Retail news from around the globe

Walmart sued over Texas shooting

A couple who were seriously injured in the August 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, have sued the retailer, claiming the store lacked proper security.

Guillermo and Jessica Garcia believe Walmart’s failure to employ armed security guards at the store, despite using them in other stores, was a factor in the massacre, where 22 people were killed, their lawyers said. They believe that the shooter would not have seen the shoppers as a soft target if visible security had been in place.

The Garcias are also seeking a restraining order requiring Walmart, which has begun renovating the store, to preserve evidence from the shooting. The El Paso Times reports that the lawsuit is not seeking monetary compensation.

The end goal of the lawsuit, the newspaper says, is to make sure Walmart puts in place policies, including hiring armed security guards, that will prevent anyone else from having to suffer such an attack.

Last week, Walmart said it would stop selling ammunition that could be used in assault-style rifles, and would discourage shoppers from openly carrying guns in its stores. It also called for stronger background checks for gun buyers.

Starbucks posts weaker earnings outlook

US coffee chain Starbucks has released a weaker-than-expected forecast for its fiscal 2020 earnings, which caused its shares to fall 3 per cent.

The company released the outlook in a slideshow for a presentation by CFO Pat Grismer at Goldman Sachs’ Global Retailing Conference.

Grismer said that one-time tax benefits realised in fiscal 2019 would be “a significant headwind to earnings growth” in fiscal 2020, CNBC has reported. He also said that Starbucks decided to purchase about US$2 billion ($2.94 billion) worth of shares in fiscal 2019 instead of fiscal 2020.

Grismer stressed, however, that operationally the company is “firing on all cylinders”, and on track for growth.

French fine Amazon over ‘abusive’ rules

Online retail giant Amazon has been fined a record €4 million ($6.5 million) by the Paris commercial court for introducing abusive clauses in its contracts with third-party vendors.

“It’s clear that businesses are very eager” to go to Amazon, Loic Tanguy, a director at DGCCRF, France’s consumer fraud watchdog, told the AFP newswire. But he said this should not create a system where companies are open to abuse by a large retailer, such as Amazon.

Some of the abusive clauses include Amazon being able to change contract text at a moment’s notice, push for shorter delivery times or block deliveries. According to Tanguy, Amazon was the only vendor that refused to change its terms of use after it was presented with the DGCCRF findings.

Amazon also faces non-compliance fines if it does not change the offending clauses within six months, Radio France International reports.

Grande lookalike sparks lawsuit

Singer Ariana Grande has sued Forever 21 for US$10 million ($14.7 million), accusing the fast-fashion retailer and Riley Rose, a beauty company started by its billionaire founders’ daughters, of misappropriating her name, image, likeness and music for commercial purposes.

The campaign employed a “strikingly similar-looking model” in a website and social media campaign earlier this year.

Grande said talks for a joint marketing campaign had earlier failed because Forever 21 would not pay enough. The singer’s endorsements generally generate millions of dollars in fees.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks it has been widely reported that Forever 21 is considering filing for bankruptcy protection in the US.

British shoppers stay home

British retailers saw their sales flatline in August, with growth falling to zero after the weakest July rise on record of 0.3 per cent, Reuters reports.

Ahead of Brexit, shoppers cut back on non-essentials and some households stockpiled food, said the British Retail Consortium.

Britain’s consumers have propped up the UK economy since the 2016 Brexit referendum, helping to offset cuts to investment spending by companies. But economists say recent signs of a weakening in spending by households raise the risk of a recession as the country prepares to leave the European Union.

Apple to open stores in India

Apple India reportedly plans to open three bricks-and-mortar outlets as well as an online store as it finally enters the world’s second-most-populous market. 

The US-headquartered tech company’s plans coincide with a further relaxation of government regulations affecting foreign retailers, easing the requirements of local sourcing and scrapping a law making it mandatory for brands to open physical stores before launching online. 

Apple has already taken steps to manufacture products in India, partnering with Taiwanese company Wistron to make the iPhone 6S and 7 models there.

The company’s ambitions in India have until recently been tempered by a raft of government laws protecting local mum-and-dad retailers and Indian brands. 

Uniqlo hurt by Korean boycott

Fast-fashion chain Uniqlo has admitted that it is feeling the effects of the South Korean consumer boycott of Japanese goods, although it has decline to release specific figures. 

The two countries are involved in a diplomatic row relating to disagreements over the compensation for forced labourers during Japan’s occupation of Korea during the Second World War. That dispute has spilled over into the populations, with Japanese products in South Korea being boycotted by shoppers. 

Uniqlo has nearly 200 stores in South Korea, selling around US$1.3 billion ($1.9 billion) worth of clothing annually, equal to about 6.6 per cent of its total sales. The South Korean consumer boycott may lead to delays in new stores opening if it continues.


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