Retail Sales Fall 3.0%
Retail sales unexpectedly fell 3.0% in February after jumping an upwardly revised 7.6% in January, driven in part by stimulus checks that went out the end of December. It was the sharpest decline since the early months of the pandemic, and a much steeper drop than the 0.5% decline economists had expected. A winter storm that blanketed much of the country's midsection in February was partly to blame, as it depressed demand for sporting goods, home improvement supplies and general merchandise. Building materials and supply stores fell 3.0%, the biggest monthly decline since February 2019. Online sales, which are typically more weather resistant, also dropped by 5.4%. Core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, fell 3.5% after rising 6.0% in February. Core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of GDP. Despite the decline, total retail sales were up 6.3% from February 2020, which was the last retail sales report before pandemic restrictions and closures began.
The Home Depot
THD is shifting inventory to more battery-powered products to help the environment and win over customers, according to Jeff Kinnaird, THD’s executive vice president of merchandising. The market for battery-powered and robotic tools is forecast to grow 5.2% by 2026, according to the 2021 Outdoor Power Equipment Market Report. Better technology is contributing to the shift in demand.
Lowe’s now has 2.5 million SKUs on their website, up 525% since Marvin Ellison took over two and a half years ago.
Lowe’s has now reset 95% of US stores in order to make the shopping experience more intuitive. Sales per square foot across locations in the US and Canada increased to $431 in 2020 from $345 in 2019.
Lowe’s has committed $10 million to a new initiative called 100 Hometowns as a way to give back during Lowe’s centennial year. Lowe’s got their start as a single, small-town hardware store in 1921 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Lowe’s now has more than 2,200 retail stores. Award-winning country music star Kane Brown, who was once a Lowe’s associate, kicked off the program by completing a project in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee tied to the East Lake Boys & Girls Club.
Walmart dropped the $35 minimum order requirement previously needed to qualify for Express delivery, which delivers items directly to the customer in less than two hours. Customers pay a delivery fee of about $10. Walmart relies on a team of 170,000 personal shoppers to pick and pack customer orders. Amazon Prime Now two-hour delivery is only available to members of Amazon Prime, which costs $119 annually. Prime Now two-hour delivery is free for orders over $35; customers pay a $4.95 fee for orders under $35.
Walmart removed rules that required sellers on the Walmart marketplace website to be registered in the US in order to better compete with Amazon and tap into China’s vast network of manufacturers. Walmart says vendors will still be carefully vetted, both locally and by Walmart’s global trust and safety team. Several years ago Walmart pulled about 20 million items off the marketplace that failed to meet Walmart’s quality standards. The Amazon marketplace is open to anyone who goes through the online registration process, but Walmart’s is invite-only so that they can vet sellers.
Ace designated April 3 as “Some Day,” a day dedicated to encouraging people to stop procrastinating and get started on one of those DIY home improvement projects they’ve been putting off. Ace will be offering free paint samples and delivery from Benjamin Moore and free babysitting search services from Sittercity.
Ace teamed up with Weber and Scotts to create the “Back Yard O-ACE-IS” sweepstakes. The sweepstakes will run throughout April with a grand prize of a $5,000 shopping spree at Ace. Second and third place winners receive a $500 or $250 Ace gift card. Scotts is offering savings between $10 and $25 on purchases between $75 and $150. Weber Grills is offering a special $30 discount on Spirit grills during the first two weeks and all customers who purchase a Weber Genesis II gas grill will receive a free Weber Snapcheck digital thermometer.
Amazon is bringing back a former exec to run their highly profitable and rapidly growing Amazon Web Services (AWS) business. Adam Selipsky is rejoining the company in May and will take over AWS later this year. He’s replacing Andy Jassy, who will become CEO of Amazon when founder Jeff Bezos steps down from that role and becomes executive chairman. Selipsky worked at AWS for 11 years before leaving in 2016 to run software company Tableau, which was later bought by cloud-based software company Salesforce.
AWS has launched a new service, Lookout for Metrics, that helps users streamline their operations by analyzing metrics and identifying the weak spots. The new service can currently be connected to 19 popular data sources and interface with apps like Salesforce, Marketo and Zendesk.
Amazon will make their telemedicine program, Amazon Care, available to employers nationwide. It is currently available to the company’s employees in Washington state. Amazon Care is an app that connects users virtually with doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses who can provide services and treatment on the phone 24/7. In the test area it is supplemented with in-person services such as pharmacy delivery and house-call services from nurses who can do blood work and provide similar services. Amazon has been using the service for their Washington state employees for about 18 months. Consumer demand for telemedicine and virtual health care exploded during the pandemic.
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