Now that we’ve all finally gotten the holiday season out of our system, the retail industry is slowly accepting the fact that the hope of a new, pandemic-free tomorrow is still far away on the horizon, and that the cold reality of 2020 will continue to spill over into the foreseeable future.
Whether directly or indirectly, the pandemic still dictates most of the big headlines from the past week (at least those not already occupied by the speculation about Jack Ma), although there are a few interesting off-topic developments as well, just to keep things fresh.
Let’s go through the state of the retail industry in the second week of the new decade.
What’s new in the digital retail world
The new deal: One of the more overlooked consequences of the pandemic takes the spotlight in a RetailDive feature on the post-Covid retailer-landlord relationship. Summing up the key developments of the past year, the article hints at a new, more flexible lease for both parties, including legal changes that would account for events such as the pandemic.
Before the deal: In related news, Land Securities, one of the UK’s biggest commercial landlords, has reported a steep decline in rents collected compared to the same time last year. Ičts rent collection percentage has gone from 94% in December 2019 to 65% in December 2020, revealing once again our dramatic economic reality. (Retail Gazette)
Emptying the pantry: Amazon has announced that it has terminated its Amazon Pantry service, a grocery focused, subscription-based service in existence since 2014. While there was much talk about the “why” of it, we feel that The Verge hit it on the head, stating, “In many ways, the original Pantry program was designed to help Amazon compete better with traditional grocery stores — but now that Amazon owns and operates those very same stores (complete with Amazon Prime delivery), the consolidation of Pantry back into the larger Amazon site makes a lot of sense.” (The Verge)
Neverending story: The A&M saga between Staples and the Office Depot has been going on for more than two decades, with all previous attempts curtailed by anti-trust regulations and other circumstances. Now, Staples has announced a $2.1 billion bid to acquire its office supplies competitor. (PR Newswire)
Sign of the times: Crown Technologies, a retail tech startup from Singapore and one of the earlier adopters of “smart cafes” and automated coffee machines, has recently announced a deal with Japan’s JR East which will see its trademark “robot barista” ELLA serving coffee in Japan’s train stations. (Vulcan Post)
Reflections: Modern Mirror, a US-based fashion tech startup, has developed what it calls an “avant-garde fitting system” for virtual try-ons through a system of body-scanning cameras, hoping to provide strong competition for the existing VR/AR solutions like Nike Fit. (Forbes)
For a more comprehensive view of the changing face of retail and the way technology powers its transformation, visit our Retail Reloaded series!