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Industry News - July 9th 2010



Walmart in Major U.S. Management Shuffle

Shifts at two of the most important management positions at Walmart indicate the importance the world's largest retailer places on both its international and e-commerce businesses. Vice chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright has been appointed president and CEO of the company's Global.com and Global Sourcing units, but will turn over management of U.S. operations to Bill Simon, who was named president and CEO of Walmart US. Both executives will report directly to Walmart president and CEO Michael Duke.

"As we continue to become a truly global company and address the business challenges of a rapidly changing world, it is clear that Global.com and Global Sourcing are critical to our future growth and success," said Duke. "Appointing [Castro-Wright] to this role demonstrates our commitment and the importance we assign to these areas and to building the next generation Walmart." The move will also allow Castro-Wright to relocate to California where his wife is recovering from a heart transplant.
Simon, who joined the company from Brinker International in 2006 and was most recently Walmart's chief operating officer, has been credited with innovations such as the retailer's popular program offering many generic prescription drugs for $4.

He faces a number of challenges with Walmart's U.S. operations, where in the most recent quarter, sales at stores open at least a year declined 1.4% from a year earlier, representing the fourth consecutive quarter of decline. Though average purchase sizes increased, shoppers made fewer visits to Walmart stores during the period. In an effort to retain shoppers, the retailer said it would cut prices on basics such as cereal, ice cream and detergent during the summer, following price reductions of paper towels, toothpaste and other items.


Getting Fresh: Walgreens to Test Chilled Foods

Walgreen will be conducting a test of chilled foods at up to 12 stores this fall as the drugstore retailer mulls a move into the growing fresh foods sector. Walgreen could sell sandwiches, fresh cut fruit, soups and wraps, according to published reports, which also suggest that the trial may involve as many as 50 stores in the Chicago area in September.

Walgreen spokesperson Tiffani Washington confirmed the planned test at the smaller number of stores, and said the fresh food initiative could help the retailer to eventually be seen as a "destination for tonight's meal."
Like other drugstore chains, many Walgreen stores already sell packaged foods and snacks, but many of these retailers are expanding their selections to fit time-starved shoppers' lifestyles by offering one-stop shopping.
Walgreen hired grocery and convenience store veteran Jim Jensen in January 2010 as its divisional merchandise manager of fresh food. Jensen had worked at Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain in a similar role, and he also had worked at 7-Eleven as a category manager.


Target, CVS Bring Facebook to In-Store Photo Kiosks

Social media and in-store retailing continue to strengthen their relationship. Photo kiosks located in Target and CVS stores will soon allow Facebook members to upload and print photos from the social media site, thanks to an update of the Kodak Picture Kiosk Software version 4.0 that will be live in stores by September 2010, according to published reports.

Shoppers will be able to log on to Facebook with their standard user name and password using the kiosks' touch screen display. The kiosk will connect to the user's account and display only photos, rather than wall or status updates. Photos are organized by albums; users can touch an individual photo to add it to their print request, tap more, check out and the photos are printed.

The software allows Facebook members to create photo books, collages and picture-movie DVDs on the spot in addition to standard 4-by-6 inch prints.


Carrefour Group Taps Oracle for Data Warehousing

Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison revealed a major win in the retail marketplace with the news that the world's second-largest retailer, Carrefour Group, had purchased the Oracle Exadata database machine. The Carrefour sale was part of Oracle's successful moves into such major global corporations as Bank of America and Thomson Reuters.

During a June 24, 2010 conference call discussing Oracle's Q4 and fiscal year 2010 results, Ellison noted that version 2 of the Exadata database machine, developed in partnership with Sun Microsystems, focused not only on data warehousing performance but on online transaction processing.
"The 2011 Exadata pipeline continues to grow and is now approaching $1 billion, making Exadata the fastest growing new product in Oracle's history," said Ellison.


Fraudsters Hit TJX for $650,000

Between December 2008 and February 2010 a team of six individuals collaborated to steal about $650,000 worth of merchandising from T.J. Maxx and Marshall's stores in the Los Angeles area, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.
All six defendants in the crime wave pleaded to using counterfeit American Express travelers' checks to defraud the stores. Prosecutors said they would buy items and then return them to different stores within the same chain for cash.

The crimes were committed throughout several counties including Orange and Los Angeles, prosecutors said. 

One of the ringleaders was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison. A second is expected to be sentenced to seven years in prison on July 30, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.

The other defendants received jail sentences ranging from 60 to 210 days in custody, prosecutors said.


Sam's Club Easing Credit Squeeze with Small Business Loans

Small businesses and entrepreneurs have felt the impact of the credit squeeze most strongly: only half of small businesses that tried to borrow last year got all or most of what they needed, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, while in the mid-2000s, 90% of businesses said they got the loans they needed.
Retailer Sam's Club is stepping in to at least partially fill the breach with a first of its kind pilot program offering loans of $5,000 to $25,000 to its members who qualify. The retailer is partnering with Superior Financial Group, a leading Small Business Administration (SBA) lender. The hope is that by providing members with greater access to capital, Sam's Club will reap the benefits of both increased sales and greater customer loyalty.

In a November 2009 state of small business survey conducted by Sam's Club, nearly 15% of its business members reported being denied a loan to run their operation, up from 12% in April 2009. "Access to capital is a major pain point for our members and the small business Main Street community," said Catherine Corley, vice president for membership at Sam's Club. "We believe this pilot program is a step in the right direction to help fuel small business growth and create jobs to stimulate our economy. It's also simple to apply and costs less, which is consistent with our goal to help our members make smart choices and provide superior value."
Corley added that in the survey, "fully one-third [of respondents] said ˜I didn't buy what I needed to buy at Sam's Club because I didn't have the money.' It really motivated us to say, ˜We've got to find some solutions.'"

The pilot program will focus on Main Street minority, women and veteran-owned small businesses. Sam's Club members who apply for a small business loan online during the pilot will receive $100 off the application fee along with a 20% discount and a 7.5% APR. The loan terms will remain the same for 10 years, with no penalty for early repayment. Business memberships cost $35 annually at Sam's Club..


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