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China retail sales up 10.4%; Amazon eyes food technology for its prepared meals

TOP NEWS

* V.F. Corp. announced a deal to buy private workwear manufacturer Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. for $820 million in cash. The deal, slated to close in the fourth quarter, will add brands including Dickies, Workrite, Kodiak, Terra and Walls to the V.F. Corp. portfolio.

* Retail sales in China increased 10.4% year over year to 2.961 trillion yuan in July, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. In the country's rural areas, retail sales expanded 11.7% year over year to 413.6 billion yuan, outpacing the 10.2% growth rate in urban areas, which recorded retail sales of 2.547 trillion yuan. Combining the first seven months of the year, retail sales across the country jumped 10.4% year over year to 20.198 trillion yuan. During that period, online retail sales grew 33.7% to 3.662 trillion yuan.

* Amazon.com Inc. is exploring a food processing technology to produce ready-to-eat meals that do not require refrigeration, Reuters reported. The technology, called microwave-assisted thermal sterilization, or MATS, is able to produce prepared dishes that can be stored and shipped easily. MATS was developed by researchers at Washington State University, where Amazon reportedly sent a team in February to meet with a key developer of the technology. Amazon declined to comment on the matter.

APPAREL RETAIL

* Japan's Fast Retailing Co. Ltd.-owned Uniqlo brand plans to double its store count in China to 1,000 by 2020 in a bid to meet a sales target of ¥3 trillion, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Uniqlo, which had 540 outlets across China in May, is reportedly fast-tracking its training process so that it can have enough store managers to support the expansion drive. Fast Retailing's Group Executive Vice President Pan Ning, who handles Uniqlo's China operations, said the company will hasten the pace of Chinese store openings over the next couple of years from the present rate of about 100 new stores per year, according to the report.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* Japanese retail giant AEON Co. Ltd. is looking to capitalize on the country's aging population by setting up 100 or more stores aimed at seniors by 2025, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The stores will partner with local government and medical institutions and offer elderly-oriented products. In addition, the stores will reportedly schedule regular events, such as exercise classes, seminars on healthy eating and hobby-related meetings, with the possibility of also offering services like health consultations and shuttle bus transportation. Aeon Retail, the Japanese company's core subsidiary, has been testing the concept at four locations and will expand that to 12 stores by February 2018 before adding another dozen or so each year from fiscal 2018, the report said.

FOOD RETAILING

* U.K. food retailer J Sainsbury Plc started a trial run of a free 30-minute grocery pickup service offered via the Chop Chop app on Android devices. The company's store in the Pimlico area of London is offering the service, which allows customers to select and pay for up to 25 items for collection within 30 minutes. It is available seven days a week with no fee.

HYPERMARKETS

* German grocery store chain Aldi's U.S. unit is teaming up with same-day grocery delivery provider Instacart to offer the service on a test basis in Dallas, Atlanta and parts of Los Angeles beginning Aug. 31, Fortune reported. Aldi's vice president of corporate buying, Scott Patton, reportedly said that online grocery retailing "will be part of the [company's] future." Aldi operates around 1,600 stores in the U.S. and previously said it will invest $3.4 billion to increase that to 2,500 stores by the end of 2022.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* Overall footfall across shops in the U.K. fell 1.1% year over year in July as customers cut back spending on nonessential items, according to the British Retail Consortium. High street outlets posted a year-over-year decline of 2.1% for the month, while shopping centers saw a 1.3% drop. Conversely, footfall in retail parks rose 1.7%, with the subsector's performance since March helped in part by lower rental costs compared with prime and town center locations, as well as convenience for shoppers.

* South Korean duty-free shops have lost as much as 600 billion South Korean won since March as Chinese tourists stay away amid ongoing political tensions between the two countries, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing the Korea Economic Daily. Chinese tourists visiting South Korean duty-free shops reportedly have decreased about 40% since March. The country's duty-free market was worth $7.6 billion in 2016, according to data from the Korea Duty Free Association, with more than 70% of sales coming from Chinese and other foreign tourists. It is anticipated that the market will shrink 40% this year.

* After falling for more than 1.5 years, grocery prices in the U.S. are headed upward, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, showed. The index for food at home, which tracks the price of food sold by retailers, farmers, manufacturers and home production, rose 0.3% in the 12 months ended July, a BLS statement said, summarizing monthly changes in the Consumer Price Index. The increase is the first over a 12-month period since the 12 months ended November 2015, according to the BLS, which is a division of the U.S. Labor Department. The increase could signal a turnaround for U.S. grocers from Kroger Co. to Costco Wholesale Corp., many of which have cited price deflation as a drag on their earnings in recent quarters.

* A rebound in sales of watches and jewelry helped boost Singapore's retail sales in June, while the food segment also saw modest growth, according to the latest data released by the city-state's Department of Statistics. Total retail sales increased 1.9% year over year to S$3.7 billion in June, mainly driven by a 12.0% surge in sales of watches and jewelry, 9.8% growth in sales at gas stations, a 7.3% jump in department store sales, and a 4.4% rise in furniture and household equipment sales. But on a month-to-month and seasonally adjusted basis, total retail sales dropped 0.5% from May. Excluding motor vehicles, June retail sales increased 0.1% from the previous month.