retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to the story last week suggesting that since Amazon and Whole Foods together will have just a 1.6 percent market share of the US supermarket business, it is unlikely that federal regulators will oppose the sale on antitrust grounds, one MNB reader wrote:

1.6% aside, do you really see this administration enforcing antitrust actions?

I think that there are a lot of reasons that Trump may dislike Jeff Bezos, chief among them his ownership of the Washington Post. No reason to think he wouldn't try to punish Bezos for perceived grievances if he could.

The same story suggested that any antitrust move would cite Amazon's "unstoppable head start" in e-commerce as a reason to oppose the acquisition. Prompting one MNB reader to write:

An unstoppable head start for Amazon? Last time I checked several of these chains have thousands of stores. Seems to me that's a head start over Amazon!
These chains have had plenty of time to prepare for Amazon, but have dragged their feet, and now playing the woe-is me-song because they are behind on e-commerce!

I agree. Completely.

We had an Eye-Opener on Friday that compared merchandising efforts in an Amazon Books store with a 365 by Whole Foods unit, and concluded that the 365 store came up short. MNB reader Hy Louis responded:

The picture of La Croix water looked exactly like a display I saw in a supermarket in North Korea.  I wish they would have allowed a picture and I would have liked to compare them side by side.  When you see large displays of water to fill up space, its a sign things are not going well.

That's my thought. Though I wouldn't have gone with a North Korea comparison...

On Friday we linked to a George Will column in the Washington Post about the constant disruption that has defined the supermarket business almost from the beginning. "In the accelerated churning of today’s capitalism," Will wrote, "changing tastes and expanding choices destroy some jobs and create others, with net gains in price and quality. But disruption is never restful, and the United States now faces a decision unique in its history: Is it tired — tired of the turmoil of creative destruction? If so, it had better be ready to do without creativity. And ready to stop being what it has always been: restless."

MNB reader John Rand wrote:

Thanks for the link. I don’t often agree with Mr. Will’s priorities but I have always respected his ability  to put forward compelling arguments that prompt serious thoughts.

And all I could think of, reading this, was a phrase that was used to describe the Westward migration 19th Century:

“The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way” has been variously to settlers traveling on the Oregon Trail and to the “Forty- Niner’s” gold rush to California. But it aptly sums up retail enterprises today, most of the consumer goods suppler community,  and indeed, all of us, as we learn to cope with ever-faster disruption.

The difference may be that the option many folks chose 150 or more years ago, to play it safe by staying home, is not available. The future is coming for us whether we want it to or not.

KC's View: