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Kroger and Northern Kentucky University are teaming up to open a digital innovation lab

Amazon is working to allow customers to connect their credit card information to their hands

US: NRF says 2019 holiday sales were up 4.1%
Holiday retail sales during 2019 grew 4.1% over the same period in 2018 to $730.2bln, the National Retail Federation said. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6% over the year before at $167.8bln and are included in the total. NRF forecast in October that 2019 holiday sales during November and December would increase between 3.8% and 4.2% for a total of between $727.9bln and $730.7bln. The forecast called for online sales to increase between 11% and 14% to between $162.6bln and $166.9bln. The growth rate reported is nearly double the weak 2.1% seen during the 2018 holiday season, which was slowed by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes. Sales during December 2018 were down 0.2% from the year before.

US: Whole Foods is updating its 365 private label branding
Whole Foods Market is rolling out a new look and name for its 365 private label brand, according to findings from research firm IGD. A retail analyst for the firm identified the change at Whole Foods' busy Columbus Circle store in New York City, and signage indicates the update will roll out to more stores and across multiple categories. Among the changes to the 365 brand is a more modern visual appearance that replaces the multicolor label with a black background. It also drops the "Everyday Value" tagline and replaces it with "Whole Foods Market." Whole Foods has not responded to Grocery Dive’s request for comment and further details about the rebranding. 

Amazon reportedly wants to turn your hand into a credit card
Technology giant Amazon is working to allow customers to connect their credit card information to their hands, so that they can scan for purchases with their palms at checkout areas in physical stores, people familiar with the project told The Wall Street Journal. While Amazon’s plan is in the early stages, the company has reportedly begun working with Visa on testing out the terminals, and has discussed the project with Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Synchrony Financial. The company previously filed a patent for a “non-contact biometric identification system” that features a “hand scanner” to produce a picture of a person’s palm.

US: Kroger opening another digital innovation lab
Kroger is adding another innovation lab to its arsenal of tools for fighting competitors. According to the Cincinnati Business Journal, The Kroger Co. and Northern Kentucky University are teaming up to open a digital innovation lab at NKU. The lab will likely be part of NKU’s College of Informatics, the Journal said. In 2018, Kroger opened an innovation lab within the University of Cincinnati's 1819 Innovation Hub. That space houses a 12,000-square-foot makerspace and micro-factory, along with state-of-the-art classrooms and multipurpose rooms.

Carrefour’s fingerprint payments to be investigated by Belgian privacy agency
The Belgian Data Protection Authority has stated that there is “a good chance” it will investigate Carrefour’s fingerprint payment system. The supermarket chain announced that it will organise a pilot project allowing clients to pay for their groceries with their fingerprints in a store in the centre of Brussels. The clients will be able to pay by scanning their finger at the cash register, after which the money will disappear from their bank account. Several weeks ago, the Belgian Data Protection Authority (GBA) contacted Carrefour informally, after the supermarket announced a similar test in which customers could add points to their loyalty card with their fingerprint, without using their card. “We asked Carrefour a few questions and discovered that a test had already taken place”, said David Stevens, the president of the GBA, reports De Standaard. “It turned out that Carrefour had already collected fingerprints. Now that we’ve heard the news about the new experiment with fingerprint payments, there’s a good chance we’ll send our inspectors. I cannot yet formally confirm that we will do that, but I think there is a good chance,” he added.

Poland: under complete ownership of Eurocash
Eurocash said it had bought the remaining 64% share in to become its sole owner. The pure online retailer starts the year with a new CEO and an ambitious growth plan, announcing it aims to grow sales by 40% year-on-year. The new ownership means will have access to more resources and will be able to leverage the buying power of the total Eurocash business. Also, there is the potential for synergies from other parts of the business, such as the extension of the health and beauty range to include Kontigo products.

Russia: Magnit reports holiday period revenue growth of 8.5%
Russian retailer Magnit has posted an 8.5% year-on-year growth in revenue for the period between 17 December to 31 December 2019. The company reported a marginal increase in like-for-like sales, of 0.6%, while like-for-like traffic increased by 2.4%. The like-for-like average ticket declined by 1.6% because of a lower average number of items per basket compared to 2018’s high base value driven by the pre-new year promo - 'Everything you need for magic within walking distance', the retailer said. The average ticket for customers in this period amounted to RUB 395 (€5.78), with red sparkling wines and exotic fruits such as avocados, mangoes and berries demonstrating the best sales dynamics, the retailer said.

Czech investor Kretinsky beefs up stake in supermarket group Casino
Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky and his junior partner Patrik Tkac said that they had raised their stake in Casino to 5.64% from 4.63%, in a further show of support to the troubled French retailer. The move comes as CEO and controlling shareholder Jean-Charles Naouri is hunting for ways to ease the company’s debts - and those of parent company Rallye - in part through asset sales. Casino, which faces fierce competition in its home market from the likes of Amazon, last week slashed its 2019 profit outlook, saying transport strikes in France against pension reforms weighed on its fourth quarter.

7-Eleven partners Pay2Home in Singapore
7-Eleven’s new initiative serves migrant workers in Singapore who wants to send money home using cash. Customers can initiate a remittance transaction using the Pay2Home mobile app which will generate a QR-code bill for cash payment at any 7-Eleven in Singapore. "We are excited to be partnering with Pay2Home as 7-Eleven continues its journey to expand on our services to meet customer's needs. With 400 7-Eleven stores Island-wide as additional payment touchpoints, Pay2Home's underbanked customers can conveniently pay for their remittance transactions without having to queue at a conventional remittance counter," says Mr. Steven Lye, Managing Director of 7-Eleven Singapore.

Spanish retailer Dia under investigation over financial accounts
A Spanish magistrate has launched a criminal investigation into suspected account-fiddling at retailer Dia under its previous management, before Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman took over the near-insolvent company last year. Magistrate Alejandro Abascal said in court documents seen by Reuters that he was looking into whether the company’s management, including then-CEO Ricardo Curras, manipulated Dia’s pre-tax earnings data in 2017 to make it falsely appear the company had reached financial targets. The plan, which court documents allege Curras had masterminded in order to justify his annual bonus, saw Dia’s 2017 EBITDA inflated by over 51mln euros ($57mln). Abascal will summon Curras, alongside former Dia senior executives and an external auditor from consultancy firm KPMG, to appear in court. Curras told Reuters he would not comment on the case.

Amazon launches live shopping
Amazon has launched a special page on its website, filled with videos of various products and brands that can be purchased immediately. The new feature is called Amazon Live. The Amazon Live page is already filled with dozens of videos from different brands. In the live shows, products are presented and demonstrated. In a bar below the video is a carousel, with links to the products featured in the broadcast. Many of the videos that are currently on the page are less than five minutes long, although some are much longer.

Ireland: Musgrave signs exclusive partnership deal with The Happy Pear
Musgrave has announced that it has signed an exclusive partnership agreement across the island of Ireland with vegetarian and vegan food brand The Happy Pear. "Under the terms of the agreement, Musgrave will have exclusive rights to the production, distribution and marketing of all Happy Pear retail products - i.e. packaged products sold in nationwide retail channels," the wholesaler said. "People are becoming more health-conscious and as Ireland’s leading retail group we have a driving commitment to support healthier lives", said Noel Keeley, CEO Musgrave. "The Happy Pear is an excellent strategic fit for Musgrave and will strengthen our existing vegetarian and vegan offer to the market".

Thailand: Big C confirms Tesco interest
The top boss of Big C Supercenter has acknowledged that the company is keen to acquire Tesco's Asia business and has submitted its intent to bid. Aswin Techajareonvikul, the company's chief executive, said the business model of Big C and Tesco are different in terms of products and locations. "We operate stores in about 60 provinces, while Tesco has stores in some provinces we don't", Mr Aswin said. "We believe that if we add Tesco to our portfolio, it will help extend our retail business". Big C needs to carefully study the pricing of the deal, the legal issues and the impact on all stakeholders, he said.

China: New Retail digitalizes fresh food trade to huge potential
On-demand food delivery platform is banking on China's fresh food e-commerce sector and developing its new Exianda project to help its customers buy fresh vegetables from home. The company will cooperate with local vegetable markets to run the project, in an attempt to help groceries improve their digital operations, and let consumers and small restaurants buy their food more efficiently. Xiong Bin, vice-president of, said the company will also build an open digital platform for supermarkets and retail chains. The platform will include supports in the form of a digital supply chain, distribution, finance and retail functions. It has inked in-depth cooperation agreements with Carrefour, RTMart, Bailian and Wumart. Xiong said the growth of orders for fresh products from third-and fourth-tier cities has surpassed that from first-and second-tier cities, showing huge potential.

Spain: Lidl launches new food-to-go private label
Lidl Spain has launched a new food-to-go private label called “Listo para comer” (ready to eat) aiming to offer easy, simple and affordable food solutions to shoppers. The 14 products are displayed in dedicated fixtures, branded “Listo para comer”. According to Arantxa Conde, PR Director at Lidl Spain, all products are freshly prepared with locally sourced ingredients, aligned with the local sourcing strategy of the retailer. The cold food solutions include salads and meals to heat, such as paella and pasta, whilst hot foods, displayed at the bakery, include a selection of hamburgers, nuggets and vegetarian wraps. All products have a price point between €1.99 and €2.99. The “Listo para comer” assortment is currently being tested in 4 stores and will be included in all new stores. Conde added that Lidl has not ruled out the idea to offer a seating area, but the main challenge remains the lack of space in the existing stores.

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