Normally, when in a race for the consumer’s whole paycheck, winning the war for headline dominance in any given week is a good sign. Most attention is good attention.
Most, but not all – and though Amazon managed to dominate the headlines in the early half of the week, it was probably not for reasons they would have chosen. Bloomberg led the week with reports about Amazon’s impending plans to cut off its relationship with small, wholesale merchants in favor of building relationships with big brands directly. It was a story that launched a thousand headlines that contained some combination of the word “purge.”
Amazon then spent much of the middle of the week fighting back on those headlines – even sending emails to media outlets stating unequivocally that the reports were not accurate.
“We informed Bloomberg prior to publication of their article that their story and sources are wrong,” an Amazon spokesperson told PYMNTS in an email.
But while that news – and the battle of its accuracy – managed to dominate much of the news cycle, it was not the only news. Not even close.
Amazon decided a bang was as good a way to end a week as to begin one, and is reportedly eyeing a very big buy. Meanwhile, Walmart has made some pretty impressive leaps forward in its digital game. And both seem to have developed an interest in helping consumers stay cool, just in time for summer – though their interpretations of that idea were quite different.
So, here’s how the hit parade went last week…
Big Play of the Week: Bringing Boost Mobile Into The Fold
As first reported by Reuters, Amazon wants Boost in order to access the New T-Mobile wireless network – which includes the very valuable access to 5G – for six or more years. New T-Mobile is the name of the combined company that will encompass T-Mobile and Sprint if the merger is approved by regulators.
Boost is one of the specific assets T-Mobile and Sprint said they would sell to win approval for the $26 billion merger, as it would lower their overall share of the wireless market. According to reports, the buyer will have to ensure it would continue operations so that consumers would still have choices. T-Mobile and Sprint are also looking at unloading wireless spectrum to get the deal closed. Currently, Boost has between seven and eight million customers, and is expected to be worth about $3 billion in a sale. If a deal with Amazon includes wireless spectrum, it could be valued at $4.5 billion, according to some estimates.
The report further noted Amazon is also interested in purchasing any wireless spectrum that the two may sell as a result of their merger, though it is unknown exactly why that access interests them.
New Partners: The Entertainment Industry Comes to Call
According to reports from this week, entertainment firms are increasingly tapping a T-shirt printing service from Amazon. Called Merch, the on-demand printing business creates new T-shirts as orders come in.
“You can list overnight on Amazon all the merchandise that’s for sale, and then as you book sales, you just make it and ship it. It completely cuts out that whole traditional supply chain,” Gaston Kroub, an intellectual property lawyer, noted of the forthcoming deal’s benefits for partners.
The arrangement frees those who want to sell t-shirts from the upfront expense of creating their merchandise inventory and then hoping it sells. As a result, firms can offer niche options that might not justify a wide distribution. The format supports 15 sizes and 21 colors.
Amazon is reportedly looking to recruit brands ranging from musicians to consumer products, as well as influencers on social media who have at least 100,000 followers.
It was reported last year that Amazon was closing in on $30 billion in gross apparel and footwear sales as of 2018. And according to the latest Reuters report, “Amazon has overtaken Walmart Inc. as the most-shopped clothing retailer in the United States,” though they didn’t name the source for that data.
But if they officially take over printing T-shirts for all of the planet’s very coolest kids? Well, if they haven’t passed Walmart yet, they are certainly on their way.
And speaking of cool…
Keeping Cool With Discounts Pt. 1: Figurative Edition
Anyone who has ever wanted to be cool enough to have a Series 3 Apple Watch, but wasn’t quite willing to fork over the $280-$310 investment to take home the second most current edition of the Apple Wearable: Amazon’s got your back.
As internet value hunters have spent the last day or so ecstatically sharing, the Series 3 Apple Watch is currently listed on Amazon at its Black Friday sale price of $199-$230.
The model for sale is the GPS-only version; the GPS + cellular model still remains priced comfortably close to $400.
But for an $80 savings, you can be cool (and fit, and on time) all summer long.
Big Play of the Week: The New CTO from Google
Walmart has been totally unsubtle in its push to upgrade its retail operation into a full-fledged digital powerhouse over the last four years, and this week saw its latest big play: grabbing up a new CTO from Google.
Well, that is a little misleading. Suresh Kumar, Walmart’s new CTO and chief development officer, is most recently an ex-Googler – but he also is an ex-Microsofter and an ex-Amazonian, where he worked for 15 years in various senior positions.
“The technology of today and tomorrow enables us to serve customers and associates in ways that weren’t previously possible. We have started a significant digital transformation in our business, but we have a long way to go,” McMillon said. “We want to pick up the pace and increase the magnitude of change, so we’re creating a new role, reporting directly to me, of chief technology officer (CTO) and chief development officer (CDO), and I’m excited to announce we have found a uniquely qualified leader for this position in Suresh Kumar.”
As the global CTO, Suresh will be responsible for technical strategy, combining advances in computing with Walmart’s strengths to deliver the best customer experiences.
“Walmart is one of the great success stories in how a company evolves over time to serve the changing needs of its customers, and today, it is in the midst of a very exciting digital transformation,” Kumar said in a statement. “With more than 11,000 stores … the potential for technology to help people at scale is unparalleled, and I am excited to be part of this.”
In-Store Upgrades: Life in the Fast Lane
Walmart has decided that while curbside pick-up can save grocery shoppers lots of time, in-store consumers also need a way to beat a quicker retreat – and so it is reinventing the express lane.
Currently being tested in Canada, the tech-based solution is designed to guide consumers toward a “fast lane” for speedy checkout.
“When My Walmart App users are ready to check out, they enter the ‘Fast Lane,’ scan the barcode on their order, have the order charged to their credit card on file and show the receipt on their phone to the ‘Fast Lane’ associate,” Walmart Canada explained the process in a news release.
The concept launched this week in a single location, and is slated to jump to a second store. If successful, Canadians and Americans can likely expect to see it in wide circulation soon.
“Our new concept is a symbol of what’s to come in retail, and demonstrates our vision for helping Canadians save money and live better, now and in the future,” noted Walmart Canada CEO Lee Tappenden.
And speaking of cool (again)…
Keeping Cool With Discounts Pt. 2: Literal Edition
Except for New England, where summer is always fashionably late, it is getting hot out there.
And Walmart knows that keeping cool is an excellent way to grab a share of their summer paychecks.
And so they are doing the only logical thing: throwing deep discounts at air conditioning window units.
And while that move is not unusual during the summer, and there are all kinds of places to get a cheap window unit on the internet, Walmart is putting the discounts on big name brands.
The two most attention-getting? An LG window unit of $80, and the Frigidaire unit that is reportedly so powerful cold that it can chill a 1,900-square-foot space. That is discounted by $200.
But, it is worth noting, the original price of a window unit that does the work of a household unit is over $800 – so even with the discount, one can expect to pay over $650.
But can one put a price on being comfortable in the summer and not having to sleep in a bathtub full of ice water?
So what did we learn this week, other than the fact that not all attention is good attention?
Well, if one were to wrap up this week in a sentence, it would be “more is more” – because that is clearly what both Amazon and Walmart are thinking about as they race to take the whole paycheck.
We look forward to seeing how that plays out during the summer season.