Retail

This Thursday Toys R Us announced that they were making a comeback in time for the 2019 holiday season.New stores are set to open at the Galleria in Houston and Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. The difference between these stores and their predecessors is that the new ones will be smaller and sell fewer toys. Instead, they will offer interactive, playground-like experiences and toy demonstrations.The stores will include space for hosting special events such as birthdays, organize various daily activities, and contain open play areas. Massive sales floors are a thing of the past—the new stores will be about 6,500 square feet each, which a third of their previous size.Tru Kids Brand, the owner of Toys R Us, is making these changes together with the startup b8ta, a company that designs interactive and technology-focused retail spaces. The stores will be "the most progressive and advanced in the world, and we hope to surprise and delight kids for generations to come," Vibhu Norby, CEO of b8ta, claims.The updated Toys R Us website promises an experience “centered around product discovery and engagement.” The focus is on creating fun family memories. What never changes is that “kids want to touch everything and simply ‘play,’" says Phillip Raub, president of b8ta and interim co-CEO of the Toys R Us joint venture.One key difference is that consumers will be able to play with toys before purchasing them. This immersive experience is the key to a better understanding of customers’ needs. It will allow for assessing how in-store retail experiences affect online sales. Tru Kids is aiming to provide a "highly engaging retail experience designed for kids, families and to better fit within today's retail environment." They will let brands "design custom experiences and branded shops.”The Toys R Us reinvention comes after last year’s bankruptcy and the closure of all 700+ stores in the U.S. The company was $5 million in debt, even though the company’s sales accounted for one fifth of all toy sales in the U.S. This debt was accumulated after a controversial buyout of the company in 2005. The chain employed more than 30,000 U.S. workers before the collapse and is intent on prioritizing hiring former employees after the reopening.There are currently over 900 Toys R Us stores open across Europe, Asia, and India. Another 70 stores are to be open overseas by the end of 2019. In 2020, the plan is to open ten more stores, each one across 10,000 square feet, in "prime, high-traffic retail markets."It remains to be seen if this upgraded version of Toys R Us will succeed and thrive once again in the U.S.

By Julija A. July 19,2019

KPMG’s 2019 Retail Trends Report reveals how hyper-personalization, offering competitive prices on cost comparison websites and apps, chatbots, experience retail, environmentally-friendly practices, and social media are disrupting the industry.With a record-high number of retail store closures this year, it is evident that the old retail model of selling goods at a brick-and-mortar shop just doesn’t cut it anymore. Emerging technologies are transforming consumers' shopping habits, forcing retailers to adapt or close shop. Here is a short overview of the key findings from the recent KPMG Report.From deep retail to hyper-personalizationDeep retail is defined as the use of profound learning about customers, which allows retailers to develop personalized, highly tailored shopping experiences, products, and services. Collecting customer data from an ever-expanding list of sources, including smartphones, online searches, purchases, product views, and even eye movements, analyzing it and curating a special offer for each customer is the next step in retail according to the report.The rise of the price-savvy consumerMore than ever before, consumers are doing their research before making any purchases. With so many retailers out there, modern shoppers have developed a money-saving habit of comparing product prices online. Apps like ShopSavvy, which allow users to scan the barcode of any product and compare all the best prices on the internet and at nearby stores, make for a very well informed consumer.Consumer-AI bond strengthens As artificial intelligence advances, humans are becoming more accustomed to it. At the moment, chatbots and smart speakers represent the main application of this developing technology in the retail sector.Smart speakers, dependant on assistants from eCommerce giants like Amazon, open up new ways for retailers to reach consumers and deliver unique shopping experiences thanks to the vast amounts of data they collect.Chatbots are another example of shoppers becoming more trusting and reliant on AI. HelloAva is a startup that based its product precisely on this trend. It helps consumers determine their skin type through a 12-question SMS or Facebook Messenger conversation. After analyzing the answers, the bot recommends skin products and regimens based on the person's responses.The birth of “retailtainment”With shoppers spending more and more money on experiences and less on things, it’s time for retailers to change their offer. In addition to selling products, it’s becoming essential to provide for a memorable and immersive experience too. Ikea’s sleepover party is a case in point. After listening to what their customers want on social media, the company came up with a plan to host a slumber party for a hundred lucky shoppers in one of their UK stores. The event which left shoppers craving more similar events was a complete success.Environmentally friendly practicesInstead of shopping with their wallets, modern consumers are shopping with their values, the report indicates. They identify sustainability as an important factor when choosing brands to trust. What’s more, customers see through empty promises and marketing campaigns, expecting a real commitment from retailers.The brand-building potential of social mediaRetailers without a social media presence are doomed to fail. The report shows that one in every three Millennials uses social networks as their primary way of interacting with brands and companies. Other demographic groups are represented on social media as well, although not as frequently.Social networks are an immensely powerful tool, not only for creating a brand image but also for interacting with customers. It is a space that gives retailers insight into what their customers want and a platform for cultivating and nurturing customer relations.For more industry insights, consult the full report here.

By Ivana V. July 18,2019

The Commerce Department data shared on Tuesday shows that retail sales rose by 0.4% in June, while the Coresight Research report indicates that more retail stores have closed so far in 2019 than over the entire course of last year.The current state of U.S. retail can be described as contradictory, with sales reports surpassing economists’ expectations on the one hand and brick-and-mortar stores closing at a tremendous rate on the other.Sales up in JuneThe data published by the Commerce Department reveals that retail sector sales made in June grew by 0.4% compared to May, even though economists polled by Reuters predicted that the growth would be only 0.1%.Increased retail sales in June - mostly relating to vehicles, gasoline, building materials, and food services - following strong sales in April and May indicate that consumers have stepped up their spending in the second quarter. This trend might help soften some of the blow on the economy caused by weak business investments.Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School, suspects that the current consumer spending habits will be short-lived, due to the fact that the nation is heavily indebted.“Consumers are increasingly overextended. Consumer debt, student debt, and mortgage debt are at record levels. Consumers are fueling their spending through debt,” Cohen told Marketplace. He also predicts a sharp pullback in the retail sector, caused by trade tensions and hiking tariffs. “There’s major insecurity with regard to retail pricing caused by the tariff kerfuffles going on between the U.S. and China, Europe, Canada, and Mexico.” Number of brick-and-mortar stores downA Coresight Research report that tracks the number of retail store closures and openings, updated weekly, shows that more stores have closed in the first 28 weeks of 2019 than in all of 2018.Last year, which was considered very bad for retailers, saw 5,864 stores close and only 3,258 open. This negative trend shows no sign of stopping in the current year, on the contrary. Fred’s, Charming Charlie Holdings, Payless ShoeSource, Dressbarn, Charlotte Russe, Family Dollar - these are just a few of the 7,062 retailers who have closed some or all of their retail locations in 2019. And the number of stores that have opened so far this year is only 3,017.Consequently, the retail sector will see substantial job cuts. Outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that retailers announced 53,248 job cuts through June this year. The total number of layoffs from the sector last year was 98,563, the highest since 2009. Vice President of the company, Andy Challenger, draws attention to the fact job losses are distributed unevenly across the country.“A lot of those job cuts are in retail locations in rural America, in smaller towns, whereas a lot of the jobs being created in warehouses and distribution centers are closer to major metropolitan areas,” Challenger commented to Marketplace.E-commerce is the downfall of traditional retail because store owners, burdened with the high cost of stores and employees, are finding it impossible to match the competitive prices online merchants offer. It appears that retailers who have adjusted to the demands of modern shoppers by providing an omnichannel experience are doing the best.

By Ivana V. July 17,2019

Around 100 Amazon fulfillment center workers from Minnesota and another 2,000 workers from seven different locations in Germany walked out of their jobs to protest low pay and poor working conditions.As Amazon Prime Day shopping frenzy began on Monday, the unsatisfied workers in two countries left their job posts and hit the streets to demand better treatment by their employer.While German workers have organized protests on Prime Day before, Minnesota fulfillment center employees did so for the first time yesterday.Amazon employees from Shakopee, Minnesota rallied at 3 p.m. ET for a six-hour protest during which they demanded that the company ease productivity quotas, convert more temporary workers to Amazon employees, and do more to address on-the-job injuries.The Minnesota warehouse workers’ strike is a reaction to Amazon’s decision to offer one-day shipping to Prime customers, as this is bound to raise the already unrealistically high productivity quotas and contribute to the stressful work environment.“These should be jobs that are safe, reliable, and that people can depend on,” William Stolz, a striking worker, told Vox. Stolz, who has been working as a picker at the Shakopee warehouse facility, describes his work as grueling. “It’s very mentally and physically stressful. Basically, we just want them to treat us with respect as human beings and not treat us like machines,” he said.With Amazon running more than a hundred warehouses across the U.S., Minnesota strikers are unlikely to succeed in influencing changes to shipping times promised to customers by the retail giant.Amazon’s response to the employees gathering in protest was that it already offers industry-leading pay of $15 per hour, benefits, and a safe workplace.Two presidential candidates expressed their support of the Prime Day protests on Twitter yesterday. Senator Bernie Sanders weighed in by saying that higher wages are just one way of honoring workers’ rights, referring to last year’s increase to a $15 minimum wage. He added that Amazon workers deserve safe working conditions, fair scheduling, and reasonable production demands. Senator Elizabeth Warren also expressed her full support of the workers who fight to hold big corporations accountable.Across Germany, workers rallied on Sunday night at Amazon sites in Werne, Rheinberg, Leipzig, Graben, Koblenz, and two locations in Bad Hersfeld and continued their strike on the first day of Amazon’s biggest shopping day of the year.Approximately 2,000 German workers headed by the labor union Verdi protested under the motto “No more discount on our incomes”."While Amazon throws huge discounts to its customers on Prime Day, employees lack a living wage," said Verdi retail specialist Orhan Akman.In addition to higher salaries, German workers ask for collective bargaining agreements to be recognized across the retail sector. “The company must finally recognize the collective wage agreements for the retail and mail order sectors,” Akman told Reuters. “Wages and salaries at Amazon must no longer be determined in the style of a lord of the manor.”Amazon spokesperson responded that the wages of German warehouse workers are “at the upper end of what is paid in comparable jobs”.

By Ivana V. July 16,2019

Microsoft’s London retail store opens its doors to the public for the first time today. The 22,000 square feet space, which is located in Oxford Circus - the heart of Europe’s busiest shopping district, displays everything Microsoft has to offer.As of today, visitors will be able to try out the latest tech the company boasts, including the McLaren Senna racing car customized for an Xbox game, HoloLens VR headset, and Surface Pro laptops. Visitors will also have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Microsoft experience by in the gaming center or the community education center.After New York and Sydney, the London store is the third flagship store in the world and the only retail outpost in Europe. Even though Microsoft has more than 80 brick-and-mortar selling points globally, the company put a lot of effort into creating a unique experience for shoppers at this particular location.Over two years in the making, Microsoft managed to showcase architectural features of the 1920s historic building that houses the store, such as leaded windows and ceilings, while transforming its interior into a modern tech hub. “As soon as we knew what we had in terms of the history of the building, there was never any doubt that we wanted to retain and restore that,” explains Simon Francis, Microsoft’s director of real estate, in an interview with The Verge.Apart from generating sales, the tech giant hopes to bring customers closer to its brand and create a unique atmosphere for shoppers and visitors in this metropolitan city.“It’s a destination for experiences, to see the very best of Microsoft in all its facets, not just about device sales,” Microsoft’s Chief Executive for the UK, Cindy Rose, said to The Guardian.The first floor houses giant 4K video walls playing Minecraft and a fitted model of a McLaren Senna that visitors can take for a test drive on Xbox.One floor higher is the home of the Xbox gaming center, equipped with 15 consoles, Xbox-themed gaming chairs, and Turtle Beach headsets for a deeply engaging gaming experience. On this floor, students and teachers can come to the workspace area and learn about the Minecraft: Education Edition game.The third and final floor is a designated business area with meeting rooms and event spaces where new services and hardware will be presented to business customers. When it comes to hardware, the interested public has the chance to try out some of the finest tech the company has produced recently, like the 28-inch Surface Studio and Surface Pro 6.“The Surface hardware that you see all throughout the store, that’s going to be a big, big seller,” Microsoft CMO, Chris Capossela said to CNBC. “There’s no doubt that a physical store is actually very good for choosing physical products and that’s part of why we’re here.”The Microsoft brick-and-mortar location opens one block away from Apple’s Regent Street store, which has been operating for fifteen years.

By Ivana V. July 11,2019

A leading U.S. retail group says that it’s prepared to offer their assistance to antitrust investigators set to look into the alleged “anti-competitive conduct” by Google and Amazon.The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) represents Target, Best Buy, and Walmart and is ready to offer its insights to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. “It’s pretty clear to us that the FTC and different relevant regulators should be taking a much closer look at these platform companies,” said Nicholas Ahrens, vice president of innovation for Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), in an interview. “We are here to help.”RILA has joined an avalanche of companies such as Yelp, News Corp., Oracle, and Tripadvisor in an effort to provide key information against Google and Amazon. Taking part in an ongoing investigation, this retailers’ group commented on the competitive harm the dominant tech platforms present before the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee.On Sunday, RILA wrote a letter to the FTC, suggesting the tech platforms are creating an “information bottleneck,” with enough power to skew markets and evade the traditional power of price competition. RILA also cited its concerns over Silicon Valley’s most prominent companies favoring their own products over those of other retailers selling on their platforms. The tech giants also collect data on competitors and might be using it to enable the proliferation of counterfeit goods.It should be “quite concerning to the commission that Amazon and Google control the majority of all internet product search, and can very easily affect whether and how price and product information actually reaches consumers,” the trade group said in a letter, responding to a series of hearings the agency held on competition policy.Amazon and Google’s representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.The FTC will oversee the investigation into Facebook and Amazon, while the Justice Department is set to probe Google and Apple, Bloomberg has reported. Last month the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee launched an extensive antitrust investigation into the tech industry, scheduling a hearing on the way Google and Facebook have affected the news industry.RILA also pointed to Amazon’s dominance in the field of eCommerce, where it accounts for almost 50% of U.S. online sales. Amazon, both a marketplace for third-party sellers and a retail giant, has drawn scrutiny over whether it’s using the abundance of sales data to prioritize its own products over those of smaller vendors. The EU is already investigating the issue and has prompted calls to break up the online retailer and other tech platforms.Amazon claims it’s only behind a small percentage of the total U.S. retail market and even suffers strong competition from the likes of Walmart.“RILA does not file this comment to complain about competition from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Visa, or any other technology or payments platform,” the group said. “Indeed, retail leaders comment to ask for more competition, not less. But all competition must be on a fair and level playing field.”

By Andrea July 02,2019

After Amazon announced on Tuesday that its Prime Day discounts would last for 48 hours this year, other online retailers including eBay, Target, and Walmart revealed their summer deals in an attempt to steal some of Amazon’s thunder.After last year’s 36-hour Prime Day, Amazon revealed that this July the shopping frenzy will last for two full days, on Monday the 15th and Tuesday the 16th.This has prompted competition among other eCommerce retailers who have begun to advertise their best offers this week, leading to a summer version of Black Friday.Amazon Prime Day During Amazon’s 48-hour summer shopping event, Prime members will have the opportunity to snag more than one million deals. From smart TVs and laptops to hi-fi headphones and Amazon devices like Echo, customers can expect the latest tech gear at significantly lower prices.The retail giant will also launch exclusive products and celebrity merchandise from the likes of Nickelodeon’s JoJo Siwa, and a Schwinn electric bike just for Prime members. Discounts will be available to more than 100 million Primer members in 18 countries worldwide.eBay Crash Sale One day after Amazon went public with its two-day special offer for customers paying $119 a year for membership, eBay tried to upstage its competitor with deals that will run through the first three weeks of July and free shipping for all customers, “no membership required, ever,” as stated in the announcement on its website.The main event of eBay’s three-week discounts is the Crash Sale, scheduled for July 15. If Amazon’s servers crash during the first day of Prime sales like they did last year, eBay will unlock a bunch of  “too-good-to-be-true deals,” including 80% discounts on top brands like LG, Apple, Samsung, KitchenAid, Garmin. Target Deal Days Target also threw its hat in the ring on Tuesday by announcing that it would be hosting Deal Days on dates coinciding with Amazon Prime Days.Target’s competitive advantage is that, unlike eBay and Amazon, it boasts brick-and-mortar stores in addition to its eCommerce website. This puts in the position to use physical stores as distribution centers and provide three different kinds of shipping. Shoppers can opt for same-day delivery, as well as two pick up options: drive up and order pick up.“Last year’s Target.com One-Day Sale was one of our biggest days of the year for online sales,” said Mark Tritton, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at Target. “This year, we’re giving guests more discounts across even more of our assortment with two days to save on hundreds of thousands of items and offering the best options in retail for delivery and pick up on their terms, including same-day.”By now it’s safe to say that Amazon started a national shopping holiday when it launched its first Prime Day five years ago. The “Black Friday in July” has retailers upping their game in a battle to win customers over.

By Ivana V. June 27,2019

Employees of the eCommerce home goods retailer announced a walkout from the company headquarters in Boston, MA this Wednesday to express their disagreement with the company’s decision to sell furniture to children’s detention camps at the Mexican border.Last week, Wayfair employees learned about the order of 1,600 mattresses and 100 bunk beds to be delivered to the Baptist Children’s Family Services (BCFS), a nonprofit organization that operates as a federal contractor managing some of the camps along the southern border.According to a copy of the sales receipt, mattresses worth $200,000 were paid for on June 13, and the delivery is scheduled for today and tomorrow. BCFS, which runs migrant facilities for the Department of Health and Human Services, is expected to open a new one in Carrizo Springs, TX. The facility will accommodate some 1,600 unaccompanied children detained at the Mexican border.In the midst of a migrant crisis that is shaking the nation, more than 500 Wayfair employees decided to express their “concerns and anger about the atrocities being committed at the Southern border” in a letter addressed to the company’s senior management. "The United States government and its contractors are responsible for the detention and mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking asylum in our country — we want that to end," the letter reads. "We also want to be sure that Wayfair has no part in enabling, supporting, or profiting from this practice."Organizers of the protest, who chose to stay anonymous for fear of losing their jobs, posted the undated letter sent to the company management to a Twitter account called Wayfairwalkout yesterday.They also shared a copy of the retailer’s response, which says Wayfair has no intention of dropping  BCFS as a customer. "As a retailer, it is standard practice to fulfill orders for all customers and we believe it is our business to sell to any customer who is acting within the laws of the countries within which we operate," the Wayfair's leadership team replied. "This does not indicate support for the opinions or actions of the groups or individuals who purchase from us."Upon receiving such a response, the workers announced a protest that will be held today afternoon at Boston’s Copley Square, in front of the company headquarters. One of the employees who spoke to CNN underlined that the walkout is "not meant as a censure on Wayfair," but as a way to show workers' continued concern about the inhuman conditions in which minors are being kept at detention camps.Employees also urge the leadership team to donate all the profits made from the sale of beds and mattresses to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a nonprofit organization that operates in Texas, reuniting separated immigrant families. According to the Wayfairwalkout Twitter account, the profits amount to $86,000.Wayfair stocks went down 5% on Tuesday.

By Ivana V. June 26,2019

Major retailers across the country are celebrating Pride month by selling clothing and other merchandise that honor LGBTQ culture, marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Vendors are joining the commemoration of Pride month with diversified offers and campaigns to raise money for different organizations that support the LGBTQ cause. Throughout June, digital billboards at Times Square have been advertising pride-related apparel and cosmetics sold in nearby stores like Levi’s, Sephora, and CoverGirl while the windows at Macy’s flagship store have been featuring rainbow colors. A bunch of other stores is riding the Pride wave - but whose interest are they aiding? Is their activism truly geared toward improving the welfare of the LGBTQ community, or could it be interpreted as just a marketing stunt, intended to raise brand awareness and boost profits? Who is raising funds? For which organizations? Ralph Lauren has designed a five-piece, gender-neutral clothing collection to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. The selection includes t-shirts, totes, hats, hoodies, and polo shirts. All the proceeds from t-shirts sold, as well as 50% of all the other items, will be donated to the Stonewall Community Foundation. Disney is commemorating Pride month 2019 with a Rainbow Disney Collection that features Mickey Mouse ears, backpacks, stuffed animals and other items. The conglomerate is giving 10% of profits made on these products in June to GLSEN, an education organization working to make schools around the country a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ students. MAC is also showing its appreciation for the LGBTQ community. Apart from selling its popular Viva Glam lipstick that’s been raising funds to help those living with HIV/AIDS for 25 years, the makeup company rolled out an exclusive collection to honor the 50th anniversary of the LGBTQ rights movement. Customers who spend more than $25 on products from this collection will get a free rainbow bag. In addition to this, the cosmetics company will donate $500,000 to GLAAD, a non-profit legal rights organization that fights discrimination. Stonewall Inn Uprising Before supporting the LGBTQ community became a profitable and popular endeavor among retailers, somebody had to stand up for their rights. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, but instead of taking the hits, gay men and drag queens fought back. Thus began the four-day riots which set the U.S. gay rights movement in motion. "Major corporations have turned LGBT struggles into marketing moments to make themselves look good," a longtime New York gay activist Bill Dobbs said to NBC. "The modern movement for gay rights was jump-started by Stonewall, and it's still a battle for the lives of LGBT people — not about selling trinkets and clothes with rainbow colors. They're a distraction." Even in the very likely scenario where the motivation behind retailers’ involvement in the LGBTQ movement is self-promotion, it is reassuring to know that the community is getting the funds it needs to continue its battle for acceptance and equality.

By Ivana V. June 24,2019

Imran Khan, a former Chief Strategy Officer at Snapchat, is rolling out his own online retail store that aims to compete with Amazon. The high-end eCommerce website goes live today with 160 brands and 4,000 products. For this ambitious venture, Imran teamed up with his wife, Cate. The Khans have years of executive and retail experience under their belts. Imran had been in the banking industry for decades before joining Snapchat’s executive team, and Cate used to be the Head of Strategy at Quidsi for eight years while Amazon owned it. “We want to be a company that is bringing joy back to the customers,” Khan said to CNBC. “It’s a harder business to build, but we want to be business and better for the consumer.” The Khans hope to create an online platform that high-quality brands can call home. Their business model entails purchasing goods from brands beforehand and keeping them in stock in order to ban counterfeit products and “shady third-party sellers” from Verishop. They believe this will help them establish trust with customers. Starting today, shoppers can use Verishop to order clothing from brands such as Levi’s, Citizens of Humanity, DVF, and AllSaints, home-goods from Cinnamon Projects, Boll & Branch, and Hawkins NY, or make-up from Kosas and RMS Beauty. This online shopping platform cuts out third-party merchants and offers its customers free returns and exchanges, around the clock customer support, and free two-day shipping. Besides the traditional product categories that can be found on most eCommerce websites like Women, Men, Home, and Beauty, Verishop offers two unique ones - Tastemakers the Responsible Shop. The Tastemakers category will be curated by influencers, says Khan. They’ll be able to hand-pick their favorite items sold on the website and explain to their fans why they chose them. The web store is launching with seven influencers on board, including Jess Conte, a beauty guru followed by 2.1 million people on Instagram, and Alex Costa, a menswear expert whose Youtube channel boasts 1.9 million subscribers. Each influencer has their own page with recommendations. With time, Khan says the number of influencers will grow. For shoppers more interested in preserving the environment than taking an internet celebrity’s fashion and beauty advice, Verishop has created a nook called The Responsible Shop. In this portion of the website, customers can find apparel made using fair-trade or organic materials and beauty products not tested on animals. Khan underscores that what differentiates his platform from Amazon and similar online shops is the fact it is a brand-safe environment where customers don’t need to worry about fake products and fake reviews. By selling goods from high-end brands that they’ll keep in their own stock, Khan intends to create more of an online department store shoppers can trust than an online marketplace.

By Ivana V. June 18,2019

The NYC-based brick-and-mortar kids’ clothes and toys retailer filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday, reporting that it had raised $10.5 million in funding.The company offered its equity-only stocks, aiming to gather $11 million but it came $500,000 short of it. Camp secured funds from 5 different investors, the SEC filing reveals, with the first investment made at the beginning of April.Camp is a New York City retail concept store that offers goods and experiences for children. It opens its doors seven days a week to the general public and its members alike. Both can purchase toys and clothing but also partake in the many family activities organized by the store. The family experience store provides fun and educational activities that range from dance and improv classes to arts and crafts and even kids yoga. A Camp membership card offers many perks, including access to two free activities a day, guest passes so that you can bring your friends along for the adventure, and complimentary refreshments. The free date night drop-off is among the highly popular members-only benefits, as it allows parents to enjoy three hours of alone time, knowing that their little ones are well taken care of and amused at Camp.With just one store on 5th Avenue at the moment, the brick-and-mortar retailer has announced it will open another one in Brooklyn soon without specifying the date or the exact location.Who is behind this project?Ben Kaufman is the founder and CEO of this camp-themed retail store that opened in December 2018. According to his Linkedin profile, he began working on the project in June last year.Apart from his role at Camp, he also works at Buzzfeed as the Chief Marketing Officer. He ventured into retail twice before founding the NYC-based shop. Back in 2005, Kaufman started his iPod accessories and batteries retail business called Mophie. He expanded his offer to smartphones before selling the company in 2016. Kaufman’s second, less successful venture was called Quirky. The company wanted to “make invention accessible” by bringing together a community of inventors, filtering out ideas, and helping to manufacture and launch the final product. He founded Quirky in 2009 and managed to raise more than $185 million in debt and equity funding before filing for bankruptcy in 2016.Even though Kaufman didn’t keep Quirky afloat, it’s precisely thanks to this project that he was able to secure RRE as an investor in Camp. RRE’s Jim Robinson who represented the VC company in Series A funding of Quirky was listed as an investor in Camp in September 2018, as reported in an earlier SEC filing submitted by Ben Kaufman.

By Ivana V. June 18,2019

Walmart (WMT), the grocery store, hypermarket, and discount department store giant, as well as America’s biggest employer, has started shutting down 17 stores in Canada and the U.S. Recent data analytics firm Placer indicates that the true reason behind Walmart closing stores isn’t a reduction in traffic, brand value, or customer loyalty. Quite the opposite: the closures have to do with Walmart’s most prominent competitor - Walmart itself. Currently, WMT operates more than 5,000 retail locations in the U.S. and seems to be its own main downsizing factor. One example of the first closures announced is the supercenter in Dallas, Texas, located near two other huge WMT stores.   The doomed Dallas supercenter is by no means underperforming, with over 450,000 visits in Q1 2019, from over 150,000 customers. The data indicates the Dallas supercenter is a popular destination for frequent repeat visits, showing superb customer loyalty. Furthermore, it ranked 86th percentile in Q1 2019 foot traffic, among all WMT supercenters. Their traffic surpasses the average WMT numbers by nearly 50%. With regards to the supercenter's measurable success, Placer blames the announced closure on WMT putting nearby its stores in direct competition. The True Trade Area data for the same Dallas location shows an overlap with customers of the other two WMT supercenters. Which Walmart to choose, that is the question. A similar situation is unfolding in Louisiana, Lafayette, where a WMT was shut down because visitors overlapped with a nearby store in Carenco.   “Walmart’s strength has led to a rapid expansion of stores throughout the country, that in some cases, ended up putting stores into direct competition,” Pacer’s analysts wrote. Can Walmart Avoid Cannibalization? Is avoiding cannibalization even possible for corporations of WMT’s magnitude? Market planning optimization seems to be a viable solution, according to other top performers. Currently, there are four IKEA locations surrounding LA, identical in product and service quality.  Even their Google ratings match, three of them with 4.4 stars and the remaining with 4.3. Still, IKEA managed to make a near-perfect store distance assessment, with regard to the particular audience they want to target. From the perspective of IKEA visitors, there’s an ideal location near them, and then there’s the other three, less interesting solutions. This is how IKEA avoids traffic overlap altogether. Proper region optimization could help Walmart maximize its reach, avoid cannibalization, and grow at a sustainable rate.

By Andrea June 18,2019