U.S. Retail Sales Outpace Forecast, Bringing Glad Tidings for Holiday 2017

Friday in 5 – interesting news bits from around the supply chain horn, served up in one spot to keep you up to date.

This week: U.S. retail sales numbers beat expectations; Andrew Ng announces his next AI project; Target acquires Shipt to boost same-day delivery capabilities; changing shopping habits are impacting holiday hiring practices; and Pepsi announces the biggest public pre-order of Tesla’s electric semi-trucks to date.

U.S. Retail Sales Jump More Than Forecast

Bloomberg reports that U.S. retail sales rose more than forecast in November and the previous month was revised higher, indicating a broad strengthening of consumer demand as the holiday shopping season got under way. According to Commerce Department figures released Thursday, sales in the retail control group increased at a three-month annualized pace of 6.6 percent, the most since June 2014. These numbers follow early accounts of this year’s Thanksgiving weekend which had suggested consumers were ready to spend more.

Andrew Ng Bringing AI to New Industries

AI pioneer Andrew Ng left Baidu earlier this year, and it wasn’t clear what his next project would be. This week, Ng announced the launch of Landing.ai, a new startup that focuses on bringing artificial intelligence to the manufacturing industry. According to TechCrunch, Landing.ai’s first strategic partner is Foxconn. In his announcement, Ng argues that AI and machine learning have already transformed how many of the big internet companies do business, but other industries are lagging behind. His goal is to help bring AI to industries outside the traditional IT world.

Target’s Shipt Acquisition Reflects Changing Fulfillment Trends

On Wednesday, Target announced an agreement to purchase grocery delivery startup Shipt, with plans to use the acquisition to roll out same-day delivery to some 900 stores by summer 2018. Initially the service will be exclusively for grocery, household essentials and electronics, but Target hopes to include all product groups by the end of 2019. Shipt will continue to work with other retailers and existing partners, including Costco and Kroger. Target has been ramping up same-day delivery offerings in 2017; in August, it acquired Grand Junction, a startup that connects retailers to carriers.

Holiday Hiring in Flux as Shoppers’ Habits Shift

The Boston Globe reports that, as shoppers change their buying preferences, retailers have had to change how they ramp up staffing for the holidays. In a tight labor market brick-and-mortar stores started hiring earlier this year and are offering employees more hours. Meanwhile, online retailers bulked up staffing in warehouses and delivery services, and hired workers to handle customer service calls from home. For stores operating across multiple channels, changing shopper behavior means finding the perfect staffing mix to meet customers wherever they want to shop.

PepsiCo Pre-Orders 100 Tesla Semis

On Tuesday, PepsiCo announced that it has reserved 100 of Tesla Inc.’s new electric semi trucks, the largest known pre-order of the new electric big rigs. The move will reduce fuel costs and fleet emissions, according to a company executive. According to Reuters, Tesla is working to show the trucking community that it can build an affordable electric semi with the range and cargo capacity of diesel trucks. Other transportation firms have said they are holding off on the Tesla for now, citing uncertainty over recharge times, range and payload capabilities as the market for electric commercial vehicles continues to develop.

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