* J Sainsbury PLC and Asda Stores Ltd. pledged to deliver £1 billion of lower prices annually beginning in the third year of their merger's completion if the U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority allow the transaction between the two companies to proceed. The supermarket chains plan to invest £300 million in the combination's first year and an additional £700 million over the next two years in order to reduce the prices of everyday items they sell by about 10%. The companies will also secure lower purchasing prices from suppliers, put Argos stores into Asda outlets, and buy shared goods and services and reduce central costs in order to reduce the combined entity's product prices. "We hope that the CMA will properly take account of the evidence we have presented and correct its errors," Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe and Asda CEO Roger Burnley said in a joint statement. The announcement confirms reports that Sainsbury's and Asda will provide more specific price cut commitments to secure approval from the British antitrust watchdog.
* Amazon.com Inc. will begin offering its Amazon Day service, which allows Prime subscribers to select a recurring day of the week when their packages will be delivered to together, to the retailer's Business Prime members in the U.S. The e-commerce company said the initiative builds on its "Shipment Zero" goal that aims to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* Under Armour Inc. appointed Kasey Jarvis as its chief design officer, reporting to Chief Product Officer Kevin Eskridge. Jarvis is expected to begin in the role by early April and will lead the design team across all product platforms, regions and categories.
* H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB (publ) said it is beginning to phase out conventional cashmere as it provided updates on the company's initiative to only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030. The Swedish retailer said it will stop placing orders for conventional cashmere by the end of 2020 and will look for more sustainable sources for the material. The company also said 95% of the cotton it uses for products is now recycled or sustainably sourced.
* French apparel retailer Kering SA relaunched its corporate website, aiming to highlight its projects and values and portray a form of an online magazine that reflects the company's "Empowering Imagination" theme.
* Victoria's Secret rolled out its 2019 swim collection, which will be available exclusively online, with limited variety "due to overwhelming demand," marking the brand's return to the category since its exit in the swimsuit business in 2016. The L Brands Inc. chain is also offering swimwear brands such as Seafolly, Banana Moon, Lascana and La Blanca on its website and a new range of sunglasses at select stores and online.
* ShopKo Stores Inc. will proceed with the orderly wind-down of its retail operations beginning the week of March 18 after the general merchandise store chain was unable to find a buyer for the company. The bankrupt retailer also said it will not move forward with its previously planned auction and expects the liquidation process for its business to conclude over the next 10 to 12 weeks. ShopKo will also assess strategic options for its optical business.
* U.S. e-commerce company Overstock.com Inc. reported wider losses for fiscal 2018 as the company's revenue declined and its retail segment suffered. "Our retail arm lost money last year because I gunned things in an attempt to create a conventional high-growth/money losing e-commerce business," founder and CEO Patrick Byrne said in a statement describing the company's "nauseating" losses. In a call to discuss year-end results, Byrne also indicated that the company does not have a timeline for the sale of its retail business, going back on its previous plan to sell the unit by February. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, Overstock posted diluted net loss per share of $6.83, compared with a loss $4.28 per share a year ago, while revenue grew year over year to $1.80 billion.
* Asos PLC's total sales for second-quarter 2019 increased 13% year over year to £658.5 million despite a slowdown in three of the company's markets, mainly in the U.S., where the fashion retailer recorded a 3% sales decline in constant currency terms. The sluggish pace in markets including the U.K. and EU was offset by 20% retail sales growth, or 21% on a constant currency basis, in Asos' rest of world segment and a 13% increase, or 9% in constant currency terms, in international markets. Following the release of Asos' trading statement, the company's shares sank by more than 13% in London intraday trading.
* Ocado Group PLC revenue for the 13 weeks ended March 3 reached £404 million, up 11.2% from £363.4 million in 2018, despite a 1.2% sales impact in the first quarter from a fire at the company's Andover fulfillment center in February. In a separate release, the company announced that it will build an office in Washington, D.C., for Ocado Solutions, which provides technology and automation services to companies including The Kroger Co. in the U.S. and Sobeys Inc. in Canada. The office will be based in Tysons, Va., beginning April 2019, ahead of the permanent location's establishment.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* Newell Brands Inc. agreed to sell its Process Solutions Business, which manufactures custom-designed plastic, nylons, monofilament and zinc products, to private equity firm One Rock Capital Partners LLC. The Rubbermaid and Sharpie parent anticipates after-tax proceeds of $500 million, subject to working capital and transaction adjustments, for the divestiture of the unit that recorded net sales of about $640 million in 2018. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2019, subject to customary closing conditions.
HOTELS, RESORTS AND CRUISE LINES
* Marriott International Inc. is set to pitch its three-year growth plan, involving the launch of over 1,700 hotels globally, to institutional investors and security analysts, with hopes to return between $9.5 billion and $11 billion to shareholders from 2019 through 2021. The hotelier expects to add between 275,000 to 295,000 rooms by 2021 to its 478,000-room pipeline, from which roughly 214,000 rooms are already under construction. Marriott anticipates that new room openings during this period will lead to $400 million in fee revenue in 2021 and $700 million annually when stabilized.
* Travelodge Hotels Ltd. revenue in 2018 grew 8.8% year over year to £693.3 million despite experiencing "short-term challenges" during the period. Although the British hotelier cautioned that revenue for the first quarter of 2019 will be at its smallest and occupancy will be at its lowest, Travelodge said it expects to open 100 new hotels over the next five years, creating about 3,000 jobs.
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Off-price retailers forecast more growth after uptick in new stores in FY'18
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.19% to 29,466.28, while the Nikkei 225 fell 0.08% to 21,566.85.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 climbed 0.42% to 7,329.76, and the Euronext 100 lifted 0.66% to 1,055.98.
On the macro front
The Redbook Index for retail sales and the factory orders report are due out today.
Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.
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