Published on: February 25, 2022
Reacting to our story yesterday about Amazon-owned Whole Foods opening a new store in Washington, DC, that has Amazon G-style checkout-free technology, one MNB reader wrote:
Many grocers think myopically about all of the systems, personnel, services, products, technology and processes in their stores when they consider a directional change, e.g., checkout-free. As you mentioned in your analysis, "at a certain point, it will get to the point that installing a checkout-free system won't be all that more expensive (if at all) than installing a bank of traditional checkouts plus some self-checkout lanes.”
While that is important, there are other values to be considered in the overall store operating model. For instance, think about the two main sources of shrink: 1) employee theft and 2) shoplifting. In a checkout-free environment, both of these problems are dramatically reduced if not completely eliminated…it either doesn’t allow the shoplifter in or it charges them on the way out! (Last year, according to Supermarket News, “Supermarket retailers surrendered an average of 1.78% of their total sales"…to shrink. That will pay for some cameras!
How about the impact on front-end labor costs…hiring, retraining, etc.? Or how about product ordering labor and order accuracy…near zero labor and 100% accuracy…how does that impact product code-dating, recalls, and in-stock position. And there are many other benefits.
I once asked an Amazon contact how often they missed scanning something and how they could afford that? To which she laughed, indicated that scan accuracy was well over 99% and that all these other cost benefits and efficiency items made it a moot point. She also said that customer satisfaction in the Amazon GO store generally was double that of a normal grocery store.
Once again, seeing the big picture and thinking customer-first is the long-game being played by Amazon. Competitors better get after it!
We had a piece yesterday about the "delivery disconnect" - restaurant customers love it, restaurants know they may need it to be relevant but hate all the extra tsuris it can bring.
In so many ways, these stories make the case for ghost kitchens and maybe even the creation of partnerships between local restaurants to handle local deliveries in a way that brings the service in-house.
Seems to me that it is critical - especially now, at a time when the offering of delivery services seems inescapable - for businesses to figure out ways to reinvent the economics and logistics connected to the segment. During the pandemic, because of the need for speed, companies tried to retrofit these services into existing infrastructure.
Now, I think, it is important to do a little zero-based budgeting, figuring out how one would reinvent the model from scratch. It may require greater investment, but that could be the cost of survival.
MNB reader Bob Lewis wrote:
I agree with your assessment on delivery but think there is another component you did not touch on - food quality. Often it seems restaurants consider how to package the food so it doesn't spill during transport. However, they don't consider how well the food will hold up during delivery. I have had too many delivery episodes when I receive a soggy mess instead of a quality meal. I think this is an area that restaurants are missing the boat.
Yesterday we reported on a new IRI study, conducted with SeeHer, which describes itself as "the largest global movement for accurate representation of women and girls in advertising and media," concluding that advertising campaigns that "more accurately portray women and girls" translate into "more meaningful growth for marketers." According to the study, "Ads with GEM (Gender Equality Measure) scores above the baseline overall delivered 60% improved sales performance on average across gender, language, race and ethnicity."
I commented, in part:
It is good to see that more accurate portrayals of women in advertising can pay off for marketers, since, let's face it, the bottom line for these folks usually is the bottom line.
But it is important to keep in mind the moral and ethical imperative behind accurate portrayals. Idealized, often unreasonable and objectified portrayals of women in the media - not just in ads, but in movies and on television shows, on football sidelines, and certainly throughout social media - put terrible pressure on all women, but especially girls, to live up to some image in ways that can create depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.
I'm glad to see that the sales lifts have been quantified even among men, but I do think we have a long way to go.
I then told a story about a fellow I was talking to who bemoaned the fact that he couldn't refer to women in office settings as "the girls" or "the gals," and, while he acknowledged that we'd never go back to the good old days, he sort of implied that he did think that those, in fact, were the good old days.
I surmised, correctly, that he only has sons, and wrote:
I have a daughter - she's 27 - and one of the things I am proudest of as a father is that she has grown up to be an independent, strong-minded, empathetic, sometimes challenging person (in the best possible way) with an incredible work ethic. I take no credit for this - my biggest contributions probably were staying the hell out of her way when that was the best approach, and trying to being there for her when appropriate. She teaches me about life - and the world in which she lives - all the time. For which I am enormously grateful.
One MNB reader responded:
Thank you for this. For including the article, but also for your commentary. I too am sometimes shocked at archaic thinking of people my own (our) age. Have they not lived in the same world as us, and seen how things have progressed for the better? Maybe having daughters helped. That was very nice of you to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I think what you said about your own daughter was very sweet, and often how I feel about my own daughter.
And I think it’s even more exciting that this information about diverse portrayal of women came out when the US Women’s soccer team won their lawsuit. Win win!
We had a story the other day about how Warby Parker, which has been a leader in the direct-to-consumer movement, selling eyeglasses online and then in stores by positioning them as fashion-for-less, has its eye on a second act: selling services such as eye exams and prescriptions.
I wrote, in part:
This just struck me as interesting in view of my oft-stated contention here that retailers need to be a resource for shoppers, not just a source of product.
I'm a big Warby Parker fan, though I would be unlikely to go to them for an eye exam; I'm old fashioned enough to prefer an ophthalmologist to an optometrist. But there is an opportunity for Warby Parker to expand its TAM (total addressable market) with this move.
MNB reader Rich Heiland responded:
Bias admitted up front...
For the past 20 years I have consulted with private practice ODs, assisting them on the business side. It has been - pardon me - eye opening.
Today ODs are as highly trained as ophthalmologists with the exception of being able to do surgery, and that is changing in some states. So, none of your reads should have any hesitancy about going to a private practice OD.
The difference between private practice ODs (and ophthalmologists) and the big boxes and Warby Parkers is not the skill of the doctor. It is the difference in equipment and technology. One of the most important stops you make during your eye exam is in the pre-test area. That is where all the work is done that the doc then relies on. It is almost impossible for the big boxes and low-enders to make good on the price promise with a drop in the amount of technology, which is costly.
So, OD or MD? Not much difference. The difference between both those and the low-end? Big.
Thanks for clearing that up.
Commenting on a story about The Container Store rebranding itself, and a passage noting that ther company's new CEO has found "joy" in the way the store offers people the ability to organize, I mentioned that my office these days is a lot neater than it used to, and wrote:
I thought the messy old office was sort of charming and idiosyncratic, but over time, Mrs. Content Guy persuaded me that I just looked like a slob. Not sure I would go so far as to say that greater organization has brought me joy, but maybe some small level of satisfaction. (And a little marital peace.)
Prompting one MNB reader to write:
“Marital peace” and “satisfaction” are distinctly tied together as I see it….
Fair point. Though I've also found over the past 39 years that a robust travel schedule is good for the marriage, too.
Yesterday we took note of a Wall Street Journal story saying:
"Among discerning drinkers, craft beer’s hot new thing is a cold, crisp lager that couldn’t be further from long-popular IPAs. The beer that Budweiser and Miller made famous in the U.S. has gone artisanal.
"The bestselling beers tend to be mass-produced lagers, the kinds long associated with ballgames and barbecues. They’re also the brews that picky drinkers often regard as watery and low on flavor, beer experts say. But lagers are now important for more brewers and for a wider range of customers, says Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, which counts more than 5,300 craft breweries as members."
While I love red ales and amber beers, slightly lighter lagers have become more of a favorite in recent years precisely because they don't fill me up quite as much. Maybe it is an illusion, but as it gets harder and harder to stay in shape because of age, physics and gravity, a great lager offers the pleasures of craft beer without weighing me down.
Though, I must admit, I subscribe to the Robert B. Parker school of beer appreciation: "Then worst beer I ever had was wonderful," he once said.
One MNB reader chimed in:
As a long time craft beer enthusiast and cicerone, I enjoy just about any style of beer if its well made. Lagers have long been a hard sell for craft breweries in the advent of bolder IPA’s, tart sours, and sweet pastry stouts. But they have long had their place among the purists who just love a well made, refreshing beer. I do not see a renaissance for the style as much as the article implies. Rather, craft breweries will expand to include more lagers for a growing segment. May not be as exciting as a dry hopped IPA; but just as small brewers jumped on adding their own hard seltzers to production they will add lagers if there is demand to for them.