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Retail news from around the globe

Walmart revs up Black Friday early 

Giant US retailer Walmart – feeling the heat from both Amazon and Target – is hoping to get its customers into the holiday mood sooner. It is already offering 18 Black Friday deals on its website, with everything from iPhones to fluffy slippers available at rockbottom prices.

In its bricks-and-mortar stores, there will be Light Up Black Friday parties starting from 4pm on Thursday, November 22. At these gatherings, which will last until the sales begin at 6pm, already-excited customers will be fuelled with free cookies and four million cups of complimentary coffee.

To help folks get to the deals quickly, Walmart has upgraded its app to a Black Friday version, which when a product query is entered will light up to reveal its in-store location.

Foschini Group sees lift in H1 earnings South African clothing retailer The Foschini Group (TFG) has reported an 8.3 per cent increase in half-year earnings, as UK, Australian and local operations contributed positively to revenue growth despite difficult trading conditions.

The TFG Australia business comprises the recently acquired Retail Apparel Group and some G-Star Raw outlets. The company, which also sells jewellery and furniture, said headline earnings per share rose to SA506¢ (49¢) for the six months to September 30, up from SA467.1¢ (46¢) a year earlier.

Headline EPS is the main profit measure in South Africa and strips away certain one-off items. Group turnover grew by 28.6 per cent to 15.9 billion rand ($1.55 billion).

German Christmas sales looking strong 

Germany’s HDE retail association expects Christmas sales to hit a record this year in Europe’s largest economy, and a nation famous for its Christmas festivities.

HDE says it now sees growth of 2.3 per cent in 2018, up from its previous estimate of 2 per cent, which would have been a record as well with sales of €100 billion ($156.6 billion). Last year, festive retail sales climbed by 3.8 per cent.

German consumers are experiencing rising real wages, record-high employment, strong job security and low borrowing costs – all a boost to Christmas cheer.

Zara expands online reach 

Zara has launched a dedicated worldwide online platform to bring its men’s women’s and kids’ fashion collections to 106 new markets – mostly in Africa, parts of the Caribbean and Indonesia.

Zara currently has stores in 96 markets with an online presence in 49 of them. Online sales will be expanded to new markets over the coming months, including those in which Zara already has stores, where it will develop local online sales platforms.

For now, customers using the new platform will be able to place orders in euros, including applicable shipping costs and customs charges. Items can be bought using PayPal or all the main credit cards.

Orders will be fulfilled from the retailer’s headquarters in Spain.

Uniqlo signs Olympic snowboarder

Japanese global apparel retailer Uniqlo has named professional snowboarder Ayumu Hirano as its newest global brand ambassador.
Hirano, a two-time gold medalist in the men’s superpipe competition at the Winter X Games and winner of consecutive silver medals in the half-pipe competition at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics, will promote the Uniqlo and LifeWear brands as well as
help design and develop custom products and materials.

The chairman, president and CEO of parent company Fast Retailing, Tadashi Yanai, said: “We are greatly inspired by
[Hirano’s] achievements, his creativity and his style – not just on a snowboard, but also in his sense of fashion.”

Chinese coffee chain powers ahead

Fast-growing, IT-focused Chinese coffee chain Luckin Coffee is seeking a new round of funding which would value it at US$1.5 billion ($2.07 billion) to US$2 billion ($2.76 billion).

Launched only this year, the company has already opened more than 1400 outlets in 21 mainland locations, its rapid growth based on its inexpensive delivery service concept and online ordering system.

At Luckin, all customers must purchase coffee via an app, with which they can then monitor brewing progress via livestream.

Its expansion has been backed by multiple investors, including Singapore’s GIC. It is currently seeking up to US$300 million ($414 million) in additional funding to continue its momentum.

German store merger gets nod 

Germany’s antitrust regulator on Friday approved the planned merger of department store chains Kaufhof and Karstadt, owned by Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Co, and Austria’s Signa Holding, creating Europe’s third-largest department store chain.

Reuters reports that the deal will create a group with 243 department stores in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands and annual sales of €5.4 billion ($8.47 billion).

The regulator noted that, despite its size, the merged entity would face stiff competition from online players such as Amazon and online fashion retailer Zalando.

Signa will hold a 50.1 per cent stake in the combined company and take the strategic lead on the business’ board.

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