Kroger begins construction on first of its kind in the nation facility

Amazon: visual search engine launched

US: Kroger begins construction on $55mln robotic warehouse for home delivery
Kroger has started construction on a $55mln robotic warehouse in Mason that will power home delivery of groceries when it begins operations in 2021. The facility, which will employ more than 400 workers, will be the first of its kind in the nation. Kroger and its partner, British online grocer Ocado, plan to build 20 similar facilities across America to expand home delivery of groceries. Kroger has indicated the locations of the next two such facilities: one will be built in central Florida and another in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Hudson’s Bay leaves Germany, trouble for Dutch stores
Canadian Hudson’s Bay Company wants to leave Europe and the stock exchange. The Dutch stores are an exception and remain part of the company - for now. HBC is selling its minority stake in the German merger company Galeria Kaufhof Karstadt to its Austrian partner Signa Holding. Its owner, billionaire René Benko, pays a billion euros to the Canadian company, that needs money to settle part of its debts and will fall back to only focusing on the North American market.

US: St. Louis independent grocer Dierbergs launches curbside pickup
Independent grocer Dierbergs Market, with 25 stores mostly in the St. Louis metro area, now offers curbside grocery pickup as part of its collaboration with Shipt, which offers Dierbergs Delivered Fresh same-day delivery. Customers can now select delivery or pickup when placing an order through the Shipt app or “Today’s lifestyles are very busy. It’s important that we give our customers easy, convenient and personalized ways to shop our stores”, said Andy Pauk, Dierbergs' COO. “That means you can visit us in our stores; order online for delivery to your home, office, or even your kid’s soccer game; or now just pull up to our store and we’ll load up your groceries without you having to leave your car.”

Amazon launches visual search engine
On Amazon, you can now look for a particular outfit based on a picture. StyleSnap is a new addition to the online retailer's app, which recognises photographs with artificial intelligence. Amazon has revealed Stylesnap, with which customers can take or select a picture and use it to look for similar products. The tool is currently only intended for fashion products. It works with artificial intelligence and does a lot more than just photographic recognition: the search results and recommendations also take into account factors such as brand, price category and customer reviews. "The simplicity of the customer experience belies the complexity of the technology behind it", Consumer Worldwide CEO Jeff Wilke explained.

Myanmar: Metro Wholesale keen to expand into more cities
Metro Wholesale Myanmar is seeking to expand its operations, according to a recent interview in The Nation. The German-headquartered wholesale food-and-grocery retailer is looking to open in Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw, Taunggyi and other major metropolitan locations in the region. “We are constantly expanding our customer base and have set a very ambitious target. You will see good news in the very near future”, said Metro Wholesale Myanmar CEO Jens Michel. “The market response to our launch [in March] has been absolutely phenomenal. We have experienced huge customer interest in what we are doing, and have seen an enormous amount of new customers coming.”

France: A new logistic platform for Lidl in Paris
The Lidl group will install at Coudray-Montceaux, in the business park Haies-Blanches, a logistics platform of 47,000 m2 and its headquarters for the Paris region and southern Paris. It will be one of the largest platforms of the group in France. The headquarters will occupy 5,000 m2 of surface. The Panhard Development Group develops the building for Lidl as part of a Befa (commercial lease in a future state of completion). The building is designed by Archifactory Architects and wants to be energy efficient. The platform will have 250 employees and will be used to supply the 37 stores in Paris and Ile-de-France. The commissioning of the building is expected in the first quarter of 2020.

UK: Waitrose & Partners extends Rapid Delivery trial outside London
Waitrose & Partners is to extend its Waitrose Rapid Delivery trial outside London for the first time following its success in the capital. The service, which enables customers to have up to 25 grocery items from a choice of more than 2,000 products, delivered to their home or office, within two hours or less or on the same day, will be available in both Bath and Hove from the 8 and 15 July, respectively. The retailer is also adding 58 London postcodes in areas, including Battersea, High Street Kensington, Bayswater, Victoria and Kingston.

Australia: Wesfarmers buying online retailer Catch in e-commerce push
Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers is buying e-commerce retailer Catch Group for about $160mln to boost the small online footprint of its retail units such as Kmart and Target amid a big shift by domestic shoppers to the web. Wesfarmers’ third M&A push this year comes as it looks to widen its base from traditional brick-and-mortar retail business and as domestic retailers battle to keep customers from switching to the likes of online giant Inc. “From Wesfarmers’ point of view, it gives them the digital and e-commerce capabilities that they were trying to build... you can either spend 10 years building it up, or you can go and buy one, and they’ve gone and bought one”, said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

India: Jumbotail raises $12.7mln to digitize convenience stores with its wholesale marketplace
With most small grocery stores in India yet to get online, startups racing to digitize them continue to see promising backing from investors. Jumbotail, an online wholesale marketplace for grocery and food items, said it has raised $12.7mln to scale its operations. The Series B financing round for the Bangalore-based startup was led by Heron Rock, with participation from Capria Fund, BNK Ventures and William Jarvis and existing investors Nexus Venture Partners, and Kalaari Capital.

Cracks emerge in Japan's brick-and-mortar economy
Retailers and restaurants in Japan are shrinking their chains as a combination of e-commerce and population decline forces changes to business models that had relied on constant new openings to drive earnings growth. The country now has just under 118,000 retail and restaurant locations, down 1% from the total at the end of 2018, a Nikkei analysis based on trade group data finds. And the decline threatens to quicken as Japan catches up to the U.S., where once-proud chain stores are dying off, in the extent of online shopping. "The retail industry as a whole is suffering from a glut of stores", said President Takashi Sawada of FamilyMart, under FamilyMart Uny Holdings. Japan's second-largest convenience store chain has cut locations for two straight years.

Sweden: ICA sees sales up by 0.2% in May
Swedish retailer ICA Gruppen has posted a 0.2% year-on-year increase in sales amounting to SEK 1.04bln (€968.5mln) for the month of May. Maxi ICA Stormarknad and ICA Kvantum saw sales increase by 3.0% and 5.5% respectively during the period. However, sales in ICA Supermarket dropped by 4.3%, while ICA Nära registered a decline of 3.9%. The retail group has estimated the calendar effect for May to be +1.6%. Sales for the period between January to May 2019 grew 2.8% year-on-year to SEK 4.9bln (€4.6bln).

UK: Tesco reports sharp slowdown in underlying sales growth
Tesco has reported a sharp slowdown in underlying sales growth, as political uncertainty and volatile weather held back consumer spending. Like-for-like sales at Britain’s biggest supermarket chain rose 0.4% year-on-year in its first quarter ended 25 May, down from 1.7% in the previous three months. Total sales fell 0.4%, hit by the firm’s decision to close its non-food arm Tesco Direct last July. Tesco’s chief executive, Dave Lewis, insisted that Tesco’s turnaround was on track and said it had outperformed rivals in a “subdued market”. Like-for-like sales have grown for 14 quarters in a row.

Russia: X5 Retail Group & Unilever agree circular economy commitments
X5 Retail Group N.V and Unilever have signed an agreement of intent to implement circular economic principles when working together. The retailer said in a statement that the agreement was signed on the margins of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum by Х5 Retail Group CEO Igor Shekhterman and the Unilever president in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, JV Raman. The companies agreed to begin a partnership programme of installation of reverse vending machines (RVM). These are branded kiosks that take used consumer plastic containers for further recycling. Rewards are given to shoppers that deposit plastic containers to RVMs in Perekrestok and Karusel stores, such as discounts on new purchases. The retailer said that this creates a closed economic cycle that enables Unilever to act as a responsible producer, selling its products in eco-friendly packaging made from recycled materials.

UK: Morrisons and Amazon expanding same-day deliveries
Morrisons and Amazon say they will expand their same-day delivery service for groceries to Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield and Portsmouth. Morrisons agreed to supply Amazon with groceries in 2016 and the service now includes delivery within the hour for some customers. So far shoppers in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and some parts of London can use the same-day service. More cities will be added in "future years," the two companies said.

New Zealand: Countdown will offer paper bags as ban on plastic takes hold
Countdown customers will soon be offered the option of buying 20c paper bags to have their groceries packed into. The supermarket chain is preparing for the government ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, which takes effect on July 1. Kiri Hannifin, Countdown's sustainability general manager, said customers had shown a willingness to move to reusable bags. "Bringing your own bags is a behaviour change that New Zealanders are really getting behind, and it's always our first preference", Hannifin said.

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