retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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

Entrepreneur has a piece about Costco’s blaming disappointing earnings on “increased competition from the likes of Walmart and Amazon.com -- particularly in the grocery business -- for shrinking margins,” with the implication that Walmart and Amazon’s online strategies are presenting Costco with an existential threat.

I get the point, and probably have made it myself from time to time, but it may be just a bit overstated … it isn’t like Costco is simply standing pat when it comes to e-commerce. Not only does it sell online, but it also is transparent about how products you buy from it online differ in price from when you buy them in its warehouse stores. But I’d also argue that Costco does not seem agnostic about where it does business with the customer; it remains, from all appearances, a highly store-centric enterprise. I’m a longtime Costco member, and it seems to me that its online communications are both infrequent and ineffective. I simply think it needs to do a better job, with a greater sense of online mission, and the embracing of initiatives such as automatic replenishment, if it is going to have a seat at the table where the stakes are high.


CNBC has an interview with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, in the wake of the announcement that Uber Eats will begin delivering coffee for some 2000 Starbucks locations around the US.

The focus was on culture - a key issue that stands out because Starbucks is a company that has made culture a high priority, and Uber is a company where the culture got so toxic that the former CEO, founder Travis Kalanick, was forced out.

“The fact is that some of the Uber culture was good in that it created an incredible company that grew extraordinarily fast [and] innovated very quickly," says Khosrowshahi. “But I think that what happens is success sometimes imprints faster than failure, and sometimes, when you succeed too fast, you don't take the time to kind of rebuild the frameworks from within.

“Now, I think we're at a much better point in time. We get to have partners like Starbucks that are extraordinary partners that we can align with. The culture work is never done, but I'm much, much happier where we are today than where we were a year ago.”


Advertising Age reports that the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that it is establishing regulations preventing “advertising from including gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence.”

The story notes that the “ASA operates a system of self-regulation, but all major advertisers have signed up to its code of practice.”

And, ASA has said, "We don't see ourselves as social engineers, we're reflecting the changing standards in society."

I don’t care if this is a regulation or not. Brands of any kind that traffic in stereotypes are stupid.
KC's View: