February 15, 2019 by Sujay Seetharaman

1. Alibaba buys UK currency exchange World first

Ant Financial, the financial affiliate of Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba has acquired London-based payments company World first for an estimated $700M. In a memo dispatched to clients, Worldfirst CEO Jonathan Quinn stated that the company will retain its brand and become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alibaba and that all customer and account information will remain unchanged. While many merchants in the continent already accept Alipay, this acquisition marks Alibaba’s first massive move into Europe.

2. Amazon calls off NY HQ

Amazon announced this morning that it has killed its plans for its NY Headquarters citing growing opposition from a number of politicians and residents. Flustered by the abrupt withdrawal, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union voiced concerns around a myriad of issues ranging from Amazon’s business practices to its treatment of workers. While the new HQ may have brought tens of thousands of jobs to the city, many were unhappy with the billions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives to the company.

3. California’s largest sun-grown cannabis company raises $125M

Flow Kana, a CA-based producer and distributor of sustainable cannabis products has closed $125M in Series B funding, backed by New York-based private equity firm Gotham Green Partners which also headed the company’s $22M in Series A last July. Flow Kana has raised $175M in funding till date and intends to build and scale its supply chain around small, decentralized and sustainably operated cannabis farms.

4. Is Instacart the new villain in Grocery?

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole foods turned the heads of many grocery retailers towards Instacart. This has over time, given Instacart access to a ton of shopper data that it could potentially leverage to break into the grocery space. Is it time grocers took back full control of their shopper data? Forbes contributor Brittain Ladd speaks.

5. CVS pilots concept store

CVS is testing out three HealthHUB stores, wherein over 20% of the floor space will be dedicated to health care services, including wellness products, digital tools, on-demand health kiosks, advise and personal care. Early response to the HealthHUB concept has been positive and CVS is continuing to test to determine the right mix of products and services for this format. “We believe that transforming the consumer health care experience begins with creating a new front door to health care,” said Alan Lotvin, Chief Transformation Officer at CVS Health in a statement. “Our new HealthHUB locations are just that — helping to elevate the store into a convenient neighborhood health care destination that brings easier access to better care at a lower cost.”

6. FAO Schwarz goes beyond Toys

FAO Schwarz announced plans to expand its physical retail footprint, venturing beyond toys into the Candy, Home, and Accessory space. It also announced its first European flagship, scheduled to open in November 2019 in London. This will be a 20,000 sq.ft space featuring an entire collection of FAO Schwarz products and experiences. At a time when Toys R Us is struggling to make a comeback, and its two biggest distributors Mattel and Hasbro are scrambling to fill its void, FAO Schwarz seems to have ventured beyond more than just toys to keep pace.

Sujay Seetharaman

Market Analyst @ PipeCandy

Currently donning the Researcher's hat. Talks to himself.