TECHNOLOGY

Retail giant launches new services, tools for back-to-school

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart is making it easier for parents to stay on their game during this year's back-to-school shopping season.

According to the National Retail Federation, this year's season is expected to be a strong one and start early. Walmart is rolling out new services to help shoppers easily find what they are looking for — in stores and online.

On the brick-and-mortar front, Walmart is touting “back-to-school” associates who will be ready to direct customers to open cash registers, find the shortest lines and grab any last-minute items before shoppers finish checking out.

Online, Walmart is launching a dedicated back-to-school destination – walmart.com/classroomsupplies – that features a section called TeacherLists, where teachers can upload supply lists. The tool enables shoppers to enter their zip code and pinpoint their individual classroom list or a general grade supplies list.

Currently, the site lists nearly 500,000 classroom lists. The number is expected to grow to more than a million by the end of August, representing a majority of schools and classrooms across the United States, according to Walmart.

The discounter said it also has "significantly" expanded the number of items that can be bought online and picked up in store, and made “hundreds” of back-to-school staples eligible for its Online Grocery Pickup shopping service. It also has doubled the number of items availa-ble for same-day pickup — an assortment that includes the top 400+ back-to-school items, the retailer said.

“We’re saving our customers time with easy ways to shop and multiple ways to get these items to students,” said Scott Bayles, VP of stationery, Walmart U.S.

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TECHNOLOGY

Things looking up at Target

BY Marianne Wilson

Target Corp. on Thursday surprised the industry and investors with some good news.

The discounter updated its guidance and said that as a result of improved traffic and sales trends through the first two months of the quarter, it expects to report a modest increase in its second quarter same-store sales. Target previously said it expected a decline.

"Following better-than-expected results in the first quarter, we’ve seen additional, broad-based improvement in traffic and category sales trends in the second quarter, despite continued challenges in the competitive environment," stated CEO Brian Cornell. “Our team is energized and focused on enhancing and modernizing the Target shopping experience, and our guests are responding."

Cornell said the company's launch of its nursery decor line, Cloud Island, in May was a success. Target will be rolling out four more exclusive brands across home and apparel during the coming months in support of its plan to launch 12 new brands by the end of 2018.

"We are also pleased with initial results of the Twin Cities rollout of Target Restock, providing next-day delivery of a shopping-cart-sized shipment from an assortment of more than 10,000 essential items," Cornell added.

In updating its guidance, Target said it now expects to report second quarter GAAP and adjusted EPS above the high end of its previous guidance range of $0.95 to $1.15.

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TECHNOLOGY

Walmart hosts virtual commerce competition

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart’s technology incubator — called Store No. 8 — is on the hunt for cutting edge virtual reality (VR) solutions.

In effort to uncover new VR applications — and innovative ways to apply the technology to commerce — Walmart’s Store No. 8 is partnering with Thrive Global and Accenture to create a nationwide competition for developers. Called Innov8: V-commerce, the contest invites start-up companies to submit ideas that have the potential to change the way people shop and live, according to Walmart.

Selected winners will receive capital to fund development costs and strategic advice during incubation of their concept, along with an opportunity to work with Walmart, Jet.com, Thrive Global and other retail partners. The most innovative experiences will be showcased at an exhibition in Los Angeles on October 18.

Innov8’s board will include Katie Finnegan and Seth Beal, Principals of Store No 8; and Marc Lore, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. e-commerce and founder and CEO, jet.com. It will also encompass Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global; and executives from Accenture Labs, Forerunner Ventures, and the Virtual Reality Fund.

“Our first step is to identify the most innovative companies and minds in the space to help us on this mission,” said Katie Finnegan, principal of Store No 8. “Innov8 will further define the future of commerce by inspiring and driving growth in the underlying ecosystem of technologies needed to bring shopping into the era of virtual experiences.”

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