Retail Sales Fall 0.1%
Retail sales fell 0.1% in February after falling an upwardly revised 0.1% in January. Sales were up 4.0% from February 2016. Core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline, building materials and food sales, rose 0.1% in February after being flat in January. Both retail sales overall and core sales were below economists’ expectations. Many economists continue to expect that the higher take-home pay that resulted from President Trump’s tax cuts, will cause consumer spending to rise in the coming months. Spending at online and catalog retailers rose 1.0% and spending at building materials stores was up 1.9%.
The Home Depot
THD is expanding their partnership with Pinterest’s visual discovery feature, Shop the Look, with more than 100,000 new shoppable home décor products, including vanities, faucets, lighting, textiles, tabletop and interior décor. To shop the look, users tap the circle on a product to see similar, shoppable items. Earlier this year THD launched a video campaign, “Built in Pins,” to illustrate that inspiration is often found on Pinterest.
The U.S. District Court dismissed a lawsuit claiming that The Home Depot was confusing customers by labeling dimensional lumber as 4x4 when a 4x4 does not measure that in inches. The judge ruled that the label did not include a unit of measurement and was therefore not explicitly incorrect. Home Depot said that a ruling for the plaintiff would be ignoring nearly a century of standardization and disturb an entire industry’s reliance on common lumber names.
The Home Depot Foundation announced a $50 million commitment to train 20,000 tradespeople over the next 10 years in order to help fill the growing gap in skilled labor. The Home Depot Foundation previously committed $250 million since 2011 to veteran housing. Last year the Home Depot Foundation partnered with the Home Builders Institute to launch a pilot training program for separating military personnel. The first set of students graduated in February.
CEO Robert Niblock will be retiring when a successor is found. The board has formed a six-person committee to find a successor. Niblock has been at Lowe’s for 25 years, and has been CEO since January 2005. Lowe’s sales have risen 88% since then to $68.62 billion and Lowe’s stock has more than tripled, but rival The Home Depot has outperformed Lowe’s for the past several years. Niblock’s departure follows the retirements of CFO Robert Hull and COO Rick Damron over the past year. Insiders have been forecasting Niblock’s retirement since some activist members joined Lowe’s board of directors, including David Batchelder, credited with helping to turn The Home Depot around.
Lowe’s says they are improving operations in the wake of quarterly results that were below their expectations, and stressed they are determined to produce results. CEO Robert Niblock said that they need to make incremental investments that will insure that they convert traffic into transactions.
Walmart’s new Scan & Go technology is getting rave reviews from customers, who reportedly love the new system that allows them to use handheld scanners to scan items and then just check out at self-service counters at the front of the store. Customers using their mobile devices can bypass the checkout stand altogether and pay using the app.
Walmart will expand their online grocery delivery option from six metro areas to more than 100 markets by the end of the year. The markets reportedly contain more than 40% of US households. No subscription is required, and customers can get their first order delivered for free using a special promo code.
Forecasting container allocations has been very manual and time-intensive for Walmart and stressful for their suppliers, who according to Walmart often felt as if they were trying to hit a moving target. Now Walmart is using a new tool that provides a rolling 12-week forecast of expected allocations to various carriers that is updated weekly, which has helped them secure capacity. Expeditors, who developed the tool, now called Carrier Allocation, said it took five years to perfect.
Sam’s Club will offer home delivery through Instacart in some markets. The delivery plan is part of a strategic shift by Sam’s new CEO, John Furner, who is attempting to turnaround Sam’s and make it more competitive with both parent company Walmart and rival Costco.
Q4 revenue dropped to $4.4 billion from $6.1 billion in Q4 2016, but still beat analysts’ expectations. Comp store sales for Q4 fell 15.6%, also better than expectations. Sears comp store sales dropped 18.1% and Kmart comp sales fell 12.2%. Sears said that store closures contributed to more than half of the revenue decline for the quarter.
CEO Eddie Lampert said that Sears made progress last year and will continue to build on that progress, looking to close unprofitable stores and to unlock the value in their assets, which most analysts view as an intention to liquidate cash-rich assets such as the Home Services division.
Sears will be closing 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores by the end of April.
Sears has secured a $440 million loan to use for a $407 million payment into their pension plan that provides for the release of 138 of their properties, which alone have an appraised value of nearly $980 million.
Ace Hardware has entered into an exclusive paint partnership in the home improvement category with Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines Paint, the brand’s first paint partnership with a co-op. The paint line is available on acehardware.com and in nearly 500 Ace stores nationwide.
True Value announced a deal with private equity firm ACON that will return $229 million to True Value retailers. Under the deal, True Value retailers will retain 30% of the company.
True Value says the deal will accelerate the transformation of the True Value business and convert the structure of the company from a co-op selling products to their member owners into a distributor selling products to any and all customers. ACON will make a strategic investment in the new True Value operating company. There will no longer be a requirement to purchase stock to be able to purchase products from True Value, which will free up members’ and customers’ capital.
The rumor mill thinks that Atlanta may get the nod as the home of Amazon’s HQ2, because Amazon’s booming Amazon Web Services (AWS) division is trying to hire a senior executive based in Atlanta. Georgia is said to have offered more than $1 billion in incentives and infrastructure improvements to Amazon.
Amazon plans to grow their Seattle headquarters to almost 14 million square feet of office space, an addition of more than 2 million square feet.
Amazon is talking to JPMorgan Chase and Capital One about offering Amazon’s millions of millennial customers a product similar to a checking account that would reportedly be structured to meet their needs.
A court in Munich, Germany ruled that Amazon’s instant-order Dash Button violates the German Civil Code. The code mandates that consumers must be provided with information on the price and type of products purchased when customers place orders with the Dash Button. Amazon plans to appeal.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is now officially the world’s richest man, according to Forbes magazine’s annual list of billionaires. They calculated his fortune, which is mostly in Amazon shares, at $112 billion dollars. Bezos displaced Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who has topped the list for 18 of the past 24 years. The number of women on the list increased from 227 to 256, with a record 72 of the women having made their own fortunes.
Amazon bought Ring, maker of a popular line of video doorbells. Ring will become the 11th smart home product under Amazon’s umbrella with either a built-in camera or microphone. Analysts say the acquisition could give Amazon a leg up in the increasingly competitive race to own more of the smart home market.
Amazon is planning a small business customer credit card, and has reportedly been talking to JPMorgan Chase about issuing the co-branded card. The card will feature a rewards points system for purchases, with the option of adding offerings such as business insurance and other tailored rewards. Amazon already offers two consumer credit cards, one with JPMorgan. Amazon Lending lent more than $1 billion to small businesses between 2016 and 2017.
Amazon will no longer sell Nest’s Secure home security system and thermostat, among other products. According to sources, the directive came from CEO Jeff Bezos. Nest is part of Google’s hardware division.
Amazon has patented on-demand personal assistant technology that would allow people who need help to crowdsource a wide variety of errands and tasks that a personal assistant would typically perform. Tasks could include picking up and delivering dry cleaning, coming and taking a family photo or picking up a pizza. Task performers would be registered and matched to needs using a system similar to Uber. Amazon applied for the patent in 2006, but it was just recently granted.
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