retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The South Florida Business Journal has a story about how Publix Super Markets management remains skeptical about the ability to make money from online grocery sales.

The piece was prompted by stories about how Kroger is slowly unfolding an e-grocery service in the Cincinnati market and continues to see success from its Harris Teeter division's online initiative, as well as by Walmart's continued investment in the e-commerce space.

"Anyone can offer online shopping, even in the grocery business," Publix spokesman Brian West said Wednesday. "The struggle is making it profitable."

The Business Journal writes that "Publix tried out online grocery shopping in the late 1990s, but the company didn't see the return it expected on the service. Last year, it launched online ordering for deli meats, cheeses and platters and recently expanded that service to include bakery items."
KC's View:
I am reluctant to disagree with how Publix does its business, but I cannot help but think that they're getting the online thing all wrong. Hard to make money? Sure, especially in the short term. But it seems obvious to me that the availability of an online shopping option soon is going to be as much a prerequisite for supermarkets to operate as shopping carts and scanning.

To avoid this inexorable march toward a critical technology capability and solution strikes me as risky. Sometimes, even the most respected and accomplished businesses miss the moment when things changed ... and suddenly, their best days are in the rear view mirror.

Not saying that this is going to happen to Publix. But I am saying that it - and for that matter, every business - has to operate as if it can.

What's the line from Bull Durham? "You have to play this game with fear and arrogance..."