Stores are starting to reopen nationwide, and consumers are considering leaving their houses again. The world of retail might not be quite getting back to normal, but people are starting to pick up some pieces of their old day-to-day lives again. And in the ongoing race between Amazon and Walmart for the consumer’s whole paycheck, there’s been some definite movement in numbers that PYMNTS tracks.
Our data found that Amazon has sewn up 37 percent of online clothing sales as it continues to expand its in-house label and add popular brands, custom curation and special “drop” fashion collections from influencers. That’s a big leap forward.
By contrast, Walmart has long struggled to compete in the clothing realm. A few big-ticket purchases of digital apparel retailers like ModCloth and Bonobos didn’t turn out as planned. Bonobos had layoffs last fall, while Walmart has since sold off ModCloth to Go Global Retail.
However, Walmart’s big announcement recently of an alliance with thredUP indicates clothing is a segment the retail giant is far from willing to cede. And as we look through the biggest events of the week for both companies, “Give No Ground” could reasonably be the motto for both of them.
Here are the latest developments:
Big Play of the Week: An Invitation-Only Prime Day Sneak Preview Is Coming
What do you do when you’ve already moved your big summer shopping event to September to give consumers (and supply chains) more time to recover from the pandemic?
If you’re Amazon, you offer a different special shopping event — and build consumer interest by making it invitation only.
Amazon sent a notice to its sellers this week about a June 22 “Fashion Summer Sales Event” that will be invitation only, according to documents seen by CNBC. Although not yet final, the event’s working title is reportedly “The Biggest Sale in the Sky.” The sale could run between seven and 10 days, according to reports.
“We are having the Biggest Summer Sale event to drive excitement and jump-start sales,” CNBC quoted company documents as reading. “To drive customer engagement, we are asking for your participation.”
Amazon asked sellers to submit deals with discounts of at least 30 percent by Wednesday (June 3). Additional details about the event (past the fact that it will happen in late June) are hard to come by. What items will be discounted, how consumers can snag an invite and whether non-Amazon Prime members will be able to join remain to be seen.
Internal Expansion of the Week: Amazon’s Growing Head Count
Amazon plans to keep over half of the roughly 175,000 workers it brought on board during the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports out this week.
That strongly indicates the online retailer anticipates a busier future and the need for more hands on deck. According to reports, Amazon will offer permanent jobs to about 125,000 of the new hires, or about 70 percent of the new recruits.
Those workers will get access to benefits like health care and retirement savings plans. The remaining 50,000 or so workers will have an offer of seasonal work or contracts that last up to 11 months.
Amazon hired 100,000 workers in March for warehouse and delivery jobs, then added another 50,000 in April. It’s one of the few firms to dramatically expand head count during a pandemic where the U.S. unemployment rate has hit double digits.
The company hasn’t answered questions yet about the cost of bringing on so many new workers, or whether the hiring spree is part of the $4 billion in COVID-19 expenses it anticipates incurring during the current quarter.
But Amazon wasn’t completely alone in hiring new staff during the pandemic. Walmart has also ramped up hiring, bringing on 235,000 employees since mid-March. The company has already converted some to permanent staff, and Walmart plans to make permanent offers to even more in the coming months.
Innovation Add-On of the Week: Amazon Embraces Supply-Chain Blockchain
As part of its ongoing mission to create supply-chain trust, Amazon will embrace blockchain to create “verifiable tracking of an item through a supply chain using a distributed electronic ledger,” according to published reports.
The firm noted in a patent application that ascertaining the trustworthiness of a party as activities move online and international has become incredibly difficult — but nearly impossible to recreate once lost. A distributed ledger could log products as soon as they’re brought into the system and follow an item’s life from then until a customer receives the merchandise.
Moreover, Amazon noted that certification data could easily travel alongside a product and be “dynamically” displayed with an item’s product-description data.
Big News of the Week: Permanent Reset On Store Hours
As more stores are reopening nationwide, Walmart announced as of this week that one change made in response to the pandemic will become permanent. Senior shopping hours will be sticking around for the foreseeable future between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Tuesdays.
Walmart altruistically made the move earlier in the year in an effort to protect seniors (who are statistically more likely to get bad cases of COVID-19) by offering them a segregated shopping period. The company originally announced that its senior hour for shoppers aged 60-plus would extend through May 31, but now says the program will remain indefinitely.
The chain is one of many to offer carved-out time for senior shoppers, although it’s the first major one so far to make things permanent.
Reset of the Week: Walmart Restricts Weapons Sales
Pushed by the recent civil unrest across America, Walmart this week removed guns and ammunition from some stores as protests turned violent and crowds looted some of its stores.
“As a responsible seller of hunting and sporting firearms, we have temporarily removed firearms and ammunition from the sales floor in some stores out of an abundance of caution,” a Walmart spokesperson told Fox Business. “Those items are available for purchase, but are being stored in a secure room.”
Walmart has not as of yet reported any firearms thefts, but other retailers have. For instance, Georgia officials are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of 42 guns stolen from an Atlanta retailer over the weekend.
The suspension of gun and ammo sales at some Walmart stores follows policy changes last fall that banned the open carrying of firearms in the company’s stores. Walmart also stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015 and halted firearms sales to anyone under 21 in 2018.
While restricted gun sales might seem like a strange path to take in the push to capture the consumer’s whole paycheck, the most valuable commodity any retailer can offer customers right now seems to be a feeling of security. Limiting gun sales might be just what Walmart needs to win customers as times remain persistently difficult.
But difficult or not, the race for the consumer’s whole paycheck carries on. For yet another week, Amazon and Walmart both moved to expand their offerings to meet consumers’ needs and wants.