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    The Week In News, But Shorter

    February 12 - 18, 2024

    The Week In News, But Shorter
    February 12 – 18, 2024

    *Programming Note* – Happy Presidents’ Day holiday today to our US-based subscribers and a simple “happy Monday” to all the others around the globe!

    We couldn’t help but feel a small sense of happiness in reading the news this week that Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) might indeed maintain some of their US properties after all. While our previous stomping grounds are not part of that (RIP Westfield San Francsico Centre), it is refreshing to hear that other marquee properties could remain as part of their portfolio – which was not their original plan – now that they are performing back at pre-pandemic levels. This does, however, go back to our discussion a few weeks back about the pendulum of power that swings between landlord and leasee – we’d encourage URW to remain focused on the long game as things can easily shift and they should not continue to be swayed by the where the pendulum falls at any given moment.

    This week we were also happy to read about how some off-price property owners are evolving with the times, how AI is being put to use in fulfillment centers and for restaurant ordering, and a new food delivery entrant. We also enjoyed an article about spatial analytics, which we provided commentary about over on our LinkedIn – check it out!


    Digital Meets Physical

    Target Reducing Self-Checkout Hours in Certain Stores To Fight Missing Inventory [RetailWireChallenges with Target’s self-checkout lanes continue as the retailer is cutting down the hours of operation at some of its stores, according to Business Insider. This shift does not apply to all of Target’s almost 2,000 stores. However, employees said that a major driver in this decision is due to staffing levels and sales volumes.

    Safeway rolling out receipt-scanning gates at more stores [GroceryDiveSafeway has been adding receipt-scanning gates to the self-checkout areas of more of its stores. The gates, which have been in use at several San Francisco area stores since at least last summer, recently arrived at select locations in the Washington, D.C, area. They said the gates are part of “long-planned security improvements” aimed at preventing theft.

    Why Build-A-Bear is pushing checkouts to tablets [RetailDiveMany applications of customer experience technology focus on assisting employees or customers, but physical stores offer an environment where one tool can assist both. Build-A-Bear Workshop has implemented in-store tablets that benefit the experience for associates and shoppers alike.

    Micro & Last Mile Fulfillment

    Shein Picks Amazon’s Backyard for New U.S. Fulfillment Hub [Retail TouchpointsDiscount shopping app Shein has announced plans to open a Seattle-area office as it continues to expand its U.S. footprint and moves forward with its U.S. IPO. The nearly 10,000-square-foot office space in downtown Bellevue, Wash. will serve as a hub for Shein’s U.S. fulfilment and logistics, furthering the company’s ongoing effort to localize fulfillment and support speedier delivery times for American customers.

    Instacart to lay off 250 workers, part ways with 3 execs [GroceryDiveInstacart announced Tuesday it will lay off approximately 250 workers, or roughly 7% of its total global workforce​​​​​​, as part of a corporate restructuring plan. Most of the layoffs will be completed by the end of March. “This will allow us to reshape the company and flatten the organization so we can focus on our most promising initiatives that we believe will transform our company and industry over the long-term,” Instacart CEO Fidji Simo said. 

    Staples to Deploy AI-Powered Robotic Picking in Fulfillment Centers [Retail TouchpointsStaples will install autonomous item-handling robots in its fulfillment centers as part of a multi-year agreement with RightHand Robotics. The solution provider’s RightPick system is powered by advanced hardware, a sensor suite and RightPick AI software designed for a wide range of warehouse tasks.

    Mall Talk

    Tanger Outlets is expanding its full-price beauty retail to drive shoppers into its off-price centers [GlossyTanger Inc, which owns and operates 38 outlet shopping centers, is leveraging its growing beauty retailer business to bring shoppers into its outdoor malls. This includes adding full-price stores like Ulta Beauty and Bath & Body Works to better compete with local discount department stores. It’s part of a larger expansion of entertainment, dining and specialty offerings to help draw in crowds.

    How Shop Premium Outlets is Helping Brands ‘Light Up’ Excess and Outlet Inventory [Retail TouchpointsIt’s been more than four years since mall operator Simon launched its ecommerce joint venture with Rue Gilt Groupe, and the Shop Premium Outlets (SPO) marketplace is going strong. The site, aimed at bringing off-price inventory from Simon’s malls online, now features more than 300 brands and as of last September, sales were up 100% year over year.

    Pre-Pandemic Occupancy Encourages Westfield To Keep U.S. Malls [ForbesThe prospect of Westfield malls group owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) retaining more of its U.S. malls ramped up this week after the Paris-based parent company posted financials that saw its sales return to pre-pandemic levels.

    Restaurants & Ghost Kitchens

    Restaurant ordering in the age of voice AI [SmartBriefPick up a phone to order a Domino’s pizza or pull up to the White Castle drive-thru these days and the voice taking your order is increasingly likely to be the product of AI. Voice AI at the drive-thru and on phone orders is so new and evolving that industry players like ConverseNow, Presto Automation and SoundHound have either expanded on their original missions or shifted gears completely since their startup days.

    Inspire Brands acquires delivery management software company Vromo [Nation’s Restaurant NewsDunkin’ and Buffalo Wild Wings parent company Inspire Brands has purchased delivery management software company, Vromo, for an undisclosed amount. “Inspire Brands purchased Vromo, an online food delivery software designed to make delivery channels more profitable; Terms of the deal are not disclosed,” the Inspire Brands spokesperson said.

    TikTok’s Most Viral Food Is Now Available for Delivery [The TakeoutIf you’ve ever thought that a viral recipe floating around TikTok looked good, but didn’t feel like heading to the grocery store in order to make it yourself, we’ve got some news: Virtual Dining Concepts (VDC), the same company that owns the MrBeast Burger brand, has opened up a new ghost kitchen concept called Creators’ Kitchen As Seen on TikTok (a name that just rolls right off the tongue). It sells a rotating set of dishes that have become TikTok famous, delivered to your door.

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