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Walmart has a plan to sell more furniture online



Walmart is offering its first glimpse of a redesigned, starting in the home department.

The big-box retailer is preparing to roll out a revamped portion of its website, dedicated to home goods and furnishings. The experience will officially go live within the next few weeks, Walmart said Thursday. The move takes aim at Target, which has been investing heavily in its exclusive home brands; Amazon, which has been doing more of the same; and furniture companies like Wayfair, Stanley Furniture, Ikea and La-Z-Boy.

A new page on, dubbed “All Things Home,” will feature collections of furniture that are grouped by trends and put together by in-house stylists. Shoppers will be able to choose from nine styles: modern, midcentury, traditional, glam, industrial, bohemian, farmhouse, transitional and Scandinavian. The page will also offer design tips.

“Over the past year, we’ve nearly doubled our home assortment and introduced a wide variety of furniture and home decor items, like a new Scandinavian line of furniture for kids and refreshed assortment of modern furniture,” said Anthony Soohoo, senior vice president of Walmart’s e-commerce home division. “Now, it is going to be that much easier for customers to shop these items and more.”

Walmart’s head of e-commerce, Marc Lore, has said certain categories within retail, including home goods and apparel, merit a more personal shopping experience online. That’s why the company is pursuing creating virtual showrooms for its wool rugs, crystal chandeliers, tank tops and knit skirts, among other items.

Earlier this week, Walmart’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report revealed e-commerce growth was cooling off and its profit margins were being squeezed, again. Walmart shares tumbled more than 9 percent on the news, as investors feared the company might be losing steam in its ongoing battle with the king of e-commerce: Amazon.

But Walmart has a big year ahead of investments ahead to fuel its e-commerce business, the company said. Walmart is targeting online sales growth of 40 percent in fiscal 2019. An overhauled home shopping experience is just the start of these plans.

“We expect the site redesign to be more attractive, user friendly and include better search ability and functionality,” said Susquehanna analyst Bill Dreher. The new website’s technology, brought over from, “is expected to change the economics of e-commerce to focus on a bigger basket (for example, be profitable with seven units per order rather than less or unprofitable at two units per order) and a basket of blended-margin merchandise to drive basket economics.”

Later this year, Walmart will unveil its entirely redesigned website, which will also include merchandise from new brand partners such as Hudson’s Bay-owned Lord & Taylor.

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Investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala on India’s electric vehicle market



Indian billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala is betting on automaker Tata Motors as one of the winners of India’s growing electric vehicle market.

“I think the biggest and the best player in electric cars in India is going to be Tata Motors,” Jhunjhunwala told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia,” on Tuesday.

“I am a large shareholder of Tata Motors. I am playing the EV story through Tata Motors,” the investor said.

He explained that valuation will not ultimately decide who will win the race for electric vehicles. Instead, large companies that have manufacturing and investment capabilities, distribution channels, production experience and the ability to design good cars are eventually going to come out ahead, according to Jhunjhunwala.

“I think it’s going to be the Mercedes, the Volkswagens, and the Tata Motors, who are going to be the real winners in the electric race,” he said, adding that another factor required to succeed in India is to be able to customize the cars for Indian road conditions — for example, the ability to drive those cars on flooded roads.

India is also a cost-conscious market where electric vehicle usage is likely to depend on the kind of incentives the government gives, the investor explained. Infrastructure, such as charging stations, still needs to be built out for widespread adoption. But, Jhunjhunwala said, India is “ready as any developing country, but, I think the pace of readiness is going to go up like anything.”

Both Tata Motors and competitor Mahindra & Mahindra already sell electric vehicles. U.S. electric vehicle giant Tesla is reportedly preparing to open an electric car manufacturing unit in South India.

Signage for Tata Motors displayed at the company’s headquarters in Mumbai, India, on Jan. 27, 2018.

Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Diversified financial services firm Motilal Oswal this month told CNBC a lot of the excitement in India’s electric vehicle market is coming from ancillary spaces such as battery manufacturing.

Among the automakers, the firm said it prefers Maruti Suzuki — India’s largest carmaker — because of its strong distribution network even though Maruti itself is not quite as upbeat on electric vehicles yet.

India is attempting to both reduce its dependency on oil and improve its air quality. That is likely to spur a push into electric vehicles.

Reuters reported last year that India has potential plans to offer $4.6 billion in incentives to companies setting up advanced battery manufacturing facilities as part of its efforts to promote the use of electric vehicles. The country previously approved a scheme to subsidize the sale of electric and hybrid vehicles.

In this month’s annual budget for the fiscal year that begins on April 1, India announced a voluntary vehicle scrapping policy to phase out old vehicles that contribute to the country’s poor air quality.

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How to get the answers you want over email, according to an expert



More time than ever is being spent writing emails during the coronavirus pandemic, but as one expert points out, few of us are actually trained to use it effectively.  

Even before the remote working brought on by Covid-19, people were clocking up a huge amount of time on email — six years over the course of a lifetime on average, in fact. 

This was according to a study by software giant Adobe in 2019, referred to by business and marketing consultant Kim Arnold in her book “Email Attraction: Get what you want every time you hit send.” That is longer than time spent eating, socializing or going on holiday, over the course of a lifetime, Arnold highlighted. 

Despite this, she pointed out that no one actually gets formal training on how to write emails. And with enthusiasm for video calls waning, getting email right has never been more important. 

Indeed, Arnold told CNBC via telephone that email has been a bit of an “unsung hero” amid the pandemic, while videoconferencing app Zoom had been considered the “poster child” for communicating virtually over the past year. 

“We don’t really acknowledge what a powerful tool it can be, particularly at the moment,” she said. 

Historically, Arnold explained that workers have used email to mainly exchange information, but that it is now also being used to build professional relationships in the absence of face-to-face meetings.

With that in mind, Arnold shared the following tips for crafting the perfect email to start productive workplace conversations. 

Create a connection

People tend to go on “autopilot” when sending emails, said Arnold, speedily firing out messages without really engaging our brains.

“Actually, we don’t create connections like that and when we are working remotely we need to create those connections,” she said, describing email as a “conversation with a pause.”

She advised people to imagine what the first thing they would say if the person they are emailing were sat opposite them.

“Quite often we find that it’s not something like ‘I hope this email finds you safe and well’ or ‘please find attached the aforementioned report’,” she said.

Instead, she encouraged people to write more conversationally, even by starting with something as simple as “how are you?” and keeping in mind that we should “write to connect, we’re not writing to impress.”

In her book, Arnold also recommended avoiding opening phrases like “I’m writing to introduce myself…,” which focus too much on the sender.

An example that she gives of a more effective opener that focuses more on the recipient would be: “Your LinkedIn article on strengthening client relationships got me thinking.”

Spending a few seconds before writing the email to think about who the recipient is, what you want to happen after the email, and why they could care, should “skyrocket the chances of your email being opened and replied to,” she said.

Clear calls to action

One of Arnold’s biggest pieces of advice was to make sure every email has a call-to-action, that is “100% clear on the one thing you want that person to do next.”

All too often, Arnold said, people bury what they really want in an email, for fear of coming across as too direct or imposing on someone else’s time. She said that being clear and specific about what we want and giving a deadline, is actually more respectful of someone else’s time. 

“Often we say ‘do you have time?’ … ‘it would be great to discuss’ is a classic one at the end of the email but it’s so vague and then the onus is on them to check their diary to suggest dates,” she said.

Short explanations

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IATA app could restart quarantine-free, international flights



People wait for passengers at one of the International Arrivals halls at London Heathrow Airport in west London on February 14, 2021

JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP | Getty Images

A new app, set to launch within weeks, could mark the first step in resuming quarantine-free international travel.

The International Air Travel Association (IATA) travel app will allow governments and airlines to digitally collect, access and share information on the status of individual passengers’ Covid-19 test and vaccination.

The industry body, of which 290 airlines are members, said the tool will bring greater “efficiency” to health documentation checks, while speeding up the recovery of the hard-hit travel sector.

“It’s really about digitizing an existing process,” Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for airport passenger cargo and security, told CNBC Wednesday.

If we do manual processing, we will come to a grinding halt the minute we begin to see a restart.

Nick Careen

senior vice president (APCS), IATA

“This is the way forward, because if we do manual processing, we will come to a grinding halt the minute we begin to see a restart,” he said.

Singapore Airlines will be the first carrier to pilot the tool on an end-to-end London Heathrow route. Thirty other airlines, including Air New Zealand, as well as Emirates and Etihad in the UAE, are set to conduct trials through March and April.

IATA is not alone in developing so-called digital health passports intended to restart cross-border travel. International agencies, governments and tech companies are all also pitching in. But Careen said he hopes the app will establish a “minimum set of requirements” to allow for greater interoperability.

“Eventually you’ll see multiple people in this space,” he said, “but we’re setting the baseline in terms of what the standard needs to be.”

With the new app and continued vaccine rollouts, the global airline association estimates that travel could reach around 50% of 2019 levels by the end of this year.

Analysts had previously expected a greater pick up in travel in early 2021, but the continued spread of the virus and the emergence of new strains have pushed back those expectations.

“That’s the current economic forecast,” said Careen. “There’s a lot of variables that play into that.”

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