retail news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Amazon.com Inc. posted its first quarterly loss in seven years, a result that reflected broad economic trends related to a slump in online shopping, higher costs from inflation and supply-chain woes and market jitters over electric vehicle startups.

"Revenue for the tech giant rose by about 7% for the January-to-March period, the slowest pace in about two decades as consumers returned to prepandemic habits and spent more money in person at stores. It lost $3.8 billion in the quarter, compared with a profit of $8.1 billion a year ago, when a surge in online orders due to the pandemic lifted Amazon’s prospects.

"The performance for Amazon’s sprawling collection of businesses reflects several currents now roiling the tech industry. The amount of products Amazon sold during the quarter was essentially flat from a year ago, and the company reported a 3% year-over-year drop in its online stores segment, which include product sales primarily on its flagship site and digital media content. That’s the largest drop since the metric was first disclosed in 2016 … Meanwhile, revenue growth has slowed in its subscriptions business - which includes its Prime entertainment offerings—and in digital ads, where its rapid expansion in recent years has challenged industry giants Google and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook. Advertising services revenue grew 25% in the latest quarter, excluding currency impact - still fast but well below the 33% clip in the fourth quarter of 2021 and 76% in the first three months of last year.

"Amazon signaled more uncertainty is on the way. It said it expects its operating income for the current quarter to be between a loss of $1 billion and profit of $3 billion. It posted $7.7 billion in operating income during the second quarter of 2021. The company’s shares were down roughly 10% in after-hours trading, reaching the lowest point since June 2020."

Amazon has said that it plans to have its annual Prime Day event in July;  the heavily promoted Prime Day has consistently driven higher-than-usual sales in past years.



•  Publix Super Markets announced that it is working with Instacart to debut "15-minute delivery in Miami powered by Instacart's nano-fulfillment solution, Carrot Warehouses … customers in Miami's Brickell, Coral Gables and   " neighborhoods will be able to have a wide range of fresh produce, pantry staples, household goods and more delivered from Publix in as fast as 15-minutes, whether it's early morning or late night. Publix is the first grocer to collaborate with Instacart on new fulfillment models through Carrot Warehouses."

The New York Times has a story entitled "Instacart Searches for a Direction as Its Pandemic Boom Fades" in which it observes that "Instacart’s next act hinges on Instacart Platform, a set of new software and advertising tools the company announced in March, with an aim of becoming more of a technology provider to grocery companies. With tools like 'Carrot Ads' and 'Carrot Insights,' Instacart said it would bring its own advertising capabilities and analytics to grocers’ websites. The company is also introducing fulfillment centers stocked by its grocery store partners to help it deliver products in 15 minutes.

"But after Instacart Platform was announced, grocery retailers were underwhelmed and confused by how it was different from what Instacart already provided, said seven grocery industry executives and consultants, some of whom asked to speak anonymously to avoid damaging their relationships with Instacart.

"Burt Flickinger III, a longtime industry consultant, described the announcement as something 'grown in a hothouse at Harvard or Stanford that really had no common-sense, commercial application for the common shopper or retailer.'

Since few people know more about this stuff than Burt Flickinger, the folks at Instacart ought to pay attention.  I'm heartened that its leadership continues to maintain it has no interest in opening its own stores, but it also has to avoid being perceived as throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.  Which is sort of how it feels.