retail news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• The Washington Post reports this morning that Alibaba Group, the Chinese internet company, will begin selling shares on the stock market today as a company valued at $168 billion, more than Amazon.

"Though little known in the United States," the Post writes, "the tech powerhouse has in 15 years transformed life in China, where 80 percent of online sales pass through an Ali­baba site. Its colorful, chaotic marketplaces, where consumers can buy nearly anything, saw $248 billion in sales last year, more than and eBay combined … Alibaba’s new billions could also help fund its future expansion into the United States, where in the past year it has invested in tech start-ups working on ride sharing, messaging, delivery services, sports apparel, antique furniture and video games."

In other words, your world potentially just got immensely more complicated.

• The Chicago Sun Times reports that Sears Holdings has announced that it will close a unspecified number of stores in states that include Illinois; Milwaukee; Oakland, California; Wichita, Kansas; Owensboro, Kentucky; Marion, Ohio; Great Falls, Montana; and Bluefield, West Virginia. The new closings are in addition to the 130 closings announced earlier this year, and will all take place by early December.

Man, how bad must things be that Sears doesn't even want to try to squeeze one more holiday season out of these stores?

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that McDonald's build-your-own burger test "could be coming to many more locations as the chain seeks to pull out of the worst sales slump in a decade.

"The test, which lets customers pick out burger toppings such as jalapenos and tortilla strips on a touch screen, will be taken to additional markets depending on how the trial goes, said Lisa McComb, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s. The program started late last year at an Orange County restaurant and then expanded to three more McDonald’s in August."

Give me an In-N-Out any day.

• The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) yesterday said that more than 40 retailers representing more than 19,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada have enlisted in the "eat brighter" program that, among other things, uses characters from "Sesame Street" - royalty free - to market fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We're delighted by the response from both the supply- and buy-side of the industry,” says Cathy Burns, president of PMA. “We’ve spoken with each and every one of these companies, and they believe in the movement to help kids eat more fruits and vegetables. They are all industry leaders, and recognize that success is defined through the collaboration and support they lend to one another.”

• The Detroit Free Press reports that "Whole Foods is seeking a location for a second store in Detroit, co-CEO Walter Robb said this morning."

Whole Foods opened its first Detroit store in 2013, and Robb said it has been a "tremendous success." Detroit has been going through something of an economic resurgence even as the city wrestles with bankruptcy-related problems.

No location for the new store has been named.
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