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Insider Retail: The pet care industry is booming, big-box retailers smashed earnings expectations, and Walmart ramps up coronavirus safety protocols

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Pizza Hut x Gravity Blanket Snug as a bug under a weighted pepperoni pizza blanket.

Happy Friday, y’all. 

As Thanksgiving nears and the late fall days grow colder and darker, there is honestly nothing I want more than to lay eternally under Pizza Hut’s new pepperoni pizza weighted blanket. Look how content this woman is, sprawled on the ground next to a piping hot pizza pie! (No, this is a not a sponsored post, and yes, I already own a weighted blanket, but in these trying times, one can never have too many creature comforts.)

Anyway, we’re very glad you’re hear to join us once again for the latest edition of Insider Retail, our weekly roundup of everything you need to know in the world of retail and restaurants. If you haven’t already subscribed, click here to get me, Bethany Biron, and my colleague, Shoshy Ciment, in your inbox every Friday. 

Alright, let’s dive in: 

GettyImages 898594198

First came the pet Halloween costumes. Next comes the pet holiday gifts. 

The pet care and service industry is preparing for a massive boom this holiday season, thanks in part to the rise in pet adoptions during the pandemic. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, pet products are among the top categories Americans hope to both gift and receive this year, as the $53 billion pet industry balloons to an expected $64 billion by 2024.

Retailers like Walmart are taking notice.

The big-box retailer — which already stocks 1,800 pet products and operates a pet prescription service called Pet Rx — announced a suite of new offerings for “pet parents” this week, including pet insurance and dog-walking services. 

“We’re on a mission to help families live better — and that goes for pets, too,” Melody Richard, merchandising vice president of Walmart’s pets category, told Áine Cain

Target

Several major retailers reported third-quarter earnings this week. And once again companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s continued to shine as Americans embark on home improvement projects during quarantine.

At Home Depot, net sales increased 23.2% to $33.5 billion, prompting the company to announce it will invest $1 billion in raises for employees. And though Lowe’s missed Wall Street expectations, it still reported same-store sales growth of 30% to $22.3 billion.  

Likewise, big-box retailers like Target and Walmart also outpaced forecasts, reporting significant growth in online sales with e-commerce bumps of 155% and 79% year-over-year, respectively. Both companies also saw an increase in in-store comparable sales, with Target reporting a 20.7% rise and Walmart posting a 5.2% increase. 

However, not all retailers fared quite as well. Macy’s sales dropped more than 20%, as the company struggles to drive foot traffic and sales amid the pandemic and economic recession. Meanwhile, fellow mall brand Francesca’s also had bad news this week, announcing that it will close 140 stores by January 2021, and is considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

walmart new test stores Walmart workers.

With coronavirus cases surging and states imposing partial lockdowns, Walmart is increasing safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. The retailer has once again started counting visitors entering each store in order to monitor crowd levels, after first doing so in April. Though the company dropped the limits in October, it resumed only permitting 20% capacity this week. 

Some locations are also reconsidering placing purchasing limits on essential items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Also this week, Walmart rolled out free, mandatory testing for employees in New Mexico. Kate Taylor reported that staffers will be tested every two weeks, half one week, and the rest the following. 

“We are hopeful that increased testing data will help officials as they work to manage this health crisis,” Walmart said in a statement. “New Mexico has been hit hard by the virus and we want to continue to partner with the state to do our part, while continuing to serve the critical food needs of the state’s residents.”

Starbucks

  • Starbucks is giving all US employees a 10% raise, according to an internal company memo. 
  • Experts say duty-free retail spending aboard cruise ships will be vital to helping the struggling business rebound from the pandemic. 
  • These companies can’t stop buying up bankrupt ‘zombie brands’ as the retail apocalypse continues. 
  • Waffle House just debuted its first-ever beer … and it tastes like bacon and eggs. 
  • Companies like General Mills and Kraft Heinz are doubling down on marketing to bolster skyrocketing sales during the pandemic. 
  • In other packaged food news, candy maker Mars just acquired the healthy snack company Kind in a $5 billion deal…
  • … and Unilever is investing in products like algae ice cream in order to reach $1.1 billion in plant-based food sales by 2027.