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Retailers

Retailer Showdown

Over 100 retailers are joining forces to fight against a proposed U.S. tax on imports, aiming to sway both federal lawmakers and American consumers. The Americans for Affordable Products coalition includes The Retail Industry Leaders Association and more than 120 other trade groups. The proposed corporate tax reform is meant to reward companies that sell products outside the U.S. while punishing ones that rely on low-cost overseas suppliers. Opponents say that the 20% border-adjusted tax would be regressive on industries like retail, oil and gas, and apparel—forcing companies to pass costs onto consumers.

Amazon is building an “air hub” in Kentucky to act as home base to its fleet of Prime Air cargo planes. The commerce retailer leased 40 cargo airplanes from two carriers last year;  sixteen of these planes are in service so far. Amazon has also invested in a delivery program called Amazon Flex (its Uber- and Lyft-esque alternative to relying on the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx), in addition to 4,000 trucks. The company completed its first drone delivery through Prime Air in late last year; the program is currently being tested in the U.K. Early this year, the giant announced plans to open dozens of pup-up stores in U.S. malls from its devices team; last year, its retail team launched a bookstore in Seattle. Amazon’s Q4 profits increased 22% to $44 in revenues—falling short of analyst expectations.

Target is making cuts to several planned initiatives after disappointing holiday sales (-1.3% growth in Nov. and Dec.)—cancelling its Goldflish e-commerce start-up, the opening of a store in Silicon Valley, and other innovation projects. However, the retailer is going ahead with a $5 million fund to support a green chemistry initiative in its supply chain along with new regulations on chemical use in textiles, beauty products, and personal care items.

U.K.-based toy retailer The Entertainer enters into a franchise partnership with Dubai-based retail and lifestyle corporation Apparel Group to open 30 stores across the Middle East—the list of countries includes the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait, with stores opening over the next five years.

Macy’s sells its Frango chocolate brand to Garrett Popcorn Shops. The retailer will continue to sell Frango products in its stores, as the new owner takes over the development, manufacture, sale, and distribution of the  brand.

Meanwhile, Hudson’s Bay is reportedly in discussions with Macy’s regarding a takeover bid, according to The Wall Street Journal. Possible agreements between the two retailers are still preliminary, but could involve a deal for Macy’s real estate, Bloomindale’s, or other assets. Macy’s investor Starboard Value estimates that Macy’s real estate is worth about $21 billion, according to The New York Post.

Bed Bath & Beyond acquires Chef Central, the specialty culinary retail operation, for $1 million in cash plus earn-out payments that could total as much as $1.25 million. The deal includes the Chef Central brand, website, and certain intellectual property assets.

H&M launches its Home stores as part of a revamped expansion program. The fast fashion retailer opened 427 new stores (now counting over 4,300 locations), added three new markets ,and rolled out its online store to 11 additional markets last year. Sales increased 7% in 2016 to $25.4 billion. H&M brands include COS, & Other Stories, Monki, Weekday, and now H&M Home.

Wal-Mart is now offering free 2 day shipping on more than two million products online, with no membership fee required. It has also lowered its free shipping requirement from $50 to $35. The company is ending its ShippingPass program (2 day shipping membership program) introduced last year as a counter to Amazon Prime, and is offering to refund consumers who paid for their membership. The moves do not affect purchases made on Jet.com or Hayneedle.com.

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