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Retail Business Insight Alert Archive

Have a look at some of our recent alerts. These give broad coverage of the industry - if you want something more specific create your own here.

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October 01, 2013, to October 15, 2013

Amazon Launches Online Luxury Beauty Store

Leading online retailer Amazon introduced a Luxury Beauty Store, an online luxury beauty store. Although the website section looks like the rest of Amazon’s online store, it features larger thumbnail images and carries several luxury beauty brands, including Nars, Burberry, and Deborah Lippman. Beauty brands are reluctant to join Amazon’s online lineup, as its online operations threaten their own electronic commerce business. Several factors, however, are expected to help Amazon win a bigger share of the online cosmetics market, including its 30 percent share of online buyers who begin their last online purchase at Amazon, and its shipping policies.

Peapod, Other Retailers Launch Convenient Online Buying Solutions

Online grocery company Peapod introduced a new feature on its mobile app that allows customers to restock household products by scanning bar codes with their smartphones. Other retailers and their partner companies have also announced similar services and technologies designed to enable consumers to make online purchases promptly and conveniently. For example, MasterCard plans to announce the ShopThis partnership with magazine publisher Condé Nast that will allow readers of digital versions of its publications to instantly buy products featured in an article or advertisement. Mobile payment technology vendor Paydiant announced a technology for scanning a QR code off a television screen to allow consumers to redeem a coupon or buy a product instantly.

Walmart, Bharti End Retail Franchise Partnership In India

Bharti Enterprises and Walmart Stores have terminated their retail franchise agreement and will  own and operate separate businesses in India. As part of the agreement, Walmart will acquire Bharti’s stake in the joint venture Bharti Walmart. This would give Walmart complete ownership of the Best Price Modern Wholesale cash and carry business. Walmart said it will continue to grow this business while working with the government to create conditions that enable foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail in the country. The deal also means Bharti will acquire the Compulsory Convertible Debentures (CCDs) held by Walmart in Bharti’s Cedar Support Services.

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September 15, 2013, to October 01, 2013

McDonald’s Unveils More Nutritious Menu Options

McDonald’s announced it is adding healthier meal options on menus in 20 of its largest markets as it acknowledges the changing tastes of American consumers. The company, which is also looking to expand its customer base, said it would stop marketing less nutritious offerings to children, and would offer more fruits and vegetables on the adult-oriented selections. The 20 markets account for about 85 percent of sales, domestically and overseas. The company’s goal is to attract health-conscious consumers with meals that are lower in fat, salt or sugar content than its traditional burger-and-fries options.

Inconsistent, Confusing Food Labeling System Leads To Billions Of Dollars Of Waste

Individuals and businesses in the U.S. are needlessly throwing away billions of pounds of food annually because of confusing food expiration labeling practices, a new report says. Expiration dates on food products – phrases like “sell by”, “use by”, and “best before” -- are badly regulated, misinterpreted and “leading to a false confidence in food safety”, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School. More than 90 percent of Americans prematurely throw out food – as much as 40 percent of the food supply, or about $40 billion worth. The authors recommend creating a standardized, common sense date labeling system that provides useful information to consumers, “rather than the unreliable, inconsistent and piecemeal system we have today”.

Walmart Chooses To Become A Better Company Instead Of Telling A Better Story

Walmart chose to deal with its negative public image by telling its side of the story while working to become a better company at the same time. Like some other large corporations, Walmart has had its share of negative publicity. Rather than telling a better story, however, the retailer chose to set objectives in areas, such as sustainability, women’s economic empowerment, and healthy food. While the company’s CEO played a leadership role in the company’s efforts to reach such goals, the company chose to get its supply chain partners, customers, communities, and employees involved. Hurricane Katrina became the turning point for the retailer, which promptly mobilized to provide the storm’s victims with meals, emergency supplies, and cash. This encouraged the company to use its size and resources to make a difference in the communities where its stores operate.

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September 01, 2013, to September 15, 2013

Body Shop's Nutriganics Anti-Aging Products Receive Ecocert's Nod

Natural cosmetics retailer The Body Shop said its Nutriganics range of anti-aging products has been certified as organic by Ecocert, an international organization that promotes environment-friendly and socially responsible business activities. Made with organic ingredients, Nutriganics products offer a full skincare regime the company claims visibly improves the skin. Also, the company said the products come in packaging that features recycled materials.

New “Golden Age” For Western Retailers Dawns In Africa

As African consumers become more affluent, and acquire more buying power, their attitude toward shopping for retail goods is changing. They’re no longer content with open-air market vendors selling low-priced but often outdated and inferior products. And that means big opportunities for Western retailers – big-box stores, massive grocery stores and multi-story malls – that can cater to the new consumer’s desire for good presentation, branding and consistency of product quality. ALthough there are numerous potential roadblocks and challenges for Western retailers, according to the International Business Times, “this could be the beginning of a new golden age in Africa.”

Workers Strike Fast-Food Chains, Demanding Higher Wages

The U.S. fast-food industry depends on a host of low-wage workers to prepare and serve its meals, but those workers aren’t happy about their earnings. In the largest organized protest of a year-long campaign to get fast-food chains to raise their wage levels, workers in 60 U.S. cities went on strike and staged protests last month. Workers targeted McDonald’s, Burger King and other chain restaurants, demanding a raise in the hourly wage to $15.00, more than twice the federal minimum wage. The median wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 an hour, not enough to maintain a decent standard of living, according to the workers.

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August 15, 2013, to September 01, 2013

Kroger Aims To Please More Customers, Battle Rivals With Its Marketplace Stores

Kroger aims to appeal to more consumers and compete more strongly with other retailers with its Marketplace concept stores. Much bigger in size than the typical Kroger store, Marketplace branches offer more products other than groceries, including clothing, furniture, and jewelry. Market analysts say Marketplace stores, which integrate some features the retail chain Fred Meyer the company purchased in 1999, offer customers more choices; however, they also risk alienating customers who find the regular Kroger stores already perfect for their shopping needs.

Walmart’s Dairy Suppliers Get Behind Company’s Sustainability Index

Food sustainability expert Cheryl Baldwin, Ph.D., believes Walmart – particular its Sustainability Index – is playing a major role in the awakening of the dairy supply chain in the U.S. to the benefits of sustainability. The Index – a set of category-specific questions about sustainability performance on key issues answered by suppliers twice each year – was developed by Walmart as part of its own efforts to achieve its broader sustainability goals. Dairy merchants were among the first of Walmart’s suppliers to begin using the Index in the fall of 2012. The 14 Index questions for dairy suppliers target key environmental hotspots: cow manure; the many inputs required to make feed; gases cows produce during digestion, etc. Walmart’s goal is to have 70 percent of its products using the Index by 2017.

Wegmans Food Markets Appoints Vice President Of Seafood Sustainability

Wegmans Food Markets appointed Carl Salamone as vice president of seafood sustainability as part of the retailer’s commitment to sustainable seafood. Dave Wagner has been promoted to succeed Salamone as vice president of seafood merchandising at the Rochester, New York-based retailer. Wegman’s sustainability manager Jason Wadsworth has handled the company’s sustainability efforts, including its carbon footprint, packaging, recycling, and sustainable sourcing. Family-owned Wegmans Food Market currently operates 81 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

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August 01, 2013, to August 15, 2013

Tesco Hollers For Help In China; Will Partner With China Resources Enterprise

British supermarket chain Tesco has abandoned attempts to make a profit by itself in China, and is pursuing a partnership with China Resources Enterprise Ltd. Retail analysts say the move by Tesco is an acknowledgement that it -- like other foreign retailers -- had a tough time negotiating with suppliers in a “fast-growing but tricky market”. CRE has an intimate knowledge of local customers and an established supplier and distribution infrastructure. The joint venture would have sales of $15.6 billion, with CRE and Tesco’s interests pegged at 80 percent and 20 percent respectively. Tesco would merge its 131 stores with CRE's Vanguard unit, which operates 2,986 mainly hypermarkets or supermarkets across China and Hong Kong.

Researcher’s Survey Ranks ALDI As No. 1 Discount Grocer

A top low-price grocers survey conducted by Market Force Information found that discount grocer ALDI ranked at the top of the list, ahead of Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club. ALDI also ranked high on the survey’s “Delight Index,” which measures overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending the store to a friend.  ALDI operates more than 1,200 U.S. stores in 32 states, primarily from Kansas to the East Coast. It is expected to begin operations in California in the near future.

Target Acquires Online Cosmetics Retailer DermStore

Target Corp. agreed to acquire online cosmetics retailer DermStore Beauty Group. As part of the transaction, DermStore will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Target and continue operating as DermStore.com. Target views the transaction as an opportunity for strategic growth. DermStore’s current chief executive officer will stay on as president of the subsidiary.

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July 15, 2013, to August 01, 2013

Restaurants Continue to Be Challenged By Retail Prepared Meals And Foods

Prepared foods purchased at supermarkets and other retail outlets for consumption at home will increase by ten percent in the next ten years, while restaurant traffic is likely to grow by only four percent, according to NPD Group. The forecast presents a challenge to restaurant operators, because their growth over the last decade has depended on capturing visits from direct competitors like prepared foods retailers. To buck the trend, restaurants will need to increase efforts to pull consumers out of their homes “by touting the benefits of eating out vs. staying at home and cooking or eating meals” sold by retailers, an NPD analyst says.

System For Providing Health/Wellness Data To Food Shoppers Is Gaining Retail Acceptance

Vestcom has developed a labeling system called Healthy Aisles that increasing numbers of supermarkets are using to provide nutrition-conscious shoppers with health and wellness attributes of a wide range of products. The data is carried in a 200,000+ product database that includes store brands and meat, seafood and produce. The company works with 25 retailers – a total of 5,000 stores – including several top chains, and says it is growing rapidly. The system is based on a relevancy table that is able tell when the gluten-free attribute is appropriate (in the case of breakfast cereals) or inappropriate (in the case of green beans).

Walmart Canada Launches Supercenter Business In Canada

Walmart Canada launched its Supercenter program in Atlantic Canada by opening its first Supercenter store branch in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Also, the retailer confirmed plans to build nine Supercenter branches in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 2013. Walmart said it has already listed more than 20 grocery suppliers located in the country’s Maritimes region. Worth at least $90 million, the expansion move is expected to create 900 construction jobs and about 300 new associate positions in the grocery sections, the company said.

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July 01, 2013, to July 15, 2013

Tesco’s Convenience Store Subsidiary Continues To Build Its Network

Tesco (U.K.) subsidiary One Stop Stores Ltd. says it will acquire 33 convenience stores from Alfred Jones Ltd., a Spar retailer that operates 49 convenience stores and 18 forecourt sites in the North West of England. With the purchase, One Stop will have a total of 682 stores in England and Wales. The company said it plans to invest in refurbishing the newly acquired stores. Tesco purchased the One Stop stores in 2003.

Peapod Launches Mobile Campaign Featuring Delivery Trucks

Online grocery company Peapod launched a marketing campaign that features mobile billboards on the sides of delivery trucks. To be featured at summer events locations, such as ballparks and concert venues, in markets covered by Peapod along the U.S. East Coast, the mobile billboards will let consumers shop for groceries using their smartphones. By scanning a QR code, users can download the PeapodMobile app, which will let them start shopping from the mobile billboards.

Students Are Returning To The Campus Cafeteria, But Improvements Are Needed To Maintain The Trend

There has been a shift in college student dining habits back to 2009 patterns, when students were more likely to buy a meal or drink at the campus cafeteria at least once a week, according to Technomic. Sixty-nine percent of students in 2012 bought food or a beverage at the campus foodservice facility once a week, up from 62 percent in 2011. Campus foodservice operators can keep that momentum going by improving the menu variety (i.e., more unique items, more ethnic offerings), prices and atmosphere in their facilities. Just 35 percent of students overall said they were satisfied with their school's dining program.

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June 15, 2013, to July 01, 2013

Grocery Chain ALDI Plans Southern California Expansion

With plans to expand into Southern California, retail grocery chain ALDI Inc. is looking at the possibility of opening a warehouse in California. The company, which competes on price by only selling its own brands, has more than 1,200 stores in the U.S. The company sells more than 1,400 frequently purchased grocery items, including fresh meats, fruits, vegetables and bakery products, under its own brands at prices up to 50 percent less than traditional supermarkets. ALDI keeps overhead costs low by using smaller stores, open carton displays and encouragement of customers to bring their own shopping bags.

Two-Track Strategy Could Boost Carrefour’s Asian Hypermarket Share

Carrefour is looking at either partnering with another company or using an IPO to sell shares of its hypermarket business in Taiwan and China to raise cash. The company’s China business – with 220 stores and a 6.9 percent market share –  makes it the fourth-largest player in the country, well behind market leader Sun Art Retail Group (13.6 percent). Carrefour is the market leader in Taiwan with 48.1 percent of the market. The dual strategy would establish a basis for an IPO if the company can’t find a partner. Either way – with a cash infusion or a partner – Carrefour would be able to strengthen its Asian business, analysts say.

Kroger Uses Technology To Speed Up Shoppers' Checkout Time

Grocery company Kroger said using Que Vision checkout technology has enabled it to cut shoppers' wait time to start checkout down to an average of 26 seconds from 4 minutes a few years ago. Expected to be installed in the company's 2,424 supermarkets across the country, the overhead infrared sensor technology is credited by Kroger as one of the reasons for the 9.6 percent increase in earnings for the quarter ending May 25, 2013. Displayed on light boards located at the store's front, information including number of checkout lanes currently in service and the number needed are updated in real time. Besides enhancing customer convenience, the technology enables Kroger and other traditional grocers to compete better with discounters, such as Wal-Mart and Target.

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June 01, 2013, to June 15, 2013

IBM To Apply “Big Data” Technology To Sharpen Dannon’s Product Distribution System

Dannon has contracted with IBM Corporation to apply its “Big Data” predictive analytics technology to fine tune Dannon’s product distribution system. The sophisticated cloud-based tool analyzes the mass of available company data, forecasts trends, and provides insights into key marketing and distribution problems. Dannon, in a quest to overtake General Mills and its Yoplait yogurt brand, will use the technology to ensure, for example, that its products are delivered in a timely fashion to consumers, thus reducing the out-of-stock problem that plagues retailers and consumers. The technology will also help Dannon and retailers solve the burgeoning SKU proliferation problem in the yogurt category.

Russian Retailer Magnit Thrives Despite Harsh Market Conditions

Russian food retailer Magnit reported its revenue reached $4.3 billion in the quarter ending April 2013, beating its competitors for the first time in its 15-year history. What has driven the retailer's success is the company founder and chief executive Sergei Galitsky's obsessive attention to detail, which is an asset in a price-sensitive market, such as Russia's food-retail industry. The market could be intimidating, as shown by US-based retailer Walmart's experience, which had to exit the country two years after opening an exploratory office. Galitsky began his career in logistics, which helped him move goods efficiently around a country with some of the world's worst road systems.

Dunkin' Donuts Redesigns Stores, Aims To Make Customers Stay Longer

Dunkin' Brands Group Inc. began a redesign of its branches into café-style stores that mirror design elements of Starbucks Corp.'s coffee shops, including earth tones and jazz background music. Industry observers say the company's stores could use the improvement, with the doughnut store chain tied for the second-lowest atmosphere score among beverage and snack shops, according to a 2012 survey conducted by Nation's Restaurant News magazine and WD Partners. Dunkin' has opened around 90 branches featuring the revamped decoration, with the number expected to hit 600 by end of 2013. Other chains are also revamping their stores, with Wendy's Co., for example, installing flat-panel TVs, fireplaces, and cushioned seats. Starbucks' capital expenditures for fiscal 2013 will be around $1.2 billion, with two-thirds of the money going to refurbishment and improvement of cafés and construction of new stores. 

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May 15, 2013, to June 01, 2013

Omega-3 Sausage? Ja! On Store Shelves In Germany

Germans apparently aren’t all that into eating omega-3-rich fish like salmon and mackerel – though they are aware of the health benefits – but they do love sausage. With that in mind, Fraunhofer Institute scientists have developed a way to infuse omega-3 fatty acids into various foods, including sausage. Using a special emulsion system, scientists combined the effects of various antioxidants and eliminated substances that accelerate the oxidation process in fatty acids that leads to an objectionable fishy odor. The fatty acids remain stable and can be incorporated into a variety of foods. The first of the products to hit the market is an omega-3 sausage, which is now on EDEKA store shelves.

McDonald’s Prunes Its Menu To Speed Up Service

McDonald’s is trimming its menu in an effort to address customer complaints about slow service, according to an internal e-mail obtained by Bloomberg. The restaurant’s current menu has 145 items – 70 percent more than in 2007 – and many of the offerings are very labor intensive, putting a strain on staff and lengthening service times. So far the company has eliminated the Angus Burger, Fruit & Walnut salads and Chicken Selects. Others slated for possible elimination, according to the e-mail, are Caesar salads, the McSkillet Burrito, the Southern Style Biscuit and steak bagels. A recent survey of fast-food patrons found that menu variety ranked below food quality, cleanliness, value and service as important restaurant attributes.

Educating Consumers About The Consequences Of Restaurant Meals Could Curb Obesity

Authors of a recent U.S. study suggest that state and local governments could help curb the nation’s obesity epidemic by requiring restaurant menus to provide not only calorie counts but also the amount of exercise necessary to burn off those calories. The researchers examined studies on calorie labeling and regulatory options available to local governments. The studies showed that when presented with calorie counts and other menu information, consumers were half as likely to order a high calorie meal. Researchers also recommended replacing menu items like French fries with alternatives like apple slices.
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