retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Jeff Weidauer about my contention that checkout-free technology will end up being as important to retailing as scanning:

I have to play the role of contrarian here and point out that checkout-free stores remain much more concept than reality. The few stores operating are convenience store-size, and just getting those to work takes buckets of money and more than a few back office folks to watch the video screens. Translating that concept to a full-size supermarket expands those resource requirements exponentially. “Go-type” stores are a lot like self-driving cars -- a really cool idea, but I’m not standing on one leg waiting for either one to happen.”

I’m not waiting on one leg waiting for anything to happen. And I’m not sure I’ve ever suggested that this will happen soon, and certainly not overnight.

But in the words of Jean-Luc Picard … Everything is impossible, until it’s not.

Regarding Whole Foods after its acquisition by Amazon, MNB reader Aaron Gottschalk wrote:

Realizing it's only one store out of many, the newer Minneapolis WFM has gone downhill over the past two years to a degree that I have never seen a WFM present itself with product availability issues, empty food bars, higher price points on sale items, and a lack of training that showed itself when I paid for some groceries with dollar coins and the cashier had never seen them and didn't know where to put them in his till.  

Having visited this store since the time it opened and having enjoyed and valued that experience I am not apt to return with expectations that will be fulfilled.  As Chick Hearn would say "the mustard is off the hot dog".  From someone who has been in the Natural Foods Movement for over 35 years it's clearly evident that WFM is having a lot of problems both internally and externally and I don't perceive an easy fix being possible at this point.

I take your point, and bow to your expertise. I haven’t seen that kind of decline in my Whole Foods, but that could mean one of two things - either store management has done a better job than the one you reference, or I’m not as sensitive as you are to any changes that have taken place.

To be honest, I’d bet on the latter.
KC's View: