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Retail space in central London has been secured by Amazon for rolling out its Amazon Go store concept in the UK, according to reports from The Grocer. 

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Walmart’s Store No. 8 incubator has announced the launch of its second portfolio company, Spatial&. It will focus on the opportunities to create new virtual commerce (V-commerce) experiences.

Focused on the opportunities within innovative technologies

Store No. 8 was established in 2017 to assess the opportunities for innovative technologies such as virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence and driverless vehicles within the retail environment. It partners with venture capitalists and academics to help setup and support start-up organisations to develop solutions for Walmart. Last year it launched Jetblack as its first portfolio company.

Source: Walmart

Acquired Spatialand 12 months ago

VR has been a major focus for Store No.8. In 2017 it held a VR gala, Innov8, to showcase five VR developers focused on solving different problems in the V-commerce space, supported by VR platform and content studio, Spatialand. Last February, Store No.8 acquired Spatialand, forming the basis of this new portfolio company.

Opportunities for brands and story-telling

Spatial& will focus on pushing the boundaries of what's possible in VR and retail today and defining the V-commerce platform of tomorrow. Store No.8 expects V-commerce will be an essential role of how brands go to market and share the stories behind their products. This month Spatial& is collaborating with DreamWorks Animation to present a virtual reality activation to support the launch of the new movie, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. As part of a virtual tour experience in selected Walmart stores, How to Train Your Dragon merchandise will be available for purchase in a branded, immersive gift shop.

Creating more immersive retail experiences

The launch of Spatial& highlights the growing role of VR within the retail environment as retailers look to create more immersive experiences. Some of the uses of the technology showcased by Store No.8 at Innov8 included photorealistic holograms, interactive virtual stores and educational V-commerce platforms. Beyond shopper-focused solutions, Walmart has also been using VR technology within its training academies to recreate in-store situations.

Shaping the future of retail

Store No.8 demonstrates how Walmart is looking at the opportunities for the business over the longer term. While it is currently aggressively developing its ecommerce business and reinventing its store formats to ensure their future relevance, these initiatives are focused on bridging the gap between its legacy store business and the next three to five years. The types of technologies which will be developed within Store No. 8 will be foundational to a much bolder change in how the retailer operates and goes to market.

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We round up the latest developments from leading Nordic retailers as they invest in supermarkets, convenience, online and foodservice.

Norway: NorgesGruppen’s Meny launches new Gourmet and Urban banners

NorgesGruppen’s MENY supermarket banner is launching two new concepts; Meny Gourmet and Meny Urban.

Meny Gourmet will be the larger store concept which aims to create “good dining experiences for customers”. The stores will focus on exclusive goods, manned vegetable dishes and cheese and meats. Meny CC Vest, one of Meny’s largest stores, will pilot the new concept.

Meny Urban will be smaller stores located in city centres. The stores may be as small as 500 sq. m to help Meny to establish itself. They will sell take-away hot food and drinks as well as groceries.

The retailer has identified 15 existing sites that would suit the Meny Gourmet concept, and seven that would suit the MENY Urban Concept. MENY will also look to open new stores with these concepts in mind too.

Despite this, around 200 Meny stores will remain regular stores, with the option to choose items from the Urban and Gourmet concepts where appropriate

Commenting on the new store concepts, Vegard Kjuus, head of Meny, said, “We see that people are more happy about food, they travel more, enjoy eating out and want good take away solutions. It is also where there is greatest growth at the moment. While a mall may have a growth of perhaps one percent a year, a restaurant or coffee shop may have seven percent growth. It says something about the possibilities for Menu Urban”.

Sweden: Reitangruppen’s Pressbyrån to open unmanned convenience concept…

Meanwhile, Reitangruppen’s convenience format Pressbyrån is launching a new unstaffed convenience concept. Stores will offer a range of ready-packed products, including fresh pastries and sandwiches, among others. Initially these will be opened in offices but Pressbyrån hopes the concept will be rolled out to other locations besides offices in the long term.

CEO Mariette Kristenson said, “Based on each situation, we will be able to optimise the supply according to that customer's demand, it can be anything from hygiene items to a unique magazine range”.

…As it acquires Caffeine Roasters in the Baltics

In related news Reitan Convenience has acquired the coffee chain Caffeine Roasters after gaining regulatory approval from the Lithuanian competition authorities.

Caffeine Roasters, established in 2007, is the largest coffee chain in the Baltics. As part of the acquisition, Reitangruppen will gain all 60 of Caffeine Roasters’ coffee shops in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Commenting on the acquisition, CEO Johannes Sangnes said, “All formalities are now in order, and we look forward to starting work on further developing Caffeine Roaster's solid position in the Baltics. Caffeine Roasters is one of the strongest brands for coffee shops in the Baltics, and they are known for their quality coffee and good service”.

Elsewhere in Europe, retailers in the UK and Ireland are also investing in coffee. IGD Retail Analysis subscribers, can access our exclusive insight presentation on
“Coffee-to-go in convenience stores” here.

Sweden: Bergendahls’ Eko targets 37 stores

In Sweden, Bergendahls’ is planning to expand its Eko (not organic) supermarket concept with two to three store openings planned a year. The concept aims to offer leading brands at low prices and currently operates five stores in Borås, Fjälkinge, Kalmar, Malmö and Västerås. It is set to open an additional store in Örebro by the end of February 2019. The long-term goal for Eko is to open 37 stores in the country.

In an interview with Swedish trade press, CEO Ted Berggren said it will target stores of over 7,000 sq. m situated in locations with more than 80,000 residents, although locations with 100,000 – 120,000 are ideal. Product ranges include seasonal, household and cleaning products, flowers, toys, confectionary and hair and body care. The store also features Lekia, a flower shop, and Hemmakväll, a lighting shop.

Finland: S Group helps local suppliers sell online

Elsewhere, Finland’s S Group has announced it will launch a pilot to help local suppliers sell their products through S Group’s online store.  Orders will then be delivered to shoppers via their local Prisma pickup point. Local suppliers determine their prices while S Group charges commission. The pilot will be trialled in 2019 in Uusimaa, Pirkanmaa and Satakunta.

Antti Oksa, director of selection at S Group, explained, “We want to provide our customers with the opportunity to buy food directly from producers by combining shopping with the online food order. At the same time, a new channel of interest for producers will open up for other direct sales”.

The direct sales model has been developed with Mtech Digital Solutions.

Want to keep up with the latest developments from leading retailers including NorgesGruppen, Reitangruppen, Bergendahls and S Group? Sign up for IGD’s free Retail Analysis international newsletter.

France-based Leclerc said its sales (including VAT but excluding petrol) increased by 1.5% to €37.75bn in its 2018 financial year. The retailer said its Drive stores underpinned performance, with its grocery-focused bricks and mortar sites showing limited growth in sales.

Drive underpinning performance

Leclerc said sales rose by 6.9% at its Drive stores, a slow down on the 10.3% increase in 2017. Despite the slow down versus the previous year, Drive still accounted for 59.2% of the total sales growth generated by Leclerc in 2018, versus a share of 30% in 2017. Some of the additional growth from Leclerc’s Drive stores was aided by the opening of 33 new Drive sites during 2018, but underlined the ‘success of [its] multichannel strategy’.

By contrast, Leclerc said its grocery-oriented stores had seen sales rise by only 0.1%. Leclerc noted the success of its organic ranges, which now account for 4.2% of total sales, and its Marque Repère private label brand, where sales rose 1.2%. The company noted the challenging market environment in France, especially the first three quarters where it lost market share. However, the group’s president, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, noted that ‘the last quarter ended with a very positive boost for the E.Leclerc centers’. At the end of 2018, Leclerc operated 691 hypermarkets and supermarkets and 652 Drives in France.

Meanwhile at its specialist stores, which includes drugstores, pet stores and vehicle accessories, sales increased by 4.2%. Leclerc operated 1,924 specialist stores at the end of 2018.

Group international sales reach €39bn

Leclerc said total international sales across all its operations, excluding fuel, reached €39bn in 2018. Outside of France it operated a further 99 stores, with 11 in Spain and operations in Poland and Portugal too.

Sales rose in Poland, despite Sunday trading ban

In a separate announcement, the president of E Leclerc Polska, Jean-Philippe Magré, said sales at its operations in the country rose 3.89% to PLN2.91bn (US$759.6m) in 2018, despite the introduction of a Sunday trading ban in the country. The growth was supported by the expansion of its network during 2018, which saw Frac’s 16 stores join the Galec purchasing group in July.

Magré said the performance was particularly positive given that in 2017 Sunday trading had accounted for 7% of total sales. He noted that to limit the effects of the ban Leclerc had operated ‘strong promotional activities and extensive marketing campaigns’ during the rest of the week to drive traffic to stores. The promotions were focused on fresh products, including meat, fruit and dairy products, and moved the offers from the weekend to Thursday.

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