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    Published on: October 18, 2017

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Amazon has signed deals with some of the nation’s largest apartment building owners and managers to take over the running of their package rooms, giving the retailer direct access to more than 850,000 apartment units across the country.

    Amazon has begun installing locker systems in thousands of apartment buildings, the story says, and in many cases expects to have them up and running by the beginning of the end-of-year holiday shopping season. In many cases, Amazon is said to be undercutting other companies offering similar services by offering its lockers for half the price; the Amazon lockers will accept all deliveries, not just those from Amazon.

    According to the story, “For several years, landlords have struggled with how to manage the mountains of packages they receive each day. Staff at larger buildings end up devoting several hours a day sorting mail, while boxes are piled in every spare cranny. Most say it is the single largest problem they face.

    “Amazon’s move, if successful, is likely to shift how the biggest apartment operators deal with packages toward a fully automated system that residents will be able to access 24 hours a day.”
    KC's View:
    At this point, Amazon just ought to buy the whole damned US Postal Service and be done with it. Its domination of the e-commerce ecosystem is remarkable … and maybe just a little scary.

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Marc Lore, who is running Walmart’s and Jet’s e-commerce businesses in the US, said this week that “the online retail division is still in growth mode, the fruits of which will start paying off over the next two years and help it better compete with Amazon.”

    “E-commerce is a scale game,” Lore told the Journal at a technology conference. “We’re looking at a lot of different things right now, everything, in every sector.”

    And TechCrunch quotes Lore as saying that one can expect Walmart and Jet “to “crush it over the next two years,” and that he “wouldn’t trade our position with anyone right now.” TechCrunch writes that “Lore claims that it already has the infrastructure to do overnight delivery for 87 percent of the country and is working on spreading out inventory to these warehouse locations.”
    KC's View:
    I was in Detroit this week, and happened upon a Moosejaw store. I went in, because I was curious about the company, which has an online presence as well as 11 stores, all but one of which is in the midwest. It was terrific - lots of merchandise, branded and private label, that was more like an REI store (albeit a lot smaller) than a Walmart. I talked to the salespeople, and they said Walmart had been a nonissue in terms of how they do business as store level.

    That fits with what Lore told TechCrunch: “Specialist positioning is better than mass. We’ve empowered the leaders of these companies to basically run the category across the entire entity.”

    And so, expect Walmart/Jet to acquire more specialty retailers to complement its ownership of companies such as ShoeBuy, Moosejaw, Bonobos and ModCloth. I’m not sure how this is all going to turn out, but they certainly seem committed to the strategy.

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    Quartz has a story about a Morgan Stanley Research survey of investors that sought to figure out which consumer sectors would take the longest for Amazon to “materially disrupt.”

    Dollar stores came in at number one. The reason: “Dollar stores cater to people who are extremely price sensitive. Unlike Amazon, which exists almost entirely online as far as consumers are concerned, dollar-store chains do best with a dense network of physical stores.”

    The auto parts business got an honorable mention, even though Amazon has made noise about competing with traditional auto parts retailing, which is a “business built on the demand for extreme immediacy. Do-it-yourself customers who need to repair their cars might not want to wait around for even a day or two to have a part shipped to them. Amazon also doesn’t have the ties to local dealerships that shoppers often need to make their purchases.”
    KC's View:
    The thing is, Amazon likes to take big swings. Which means sometimes going after a business segment that conventional thinking would see as being unlikely or out of reach.

    The message here is that nobody should ever be complacent. Because even if Amazon is unlikely to materially disrupt these segments, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone else out there - someone not on anybody’s radar - with a way of doing it faster, cheaper, better, more effectively, more efficiently. In fact, it is best to operate on the premise that there is.

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, even during the time when he was negotiating the sale of his company to Amazon, tried to encourage Google to make its own bid.

    “Google is an amazing company, as well,” Mackey told a Chicago audience this week. “We had (a Google) executive on the Whole Foods board. And I remember when Amazon and Whole Foods were sort of courting each other and falling in love, I talked to that executive and said, ‘It’s not too late for Google to get in on this game’.”

    According to the story, “It’s unclear whether Google was ever a serious consideration for merger. Mackey wasn’t available for questions after the event and a Whole Foods spokeswoman declined to comment further.”

    Mackey did decline to describe how Whole Foods may change under Amazon’s ownership: “People want to know how we’re going to change the world, but we’re still on the honeymoon so I’m not going to say.”
    KC's View:
    Nothing like letting a spouse know shortly after the wedding that you were considering other proposals right up until the consummation of the relationship.

    Though it probably doesn’t matter here, since Mackey’s continued active involvement with Whole Foods almost certainly has an expiration date on it.

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    Variety is reporting that Roy Pride has stepped down from his role as president of Amazon Studios, where he has spearheaded the company’s efforts at developing original TV series and movies. The exit follows Price’s suspension after he was accused of sexual harassment by Isa Hackett, an executive producer on Amazon’s original series “The Man in the High Castle.”

    The allegations about events that took place some two years ago were made public last August, but have gained fresh attention in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal that has engulfed producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of multiple incidents of harassment and assault. Weinstein has simultaneously conceded that he behaved badly, denied he raped anyone, and has threatened to sue the New York Times, which broke the story of the allegations and payoffs he made to actresses to insure they would remain quiet.

    Price has not commented on the charges against him.
    KC's View:
    It truly is extraordinary the degree to which so many women in some many fields have come forward with stories of having been harassed and/or abused by men in power. I hope this is a tipping point, but I also think that some kinds of behavior is so engrained in some people that getting rid of this kind of crap is a long-term proposition.

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    • A new survey suggests that a survey of US shoppers, designed to look at their preferences for bricks-and-mortar shopping vs. e-commerce, concludes that respondents were somewhat - and fairly evenly - divided into three groups: those who prefer to shop online (32.5%), in-store (29.70%), and a combination of both (37.80%).

    According to the survey, commissioned by Imprint Plus, “Consumers who shop in-store reported the need to see, touch, and handle merchandise as part of the buying experience, as well as on-the-spot sales and not having to wait for delivery. When it comes to purchasing food, the majority of the consumers surveyed (86.10%) prefer to shop in-store because of the ability to judge quality and freshness.  Shopping online for food presents challenges including the need to be home to accept delivery and the inability to use the senses in seeing and handling the merchandise offered.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    • The BBC reports that Sainsbury plans to lay off some 2,000 people as a way of reducing costs in the face of heightened competition, especially from discounters Aldi and Lidl.

    According to the story, Sainsbury “plans to make 1,400 payroll and HR clerks redundant and other changes could see another 600 posts removed … The majority of the headcount losses will be from within its supermarket stores.”

    I feel like I am missing something here. How could they possibly have that many human resources people in stores? And if it indeed was necessary to have them, what impact will it have on customer-facing employees when these layoffs are instituted? Because if it results in the diminishing of the kinds of service that differentiates Sainsbury from Aldi and Lidl, this could be a decision in which the numbers seem logical but in the end simply don’t add up.


    • The Austin Statesman reports that Aldi plans to open its first store in the Austin, Texas, market on November 2, in the town of Pflugerville. It will be Aldi’s sole Central Texas store for the time being.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    • Kroger announced that Katie Wolfram, president of the company’s Central Division, is retiring after almost four decades with the company, and will be succeeded by Pam Matthews, who has been serving as president of Kroger’s QFC division.

    Matthews will be succeeded at QFC by Suzy Monford, the former CEO of Andronico's Community Markets, who is joining Kroger after a career that also included stints at Woolworths Supermarkets in Australia, and both H-E-B and Central Market in Texas.


    • The Washington Business Journal reports that Dan Valenzuela is out as president of Safeway;’s Eastern Division, having departed “to pursue other opportunities.” His replacement is Jim Perkins, Albertsons' executive vice president of retail operations and special projects and the president of its Acme stores division.

    Perkins is the third person to lead the division - which has been suffering from declining market share and lowered morale - in three years.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    In Major League Baseball’s American League Championship Series, the New York Yankees defeated the Houston Astros 6-4, evening the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

    And, in game three of the National League Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 to take as 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    This morning’s FaceTime was recorded in Dearborn Michigan, where I had the privilege of spending some time in the Westborn Market there.

    I get asked a lot about the stores that I would identify as being best of class in the US - and one of the companies I always mention is Westborn, which has four stores operating in the Detroit market.

    That statement usually is greeted with blank looks. “Westborn?” they inevitably say. “Never heard of them.”

    That’s true. Most people haven’t. But I think that Westborn is a kind of hidden-in-plain-sight jewel of the US food business.

    There are numerous reasons that Westborn is so good. (You can see some pictures of this 18,000 square-foot store below.) First of all, it doesn’t look like a traditional store - there aren’t the aisles that one normally associates with a food store, but rather lots of cases at odd angles, unusual display pieces, exposed brick and glass and unconventional lighting … all of which create the image of one of the coolest farmers’ markets you’ve ever been to.

    These folks are superior when it comes to fresh foods, especially produce, but that expertise is paired with what I think is a simple but compelling message: “Eat Good Food.”

    That message is repeated everywhere, even on the private label products.

    There is a ton of grocery - 35,000 SKUs worth - but there clearly is an effort made by Westborn to have items that nobody else has, or at the very least would be hard to find elsewhere.

    This is incredibly important, especially these days. As we keep saying here, over and over - competitions are won where you are differentiated, not where you are the same. This is the kind of compelling store experience that you can’t get online … you want to come here, because it is an adventure.

    Maybe the most compelling thing about the Westborn store is the fact that it smells great … the aromas of good food waft over entire store .. you can smell the spices, you can smell the seasoning, you can smell the food, and it makes you hungry, and that is the best way to sell food.

    Amazon can’t offer that. Walmart won’t offer that. Very few stores will go out of their way to make themselves smell any different from the chain drug store next door.

    That’s what Westborn Market does. I’m all in … because not only is life too short to drink lousy wine and eat indifferent food, but I think it’s also too short to shop at mediocre stores.

    Like I said, Westborn is a jewel.

    That’s what is on my mind this morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.





    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    In this fast-paced, interactive and provocative presentation, MNB's Kevin Coupe challenges audiences to see Main Street through a constantly evolving technological, demographic, competitive and cultural prism.  These issues all combine to create an environment in which traditional thinking, fundamental execution, and just-good-enough strategies and tactics likely will pave a path to irrelevance;  Coupe lays out a road map for the future that focuses on differential advantages and disruptive mindsets, using real-world examples that can be adopted and executed by enterprising and innovative leaders.

    "Kevin inspired our management team with his insights about the food industry and his enthusiasm. We've had the best come in to address our group, and Kevin Coupe was rated right up there.  He had our team on the edge of their chairs!" - Stew Leonard, Jr., CEO, Stew Leonard's

    Constantly updated to reflect the news stories covered and commented upon daily by MorningNewsBeat, and seasoned with an irreverent sense of humor and disdain for sacred cows honed by Coupe’s 30+ years of writing and reporting about the best in the business, "Good Is Not Good When Better Is Expected" will get your meeting attendees not just thinking, but asking the serious questions about business and consumers that serious times demand.

    Want to make your next event unique, engaging, illuminating and entertaining?  Start here: KevinCoupe.com. Or call Kevin at 203-662-0100.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    In this fast-paced, interactive and provocative presentation, MNB's Kevin Coupe challenges audiences to see Main Street through a constantly evolving technological, demographic, competitive and cultural prism.  These issues all combine to create an environment in which traditional thinking, fundamental execution, and just-good-enough strategies and tactics likely will pave a path to irrelevance;  Coupe lays out a road map for the future that focuses on differential advantages and disruptive mindsets, using real-world examples that can be adopted and executed by enterprising and innovative leaders.

    "Kevin inspired our management team with his insights about the food industry and his enthusiasm. We've had the best come in to address our group, and Kevin Coupe was rated right up there.  He had our team on the edge of their chairs!" - Stew Leonard, Jr., CEO, Stew Leonard's

    Constantly updated to reflect the news stories covered and commented upon daily by MorningNewsBeat, and seasoned with an irreverent sense of humor and disdain for sacred cows honed by Coupe’s 30+ years of writing and reporting about the best in the business, "Good Is Not Good When Better Is Expected" will get your meeting attendees not just thinking, but asking the serious questions about business and consumers that serious times demand.

    Want to make your next event unique, engaging, illuminating and entertaining?  Start here: KevinCoupe.com. Or call Kevin at 203-662-0100.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2017

    In this fast-paced, interactive and provocative presentation, MNB's Kevin Coupe challenges audiences to see Main Street through a constantly evolving technological, demographic, competitive and cultural prism.  These issues all combine to create an environment in which traditional thinking, fundamental execution, and just-good-enough strategies and tactics likely will pave a path to irrelevance;  Coupe lays out a road map for the future that focuses on differential advantages and disruptive mindsets, using real-world examples that can be adopted and executed by enterprising and innovative leaders.

    "Kevin inspired our management team with his insights about the food industry and his enthusiasm. We've had the best come in to address our group, and Kevin Coupe was rated right up there.  He had our team on the edge of their chairs!" - Stew Leonard, Jr., CEO, Stew Leonard's

    Constantly updated to reflect the news stories covered and commented upon daily by MorningNewsBeat, and seasoned with an irreverent sense of humor and disdain for sacred cows honed by Coupe’s 30+ years of writing and reporting about the best in the business, "Good Is Not Good When Better Is Expected" will get your meeting attendees not just thinking, but asking the serious questions about business and consumers that serious times demand.

    Want to make your next event unique, engaging, illuminating and entertaining?  Start here: KevinCoupe.com. Or call Kevin at 203-662-0100.

    KC's View: