Lidl has opened a state-of-the-art regional headquarters and distribution center

Walmart: Employees will now have their temperatures checked

US: Earth Fare founder among investors aiming to reboot bankrupt grocer
A group of investors that includes the founder of the bankrupt Earth Fare chain of natural foods stores, Roger Derrough, was selected as the winning bidder for four Earth Fare stores during the retailer's bankruptcy auction last week, according to local reports and court filings. The group, which is led by Asheville businessman Dennis Hulsing, bid $1.9mln for the stores, which are located in Asheville; Boone, North Carolina; Roanoke, Virginia; and Athens, Georgia. The group tried unsuccessfully to acquire a fifth Earth Fare store through the auction, according to the Asheville Citizen Times. That store, in South Asheville, North Carolina, went instead to Whole Foods, which bid $1.6mln. Whole Foods also successfully bid $900,000 for an Earth Fare location in Chattanooga, Tennessee, according to a March 25 court filing. Other winning bids were filed by Winn-Dixie, which picked up four Florida stores located in Boynton Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Viera and Jacksonville; and Aldi, which secured a store in Tallahassee, Florida. The selloff netted around $6mln for Earth Fare.

US: Whole Foods workers hold ‘sick-out’ to demand hazard pay during pandemic
Whole Foods workers organized a national “sick-out” protest on Tuesday, demanding that the grocery store give employees double their normal wages as “hazard pay” for working on the frontlines during a pandemic. The Whole Foods protest follows worker-organized strikes for better coronavirus protections at Instacart, the grocery delivery service, and at an Amazon warehouse in New York. Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, is the richest person in the world. Whole Worker, an organization of Whole Foods employees, called on workers to stay home sick on Tuesday to pressure the company to improve health protections for grocery workers, including paid sick leave for all workers who need to self-isolate, reinstatement of healthcare coverage for part-time workers, better sanitation equipment, and the immediate shutdown of any store location where an employee tests positive for Covid-19.

US: Lidl opens Maryland regional distribution center
Lidl has formally opened a state-of-the-art regional headquarters and distribution center in Maryland’s Cecil County. The 700,000-square-foot facility will serve as the linchpin of the deep discounter’s regional store network, quickly supplying products to stores across five states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York. Lidl invested more than $100mln in the project, which will create more than 200 full-time jobs. “As we work hard to meet the surging needs of our customers during this critical time, we are thrilled to open our newest regional distribution center in Cecil County, Maryland”, said Johannes Fieber, CEO of Arlington, Virginia-based Lidl US. “The facility will allow us to efficiently deliver our award-winning products to thousands of customers from Maryland to New York and support our expansion across the region. We thank [Gov. Larry] Hogan and local leaders for their tireless support leading up to today”.

Kroger Family of Companies announces hero bonus for all hourly frontline associates
The Kroger Family of Companies announced that it will provide all hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates with a Hero Bonus - a $2 premium above their standard base rate of pay, applied to hours worked March 29 through April 18. The premium will be disbursed weekly to ensure associates have access to additional cash.

US: Walmart starts taking all employees' temperatures
Walmart continues to update its health and safety protocols during the COVID-19 outbreak. Employees in stores, clubs and facilities will now have their temperatures checked and be asked basic health-screening questions before reporting to work. Associates who have a temperature of 100.0 degrees or higher will be asked to return home until they are fever-free for at least three days and seek medical treatment if necessary. They will still be paid for reporting to work, however.

China: Pinduoduo raises $1.1bln in private share placement
Chinese e-commerce firm Pinduoduo said it had raised $1.1bln in a private share placement that will enable its further expansion and allow it to capture “additional opportunities” during the times of uncertainty. The Nasdaq-listed firm said some of its long-term investors financed the deal. The investors were granted newly issued Class A ordinary shares of Pinduoduo representing approximately 2.8% of the company’s total outstanding shares. The capital raise comes weeks after the Shanghai-based company said it was bracing for losses due to the coronavirus outbreak. The firm’s fourth-quarter revenue growth fell short of expectations. Pinduoduo, which competes with giant Alibaba, has grown rapidly in recent years after gamifying the shopping experience that allows customers to team up to buy anything from smartphones to fruits.

France: Carrefour gives masks after staff walkout over coronavirus
Staff working in a supermarket of French retailer Carrefour in the southern city of Vitrolles will receive protective masks after some employees walked out over health risks associated with the coronavirus, a union said. Employees had criticized working conditions after some have tested positive for coronavirus, the union said. French law gives workers a “droit de retrait” - or “right to withdraw” - under legislation introduced by Socialist President Francois Mitterrand in the early 1980s, if they feel there is a danger to their safety.

France: Fimalac to provide new financing for Casino's holding company
French financial group Fimalac has agreed to provide new financing facilities for Rallye, the holding company behind supermarket retailer Casino which has been under pressure to cut its debts. By bringing in new financing from another businessman to try and tide it over in case it faces problems on its derivative contracts, it has canceled a previous arrangement, announced earlier this month, with Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky, Casino’s second-largest shareholder.

New Zealand: Costco plans to spend $100mln on Auckland store
Big box retailer Costco will spend over $100mln on its new warehouse before the store even opens the door. The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has green-lit Costco's $23.2mln purchase of land in Westgate, next to the existing shopping centre. In its application Costco said it would spend over $100mln on the development of the three-level mega store, due to open in 2021. This is the first New Zealand store for the United States company.

UK: Tesco recruits 35,000 workers to get through coronavirus crisis
Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco said it had recruited 35,000 additional workers in the last 10 days to help get it through the coronavirus emergency, which has triggered a dramatic increase in demand for groceries. The supermarket group is the country’s largest private sector employer with around 340,000 workers in the United Kingdom and Ireland and nearly 3,800 stores. The new workers, including in-store shelf stackers, pickers for online deliveries and drivers, will help fill a gap left by those absent due to sickness or self-isolation.

China: Hong Kong February retail sales post record fall on coronavirus spread
Hong Kong’s retail sales fell by a record 44% in February from a year earlier, as travel restrictions kept tourists away and residents avoided shopping centres to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The spending drought has hit an economy already in recession after months of often-violent anti-government protests. Retail sales in February fell 44% from a year earlier to HK$22.7bln ($2.93bln), compared with a revised 21.5% drop in January, government data showed. In volume terms, retail sales fell 46.7%, compared with a revised 23.1% drop in January.

Workers go on strike at Amazon delivery site in Italy amid coronavirus
Around one-third of those working at an Amazon delivery station in central Italy went on strike, a union representative said, citing a request for enhanced safety measures for workers amid the coronavirus health emergency. A company representative told Reuters activity at Amazon’s site in Calenzano, near Florence, was not affected and said it had already cut deliveries and stepped up safety measures to protect both its direct employees and independent couriers. Around 300 people work at the site, more than two-thirds of them independent couriers delivering parcels for the world’s largest online retailer.

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