1. Walmart acquires Machine Learning startup
Walmart announced that it acquired Israel-based Machine Learning startup Aspectiva for an undisclosed amount. The start-up, based out of Tel Aviv, Israel, analyses user-generated content like product reviews and combines it with a shopper’s browsing behavior to make product suggestions, both online and offline. Aspectiva will be joining Walmart’s Store N 8, the latter’s in-house incubator, to help it roll out innovative shopping experiences.
2. Allbirds goes to China
Direct to Consumer footwear retailer Allbirds announced that it would be opening its first brick-and-mortar store in Shanghai, China later this year and would expand to the cities of Beijing and Chengdu by the end of the year. It will also roll out its products on Alibaba’s Tmall shopping website and build a presence on popular Chinese social media applications WeChat and Weibo. Co-founder of Allbirds Joey Zwillinger told Bloomberg that he sees a “pent-up interest from Chinese consumers”. He said that customers have been purchasing the shoe with Chinese credit cards and that Chinese tourists have also been frequenting the company’s stores. AllBirds is a part of a growing cohort of startups that have disrupted multiple industries like mattresses, eyewear, and beauty. It has raised more than $77 Million in funding according to Crunchbase, is profitable and reportedly has a valuation of $1.4 Billion.
3. FedEx announces the FedEx SameDay Bot
FedEx announced earlier today that it has developed an autonomous delivery robot to facilitate same-day and last mile deliveries for retailers. The bot is designed to travel on sidewalks and along roadsides, safely delivering smaller shipments to customers’ homes and businesses. With the bot, retailers will be able to accept orders from nearby customers and deliver them by bot directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day. FedEx is reportedly collaborating with companies such as Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens and Walmart to help assess retailers’ autonomous delivery needs. Other carriers like Amazon and UPS have also been rolling out initiatives to implement sustainability in the last mile.
4. M&S and Ocado go ahead with a deal
Marks & Spencer will acquire a 50% stake in UK’s online grocer Ocado for £750 million in a joint venture that will give M&S a full online food delivery service, according to Reuters. Ocado will start delivering M&S products by September 2020 at the latest, when Ocado’s deal with Waitrose expires. The deal will allow shoppers to buy M&S products and some of Ocado’s own private-labels, from a combined assortment of some 50,000 items. Waitrose will shift to focusing on its own internal delivery business. Existing Waitrose customers buying via Ocado can switch either to M&S products or buy from Waitrose’s online store.
5. L Brands to close stores
L Brands, the parent of Victoria’s Secret, saw its share price fall 8% after releasing its fourth-quarter results. Net sales came in at US$4.85 billion and adjusted EPS at $2.14 against a consensus of $4.88 billion and $2.07 respectively. After announcing the results, the company said it would close 53 stores in North America. The company has been struggling to stop the decline in same-store sales in its flagship lingerie network, where same-store sales reportedly fell 8% in January, causing a 1% decline in overall sales.