retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Bloomberg reports that Amazon is adding “top brand” to badges such as “best seller” and “Amazon’s choice” that it appends to items sold on its site. It is, the story says, “designating products sold by certain companies as ‘top brands’ … the company is testing the label on fashion items, basing the designation on brands that are popular with customers.”

Amazon says that companies do not and cannot pay for the designation. Among the brands getting the label are Speedo, New Balance, Under Armor and Fruit of the Loom.

The story notes that “the criteria Amazon uses to determine” which products get specific badges “have attracted the attention of critics and government officials amid a renewed focus on the market power of online platforms. Critics say the logic behind the labels isn’t always transparent to consumers or brands and fear Amazon could use them to prop up its growing range of private labels.” This new badge, Bloomberg writes, “could ease tension between the online retail giant and big-name companies used to favorable positioning at brick-and-mortar retailers.”


• The Financial Times has a story about Canada-based Shopify, which it says has expanded from its roots as an e-commerce platform into a current launch “of its own fulfillment network, offering to take on merchants’ warehousing and logistics needs - mirroring similar operations at Amazon.” In the process, FT writes, Shopify’s market capitalization has passed that of Twitter, Square, Spotify, and eBay.

The story says that Shopify is seen as helping retailers challenge Amazon’s dominance, “arming individual merchants with the same technology and capabilities, but with more control.”


Fast Company reports that Facebook “has announced plans to open a series of five “Facebook Cafes” across the U.K. by early September. There, you will be able to get a privacy checkup along with a free coffee … The plan has been called a PR stunt, and it may be. But in the context of tech companies building a presence in cities, Facebook is late to the party. Pop-up stores, brand activations, and retail locations that also offer free events and other public-facing amenities have become a key component of  business playbooks in recent years, in part thanks to a glut of commercial real estate left behind by the retail apocalypse.”

The story goes on: “Beyond its poor privacy practices, dealing with Facebook’s opaque customer service is like shouting into a void. An offline cafe could be a clever PR move that sweetens public sentiment with honeyed lattes, sure, but it’s also the first manifestation of Facebook as a spot on the map, filled with a staff that you can actually talk to. It’s Facebook as a physical experience filled with fleshy people instead of digital ones. Like Apple, Amazon, and Google/Alphabet, Facebook wants to anchor its brand in the real world - a friendly local cafe where you can stop in for a coffee if you consent to a privacy checkup on your account.”
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