From retail to technology, here's the top stories we're reading this week at Branch HQ.

🤔 Small Biz Is Slow To Expand
🚛 Americans Lining Up For Amazon Jobs
🤖 Is the AI Future Of Pizza Here?
🚪 Retail Closures...So Far In 2019
🛒 How Charlotte Russe Impacts Retail
💪🏽 Tackling Work's Tough Conversations
🏪 Unattended Retail
🍎 Apple Eyes NYC's Hudson Yards

Top Stories From This Week

Small Biz Slow To Expand | Via: Vistage Survey
Small business owners are becoming more cautious about expanding, as slowing sales and weaker financial markets lead them to expect an economic slowdown, according to The Wall Street Journal. In a survey of 765 small firms, 66% said they expected their revenues to grow this year, down from 83% a year ago. Just 14% of those surveyed expect the economy to improve this year.

Americans Lining Up For Amazon Jobs | Via: Quartz
Amazon disclosed in the report that it received a record 850,000 work applications for hourly jobs in the US in October 2018 after announcing it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour starting Nov. 1. The company said that was more than double its previous record for job applications received in a single month.

Amazon said the new $15 minimum affects more than 250,000 employees in the US and 17,000 employees in the UK (where the increase was £10.50 in the London area and £9.50 everywhere else), plus more than 200,000 workers who were hired for the holiday season. As of Dec. 31, Amazon had 647,500 full- and part-time employees, up 14% from the same period a year earlier.

Retail Closures...So Far In 2019 | Via: Retail Dive

  • This week, two brands went bankrupt including FullBeauty Brands and Charlotte Russe.
  • They are joined by four other retailers, ShopKo, Gymboree, Innovative Mattress Solutions, and Beauty Brands.

How Charlotte Russe Will Impact REITs | Via: Thinknum
Simon Property Group looks to be hit hardest. It currently leases 106 Charlotte Russe locations, which sit inside its vast shopping mall portfolio. General Growth Properties looks to be hurt as well with exposure to 78 stores.

The AI Future of Pizza Is Here | Via: CNBC
Domino’s is giving away loyalty points to customers — including those who buy their pizzas from rivals or even make them at home. By scanning a pizza with the company’s mobile app, members of Domino's loyalty program can earn 10 points, just as long as the app’s artificial intelligence software detects sauce, cheese and crust. The goal of the promotion is to drive users to the company’s app. Currently, digital orders account for more than 60% of the pizza chain's U.S. sales.

Tackling Work's Tough Convos | Via: LinkedIn
Many employees choose to avoid difficult conversations with their boss, so much so that nearly one-third of professionals say they’d prefer to work an extra six hours a week rather than ask for help, according to a Linkedin study. Yet those who seek help at work are not alone – 84% of respondents say they have needed help at some point in their careers. To ensure the conversation is productive, try to approach the topic in a positive and healthy way, advise several industry leaders.

Can Unattended Retail Evolve To Surpass Amazon Go? | Via:

  • Unattended retail, which traditionally meant vending machines, laundromats and very small mini-stores, is benefiting from the same trends that make Amazon's cashier-less stores possible.
  • The Amazon Go store and its many imitators are typically seen as a threat to convenience stores, since the technology behind Amazon's cashier-less payment process seems best suited for small shops that sell small items.
  • Unattended mini-stores can be placed in a lot of different venues, like a ‘store within a store’ for specialty items, in transit stations or even on a truck that could be placed at a concert or festival.

Apple Eyes Office, Retail Space In Manhattan's Hudson Yards | Via:

  • According to sources familiar with the situation, the New York Post reports Apple is in advanced negotiations to lease a 60,000-square-foot office space at 55 Hudson Yards, one of three commercial towers that overlook the expansive Hudson Yards redevelopment.
  • The Post also claims Apple is in discussions with site co-developer Related Companies to open a retail presence in the 28-acre multi-use complex.

Retailers Are Redesigning For Experience, But What About Safety? | Via:

  • At many shopping malls, visitors interact with face-recognition kiosks, climb rock walls and indulge in soothing massages. But, what happens during a crisis?
  • Natural disasters, violence, even flash mobs — these events are becoming a pressing reality of shopping, even as merchants step up efforts to attract and enthrall customers. Retailers invested an estimated $3.4 billion in artificial intelligence alone in 2018 to enhance the shopper experience, but how are they safeguarding their stores, and shoppers, from potential harm that is becoming more common?
  • Turns out, many have been quietly doing that, without compromising the shopper experience.

The CEO of the biggest mall owner in the US says he's nervous about more retail bankruptcies this year | Via:

  • The CEO of the biggest mall owner in the US says he's nervous about more retail bankruptcies this year
  • Simon Property Group CEO David Simon tells analysts he's nervous about more retail bankruptcies happening this year.
  • Still, the real estate owner is confident about its plans to bring in alternative uses like hotels and gyms to malls.
  • Simon, the largest mall owner in the U.S., has like its peers been grappling with how to deal with an onslaught of store closures from tenants big and small, ranging from Sears to Starbucks ' Teavana.