ECOMMERCE

Report: Wal-Mart to open 40-50 wholesale stores, launch e-commerce in India

BY Dan Berthiaume

Bentonville, Ark. – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reportedly plans to open an additional 40 to 50 wholesale cash-and-carry stores in India during the next four years and also launch an Indian e-commerce operation. According to the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart will begin e-commerce sales in India during summer 2014 with one wholesale store offering goods online and delivering them for pickup at other local retailers up to about 25 miles away.

Indian restrictions on foreign direct investment in wholesale retailers are less stringent than restrictions on foreign direct investment in grocery retailers. Wal-Mart, which currently operates 20 wholesale stores in India, is reportedly putting plans to open supermarkets in India on hold until May 2014 parliamentary elections pass. Leading Indian political party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said in its official election manifesto that it will ban all foreign direct investment into the Indian supermarket sector if it wins a majority stake in the upcoming parliamentary election. BJP is widely expected to take majority control of parliament and the prime minister seat in India’s May 2014 elections.

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SUPPLY CHAIN

Retail imports to grow 6.1% in April

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. — Import volume at major U.S. retail container ports is expected to increase 6.1% in April 2014, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates. U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.26 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in February 2014, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available.

February is historically the slowest month of the year, and the number was down 8.4% from January 2014 and 1.4% from February 2013. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent. March was estimated at 1.31 million TEU, up 15% from the same month last year. April is forecast at 1.38 million TEU, up 6.1% from the prior year; May at 1.44 million TEU, up 3.8%; June at 1.43 million TEU, up 5.5%; July at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.1%, and August at 1.51 million TEU, up 1.2%. The first half of the year is expected to total 8.2 million TEU, up 5.5% from the previous year.

The total for 2013 was 16.2 million TEU, up 2.3% from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU. The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting 4.1% sales growth in 2014, contingent on how Washington policies on economic issues affect consumer confidence. Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales but is a barometer of retailers’ expectations.

“With winter over, retailers are stocking up in anticipation of a busy spring and summer,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “Consumers can expect plentiful supplies of merchandise. A busy time is expected over the next few months, so retailers are keeping a close eye on the labor situation at West Coast ports to ensure that cargo continues to move smoothly. Companies are already exploring contingency plans in case of a disruption.”

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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FINANCE

Havertys sales drop in Q1

BY Dan Berthiaume

Atlanta – Havertys reported a 2.5% drop in sales during the first quarter of fiscal 2014 compared to the same period in the prior year, falling to $181.4 million from $186.1 million. Same-store sales declined 0.9%.

Clarence H. Smith, chairman, president and CEO of Havertys, said severe winter weather did not negatively impact all of Havertys locations.

"Our first quarter total sales were 2.5% below last year with comparable store sales down slightly,” said Smith. “Last year’s first quarter comparable store sales were up 11.5%. The severe winter weather did not impact 30 of our more southern locations, which posted increased comparable store sales of 7.3% for the quarter. We have not altered our promotional stance and gross profit product margins should be in line with our previous guidance.”

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