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Essential IR Insights Newsletter - Summer July-August 2023

Alibaba enhances anti-counterfeiting measures; Asda jobs at risk


* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. upgraded its intellectual property protection platform to facilitate the removal of fake product listings on its online marketplaces in its latest effort to battle counterfeit goods. The Chinese e-commerce giant said that in the first month following the new enhancements, 96% of complaints from brands and rights holders about counterfeit goods were handled within 24 hours, resulting in 83% of those listings being taken down. The platform now provides a single entry point for such complaints across all of Alibaba's e-commerce sites.

* Wal-Mart Stores Inc.-owned supermarket retailer Asda Stores Ltd. might slash hundreds of jobs or make major reductions in hours as part of its plan to cut costs, Retail Gazette reported. The U.K. retailer reportedly started a three-week consultation period with 3,257 of its employees across 18 of its underperforming stores that is expected to result in hundreds of redundancies. Asda is also reportedly trying to negotiate with employees at 59 other stores about working in different departments when required. A company spokesman said Asda recognizes such changes could be "unsettling," but its priority was to find "alternative roles or working patterns" for affected employees.


* Macy's Inc. reaffirmed its softer outlook for its fiscal-year 2017 guidance as its stock price fell 10.25% to close at $20.67 on Aug. 10. The company expects adjusted earnings per diluted share between $3.37 and $3.62 for the year. Excluding the expected fourth-quarter gain on the sale of the company's Union Square Men's store in San Francisco, as well as settlement charges and fees for debt repurchases, Macy's expects adjusted earnings per diluted share of $2.90 to $3.15 in 2017. Comparable-store sales are set to decline between 2.2% and 3.3% for the year, according to the guidance. Comparable-store sales are expected to decline 2% to 3% on a combined owned and licensed basis, while total sales are expected to slump between 3.2% and 4.3%.

* Hong Kong-based supermarket operator Sun Art Retail Group Ltd. is looking to its Feiniu Fresh online delivery platform to help it compete with e-commerce players in China's $700 billion grocery market, Reuters reported. Launched in June, Feiniu Fresh delivers to customers within a three-kilometer radius of 400 brick-and-mortar stores across China within an hour. The service has recorded 1.8 billion Chinese yuan in gross merchandise volume in the first half, with 28 million registered members and 3.5 million active users.


* Two former employees of Inc., a transgender woman named Allegra Schawe-Lane and her husband, Dane Lane, filed a lawsuit against the company alleging discriminatory behavior, including harassment. Advocacy group Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund filed the suit on their behalf, stating that the couple worked at an Amazon shipping facility in Hebron, Ky., and the alleged incidents occurred between October 2014 and October 2015 after their colleagues learned of Schawe-Lane's transgender status.

* The corporation tax paid by Inc. in the U.K. was more than halved to £7.4 million in 2016 from £15.8 million in 2015 as its revenue in the country reached £1.4 billion, Retail Gazette reported. A company spokesperson said that corporation tax in the U.K. is based on profit, not revenue. Amazon, which reportedly received a £1.3 million tax credit from U.K. authorities, reported a local profit of £24 million in 2016, half of what it made in 2015.

* U.K.-based online retailer ASOS Plc introduced a visual search feature on its mobile app that allows customers to upload a photograph of an item they wish to buy, and the system compares it with the company's inventory, InternetRetailing reported. The feature is available on the iOS platform and will soon be offered on Android as well. ASOS reportedly said 70% of its orders within the U.K. are made through mobile devices, and that its customers use the app for 80 minutes per month on average.


* A California man is suing Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., alleging that the retail pharmacy overcharges customers with insurance and has "secret, undisclosed contracts" with benefit managers, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The lawsuit claims that Walgreens uses "secret contracts" with pharmacy benefit managers to charge insured customers more for some generic drugs than they would pay without insurance. The lawsuit also alleges that Walgreens sends "a significant portion" of co-payments collected from customers to pharmacy benefit managers, a payment known as a "clawback." A Walgreens spokesman told S&P Global Market Intelligence in an email that the lawsuit "lacks merit," adding that the company "will vigorously defend against the allegations."


* Chinese fashion brands are spending as much as 10 million yuan on a single promotional show as their global peers have slashed spending on fashion shows, according to the South China Morning Post. Some international luxury brands have reportedly cut fashion-show budgets to as low as $200,000 this year. The report, citing the Boston Consulting Group, added that China's fashion industry is expected to become the second-largest in the world by 2022, with top fashion spending in the country rising to about 1.3 trillion yuan through 2020 from 398 billion yuan in 2010.

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