Optimism and resilience were on display at Retail's Big Show this week, as retailers celebrated a strong holiday season and looked ahead with an eye on further integrating digital and physical retail. "The next frontier is trying to figure out how to replicate the in-store experience online and really try to bring a human touch to online, so they feel they have a connection," Neiman Marcus Group CEO Karen Katz said.
Abercrombie & Fitch's Abercrombie Kids brand has launched a unisex fashion line dubbed the Everybody Collection. The line includes gender-inclusive T-shirts, hoodies and other apparel and accessories priced from $19 to $69.
Panera Bread has adopted technology based on how new innovations can support the restaurant chain's main business, President and CEO Blaine Hurst said at Retail's Big Show. "It's the food. It's the experience. It's that total integrated experience that makes the difference," he said.
Amazon employed 541,900 people worldwide at the end of the third quarter, up from less than 100,000 in 2013, and the payroll is expected to grow further after the e-commerce giant picks a city for its second North American headquarters. Amazon's annual sales are on track to surpass $275 billion by next year, up 55% from 2017.
Marks & Spencer has hired former Southeastern Grocers executive Sharry Cramond as its first marketing director for food and hospitality. Cramond, whose resume also includes stints at Coles Australia and Tesco, will focus on helping the retailer strengthen its food business.
Bread manufacturer Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe reduced space needs by 50% and hours worked by 30% through a robotic picking solution paired with high-density pallet storage and retrieval, says executive Tony Martin. Automation helped the business manage peak seasonal demand and improve worker safety, Martin says.
Nearly three-quarters of affluent consumers check Amazon first for products and pricing, a trend that makes it more important for retailers to offer products that shoppers can't find anywhere else, panelists at Retail's Big Show said. "If your product isn't differentiated, you're relegated to competing on price, which will degrade your margins," First Insight founder and CEO Greg Petro said.
Amazon is increasing its use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in its Indian operations to speed orders, cut returns and improve efficiency. Some of the innovations developed to address specific issues in India will be adopted for use in other countries where Amazon operates, said Rajeev Rastogi, Amazon India's director of machine learning.
Discount retailers in the UK including Primark and Poundland booked strong holiday sales growth, as cash-strapped consumers turned to bargain hunting. "Consumers have allocated more spending to discounters so that they have more to spend on premium products," analyst Richard Hyman stated.
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