Retailer News

(Author : Ben Stevens)
Westfield is set to be bought by Paris-based Unibail Rodamco in a deal that will create a combined global estate of £54 billion.

Westfield bought by Unibail Rodamco in £18.5bn deal

The shopping centre giant which owns some of the largest retail site in the UK, is to be sold to Unibail Rodamco for £18.5 billion, paying Westfield Corporation’s Australian owners £5.66 a share at a 17.8 per cent premium. Unibail Rodamco is the largest commercial real estate company in Europe and will own 104 properties across the world when the acquisition is complete, reportedly resulting in cost savings of $100 million a year.

“The acquisition of Westfield is a natural extension of Unibail-Rodamco’s strategy of concentration, differentiation and innovation,” Unibail chief executive Christophe Cuvillier said. “It adds a number of new attractive retail markets in London and the wealthiest catchment areas in the United States. It provides a unique platform of superior quality shopping destinations supported by experienced professionals of both Unibail-Rodamco and Westfield.”

Westfield’s Frank Lowy added: “The transaction announced today is the culmination of the strategic journey Westfield has been on since its 2014 restructure.

“We see this transaction as highly compelling for Westfield’s security holders and Unibail-Rodamco’s shareholders alike. Unibail Rodamco’s track record makes it the natural home for the legacy of Westfield’s brand and business.”

The announcement comes just a week after Westfield’s largest UK shopping centre rival Intu announced a £3.4 billion deal with property giant Hammerson, set to create the UK’s largest property company worth £21 billion.

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(Author : Elias Jahshan)
A proposed £3.4 billion merger of shopping centre operators Hammerson and Intu is set to create one of the UK’s biggest property companies.

Hammerson set to merge with Intu in £3.4bn deal

Hammerson has agreed an all-share takeover of rival Intu to bring the two firms under one roof and create a £21 billion shopping centre giant. The takeover deal represents a value of approximately 253.9p per Intu share, equivalent to £3.4 billion. The merged group will be led by Hammerson boss David Atkins and chaired by David Tyler.

Shareholders still need to approve the deal and will vote on it next year, with Intu having already secured 50 per cent of investor support. “This transaction will deliver real value for shareholders,” Tyler said. “The financial strength of the enlarged group and its strong leadership team will make it well-placed to take advantage of higher growth opportunities on a pan-European scale.”

Part of the merger includes a raft of cost cutting initiatives, such as offloading at least £2 billion worth of assets and targeting high growth markets such as Spain and Ireland. It will also result in Hammerson shareholders owning 55 per cent of the combined firm while Intu investors will control remain 45 per cent.

“A combination of both Intu and Hammerson will create a more resilient, diversified and stronger group that we believe will benefit all our stakeholders,” Intu chairman John Strachan said. “Intu offers high-quality retail and leisure destinations in the UK and Spain, which when merged with Hammerson’s own top-quality assets in the UK, in France and in Ireland, present a highly attractive proposition for retailers and shoppers in Europe’s leading cities.”

Hammerson owns shopping centres like the Bullring in Birmingham, Bicester Village, Cabot Circus in Bristol, Victoria Gate in Leeds, and Brent Cross in London. Meanwhile, Intu operates an eponymous chain of centres such as Lakeside in Essex and Trafford Centre in Manchester, as well as have co-ownership of St David’s in Cardiff. The merger comes as shopping centres continue to buck the trend of high streets being plagued challenges in footfall and retail sales that have been exacerbated since the Brexit vote.

Atkins said: “The acquisition creates a leading pan-European platform of desirable retail and leisure destinations which are better positioned to serve the needs of our retailers, excite our customers and support our partners and communities.”

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(Author : Lucien Joppen)
In Alibaba and Amazon’s shadow, Japanese Rakuten Ichiba is quickly developing. Several Western chains are using the platform to sell their products to Japanese online consumers.


Rakuten bridges gap to Japanese online consumer

Rakuten Ichiba (loosely translaed into “Optimist”, what’s in a name?) has been around for twenty years, three years Amazon’s junior, but still two years older than Alibaba. It would do it justice to just label it as an internet retailer: it allows current retailers to attract Japanese online consumers and foreign online shoppers can order Japanese products through Rakuten. However, the company has more than this gateway: it is active in plenty of industries, including banking, trael, messaging, e-books and more.

Over the course of the past twenty years, the owner and founder Hiroshi Mikitani turned Rakuten, with the help of some 14,000 employees, into a company with a 7.2 billion dollar annual turnover and a 350 million dollar profit. An online retailer with profit seems like an anomaly. Nevertheless, a sizeable portion of its profit comes from abroad: ever since it decided to spread its wings in 2005, it acquired several local platforms, including (United States), Tradoria (Germany) and PriceMinister (France).

Bridge to consumers
It is no surprise that Rakuten Ichiba has an excellent position in its home territory, with 90 million registered members and a 27 % market share of overall Japanese online turnover. The key to its success cannot be brought back to one reason, but its main advantage is that it managed to culturally bridge toe gap to the Japanese consumer. In other words: Rakuten knows how this particular type of consumer “acts”.

Wearepentagon’s consultants wrote a clarifying article, stating that these consumers have very high expectations and should not be approached too “aggressively”. These consumers have high demands when it comes to service, like how they receive communication about the delivery times. These are still quite an issue, seeing how nearly one in four deliveries gets returned because the consumer is not there to receive the package. The country’s populace works legendary long hours and perhaps Rakuten could benefit from a “deliver at work” option?

High penetration
The Japanese online retail world currently ranks fourth worldwide and will generate about 122 billion dollars (source: Statista) in 2018. The forecast is that it will be able to continue the growth it achieved in the past few years. The Japanese consumer already spends considerable amounts online, about 1,000 dollars per year. The country also has a very high internet penetration: 91 % is online and prefers to shop on computer. Tablets (and definitely smartphones) are considerably less popular.

Further growth will mainly come from new consumers, but that will require a solution to the aforementioned delivery issue. The careful Japanese shopper also appreciates his orders to be protected, something the major internet platforms (including Rakuten) have also taken into consideration.

Insatiable appetite
Rakuten feels it can also grow thanks to synergies between markets in which it is already active. It is clear it wants to attract all types of services like a spider in a digital web. In order to get to that position, the company will invest in four different areas that impact every single one of the holding’s activities: AI / deep learning, user interaction (which includes virtual reality), large-scale distribution and the internet of things / drone technology.

It will take too much time to delve into each and every single of these areas. The internet of things / drone technology is a combination of the three other areas, according to Rakuten. The company previously experimented with Sora (a pilot on a golf course), a delivery drone that will help lower delivery costs in the future. This is a major issue for every eCommerce company like Rakuten (just look at the company’s delivery statistics, which have plenty of room for improvement).

It will take some time before delivery drones will be used at a large scale, but there will be a larger impact from Rakuten’s international delivery service, launched in May 2017. This should help simplify shipments from and to Japan and exclude third party companies. Rakuten, the Japanese spider with an insatiable appetite.

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(Author : Jack Byram)
The company has announced the expansion to help equip young people with technology skills.

Best Buy Is Creating New Teen Tech Centers Across The U.S.

Electronics giant Best Buy has announced that it will continue to up its effort to help underprivileged teens gain the skills required to pursue careers in the tech field. Part of this initiative includes a sixfold expansion of its already existing Teen Tech Centers.

The Teen Tech Centers offer opportunities to kids who otherwise might not have access to computers and teaches them skills that will allow them to pursue careers in STEM. Currently, there are 11 centers in the United States, but Best Buy hopes to expand that number to over 60 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the next three years.

“We’re committed to helping many more underserved youth pursue future carers through tech tools and training early on, along with the career-readiness skills that can help them realize their dreams,” Laura Bishop, Best Buy’s chief corporate responsibility and sustainability officer, said in a statement.

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(Author : Oscar Williams-Grut)
The CEO of Tesco insists the supermarket can be as innovative as the likes of HelloFresh and Amazon, and says it is experimenting with new ideas such as meal kits and checkout-free stores.

Tesco is experimenting with meal kits and checkout-free stores like Amazon

Dave Lewis was peppered with questions about competition with Amazon at a press conference in London this week, following Amazon’s acquisition of US grocer Whole Foods earlier this year. Amazon has also been experimenting with checkout-free stores in the US and plans to launch them out in the UK too. Lewis said that Tesco is also looking at this model.

“We’re trial lots and lots of things — the thing you refer to, yes — but we’ll only talk about it when we’ve done it everywhere,” Lewis said.

“The idea that I would come to the market and say, in this one shop we are — I’ve got 3,600 shops. When we’re at a place where we’ve got something we want to launch to all customers, we’ll launch it and we’ll communicate it. We’ve been doing it for a while. Nothing to announce.”

Business Insider also asked Lewis if he was concerned about the rise of subscription meal boxes such as HelloFresh and Gusto that deliver pre-measured ingredients for recipes.

Lewis said: “There’s no reason we couldn’t put together ingredients and serve it to customers as a meal kit in stores if that’s what they want from us. There are a number of trials in our stores about exactly that so we can change our offer if ultimately that’s how customers want us to operate.”

He added: “We test a whole lot.”

Lewis highlighted the success of Tesco Now, the supermarket’s new one-hour delivery service, as an example of a recent successfully launched innovation.

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(Author : Cate Cadell)
The “Tmall Genie” costs 499 yuan ($73.42), significantly less than western counterparts by Amazon and Google, which range from $120 to $180.

Alibaba Launches Low-Cost Voice Assistant Amid AI Drive

China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd launched on Wednesday a cut-price voice assistant speaker, similar to Inc’s “Echo”, its first foray into artificially intelligent home devices. The “Tmall Genie”, named after the company’s e-commerce platform Tmall, costs 499 yuan ($73.42), significantly less than western counterparts by Amazon and Alphabet Inc’s Google, which range from $120 to $180.

These devices are activated by voice commands to perform tasks, such as checking calendars, searching for weather reports, changing music or control smart-home devices, using internet connectivity and artificial intelligence. China’s top tech firms have ambitions to become world leaders in artificial intelligence as companies, including Alibaba and Amazon, increasingly compete for the same markets.

Baidu, China’s top search engine, which has invested in an artificial intelligence lab with the Chinese government, recently launched a device based on its own Siri-like “Duer OS” system. The Tmall Genie is currently programmed to use Mandarin as its language and will only be available in China. It is activated when a recognised user says “Tmall Genie” in Chinese.

In a streamed demonstration on Wednesday, engineers ordered the device to buy and deliver some Coca Cola, play music, add credit to a phone and activate a smart humidifier and TV. The device, which comes in black and white, can also be tasked with purchasing goods from the company’s Tmall platform, a function similar to Amazon’s Echo device.

Alibaba has invested heavily in offline stores and big data capabilities in an effort to capitalise on the entire supply chain as part of its retail strategy, increasingly drawing comparisons with similar strategies adopted by Amazon.

It recently began rolling out unstaffed brick-and-motor grocery and coffee shops, using QR codes that users can scan to complete payment on its Alipay app, which has over 450 million users. Amazon launched a similar concept of stores in December.

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(Author : Retail in Asia)
The A.S. Watson Group plans to open 1,400 new outlets globally this year – 60 shops will be in Hong Kong – but it will not expand the electricity group Fortress, says chief operating officer Malina Ngai Man-lin.

Watson group planning new shops

The group doesn’t have a plan for an initial public offering for the moment, Ngai added. Watson plans to invest HK$500 million in the next three years to improve its technology platform as well as enhance big data analysis. Managing director Dominic Ngai Kai-ming said MoneyBack, a member reward program under the Watson Group, has been rebranded with a new mobile app, which allows member to manage their accounts more conveniently.

The scheme has rewarded points with a value equivalent to HK$800 million to their members since the establishment in 2007. Meanwhile, Hong Kong retail sales growth turned positive in May, up 1.8 percent year-on-year, said a Mastercard report.

The increase in grocery sales and the health and beauty sector were the strongest. Groceries were up 2.3 percent and health 5 percent, driven mainly by domestic consumption.

Jewelry sales fell 44 percent in May, which was below the 2013 level. “Discretionary sectors historically driven by tourist spending continue to be a drag, despite stabilization and some recovery in visitor arrivals in recent months,” the group said.
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(Author : Daphne Howland)
Walmart’s latest e-commerce acquisition will be a takeover of menswear site Bonobos for $310 million in cash, a deal that’s been rumored for months, the brick-and-mortar retail giant announced Friday.

Walmart buys Bonobos for $310 million

Unlike many startups, Bonobos, founded in 2007 by co-founders Andy Dunn (who in 2015 returned as CEO) and Brian Spaly (who founded Trunk Club and this year left the concierge service, now owned by Nordstrom) generates a profit and enjoys $150 million in annual sales, raising about $127 million to date from investors including Accel Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Nordstrom.

Dunn will remain to oversee the Walmart’s collection of digitally-native vertical brands, reporting to U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore, according to a Walmart press release. The startup joins online shoe retailer Shoebuy (a challenge to Amazon’s Zappos), online outdoor retailer Moosejaw, and vintage-inspired online women’s apparel seller Modcloth in a string of acquisitions by the brick-and-mortar retail giant under Lore since its $3.3 billion purchase of Lore’s last year.

The payoff from Walmart’s recent acquisitions, starting with Jet, has been swift: In its most recent quarter, Walmart’s e-commerce sales ballooned 63% with an attendant 69% rise in digital gross merchandise volume. But the new numbers that Wal-Mart is delivering in the digital space aren’t just thanks to Jet or its widely heralded pricing algorithm. The brick-and-mortar stalwart, with Jet founder Marc Lore at the helm as its new U.S. e-commerce chief, has also been gobbling up pure-play specialty retailers at a rapid clip.

These new brands help Walmart improve the experience for existing customers and extend its reach to new customers, Ravi Jariwala, senior director of public relations at, told Retail Dive last month. Bonobos in particular has branched into brick and mortar, devising Bonobos Guideshops that provide opportunities to see, feel and try on clothes; Bonobos now has 35 Guideshops across the United States and in 118 Nordstrom stores and on 

“We’re seeing momentum in the business as we expand our value proposition with customers and it’s incredible to see how fast we’re moving,” Lore said in a statement Friday. “Adding innovators like Andy will continue to help us shape the future of Walmart, and the future of retail. I’m thrilled to welcome Andy and the entire Bonobos team. They’ve created an amazing product and customer experience, and that will not change. In fact, Andy will be a great influence on the company, especially in leading our collection of exclusive brands offered online.”

For Dunn’s part, the acquisition is an opportunity to work with a mentor and “become the market leader in all of premium menswear,” Dunn wrote in a blog post. “Marc is the best in the world at building upstart third-party brand e-commerce properties. He and I will now leverage our combined know-how and, with the biggest company in the world behind us, take on creating the leading vertical e-commerce platform.”

Those new customers are in demographic groups that don’t generally frequent Wal-Mart stores; the average Wal-Mart customer is less wealthy and quite a bit older than those typically shopping at Target and Amazon. The company has had difficulty in the past moving beyond that core base.

In addition to more digital sales and an expanded customer base, the startups are providing talent and technology, Keith Anderson, VP of strategy and insights at retail intelligence firm Profitero, told Retail Dive. “They have access to brands, buying teams … they have merchants and software engineers that might not move to Bentonville or Silicon Valley,” he said. “It probably has as much to do with creating a safe landing for companies that didn’t have a path forward as independent entities, but had a nice search authority.”

Indeed, as with Dunn’s planned role at Walmart, Shoebuy CEO ​Mike Sorabella now heads up footwear for all of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce, including and, while Moosejaw CEO Eoin Comerford similarly runs the company’s outdoor e-commerce vertical. That means that brands that may want to sell through Wal-Mart have enhanced opportunities too, with options to sell through one site or another (or more), Jariwala said.

Walmart has made it clear that the brands will continue as standalone sites, and executives from those companies have sought to ensure loyal customers that little will change. And it’s not likely to, Kelly-Jo Sands, EVP of marketing technology at marketing firm Ansira, told Retail Dive. “If you tie [Wal-Mart and Modcloth] too closely together, you might see a fanatic backlash, but you might also see expectations of the prices to come down.”

The new brands are unlikely to take part in some of Lore’s e-commerce solutions. To combat high last-mile delivery costs, for example, Wal-Mart now provides discounts on items bought online but picked up store. While it’s very likely that many Bonobos or Modcloth customers live near a Wal-Mart store, however, offering in-store pick up could invite branding and pricing conundrums for the “always low prices” juggernaut.

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(Author : China Retail News)
Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba and the Internet fresh food platform Yiguo signed an equity transfer contract, under which Alibaba will purchase 18% shares of Lianhua Supermarket from Yiguo.

Alibaba To Acquire 18 Stake In Lianhua Supermarket

According to a report published by Bailian Group, Alibaba will gain 201,528,000 Lianhua domestic shares, making it the second largest shareholder of Lianhua. Meanwhile, Yiguo will still hold a 1.17% stake in Lianhua.

Lianhua Supermarket is a related company of Shanghai Bailian. It was launched in 1991 and it mainly operates hypermarkets, supermarkets, and convenience stores. By December 31, 2016, Lianhua Supermarket and its subsidiaries had a total of 3,618 stores, covering 19 provinces and municipalities in China.

In February 2017, Alibaba Group and Bailian Group announced a strategic cooperation in Shanghai. The two parties said that based on big data and Internet technologies, they would seek full cooperation in six sectors, including full business integration and innovation, new retail technology development, high-efficiency supply chain integration, membership system interoperation, payment and finance interconnection, and logistics system collaboration. However, they did not mention capital cooperation at that time.

Alibaba Group said that they will rebuild new retail smart stores with big data in the future to improve consumer experience and business operation efficiency.

At present, the two parties are discussing specific plans for their supermarket business cooperation. Lianhua Supermarket’s 3,618 stores around China are expected to be the first to have new retail distribution and transformation.

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(Author :
Amazon is buying American supermarket chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, the online retail giant announced today. The acquisition is technically happening as part of a merger agreement that will see Amazon will pick up the supermarket’s net debt and purchase its stock at $42 per share.

Amazon is buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion

The brick-and-mortar stores will continue to operate under the Whole Foods brand once the deal is complete, which is expected to happen later this year, but is subject to approval by the supermarket’s shareholders.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said in a statement. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

Whole Foods will keep its headquarters in Austin, Texas, and the company’s CEO John Mackey will remain in his post. “This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” Mackey said in a statement.

Amazon has opened its own brick-and-mortar locations in recent years, including bookstores and a small, experimental market with no cashiers or checkout lines. And while it has been delivering groceries for years under the label of Amazon Fresh, the company hasn’t been shy about wanting to expand those efforts by way of establishing a physical presence across the country. In December, for example, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was exploring ways to open up to 2,000 grocery store locations under its own brand.

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