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Walmart tests convenience-store format with online grocery pickup service

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart has opened a 4,000-sq.-ft. format that offers pick-up of online grocery orders and a convenience store that also sells snacks, beverages and more.

The 4,000-sq.-ft. location, in Thornton, Colorado, also has on-site gaso-line station, the Denver Business Journal reported.

It’s the second location for the concept, with the retailer opening its first pick-up and fuel station in April, in Huntsville, Alabama, according to the report.

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Walmart settles same-sex spouse benefits discrimination suit

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart has agreement to a settlement in a lawsuit that accused the retailer of discrimination against gay employees who were unable to get healthcare coverage for their same-sex spouses.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the discounter will set aside $7.5 million to compensate the employees affected by the denial of spousal benefits from 2011 to 2014. (Walmart changed its policy to include same-sex spouses on Jan. 1, 2014, shortly after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.)

The company said the settlement includes "no more than a few thousand current and former Walmart associates."

“We’re happy both sides could come together to reach a resolution,” Sally Welborn, senior VP of global benefits, Walmart, said in a statement. “We will continue to not distinguish between same- and opposite-sex spouses when it comes to the benefits we offer under our health insurance plan.”

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Ulta turns mobile app into ‘Glam Lab’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Selfies are taking on a new role when it comes to driving the guest experience at Ulta Beauty.

With e-commerce sales jumping 59.1% for the third quarter — on top of 56.3% growth last year — the beauty retailer is pulling out all of the stops when it comes to evolving and upgrading the guest experience. Once of the company’s newest initiatives is its Glam Lab.

Launched last month, the mobile service allows guests to virtually test products and shades within the company’s iPhone and Android app. “Shoppers simply upload a selfie or choose a model with a similar complexion,” Mary Dillon, Ulta’s CEO said in the company’s third quarter earnings call on Dec. 1. “Our technology partner for this platform is a company known for best-in-class realism and accuracy of color matching.”

The service is one of a few enhancements the specialty retailer made to its mobile app, including a redesigned product detail page that better displays product options and information; the integration of a new content platform, and a new salon appointment booking tool, she added.

While these tools are still evolving, the company is bullish on its booking tool, especially its impact on its “Brow Bar,” an in-store service dedicated to the maintenance of eyebrows.

“There is no real specific data that we are ready to share about direct impact, but we think it’s really important for us across all services to make it as easy as possible for our guests to make appointments and engage with us,” Scott Settersten, the company’s CFO said during the call. “We will continue to evolve the technology. We know that will improve the guest experience and we are excited about that going forward.”

These initiatives are indicative of the company’s commitment to its mobile channel, overall. “While we will continue to work on that desktop, all the growth and attention is in mobile,” Dave Kimbell, chief merchandising and marketing officer at Ulta, said during the call, adding that over two-thirds of traffic is coming through mobile.

“It’s a growing part of our sales, so we will keep building that content experience to give [our shopper] access to information when and where she wants it, and then just make it as easy as possible for her to shop,” he said. “Since it’s a different shopping experience on a mobile device, we are continuing to innovate in that space and make it easier through find and pay for products, as well as explore new information and trends.”

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