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Instacart and Whole Foods: "winding down" their relationship

Costco: Q1 results reveal strong start to its new financial year

US: New stores, remodels boost Village Super Market in Q1
The new ShopRite store that opened in the Bronx this summer helped to raise sales for owner Village Super Market in its fiscal first quarter, while recently remodeled and expanded stores drove an increase in comps. Village, a 30-store operator based in Springfield, N.J., said sales increased 3.7% to $401.6mln in the quarter, which ended October 27, boosted in part by the opening of a new store in the Bronx borough of New York this summer. Recent remodels and expansions in the meantime drove a 1.3% increase in same-store sales, a figure partially offset by a competitive opening, the company said.

US: Instacart severs ties with Whole Foods
Instacart and Whole Foods are "winding down" their relationship after what has been a four-year partnership, immediately beginning the first phase of a transition that will affect hundreds of jobs. In a blog entry, Apoorva Mehta, CEO of the San Francisco-based grocery technology company, announced that his company will begin scaling back its in-store shopper operations at Whole Foods stores, totalling 1,415 associates across 76 locations. Some 243 will be impacted starting February 10, 2019, and in the months that follow, Instacart expects to ramp down all remaining Whole Foods in-store shopping operations to prepare for the Austin, Texas-based grocer's exit from the Instacart marketplace.

Canada: Empire Company reports strong fiscal 2019 second quarter results
Empire Company Limited ("Empire" or the "Company") announced its financial results for the second quarter ended November 3, 2018. For the quarter, the Company recorded adjusted net earnings, net of non-controlling interest, of $110.4mln ($0.40 per diluted share) compared to $73.9mln ($0.27 per diluted share) in the second quarter last year. "In what has been our strongest quarter since we began the transformation of Empire, we are extremely pleased with the top and bottom line numbers the team put up on the board. Our trajectory and momentum continue to trend in the right direction with strong sales and tonnage growth, stabilized margins, a significant decline in our costs, and a 48% earnings improvement", said Michael Medline, President and CEO, Empire Company Limited. "We have a ways to go, but we are setting ourselves up for long-term success through strategic moves such as Project Sunrise, FreshCo 2.0, our Ocado-driven e-commerce platform and the recent acquisition of Farm Boy."

US: Costco’s Q1 off to a strong start
Costco’s first quarter results reveal a strong start to its new financial year. First quarter net revenue increased 10.2%, with comparable store sales (ex-fuel and currency impacts) up 7.5%. Growth was driven by the US, with comp sales up 8.3%. The retailer also saw a continuation of sales trends within its ecommerce operations, with sales up 26.2%. Net income in the quarter was up 19.8% to $767mln. Costco benefited from stronger traffic, up 4.9% globally and 5.2% in the US, along with higher membership renewal rates. This highlights the compelling nature of Costco’s offer.

Kenya: Retail chain Tumaini sells majority stake to Sokoni
Emerging retail chain Tumaini Self Service Limited has sold a majority stake to Sokoni Retail Kenya, marking the latest acquisition in the supermarket business. It adds to the buyout of Ukwala Supermarkets by Choppies of Botswana in 2015. Tumaini said its new controlling shareholder, Sokoni, has provided new capital that will be used to expand the business. The transaction has been approved by the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK).

Spain: Dia in 'advanced conversations' to refinance bank debt
Spanish retail group Dia has said that it has entered into a standby underwriting commitment with Morgan Stanley & Co. International plc, for an amount of €600mln, as the group seeks to strengthen its capital structure. The group said that it will put the commitment, under which Morgan Stanley will undertake to place and, failing that, to subscribe 100% of such amount, to its shareholders.

Croatia: Agrokor Group generated almost HRK 20bln in revenues and HRK 1.7bln in EBITDA
The Extraordinary Administration has published its 20th monthly report covering the operations of 16 companies from Agrokor's three business segments - Retail & Wholesale, Food and Agriculture. The report relates to the period from 11 November to 10 December 2018, over the course of which the companies have generated almost HRK 20bn in revenues, with EBITDA for the period amounting to HRK 1,708mln, in line with the planned values. The greatest contribution to the operating result comes from the Food sector, with EBITDA exceeding the budget by almost HRK 70mln, as well as Retail and Wholesale, with EBITDA outperforming budgeted values by HRK 28.7mln or 7.2%.

UK: Ocado upbeat on 2019 prospects after transformative year
British online grocer Ocado saw sales growth edge higher over the last three months, forecast a strong Christmas and said it was confident about prospects for 2019, sending its shares higher. The stock has more than doubled over the last year thanks to four major overseas technology partnerships, including its biggest yet with U.S. group Kroger. They rose as much as 3.9% on Thursday. “Although in many respects 2018 has been a transformative year for Ocado, the story has only just begun,” said Chief Executive Tim Steiner, adding that the new year would bring “substantial opportunities”. Ocado’s retail revenue grew 12% to 390.7mln pounds in the 13 weeks to December 2, its fiscal fourth quarter, having risen 11.5% in the previous quarter.

Czech Republic: Online supermarket Rohlík launches pick-up kiosks in Prague
On-line grocery store is launching refrigerated pick up points in selected large office centers in Prague and Brno. The cooling boxes, called Rohlík Points, are designed to store smaller purchases (starting at 300 CZK) and will offer free shipping. Currently, the minimum amount for delivery from is 500 CZK with the customer also paying for delivery. The roughly two-meter-high dispenser boxes, which combine glass and wood elements, are divided into frozen and fresh compartments. A PIN code will be required to pick up orders and will be sent via SMS as soon as the courier physically puts the bags in the box, within an estimated two hours after the order is placed. Tomáš Čupr, founder of the Czech Republic’s largest domestic online supermarket, says the company wants to create a broad distribution network in the future, but will initially focus on delivery to the largest office centers in the Czech capital including Meteor center in Karlín, O2 Za Brumlovka, and Anděl Park office centers.

Swedish grocery retailer ICA Gruppen steps up investment
ICA Gruppen, the owner of Sweden’s biggest supermarket chain, said it would increase investments next year to 4bln crowns (350mln pounds) from 3.5bln crowns in 2018 as it adapts to a rapidly changing market. The group, whose food retailer ICA Sweden has four store concepts and operates through a franchise-like system, said in a statement that it had doubled IT investment in 2018 and it would continue to invest heavily in its store network, IT, customer relations and e-commerce.

Africa's biggest grocer opens doors in Kenya to battle Carrefour
Shoprite Holdings Ltd. is seeking a foothold in Kenya’s retail industry, where the collapse of two local supermarket chains has created opportunities for Africa’s biggest grocer and its international rivals. The Cape Town-based firm opened its first store in Nairobi on Thursday, at a site previously occupied by struggling Nakumatt Holdings Ltd., which has shuttered all but six stores in East Africa’s biggest economy. French retailer Carrefour SA, Wal-Mart Inc.-controlled Massmart Holdings Ltd. and Choppies Enterprises Ltd. of Botswana are also seeking to fill space left by the debt-ridden company and state-backed Uchumi Supermarkets Plc, which is facing a winding-up petition.

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