Germany: Metro CEO praises 'significant progress' made at wholesaler in past year
Metro chief executive Olaf Koch has said that the financial year 2018/19 marked "significant progress" in the company's bid to become a pure wholesale business. Commenting at Metro's AGM, Koch said that the period saw the "strongest like-for-like growth for Metro Wholesale in the past ten years", a recognition of the group's more targeted focus. The recent sale of a majority stake in Metro China, coupled with the sale of its Real hypermarket business, agreed last week, means that the business now expects net proceeds of more than €1.5bln. This "will provide financial flexibility and enable us to achieve dividend continuity, targeted acquisitions and further reduce our net debt", Koch added.
Malaysia: Country's first ultra-premium supermarket to open in Bangsar
The Food Purveyor, which operates the Village Grocer, Ben’s Independent Grocer (B.I.G) and Pasaraya OTK, is in the midst of curating a new concept that will cater to Bangsar Shopping Centre’s (BSC) affluent customers in Kuala Lumpur. The Food Purveyor will step in and replace Jasons Food Hall on March 23 - a day after the latter ceases business - to minimise disruption. Once the new retailer moves in, the space will be refurbished in phases, with the new store expected to be fully operational under the new concept in the fourth quarter of the year.
Nepali food delivery startup Foodmandu secures series B money
Nepal-based foodtech startup Foodmandu has raised an undisclosed amount of series B funding from local private investment fund Team Ventures. As part of the deal, Team Ventures will get a 20% stake in the food delivery platform, according to a statement. It will be done through a mix of new shares and a partial buy-out of the holdings of True North Associates (TNA), which invested in the startup in 2015.
Australia: Inside Schwarz Group and Kaufland supermarket chain owner Dieter Schwarz’s mysterious life
Dieter Schwarz is the 36th richest person on the planet - but he’s so notoriously private he has been dubbed a “phantom” by the press in his native Germany. The 80-year-old is the owner of the Schwarz Group, the fourth-largest retailer in the world by revenue. The company owns the massive Lidl and Kaufland supermarket brands, and Mr Schwarz is the CEO and chairman of both. But despite his staggering wealth and high-profile roles, Mr Schwarz is so reclusive almost nothing is known about his personal life. In fact, just two photographs of him are known to exist - one of which is in black and white. And while he’s safely cloistered on the other side of the world in Germany, he’s also behind one of Australia’s biggest ever retail fails.
Australia: Wesfarmers to book profit with 4.9% Coles stake sale
Australia’s Wesfarmers Ltd said it will sell 4.9% of Coles Group, the supermarket chain it spun off in 2018, suggesting it was a good opportunity to book some profits. Shares of Coles have jumped more than 34% since it started trading in November 2018. Wesfarmers’ announcement also comes on the heels of Coles posting near-flat earnings growth for the half year and acknowledging it had underpaid some store managers for 6 years. After the sale, retail conglomerate Westfarmers will keep a 10.1% minority stake in Australia’s No. 2 grocery chain, and reserve its right to nominate a director to Coles’ board. “We have been pleased with the performance of Coles as an independently listed entity and believe it is an appropriate time to realize value for our shareholders”, Wesfarmers Managing Director Rob Scott said in a statement.
South Korea: Lotte Shopping to axe 200 stores as losses mount
Lotte Shopping plans to shut down as many as 200 department stores and large-format supermarkets in South Korea, marking one of the biggest retail network culls in the nation’s history. Lotte Group operates more than 700 stores under its Lotte Mart, Lotte Department Store, Lotte Super and drug-store chain LOHB banners, which means its closure plans will affect almost 1 in 3 stores. There are no reports that Lotte will scale back its international business, which is largely in Southeast Asia after it began withdrawing from China last year. “The focus of our business strategy in 2020 is a heavy downsizing to enhance efficiency and profit”, the company said in a statement. “The food sections at underperforming small- and mid-sized department stores will be changed into supermarkets selling fresh groceries”.
Carrefour acquires 30 Makro stores in Brazil
Carrefour has announced that its Brazilian division has entered into an agreement with Makro Atacadista SA to acquire 30 cash and carry stores in the country. The deal, valued at R$1.95bln (€420mln), includes the real estate of 22 fully owned Makro outlets and 8 rented stores, as well as 14 gas stations spread across 17 states in Brazil. The acquired stores, with a total sales area of 165,000 square meters, generated sales of around R$2.8bln (€600mln) in 2019, the retailer said. The new stores will complement Atacadão’s existing network of 187 stores, expanding its presence notably in Rio de Janeiro and the northeastern region of Brazil.
US: Warren Buffett adds Kroger to his investing shopping cart
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway disclosed a new stake in Kroger. Shares of the nation's largest supermarket surged 6% on the news. Berkshire Hathaway bought nearly 19mln shares in Kroger during the fourth quarter, a purchase that makes Berkshire one of the 10 largest holders of the company's stock. The move is an interesting one given that Berkshire also owns a small position in Amazon, the online retailing giant that has disrupted the grocery business through its purchase of Whole Foods and food delivery offerings for Amazon Prime customers. Buffett has long been a fan of the retail and food industries.
Walmart’s new social media strategy has boosted app downloads 50%
Walmart is employing a new social strategy to be more reactive in real time with a new more conversational brand voice. Doing so isn’t simply about being part of the social conversation online but to help the business. The retailer enacted this social change with the recently launched “Famous Visitors” campaign, which touted the ability to order what you need online and pick it up curbside, but the effort to be more conversational and reactive will continue as the brand aims to transform its social presence. Doing so has increased mobile app downloads for Walmart 50% week-over-week (the retailer declined to share from what it increased from and what it increased to). Currently, Walmart is the number 2 shopping app in the Apple app store (Amazon is number 1).
Amazon's Bezos pledges $10bln to climate change fight
Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will commit $10bln to fund scientists, activists, nonprofits and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change, he said. Cutting emissions will be challenging for Amazon. The e-commerce company delivers 10bln items a year, has a massive transportation and data center footprint, and has faced criticism from within its own workforce. Bezos, the world’s richest man, is among a growing list of billionaires to dedicate substantial funds to battling the impact of global warming.
US: Grocery chain Lidl opening two more New Jersey stores
German discount grocer Lidl has announced the grand openings of two new stores in New Jersey; one in Howell and one in Cherry Hill. Both are scheduled to open on February 26th. The Howell location is on Route 9 where the Best Buy used to be and the Cherry Hill location is on Route 38. Both will have ribbon cutting ceremonies at 7:40 am with an 8 o’clock grand opening.
US: As Walmart grows in e-commerce, investors look for a plan to stem the losses
As Walmart’s online sales grow, the retailer has seen another number grow, too: Its e-commerce losses. Analysts are waiting to see whether those losses have peaked or if they’ll continue to rise. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is spending heavily to compete against Amazon. It’s seen that pay off with significant sales growth, especially in its grocery business. Walmart’s e-commerce sales in the U.S. grew by 41% in the third quarter - its strongest quarter reported so far in fiscal 2019 - and the company estimated online sales would grow by 35% for the full year.