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Struggling teen apparel chain invests in virtual stylist

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Days after announcing it is closing hundreds of stores, Rue21 is taking steps to better connect with shoppers online.

Focusing on conversational commerce, the teen apparel retailer launched a personalized, interactive shopping experience via the chat-based Messenger app. Powered by mode.ai, the virtual stylist uses Messenger’s new Chat Extensions feature that allows users to interact with the shopping tool in group and one-on-one message threads with friends, the retailer said.

Rue21’s style bot features image-based visual styling suggestions; color and price search filters; size personalization, and styling inspiration, among other features. Messenger’s new Chat Extensions were launched this week at the Facebook F8 developer conference, making Rue21 “one of the first retailers to use this new feature,” said Brett Trent, the chain’s chief marketing officer. “This virtual stylist will allow our customer to have an engaging, personalized experience with just a few clicks.”

The online enhancement comes on the heels of the chain’s decision to close nearly 400 stores nationwide. While the chain struggles with increased competition from online and fast-fashion players, it will continue to operate 700 stores and its e-commerce site.

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Walmart adds online footwear domain site to its roster

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart continues its online buying spree, but this time the target is a Web domain.

ShoeBuy.com, which Walmart acquired in January, has acquired the shoes.com domain name and related intellectual property for $9 million, according to documents filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Bankruptcy and Insolvency. In an unexpected move, the Canada-based Shoes.com shut down its online sites and brick-and-mortar operations in January.

According to a Footwear News report, shoppers visiting shoes.com will be linked to a new homepage on Shoe.com and go on to shop the 800-plus footwear brands, as well as outerwear and handbags.

In the coming months, ShoeBuy plans to overhaul and revive the Shoes.com site to create an experience that mirrors ShoeBuy’s approach to online retailing, the report said.

Walmart’s purchase of ShoeBuy was a direct hit against Amazon, which owns Zappos.

Under the direction of its U.S. digital chief Marc Lore, Walmart has been expanding its line capabilities and fashion offerings. Since January, in addition to ShoeBuy, the discounter has acquired outdoor gear online retailer Moosejaw, and Modcloth, a young women’s apparel and accessories retailer. This week, Bloomberg reported that the chain is in advanced discussions to acquire Bonobos, an e-commerce-driven apparel company that designs and sells upscale men’s clothing.

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Walmart launches platform to slash emissions

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart wants its suppliers to join the retailer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from their operations and supply chains.

The new initiative, dubbed “Project Gigaton,” will provide an emissions reduction tool kit to a broad network of suppliers seeking to eliminate one gigaton of emissions, focusing on such areas as manufacturing, materials and use of products by 2030. (According to Walmart, one gigaton is the equivalent to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads and highways for a year.)

“We are proud of the improvements we’ve made in reducing our own emissions, but we aim to do more. That’s why we’re working with our suppliers and others on Project Gigaton,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, senior VP and chief sustainability officer for Walmart.

Walmart said it is the first retailer with a verified science-based target emissions-reduction plan. The retailer aims to reduce its absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 18% by 2025. It is also working to reduce CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, emissions from upstream and downstream Scope 3 sources by one billion tons (a gigaton) between 2015 and 2030.

The new Gigaton project is part of a series of Walmart sustainability initiatives that seek to address social and environmental issues in ways that help communities while also strengthening business. These include the chain’s investment in solar energy by which it has helped to support jobs for American solar companies. Walmart has identified energy, agriculture, waste, packaging, deforestation, and product use and design as the goal areas in which to focus their Scope 3 climate efforts. Participating suppliers are encouraged to focus their commitment in one or more of these goal areas.

“Through the years, we’ve seen that integrating sustainable practices into our operations improves business performance, spurs technological innovation, inspires brand loyalty, and boosts employee engagement,” said Laura Phillips, senior VP, sustainability for Walmart. “Our suppliers recognize the opportunity to realize those same benefits in their businesses. By working together on such an ambitious goal, we can accelerate progress within our respective companies and deep in our shared supply chains.”

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