TECHNOLOGY

Amazon granted anti-showrooming patent

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Despite the many sales that showrooming has afforded Amazon over the years, the retailer surely doesn't want to become a victim going forward.

In an effort to protect itself against the practice, the online giant was granted a patent that avoids this very scenario. Called “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” the patent prevents brick-and-mortar retailers from leveraging technology in their own stores that would stop shoppers from comparing prices of in-store merchandise to competitor’s products online, according to TechCrunch.

The patent describes a solution that can identify what content a shopper is accessing via the retailer’s Wi-Fi network. If the content is deemed as product or pricing information from a competitor’s website, Amazon can take any number of actions — including blocking the request, according to the filing.

Amazon is gaining the new patent at an interesting time. In addition to continuing to open a chain of brick-and-mortar bookstores, its AmazonFresh pickup stations, and cashier-free Amazon Go convenience stores, the chain announced on Friday that it will buy Whole Foods Markets for a whopping $13.7 billion — extending its physical store footprint even further.

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TECHNOLOGY

CBRE: E-commerce still lacks traction in some retail categories

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

E-commerce has generated significant volumes of sales in the electronics and clothing industries, but has yet to gain traction in other retail sectors.

According to research from CBRE, data from the United States Commerce Department revealed extensive e-commerce penetration in certain retail categories such as electronics and appliances, with a 19.5% share of category sales – or $20.4 billion — occurring online. Similarly, $24.2 billion of apparel and accessories sales occurred online, but that amounted to only 9.5% of that sector's overall sales.

General merchandise, which includes department stores and other mass merchandisers, also represents a high volume of Internet sales ($22.5 billion) but a low rate of e-commerce penetration (3.3%).

Yet, other categories, such as food and beverage and motor vehicles, both under 0.1%, remain relatively unscathed. (The Commerce Department data is from 2015, which is the latest available.)

Specifically, food and beverage stores, which consist primarily of groceries and supermarkets, remain among the lowest for e-commerce share at 0.1% and only $1 billion in total internet sales. Meanwhile, motor vehicle and parts dealers feature the lowest rate of e-commerce penetration, as most car sales occur at brick-and-mortar dealerships. This is likely to rise over the coming years as online vendors grow, but the current annual e-commerce sales for this category are just $528 million, according to the report.

“This new data underscores the categories that shopping-center owners will find most resilient amid online sales, including health care, food and beverage, and motor vehicles,” said Melina Cordero, CBRE head of Americas retail research. “One finding that might surprise some observers is that e-commerce accounts for a smaller percentage of apparel sales — 9.5% — than many may assume, given recent store-closure announcements and current rhetoric in the market.”

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TECHNOLOGY

New company preps to relaunch the Bebe brand

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The Bebe brand is undergoing a transformation — thanks to a new parent company.

Global Brands Group Holding Limited, a leading branded apparel, footwear, and fashion accessories company — and a spin-off of global exporter Li & Fung Ltd., is partnering with the Bebe brand to relaunch a new e-commerce platform. In addition, the company will redesign the brand’s international brick-and-mortar stores to better meet the heightened shopping expectations of Bebe’s consumers.

This project marks the first initiative under Global Brands' direction. Overall, the company will relaunch Bebe's e-commerce platform, direct-to-consumer divisions and international operations.

"Bebe is an iconic fashion brand with a loyal, global following," said Sandra Campos, president of the Bebe division at Global Brands Group. "We see a tremendous opportunity to relaunch a new e-commerce platform that best reflects who our global customer is and how she shops.”

Global Brands Group’s initiatives will augment the work Blue Star Alliance Corp. is undertaking to build out the brand’s wholesale and department store distribution. Based on a relationship forged with Bebe in 2016, Blue Star Alliance will create new licensees and product extensions for the brand.

"As we continue to build out the wholesale and department store distribution for the Bebe brand, it was a natural transition for Global Brands Group to take over the Bebe e-commerce platform,” said Joseph Gabbay, CEO of Bluestar Alliance LLC.

“Global Brands Group has been a strategic licensee and can now seamlessly synergize the international distribution, e-commerce platform and wholesale business,” he said. “Our efforts will concentrate on an omnichannel distribution approach to service and expand the Bebe customer, both domestically and internationally."

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