Latest headlines in Shopping news

  • Online shopping and business: All that is solid melts into air (The Economist Online Shopping 2016-11-17 15:48:37)
    Print sectionPrint Rubric: Britons do more of their shopping online than almost anyone else. The move to cyberspace is shaking up retail—and many other industries besidesPrint Headline: All that is solid melts into airPrint Fly Title: Online shopping and businessUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: The new nationalismFly Title: Online shopping and businessMain image: 20161119_BRP001_0.jpgBRITAIN, Napoleon once supposedly scoffed, was “a nation of shopkeepers”. Nowadays it is a nation of online shoppers. The British do a greater share of their retail spending online than almost anyone (see chart). And, in spite of the prospect of Brexit, the industry has been growing fast this year. By 2020 online sales could rise by almost 50% to reach £63bn ($74bn), according to one recent forecast. The transformation in the way households do their shopping is ...
  • Walmart buys Jet.com: Boxed-in unicorn (The Economist Online Shopping 2016-08-11 10:18:20)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: Cheating deathFly Title: Walmart buys Jet.comMain image: 20160813_wbp503.jpgSPENDING $3.3 billion on an unprofitable business might seem an undisciplined splurge. By buying Jet.com, a shopping website, Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, has joined the ranks of investors betting on so-called “unicorns”, or private startups valued at over $1 billion. The acquisition is the most expensive deal ever for an American e-commerce startup, and a sign of just how worried Walmart executives are by the rise of Amazon. It’s also an admission that despite heavy internal investment, the Bentonville giant’s own site, Walmart.com, is nowhere near enough.Walmart still accounts for a tenth of American retail sales, but that has declined from 11.6% in 2009, according to Cowen Group, a financial-services firm. Amazon’s share is about half of Walmart’s, but it is growing fast. Moreover, last year, of every $10 that American shoppers dispensed on goods, $1 was spent online. Even the Walmart faithful are beginning to ...
  • Hotels are overrated: Reviews on travel websites are rarely honest (The Economist Online Shopping 2016-06-17 17:11:42)
    HOW honest are reviews on travel websites? By this I do not mean: is the person writing the review who he says he is, and not the owner of the hotel boosting its rating or a competitor doing it down? (We have covered that problem before.) I mean, rather, to what extent are reviewers’ ratings a reflection of their actual experience?Last week, I received an e-mail from a small, family-run hotel asking—very politely, but with notable sadness—why I had marked it so poorly on Booking.com. In fact, having rated the various categories that the website demands, the hotel’s score had come out as nine out of 10. The service was excellent, and certainly far beyond what one might reasonably expect for the meagre cost of staying there. But I had docked a point because the room didn’t contain a comfy chair and the Wi-Fi was patchy.The hotel had 16 previous spotless reviews to its name. It obviously took great pride in that perfection. I had ruined it. And because of this I had thought hard before submitting my honest review, complimentary though it was. Which made me wonder, given how important such ratings are to small, independent establishments, how many reviewers before me had upped their rating a notch or two so as not to feel the guilt of being the first to tarnish a stellar reputation?In fact many of us feel compelled to inflate the marks we leave online. Over half of the ...
  • Shopping in America: Between Bentonville and Bezos (The Economist Online Shopping 2016-06-02 14:43:37)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: Under attackFly Title: Shopping in AmericaMain image: 20160604_LDP002_0.jpgFOR decades a titan has towered over America’s shopping landscape. Walmart is not just the world’s biggest retailer but the biggest private employer and, by sales, the biggest company. Last year its tills rang up takings of $482 billion, about twice Apple’s revenue. But now the beast of Bentonville must cope with an unfamiliar sensation. After ruling as the undisputed disrupter of American retailing, Walmart finds itself being disrupted.The source of the commotion is online shopping, specifically online shopping at Amazon. E-commerce accounted for $1 in every $10 that American shoppers spent last year, up by 15% from 2014. Amazon’s North American sales grew at about twice that rate. Walmart’s share of America’s retail sales, which stands at 10.6%, is still more than twice Amazon’s, but it peaked in 2009 at nearly 12%. In January Walmart said it would close 154 American stores. It may need to shut more.Walmart’s ...
  • Supermarkets: Fresh from the Amazon (The Economist Online Shopping 2016-03-03 15:39:32)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: UK article onlyIssue: Battle linesFly Title: SupermarketsMain image: 20160305_brp502.jpgBRITAIN’S big supermarkets have had a dismal few years. Aldi and Lidl, two upstart German-owned discounters, have taken huge bites out of their market share, margins have been squeezed and record losses have mounted.One refuge, however, was in online shopping, which Aldi and Lidl have been reluctant to embrace, despite the fact that British consumers are Europe’s most enthusiastic e-shoppers. Online grocery sales have been growing strongly, and the likes of Tesco, the biggest supermarket, and Sainsbury’s, have taken full advantage. Tesco, which runs a “Click+Collect” service, has about 40% of the online market.Now, however, that refuge is looking less safe. On February 29th Amazon, an American online retailer, announced that it will start selling fresh food and groceries as well, in a tie-up with the fourth-largest British supermarket, Morrisons. Thus Amazon, with deep pockets and a wealth of experience offering food online in ...
  • Online travel booking: Lufthansa and Expedia under pressure (The Economist Online Shopping 2015-09-03 12:20:25)
    MARK it down: the week of August 31st shall henceforth be known, in travel-industry circles at least, as Expedia Backlash Week. On Monday the New York Times reported on efforts by hotels to fight back against increasingly dominant third-party booking agents such as Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz—and the hefty fees they charge. Hotels are offering perks to customers who book with them directly, including free meals, expedited check-in and the ability to select their rooms in advance, as they would their seats on a plane. They are also fighting Expedia’s proposed $1.3 billion merger with Orbitz. Expedia, which has already acquired two other big travel sites this year, Travelocity and Wotif, would become the overwhelming third-party online-booking leader, controlling three-quarters of the American market. That, hotels fear, would give the company too much power to negotiate the commissions that hotels pay.Then there’s the battle in the skies. Lufthansa created a stir when it announced that it would charge an extra €16 ($18) to customers who book flights through a global distribution system (GDS), the technology used by internet travel sites and travel agents. That surcharge took effect on Tuesday. The German airline argues that the fee simply compensates for the amount it must pay these third-party agents. Other airlines could conceivably follow suit. On ...
  • Supermarkets in Europe: Halting the discounters' march (The Economist Online Shopping 2015-01-18 15:45:07)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleFly Title: Supermarkets in EuropeByline: C.R. and M.S.Location: LONDON AND PARISMain image: 20150117_wbp504.jpgOVER the past year, Aldi and Lidl, two discount supermarkets from Germany, have continued their march around Europe. From Britain and Ireland to Italy and Spain, they have continued to gobble up market share from incumbent supermarket chains. In Britain, they have given the big four local chains—Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury's—a particularly rough time. All four have now reported falling like-for-like sales over the Christmas period. Tesco is in such as mess that its debt was downgraded to junk earlier this month by Moody’s, a ratings agency. And on January 13th, the chief executive of Morrisons, Dalton Philips, was fired for failing to turn the business around after five years at the helm. In stark contrast, sales this year at Aldi and Lidl grew by 22.6% and 15.1% respectively, according to new figures ...
  • Music and shopping: Beware of Beethoven (The Economist Online Shopping 2014-08-21 15:15:12)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: What China wantsFly Title: Music and shoppingMain image: 20140823_WBD001_0.jpgEVER since Muzak started serenading patrons of hotels and restaurants in the 1930s, piped-in music has been part of the consumer experience. Without the throb of a synthesiser or a guitar’s twang, shoppers would sense something missing as they tried on jeans or filled up trolleys. Specialists like Mood Media, which bought Muzak in 2011, devise audio programmes to influence the feel of shops and cater to customers’ tastes. The idea is to entertain, and thereby prolong the time shoppers spend in stores, says Claude Nahon, the firm’s international chief. Music by famous artists works better than the generic stuff that people associate with Muzak. The embarrassing brand name was dropped in 2013.Online shopping is an under-explored area of merchandising musicology. A new study commissioned by eBay, a shopping website, aims to correct that. Some 1,900 participants were asked to simulate online shopping while listening to ...
  • Daily chart: Supped full with clicks (The Economist Online Shopping 2013-11-29 14:14:21)
    Grocery shopping is finally going onlineWHEN Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt visited London this week, he gushed that Britain led the world in many online trends. His audience at Chatham House, a fancy foreign policy club, seemed taken by surprise. Mr Schmidt (who serves on The Economist Group’s board of directors) might well have presented a chart from this week’s issue. According to Datamonitor, the nation of shopkeepers leads in online grocery shopping. This is surprising, since the next-hungriest web shoppers, South Korea and Japan, are more connected and hyper-urban; one might have presumed that they would order more. In America, the share of online grocery purchases is a third of Britain’s level. Wooing clicks is sensible. The Boston Consulting Group notes that shoppers who become online converts spend 30% more. (See the full article in this week's edition.)
  • Retailing: The raw and the clicked (The Economist Online Shopping 2013-11-28 15:58:37)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: Unlocking the Middle EastFly Title: RetailingLocation: LONDON AND NEW YORKMain image: 20131130_WBD001_2.jpgTHERE is “a huge difference between being late and being too late,” said Dalton Philips, the boss of Morrisons, on November 21st, as he announced the launch of the British grocer’s online-shopping service. Morrisons’ competitors have been selling broccoli and baby food via the internet for more than a decade. Britain’s fourth-largest grocery chain had shunned e-commerce as a profit-sapping distraction. It paid with falling market share and the defection of some of its best customers to Tesco, the country’s biggest grocer, and Ocado, an online-only supermarket.Morrisons’ change of heart will be noticed beyond Britain. Grocery is the biggest category in retailing but the most resistant to the advance of online shopping. Even in Britain, where it has gone furthest, it may account for just 5% of sales this year. But it is ...
  • Online travel: Stringing it together (The Economist Online Shopping 2013-09-16 12:45:23)
    FINDING the best deal online for a flight, train connection or rental car is pretty straightforward. But figuring out the cheapest and fastest combination of forms of transport to get from door to door is still rather time-consuming. Two start-up companies in Berlin, Waymate and GoEuro, have made it their mission to make it quick and easy to plan travel that combines different means of transport.
  • Shopping: The emporium strikes back (The Economist Online Shopping 2013-07-11 14:58:10)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: Has the Arab spring failed?Fly Title: ShoppingMain image: 20130713_FBD001_0.jpg“THE staff at Jessops would like to thank you for shopping with Amazon.” With that parting shot plastered to the front door of one of its shops, a company that had been selling cameras in Britain for 78 years shut down in January. The bitter note sums up the mood of many who work on high streets and in shopping centres (malls) across Europe and America. As sales migrate to Amazon and other online vendors, shop after shop is closing down, chain after chain is cutting back. Borders, a chain of American bookshops, is gone. So is Comet, a British white-goods and electronics retailer. Virgin Megastores have vanished from France, Tower Records from America. In just two weeks in June and July, five retail chains with a total turnover of £600m ($900m) failed in Britain.Watching the destruction, it is tempting to conclude that shops are to shopping what typewriters are to writing: an old technology doomed by a better successor. ...
  • E-commerce in Greece: The right side of the Styx? (The Economist Online Shopping 2012-12-18 13:55:03)
    JEFF BEZOS founded Amazon in 1994. Apostolos Apostolakis and his mates started e-shop.gr, Greece’s biggest online retailer, just four years later. The comparisons end there. The Seattle juggernaut’s annual sales grow at double-digit rates; e-shop’s have been savaged by Greece’s depression. Amazon made its name selling books. E-shop was stymied by regulated book prices and shifted early into electronics. The Americans have indulgent shareholders while the Greeks were nearly undone by skimpy equity.Economic woes aside, Greece is tough terrain for online shopping. Less than half of Greeks are regular internet users compared with two-thirds of Europeans overall. More than 40% of Europeans shop online but fewer than 20% of Greeks do. Broadband connections are sparser and consumers are warier. Most refuse to submit credit-card details on line, preferring to pay cash on delivery. Islands make Greece an obstacle course for couriers.E-shop found clever fixes. It has a fleet of 50 trucks to make deliveries and collect cash (Amazon relies mainly on outsiders for last-mile logistics). Unusually for an e-tailer, it has a network of 52 shops. These do not hold stock. They are another channel for accepting payment and avoid the cost of shipping to a customer’s house. They also serve to advertise the e-shop brand.This ingenuity did not spare e-shop the ravages of Greece’s economic ...
  • Online payments: Virtual spring (The Economist Online Shopping 2012-08-30 15:01:38)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: Four more years?Fly Title: Online paymentsLocation: BEIRUTA FEW years ago Wahid Essale’s friends in Saudi Arabia started to use online shopping sites. But when it came to buying, they would ask him for his credit card. “I’d pay for the goods and they gave me back the cash, plus a small commission,” he explains. By 2007 Mr Essale had turned the favour into a business: Cashna, an electronic wallet which allows users to store funds online and spend them on e-commerce sites.Cashna is only one of a slew of new payment services in the Middle East. CashU, the region’s most popular e-wallet, handles payments for the likes of Skype and Al Jazeera Sports. OneCard, another e-wallet, can be topped up in many ways, including with scratch cards sold by street vendors. Gate2Play has gathered regional payment services and Western ones—PayPal, MasterCard and Visa—under one virtual roof; merchants only have to connect to Gate2Play to access them all.The bloom of such services is the result of a mismatch of demand ...
  • Online retailing in Japan: Gains in translation (The Economist Online Shopping 2012-07-05 17:00:32)
    HIS company’s name means “optimism”. And Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder of Rakuten, is certainly optimistic. As of July 2nd, he has insisted that all meetings at Japan’s largest e-commerce firm must be conducted in English. This is in a country where few people speak English well, and many are embarrassed even to try. But Mr Mikitani believes that Rakuten must become more global if it is to prosper. “Before we globalise our services, we need to globalise our employees,” he says.
  • Online prices: Caveat emptor.com (The Economist Online Shopping 2012-06-28 15:03:25)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: London’s precarious brillianceFly Title: Online pricesMain image: 20120630_LDD001_0.jpgTHE internet was supposed to be the consumer's friend. By making it easy to shop around, it would drive prices lower. But online sellers of all sorts of goods and services are taking a keen interest in new software that promises to help them spot customers who are well off, or whose money is burning a hole in their pockets, so as to charge them more (see article).Online shoppers let slip plenty of information about themselves that could be of use to crafty salesmen. Cookies reveal where else they have been browsing, allowing some guesses about their income bracket, age and sex. Their internet address can often be matched to their physical address: the richer the neighbourhood, the deeper the pockets, it may be assumed. Apple computer-owners are on average better-off than Windows PC users, and firms may offer them pricier options, as Orbitz, a travel website, is doing. Your mouse may also be squeaking on you: ...
  • Shopping and the internet: Making it click (The Economist Online Shopping 2012-02-23 17:07:45)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: Bombing IranFly Title: Shopping and the internetLocation: NEW YORKMain image: Order online, pay cash in storeOrder online, pay cash in storeTERRY LUNDGREN and Kevin Ryan know and like each other. But when it comes to the future of retailing the boss of Macy's, an American department-store giant, and the chief executive of Gilt Groupe, an online retailer, disagree wildly. Mr Lundgren remains a firm believer in an empire of bricks and mortar. Mr Ryan is betting big on online-only selling.“It used to be catalogues killing physical stores, then it was TV shopping and now it is online retail,” says Mr Lundgren. Although he will not be pinned down on whether the internet is a threat to shopkeepers or an opportunity for them, he is convinced that his chain is on the right path. Macy's is embracing “omnichannel” integration, that is, selling stuff on television, through mail-order catalogues and online, as well as keeping its ...
  • Retailers and the internet: Clicks and bricks (The Economist Online Shopping 2012-02-23 17:07:45)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: Bombing IranFly Title: Retailers and the internetMain image: 20120225_LDP003_0.jpg“WE TEND to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run,” observed Roy Amara, an American futurologist. This is certainly proving true of retailers and their attitude to the internet. After a panic at the turn of the millennium about the impact on their industry of online shopping, bricks-and-mortar stores settled into making only modest alterations to their business model or, ostrich-like, trying to ignore it. Few have so far made the radical changes needed to meet the threats from, and tap the enormous potential of, e-commerce (see article).Such inaction threatens retailers' survival. Online sales are now approaching $200 billion a year in America. Their share of total retail sales is creeping up relentlessly, from 5% five years ago to 9% now. People in their 20s and 30s do about a quarter of their shopping online. True, few ladies who lunch will buy their ...
  • E-commerce in China: The great leap online (The Economist Online Shopping 2011-11-24 09:17:56)
    Print sectionUK Only Article: standard articleIssue: Is this really the end?Fly Title: E-commerce in ChinaMain image: 20111126_WBC110.gifWHEN it comes to e-commerce, America is still top dog, with some 170m punters scouring for bargains on the internet. However, China is not far behind, with 145m online shoppers, and it could become the world's most valuable e-commerce market within four years.In a new report, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calculates that every year for the foreseeable future another 30m Chinese will go online to shop for the first time. By 2015 they will each be spending $1,000 a year—about what Americans spend online now. BCG calculates that e-commerce could rise from 3.3% of China's retail sales today to 7.4% by 2015—a jump that took a decade in America.The Chinese government has heavily subsidised the rollout of high-speed access, so internet penetration now approaches rich-country levels. That boosts e-commerce, of course. But so, too, do the shortcomings of China's costly, inefficient bricks-and-mortar ...
  • Data-driven finance: Go figure (The Economist Online Shopping 2011-03-17 11:53:59)
    Print sectionIssue: The falloutFly Title: Data-driven financeLocation: ASKING a friend for a loan is a quick way to tide you over till the end of the month. But Wonga, a British internet firm, is almost as fast. Those in need of cash give the service some basic information about themselves. If Wonga considers them trustworthy, the money—as much as £400 ($641) for up to 30 days for first-time users—arrives in their accounts within 15 minutes.Consumer advocates are highly critical of the service: its annual interest rate currently exceeds 4,000%. But Wonga, which uses funding from its venture-capital backers to make loans, is attracting attention for other reasons. The firm is one of a growing number of internet start-ups that mine unconventional forms of data to offer financial services.Klarna, a Swedish company that counts Sequoia Capital, a noted venture-capital firm, among its financial backers, allows consumers to shop online by simply typing in their date of birth, name and address. Klarna fronts up the payments and charges retailers a fee for making online purchases easier. Shoppers pay only once they have received the goods. ...