COVID-19

Best Buy joined Walmart and Target in deciding to close all stores on Thanksgiving this year. In anticipation of the holiday season, Best Buy also said it would enhance the way it fulfills orders, including offering more convenient pickup options at its stores, and would offer some of its deals earlier than ever.

The largest private-sector union in the U.S., the United Foods and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), has joined a coalition of major labor unions in filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Amazon’s growing anti-competitive behavior is risking the health and safety of its employees amid the pandemic. The other unions to sign onto the complaint were the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America, Service Employees International Union and Change to Win.

Meanwhile, Amazon is touting that it has delivered more than 6 million meals with 7.4 million pounds of food since the start of the pandemic. The e-tail giant is directly delivering the meals to the homes of people in need in over 25 cities across the U.S., and plans to deliver 1 million more meals by the end of August 2020. 

Amazon also has begun selling 3D-printed face shields for a price it says is one-third less than all other reusable face shields currently available to frontline workers. The company additionally has donated 30,000 more face shields than originally anticipated, and plans to donate another 150,000 by the end of 2020.

Lowe's will provide an additional $100 million in bonuses to assist employees with "unforeseen expenses and hardships," increasing the company's total commitment to staff and communities during the pandemic to nearly $600 million, according to a press release from the retailer. The recent move will grant full-time hourly staff $300, and part-time and seasonal staff $150 on Aug. 21.

Southeastern Grocers chainwide mask mandate went into effect on July 27 after recently reversing course on its firm stance to not require masks in any of its stores to avoid “undue friction” while a herd of other retailers were implementing mandates earlier this month.

Costco and Instacart have teamed up again, this time to offer same-day delivery from 76 of its 100 clubs across Canada. The expansion follows a two-month pilot in Ontario, and allows shoppers to get grocery, pantry and household items delivered in as little as two hours. The two companies already have a strong relationship throughout the U.S. including on prescription and alcohol delivery. The partners also just debuted a new Canadian members-only website, which is powered by Instacart Enterprise and offers Costco member benefits and access to Instacart delivery.

AMAZON

Amazon Scout is adding Atlanta, GA, and Franklin, TN, to its list of markets eligible to receive delivery by the six-wheel, fully electric device. Amazon Scout debuted in Snohomish County, WA, in January 2019 and later expanded to Irvine, CA. 

Amazon has begun shipping some orders in "more environmentally friendly" boxes that can be turned into a rocket, car or fort for your pet, a robot costume or a mini-golf windmill, USA Today reported. The boxes are part of Amazon's "Less Packaging, More Smiles" program and include a QR code linking to amazon.com/thisbox for both crafting and recycling instructions. 

Amazon has begun rolling out a redesigned version of its Alexa mobile application for select phones and tablets. The new app will reportedly show a personalized home screen that puts a consumer's most-used features front and center. It will reach all users by late August.

During a July 29 antitrust hearing, Amazon and chief executive officer Jeff Bezos came under fire by lawmakers over the company’s alleged use of third-party seller data in developing its own products.

Amazon had a wildly successful second quarter of fiscal 2020, reporting a net income of $5.2 billion, up 100% from $2.6 billion the second quarter of fiscal 2019. Net sales increased 40% to $88.9 billion, compared with $63.4 billion in second-quarter 2019. Online grocery sales tripled in the second quarter when compared with the same period the prior year.

WALMART

A Walmart employee memo confirms the retailer is cutting corporate jobs to "be more effective and efficient," a move that Bloomberg earlier reported would result in hundreds of job losses. A LinkedIn post from a displaced project manager indicates the cuts include merchandising project management teams as well as merchandise and assortment planning teams. Bloomberg reports the retailer also plans to create new roles (mainly in supply chain, stores and other facilities).

Impossible Burger is adding Walmart to its list of customers, rolling out to more than 2,000 stores across 50 states as well as to walmart.com.

Walmart has rolled out a new voice assistant app for employees called "Ask Sam" that can help them assist shoppers by pulling up store maps, looking up prices, locating products and receiving real-time emergency alerts, USA Today reported. 

SUPERMARKETS

Albertsons Cos. reported a substantial sales increase for its first quarter of 2020 during its July 27 earnings call, its first as a publicly traded company. Albertsons saw an increase of 21.4% to $22.8 billion in sales and other revenues and a whopping 276% increase in digital sales for the 16-week period, ended June 20. Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran attributed the boost to increased demand due to COVID-19, its accelerated e-commerce and overall business strategy as well as positive growth from its O Organics and Open Nature private labels.

Albertsons Cos. kicked off its annual Anniversary Sale on July 29 and will run it through Aug. 11, adding new offers each week in addition to a Just for U deal promising 4X the rewards points on participating items.

Ahold Delhaize’s Food Lion has made more progress in expanding its e-commerce services by adding the Food Lion to Go pickup service to 38 new stores with curbside availability, bringing the total to 249 locations. 

Ahold Delhaize’s Giant Co. has raised more than $1 million from its summer cause campaign in support of local Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) hospitals. The campaign, which kicked off on June 1 and will run through August, marks the retailer’s highest fundraising effort for the nonprofit to date, according to a Giant Co. press release. Building on its 25-year partnership, the Giant Co. added several news ways to support this year’s campaign, including:

  • allowing shoppers to make donations by rounding up their purchase at self-checkout,
  • donating Giant Choice Rewards points, and
  • by purchasing special reusable bags with a portion of each sale going to the charity.

H-E-B has launched its “Summer of Giving” promotion aimed at raising $2 million for Feeding Texas and its local food banks. From July 29-Sept. 8, for every purchase of at least one product from the H-E-B Brand private label, the grocer will donate a portion of the proceeds to the cause.

DRUGSTORES

Walgreens said that contactless, same-day curbside pickup is now available at more than 8,600 of its stores in the U.S. In as little as one hour, shoppers can purchase select household essential and health & wellness products online and pick up them at their selected store.

Walgreens is offering a 20% discount to all teachers shopping in stores on Aug. 1. Teachers with a Balance Rewards card and valid school ID will receive the discount on regularly priced national brand products and private label items.

CVS Pharmacy has struck a deal with PayPal that will bring touch-free, PayPal or Venmo QR code payment technology to stores, making it the first national retailer to do so, according to PayPal. Through the integration, shoppers will have the option to checkout without needing to touch a keypad or sign a receipt. The rollout is slated to cover all standalone U.S. stores by the fourth quarter of 2020. The new payment option is also in partnership with tech company InComm, which will connect the checkout feature from PayPal to retailers directly on their own platforms.

MASS MERCHANTS

Meijer is offering teachers 15% off the purchase of classroom essentials through Sept. 28. Eligible items range from spiral notebooks and schoolroom essentials from brands including Hallmark Cards' Crayola and Newell Brands' Elmer's. Teachers can also stack their mPerks Rewards with the 15% discount and take advantage of additional price drops on more than 300 items as part of the retailer's everyday back-to-school savings, according to a media release from the retailer.

DOLLAR STORES

In an effort to expand the diversity of its product offerings, Dollar General will host a virtual event that gives new suppliers a chance to meet with merchandise buyers and category managers. The 2020 Supplier and Diversity Innovation Summit, to be held Sept. 16, is open to companies holding a variety of diversity certifications that have not sold products to Dollar General within the past 18 months. To apply, interested suppliers, companies and manufacturers may submit their product information at rangeme.com/dgsupplierdiversity from July 22 through Aug. 7. 

HOME CENTERS/HARDWARE

Ace Hardware has named Alison Dowell president and general manager of Emery Jensen Distribution, a division of Ace Wholesale Holdings. In her new role, she will lead Emery Jensen and oversee strategies and operational plans to grow the wholesale business, and report directly to Ace Hardware’s chief merchandising and sales officer, John Surane. Dowell was promoted from her role as Emery Jensen's vice president of operations, and in the past has also held several leadership roles in the store support centers of The Home Depot and Target.