In case you missed it, this week Amazon came up with a genius new delivery plan just in time for the holidays. Plus, Alexa devices now let their owners make voice and video calls to any U.S., Canadian or Mexican phone number without touching a thing, and those same devices are about to make their debut at Kohl’s. Finally, Amazon says goodbye to one of Whole Foods’ small-format stores and hello to its own private-label athleisure clothing brand.
Delivering The Goods
Amazon will install delivery lockers in apartment buildings across America just in time for holiday shopping. Complex owners will pay $10,000 to $20,000 up front for the “Hub by Amazon” lockers but will not be charged a subsequent fee for usage.
The delivery lockers will be equipped with cellular connectivity so that residents can gain access to their packages using their phones. They will receive mobile notifications when packages arrive, including a code for retrieving them.
The eCommerce giant signed contracts with apartment owners and managers representing over 850,000 units, including ones from AvalonBay Communities Inc., Equity Residential, Greystar and the Bozzuto Group.
Owners and managers are saying Hub by Amazon will save their employees hours of package sorting on a daily basis. Hub will accept packages from all carriers, even for orders not placed on Amazon.
Calling All Alexa Fans
Amazon’s Echo smart home devices can now make voice and video calls. For people who have given each other access, there’s no need to even pick up a device – just drop in on Mom while she’s cooking dinner, and she doesn’t even have to put the spatula down.
Fans say the capability reduces friction (which is the whole point of Amazon's Alexa and smart devices in general) and also that it could help reduce consumers’ dependence on their smartphones.
Echo devices have supported phone calls between Alexa-enabled devices since May, but now, anyone with the Alexa app can make free phone calls to any U.S., Canadian or Mexican phone number. The only exception? To connect with landlines, the Echo must also be plugged into a landline phone.
The Finite Shelf
Next Wednesday, Oct. 25, Amazon’s smart home devices will make their official debut on the shelves of 10 Kohl’s locations in Los Angeles and Chicago – or at least, in Amazon-operated kiosks within those Kohl’s locations. The stores will also be accepting Amazon returns. The twofold purpose is to drive retail foot traffic and to help Amazon shoppers return unwanted items more easily.
Kohl’s shares are down 12 percent since the beginning of the year, and the retailer plans to reduce its brick and mortar footprint, but how much or how soon is unclear and may depend on how the partnership pans out. The Amazon offerings are slated to debut in 70 additional stores – but whether that will be before or after the holiday shopping rush is also unclear.
Following a plan laid out before Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, the organic grocer will be closing one of its small-format 365 by Whole Foods stores due to lack of draw. Five other 365 stores will remain open while the Bellevue, Washington one shutters. Furthermore, two new 365 stores are on the docket in San Francisco and Brooklyn, showing that Whole Foods (or rather, Amazon) hasn’t lost faith in the concept – just in the particular location.
With Amazon slashing prices at the primary Whole Foods stores, however, is there still a need for a private-label, small-format version of the store now that it’s shaking its “whole paycheck” reputation? Amazon apparently thinks so, so we’ll see how it goes.
Sense Of Clothesure
Soon consumers may be sporting Amazon originals around the house with the eCommerce giant’s new private label athleisure clothing brand. Amazon partnered with Taiwanese sportswear manufacturers Eclat Textile Company and Makalot Industrial Co., which supply Gap, Kohl’s, Lululemon, Nike, Under Armour, Uniqlo and others.
Stocks dropped for the Eclat and Makalot brands after Amazon’s announcement of its sportswear endeavors, and both have struggled to keep pace with sales forecasts. Will the Amazon partnership help or hurt? Only time will tell.