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    Published on: September 8, 2021

    The goal of "The Innovation Conversation" is to explore some facet of the fast-changing, technology-driven retail landscape and how it affects businesses and consumers. It is, we think, fertile territory ... and one that Tom Furphy - a former Amazon executive, the originator of Amazon Fresh, and currently CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners (CEP), a venture capital and venture development firm in Seattle, WA, that works with many top retailers and manufacturers - is uniquely positioned to address.

    Tom and KC return, focusing on some of the big innovation-centric stories that have recently made the news and require contextual analysis.  Among other subjects, they look at the move by Target-owned Shipt to allow online consumers to pick their in-store shoppers … Albertsons' new subscription service … Walmart's new delivery business, designed to serve third-party retailers … Instacart's continued maneuvering … and the latest about Amazon.

    If you're interested in listening to an audio version this Innovation Conversation, you can do so here (or can download this file):

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    by Kevin Coupe

    Marc Lore, who has repeat billions as a serial entrepreneur who created and sold different e-commerce businesses to Amazon and Walmart, has chosen a new project - the construction of a new 150,000-acre "sustainable metropolis" that would be built in a US desert at a cost of $400 billion and serve as a home for five million people.

    Lore says that Telosa - his name for the city - will offer "eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system. A so-called '15-minute city design' will allow residents to access their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter-hour commute of their homes," according to the CNN story.

    The Telosa website says that the goal is "to create a new city in America that sets a global standard for urban living, expands human potential, and becomes a blueprint for future generations."

    Possible locations include Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and the Appalachian region, the company says.

    You can check it out here.

    I have no idea if this is attainable or viable or even a credible proposal.  But I do think it is cool - and while I have been known to express a certain skepticism about the Lore's retail endeavors, I do admire the audaciousness of this concept.

    I'm not sure they'll want people like me to live there - if things go as planned (and, to be sure, they won't), it'll be more than a decade before they allowing people to move in.  I'll be in my late seventies at that point, and maybe a little old for their desired demographic.

    But I'd love to be on the list.  Because this is an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    Amazon has confirmed to the Associated Press that two Whole Foods stores that will open next year - in Washington, D.C., and in Sherman Oaks, California - will include the checkout-free, "just-walk-out" technology that it pioneer in Amazon Go stores around the country.

    As in Amazon Go units, customers will gain access to the store by using an app and will be able to pick items off the shelves and leave without going through a traditional checkout line, with purchases tracked by a complex series of cameras and sensors.  A receipt is delivered to the customer's email account after departure from the store, with charges made to whatever credit card is on the shopper's Amazon account.

    The AP notes that "there will be an option for those who want to shop the old-fashioned way: Self-checkout lanes will be available that take cash, gift cards and other types of payment."

    Amazon has not commented on the degree to which not may be planning to expand the checkout-free format to additional Whole Foods stores, of which there currently are more than 500.

    KC's View:

    This was inevitable, and hardly a state secret - Amazon has consistently been testing its ability to expand checkout-free to more and larger stores.

    I suspect that any additional expansion will be in new stores;  retrofitting an existing store strikes me as way too complicated, but I'm hardly an expert on this stuff.

    I'm just going to say here what I've said from the moment I first saw the original Amazon Go store in Seattle - checkout-free technology eventually will be as important to retailing as scanning.  It changes the shopping experience, and changes consumer expectations.  Not every retailer will be able to have it, but if a store does not, it had better do something to make checking out a lot less onerous than it normally is.

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    Publix Super Markets yesterday announced that it plans to open its first store in Kentucky.

    The planned Louisville store will "feature a 55,702-square-foot Publix supermarket and an adjacent Publix Liquors, the first located outside the state of Florida, that will offer beer, wine and spirits," the company said.

    The opening date is still to be determined, but the fourth quarter of 2023 has been set as a goal.

    Kentucky is the eighth state in which Publix will have operations;  it currently has 1,281 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.  "Moving into Kentucky is a natural progression for our company," said Publix CEO Todd Jones in a prepared statement.

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    CNBC reports that Amazon "is now moving cargo for outside customers in its latest move to compete directly with FedEx and UPS," though it is not offering (yet) the array of services that those shippers provide.

    The story suggests that Amazon will "cherry-pick" the companies it works with and the packages it delivers, looking for opportunities where it can provide expedited and more efficient delivery services while taking advantage of the shipping network is has built over the past seven years.

    The CNBC story puts this all in context:

    "Amazon said in its first-quarter earnings report that capital expenditures were up a whopping 80% from a year earlier, helping it increase capacity of its in-house logistics network by 50% year over year. According to SJ Consulting Group, Amazon is now shipping 72% of its own packages, up from 46.6% in 2019."

    "In 2014, Amazon started building its global transportation network from scratch. Seven years and 10 billion deliveries later, Amazon now has 400,000 drivers worldwide, 40,000 semi-trucks, 30,000 vans, and a fleet of more than 70 planes."

    KC's View:

    I've said it here before - on my street, we see at least as many gray Amazon Prime vans as we do FedEx, UPS and Post Office trucks.  It does not strike me as a huge leap for Amazon to go to selected retailers and offer to ship all its products using the existing network.

    If it were me, I'd pick a retailer like, say, LL Bean, and make the following pitch:  We'll provide all your shipping services, we'll save you 30 percent on all your costs, and we'll get things to your customers at least as fast as the other guys.  And then, assuming that Amazon could live up to those promises, I'd use the results to make the same pitch to other retailers.

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, we've now had a total of 41,206,672 Covid-19 coronavirus cases, resulting in 669,022 deaths and 31,522,263 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 222,895,962 coronavirus cases, with 4,602,961 resultant fatalities and 199,451,565 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 73.1 percent of the US population age 12 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 62.3 percent being fully vaccinated.

    •  From the Washington Post this morning:

    "It’s back to school week for many families in the United States — just as coronavirus cases surge among kids and teens. Weekly pediatric coronavirus cases surpassed 250,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to the most recent data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Its data shows that more than a quarter of weekly reported coronavirus cases in the United States were among children for the week ending Sept. 2. And while most pediatric cases are not severe, there were just shy of 2,400 children in hospital nationwide with covid-19 in the seven days ending Tuesday — more than ever before, according to data tracked by the Washington Post."

    The Post also writes that "Miami-Dade County Public Schools are reporting at least 13 employee deaths from covid-19 since mid-August, a tally that forecasts what could be a grim autumn for Florida educators."  

    And in Texas, the Post writes, "Masks are now mandatory for students and staff in the Connally Independent School District, on the outskirts of Waco. The decision, made late last week, followed the two teacher deaths and a surge of cases in the community.

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    •  Engadget reports that Amazon "is planning to launch its own TVs in the US as soon as October, just in time for the holiday shopping season. The project has reportedly been in development for almost two years by teams from Amazon Devices and Lab126, the R&D division responsible for designing the company's products that include the Kindle and the Echo speakers."

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    •  The Business Journals reports that Save A Lot has sold 32 company-owned stores in the Cleveland, Chicago and Milwaukee markets to Yellow Banana LLC, a unit of 127 Wall Holdings.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    According to the story, "The company said the 32 stores are located in 'underserved, predominantly minority communities.'

    "'The philosophy that guides our collaboration with Save A Lot is centered on providing both food and job security to those communities that are most in need,' said Michael Nance, who co-founded 127 Wall Holdings with Walker Brumskine, Ademola Adewale-Sadik, and Joseph Canfield. The company said it will retain all 400 of the Save A Lot employees at the 32 stores."

    •  Axios reports that "Impossible Foods is out with a chicken nugget that closely mimics the taste and texture of the American fast food favorite."

    The story notes that "plant-based meat companies aren’t just after the vegan and vegetarian market. They’re thinking much bigger.  These companies are betting that getting closer and closer to the flavor of foods like nuggets and burgers will attract meat-eaters, too."

    Indeed, the New York Times has a story this morning about how, "riding the waves of success of soy, oat and other alternatives to milk, as well as vegan burgers made by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, a broad variety of plant-based foods are showing up on restaurant menus and in grocery store aisles. And now more companies — from small upstarts to established brands — are looking to get in on the action.

    "This summer, Panda Express started putting orange chicken made with Beyond Chicken from Beyond Meat on menus at some of its U.S. locations. Pete’s Coffee is selling a vegan breakfast sandwich made with mung-bean-based Just Egg. A New York City soft-serve shop, 16 Handles, collaborated with the popular Oatly drink to create a line of vegan sweets in flavors like chocolate, chai tea and iced latte. And the Long John Silver’s seafood chain tested plant-based crab cakes and fish fillets at five locations in California and Georgia this summer."

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    •  California-based Cardenas Markets announced that Prabash Coswatte, the company's Chief Administration Officer, has been promoted to the role of COO.

    Published on: September 8, 2021

    MNB reader Andy Casey had a thought about yesterday's story about how Instacart is looking to sell online advertising; its ad business generated about $300 million in revenue last year, and some believe it could reach $1 billion by next year:

    I’m not going to deny there are some benefits and valid reasons for retailers to get started in ecommerce using Instacart but this walks and quacks so much like a duck that clearly, it is in fact a duck. "For Instacart, advertising is a way to boost sales and deepen its connection with users” – deepening the connection with Instacart users, not deepening the connection for supermarkets with their customers. You don’t even have to read between the lines anymore.


    Also got several emails about Michael Sansolo's column about business lessons that can be learned from the late Rolling Stones drummer, Charlie Watts.

    MNB reader Doug Fritsch wrote:

    Great analogy and one that will resonate across multi-generations. Who doesn’t love the Stones.

    And MNB reader Monte Stowell wrote:

    Regarding the passing of Charlie Watts: Last week, I listened to the two CD’s of The Stones, Hot Licks, focusing in on Charlie Watts drumming. Having never paid any attention to how much a drummer is to a band, I came away, after 2 hours of listening to Charlie Watts, I now understand why he was the backbone of The Rolling Stones. I would ask anyone who did not pay attention to Charlie Watts, to do so, to appreciate how great he was. Truly an amazing artist. I got plenty of “Satisfaction” revisiting this great artist.  RIP Charlie.