launch. The first event begins online November 4 and in stores November 7, the second begins online November 11 and in stores November 14, and the third begins online November 25 and in stores November 27 – the date of Black Friday. 

Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., said the company wants to deliver on low prices, convenience and safety — no matter how customers choose to shop.

Read the full story at CNN Business.

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Ikea Will Buy Back Used Furniture in Sustainability Push

By Sheridan Fifer

Ikea has announced a sustainability initiative in the UK and Ireland, where customers can return used furniture in return for store vouchers that never expire. The furniture pieces must be fully assembled, and the amount consumers can get for them varies according to condition. Ikea wants to draw attention to "unsustainable consumption" and help give furniture a longer useful life. The program is launching on Black Friday, November 27. 

"Being circular is a good business opportunity as well as a responsibility, and the climate crisis requires us all to radically rethink our consumption habits," Hege Sæbjørnsen, country sustainability manager at Ikea UK and Ireland, said in a statement.

Read the full story at CNN Business.

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Walmart Tests Tech Services Resembling Best Buy's Geek Squad, but Cheaper

By Sheridan Fifer

Walmart says it has spotted a need among customers, and it is testing the possibility of fulfilling it. Starting in four locations around Dallas and one in Springdale, Arkansas, Walmart will set up kiosks that allow customers to sign up for tech services such as in-home installation. Repair services will also be offered. Walmart's big selling point for the new program seems to be price. For instance, a screen replacement at Best Buy costs $129.99; Walmart customers will pay just $79. The retailer plans to make the service available in fifty locations by the middle of the year 2021. 

“With the increasing pace that new electronic devices and categories are released, our customers have told us they need help navigating the tech world,” Darryl Spinks, senior director of Walmart Services, told The Dallas Morning News.

Read the full story at RetailWire.

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Walmart Is Transforming Its Parking Lots Once Again

By Sheridan Fifer

This summer, Walmart transformed its parking lots into drive-in movie theaters. This fall, the retailer is implementing a similar idea: host tailgating and Halloween parties in parking lots converted to serve the purpose. It's all part of Walmart's efforts to provide a substitute for the traditional activities that have been largely curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Many towns have called off trick-or-treating, while many colleges are limiting or canceling their football seasons. Walmart is providing a safe way for customers to enjoy these traditional seasonal activities, bringing back part of the experiential retail strategy that the pandemic has made nearly irrelevant. 

"We enjoyed bringing our drive-in concept to life for customers this summer," Walmart Chief Marketing Officer William White said in a statement. "We successfully reimagined what's possible with our digital and physical footprint to bring communities joy in a year that's been otherwise tough..."

Read the full story at Retail Dive.

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Big-Box Retailers Leverage Store Fleets with Curbside Pickup

By Sheridan Fifer

In the battle with Amazon for online shoppers' dollars, big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target are leveraging a key advantage: stores that can double as pickup hubs. Curbside and in-store pickup have a couple obvious advantages, such as shortening the wait time after shoppers complete their online purchases and giving consumers more control over when they receive their products. During the pandemic, these options have increased in popularity.

But retailers will have to work hard to get the pickup approach right if they want it to succeed in taking business from Amazon. Most shoppers still want their online purchases delivered to their homes, and those that are willing to make the trip to the store for order pickup aren't in the mood for delays or hassles associated with that process. 

The services could be key differentiators this week and throughout the holidays as big-box retailers try to divert dollars from Amazon.

Read the full story at CNBC.

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