Welcome to The Week in Retail, a weekly roundup for marketers from Quad Insights that covers the latest must-know news surrounding the retail space.

Retailers see inventory-to-sales ratio begin to normalize

For the first time since the start of the pandemic in 2020, sales growth in retail and apparel outpaced inventory, according to Telsey Advisory Group analysts, per Supply Chain Dive’s Ben Unglesbee. Overall, retail inventories were down 7.8% year over year in Q3, compared to 2022’s 38.2% growth in the same period. “Many of those who have been able to shrink inventory have seen their margins and profits increase in a sluggish sales environment,” Unglesbee notes. “Very often, leaner levels mean cleaner sales floors, faster turnover, less discounting, more in-season merchandise on shelves, fewer storage costs and smoother operations.”

The takeaway: Uncertainty became the “new normal” in the retail category during the pandemic and its aftermath, but the silver lining may be that retailers were forced to be more nimble and responsive in managing their supply chains — and now it seems to be paying off.

WHSmith to expand its footprint in North America

UK-based retailer WHSmith has announced plans to open 50 new locations in North America, Chain Store Age reports. As the company seeks to grow its international business (it has 1,700-plus stores across 30 countries that sell publications, snacks, toys and more), it’s set its sights on airports — specifically those in North America, where nearly 50% of revenue already comes from its airport and resort business. The company currently operates around 600 airport storefronts worldwide.

The announcement follows the release of WHSmith’s most recent earnings report, in which the retailer cited an 8% increase in total revenue for the 20-week period ending Jan. 20, per Reuters, as the retailer benefits from “resilient travel demand.”

The takeaway: WHSmith is continuing to bet big on the ultimate captive consumer audience — people passing through (or stuck in) airports.

Timberland releases Black Pioneer Collection to celebrate Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, Timberland has launched a new collection dedicated to Black pioneers through the ages, as well as a campaign with the community organization the Oklahoma Cowboys to promote it, per Footwear News’ Stephen Garner. Called the Black Pioneer Collection, the line includes reimagined versions of the VF Corporation-owned brand’s signature footwear in addition to apparel. The collection combines “old-school Americana and elements of contemporary African American dress to create an outdoor-inspired lifestyle collection,” Timberland designer Shari-Lee Whyte told Garner.

Through the campaign, Timberland has pledged to donate $50,000 to the Oklahoma Cowboys Foundation to support its efforts to recognize and raise awareness of the role of Black cowboys and cowgirls in Oklahoma’s equestrian heritage.

The takeaway: Using Black History Month as a backdrop, Timberland is exploring new traditions and styles while remaining committed to its roots as an outdoor-inspired brand.

Dierbergs Market partners with Fig app to help customers with dietary restrictions

Missouri-based grocery store chain Dierbergs Market has announced a partnership with food scanner and discovery app Fig to help shoppers with dietary restrictions find foods that align with their needs, per a company statement. Through the Fig app, individuals can create a profile based on more than 2,800 diets, allergies and ingredients and quickly find appropriate products in-store. As part of the partnership, Dierbergs customers receive a free one-month subscription to Fig+, the paid tier of the Fig app.

The takeaway: Dierbergs is leaning into the growing trend among grocers of offering health and wellness-related products, services and marketing.

Walmart announces 5-year plan to open 150 Supercenters

On Wednesday, Walmart announced plans to add 150 large-format stores over the next five years, supplementing its current efforts to remodel 650 stores across 47 states and Puerto Rico. The expansion will include both the construction of new stores and the conversion of smaller ones into Supercenters. The big box retailer already operates more than 4,600 stores nationwide, as CNBC’s Melissa Repko notes.

The takeaway: Walmart’s reputation for affordability has helped it weather inflation and even attract new customers — and now the company is investing in new and existing markets as consumers continue to prioritize value.

Further reading

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