Retail news from around the globe

JD.com coupons to boost sales

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com is collaborating with various brands to provide RMB1.5 billion ($350 million) in promotional coupons to stimulate sales across mainland China.

The coupons cover key online retail categories such as electronics and FMCG, and are being issued to support brands and to stimulate flagging demand caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.

The program seeks to focus efforts on restoring economic activity rather than just containment of the virus.

US rejects Trump’s optimism

A number of US business associations are pushing back on US President Donald Trump’s rosy vision of a nation that will soon be getting back to work and “just raring to go by Easter”.

Despite a record jump in unemployment and a large and growing number of business closures, the US Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation and National Restaurant Association have issued statements in support of the advice of public health experts.

The National Retail Federation’s David French, for example, described the situation as “highly fluid” and of undetermined length, encouraging retailers to follow the advice of the Centres for Disease Control and other health experts.

National Restaurant Association official Sean Kennedy said: “The challenge really is going to be whether restaurants can even open at this point if we don’t have a public that wants to go out.”

Mexican stores face spree of looting

Mexican authorities in multiple states are investigating a spate of robberies and store lootings that may be connected to incitement circulating on social networks as the country’s coronavirus caseload grows.

In a statement, police said that many false reports of lootings were being posted on social media, leading others to emulate them.

Although social media has been urging people to take what they need in this time of dislocation, the robberies don’t seem to be driven by necessity; mobile phones and other electronics, as well as clothing, have been stolen, ABC reports.

The federal government is not enforcing any lockdown or closures against the virus, although some state and local governments have imposed curfews.

Mexico has 405 confirmed cases of the virus to date and five people have died, ABC reports.

Amazon drops loan repayments

Online giant retailer Amazon has given a temporary reprieve to sellers in its marketplace, suspending loan repayment, as well as interest accrued until April 30, Reuters reports.

The program, known as Amazon Lending, has offered sums of $1000-$750,000 to more than 20,000 merchants looking for capital to acquire inventory, expand their product lines and advertise on Amazon.

According to a company filing, by the end of 2019, Amazon stood to receive US$863 million from these sellers. The loans’ terms range from three to 12 months, carrying interest rates from 6 per cent to 19.9 per cent.

Amazon’s offer may provide relief to sellers, some of whom could be hard hit by Amazon’s recent decision to restrict its US and European fulfillment services to household, medical and other essential goods during the coronavirus outbreak.

India locks down e-commerce

Indian online retailers have been in a state of confusion since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s order of a 21-day lockdown last week to counter the spread of the coronavirus.

It has been unclear which goods – and indeed which people – are allowed to move around in the country.

Walmart subsidiary Flipkart has been allowed to resume e-commerce services for essential products after a several-day suspension. The company was forced to prove that every step of its delivery system was safe for the public and its staff.

Amazon’s Indian business has announced that it is limiting its services to the sale and delivery of essential products. Its Pantry grocery service has been unavailable in several cities.

Healthcare platform Medlife was among those that encountered delivery difficulties after the national lockdown, with one delivery worker baton-charged by police officers and at least three others prevented from getting products to customers, CEO Ananth Narayanan told Reuters.

“You have to enforce the lockdown with empathy, I don’t think you need to be brutal,” Narayanan said. “When somebody gets beaten up, it’s very difficult to get other people to come to work.”

Alibaba-backed online grocer BigBasket said its services had also been affected.

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