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Rakuten.com launches rewards program

BY Staff Writer

New York — Japanese online giant Rakuten has teamed up with First Bankcard to launch the Rakuten Rewards MasterCard Program, which provides cardholders with reward points for using their credit card to shop on Rakuten.com and elsewhere.

Rakuten.com, formerly Buy.com, is Rakuten’s U.S. marketplace, offering consumers more than 17 million products at everyday low prices from a network of small and large business shop owners.

The new Rakuten Rewards MasterCard Program will be integrated with the existing Rakuten Super Points Loyalty Program to provide additional points to cardholders for both qualifying purchases on Rakuten.com and on qualifying purchases everywhere else MasterCard is accepted. In addition, customers who are instantly approved will be able to complete their purchases with their new Rakuten Rewards MasterCard the same day they apply.

"First Bankcard has a very personalized approach, and it was very evident to us that they have a commitment to their customers. Given Rakuten’s own customer-centric methodology, it seemed to offer a perfect fit for our new U.S. credit card program as we seek to build a larger presence in the U.S. market and further drive our digital retail business," said Masatada ‘Seichu’ Kobayashi, CEO, Rakuten.com.

Kobayashi added that the company has seen tremendous synergy between its marketplace and credit card businesses in Japan, “where Rakuten credit card users have been found to enjoy shopping with us 52% more frequently and spend 38% more than other customers."

According to Stephen Eulie, president of First Bankcard, the new credit card program underscores First Bankcard’s commitment to provide value-added business solutions to its customers.

"We’re dedicated to creating possibilities that will help our partners grow their businesses and drive customer loyalty, whether it’s in their local communities or worldwide," Eulie said. "Rakuten has a strong international brand, and we’re excited to help support its growth in the United States."

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Bed Bath and Beyond confirms weak Q4

BY CSA STAFF

Sales and profits were as bad as Bed Bath & Beyond initially feared due to extensive weather related store closures during the company’sfourth quarter ended March 1.

The company said sales during its 13 week fourth quarter declined 5.8% to $3.2 billion while same store sales advanced 1.7%. Profits during the 13 week period declined to $333 million, or $1.60 a share, compared to the 14 week period the prior year when profits totaled $374 million, or $1.68 per share.

The uncharacteristically weak showing from Bed Bath & Beyond was not a surprise as the company had alerted investors to significant weather-related issues March 7. At that time, the retailer warned adverse weather had resulted in 464 times when a store was closed for an entire day and 1,923 times when a store was close for a partial day. The negative impact on same store sales at the time was thought to be in the range of 2% to 2.5% while earnings were expected to suffer a six to seven cents a share hit.

Those expectations proved to be accurate and reflect a situation faced by numerous other retailers who indicated severe weather negatively affected their fourth quarter performance.

Bed Bath and Beyond ended its fiscal year with a total of 1,496 stores, consisting of 1,014 Bed Bath & Beyond stores, 265 stores under the banners of World Market, Cost Plus World Market and Cost Plus, 90 buubuy BABY stores and 77 stores under various Christmas Tree Shops banners.

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Walmart and GE tout LED initiative

BY CSA STAFF

First it was signage and then came the freezer case and parking lots. Now Walmart and GE are moving forward with their biggest lighting initiative to date.

The companies announced plans to use GE LED lights in ceiling fixtures in hundreds of stores throughout the U.S., Asia, Latin Amerian and the United Kingdom. The new fixtures use 40% less energy than traditional overhead lighting systems and move Walmart forward on its goal of reducing energy required to power its buildings globally by 20% by 2020. It is Walmart’s largest purchase of GE LED lighting to date.

“We have worked to find and scale energy-efficient LED lighting solutions that are cost effective and high quality, and now working with GE, we’re paving the way to make this a mainstream solution for the retail industry,” said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “LEDs have become an integral part of our energy efficiency model for our stores and play a key role in achieving our overall sustainability goals. Just as important, the energy cost savings coming from these innovations will help us maintain the low prices our customers depend on us to provide.”

The move comes after Walmart experimented with a storewide LED lighting system at a supercenter in South Euclid, Ohio last fall and realized the potential to reduce energy use, expenses and its environmental footprint. With the main sales floor lighting representing approximately 90% of the total lighting usage in each building, usage of LED will reduce energy use per store by more than 5% in the U.S. alone and results in savings of $34,000 per store, according to the company. Other expense saving will be realized due to the fact that LEDs have a longer life span and less maintenance that traditional lighting fixtures.

“We’ve had a long and successful relationship with Walmart, increasing our environmental efforts together,” said Jeff Immelt, GE Chairman and CEO.
“A leader in seeking energy efficiency in the retail industry, Walmart’s energy-conscious focus allows the company to attain a substantial cost savings in electricity,” said Jeff Immelt, GE’s chairman and CEO. “We value our longstanding relationship with Walmart and are proud to work with them in reducing their environmental impact.”

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