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Walmart expands its direct-to-fridge InHome delivery service to 30 million homes

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Walmart is making a big bet on customers’ desire for increased convenience, announcing Wednesday that its InHome delivery service will expand availability from six million to 30 million households, including in cities such as in Los Angeles and Chicago, by the end of this year.

InHome allows Walmart employees wearing cameras to enter a customer’s home to deliver groceries and other purchases or to pick up returns, even when the customer is not there.

“Now you’ve got this ultimate convenience where you get home, the refrigerator is restocked and other items like video games, clothing, toiletries and other non-perishables are on the countertop,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile delivery at Walmart, told CNBC. “We will also pick up your return if you start that process on the app we will grab the item the next day and will process that return for you.”

The process began with the delivery driver attaching a wearable camera. Every delivery can be viewed live or as a recording on the Walmart App. The employee outfitted in protective coverings over their shoes then accessed a smart lock from Walmart at the front door to enter the home and carried the ordered items inside in plastic bins. The delivery person placed items in the refrigerator and on the counter as requested and wiped down all surfaces with a sanitizing wipe before leaving.

“I’ve used it for the last month and a half and have been very satisfied,” Erin Amini, a customer in Glendale told CNBC. “We no longer have to go to the store. We feel safe with Covid. They wear masks, they sanitize and they are also always recording so we know what is happening while they are in our home.

Walmart is expanding InHome as the lines are blurring between what Insider Intelligence estimates as a $93 billion grocery delivery market and what Coresight Research pegs as up to a $25 billion quick-commerce market, which includes the likes of DoorDash. Walmart’s InHome service costs $19.95 per month with no additional fees, and it’s part of a growing trend of “delivery as a service.”

Walmart said it will hire 3,000 employees to support its InHome expansion, giving them real world and virtual reality training. They will be paid approximately 9% more than Walmart’s average wage of $16.40 an hour. Walmart’s 3,700 stores will be used as fulfillment centers and InHome delivery drivers will drive electric vehicles as part of the company’s goal of a zero emissions logistics fleet by 2040.

“They’ll also deliver Walmart packages, they’ll deliver Walmart GoLocal client packages, and they’ll do InHome delivery. It’s making the best of all these assets that we’re putting together in a way that’s really sustainable,” Ward said.

Walmart initially launched InHome in 2019 as a pilot in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Vero Beach, Fla., and it’s since expanded in Northwest Arkansas, Atlanta, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. The company declined to say how many customers the service now has.

“What we’ve learned in the years we’ve been testing our InHome proposition is that customers love the convenience of having the items that they’ve ordered put in their fridge, their freezer, or left on their countertop, or in the garage when they come home. And they can just set and forget and really do the things they want to spend their time doing,” Ward added.

Currently the nation’s largest grocer by revenue, Walmart has used that frequency-driving category to fuel online sales growth by launching convenient ways for people to shop and encouraging customers to buy other items, such as apparel, electronics and more, when replenishing the fridge with a gallon of milk or getting ingredients for dinner.

The big-box retailer is also the nation’s leader in click and collect, a service that allows shoppers to place online orders and pick up purchases in the store or parking lot. One in every four dollars that Americans spent on click and collect in 2021 went to Walmart, according to a recent estimate by Insider Intelligence.

“We think there is no one right answer in the last mile equation,” Ward said. “We want to experiment and then when we see those things that really resonate with our customers we want to scale out to as many people as we possibly can as fast as we can.”

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Airbus cancels $6bn contract with Qatar Airways after paint fight

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Airbus has cancelled a $6bn contract with Qatar Airways for 50 of its new A321neo passenger jets, escalating a legal battle between the two companies over paint on the recently delivered A350s.

Qatar Airways called Airbus’s decision announced on Friday “a matter of considerable regret and frustration”.

In December, Airbus was taken to court by Qatar Airways in London, following a series of alleged problems with the Airbus A350 aircraft.

The airline complained the paint on the recently delivered Airbus A350s was cracking and peeling, exposing copper meshing used to insulate the aircraft against lightning strike.

It is seeking more than $600m in compensation after grounding the affected aircraft – 21 of its 53 A350 jets – claiming the paint issue is a safety risk.

The deal was reportedly worth $6.35bn when it was finalised in December 2017.

Qatar Airways published a video on social media on Friday of the scarred exterior of grounded A350 jets that the airline said underscored “serious and legitimate safety concerns”.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency independently assessed the issue and found no safety concerns.

“There is no reasonable or rational basis” for Qatari regulators to have grounded the A350s operated by Qatar Airways, Airbus said in documents prepared for a London court hearing on Thursday.

It accused Qatar Airways of instigating the grounding as it was in its own financial interest to keep the aircraft on the ground in light of the coronavirus pandemic collapse in demand for air travel.

Qatar Airways rejected the claims in a statement on Friday.

“These defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged,” it said. “We continue to urge Airbus to undertake a satisfactory root cause analysis into the cause of the defects.”

An investigation by Reuters news agency showed at least five other airlines reported A350 paint or skin flaws since 2016, well before Qatar raised concerns in November 2020 when an attempt to repaint a jet in World Cup livery exposed some 980 defects.

Airbus has said it is looking at changing the design of anti-lightning mesh for future A350s, but insisted there is adequate backup lightning protection. It says Qatar is undermining global protocols by seeking leverage over safety.

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Wall Street caps worst week since start of coronavirus pandemic

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Stocks fell, capping the worst week since the outbreak of the pandemic roiled markets, with tech shares bearing the brunt of the selloff amid shaky company earnings and prospects for higher U.S. interest rates.

The S&P 500 closed below its 200-day moving average, a key technical level, for the first time since 2020. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 slid the most among major benchmarks Friday, led by a more than 20% plunge in shares of streaming giant Netflix Inc. Bitcoin tumbled in an extended selloff for cryptocurrencies, briefly falling below $38,000 to its lowest level in more than five months.

Volatility that has gripped markets this month showed little sign of letting up Friday, with the S&P 500 falling for a fourth day, extending losses in the period to 5.7% for the worst, albeit shortened, week since March 2020. Option expirations of more than $3 trillion helped add to market turbulence.

“This is the longest short week, I think, in history, right?” Jay Pelosky, founder and president of TPW Investment Management, said on Bloomberg TV. “It’s only been a four-day week and it feels like it’s been two weeks rolled into one.”

The U.S. company reporting season so far has been uneven, highlighting the risk that it may fail to enliven animal spirits in the stock market. While Netflix’s disappointing subscriber outlook sent its shares tumbling, while Peloton Interactive Inc. suggested it was poised to rebound after the darling of the stay-at-home trade was hit by a report of temporary production halts.

Markets are also bracing for rate liftoff by the Federal Reserve. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect policy makers to raise interest rates in March for the first time in more than three years and shrink their balance sheet soon after. Geopolitical tensions are also adding to the jitters. A report that Washington is allowing some Baltic states to send U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine stoked concerns about a standoff with Russia.

“There are plenty of risks in the global economy, including geo-political events,” wrote Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Global Research. “However, in our view, the biggest near-term risk is right in front of us: that the Fed is seriously behind the curve and has to get serious about fighting inflation.”

Demand for havens pushed the 10-year Treasury yield down more than 10 basis points in three days to 1.76%, leaving the rate lower on the week, the first decline for the period in five weeks.

The selloff in equity markets has volatility indexes pricing more turbulence near term than in the future. The setup, known as an inverted VIX. Such an inverted curve has occurred four other times in the past year and all coincided with market bottoms.

“We’re all going to breathe an extra sigh of relief once this session finally closes and then we can put an end to this week, because it’s been painful all around,” said Adam Phillips, managing director of Portfolio Strategy at EP Wealth Advisors in Torrance, California.

Some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 fell 1.9% as of 4 p.m. New York time
  • The Nasdaq 100 fell 2.7%
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.3%
  • The MSCI World index fell 1.8%

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.1%
  • The euro rose 0.3% to $1.1345
  • The British pound fell 0.3% to $1.3557
  • The Japanese yen rose 0.4% to 113.68 per dollar

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries declined five basis points to 1.76%
  • Germany’s 10-year yield declined four basis points to -0.06%
  • Britain’s 10-year yield declined five basis points to 1.17%

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.7% to $84.91 a barrel
  • Gold futures fell 0.7% to $1,832.70 an ounce

SOURCE: BLOOMBERG

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Bitcoin falls another 8% as cryptocurrencies extend steep losses

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Cryptocurrencies continued their dramatic slide on Saturday, with bitcoin losing nearly half of its value since hitting its November high.

Bitcoin, the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency by market value, tumbled about 8% on Saturday to trade just above $35,000. The coin hit a record high of $69,000 in November.

Meantime, ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, sank nearly 10% to trade around $2,400.

The losses came on the heels of a Thursday dip in the stock market. Cryptocurrencies and traditional stocks have been falling in tandem this month, with investors concerned about how anticipated Federal Reserve interest-rate increases will affect the market.

A common investment case for bitcoin is that it serves as a hedge against rising inflation as a result of government stimulus, but analysts are saying the risk is that a more hawkish Fed may take the wind out of the crypto market’s sails.

There’s also concern U.S. regulators will further crack down on digital currencies.

Russia’s central bank proposed banning the use and mining of cryptocurrencies earlier in the week. Officials argued it posed threats to financial stability, citizens’ wellbeing and its monetary policy sovereignty. U.S. authorities have also been clamping down on certain aspects of the market.

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