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The mystery of AI resolved

We have been attending Online Retailer conference in Sydney and one of the recurring topics is AI and its likely impact on retail and the society in general. We have sensed considerable confusion regarding the meaning of the term and the perceived capabilities of this fascinating technology. Retail Directions' delivered a keynote address to clarify the essence of AI, what are the pre-requisites to deploy it in a retail enterprise, and what it can do for retailers. Monitor Insights section for a full briefing - coming soon!

Levelling the tax playing field

The NRF reported that the US Congress' House Judiciary Committee has been conducting hearings on the impact of the Supreme Court’s South Dakota v. Wayfair decision on businesses and consumers.  The ruling requires goods sold over the Internet to be properly taxed if shipped from another US state. The NRF representative commented on smaller retailers often been the victim of “showrooming,” where consumers come into the store to take advantage of sales associates’ expertise and see merchandise in person, then order from an out-of-state online competitor to avoid paying 7-8 percent state and local sales tax. It is fortunate that the Australian Federal Government, after years of hiatus, finally resolved this issue for Australian retailers.

The taxman always needs more

Reuters reported that European finance leaders called for global rules to tax the digital economy at a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers in Argentina on Sunday. Some 200 companies would fall within the scope of the new turnover tax, with an estimated additional annual revenue of about 5 billion euros ($6 billion). US G20 delegates objected: “One of the big challenges is that taxation of the digital economy is mostly, of course, a taxation of American companies - because they are the key players in the world - so the United States feel that this is an attack concerning their digital economy.”
Tuesday reports strong trading results for FY18

Inside Retail reported on a cash flow statement and trading update released by today. The online retailer revealed a $23.7 million full-year EBITDA in FY18, a 90% increase from FY17.'s revenue in FY18 was up more than 40% on FY17, indicating that the business brought in more than $400 million. These are solid results in the age of Amazon operating in Australia. If any business has cause to be concerned by Amazon's arrival Down Under, it was Kogan.

How to beat Amazon

The Hustle reported on how electronics retailer Best Buy has been able to thrive despite Amazon's dominance in the market. The retailer's secret weapon? Real, live Geeks. Best Buy acquired a 50-person startup called Geek Squad in 2002, today the Squad is a 20,000-person IT army. By leading with human-led customer service, Best Buy has exceeded earning predictions for 22 consecutive quarters and quadrupled its stock price. In a world increasingly depersonalised by technology, customers covet customer service as a social and informative experience.  

CDs relegated to bargain bins as digital music booms

The AFR reported that Sony has shut its CD, DVD and Blu-ray disc factory in western Sydney after 25 years. In another article, the StarTribune informs that leading electronics retailer, Best Buy has relegated CDs to bargain bins as sales dwindle. Such is the fate of physical media in the age of booming digital content streaming. Very soon, retailers who have made a living selling CDs, and related products, will have nothing to sell. When was the last time you purchased a Compact Disk?

Sobering fraud statistics

AFR published interesting statistics from PwC.  For the first time in the history of this survey (27 years) crime threats to companies from outside exceed the risks from inside.  The shift is mainly due to the increase in cybercrime.  Hackers, customers and organised crime now account for 64% of fraud activity.  Sobering news for retailers.  We have previously stressed the need for retailers to button up and get ready for the upsurge in cybercrime.

Chilling statistics about self-checkout

NRF's STORES published an article about theft at self-checkouts.   A recent survey of 2,600 people found that nearly 20% admitted to stealing from self-checkout in the past; half said they did so because they didn’t think they would get caught.  A 2016 study by the University of Leicester in the UK found that retailers which use self-checkouts had a loss rate double the industry average. In an audit of 1 million shopping trips, researchers discovered 850,000 of 6 million items purchased were not scanned.  Clearly, retailers should think twice before 'investing' in such technologies.

UK sales growth

Reuters continues to publish meaningless retail statistics, this time about UK retail sales in the second quarter of 2018.  Apparently it was 2.1% up on ... the previous quarter.  No retailer or industry analyst would ever look at such a  number.  The figure that matters was June year-on-year growth, which was 2.9% - pretty competent outcome.  In May YOY growth was 4.1%.

Crying wolf about 'waste'


When it comes to retail, even the most respectable media sources struggle to provide meaningful information.  Fox Business lamented about Burberry destroying U$37 million worth of merchandise last year, "sparking concerns about wasteful practices".    They conveniently failed to mention that annual turnover of Burberry is around U$3.6 billion, so this was a mere 1% of sales.  They didn't comment as to what portion of the destroyed stock related to faulty goods and returns that couldn't be re-sold either.  Furthermore, Burberry probably lost more than U$37 million due to 'shrinkage' caused by staff, customers and suppliers.  We can't see how plucking an isolated number from a financial report, and then building a story around it, could be helpful to anyone.



Coles contradictory plastic toy giveaway


Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported that Coles got slammed on social media after the grocer contradicted its ban on single-use plastic bags by giving away collectible mini products made of plastic. AAP asked Coles for a formal response, including how many individual mini grocery items, and storage folders, have been ordered for the promotion, which runs for a limited time. If the 800 or so Coles supermarkets across the nation each gave away 1,000 complete sets, that would amount to almost 25 million individual items, most of them entirely or partially made of plastic, entering homes and potentially the waste stream. And, let's not forget the massive gross profits Coles will make from selling 15c multi-use plastic bags.

Afterpay shines on the sharemarket

According to the AFR, "buy now, pay later" leader Afterpay's market value lifted to almost $3 billion, as robust growth in sales transactions and earnings overshadowed concerns about potential lending losses from the fast-paced growth of the service in the retail market. Afterpay has told investors that the company now processes more than 10% of all 'physical retail' in Australia. The Afterpay platform is used by 16,500 retailers, up from 6,000 a year ago.