A recent EU General Court ruling has deemed the fees a merchant is forced to pay to its acquiring bank in a transaction unacceptably high due to the interchange fees and the fact that MasterCard has unfairly inflated the service fees paid by retailers for processing payments. As a result, both MasterCard and Visa are being investigated for possible antitrust violations. Already five of the largest U.K. retailers, including Next Retail and Wal-Mart's Asda, have filed lawsuits in London against MasterCard.
Etsy is launching a wholesale marketplace, telling users it can't move forward as a one-size-fits-all platform. The move is hardly a shock. Etsy acquired Trunkt in May and appointed its founder, Dev Tandon, to head its wholesale business. Yet last Thursday's announcement of Etsy Wholesale probably came as a surprise to many Etsy users. Etsy explained that wholesale "means selling larger quantities of your goods at a discount to "members of the trade (e.g., boutique owners, buyers for major retailers like West Elm, museum gift shops, etc.)."
Ikea stores, by design, are a destination shopping experience. The Swedish-based retail stores draw in consumers with modern home furnishings at an affordable price, while their massive store spaces and winding floor plans often keep shoppers inside for an hour or more. Spending that much time picking out a bookcase is one thing; waiting another 20 minutes to pay for it is another. And after a rash of complaints from customers who described just that kind of repeated delay, Ikea stores in the United States are yanking the self-service checkout systems that were causing the backups.
Last week came news that a bevy of big-name retailers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target, are teaming up to create a company that will give consumers another way to make purchases: with their cellphones. The businesses said that the new company, Merchant Customer Exchange, is developing a mobile application for any smartphone that will integrate a variety of coupons, rebates and loyalty programs.
When a picture of a Wal-Mart self-checkout screen showing the wrong total for a purchase made its way around the web last week, many assumed it had been altered or perhaps the screen had been captured the instant before an update. But Wal-Mart has now confirmed that a software update impacted almost all of the chain's self-checkout units for about two weeks, causing incorrect and confusing displays. The receipts and the amounts charged, however, were reportedly correct.
J.C. Penney is changing its pricing — again. Just six months after the midpriced department store chain got rid of the hundreds of sales it offered each year in favor of everyday lower pricing, it's reversing course. On Feb. 1 J.C. Penney began using a three-tier pricing approach that called for consistently lower daily prices, month-long sales and periodic discounts on merchandise throughout the year. But starting Aug. 1, Penney will eliminate one of the monthly sales and bring back the word "clearance."
J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson is going all in with his bid to remake the customer experience at the century-old department store retailer. A mobile point-of-sale deployment beginning this fall is just the first step in an ambitious plan involving storewide use of RFID to eliminate traditional cash wrap stations, allowing anywhere, anytime checkout, including self-checkout, by 2014. "J.C. Penney will be moving to a 100 percent [item-level] RFID implementation by Feb. 1, 2013," said Johnson, speaking last week at the Fortune magazine Brainstorm conference in Aspen, CO. "We'll be doing something that no other retailer has done completely."
Thus far, the dramatic makeover of J.C. Penney has hardly been smooth sailing. The overhaul, in which coupons and nonstop sales have been replaced with lower everyday prices, has resulted in confusion among consumers and months of subpar sales, as well as the recent ouster of a top executive. Nonetheless, J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson is sticking with the plan to revolutionize a tired old brand — and perhaps retail as a whole. Speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, Johnson, a retail superstar who spent years building up Target and the Apple Store, made one eye-opening comment after another.
It's every seller's nightmare: a glitch that results in products being listed — and sold — for a penny instead of their regular price. It happened for about 15 minutes on Tuesday to some Amazon.com sellers, but the third-party vendor whose clients were affected said it's making good. Appeagle was pushing an update to Amazon in order to conform to the marketplace's new requirements for repricing software when it noticed a problem in one line of code.
Visa and MasterCard agreed to pay retailers $6 billion to settle a price-fixing lawsuit that alleged they overcharged companies billions of dollars in credit card transaction fees. The agreement is believed to be the largest settlement ever of a private antitrust case, according to lawyers for 7 million American merchants who sued the card companies in 2005. The total value of the agreement is $7.25 billion, counting a temporary reduction in card fees.