It’s been another week with far more retail news than there is time in the day. Below, we break down some things you may have missed during the week and what we’re still thinking about.
From the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into Amazon’s iRobot acquisition to analysts’ predictions for the holiday season, here’s our closeout for the week.
What you may have missed
The FTC reportedly investigates Amazon’s planned iRobot acquisition
The Federal Trade Commission has officially opened an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s bid to acquire home-robotics company iRobot, according to reports from The Robot Report last week.
Amazon announced plans to purchase the company for $1.7 billion in August. The investigation reportedly involves looking into whether the data collected by iRobot’s famous Roomba vacuum will give Amazon an unfair advantage.
iRobot’s Roomba takes data as it cleans by mapping out the layout of a home in order to avoid hitting objects, according to New York Times reporting.
When Amazon announced its acquisition plans, the company said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive that “we think we’ve been very good stewards of peoples’ data across all of our business.”
The FTC and Amazon both declined to comment on the reported investigation to Retail Dive.
Will Bed Bath & Beyond name a permanent CEO soon?
Likely not, according to a report from Reuters this week citing unnamed sources. Interim CEO Sue Gove will likely remain at the struggling home goods retailer for at least another year, per the report.
Gove took the helm after Mark Tritton exited the company in June. Bed Bath & Beyond, which has seen steep sales declines, is in the midst of a C-suite overhaul. In addition to the CEO role, the retailer has experienced changes to positions, including chief financial officer, chief merchandising officer, chief operating officer and chief stores officer in recent months.
Late last month Bed Bath & Beyond outlined a turnaround plan, which includes layoffs, store closures and a realignment of its merchandise in favor of national brands.
Amazon invests $450M in drivers’ benefits
On Tuesday Amazon announced it has invested $450 million in a new education program and a 401(k) plan for Delivery Service Partners (DSPs) drivers, according to a press release.
The new Next Mile education program gives DSPs drivers up to $5,250 per year for over 1,700 academic programs ranging from skill certifications ot bachelor’s degree courses.
Amazon’s new 401(k) plan for DSPs provides each small business an estimated $60 million over the first year to help match employee contributions.
Oompa loompa dompadee doo, I’ve got another pupper for you
In products-we-don’t-need-but-sure-why-not news, PetSmart this week announced a partnership with Warner Bros on a new Willy Wonka collection.
You can now give your dog apparel and toys based on characters and moments from the “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” movie. Products include Oompa Loompa and Willy Wonka costume sets, an Everlasting Gobstopper toy, and Violet, Augustus and Veruca plush dolls.
In the words of Veruca Salt, “I want it now.”
Here is the reason why your neighbor will soon call himself a mixologist
SodaStream announced this week that it has repositioned itself, complete with a new brand identity, symbol and logo. The rebrand includes a new visual design, packaging and tier of elevated products.
The company wants to reach out to budding mixologists and customers who are interested in design and innovation. SodaStream unveiled a new brand symbol, which is meant to look like “two inter-locking water droplets arranged in a yin and yang formation, depicting balance and harmony, as well as the planet.” Which is exactly the kind of description that will make you want to drink.
The brand is introducing a high-end SodaStream collection with two new sparkling water makers, the Art and the Duo, and will have future collaborations with recognized designers.
What we're still thinking about
’Tis the season for holiday forecasts. Out this week are estimates from AlixPartners and KPMG. AlixPartners estimated year-over-year holiday sales growth of 4% to 7%, which would be a decrease in “real” sales against the current inflation rate of 8.3%. Consumers will be bargain hunting, with 40% of those surveyed saying they plan to buy cheaper brands and 39% saying they’ll buy at least half their gifts on sale, according to AlixPartners survey findings.
KPMG projected similar growth at 4.2%, down from 14.1% last year. The consultancy’s survey of retail executives found a major break from 2021 along with inflation’s impact and expectations of a recession. Whereas last year a whopping 80% said they were “somewhat” or “very” concerned about inventory shortages, this year just 11% expect significant shortages while 59% expect “minimal” shortages and 30% expect no shortages.
That is how many of Amazon’s U.S. facilities are affected by the company’s plans to pull back on its previous expansion plans, according to consulting firm MWPVL International. That adds up to 24.6 million square feet in fulfillment centers and other facilities. Yet Amazon is still “is still opening up an astonishing amount of space this year — it’s just that they will open less space [than] originally planned,” according to MWPVL President and founder Marc Wulfraat.
What we’re watching
The tentative railway deal
Railroads and unions reached a tentative agreement Thursday to avoid a freight shutdown. A potential strike would have disrupted U.S. supply chains.
The agreement represents around 60,000 railroad employees and includes a 24% wage increase over a five-year period, with a 14.1% raise taking immediate effect, among other stipulations.
At the start of the week, the four largest U.S. railroads began limiting service in preparation for a potential strike that threatened to bring freight rail movement to a standstill.