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U.S. retail CEOs expect M&A activity to drive bullish growth

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The nation’s retail chief executives are bullish on growth.

That’s one of the findings of KPMG LLP’s 2018 U.S. CEO Outlook report, in which 83% of CEOs in the consumer and retail industry say they are very confident about the growth prospects of their companies during the next three years. Mergers and acquisitions were cited as the top (38%) growth driver, followed by third-party strategic alliances (23%). M&A activity is expected to transform retailers’ business models faster than organic growth, reduce costs, increase market share and on-board new technologies, according to KPMG.

“Although U.S. CEOs are bullish on the business prospects of their companies, the percentage increase in growth over the next three years may still be moderate,” said Mark Larson, national leader of KPMG’s consumer & retail practice. “Retailers that acquire the right technologies, either through M&A or third-party alliances, and successfully personalize the shopping experience for their customers, may see the highest percentage increases in growth.”

In other findings, nearly all of the executives (98%) see technological disruption as an opportunity rather than a threat. Most (92%) also said they are keeping up with innovation.

When it comes to emerging technologies, 94% of the CEOs expect to see a significant ROI from digital transformation and AI within the next five years. The majority of the executives (88%) said that technological investments made to personalize the customer experience have already delivered the growth benefits expected, but there is more that can be done.

CEOs are also staying mindful of the potential risks that digital technologies pose. The executives named cyber-security and emerging/disruptive technology as the greatest threats to their organizations’ growth (25% each), followed by operational risk (21%). Ninety-percent of the respondents said that protecting customer data is one of the most important responsibilities for their organizations in order to grow.

“Risks such as cyber-security, managing customer data and adoption of new technology can significantly impact retailers’ top-line and long-term growth,” said Duleep Rodrigo, risk consulting industry leader, consumer & retail, KPMG. “Since the various risks in retail are heavily interconnected, rapidly evolving, and impact each retailer in a unique way, companies need to be creative in taking a balanced approach in managing risk and maintaining consumer trust, particularly as it relates to technology.”

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New software drives ‘true value’ for hardware store giant, including inventory reductions

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

True Value is optimizing its inventory levels and replenishment efforts with a new demand forecasting solution.

True Value, a co-op of independent hardware store retailers, built its reputation on learning how to anticipate customer demand. But when the company needed a more accurate way of replenishing inventory based on actual customer buying trends, particularly for highly variable categories like seasonal, weather dependent and novelty items, True Value embarked on a strategy to revamp its demand planning and replenishment processes.

By adding JDA Demand, True Value gained a single, accurate, enterprise-wide view of customer demand. More granular forecasting capabilities drill down to the hourly and item levels, driving more dynamic and variable demand categories. Previous systems would miss trend changes and the opportunity to adjust demand forecasts.

Since deploying JDA Demand, True Value has seen millions of dollars in inventory reductions, while sustaining an industry-leading first-time fill rate and improving turns on its inventory investment. With fewer stock-outs, True Value can deliver a better customer experience, leading to increased sales and satisfaction, according to the company.

“We needed a better way to predict demand more accurately,” said Lyndsi Lee, divisional VP of inventory and global sourcing, True Value. “JDA has surpassed our expectations and been a true partner, driving inventory reductions we can choose to reinvest as well as improving our ability to forecast demand.”

True Value plans to expand its JDA footprint this year with a replenishment planning module that will not only forecast demand changes more quickly, but also react and replenish faster, according to the company.

The deployment of the solution coincides with True Value’s overall growth strategy. In the spring, the company sold a majority stake to Washington D.C.-based private equity company ACON Investments. Through the deal, ACON Investments now owns 70% equity of True Value Company. Current True Value members kept 30% equity, and received a $196 million cash payout.

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Retail industry loses jobs in June

BY Marianne Wilson

Jobs in the retail industry are up over last year, but down from last month.

Retail industry employment in June increased by 50,200 jobs unadjusted over the same time last year despite a seasonally adjusted drop from May of 25,800, according to the National Retail Federation. (The NRF numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.) Overall, U.S. businesses added 213,000 jobs over May, the Labor Department said.

Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in June were up 5 cents over May and 72 cents from a year ago, a year-over-year increase of 2.7%.

“This is another solid, robust payroll increase that nicely closes out the second quarter and affirms a very strong economy,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “It is consistent with how consumers feel about the economy and their personal finances. Nonetheless, while payroll gains should translate into increased spending in the coming months, if the trade war spreads it may become a turning point for consumer and business confidence that could affect spending.”

June’s monthly drop followed a revised monthly gain of 23,600 jobs in May, but Kleinhenz said the beginning of the volatile summer hiring season often brings large swings. Coupled with downward revisions to April and May figures, the three-month moving average in June showed a loss of 1,300 jobs.

June brought monthly gains in clothing and clothing accessory stores, which were up by 6,900 jobs, and non-store, which includes online, was up 1,700 jobs. Losses were concentrated in general merchandise stores, which were down 21,500 jobs; grocery and beverage stores, down 8,600; and electronics and appliances stores, down 3,700.

The Labor Department said the unemployment rate was 4%, up from 3.8% in May.

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