GROCERY

South San Francisco-based vertical farming company Plenty recently partnered with Whole Foods Market and Albertsons Cos.’ Safeway to offer its sustainably grown produce at select locations in the Bay Area, marking Plenty’s first rollout at major grocery chains. Both Whole Foods and Safeway now carry four Plenty products including "starlight kale" and "wild wasabi baby arugula." Plenty’s vertical farms can control variables like climate and light, while using less than 1% of the land and less than 5% of the water compared with an outdoor farm as well as no pesticides or GMO's.

Ahold Delhaize’s Giant/Martin’s is investing $114 million in Pennsylvania to build two new stores, remodel 35 and construct a new e-commerce fulfillment center, following the recent successes from the grocer’s Giant Heirloom Market in Philadelphia and Giant Direct Brands.

Ahold Delhaize’s Stop & Shop plans to install 40 Bloom Energy servers from the San Jose, CA-based company as a way to slash the grocer’s carbon emissions by more than 15,000 metric tons annually and ensure clean, reliable electricity even during grid power outages caused by severe weather. Bloom servers are already in place at Stop & Shop stores in Mount Vernon and Peekskill, NY, and will begin hitting stores on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod and New York’s Long Island early this year. (Read more on this from our sister-brand Progressive Grocer.)

Albertsons Cos. is considering going public (again). According to The Wall Street Journal, Albertsons and New York-based private equity company Cerberus Capital Management LP are expected to make a decision on whether to proceed with an IPO (that could value it at around $19 billion) in coming weeks, as a way to capitalize on the grocer’s improved performance, strong markets and positive economic indicators.

H-E-B's ability to balance price and quality, along with its strong, differentiating private label program, has helped the regional grocer move to the top of dunnhumby's Retailer Preference Index in the study’s third year. "They really do focus on the customer," Eric Karlson, dunnhumby's director of strategy & insights, told the Institute during an NRF Show interview.

DRUG

Walgreens is deploying a digital merchandising platform from Chicago-based Cooler Screens to 50 stores in the city. The rollout follows a yearlong six-store pilot that the companies said saw positive results, and will be followed by an expansion to 2,500 Walgreens locations following successful implementation.

Kevin Hourican, executive vice president of CVS Health and president of CVS Pharmacy is departing after more than seven years with the company, after being named president and CEO of food services corp. Sysco, effective Feb. 1. He will replace Tom Bene, who is stepping down on Jan. 31. Hourican oversaw CVS’ entire retail business as well as merchandising, marketing, supply chain, real estate, front store operations, pharmacy growth, pharmacy clinical care and pharmacy operations. Recently, Hourican and his team were working on the HealthHUB store format.

Speaking of HealthHUBs, CVS is expanding the format's reach in Houston, the city where it was first piloted. The drugstore chain is set to add HealthHUBs to 15 more locations in the greater Houston area following the initial three-store pilot that began last February.

“If I show up in a store … and you fail me by not having what I wanted, I’m never coming again, said Bill Inzeo, director of asset protection solutions at Walgreens, while explaining the critical importance of in-store execution during a panel discussion at NRF.

MASS

Walmart is expanding its six-foot-tall Bossa Nova shelf-scanning robots to 650 more U.S. stores by the end of the summer, bringing its fleet to 1,000. Equipped with 15 cameras each, Walmart says the robots can reduce tasks such as checking for stock levels, pricing and misplaced items that once took as long as two weeks into a twice-daily routine. Spotted at the National Retail Federation annual convention and expo, Bossa Nova's newest model has a slimmer form to help it navigate narrow aisles while staying out of the way of shoppers and comes equipped with an additional camera that lets it look down to scan fresh produce racks.

Walmart has also opened a case-ready facility in Georgia that will distribute private label cuts of Angus beef to 500 Walmart stores in the southeast.

Target is launching a new own brand of activewear and sporting goods called All in Motion to replace exclusively licensed brand C9 by Champion from Hanesbrands. The new private brands spans items for children and adults, as well as people in different stages of their fitness journey, and the company said mannequins and model photographs in-store will reflect the all-inclusive body types that the gear will fit. Hitting select stores on Jan. 17 and all stores by Jan. 24, Target says the new line will be stocked on open shelving, with items tracked by fit and style. QR codes will also be available to scan in-store to find sizes and styles, as well as videos explaining what activities and fitness levels the gear works best for.

AMAZON

Reckitt Benckiser is working with Amazon to explore auto replenishment technologies for several of its products. The partners are developing smart packaging concepts to enable auto reorders through Dash Replenishment for items including Enfamil infant formula, Finish dishwasher tablets and Move Free joint health supplements and Air Wick essential mist diffuser refills.  

Amazon on Tuesday ended the holiday halt it had placed on FedEx ground delivery that had prohibited third-party sellers from using FedEx's ground delivery network to deliver Prime-eligible purchases.

HOME IMPROVEMENT

The Home Depot has generated a 35% increase in customer engagement with product information pages and double-digit sales growth for promoted products on homedepot.com since implementing Microsoft’s PromoteIQ digital commerce platform in early 2019, Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella said during an NRF keynote presentation. The website generates 170 million visits each month.

CONVENIENCE

7-Eleven is working with Swyft to deploy BOPIS storage lockers in five Dallas-area stores. The difference between these units and the 1,100-plus lockers already positioned in 7-Eleven locations is that they will accommodate orders placed with multiple retailers, not just Amazon.