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Sports Direct buys House of Fraser; Walmart to improve online product returns


* U.K. sports and leisure clothing retailer Sports Direct acquired struggling British department store chain House of Fraser Group Ltd. from administrators for £90 million in cash. In a statement, Sports Direct said it had purchased all of the U.K. stores of House of Fraser, the House of Fraser brand and all of its stock. The deal adds House of Fraser to a burgeoning list of retail assets of Sports Direct and its founder and CEO, Mike Ashley. Earlier on Aug. 10, House of Fraser said it intended to appoint administrators as its efforts to secure new investment before an Aug. 20 payment deadline were unlikely to succeed.

* Walmart Inc. will launch an improved product returns program in the fall that will make returning items easier for both sellers and buyers, CNBC reported, citing a memo the retail giant sent to its marketplace sellers. The change will allow customers to view the return policy for each marketplace item on individual item pages and print shipping labels directly from their online accounts, as long as the returns are within the specified window of time. Meanwhile, marketplace sellers will be able to manage returns easier and faster on Walmart's platform as well as have the option to use the big-box retailer's returns shipping service, which offers special discounted rates.


* Crocs Inc. said in a series of tweets that it is not "going anywhere" and that its "future remains bright" after shuttering its manufacturing site in Mexico and moving ahead with closing its final manufacturing facility, which is in Italy. Although the company did not clarify how it would continue manufacturing its products, the company said in its earnings release Aug. 7 that the move was made to "simplify the business and improve profitability." Crocs did not immediately respond to requests for comment by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* Guess? Inc. plans to establish an Indian subsidiary and launch company-owned stores in the country to expand its retail presence, The Economic Times (India) reported, citing Lander Isasi, Guess managing director for Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia and India. Isasi reportedly said the apparel retailer intends to roll out an initial two to three locations for Guess India, with plans to add eight to 10 stores over the next two years. Guess has shut all of its franchisee-run stores and will relaunch the brand in the market under a new business model that includes operating its outlets and creating an online platform.

* Arcadia Group Ltd.-owned Topshop, controlled by Sir Philip Green, and Chinese partner Shangpin mutually agreed to end their franchise agreement after less than two years, failing to roll out any shopping outlets in China, the Financial Times (London) reported. The companies had agreed in 2016 to initially open five Topshop locations, with plans to unveil another 75 stores depending on the performance of the first five. Arcadia products will continue to be available on Shangpin's online platform and on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. marketplace Tmall until the end of November. A spokesman for the British company reportedly declined to elaborate on the reasons for the termination but said Arcadia "is currently exploring opportunities to further grow the brands in China" as it still considers the country "a hugely significant market for development."


* Administrators of Poundworld Retail Ltd. from Deloitte accepted the offer of Ireland's Henderson family to purchase 50 stores of the struggling retailer for an undisclosed sum, Reuters reported, citing a statement from David Henderson. A source close to Deloitte reportedly said that while there is "an agreement in principle", the deal is not yet confirmed. Poundworld administrators previously rejected a rescue bid from the company's founder, Chris Edwards, saying the offer was "not high enough."

* J.C. Penney Co. Inc. will roll out baby shops at 500 of its stores beginning Aug. 30, in a bid to tap into the growing baby care market share. James Starke, senior vice president and head of merchandising for J.C. Penney, said the company's strategy is to place the baby shops in store locations near specialty baby retailers that have closed. The department store chain has offered cribs, high chairs, strollers and car seats on its online platform, but the physical shops will expand its selection to include bottles, pacifiers, diaper bags and bouncer seats.


* Online travel services giant Booking Holdings Inc., formerly known as Priceline Group, posted second-quarter adjusted EPS and net income that topped analysts' estimates. For the quarter ended June 30, the Connecticut-based company reported non-GAAP EPS of $20.67, beating the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus estimate of $17.36, while adjusted net income came in at $1 billion, up 32% from $757.9 million in 2017. In its third-quarter outlook, Booking's forecasts non-GAAP net income of between $1.76 billion and $1.81 billion, as well as non-GAAP EPS of $36.70 and $37.70.

* Inc. is in internal discussions to open primary care clinics in its Seattle headquarters, CNBC reported, citing anonymous sources. The preliminary plan is to hire a small number of doctors to start a pilot clinic later this year for a select group of workers and then expand it to more employees in early 2019, according to CNBC. Amazon declined a request for comment from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* Inc. said private equity firm GSR Capital agreed to invest up to $270 million in the online retailer's blockchain unit, Inc., for up to 18% of the Salt Lake City-based company's equity at a post-money valuation of $1.5 billion. GSR Capital also will purchase $30 million in tZERO security tokens from Overstock and buy up to 3.1 million shares of the parent company for as much as $104.55 million, bringing the firm's full investment in Overstock to as much as $404 million.


* L'Oréal SA and its augmented reality unit, ModiFace, have entered into a long-term alliance with Facebook Inc. to develop AR-powered makeup try-on experiences delivered through Facebook Camera products. The French cosmetics group said the new solution will allow customers to virtually try on products from its makeup brands, such as Maybelline, L'Oréal Paris, Nyx Professional Makeup, Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Urban Decay and Shu Uemura. The first virtual try-on experience will be launched by Nyx at the end of August.

* Japanese consumer products-maker Kao Corp. said its U.S. unit completed the purchase of Washing Systems LLC from California-based private equity firm Gryphon Investors for an undisclosed sum. Washing Systems provides commercial laundry products and services in North America and Europe, including processes for textile cleaning and wastewater treatment.


* Party City Holdco Inc. will launch a pilot program on's platform ahead of the Halloween season, in a bid to expand its existing e-commerce offerings. Party City will begin by selling a product range focused mainly on costumes on Amazon, with plans to add Christmas and New Year's items later in 2018 and a further expanded range of products in 2019.

* Private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners LP agreed to acquire home furnishings retailer The Shade Store LLC from majority shareholder Great Hill Partners LP and the company's co-founders, Adam Gibbs, Ian Gibbs, Greg Spatz and Zach Gibbs. Although financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, sources familiar with the agreement told CNBC that the deal was valued at about $325 million. As part of the transaction, expected to close in the third quarter subject to customary closing conditions, co-founder and CEO Adam Gibbs will continue leading the business with its existing management team.

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The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng was down 0.84% to 28,366.62, and the Nikkei 225 declined 1.33% to 22,298.08.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.76% to 7,682.32, and the Euronext 100 was down 1.10% to 1,066.65.

On the macro front

The Treasury Budget report, the Baker-Hughes Rig Count report and the consumer price index 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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