retail news in context, analysis with attitude

•  CNN has a story about how the food delivery business may about to face a second reckoning, having dodged a bullet on the first one.

Here's the premise of the story.  A year ago, with costs high and consumer demand mediocre, many of the best-known food delivery businesses were considering their tenuous futures, pondering the possibility of changed business models or mergers that would give them new life.  Then the pandemic hit, creating enormous demand for their services, and suddenly everyone was in clover.  A number of them saw it as the perfect time to announce IPOs and cash in on their new and better reality.

But now, CNN reports, "The vaccine rollout signals what could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic, and with it, yet another shift in demand."

"People have gotten much more used to ordering food and other products through delivery services. Some of that will decline once it's safe to do things in person, of course," Scott Duke Kominers, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, tells CNN.  "But new habit formation is powerful."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that changed "shopping habits during the pandemic are reshaping America’s labor market.

"The nation added jobs for the seventh straight month in November, the Labor Department said Friday. Most came in the transportation and warehousing industries - the ones that package, ship and deliver goods to consumers."

The story goes on:  "The shift is creating a divide in the workplace. U.S. employment is still 6.5% smaller than it was in February, the month before the pandemic caused businesses across the U.S. to close. But employment in warehousing and related industries has boomed. Warehousing and storage jobs have grown by 97,000, or 8%, since February. Courier and messenger jobs—workers who deliver goods—have expanded by 182,000, or 22%.

"Much of the growth is tied to consumer spending. Even before the pandemic, U.S. households were increasingly buying retail items online, including clothing, gifts and groceries. The pandemic has accelerated that trend. Now, increasingly consumers are even buying cars online, instead of going to the showroom."

•  The Chicago Tribune reports that "Amazon Fresh, the e-commerce giant’s budding chain of physical grocery stores, is set to open Thursday in Naperville, the first of four stores the company is planning in the Chicago area.

"The high-tech shopping experience will include the option to use Dash Carts, which use cameras, sensors and scales to identify the items selected and ring them up, allowing customers to skip the checkout line. Terminals outfitted with voice-enabled Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant technology, will help shoppers locate products and offer recipe suggestions.

"The 35,000-square-foot Naperville store, at 3116 S. Route 59, is the fifth Amazon Fresh store nationwide and the first outside of California. Amazon has been using the space since July to fulfill online grocery orders."