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Amazon acquires Blink; Mastercard: US holiday retail sales highest since 2011

TOP NEWS

* E-commerce behemoth Amazon.com Inc. acquired Blink, a startup that offers wireless home monitoring systems, for an undisclosed amount. Blink added that it will continue to operate under "the Amazon umbrella," selling and supporting the same products that it provides its customers.

* U.S. retail sales during the 2017 holiday season posted the highest growth since 2011, MarketWatch reported, citing a Mastercard SpendingPulse report. Retail sales, excluding automobiles, reportedly increased 4.9% year over year from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, compared with a 3.7% rise in 2016. Online retail sales also jumped 18.1% during the period. The report attributed the rise to high consumer confidence and a strong U.S. job market.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* After months of speculation, luxury goods brand Céline, owned by French conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, confirmed that its creative director, Phoebe Philo, will step down after a 10-year tenure, The Guardian reported, citing a statement released by Céline. Philo's successor has not been named, the newspaper added.

* Clothing and accessories company Primark Stores Ltd., a unit of retail group Associated British Foods plc, has reduced the size of three of its eight U.S. stores, The Wall Street Journal reported, in an effort to realize optimal sales density per square foot amid a tepid reception at some of its sites. The fashion chain, which drives foot traffic to its stores by not offering its goods for purchase online, hopes to replicate in the U.S. its low-margin strategy that has been successful across Europe. Citing Primark's CFO, the report added that the brand also is looking into offering a click-and-collect service to its customers.

E-COMMERCE

* French cosmetics brand L'Oréal SA-owned Giorgio Armani Beauty will launch its flagship store on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s Tmall marketplace platform on Jan. 16, 2018. The beauty brand, which will hold pre-sale events on Tmall before its official launch, also will open a store on the Chinese e-commerce giant's Luxury Pavilion, an invite-only section on its site for high-end brands.

* E-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc.'s U.K. division on Dec. 26 launched its six-day Boxing Day Sale with new deals coming in every five minutes on all its product categories on the platform. The deals consist of discounted items available in limited quantities for a short amount of time. The sale will run until 11:59 p.m. local time on Dec. 31.

FOOD AND DRUG RETAILING

* Japanese trading company Mitsubishi Corp. and its convenience store subsidiary Lawson Inc. plan to increase the number of stores that are part of gas stations to 30 by 2020, The Japan Times reported, citing "informed sources." Mitsubishi reportedly has eight gas stations with Lawson stores across Japan and is open to collaborating with other companies to establish more of these stores.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPER CENTERS

* French supermarket chain Carrefour SA denied that it will close its operations in China, Argentina and Poland as part of its turnaround plan, Reuters reported, citing a company spokesman. The company refuted a report by French publication Capital, which said it mandated three banks to sell its businesses in the three countries.

* U.S. pharmacy chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said Dec. 22 that it has agreed to reduce its stake in Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals Corp., a wholesale pharmaceutical joint venture in China, to 20%. Alliance Boots, which completed its merger with Walgreens in 2014, formed a 50/50 venture with Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. in 2008.

* Shareholder activist NorthStar Asset Management Inc. is urging Costco Wholesale Corp. shareholders to support a shareholder proposal designed to identify and prevent prison labor in the U.S. warehouse retailer's supply chain, according to a Dec. 22 SEC filing. The shareholder proposal, which appeared in Costco's Dec. 15 proxy, asks the retailer to survey its suppliers, create additional guidelines and report to shareholders by June 30, 2018. Costco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SPECIALTY RETAIL

* U.S. home improvement retailer Home Depot Inc. has considered making a bid for logistics company XPO Logistics Inc., Recode reported Dec. 22, citing an unnamed source. The retailer wants to prevent Amazon.com Inc. from buying the logistics company, according to the report. All three companies reportedly declined to comment on the matter.

INDUSTRY NEWS

* India's e-commerce market is projected to reach $50 billion by the end of 2018 from its current level of $38.5 billion, Mint reported, citing a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India and Deloitte. The recent growth in the country's e-commerce market, which increased to $19.7 billion in 2015 from $13.6 billion in 2014, is primarily driven by the cash on delivery mode of payment, which accounts for over 50% of online transactions, the study added.