Posts Tagged 'Amazon'

In praise of Amazon (again)

As the biggest “disrupter” in retail, Amazon is always a hot topic on RetailWire. Here’s a recent comment:

There may be more innovative retailers who are not as visible as Amazon, but it’s hard to think of a company with such scale that is less willing to rest on its laurels. I know that some panelists view Amazon’s push into new businesses and logistics methods as not much more than a well-oiled PR machine (see yesterday’s discussion of intimate apparel as an example). But it’s hard to deny that the company is anything but complacent when it comes to extending its reach and improving its execution promise.

The real test for Amazon will be its success in rolling out innovative brick-and-mortar retailing models. The bookstore and especially the C-store tests will be telling, because most other stores with “omnichannel” strategies have not succeeded in offering an innovative approach to the business of shopping.

And more thoughts from another post:

Amazon’s competitors have it all wrong if they think it’s all about low prices. (And this is the fundamental error behind Walmart’s “brand promise” over the years.) Amazon has always been focused on breadth of assortment and great execution. As the company has entered more categories (starting all the way back when when they were in the business of shipping books), it has never lost sight of these key competitive advantages. Customers’ expectations have been scrambled as a result, and everybody else (whether pure play e-commerce or omnichannel) is just trying to keep up.

“Voice assistants” riding a wave

Two recent RetailWire posts address the growth of Amazon and competing voice recognition devices — with Amazon’s Echo being the most popular:

Anything that makes the Amazon shopping experience even more seamless is a market share opportunity. As the panel discussed recently, it’s no wonder that several national retailers are aligning with Google’s voice assistant instead.

Retailers probably have their own opportunities to apply voice recognition technology to their own mobile apps. (Maybe this has already happened.) Voice activation seems to be the next “smart” thing, so it’s a win for whoever gets there fastest.

The second post concerns the national retailers who are aligning with Google, not Amazon:

If this works, it’s an opportunity for Google to play catch-up on the head start that Amazon has established with Echo, and to establish a stronger beachhead on the “device” front. But it’s also an opportunity — or attempt — for several retailers to marginalize Amazon’s e-commerce business that has eaten into their own market share.

Amazon Go: Reinventing the C-store?

A delayed posting from late 2016 about Amazon’s convenience store concept being tested in Seattle. What’s unique about this store is that customers can pick what they want and walk out the door without “paying” — it’s all handled through mobile payment technology. My RetailWire comment speculates on the impact on other types of retail:

Amazon has redefined convenience in every category they have entered (starting with their original business of shipping books). The company has raised customers’ expectations for speedy execution, and has raised the bar for all of its competitors at the same time. Whether Amazon Go works or not is almost beside the point, because the company can afford to fail — but Amazon appears committed to bringing its vaunted tech-driven efficiency to brick-and-mortar retail models that haven’t advanced much beyond the UPC code. (But if Amazon Go works…watch out!)

American Girl and Lands’ End: Did they make the right call?

American Girl recently announced its expansion into Toys “R” Us stores, while Lands’ End plans to sell its product on Amazon. These are two very different kinds of products — and distribution decisions. My comments (from RetailWire) suggest that I agree with one of the decisions but not the other….because more distribution is not always better.

First, regarding American Girl:

Yes, Toys “R” Us is the biggest big-box toy chain by far (not counting the huge sales at Walmart and Target) so it’s a tempting decision for American Girl. But I think it cheapens a premium brand, and there may have been other ways to drive broader distribution (and more sales). For example, wouldn’t a traditional department store like Macy’s be a suitable home for American Girl shop concepts?

Next, about Lands’ End:

By 2017, Amazon may outpace Walmart as the biggest seller of apparel in the U.S. It’s hard to argue with its legitimacy and power if you’re a label trying to rebuild your volume base, not just your brand equity. Remember, Lands’ End was tarnished by its years-long association with Sears (including its shops within Sears store), so it’s not nowhere to go but up.

Walmart shows modest Q2 gains

Walmart stood out from most other retailers by reporting a comp-sales gain for the 2nd quarter, instead of a decline. (There continues to be strength in the off-price segment, too.) I think part of the reason is Walmart’s success at the food and commodity businesses while Target continues to struggle. Here’s my take from a recent RetailWire discussion:

Walmart veers from underperformance to overperformance over time, and the latest “overperformance” is really only in contrast to competitors like Target. A very modest comp-store sales increase is nothing to write home about when Walmart continues to lose share to Amazon, dollar stores, and other competitors. That being said, Walmart is doing a consistently better job drawing in regular food shoppers than Target, and some of its investments in store improvements are starting to pay dividends. But a 1.6% same-store increase isn’t cause for celebration, even in today’s tough environment for general merchandisers.

Walmart buys Jet.com

Some observations (about a month late) about Walmart’s announcement in early August that it is acquiring web startup Jet.com. Here’s my comment from a recent RetailWire panel discussion:

The risk isn’t great to Walmart, considering the purchase price vs. Walmart’s scale. But the reward is definitely in favor of Jet.com’s founders and investors, who are about to become very wealthy. The real question is whether Walmart intends to keep the Jet.com brand alive or simply wants to take a competitor off the playing field.Jet.com seems to have followed the typical internet startup path of losing money while aggressively trying to build traffic and market share. But Walmart’s move makes it hard to tell if Jet’s business model is sustainable over the long haul. Let’s face it — nothing about this move changes the reality that Amazon is the alpha dog.

Another over-forecast by the NRF

Retailers are optimists by nature, but the NRF seems to deserve a prize for blue-sky forecasting on a consistent basis. This time, the NRF has projected an 11% increase in Back to School sales, and they issued their forecast before most retailers reported lackluster 2nd quarter sales. Here’s my comment, from a recent RetailWire panel discussion:

What jumps out is the 11% increase forecast by the NRF. The NRF’s forecasting is consistently too high (retailers are chronic optimists) but this number is really over the top. Yes, retail spending seems to be normalizing but there is little evidence — at least from general merchandisers’ 2nd quarter sales results — that consumers are going to be delivering these kinds of increases. And within those sales gains — whether they are really 11% or more realistically in the mid-single digits — you can expect to see Amazon and other online retailers continuing to gain share at the expense of brick-and-mortar stores.