Carrefour: store with facial recognition and sensors

Costco: first physical store in China

China: Alibaba reshuffles management, CFO Wu to oversee strategic investment unit
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said its chief financial officer, Maggie Wu, will oversee the firm's strategic acquisitions and investments unit, as part of a business and management reshuffle at the e-commerce giant. Wu will take over from executive vice-chairman Joe Tsai, who will support Wu in her new role, Alibaba said in a statement on its official WeChat account. It did not elaborate further on Tsai's move. Its supermarket division, Freshippo, will become a standalone business, and enterprise software unit DingTalk will be merged into the firm's cloud unit, Alibaba said, adding that the changes are effective from Tuesday.

Sweden: Coop cleared to take over Netto's Swedish operation
Coop Sweden has been granted approval by the Swedish Competition Authority to complete its acquisition of Netto's Swedish stores. Following the approval, Coop Butiker & Stormarknader, which operates some 240 of Coop's 650 stores across Sweden plans to formally take control of the stores in early July and commence a restructuring process in early autumn. Coop announced its plans to take over Netto's Swedish stores in early May, with 163 stores set to convert to Coop outlets after a transitional period. "It is very positive that the Swedish Competition Authority handled the case effectively, which means that we can now move on and implement the deal", said Christian Wijkström, CEO of Coop Butiker & Stormarknader. "Coop aims to take over the Netto stores in early July and then start work on converting Netto's stores to Coop", he added.

Japan: Rakuten and Seiyu launching drone delivery service in Sarushima
Rakuten and Seiyu will deliver products from the Seiyu LIVIN Yokosuka Store in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, to visitors in Sarushima via drones. Starting on 4 July 2019, the new initiative will service Sarushima, a popular sightseeing destination and the only uninhabited island in Tokyo Bay. It will run for around three months, and Rakuten Drones will ground at a landing port built on Sarushima. To use the service, visitors will need to download the Rakuten Drone app onto their smartphone and place orders through the app. A range of approx. 400 products will be available to order, including fresh produce for barbecues, beverages and first-aid products. This will be supplied by the Seiyu LIVIN Yokosuka Store located on the shore opposite the island.

Belgium: Supermarkets and restaurants commit to stop using single-use plastic
The CEO of Comeos, the Belgian Federation for Commerce and Services, Dominique Michel, stated: "We can not yet promise a world without packaging. But we opted for a maximum reduction and we will ensure that ultimately, all single-use packaging in our stores is recyclable, biodegradable or compostable". Supermarkets have committed to remove all single-use plastic fruit and vegetable bags by December. This will save 2,500 tons of plastic per year. Instead, they will be offering reusable paper, biodegradable or compostable bags. By 2020, supermarkets will no longer apply any non-biodegradable stickers to fruit and vegetables. Similarly, restaurant chains will stop using single-use plastic cups and instead replaced them with cardboard cups.

UK: Zero-waste online supermarket Good Club raises €400k
Online supermarket Good Club from the UK has successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign to raise 400,000 pounds. The grocer has the ambition to become the world’s first zero-waste online supermarket. With the money, Good Club wants to try out reusable product packaging. Good Club, founded by Ben Patten who also co-founded online grocer Farmdrop, already offers a sustainable product range. But with the crowdfunding project it launched last month, the online supermarket wants to make custom designed, reusable product packaging and delivery boxes. These packagings can be recovered from customers and then cleaned and reused.

Costco China to launch in August
US-headquartered warehouse-club retailer Costco Wholesale will open its first physical store in Mainland China in August. Costco China’s first location will be in Shanghai’s Minhang district, offering memberships to family and corporate consumers at RMB299 (US$43). The firm’s membership strategy has been largely successful in most markets, with an 88% renewal rate globally. “Costco is good at building a loyal shopper base through its paid membership program with low prices and a select number of stock-keeping units”, said Kantar Worldpanel China GM Jason Yu on Costco China’s debut. “The question is whether they can replicate this in China easily.”

Spain: retailer DIA's battle for survival
Spanish retailer DIA has missed a deadline to agree a restructuring of its towering debt but said its main shareholder, investment fund LetterOne, will keep trying to reach a deal. The fresh money is required by the fund owned by Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman for DIA to implement a 500mln euro share-capital increase approved by the shareholders’ meeting on March 20. The target date for the agreement was June 15.

France: Carrefour opens store with facial recognition and sensors
Carrefour has opened its own version of Amazon Go in its head office in Massy (near Paris), where the chain is trying out facial recognition and registerless shopping. In the small, automated store customers no longer need to pass by the register: they can simply pay by having their faces scanned. The opening was announced back in December and now it has effectively arrived, albeit it only for the French retail group's own staff. The store, called Flash, measures a modest 48 sqm and offers a range of 1300 references. Carrefour is hoping to develop an answer to Amazon Go, as French trade journal Linéaires reported.

Russia: Lenta executive joins board of European Marketing Distribution alliance
Russian retailer Lenta has announced the appointment of its sourcing and procurement director, Jaap van Vreden, to the board of the European Marketing Distribution (EMD) - a leading retail alliance of independent retailers in Europe. The board membership will provide Lenta the opportunity to avail more benefits from contracts sourced by the alliance’s negotiations, including those with producers of high-end brands. It will also allow the retail giant to expand its range of affordable, quality products.

UK: Tesco pins growth hopes on plant-based ready meals and robots
Robot-driven supermarkets, upmarket convenience stores and a tenfold increase in plant-based ready meals will all fuel growth at Tesco, the company has said. The UK’s biggest supermarket chain, which accounts for nearly a third of all groceries sold in the UK, told investors and City analysts at a presentation there was still room for it to open additional small stores in Britain including more than 100 One Stop outlets. The company has 169 One Stop franchises, in addition to 776 fully owned Tesco outlets and more than 1,000 Tesco Express stores. It is also considering testing convenience stores that only sell its upmarket Finest own-label products, taking on the likes of Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food and Little Waitrose.

Holland: Sligro Food Group acquires Vroegop Ruhe & Co
Dutch wholesale group Sligro has announced that it has finalised the acquisition of Exploitatiemaatschappij Wheere B.V., which includes Vroegop Ruhe & Co B.V. The operations of Vroegop Ruhe include food wholesaler De Kweker, Vroegop AGF, and the freight company L.A.J. Duncker. The food group has not disclosed the financial details of the transaction, first announced in May of this year.

US: Kroger Technology named in Computerworld's Top 100 Best Places to Work in IT
The Kroger Co. announced Kroger Technology has been named to Computerworld magazine's Top 100 Best Places to Work in IT for 2019. For the third consecutive year, Kroger's technology team has been recognized by the annual list for having an innovative, industry-leading workplace culture. This year, Kroger ranks 49th among big companies. "It is an inspiring time to be a part of Kroger Technology, a team leading disruption and transformation to improve the customer experience", said Yael Cosset, senior vice president and chief information officer. "In support of Restock Kroger, we are creating a seamless model to provide our customers with anything, anytime, anywhere powered by technology."

US: ShopRite expands local produce campaign
New Jersey-based ShopRite is expanding partnerships with local farms in an effort to increase its offerings of local and in-season produce, according to Long Island Business News. Local farms will be highlighted through in-store displays and the new offerings will be promoted through a variety of channels including TV commercials, billboards and social media this summer. "This year's locally grown program is going to be bigger than ever before", the chain's head of produce and floral told the publication. The retailer offers a dietitian-led program that promotes consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables through recipe development, cooking demos and community education.

US: Albertsons adds more self-checkouts across grocery banners
Albertsons Cos. is introducing new Toshiba self-checkout units to its more than 2,200 stores, including additional units in stores that already have the technology and adding the technology to other banners. This move comes eight years after the grocer decided to remove all self-checkout units. "We're expanding our partnership with Toshiba to aggressively add quite a few self-checkouts across the banners", Rucha Nanavati, GVP of information technology for Albertsons, told Progressive Grocer. "Right now we're aggressively rolling out their System 6 and then 7 is right around the corner, and we're testing that out for our environment and when they are ready, we'll switch to 7."

US: Big Y’s Fresh Acres Market debuts same-day delivery
Fresh Acres Market, a banner of independent grocer Big Y, now offers same-day delivery from the Springfield, Massachusetts store through a partnership with Instacart. Big Y, which partnered with Instacart in 2017, now offers delivery from all of its Big Y locations. “We know our customers are busy, and that any found time in their week can make a difference”, said Roger Gouin, Fresh Acres store director. “By partnering with an industry leader like Instacart, we’re able to provide our customers with the quality service they’ve come to expect from Fresh Acres, without leaving their house.”

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