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JB Hi-Fi reaffirms $7.1b sales guidance

The AFR reported that JB Hi-Fi appears to be defying the downturn in discretionary spending, reporting stronger same-store sales growth in its Australian and New Zealand electronics stores in the lead up to Christmas. At the annual meeting in Melbourne on Thursday, where the retailer narrowly avoided a first strike against its remuneration report, the retailer's CEO said total sales at JB Hi-Fi stores in Australia rose 5.3% and comparable sales grew 3.4% for the three months ending September. This was a significant acceleration from July, when same-store sales rose just 0.3%. Analysts say trading conditions for discretionary retailers have deteriorated over the last few months – pointing to subdued same-store sales at Nick Scali, PAS Group and Michael Hill and slower growth at Super Retail Group – as low wages growth, rising utility costs and political instability take a toll on household spending.

Alceon now one of the largest fashion retail groups in AU

Ragtrader reported that Alceon Group’s private equity business has acquired the Pumpkin Patch childrenswear business, adding to its already extensive portfolio of retail brands, including Noni B, Ezibuy, SurfStitch and Cheap as Chips. The business was acquired in March 2017 by its current owner, Catch Group Pty Ltd, from the company’s receivers. Alceon's executive director said the group hopes to revive the brand. Pumpkin Patch will initially be re-launched in New Zealand through EziBuy and will feature in EziBuy’s online and physical stores, planned for the end of October. A full re-launch of Pumpkin Patch into the Australian and New Zealand markets is planned for July 2019. Alceon also plans eventually to launch stand-alone Pumpkin Patch stores.  

The value of Click & Collect

Recent research conducted by US automation company Bell and Howell looked into the value of Click & Collect for retailers, we've picked out a few of the most interesting findings from the report. In terms of enhancing customer experience, 76% of consumers say that pickup efficiency influences their purchasing decision, while 79% say overall experience influences where and how often they buy. The data shows that consumers expect their orders to be ready for pickup in 24 hours or less, with 53% demanding two hours or less! More than one notification method (email, text message, phone call, etc.) also matters. Additionally, 58% of shoppers make impulse purchases when retrieving an order, and 53% of consumers buy additional items when returning items in-store. For a retailer's bottom line, there is an 85% reduction in shipping costs when orders are shipped to store, e.g. Walmart reduced their shipping costs from about US$5, down to circa US$0.75 per order shipped.

ASX battle looms between Catch Group and Kogan

The AFR reported about the looming ASX rivalry between online retailers Catch Group and Should Catch Group Holdings float as planned in coming weeks, fund managers reckon there promises to be fireworks. Both retailers were frontrunners in the online space Down Under, Catch set out with a deal of the day type offering, while focused on selling electronics and white label products. But the rivalry has stepped up recently with Catch's "marketplace" strategy, which targets apparel and homewares, putting it up against It'll be interesting to see whether Catch gets away. The choppy equity markets are proving hard for newcomers, although there remains plenty of contenders lining up for a shot at the ASX-boards.  

Big brands flock to Google Shopping Actions

Retail Dive reported that Google added Best Buy, Sephora and Nike to the list of retailers that now sell directly through Google's Shopping Actions service, a unified shopping cart capability integrating Google Assistant, Google Express and the internet giant's search capabilities. Shopping Actions enables shoppers using Google search and Assistant capabilities to buy products on Google Express without having to go to the retailer or brand website after the initial product discovery. While this sounds great, it's worth noting that it goes against the Digital Path to Purchase funnel - the focus is on ordering and not true experience, which means that the sale becomes transactional rather than a part of nurturing lifetime engagement.

US food supply jolt

The Wall Street Journal reported that more than a dozen companies have recalled millions of pounds of potentially contaminated food in recent days in a new challenge for food producers facing heightened scrutiny of the US food supply. This is one in a series of similar events as food companies grapple with costly recalls and an increase in multistate outbreaks of foodborne illness this year, due to advances in pathogen detection and new regulations that require US farmers and food processors to do more to prevent foodborne illness.    

Woolies staff approve new enterprise agreement

The AFR reported that Woolworths supermarket staff have overwhelmingly approved the company's new enterprise agreement, which restores full penalty rates for the first time in decades. The new deal increases weekend and evening rates to the award minimum. Under the agreement, casual loading will rise from 20% to 25%. The four-year arrangement is expected to significantly increase labour costs for the retail giant as, unlike previous agreements, it does not trade away penalty rates for higher base rates.

Spending in AU stalls as businesses turn cautious

Business Insider reported that spending levels across the Australian economy grew at the slowest pace in over a year in September, driven by a sharp reduction in expenditure among business. The Commonwealth Bank’s Business Sales Indicator (BSI) — a measure that uses the value of credit and debit card transactions processed through Commonwealth Bank merchant facilities to track economy-wide spending — grew by just 0.2% in trend terms last month, the weakest increase seen since May 2017. But, it's not all bad news: in trend terms, the BSI found retail stores increased by 1% in September, the largest increase in six months.

RD POS fully integrated with Adyen

Retail Directions announced that its store-level systems - POS and mobile POS - are now fully integrated with Adyen, a leading global payments platform. Adyen provides payment technology to the likes of Uber, Netflix, eBay, Spotify, LinkedIn, etc. Retail Directions’ clients with an international footprint now have the option to deploy a single, globally-unified payments platform.

Roger David enters voluntary administration

Business Insider Australia reported that Roger David, Australia’s third largest Australian menswear retailer, has succumbed to the retail crunch and increasing competition online and has gone into voluntary administration. The 76-year-old company says it couldn’t compete with global retailers operating in Australia and with digital sites. Its 57 stores, with 300 staff, will continue to trade under administrators for the time being. Combined with tough market conditions, this situation is yet another example of how out of control utility prices have hit discretionary spending hard with serious consequences for specialty retailers.  

Afterpay faces a bumpy three months

The AFR reported that Afterpay is in for a volatile three months as buy now, pay later schemes - which consumer groups say exploits a loophole in lending laws - will be put under the microscope as part of a new Senate inquiry into parts of the finance sector. Payday lenders and debt management firms will also come under scrutiny. Afterpay, not unlike Uber and other technology businesses, has been savvy enough to stay one step ahead of legislators until now, but a correction was imminent from the start. Lending laws aside, let's not forget that buy now, pay later offerings have also been great for retailers, attracting consumers back into stores.