Amazon Ventures Further Into Gaming With Reported GameSparks Deal

Although Amazon continues to rattle the retail industry with massive acquisitions such as Whole Foods Market and Souq, its highly successful enterprise cloud division is leading the company in yet another direction — building and hosting game development platforms.

Amazon has reportedly acquired GameSparks, a backend platform provider for game developers, for approximately $10 million. The Telegraph first reported the acquisition, but neither party has confirmed the deal.

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The Power Of Surprise: Rue La La Drives Loyalty Via Product Sampling

Members-only e-Commerce fashion retailer Rue La La has expanded its partnership with e-Commerce media network and product sampling company BrandShare to deliver more free product samples to its shoppers. When the retailer ships purchased products to consumers, it regularly adds a package with a sample product from a fashion, beauty, or food and beverage brand. Each package is designed to surprise the shopper upon delivery, and includes a card explaining why Rue La La believes the product is a good fit for the consumer.

Rue La La first partnered with BrandShare in 2014 in an effort to drive loyalty to its brands. By delivering samples and targeted advertising in-home, Rue La La can generate new product sales going forward while enabling CPG brands to directly engage with its customers. As many as 73% of consumers said a new product sample would persuade them to purchase the item, according to data from Sampling Effectiveness Advisors.

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Stitch Fix COO Steps Down Ahead Of Rumored IPO

Online subscription fashion retailer and personal stylist Stitch Fix is losing its COO Julie Bornstein — perhaps at an inopportune time. In May, Stitch Fix hired investment banks Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to lead an initial public offering (IPO) that could value the retailer between $3 billion and $4 billion, according to Reuters.

TechCrunch reported that the retailer already has confidentially filed the IPO. Startups are allowed to file confidentially for IPOs under the JOBS Act, allowing them to test the waters prior to formally releasing their company’s inner workings. While an IPO filing date has not been confirmed, Stitch Fix fed into the speculation in June when it appointed a new CFO, Paul Yee.

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EBay Unveils Two Visual Search Features For Mobile Shopping

eBay is introducing two AI and machine learning-powered visual search features to its mobile app: Image Search and Find It On eBay. The features are designed to help shoppers use pictures instead of words to search for eBay products.

The Image Search feature lets users upload a photo onto the app’s search bar. eBay will then display listings that are a close match or are visually similar. The Find It On eBay feature allows shoppers on any social media platform or web site to share the URL with eBay, which will then show listings matching the product.

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Retailers Rejoice As Border Adjustment Tax Plan Falls Through

Many within the retail industry are breathing huge sighs of relief at the news that the proposed border adjustment tax (BAT) has been cut from the House Republican-led tax reform plan.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady initially devised the “Better Way” plan to create a 20% border tax on imported goods by ending retailers’ ability to deduct the cost of imported merchandise.

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Starbucks Doubles Down On China Expansion, Buys Out 1,300 Stores For $1.3B

Starbucks is buying out the remaining 50% share of its East China business from its joint venture partners for approximately $1.3 billion, marking the company’s biggest-ever acquisition and giving it 100% ownership of nearly 1,300 stores in the region. The acquisition aligns with the coffee giant’s target of operating 5,000 stores in China by 2021.

The move coincides with the retailer’s Q3 earnings announcement, which reported:

Can Discounted Cosmetics Drive Department Store Traffic?

The cosmetics counter has been a rare bright spot in these dark days for department stores — for example, the JCPenneySephora partnership has been a win-win for both parties. So it makes sense that other department stores would seek ways to leverage the category’s drawing power as a way to bring foot traffic into brick-and-mortar stores. But the tactic chosen by Macy’s and Bloomingdales — offering discounts on products that are rarely involved in promotional sales — is raising eyebrows. Many industry experts note that once a retailer lowers prices, even for a limited time or to a select audience, it’s difficult to push them back up to a “normal” level.

Meanwhile, Sephora is not putting all its eggs in one basket. The brand is testing Sephora Studio, a small (2,000 square feet) store concept that will be located outside of mall locations. The first Studio debuted on Boston’s Newbury Street on July 21. The Studios will offer skin consultations and the Sephora Digital Makeover Guide, which captures clients’ product, application and look preferences. Product selection will be limited due to the stores’ small size, but associates will be able to use an “order in store” feature via Sephora.com.

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As Amazon Hires 50,000 More Employees, Retail Competitors Rethink Job Priorities

Amazon is hosting a national job fair on Aug. 2 to fill more than 50,000 employees across its U.S. fulfillment network. The hiring splash is part of Amazon’s push to hire 130,000 workers by mid-2018, with this new round of hiring coming in the lead-up to the approaching holiday season.

If Amazon fulfills this hiring pledge, it will have approximately 300,000 employees — a whopping 10x the number of employees in 2011.

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