* Toys R Us said its net loss for the fiscal third quarter ended Oct. 28 widened year over year to $622 million from $155 million. The toy retailer posted $2.11 billion in net sales for the quarter, down 7.5% from $2.28 billion a year earlier. "Our results for the quarter were disappointing," Toys R Us Chairman and CEO Dave Brandon said in a statement. "We recognize the need for change in order to better meet customers' ever-evolving shopping preferences."
* V.F. Corp.'s travel products brand Eastpak said it plans to re-enter the North American market in January 2018. The U.S. apparel and footwear retailer's brand signed an exclusive distribution agreement with fashion distributor ZoneTwo USA to manage its operations in the U.S. and Canada. ZoneTwo will open an Eastpak showroom in New York in January 2018 and will launch its North American delivery in the fall of 2018.
APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS
* U.S. jeans and apparel maker Levi Strauss & Co. combined its South Asia unit with its Middle East and North Africa businesses and promoted Levi's India head Sanjeev Mohanty to oversee the new geographic entity, India's The Economic Times reported. The move was driven by common consumer choices across the three markets, the newspaper reported, citing people directly aware of the matter. A Levi's spokesperson confirmed the move to the newspaper.
* Italian luxury apparel brand La Perla, a subsidiary of Pacific Global Management, has agreed to hold month-long exclusive talks with Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. regarding a controlling stake in the Italian brand, Reuters reported. The completion of the deal is subject to Fosun's approval, the report added, citing a joint statement.
* British retailer Marks and Spencer Group plc became the first supermarket chain in the U.K. to release data on the use of antibiotics in its supply chain, The Guardian reported. The move reportedly aims to reduce the use of medicine also prescribed for humans in livestock-rearing. The company's website on Dec. 20 published information on the quantities of antibiotics that farmers administer to the livestock that provides meat, eggs and dairy products, the report added.
* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s cloud computing unit Alibaba Cloud opened a new data center in Mumbai, India, to offer its technology services to local businesses. The site, which also will provide services like consulting and after-sales support, is expected to complement India's cloud technology demand for the next three to five years.
* Amazon.com Inc. is the top shopping destination for the holidays as 76% of U.S. consumers plan to buy on the portal during the season, according to an annual survey by CNBC. Another 43% of respondents reportedly said free shipping is the most important feature when shopping online. The survey also found that 45% of the respondents picked e-commerce portals as their first shopping preference during the holiday season, up from 40% in 2016.
* U.S.-based apparel subscription service Stitch Fix Inc. posted positive profit growth as it released earnings for the first time since its IPO in November. However, it expects slightly slower year-over-year revenue growth. For the first quarter of fiscal 2018 ended Oct. 28, the company posted $13.5 million in net income, up from $13.2 million in the year-ago period. Stitch Fix also expects net revenue to grow by 21% to 24% year over year to between $287 million and $294 million for the fiscal second quarter ending Jan. 27, 2018.
* The U.K.'s competition regulator on Dec. 20 cleared Tesco Plc's proposed £3.7 billion acquisition of Booker Group Plc after an in-depth review. Members of the Competition and Markets Authority concluded that Tesco, a retailer, and Booker, a wholesaler, "do not compete head-to-head in most of their activities." It also found no evidence that the merger would eliminate competition.
* Steinhoff International Holdings NV, the South African retailer embroiled in an accounting scandal, on Dec. 19 detailed debts far in excess of its market value and said its credit facilities were increasingly being suspended or withdrawn. Saying it had €10.70 billion in outstanding debt, compared to its market value of about €2 billion, the company said it had postponed "non-critical expenditure" but that it needed the backing of its lenders to give it the chance to work through its problems.
* LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc., a subsidiary of South Korean consumer electronics company LG Electronics Inc., created a brand called ThinQ to connect its artificial intelligence-enabled home appliances, electronics and services. The products and services that the company will launch under the brand in 2018 will use deep learning technology and will be able to communicate with each other.
* Consumers are forecast to spend nearly £18 billion globally on purchases via smartphones by the end of 2017, a figure that will exceed sales made via tablets for the first time, InternetRetailing reported, citing a report by market research firm eMarketer Inc. due to be published in the week of Dec. 18. Retail sales on smartphones are reportedly expected to make up 49.7% of all e-commerce mobile sales in 2017, compared with 49.4% of sales through tablets.
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