USA: Wal-Mart will pay $640m to settle 63 lawsuits accusing the retailer of breaking labour laws by denying employees breaks and forcing them to work unpaid overtime. The retailer said it would continue to ensure it complied with the law. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart aimed to bring festive cheer to its Hispanic customers when the Three Kings made guest appearances at more than 480 stores. The Three Kings Day tradition is celebrated throughout Latin America as the Christian holiday of the Epiphany. Stores were also offering Three Kings-themed toys and speciality food including the Rosca de Reyes, or holiday Kings Cake.
Russia: The country’s largest retailer, X5, has acquired one of its Pyaterochka-branded franchisees, soft discounter Agrotorg-Rostov, for an estimated $15m. The move will strengthen X5’s presence in southern Russia, in a region of 6,000,000 sq miles with 4.4 million residents. Last month X5 said it was shifting its priority towards discounters as the global economic crisis changed shopper behaviour. X5 plans to operate 15 of the soft discount stores and will consider the sale of a further 150,000 sq ft of retail space and an office building.
USA: K-Mart owner Sears Holding plans to pilot a drive-thru shopping facility at two stores, including one in Joliet, Illinois. The “marriage between online shopping and bricks and mortar”, run by Sears subsidiary myGofer, will reverse the 80/20 percentage split between the 85,000 sq ft retail and storage floor space. Online shoppers will be able to pick up their merchandise from the store without leaving their cars, and Joliet City Council has already given its approval to the drive-thru lanes and store remodelling.
Chile: The owner of Cencosud, the country’s second-biggest retailer, said it was ready to compete with Wal-Mart, after the US giant agreed the takeover of D&S, Chile’s largest supermarket operator. Analysts speculated that Cencosud stood to lose the most with Wal-Mart’s takeover of D&S, which has a third of the country’s overall supermarket industry.