OPERATIONS

Wal-Mart details voting results for board members

BY Marianne Wilson

Bentonville, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores on Monday released the tally of its shareholder vote on Friday in which all directors of its board reelected. The voting showed some dissent against key executives and board members, including CEO Mike Duke, in the wake of allegations of bribery in Mexico.

According to the tally, CEO Mike Duke received 87% of votes in favor of his re-election. In other results, Chairman Robson Walton, son of Sam Walton received 87% in favor of re-election, and former CEO Lee Scott received 84%.

Descendants of Wal-Mart’s founder own about 50% of Wal-Mart’s shares.

In related news, one new director, Marissa Mayer, VP Local and Maps, Google Inc., was elected to the Wal-Mart board.

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ECOMMERCE

Survey: Hassle-free returns, speedy delivery and tracking capabilities important to online shoppers

BY Marianne Wilson

Reston, Va. — A significant 63% of online shoppers look at a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase, and nearly half said that they would shop more often and recommend a retailer with a lenient returns policy, according to a new study by comScore. The report, commissioned by UPS, evaluates consumer shopping habits from pre-purchase to post-delivery. It is based on a comScore survey of more than 3,100 U.S. online shoppers.

The report, the Online Shopping Customer Experience Study, reveals that hassle-free returns and exchanges rank above average in terms of importance for shoppers but rank low in terms of current customer satisfaction, showing a significant area of opportunity for retailers.

"While free shipping has tended to dominate the discussion regarding what provides satisfaction to online shoppers, the study shows there are several other factors critical to a positive online shopping experience," said Susan Kleinman, comScore director. “Retailers need a holistic understanding of these drivers if they hope to stimulate sales while maintaining healthy margins in this competitive retail environment."

Consumers are currently most satisfied with the ease of checking out, the variety of brands and products available and online delivery tracking ability. They are least satisfied with the current level of flexibility in choosing delivery dates.

At least 42% of online shoppers reported abandoning their shopping carts because of delivery timing estimates, according to the study. While two-thirds of shoppers choose the most inexpensive shipping option, more than 40% expect to see the availability of two-three day delivery and nearly a third want the option to choose overnight shipping.

The need for speed is also important, with 48% of online shoppers not willing to wait more than five days for packages to be delivered. A third of shoppers said they most often choose to pay a fee for faster delivery.

Online shoppers also said they valued having tracking capabilities to know when their packages would arrive; 46% said receiving their orders when expected would lead them to recommend an online retailer. The ability to reroute a package and schedule a two-hour delivery window is also important for shoppers in the delivery process.

To download a copy of the report, click here.

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FINANCE

Harris Teeter and Lowe’s in store swap

BY Marianne Wilson

Charlotte, N.C. — Harris Teeter Supermarkets entered into an agreement with Lowe’s Food Stores whereby Harris Teeter will acquire 10 Lowes locations in the central Carolinas region and Lowes Foods acquiring six Harris Teeter store locations in western North Carolina.

In addition to the six Harris Teeter stores, Harris Teeter has agreed to pay Lowes Foods $26.5 million. The transaction is expected to be completed in the company’s third quarter of fiscal 2012, which ends July 1, 2012.

Harris Teeter plans to temporarily close the acquired stores for five to sixteen weeks for remodeling, stocking and training of employees. Three of the acquired stores are expected to be converted to a new innovative format featuring a worldwide variety of wine, beer, specialty foods and other selected merchandise. One of the acquired stores is expected to be subleased.

Lowes plans to reopen under the Lowes Foods banner the six stores acquired from Harris Teeter after a brief closing for remodeling, stocking and training of employees.

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