retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Okay, Amazon did not have the best week.

For the third quarter in a row, its profits were down, and the company said this was because of “stepped-up expenditures on new warehouses and technology upgrades to keep up with rapid growth in its business.” As the Seattle Times reported, CFO Tom Szkutak said that “Amazon is sacrificing profit now to grab a bigger share of the online marketplace.”

But analysts were not impressed, and the stock price dropped significantly. And some folks are not convinced that what appears to be Amazon’s Kindle strategy - which seems to be sell the new Kindle Fire tablet computer at a loss but counting on consumers to buy more content and spend more money - will work in the long run.

They may be right.

But I would just suggest that since Jeff Bezos founded Amazon back in 1994, there have been no shortage of of times that investors and analysts have questioned his strategy - and even his sanity. And almost every time, Bezos ultimately has been proven to be right ... and that while the short-term implications may not have been positive, the long view has shown that he has had an uncanny knack for understanding how to best serve the customer.

Now, I have no idea if this will be the time when Bezos is found to have miscalculated. It might be.

But I would not be inclined to bet against him.

For a moment, I want to get back to that Common Sense Media study referenced in this morning’s Eye-Opener.

In addition to the stats about the use of mobile media by kids under eight, there were some other distressing findings in the study:

“Kids under 2 spend more than twice as much time watching video as they do being read to,” Ad Age writes. “Nearly four in 10 kids grows up in a house where the TV is on most or all of the time, even if no one is watching it. By the time they hit 8 years old, kids are as likely to have a TV in their bedroom as not.” (Once again, the study suggests that this seems to be more prevalent among the affluent.)

And we wonder why there is an obesity crisis in this country.

Sure, we need to eat healthier. We need to get more exercise. But we obviously also need to turn off the TV, and spend less time on our computers and cell phones. (And I say this as someone who spends an ungodly amount of time on his computer and cell phone.)

And one other thing. If there is an increasing distance between the haves and the have-nots, I wonder if it might be partly because the have-nots are dealing with the reality of life, and the haves are spending too much of their time watching TV, thinking, for example, that reality shows have anything to do with reality.

I’m just asking.

The Associated Press reports that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has a new strategy in its fight for animal rights - it is asking a federal court to grant constitutional rights to five killer whales that perform at various SeaWorld amusement parks. Specifically, PETA says that SeaWorld is violating the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery.

Now, the AP is generous in its reporting of this move, calling it “an unprecedented and perhaps quixotic legal action that is nonetheless likely to stoke an ongoing, intense debate at America's law schools over expansion of animal rights.”

But let me just say this.

I am against animal cruelty. Not to the point where I’m going to stop eating steak or fish, but I think that animals should be treated as humanely as possible before they become an entree.

That said, this new PETA effort is nuts.

I mean, seriously nuts.

And it is the kind of move that, while PETA may think it serves the larger strategy of bringing attention to animal rights, actually undermines its efforts and credibility.

Next thing you know, they’ll be asking that animals be given their Miranda rights before going to the slaughterhouse.

Though I would pay real money to see what Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would do with this one.

Just finished reading “The Affair,” the new Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. This is a kind of prequel, taking place immediately before the events described in “Killing Floor,” the first novel in the series. This is everything one expects from Child - fast-moving action and snappy dialogue, combined with a view of his hero that helps us understand how he became the man so many of have followed through 16 novels. One of the central metaphors of the book is a train that roars every evening through a small Mississippi town; the Reacher novels are just like that train, and it is good news for addicts that they arrive like clockwork.

The Captains is a new documentary written and directed by William Shatner in which he looks and the lives and careers of the people who have played starship captains in the Star Trek series - Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”), Avery Brooks (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), Kate Mulgrew (“Star Trek: Voyager”), Scott Bakula (“Enterprise”), and Chris Pine (who played James T. Kirk, Shanter’s character from the original TV series, in the recent film reboot of Star Trek).

The film is fun and idiosyncratic and full of Shatner enjoying being Shatner, which he does better than anybody - if you aren’t a Shatner fan, you’re not going to enjoy The Captains Now, to be honest, one has to be a real hardcore Star Trek fan to enjoy this movie, which I am. And it is fun to see him interacting with all the people who followed him in the franchise ... though it is a little disconcerting to discover that Avery Brooks - who played Sisko, my favorite Star Trek captain - seems to be permanently occupying some other galaxy other than our own.

My wine of the week - the 2009 Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Malbec, which is about as smooth and delicious as one can expect a Malbec to be.

That’s it for this week. Have a terrific weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: