retail news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  Amazon announced that Jeff Wilke, CEO of the company's worldwide consumer business, will retire early next year, and will be succeeded by Dave Clark, who runs Amazon's worldwide operations.

The Seattle Times writes that "the hand-off from Wilke to Clark, likely to be smooth given the long tenure and close working relationship of the executives involved, comes as Amazon has converted the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic into one of its most profitable periods ever."

The Times quotes Amazon founder-CEO Jeff Bezos:  "Jeff’s legacy and impact will live on long after he departs.  He is simply one of those people without whom Amazon would be completely unrecognizable."

Wilke said, "I don’t have a new job, and am as happy with and proud of Amazon as ever. … It’s just time."

However, the New York Post reports that Wilke "aims to complete two final projects in the coming months. The first is to oversee the rollout of Amazon Go convenience stores and their ambitious cashierless technology, which allows customers at Amazon Go stores to pay for items by simply walking out of the store rather than ringing them up at a register.

"The bigger task for Wilke, according to a source close to the company, will be to oversee the rollout of high-powered sensors that drive the cutting-edge tech — which currently are currently operating at a mere 26 Amazon Go locations in the US — to Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired for $13.7 billion in 2017."

•  Amazon also announced that it "also added three new members to its senior leadership team … Alicia Boler Davis joined the company in April 2019 as vice president of global customer fulfillment after nearly 25 years rising through the ranks of General Motors. She is the first Black person in the group of top executives, which has been less diverse than the company as a whole.

"The two other additions are John Felton, with Amazon for 16 years and currently vice president of global delivery services, and David Treadwell, who left Microsoft after more than 27 years to join Amazon in 2016 as vice president responsible for the technology foundations of the company’s e-commerce services."

•  From the Seattle Times:

"Amazon has developed an online certification program with City University of Seattle to train its military employees and their families for higher-paying jobs in the company.

"The effort is an outgrowth of an earlier partnership between the mega-retailer and the Seattle-based private nonprofit university, which provides online degree programs to some 7,000 students enrolled around the world. It reflects Amazon’s emphasis on “upskilling” its workers, and specifically the thousands of military veterans and their spouses working for the company, said Charles Stevens, senior manager of Amazon global military affairs.

"The courses, in topics such as database technologies, business analytics and product management, can stand alone or be incorporated into undergraduate or graduate degrees.

"They fit into a broader trend — which has accelerated with the pandemic and ensuing labor market disruption — toward highly focused training programs that can lead directly to new jobs or promotions, said Chris Graham, president of Workforce Education Solutions, part of the National University System, which City University is a part of."

•  From the Chicago Business Journal:

"Toys R Us has ended an e-commerce partnership with Target launched 10 months ago in favor of fulfillment through Amazon …  item descriptions on the Toys R Us website now include the phrase 'Sold and shipped by or fulfilled through,' and buying links redirect to Amazon."

The story notes that "Toys R Us filed bankruptcy in 2017 and closed all its stores in 2018, but the brand was resurrected last year by Tru Kids Inc., a company led by Richard Barry, a former Toys R Us executive.

"In October 2019, Tru Kids announced that Minneapolis-based Target would support the relaunched website, managing content, online sales and fulfillment."

But now, the company is moving over to Amazon to handle online fulfillment.

Haven't we seen this movie before, and don't we know how it ends?  It was 20 years ago that Toys R Us, unable to handle its own online fulfillment, made a deal with Amazon to take over … and a lot of folks might argue that this was the beginning of the end for the old Toys R Us, as Amazon was able to abscond with untold sales and customers.  To be clear, this was suicide, not homicide - Toys R Us gave away those sales.  

There's not as much at stake now.  Toys R Us is a mere ghost of its former self.  But it is hard to imagine that this is the best way for it to establish its differentiated value proposition.