March 12, 2019 by Sujay Seetharaman

1. IKEA to start leasing furniture

IKEA has announced that it would start leasing furniture, marking a huge change in its decades-old business model of traditional retailing. 2018 was reportedly marked by job losses and a dip in profits which led IKEA to re-evaluate its business. The Rental or Product-as-a-Service or PaaS model has already become commonplace across sectors – such as Apparel, Automotive, and Furniture (IKEA isn’t really alone in this. Crate and Barrel, Wayfair, provide furniture for rent too) – within the retail industry, thanks to changing consumer behaviors.

2. Argos taps AI to connect physical catalogs with online channels

Argos has added AI-backed Visual Search technology to its iOS app, which lets users upload a photo of an item they desire, then searches for similar items by running the image against Argo’s online database. The technology does this by recognizing distinctive features such as shape, size, color, and style of items. Argos is reportedly planning to extend the Visual Search functionality to its paper catalog as well, wherein the app will show items similar to the ones on the catalog.

3. Amazon ends controversial pricing agreement with sellers

Amazon has reportedly ended a controversial pricing agreement with its marketplace sellers which prohibits them from selling their goods anywhere else at a price lower than the Amazon price, said TheVerge. Amazon’s move to drop Pricing Parity Agreements or Most Favored Nations clauses in the US comes about five years after it went into effect in Europe. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who has been a critic of the terms, was quoted as saying “Amazon’s wise and welcome decision comes only after aggressive advocacy and attention that compelled Amazon to abandon its abusive contract clause”

4. Sephora to expand its brick-and-mortar footprint

Sephora is set to open 35 new locations across in 32 cities in the US this year, beginning with an opening on New York’s Hudson Yards Development. The new stores will provide a number of “experience” oriented services such as interactive beauty tutorials, intelligent digital tools that scientifically prescribe beauty products based on skin factors and complimentary make-up and skin care sessions that come with a minimum purchase threshold. Sephora currently has about 460 stores and another 660 locations inside JCPenny’s. This expansion goes on to show that the importance of “touch-and-feel”, specifically in beauty is here to stay.

5. Footfalls continue to drop amid Brexit uncertainty

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported a 2% decline in footfall in February 2019, compared to 0.2% in the year-ago period, making it the weakest month in five years. For the High Street, the BRC reported a footfall decline of 1.9% compared to 1.2% in the year-ago period. Shopping center footfall declined by 3.4% compared to a 0.9% fall during the same period last year. According to the Retail Gazette, BRC’s Chief Executive Helen Dickinson was quoted as saying “While real incomes have been rising over the last year, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit appears to be driving a needs-not-wants approach top shopping”

Sujay Seetharaman

Market Analyst @ PipeCandy

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