business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  CNBC reports that "Amazon is raising its hourly wages for its warehouse and delivery workers … Beginning in October, Amazon’s average starting pay for front-line employees in the U.S. will be bumped up to more than $19 per hour from $18 per hour, the company said.

"Warehouse and delivery workers will earn between $16 and $26 per hour depending on their position, Amazon added. Amazon’s minimum wage for employees in the U.S. remains $15 an hour.

"Amazon is spending roughly $1 billion on the pay hikes over the next year as it looks to attract and retain employees in a historically tight labor market. It’s also preparing to enter what’s known as 'peak' season, the especially busy shopping period tied to the holidays."

•  Bloomberg reports that Amazon "is encouraging customer service employees at some US call centers to work from home, signaling the company’s preference for remote work in certain roles that would help save money on real estate, according to people familiar with the matter.

"The shift is part of a plan to close multiple call centers around the country, including one that opened in 2005 in Kennewick, Washington, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak about the plans."

•  Macy's said yesterday that it is "opening up its platform to independent sellers and brands" in an effort "to show customers a wider range of goods without having to warehouse or manage those actual goods," Axios reports.

The move is an effort to mimic Amazon, which does more than 50 percent of its retail sales via its third-party marketplace, as well as other retailers getting into the marketplace game, such as Walmart, Target and Kroger.

Axios suggests that this is a way for Macy's to deal with inventory management issues that long have plagued it - the retailer won't own the marketplace products, and so doesn't have to worry about that issue.  Which is true, but I think the impetus is simpler than that - Macy's needs to drive more sales and profits, Amazon has shown that this is one way to do it, and so Macy's wants to do it, too.

There are, however, potential problems with this.  Marketplace items that end up being counterfeits, or inferior compared to their online descriptions, have ended up being a problem for Amazon, and could be for Macy's, no matter how vigilant it is about the process.  Plus, Axios suggests that this will allow Macy's to see what works and doesn't work on somebody else's dime (my phrase, not Macy's) before deciding to carry certain items itself.  But that's kind of what has gotten Amazon into trouble with legislators and regulators, who argue that this is inappropriate.