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RETAIL NEWS FLASH February 17, 2014


Table of Contents Sales & Marketing ................................................................................................................. 3 Finance ................................................................................................................................. 8 Technology .......................................................................................................................... 11 Strategy .............................................................................................................................. 15

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Sales & Marketing Is Amazon to blame for increased shipping costs? February 12, 2014 | Fierce Retail IT http://www.fierceretail.com/retailit/story/amazon-blame-increased-shipping-costs/2014-02-12 UPS and other carriers raised their shipping rates in January, much to the chagrin of U.S. ecommerce retailers. Now, some industry observers believe Amazon (NASDQ: AMZN) may be the cause of the price hikes. After all, they argue, it was the millions of new Amazon Prime subscribers (Amazon added one million new members in the third week of December alone) who ordered last-minute Christmas gifts, flooding the system with packages and rendering UPS, FedEx, and other carriers unable to deliver packages in time. "Not only is e-commerce increasing our volumes during peak, it's making holiday volume spikes. Network expansion costs [have] increased to insure we have capacity for the forecast volume," FedEx Ground CEO Henry Maier said a week before Christmas. FedEx's rates rose an average of 3.9 percent starting January 6. UPS is also blaming its rate hikes – up to seven percent on packages under 10 pounds – squarely on Amazon's shoulders. The unexpected shipping volume in December resulted in "hiring and training costs, overtime hours, and additional weekend operations," UPS executives said in its January earnings call. As a result, the shipper needs to "make appropriate investments such as facility expansions, process automation, job simplification, and acceleration of technology implementations." We can't argue that, now that the dust has settled, the surge in Amazon Prime membership is causing shippers to invest more in systems and technology than they had previously slated for 2014. There is no way they want to see a repeat of The Great Shipping Debacle of 2013 during the 2014 holiday season. They will be prepared this time. However, Amazon is not the sole culprit. The rising costs of fuel, technology, and simply conducting business are driving up costs. UPS announced that its average shipping rate would rise 4.9 percent in 2014 – back in November of 2013. That was well before the holiday shipping mishaps in late December. It is simply more expensive for shipping companies to transport lighter boxes to residences, a fastpaced trend that cannot be attributed to Amazon alone. Amazon, Walmart (NYSE: WMT), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), and a host of other national retailers now offering services like same-day delivery are sure to cause residential shipping price hikes in the future.

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Macy's goes big with Shaquille O'Neal menswear February 11, 2014 | Fierce Retail http://www.fierceretail.com/story/macys-goes-big-shaquille-oneal-menswear/2014-02-11 Macy's (NYSE: M) is going big, very big, with its new menswear collection from basketball great Shaquille O'Neal and Peerless Clothing. The new partnership will launch exclusively at Macy's in sizes that range from regular to Big and Tall. The Shaquille O'Neal collection, available at 100 Macy's stores nationwide and on macys.com starting mid-February, will include suit separates and sport coats that can be worn individually or paired together. Patterns include traditional solids, stripes and plaids, as well as more modern and unexpected sharkskin in shades of black, navy, tan and grey. Suit separates anchor the line, allowing shoppers to choose jacket and pant sizes for varied proportions and are priced between $150 for a pant to $400 for a jacket. "Shaq is one of the biggest stars in sports with a huge fan base and following. A favorite celebrity and personality who is larger than life. Fans everywhere love Shaq for his athletic accomplishments, and his successful forays into music, movies, television and business. They love his style, passion and charisma," said Ronny Wurtzburger, president of Peerless Clothing. "When it comes to fashion, Shaq is a trendsetter. He has strong consumer appeal among African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, moms who relate to his dedication to providing quality products at affordable prices, and kids who see him as their ultimate role model." "My interest in developing a menswear collection was based on the lack of fashion choices for Big and Tall customers and the higher prices for larger size suits," O'Neal said. "I also was frustrated that I had to go to a Big and Tall store rather than shop with my friends at the local department or specialty store. I originally wanted to develop a more fashion-forward menswear collection at an affordable price. Once Peerless and I developed the collection, the reaction from Macy's was so positive that we decided to make the collection in all sizes." The collection will be marketed online and in-store as well as through newspaper advertisements and personal appearances. Shaq also will wear the new collection on TNT's "Inside the NBA" and on future television appearances. "Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most iconic athletes of our time, and we are thrilled that he chose Macy's to launch this extension of his superstar talent into the world of tailored clothing," said Richard Arnstein, Macy's executive vice president. "With his high-profile lifestyle, Mr. O'Neal understands the power of being well dressed, and this new collection of suit separates will appeal to men of any size who truly appreciate style and quality."

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Target taps top Pinterest pinners in party planning promotion February 11, 2014 | Fierce Retail http://www.fierceretail.com/story/target-taps-top-pinterest-pinners-party-planningpromotion/2014-02-11 Target (NYSE: TGT) is teaming up with some top pinners by partnering with Pinterest tastemakers in a year-long promotion beginning in spring. Three of the platform's most influential Pinners will create a series of party planning collections. Joy Cho of Oh Joy!, Jan Halvarson of Poppytalk and Kate Arends of Wit & Delight will each create limitedtime-only collections, launched over the course of 2014, including party dÊcor, paper products and serving pieces designed in their signature aesthetic. "Pinterest is such a popular destination for entertaining inspiration, so we're partnering with the platform's top tastemakers to bring their inspiration to life through beautifully designed party collections," said Rick Gomez, senior vice president of marketing at Target. "We are proud of Target's pioneering efforts in the design space and this collaboration is the first-of-its-kind in retail." According to Pinterest, there are more than 700,000 party planning-related items pinned every day. Pinterest pro Joy Cho kicks off the program's inaugural collection, which debuts online and in stores March 16, and is sure to take the guess work out of your spring soirÊe. Known for her bold use of color and pattern, and a keen eye for detail, Cho's collection is inspired by a modern garden party and includes everything from whimsical banners and sparkly party hats to gold-rimmed cups that range in price from $3 to $25. "I really wanted to create a collection that helps people make their parties pop, even if they don't have time to add those handmade touches themselves," said Cho. Jan Halvarson of Poppytalk and Kate Arends of Wit & Delight will follow suit with collections launching in June and September, respectively. Few social media or marketing programs drive retail traffic and sales like Pinterest. According to research by Piqora, a pin on Pinterest generates 78 cents in sales, on average. More importantly, a pin can drive both pageviews and orders several months after its original pinning — 50 percent of visits happen after 3.5 months of first pinning. Target's year-long campaign could continue to bear fruit well into 2015.

SEARS accelerates store pickups February 10 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87727 Sears is launching an in-car collection option intended to enable customers to receive their online purchases at any Sears store within five minutes of arrival. To access the option, users must be members of Sears Shop Your Way loyalty program and have a Shop Your Way mobile app.

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After completing their purchase via a computer or tablet, shoppers chose the In-Vehicle Pickup option and input details of the vehicle in which they will arrive. They then sign in to their Shop Your Way mobile app and enable location services before leaving for the store. Upon arriving at the location, customers pull up to the In-Vehicle Pickup spots located outside the merchandise pick-up site. They then use the Shop'In feature in the Shop Your Way mobile app to initiate collection and a timer will start on the phone. An associate then brings the purchase to the car and verifies the purchase using the payment method used online. In-Vehicle Pickup is just the latest move by financially plagued Sears to become more attractive to consumers by leveraging its popular Shop Your Way program. About 70% of overall sales are initiated by Shop Your Way members. In January, Sears began enabling Shop Your Way members to earn points for exercise. Last November, Sears upgraded its mobile app to allow Sears and Kmart Shop Your Way members to access special deals and personalized offers. The Shop’In feature also enables users to compare prices and products and read customer reviews, enter Shop Your Way sweepstakes to win money and prizes, garner e-coupons, speak with other members and have real-time access to store associates. Mobile shoppers also can browse and buy more than 100 million items online and arrange for free store pick-up.

AMAZON ramps up video advertising February 7, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87693 Amazon has partnered with technology provider FreeWheel to power the retailer’s video advertising platform. Amazon shoppers will see more game trailers, movie trailers, how-to videos and other video content across several product categories. These videos will surface in relevant search results, giving users the opportunity to view and learn more about products that interest them. Amazon will also look to integrate relevant brands and e-commerce advertising experiences within the video content. For example, video game trailers may include a "Shop Now" button, so customers can go to that title's page on Amazon via a single click. Similarly, movie trailers may include a short pre-roll advertisement that helps customers discover new products.

NEWEGG reveals Prime-style scheme February 5, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87656 Just a few days ago, Amazon hinted at the impracticalities of its current USD79 Amazon Prime annual subscription cost and indicated it may have to raise fees by up to USD40. Yesterday, consumer electronics specialist Newegg.com has unveiled its Newegg Premier customer-benefit scheme, offering – like Prime - complimentary expedited shipping. Newegg Premier will cost USD49.99 per year.

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However, Newegg’s scheme has a slightly different structure. Membership benefits include: free expedited shipping within three days or less, discounted rates on two-day and next-day shipping as well as free returns with complimentary shipping and no restocking fees. Other benefits include alerts giving members early notice of upcoming sales, a member-only shopping experience with customised backgrounds featuring a personalised information panel as well as exclusive deals and offers. Newegg’s move highlights the added-value options the modern multi-channel shopper requires from pure-play retailers as bricks and mortar stores increasingly match online prices while offering the convenience of alternative shipping options like click & collect. However, the issue Amazon is having suggests that, if such a large retailer, with relatively flexible views regarding profit margins, is finding this type of shipping concept a struggle, then smaller operators like Newegg will need to be extra-wary as to the exact ramifications of such an offer.

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Finance Urban Outfitters Reports 10% Increase In Annual Sales February 11, 2014 | Retail TouchPoints http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/news-brief/3380-urban-outfitters-reports-10-increase-inannual-sales Specialty retailer Urban Outfitters, Inc., which owns the Anthropologie, BHLDN, Free People, Terrain and Urban Outfitters brands, reported record net sales increases for Q4 and the 2013 fiscal year, which ended on Jan. 31, 2014. Total net sales for Q4 2013 increased to $906 million, a 6% improvement over the same quarter in 2012. For the fiscal year, total company net sales increased 10% year over year to $3.1 billion. Comparable retail segment net sales increased 20% at Free People and 10% at Anthropologie during the quarter. While overall wholesale segment sales rose 24%, net sales decreased by 9% for the Urban Outfitters brand. Total comparable retail segment net sales increased 6%, while wholesale net sales improved by 20%. "I am pleased to announce record sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 driven by outstanding performances from the Anthropologie and Free People brands," said Richard A. Hayne, CEO of Urban Outfitters, Inc. "Although customer response to our early spring fashion offerings has been difficult to read due to weather abnormalities, the Anthropologie and Free People brands continue to deliver solid comparable retail segment sales gains. These gains, however, have been largely offset by weakness at the Urban Outfitters brand.” The retailer also opened 38 new stores over the past year: 16 new Urban Outfitter stores, 13 Free People stores and nine Anthropologie stores. However, the company closed one Urban Outfitters location, and two Anthropologie stores.

Ambition the key for SPENCER’S RETAIL February 6, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87669 RP-Sanjiv Goenka group’s Spencer’s Retail is eyeing revenue of INR50 billion (USD800 million) in the next four years. The India-based grocery retailer plans to open nine new hypermarkets this fiscal year and 15 in the next. Spencer’s aims to add a total of 80-100 hypermarkets during the next four years. As a pioneer in organised food retailing in India, the company currently operates more than 200 stores across 35 cities in India. The business operates its stores in two formats - hypermarkets and neighborhood stores - and at present is seeking to expand its hypermarket network. The company will be building about 25 stores over the next 24 months.

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AMAZON international still strong, but slower February 4, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87646 Amazon has reported that in 2013 full-year sales for its international division rose 13.9% to USD29.9 billion. This represents a slowdown compared to the previous year’s growth rate of 27.9%. According to documents filed with the US Securities & Exchange Commission, Germany sales, in dollar terms, increased 20.6% to USD10.5 billion. Japanese sales declined 2.1% to USD7.6 billion, while in the UK, sales climbed 12.6% to USD7.3 billion. The decline in Japan corresponds to an estimated increase of 20% in local currency, given the yen’s heavy depreciation in 2013. It is important to point out that the UK figure, while impressive at first glance, still represents a slowing compared to the previous year (sales rose 19.1% in 2012). Judging by recent results from John Lewis, Dixons and Argos, it’s clear that bricks and mortar competitors have been successful in enhancing their multi-channel capabilities and price matching on core Amazon categories. In particular, local competitors have made a concerted push for click & collect over the past 12 months, playing to Amazon’s weakness of not occupying actual physical space. Amazon will need to fight back in the UK by opening smaller fulfilment centres to ensure even faster delivery times, Sunday delivery options (currently being launched across the UK) and opening more lockers at convenient locations.

WALMART maintains Canadian investment February 4, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87652 Recent Walmart performance may not be as positive as the company would like, but the US giant is continuing to invest heavily in one of its closest - and oldest - international markets. Walmart Canada plans to invest some USD500 million in 2014 (fiscal 2015), split between stores (USD376 million), its distribution network (USD91 million) and e-commerce projects (USD31 million). This year will see 35 supercenter projects (new stores and upgrades of smaller discount stores), which will add one million square feet of retail space. The level of investment is broadly consistent with the previous year, which saw 37 supercenter projects, including the first large-scale stores in the Maritime Provinces. By the end of January 2015, the store portfolio is expected to comprise 395 outlets, including 282 supercenters and 113 discount stores. The plans for 2014 are within the company’s long-term run rate of 35-40 new projects a year. However, comp sales in Canada remain under pressure, something that new space can only partially alleviate.

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A bumper year for LVMH Selective Retailing February 3, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87633 The Selective Retailing division of LVMH, which includes Sephora and DFS, has recorded organic revenue growth of 17% to EUR8.94 billion (USD11.87 billion) in full-year 2013. Profit from recurring operations increased 6% to EUR854 million (USD1.13 billion). Duty-free operation DFS recorded further strong sales increases, notably reflecting the first full-year integration of three new concessions from the end of 2012 at Hong Kong International airport. Meanwhile, beauty chain Sephora continued to achieve an exceptional performance, the retailer stated in a press release, gaining market share across all its regions. Online revenue is also said to be growing well. Sephora continues to expand and upgrade its distribution network around the world and opened its first store in Thailand during 2013. DFS shops at airports and other duty-free locations clearly benefited from growth in Asian tourism and from increased sales to Chinese consumers in particular. The strong performance of the LVMH Selective Retailing division can partly be attributed to the development of Sephora's cross-channel strategy. The beauty retailer is making best use of digital media to enhance the shopping experience in its various markets. Sephora has been extremely busy integrating all the latest web, social and mobile media platforms with its bricks and mortar stores in order to drive customer engagement and sales. That the division’s strongest performance has come from Asia should surprise no one. With affluent Chinese retail tourists criss-crossing the region in ever-increasing numbers, the value of locations in crucial transport hubs such as those at Hong Kong becomes magnified, with returns to match.

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Technology Acme, Wendy’s Join Merchant Customer Exchange February 13, 2014 | Retail TouchPoints http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/news-brief/3392-acme-wendys-join-merchant-customerexchange Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a mobile payment solution provider supported by retailers worldwide, has added the Paydiant cloud-based platform to its m-Commerce infrastructure. Additionally, MCX announced its two newest merchant members: grocer Acme Fresh Market and fast food chain Wendy’s. Currently, MCX merchants represent more than 70 brands with 110,000 locations that process more than $1 trillion in payments a year. With the Paydiant partnership, MCX merchants will have access to an API that will enable them to integrate mobile wallet capabilities and value-added services into branded iPhone and Android applications. As a result, retailers will be able to leverage existing smartphones, as well as POS and payment terminals already implemented in stores. All services are integrated into the branded mobile experience, eliminating the need for retailers to share sensitive customer data with third parties. “We are really enthusiastic about the momentum MCX is making as a company,” said Dekkers Davidson, CEO of MCX. “Paydiant adds unique mobile wallet capabilities and proven retail experience that seamlessly complements MCX’s existing technology platform.”

Wells Fargo, retailers boost mobile wallet use February 11, 2014 | Fierce Mobile Retail http://www.fierceretail.com/mobileretail/story/wells-fargo-retailers-boost-mobile-walletuse/2014-02-11 Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) is quickly becoming a big proponent of mobile payments, and is incentivizing its customers to use them more. Wells Fargo's "20/20" promotion rewards first-time Isis users with a discount for using the tap-andpay technology at its banks with a $20 credit. In addition, their first purchase qualifies users to earn 20 percent back – or up to a $100 value – in statement credits monthly. With the promotion, Wells Fargo is wisely building awareness and usage around Isis, which only launched nationwide in November. "Part of our vision as a company is to help our customer succeed financially," Natalie Brown, spokeswoman at Wells Fargo, told Mobile Commerce Daily. "One of the ways we do that [is to] help them make payments when, where and how they want, including their mobile wallet."

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While many consumers are not familiar with mobile wallets, Isis is becoming more common at major U.S. retail chains including Macy's (NYSE:M), CVS (NYSE: CVS) and Jamba Juice (NASDAQ: JMBA). Like Wells Fargo, some retailers are incentivizing their shoppers to use Isis. Toys "R" Us, for example, offers shoppers $15 off a purchase of $30 or more when they use Isis for the first time. Jamba Juice customers can earn a free 12-ounce smoothie or juice when they use Isis, and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) pays for their first three drinks when consumers tap their Isis-enabled phone at a vending machine.

Amazon integrates Flow app to aid price matching February 9, 2014 | Fierce Retail http://www.fierceretail.com/story/amazon-integrates-flow-app-aid-price-matching/2014-02-09 Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) has integrated its Flow shopping app into the retailer's own, adding the ability to take photos and compare prices from its iOS app, and added a new partnership that promises more video ads. Amazon released Flow in 2011 and has been developing it ever since. The feature lets shoppers take a photo of a product, bypassing the need for a barcode scanner. Shoppers can compare prices and buy instantly, directly from the app. "Flow instantly matches products in your home to items on Amazon," Sam Hall, vice president of Amazon Mobile, said in a statement. "Once you have added that box of garbage bags or baby wipes, just keep moving your phone over other packaged goods you need to restock and the Amazon app recognizes the product and saves it into your search history. You can search items lined up on the counter, stored on a shelf, or pick them out of a cupboard, taking care of your shopping needs in seconds." Flow recognizes millions of products, according to Amazon. It allows shoppers to more easily compare prices and compile shopping lists. It displays product information, customer reviews and video content on the retailer's site. Amazon will also be treating shoppers to more video content, thanks to a new partnership with FreeWheel that will build out a video advertising platform. Amazon and FreeWheel are working to integrate relevant brands and e-commerce advertising experiences within video content to help customers more easily find and purchase products. Entertainment products such as video games could include a "Shop Now" button and movie trailers may include a short pre-roll advertisement. Amazon shoppers will also see more "how-to" videos and other video content across several product categories. Re/code reported that FreeWheel has also been working with Amazon to deliver video ads into a selection of TV show episodes on the Kindle Fire.

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NTUC FAIRPRICE innovates to stay ahead February 7, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87703 Leading Singapore hypermarket operator NTUC Fairprice has introduced SCAN2GO self-scanning technology at its FairPrice Finest banner after a successful trial run in December 2013. SCAN2GO is part of FairPrice's ongoing efforts to increase productivity, convenience, service standards and enhance the shopping experience. It is also hoped self-scanning will encourage shoppers to re-use carrier bags, in line with FairPrice’s environmental pledges. The retailer is the first in Singapore to implement such a system, which has been widely used in major retailers in Europe for over a decade. There are 100 SCAN2GO scanners and two dedicated checkout counters for SCAN2GO payments at the FairPrice Finest outlet in Bukit Timah Plaza. As the Singaporean grocery market becomes increasingly saturated with stiff competition from the likes of Dairy Farm, NTUC FairPrice’s strategy to raise productivity and increase profitability, while at the same time empowering customers and improving the shopping experience is precisely the kind of differentiation that could keep the retailer ahead. Other recent initiatives in support of the strategy included implementation of self-checkout systems in 2011, followed by electronic shelf labelling and contactless payment in 2013.

Knapp system revolutionises MIGROS (CH) DC February 7, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87698 In Switzerland, Migros has opted for innovative picking technology at its fruit & vegetable DC in Zurich, Lebensmittel Zeitung reports. The solution from Austrian warehouse automation specialist Knapp – dubbed FAST (Fully Automated Standard Tray) – is used for the automatic storage and picking of transport containers, not only pool containers but also one-way cartons used in the food sector. It has been implemented at the 2,000 square metre (21,500 square feet) facility since last autumn. At goods-in, pallets are unloaded and their contents transferred to trays. These and other incoming containers are then stored in Knapp’s OSR Shuttle automated storage system. A stacking algorithm calculates the ideal sequence for the various container types, taking into account requirements for load stability, packing density and shop-friendly delivery. Containers retrieved from the OSR Shuttle store are then fed to a stacking machine in an optimised sequence in order to build up pallets or roll containers, depending on the desired order. Prior to the implementation of the new technology, picking had been a time-consuming and workintensive process, especially considering the weight of the transport units (up to 30 kg). With the new technology, the retailer can pack pallets more densely and consequently save on transport costs. Swiss multi-format operator Migros is a friend of warehouse automation and has already deployed technology from Swisslog and Witron at its DCs.

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Target accelerating $100 million chip and PIN adoption, finds just 25 registers at fault in breach February 5, 2014 | Fierce Retail IT http://www.fierceretail.com/retailit/story/target-accelerating-100-milion-chip-and-pin-adoptionfinds-just-25-register/2014-02-05 Target (NYSE: TGT) will adopt chip and PIN technology six months ahead of Visa and MasterCard's October 2015 deadline as executives push for wider adoption of the more secure technology. Retail executives told a Senate committee on Tuesday the company would be implementing chip and PIN technology faster than expected and in an open letter to Congress published by The Hill, Target CFO John Mulligan urged others to do the same. "In the U.K., where smart card technology is widely used, financial losses associated with lost or stolen cards are at their lowest levels since 1999 and have fallen by 67 percent since 2004, according to industry estimates. In Canada, where Target and others have adopted smart cards, losses from card skimming were reduced by 72 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to industry estimates," he said. "A reason the U.S. has been slow to embrace change is that all players in the payments system merchants, issuers, banks and the networks - have not been able to find common ground on how to share the costs of implementation." Target estimates the cost of implementation at approximately $100 million. Retail security breaches in the past several months have effected upwards of 70 million Target shoppers and 1.1 million Neiman Marcus shoppers. Additional security breaches at Michaels stores and now White Lodging Services -- a company that manages Holiday Inn, Marriott, Radisson, Renaissance, Sheraton and Westin hotels at 14 locations -- adds urgency. Target's history with chip and PIN cards dates back to 2004 when Target piloted an early generation of the chip-enabled technology on the Target Visa REDcard, with mixed results, according to Mulligan. "Notably, the cards were much more expensive to produce and required the replacement of store card-readers. Also, the technology at that time would have only been usable in our stores, making for a confusing experience for customers, overall. After three years of going it alone, we discontinued the program." During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, several senators, security experts and witnesses who were directly affected by the breach urged companies to adopt chip and PIN technology to make shopping safer. Credit card companies, too, called on retailers to make the switch and install swipe machines to accept the cards by 2015, or be liable for the costs of any fraud resulting from stolen data. Seperately, Target said that it found the malware on just 25 cash registers. Mulligan confirmed that hackers used outside vendors' credentials to access Target's POS system. The malware was discovered three days after Target thought it had deleted the malicious software from its system.

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Strategy Kroger buys digital coupon provider You Tech February 12, 2014 | Fierce Retail http://www.fierceretail.com/story/kroger-buys-digital-coupon-provider-you-tech/2014-02-12 Kroger (NYSE: KR) announced it has purchased the assets of You Technology Brand Services, a Silicon Valley-based provider of digital coupons and promotions, and plans to close two stores in West Virginia. Founded in 2008, You Tech's retailer-centric, cloud-based platform bridges the gap between online engagement and in-store purchases, creating a measurable way for retailers and brands to drive consumer purchase decisions online, in-store and on mobile devices. Its network, which includes Kroger's own digital coupons, includes more than 10,000 retail stores representing over $100 billion in retail sales and 100 million U.S. households. Based in South San Francisco, You Tech will operate as an independent company within Kroger. The company currently serves approximately two dozen retailer clients operating 65 store banners. Existing clients include Supervalu, Foodtown, Giant Eagle and D'Agostino markets. You Tech intends to continue providing services to these retailers. "This is a good strategic fit for both Kroger and You Tech," said Jeff Talbot, Kroger's vice president of customer loyalty. "This transaction is consistent with our digital customer growth plan and provides Kroger a significant opportunity to expand our presence in Silicon Valley, enhancing our exposure to new technologies. You Tech will benefit from Kroger's strong balance sheet as it continues to expand its digital platform to many other retailers and CPG partners." "We intend to build and grow the premier retailer and customer-centric digital coupon platform in the industry, while continuing to deliver for our broad base of retail customers," said Cheryl Black, You Tech CEO. "We look forward to partnering with Kroger and other retailers and CPG companies to continue driving growth." Kroger's accelerated growth strategy includes targeted capital investments to increase its store base and square footage in both new and existing markets, and to strengthen its connection with customers through the growing digital and mobile channels. Shopper use of digital coupons has accelerated exponentially over the past several years. Kroger began offering digital coupons in late 2009 and reached 500 million digital coupon downloads nearly three years later. Shoppers have downloaded more than 400 million more digital coupons in just the last 12 months, demonstrating their growing popularity and frequency of use.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Separately, Kroger said it would close two stores in West Virginia. The locations, in Diamond and Weston, have been unprofitable for three years, Kroger spokesman Carl York told the West Virginia Gazette.

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AMAZON partners with Quikr in India February 11, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87738 Amazon’s Junglee online shopping service in India has announced a strategic partnership with one of India’s leading classifieds website Quikr.com. The partnership allows Junglee users to compare prices on new products across hundreds of online shopping sites and also find locally available pre-owned products listed on Quikr, alongside new products. Consumers across 10 major cities in India will able to view a new section entitled Related Product Listings. On the product pages of Junglee.com, shoppers will be able to view relevant classifieds for other similar pre-owned products, based on their location, all in the same section. Being one of the most popular product categories searched by consumers on both Junglee and Quikr, the new feature has also been introduced for the consumer electronics category. Junglee plans to expand the number of categories and city coverage in the near future.

AMAZON ups its game options February 10, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87717 Gaming studio Double Helix Games has become Amazon’s newest acquisition, TechCrunch reports. The Irvine, CA-based company was founded in 2007 through the merger of The Collective, Inc. and Shiny Entertainment. The 75-strong Double Helix staff will now become Amazon employees and will continue to operate out of their Orange County base. Amazon told TechCrunch: “Amazon has acquired Double Helix as part of our ongoing commitment to build innovative games for customers.” The deal will likely fuel industry speculation that Amazon is preparing to release its own gaming console. Last week, VG247.com reported that Amazon is planning to launch an Android-powered “dedicated games and entertainment device this year priced below USD300 [that] will compete directly with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.”

WALMART completes Chilean buyout February 10, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87722 Walmart has completed the purchase agreement for 25.06% of Walmart Chile from founding family members Felipe and Nicolás Ibáñez Scott. As a result of the transaction, the US behemoth now owns 99.72% of Walmart Chile.

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Commenting on the deal, newly appointed President & CEO of Walmart International David Cheesewright commented: “We believe there is a lot of potential in Chile, and this acquisition is consistent with Walmart’s strategy of managing our portfolio and investing in growth markets.” The move has been in the offing for a while and comes as no surprise. But, reading between the lines, we believe it forms part of wider shift within Walmart International towards consolidation of existing businesses, rather than relentless pursuit of new international territories.

One-in-ten RADIOSHACK stores face axe February 5, 2014 | Planet Retail http://www.planetretail.net/NewsAndInsight/Article/87655 RadioShack is set to close 500 store locations across the US, according to sources familiar with the matter. Closures of the consumer electronics outlets will take place over the coming months. However it is not yet clear which of the approximately 4,400 company-owned outlets will be impacted. Some 1,000 franchised stores will be unaffected by the restructuring. Realistically, RadioShack has struggled against larger-scale CE rivals, online players and mass merchants for a number of years now and has seen the size of its company-owned network gradually reduce year-on-year since 2011. Its franchised network has been shrinking for even longer – over 10 years. The closure of underperforming outlets should at least allow the retailer to move towards a healthier bottom line as it focuses on its best-positioned sites and on establishing a more meaningful online presence.

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Sutherland insights retail news flash feb 17, 2014