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John Lewis Partnership to temporarily close all of its 50 John Lewis shops

Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Lidl said they would hire thousands of staff

Israel: Supermarket chain Shufersal Q4 profit more than doubles
Shufersal, Israel’s largest supermarket chain, reported a more than doubling of its quarterly net profit due to the acquisition of a drugstore chain and a revaluation in its real estate assets. Shufersal said it earned 117mln shekels ($32mln) in the fourth quarter, up from 49mln a year earlier. Revenue rose 3.5% to 3.3bln shekels. Same store sales increased 0.9%.

Austria: Spar reassures customers of sufficient food supply
Spar Austria has announced that its stores across the country have access to continuous supply of fresh food and its warehouses are fully stocked. The retailer also added that its logistics operations are running smoothly to ensure that store shelves are refilled regularly. Spar Austria has appealed to customers to shop normally to ensure that other people also have access to groceries and other household items. Following the coronavirus outbreak, the demand for staples such as pasta, rice, canned and hygiene products, as well as fresh vegetables has increased, the company said.

Portugal: Sonae increases sales by 9% and strengthens operational profitability in 2019
Portuguese retailer Sonae reported it's 2019 Annual Results. Highlights: Sonae consolidated turnover increased 9.2% to €6,435mln. Improved operational profitability across all businesses, as underlying EBITDA rose 22.2%, to €599mln. Net income group share totalled €165mln, with a positive evolution excluding non-recurrent items. Investment rose to €399mln in 2019, more than €1mln per day, reflecting organic investment and acquisitions. Net debt decreased €167mln, with average maturity of above four years and debt cost at historically low levels. Dividend of 4.63 euro cents per share (+5%), corresponding to a dividend yield of 5.1% at the end of 2019.

India: Zomato to launch online grocery delivery service
Online food ordering and delivery app Zomato is getting into grocery delivery service, timing it perhaps with a surge in demand for such services due to social distancing norms being enforced over the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report by The Economic Times, Zomato is all set to launch its grocery delivery service Zomato Market this week. The Gurugram-based food tech major is also talking to online grocery retailers Grofers and Bigbasket for a partnership to sell grocery essential products on its platform and the pilot service will be launched in Delhi-NCR, said the report.

UK: John Lewis & Partners shop to close temporarily
The John Lewis Partnership has taken the difficult decision to temporarily close all of its 50 John Lewis shops at close of business on Monday 23 March as a result of the impact of Coronavirus. will continue to operate as normal, alongside Waitrose shops and This will be the first time in the 155-year history of the business that it will not open its shop doors for customers. As a consequence, Waitrose food offers within department stores at Watford, Southampton and Bluewater will also close but - which generates half the brand’s business - will continue to operate as normal, alongside Customers can choose to have orders delivered to their home, or to Click & Collect from their local Waitrose. The food halls within John Lewis Oxford Street and Waitrose shops which share premises with John Lewis space at Kingston, Ipswich, Stratford, Horsham, Basingstoke and Canary Wharf will remain open, along with all other Waitrose branches and grocery deliveries.

UK: Crunch time for online supermarkets who must feed a nation as coronavirus shuts in millions
Downloads of grocery apps has skyrocketed, data from analysts Apptopia shows, with approximately 12,000 downloads of Tesco’s app in one day last week - three times the average - and, last week Ocado, the online grocer, was forced to shut down and retool its website amid a wave of panic-buyers. Waiting times for slots to deliver groceries are now weeks and even up to a month away for the major grocers. Although the supermarkets have an army of drivers, this network is not yet ready for a surge in capacity. Morrisons is recruiting an extra 3,500 staff including pickers and drivers to up its home delivery capacity; Co-op appealed for 4,000 to help with online orders, among other things.

India plans e-commerce regulator, tighter controls under new policy-sources
India wants to set up an e-commerce regulator and force companies such as Amazon to swiftly turn over information sought by authorities as part of a new policy being drafted, two sources familiar with the plan told Reuters. The new policy will be India’s latest effort to tighten control over e-commerce and is likely to raise compliance worries for top firms such as Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart that are already battling stricter foreign investment rules since last year. It comes at a time when the importance of such companies is growing as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down movement of people and causes a surge in online activity. The newly created regulator will be empowered to seek any information from companies to enforce the new policy and even other Indian laws aimed at protecting consumers or ensuring fair competition on e-commerce, the sources said.

UK: Supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Lidl go on hiring spree
Supermarkets have gone on a hiring spree as demand surges as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Lidl said they would hire thousands of staff after hugely increased demand saw shoppers clearing shelves. That move came before the government said it would pay the wages of workers at firms affected by the pandemic. And Sainsbury's has asked shoppers to stay 1m away from shop staff if possible, to help keep them safe. Supermarkets have been overwhelmed by a wave of panic-buying as shoppers rush to stock up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon asks shoppers to cooperate with U.S. probe of third-party sellers Inc has started asking customers to cooperate with a Department of Justice criminal investigation of third-party sellers on its e-commerce marketplace, according to an email seen by Reuters. The company is informing customers, who may have purchased products from such sellers, according to the email sent by Joell Parks, a senior law enforcement response specialist at Amazon. It was not immediately clear if the probe is tied to sellers taking advantage of the spreading coronavirus and engaging in price gouging on the retailer’s platform.

US: FMI, IFDA partner to steer foodservice resources to grocery
With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down restaurants and foodservice businesses nationwide and pushing supermarkets to the brink to meet skyrocketing demand, the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) has partnered with FMI-The Food Industry Association to funnel excess industry resources to the grocery sector. Under a matching program, foodservice distributors with unused capacity - including products, transportation and warehousing services - will be connected with food retailers and wholesalers seeking more supply and support as consumers crowd grocery stores to stock up on supplies in preparing to shelter at home, IFDA and FMI said.

Amazon bidding on four Fairway Market locations, report says
E-commerce giant Amazon could soon be the owners of several Fairway Market locations in New York and New Jersey. Amazon has bid on four Fairway locations during a bankruptcy sale of the grocery chain’s 14 outposts that started on Monday, the New York Post reported. While the auction process hasn’t completed, sources told the Post that Amazon was expected to win. The locations Amazon has its eyes on are in Pelham, New York, Woodland Park and Paramus, New Jersey and one in Brooklyn, according to the Post. Fairway has two outposts in Brooklyn - including its large one on the Red Hook waterfront - and it’s unclear which Amazon is targeting. A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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