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Inside Retail (May 24th, 2017)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) initiated a new pay policy for its employees who take leave for military service. Wal-Mart said it will now pay any price difference between what an employee earns at the store and what they earn from the military, regardless of whether the service is involuntary, such as active duty, or voluntary, such as basic training. Previously, Wal-Mart only paid the compensation difference to non-volunteers. Now, the retailer says it wants to ensure any employee who is deciding on whether to enlist will not be deterred by a loss of income. “We believe that anyone who wants to serve in our Armed Forces should be able to do so without fear of losing wages or leaving their family in a lurch,” Gen. Gary Profit, Wal-Mart’s senior director of military programs, said in a statement. – CNN

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IKEA CEO Peter Agnefjall has left the Swedish company less than four years after taking the role. IKEA named Jesper Brodin, who is head of the retailer’s product range and supply chain, as its next leader, starting Sept. 1. IKEA did not disclose a reason for Agnefjall’s departure, but said he left of his own accord and would be spending some time with his family. “There are not going to be any major changes in strategic direction,” an IKEA spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. IKEA is trying to achieve $56 billion in annual sales by 2020 and has been reporting stronger profit and sales in recent years. – WSJ

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The number of mergers and acquisitions in the ailing retail sector is expected to rise this year, according to a report from A.T. Kearney. The global strategy and management firm interviewed more than 100 C-level executives in the retail industry, and 67 percent said they expect the pace of takeovers in the sector to pick up in the next several months. Last year, consolidation in the retail sector reached its highest level since the Great Recession as retailers felt pressure to grow profit and revenue. Among the U.S. mergers currently pending in the retail sector are Walgreens/Rite Aid. Neiman Marcus is also reportedly fielding suitors. – INVESTOPEDIA

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J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) has finally landed on a new chief marketing officer two months after the position was vacated by Mary Beth West, who left to join Hershey. Marci Grebstein, who recently served as chief marketing officer at Lowe’s, will join J.C. Penney in June to lead the marketing side of the department chain's turnaround effort. "Her broad retail expertise will be invaluable as we seek to differentiate our business through strategic marketing initiatives," CEO Marvin Ellison said in a statement. J.C. Penney is among a growing number of brick-and-mortar retailers facing declining sales as consumers shift to online shopping. J.C. Penney stock is down 44.5 percent so far this year. – ADAGE

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Struggling to attract younger buyers, luxury jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. reported same-store sales in the U.S. fell 4 percent in the first quarter from the year prior. That's much greater than the 0.5 percent drop analysts were expecting. Tiffany & Co. has been trying to attract younger buyers, who are favoring brands like Pandora A/S and Alex and Ani, with its new gold and silver jewelry line, but the retailer’s sales are still slumping. “We are focused on executing long-term strategies to achieve stronger and sustainable performance,” CEO Michael Kowalski said in a statement. Total U.S. sales were $392 million, down 3 percent from last year. Sales increased 8 percent in the Asia-Pacific region. – REUTERS

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