Retail Sales Fall 0.7% in December
Retail sales fell 0.7% in December after dropping a downwardly revised 1.1% in November and 0.1% in October. Sales were up 2.9% from December 2019. The three back-to-back declines came after several months of growth. Sales at home improvement stores continued to rise, climbing 0.9% in December and 17% for the full year. Online sales fell 5.8% in December but rose 19% for the year. The December decline was attributed to Amazon getting the holiday season off to an early start by hosting their annual Prime Day event in October rather than in the summer and consumers shifting holiday spending into November, but analysts are concerned about spending going forward. Core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline and sales at building and supply stores and food services and factor into calculations for GDP, fell 1.9% in December after falling a downwardly revised 1.1% in November.
Holiday Sales Rise 8.3%
Retail sales during the November through December holiday season rose an unexpectedly high 8.3% compared with holiday 2019, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Sales were well above NRF’s forecast of an increase between 3.6% and 5.2%. Numbers include online and other nonstore sales, which jumped 23.9% to $209 billion. The increase was more than double the 3.5% average holiday increase during the previous five years and the 4% gain in 2019. Retail analysts said that consumers spent money saved over the year because they weren’t traveling, dining out or going to events. Consumers were also encouraged by news of vaccines becoming available. There were double-digit increases for building materials stores and sporting goods stores.
Lowe’s plans to hire more than 50,000 workers for the busy spring season in hopes of meeting pandemic-fueled demand for home improvement products.
Lowe’s will pay frontline workers about $80 million in additional discretionary bonuses, bringing their total CV19 financial commitment to employees and communities to nearly $1.3 billion. Spring is typically the busiest time of year for home improvement retailers. Lowe’s has hired more than 90,000 workers for permanent positions over the past year.
Walmart is piloting a partnership that will enable deliveries directly to a temperature-controlled “smart box” outside customer homes. The smart box is powered by an Internet of Things (IoT) platform with three temperature-controlled zones so it can properly store frozen, refrigerated and pantry items. When it is time for a delivery the smart box communicates with the delivery provider’s device and gives them secure access to the smart box. The pilot test with Home Valet is Walmart’s latest effort to keep pace with Amazon’s gradually expanding Amazon Key “smart entry” delivery service.
Walmart ecommerce boss Marc Lore is leaving the company now that most of the online operations he once oversaw have been absorbed into Walmart’s business. Lore joined Walmart in 2016 after Walmart bought his startup Jet.com in order to increase their online offerings and add more inventory and distribution centers. Lore retired the end of January, but will stay on as a consultant through September. The online business will continue to report to US CEO John Furner. Walmart said Lore played a key role in helping them achieve their ecommerce objectives, but insiders say many of his initiatives were deemed too unprofitable or not aligned with Walmart’s core business. Meanwhile, Lore is writing a book, creating a reality TV show, buying a sports team and says he will continue to mentor female entrepreneurs.
Ace introduced three exclusive new color palettes. Their Clark+Kensington 2021 Color Trends are designed to help people make more of their living spaces, which now get much more use, and focus on mindful living, the desire to simplify surroundings and the urge to escape and unleash creativity.
Fastenal revenue rose 6.46% to $1.36 billion in the fourth quarter, beating analysts’ expectations.
Amazon delivered more than 1.5 billion products all over the world this holiday season as online shopping grew by pandemic leaps and bounds. In addition, third party sales on Amazon’s marketplace rose by more than 50% year over year. Amazon has reportedly absorbed more than $5 billion in operational costs on behalf of independent sellers since the start of the pandemic, and recently announced that they would delay raising merchant fees. According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, ecommerce sales in the US grew 47.2% year over year from November 1 through December 24, 2020, and online sales accounted for 19.7% of overall retail, up from 13.4% in 2019.
Amazon is now offering at-home CV19 testing kits for $110 each, or $1,000 for 10. Amazon says it is the first at-home coronavirus saliva testing product that is FDA-approved for use by both people experiencing symptoms and those who are asymptomatic. However, unlike a home pregnancy test, the saliva sample collected must be sent to the indicated sample lab. After the package arrives at the lab, people will learn their results in 24 to 72 hours. Costco began selling swab-free kits in October for $130, and Walmart and Sam’s Club have offered similar products since December.
Amazon is now allowing customers to request a reduction in the amount of plastic packaging included with their order. To opt out of receiving plastic packaging, people need to go online to chat with Amazon’s Customer Services and follow the prompts. Amazon says they get a lot of requests to reduce the amount of plastic packaging used.
Amazon is creating a $2 billion housing equity fund to support affordable housing stock in cities where Amazon has a major footprint. The first cities chosen are Arlington, Virginia, Puget Sound, Washington and Nashville, Tennessee. The goal of the fund is to use below-market loans and grants to housing agencies to create 20,000 housing units in each of the three cities.
Amazon is purchasing 11 Boeing 767-300 aircraft in order to expand their air delivery capacity. Amazon Air will play a central role in helping Amazon ramp up same-day delivery and transport items across longer distances in shorter timeframes.
Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will vote on forming the first union in Amazon’s history in February, according to the National Labor Relations Board. An Amazon spokesperson said that they work hard to support our teams and more than 90% of associates at the Alabama warehouse would recommend Amazon as a good place to work to their friends.
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