Alina Selyukh

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.

Before joining NPR in October 2015, Selyukh spent five years at Reuters, where she covered tech, telecom and cybersecurity policy, campaign finance during the 2012 election cycle, health care policy and the Food and Drug Administration, and a bit of financial markets and IPOs.

Selyukh began her career in journalism at age 13, freelancing for a local television station and several newspapers in her home town of Samara in Russia. She has since reported for CNN in Moscow, ABC News in Nebraska, and NationalJournal.com in Washington, D.C. At her alma mater, Selyukh also helped in the production of a documentary for NET Television, Nebraska's PBS station.

She received a bachelor's degree in broadcasting, news-editorial and political science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Yuko Watanabe had to learn a lot of plant names. She lists them with as much confidence as she does her extensive soup menu. Calathea, pothos, Swedish ivy, song of India.

For over a decade, her Yuko Kitchen has fed Los Angeles Japanese comfort food — something like your friend's mom might cook for you after the school, Watanabe says. But this pandemic spring, when streets emptied and her phones grew quiet, a mini-jungle took over the chairs and tables, her cafes pivoting to sell nourishment both for the body and the soul.

Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala., have notified federal labor authorities of their plans to hold a unionization vote, teeing up a potentially groundbreaking labor battle at the retail giant known for its opposition to unionizing.

A filing, posted by the National Labor Relations Board, says Amazon workers at the fulfillment center outside of Birmingham want to form a bargaining unit of all 1,500 full- and part-time employees at the facility, to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Amazon has launched a pharmacy business, offering to fill prescriptions for delivery by mail.

The retail giant barging in — its biggest foray into health care yet — reverberated through the industry on Tuesday. Shares of CVS were down about 8% at midday, while Walgreens tumbled 9% and Rite Aid 15%.

Prescription drugs are an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars — and more people have turned to ordering medications by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. Analysts say Amazon's move could particularly affect smaller drugstores.

Updated at 9:13 a.m. ET

Shoppers kept buying electronics and home improvement supplies, but October proved a month when much of the retail world held its breath. Retail sales barely budged, inching up just 0.3% from September, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Rebounding from near-collapse in the spring, retail spending has improved since the summer, even topping pre-pandemic levels. In October, overall retail sales were up 5.7% compared with a year earlier.

Updated at 3:06 p.m. ET

European Union officials are accusing Amazon of breaking EU competition rules by exploiting the data the company collects from other sellers on its platform for its own benefit. These are the first formal charges against the tech and retail giant in a spate of antitrust investigations around the world.

Cheers, honking, cowbell and drum sounds and even confetti filled the air in downtown Philadelphia on Saturday as supporters of President-elect Joe Biden poured into the streets with signs reading: "The People Have Spoken," "Thank Youse" and "Philly Says: Donald Trump, You're Fired."

A reliable Democratic stronghold, Philadelphia had gripped the attention of the nation as Pennsylvania became the state that tipped the presidential election in Biden's favor on the fifth day of ballot counting.

When Diana Newcomb looks back at a retail job she had in the 1970s, it sounds bonkers. She and other 20-somethings would sit in the office of a Rhode Island department store and tally sales stubs by hand. They would note sales in a ledger, like this: five pairs of boys size 6 Levi's — sold.

"I was renting a garage apartment and living off of canned vegetables and Triscuits," she says and laughs. "You know, I thought I was being independent. I was at that point."

Plywood window coverings have blanketed high-end shopping areas of big U.S. cities ahead of Tuesday's election.

It's an eerie sight in a country built on the idea of a peaceful transition of power. In fact, that kind of signal is exactly why city authorities have generally advised business owners not to board up, promising stepped-up security measures.

Walmart is returning guns and ammunition back to its shelves after removing them from display as a safety precaution, citing this week's "isolated civil unrest."

What exactly did Abbie Welch put in her purse before she snuck out of a Walmart in Knoxville, Tenn.? The court ruling doesn't say.

Nor does it matter. What matters is a piece of paper she'd previously received from Walmart banning her from the store. Prosecutors used it to argue she was trespassing when she shoplifted. Her crime, typically a misdemeanor, was elevated to a burglary. She became a felon with a six-year sentence.

Updated at 9:57 a.m. ET

Shoppers bought more clothes and cars, and even returned to beleaguered department stores in September.

Shay Chandler did not plan to buy what seemed like the last full-sized refrigerator in all of San Antonio. When her old one broke a few weekends ago, she discovered she'd have to wait almost two months for a replacement.

"I found out that all I could buy was a mini fridge," she said. "It's nuts. ... All the Lowe's all over San Antonio — and San Antonio is a very large city — everyone was out."

Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET

Jerry D'Agostino had a job but couldn't afford a few things he wanted to do: a meal out once a week, go to the movies, attend Comic-Con. He was working alongside other people with disabilities at a center in Rhode Island, doing what he calls "benchwork" — rote tasks like fitting rings into heating tubes, packaging ice packs, assembling boxes for jewelry.

Updated at 9:03 a.m. ET

U.S. shoppers spent more prudently in August and retail sales grew a tepid 0.6% compared to July, as tens of millions of unemployed people stopped receiving extra federal jobless benefits and families faced a confusing back-to-school season.

Still, retail sales continued to grow, now for the fourth month in a row as people spent more at restaurants and bars and bought more furniture, electronics, cars and clothes. And for the first time in months, online stores saw no growth.

Walmart is officially launching a new rival to Amazon Prime: an annual membership service giving shoppers free delivery of groceries and other perks.

Walmart+ will cost $98 a year or $12.95 a month. Its offer centers on free delivery of food and other items from nearby stores "as fast as same-day." Other perks, which the company expects to expand, include a discount on gas at the company's stations and the ability to pay by mobile phone to skip checkout lines at stores.

A group of 52 Black former McDonald's franchisees is accusing the fast-food giant of discrimination, alleging they were "denied equal opportunity to economic success" compared to their white peers.

Walmart has teamed up with Microsoft in a bid to buy TikTok in one of the most unexpected twists in the saga of the hugely popular short-form video app.

In a statement, Walmart cited a potential boost from TikTok to the giant retailer's online presence, including its efforts to grow online advertising and a marketplace for third-party sellers.

Getting her daughter ready for the first day of sixth grade, in a normal year, Lidia Rodriguez would have by now spent a pretty penny on a lunchbox, her charter-school uniform and a special backpack, perhaps embroidered with her name: "Sofia."

But why buy a new uniform if last year's top still works for a Zoom call? And why splurge on a new backpack when the walk to school is a shuffle from the kitchen table to the bedroom desk?

In a year of mass work from home, Amazon is zagging by funding a big expansion of corporate office space and jobs in six cities.

For Lynette Gabriel, it started with a dressed-up Zoom brunch with girlfriends. She called in from her home in Oakland, Calif., in a leopard-print long-sleeve gown from the back of her closet. Snacking on smoked-salmon potato hash and sipping on a glass of rosé, Gabriel found her new house fashion.

"We actually now call ourselves 'The Real Housewives of Quarantine' in our house dresses," Gabriel says and chuckles.

Retailers had placed much hope on a big midsummer shopping spurt, but July proved to be somewhat lackluster, amid renewed lockdowns and new waves of coronavirus cases. Retail sales grew only 1.2% last month compared to June.

When former McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired for a consensual relationship with a subordinate last year, he left with an exit payout estimated over $40 million. Now, McDonald's is suing him for that money, citing new evidence of additional relationships and accusing him of lies and fraud.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

Lord & Taylor, the oldest U.S. department store chain, has joined the cascade of retailers tumbling into bankruptcy during the coronavirus pandemic. Sunday's filing comes less than a year after Lord & Taylor was acquired by an online clothing-rental startup called Le Tote.

A collapse in demand for suits and other office attire is leading another storied retailer across the brink, with the parent company of Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank filing for bankruptcy.

Parent company Tailored Brands had been struggling with debt and flagging demand before the coronavirus pandemic. But the temporary store closures and collapse in apparel sales during the health crisis took their toll.

Updated at 8:35 p.m. ET

Spikes in online shopping during the pandemic helped Amazon net $5.2 billion in profits as its sales soared to record highs between April and June.

Updated at 7:19 p.m. ET

Jeff Bezos is a man of many firsts. On Wednesday, he'll face a new one: his first appearance before Congress.

In a hearing via video with other major tech CEOs, lawmakers will grill Amazon's founder about the reach of his company, the rules it sets for workers and the power imbalance with other sellers on its platform.

Updated at 7:17 p.m. ET

Some of the world's most powerful CEOs are coming to Capitol Hill — virtually, of course — to answer one overarching question: Do the biggest technology companies use their reach and power to hurt competitors and help themselves?

Here's what you need to know:

Who: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

The parent company of Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant and other clothing brands is joining the parade of apparel retailers to file for bankruptcy during the coronavirus crisis.

The firm Ascena Retail Group — whose stores are a major tenant of malls and shopping centers — did not specify how many locations it will close.

Stores around the U.S. are struggling with an unexpected shortage. (No, not toilet paper — sorry, we've already made that joke.) They're running low on coins.

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