Software Advice Summaries of Retail News

on September 23, 2019

Stay up-to-date on the latest retail and restaurant news with our weekly roundup.

Week of September 23, 2019

GameStop closing hundreds of stores, Facebook pilots two new ad features, and more retail news

Retail sales see moderate gains in August
According to a report from the Department of Commerce, retail sales in the U.S. rose 0.6% in August from July, and 4.6% year-over-year. While some argue that this moderate growth in retail means the combination of “negative chatter” about an economic slowdown and tariffs are not affecting consumers’ ability to spend, others opine that it’s “too early to assess the impact.” [Read more]

WSJ claims Amazon changed search results to boost profits despite internal dissent
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the e-commerce giant optimized its product ranking algorithm to boost both Amazon-made and third-party items that are more profitable for the company. However, Amazon denies the report, stating that the profitability of products is only one metric in its product listings and not a key driver of what customers are shown. [Read more]

GameStop closing hundreds of stores to stay afloat
The world’s biggest video game retailer is closing between 180 and 200 of its 5,700 retail locations globally by the end of its fiscal year. This comes as a result of consumers increasingly buying digital games, leading video game retail stores to underperform. The company expects to close a “much larger” group of stores in the next one to two years. [Read more]

Facebook pilots two ad features to streamline social commerce
The social media platform announced it is testing two new advertising formats to support direct sales and eliminate an estimated $213 billion lost when social customers experience confusion, complications, or other forms of friction during checkout. Given social commerce has the highest adoption rates among U.S. internet users compared to other new retail technology, this move will help Facebook build on the growing trend. [Read more]

Week of September 16, 2019

Starbucks to reduce “remedial tasks” by automation,“Nice-to-have” products most impacted by tariff increases, plus more retail news

Walmart plans to dramatically step back from ammunition sales after ‘horrific’ shootings
America’s largest retailer said it is discontinuing short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber, as well as sales of handgun ammunition and handgun sales in Alaska. The retailer has also requested that customers no longer openly carry guns into its 4,700 U.S. stores, or its Sam’s Clubs stores. [Read more]

The categories that will be most impacted by tariff increases are…
Products that consumers view as a “nice to have” but not a “necessity,” such as bicycles, handbags, games, and televisions, will be most impacted by tariff increases, according to a report by The NDP Group. Items that consumers consider “necessities,” such as skincare, baby gear and automotives will be less impacted, says the group. [Read more]

Shopify buys warehouse automation tech developer 6 River Systems for $450 million
The acquisition of the warehouse automation and management technology developer is intended to boost efficiencies in Shopify’s Fulfillment Network service. Launched in June this year, the network is aimed at ensuring timely deliveries and lowering shipping costs for merchants and customers. [Read more]

Starbucks to boost workers’ mental health benefits, reduce ‘remedial tasks’
The coffee chain has announced that its employee assistance program, which provides short-term counseling to U.S. employees, will be enhanced by training from mental health organizations, such as Mental Health First Aid and Born This Way Foundation. Additionally, it will remove “remedial tasks” from the workload of baristas’, with plans to automate, reduce or eliminate an additional 17 hours of tasks by digitally creating schedules and inventory of to-go items each week. [Read more]

Week of September 9, 2019

Social commerce is most popular new retail tech, Puma to open a flagship store in NY, and more retail news

Walmart’s Mexico unit springs into same-day delivery, taking on Amazon
Walmart’s Mexico unit is now offering three-hour delivery for certain home and tech products ordered on its website. Mexico is Walmart’s largest foreign market by store count, and this move is another push to compete with e-commerce rival in the realm of logistics. [Read more]

Forever 21 prepares for potential bankruptcy filing
According to anonymous insiders, the fashion retailer has been seeking additional financing and is also working with a team of advisors to restructure its debt. But negotiations have stalled up to this point, and bankruptcy filing is under consideration. Filing bankruptcy would help the company close unprofitable stores and recapitalize. It could be problematic, however, for major mall owners—Forever 21 is one of the biggest mall tenants in the U.S. [Read more]

Social commerce sees highest adoption of all retail tech options
Thirty-four percent of adults in the U.S. say they have made a purchase through social media, according to a Bizrate Insights survey conducted in August. This number is up from 29% last year. Another 27% of adults say they’re interested in social shopping. This makes social commerce the most popular new retail technology among U.S. internet users, ahead of visual search, augmented and virtual reality, and voice commerce. [Read more]

Apple and Burberry develop ‘R Message’ chat tool for personalized shopping
Burberry will integrate new service “R Message” with its iOS app through a partnership with Apple. It will allow store associates to directly message certain customers. Burberry already offers direct messaging with between customers and associates through iMessage Business Chat, but R Message will allow Burberry associates to offer individualized support rather than having customers go through a generalized system. The brand sees this new offering as a way to leverage and improve relationships with the high-value customers with heavy mobile device usage. [Read more]

Puma is opening massive flagship store on Fifth Avenue
The 18,000-square-foot store marks the sneaker retailer’s first brick-and-mortar location in New York and it’s the first Puma store of its kind in North America. Up to now, Puma has focused on selling through wholesalers, as well as its more than 100 outlets in the U.S., but it has not offered a full-size or full-price location. With this new store, the sneaker retailer joins competing brands such as Nike, Lululemon, Asics, Adidas, and Under Armour in having a premier location store on Fifth Avenue. [Read more]

The Gap will keep its name following split with Old Navy
When announcing a split with Old Navy in March, The Gap Inc. had said it would group its remaining brands—Gap, Athleta, Banana Republic, Intermix, and Hill City—under the name NewCo. However, following a week of celebration marking the Gap’s 50 years in business, the company has said it plans to keep its name after all, stating that “the credibility and reputation the company has built with the Gap Inc. name transcends any individual brand.” [Read more]

Week of September 2, 2019

KFC’s meatless chicken, thousands of banned and mislabeled products on Amazon, plus more retail news

Target has opened 100 mini stores and remodeled 500 bigger ones. And it’s paying off
The retailer’s small-format expansion and remodeling ventures is part of a $7 billion investment plan to establish small stores in major cities like New York and updating larger stores with new fixtures. In-store experience is going to be the differentiator, according to its chief operating officer John Mulligan. Target is still on track to open 30 small-format stores across the country yearly and complete 300 store remodels by 2020. [Read more]

At Wayfair’s first store, the website isn’t far away
The Boston-based online retailer has launched its first full-service physical store in Massachusetts. In an effort to bring the online experience to life in store, customers will be able to don virtual reality headsets to digitally style a room and the 3,700 square feet will be used as a showroom for big ticket items, such as couches and coffee tables. The brick and mortar store, however, will not be able to accept returns or offer pickups for online purchases. [Read more]

Amazon has ceded control of its site. The result: thousands of banned, unsafe or mislabeled products
Amazon is reportedly selling over 4,000 banned, unsafe or mislabeled products deemed unsafe by federal agencies, according to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal. Among those items, at least 2,000 listings for toys and medications lacked warnings about health risks, such as toys with unsafe amounts of lead or potential choking hazards to children. [Read more]

KFC began offering meatless chicken at one store Tuesday. It sold out almost immediately.
KFC became the first fast-food restaurant to serve plant-based chicken last week. The franchise in Atlanta began offering meatless chicken nuggets and boneless wings from Beyond Meat, a plant-based food company. The fast food restaurant plans to roll out vegan menu items nationwide based on customer feedback from the test in Atlanta. The plant-based chicken reportedly sold out in under five hours. [Read more]

Week of August 26, 2019

Target to launch grocery label, JCPenny and Macy’s partner with world’s largest thrift store ThredUP, plus more restaurant and retail news

Voice promises to play a big retail role this holiday season
Voice-assisted retail is expected to play a bigger part in shopping this year than it did last year, according to a survey from of 1,045 American consumers. Amazon’s record-breaking holiday shopping season last year was powered in part by voice-activated shopping, with Amazon saying orders placed via Alexa were three times higher than they were a year ago. [Read more]

Restaurant spending set to hit high in 2019 as consumers spend more of their budget on dining out
Sales at eating and drinking establishments are set to grow by more than 4% this year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The National Restaurant Association projects overall industry sales will hit a high of $863 billion in 2019, an increase from 3.6% the year before. [Read more]

Target is launching a new grocery brand as it fights for market share
The retail giant is launching a grocery brand called Good & Gather in mid-September this year. The private-label brand will include over 2,000 items ranging from organic snacks to fresh salad mixes and frozen meals by late next year. This is part of a wider effort by Target to expand its in-house brands such children’s clothing label Cat & Jack and become more competitive in the grocery space. [Read more]

Yelp adds ‘powered by Grubhub’ on controversial referral numbers
The restaurant review website has updated its app to reflect when delivery and takeout phone numbers are powered by Grubhub. The move comes after called out Yelp for “pushing” customers to call numbers owned by the food delivery service in an alleged plan to generate more commission fees for its partner, Grubhub. [Read more]

Square’s new Orders API lets merchants consolidate order fulfillment
The POS provider has rolled out a new API for online ordering with the aim to make it easier for developers to build digital in-app payment services. The API lets businesses track and manage the lifecycle of a purchase—whether the purchase is made online or in-person—and consolidate order fulfillment into one central POS system. [Read more]

The thrifting revolution: How retailers are upcycling for big gains
J.C. Penney and Macy’s will be setting aside sections of their stores for used merchandise sold by fashion resale site ThredUP, giving both an opportunity to meet the rising demand of online resale markets. Neiman Marcus, which first pioneered departments store partnerships with resale, has also announced plans to launch shops inside some of its stores where customers can sell pre-worn designer items to online seller Fashionphile. [Read more]

Week of August 19, 2019

Amazon requests approval for drone delivery, ghost kitchens are on the rise, plus more retail news

Younique launches AR beauty tool
Direct-to-consumer beauty company Younique has launched an augmented reality tool that allows users to virtually test products from seven different cosmetics categories, such as mascara, foundation and eyeshadow, before their purchase. Earlier in May, cosmetics brand Lime Crime also introduced an AR app for its eyeshadow and blush products. [Read more]

U.S. to delay some China tariffs until stores stock up for holiday shoppers
The Trump administration has narrowed the list of Chinese products it plans to impose new tariffs on as of Sept. 1. The move, which postponed a new ten percent tariff on goods like laptops, toys, and cellphones until Dec. 15, aims to spare shoppers from higher prices during the Christmas season as the administration faces mounting pressure from businesses over increasing tariffs. [Read more]

Amazon requests approval for drone delivery
Amazon is asking to be excused from some federal rules around flight in order to begin drone delivery in the U.S. According to the petition, Amazon’s Prime Air service would use its custom MK27 drones capable of carrying up to five pounds to deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes. Amazon adds that the Federal Aviation Administration will be able to use the service to collect data on the future of drone cargo delivery. [Read more]

Delivery is stretching restaurant resources. Ghost kitchens can be the answer
As demand for online food delivery increases, restaurants, start-ups, and third-party delivery services are looking into so-called “ghost kitchens” or “virtual kitchens” to manage the demand for delivery. These spaces have no retail presence and serve solely as a meal preparation hub for deliveries. [Read more]

Week of August 12, 2019

U.S. retail store worker pay hits 15-year high, CVS expands membership program for free delivery, plus more restaurant and retail news

Tariff whiplash is already taking a toll on retail
The negative industry response to the 10% tariffs from the U.S. on the remaining $300 billion worth of imports from China has been swift. David French from The National Retail Federation said the strategy is “creating uncertainty and discouraging investment” while Rick Helfenbein, CEP of the American Apparel & Footwear Association referred to tariffs as “taxes on American consumers.” [Read more]

Clothing resale site Poshmark suffers data breach
Online clothing marketplace Poshmark has confirmed that customer data from users in the U.S., including usernames, full names, email addresses, hashed passwords, as well as social media profile information, was recently “acquired by an unauthorized third party.” The company said it has since “enhanced security measures all across systems” as a future preventative measure. [Read more]

What apocalypse? Retail worker pay hits 15-year high
Retail store workers are seeing better pay than a generation ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Minimum wage is increasing nationwide across major chains, with average hourly earnings increasing 5.1% last year. However, retail associates still earn much less than hourly workers in other sectors, the bureau found. [Read more]

CVS targets millennials with Amazon-like membership
The pharmacy chain is expanding its CarePass membership program nationwide. For $5 a month or $48 annually, customers can get free pharmacy delivery, discounts on CVS branded products, a monthly $10 coupon, and access to a pharmacy hotline. This strategy targets the millennial demographic, as 20% of people who enrolled in the pilot were born between 1981 and 1996, according to CVS. [Read more]

Grubhub announces initiatives in response to restaurant complaints
The delivery service announced a new policy last week which includes examining phone orders and a website to streamline the process for restaurants requesting control over URLs. Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, says more needs to be done. “Their announcement does not even address the major complaint from so many restaurants, which is that their fees have continued to go up as they dominated the market,” he said. [Read more]

Week of August 5, 2019

DoorDash to buy Caviar from Square for $410 million, Amazon explores launch of grocery stores, plus more restaurant and retail news

Alibaba brings ecommerce platform to U.S. businesses
The Chinese ecommerce company has launched a B2B digital marketplace in the U.S. to help connect small and medium-sized businesses to vendors, services, and buyers. The move—aimed at diversifying its product offering—includes sellers such as Office Depot and food supplier Robinson Fresh. [Read more]

1 in 4 food delivery drivers admit to eating your food
Almost 30% of drivers are snacking from the food they’re delivering, according to a survey conducted by US Foods from about 500 food delivery drivers. In the survey, 54% of drivers admitted to being tempted by the smell of a customer’s food, and about half actually took a bite. [Read more]

Amazon to launch new grocery stores separate from Whole Foods
Amazon is exploring the creation of a grocery chain, separate from Whole Foods, according to the New York Times. It will be designed for in-store shopping, pickup, and delivery. This comes after its struggle to integrate with Whole Foods in areas of price cuts and incorporating the grocery chain into its delivery system. [Read more]

DoorDash is buying Caviar from Square in a deal worth $410 million
The food delivery startup has entered into an agreement with payment platform Square to acquire Caviar, its food delivery app in a deal worth about $410 million in cash and stock. The acquisition will expand DoorDash’s customer base to a wider range of restaurants which will include Caviar’s higher-end restaurants. [Read more]

eBay to take a shot at Amazon with end-to-end fulfillment service next year
The fulfillment service Managed Delivery will provide end-to-end packaging and deliveries through its technology platform to sellers. Almost half of the items listed on its site will qualify for the service which will aim to deliver package in three days. [Read more]

Amazon is saving retail, not destroying it
In response to recent attacks on Amazon from the U.S. Treasure Secretary, Karl W. Smith argues that the online retail giant still commands less than 5% of the retail market and is simply responding to how Americans are choosing to spend their time He compares the ecommerce and retail industries to how Americans are spending more at restaurants while the grocery space has become more varied. [Read more]

Week of July 29, 2019

ThirdLove to open retail store in NYC, Walmart to integrate in-store and digital operations, plus more restaurant and retail news

Deliveroo will now buy and deliver ingredients to restaurants
Restaurants can now buy ingredients and supplies through the U.K.-based third-party delivery company’s Food Procurement division. The new initiative for the company, which aims to be a one-stop shop for restaurants, underwent a year-long trial and is scheduled to be available to U.K. restaurants this summer. [Read more]

Amazon entices sellers to part with brands for as low as $10K
Sellers on Amazon can now agree to be acquired for as low as $10,000, at Amazon’s discretion. After the sale, the seller retains its patents, designs, and trade secrets and is allowed to continue selling the product if it’s rebranded. This is an opportunity for Amazon to expand its selection through the Amazon Accelerator program. [Read more]

ThirdLove will open first ‘fit experience’ concept store in NYC
Online underwear retailer ThirdLove is opening a temporary boutique in New York through the end of 2019. Customers can come into the store for a real-life bra fitting with its “Fit Stylists,” and all of its online sizes will be available to try on in the store. ThirdLove representatives did not say if brick-and-mortal stores would become a permanent part of the company. [Read more]

Walmart announces executive shuffle to further integrate stores and digital
The retailer is making organizational changes to further integrate in-store, digital, and leadership. The most significant change is bringing its U.S. supply chain teams together, which will be led by Greg Smith, current executive vice president of Walmart U.S. supply chain. [Read more]

McDonald’s adds DoorDash as new delivery partner, ending exclusivity with UberEats
The fast food chain has partnered with DoorDash to offer delivery to over 200 restaurants in Houston by the end of July. Both systems are integrated so orders can be sent directly to McDonald’s POS system. This ends McDonald’s two-year exclusivity with UberEats. [Read more]

Week of July 22, 2019

Giant Eagle pilots checkout-free technology, global fast food market to surpass $690 billion by 2022, plus more retail news

“Canceling Amazon Prime” spiked on Prime Day
Searches for “cancelling Prime Day” skyrocketed to 18 times higher than average on the first day of Prime Day, according to search intelligence firm Captify. Consumers are signing up for Prime, getting their deals, and cancelling their membership shortly after. This indicates that shoppers are becoming increasingly savvy and taking advantage of stiff competition on Prime Day. [Read more]

Etsy sellers unhappy with push to offer free shipping
Starting July 30, Etsy will give priority placement in the U.S. search results for products that ship free and for shops that guarantee U.S. buyers free shipping on orders of $35 or more. While Etsy claims that this should lead to more sales, individual sellers are concerned that accounting for shipping costs in products will result in uncompetitive prices. [Read more]

Giant Eagle partners Grabango for checkout-free technology
Giant Eagle is partnering with Grabango, a checkout-free technology provider, to create a “no-wait” and checkout-free payment experience. Multiple applications are being tested, including an app-based platform and another that allows the customer to pay with cash or credit card. The technology will use computer vision, artificial intelligence, and cameras to track what shoppers are grabbing. [Read more]

Global fast food market to surpass $690 billion by 2022
The global fast food market is projected to be worth over $690 billion by 2022, according to a report from Zion Market Research. Drive-through facilities at fast food joints, the rise in adoption of western fast food among the emerging economies, and increasingly hectic lifestyles with dual incomes are expected to drive that growth. [Read more]

Back-to-school U.S. spending expected to break records this year
Families with children in K-12 schools and colleges plan to spend “more than ever” on supplies this year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. Total spending combined for K-12 schools and colleges is projected to reach $80.7 billion, signaling the strong spending power of U.S. consumers. [Read more]

Week of July 15, 2019

Online retail to account for over half of U.K. sales in 10 years, Uber Eats pilots “dine-in” option at restaurants, plus more restaurant and retail news

Online retail to account for over half of U.K. sales in a decade, report predicts
Online shopping in the U.K. is expected to reach 53% in 10 years’ time—an increase from 19% presently, according to a report by Retail Economics. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, which could enable automation of delivery and personalization, will drive growth in the online space, said the report. [Read more]

Uber Eats pilots “dine-in”option at restaurants
Uber Eats has launched a “dine-in” option on its app that is currently being piloted in Dallas, Austin, Tucson, and San Diego. The option, presented alongside “Delivery” and “Pickup” at the top of the app’s screen, gives customers the option to preorder food then dine in at the restaurant. Uber says the dine-in feature “bridges the gap” between customers and restaurants, allowing diners to experience their meal in person. [Read more]

Walmart reportedly faces $1 billion e-commerce loss
Walmart’s e-commerce unit is projected to lose more than $1 billion this year on as much as $22 billion in revenue, according to a report by Recode. The company has considered selling some of its recent online fashion acquisitions, such as Modcloth and Bonobos, revealed the report. [Read more]

Performance Food Group to acquire Reinhart Foodservice for $2 billion
Performance Food Group is to acquire competitor Reinhart Foodservice for $2 billion, creating a company with $30 billion in net sales. The move brings together two of the largest foodservice distributors in the U.S. and provides larger scale and a diverse customer base. [Read more]

Retailers to lodge antitrust complaints against Amazon and Google
A group of leading U.S. retailers is poised to file complaints to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Amazon and Google are harming competition. Companies like Walmart and Target are arguing that the tech platforms create an “information bottleneck” that has the power to “affect whether and how price and product information actually reaches consumers.” [Read more]

Week of July 8, 2019

H&M pushes e-commerce presence, Shopify enables Apple’s iMessage support for owners, plus more retail and restaurant news

Apple lets Shopify store owners use iMessage for customer support
Retailers on Shopify can now provide real-time support through Apple Business Chat on their Shopify Ping customer communication app. Customers will also have the ability to use Apple Pay to purchase products directly through chat. With this functionality, merchants with limited budgets can provide a more sophisticated level of service as they manage chat interactions and purchases in one place. [Read more]

H&M pushes e-commerce while trimming store openings
The retailer is ramping up its e-commerce presence as it reduces the number of new store openings from 175 to 130. H&M’s strategic shift toward boosting its online space and efforts to reduce markdowns comes as it faces pressure from more nimble online retailers like Zara, Zalando, and ASOS. [Read more]

Grubhub accused of cybersquatting thousands of websites
Grubhub and its subsidiary Seamless have allegedly bought over 23,000 web domains to match real restaurant names in an effort to compete directly with official restaurant websites, according to a report by New Food Economy. This comes after news of a potential class-action lawsuit by a Philadelphia restaurant claiming that Grubhub charged thousands of restaurants for customer calls that didn’t result in food orders. [Read more]

Amazon launches new in-store pickups with Rite Aid
Free in-store pickups are now available to Amazon customers at over 100 Rite Aid stores, with plans to expand to more than 1,500 stores by the end of the year. The partnership is aimed at providing more choices for Amazon’s customers to receive their packages and bringing more foot traffic to the drugstore chain.[Read more]

Week of July 1, 2019

J.C. Penney and Macy’s oppose tariffs, Toys ‘R’ Us to make a comeback, and more retail news

J.C. Penney and Macy’s oppose proposed tariffs on apparel and footwear
Women shoppers will be most impacted by the proposed tariffs on apparel from China, claims J.C. Penney, in a letter to the U.S. Trade of Representative listing a range of women-related apparel. Macy’s added: “It is hard enough for new parents to make ends meet while changing diapers and surviving on a few hours of sleep. Is it really a good idea to impose new taxes on baby clothes?” The tariffs will not come into effect until after July 2 when a seven-day final rebuttal period ends. [Read more]

Toys ‘R’ Us to open U.S. stores by the end of 2019
The defunct toy chain is set to make a comeback this holiday season by opening about a half dozen U.S. stores and an ecommerce site, according to Bloomberg. The new stores will be about a third of the size of its previous outlets, with play areas and “experiential.” Toys ‘R’ Us will have to rebuild its customer base as it competes with retailers that have larger stores and stronger ecommerce presence. [Read more]

Shopify launches fulfillment service for online sellers
Ecommerce company Shopify has announced the launch of a network of fulfillment warehouses to store and ship consumer goods for its online sellers. Taken straight out of Amazon’s playbook, the move is said to “make fast and inexpensive shipping the new standard on the internet,” according to its chief product officer Craig Miller, and is expected to challenge the likes of Amazon. [Read more]

Americans now spend more at online retailers than restaurants
Online shopping is cementing its position as the future of retail. Spending at “non-store retailers,” or online U.S. retail stores, grew by $6.4 billion from 2018 to $62.04 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The nonstore retailer category comes above vehicles and parts at $3.2 billion, and restaurants and bars at $2.2 billion. [Read more]

Former Snap exec Imran Khan launches high-end retail site Verishop
Former executive at Snap, Imran Khan, has launched a high-end ecommerce platform called Verishop which claims to be an “enhanced e-commerce platform driven by tech and rooted in retail.” The startup, focused on providing a curated product selection, fast delivery and excellent customer service, touts a free two-day shipping and 24/7 customer service. [Read more]

Dunkin’ Donuts partners with Grubhub for delivery
Dunkin’ Donuts has rolled out delivery in over 400 restaurants in New York City through Seamless, Grubhub’s brand, with plans to expand to Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. Grubhub will integrate orders directly into the company’s POS systems and add geofencing technology around locations to monitor distance and traffic to ensure the most effective delivery times. [Read more]

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