Logistics experts who spoke to Modern Retail did not express fears of mass delays and shortages on the scale of what the world saw in the spring. Retailers and logistics companies alike are far more prepared for the surge in vaccine capacity now than they were for the e-commerce rush in March. But for food products that -- like the vaccines -- require cold storage, smaller-scale shipping delays and price increases are not out of the question, especially for small and mid-sized businesses that might not have the resources to fight for their slot in the cold-storage chain.
In the U.S., only a tiny sliver of people shop on WhatsApp. But the potential for WhatsApp -- which boasts over 2 billion users worldwide -- is significant. That suggests WhatsApp's biggest benefit might not be for international brands, but for local stores without a lot of money to spend on a slick e-commerce site. In turning WhatsApp into a shopping platform, Facebook is actually placing a bet on localized e-commerce.
Amazon just bought Perpule, an India-based tech company that helps local mom and pop stores -- called kirana stores -- move their product catalogs online and implement contactless checkout. Amazon’s interest in kirana stores goes much deeper than a desire to just make profits from digitizing small businesses -- instead, Amazon sees small stores as both drivers of fulfillment for the company and as sources of growth for other Amazon products, including Amazon Pay.
With the US.. still very much in the clutches of the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine what a return to normal could look like, let alone an entirely new normal. But retailers in China and Hong Kong, which have both been in some stage of reopening for a matter of months, have managed to tease out some kind of normalcy -- using a variety of new, old and updated tricks. All the while, they’re likely leading the way for the rest of the world.
Japanese retailer Muji announced that the U.S. arm of its business will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Muji currently has 18 stores in the United States, and is reportedly mulling scaling back that footprint. It's certainly not the only retailer facing similar hardships, but the Japanese company has had its own set of problems since before the pandemic.
Global retail markets are beginning to reopen. The question remains whether consumers are ready to go back into public. With lockdown restrictions now being eased by some governments, small green shoots of recovery are beginning to emerge. Modern Retail and Glossy reporters took a (virtual) trip around the globe to see where shopping is beginning to restart and if shoppers are ready to spend money once again in the real world.
At this point, many factory and facility workers have stopped going to work, due to quarantine orders and restricted transit. And following last month’s Chinese New Year holiday, the result is a backlog of unfulfilled shipments that continues to grow. While dips in overall sales figures aren’t yet being seen by all, the fear of running out of stock going into the coming months has sellers on high alert to plan ahead.
On Monday, Amazon announced a partnership with brick-and-mortar chain Future Retail, that will allow customers to order products from the company through Amazon India. With six different chains and more than 1,500 stores, Future Retail is one of the largest brick-and-mortar retailers in the country. Amazon has had a 3.58% stake in Future Retail since February, and also has stakes in Indian supermarket operator More, and fashion label Shoppers' Stop. Meanwhile, its biggest competitor Walmart completed a $16 billion acquisition of Flipkart, the biggest e-commerce player in the country, in August. It was Walmart's biggest acquisition to date.
In April, Lululemon set a five-year-strategic plan with an aggressive goal for its international business: to quadruple sales generated outside of North America by 2023. In order to do so, Lululemon is opening stores in Europe and Asia at an aggressive pace -- of the 45 to 50 stores Lululemon is projecting it will open this year, about 30 of those will be outside of North America. But it also sees hosting localized events and developing customized e-commerce sites for each country it wants to gain market share as critical to its goals.
Alibaba wants US small-to-medium sized business to use its platform to sell wholesale. It's a clear move to both enter the North American market and compete with Amazon. The question remains: will US companies be interested?
The retailer, first opened by tailor Fred Segal in 1961, had its heyday in the nineties and early aughts, when it became the first to sell Kate Spade and Juicy Couture, and served as a popular haunt of Paris Hilton and the Olsen twins. Though it’s recently faced instability, its growth plans are unprecedentedly ambitious. As its new owner sees it, with today’s consumers craving authenticity, the brand’s reputation is the ultimate foundation.
Through the official partnership, VF gets access to data from Alibaba’s 654 million-customer database across its marketplaces, including Tmall and Taobao. With that data and TMIC, VF can more readily identify customer trends, test new products before launching them, build customer data profiles and track products post-launch in order to judge how well they’re performing with Chinese customers.
Lululemon is seeing positive results from its investments in new categories like men's, e-commerce capabilities and international growth. During its first quarter earnings report on Wednesday, the company saw revenue increase 20% over the same period last year, to $782 million.
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