Posts tagged with "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.

Walmart to check worker temps, and provide masks and gloves

April 2, 2020

Walmart has some new “people greeters”—but they are for employees, not customers. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant will begin checking workers’ temperatures this month, and providing them with gloves and masks—stepping up its safety protocols as it hires roughly 5,000 employees a day to meet heightened demand during the coronavirus crisis, The Boston Globe reports.

The company is shipping infrared thermometers to all its stores so that employees can have their temperatures checked when they report for work, the company announced in a blog post. The thermometers should arrive in three weeks.

The masks will arrive within two weeks. Walmart notes, “They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators—which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers.

“We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them,” the retailer says, “while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them.”

“Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary,” the blog post said, adding, “The associate will not be able to return to work until they are fever-free for at least three days.”

Walmart said its employees are eligible for as much as two weeks paid leave, if they are required to quarantine; and that absences would not be held against them.

Most retailers have been pummeled by the coronavirus shutdown. Indeed, the United States had a record 3.3 million jobless claims last week—but not Walmart. The nation’s largest private employer has ramped up hiring and is on track to have 150,000 jobs filled by the end of May, executives announced in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

The company has shortened its hiring process from an average of two weeks to “as little as 24 hours,” HR Dive reported.

The company promises, as it continues to build up its workforce, “We will continue to consult with health officials and experts inside and outside Walmart as this situation evolves. We greatly appreciate the work our associates are doing for customers, members, and their communities, and we will continue to prioritize their health and well-being.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Mochi ice cream goes mainstream

December 10, 2019

Walk into any supermarket today and you’ll find what used to be exotic edibles: They are called mochi—and they are small, frozen, bite-size balls of ice cream encased in rice dough.

In just the past three years, this finger food confection has evolved from an exotic niche dessert to a mainstream product, popping up nearly everywhere, including malls, street fairs, and major supermarket chains, CNN reports.

Mochi was invented in the United States nearly three decades ago, and was originally made using ice cream flavors with an Asian flair.

“It’s been around since the 1990s, but mochi ice cream was mostly available in specialty Asian food stores or on menus of Japanese restaurants in flavors like green tea, red bean and mango,” said Russell Barnett, a food industry veteran and chief marketing officer of Los Angeles-based My/Mo Mochi.

To help bring it to the masses, My/Mo created a flavor list most consumers felt instant familiarity with, such as chocolate sundae, S’mores, cookies & cream, strawberry, double chocolate and mint chocolate chip.

“I grew up eating vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. Green tea and red bean weren’t a common part of the flavor profile in most households,” he told CNN.

Barnett recognized the inherent appeal of mochi ice cream to Millennials, a group he calls “a snacking generation.” Mochi is a portion-control snack of about 110 calories per ball, easy to hold and eat on the go. “We just retooled and adjusted it for today’s consumers,” he said.

My/Mo Mochi ice cream (which is gluten-free with some dairy free varieties) is produced at a manufacturing facility in Los Angeles and sold in packages of six, CNN reports. They’re also sold individually in portable freezers that Barnett calls self-serve “ice cream bars.”

Currently, My/Mo Mochi is now available in 20,000 stores nationwide. “We are in Target, Kroger, Walmart and everything in-between,” said Barnett. “We are reaching the masses where they shop.”

Competing mochi ice cream brands include Bubbies, Maeda-En and Mr. Mochi, but the My/Mo Mochi brand has captured close to 90% of market share, according to data from Nielsen. The brand’s sales were $175 million in annual revenue in 2019, according to Barnett.

Research contact: @CNN

Sorry, your essential oils are essentially snake oils

October 3, 2019

The squeaky wheel—or painful joint—gets the oil: In fact, many people think that the “essential oils” sold by a range of businesses, from apothecaries to drug stores to Walmart, are magical healing potions that also relieve pain.

But according to an October 2 report by The Huffington Post, these great-smelling elixirs do not live up to their health claims—and are actually no more effective than snake oil.

What exactly are they? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, they are highly volatile substance isolated by a physical process from an odoriferous plant of a single botanical species. The oil bears the name of the plant from which it is derived; for example, rose oil or peppermint oil.

Such oils originally were called “essential” because they were thought to represent the very essence of odor and flavor. And when we say originally, we are referring to the fact that essential oils can be traced back to ancient times, when people used them to make medicinal ointments, perfumes and, possibly, embalming fluids.

While we may no longer use them to mummify loved ones, essential oils have made a major comeback in recent years as a popular and powerful natural-healing solution for various ailments and conditions, the HuffPost says.

Many people say the plant-based oils—like lavender, mint and eucalyptus—relieve their migraines more swiftly than over-the-counter drugs. Some people say oils boosted their libido when nothing else seemed to do the trick.

The oils can be applied to the skin, topically, or inhaled. And each plant is tied to a specific health benefit: Peppermint is believed to increase your energy, lavender may help you calm you down, jasmine is understood to lift your mood. Some scents are even touted as able to fight cancer symptomsheart diseaseinfections and diabetes.

Of course, it’s hard to invalidate any one person’s personal experience if they say something personally helped them. However, the HufffPost reports, despite the widespread claims made for essential oils, there is little science actually backing up the testimonials and not much is known about how safe and effective these products are.

Sure, the oils may smell delicious―and the occasional whiff won’t do you any harm and may even help certain issues in the moment―but many experts say they don’t live up to all the health claims.

“So many people are ill, and are looking for something to help them feel better, it’s hard for them to walk away from a simple and natural therapy such as essential oils,” Felice Gersh, an ob/gyn and founder of the Integrative Medicine Group of Irvine, California, told HuffPost.

Essential oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration—and the research we do have on the oils is often based on very small or poorly designed studies, Gary Soffer, the acting director of the integrative medicine program at the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut, told the news outlet.

“The widespread use of essential oils without a substantial body of evidence to support it is certainly concerning,” Soffer said. “While they are generally safe, it can be shortsighted to simply see them as completely risk free.”

Still, those who swear by the oils include health professionals. Some experts suspect this is because of a very convincing placebo effect.

“Across many conditions—including anxiety, depression, and pain—when people believe something is helpful, they sometimes experience benefit,” Keith Humphreys, a psychiatrist at Stanford Health Care in Stanford, California, told the HuffPost during an interview. “Any claims of healing power beyond the placebo effect should be regarded with extreme skepticism.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Sticking to their guns: Walmart asks employees to pull violent video game signage from stores

August 12, 2019

Even a mass shooting at its El Paso, Texas, store is not enough to make Walmart gun-shy, it became apparent last week, when the major retail chain asked employees its employees nationwide on August 10 to take down signs and playable demos of violent video games—but made no changes to its policy on selling firearms.

According to a report by Reuters, in doing so, the retailer said it has taken the action following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in the past week, which left 31 people dead.

In an internal memo, the retailer asked employees to check their stores for signage or displays that contain violent or aggressive behavior and remove such items immediately. It also instructed employees to turn off hunting season videos.

The company has come under increasing pressure to act in the past few days. A petition started by Thomas Marshall, a category manager in Walmart’s San Bruno, California-based e-commerce business, to protest the retailer’s sale of firearms, has gathered more than 50,000 signatures by Friday, Bloomberg reported.

Walmart told Reuters there has been no change in its policy on gun sales after the mass shootings, one of which took place in a Walmart store. This has not always been the case: Years of public pressure led Walmart, the largest U.S arms retailer, to end assault-rifle sales in 2015 and to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 in 2018.

Some gun control activists and Walmart customers now want the retailer to drop sales of guns and ammunition altogether.

Research source: @Reuters