Polish shopping center operator EPP looks to small cities to drive growth

(Reuters) – EPP (EPPJ.J) is looking to expand in smaller Polish cities, as rising wages and a state child benefit program drive consumer spending in less affluent provincial areas, the shopping center operator’s chief executive said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers use escalators as they visit a shopping mall in Warsaw, Poland November 6, 2017. Picture taken November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

Polish consumers are spending more as a tightening labor market has pushed up wages, while the conservative government’s 500+ child benefit program has added to the spending power of families with two or more children.

“The biggest increase in disposable income in Poland is not in the big cities, it’s in the smaller cities,” Hadley Dean told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“That is a combination of the middle class spreading across Poland… but also 500+ and the increase in the minimum wage has had a huge impact in these cities.”

Poland’s conservative government introduced the 500+ child benefit program in 2016, giving families 500 zlotys ($136.15)a month for their second and each subsequent child. It also raised the country’s minimum wage to 2,100 zlotys gross monthly in 2018 from 2,000 zlotys in 2017.

Saying that the impact on spending power is more noticeable for lower-paid families in small provincial cities, Dean took the central city of Kalisz as an example.

“We’re seeing an increase in sales in Wroclaw of let’s say 2 percent and we’re seeing an increase in sales of 12.5 percent in Kalisz,” he said.

In 2017 Kalisz had a population of just over 100,000, making it more than six times smaller than Wroclaw, according to data from Poland’s Central Statistical Office.

ONLINE IMPACT

While shopping centers around the world have been grappling with competition from online retailers, Dean is confident about the sector’s future in Poland.

“In Poland 50 percent of online sales are click and collect, so actually online sales are amplifying in-store sales in Poland,” he said.

EPP is also looking to boost sales in its food halls by providing delivery services in partnership with restaurant operator AmRest Holding (EATP.WA).

The offer, which uses AmRest Holding’s PizzaPortal online platform for orders, is being trialed in Wroclaw and the company aims to roll it out to other shopping centers, Dean said.

“What we’re doing is helping the food operators in our shopping center make more money, but of course we make more money too,” Dean said, adding that EPP thinks the offer could increase food court sales by 15 percent.

Shares in the company, which is incorporated in the Netherlands and listed in Johannesburg, have risen 5.8 percent year to date, which compares with a 9.1 percent fall in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange Mid Cap Index .JMIDC.

Reporting by Alan Charlish in Gdynia; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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How to avoid a bad shopping trip on Amazon

We’ve got some simple tips you can take to keep Amazon’s Alexa from eavesdropping into your conversations and potentially sharing them. USA TODAY

For most Amazon shoppers, the experience is likely a seamless one: you search for a product, perhaps read reviews and see related items, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll likely have it delivered quickly.

It should be that simple – especially when Amazon’s $178 billion in annual sales rank the company as the largest Internet retailer and marketplace in the world.

Alas, shopping on Amazon doesn’t always go smoothly. You may have heard of a Georgia woman recently charged $7,455 to have three cartons of toilet paper delivered (yes, she was eventually refunded). Or a Montana mom who, when trying to return a t-shirt that was too small, was asked to send a picture of her as proof to the Amazon third-party seller. Sheesh.

The following are a few ways to reduce the odds of a bad shopping experience on Amazon – especially among third-party sellers, companies that use Amazon’s site as a sales platform and now account for about 52% percent of all sales. Nearly a quarter of all third-party sales are from global sellers, according to Amazon, which means they could be an overseas company.

Difficulty getting in refunds from third-party sellers has been at the heart of recent stories about shopping on Amazon gone bad. Consider these tips to avoid any hassles.

Shipped by Amazon — not ‘Fulfilled By’
Stick to products sold by Amazon and not fulfilled by them.

(Photo: Screenshot of Amazon.com)

“Read the fine print,” suggests Michelle Madhok, a New York-based online shopping expert and founder of SHEfinds.com. “I’d recommend only buying things that are shipped by Amazon, and not fulfilled by Amazon,” because third-party seller disputes are becoming an “increasing problem on Amazon.”

Some third-party sellers ship their products to Amazon’s fulfillment centers and let Amazon take care of the shipping and packing, a service called Fulfilled by Amazon. These products can be eligible for Amazon’s Prime two-day free shipping services. Others ship from their own warehouses and generally aren’t Prime eligible.

Instead, Madhok advises looking for products that say, "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com."

Based on Madhok’s own experience, third-party seller issues include long delivery times and low-quality items, especially from China.

“I saw a great price on a fancy brand of candles I wanted, but they weren’t any good,” she said. Madhok says she complained to Amazon and got her money back. “I also bought a Halloween costume that said in small print delivery would take 6 or 8 weeks, so I cancelled it.”

But you might not to return items too many times as it could lead to a ban by Amazon, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. That said, Amazon responded in a statement that it is rare for a customer to receive a ban for abusing their service for a long period of time.

More:Woman charged $7,000 for Amazon toilet paper delivery gets refund — more than two months later

More: Here’s what to check on Amazon to avoid a crazy $7,000 shipping bill

Counterfeit concerns
This Rubik’s Cube copycat doesn’t claim to be the authentic puzzle, but be aware there are counterfeit items on online shopping sites.

A report from the Government Accountability Office revealed many products purchased from third-party sellers on five major e-commerce sites, including Amazon, were not only counterfeit but potentially harmful to your health. Some “knock-off” cosmetics were found to contain poisonous substances like mercury or cyanide, toys and other items contained lead, and unofficial iPhone adaptors may be more prone to fire or causing electrocution.

Madhok says some third-party sellers “scam” Amazon by closing down and opening up under another name after they’re paid by Amazon. “Customers will have money refunded, yes, but it’s deceptive,” she adds.

More:Shoppers: Fake Fingerlings sold through outside sellers on Amazon, walmart.com

Read the return policy

Before you buy, read what the third-party seller offers by way of returns or refunds.

Amazon says it offers an A-Z Guarantee, “so that customers can buy with confidence on Amazon.com, whether they purchase from Amazon or a third-party seller, and whether they’re based near or far.”

Third-party sellers must either provide a return address within the United States, provide a prepaid return label, or offer a full refund without requesting the item be returned, it said.

Do your homework
Be suspect if overseas sellers have several overzealously positive comments.

But it’s up to you to look closely before you buy to see if it’s coming from Amazon or a third-party seller – even if it’s a “Sponsored” item. If it is a third-party seller, like Xiaxue or iFunda, you can click on the name of the company, which link to a small bio and might say if it might say if they’re overseas (Amazon says companies do not need to disclose their locations).

It’s also recommended to read the reviews from previous customers — before you buy – though Madhok cautions many are written by employees or friends of these overseas companies. Therefore, watch out for overzealous comments, often with spelling and punctuation errors.

To complicate matters, Amazon shut down its Customer Discussion forums last October, therefore shoppers don’t have an official place to ask questions and receive feedback from other Amazon users.

As a result, shoppers should look elsewhere for reviews of third-party sellers or its products. Use a search engine like Google to type in a query, or turn to friends, family and colleagues over social media. You can also read reviews of products at other shopping sites.

For example, the Q18S smartwatch Amazon sells through third-party sellers is also available on, say, Wish.com, or other online retailers and marketplaces.

Additional buyer protection

“As a general rule of thumb, always shop with a credit card that offer good purchase protection,” advises Madhok, “even though Amazon is good about refunding money if there’s a dispute.”

Having this extra layer of protection, and peace of mind, is important, regardless of where you shop online.

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Walmart unveils Jetblack: Shopping by text message

NEW YORK – Walmart (WMT) is launching a $50-a-month membership service that lets harried shoppers use text messages to order items to be delivered to their homes.

Jetblack marks the latest effort by the nation’s largest retailer to cater to higher-income shoppers. It’s being tested in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

The service will offer same-day and next-day delivery at no extra charge. It allows shoppers to order everything from birthday gifts to household essentials based on curated shopping recommendations.

The everyday items will be sourced from Walmart and Jet.com. For specialty items, Walmart is working with stores like Pottery Barn and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The service, which is currently by invite-only, is being led by Rent the Runway visionary Jenny Fleiss.

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Competition, online shopping among challenges facing Buffalo Grove’s new effort to invigorate Lake Cook Road

A sign advertising leasing opportunities sits near the Chase Plaza shopping center at Lake Cook and Arlington Heights roads in Buffalo Grove. The center is a big part of village officials’ new plan to redevelop the Lake Cook Road Corridor. (Brian O’Mahoney / Pioneer Press)

As Buffalo Grove officials move forward with their plan to transform the Lake Cook Road Corridor, questions remain on whether developers will step up during a turbulent time for retailers.

Buffalo Grove Village Manager Dane Bragg said officials have begun acting on the new redevelopment strategy after village board members amended the village’s long-term comprehensive plan during a meeting earlier this spring.

The action came after nearly a year and a half of study by both officials and a private consulting firm, as well as several town-hall-style meetings with residents who shared their own ideas for the major commercial stretch in Buffalo Grove.

Village officials now are talking with a few developers who are interested in joining Buffalo Grove’s effort to invigorate Lake Cook Road, but much work to achieve that vision remains, including how to overcome increased competition from neighboring communities and consumers’ changing habits toward online shopping, according to officials and suburban property developers.

Often described as the "gateway to the village," the corridor includes swaths of dated and vacant commercial buildings, despite efforts in past years from Buffalo Grove officials to boost its economic potential.

The area encompasses more than 472 acres of land and more than one million square feet of commercial space, as well as the village’s building campus, the village-owned golf course and some residential neighborhoods.

The newest plans for the corridor include ideas to transform two aging strip malls — Chase Plaza on the west end of Lake Cook Road at Arlington Heights Road and Town Center on the east end at McHenry Road.

Despite hearing from a few developers who are interested in being a part of the plan to upgrade Lake Cook Road, officials have not yet received specific development proposals, Bragg said.

“We’ve had some developers who told us they liked the ideas, and they reached out directly to us,” Bragg said.

A main focus of the new redevelopment strategy is turning the two shopping centers on both ends of the corridor into so-called experiential lifestyle centers, where residents can live, shop, eat and play, village officials have said.

Chase Plaza, in particular, has dealt with a large vacancy for years after the former Dominick’s grocery store closed in 2014. Village officials have said they now want to try and turn that center into a marketplace featuring a mix of retail, restaurants and entertainment venues surrounded by green space.

On the east end of the corridor, officials have envisioned overhauling the Town Center strip mall with a pedestrian-friendly main street surrounded by sidewalk cafes and public plazas that could serve as gathering spots for the community — changes that were identified as top priorities by residents during officials’ study of the corridor, Bragg said.

While officials’ mixed-use ideas for both shopping centers would include retail and residential areas, they’re also trying to account for the challenges facing traditional retailers in the age of Amazon and the explosion of online shopping, Bragg said.

Big-box retailers especially might not be a major part of officials’ new redevelopment effort, he said.

“We’re much more focused on experiential and entertainment offerings, as retail is much different than it was even just five years ago,” Bragg said.

Officials, for example, are wanting to attract a new grocery store to Lake Cook Road, but the new addition more likely will be a “specialty grocer” desiring a smaller 30,000-square-foot space rather than a larger 65,000-square-foot building, he said.

Meanwhile, businesses like smaller craft breweries have shot up in popularity in recent years and increasingly demand visible storefront space, he said.

Studies also show shoppers who still enjoy making purchases at traditional brick-and-mortar stores do so for “the sensory experience” nowadays, Bragg said.

“It’s mostly apparel and home decor, where shoppers like to touch and feel what they are buying,” he said.

Despite the many ideas associated with the village’s new redevelopment effort, officials have made attempts in the past to transform Lake Cook Road into more of a village center, said Stuart Lenhoff, president and principal of Horizon Realty Services, a leasing and management firm in Buffalo Grove, which, he said, oversees about three million square feet of suburban retail space.

“It is very wise of Buffalo Grove to try to redevelop the corridor, and the village has always been proactive when it comes to development,” Lenhoff said. “But the village had a similar vision 20 to 25 years ago when the Buffalo Grove Town Center was built, and it didn’t turn out well. So, in some ways, they would be starting over again.”

Another challenge for the village is the increased competition coming from neighboring communities, such as Deerfield and Kildeer, which already have vibrant lifestyle centers that are home to an assortment of national retailers and restaurants, he said.

In nearby Vernon Hills, construction also is underway on a $200 million investment to create the Mellody Farms retail development, which will be anchored by a Whole Foods grocery store. The new center, featuring a mix of retail and housing, is expected to open later this year, Lenhoff said.

Despite the hurdles, if Buffalo Grove officials can attract a developer willing to remodel the existing movie theaters at the Town Center and find the right mix of new retail tenants and restaurants, some elements of the village’s plan can work, he said.

“With the right theme, they could create a place where people would want to visit on a nice evening for shopping, dinner and a movie, or maybe to watch an outdoor concert,” Lenhoff said, adding, “But all of this is tenant driven, and without tenants, it remains just a proposal or plan.”

Another major question for Buffalo Grove officials, as they start to move forward on the redevelopment effort, is how they plan to pay for many of the proposed ideas, which include the creation of a frontage road that would run behind properties north of Lake Cook Road.

Bragg said officials have not yet allocated any resources or decided how they would finance the different capital projects related to the improvements along Lake Cook Road.

Officials also are in the process of studying whether to renovate or replace buildings throughout Buffalo Grove’s municipal campus — a separate project involving a “multi-year investment strategy,” which officials should start discussing later this year, Bragg said.

While Buffalo Grove Trustee David Weidenfeld acknowledged officials will face challenges when trying to bring their ideas for Lake Cook Road to fruition, he said, the new proposals for the corridor reflect a snapshot in time that likely will evolve with the market.

“But having a vision we can offer to developers says if they take the opportunity to build here, the process will be a lot easier,” Weidenfeld said. “For developers, the shorter the distance from the day they begin a project to the day they open the doors, the better.”

kcullotta@tribpub.com

Twitter @kcullotta

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More people are shopping at Walmart online as the retailer tries to go upscale

The Walmart logo appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. (Richard Drew/AP)

The world’s largest retailer continues to get larger — especially online, where it’s spending billions to compete with Amazon.com.

Walmart on Thursday said online sales grew 33 percent in its first quarter as the company expands its website to include more premium products. The discount retailer, known for its rock-bottom prices, has tried in recent years to attract more-affluent customers by buying up niche brands and expanding its lineup of merchandise.

But analysts say attracting higher-end customers — and retaining them — will be a continuing challenge.

“Walmart is not a natural destination for higher-priced items, especially in apparel,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, wrote in a note to clients. “There is much more work to be done to shift perceptions.”

Walmart’s website — which updated its look last week with new colors, fonts and layouts — now sells 75 million items, including higher-end products such as Bose sound systems (which cost as much as $699), Tommy Bahama area rugs (up to $2,599) and wooden dinghies ($9,155). The retail giant is also partnering with department store chain Lord & Taylor to create an upscale site with brands such as H Halston, Lucky Brand and Effy.

The number of visitors to Walmart’s website has grown 34 percent in the past year, double the 17 percent growth rate at Amazon, according to data from ComScore. But Walmart is coming from far behind: Amazon had an online audience of nearly 183 million visitors in April, compared with Walmart’s 101 million. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)

Analysts say much of Walmart’s business remains centered around lower- and middle-income shoppers who frequent its 4,700 U.S. stores. (More than 96 percent of Walmart’s sales continue to come from its stores.)

Walmart and Amazon have been locked in a tight battle to win over customers, in stores and online. Walmart spent $3.3 billion buying up Jet.com in 2016 and last week announced its biggest deal to date — a $16 billion investment in Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart. It also purchased a number of niche labels last year, including Bonobos, ModCloth, Moosejaw and ShoeBuy.

Amazon, meanwhile, spent $13.7 billion on Whole Foods Market last year, giving it a foothold in the U.S. grocery business, where Walmart remains the largest player.

“There is increasing overlap between Amazon and Walmart shoppers, but for the most part, the rift remains: Walmart is for mainstream shoppers, while Amazon is for higher-income families,” said Krista Garcia, an analyst for eMarketer, a market research firm.

That separation may be exacerbated in coming months, she said, as Amazon raises the price of its Prime membership 20 percent to $119 a year.

“We’ll likely see lower-income Prime members saying, ‘You know what, I don’t want to pay this much anymore,’ ” Garcia said. “But I don’t think higher-income shoppers are going to defect to Walmart in any big way.”

Overall, Walmart’s revenue grew 4.4 percent to $122.7 billion in the most recent quarter. Same-store sales — a closely watched industry metric that measures sales at stores open at least one year — grew 2.1 percent in the United States. Profits, however, fell about 30 percent to $2.13 billion, or 72 cents per share, as the company beefed up its investments. The company does not break out online revenue.

“We’re encouraged by the progress made across the business,” Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Customers are responding well to the refreshed [online] experience.”

He added that the company plans to expand its online grocery pickup service to 1,000 more U.S. stores this year. Walmart customers who shop online and in the company’s stores typically spend double the amount spent by those who do only one or the other, McMillon said.

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Amazon Is Said to Halt Google Shopping Ads as Rivalry Heats Up

(Bloomberg) — Amazon.com Inc. has stopped buying a popular type of Google ad, according to people familiar with the decision. The move deepens the rift between the technology titans and signals Amazon’s growing ambition in the digital advertising market.

The pullback affects highly coveted real estate at the top of Google search results, where retailers and e-commerce bid and pay handsomely to place colorful, image-rich ads that show up when consumers look online for running shoes, headphones and other products to buy.

Amazon began bidding for these slots, known as product listing ads, or PLAs, in late 2016. That pitted the e-commerce giant against retailers like Walmart Inc. in online auctions that Google runs to decide who gets to place their ads on top of results for queries like "cowboy boots" and "modern couches."

10 Best Android Smartphones

Marketing firm Merkle Inc. noticed Amazon’s sudden retreat on April 28 by analyzing Google shopping ad data it tracks for clients. "The widespread vanishing act observed over the last week point to Amazon itself pausing its Shopping campaigns," Andy Taylor, a Merkle research director, wrote in a recent blog.

Two people familiar with the companies confirmed Amazon’s move. They asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

Losing Amazon is a rare setback for Google’s Shopping ads, which have been a massive financial success. The Alphabet Inc. unit doesn’t disclose revenue from this business, but external estimates show this ad type has grown at three times the rate of Google’s regular text Search ads. Amazon largely bought PLAs for items like office supplies, furniture and athletic apparel, according to Merkle’s Taylor. "They were probably spending $50 million a year, but it might be higher than that," he said.

Amazon declined to comment. "While we don’t comment on individual customers, it’s not unusual for advertisers to adjust their campaigns at any time for any number of reasons," a Google spokeswoman said.

Zappos and some other Amazon subsidiaries are still running Google Shopping ads. These units are often run independently from the main company and were using the Google ads long before Amazon.com itself started bidding, according to Merkle.

Some ad buyers interpreted Amazon’s move as a sign the company is accelerating its own digital ad offerings, which has been urged by marketers and Amazon shareholders. The company has the potential to challenge the digital marketing duopoly of Google and Facebook Inc., although it has expanded slowly so far.

Right now, Amazon offers similar sponsored product ads on its flagship e-commerce site. Mizuho Securities USA Inc. recently estimated Google’s product ads are four times as effective as Amazon’s at getting people to buy. However, the brokerage firm said Amazon could improve and surpass Google. The note concluded that most spending on Amazon ads comes from marketers switching away from tradition offline ads, rather than cutting into Google budgets.

Still, other analysts see Amazon’s massive web reach, subscription base and voice search services, such as Alexa, as the gravest threat to Google’s business. A broader standoff over ads would add to an already tense year.

After Amazon pulled some Google hardware from its e-commerce shelves, Google retaliated by blocking YouTube from Amazon’s streaming devices.

Google has also redoubled its own e-commerce offerings, particularly involving voice-based searches that compete with Amazon’s Alexa. Google teamed up with Amazon foes Walmart and Target Corp. on voice-based online shopping and delivery.

In March, Google introduced a new ad service that lets retailers build digital checkout carts that track online shoppers across their phones, desktop computers and smart speakers. That’s similar to Amazon’s lucrative shopping cart.

–With assistance from Spencer Soper.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Bergen in San Francisco at mbergen10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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Instagram shopping is about to get dangerously easy

Last year, Instagram revealed an upcoming appointment-booking feature, another step towards the company’s larger plans of becoming a shopping service of sorts. Now TechCrunch reports that the photo-sharing service is quietly adding an electronic payment option for some users, something not mentioned with the previous appointments feature.

Instagram confirmed with TechCrunch that payments for booking appointments for restaurants or salons is currently live "for a limited set of partners." The site notes that dinner reservation app Resy has clients whose Instagram Pages offer native payments for booking a table. Instagram also told TechCrunch that users can look forward to buying things like movie tickets in the future. The feature is different from shopping tags, a feature Instagram added in 2016 that pulls up a retailer’s website when you tap through a photo of a product you want to purchase. Given Instagram’s emphasis on shopping, it’s easy to see native payments being used for even more things in the future.

Update 5/3/18 4:21 PM ET: This post has been updated to clarify when the appointment system was first introduced; it was last year, not last month.

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Shopping at 99 Ranch Market

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Epicurious

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Shopping at 99 Ranch Market – Provided by Epicurious How to Make A Vinaigrette How to Chop and Deseed a Jalapeño Epicurious 14:37 Epicurious 4:15 Epicurious 14:25 Epicurious 3:19 Epicurious 3:41
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8 insider facts about shopping at Walmart that all employees know

Don’t be afraid to ask to see the store’s clearance items.
Walmart store employees know all about the chain’s inner workings.Some shopping hacks, savings tips, and store policies might not be readily apparent to shoppers.Here’s a look at some insider tips from employees that you should know if you’re going to shop at Walmart.

Walmart stores are everywhere.

The retail chain reports that it currently operates 11,700 retail locations in 28 countries.

It’s safe to say that the 1.5 million Walmart employees in the US — as well as their eight million international colleagues — know a thing or two about the chain’s inner workings.

Whenever you’re preparing to go on a shopping spree, it pays to come in armed with as much information as you can get. That way, you can keep an eye out for the best possible deals and shopping strategies the next time you visit your local Walmart.

Walmart employees know all of the tricks of the trade, from how to spot mark-downs to finding clearance items in the store. They also know all about store policies that might not be immediately apparent to shoppers.

Here’s a look at a few tricks of the trade that only Walmart employees and long-time customers know about:

Clearance items aren’t always easy to find. So when you’re on the look out for deals, just ask for help.

"Over the course of the years, I’ve managed to find good deals because I looked and asked at the right times," a Reddit user who said they were a Walmart employee in 2016 wrote.

The employee described looking for electronics at their local Walmart. They asked the employee working in the electronics section to point out any clearance items. The Reddit user said they were "blown away with the deals I found. I saw Samsung tablets, GPS units, high-end external hard drives, and Bluetooth speakers."

Shoppers can also ask for a price match against a number of other retailers, including Amazon, Target, and Staples.

The store’s policy says, "if you find a lower price from an online retailer on an identical, in-stock product, tell us and we’ll match it."

How helpful is Walmart’s mobile app Savings Catcher?

Quora user and former Walmart employee Ward Miller wrote that customers shouldn’t "expect boatloads of money to come rolling in" from the app because "Walmart goes to a lot of work to maintain its competitive price points."

The mobile app doesn’t give shoppers cash back. It instead accrues store credits and dispenses e-gift cards that can be spent on Walmart’s website or in its stores.

"That being said, I paid for a $140 dehumidifier using nothing but Savings Catcher rewards," Miller wrote.

According to the site TipHero, sales prices ending in 7 are full-price, prices ending in 5 denote first markdowns, and prices ending in 1 indicate a final markdown.

Walmart employees can’t accept tips, as per the store’s official policy.

A Reddit user who said he was a Walmart employee in 2017 described receiving a tip from a shopper around the holiday season. He ended up turning the tip into an assistant manager.

Walmart employees are free to take advantage of the store’s deals on Black Friday.

But the shopping must be done when they’re on break or taking lunch or on their own time.

"Your breaks are short and the lines are long," Quora user and former Walmart employee Krystle Hannigan wrote. "You’re not honestly going to have enough time to shop until after your shift is over."

Quora user and former Walmart employee Alley McNally wrote that employees who work Thanksgiving and Black Friday can get a whopping 25% discount. The regular employee discount is 10%, and employees working on Thanksgiving and Black Friday "receive a voucher good for an additional 15% off of any one transaction," according to Cline.

She added that the voucher can be used on set days in early to mid-December.

"I did ring out an assistant manager one year who came through with three shopping carts filled to the brim," Cline wrote. "Her discount came to $1,100."

The days of blue and white shirts may be coming to an end for Walmart employees, so keep an eye out for name tags when you need assistance.

Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson reported that the chain is "testing a new dress code that allows employees to wear blue denim and shirts of any solid color."

"I personally love the new dress code — especially that we can wear any color," Angel Hernandez, an employee of a Walmart store in Springdale, Arkansas, told Business Insider.

So don’t be surprised if the employees are dressed a bit differently during your next Walmart run.

Walmart has a crime problem, Bloomberg reported in 2016. Reporters Shannon Pettypiece and David Voreacos found that in the city of Tulsa, police were called to Walmart stores 2,000 times in 2015. Compare that with 300 calls from Target stores.

One of Walmart’s attempts to combat the specific crime of shoplifting stirred controversy. CNBC reported that, in 2017, the chain dropped out of a program that had first-time shoplifters either pay to enroll in an educational program or face prosecution.

Quora user and former Walmart employee Michael Wolfe also shared some strategies the store uses to stop theft.

"Depending on the size of the store you could have a plain-clothes security person who is legally certified and authorized to make apprehensions," Wolfe wrote.

Walmart— not to mention other big box stores — are often dotted with a whole line of cash registers.

But sometimes only a handful are manned. The resulting bottlenecking leads to longer wait times and a frustrating experience for shoppers. Why can’t all the cash registers be staffed to prevent long lines?

That’s the question that a Reddit user asked a Walmart manager and 2017 AMA participant who said they’d been working at the store for two years.

The employee cited that a "lack of staff" and "mistakes in scheduling."

"As a manager, I spend a lot of time on a register myself trying to cut down lines but there are a lot of managers who won’t take it upon themselves to do that," the Walmart manager wrote.

Are you a current or former Walmart employee with a story to share? Email acain@businessinsider.com.

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That moment when cruise ships seem more like shopping malls. Carnival adds more on-board stores

Carnival is beefing up retail stores. (Carnival Cruise Line)

If shopping is one of your favorite pastimes, Carnival Cruise Line has something new in store for you.

The line says Horizon has "dramatically expanded retail offerings, now containing the widest variety of choices at sea."

Carnival Horizon, now sailing in Europe, has a two-story mall on Decks 4 and 5. Among the brands passengers will find aboard are Victoria’s Secret, jeweler Le Vian, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Breitling and Hublot.

Other shops include a beauty and fragrance bar, a sweets shop and a liquor and tobacco store with an extensive spirits display.

In addition to Horizon’s large retail area, Carnival has spent the last year revamping the shopping outlets on nearly half its fleet. Additional ships are set for makeovers during upcoming refurbishments.

Carnival Horizon departed April 2 from Barcelona on the first of four voyages from that port. The ship repositions to New York in May to launch a summer schedule of four-day Bermuda and eight-day Caribbean departures.

It will then shift to Miami for year-round six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning in September.

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At Lehigh Valley commercial real estate event, an outlook on malls, pop-up shops and restaurants

A February 2014 file photo of the Phillipsburg Mall, whose owner is currently exploring alternatives for the property. (THE MORNING CALL FILE PHOTO)

It’s one of the scariest thoughts for a mall owner: What happens when my shopping center loses an anchor tenant?

Well, for one, it immediately leads to lost income and traffic. And, if you’re not careful, a ripple effect can occur, where the center’s other tenants flee. In only 18 months, a mall’s lineup of 100 tenants can dwindle to just 10 shops.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened to a 1.3-million-square-foot regional mall in Pennsylvania that was built in the 1970s and is now a client of Hanna Langholz Wilson Ellis, a commercial real estate brokerage firm in Pittsburgh. Jon Knudsen, the firm’s director of retail leasing, declined to name the shopping mall, but he said the shuttering of one of its anchors triggered a host of additional closures.

Changing a shopping center’s narrative before it gets to that point was just one aspect of Knudsen’s presentation Thursday at the Lehigh Valley Commercial Real Estate Outlook and Awards, an event held at the Holiday Inn in Breinigsville that attracted more than 600 real estate officials. Knudsen was one of several experts who participated in the outlook’s main event focused on reinventing retail, an industry going through monumental changes as consumer preferences shift and online shopping continues to grow at a blistering pace. Other speakers focused on the proliferation of pop-up shops, particularly in Allentown, and the idea of restaurants as the new anchor tenant.

Knudsen’s presentation was particularly relevant, given the downsizing in brick-and-mortar retail amid a drastically overstored U.S. shopping climate. Earlier this week, in fact, Reuters reported two U.S. mall owners are attempting to acquire bankrupt department store chain The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., determined to save a significant tenant of theirs while protecting the value of their malls.

But not all retailers can be saved, and landlords need to have a plan in place to reposition the shopping center once an anchor is lost, Knudsen said. Following a property evaluation, he said an owner needs to take a look at the market the shopping center is located in to gauge what the local area needs and what opportunities exist. From there, Knudsen said, a landlord needs to create a new narrative around the shopping center.

“Anything you can do to kick the narrative of vacancy is the most important investment you make,” he said.

For example, when the 1.4-million-square-foot Monroeville Mall — about 13 miles east of Pittsburgh — lost its Dick’s Sporting Goods, Knudsen said they were able to create an exterior entrance and fill the space with a go-kart track.

Entertainment options, such as a go-kart track, are just one of the non-traditional uses malls are examining today. In addition, Knudsen said, malls are filling spaces with medical tenants, gyms and even churches. Some also are looking at redevelopment, considering knocking down their boxes and opting for residential, medical or storage purposes. If all else fails, Knudsen said, a sale is often explored.

In fact, the owner of the ailing Phillipsburg Mall, on the border of Pohatcong and Lopatcong townships in New Jersey, said in February they were exploring a redevelopment, sale or joint venture at the shopping center following the loss of yet another anchor.

Pop-up shops

One segment that’s doing well is experiential retail, of which pop-up shops are included, according to Natalia Stezenko, retail leasing and activation manager for City Center Allentown.

City Center has brought several pop-up shops to downtown Allentown, which start as short-term stores that Stezenko said help “bring life” to what might otherwise be an empty space in the city’s relatively young retail scene. An example includes the YWCA’s Perfect Fit Pop-Up Boutique in Three City Center, which sells gently used clothes, purses and accessories and recently signed a long-term lease with City Center.

In addition, the Truffle Bar occupies a 417-square-foot space in a street-level suite in Strata East on North 6th St., where the business sells handmade truffles.

Stezenko described the pop-up shops as a win-win.

From the retailer’s perspective, she said it gives the business a chance to connect with its customers and build awareness. Those businesses often range from an Etsy merchant trying to grow their customer base to online retailers testing the brick-and-mortar waters. In either case, Stezenko noted the pop-up shop option is often a cheaper way for a retailer to test out a concept, especially when compared to jumping right into a long-term lease.

And from a landlord’s perspective, landing a pop-up shop can provide additional income and fill a vacant storefront, reducing potential vandalism or squatting in the process. In addition, those pop-up shops can eventually turn into long-term tenants.

“It can revitalize a local area, like we’re doing in Allentown,” she said.

Food for thought

Another segment doing well — one described as vital to retail by TCH Development Principal Timothy Harrison — is the restaurant business.

Harrison would know, as TCH partnered with The Goldenberg Group to construct the 565,000-square-foot Hamilton Crossings shopping center in Lower Macungie Township.

In today’s world, Harrison noted, brick-and-mortar retailers are investing heavily in information technology to boost their online selling platforms. Meanwhile, the brick-and-mortar retailers who can’t afford to do that are buried under a mountain of debt, hindering their ability to adapt and forcing them out of business. So with traditional retailers redirecting investments away from physical storefronts, Harrison said it’s crucial that retail projects today offer a unique and compelling experience.

“Experiential development is the way forward,” Harrison said to the room of real estate officials, by this time munching on the platter of cookies on their tables. “Restaurants can become the experiential anchors in a retail project.”

Harrison believes they succeeded in that regard at Hamilton Crossings. For example, he said, they chose restaurants in six to eight industry segments, avoiding duplication and potential cannibalization. They also chose experienced operators on solid financial footing.

“We positioned our restaurants carefully,” he said, adding the presence of a diversified group of restaurants enhances the quality of the shopping center.

But don’t just take his word for it, Harrison told the audience in making his way to a shameless plug.

“If you haven’t yet visited Hamilton Crossings, please go see for yourself,” he said.

Awards

At the end of the event, the 2018 Commercial Real Estate Development (CRED) Awards were announced:

The CRED Community Development Award was given to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 375 for their new headquarters at 101 S. Seventh St. in Allentown.Cityline Construction received the CRED Adaptive Reuse Award for the company’s conversion of a former St. Luke’s University Health Network information technology building in Fountain Hill into 22 luxury apartments.The CRED Vision Award went to Moravian College for their conversion of the Bethlehem 24/7 Racquetball Club into its Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center.

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Man may find a new kidney thanks to a shopping visit to Costco

A man in need of a kidney may find a new organ thanks to a recent shopping trip to Costco, Yahoo Lifestyle is reporting.

We came across this man at Costco and we asked him about his shirt. He said he has been looking for a donor for four years and still nothing. Please do me a favor and RT this. For more info about him DM me. pic.twitter.com/yHfDJGMw50

— kxrn🦋 (@_kerrrn_) March 28, 2018

Robert Duran, who has been looking for a donor for the last four years, was wearing a T-shirt that read "Kidney donor needed. Type B+. Ask me how” — and now a curious teenager has taken up his cause.

An 18-year-old girl saw him in the pet food aisle at the Costco in Phoenix, Ariz. and is helping him crowdsource an organ through social media.

Robert Duran was shopping in the pet aisle of the Costco store in Phoenix, Ariz., when an 18-year-old took interest in helping him find a kidney donor. (Google View)

The teenager posted photos of Duran and tweeted about how they met and his story. She wrote in her post, “Please do me a favor and RT this,” she urged. “For more info about him DM me.”

As a result of the teen’s efforts, 150 people replied within one day, identifying themselves as having a B positive blood type and willing to determine if they’re a match.

The girl has been able to screen and pull together those who seem legitimately interested, and is in touch with them privately.

Others in recent years have taken to social media to find organ donors. Jennen Johnson, a 42-year-old mother who advertised for a kidney transplant on Facebook, succeeed in her quest.

Johnson’s case got the attention of the National Kidney Foundation. “We want people to consider social media as another option, in addition to getting on the donor list,” the foundation’s Vice President Jen Martin told Yahoo Lifestyle.

As for Duran’s case, the 18-year-old Good Samaritan is encouraging people who may not be a match, but want to help, to visit a gofundme page she created to help with his medical expenses and dialysis treatment.

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Online shopping at Overstock gets easier with AR functionality in its app

overstock arcore ar

If you thought it was hard to visualize a new couch in your living room while standing in front of said couch at Ikea was hard, then it was probably nearly impossible to visualize any piece of new furniture in your home simply by looking at a photo. Sure, online shopping is much more convenient than going to brick-and-mortar stores, but when it comes to actually purchasing pieces that look as good in real life as they do on the web, things get a bit dicier. Now, Overstock is trying to solve that problem. This week, the online shopping network introduced augmented reality to its Overstock app for Android, now powered by Google’s ARCore technology. Folks can now take advantage of the AR experience directly from the app and check out thousands of true-to-life-size 3D models in high resolution in their bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, or anywhere else.

While Overstock has boasted AR functionality for its iOS app ever since the ARKit launch last September, this marks the first time that Android users will be able to enjoy the same experience. With the introduction of ARCore, augmented reality technology has been made readily available to more than 100 million Android devices.

“We have invested significant resources into cutting-edge tech, like augmented reality, to make sure shoppers have the best possible experience,” Amit Goyal, senior vice president of software engineering at Overstock, said in a statement. “This technology brings thousands of products directly to our customers’ living rooms. In a matter of minutes, they can search thousands of furniture pieces, see how they look in their space, purchase the one they want, and have it delivered to their home — on one mobile app.”

Using the app should be quite straightforward. You can search for any of the thousands of products sold on Overstock, including furniture, rugs, home goods, decor. Place these knick-knacks in an AR environment next to your own belongings to see how the size, texture, and colors mesh with your overall design aesthetic. And if you want a second opinion, you can share photos of your AR design either through direct messages or social media. For maximum efficiency, you can also add products to your cart or purchase pieces with Android Pay, all while staying within AR View.

“Overstock’s mission is to leverage technology to make the online shopping experience easier and more enjoyable,” Overstock President Saum Noursalehi said in a statement. “With AR and advancements in machine learning, soon you will be able to completely decorate your home in an AR environment through simple communication with artificial intelligence that understands interior design.”

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Chaminade acquires shopping center near campus in West Hills for $14 million

Chaminade acquired a shopping center near campus. (Mark Holtzman / West Coast Aerial Photography)

West Hills Chaminade has acquired a shopping center near its high school campus off Saticoy Street and Woodlake Avenue for $14 million, school president Rob Webb said Thursday. The 4.8-acre parcel is one of last in the area that has not been developed for residential use. It currently contains 16 businesses.

No final decision has been made about what the school will do with the land, but it could be used for parking, more classrooms and additional facilities.

“For us, yesterday we were a debt-free organization,” Webb said. “Today we aren’t. A big chunk came from capital reserves. It’s an exciting time. Schools are landlocked in this neighborhood and for us to find a parcel that became available for the first time in 50 years is transformational.”

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Céline selling plastic shopping bag for $590

One person’s trash is most certainly another’s treasure at Céline, as the French fashion house is selling a logo-stamped “shopper bag” for a staggering $590.

Featuring handle straps and “keep away from children” warnings in four languages, The New York Post reports the transparent bag first made headlines last year when it appeared on the Paris catwalk. The supermarket-like tote is now for sale at the Céline x Nordstrom pop-up in downtown Seattle through May 29.

“Céline can make anything chic,” fashion blogger Andrea Lubin wrote, sharing a photo of the bag filled with fruit and a wallet, evidently at a grocery store.

Meanwhile, one Twitter user didn’t quite agree, citing the bag as a “sign that the end is near.”

“Fashionistas are going crazy over this plastic Céline bag and I think it’s horrible,” @Myrnz added, sharing a photo of the tote out and about.

Believe it or not, this is not the first time that Nordstrom has stuck a sky-high price tag on a item otherwise known to be free — the fashion giant made headlines in 2016 for selling a leather-wrapped rock for $85. In similarly ridiculous sartorial news, Moschino made waves earlier this year for sending a $730 see-through dry-cleaning dress down the runway, hanger included.

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This little-known service at Walmart lets you order groceries online and pick them up in-store for hassle-free shopping

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

Walmart
I hate grocery shopping, so I’ve been on the hunt for services that make the process less of an annoyance If you want fresh food without having to deal with lines or committing so much time, you should be using Walmart Grocery. You can buy your food online or in the Walmart app and then pick it up from your local Walmart store. Plus, they’ll load your car for you.

Every week, I subconsciously start a new internal countdown. One day until I run out of pasta, two or three if I really skimp on my cereal before I absolutely have to stop and buy milk.

Maybe it’s the packed, too-small grocery stores nearby me or the mindless, (and yet) compulsory activity, but I hate grocery shopping. And I definitely hate heading there knowing I’ll just be lugging all the items that I buy 12 blocks back to my apartment.

Considering that there are entire services dedicated to making this process easier, I can’t be the only one who hates the chore of grocery shopping.

Enter Walmart.

The chain has recently undergone a bit of a facelift to remain competitive with an increasingly digitized commercial landscape. What that means for the average shopper is more options and better deals. In terms of food shopping, it means Walmart Grocery, which allows you to order groceries online and pick them up in-store at your own convenience.

Simply go online or use the app to create an account, order fresh groceries, and reserve a time to grab them from your local Walmart. They’ll even load your car for you.

You can select same day pick-up or schedule your order up to a week in advance. The only requirement is that you have to hit a $30 minimum.

To place an order, enter your zip code so it can find your local stores, choose which one you want to pick your groceries up from, and pick your items. An unexpected bonus is that using the site makes it easier to price compare, take advantage of weekly coupons, and shop food by departments rather than walking aisles or waiting in line at the deli. Walmart even creates a "Best Sellers in Your Area" section, where you can select popular local choices. Once you’re done, you can pre-pay online and reserve your pick-up time.

Use the app or go online to order fresh groceries, choose a time slot for same-day pickup, and then drive to your local Walmart. They’ll even load your car for you.

Use the app or go online to order fresh groceries, choose a time slot for same-day pickup, and then drive to your local Walmart. They’ll even load your car for you.Walmart

Once you’ve used the service, your account remembers things you’ve already bought and lets you keep a "reorder list" for quick, easy refill of your everyday essentials.

Whether you’re looking for ways to avoid the sugared cereal and toy aisle fights with your kids while shopping or just want to take back more of your Sunday afternoons, Walmart is making that easier than ever with this online order and in-store pickup. You can still get fresh food, and you don’t have to wander around any aisles bored and trying to find the peanut butter. You can shop from your own past grocery list, and you can reorder your favorites with one touch. Instead of a couple hours, grocery shopping can take 15 minutes.

Order your groceries online and pick them up at your local Walmart here

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider’s Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.

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Do’s and don’ts when using shopping apps

This Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, photo shows applications on an iPhone clockwise from top left, Target, Amazon, Sephora, JCPenny, Walmart, in New York. Retailers such as Target and Amazon are embracing mobile applications to help consumers save money and time with features like digital wallets and augmented reality. (Jenny Kane/Associated Press)

Retailers such as Target and Amazon are embracing mobile applications to help consumers save money and time with features like digital wallets and augmented reality. When used strategically, apps can streamline in-store trips and online purchases, but shoppers could also find that convenience comes with a risk: impulsive decisions and overspending.

“Now shopping can be anytime, anywhere, multiple times a day, which is great for customers who value convenience,” said Casey Taylor, a partner in the Atlanta office of Bain and Company, a management consulting firm. “But for customers on a budget, what I would share as the primary caution is that it makes it very easy — almost too easy.”

Here’s how to get the most out of retail apps, while avoiding the downsides.

DON’T ENABLE NOTIFICATIONS

Push notifications — alerts that pop up on your phone — and emails tend to “catch people at vulnerable moments,” enticing them to spend money on things they otherwise wouldn’t, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group, a market research company.

Data show that 9.6 times more users make a purchase when an app sends a promotional push notification compared with those who didn’t receive one, according to Leanplum, a mobile marketing platform. Notifications also increase the amount an average shopper spends 16 percent.

A quick fix: Turn off notifications in the app or your device’s settings and opt out of retailers’ emails if they’re too tempting to resist overspending.

DO MAKE A SHOPPING LIST

Take inventory and make a list of what you need. Shopping lists can deter impulse purchases by keeping specific merchandise top-of-mind. Most retailer apps make it easy to view and edit lists on your device.

For example, the app for Kohl’s enables shoppers to set a budget , and then automatically deducts the price of each item on the list. Other merchants, like The Home Depot, include maps or aisle numbers to help customers track down products on their lists at local stores.

DON’T KEEP PAYMENT INFORMATION ON FILE

Although storing shipping and billing information speeds up the checkout process, it can also smooth the way for frivolous purchases. Researchers have found that compared with cash, behind-the-scenes payment methods make shoppers feel detached from their money — and more likely to spend.

“Now with technologies where you can just use your fingerprint, or you just take a photo of your credit card, it makes payment incredibly simple,” Taylor said.

Instead, enter payment information each time, rather than saving credit card numbers or linking to a PayPal account. The extra step makes the exchange of money feel more real.

At the very least, “take a breath before tapping ‘checkout’ to make sure that your purchase is as much about you really needing that item versus the fact that the shopping experience has become more entertaining and has become very easy,” Taylor said.

DO USE YOUR CAMERA

Use the camera feature within apps to read product details and customer reviews.

“It allows you to have a greater usage of knowledge of what those products you’re purchasing can do,” Cohen said.

Some apps surface product information when an item’s bar code is scanned with the camera. Beauty retailer Sephora’s app incorporates augmented reality, which allows shoppers to virtually try on makeup products and colors as they look into their device’s camera.

As well, cameras can summon savings: Snap a picture of your receipt in Walmart’s app, and its Savings Catcher tool will match a competitor’s lower advertised price — even after your purchase. Walmart refunds the difference on an electronic gift card. Target’s app checks for manufacturer coupons and in-store deals on scanned items.

DON’T FOCUS ON ONE RETAILER

Through exclusive offers and built-in loyalty programs, “individual retailers’ shopping apps intend to lock-in shoppers,” Jie Zhang, professor of marketing at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said in an email. For example, the wallet feature on the J.C. Penney app lets shoppers see and redeem rewards, coupons and gift cards in one place.

But using only one retailer’s app could mean missing out on opportunities to save money.

“Yeah, there might be a 20 percent-off sale, but it could be really easy to go get 35 percent off somewhere else for the same exact product,” Cohen said.

Use a price comparison tool, like ShopSavvy or Google Shopping, to locate the best price across multiple merchants.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.

NerdWallet: How to create a budget

https://nerd.me/create-budget

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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When San Jose market’s raw meat supply comes by stacked shopping cart, time to investigate

When Loretta Seto stopped at 99 Ranch Market for a few barbecue supplies from the San Jose, California, business, she never expected to see what she did: raw meat being transported to the store in Costco shopping carts.

“Talk about disgusting! I’m usually OK with sticking the kids in the seat of the basket, but this is a whole new level of gross. Beware,” she wrote in a Facebook post. As of Saturday afternoon, the post had been shared more than 1,000 times.

" … this is a whole new level of gross. Beware."

– Loretta Seto

A representative for 99 Ranch Market responded to Seto’s post in the comment section. "We are taking the necessary steps to resolve this issue by investigating this case further and filing a complaint against our vendor,” the representative wrote, according to a local NBC affiliate, which also identified the meat vendor as Jim’s Farm Meats in Winton

While it’s not yet clear why shopping carts were used to transport the meat, the carts most likley came from the Costco warehouse across the street from the market, according to SFGate.

In response, The Santa Clara Department of Environmental Health is now investigating the incident, according to Fox 8.

Jim’s Farm Meats and 99 Ranch Market did not immediately return Fox News’ request for additional comment.

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EBay CEO: Get used to shopping with your voice

As retail is getting personal, shoppers are also adapting to ordering items online with voice technology — no keyboard required.

"The way humans interface with computers is changing fast," eBay Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig told CNBC Tuesday from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "It’s moving from text to images and voice."

Wenig said his company has been spending "a lot of time" to rally behind the movement toward voice shopping. EBay is already partnering with Google, where users can shop ebay.com, among other retailer’s websites, via their Home devices.

"I don’t think the world will be in … [Amazon] Alexa or Google Home," he added. "That will be one way people shop, and there will be many others."

Many major retailers including Target and Walmart are also partnering with Google (their websites can be shopped via Google Home), which is in a constant battle with Amazon to win over brands. Meanwhile, Amazon is touting more private-label lines, such as Wickedly Prime and Mama Bear, through its Echo devices.

The argument for voice shopping has been it creates a faster and more seamless shopping experience for consumers. To be sure, it’s taken years for Google and Amazon to try to perfect the process, and there remains room for improvement.

A query for "peanut butter" using Amazon’s Alexa platform, for example, could result in your Echo device reading off — search result by search result — all the brands available on Amazon.com, and negligible details about each one. It’s not exactly time-saving. Shopping for apparel using voice is also tricky unless a shopper can visualize those items.

According to a new report from consulting group Capgemini, roughly 25 percent of respondents would prefer using a voice assistant to shop today over a website. Within the next three years, though, that percentage jumps to 40 percent.

"Conversational Commerce, consumer purchase of products and services via voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri, will revolutionize how consumers and brands interact in ways not witnessed since the dawn of e-Commerce," said Mark Taylor. Capgemini’s chief experience officer.

"It promises to be a curator of services and experiences that intelligently meet needs and engage consumers emotionally — anytime, anywhere," he added.

For the most part, consumers still use their voice-activated devices today to seek information ("Alexa, what’s the weather?") or play music. But retailers are looking to change that, with purchases using voice of electronics, apparel and groceries on the rise.

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Online grocery shopping is revolutionizing supermarkets

The retailer wants delivery drivers to bring groceries right into your fridge–even when you’re not home.

Time

(Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Because of people like Sarah Fracek, the supermarket industry is undergoing its own digital revolution.

It’s all because Fracek has become one of a growing number of consumers who conduct almost all of their grocery shopping online.

“I hate going into a grocery store,” said Fracek, 34, a Wauwatosa, Wis., resident who doesn’t mind spending a few extra dollars to have someone else assemble her grocery order and either deliver it or have it ready for her to pick up.

“I’m working super late, and I really value the time that I have that’s ‘me’ time,” she said.

A tech-savvy, time-starved population, led by folks like Fracek in the 18 to 35 age group, has catapulted digital grocery shopping into the fastest-growing segment in U.S. retail.

Costco rolls out two grocery delivery services to fight growing competition from Amazon and Wal-Mart. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters Newslook

“This is no longer something to just keep an eye on,” says the Food Marketing Institute, a retail food trade group based in Arlington, Va. “It’s happening, and it’s habituating very large numbers of people very quickly to online-only providers and to the online channel for groceries.”

The organization has been surveying trends in the industry for 40 years. Its latest survey, released this month, describes growth the likes of which it doesn’t ever expect to see again: In 2017, 43% of millennials surveyed said they shop online for groceries at least occasionally — a 50% jump from 2016, with much of the growth coming among those who say they shop for groceries online “either fairly often or all the time.”

The phenomenon has attracted the likes of Costco, Walmart and Target. And it is not necessarily bad for conventional grocery stores, which are moving quickly and aggressively into the digital marketplace.

Milwaukee-based Sendik’s Food Markets introduced online grocery service in the fall of 2015.

“Research will tell you it is the fastest-growing form of all retail by leaps and bounds, far surpassing electronics and all other components of the online space,” said Mark Birmingham, vice president of administration and development for the company.

“The rate of adoption over the last 12 to 18 months — I think it’s growing faster than anybody expected,” Birmingham said. “It is the fastest-growing part of our business."

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer, which expanded into the Milwaukee area in 2015, says its online food business has grown rapidly.

The company said Wednesday it is on pace to see more than a million deliveries made from its stores by year-end.

Online customers typically pay a fee for the gathering and/or delivery of their groceries. The prices and structures of the services vary among retailers. An example: At Woodman’s, the fee for gathering and delivering an order is $9.95. If you decide you want to pick up your order and it’s under $100, the fee is $4.95. If you want to pick up your online order and it’s over $100, there is no fee, according to the company’s website.

“People want to do it, and they are willing to pay a little bit more for the service,” said Clint Woodman, president of Janesville-based Woodman’s. “We’re seeing good growth. We are looking at expanding our delivery area.”

The Milwaukee-based Roundy’s division of Kroger, the big Cincinnati-based supermarket chain, is continuing to roll out its ClickList e-commerce program at stores in Wisconsin, said spokesman James Hyland.

“Today’s customers want an in-store option and a digital option for their grocery shopping needs,” Hyland said.

Online service also can help smaller grocery operators grow.

“We look at it as a way of expanding our trade area without having to build more stores,” said Darlene Murphy, director of marketing for Metcalfe’s Market, which has has stores in Wisconsin.

Food producers also are watching the situation closely.

Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO and founder of Chobani yogurt, sees it as a kind of throwback, especially for products like his company’s.

“I see the milkman coming back, I really do, for fresh food,” Ulukaya said. “You wake up and go to the door and there’s your milk and cheese. It’s coming back to what it was in the early days.”

Digital grocery shopping essentially has been a phenomenon waiting to happen, with the industry finally catching up to the demands of younger consumers, said Jim Hertel, senior vice president of Willard Bishop, a Chicago-area food retail and production consultancy that is part of Inmar Analytics.

“Millennials are just online all the time,” Hertel said. “Now that they are forming households, it’s less about their adopting online and it’s more that they are shopping for food and doing it the way they would normally do anything, which is online.”

Fracek started using the online grocery service Peapod six years ago and places an order nearly every Sunday.

“If someone can pick out the things that I want, it’s a waste of time for me to go,” she said. “I would rather be doing something I enjoy.

“I still run into the store, but usually it’s when I haven’t planned ahead. I’ll run in to get stuff for one meal — odds and ends.”

Buying groceries online has proven to be a blessing “for someone working crazy hours and doesn’t want to go to the grocery store when you’re getting done with work at 8 p.m.,” Fracek said.

Quality still matters

For grocers, online or in person, the quality has to be the same, FMI’s survey says.

“Shoppers most often cite high-quality fruits and vegetables and high-quality meat among the attributes considered important when selecting a primary store,” the survey says. “Low prices come in right after that.”

Consumers also want to know where their food comes from and how it was produced.

“Millennial shoppers especially want to support companies that share their values and prioritize a broader good,” according to the FMI survey.

While younger adults are driving the change, the online food business transcends generations, said Birmingham, the Sendik’s executive. Seniors and those who can’t navigate store aisles so well anymore are adopting online grocery shopping.

Added Hertel, the grocery consultant: “The smart supermarket operators are recognizing that as consumers change, they are going to engage with food not any less but very differently in terms of how they order it, what they are looking to consume and how far along on the preparation continuum they are willing to go.

“I do think it’s going to be really hard to recognize the traditional supermarket five years from now,” he said.

James B. Nelson of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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Smart Shopping Tips That Will Save You Money

No matter what you are shopping for, you can most likely save money simply by implementing a few tips and tricks. Check out some of these money-saving suggestions to cut back on your expenses the next time you buy something online or at the store:

1. Make sure you really need the item. Before you make a purchase, stop to ask yourself whether or not you really need the item that you are buying. For instance, if you are getting ready to buy a new power tool for a project, think about whether you could save money by renting it or borrowing it from someone else instead. If you see something at the grocery store that catches your eye, ask yourself if it is a necessity or if it is an impulse buy. Scrutinizing your choices can help you avoid making unnecessary purchases.

2. Shop around and compare prices. Prices can vary quite a bit from one store to the next. The Internet has made it easier than ever to compare prices. Check a few different stores before deciding where to buy an item. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping if you are planning on ordering online.

3. Take advantage of coupons. Most retailers offer coupons in one form or another. You can either cut out or print paper coupons to take with you to the store or you can use online promo codes or coupon codes during the checkout process. Either way, before you make any type of purchase, do a quick search to see if there is a coupon available that can save you money.

These simple shopping tips can help you significantly cut back on your expenses. Not only are they easy to implement but they can also have a positive impact on your finances.

Connecticut tax-free shopping week begins Sunday

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s sales-tax-free week kicks off this weekend as parents and students get ready for the new school year.

The 17th annual tax holiday begins Sunday and runs through Saturday. Most clothing and footwear priced under $100 will be exempt from Connecticut’s sales tax of 6.35 percent.

Officials say the state will lose an estimated $4 million in tax revenue during the week.

State Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan says the tax holiday offers an important break for families, and many stores also will be offering back-to-school discounts.

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Shopping for Floor Lamps

Floor lamps are often supporting players in a room, rather than the stars of a space. But even if they go unnoticed, they are essential to creating the right atmosphere.

“They offer nice ambient light that you cannot achieve just with overhead lighting,” said Victoria Hagan, an interior designer in New York. “I use them on every single project.”

When designing homes for her clients — many of which will be included in her book “Victoria Hagan: Dream Spaces,” published this fall by Rizzoli — she uses floor lamps in a variety of ways.

“Some are lower, which is great for reading,” with shades that direct light down to an armchair, she said. “Then there are taller floor lamps that I use in a sculptural way.” Still others have long arms that cantilever over sofas to illuminate whole seating areas.

“There are so many different kinds,” Ms. Hagan said. “You just have to know which move you want to make.”

• How much of the floor will the lamp occupy? “Some have a huge base and are very clunky, which defeats the whole purpose,” Ms. Hagan said. “I like it when they don’t take up a lot of space.”

• Does the lamp have the right light intensity and temperature? “If you’re in the market for a reading lamp,” Ms. Hagan said, “you need to go see it in person.”

• How does it work with the other light fixtures in the room? “I always like to mix different layers of lighting,” she said, with multiple fixtures that can be used together.

Japanese-inspired lamp with terrazzo-like base by Ross Cassidy | $299 at CB2: 800-606-6252 or cb2.com

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Metal lamp with brass-capped feet | $198 at Anthropologie: 800-309-2500 or anthropologie.com

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Lamp with brass finish and two milk glass shades by Bower | $399 at West Elm: 888-922-4119 or westelm.com

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Lamp with polycarbonate shade by GamFratesi | $835 at FontanaArte: 212-334-3295 or fontanaarte.com

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Height-adjustable LED lamp with aluminum head by Daniel Rybakken | $1,410 at Luceplan: 212-334-1809 or luceplan.com

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