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.

Excluding clothing and electronics, retail sales remained strong across categories in September

New U.S. government data released this week shows strong consumer spending throughout the month of September despite inflation, Neil Irwin at Axios reports. Retail sales increased 0.7% in September over August’s revised 0.8% increase — exceeding the 0.2% projected by analysts and representing the sixth straight month of retail sales growth.

September’s growth in retail spend was broad-based, with online sales up 1.1% and spending at specialty stores (including office supply stores, florists, gift shops and more) up the most, at 3%. The weakest results were in the clothing and electronics categories, which declined 0.8%, CNN’s Bryan Mena reports.

In a sign that “Americans were buying more last month, not just paying more,” Irwin notes that data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 0.4% rise in the Consumer Price Index. These numbers, Irwin says, are reflective of “strikingly resilient consumer demand.”

Netflix to launch two new retail locations, leveraging popularity of streaming business

Just a couple weeks after announcing the end of its DVD-by-mail service, Netflix said it will launch new retail locations, to be called Netflix House, per Variety’s Todd Spangler. The company’s foray into permanent retail follows the launch of 40-plus pop-up locations and is designed to “drive fan engagement,” Spangler reports. “Netflix’s vision for the permanent retail destinations, as with its other IRL activations to date, is for them to serve primarily as marketing vehicles promoting the core streaming service,” he adds.

Netflix is planning two U.S. storefronts for 2025 — with locations yet to be revealed — that will feature merchandise based on hit Netflix shows and movies, a restaurant with themed food and drinks, live performances and other experiences.

Retailers, brands seek to connect with consumers with expansion of free sampling

In a move to better connect with consumers offline, brands and retailers are increasingly turning to an age-old technique: free in-store samples, according to reporting from Bloomberg News.

Walmart, for example, has announced plans to expand free samples at more than 1,000 of its stores, following a successful trial. The brand Dude Wipes is leaning into the opportunity as well, offering samples in-person at Target, in addition to making them available for free via vending machines at Walmart Inc.’s Sam’s Club. “We’re in the habit-change business,” Dude Wipes Founder and Chief Executive Dude Sean Riley told Bloomberg, “and the best way to change someone’s habit is to give them a chance to try your product.”

Retailers invest in fulfillment capabilities to streamline delivery services

In what is becoming a growing trend among retailers, Walmart, Hy-Vee and Amazon all announced plans over the last week to enhance their e-commerce fulfillment capabilities to streamline production and delivery.

Part of its plan to open next-generation fulfillment centers across the U.S., Walmart opened its third such location in Lancaster, Texas, on Tuesday, per Winsight Grocery Business. The company also announced plans to add a fifth next-gen fulfillment center in Stockton, California, in 2026. The new facilities utilize an automated “storage and retrieval system that condenses the retailer’s 12-step fulfillment process down to five steps,” Grocery Dive’s Catherine Douglas Moran reports.

Hy-Vee and Takeoff Technologies announced a partnership to develop micro-fulfillment facilities for the Midwestern grocer designed to “boost speed, accuracy and reliability,” according to a statement from Takeoff. Through these facilities, Hy-Vee can fulfill an average of 25 items with just five minutes of labor.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced that it’s experimenting with new AI-powered robots. The online retailer is pairing employees with these machines to cut delivery times and improve how it manages inventory. Amazon predicts that the system, dubbed Sequoia, will reduce the time it takes to fulfill an order by 25% and the time it takes to sort and store inventory by 75%, per reporting by The Wall Street Journal’s Sebastian Herrera. Also on Wednesday, Amazon announced the expansion of “ultra-fast” drone deliveries, which will be deployed for same-day service for customers in Italy, the U.K. and a yet-to-be-revealed additional U.S. city in late 2024.

Further reading

“Walmart uses AR to let customers try on makeup — virtually” (Chain Store Age)

“Macy’s goes for the fashion Metaverse with Mstylelab” (GamesBeat)

“Aldi unveils Thanksgiving price reductions of up to 50%” (Grocery Dive)

“Victoria’s Secret will sell intimate apparel for women with disabilities” (CNN)

“Saks and Brunello Cucinelli Partner on Exclusive Capsule and Visual Takeover of Saks New York Flagship” (Women’s Wear Daily)

“Kroger to measure the carbon emissions impact of its retail media network” (Ad Age)

“H&M Plans Debut Green Bond as Fast Fashion Pushes Sustainability” (BNN Bloomberg)

“Black Friday comes to Best Buy early; stores to close on Thanksgiving” (Chain Store Age)

“The New Wegmans in Greenwich Village Is A Supermarket. But It Isn’t.” (Forbes)

“True Religion is eyeing more partnerships and influencers under its first CMO” (Modern Retail)

“Miu Miu, Loewe, Prada, and More Top Lyst’s Hottest Brands List for Q3 2023” (Complex)

“Walmart moves ahead with plans for second milk processing plant” (Retail Brew)

“REI opens Tennessee distribution center to support 60-plus stores” (Supply Chain Dive)

“Giant Eagle Relaunches Private Label With Sustainable Focus” (Specialty Food Association)