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H-E-B: Top U.S. grocery retailer for the first time

Walmart: New technology that could help defend its position as America’s largest grocer

US: Albertsons tallies identical sales gains in Q3
Albertsons Cos. notched its eighth straight quarter of identical sales increases and reported improved operating results for its fiscal 2019 third quarter. For the 12 weeks ended November 30, net sales and other revenue totaled $14.10bln, up 1.9% from $13.84bln a year earlier, Albertsons said. The Boise, Idaho-based grocer attributed the uptick to a 2.7% year-over-year gain in identical sales, partially offset by lower fuel sales and lost sales from store closings since the fiscal 2018 quarter.

US: Walmart unveils tech-enabled Neighborhood Market store
Walmart is offering an ultra-streamlined shopping experience at its new Neighborhood Market location in Coral Way, Florida. The discount giant’s latest store in the Miami market features a number of technologies designed to save time for both customers and associates. These include the first online grocery pickup offering in this section of Miami, as well as same-day grocery delivery. The new store is also the first location in Florida to provide an expanded self-checkout option with large-basket self-checkout lanes that enable customers to scan the groceries themselves or have a designated associate assist with the transaction. Walmart is rolling out expanded self-checkout in Florida following successful testing at a prototype store in Arkansas.

US: Food 4 Less franchisee forms ESOP
PAQ Inc., an independent franchisee of 14 Food 4 Less grocery stores, has created an employee-owned stock ownership plan (ESOP). Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. “By selling 100% of the company stock to an ESOP, the company became federal and state income tax-free, increasing cash flow dramatically and providing the funds to pay owners for their stock”, noted Roy Farmer, managing director at Capstone Headwaters, an international investment banking firm, with headquarters in Boston and Denver, that advised PAQ in the matter. “The tax savings also allow the company to be more competitive and continue to be the low-price leader in their markets”.

US: Mariano's focuses on store updates in lieu of expansion
Mariano’s plans to remodel an additional 14 or 15 stores in 2020 and hire as many as 600 new employees to staff new stores and improve customer service, reports the Chicago Tribune. It has no new store openings planned at this time. Next month, the chain's West Loop store will introduce Tastemaker Kitchen, offering interactive classes and demos from local chefs. Some of the other transitions Mariano's has made include adding more self-checkout lanes and self-service food options. Parent company Kroger also exempted Mariano’s from a brand-wide rebranding campaign in favor of keeping its original aesthetic.

Grubhub considers strategic options, including possible sale: WSJ
Online food delivery company GrubHub Inc is considering strategic options that include a possible sale or an acquisition, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. GrubHub has tapped financial advisers to help with the review, according to the report. The food-delivery industry faces intensifying competition from Uber Technologies Inc’s UberEats, which has grown into a national competitor, and startups such as DoorDash and Postmates. Grubhub said it does not comment on market rumors or speculation, in response to a Reuters’ request for comment.

US: Brookshire Grocery Co., Weis Markets partner with Mercatus
Brookshire Grocery Co. and Weis Markets are early adopters of a machine learning-based solution designed to help enhance their shopper personalization efforts. The regional grocers are using a personalization intelligence engine called Mercatus AisleOne that analyzes shopper data touch points across the path to purchase. “A year ago, we launched online ordering with curbside pickup service to 100 stores across Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods and FRESH by Brookshire’s banners”, said John D’Anna, chief strategy officer, Brookshire Grocery Co. “Now, we are excited to expand our partnership with Mercatus by adding AisleOne personalization to our online shopping capabilities and creating a more personalized, convenient and enjoyable customer experience”.

Walmart has just unveiled a new technology that could help defend its position as America’s largest grocer
Walmart thinks it has a technological weapon that will enable it to pick, pack and deliver shoppers’ online grocery orders faster as the company tries to strengthen its foothold as America’s largest grocer. The big-box retailer unveiled a platform called Alphabot, which it has stealthily been testing at one of its Supercenters in Salem, New Hampshire, since the middle of last year. Walmart says the Salem store will continue to serve as Alphabot’s “home,” while the new picking and packing process is analyzed again and again, and improvement are made. It says it will eventually assess plans for a broader rollout across the U.S.

H-E-B dethrones Trader Joe’s as top U.S. grocery retailer in the 2020 dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index
dunnhumby, the global leader in customer data science, released the third annual dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index (RPI), a comprehensive, nationwide study that examines the $700bln U.S. Grocery market. For the first time, H-E-B was rated the top U.S. grocery retailer bumping Trader Joe’s from the top spot which the discounter has held the last two years. The regional grocery retailer from Texas also jumped ahead of Amazon and Costco. The other grocery retailers with the highest overall customer preference index scores are: 2) Trader Joe’s, 3) Amazon, 4) Market Basket, 5) Wegmans Food Markets, 6) Costco, 7) Aldi, 8) Sam’s Club, 9) Walmart, 10) Publix, 11) WinCo Foods, 12) Fresh Thyme, 13) Sprouts Farmers Markets, 14) ShopRite. The RPI study surveyed 7,000 U.S. households to determine which of the top 60 largest grocery retailers have the strongest combination of financial performance and consumer emotional sentiment.

Report: Amazon eyes new market for brick-and-mortar
Amazon is reportedly considering opening physical stores in its second-largest global market. According to Reuters, Amazon may open brick-and-mortar stores in Germany. The e-tailer is rapidly opening stores in the U.S. under banners including Amazon Go, Amazon Books, and Amazon 4-Star. It also owns the Whole Foods grocery chain and has opened some low-profile physical liquor stores (mainly to support on-demand liquor delivery), and has been reportedly planning to open a distinct chain of Amazon grocery stores. In addition, the company is piloting brick-and-mortar locations in the U.K.

Switzerland: Coop posts sales growth of 1.3% in FY 2019
Coop Switzerland has reported currency-neutral sales growth of 1.3%, to CHF 30.7bln (€28.3bln), in financial year 2019. The company's net sales in the retail trade grew by 1.4% to CHF 18.0bln (€16.6bln) during this period, driven by increased customer frequency in supermarkets and good performance in its specialist formats such as Livique and Lumimart. Coop Switzerland's wholesale and production division posted sales growth of 2.6% to CHF 14.2bln (€13.1bln). Its Transgourmet Group consolidated its position as the second-largest company in the pick-up and delivery wholesale business in Europe, the retail giant said.

Lidl targeting 50 new stores per year in France by 2022
Discounter Lidl is aiming to open 50 new stores a year in France by 2022, following its busiest year for new store openings in the country. According to, last year, the retailer opened close to 50 stores, including the renovation of 16 former Casino outlets and 17 former Leader Price stores. Since 2012, Lidl has invested €4.5bln in France in expanding its store network, an investment that has paid off - it broke the 6% market share mark in 2019 for the first time, and finished the year with 6.2% of the market, according to Kantar. Between 2010 and 2018, the discounter saw its French turnover increase by 4.5%.

UK: Tesco beats rivals with 0.1% Christmas sales rise
Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, ground out a 0.1% rise in underlying sales in its home market during what it said was a “subdued” Christmas for consumer spending. Showing how hard supermarkets had to work over the festive period, Tesco said it had cut prices, delivered the best operational performance in 6 years and seen the biggest ever day of UK food sales in its history, just to secure a small rise in organic growth. British shoppers turned particularly cautious in 2019 as wage growth slowed and political uncertainty gripped the country. Tesco said a resounding election victory for Boris Johnson in December, which broke the deadlock, had not released any pent up demand. “In a subdued UK market we performed well, delivering our 5th consecutive Christmas of growth”, Chief Executive Dave Lewis said. Tesco, which has a 27.4% share of Britain’s grocery market, also updated on trading in the third quarter period before Christmas, when life-for-like sales fell by 0.4%. That showed shoppers had returned to its stores for Christmas.

Norway: NorgesGruppen earmarks NOK8.5mln for 2020 Environmental Fund
Norwegian retailer NorgesGruppen has set an upper limit of NOK 8.5mln (€860,000) for its environmental fund for employees for the year 2020. The fund provides financial support to employees for implementing power-saving measures in their homes and purchasing eco-friendly vehicles for personal use. This year, the company will accept applications from employees amounting to a total of NOK 5.5mln (€560,000) in January. For the remaining NOK 3mln (€310mln), the company will invite applications in August or September of this year.

China: Carrefour Easy store opens inside Suning branch as brands continue to merge
Convenience-store Carrefour Easy has opened inside Chinese retailer’s Shanghai Zhongshan store, marking the latest step towards integrating the two retail businesses. With sales areas ranging from 100sqm to 250sqm, Carrefour Easy has been building a network of standalone convenience stores in China since 2015. The launch inside a Suning store marks the latest development for the business since Suning acquired an 80% equity stake in Carrefour China last September for US$689.2mln, part of a move by Suning to accelerate the expansion of its brick-and-mortar portfolio into a full-scenario retail model.

UK: John Lewis warns it may not pay staff bonus
Retail group John Lewis Partnership has warned its staff bonus may be in doubt as it reported a fall in festive sales at its department store chain. It warned that annual partnership profits were expected to be "substantially down on last year". The board will meet in February to decide if it is "prudent" to pay the staff bonus, the partnership said. In a surprise announcement, John Lewis & Partners also said its managing director Paula Nickolds will step down. The partnership has been combining the executive teams behind John Lewis and Waitrose into one team, and she was expected to become executive director of brand next month when the teams merged.

Thailand's PTT says its retail unit not interested in bidding for Tesco's Asian business
Thailand’s state-owned energy firm PTT Pcl said that neither it, nor its retail unit were interested in bidding for Tesco Plc’s assets in Asia. Reuters reported earlier that, according to sources, PTT’s retail unit was planning to participate in first-round bids due by January 15 for the assets worth up to $9bln. Thailand’s largest retailer, Central Group, and agribusiness conglomerate Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group are also set to take part, the sources said. A spokesman for PTT declined to comment further.

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