Innovation and AI take on retail

Month of May

For the more experienced, or those of us with more years behind us, we are familiar with the history and evolution of retail around the world, in which for decades a group of big brands controlled traditional retail. This history, however, is quickly being left behind, making room for a new generation of retailers or firms who control e-commerce and how we shop today: I’m referring to Amazon and the Chinese company, Alibaba. All of this, thanks to the digital transformation that we are currently undergoing, which is rapidly expanding, having a greater impact on our daily habits. Similarly, AI is becoming ever more present in the industrial sector, reaching places we are not yet aware of; but if there is anything that we do know, it is that the incorporation of robots or new systems will affect how labor is managed. For example, Amazon is already testing robots to pack products at its distribution centers. This will pose a new challenge for our industry.


A year after rumors surfaced that HBC was looking into selling Lord & Taylor, the company made it official, saying last week that a sale is among the strategic options it’s now pursuing for its small, struggling department store banner. 


If the last year was slow for El Corte Inglés with regard to sales at its stores, the new 2019–2020 fiscal year that began March 1 has not started out much better. Despite a 2.5% growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) and a 1.5% increase in prices, the group’s revenue dropped by 0.13% in the first two months of the fiscal year.


What sense do shopping centers make at a time when online shopping has exploded and the main city streets are being transformed, becoming more attractive to its residents and visitors, both for outings and for shopping at local shops?


Petco is taking experiential retail to a new level with the opening of its first-ever pet food kitchen. Created in partnership with, the new kitchen in Petco’s Union Square flagship store in New York City also delivers on the company’s promise of better nutrition for pets and more choices for their parents.


Louis Vuitton. Gucci. Harrods. What do the French luxury label, the Kering-owned fashion behemoth and the heritage retailer have in common? Pop-ups. Just last week, Harrods inaugurated Fashion Re-told, a charity pop-up, offering pre-owned designer clothing from brands like Chloé and Stella McCartney.


The robots are coming to Amazon, and they reportedly may take some jobs. According to Reuters, Amazon is considering widespread rollout of automated robotic machines that pack goods in custom-created boxes at its fulfillment centers. The machines, currently installed at a few select Amazon centers, reportedly replace at least 24 human workers.


The innovative use of technology, such as artificial intelligence and data analysis, has helped e-commerce businesses offer their clients a number of benefits, driving a 33% growth in brand value for the major retail brands in the world, as revealed by Kantar and WPP in a report published this week.


According to “The State of Consumer Spending: Millennials Flexing their Retail Market Influence,” a study of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers by consulting firm First Insight, millennials (born 1981-2000) are most likely to spend more than $50 per visit in-store (74%). This compares to 71% of Gen X and 65% of Baby Boomers.


Years ago, if you thought of major store chains or consumer brands, the logos of companies such as Zara, H&M and even McDonald’s tended to come to mind. And yet, the digital transformation has caused a dramatic shift in the perception of these businesses, with two new kings and lords in the industry.


U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in April as households cut back on purchases of motor vehicles and a range of other goods, pointing to a slowdown in economic growth after a temporary boost from exports and inventories in the first quarter.


China reported surprisingly weaker growth in retail sales and industrial output for April, adding pressure on Beijing to roll out more stimulus as the trade war with the United States escalates. Clothing sales fell for the first time since 2009, suggesting Chinese consumers were growing more worried about the economy.


Last week, President Trump escalated the trade war with China by raising the import tariff from 10% to 25% on some $200 billion in goods. Goods that land on our shores before June 1 will not be affected, but that means a whole lot of products on order for back-to-school and holiday retail will likely cost more.


Former Apple retail boss Angela Ahrendts is joining Airbnb’s board, the company announced this week. The former Burberry  CEO led Apple’s retail and online stores for five years before the company announced her departure earlier this year. Ahrendts had been one of the highest-paid employees at Apple with a total compensation of USD 26,5 million in 2018. is close to reaching an agreement to buy the ad-serving technology of bankrupt company Sizmek Inc. in a deal that would give the e-commerce giant another weapon against Google’s dominant online ad business. The purchase could be announced as soon as this week, according to two people briefed on the matter.


The volume of investment in retail spaces between January and March 2019 in Spain reached nearly 200 million euros, according to real estate consultant Knight Frank’s Snapshot Retail for the first quarter of the year. Of this volume, 47% of business corresponded to shopping centers, compared to 30% of operations involving supermarkets and 23% in High Street.


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