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Target weighing options for Food + Future lab

BY CSA STAFF

Target’s food-based innovation lab, which was targeted to be shut down, may get a second lease on life.

Target’s Food + Future lab initiative ended up on the retailer’s chopping block — along with other innovative projects — as it refocuses efforts on its core business. However, on Tuesday, April 17, sources said an investor approached the chain with an offer, reported the Star Tribune.

In the report, Target said in a statement, “Our intent from the beginning was to incubate Food + Future within Target and then look at options for outside investment,” Target said in the report. “With that in mind, we have been working with the Food + Future team over the past few months to find interested outside investors. That exploratory work continues and we don't have further updates to offer at this time.”

Target launched Food + Future in January 2016, in conjunction with MIT Media Labs and the design firm Ideo. The lab focuses on areas including urban farming, food transparency and authenticity, supply chain and health.

Due to declining sales and a disappointing holiday season in 2016, Target reigned in a number of innovative projects, including the lab, in favor of more strategic, core initiatives, the report said.

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modeai
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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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