January 13, 2021
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Retail Updates
Staples tries again to acquire Office Depot
(Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
Staples has proposed a new deal to acquire rival Office Depot for $2.1 billion or $40 per share, with a plan to appease the antitrust regulators that prevented two previous mergers by the two companies. Since the Federal Trade Commission blocked the last merger five years ago, office supply retail has changed as Amazon has increased its market share in the category and work-from-home trends have driven consumer demand.
Full Story: CNN (1/11),  The Wall Street Journal (1/11) 
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Dollar General is one of the first US companies to incentivize employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The retailer will offer four hours of pay to employees who verify that they have received the vaccine, and employees who have adverse reactions to the vaccine will receive paid time off, the retailer said.
Full Story: The Wall Street Journal (1/13) 
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Target ended 2020 on a high note
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Target's pandemic-year growth continued during the holiday season -- same-store sales rose 17% in November and December, fueled by a 102% surge in digital sales, the retailer reported. Shoppers spent an average of 12% more per shopping trip during the holidays and made use of same-day shopping options including curbside pickup.
Full Story: Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.) (tiered subscription model) (1/13),  CNBC (1/13) 
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Walmart, Ribbit partner on financial services venture
(Andrew Caballero-reynolds/Getty Images)
Walmart has joined with Ribbit Capital to create a fintech venture that will expand the retailer's financial service offerings and be tailored to the needs of Walmart's customers and employees. Ribbit is an investment firm that has financed other fintech efforts including personal finance site Credit Karma and Affirm, which offers buy-now-pay-later loans.
Full Story: BNN Bloomberg (Canada) (1/11),  The Wall Street Journal (1/11) 
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General Merchandise and Health Beauty Wellness News
Clean beauty brand Beautycounter's newest store in Los Angeles further melds physical and digital retail with an on-site studio for creating shoppable livestreams. Employees, influencers and beauty consultants will be able to create content in the store and highlight products that viewers will be able to buy from home.
Full Story: Adweek (1/6) 
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Cover FX debuted its Custom Blending Moisturizer this week and plans to expand its skin care offerings with another new product to launch later this year. The brand sells at retailers including Ulta Beauty and Sephora, and sales of the tinted moisturizer and makeup brush it launched last year remain top-sellers for the company.
Full Story: Glossy (tiered subscription model) (1/12) 
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Innovation and Retail Technology
Unilever and Alibaba have partnered to develop an artificial intelligence-driven recycling machine that automatically sorts plastics, increasing the likelihood these plastics will be recycled. The machines are rolling out in China throughout 2021 and are expected to collect more than 551 tons of plastic waste.
Full Story: GreenBiz (1/13) 
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Industry and Consumer trends
Retail landlords around the country have granted more concessions to keep from losing tenants during the pandemic, according to commercial property experts. To stave off evictions and rising vacancy rates, property owners are offering to change payment terms and lease lengths, reduce rents and sometimes forgiving past-due payments.
Full Story: The Wall Street Journal (1/11) 
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Editor's Note
SmartBrief will not publish Jan. 18
In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, GMDC SmartBrief will not publish Monday, Jan. 18. Publication will resume Wed., Jan. 20.
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