News

16 Jan, 2020
Amazon Australia signals pharmacy foray with new trademark application
The Sydney Morning Herald

The local arm of retail giant Amazon has filed a trademark for the term "Amazon Pharmacy", suggesting it could be looking to enter Australia's highly regulated pharmaceuticals market.

Submitted to trademark authority IP Australia last Thursday, the submission covers a number of goods and services classes in the pharmacy space, including various medical apparatuses, medication dispensers, online pharmacy retailing and the distribution of prescription medication.

Most notably, the trademark covers a "pharmacy packaging service that aligns, sorts and packages a patient's medications by date and time into individual packets".

This is similar to Amazon's existing pharmacy retail service in the US, which it kicked off last year through a $1.35 billion acquisition of online pharmacy startup PillPack.

PillPack offers pre-sorted medication packages containing individual daily doses, primarily aimed at users who take numerous drugs. The company co-ordinates with doctors and insurers to manage prescriptions, with licensed pharmacists overseeing the process.

Amazon has experienced a slow uptake after it first launched in Australia in late 2017, reporting a loss of $5.3 million after tax on $260 million in revenue for its first full year of operation.

Amazon has not indicated in which markets outside  the US it intends to launch pharmacy services. An Amazon Australia spokesperson said it would not comment on the Australian trademark application.

However, a foray into the $38 billion local pharmaceutical sector could be hard going for a new entrant such as Amazon, with Australia having strict rules on who can own pharmacies, and how prescriptions must be processed.

For example, pharmacies in Australia must be owned by a pharmacist, and legislation exists which dictates how close a new store can be to an existing pharmacy.

It's also unlikely Amazon would be able to significantly undercut drug prices, with the government's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme limiting the amount Australians pay for some medication to $41 or $6.60 for concession card holders.

Pharmacists are only able to discount the price by $1, leaving little wriggle room for the retail giant to offer cheaper rates on prescription medicines as it does for other consumer goods.

Finally, to have medication fulfilled online, customers must currently mail their paper prescriptions to the pharmacy first, though the Department of Health is currently investigating electronic prescription methods.

It's for these reasons that influential lobby group the Pharmacy Guild has brushed off Amazon's potential entrance into the market, saying Australians prefer to have their prescriptions filled face to face.

"Australia’s pharmacy network model and regulatory requirements around the supply of prescription medicines has meant most people continue to source their medicines from their local pharmacy where they can get face-to-face advice and assistance," a spokesperson said.

"Most Australians live within 2.5 km of a local pharmacy, where they can access subsidised medicines immediately – without waiting for a delivery from overseas."

Other operators have signalled their interest to collaborate with Amazon to provide online services, with the chief executive of pharmaceutical wholesaler Sigma, Mark Hooper, saying in 2018 he would rather work with the retail giant than fight it.

16 Jan, 2020
As Uber prepares for Aussie e-bikes, the rentals fight heats up
The Sydney Morning Herald

The fight for Australia's e-scooter and e-bike rental market will heat up this year and one global startup believes the winner will be the business most in favour with councils and regulators.

"Having more players in the market is a great thing for the industry... but we went with quite a regulated approach. We look at city councils and say 'Hey, we want to be part of the city'. We see them as partners," co-founder of Neuron Mobility Zachary Wang says.

The expansion plans come even though the use of e-scooters across the country is limited by law.

The vehicles can only be ridden on private property in New South Wales, though trials are in the works for broader use. In Victoria, e-scooters can't go faster than 10 km per hour on roads or have a power output of more than 200 watts.

Neuron Mobility, which Wang runs with co-founder Harry Yu, has launched its e-scooters in Brisbane and will roll out in Adelaide and Darwin this year after raising $US18.5 million ($27 million) from Square Peg Capital and GSR Ventures at the end of 2019.

Australia's scooter and bike rental market has been fraught, with operators quitting the local market over the past few years and abandoned bikes showing up in trees and rivers instead of their designated check points.

Neuron Mobility is looking to expand across the country at the same time that ride sharing giant Uber is working to bring its e-bike rental scheme to the local market.

Wang says while competition in the market is accelerating, the business will be able to fight the Uber brand name with well-placed scooters throughout cities and by building strong ties with councils.

"We feel even for a slightly newer brand, as long as we have the scooter at the right time in the right place we can [do this]," he says.

The growth of the business in Australia has come down to its relationship with regulators: it has been able to roll out in Brisbane after winning a tender to be the provider of scooters in the city and will launch in other states through similar partnerships.

The gradual approach to expansion is what piqued the interest of local investor Square Peg Capital, says partner Tushar Roy.

Square Peg is no stranger to the shared transportation space and was an early Australian investor in Uber.

Roy says unlike traditional car ride-sharing, bike and scooter startups have to operate more like logistics operators with greater oversight over their vehicle fleets.

"The way to think about it is not like an Uber, more [like] a bus operator or a taxi operator," he says.

"The only way to do it is to fully partner with cities."

Neuron charges 38c per minute to rent a scooter plus a $1 fee, as well as passes that allow for unlimited individual trips of up to 90 minutes which cost $89 a month. Wang says 150,000 local users have used the system since it launched here last year.

The company believes it will generate revenue in the "tens of millions of dollars" when it is operating at scale in Australia, but declined to reveal early turnover figures.

National domination will have to come one step at a time, though: each state has different regulations for electric bikes and scooters and while keen to broker agreements with Sydney and Melbourne, Neuron Mobility has not yet set plans to launch in Australia's two largest cities.

"We'll use a number of other cities [first] to demonstrate the look of scooters being used the right way... that they're something safe to use, and not a nuisance in the city," Wang says.

16 Jan, 2020
Newcastle tech firm scores $28m from Silicon Valley giant
Financial Review

Pegasus, a Newcastle-based technology company that provides workplace management software to companies including Woolworths, BHP, Visy, Lendlease, Aurizon and Ausgrid, has raised a $28 million funding round from Silicon Valley heavyweights Accel-KKR.

It is the first external funding round for the company, which started life as a mining labour hire firm in the NSW town of Singleton in 1987. Chief executive Adam Boyle said the funds would be used to target international growth and to fund potential acquisitions.

Unlike many of the tech start-ups raising capital from venture capital funds in Australia in recent times, Pegasus has thrived while flying under the radar by virtue of the fact that it is comfortably profitable and has clients in more than 80,000 companies.

Pegasus provides a software platform that lets organisations manage their contractors and employees, giving them control of such aspects as induction, training, site safety and asset management. It operates on a software as a service model and Mr Boyle said it has had annual profit increases of 25 per cent since 2013.

While it has an impressive roster of Australian clients, Mr Boyle said he and the company's new private equity backers recognised a big opportunity for international expansion. It has set up shop in Britain, mainland Europe and North America and will now look to speed up growth outside Australia.

'I had not done this before so I recruited our chairman, Craig Jones. who had previous PE-backed software operating experience.'

— Adam Boyle, Pegasus CEO

"I had not done this before so I recruited our chairman, Craig Jones. who had previous PE-backed software operating experience and understood our business. We also got along well and so were able to quickly reach agreement on the steps we needed to go through to position the company for investment."

Accel-KKR is now a minority shareholder in the company. Mr Boyle and Mr Jones own the majority.US-based Accel-KKR principal Joe Porten will take a seat on the Pegasus board, saying he was keen to assist in the company's organic and acquisitive geographic expansion plans.

"With employment growth worldwide coming from external workforces, Pegasus is well-positioned to grow its well-established worker networks,” Mr Porten said.

IPO on the agenda

Mr Boyle said the new funding round would last five years and thatan initial public offering was on the agenda, following the arrival of private equity funding to its books.

Pegasus's aim at the global workplace safety niche has notable similarities to another regional Australia-founded tech company, SafetyCulture, which started in Townsville, Queensland, and has also raised big US money, as it seeks to expand on the global uptake of its iAuditor app.

Mr Boyle said the two companies were not rivals, and that whereas SafetyCulture has moved a lot of its operations to Sydney, Pegasus was keen to remain based in Newcastle, two hours north of Sydney.

"For us, attracting strong talent and resources here in Newcastle is always a challenge. There hasn’t been a lot of this kind of investment in technology companies in Newcastle before but we are hoping that this is the start of much more to come," he said.

"We think we are proving that we can develop Newcastle talent to be globally competitive as well as enabling a strong career and life balance that only Newcastle can provide.

"We are always connected to our customers and our staff get the benefit of a lifestyle you can’t match in the bigger cities. The coffee is just as good here. I don’t understand why you would want to commute two hours a day or work to pay the rent when you work in software."

 

7 Jan, 2020
Global investment bank picks Xero the hero for 2020
SOURCE:
The Age
The Age

Market darling Xero is expected to enjoy a strong year with global investment bank RBC Capital Markets nominating the accounting software provider as the only Australian listed company to make its top 30 global trades list for 2020.

Xero, headed by former Apple, IBM and Microsoft employee Steve Vamos, posted a stellar 2019 with its shares soaring 90.4 per cent, putting it among the top performers on the broader S&P/ASX 200 Index.

In November Xero booked a 37 per cent increase in half-yearly revenue up to $257 million and subscriber numbers grew to 1.58 million globally. However, the growth came at a cost with the company's half-yearly net loss widening to $28.6 million from $19.6 million in the prior year.

At the time Mr Vamos said there was still room for significant growth for Xero with cloud accounting penetration sitting at 20 per cent worldwide, and 40 per cent in Australia.

"The interesting thing about our business is it requires a real commitment to building those partnerships with bookkeepers and accountants," he said. "It takes time for our business model to develop."

RBC has an outperform rating on the stock with a 12-month price target of $90 per share, a level that would see it breeze past the record level of $84.45 hit late last year.

The investment firm’s Sydney-based analyst Garry Sherriff believes the software provider has several factors working in its favour compared to its rivals.

"Xero is the only global accounting software player built in the cloud as a SaaS [software as a service] platform since inception for small-medium enterprises. This gives Xero material global scalability advantages versus competitors who started life as desktop or on-premise software packages," Mr Sherriff told clients.

"Xero doesn’t face the complexities of a hybrid solution or transitioning core offerings to the cloud, unlike peers," he said.

Already a dominant player in Australia and New Zealand, RBC expects its presence in both countries will grow in the years ahead. It forecasts Xero’s Australian market share will double to about 65 per cent by 2025 and New Zealand to be even higher at around 75 per cent.

Mr Sherriff doesn’t expect the company’s growth will be limited to its established markets.

"Xero is quickly gaining share in the UK with its core competitor Sage struggling with difficulties transitioning to cloud, platform outages, churn and management changes," he said.

"The UK total addressable market is around two times the size of Australia and New Zealand. We expect Xero to triple its UK share to around 24 per cent by 2025, largely at Sage’s expense."

RBC also believes the company has the potential to become a top three player in accounting software in the United States, a market it estimates to be 10 times larger than Australia and New Zealand combined.

"We forecast Xero to triple US market share to around 2 per cent by 2025 through investing in product and building brand awareness," Mr Sherriff said.

RBC is not alone in being bullish on Xero’s long-term prospects. Morgan Stanley recently lifted its price target to $90 per share while retaining an overweight rating.

"We continue to see Xero as a high growth stock," the investment bank told clients in early December.

"Xero is taking leadership globally, with sticky customers, operational leverage and upside from future platform revenue."

Morgan Stanley believes the company’s underlying long-term value is "underappreciated by investors".

"We often get asked whether the business will ever make bottom-line money," it said, acknowledging that Xero spends more on research and development (R&D) and sales and marketing (S&M) as a percentage of its sales compared with its rivals.

"We believe long term that as Xero scales it will see R&D and S&M on par with accounting software and established global SaaS peers."

Xero shares closed at $79.72 on Friday.

20 Dec, 2019
Gumtree finalises Carsguide acquisition
Financial Review

EBay-owned Gumtree has acquired Carsguide and Autotrader in an effort to boost its local presence and take on market leader Carsales.

Both parties declined to comment on the financial terms of he deal, revealed by The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday, however sources suggested the amount was close to $80 million.

The purchase of the Carsguide and Autotrader brands is in line with a global strategy eBay has been implementing over the past 12 months. In February this year, Gumtree completed the acquisition of British car classifieds business Motors.co.uk, another subsidiary of Cox Automotive.

"Gumtree is already an established player in the Australian private sales market, and the addition of CarsGuide.com.au and Autotrader.com.au will make our offerings even more compelling by giving Australian consumers and dealers more reach and choice in market,” eBay classifieds group senior vice president and general manager Alessandro Coppo said.

Carsguide and Autotrader are 70 per cent owned by Cox Automotive and 30 per cent owned by a group of major Australian car dealers. The 30 per cent stake is held via a company registered as DealerMotive, owned by a number of dealers.

"This is part of our commitment to deepen our reach into the automotive industry," Gumtree Australia head of motors Richard Dicello said.

Mr Dicello said the combined business would be "a really attractive alternative to the market leader", which is Carsales. Gumtree is number one in private vehicle listings in Australia.

Cox Automotive Media Solutions chief executive Shaun Cornelius and his team will join the combined eBay, Gumtree, Carsguide and Autotrader portfolio should the deal be approved by the competition regulator.

"Our business aligns perfectly with their business and strategy going forward, specifically within the Australian market there are real potential synergies," he said.

Martin Ward, the chief executive of AP Eagers, the $2.5 billion ASX-listed car dealer giant which had a 12 per cent stake, said the deal made sense in a fast-changing vehicle sales industry.

"Bringing together eBay's Gumtree with the formidable Carsguide and Autotrader brands creates a compelling offering for Australian car buyers,'' Mr Ward said.

"It builds on the strengths of eBay's platform for private sales while continuing to harness the advantages of the dealership network to create a more competitive classified landscape in automotive retailing''.

The deal comes amid an extended downturn in new car sales in Australia,  which has extended for 20 consecutive months across the industry which car dealers have blamed on brittle consumer confidence and a tightening of lending criteria by banks and financiers.

12 Dec, 2019
Afterpay's plans to dominate Europe
Financial Review

London | Buy now, pay later finch Afterpay has dashed out of the starting blocks in Britain but will look to consolidate there before tackling continental Europe, the company's London-based European chief says.

Carl Scheible's confident but cautious comments came after an upbeat prediction from Afterpay's Australian executive director, Nick Molnar, who told the company's AGM in November that a move into continental Europe would happen "sooner rather than later".

Mr Scheible, a European payments industry veteran hired a year ago to mastermind the British foray, also said he had to keep an eye on any potential headwinds from Brexit and a possible consumer spending slowdown.

Having bagged 400,000 customers and 330 merchants since launching in Britain in June, Mr Scheible said he wanted to bed that down before tackling the diverse and contested European market.

“I’d love to go into Europe, but I think we have to get the UK off the ground and solid. We’re six months in, post-launch, we have the busy Christmas season coming up. Then we’re into the new year, and we’ll see what it brings,” he said during an interview at the company's WeWork space in central London.

 

12 Dec, 2019
Afterpay's plans to dominate Europe
SOURCE:
AFR
AFR

London | Buy now, pay later fintech Afterpay has dashed out of the starting blocks in Britain but will look to consolidate there before tackling continental Europe, the company's London-based European chief says.

Carl Scheible's confident but cautious comments came after an upbeat prediction from Afterpay's Australian executive director, Nick Molnar, who told the company's AGM in November that a move into continental Europe would happen "sooner rather than later".

Mr Scheible, a European payments industry veteran hired a year ago to mastermind the British foray, also said he had to keep an eye on any potential headwinds from Brexit and a possible consumer spending slowdown.

Having bagged 400,000 customers and 330 merchants since launching in Britain in June, Mr Scheible said he wanted to bed that down before tackling the diverse and contested European market.

“I’d love to go into Europe, but I think we have to get the UK off the ground and solid. We’re six months in, post-launch, we have the busy Christmas season coming up. Then we’re into the new year, and we’ll see what it brings,” he said during an interview at the company's WeWork space in central London.

“We will listen to our retailers, all the largest names all have businesses in Europe as well, they’ve all expressed an interest for us to follow them. And so it’s something we’re looking at and evaluating."

The lay-by service is known as Clearpay in the British market. That's because Dutch finance company Arvato, an arm of German conglomerate Bertelsmann, grabbed first dibs on the Afterpay trademark in Europe.

Germany is one of the biggest consumer markets on the Continent, but Mr Scheible noted that Clearpay would be challenging rival millennial-focused payments provider Klarna – even though Afterpay sees itself as offering a different product to the credit-based Klarna model.

“Germany is Klarna’s second-biggest market, it’s home turf for them. You’d have to ask yourself, to what extent do you really want to go there? But we’ll go where our customers take us.”

Mr Scheible said that right now he was keeping a strictly narrow focus: not just one market, but also one sector of the retail market.

Because Britain was so much bigger than Australia, he could spend more time in the lucrative “swim lane” of consumer products before having to follow the Australian operation into the deeper waters of health care, travel and the like.

“Right now we are focusing solely on fashion, beauty, lifestyle and accessories and we can stay there for several years. But sooner or later you would broaden here, maybe sooner than in the US. And it’s actually a function of where our customers want to use us,” he said.

Braced for Brexit

Clearpay faces several headwinds in the British market, not least of which is Brexit. Until the December 12 election, it’s not clear when a transition period might start, or what end-state the country might transition into.

“Obviously that’s difficult to plan for, but it’s obviously one we think of, discuss, what does it mean for your business,” Mr Scheible said.

“It’s not only our business, it’s our retailers as well. Every UK retailer or American retailer, a lot of these ecommerce providers, they’re pan-European but they run it all from the UK. Everyone’s going to watch this space and see what it means for their business. We’re staying close, and we’ll try to be nimble and adapt.”

The other local risk for Clearpay is the possibility that the economy will slow further. Official data suggest retail sales have been flat-lining since the summer. Bur Mr Scheible said the company should be resilient.

“We’re well-positioned compared to some others. You can look at our service as a budgeting tool to get by over two pay cheques rather than the one where you run out of money for something you need for that thing that’s coming up,” he said.

“If you’re a credit provider and certainly have a big book that’s outstanding over a long period of time, that’s a risky proposition; but we’re not that. We’re very distributed, which is a very different risk profile.”

Both Klarna and LayBuy got a headstart in Britain over Clearpay, but Mr Scheible was bullish about his company’s prospects.

“We are acquiring consumers at a faster rate here than we did in the US, in raw numbers; and they did it faster than Australia,” he said.

He reckoned that was partly because Klarna had opened British eyes to the buy now, pay later option.

“So while we’re having to build awareness around Clearpay the brand, we don’t have to build awareness and educate the consumer around 'buy now, pay later' the service, the product,” he said.

Afterpay’s existing relationship such as companies like Urban Group, boohoo, ASOS, Foot Locker and JD Sports had also given Clearpay a fillip. That would now be buttressed by the recent tie-up with major department store chain M&S.

M&S has been struggling with its clothing division and isn’t exactly associated with the cutting-edge of millennial fashion but Mr Scheible said that was all changing.

“M&S is in what they call a transformation process. A big part of that is digital, and another big part of that is a younger demographic. If you look at their marketing now, their photo shoots, it’s very young, it’s very 20s early 30s,” he said.

“That is one of the reasons why they chose us. We’re not a credit provider, they have a huge financial services business themselves, they have a large credit card portfolio; so it wasn’t really about that, it was about the fact that our positioning as a slightly different product really resonates with that demographic they’re targeting.”

Beyond borders?

Another feature of the British market is its active regulator and its feisty NGOs, alive to any potential avenue that might induce hard-up Britons into deeper debt.

On regulation, Mr Scheible noted that in Britain the company had to do ID checks, which it hadn’t needed to do in Australia. “Regulation is a place that continues to evolve and that we continue to monitor,” he said.

On the debate over unsustainable debt, which has its origins in various payday loan scandals, Mr Scheible said Clearpay was "filling a market void that traditional providers haven’t provided to this demographic”.

“Because they’re living within their budget, the fact that we can provide a budgeting tool for short-term spend that’s based on trust and paying back I think is a very positive thing,” he said.

The move to Britain opens up an intriguing possibility. Young Australians do buy fast-fashion from British outlets. Could they use Afterpay across borders?

“There is a corridor between Australia and the UK, but there’s also a corridor between the UK and Ireland, and can we open up some of these things?” Mr Scheible mused.

“First of all it’s the Afterpay world, and then you can talk about opening it up beyond that. Doing that depends on the regulatory requirement of that country, then you have some merchants who just don’t, some UK merchants that only ship to the UK, others that ship internationally. You’re opening up a whole bunch of complexity. Not that it can’t be done.”

 

 

12 Dec, 2019
Aussie start-up raises $70m from Goldman Sachs, Cisco
SOURCE:
AFR
AFR

Sydney-based Secure Code Warrior has banked the largest ever external funding round for a local cyber security start-up, with Goldman Sachs, Forgepoint Capital and the venture fund of tech giant Cisco the lead investors in a $US47.6 million ($69.8 million) round aimed at establishing a global dominance in its market.

The company has attracted a host of big name companies, including Woolworths, Xero and Telstra locally and some of the world's largest banks, to use its game-style platform, which helps software developers write secure code.

The latest funding round, one of the largest locally this year, also sees Australian venture capital fund AirTree Ventures and Washington DC-based Paladin Capital follow on from their investment in a $US3.5 million funding round in September 2018.

The company's co-founder and chief executive, Pieter Danhieux, said the leap from a $3.5 million investment to $47.6 million in just over a year was an indication that when its first external funding occurred, the company was more advanced than many other start-ups that have attracted investment.

He said its early commercial success meant it could survive on its cash flow, and it is now looking to scale up dramatically. It is already established locally, in Europe and in the US, and has also begun winning clients in Asia.

5 Dec, 2019
Google co-founders step down as executives of parent Alphabet
Financial Review

San Francisco |  The co-founders of Google are stepping down as executives of its parent company, Alphabet, ending a remarkable two decades during which Larry Page and Sergey Brin shaped a start-up born in a Silicon Valley garage into one of the largest, most powerful – and, increasingly, most feared – companies in the world.

Sundar Pichai, who has been leading Google as chief executive for more than four years, will take on additional duties as Alphabet's CEO, the position held by Page. The company isn't filling Brin's position as president.

Brin and Page met as Stanford University graduate students in 1995 and started the company soon after. What started as a way to catalogue the growing internet has now become one of the most powerful companies in the world.

Google dominates online search and digital advertising and makes the world's most widely used operating system for smartphones, Android. It's hard to make it through a whole day without using one of Google's services – ranging from online tools to email, cloud computing systems, phones and smart speaker hardware.

Page and Brin, in announcing the news on Wednesday (AEDT), said the company had "evolved and matured" in the two decades since its founding. Both promised to stay active as board members and shareholders.

"Today, in 2019, if the company was a person, it would be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost," they wrote in a blog post.

Alphabet – an umbrella corporation that the two created in 2015 – still boasts Google as its central fixture and key moneymaker. But it's also made up of what are known as "other bets", or longshot projects. That includes drone company Wing and self-driving car firm Waymo.

Page and Brin both have been noticeably absent from Google events in the past year. Both stopped making appearances at the weekly question-and-answer sessions with employees, and Page didn't attend this summer's Alphabet shareholders meeting even though he was still in the CEO role.

Alphabet has been positioning Pichai as the de facto leader for quite some time. Pichai, 47, has worked at the company for 15 years, serving as a leader in projects to build the company's Chrome browser and overseeing Android.

Pichai, who has an engineering background, took over as the head of Google's products before being promoted to CEO when Alphabet was created. Pichai is known as a soft-spoken and respected manager.

Long-time tech analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies said that for all intents and purposes, Pichai has been the public face and the most instrumental person inside Google for the past few years. Alphabet has made him the top executive voice at shareholders meetings, on earnings call and as a spokesman at congressional hearings.

So far, the company has shown no signs that it intends to replace Pichai at Google. But Bajarin said doing so might make sense, given that Pichai will have so much on his plate as CEO of the overall business, including regulatory pressures from the US and Europe.

 

Multiple battlefronts

Google is facing strong pushback from privacy groups, which are concerned about the personal information that it has collected on its users, mostly to target advertising. Google also faces complaints that it abuses its dominance in search and online advertising to push out rivals.

The company is the subject of antitrust inquiries from Congress, the Department of Justice and a contingency of states in the US and from European authorities. It has also faced harsh criticism about the material on its sites – and was slapped with a $US170 million ($248 million) fine because its video streaming site YouTube improperly collected personal data on children without their parents' consent.

In the short term, Bajarin doesn't expect much to change at the company. And if anything does, it will be due to government regulation – not the executive shuffle.

As for Page and Brin, Bajarin added: "Keep in mind, they are not losing their title as billionaires, but they are changing their roles."

Brin and Page still hold more than 50 per cent voting shares of Alphabet. According to a regulatory filing in April, Page holds 42.9 per cent of the company's Class B shares and 26.1 per cent of its voting power. Brin holds 41.3 per cent of the Class B shares and 25.2 per cent of the voting power.

Google has nearly doubled its headcount since Pichai took over as chief executive, growing from a company of 59,000 employees to 114,000 now.

Google's stock increased less than 1 per cent in after-hours trading when the news was announced.

Google's longes-serving CEO is still Eric Schmidt, the former executive brought into the role in 2001 as a so-called "adult supervisor" for Brin and Page. Schmidt stepped into the position as the company's board worried about the relative inexperience of Brin and Page to manage the growing company.

He stayed on until 2011, when Page once again became chief executive. Schmidt stayed on the board until June.

Page dropped out of graduate school at Stanford to start Google and doesn't have a business degree. He grew up in Michigan, where his late father, Carl, was a computer scientist and pioneer in artificial intelligence, and his mother taught computer programming.

Page began working on personal computers when he was just six years old in 1979, when home computers were a rarity. The geeky impulses carried into his adulthood, leading him to once build an inkjet printer out of Lego.

4 Dec, 2019
Superdry's TikTok Christmas campaign has 2.8 million reach - before launch
SOURCE:
Ragtrader
Ragtrader

Superdry has enlisted several high profile TikTokers and influencers as the faces of its latest Australasian Christmas campaign.

Gold Coast TikTok star Lakota Johnson leads the pack with 1.5 million followers on the viral social app.

Australian TikTok duo Nathaniel Taplin and Shayla Jay (230k followers) and Tim Montgomery (350k followers) have also been enlisted.

Before going live, the campaign already has an organic reach of 2.8 million prior to launch, across influencer channels and is set to be released this week in stores across Australia and New Zealand.

The campaign One For Me, One For You centres around influencers gifting each other matching pairs of Superdry slides, supporting the brand’s Christmas promotion that offers consumers two pairs for $40.

TikTok has burst onto the social media scene within the last twelve months, with third-party sources estimating it has more than one billion monthly users and 500 million daily users.

Superdry was one of Australia’s first early adapting brands to engage with the platform.

It enlisted TikTokers, through Born Bred Talent, for store launches whilst also launching a global account on the platform in August this year.

Superdry head of marketing Matthew Iozzi said the potential is limitless.

“It’s the new frontier of social media.

“We saw an opportunity to herald our Christmas campaign in a fun and super engaging way and took the leap."

Recognising that not all of its customers are avid TikTokers, Superdry’s Christmas campaign also features several high profile Aussie mums and Rugby Union twins Jean Pierre and Ruan Smith (15k).

“Our customers come from all walks of life and we wanted a cast that reflected this," Iozzi said.

4 Dec, 2019
'Through the roof': Retailers reap the benefits as shoppers go wild for Black Friday
The Sydney Morning Herald

Black Friday sales at one of Australia's biggest online retailers almost doubled this year, as shoppers turned out in force despite broader weak-spending and low-consumer-confidence conditions.

Online retailer Kogan said sales for last Friday were up over 80 per cent on 2018, coming in just shy of $10 million compared to $5.4 million the year prior. Founder Ruslan Kogan said the company had already beaten last year's results by early afternoon.

"Black Friday was massive. It's clear that more and more Aussies are turning online for their Christmas shopping," the retailer told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

"Sales numbers indicate Aussies are becoming more and more aware of Black Friday sales and it's something we've become very good at."

Black Friday sales are an American tradition which have become increasingly popular in Australia over the past decade. The event begins on the fourth Friday in November and runs through the weekend to finish with Cyber Monday, a day focused on online sales.

Historically, Australian merchants have been reluctant to participate in the US tradition, but with increasing competition from international retailers, local businesses have felt compelled to get on board.

'It's gone mad. It's a new phenomenon.'

Harvey Norman founder Gerry Harvey

 

This includes retailing powerhouse Harvey Norman, which engaged in an advertising blitz ahead of the weekend, resulting in bumper sales.

"[Sales] went through the roof," co-founder and chairman Gerry Harvey told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. "Friday was good, Saturday was better, and Sunday was sensational."

"It's gone mad. It's a new phenomenon."

Amazon Australia said last Friday was the largest shopping day the retailer had seen since launching in Australia in late 2017, with gaming products and smart home devices the most popular.

National Australia Bank predicted $2.9 billion would be spent by consumers over the weekend, and while it's too early to confirm the figures, head of the Australian Retailers Association Russell Zimmerman said he believed the weekend had been a great success.

"There's definitely more excitement around it this year, the public was more aware of it, and many more retailers were engaged," said Mr Zimmerman. "Retailers I've been speaking to said customers were opening their wallets."

The greater engagement was largely due to greater participation from Australia's small businesses, Mr Zimmerman claims, with Black Friday now a "far more important" date on the calendar than it ever has been.

Small business owners Zane and Omar Sabre agree, with 2019 marking the second time their luxury leather goods business Maison de Sabre had participated in Black Friday.

"We broke last year's record within an hour of the sale going live," Zane said. "For our Australian market alone we saw a 300 per cent increase in revenue, and combined with our international markets it was a 700 per cent increase."

The company, which pulls in over $10 million in revenue a year, recorded $800,000 in sales over the 24-hour Black Friday period at their US online store alone, but the two were pleasantly surprised by Australia's appetite for deals.

"Australia was incredibly surprising in the way it performed this year, there was a lot more awareness of the sale, what retailers are offering and how to take advantage of it," they said.

Christmas comes early

The good news may cue a sigh of relief for Australia's retail sector, which has been stymied by weak consumer spending and low confidence despite three interest rate cuts and a tax refund.

Many had been bracing themselves for a bleak Christmas period with Deloitte's annual pre-Christmas survey of retailers showing nearly 40 per cent were expecting sales to either decline or stay flat.

Mr Harvey noted that while he was still optimistic about Christmas, the November sales would definitely take a shine off the key end-of-year trading period.

"A lot of shoppers bought stuff they would have usually bought three weeks from now, so it has to bring forward sales," he said.

But for the Maison de Sabre founders, it's all uphill from here, with sales not dropping off until after New Year's Day.

"A lot of brands get worried about Black Friday cannibalising sales into December, but from our data we've seen that doesn't really have much of an effect," Omar said.

4 Dec, 2019
Google co-founders step down as executives of parent Alphabet
Australian Financial Review

San Francisco |  The co-founders of Google are stepping down as executives of its parent company, Alphabet, ending a remarkable two decades during which Larry Page and Sergey Brin shaped a start-up born in a Silicon Valley garage into one of the largest, most powerful – and, increasingly, most feared – companies in the world.

Sundar Pichai, who has been leading Google as chief executive for more than four years, will take on additional duties as Alphabet's CEO, the position held by Page. The company isn't filling Brin's position as president.

Brin and Page met as Stanford University graduate students in 1995 and started the company soon after. What started as a way to catalogue the growing internet has now become one of the most powerful companies in the world.

Google dominates online search and digital advertising and makes the world's most widely used operating system for smartphones, Android. It's hard to make it through a whole day without using one of Google's services – ranging from online tools to email, cloud computing systems, phones and smart speaker hardware.

Page and Brin, in announcing the news on Wednesday (AEDT), said the company had "evolved and matured" in the two decades since its founding. Both promised to stay active as board members and shareholders.

"Today, in 2019, if the company was a person, it would be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost," they wrote in a blog post.

Alphabet – an umbrella corporation that the two created in 2015 – still boasts Google as its central fixture and key moneymaker. But it's also made up of what are known as "other bets", or longshot projects. That includes drone company Wing and self-driving car firm Waymo.

Page and Brin both have been noticeably absent from Google events in the past year. Both stopped making appearances at the weekly question-and-answer sessions with employees, and Page didn't attend this summer's Alphabet shareholders meeting even though he was still in the CEO role.

Alphabet has been positioning Pichai as the de facto leader for quite some time. Pichai, 47, has worked at the company for 15 years, serving as a leader in projects to build the company's Chrome browser and overseeing Android.

Pichai, who has an engineering background, took over as the head of Google's products before being promoted to CEO when Alphabet was created. Pichai is known as a soft-spoken and respected manager.

Long-time tech analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies said that for all intents and purposes, Pichai has been the public face and the most instrumental person inside Google for the past few years. Alphabet has made him the top executive voice at shareholders meetings, on earnings call and as a spokesman at congressional hearings.

So far, the company has shown no signs that it intends to replace Pichai at Google. But Bajarin said doing so might make sense, given that Pichai will have so much on his plate as CEO of the overall business, including regulatory pressures from the US and Europe.

Multiple battlefronts

Google is facing strong pushback from privacy groups, which are concerned about the personal information that it has collected on its users, mostly to target advertising. Google also faces complaints that it abuses its dominance in search and online advertising to push out rivals.

The company is the subject of antitrust inquiries from Congress, the Department of Justice and a contingency of states in the US and from European authorities. It has also faced harsh criticism about the material on its sites – and was slapped with a $US170 million ($248 million) fine because its video streaming site YouTube improperly collected personal data on children without their parents' consent.

In the short term, Bajarin doesn't expect much to change at the company. And if anything does, it will be due to government regulation – not the executive shuffle.

As for Page and Brin, Bajarin added: "Keep in mind, they are not losing their title as billionaires, but they are changing their roles."

Brin and Page still hold more than 50 per cent voting shares of Alphabet. According to a regulatory filing in April, Page holds 42.9 per cent of the company's Class B shares and 26.1 per cent of its voting power. Brin holds 41.3 per cent of the Class B shares and 25.2 per cent of the voting power.

Google has nearly doubled its headcount since Pichai took over as chief executive, growing from a company of 59,000 employees to 114,000 now.

Google's stock increased less than 1 per cent in after-hours trading when the news was announced.

Google's longes-serving CEO is still Eric Schmidt, the former executive brought into the role in 2001 as a so-called "adult supervisor" for Brin and Page. Schmidt stepped into the position as the company's board worried about the relative inexperience of Brin and Page to manage the growing company.

He stayed on until 2011, when Page once again became chief executive. Schmidt stayed on the board until June.

Page dropped out of graduate school at Stanford to start Google and doesn't have a business degree. He grew up in Michigan, where his late father, Carl, was a computer scientist and pioneer in artificial intelligence, and his mother taught computer programming.

Page began working on personal computers when he was just six years old in 1979, when home computers were a rarity. The geeky impulses carried into his adulthood, leading him to once build an inkjet printer out of Lego.

 

 

 

 

22 Nov, 2019
https://www.insideretail.com.au/news/store-upgrades-15-new-sites-for-city-chic-201911
inside retail

City Chic has flagged plans to open 15 new Australian outlets within three years and expand the format of 15 existing stores in a show of confidence to investors as the crucial Christmas period looms.

The plus-size clothing retailer will tell shareholders at its annual general meeting on Thursday that it remains on track for positive comparable sales growth for FY20, highlighting plans to accelerate its online growth in the US and target larger new bricks-and-mortar outlets locally.

The chain opened nine new stores and expanded the format of three others in FY19 at a time when many retailers are reducing their footprint amid stagnant turnover and high rents.

It has already opened five stores in FY20 as its increasing US presence helps offset the burden of a “challenging retail environment” in Australia.

City Chic chief executive Phil Ryan said the new physical stores were performing to expectations even as the company’s sales increasingly came via its online portal.

“We’re consistently reviewing our store portfolio to ensure that the economics are in line with turnover and the changing rental market,” Ryan said.

“We will only (open stores) when the deals are correct to ensure that the bricks-and-mortar business is economically structured for the new retail environment.”

Shares in the company were 0.73 per cent higher at $2.77 after 45 minutes of trade on Thursday and nearly tripled in value in 2019.

City Chic offloaded Specialty Fashion brands Millers, Katies, Rivers, Crossroads and Autograph to rival retailer Noni B in 2018 as it set its sights on strong growth via the plus-size market, which it estimates to be worth $50 billion globally.

Investors cheered the company’s first stand-alone profit result as City Chic Collective back in August as it swung from a $9.3 million full-year loss to a $16 million gain, and increased sales from continuing operations by 12.6 per cent to $148.4 million.

The company says US online sales remain key to its FY20 strategy.

However, while the company is on track to integrate its newly acquired US retailer Avenue as a stand-alone website, it accepts sales will drop during the first year as it revamps the bankrupt American brand.

“Obviously the bankruptcy and the closure of all (Avenue) stores across the US will have caused damage to the brand and accordingly, we expect to see a material reduction in revenue in year one,” Ryan said.

City Chic will also roll out the playwear range from Hips and Curves in the second half of FY20 and continue its wholesale trail in Europe.

City Chic said much of its success in the year ahead hinged on its trading performance during the next six weeks, when shoppers hit the Christmas, Black Friday and cyber Monday sales.

“Given the large trading months in this quarter, our earnings in the first half outweigh earnings in the second half of the financial year,” Ryan said.

20 Nov, 2019
38 Top New Retail Tech Start-Ups
SOURCE:
Insider
Insider

Retail tech start-ups continue to open up across the globe, but for many their focus is shifting. With so many big players occupying so many different sectors, these start-ups are starting to address increasingly niche customer and business problems – which might just have the biggest impact.

Following our previous round-ups of the world’s leading retail tech start-ups, here we summarise the latest initiatives – giving you only the best and most innovative examples.

Analytics and Insights

1. Afresh

Afresh uses AI powered demand forecasting to help inform food retailers of what they should stock up on. The company suggests that every year a trillion dollars of food goes to waste – and this is a great example of how tech can solve the problem. The AI is human-centred and provides real-time data meaning staff can react instantly to wastage issues. Several tech solutions have launched that address the issue of food waste, but this one really caught our eye.

2. Fixel

Fixel is an AI platform that helps brands to understand their online customers better. Using machine learning, it measures website visitors based on their level of engagement, rather than more traditional, transactional metrics. This not only helps businesses to optimise their website, but provides data that can vastly improve their wider customer understanding. Improving online analytics seems like a really smart use of AI’s potential.

3. Qmatch

Qmatch is a really interesting Chilean based tech platform that helps retailers to get deeper data on everything they sell online. Its data validation technology extracts information from any ecommerce platform online giving retailers key stats on how their products are performing. Essentially, this is big data being applied in a really useful way, as it helps a retailer to understand whether it needs to change its prices or product placements in real-time.

4. Vue.ai

Vue.ai is a well-established, AI-powered, retail analytics platform that already boasts a number of blue-chip fashion clients. It uses image recognition and online behavioural data which allow retailers to automate certain functions and offer personalised experiences. Importantly, the insights can be used by any team within a retail business, from marketing to merchandising. Currently, AI’s most effective use in retail seems to be in relation to data analytics and this is a great example.

5. Aeropay

Aeropay, born in Chicago, is a fascinating business. It’s an app that simply allows a customer to pay a business directly – without the need for a third-party to process the transaction and therefore charge fees to either party. For smaller businesses, these fees can be really prohibitive – and often are the reason they remain cash-only. Customers in return earn cashback rewards for using the service. It’s refreshing to see a payment solution built for the small business end of the market.

6. Caper

Caper is the smart self-checkout cart that allows customers to simply place items in the cart and checkout without using anything other than the cart. By scanning the item on the cart and then placing it in the trolley the customer can pay on the cart once they are finished. They don’t even need to download an app. The cart is also able to make recommendations on other items based on what is already in the cart. It can also share promotions and deals so the customer doesn’t miss out. Self-checkout innovations are abundant but this is one of the very best we’ve seen.

7. Inokyo

Inokyo is another third-party AI-powered checkout system for physical stores. Cameras track what customers pick up, and a simple QR scan on the way in and out ensures you’re charged correctly. The tech recognises new and returning customers, and works whether you have its app or not. As a third-party tech provider, it’s undoubtedly interested in attracting retailers who don’t have the resources to build unmanned stores from scratch themselves.

8. Standard Cognition

Standard Cognition is a start-up offering AI-powered self-checkout solutions for physical stores. Its model is impressively simple: it simply installs overhead cameras that monitor everything a customer puts into their shopping basket. Although Amazon Go and BingoBox in China are successfully running unmanned stores, this is one of the first third-party providers of the necessary infrastructure – making it a start-up with huge potential. Standard Cognition also has a demo store in San Francisco where you can test the tech for yourself.

Delivery and Logistics

9. Ladingo

Ladingo is a tech platform that aims to solve the stubborn problem of international deliveries. It’s cloud-based software that allows businesses selling items of any size to ship them globally at competitive prices. Importantly, Ladingo automates complex processes like customs issues and tracking. It also generates quotes in real time ensuring shipping quotes don’t hold up sales. Platforms like Ladingo could be hugely helpful for businesses of all sizes.

10. Leaf Trade

Leaf Trade is a wholesale ordering platform that connects licensed cannabis vendors with dispensaries. It makes the process of ordering and selling legalised cannabis simpler and faster, and makes the entire process more transparent. Given the demand for business transparency, this feels like an essential tech innovation within an industry that’s changing rapidly as more areas see cannabis being legalised.

11. Return Runners

US-based Return Runners is a nifty app that matches you with a local runner who will pick up any unwanted retail items you have and return them on your behalf. Customers are clearly notified at every stage and receive confirmation once the return has been completed. There is a nominal fee of $9.99 for the first item returned, and an additional $0.99 for subsequent items. The app aims to partner with as many retailers as possible to widen the appeal of this service. Any start-up that can make returns easier and appeal to the increasingly fitness-conscious should be on to a winner.

12. Shipsi

Shipsi is a start-up that just makes sense. It’s an instant delivery platform that partners with last-mile delivery companies to solve logistical issues for retailers and customers. By working with multiple delivery partners, Shipsi ensures some healthy competition and therefore better prices and services for customers. The bidding war that goes on between these partners behind the scenes is all done algorithmically, so retailers simply convert more sales and customers get a better deal.

13. Tompkins Robotics

Tompkins Robotics has successfully launched the world’s first portable sorting system with autonomous robots. ‘T-sort’ can handle packages of various sizes and shapes, and works well whether in a small stockroom or a large fulfilment centre. The technology is growing rapidly and we’re a fan because this addresses the issue that is the biggest barrier for so many omnichannel brands: logistics. You can expect to see these robots popping up in a warehouse near you.

14. Yantriks

Yantriks is another US-based tech start-up that focuses on using big data and AI to ‘personalise fulfillment’. By this it means that its system can analyse supply, demand and customer data to optimise inventory and delivery solutions. It’s already growing rapidly and helping retailers to implement and improve click and collect offerings, last mile deliveries and many more services besides – all of which are helping to boost sales conversion. Any tech solution that can solve logistical issues has a great chance of succeeding.

Mobile and Apps

15. 2ndKitchen

2ndKitchen is a brilliant start-up that, like most great businesses, solves a simple and clear problem. Its app allows businesses like hotels, bars and office spaces that don’t have suitable kitchens to provide great food to their customers by connecting with local restaurants. 2ndKitchen is a simple platform that does all the connecting, taking care of orders, payments and customer service – and everyone wins.

16. GettinLocal

GettinLocal is a smart, mobile marketing platform built exclusively for local, smaller businesses. Though still in its infancy, we think it has big potential. From a consumer point of view, it’s an app that offers them deals, discounts and exclusives from retailers in their local area. As a result, any local businesses that team up with GettinLocal have the opportunity to build a loyal, local customer base. This community focus makes it stand out and it’s an idea that could be great news for struggling high streets in the US, UK and beyond.

17. KudiGO

KudiGO is a mobile end-to-end POS system built specifically for micro retailers in Africa. Smartly, its mobile-first design perfectly suits a continent that accesses the internet primarily through smartphones. It combines retail, accounting, analytics and payment and allows small, and sometimes isolated, retailers to implement a slick and professional payment system. In Hausa, spoken in many countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Kudi translates as money.

18. QuickBite

QuickBite facilitates mobile ordering of food for vendors and customers from anywhere. It specifically targets food trucks, events and pop-ups, allowing customers to order food through the app and pick it up when they want to. They offer a simple pricing model of 10% per order with no up-front fees. With both mobile ordering and mobile food on the increase, this solution looks like a smart one.

 

Physical Stores

19. AWM Smart Shelf

The ‘Smart Shelf’ from AWM ingeniously brings many of the benefits of online shopping into the physical store. It links product displays with nearby sensors, and as a result offers various benefits including inventory information, product and customer data. Using video displays, it even triggers video content relevant to the customer demographic and product type. Customers get relevant marketing content – and retailers get valuable consumer insights.

20. Buzzstreet

Ever found yourself lost in a department store or shopping mall? BUZZ is a tech start-up that aims to solve that simple, age-old problem. It’s a navigation platform that retailers can implement to help shoppers find their way around an internal space. It’s a brilliant idea, and because it involves connecting with shoppers, there are many added services available to retailers like data analytics, personalised marketing and footfall tracking. The best retail ideas are the ones that solve customer problems – and BUZZ does exactly that.

21. Cooler Screens

Cooler Screens converts commercial fridge and freezer doors into IoT connected displays that can react to and interact with passers by. Using eye tracking, sensors and cameras, they can determine age, gender, what you’re looking at, and even your emotional response. This data then automatically triggers promotions relevant to you. There is a lot of buzz about Cooler Screens, and given the demand for hyper-personalised advertising it’s easy to see why.

22. Deep North

Deep North describes itself as a start-up that redefines video analytics. It uses a retailers’ existing in-store cameras (or installs new ones) and uses AI to improve the insights that can be gathered. Rather than mere footfall, retailers can analyse behaviour, patterns, motivations, gestures and demographic in great detail, and in real-time. This kind of data is of course incredibly valuable to retail stores and that’s why we rate this start-up highly.

AR and VR

23. Admix

Admix is an ‘extended reality’ (VR and AR) advertising platform. It allows retailers to feature their products in 3D within VR and AR experiences. In other words, Nike could use Admix to allow a customer to virtually pick up a pair of its sneakers. Many believe 3D product placement will play a key part in next-gen advertising and Admix is well-placed to take advantage of this.

24. Sipp

Sipp is an augmented reality wine club. When you receive a bottle of wine from Sipp, you can scan the label using the Sipp AR app and various information is revealed about this particular bottle, like how best to serve it and what food to pair it with. It’s thought that this AR integration could help turn millennials into wine lovers too. It’s good to see AR being used in a smart, practical and functional way – and not just as a gimmick.

25. Spexy

Spexy is an Indian-based tech start-up that provides a virtual try-on facility for eyewear. Whether online or in-store, users can quickly try on several pairs and styles of eyewear quickly, and share those looks through social media or WhatsApp. It already credits Ray Ban as a client, and like IKEA’s augmented reality app or Nike’s digital foot scanner, it has the potential to close a huge gap between online and offline shopping.

 

Staff

26. Blueday

Blueday aggregates vast amounts of data to analyse team performance and then address the strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, it can provide reliable recommendations about where improvements can be made and how sales can be maximised. It’s focusing on larger retailers (with a minimum of 25 stores) and it feels like a concept that neatly fits a gap in the market. Getting the best out of staff is a tough and time-consuming task – and this has the potential to do it better, and faster.

27. Graspie

Graspie is a mobile-first learning and engagement platform for employees. It’s especially relevant for retailers because its focus is on engaging younger workers who respond more to mobile-enabled platforms. It’s flexible and customisable, so retailers can take the raw platform and make it meet their training needs. The design mirrors the look and feel of popular mobile apps, which is a smart approach.

28. NuID

NuID addresses an often ignored but incredibly important factor for any business: cyber security. It’s a simple platform for businesses that uses cryptography tools and blockchain technology to eliminate the need for stored passwords. Passwords of any kind are often shared with companies that users log into, which is a key source of cyber crime. As a result, NuID protects businesses, employees and customers from hackers.

29. Percent Pledge

Percent Pledge is another start-up based in Chicago’s booming tech scene that provides a simple platform to allow employers to offer charitable giving as an employee benefit. It’s incredibly easy to use and very customisable, and has a number of simple tools to help employers and employees alike pick their charity partners. It’s a smart idea that taps into employees’ desire to give back on their own terms, and to their own causes.

30. Upsuite

For growing retailers, finding the right office space is challenging. Upsuite is a platform that addresses this issue offering a complete inventory of coworking and flexible office space across the globe. It includes information on costs, location, amenities as well as photos and reviews from other users of the spaces. It even assigns advisors to help businesses to find the perfect space. For retailers and other businesses of a certain size, this is a really useful concept.

 

Social Media

31. Allure

Allure has launched an ‘image creation solution’ that allows fashion retailers to create images of models wearing their clothes without ever doing a photoshoot. It uses AI to create original, relevant, on-brand and high-quality images that massively reduce costs and improve scalability. In a world where image creation can so easily be automated, this is a smart solution that will appeal to fashion brands wanting to boost their social presence quickly and affordably.

32. Cherry Pick

New York-based Cherry Pick applies AI to social images and consumer commentary within the beauty industry in order to measure the demand for products before they’ve launched. Essentially, it’s social listening supercharged with AI and tonnes of data meaning Cherry Pick can help to improve the product development process for thousands of products at the same time. We think it’s ingenious, and it’s currently tracking over 50,000 products worldwide.

33. Trend

Trend is a start-up that helps brands to build and manage a team of social media influencers in order to boost their business. Brands simply send product details and other info to the platform, and Trend allows influencers to apply to promote the brand. The retailer then picks its favourite influencers, a campaign begins, and Trend automatically tracks key performance metrics. With influencer marketing continuing to grow, this platform makes a lot of sense.

Ecommerce

34. 101 Commerce

101 Commerce is an ecommerce start-up that aims to help launch and grow online ‘microbrands’. Utilising Amazon services and supply chain expertise, it offers end-to-end support for the brands it acquires, from data analytics and marketing to supply chain optimisation and delivery. It’s a kind of one-stop-shop for new online brands looking to scale at speed. End-to end solutions for small online brands are scarce, so this is a retail business model with genuine potential.

35. Frubana

Frubana is an ecommerce and agrotech start-up based in Colombia. It’s a platform that connects farms with restaurants, with supply chain and price transparency that reduces barriers to trading. The platform also handles logistics and transactions making it easier for both suppliers and restaurants to get what they need. By tapping into consumer demand for well-sourced, fresh food and actually providing a streamlined way of making it happen at scale, Frubana has huge potential.

36. Punchh

Punchh is a start-up that offers a variety of digital solutions, primarily for larger retailers. It uses AI, machine learning and omnichannel touchpoints to help brands launch smart, targeted campaigns. It focuses in particular on loyalty, finding innovative ways of measuring it and using this data to launch loyalty schemes. Unlike many data-focused start-ups, Punchh actually creates and delivers solutions in reaction to its own insights giving it a valuable end-to-end USP.

37. RevLifter

RevLifter is a really clever tech business that focuses on the specific issue of basket abandonment online. It provides personalised offers according to retailers’ goals when customers add items to their basket, or shows messages when they show signs of abandonment. If they do leave, it even automates a PPC and SEO process to bring them back. But importantly, all offers and incentives are constantly tailored to the customers’ interests too. Judging by its client list, RevLifter is a start-up to watch.

38. Twirl.store

Twirl.store is an Indian start-up that boldly aims to tackle the issue of sustainability in fashion. The platform incentivises customers to send in their old clothes, which Twirl then either donates or turns into a new item to sell on its platform. Typical incentives include a 30% refund as ‘value points’ which can then be used to purchase other items. With India’s continued boom in disposable incomes and the consequent growth in wardrobe sizes, this start-up feels absolute necessary.


 

20 Nov, 2019
How Toymate is taking up the mantle of Toys ‘R’ Us
inside retail

The collapse of Toys ‘R’ Us in 2018 was a slow and painful one, with the retail chain shutting up shop across its global markets over the course of the year. The closure left many parents in the lurch as to where to pick up a present for their kid’s birthday, largely to the benefit of those retailers left standing.

EBay and Amazon became the de facto places to buy toys online – at least until Toys ‘R’ Us relaunched its own web presence with the help of Hobby Warehouse earlier this year – while discount department stores Kmart, Target and Big W filled the gap offline.

At the same time, specialty retail chain Toymate saw the collapse of the big fish in the pond as a chance to rapidly expand its offering. 

“We were coincidentally opening our first larger format store at the time Toys ‘R’ Us went down,” Toymate founder and director Danny Bloom told Inside Retail.

“And we knew as a multinational business they had a lot of great sites in places that we wanted to be in, but didn’t really want to be there if they were there. So, that presented an opportunity to go after those sites in a new format.

“It was a good opportunity to pick up a lot of staff. We had a good understanding of that business – what was good about it that we could adapt, and some of the things we could do better.”

Founded in 2005, Toymate has been fairly conservatively in its approach to expansion, focusing on doing it right rather than doing it fast. But that has changed since Toys ‘R’ Us exited bricks-and-mortar stores in Australia.

“We recently opened our first Canberra store [in Majura Park Shopping Centre]. Until last year we were only in Sydney, and then last year we opened in Robina Town Centre on the Gold Coast, and a store in Perth. This year, we’ve now got a store in Melbourne, and Canberra,” Bloom said.

“In the last year we’ve had to grow it quite quickly.”

A private, family-owned business, Toymate could become a national chain by expanding into South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania. Bloom said this would occur when, and if, the right opportunity comes about.

“At the end of the day, in toys for the most part we’re selling the same product [as the competition], so our ethos is if we can give you the best product at the best price, and a better experience, why wouldn’t you shop with us?”

Standing out from the crowd

This ethos, and the issue of standing out from the busy toy retail market, has led Toymate to push further into the experiential side of retail – with the launch of a new-look concept store in Loganholme, Queensland.

“We’ve got a children’s playground, we’ve got a Yogurberry inside the store, we offer $1 coffees, we’ve got an education room, and a place for adults to come and sit and relax, and increase the dwell time,” Bloom said. 

Additionally, Toymate has launched the ‘Festival of Fun’, an in-store event with character meet-and-greets, face painting, balloon bending, giveaways and prizes for kids, to mark the launch of its Christmas toy catalogue.

Bloom said the Festival of Fun is usually reserved for store openings, but his experience as a new dad has given him greater insight into what parents are looking for and how to bring them in.

“For me, I’ve only just become a parent, and that’s changed my view a bit on what parents are looking for, and I think often people are looking for something to do, and a little bit of something extra for free,” Bloom said. 

“That’s a good way of bringing customers in, and that can only be a good thing.”

 

19 Nov, 2019
Accent Group acquires Stylerunner, plans to open bricks-and-mortar stores
Inside Retail

Footwear giant Accent Group has acquired Stylerunner, an online activewear retailer that went into voluntary administration three weeks ago, for an undisclosed sum.

Accent Group CEO Daniel Agostinelli said the acquisition would enable the company to reach a new, predominantly female, audience and tap into the booming activewear and wellness categories.

“Activewear is a style trend that isn’t slowing down and we plan to encourage its momentum through strategic moves like this one,” Agostinelli said in a statement released to the ASX on Thursday afternoon.

Until now, Accent Group has played purely in the footwear space. It owns and operates the Hype DC, Platypus, The Athlete’s Foot and The Trybe footwear chains and distributes brands such as Skechers, Vans and Dr Martens.

But Stylerunner presents an opportunity to expand into complementary categories. Roughly 40-50 per cent of the online retailer’s sales are footwear, with the other 50-60 per cent coming from its activewear and wellness products, according to Agostinelli.

“It was more attractive to us that they had a great position with yoga wear and outerwear, and we’ve seen the wellness piece as a big growth market,” he told Inside Retail.

Agostinelli sees an opportunity for Accent Group to start selling these products in standalone, Stylerunner-branded bricks-and-mortar stores in future.

“We think the name resonates with the consumer, and the market position it has is something we feel the market is missing at the moment,” he said.

Agostinelli said he didn’t know how many stores would be opened, or when, but said they’d likely be in A-grade shopping centres and CBD sites.

“We’re literally one day in; we want to strengthen the back end of the business and introduce all the smarts Accent Group has to offer in the tech area,” he said.

500,000 loyal customers

Founded by Julie Stevanja in 2012, Stylerunner sells exclusive and limited-edition sneakers, apparel and accessories from the likes of Nike, Adidas, P.E Nation and Jaggad, as well as various supplements.

The online retailer has a loyal and engaged customer database of well over 500,000, according to Agostinelli, which doesn’t cross over with Accent Group’s existing customers.

To drive efficiencies, Accent Group plans to innovate Stylerunner’s category and customer experience, strengthen its supplier relationships, build on its current digital, CRM and marketing capabilities and grow collaborations with its vertical brands.

The retailer said it would expand the brand by leveraging its supply chain capabilities and economies of scale as well as developing a strategy for bricks-and-mortar stores.

Stevanja has joined Accent Group to lead the Stylerunner business going forward, and will report to Accent Group’s chief digital officer, Mark Teperson.

The deal was structured as an asset sale on a cash-free, debt-free basis and is not expected to have a material impact on Accent Group’s FY20 earnings.

19 Nov, 2019
Booming Afterpay eyes new overseas markets
SOURCE:
AFR
Afterpay

The company said October has been its largest ever month for new customers, with 15,000 being added each day and 9,000 of those in the US.

Afterpay will capitalise on its impressive growth in the United States and Britain in recent months by pushing into new overseas markets – potentially in Europe and Canada – after securing $200 million from one of the world's hottest tech funds.

The fintech also announced deals with eBay and Mastercard to lift customer and merchant numbers, and named a former top Facebook executive to its board to strengthen its governance ahead of the submission of a final report of an independent audit ordered by anti-money laundering agency AUSTRAC.

A trading update coinciding with Wednesday's annual meeting said Afterpay had 6.1 million active customers at the end of October, more than double the number a year earlier, as younger consumers continue to shift away from credit cards.

The loss-making buy now, pay later firm said October has been its largest ever month for new customers, with an average of 15,000 added each day.

Some 9,000 of those were in the United States, where Afterpay launched just 18 months ago and now has 2.6 million customers, 51 per cent higher than at June 30.

15 Nov, 2019
The £7,500 dress that does not exist
SOURCE:
BBC
BBC

Earlier this year Richard Ma, the chief executive of San Francisco-based security company Quantstamp, spent $9,500 (£7,500) on a dress for his wife.

That is a lot of money for a dress, particularly when it does not exist, at least not in a physical form.

Instead it was a digital dress, designed by fashion house The Fabricant, rendered on to an image of Richard's wife, Mary Ren, which can then be used on social media.

"It's definitely very expensive, but it's also like an investment," Mr Ma says.

He explains that he and his wife don't usually buy expensive clothing, but he wanted this piece because he thinks it has long-term value.

"In 10 years time everybody will be 'wearing' digital fashion. It's a unique memento. It's a sign of the times."

Ms Ren has shared the image on her personal Facebook page, and via WeChat, but opted not to post it on a more public platform.

Digital collection

Another fashion house designing for the digital space is Carlings. The Scandinavian company released a digital street wear collection, starting at around £9 ($11), last October.

It "sold out" within a month.

"It sounds kinda stupid to say we 'sold out', which is theoretically impossible when you work with a digital collection because you can create as many as you want," explains Ronny Mikalsen, Carlings' brand director.

"We had set a limit on the amount of products we were going to produce to make it a bit more special.

Being digital-only allows designers to create items that can push boundaries of extravagance or possibilities.

"You wouldn't buy a white t-shirt digitally, right? Because it makes no sense showing it off. So it has to be something that you really either want to show off, or an item that you wouldn't dare to buy physically, or you couldn't afford to buy physically."

Carlings' digital collection was produced as part of a marketing campaign for their real, physical products. But the firm thinks the concept has potential - a second line of digital garments is planned for late 2019.

The Fabricant releases new, free digital clothes on its website every month, but consumers need the skills, and software, to blend the items with their own pictures.

This also means the company has to find another way to make money until digital fashion becomes more popular.

"We make our money by servicing fashion brands and retailers with their marketing needs, selling tools, and creating content that uses that aesthetic language of digital fashion," says The Fabricant founder Kerry Murphy.

It is not entirely clear who is buying the digital garments from Carlings, or downloading clothes from The Fabricant.

Mr Mikalsen says Carlings has sold between 200-250 digital pieces, but a search to find them on Instagram only resulted in four people who independently purchased from the collection and had no involvement with the company.

However, some of the those clothes might have only been shared privately.

Amber Jae Slooten, a co-founder and designer at The Fabricant, concedes it is mainly industry professionals, who use the CLO 3D software, that are downloading their clothes.

"But it's also just people are very curious to see what the files look like. People just want to own the thing, especially since that one dress sold for $9,500."

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at market research company NPD Group, calls the emergence of digital fashion an "amazing phenomenon", but is yet to be convinced about its long-term impact.

"Do I believe it's going to be something huge and stay forever? No."

He says the technology works for people who want the perfect image. "If you don't like what you're wearing, but you love where you are, you now have the ability to transition your wardrobe, and digitally enhance the photograph to make it look like you're wearing the latest and greatest."

Players of computer games have long been willing to spend money on outfits, or skins, for their in-game characters. That partly inspired The Fabricant to work in the digital space.

"The only reason we made the collection the way we did - inspired from Fortnite - was because of the whole link between buying skins and buying digital clothing," Mr Mikalsen says.

"When it comes to technology and the way people are living their lives, we have to be aware of that the world is changing."

Designers working on skins for games face extra challenges - they have to make sure it fits the story and the character.

Once the outfit is designed, which can take one try or 70, the hardest part starts according to in-games cosmetics consultant Janelle Jimenez.

The skins have to work in the game - a medium that, unlike digital fashion, often involves movements such as walking, fighting or dancing.

"For a game like League of Legends, you have to do 3D, there's sound effects, there's animations, all of these things have to come together to make the character feel like they're sort of expressing a different fantasy of themselves.

"It's less like changing clothes and more like seeing an actor playing a different role."

The influence of games and shifts in customer tastes gives some in the fashion industry confidence that digital clothes, in some capacity, will have long-term impact.

"Digital fashion will become an important part of every fashion business' future business model," says head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at the London College of Fashion, Matthew Drinkwater.

"It's not going to replace everything, but it will be an important part of that."

 
 
14 Nov, 2019
Myer taps into bluetooth technology again for its ‘Christmas is where we are’ campaign
SOURCE:
Mumbrella
Mumbrella

A young girl’s anxiety about Santa’s inability to find her as she goes camping over Christmas is the centrepiece of Myer’s Christmas campaign this year, which features bluetooth-enabled gift stockings.

The hero TVC depicts the child, Sally, laying clues during her family’s road trip in a bid to redirect Santa to her temporary home in the bush.

Her grandfather ultimately saves the day with a full-on LED light display and a stocking which Santa can track.

The ad concludes with the tag line ‘Christmas is where we are’.

Supporting the campaign by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne is the Myer Global Positioning Stocking – “a product that ensures Santa can find everyone this Christmas”.

The Myer Global Positioning Stocking can be paired with a mobile device or tablet, and gives kids access to a platform where they can track Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve on an interactive map. The campaign will also offer a communication platform to send letters to Santa.

The stockings are available at Myer and online for $34.95.

Myer’s chief customer officer Geoff Ikin said the campaign taps into a key challenge facing Australian families at Christmas.

“In playfully seeking to answer a big question facing many households this year: ‘How will Santa find me?’ we have developed a campaign that we feel will truly connect with Australians this Christmas, capturing the emotion, wonder and joy that surrounds it,” he said.

“As part of the campaign, we have also created a new twist on the Christmas stocking launching Myer’s innovative new Global Positioning Stocking, which we know will be a real hit with Australian families, ensuring Santa can find every Aussie kid this Christmas, wherever they are.

“You will see over the coming weeks our Christmas campaign come to life – with the launch of our Giftoriums, Santalands and iconic Christmas windows – which positions Myer as the one-stop-shop for Christmas this year.”

Clemenger BBDO’s Melbourne chief creative officer, Stephen de Wolf said: “Building on last year’s successful ‘Naughty or Nice bauble’ work, we have blended a big emotive storyline with a utility that puts commercial opportunity at the heart of the campaign. The Global Positioning Stockings pull in Myer product API allowing parents to fulfil their kids ‘Wish list’ with Myer products and even allocate items from the wish list to their friends and family to purchase.”

Last year, Clemenger BBDP Melbourne and Myer released Christmas baubles which could be controlled via a parent's bluetooth-enabled device. The decorations could be turned green when children were being ‘nice’, but as a behaviour-change tool, they could also go red to indicate the children were being perceived as ‘naughty’.

14 Nov, 2019
Fleur East provides soundtrack for Debenhams’ Christmas ad
SOURCE:
Yahoo News
Yahoo News

Fleur East has provided the soundtrack for Debenhams’ 2019 Christmas campaign with her new single, Size.

The X Factor star, 32, is seen acting as a festive fairy godmother in the ads, taking the stress out of shopping for hard to buy for family members with a wave of her magic wand.

A second ad also showcases Debenhams’ array of advent calendars.

Debenhams’ creative director Mark Stevens said: “When it comes to buying gifts, being thoughtful can often result in more stress, added expense and visits to multiple shops.

“However, Debenhams is here to put the fun back into the festivities.

“We’ve thought of everything and handpicked a huge range of on-trend gifts that customers can personalise to show their family and friends they love them, without blowing the budget.”

The advert will launch on November 10, appearing on ITV during Harry Potter and again ahead of the first episode of Ant & Dec’s DNA Journey.

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