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Commerce chronicles: Feb 19, 2024

Feb 19, 2024 - Alyssa Wolfe
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CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor tracks January retail sales, SHEIN to open fulfillment hub in Seattle, Shopify and Amazon look to boost Hawaii ecommerce, Arkansas logistics company unveils AI forklifts and marketplaces are the fastest growing B2B digital sales channel.

In this week’s news, CNBC/NRF’s recently launched Retail Monitor track January retail sales: See the results. Fast-fashion brand SHEIN to open a new fulfillment and logistics hub in the Seattle area. Shopify and Amazon to headline Hawaiian ecommerce conference and Arkansas logistics company unveils a new AI forklift. Visit our blog every Monday for a roundup of the latest commerce news.

January retail sales are strong, with online sales growing at a rapid pace YoY

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), January’s retail sales were a great start to the new year.1 The sales performance continued December’s strong numbers and showed good YoY growth. Online sales saw a big jump, up 25.47% year over year. Additionally, January sales were up YoY in six of nine retail categories, including online sales, health and personal care, clothing and accessories, grocery and beverage, general merchandise and sporting goods, hobby, music and bookstores.

In November of last year, CNBC and NRF partnered to release Retail Monitor, powered by affinity solutions.2 The tool takes monthly measures of retail sales. On NRF’s faq page, they highlight that Retail Monitor’s sales measurement tool leverages “comprehensive data from more than 140 million credit and debit cards that tracks nearly 9 billion transactions, representing over $500 billion dollars in annual spending, to measure the monthly and annual change in U.S. retail sales. The Retail Monitor has been shown to be highly correlated with the U.S. Census Bureau’s revised retail sales numbers.” The Retail Monitor aims to provide a more in-depth and timelier look at consumer spending across the retail industry.

Fast-fashion brand Shein to open new fulfillment and logistics hub in Seattle area

On February 8th, global online fashion retailer SHEIN announced that it would be opening a Seattle-area office in Downtown Bellevue. The brand aims to expand its U.S. presence and enhance its fulfillment and logistics operations with its new location. According to the press release, SHEIN looked to hire more than 50 professionals for the location to fill roles that support logistics and distribution efforts throughout the United States. The company looks to improve the customer experience with more seamless shopping and foster SHEIN’s U.S. growth.

The Seattle-area team will join 1500 US corporate and warehouse employees that are located around the country. Andy Huang, SHEIN's head of U.S. fulfillment and logistics, said, “We are thrilled to establish a presence in the Seattle area as we continue enhancing our fulfillment process and improving the customer experience. This expansion underscores our commitment to efficiency across our operations, and we look forward to contributing to the local community and fostering innovation in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.”3 SHEIN is a fast-fashion retailer founded in 2008. As of 2022, it became the world’s largest and most searched fashion retailer.4

Shopify and Amazon help host conference that aims to help Hawaiian businesses strengthen ecommerce

On February 21st, Shopify and Amazon are teaming up with The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) to host a conference that helps local Hawaiian companies navigate ecommerce channels. The conference’s goal is to encourage operations that expand and serve markets outside Hawaii. The website states that as the global marketplace shifts toward online platforms, the conference aims to guide businesses on how to tap into markets beyond state borders and succeed in ecommerce. Moreover, the hope is to highlight the importance of ecommerce in the wake of the Maui wildfires to help with “seamless replacement for traditional stores during crises.”5

A lineup of speakers, including Bobby Co (Amazon Marketplace Seller Growth Team Leader), Chris Schmicker (Shopify Brand Marketing Director) and Ellen Ng (Founder of Inoa.ai), will share expertise and insights to Hawaii manufacturers and retailers. There will also be beginner, intermediate and advanced-level breakout sessions will provide ecommerce strategies and key concepts. James Kunane Tokioka, director of DBEDT, says, “This conference offers a unique opportunity for participants to gain invaluable strategies and practical knowledge that will fuel their success in e-commerce. We are proud to partner with Amazon and Shopify to help move our local businesses forward.”

Arkansas logistics company, ArcBest, unveils new AI forklifts

This month, Arkansas company ArcBest unveiled Vaux Smart Autonomy. According to ArcBest’s press release, the offering combines “autonomous mobile robot (AMR) forklifts and reach trucks, intelligent software and remote teleoperation capabilities to autonomously handle materials movement within warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities — all while keeping humans in the loop.”6

The Vaux Smart Autonomy forklifts and reach trucks operate in autonomous, remote or manual modes. It has sensors and cameras that create 3D views of the warehouse, measures pallets on the vehicle’s forks to adjust accordingly, scans 2D barcodes to reduce manual labor and takes pictures to identify locations and damage. Its applications aim to provide real-time visibility and more efficient warehouse operations while also making material handling processes safer. Currently, ArcBest is piloting Vaux with customers across the manufacturing, automotive and retail industries. Judy R. McReynolds, ArcBest chairman, president and CEO, said, “As supply chains become increasingly complex, we are introducing transformational innovations to the market that help our customers achieve their financial and operational objectives. Vaux Smart Autonomy will revolutionize material handling for customers, helping to optimize and unlock greater efficiencies in their warehouses, distribution centers and the overall supply chain.”

At nearly 100% YoY growth, marketplaces are the fastest-growing B2B digital sales channel

The newly-released 2024 B2B Market and Customer Experience Report from Digital Commerce 360 found that B2B marketplaces sales grew year over year (YoY) by 100% in 2023.7 The report highlights that B2B marketplaces – Amazon Business, eWorldTrade, Alibaba, Faire – are the fastest growing B2B digital sales driver. Moreover, a survey also found that over half of B2B buyers, or 59%, conduct more than a quarter of their purchases on online marketplaces.

As B2B becomes more omnichannel, B2B marketplaces offer a centralized platform where businesses can efficiently buy and sell goods and services, providing access to a broader network of potential customers and suppliers. These marketplaces also streamline the procurement process, offering convenience, transparency and cost savings for both buyers and sellers. Additionally, they enable businesses to discover new opportunities, expand their reach and remain competitive. Digital Commerce 360 projects that the rollout of new marketplaces will continue in 2024.

References:

  1. https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/january-cnbc/nrf-retail-monitor-numbers-show-great-start-new-year
  2. https://nrf.com/cnbc/nrf-retail-monitor-powered-affinity-solutions-faqs
  3. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/shein-expands-us-presence-with-new-seattle-area-office-302057623.html
  4. https://www.money.co.uk/credit-cards/most-popular-fashion-brands-2022
  5. https://dbedt.hawaii.gov/blog/24-06/
  6. https://arcb.com/about/news-events/press-releases/arcbest-launches-vaux-smart-autonomytm-to-unlock-supply-chain
  7. https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/product/b2b-market-and-customer-experience-report/

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