Walmart is starting off 2021 by losing one of its key e-commerce executives. Marc Lore, who has led Walmart's e-commerce strategy since the big-box retailer acquired his startup Jet.com for $3.3 billion, announced he was leaving Walmart after nearly five years. It leaves Walmart without the person who has previously been deemed the architect of its e-commerce strategy. All this during a year in which e-commerce is likely to once again experience tremendous growth — and as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.
As one of the biggest furniture retailers in the country, Ikea has greatly benefitted from the pandemic's e-commerce boom. However, the brand's mobile shopping capabilities have always lagged behind its in-store shopping experience. The company is hoping to improve its mobile experience with a newly-launched U.S. app.
Walmart has big plans to enter the fintech space. Although few retail companies offer financial services in the U.S., e-commerce companies in Asia -- including Alibaba, Rakuten, Shopee and others -- have made themselves into hubs not only for goods but also for everyday banking needs. These companies give out loans to customers, take bank deposits and facilitate transactions that are not directly related to e-commerce -- like paying for utility bills -- and they offer one possible path forward for U.S. retailers looking to add a financial services arm.
Existing pharmacies are attempting to revamp their offerings following a rocky year. Walgreens, for instance, is emphasizing the speed of pickup at its store, while Rite Aid is putting money toward sleep products, essential oils and other new-age health goods. The Covid-19 vaccine will offer a unique chance for these pharmacies to make their pitch to consumers and draw new customers.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more consumers have discovered semi-ready health-focused meal kits. Now, emerging startups in this niche category -- which include Factor, Provenance Meals and CookUnity -- are finding a new cohort of customers embracing their delivery menus.
A boom both in online shopping and sales of home goods have helped give Bed Bath & Beyond new life. The big-box retailer has reported more than 75% growth in e-commerce sales during each of the last three quarters. The company's chief digital officer, Rafeh Masood, spoke with Modern Retail about how the company is seeking to capitalize on its e-commerce growth.
"The genie is out of the bottle" for contactless transactions, said one analyst, as 2021 is set to help the method accelerate even more. After months of avoiding touching POS systems, experts say shoppers are increasingly on board to tap and go to pay for their goods in the age of coronavirus.
Last year, a number of major fashion brands -- Lululemon, Adidas, Stella McCartney and Gucci -- announced they were investing “seven-figure sums” to produce clothes and shoes made out of mycelium fabric with a startup called Bolt Threads. Bolt Threads specializes in a mycelium-based leather it calls Mylo -- and as the leather industry continues to slide, driven in part by concerns about sustainability and animal rights, startups are pitching fungi as an environmentally friendly replacement.
Off-price stores, including TJ Maxx and Ross, are recovering a lot quicker than many bankrupt retail counterparts. While department stores with robust online shopping presence continue to struggle, discount chains -- that still rely mostly on in-store purchases -- are finding loyal customers returning for bargains amid the pandemic.
More people bought holiday items online, and returns volumes are likely to hit record highs. And these items may end up on a liquidation site or at a warehouse, where small businesses, resellers or regular consumers can buy bundles of products at steep discounts. In recent months, many of those liquidators have reported a surge in inventory, right as resale platforms like Poshmark are ballooning in popularity. And to unload products faster, the two industries are partnering up.
The architect of JCPenney's most recent turnaround plan has left the company. Last week, JCPenney announced that CEO Jill Soltau was leaving the company effective December 31. During Soltau's two-year tenure, she started to take some steps JCPenney around, by paring down the company's in-store assortment, redesigning some of its private label brands, and had started to experiment with new store formats. But some analysts said she didn't move quickly before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, JCPenney's path forward under its new owners, Simon and Brookfield, is unclear.
It took it nearly three decades since its humble beginnings, but the QR code is officially considered hip. Thanks to its ubiquitous presence at shops and restaurants across the country, this year the QR code's technology is making up for lost time.
Oddly, 2020 might prove to be the year of the zombie brand. Even the companies that did shutter their physical stores are on track to find a second life online, thanks to companies like Retail Ecommerce Ventures buying rights to the brands out of bankruptcy.
Nearly 30 retailers have filed for bankruptcy so far in 2020, closing thousands of a stores. But a few of those businesses have been acquired by consortia like Authentic Brands Group. Most recently ABG has purchased Brooks Brothers, Forever 21 and Barneys -- all ailing for their own set of reasons. ABG's philosophy seems simple, and predicated on past wins: buy low and eke out profit any way you can every step of the way. The question remains: Who's next?
Social selling just recently began to take off in the U.S., but the trend is quickly evolving to include everything from virtual cooking classes to artisan services. As marketplace Zazzle's investment in its Zazzle Live shows, demand for on-demand digital activities is beginning to stick.
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