business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Detroit Free Press has a story about how southeast Michigan is home to what appears to be a significant expansion of Amazon Fresh supermarkets, with the suburbs of Plymouth and Dearborn slated to join Grand Blanc, Livonia, Rochester Hills, Roseville, Shelby Township and St. Clair Shores as locations where stores are being built.

The speculation is that Amazon would like to open all the stores simultaneously, thus assuring itself a public relations splash;  Amazon itself is not commenting on its Michigan store plans.

KC's View:

A few things here.

I have not been a fan of the Amazon Fresh format;  the stores I've seen strike me as being akin to dark stores that just happen to be open to shoppers, with more employees picking for online orders than there are customers.   That said, I've also maintained that the format is just one great retailing executive away from turning a corner.

I do think that opening a bunch of them in one region at roughly the same time makes a lot of sense.  It could provide both synergies and momentum that could help the stores establish a tangible and viable presence in a way that a one-store-here-and-one-store-there strategy does not.  I'm a little skeptical about Amazon's ability to deliver fast on this promise - there's what appears to be an Amazon Fresh store under construction about 10 miles up the Boston Post Road from me that has been that way for what seems like years.  So, we'll see.

That said, I don't envy Amazon Fresh going into Plymouth, Michigan, where it will have to face off against Westborn Market, a wonderful independent retailer that I have often describer here and in speeches as the best food retailer in the country that nobody ever has heard of.  Amazon Fresh may have the power of Amazon behind it, but in my view, Westborn is so good that I don't even think it will be a fair fight - I know where I would do my shopping.

Which, in the end, is the point.  You do battle with companies like Amazon and Walmart and Kroger not by doing what they do, but by having a differentiated and distinct value proposition that you do better than anyone else.  Whining, it seems to me, is a lot less impactful than winning.

Here's a FaceTime video I did about Westborn a little over five years ago.