Posts tagged with "Walmart"

Amazon to launch Fire TV sets in bid to firm up its foothold in living rooms

September 10, 2021

Amazon plans to roll out  a line of Fire TV sets that will feature its Alexa voice assistant—an expansion that also showcases a growing ambition to place itself at the center of customer living rooms, reports The Wall Street Journal.

On September 9, the tech giant announced two lineups of Amazon-branded TVs—one named Amazon Fire TV Omni Series, starting at $409.99, and the other Amazon Fire TV 4-Series, which will start at $369.99. The TVs will be available on Amazon’s website and at Best Buy. locations in October.

TV brands including Toshiba and Best Buy house brand Insignia have for years sold televisions powered by Amazon Fire TV’s operating system after Amazon and Best Buy joined forces in 2018.

What’s more, the Journal notes, Amazon has become dominant in streaming, with its Fire TV devices regularly ranking among top sellers. Its entertainment services include the Prime Video streaming platform, Fire TV operating system, and an assortment of streaming devices.

In recent years, Amazon has expanded its own-brand business in several arenas, including apparel, groceries and even items such as batteries. The company has opened branded grocery shops and plans to operate several department stores that will feature its private-label brands, the Journal reported last month.

Through its branded TVs, the online retailer is taking on a segment of electronics known for low margins that have dissuaded some competitors. Apple spent years studying the potential for an Apple TV, but has so far only developed a streaming device and the video service Apple TV+. The iPhone maker has long targeted opportunities to integrate hardware and software to make products where it can command hefty premiums and profit margins.

Amazon, meanwhile, historically has sought market share over profit and to appeal to customers with lower prices. The company in recent years has released an array of Alexa-enabled products, including ear buds and glasses.

An Amazon TV “speaks to Amazon’s product road map—anything customers spend time on, they want to take a shot at,” said Loup Ventures tech analyst Gene Munster. “There will be a market for cheap, good tech.”

The streaming industry is crowded with competitors. Amazon has faced steep competition from Roku  while being challenged by broadband giants such as Comcast,  which has worked with Walmart  and Chinese manufacturer Hisense to develop smart TVs.

Amazon said its Omni Series TVs will be equipped with the company’s Alexa assistant, which will feature “far-field voice controls” that enable customers to ask Alexa questions without a remote, much like the company’s Echo smart speakers.

The TVs will be available in sizes ranging from 43 inches to 75 inches diagonally and will have 4K resolution. Amazon said its Fire TV 4-Series will support Alexa capabilities available through its Alexa Voice Remote. The more affordable 4-Series TVs will be available in 43-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch models.

Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, said the television lineup will build on the company’s effort to bring ambient computing to people’s homes. He likened their capabilities to its smart speakers, with the Omni Series models responding and turning on to a wake word—often programmed as “Alexa”—even when they are turned off.

Finally despite launching competing TV products, Amazon said its partnerships with Toshiba and others aren’t changing. The company Thursday also announced new Fire TV-powered televisions by Toshiba and Pioneer. Amazon has clashed with partners and potential partners over how it has launched products that compete with them. The company has said it doesn’t use confidential information that other firms share with it to build competing products.

Aside from its branded TVs, Amazon on Thursday also revealed the latest iteration of its Fire TV Stick 4K product. The new Stick 4K “Max” (priced at $54.99) will include Alexa features and have power and networking upgrades.

 Research contact: @WSJ

The play’s the thing: Toys ‘R’ Us is back with a little help from Macy’s

August 23, 2021

Toys “R” Us is getting a new lease on life, thanks to Macy’s. The two companies are partnering to sell toys on Macy’s website. The brands are also opening Toys “R” Us shop-in-shops at 400 department stores next year.

It’s the second attempt to revitalize the Toys “R” Us brand within three years, according to a report by CNN.

This relaunch is new owner WHP Global’s first significant strategy shift for the toy store. The New York-based brand management company bought the storied retailer in March with plans to build a “global network and digital platform” for Toys “R” Us.

For Macy’s, using the recognizable name could grow its toy business to compete against Target and Walmart. The department store said its toys sales have grown “exponentially” in the past year as parents try to entertain their homebound kids during the pandemic.

“Toys “R” Us is a globally recognized leader in children’s toys and our partnership allows Macy’s to significantly expand our footprint in that category, while creating more occasions for customers to shop with us across their lifestyles,” said Macy’s Chief Merchandising Officer Nata Dvir in a press release.

WHP Global bought Toys “R” Us from Tru Kids, which bought the failed brand in a 2018 liquidation sale. Tru Kids had big plans to open about a dozen standalone stores across US malls, but only opened two in New Jersey and Texas. Both later closed with the company blaming COVID-19.

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The store-within-a-store concept has been growing in popularity, with big chains like Target and Nordstrom looking for ways to keep shoppers coming back to their stores. Target is opening mini Apple shops and Ulta makeup shops at dozens of its locations and Kohl’s has partnered with Sephora to open 70 shops.

Research contact: @CNN

Walmart will cover 100% of college tuition and books for its workers

July 29, 2021

America’s largest retailer, Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, announced on Tuesday, July 27, that it will pay for full college tuition and book costs at some schools for its US workers—the latest effort by company to sweeten its benefits as it seeks to attract and retain talent in a tight job market, CNN reports.

Walmart said it was expanding its current program, which began in 2018, to include new academic partners—bringing the total to ten—and offering more degree and certificate options in areas such as business administration, supply chain, and cybersecurity.

The roster of learning institutions now includes the following:

  • Johnson & Wales University
  • The University of Arizona
  • The University of Denver
  • Pathstream
  • Brandman University
  • Penn Foster
  • Purdue University Global
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • Wilmington University
  • Voxy EnGen

Participants must remain part-time or full-time employees at Walmart to be eligible.

According to CNN, the company said that it will drop a previous $1 a day fee paid by Walmart and Sam’s Club workers who want to earn a degree and also begin covering the costs of their books. Around 28,000 workers participate in the program, which Walmart began in 2018. Walmart has around 1.5 million workers.

“We feel that eliminating the dollar a day investment removes the financial barriers to enrollment, and it will increase access,” said Lorraine Stomski, SVP of Learning and Leadership at Walmart, in a call with reporters.

Walmart has incentive to expand the program. Employees who have participated in the program are twice as likely to get promoted and are retained at a “significantly higher rate” than other workers, Stomski said.

Research contact: @Walmart

Walmart revolutionizes insulin access and affordability with launch of private brand

June 30, 2021

Walmart has announced the launch of the first-ever private brand analog insulin, which, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail behemoth says in a press release, will revolutionize the access to and affordability of diabetes care by offering customers a significant price savings without compromising quality.

Available exclusively through Walmart’s private ReliOn brand, the new offering includes analog insulin vials ($72.88) and FlexPen ($85.88). Walmart claims that these products will save customers from 58% to 75% off the cash price of branded analog insulin products—which translates to a savings of up to $101 per branded vial or $251 per package of branded FlexPens.

The new private label ReliOn™ NovoLog® Insulin (insulin aspart) injection, manufactured by the Danish pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk, is available in Walmart pharmacies this week, and Sam’s Club pharmacies in mid-July across the United States.

ReliOn™ NovoLog® is a rapid-acting insulin analog used to control high blood sugar in adults and children with diabetes. Customers will need a prescription in order to purchase the products and should always consult with their doctor regarding their diabetes management.

“We know many people with diabetes struggle to manage the financial burden of this condition, and we are focused on helping by providing affordable solutions. We also know this is a condition that disproportionately impacts underserved populations. With ReliOn NovoLog insulin, we’re adding a high-quality medication for diabetes to the already affordable ReliOn line of products and continuing our commitment to improve access and lowering cost of care,” said Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president, Walmart Health & Wellness.

“Diabetes often comes with high medical costs, estimated around $9,601 per person per year. We welcome all affordable solutions that make diabetes management more accessible to millions of Americans living with diabetes. We encourage everyone to ask their health care provider questions to better understand what the right and affordable treatment is for their unique medical needs,” said Tracey D. Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association.

For additional information about Walmart’s affordable diabetes resources, visit Walmart.com/diabetes.

Research contact: @Walmart

Home team: Gap and Walmart partner to introduce a new brand of home essentials

June 1, 2021

Gap and Walmart have announced a strategic partnership to introduce Gap Home—a new brand of home essentials available exclusively at Walmart, they announced on May 27.

With this launch, two of the world’s most iconic brands have come together to bring Walmart’s scale and Gap’s brand heritage to life through signature style in a new product category for the first time, Walmart said in a joint press release. 

Available to shop beginning June 24 exclusively on Walmart.com, the Gap Home launch collection will feature more than 400 items across home décor, tabletop, bedding, and bath, ranging in price from $15.88 for a Washed Denim Pillow to $64.98 for a T-Shirt Soft Jersey Reversible King Comforter Set perfect for dressing all spaces, from college dorms to forever homes.

New Gap Home seasonal and special collections will drop throughout the year and will be developed in partnership with Gap’s licensing agency, IMG.

“We’re thrilled that Gap selected Walmart as the exclusive retailer to debut its home brand. A hallmark of American fashion, Gap is the ideal partner to bring its timeless, signature style into the modern home to help customers design and decorate beautiful living spaces,” said Anthony Soohoo, EVP, Home, Walmart. “Over the past few years, we’ve focused on expanding our home assortment to bring high-quality, stylish home goods and decor to our customers at an unbelievable value. Gap Home is the latest example of how we’ll deliver on that mission.”

The new partners want shoppers to know that the Gap Home brand embodies optimistic, modern American style that bridges the gaps between individuals, generations and cultures. The launch collection is made with the planet in mind; and features quality materials like denim and chambray with unique finishes at a price point that is accessible to all customers. The Gap Home collection includes items made with organic cotton and recycled materials.

“Walmart is a global leader in the home space with extensive digital reach and distribution, and this partnership enables Gap to introduce a new category in a smart, scalable way,” said Mark Breitbard, president and CEO of  the Global Gap brand. “Gap Home at Walmart opens a new door for Gap as a lifestyle brand delivering timeless American Style in all new ways. We are excited for this growth opportunity, enabling even more customers to fall in love with Gap.”

Research contact: @Walmart

Walmart to acquire virtual fitting room platform Zeekit, as retail giant leans into fashion

May 14, 2021

For many years Walmart has eschewed offering high-fashion merchandise, but all that is changing—and on May 13, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based mega-retailer revealed plans to acquire Zeekit, a virtual fitting room platform that it hopes will enhance the social shopping experiences for online customers, Forbes reports.

“Over the last few years, we’ve been working hard to expand our apparel assortment to include quality, on-trend, and accessible fashion to help customers outfit their closets, no matter their personal style or budget,” said Denise Incandela, executive vice president of Apparel and Private Brands at Walmart-U.S., in a blog post. “But, in an increasingly online driven category, customers not only want variety in styles, they also want an inspiring and personalized digital experience.”

Zeekit, a female-founded Israeli-based startup company, is seen as facilitating that experience while smoothing away the pain points of ill-fitting purchases that ultimately lead to costly returns.

Indeed, Forbes reports, Walmart realized it was missing an enormous opportunity to sell consumers well-designed apparel at higher price points—something competitor Amazon  has been doing, both by attracting brands to its e-commerce site, and launching its own private labels.

“Virtual try-on is a game changer and solves one of the most difficult things to replicate online—understanding fit and how an item will actually look on you,” Incandela said. “Zeekit will help us deliver an inclusive, immersive and personalized experience for our diverse customer base.”

Walmart said it has elevated its fashion sensibility with exclusive labels Free Assembly, Sofia Jeans by Sofia Vegara, and Scoop. The retail giant also has  expanded its assortment of national brands with Free People, Champion, and Levi Strauss. Other other private labels include Time and Tru, Terra & Sky, Wonder Nation, and George. There’s also plus-size label Eloquii Elements.

When the experience is live on Walmart, customers will upload their photo or choose from a series of models that best represents their height, shape and skin tone, to instantly see themselves in clothing items. They can share their virtual outfits with friends, bringing a social experience to digital shopping.

Zeekit’s scalable technology can be integrated into Walmart’s digital products, and can be used to create other fashion experiences—including building a virtual closet and mixing and matching clothing to see how a top might look with a pair of pants. This is achieved by bringing real time image technology, computer vision and AI to the world of fashion. It can also help increase customer loyalty and return visits as it makes buying fashion online easier and more predictable.

“Zeekit’s impressive technology has been trialed by many top brands and retailers in the fashion industry,” Incandela said. “It uses real-time image processing to map a person’s image into thousands of segments. Clothing is processed in a similar manner and the equivalent points of the two are mapped into one final simulation. These exciting technologies add a social element to the digital experience, allowing our customers to bring their unique personalities and preferences to shopping.”

Zeekit’s founders, CEO Yael Vizel, chief technology officer Alon Kristal, and vice president of research and development Nir Appleboim will join Walmart when the deal closes, bringing their extensive experience to the retail behemoth.

Research contact: @Forbes

Chipotle raises wages amid expansion plans, as companies compete for workers

May 11, 2021

The fast-casual food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill announced on May 10 that it is raising wages for workers amid a big hiring push based on expansion plans.

The move comes as restaurants nationwide debate worker availability and pay levels, The Washington Post reports.

 The company said it plans to hire 20,000 new workers and open 200 new locations this year. In line with those ambitions, Chipotle will institute a wage increase of about $2 an hour per employee—meaning that salaries for its crew will average $15 an hour by the end of June, although entry-level wages at the company will remain at $11 an hour.

The company joins the ranks of many others offering incentives and higher pay to lure workers back into the workforce after the pandemic year, including Costco, Target, and Walmart, among others.

The Post notes that many businesses, particularly those offering lower-wage, hourly positions, like restaurants, have complained that they are having trouble finding workers—even with high levels of unemployment—which has raised concerns that a worker shortage could hamper the economic recovery.

Job growth in April came in well-below expectations, with only 266,000 jobs added as the country seeks to regain the more than 8 million more jobs it had in February 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the wage increases found in the survey reflected the increased demand for labor.

Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol told CNBC on Monday that the current labor market was among the tightest he’d ever seen in his career—saying the company was hoping to highlight the appeal of the brand and the employee growth potential. Workers also are being offered a $200 referral bonus for employees and a $750 referral bonus for managers.

 “We are sharing with people that it’s not just a job right now, but it’s actually a job that can lead to a meaningful career,” Niccol told the outlet. “I’m glad that we’re a company that’s got the growth, and frankly the strength, to increase wages and start talking more about how the job leads to your future growth with our company.”

In Washington, D.C., lawmakers have seized on the matter for political purposes, with Republicans complaining that the labor supply issues are the direct result of overgenerous stimulus measures passed by Democrats earlier this year.

But labor economists, worker advocates and some business groups say the issue is far more complicated, with many workers forced to juggle child-care with many schools yet to fully reopen, lingering questions about workplace safety for vaccine-avoiders and others with complicated health considerations, and many workers having moved on or rethinking career plans.

“Chipotle is committed to providing industry-leading benefits and accelerated growth opportunities; and we hope to attract even more talent by showcasing the potential income that can be achieved in a few short years,” Marissa Andrada, a company executive said in a statement Monday. “We’re looking for people who are authentic, passionate and want to help cultivate a better world through real food and real personal development.”

CFO Jack Hartung told investors earlier this year that raising its salary average to $15 an hour would cause menu prices to spike at least 2%  to 3%. The company did not respond to an immediate question from the Post about whether it would raise its menu prices to pay for the voluntary wage hike.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

U.S. pharmacies to receive 1 million vaccine doses from Biden Administration next week

February 4, 2021

President Joe Biden will free up more doses of COVID vaccine for anxious Americans, his administration announced on February 2. The doses will be available at retail pharmacies nationwide by next week, The Chicago Tribune reports.

The push comes amid new urgency to speed vaccinations to the public, to prevent the spread of potentially more serious strains of the virus that has killed more than 445,000 Americans since the beginning of 2020.

Starting next week, 1 million doses will be distributed to some 6,500 pharmacies across the country, the White House said. The administration is also boosting by 500,000 the weekly allocation of vaccines sent directly to states and territories for the coming weeks, up to 10.5 million. It is allowing state and local governments to receive additional federal dollars to cover previously incurred expenses relating to the pandemic.

Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients announced the moves on a call with the nation’s governors Tuesday morning and then detailed them to the public in an afternoon news conference.

Drugstores have become a linchpin in the U.S. infrastructure for dispensing flu shots and shingles vaccines—and the industry is capable of vaccinating tens of millions of people monthly. “This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities,” Zients said.

“This is a critical step to provide the public with convenient trusted places to get vaccinated in their communities,” he adde, according to the Tribune.

The number of participating pharmacies and the availability of vaccines  are expected to accelerate as drug makers increase production. The White House said the ultimate goal was to distribute the vaccines through more than 40,000 pharmacies nationwide. State and local guidelines will determine who is eligible to get a shot at their neighborhood pharmacy. Availability will be limited at first.

“Getting it into pharmacies is a viable approach,” Dan Mendelson, founder of the health care industry consulting firm Avalere Health told the Tribune. “The pharmacies know how to move people in and out.”

Participating are major chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, big box stores such as Walmart and Costco, and supermarket pharmacies. CVS said it will receive 250,000 doses initially, to be distributed to pharmacies in 11 states.

The pharmacy doses will be distributed to states by population, but a priority will be to get the vaccine to minority communities that have suffered a disproportionately high toll of disease and deaths from the virus, Zients said.

Walgreens said it was selected in part to “optimize vaccine access in medically underserved areas.”

The 1 million doses being shipped to pharmacies will be on top of the increased allotments to states over the coming three weeks.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

The great giveback: Retailers team up with FedEx, UPS, Whole Foods to make returns easier

December 29, 2020

Retailers and logistics companies have struggled to get shoppers’ holiday gifts delivered on time. Now, they’re gearing up for what’s expected to be a brutal season for unwanted, returnable goods headed back in their direction, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Following a coronavirus pandemic-fueled surge in online sales, up to $70.5 billion worth of online holiday purchases are expected to be returned—up from $42 billion last year—according to a forecast from commercial real estate brokerage CBRE.

Many retailers that encouraged people to start their holiday shopping early also have extended their return deadlines this holiday season—and have tried to make it easier, once you get in the vicinity of the store, to get your money back. Still, the Tribune reports, returns aren’t as seamless as clicking “buy” online—and most merchants don’t offer contact-free options that enable consumers to stay in the car during the return transaction.

It’s not just because people are buying more gifts online. It’s because there are more people shopping online, including some who typically prefer to shop in person and aren’t accustomed to buying online,  Steve Osburn, managing director of Retail Strategy at Accenture, told the Chicago-based news outlet.

.Shoppers also admit that they’re now more likely to buy the same item in multiple sizes; then, keep the one that fits. About 62% of U.S. shoppers said they “bracketed” purchases, up from 48% last year, often because they gained or lost weight or were shopping at a new store and weren’t sure what size to pick, according to a September survey by Narvar, a company that helps retailers manage returns.

Retailers prefer shoppers return items in stores rather than ship them back because they can get items back on shelves more quickly, Osburn said.

But this year, the desire to avoid unnecessary trips to stores could push more people to seek mail-in options. About 30% of consumers surveyed by Narvar said it was easier to ship items back, up from 25% last year.

Walmart this week announced that FedEx will pick up returns at customers’ homes. Customers still need to pack items for shipment, which can be tougher when people are working from home without access to a printer to print the shipping label, but the service is free for items shipped and sold by Walmart.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced customers can return items at 500 Whole Foods Market stores without a box or shipping label. Amazon already had a returns partnership with Kohl’s. Amazon shoppers also can return items at UPS locations, in some cases without packing them up.

Returns service Happy Returns partnered with FedEx this fall to let shoppers return items from brands like Everlane, Rothy’s and Steve Madden at 2,000 FedEx locations with no box or shipping label.

Happy Returns previously had about 600 locations, which were mostly at malls and retailers like Paper Source and CostPlus World Market. The new FedEx locations adds convenience while making the service “COVID-proof” since FedEx is an essential business that will stay open, CEO David Sobie told the Tribune.

And, as return drop-off options have expanded, use has grown. Nearly 30% of shoppers surveyed by Narvar in September said they had taken their most recent return to a designated drop-off location like a pharmacy or another retailer’s store, up from 16% last year. About 35% of shoppers took their return to a carrier to mail back and 12% returned their item to the retailer’s store.

Some retailers are also trying to streamline traditional store returns.

Dick’s Sporting Goods will let customers return items through curbside pickup, as long as the purchase was made with a credit or debit card. Others say shoppers must come inside to make a return, though Narvar CEO Amit Sharma said he expects more retailers to announce curbside returns in January.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Walmart removes guns from floor displays, citing ‘civil unrest’

November 2, 2020

Retail giant Walmart has removed guns and ammunition from its U.S. sales floors out of concerns about theft amid “civil unrest” during Black Lives Matter protests against police killings in areas nationwide, The Huffington Post reports.

Guns will remain available for purchase upon request, said the company, which sells firearms in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores.

Walmart has pulled guns off its shelves in the past. The current move comes after the October 26 shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr. by Philadelphia police —while the 27-year-old was experiencing a mental health crisis and after his family had called for an ambulance to help him.

“We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” Walmart said in a statement first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s important to note that we only sell firearms in approximately half of our stores, primarily where there are large concentrations of hunters, sportsmen and sportswomen,” the company said.

Walmart said in a letter to store managers cited by the Journal that the decision was made “due to the current unrest in isolated areas of the country and out of an abundance of caution.” A Walmart in Philadelphia was trashed during this week’s unrest.

Walmart has been pushed to make adjustments to its firearms department after other incidents of violence. After a mass shooting left 17 people dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the retailer raised the minimum age to purchase guns to 21. In 2019, after 23 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in Texas, the retailer stopped selling ammunition for assault-style rifles.

Research contact: @HuffPost 

Editor’s note: As of Monday, November 2, Walmart had reversed its position: ““As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today,” a company spokesperson said.