Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ

By Paul Page Features Dow Jones Newswires

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Logistics and transportation companies are scrambling to match hiring to growing demand. Employment in the transportation and warehousing sector rose by 8,400 jobs from September to October, WSJ Logistics Report's Jennifer Smith writes, with surging shipments and an expected boom in e-commerce sales fueling the employment boost. Some companies are reporting that the only thing holding back their hiring is their ability to bring new workers on board in a timely manner. Overall trucking payrolls were essentially flat last month, according to the broad government figures, even as operators like less-than-truckload market major Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. said they added hundreds of workers and raised pay. Freight businesses are facing more competition for workers from industries like the construction business, which has added 11,000 jobs in each of the past two months. Warehousing and parcel carriers showed the biggest gains for logistics last month even as retailers cut their payrolls at stores, a strong sign of where business is going in the coming weeks and beyond.

Retail price wars are already underway and the holiday sales season hasn't even started. Amazon.com Inc. has started lowering prices on goods offered by independent merchants on its marketplace, the WSJ's Laura Stevens reports, potentially lining up a fierce competition with low-cost rivals just as the critical shopping season is set to begin. It also sets up a potential conflict in Amazon's relationships with sellers. The e-commerce giant generally controls pricing only on the goods it sells directly, but the new lower prices come with a tag that the "discount is provided by Amazon." The discounts could be a mixed bag for some merchants, helping drive sales at no extra cost to the seller while unexpectedly depleting inventory. And they could violate a merchant's agreement with a brand on pricing of products. Third-party sales have become more important to Amazon, boosting revenue without adding inventory, and the company is showing it's willing to pay for a bigger share of the market.

The largest supermarket chain in the U.S. wants to sell blouses along with broccoli. Kroger Co. plans to launch an apparel line in the coming year in a bid to bring more shoppers into its stores, the WSJ's Heather Haddon reports, and compete more with big retailers that have expanded into the grocery business. The move will add new wrinkles to Kroger's supply chain, from purchasing to distribution, while extending a shift in the retail world that has seen stores blur traditional boundaries between various lines of business. That's largely a result of internet-driven changes in consumer buying patterns, but for Kroger the push toward clothing could have a big impact on physical stores. The clothing line will operate under a private-label umbrella, part of a broader move by the grocer to push its own branded products. The brand strategy is aimed at lowering costs while Kroger hopes the clothing line will give it a bigger share of its customers' buying dollars.

ECONOMY & TRADE

Americans may have some competition this year for a staple of their holiday dinner table. A newfound taste among Chinese consumers for cranberries is turning the berries into a booming export business, the WSJ's Jennifer Levitz reports. That's vaulted China from barely any consumption five years ago to the second-largest foreign market for U.S.-processed cranberries last year. That's been a boon to a niche of the agriculture field that has been looking to boost domestic and international demand to help manage large supplies. U.S. cranberry production this year is expected to be the second-largest in history, after 2016's record crop, but cranberry consumption is up only slightly. The export surge is the latest example of how changes in buying patterns in China can cause big waves around the world because of the sheer scale of the consumer market. And the consumer tastes for those imports are triggering more investment in supply chains within China, including the refrigeration needed to get the goods to market.

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QUOTABLE

IN OTHER NEWS

Global oil prices hit a two-year high today after Saudi Arabia made a string of arrests in a corruption crackdown. (WSJ)

A new U.S. government report draws a direct line between human activity and the quickening pace of climate change. (WSJ)

U.S. trade rose at a strong pace in September, with imports up 1.2% by value and exports rising 1.1%. (WSJ)

A broad gauge of U.S. services activity ticked up in October to its highest level in more than 12 years. (WSJ)

Canadian exports fell in September for a fourth straight month. (WSJ)

Canada's economy added a net 35,000 jobs in October, far ahead of expectations. (WSJ)

Documents show U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross didn't disclose connections between his interests in a shipping business and Russian President Vladimir Putin's family and inner circle. (WSJ)

Sears Holdings Corp. plans to close 63 more stores early next year. (WSJ)

Qatar Airways Co. is buying a 9.6% stake in Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (WSJ)

Broadcom Ltd. plans an unsolicited takeover approach to rival chip maker Qualcomm. (WSJ)

Chip maker Marvell Technology Group Ltd. is in talks to combine with Cavium Inc. (WSJ)

Nestle SA is acquiring Chameleon Cold-Brew, its second recent buy of a niche American coffee brand. (WSJ)

U.S. federal investigators have contacted General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. in a probe of job-training programs set up with the top autoworker union. (WSJ)

Amazon is ending its Fresh grocery delivery service in some U.S. cities. (Reuters)

CSX Corp. is withdrawing from freight projects in Ohio and North Carolina as the railroad overhauls its intermodal strategy. (Trains)

Almost two-thirds of European businesses who buy from British suppliers expect to shift purchasing to within the single market after Brexit. (The Guardian)

China lifted its ban on imports of Australian beef. (Sydney Morning Herald)

The chief of South Korea's SM Line wants to expand in part by buying domestic and overseas shipping companies. (Lloyd's List)

West Africa's container imports from Asia are rising for the first time since 2014. (IHS Fairplay)

Honda Motor Co. tripled the number of autos shipped through Georgia's Port of Brunswick in the past 12 months. (Associated Press)

Brazil exported a record $641.6 million in vehicles in August. (Automotive Logistics)

Mazda Motor plans to release electric vehicles with range-extending rotary engines in 2019. (Nikkei Asian Review)

Japanese logistics company SG Holdings Co expects to raise $1.1 billion in an initial public offering. (Reuters)

The U.S. Postal Service awarded a $214 million contract to Spartan Motors Inc. to build cargo vehicles. (Lansing State Journal)

Chicago Rockford Airport in Illinois is upgrading capacity after seeing a 44% gain in cargo volume in the past year. (The Loadstar)

ABOUT US

Paul Page is deputy editor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow him at @PaulPage, and follow the entire WSJ Logistics Report team: @brianjbaskin , @jensmithWSJ and @EEPhillips_WSJ. Follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.

Write to Paul Page at paul.page@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 06, 2017 06:46 ET (11:46 GMT)