Comcast Expanding Retail Footprint

Comcast Jan. 27 said it plans to open six new Xfinity branded stores in the St. Paul, Minn., area by the end of 2020. The nearly $1.5 million investment will place stores in Coon Rapids, Brooklyn Center, Maple Grove, Blaine, Vadnais Heights and West St. Paul.

The strategy is aimed at connecting customers at the retail level with a cable TV operator that increasingly is focused on branded over-the-top video and high-speed Internet service — including xFi, Xfinity Mobile, Peacock and Flex.

“These stores are designed to give customers an awesome experience,” J.D. Keller, regional SVP of the Comcast Twin Cities Region, said in a statement. “They are all about providing the best possible service to our customers, as well as giving all consumers a chance to explore our Xfinity products and services firsthand and check out our latest technology in an interactive environment.”

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Comcast recently opened the Coon Rapids and Brooklyn Center Xfinity Stores with the remaining locations scheduled to open later in the year.

The stores range in size from 1,800 to 2,200 square feet and will be staffed by technology specialists who can help customers get the most value from their products, including personalization, managing and controlling home WiFi experience with Xfinity xFi, amopng other features.

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Retail customers can also upgrade or swap equipment, ask questions about their Xfinity service or pay a bill. Comcast has built or redesigned more than 400 new stores since 2015.

New Data Highlights Big-Box Winter Retail Foot Traffic

In an age of e-commerce and online retail, traditional brick-and-mortar stores have increasingly focused on specific days of the year to push consumer foot traffic in stores.

New data from Placer.ai, which has offices in Los Altos, Calif., and Tel Aviv, suggests retailers such as Walmart, Target and Best Buy target holidays to entice consumers. In a blog post, Ethan Chernofsky, VP of marketing, cited analytical data underscoring how the big box stores fared throughout 2019.

“Walmart may be the undisputed king of offline retail, and much of that centers around its ability to drive excitement and interest throughout the calendar,” Chernofsky wrote. “As opposed to many, Walmart’s peak comes in the days before Christmas with an annual peak hitting on Dec. 23.”

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He said the day before Christmas Eve saw store foot traffic rise 89.2% above the retail behemoth’s baseline for 2019.

“There are clear peaks before Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day, as well as the obvious Black Friday bump, in addition to an ongoing push in the back-to-school season,” Chernofsky wrote. “The capacity to effectively take advantage of so many key time periods is a hallmark to Walmart’s ongoing success.”

By comparison, Black Friday remains the key day in Target’s retail calendar, driving visits 181.3% above normal. Target has also shown a proclivity to dominate both the back-to-school period and the buildup into Christmas, with both periods driving major benefits to the general merchandise leader.

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For Target, the day before Easter provides one of the few major peaks outside of the holiday and back-to-school seasons, with visits rising 81.7% above the baseline.

“If the retailer can identify another opportunity to drive visits with the same strength as the late summer or holiday period, the impact could catapult the brand to an entirely new level of success,” Chernovsky wrote.

 

 

Finally, Black Friday remains key to Best Buy. The brand sees visits rise a whopping 641.9% above the baseline on the post-Thanksgiving retail holiday.

“Smaller peaks throughout the rest of the holiday season come nowhere near the incredible standard the brand sets on Black Friday,” he wrote.

Placer.ai  said the data highlights opportunities retailers could act upon  to galvanize consumers throughout the year.

“Whether it’s Mother’s or Father’s Day, or an Amazon-esque attempt to create their own holiday [i.e. Prime Day], Best Buy has huge opportunities for growth if it can better leverage the period between January 1st and Thanksgiving,” Chernovsky wrote.

Walmart Black Friday Deals Include DVDs Under $2, 4K Discs Under $8 and 4K TVs Under $200

Walmart’s Black Friday ad features deals for DVDs at $1.96, 4K Blu-ray Discs at $7.96 and 4K TVs as low as $198.

The Black Friday in-store sale starts at 6 p.m. Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving) and the online sale starts Nov. 27 at 10 p.m. EST.

The more than 50 titles at $1.96 include The Peanuts Movie, Trolls and The Fate of the Furious. Other price points include $3.96, $5.96, $7.96 and $9.96. 4K Blu-ray Discs at $7.96 include Avengers: Endgame, Wonder Woman, Venom, Aquaman and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

4K TV deals include an onn Roku 5o-inch smart TV model at $148, an onn Roku 58-inch smart TV model at $198, a Philips 65-inch Android smart TV model at $278, a Vizio 65-inch smart TV model at $398, a Samsung 55-inch smart TV model at $328 and a Samsung 50-inch smart TV model at $278.

There’s also a 40-inch 1080p 2K Roku smart TV at $98.

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Report: Walmart Looking Into Sale of Vudu

As the industry prepares for the impending launch of SVOD services Disney+ and Apple TV+ next month, Walmart is looking into selling its 15-year old Vudu on-demand video service, according to sources.

According to a report from The Information, citing people familiar with the situation, the retailer has concluded that it would have to make a substantial investment in Vudu to compete. It might make more sense to partner with media companies to offer content to customers, and the retailer has decided the on-demand service isn’t part of its core business, according to the anonymous sources in the report.

Vudu, which began as a company making set-top boxes in 2004, evolved into a video delivery service and was sold to Walmart in 2010. It rents and sells digital movies and TV shows (EST).

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“Over the last nine years, we’ve built Vudu into an incredibly strong and growing business with an installed base of more than 100 million devices across America,” a Walmart spokesman wrote The Information. “We’re constantly having and [are] open to conversations with new and existing partners to explore opportunities for continued growth; however, we never share details of those discussions.”

Vudu is one of eight retail partners in the Movies Anywhere library collection service. The others are iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, FandangoNow, Xfinity and Verizon, which just joined the service about a month ago.

Report: Amazon to Overtake Walmart as Largest Domestic Retailer in 2022

Amazon is set to become the largest retailer in the United States by 2022, overtaking current leader Walmart, according to a report from market research firm Packaged Facts. The firm bases the forecast on the expectation that Amazon sales will continue to grow at a much faster rate.

The report, Amazon Strategies and the Amazon Shopper, 2nd Edition, analyzes the e-commerce giant’s activities in grocery, pet products and financial services.

“Amazon already has an enormous impact on e-commerce sales, benefitting from its creation of an endless online aisle with products at competitive prices,” David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, said in a statement. “Packaged Facts estimates that Amazon’s U.S. gross merchandise sales will comprise 43% of U.S. e-commerce sales in 2019, up from 28% in 2015. By 2022, we forecast that Amazon will contribute almost half of U.S. e-commerce sales.”

Despite Amazon’s continued growth, Walmart does have advantages Amazon presently cannot match, even when accounting for Amazon’s innovative incorporation of natural supermarket chain Whole Foods in 2017 or its partnership with department store retail chain Kohl’s, according to the firm. Most notably, Walmart’s in-store services strongly differentiate it from online competitors such as Amazon, which cannot provide such services, as well as from its brick-and-mortar competitors, many of which do not offer the same breadth of offerings or cannot match Walmart’s pricing. These services therefore not only produce revenue but also significantly drive traffic, which is even more vital at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers of all shapes and sizes seek to revitalize in-store traffic, according to the firm.

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Packaged Facts survey data found that more than 20% of Walmart purchasers use in-store services (including purchasing/using a range of financial services, on-site pharmacy, and optical and photo processing). In addition, Walmart is the click-and-collect king, according to the firm. Among survey respondent click-and-collectors, 43% identified Walmart as the pick-up location for their last click-and-collect order, three times the percentage of those who cited runner-up Target.

Best Buy Kicks Off Holiday Season With Free, Next-Day Delivery on Thousands of Items

As the holidays loom, a 99% of Best Buy customers can get free next-day delivery on thousands of items, according to the retailer.

The offer excludes some bigger and heavier things such as big-screen TVs and refrigerators.

Customers who ordered something, or live somewhere, where free next-day delivery isn’t available will still get free standard shipping on everything all season long, with no membership or minimum purchase required, according to the retailer.

With the service “Store Pickup,” customers can get their order ready within an hour at their local Best Buy. Best Buy reports 40% of online sales are picked up in stores.

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Other offers include:

  • same-day delivery, which is available in 42 U.S. metro cities for orders completed on BestBuy.com before 3 p.m. local time (2 p.m. local time on Sundays);
  • “Curbside,” which lets customers pick up their tech without getting out of the car and is currently available in select markets across the country;
  • My Best Buy membership, allowing those who join access to sales, including being the first to access to Black Friday deals and, new this year, special access to save on Apple products;
  • and “Total Tech Support” membership, offering those who join unlimited support for all the tech and appliances, no matter where or when they bought them, as well as exclusive prices and discounts on services such as TV mounting, computer virus removal, appliance installation, Geek Squad Protection and AppleCare Products with internet security software also included at no extra charge for coverage on up to 10 devices (Starting Oct. 27, current Total Tech Support members can save $50 when they but it as a gift.).

 

The Best Buy Gift Center also offers ideas on thousands of the tech gifts.

Disney Opening Branded Stores at Target

The Walt Disney Co. and Target Corp. Aug. 25 at D23 Expo announced a retail collaboration aimed at jumpstarting the Disney brand in third-party retail locations.

Disney is launching 25 branded stores within select Target stores nationwide on Oct. 4, with 40 additional locations opening by October 2020.

The partnership also includes a Disney-focused digital experience on Target.com. Additionally, a new Target store will open at Flamingo Crossings Town Center at the western entrance of the Walt Disney World Resort in 2021.

To Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, and former head of home entertainment, the retail collaboration combines two companies’ focus on families at the retail level.

“Disney and Target share a common vision to provide our guests and consumers with innovative and unique experiences, and high quality product,” Chapek said in a statement.

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Brian Cornell, CEO at Target, said the companies’ combined omni-channel retail platform would create “inspiring and unique” experiences for consumers.

“This collaboration reflects the strength of our platforms and assets to create value for guests and growth for both companies beyond the traditional retail model,” he said.

The branded stores will showcase specialty merchandise from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, in addition to featuring clips of movies available theatrically and in home entertainment.

Target remains one of the largest retailers of packaged media entertainment.

The launch will include a new assortment of merchandise from Disney’s Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Additional locations will be added to more Target stores over the next year to expand the Disney store retail footprint.

The Disney stores will be Target-operated, branded “shop-in-shop” with an average of 750 square feet, strategically located inside Target stores adjacent to kids clothing and toys, replicated online at Target.com/Disneystore and on the Target app.

The “shop-in-shop” will feature an enhanced Disney assortment of more than 450 items, including more than 100 products that were previously only available at Disney retail locations.

Consumers will be able to browse and shop a variety of Disney Princess, Star Wars, Marvel, Disney Junior characters, classic Disney plush, apparel, home and holiday-specific products.

They’ll also be able to access collectible merchandise, including the Disney Animators’ Collection with dolls, clothing and accessories. Items will range in price from $2 to $200, with many items under $20.

Disney store at Target promises an engaging shopping experience with music, interactive displays, photo opportunities and a seating area where families can relax and watch Disney movie clips and Park events.

Consumers will be able to take advantage of all of the benefits of shopping at Target when they purchase items from Disney store at Target, whether online or in stores.

Target consumers can purchase Disney products with 5% off using their Target REDcard and can take advantage of convenient pickup and delivery options, including same-day pickup, same-day delivery and free two-day shipping.

Disney store at Target will open in October in the following 25 Target stores:

Allen North #2516 (Allen, Texas)
Austin NW #1797 (Austin, Texas)
Bozeman #1237 (Bozeman, Mont.)
Brighton #922 (Brighton, Mich.)
Chicago Brickyard #1924 (Chicago, Ill.)
Clearwater #1820 (Clearwater, Fla.)
Denver Stapleton #2052 (Denver, Colo.)
Edmond #1398 (Edmond, Okla.)
Euless #1368 (Euless, Texas)
Houston North Central #1458 (Spring, Texas)
Jacksonville Mandarin #1300 (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Keizer #2110 (Keizer, Ore.)
Lake Stevens #1331 (Lake Stevens, Wash.)
Leesburg #1874 (Leesburg, Va.)
Loveland #1178 (Loveland, Colo.)
Maple Grove North #2193 (Maple Grove, Minn.)
Mobile West #1376 (Mobile, Ala.)
Murrieta #1283 (Murrieta, Calif.)
New Lenox #2028 (New Lenox, Ill.)
Pasadena #1396 (Pasadena, Texas)
Philadelphia West #2124 (Philadelphia, Pa.)
San Jose College Park #2088 (San Jose, Calif.)
South Jordan #2123 (South Jordan, Utah)
Stroudsburg #1260 (Stroudsburg, Pa.)
Waterford Park #2068 (Clarksville, Ind.)

 

Don’t Dis the Disc

The little boy’s eyes lit up. No more than 5, he was the son of a woman who keeps house for a neighbor. She speaks only Spanish; the little fellow is bilingual. He had brought with him three Blu-ray Discs – Bumblebee, How to Train Your Dragon, and the second LEGO Movie – he planned on watching while his mother was working.

I ran back to my house, grabbed a handful of recent movies and presented them to him. He eagerly grabbed the loot and said, “Thank you, thank you,” as my neighbor told me he had purchased the three other discs and given them to the little boy as a present, as well. The family doesn’t have a car, and their shopping is limited to the Mexican grocery store nearby, with an occasional bus ride to Walmart for clothes and other necessities.

“If I was one of your studio friends,” my neighbor said, “I’d get them to put their DVDs and Blu-rays into every little Latino grocery store they can find. So many people do their weekly grocery shops there – and I’m not talking about Spanish-language movies, although I think those would do well too. I’m talking the big hits, the superhero films, the stuff the kids like to watch.”

He makes an interesting point. In the years just before and after the 1997 launch of DVD, independent video stores were summarily dismissed by Hollywood as more trouble than they’re worth. In the final days of the VHS rental business, it was all about getting as many copies of the hits into stores as was possible, through copy-depth incentives, revenue-sharing and other strategies.

And when DVD came around, the studios gladly handed the business over to the mass merchants and big box stores.

Listening to my neighbor, I wonder if it isn’t time to once again go small? I know everyone’s focused on the digital business right now, strategizing how digital movie sales and rentals – known by that catchy industry term “transactional video-on-demand,” or the roll-off-your-tongue acronym “TVOD”-can compete in market increasingly dominated by subscription streaming.

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But let’s not dismiss the disc. Our industry has a habit of burying a product before its time (remember VHS?) and, in the process, leaving lots of money on the proverbial table. There’s still a huge market for Blu-ray Disc and even DVD, and the emergence of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc has generated a whole new fan base of enthusiasts who realize the optimum way to view content is still on a physical disc.

The big box stores have taken note and spruced up their disc sections over the last year or two – particularly Best Buy, which moved discs from the back of the store to a prominent position near the front. Target has end caps with new movies in the main aisle, and at the Walmart near my house clerks are having a hard time keeping new movies in stock.

Studios should take a long, hard look at expanding distribution channels – grocery stores that serve particular ethnic communities, book stores in college towns, sporting goods stores, music stores, you name it.

At this year’s San Diego County Fair, which just ended its month-long run on July 4, one of the busiest booths in the merchant hall was “Must Have Movies,” devoted exclusively to catalog product and dressed up with posters for movies such as The Goonies, Young Frankenstein, Weird Science and The Karate Kid. Apparently the owners travel the fair circuit and, from the looks of things, have built themselves a nice little business.

Yes, home entertainment is evolving. Yes, streaming is the future. And, yes, selling and renting movies electronically, over the Internet, is so much easier than moving physical product because there’s no inventory, no shipping, no returns.

The only problem is, so many customers still want discs.

Walmart Names Former Amazon and Google Exec CTO

Walmart has appointed Suresh Kumar to a “new elevated” chief technology officer and chief development officer role reporting directly to president and CEO Doug McMillon, according to the company.

“Kumar joins at a time when Walmart is rapidly transforming its customer and associate experiences, and he brings more than 25 years of technology leadership experience coming from Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM,” read the Walmart press release.

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“The technology of today and tomorrow enables us to serve our customers and associates in ways that weren’t previously possible. We want to take full advantage of those opportunities,” said McMillon in a statement. “Suresh has a unique understanding of the intersection of technology and retail, including supply chain, and has deep experience in advertising, cloud and machine learning. And, he has a track record of working in partnership with business teams to drive results.”

“Walmart is one of the great success stories in how a company evolves over time to serve the changing needs of its customers, and today, it is in the midst of a very exciting digital transformation,” said Kumar in a statement. “With more than 11,000 stores, a high-growth eCommerce business and more than 2 million associates worldwide, the potential for technology to help people at scale is unparalleled, and I am excited to be part of this.”

Kumar was most recently at Google, serving as VP and GM of display, video, app ads and analytics. Prior to joining Google, he was the corporate VP of Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure and operations. Kumar spent 15 years at Amazon in various leadership roles, including VP of technology for retail systems and operations, and he led Amazon’s retail supply chain and inventory management systems. Before joining Amazon, he was a research staff member at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

Kumar holds a doctorate in Engineering from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

Walmart Teases One-Day Shipping

The shipping delivery war took another turn after Walmart went to social media to hint it would match Amazon’s decision to switch from free two-day shipping for Prime members to one-day deliveries.

“One-day free shipping … without a membership fee. Now THAT would be groundbreaking. Stay tuned,” Walmart tweeted April 26 the day after Amazon disclosed it would spend upwards of $800 million upgrading internal and external shipping capacity for one-day shipments.

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Amazon charges $119 annually for its Prime membership, which includes free access to movies and TV shows on Amazon Prime Video, music on Prime Music and two-hour delivery (for a fee) for Prime Now store deliveries, among other features.

Amazon’s announcement had a ripple effect on retail stocks, sending Walmart and Target shares down 1.9% and 5.7%, respectively, in April 26 trading.

The switch is expected to put added pressure on big box retailers such as Best Buy, Office Depot and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others.