retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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

CNBC reports that a new study by inMarket suggests that the installation of Amazon lockers at Whole Foods stores is encouraging more quick trips to Whole Foods by shoppers, “giving the natural and organic retailer a new way to boost sales … Short ‘micro’ visits, defined as three to five minutes in length, were up 11 percent at stores with lockers since Amazon closed its purchase of Whole Foods on Aug. 28.”

• The New York Times has a story about how, even as Amazon collects sales taxes in every state that assesses them, “those deals don’t always extend to taxes assessed by local governments. The company still isn’t collecting sales taxes in dozens of cities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, according to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning think tank.”

Not only are these communities missing out on potential tax revenue, the story says, but “local retailers, many already struggling to compete with online retailers, are effectively forced to charge more for their products than online sellers that aren’t required to collect local taxes.”

The problem is that “a hodgepodge of state laws govern tax collection … For example, sales tax rules based on the location of the seller may be impossible to enforce if the company has no physical presence in that jurisdiction.” It all makes collecting taxes in some locations problematic.

• Call it a big investment - probably to the tune of many millions of dollars - by Amazon in its own ecosystem.

It was announced yesterday that Amazon Studios will underwrite a four-episode miniseries about 16th century Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes that will star Javier Bardem, be produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Schindler’s List scribe Steven Zaillian. The miniseries will only be available to Amazon prime members via streaming.

Variety writes that “the greenlight for the Cortes series continues a shift in strategy at Amazon that began last year with a mandate from CEO Jeff Bezos to move toward more event programming from the entertainment division.”

There is a fascinating backstory to the Cortes project. It actually is based on an original script by the late screenwriter Dalton Trumbo back in the sixties, and was designed to be his follow-up to “Spartacus,” which he wrote, and was going to star Kirk Douglas. And that’s interesting because Trumbo was one of many writers who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era; Douglas’s hiring of him to write “Spartacus” is seen as the beginning of the end of the Hollywood blacklist.
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