retail news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  CNBC reports that "Amazon turned off solar energy systems at all of its U.S. facilities in 2021 after a rash of fires and explosions, including one at its Fresno warehouse in 2020.

According to internal company documents viewed by CNBC, "between April 2020 and June 2021, Amazon experienced 'critical fire or arc flash events' in at least six of its 47 North American sites with solar installations, affecting 12.7% of such facilities. Arc flashes are a kind of electrical explosion.  'The rate of dangerous incidents is unacceptable, and above industry averages,' an Amazon employee wrote in one of the internal reports."

CNBC notes that "the solar snafus underscore the challenge Amazon and many other large corporations face in their quest to shrink their environmental footprint and reduce reliance on fossil fuels."

•  The Information reports that "instant-delivery startup Jokr is in talks with investors to raise between $35 million and $50 million in Series C funding at a pre-money valuation of $1.3 billion, according to two people familiar with the company’s fundraising efforts. That represents a slight increase from its valuation of $1.2 billion set last December.

"The fundraising comes at a critical time for fast-delivery startups. Several, including Jokr, have pulled out of the U.S. market in recent months amid heavy losses. Jokr gave up its U.S. operations in June and decided to focus its efforts on Latin America, where labor costs are lower and competition is less intense."

•  From the Washington Post:

"When Amazon announced its plans to build a second headquarters somewhere in North America, cities and states around the continent stopped at nothing to woo the tech giant. They made promises of billion-dollar tax breaks and massive financial incentives - in a few cases, bigger than some countries’ economies - to get picked as the company’s new home.

"Nearly four years after winning that sweepstakes, Arlington County has yet to pay Amazon a single penny. And that’s by design.

"The coronavirus pandemic shrank some of the tax revenue streams that executives and elected officials said would grow as the e-retailer built its offices in this affluent Northern Virginia suburb. That has meant no cash grants paid out to Amazon - at least not yet - for its $2.5 billion capital investment in the county."

The story goes on:

"The county had initially projected it would pay $22.7 million in total to Amazon in annual payments through 2035. These pay-as-you-go grants are based on Amazon’s commitment to occupy a certain amount of office space in Pentagon City and Crystal City and on an expected increase in local hotel stays stemming from the company’s activity … But if the news may suggest less of an economic windfall for the county than officials and executives had touted just a few years ago, the company and its boosters say it’s too soon to make any snap judgments."

It was just a few years ago that the term "HQ2" was all over the news and seemed like the biggest deal, at least for Amazon and the sundry municipalities seeking its approbation.  But like so many things during the pandemic, it didn't turn out the way anyone expected.  Go figure.

•  Variety reports that "Netflix is moving up the timeline for the debut of its cheaper, ad-supported plan to November - in order to get out before the Dec. 8 launch of the Disney+ tier with advertising.

"In July, Netflix told investors that it was targeting the launch of the ad-supported plan 'around the early part of 2023.'  But now, Netflix’s ad-supported is set to go live Nov. 1 in multiple countries, including the U.S., Canada, U.K., France and Germany, according to industry sources who have been briefed on the streamer’s plans. That would be a little over a month before Disney+ Basic, priced at $7.99/month, hits the market in the U.S."

Interesting to watch as streaming services, designed in so many ways to disrupt traditional broadcast and cable TV services, turn to more orthodox ad-supported models to generate new and needed revenue streams.