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ECRM names 9 Merchant Team of the Year winners

BY David Salazar

SOLON, Ohio — ECRM has recognized nine retailers for their work in sourcing, merchandising and supplier collaboration as part of its second annual Merchant Team of the Year awards effort. The winners span 10 categories across the food, drug, mass and value channels.

To choose winners, suppliers received ballots across 10 categories and voted based on a list of retailers selected based on past sales performance in those categories. The voting was based on retailers who showed excellence in new product launches, product sourcing, supplier relations, collaborative partnerships and joint business planning practices.

“We congratulate the winners of the 2017 Merchant Team of The Year Awards,” ECRM SVP retail Wayne Bennett said. “In today’s highly competitive retail environment, our retail winners across 10 product categories are focused on strong supplier partnerships routed in co-creation and collaboration to grow sales.”

The winners are:

• Ahold USA: frozen
• Albertsons: own brands grocery
• CVS: beauty
• Kroger: beer and wine
• Kroger: pet
• Meijer: health care
• Sam's Club: home and housewares
• Target: school and office supplies
• Walgreens: own brand HBC
• Walmart: candy

In the coming months, ECRM will feature Q&As with these retailers’ merchandising leadership on its website and social media.

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Walmart expects ‘connected customer’ to lead 40% e-commerce growth by 2019

BY David Salazar

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is counting on the “connected customer” and strong e-commerce growth as its two competitive weapons in the ongoing digital retailing war.

Walmart has augmented its fiscal year 2019 guidance with an expectation that e-commerce sales growth in the United States will increase by a staggering 40% by 2019. Walmart also predicted that consolidated net sales will grow at or above 3%, driven by comp-sales and e-commerce growth.

“We’re combining the accessibility of our stores with e-commerce to provide new and exciting ways for customers to shop,” Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon said. “I’m proud of the team we have in place, the work we have underway and how we are positioned for success in the future.”

With the acquisition of Jet.com in September 2016, the company has stepped up its e-commerce game by expanding its online assortment, adding two-day free shipping with no membership fee, and operating over 1,000 online grocery pickup locations. These efforts have contributed to both traffic and comp sales improvements, as well strong e-commerce growth over the past year.

McMillon also used the event to highlight Walmart’s global innovations, such as one-hour delivery from stores in China, commitments to sustainability, service to communities, especially in times of disaster.

The company has also successfully invested in associates and empowering them to drive results and better serve customers. Specifically, the company is equipping associates “with training and technology so they will continue to innovate in our stores, clubs and through e-commerce to find ways to deliver an enjoyable shopping experience that is easy, fast, friendly and fun,” McMillon added.

Digital experiences remain front and center going forward. For example, the company’s guidance for 2019 includes a plan to add 1,000 online grocery locations across its U.S. operation. It also expects to leverage expenses, and that its effective tax rate will be approximately 32.5%.

The discounter expects capital expenditures to be approximately $11 billion for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Walmart plans to use capital for store remodels and digital experiences over investing in new stores. Among its planned e-commerce investments are enhanced supply chain capabilities.

Overall, the company expects global unit growth of approximately 280 locations, including new, expanded and relocated units, for each of the fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Specifically, Walmart U.S. expects to open fewer than 15 Supercenters and fewer than 10 Neighborhood Markets in fiscal year 2019.

Walmart International expects to open approximately 255 new stores with a focus in key markets, such as Mexico and China. In addition, Walmart International will invest in fulfillment capabilities, according to the company.

Walmart operates more than 11,600 stores under 59 banners in 28 countries and e-commerce websites in 11 countries.

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Walmart streamlines returns process with new mobile effort

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Eager to streamline the often frustrating task of merchandise returns, Walmart will introduce Mobile Express Returns. Starting Nov. 9, the new service will enable online customers to use the Walmart app to begin the returns process — before even heading to their local store.

Here’s how it works: Customers follow prompts on the Walmart app to find their transaction and pinpoint the merchandise they want to return. Once completed, they can go to their local Walmart store, and enter the Mobile Express Lane.

Here, they scan a QR code displayed on their Walmart app directly onto on a dedicated card reader. The refund is credited back to the shopper’s payment account by the next day, according to Walmart.

The returns process, which the company estimates will take 35 seconds or less, can be completed across Walmart’s more than 4,700 locations.

The discount giant plans to streamline the process even further in December, when it enables customers to instantly receive their refund without even making a trip to the store to physically return the item. This service will initially be available on select household items, such as shampoo and color cosmetics, and others items to be added over time, Walmart said.

“We know that returning an item and waiting for a refund, especially for a product purchased online, isn’t always seamless, so we’ve completely transformed the process for our customers – whether they are shopping in stores or at Walmart.com,” said Daniel Eckert, senior VP, Walmart services and digital acceleration, Walmart U.S. “By leveraging our physical stores and the Walmart app, we’re changing the returns game in ways that only Walmart can do.”

To ensure that shoppers don’t abuse the system and keep merchandise they have already been reimbursed for, the discounter has invested in technology to make sure the service isn’t exploited and even detect shoppers who might be abusing the privilege, according to The Street.

Looking ahead, store purchases will be integrated into the program in early 2018. The company also is creating a similar streamlined returns process for items sold by third-party sellers on Walmart.com, according to the discounter.

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