* H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB, owner of the H&M fashion brand, plans to accelerate its transformation, including the closure of more stores, after reporting disappointing fiscal fourth-quarter sales. The Swedish apparel retailer said its growth for the fiscal year ended Nov. 30, 2017, was restrained by fourth-quarter sales that were "significantly below" its expectations, citing a 4% year-over-year drop in sales excluding value-added tax in the Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 period.
* Costco Wholesale Corp.'s net income for the 12 weeks ended Nov. 26 was $640 million, beating the mean consensus estimate of $590.2 million compiled by S&P Capital IQ and the $545 million the company reported for the same quarter in fiscal 2017. The retailer's first-quarter 2018 included pre-Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, a shift from booking Costco's holiday sales in the second quarter in fiscal 2017, contributing a boost of about 1.5% to net sales, which were up 13% year over year to $31.12 billion.
TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* Li & Fung Ltd. agreed to sell its furniture, sweaters and beauty businesses to private equity firm Hony Capital and holding company Fung Group for an estimated cash consideration of US$1.1 billion in a move to simplify its business model. The Hong Kong-based consumer goods sourcing company plans to develop its digital supply chain with the cash from the deal, which is scheduled to close in the first half of 2018 subject to approval by Li & Fung's shareholders.
* Department store operator Sears Holdings Corp. started selling its DieHard battery-related accessories, such as jump starters, vehicle battery chargers and maintainers, on Amazon.com Inc.'s platform. The Illinois-based retailer, which operates Sears and Kmart stores, said the brand's automotive batteries and tires also will launch on Amazon in early 2018.
* Amazon's U.S. Prime subscription growth fell flat in its fiscal fourth quarter, Morgan Stanley said in a note distributed to clients, as 40% of 1,000 survey respondents in its research firm Alphawise's study said they are Prime members, a similar result from a year ago. Analysts from the firm added that the e-commerce giant needs to penetrate markets outside of its normal target demographics, which helped drive its Prime global subscription to grow 59% year over year in the fiscal third quarter.
* The Competition Commission of India approved the proposal of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to invest in Indian online grocery delivery startup BigBasket, The Economic Times of India reported. The Chinese e-commerce giant reportedly is to buy about 25% in the company for roughly $200 million.
* Amazon will resume selling Google Inc.'s Chromecast devices on its portal following a spat that resulted to the technology company pulling its video platform YouTube from the e-commerce giant's devices, CNET reported, citing an Amazon spokeswoman. A spokesperson for the Alphabet Inc. unit reportedly said it is in "productive discussions" with Amazon "to resolve these issues soon."
* Amazon's Indian arm partnered with the Bengaluru city office of the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency to open a dedicated Korean cosmetics store on its online portal, The Economic Times of India reported. Amazon India Ltd. reportedly will sell beauty products from FaceShop, Dermal and The Beauty Co.
HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS
* Unilever Plc will acquire Oregon-based natural personal products company Schmidt's Naturals for an undisclosed price. The transaction, which will allow the Anglo-Dutch consumer products company to reach customers who prefer natural options, is expected to close no later than the first quarter of 2018 subject to government authorizations. Financial terms were not disclosed.
FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING
* Russian grocery store operator X5 Retail Group NV reached an agreement with retail chain O'KEY GROUP SA to acquire 32 of its supermarkets, including 14 properties. Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service approved the deal. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS
* Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will stop selling Chef Mario Batali's food products and cookbooks following a report by Eater in which four women accused the chef of sexual misconduct, Business Insider reported. Eater also reported that retailer Target Corp., which had been the subject of a petition on the matter, dropped Batali's products.
* A consortium of retail advocacy groups in the U.S., including the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Food Marketing Institute, brought the ongoing case against American Express Co. to the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court. The retailers, comprised of Wal-Mart, Target Corp. and Sears Holdings Corp., among others, claim that the financial service company prohibits them from providing discounts to customers who use lower-fee cards.
HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL
* Christoffel Wiese, known as Christo and widely regarded as one of South Africa's most successful and influential businessmen, resigned as executive chairman of Steinhoff International Holdings NV, the latest in a series of blows for the embattled company. Wiese's grip on the furniture, household goods and general merchandise retailer loosened after creditors disposed of 98,447,130 shares in Steinhoff that had been put up as collateral to secure loans.
* Retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.8% to $492.72 billion in November, beating economists' expectations, according to a report released by the U.S. Commerce Department. The improvement was driven by 2.5% sales growth month-over-month to $53.73 billion in nonstore retail, which includes online shopping.
* Japanese technology company Konica Minolta plans to roll out in April 2018 a system that uses a camera to record customers' product preferences, helping retailers with marketing campaigns, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The system, which has been undergoing tests since February, will be launched in 20 to 30 locations in March 2019.
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