Retail news from around the globe

Muji expands into convenience

Japanese no-frills home goods chain Muji is branching out into retail sales in China, following the success of its home-renovation brands Muji Hotel and Muji Infill in that country.

The first convenience store, called Mujicom, is located inside JD’s Beijing headquarters; it takes up 605sqm and has 71 seats for dining.

The retailer is set to open two additional Mujicom stores in China this month, in Hangzhou and Shenzhen Airport. It also recently opened a Hong Kong flagship, expanding its food and catering range with fresh-baked goods and a new coffee and tea bar.

In its home market, Muji has entered into partnership with major convenience store operator Lawson, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Lawson will start selling Muji goods – such as cosmetics, stationery and underwear – at three of its directly managed, or non-franchised, stores in Tokyo.

The alliance will allow the two companies to collaborate on the development of new private-brand products covering everyday items such as eco-friendly detergents and nutritional prepackaged foods, Nikkei reports.

Lawson handles roughly 3500 products in each of its stores. About 500 items will be replaced by Muji products.

Amazon faces more scrutiny

Tentative first steps are being taken by two US states, Washington and California, towards an investigation of Amazon’s business practices, particularly the treatment of its third-party sellers, Reuters reports.

California is reviewing Amazon’s practices on selling its own products in competition with third-party vendors. Washington is also investigating whether Amazon makes it harder for sellers to list their products on other websites.

Citing reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Reuters says spokespersons for the attorneys-general in both states refused to comment on the investigations, but did not deny that they were underway. Amazon also refused to comment.

The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee last month called on CEO Jeff Bezos to testify about allegations that Amazon uses data from its own third-party sellers to create competing products.

Amazon is already being investigated by the European Commission for its dual role as a marketplace and as a rival after complaints from traders.

Superdry to quit Chinese market

British clothing label Superdry is set to cut its losses in mainland China after five years of struggling for a foothold.

Azoya and Interface Fashion, Chinese-language fashion industry news channels on the mainland, are reporting clearance sales in Superdry stores, with merchandise discounted by 25 or 30 per cent. It’s also reported that sold stock is not being replenished.

Azoya confirmed the withdrawal, saying that steep discounts of the brand’s merchandise are also being offered on e-commerce platforms such as Tmall, JD and Vipshop.

Ker Zheng, marketing and partnerships executive with Azoya, told Inside Retail Asia that Superdry had failed to stand out as a brand in China.

“Streetwear is trending upscale these days – while the prices at Superdry are high. I don’t think the brand has invested enough in marketing to really differentiate itself from other competitors. It’s not a popular brand,” he said.

French police gas bargain hunters

An opening day fire sale at a new Lidl supermarket outside Paris went horribly wrong last Wednesday, as police in riot gear pushed back would-be customers with tear gas and brute force.

Several hundred people were waiting outside the store – many had camped there overnight – because they wanted to get their hands on cut-price Playstation 4s.

Reuters reports that the store in Orgeval, west of Paris, had offered the PS4s at €95 ($155) instead of a usual retail price of €299 ($489), but the size of the crowd caught everyone by surprise.

Video footage showed a can of pepper spray being released over heads as the crowd surged towards the glass doors at the store’s entrance. Moments later, people turned around, rubbing their eyes and spluttering.

“The sale of Playstation 4s is cancelled and the devices have been sent back to the suppliers. Go back home,” a voice is heard saying over a loudspeaker.

BFM TV cited Lidl as saying the launch had been postponed for safety reasons.

UK retailers win on card fees

Britain’s highest court has upheld an earlier Court of Appeal ruling that Visa and Mastercard restricted competition in the way they set fees for retailers, a decision that opens the way for the retailers to seek compensation, Reuters reports.

The case, which dates back to 1992, was brought by retailers Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and Argos and relates to the charges Visa and Mastercard levy on the retailers when cardholders make a transaction – so called default multilateral interchange fees (MIFs).

The UK Supreme Court upheld the finding of the Court of Appeal in July 2018 that the MIFs charged were an unlawful restriction under both European Union and UK competition law.

Morgan Lewis partner Frances Murphy, the lead counsel for Sainsbury’s, said retailers could potentially receive billions of pounds in damages.

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