Retail Sales Fall 1.0%
Retail sales fell 1.0% in March after falling a downwardly revised 0.2% in February, according to the Commerce Department. It was the largest monthly increase since March 2021 when stimulus checks were delivered. Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales fell 0.3% after rising 0.5% in February. Sales fell across most categories but rose 1.9% at online retailers. Core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of GDP. Unlike many government reports, retail sales aren't adjusted for inflation and can reflect rising prices or one-time events that boosted spending. The retail sales report covers about a third of overall consumer spending and doesn't include services, such as travel and entertainment.
The Home Depot
THD named Melanie Babcock vice president of Retail Media+ and monetization. The former vice president of integrated media explained that THD’s retail media business has been growing since they launched it in 2019. Suppliers are becoming more comfortable with investing in retail media and it is truly a business now for THD, with its own P&L, rather than a marketing tool. THD targets both Pros and consumers and says that both segments generally begin a project with research, which is often done online or on an app. Even within the Pro community, needs differ greatly, depending on whether they are using THD to fill-in or as their primary supplier. They have been investing in their data gathering and management for years and their ability to market to the different customer segments. Babcock describes it as a hard business because it’s a company inside a retailer with a different business model than the retailer.
EVP Merchandising Jeffrey Kinnaird is leaving the company immediately. He’ll be replaced by William "Billy" Bastek, a 33-year veteran of The Home Depot who has served in several leadership positions across the merchandising organization. Most recently, he was senior vice president of hardlines, where he was responsible for merchandising and marketing strategies for the hardware and garden departments. Kinnaird could receive millions of dollars and help filing his taxes as part of his severance agreement with the company. Kinnaird, who is Canadian, spent nearly three decades with Home Depot, including nearly five years as president of the Canadian division. He became executive vice president of merchandising in October 2020.
THD launched a Virtual Kids’ Workshop that challenges gamers to play and learn by collecting materials needed to build projects. THD’s debut in the metaverse is part of their investment in interconnected experiences. Kids’ Workshops are meant to introduce a new generation to the fun and accomplishment of home improvement and building things.
Lowe’s introduced a suite of Pro-focused tools that build on the success of their MVP Pro Rewards and Partnership Program. According to proprietary research from Lowe's, 61% of Pros expect retailers to help them shop quickly, so they can get back to the job. The suite of tools includes online ordering, seven-day price guarantees, a buy it again option, order tracking and volume pricing.
Lowe’s chief marketing officer Marisa Thalberg has left the company as part of a broader reorganization. Lowe’s cut Thalberg’s role and moved their marketing team under Bill Boltz, executive vice president of merchandising. Thalberg oversaw several high-profile campaigns, including TV commercials on ESPN during the NFL Draft.
Lowe’s will install rooftop solar panels at 174 stores and distribution centers nationwide as part of their commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The newest installations will include facilities in California, Illinois and New Jersey.
Walmart plans to give 20,000 free Walmart+ memberships to moms who give birth in hospitals in the US anytime during the month of May in celebration of Mother’s Day. They are partnering with Pampers Hospital Gift Program, which sends new moms home with gift bags. Moms who receive the Walmart+ membership in their Pampers gift bag can redeem their membership through a QR code and personalized number. Their membership will be good for a year from the date it’s activated. To tout the giveaway, Walmart is running ads featuring singer and songwriter Cardi B, comedians and actresses Jenny Slate and Janelle James, and actress Stephanie Beatriz. Each person featured in the ads is a mother who shares her tips on being a mom in the clips. Walmart is considered the primary competitor to Amazon’s Prime program.
Walmart has begun using AI to negotiate costs and purchasing terms with certain vendors, reportedly accomplishing in days what used to take several weeks. According to Bloomberg, Walmart is using a chatbot developed by the California-based company Pactum to negotiate smaller contracts with suppliers who provide equipment they use rather than products they sell. Interestingly, research showed that 72% of the suppliers preferred negotiating with the chatbot to negotiating with a human. Pactum said that the technology allowed Walmart to simultaneously negotiate with 2,000 suppliers and save an average of 3%.
Amazon will start charging people $1 to drop off a free return at a UPS store when there is a Kohl’s, Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh location that is closer.
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