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Alibaba hits US$1.44 billion in sales within minutes on Single's Day

The AFR reported on that China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group says it logged 10 billion yuan (US$1.44 billion) of sales within opening minutes of its annual "Singles' Day" online shopping sale yesterday. Australian firms, which ranked third globally behind the United States and Japan amongst the most-sold brands last year, are also hoping to cash in on the 24-hour online annual shopping frenzy. Alibaba is under pressure to beat last year's numbers when the company reported 39% growth and 168 million yuan in transactions during the festival.

Cotton On Group reports 20.4% year on year growth

The AFR reported that the Cotton On Group (COG) disclosed $2.59 billion in revenue, up 20.4% year on year and placing the retailer 10th in the 2018 AFR Top 500 Private Companies List. The article also mentioned that COG's Australian business is currently performing strongly relative to international concerns in Brazil, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Namibia, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, the US, and Britain - a marker of active expansion efforts abroad. COG operates 1,500 stores across seven brands and twenty countries. Retail Directions is proud to be a core retail technology partner for the Cotton On Group globally.

Aussie retailers struggling with new US state sales taxes

The AFR reported that, despite a booming economy and Donald Trump's landmark tax cuts, Australian businesses selling to the US are struggling with complex new state sales tax and onerous compliance rules. A United States Supreme Court ruling in June requires firms trading online with US customers to pay state-based sales taxes. Each of the 50 US states can charge their own rates of sales tax, and rates can change regularly. Since July, more than 30 states have now introduced a sales tax and have an effective compliance date. Australian small businesses are required to register in each state they sell into, then implement technology to apply local sales taxes and collect and file sales tax returns.  

5G pushing NBN towards the trash heap

We are picking up more and more signals that 5G is getting closer.  The Wall Street Journal commented that 5G is expected to be 100 times faster than today's wireless networks and will enable blazingly fast movie downloads, virtual reality experiences that are not janky, as well as a new generation of robotics.  Latency in 5G networks could be 1 millisecond or less, compared to 100 milliseconds with current networking methods, allowing for practically real-time connectivity. A worldwide commercial launch is expected in 2020, but Telstra has already (15 August 2018) activated its 5G network on the Gold Coast.  We wonder: where will this leave NBN?  Most likely on the trash heap of history.

New Look recovering but more store closures ahead

The UK's Retail Gazette reported that New Look’s boss has suggested that almost 100 of its UK stores may end up closing down as part of its ongoing turnaround scheme. This includes the 60 stores that were marked for closure and subsequent 980 job cuts under the retailer’s CVA that was greenlit back in March. However, it's not all bad news for the retailer, which recently unveiled a return to profitability in its first half. Its adjusted EBITDA also more than doubled compared to last year, rising from £24.2 million to £49.8 million. Additionally, the retailer is poised to exit the Chinese market, closing 130 stores that are understood to have lost £37 million last year.

Bookmaker sites crash ahead of Melbourne Cup

Multiple media outlets reported about widespread betting site crashes ahead of the Melbourne Cup. Reports flowed in across both news and social media about Sportsbet, Ladbrokes and the TAB going down, costing the bookmakers millions of dollars in unplaced bets. Your Money, the rebranded Sky Business News, invited Retail Directions' MD Andrew Gorecki to comment on the outages, which seem to occur yearly. Andrew noted that it's all retail and retail demands mission-critical systems, which means that they need to be designed with the expectation of failure. Technology is secondary in mission-critical systems - architecture, design, and planning are key. This is the approach Retail Directions uses in the development of our retail platform to ensure our clients are insulated from such outages.

Amazon to buy stake in India's Future Retail

The Economic Times reported that Amazon is set to acquire a minority stake in Indian retail giant Future Retail. Once the deal is done, the e-commerce platform will gain access to nearly a third of India's organised food and grocery market through the Big Bazaar and Nilgiris supermarket chains and other outlets. Amazon will buy 9.5% stake in Future Retail, a deal is estimated to be in excess of US$300 million.

Lowe's shuts 51 stores in US and Canada

Reuters reported that home improvement chain Lowe’s Companies Inc announced the closure of another 51 underperforming stores in the United States and Canada earlier this week as it strives to compete with rival Home Depot Inc in a slowing housing market. Lowe’s has been striving to find ways to catch up with the long-time sector leader Home Depot, whose stores on average generate almost twice as much in sales. Lowe's is the same retailer that Woolworths partnered with in the failed Masters joint venture, perhaps Woolies backed the wrong horse.

Industry group campaigns against Kaufland

Inside Retail reported that an industry group made up of FoodWorks, IGA, Friendly Grocer and more are stepping up a campaign in protest at the arrival of German hypermarket, Kaufland, to Australia. The CEO of Master Grocers Association, who is involved with the Save Our Shops campaign, said that the retailer poses a “major risk to any family enterprise and private business”.  Save Our Shops campaigners are frustrated because the Kaufland consortium went straight to the Minister for Planning instead of the usual process of going through councils. Kaufland is known as a “destination retailer” as its stores are planned for sites outside of the main town centres, which the industry group argues can put the high street and local shops at risk as they take away foot traffic. In our view, the campaign is misguided. Using non-commercial tools to obstruct a competitor tells you one thing: they should focus on fixing their own offerings ASAP.

September retail statistics

Business Insider reported that Australian retail sales rose marginally in September, rounding off what was a weak quarter for spending at the shops. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), sales rose by 0.2% to $26.893 billion after seasonal adjustments, undershooting expectations for a larger increase of 0.3%. Sales previously grew by 0.3% in August, the same level as the original estimate. Refreshingly, rather than just focusing on the month-to-month statistics, the article notes the year-on-year increase in spending as well. From a year earlier, spending increased by 3.7%, the same pace seen in the 12 months to August.      

November shopping now bigger than Christmas

The AFR reports that November has overtaken December as the biggest shopping month of the year. Retail spending in November overtook sales in December for the first time in 2016 and the trend gathered pace in 2017, with seasonally adjusted retail sales rising 1.3% to $26.39 billion – the strongest monthly growth for the year – while December sales fell 0.6% to $26.25 billion. We think that this is actually good news for retailers, as the trend spreads the peak traffic over two months, reducing the pressure. It also tells us that retailers need to start preparing for peak trading even earlier next year.

WWW inventor says tech giants need to be split up

Reuters reported that the inventor of the World Wide Web says tech giants such as Facebook and Google have grown so dominant they may need to be broken up. The digital revolution has spawned a handful of US-based technology companies that now have a combined financial and cultural power greater than most sovereign states. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook have a combined market capitalisation of US$3.7 trillion, equal to Germany’s gross domestic product last year. Given the tech giant's growing customer data monopoly and market power, we've echoed this sentiment in the past, noting that changes in the legal and regulatory framework to put serious constraints on the large technology companies are inevitable.