RTIH takes a look at the retail technology space during May and rounds up the winners and losers.

Good month for…

Alibaba Group’s hefty investment in smart speaker technology will cement its leadership position in China’s e-commerce market, says GlobalData.

The company will stump up US$1.4 billion to develop an artificial intelligence and Internet of Things ecosystem that supports its smart speaker, the Tmall Genie, which launched in 2017.

Also in May, Alibaba Group reported forecast beating fourth quarter revenues and profits, as more people shopped online due to coronavirus lockdowns.

Tesco CTO Guus Dekkers and CEO Dave Lewis praised the grocery giant’s technology team for their hard work during the coronavirus outbreak.

Fast fashion retailer boohoo raised £198 million as it sought to “take advantage of numerous opportunities that are likely to emerge in the global fashion industry over the coming months”.

Chinese tech giant Tencent bought a 5% stake, worth around A$390 million, in Australian buy now, pay later specialist Afterpay

54% of UK consumers have used new forms of payments since the coronavirus outbreak began, according to research by Paysafe.

The UK online food and grocery retail market is forecast to grow 25.5% in 2020, gaining an extra £1.9 billion, as the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose respond to the coronavirus outbreak by expanding fulfilment capacity.

41% of Brits have been shopping at their local, independent stores more regularly than they did before the coronavirus outbreak, according to research by price comparison site finder.com.

Back Market, which operates a marketplace for refurbished smartphones and electronics devices. announced a new $120 million funding round from Goldman Sachs, Aglaé Ventures and Eurazeo Growth. 

Australian retailer Coles secured sites in Sydney and Melbourne for its first two Ocado Solutions powered customer fulfilment centres. These will commence operation in FY23. 

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Iceland was delivering 100,000 online orders per week. Its network is now in place to deliver over 500,000 and it continues to add more.

Bitcoin rewards startup Lolli closed a $3 million Seed II funding round led by Pathfinder, the early-stage investment arm of Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.

Following the UK’s first full month under lockdown, online sales hit a 10 year high in April, up 23.8% year-on-year.

Shopic, a computer vision startup providing check-out free systems to grocery retailers, closed an $7.6 million Series A funding round.

Consumers around the world are switching to contactless payments to help with social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, according to RBR.

Mobile commerce startup Tapcart closed a $10 million Series A funding round.

The cash will be used to accelerate adoption of its platform, which has been used to create mobile apps for such Shopify Plus brands as Fashion Nova, Chubbies and Urban Planet.

Digital experience analytics venture Contentsquare announced a $190 million Series D funding round, bringing total funding to date to $310 million. 

Panasonic made an undisclosed investment in AI and supply chain specialist Blue Yonder.

Valuing the company at $5.5 billion, the investment came via a secondary sale of shares. It built upon a strategic relationship between the two companies, including a joint venture in Japan that was announced in April 2019. 

Dixons Carphone is now offering a contactless kerbside collection service at 20 of its Currys PC World stores in England. 

Swiss mobile computer vision and augmented reality solutions specialist, Scandit, raised $80 million in a Series C round led by G2VP, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm of former Kleiner Perkins partners. 

John Lewis will begin to reopen its stores for customers from 15th June, in line with government guidelines for non-essential retailers. It will kick things off with its Poole and Kingston department stores, followed by 11 others on 18th June.

Bad month for…

After a long period of decline, JC Penney finally bowed to the inevitable and filed for bankruptcy protection.

Many Sainsbury’s online customers were not impressed by the grocery giant’s 30 Dish Challenge initiative.

UK retailers without an e-commerce presence need to overhaul their business models as Brits plan to spend more online in a post-Covid-19 world, according to GlobalData.

The company surveyed 2,000 people and found that 26% will do this after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Retailers with a limited (or no) online proposition must therefore consider investment in order to remain competitive. 

With coronavirus lockdown measures in full swing, April saw a record fall in UK retail sales, according to research from the BRC and KPMG. On a total basis, sales decreased by 19.1% in April, against an increase of 2.4% in April 2019. 

Also in May…

Non essential retailers were given the green light to start reopening in June as Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to ease the coronavirus lockdown.

Outdoor markets and showrooms will be able to start trading again in England from 1st June, so long as they adhere to coronavirus safety guidelines. All other non essential retailers can follow suit from 15th June.

Morrisons is set to open its first ever Nutmeg home and clothing concept store. This will be situated in Bolsover in Derbyshire. 

Shopify, the e-commerce platform provider that has emerged as the anti-Amazon, is now a digital by default company. 

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, it will keep its offices closed until 2021, CEO Tobi Lutke, said on Twitter, “so that we can rework them for this new reality”. 

Amazon is moving its annual Prime Day sales extravaganza to September as the Covid-19 pandemic increases demand on the e-commerce giant’s warehouses.

Walmart pulled the plug on Jet.com after acquiring the online venture for $3 billion in 2016. 

Facebook is making a major new push into the e-commerce space with the launch of Shops.

Amazon was said to be in talks to acquire bankrupt J.C. Penney.

British shoppers are returning £5.2 billion worth of goods bought online each year, according to research from buy now, pay later specialist Openpay

Aldi UK is partnering with Deliveroo to test out grocery home delivery for the first time.

It is offering a rapid delivery service from a store in Nottingham, before extending the trial to seven more stores across the East Midlands in June. It is also considering a roll-out to further locations by the end of 2020.

Sainsbury’s is rolling out its Chop Chop to 20 cities across the UK, bringing fast grocery deliveries by bike to customers outside of London for the first time. 

A report from John Lewis and Waitrose revealed how Brits’ behaviour has changed during the coronavirus outbreak.

The GMB union called on the Employment Select Committee to seek evidence from Tim Bray, the Amazon Vice President who recently resigned over the sacking of workers during the coronavirus outbreak.  

Marks and Spencer launched its first home delivery service, just ahead of its highly touted partnership with Ocado.

Around 130 M&S food and household items can be purchased through Deliveroo. Deliveries will take 30 minutes and there is a £4.99 charge. The service is available from 142 outlets across the country.

Waitrose is opening a six acre customer fulfilment centre on Thursday in Enfield, North London, as it looks to double its online grocery orders in the capital by September. 

The site is creating 370 new jobs, building to 850 when at full capacity, by which time it will be adding 13,000 weekly delivery slots for London customers.

Asda is trialling a virtual queuing system as part of social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

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