Walmart: new step stools in its warehouses

Amazon has overtaken Google and Apple to become world’s most valuable brand

US: Walmart & Electrify America reveal completion of 120+ charging stations
Walmart and Electrify America opened more than 120 ultra-fast electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at the mega-retailer’s stores in 34 states. Building upon the original commitment unveiled in April 2018, the companies plan to open more Electrify America charging stations at Walmart stores across the country. The partnership is expected to make Walmart one of the largest retail hosts of EV charging stations in the United States, while furthering Electrify America’s mission to help promote greater zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) adoption through a fast and convenient charging network.

Amazon beats Apple and Google to become the world’s most valuable brand
Amazon has overtaken Google and Apple to become the world’s most valuable brand at $315.5bln, according to a ranking of global companies, up 52% on last year. Apple comes second, valued at $309.5bln, with Google in third place, at $309bln, according to the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand ranking 2019, compiled by WPP research agency Kantar. Google and Apple had spent a combined 12 years at the top of the list, with Google taking the top spot in 2018.

US: Aldi moves into Walmart's backyard
Less than a mile from Walmart's massive headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, a new neighbor has settled in: German discount grocery store Aldi. Aldi opened a store in Bentonville in October. It's part of Aldi's $5bln plan to expand to 2,500 stores in America by the end of 2022, up from around 1,900 today. Aldi is on track to become the third-largest grocery chain in the country behind Walmart (WMT) and Kroger (KR). "There is a lot of buzz in northwest Arkansas about the new Aldi store", said Annibal Sodero, a former assistant professor of supply chain management at the University of Arkansas. Aldi poses a "significant threat" to Walmart and seems "very well positioned to gain market share in the short run", she said.

US: Walmart will save $30mln by putting new step stools in its warehouses
CEO Doug McMillon said at the retailer’s annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, that Walmart will save at least $30mln this year by swapping out existing stepping stools in its distribution centers with a lighter-weight version. Workers are supposed to use these stools to pack tractor trailers with items - all the way to the roof - McMillon explained. The goal is to get as much in a trailer as possible, in order to reduce road mileage and cut costs. But a prior version of the stool that Walmart was providing workers was “clunky, big and heavy”, he said. And so trailers weren’t being packed all the way to the top because some people weren’t using the stool. They didn’t want to carry it around. Now, after creating a lighter-weight version of the stepping stool that’s much easier to handle, Walmart is doing a “much better job” of packing trailers, McMillon said. Good enough to save the company millions of dollars annually.

Finland: Grocery retailers in the dark about plans to tackle private-label products
The implications of the Finnish government’s intent to rein in private-label products remain unknown also to grocery retailers, says Mikko Helander, the chief executive of Kesko. The government states in its newly published government programme that it is planning on improving the position of farmers in the food chain the limit the dominant bargaining position of large retail chains with legislative measures on, for example, private-label products. “Retailers have yet to figure out what the section means exactly. It deals first and foremost with issues associated with contract relationships and, kind of as a separate issue, makes mention of private-label brands”, says Helander.

UK: Tesco raises wages for store and warehouse workers by 10.45%
Tesco has awarded its shop floor staff a 10.45% rise in hourly pay over the next two years to £9.30 an hour but offset it by ditching their annual bonus. In September the supermarket will increase minimum hourly pay for its store and warehouse workers from £8.42, one of the lowest rates among the grocers, to £9 an hour, bringing Tesco into line with current rates paid by Lidl and Asda and ahead of Morrisons. However, Morrisons staff, who are expected to get a pay rise this autumn, receive a bonus equivalent to up to 3% of annual salary. The Tesco pay rise, equivalent to nearly £1,200 for someone on a 30-hour week, will be offset by a loss of an annual cash bonus, which amounted to a maximum of 3.5% for all staff this year.

Short-seller Muddy Waters defends its research on Casino after critical French probe
U.S. short-selling firm Muddy Waters rejected the preliminary findings of a probe by France’s AMF financial regulator into its criticism of retailer Casino. “We vehemently disagree with the preliminary conclusions of the AMF investigation team, which we believe are tainted by bias”, Muddy Waters said in a e-mailed statement. Newspaper Le Monde reported that the AMF regulator suspects Muddy Waters of “deception” regarding supermarket retailer Casino whose shares have been hurt by Muddy Waters’ negative comments. Reuters did not see the AMF preliminary report Le Monde and Muddy Waters were citing. Casino declined to comment.

SPAR Russia opens first store in Omsk
Growing its presence across the country, SPAR Russia has expanded into southwestern Siberia with the opening of the first EUROSPAR Supermarket in Omsk. A key feature of the EUROSPAR Supermarket and a first for the city of Omsk, is the extensive instore fresh food offering, which is advertised with the slogan: “As tasty as a home-cooked meal, as varied as a restaurant menu.” Throughout the 2,000m2 supermarket, food stations can be found where freshly prepared dishes are made by specialised instore chefs. Customers can choose from a diverse menu including shawarma, pasta, pancakes, tortillas, and pizza. In the self-service area, there is also a large selection of ready-made meals for customers to grab while on the go. Adding to the choice of instore food options, the supermarket houses a cosy café that caters for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or simply a short coffee break. At the instore bakery, customers are treated to a choice of breads and pastries, baked according to traditional recipes. The range of over 100 baked goods also includes croissants, pies and buns. The shelves are replenished every hour to ensure that only the freshest assortments are available.

Global online FMCG sales see 20% boost in 2018
Global online fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sales rose by 20.3% last year, with e-commerce now accounting for 5.1% of grocery sales worldwide, new data from Kantar has found. Growth was driven by the US and mainland China, Kantar’s data found, which together represent 84% of the growth in global e-commerce. The best-performing European country, the study found, was Italy, which saw 26.3% growth in FMCG e-commerce last year. Germany saw online FMCG sales growth of 11.5%, Spain was up by 9.1%, France rose by 5.7% and the UK was up 3.5%. In Western Europe, 4.1% of grocery sales came through e-commerce, last year, Kantar said. In Eastern Europe, however, online FMCG is less developed, accounting for just 1.9% of sales in 2018.

UK: Booths supermarket plans to drop paid breaks for staff
Food and drink retailer Booths is planning to scrap paid breaks for all staff. The supermarket chain says it wants to pay staff above the National Living Wage. Removing paid breaks will enable it to reinvest the money in staff pay, it says. Booths staff get extra breaks in the morning and afternoon.

Amazon to account for one fifth of UK online spend by 2024
Amazon is set to continue experiencing exponential growth with UK retail revenue set to rise 58.2% over the next five years to reach £15.7bln by 2024, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. GlobalData’s report: ‘Amazon Strategic Review - 2019’ reveals that the food & grocery sector is anticipated to be the largest growth area for Amazon, rising 174.7% between 2019 and 2024, in comparison to the total grocery sector which is forecast to grow by 15.5% over the same period. James Yacoub, Retail Analyst for GlobalData commented: “Although food has not historically been a focal point for the online pureplay, it will prioritise investment in this sector through ramping up its Amazon Fresh operation, developing Whole Foods and introducing its checkout-free Amazon Go stores. Overall Amazon will grow its total online market share to 19.8% in 2024, up from 16.6% in 2019.”

Russian supermarket chain X5 scouting for Israeli tech
London-listed Russian supermarket chain X5 Retail Group N.V. is scouting for Israeli startups for investment and collaboration opportunities, Ivan Melnik, the company’s director of business development, said in an interview with Calcalist. The company is particularly interested in startups focusing on the domains of customer experience, store operation, smart shelving, pricing systems, robotics, supporting supply chains, tracking shipments and controlling food quality and freshness, Melnik said.

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