Retail news from around the world

Tesla to cut solar panel prices

US electric car maker Tesla has hinted that there will be major changes to its solar panel business, with prices dropping to up to 16 per cent below the US average and the items offered only online, the New York Times has reported.

In 2016, Tesla bought SolarCity for US$2.6 billion ($3.72 billion) and sought to align the business with its aspirational luxury car brand. The move was a sharp reversal from SolarCity’s populist vision of making rooftop solar accessible to all.

Sales under Tesla have lagged. Late last year, it cut prices on its residential solar systems, which have yet to be produced in meaningful quantities.

Zalando introduces delivery fees

Following H&M’s lead last month, Zalando, Europe’s biggest online-only fashion retailer, plans to charge delivery fees for small orders in more markets as it tries to counter a fall in average order size that has weighed on its profitability.

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Founded in 2008 and based in Berlin, Zalando has grown rapidly thanks to its offer of free delivery and free returns, but it has seen average order sizes fall as customers shop more often on smartphones but spend less each time, pushing up its logistic costs.

Other steps Zalando has taken to boost average order sizes include adding beauty products to its range and making size recommendations to reduce the likelihood of returns.

It also plans to expand its loyalty scheme “Zalando Plus” to France and Italy in the next 12 months, and extend it to more customers in Germany and Switzerland.

Retailers are looking to mimic the success of Amazon’s Prime subscription service, which has been shown to boost customer loyalty and encourage more frequent shopping.

Online tool flags ethical palm oil

A new online shopping tool gives Singaporeans the option of buying products made using ethical palm oil, a move to try to get a grip on the region’s haze fires which are caused by massive burnings by plantations.

Launched by the non-profit Singapore-based People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM Haze) and advertising agency Havas Group, EcoCart is a Google Chrome “plug-in” that allows online shoppers to identify items that use sustainably produced palm oil.

As well as flagging items that do not contain sustainable palm oil, the tool suggests similar products that do.

The first of its kind to be built and launched, according to PM Haze, the tool has a target of getting Singaporeans to make 500,000 “switches” by the end of this year and hopes to expand it to identify other ethically produced goods if successful.

Hugo Boss pins hopes on revamp

German fashion house Hugo Boss said the renovation of several major stores should revive sales growth after it reported a drop in first-quarter earnings due to reorganisation costs, higher marketing spending and a strong US dollar.

Finance chief Yves Mueller said stores had already been reopened in New York and Tokyo, while the refurbishment of the company’s biggest flagship store on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and a store in Chicago will be complete after the northern summer.

“Store optimisations will drive performance,” Mueller told Reuters.

Hugo Boss shares slipped after it reported first-quarter operating profit fell 22 per cent to €55 million ($87.8 million) on sales up a currency-adjusted 1 per cent to €664 million ($1.06 billion), missing average analyst forecasts.

Sales fell a currency-adjusted 8 per cent in the Americas, as visits to stores were hit by weaker consumer sentiment and lower tourist purchases.

Sainsbury’s goes back to basics

Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe vowed to improve stores, cut prices on daily essentials and invest in online to restore sales growth for Britain’s second-largest supermarket group after its mooted takeover of rival Asda was knocked back by the corporate regulator last month.

Coupe said Sainsbury’s would evolve, rather than dramatically change, a strategy that is designed to meet changing customer habits  – more frequent shopping trips, the demand for more convenience and more shopping online.

Chief executive since 2014 and well regarded by shareholders before the failed deal, Coupe is now under pressure to show Sainbury’s can proper on its own.

He said he would not quit and was committed to restoring growth.

Amazon expands reach in Israel

E-commerce giant Amazon has reached out to Israeli retailers to enable them to sell directly to customers in Israel using its online platform, to the consternation of local retailers and shopping centres.

There has long been speculation in Israel’s media that Amazon plans to expand further into the country by opening a local fulfilment centre since many Israelis already order from Amazon’s sites in the US, Britain and Germany.

With the cost of living high, sites such as Amazon have become increasingly popular in Israel since orders below US$75 are exempt from taxes, while orders up to US$500 are free from customs taxes.

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