retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story the other day about how alcohol has been a bright spot for Costco, which prompted MNB reader Joe Davis to write:

Kevin, I am not at all surprised by the surging alcohol sales at Costco.  They do a great job on three fronts – incredible prices, great curated selection, and a very high quality private label.  I’m stumped to offer another retailer that comes even close.  The one thing they haven’t tapped into (yet) is the craft beer craze which struggles in a bulk purchase environment, but it surely has not hamstrung them at all.

It is true the vodkas are an outstanding value and I agree that the quality is comparable to premium brands.  I can get raked over the coals at our local liquor store and pay $40-$60 for a top shelf brand, or around $20 for Kirkland.  That kind of quality & value combination is the only thing – kid you not – that gets us to make the 30 minute drive to Costco out in the ‘burbs where we brave the crowds and madness of their parking lot.  I also find their Cabernet to be quite good for paying $7.99 for 1.5 liters of the stuff – great “round 2” party wine. 

Count me in amongst the Cult of the Costco Imbibers.  The Russian ambassador ain’t no dummy on this.  In Costco Liquor, you don’t find deals – deals find you!

I got a lot of email responding to last week's piece noting that it has been 20 years since I placed my first order on Amazon. Most of it was positive, but several folks disagreed.

One MNB reader wrote:

I don’t share your love affair with Amazon. I’m not a Prime member but have tried it with their free trial offer and they failed to win me over. About a month ago, I purchased a printer from them and chose the free standard shipping. When it hadn’t even shipped by the date they promised it, I chatted with their customer service rep. and finally received it, late. Now, on Sunday, I purchased some bike parts to deliver to my son, at his school. As of today, 4 days later, it still hasn’t shipped. It’s become clear to me that Amazon doesn’t just use a slower shipping method for standard shipping, which I’d be okay with, they actually hold non-Prime member orders back, intentionally. Their rep. told me yesterday, that it would be sent to fulfillment soon.
So, while you celebrate the anniversary of your first order with Amazon, I may well have placed my last.

And from another reader:

I too use them, but I am disappointed in a way they could do better.

Bought some outdoor solar charging diode lights that would be a perfect product if they would only last 3 years instead of 3 weeks. Ordered them twice, never paid for them, but sill cannot get confirmation that they have any that will last.

It is near impossible to communicate very effectively with them and get any answers.

They are not perfect yet!

Never said they were perfect.

And finally, from another MNB reader:

Just think, for every week’s worth of Amazon purchases you make you indirectly put someone who works at a brick and mortar store (or mall) out of work….Sleep well tonight.

I sleep fine. But not because I'm heartless. It is because I didn't put anyone out of work. It is not my responsibility to shop at bricks-and-mortar that are complacent about my business and irrelevant to my needs and wants. It is their job to compete effectively for my business.

And the problems that afflict the bricks-and-mortar side of the retail business are summed up effectively in your email.
KC's View: