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Report: Wal-Mart tests shopping service; Alibaba, BMW team up on connected cars


* Wal-Mart Stores Inc. formed a new subsidiary called Code Eight that has begun testing a personal shopping service for the "high net worth urban consumer," Recode reported, citing multiple sources. The service reportedly will allow consumers to receive product recommendations and buy items via text messaging. A company spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, the report added.

* Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has teamed up with Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft to develop "digitalized experiences" for all of the German automaker's new models to be sold in China from the first half of 2018. Under the collaboration, BMW owners in China will be able to use smart speakers to remotely access vehicle information such as the mileage available on the remaining fuel supply, or whether doors and windows are open.


* Athletic and leisure apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc. is the subject of a lawsuit claiming that the company knew a store supervisor had a history of being "sexually inappropriate" before he allegedly raped a female employee, CNBC reported. The company provided the following statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence: "We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that employees come to work each day in safe environments where they are empowered to speak up."

* Qatari investment firm Mayhoola for Investments LLC, the owner of Valentino Fashion Group SpA, plans to sell about 25% of the Italian luxury fashion company in an initial public offering of shares on the Milan stock market "sometime from late 2018," Reuters reported, citing a source close to the matter. Valentino declined to comment, while Mayhoola did not immediately respond to requests for comment, the report added.


* U.K. department store chain Debenhams PLC appointed Steven Cook as its managing director for fashion and home, effective January 2018, Drapers reported. Prior to his appointment, Cook was chief merchant of Canadian department store chain Holt Renfrew & Co. Ltd. According to the publication, Richard Cristofoli was also promoted to managing director of beauty, beauty services and marketing, while Ross Clemmow will become managing director for retail, digital, food and events.


* Inc.'s private-label line AmazonBasics recorded the most sales by revenue among all of the e-commerce giant's private-label brands in 2017, according to a report by market intelligence company One Click Retail. The private-label brand's estimated sales were over $400 million year-to-date. It accounts for about 85% of total Amazon private-label brand sales in the U.S., according to the report.

* Indian e-commerce portal Flipkart India Pvt. Ltd. will pour in "hundreds of millions of dollars" over the next few years to create an artificial intelligence unit called AIforIndia, India's Mint reported, quoting Flipkart Co-founder and Chairman Sachin Bansal. The unit reportedly will work on the consumer-facing and supply side domains. Flipkart also is on the hunt for AI-related purchases in the country and in the U.S., Bansal reportedly told the newspaper.


* Kao USA Inc., a unit of Japanese personal products maker Kao Corp., agreed to buy Oribe Hair Care LLC for an undisclosed sum to add to its portfolio of professional hair styling brands. Oribe Co-founder and Co-president Daniel Kaner will be appointed president of the newly acquired entity following completion of the deal, which is subject to customary regulatory and other approvals.


* Toys R Us' business in the U.K. has tabled a compromise deal on paying its pension deficit in an effort to win over its largest creditor for a rescue plan that could stave off administration and the loss of 3,200 jobs, the Financial Times reported, citing sources close to the process. The proposed concessions to the Pension Protection Fund include reducing the toy retailer's deficit recovery plan to 10 years from 15 years, as well as increasing a payment offered to its pension scheme by March 2018.

* U.K. homewares retailer Dunelm Group Plc said it appointed Nick Wilkinson as its new CEO, effective Feb. 1, 2018. His appointment follows the departure of John Browett in August. Wilkinson previously served as CEO of British bicycle retailer Evans Cycles Ltd. and was CEO of home improvement retailer Maxeda DIY Group BV.

* South Korean hospitality company Hotel Shilla Co. Ltd., which operates The Shilla Duty Free chain, has secured a five-year license to run a duty-free shop at the country's Jeju International Airport, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing customs officials. The move comes amid expectations that the number of Chinese tourists will increase following the resolution of a dispute between the two countries.


* Online retail sales in the U.K. rose 11.5% year over year in November, lower than the four-year average growth rate of 18.3% for the month and offsetting an 11.7% year-over-year rise in Black Friday sales, according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. E-commerce sales of electrical goods fell 0.9% from November 2016 despite a surge of 22% in sales during the week encompassing Black Friday.

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