With Prime Day officially in the history books, and 2019 officially in the back stretch (July 1 marks the start of the year’s second half), the race for the consumer’s whole paycheck is speeding up, as the field sets up for that ever-exciting final sprint down the retail backstretch in Q4.
Which means, as is often the case, Q3 is spent watching the racers get into position to take down that backstretch. This week was a class on that – particularly for Amazon, which was doing a little bit of everything. Walmart on the other hand, continued its ongoing series of omnichannel enhancements, along with riding some short-term trends.
But first, let’s take a look at Amazon and its various long games this week.
Big Play of the Week: Amazon Edges Further Into Real Estate
Publicly traded real estate firm Realogy believes the Amazon smart home suite will prove to attract would-be homebuyers. The company is offering a package that includes Amazon security, surveillance and automation products, and move-in services to those who ultimately close on a deal.
The Amazon-inspired package comes care of the New Jersey-based firm’s TurnKey program, which is currently available in 15 markets, including Seattle. Amazon customers will be able to learn more about the program – and the Amazon-connected services it offers – on a dedicated landing page within Amazon.com. If they decide to go forward, they will be redirected to a Realogy site and matched with one of the pre-vetted and screened partner agents. Participating agents include Coldwell Banker, Century 21 Real Estate and Sotheby’s International Realty.
To access the benefits of the program, a consumer working through the TurnKey program uses a promo code provided by Realogy to access one of three preselected bundles of Amazon products, along with services such as house cleaning and furniture assembly. Those bundles are valued between $1,000 and $5,000 depending on the base value of the property. Every bundle includes at least two microphone-equipped Echo devices and a Ring doorbell camera.
Wall Street liked the “Amazonizing” of retail: Realogy’s stock price jumped 25 percent on the announcement of the enhanced TurnKey offering.
Logistics Watch: Ohio and Brooklyn Expansions Eyed
Rumors are swirling that Amazon is in talks to rent space at Brooklyn’s Industry City for a new logistics facility. According to unnamed sources, the lease would be for as much as one million square feet (93,000 square meters). Amazon is also potentially seeking additional logistics properties in New York as it looks to expand its fast delivery capacity within the city limits.
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company had no new warehouse projects confirmed in Brooklyn.
Lisa Serbaniewicz, a representative for the property Industry City, mostly sidestepped comment.
If the rumors turn out to be true, Amazon would be renting approximately 15 percent of the 6.5 million-square-foot waterfront complex in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood.
And Brooklyn isn’t the only location reportedly on Amazon’s radar for some logistical upgrades. The company has also announced its intentions to open a pair of robotic-powered fulfillment centers in Ohio this week. Both warehouses will be larger than 700,000 square feet, located in the greater Akron and Rossford areas. Much like other shipping and fulfillment centers, the two new plants will feature both human and robotic “workers,” though automation will play a larger part. Combined, the two plants will create 2,500 full-time positions. The two new plants are intended to support Amazon’s recently announced push into one-day shipping in the U.S.
And warehousing support isn’t the only footprint expansion Amazon was exploring this week.
Real Estate Reset: Amazon Office in New York After All
After the rather spectacular public implosion of Amazon’s plans to build half of its second HQ in Long Island City earlier this year, it seemed a relocation to the Big Apple was more or less off the table.
And while the ambitions this time around are much smaller, it seems Amazon’s office may be coming to downtown after all. Well, technically midtown.
Amazon is reportedly considering taking out a lease in the former Lord & Taylor flagship building on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which is currently owned by WeWork. Reports indicated that Amazon may lease the entire building, which is 12 stories and could house as many as 4,000 employees.
The deal is reportedly in its early stages. Amazon is considering a host of potential office spaces in the city, including the historic Farley Post Office. As of today, Amazon currently has about 5,000 workers in office buildings throughout New York City.
Whether Amazon will begin hiring for the new space or plans to relocate existing workers is not known, and it’s also unclear whether the retailer will install any of its other stores, like an Amazon Go or a bookstore, in the spaces under consideration.
Headaches in Healthcare Expansions: Fending off the Surescript Power Play
This category probably deserves an asterisk as the biggest news of the week that wasn’t Amazon’s earnings or the bite that one-day shipping is taking out of their bottom line. We’ve summarized that elsewhere, and we’ll hold off on the head-to-head comparison to Walmart until Bentonville releases its Q2 earnings in about two weeks.
But also grabbing up headlines this week was the deteriorating situation pitting Amazon’s pharmacy arm PillPack against electronic prescriptions giant CVS-owned Surescripts, the latter of which manages about 80 percent of all U.S. prescriptions, sources told CNBC. According to unnamed sources, Surescripts is working behind the scenes to prevent PillPack from accessing prescription data. That’s a major problem for PillPack, which uses patients’ data to issue warnings about possible medication interactions, side effects, duplications and other details important to health and safety.
CNBC reports that two people familiar with the matter have said PillPack has already been informed it will be cut off from accessing data from third-party entity ReMyHealth, which collects information from Surescripts and cleans it up.
“PillPack is productively working with partners across the healthcare industry to help people throughout the U.S. who can benefit from a better pharmacy experience,” Jacquelyn Miller, a PillPack spokesperson, told the news outlet. “While we’re not surprised when powerful incumbents try to undermine these efforts, we are confident that our collaborative approach to bringing customers more choice, more convenience and improved quality will ultimately prevail.”
Surescripts, on the other hand, has said that medication history “can reveal a lot about an individual’s health status, including the most sensitive of healthcare conditions” – which means they have a duty to protect its privacy.
But it is an issue that could affect the outcome of a suit filed by the FTC that accuses Surescripts of monopolizing the e-prescription markets. Surescripts filed a motion to dismiss the case on July 15, stating that the FTC doesn’t have jurisdiction and can’t demonstrate the harm caused.
This latest conflict with Amazon is not their first: A judge ruled that a former CVS employee had to wait 18 months before taking a job at PillPack.
The Big Move of the Week: An Internal Reorg Rolls On
As it looks to buttress its general retail, digital and omnichannel efforts, Walmart’s move to realign its internal management structure carried on this week. The goal of the reshuffling of executives, according to reports, is to help better integrate its retail store and digital operations.
“Our customers want one, seamless Walmart experience,” CEO Doug McMillon wrote to the company’s employees. “Earning more of our customers’ business in food and consumables is foundational to our strategy, and, at the same time, we will expand our ability to serve them with general merchandise in stores and through our broad eCommerce assortment as we continue to invest [in] and build our eCommerce business.”
To support those efforts, Walmart recently hired Chief Technology Officer Suresh Kumar and Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside. Whiteside previously worked at American Express and Kumar has worked at Google and Amazon. The company also announced it is combining the U.S. supply chain teams, which will be helmed by current Executive VP of U.S. Supply Chain Greg Smith. Smith will report to President and CEO Greg Foran and Head of U.S. eCommerce Marc Lore.
“We take these steps knowing we will make further adjustments over time as we balance the need for focus and speed with efficiency and leverage,” McMillon wrote. “The work so many of you have done over these past few years to strengthen our stores and build an eCommerce business have put us in a strong position that enables us to move forward on this journey. Please join us in congratulating these leaders on their new roles. Thank you and let’s keep the momentum going!”
Tapping the Zeitgeist: Riding the Trends in Ways Expected … and Not
As almost everyone has noticed, it has been extremely hot for the last week or so in the U.S. Granted, the worst of the so-called “heat dome” that drove meteorologists to increasing levels of hysteria has finally cracked, but given summer is only halfway done, the heat can be counted on to peak again.
Walmart feels our collective pain.
And so to celebrate the heat wave, they did what any smart mass retailer does: discounted their air conditioners. A new Haier window air conditioner has been priced under $200 on Walmart’s eCommerce site on and off for the last several weeks. During the height of the heat wave, consumers could choose overnight delivery without extra charges. The air conditioners are well-reviewed thus far, with noise being the main complaint.
And if selling air conditioners fast and cheap in the dead of summer doesn’t rouse a feeling of admiration for Walmart’s creativity, there is always the unicorn store.
No, that is not a typo.
Walmart, in looking through its online shopper data, noticed a much higher than expected number of searches for the word “unicorn.” So they did the only rational thing and created a new online destination called The Unicorn Shop.
If you find yourself wishing your life had more glitter, pastels or rainbow colors, The Unicorn Shop could become your new favorite online destination. Clothes, books, jewelry, pool floats, baking decorations – it is safe to say that if it’s capable of being branded with a unicorn, it is now for sale in this new online sub-shop.
The shop allows users to break down their unicorn hunt by specific themes: clothes, party decorations, cooking, etc. Or, for the more whimsically minded, there is an option to “shop all unicorn” that will display the full range of unicorn products on offer.
You might want to block out some time for that option: There is way more than you might think.
Actually, if we had to pick a good sum-up for this week in the race for the consumer’s whole paycheck, “there’s way more than you think” is probably a valid choice.
Because out in front and behind the scenes, there is always much, much more going on in any given week than it is even possible to take in with a quick glance.
We’ll see you back here next week for the next deep dive.