Posts tagged with "Walmart"

Walmart expands drone delivery to 1.8M Texas households

January 11, 2024

Walmart is upping its drone capabilitiesexpanding the delivery service to 1.8 million additional households throughout North Texas in a bid to compete with rivals such as Amazon, reports Fox Business.

The company’s drone delivery will now reach 75% of households throughout the Dallas and Fort Worth area. This expansion will impact stores across more than 30 towns and municipalities in the metroplex, Walmart says.

The Arkansas-based company touted that it’s the first retailer to offer drone delivery to this many households in a single market. It’s setting its sites on rapid expansion though it already considers itself as having the “largest drone delivery footprint of any U.S. retailer.”

The drones—powered by Wing and Zipline—allow households within the delivery zones to receive items within a half hour, according to Walmart.

Walmart said both drone delivery providers had been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly without a dedicated observer being able to see the drone at all times, which enabled the company to expand the number of households it can reach.

Since 2021, Zipline has been working with Walmart to deliver items in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Meanwhile, Wing teamed up with Walmart to launch service at two locations in the Dallas-Forth Worth area last August—reaching 60,000 homes.

Given that nearly 4,700 Walmart stores are within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population, the company believes it’s “uniquely positioned” to scale this service. 

Simultaneously, its rival, Amazon, has also been rapidly ramping up its drone program, which kicked off in Lockeford, California, in 2022.

Today, Prime Air drone deliveries are now within three U.S. cities, and will be available for customers in Italy and the U.K. later this year.

Most recently, the company even expanded the service to its Amazon Pharmacy arm. In October, the company started delivering medication to customers in College Station, Texas, via drone.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness

Walmart expands healthcare coverage for employees who want doulas during pregnancy

October 26, 2023

On November 1, Walmart—the nation’s largest private employer—plans to expand to nationwide its healthcare coverage for employees who want to enlist the services of a doula, a person trained to assist women during pregnancies, reports ABC News.

The coverage was first offered to Walmart employees in Georgia in 2021, and then last year the Bentonville, Arkansas-based discount retailer offered the same benefit to employees in Louisiana, Indiana, and Illinois. The exception is Hawaii, which has its own set of health benefits, Walmart said.

Walmart said the program is meant to address racial inequities in healthcare and improve the maternal and infant health of its workers and their babies, especially in areas where access to care may be limited. Doulas are trained experts that must receive credentials from either the National Black Doulas Association, or DONA International.

“As things evolve and we’ve come out of COVID, we continue to see the gaps where maternal care is not always available or there needs to be additional support,” said Lisa Woods, Walmart’s VP of Physical and Emotional Well-being.

Woods declined to specify the number of Walmart employees who have taken part in the program so far—noting that the biggest challenge was educating employees on what doulas actually do. It plans to better publicize the offering and include the expanded coverage in this year’s annual health insurance enrollment materials.

The expansion of the doula benefits comes as a new collection of reports from the March of Dimes—a nonprofit organization committed to ending preventable maternal health risks and death—shows that more than 5.6 million women live in counties with limited or no access to maternity care services, pushing families to find new ways to get needed care. The loss of obstetric units in hospitals has been responsible for decreased maternity care access in nearly one in 1ten counties nationwide, according to the report.

Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, largely due to differences in the quality of health care, underlying chronic conditions and structural racism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Employing a doula as a part of a birthing team decreases cesarian sections by 50%, shortens the time of labor by 25%, and decreases the need for other medical interventions by more than half, according to the National Black Doulas Association.

Employees on Walmart’s medical plan can receive assistance from a doula with coverage of up to $1,000 per pregnancy. The company already has in place a “Life with Baby” program, which offers no-cost resources like one-on-one coaching from a nurse, tools to track daily progress and gifts for new babies.

Other major U.S. companies also are offering full or partial doula services for employees, including CVS Health and Microsoft.

Tracy Collins, president and founder of the National Black Doulas Association, noted that Walmart’s move to expand the program nationwide could help increase momentum for the use of doula services to help address racial inequities in maternal care.

“I am seeing major corporations take an interest in wanting to align with the (National Black Doulas Association) for the look of supporting a Black business or a Black and brown company, but they don’t follow suit,” Collins said.

Research contact: @abcnews

Walmart uses augmented reality to let shoppers try on makeup on its app

October 13, 2023

Walmart has partnered with beauty and fashion technology company Perfect Corp. to enable shoppers to try on makeup and beauty products in augmented reality before making a purchase, reports Adweek.

Available through the Walmart mobile app, this virtual try-on technology will allow people to “try on” more than 1,400 products from over 20 beauty brands, including Almay, CoverGirl, Maybelline, Revlon, Rimmel, and Neutrogena.

“As a destination for beauty, we’re committed to identifying new and emerging opportunities to inspire our customers and create more personalized, seamless, customer centric shopping experiences,” says Creighton Kiper, VP of Beauty at Walmart U.S.

This virtual try-on experience features Perfect’s Face AI technology, which, according to Perfect “is powered by advanced AI deep learning technology to create hyper-realistic AR-powered makeup filters for customers to try-on digitally.”

“As beauty customers turn to retailers for personalized advice and product recommendations, we are thrilled to be collaborating with Walmart to build an enhanced try-on experience with cutting-edge AI and AR technology,” said Alice Chang, CEO of Perfect.

Perfect has previously worked with companies like self-tanning brand Bondi Sands and Parfums Christian Dior to bring AR experiences to shoppers.

Research contact: @Adweek

HelloFresh to stop buying coconut milk from Thailand amid claims of monkey labor

March 20, 2023

HelloFresh, the Berlin, Germany-based meal kit company, has announced that it will stop using coconut milk from Thailand later this year, after allegations by the animal rights advocacy group PETA of the use of forced monkey labor in the coconut industry there, reports The New York Times.

Abby Dreher, a spokeswoman for HelloFresh, confirmed that “out of an abundance of caution” the company had decided not to buy coconut milk from Thailand starting later this year. The decision was made in December and was made public last week.

Walmart, Costco and other large American retailers have halted sales of Chaokoh coconut milk, a Thai brand; but HelloFresh has pledged to stop using coconut milk from Thailand entirely.

The announcement,  reported earlier by Axios, comes after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals published a report last November claiming monkeys were being abused at dozens of coconut retrieval operations that it said its investigators had visited in nine provinces in Thailand. PETA has long claimed that monkeys in Thailand are forced to climb tall trees for hours and to pick coconuts that will be used to make products such as coconut milk, flour, and oil.

PETA also claims that young monkeys are taken from their families to support the harvest. Abducting a wild animal is illegal in Thailand. The Thai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

In the report, PETA said that two of HelloFresh’s suppliers in Thailand relied on the labor of exploited monkeys. The New York Times was unable to confirm details of the PETA investigations independently.

“We have been in an ongoing dialogue with PETA ever since and continue to remind our suppliers, from whom we received written confirmation that they were not using monkey labor in their supply chain, of our high standards,” Dreher said. “Under no circumstances do we tolerate any form of animal abuse in our supply chain.”

In an email to PETA that was obtained by The New York Times, HelloFresh confirmed last month that it would stop buying Thai coconut milk by the summer of 2023 and would seek new suppliers based outside of Thailand.

In a study published in 2021 in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science, researchers interviewed 89 coconut farmers working in three provinces in Thailand. They found that the macaque monkeys worked every day of the week and “typically climbed more than 50 coconut trees” to harvest between 500 and 1,000 coconuts each day.

The Thai embassy told Axios last week that “both the Thai government and the industry are making sure that coconut milk exported from Thailand is not obtained from the use of monkey labor.”

In a government document from last August, the embassy said it was establishing a program, called “Monkey Free Plus,” that would “not only certify coconut plantations on food safety system but also assure that monkeys are not used for harvesting.” The embassy also said it was “promoting hybrid dwarf coconut trees for new planting,” whose short trunks meant that harvesting coconuts would “no longer require monkey labor.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Walmart overhauls its intimates and sleepwear line to keep pace in competitive holiday market

October 25, 2022

Walmart is relaunching and renaming its best-selling intimates and sleepwear line under the brand name Joyspun, as the discounter gears up for the holidays, reports CNBC.

The discounter has begun to roll out bras, underwear, socks, pajamas, and other intimate items under the new brand, both online and in stores. The brand replaces Secret Treasures, a major national line that has been in Walmart’s big-box stores for more than two decades.

Secret Treasures, Walmart’s largest intimates and sleepwear line, drove $1 billion in sales last fiscal year—one of the retailer’s 13 private brands of general merchandise to do so. It also captured the largest customer base across the women’s intimates and sleepwear market in the United States, with one in five buying from the brand in the 12 months ended January 2022, according to The NPD Group, a market researcher that tracks sales across mass retailers, mall retailers, and direct-to-consumer players.

Yet the intimates and sleepwear space has gotten more competitive—especially during the pandemic, as people worked remotely and spent more time at home. Now, a larger number of retailers are vying for market share, including shopping mall staples like Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle-owned Aerie, mass retailers like Target and newcomers like ThirdLoveYitty, and Skims.

Many of the newer entrants emphasize comfort, better fit and body positivity.

Above, Walmart has a new look and new name for its top intimates and sleepwear line. Prices for Joyspun range from $7.98 for a sleep shirt to $34.98 for a quilted robe. (Photo source: Walmart)

“It’s a white-hot moment for the intimates category,” said Denise Incandela, EVP of Apparel and Private Brands at Walmart U.S. “We wanted to take our leading brand, which was Secret Treasures, and reimagine it to offer the quality and elevated prints and premium design details, as well as a new brand name and colors and packaging and modernize in a way that brings us into the future.”

For the past year and a half, Incandela said, the retailer did consumer outreach that helped develop a line with a wide range of silhouettes, softer fabrics and trendier styles.

Joyspun shoppers will see a more modern spin on basic items from bras to underwear. All of the items sell at a low price pointwith bras starting at $11.98. Prices range from $7.98 for a sleep shirt to $34.98 for a quilted robe.

The relaunch could come at a good time. Walmart, the largest grocer in the country by sales, has drawn more high-income customers to its stores as inflation drives up the prices of food. Those shoppers could become a fresh audience for its apparel, particularly if they make more frequent trips to its big-box stores or consider new ways to stretch their dollars.

Joyspun also is hitting Walmart’s stores and websites ahead of the holiday season. Incandela declined to say what percentage of intimates and sleepwear sell during the fourth quarter, but said it’s the biggest sales season for the categories.

Incandela said shoppers will notice new details and innovations, such as bra cups that mold better to a person’s figure, underwear with lace and youthful prints. and robes made of plush fabrics. The discounter also will sell gift sets for the holidays, like eye mask and robe combinations.

Research contact: @CNBC

Harry’s moves beyond cheap razors for next growth spurt

April 25, 2022

New York city-based Harry’s catapulted to fame by selling sleek, low-priced razors over the Internet. A decade on, it’s now generating more than half of its sales from brick-and-mortar stores, its founders recently told Ad Age.

The company, which made a splash taking on what founders Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider saw as big corporations’ overpriced offerings, is seeing the sales payoff from its expansion to traditional retailers such as Target. It’s also growing in overseas markets, including France and Germany, and entering new categories such as women’s shaving, haircare, deodorant and even cat products. 

The moves by Harry’s could shed light on what’s next for direct-to-consumer businesses as enthusiasm for the model wanes, given many businesses have struggled to turn a profit or maintain growth. In an interview, Katz-Mayfield said there’s still a lot of “unmet consumer need.” In addition to its shaving business, the company now owns brands including Cat Person; and the hair care line, Headquarters.

Raider pointed to growth potential in the company’s core lines of toiletries and razors. But the company has also made inroads into other areas—last year 43% of Harry’s revenue came from categories other than shaving. The company has high hopes for businesses such as pet care and wellness products.

In December, closely held Harry’s made its first-ever acquisition of a brand with the purchase of deodorant startup Lume for an undisclosed price. The brand, founded by a gynecologist looking to help clients dealing with below-the-belt odor, is the kind of solution to a real problem that Harry’s is looking to develop or acquire, according to Katz-Mayfield.

Harry’s belongs to a group of startups that launched in the last decade focusing on Internet sales and subscription services. Now that many of these brands are well established, investors are watching to see whether they can maintain momentum. Many, such as bedding seller Brooklinen, are increasingly turning to physical retail.

Harry’s said sales last year grew 47% to $547 million, including the Lume acquisition, with 54% of that total coming from brick and mortar. The company first entered the mass retail market in 2016, and its products are available at large stores including Target in the United States, Walmart in Canada, and Tesco in the United Kingdom.

Competition in consumer goods has intensified, however, and growth will likely get harder to come by.

But investors remain optimistic: Harry’s raised $140 million earlier this year to help fund continued growth and is currently valued at around $2 billion. It had completed a $155 million funding round in 2021 at a $1.7 billion valuation following an acquisition attempt by Edgewell Personal Care that was thwarted by U.S. antitrust regulators.

The co-founders declined to comment on the timing of a potential public offering. Harry’s is “pretty excited about being an independent company right now,” Raider said.

They didn’t dismiss the possibility of a listing, however. “We think Harry’s over time can and should be an interesting, attractive public company,” Katz-Mayfield said.

Research contact: @adage

Why ‘free’ shipping isn’t free

April 1. 2022

The big carriers such as FedExUPS, and Amazon make lots of deliveries that they say are “gratis,” but none of those packages actually is being shipped for “free,” reports CNBC.

“People like free shipping because the word free is very powerful, even if people know that it’s not really free because someone is paying for it,” Kara Buntin, owner of the Etsy shop A Cake To Remember, recently explained to CNBC.

And today, more packages are being shipped than ever before: There were more than 131 billion parcels shipped worldwide in 2020, and parcel shipments are expected to double again in the next five years possibly reaching 266 billion by 2026—according to Pitney Bowes.

“When consumers click that ‘buy’ box, they often don’t see [the] labor that leads to a box on their doorstep,” Ellen Reese, a sociology professor at UC Riverside and co-editor of “The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy,” told CNBC.

“Anyone can offer an Amazon Prime two-day shipping. It’s just the cost that…might [be incurred] in providing that service,” says Dhruv Saxena, co-founder of third-party logistics company ShipBob. He estimates it may cost a company anywhere from $25 to $35 for a typical two-day shipping rate.

Companies such as Amazon, WalmartTarget, and even Etsy benefit from economies of scale because they generate mass online sales. This puts them at an advantage to achieve bulk discount rates, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

Indeed, when CNBC asked the Postal Service for information about how much money Amazon, Walmart and Target pay the service to ship packages, the department said that no contracts exist, but “there may be possibly an agreement in place with negotiated rates to deliver packages. However, we cannot confirm nor deny an agreement exists.”

This is due to federal regulations dictating that acknowledgment of the existence of a specific national service agreement “would cause harm and is confidential commercial information that would not be disclosed under good business practice,” the Postal Service said.

“Many [small businesses] have been under pressure, shutting down and closing because they can’t compete, “Jake Alimahomed-Wilson, a sociology professor at California State University Long Beach and co-editor of “The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy,” told CNBC in a recent interview.

In a 2019 survey, three-quarters of independent retailers said Amazon’s dominance is a major threat to their survival, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

“You can’t really plan for how much [carriers] are going to charge or how much [packages] are going to cost when you ship them, and that makes it difficult to offer free shipping because a lot of times you end up with no profit if you’re not really careful,” Buntin said.

Amazon, FedEx and UPS either declined or could not be reached for comment for this story.

Research contact: @CNBC

Amazon slaps a $9.95 fee on Whole Foods deliveries—and Walmart pounces

November 1, 2021

Whole Foods shoppers may have received a shock this week, if they noticed a new $9.95 delivery fee on orders placed through Amazon Prime, reports CNN.

Amazon, which acquired Whole Foods in 2017, had previously offered free two-hour delivery for Prime members, but warned shoppers last month a new charge was coming.

The fee was put in place to help cover delivery operating costs like equipment and technology without raising product prices, a Whole Foods spokesperson told CNN Business. Whole Foods delivered three times as many orders in 2020 as it did in 2019, the spokesperson added, as the pandemic deepened customers’ dependence on delivery.

Although the fee is new, some Prime perks will remain, including free pickup on orders over $35 and exclusive discounts.

In an email to customers last week, Walmart announced that anyone who signed up for Walmart+—the retailer’s version of Prime—on Monday, October 25. would receive $9.95 back.

“Because customers deserve a grocery delivery service that won’t leave a Whole in their wallet for delivery fees — whoops, typo,” the email reads.

Walmart+ offers subscribers free grocery delivery, free shipping with no order minimum and contact-free checkout. The subscription costs $12.95 per month, or $98 for the year. Amazon prime costs $12.99 per month, or $119 for the year.

Research contact: @CNN

Amazon to launch Fire TV sets in bid to firm up its foothold in living rooms

September 10, 2021

Amazon plans to roll out  a line of Fire TV sets that will feature its Alexa voice assistant—an expansion that also showcases a growing ambition to place itself at the center of customer living rooms, reports The Wall Street Journal.

On September 9, the tech giant announced two lineups of Amazon-branded TVs—one named Amazon Fire TV Omni Series, starting at $409.99, and the other Amazon Fire TV 4-Series, which will start at $369.99. The TVs will be available on Amazon’s website and at Best Buy. locations in October.

TV brands including Toshiba and Best Buy house brand Insignia have for years sold televisions powered by Amazon Fire TV’s operating system after Amazon and Best Buy joined forces in 2018.

What’s more, the Journal notes, Amazon has become dominant in streaming, with its Fire TV devices regularly ranking among top sellers. Its entertainment services include the Prime Video streaming platform, Fire TV operating system, and an assortment of streaming devices.

In recent years, Amazon has expanded its own-brand business in several arenas, including apparel, groceries and even items such as batteries. The company has opened branded grocery shops and plans to operate several department stores that will feature its private-label brands, the Journal reported last month.

Through its branded TVs, the online retailer is taking on a segment of electronics known for low margins that have dissuaded some competitors. Apple spent years studying the potential for an Apple TV, but has so far only developed a streaming device and the video service Apple TV+. The iPhone maker has long targeted opportunities to integrate hardware and software to make products where it can command hefty premiums and profit margins.

Amazon, meanwhile, historically has sought market share over profit and to appeal to customers with lower prices. The company in recent years has released an array of Alexa-enabled products, including ear buds and glasses.

An Amazon TV “speaks to Amazon’s product road map—anything customers spend time on, they want to take a shot at,” said Loup Ventures tech analyst Gene Munster. “There will be a market for cheap, good tech.”

The streaming industry is crowded with competitors. Amazon has faced steep competition from Roku  while being challenged by broadband giants such as Comcast,  which has worked with Walmart  and Chinese manufacturer Hisense to develop smart TVs.

Amazon said its Omni Series TVs will be equipped with the company’s Alexa assistant, which will feature “far-field voice controls” that enable customers to ask Alexa questions without a remote, much like the company’s Echo smart speakers.

The TVs will be available in sizes ranging from 43 inches to 75 inches diagonally and will have 4K resolution. Amazon said its Fire TV 4-Series will support Alexa capabilities available through its Alexa Voice Remote. The more affordable 4-Series TVs will be available in 43-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch models.

Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, said the television lineup will build on the company’s effort to bring ambient computing to people’s homes. He likened their capabilities to its smart speakers, with the Omni Series models responding and turning on to a wake word—often programmed as “Alexa”—even when they are turned off.

Finally despite launching competing TV products, Amazon said its partnerships with Toshiba and others aren’t changing. The company Thursday also announced new Fire TV-powered televisions by Toshiba and Pioneer. Amazon has clashed with partners and potential partners over how it has launched products that compete with them. The company has said it doesn’t use confidential information that other firms share with it to build competing products.

Aside from its branded TVs, Amazon on Thursday also revealed the latest iteration of its Fire TV Stick 4K product. The new Stick 4K “Max” (priced at $54.99) will include Alexa features and have power and networking upgrades.

 Research contact: @WSJ

The play’s the thing: Toys ‘R’ Us is back with a little help from Macy’s

August 23, 2021

Toys “R” Us is getting a new lease on life, thanks to Macy’s. The two companies are partnering to sell toys on Macy’s website. The brands are also opening Toys “R” Us shop-in-shops at 400 department stores next year.

It’s the second attempt to revitalize the Toys “R” Us brand within three years, according to a report by CNN.

This relaunch is new owner WHP Global’s first significant strategy shift for the toy store. The New York-based brand management company bought the storied retailer in March with plans to build a “global network and digital platform” for Toys “R” Us.

For Macy’s, using the recognizable name could grow its toy business to compete against Target and Walmart. The department store said its toys sales have grown “exponentially” in the past year as parents try to entertain their homebound kids during the pandemic.

“Toys “R” Us is a globally recognized leader in children’s toys and our partnership allows Macy’s to significantly expand our footprint in that category, while creating more occasions for customers to shop with us across their lifestyles,” said Macy’s Chief Merchandising Officer Nata Dvir in a press release.

WHP Global bought Toys “R” Us from Tru Kids, which bought the failed brand in a 2018 liquidation sale. Tru Kids had big plans to open about a dozen standalone stores across US malls, but only opened two in New Jersey and Texas. Both later closed with the company blaming COVID-19.

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The store-within-a-store concept has been growing in popularity, with big chains like Target and Nordstrom looking for ways to keep shoppers coming back to their stores. Target is opening mini Apple shops and Ulta makeup shops at dozens of its locations and Kohl’s has partnered with Sephora to open 70 shops.

Research contact: @CNN