1. Alipay debuts at Walgreens
Chinese tourists visiting the United States can now pay using Alipay at Walgreens, one of the largest drugstore chains in the country. According to Alibaba, a reported 4 million users of Alipay are in the US annually. Walgreens said that this provision will be available in 3,000 locations in major cities such as New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco to begin with, and will expand to 7,000 stores by April. In September 2018, parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) launched a flagship store on cross-border platform Tmall Global, thereby adding a Direct-to-Consumer channel to its already existing Wholesale and Retail footprint in China. “This is a key strategic partnership for achieving awareness in the U.S.,” Yulei Wang, general manager of Alipay North America, said of the Walgreens partnership.
2. Concerns around Amazon and Google’s Smarthome data collection
Google and Amazon are reportedly asking Smarthome gadget markers such as Logitech and Hunter Fan to send a continuous stream of information about the devices connected to the Smarthome gadgets. Typically, data is collected by these Smarthome devices when a light is turned off, or when a door is locked. This new request, if and when it materializes, would keep the tech giants constantly apprised of the status of the connected devices, giving them insights about the behavioral patterns of a household. “There are very relevant concerns about how much the system knows” said Ian Crowe, a senior director with Logitech International S.A.
3. Payless ShoeSource set to close all stores
Shoe retailer Payless will close its entire fleet of 2,100 stores in the US and Puerto Rico in the days to come. Liquidation sales began today, and stores will begin to close in March. The company is also reportedly planning to shut down its online store. It first filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and shut 400 stores at that time. This was followed by reorganizing and shredding away millions of dollars in debt. However, this still doesn’t appear to have given it enough fuel to keep running. Payless has more than 3,600 locations in 40 countries and over 18,000 employees, according to its website. A spokesperson said its international franchises and Latin American stores will not be affected.
4. Wayfair opens brick-and-mortar store
Home furnishing retailer Wayfair is the latest digital-only retailer to have opened its first brick-and-mortar store. This 20,000 sq.ft outlet in Florence, Kentucky will sell discounted items and all returned goods that are in good condition. The company did two holiday pop-up shops in November and December last year. Ed Marci, the Chief Product and Marketing Officer for Wayfair said, “Building on the success of our television advertising and direct mail, this pop-up experience was another way to deepen engagement with customers beyond our online presence.”
5. The store closures expected in 2019
More than 1,500 stores are set to shut shop this year according to an analysis by Business Insider. The list of key contributors to store closures includes Sears, Gymboree, Shopko, Performance Bicycle and Charlotte Russe. Excepting Sears, the others have announced full or partial liquidations. Retail store closures opened up 102 million sq.ft of floor space in 2017. This figure shot up to 155 million sq.ft last year, according to commercial real estate firm CoStar Group.
6. Amazon invests in potential Tesla rival
Electric truck start-up Rivian announced a $700M funding round led by Amazon. Some analysts say that Rivian’s products – which were unveiled less than three months ago – could come off as a challenge for manufacturers such as General Motors, Ford and Tesla. Earlier this month, Amazon reportedly invested $530M in self-driving technology company Aurora. Morgan Stanley Analyst Adam Jones said that this investment potentially benefits Amazon to use electric delivery vehicles to shape its own logistics efforts.