Most weeks the latest and greatest in the race for the consumer’s whole paycheck is the top-line news item for both Amazon and Walmart. What the big play of the week is can vary — as can what part of the consumer ecosystem it is targeting — but usually in rounding up the week’s headlines one of the big moves in capturing more of the average customer’s spend is what takes up the top-of-the-fold space.
But not this week. This week the big headline generator wasn’t anything that either brand was selling, or doing in service or sales, but instead what a spokesperson said — specifically what they said about the current controversy over Amazon’s place in claiming the consumer’s whole paycheck.
Amazon spokesperson Jay Carney was the latest in Amazon’s upper ranks to once again dispute the idea that Amazon is an all-controlling monolith slowly but surely taking over all of retail. At a tech conference this week, Carney said Amazon accounts for a scant 4 percent of retail in the U.S. and less than 1 percent globally. He said Amazon’s roughly 40 percent market share of eCommerce isn’t nearly as impressive as it sounds given that most retailers’ efforts are omnichannel these days.
“What I found around the country, and sometimes around the world, is that the perception of Amazon is a little different from the reality,” Carney said.
And while Carney certainly has a point — Amazon in reality would be hard-pressed to live up to Amazon the urban legend — in terms of advances on the consumer’s whole paycheck, whether Amazon is or is not dominant by market share or wallet share, consumers seem to like what it does, or else they’d shop somewhere else.
Big Play of the Week: Amazon Go’s Coming Expansion
There are as of today 18 Amazon Go stores in the U.S., with more promised by the end of this year and throughout 2020. And, according to some reports now emerging, it looks like there could soon be a whole lot more.
Or, at least, a whole lot more stores that are using Go’s checkout-free technology, anyway. According to CNBC, Amazon has begun talks with OTG’s CIBO Express, a chain of stores most commonly seen in airports, Cineworld’s Regal theaters and sporting event concession stands nationwide. According to reports, CIBO Express is looking to license Amazon’s Go tech to create a similarly seamless, cashierless retail experiences in locations where customers are going to be very on the go. Imagine the relief of travelers anywhere when they are able to run through a concessions stand to grab a magazine and a bottle of water and still make it to their gate on time.
Neither firm has confirmed nor denied the reports of a rumored licensing agreement so far. But industry watchers say the writing is already on the wall, no matter what anyone says. The theory is that standalone Amazon Go stores were Step 1 in a retail reformation plan, licensing the technology to high-traffic retail areas like airports is Step 2.
Step 3? According to the experts, that is a future where every store functions like a Go store, whether or not Amazon built the enabling tech.
Logistics Move of the Week: Amazon Keeps On Truckin’
According to news out this week, it looks like Amazon ongoing logistics expansion is getting an upgrade, care of a fleet of branded truck tractors built by Volvo and Kenworth. Details remain sketchy at this point — how many trucks are being built and how many are to be released are still unknown variables. But truckers nationwide have confirmed they’ve spotted the tractor trailers at Volvo and Kenworth.
Early descriptions indicated they are “day cabs,” rather than “sleeper cabs,” indicating the drivers of the trucks won’t sleep there. That indicates the trucks are designed for shorter hauls of 400 miles or less, SJ Consulting Group’s principal consultant Satish Jindel told Business Insider.
Amazon has confirmed the big release of new trucks is coming — though thus far it has not been willing to provide much in the way of details.
New Grooves of the Week : Amazon Music Comes to Apple TV
Starting this week, Apple TV will support Amazon Music in 13 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia. The news follows an announcement earlier this year that Apple Music customers could find support for their streaming service on Amazon’s suite of Alexa devices. Apple has also expanded the inventory list it has for sale on Amazon. The news has been taken by some as a sign that friction between two rivals has been somewhat alleviated.
The move comes as both Amazon and Apple are facing global antitrust probes, and working extra hard to demonstrate what great collaborators they can be. Spotify also launched on Apple TV this week. In the past, Spotify has alleged that Apple engages in anti-competitive tactics by assessing fees and controlling app updates.
Still some have complained that even the pair-up between the giants itself is actually anticompetitive. When Apple and Amazon struck the sales deal earlier this year — reportedly to stop the proliferation of fake Apple products on the site — concerns were raised that the move would also be cutting out most third-party Apple sellers who were barred from selling Apple products on Amazon at all.
“You put a gate around the brand and say all the third-party sellers of whatever that brand is get a notice saying you can no longer sell this product on our platform unless you get authorization from the brand,” Sally Hubbard, an antitrust expert and the director of enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute, said of Apple and Amazon’s pair-up.
“But, of course, the brand is not going to let you sell if you’re under the [minimum advertised price]. Problem is that it’s illegal under antitrust law,” she said.
Big Plays of the Week: The Digital Brand Reshuffles
In 2017 Walmart captured quite a bit of attention with its acquisitions of up-and-coming digital apparel brands ModCloth and Bonobos as part of a massive eCommerce overhaul that began with is $3 billion acquisition of Jet.com.
As 2019 is winding down, Walmart is again making the headlines with ModCloth and Bonobos, but this time around it is because of efforts to rein in that big digital expansion some. This week Walmart announced that is has found a buyer for ModCloth in the form of Go Global Retail.
After the acquisition, ModCloth will continue to operate out of its current operational setup, with Go Global Retail investing in its digital capabilities including artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. The deal is expected to close later this year.
“We believe that together with current management, ModCloth has the ability to become a stronger player in the premium fashion market, nationally as well as internationally,” Go Global Retail Managing Director Jeff Streader said in a press release. “Our team of experienced retail and brand practitioners will supplement existing management in areas of digital strategy, supply chain and operations,” added Go Global Managing Director Christian Feuer.
Walmart was also upbeat as it sent ModCloth on its way.
“We believe that ModCloth’ s strong brand equity positions it for growth in the future,” said Ashley Hubka, senior vice president of corporate strategy, development and partnerships at Walmart. “We feel good about the progress at ModCloth and believe that Go Global’s team and scale out strategy presents an attractive opportunity for the employees and customers of this beloved brand.”
Bonobos, on the other hand, is staying within the Walmart family, but in a somewhat contracted form. The seller of bespoke men’s clothing announced this week that a few dozen employees are being laid off in the company, which has about 600 employees.
“These decisions are not taken lightly, but we believe they are necessary to set the brand and business up for long term success,” a spokeswoman said. The decision for the layoffs came from Bonobos, she said.
The moves follow what has been a pattern for Walmart in regards to its more experimental retail properties over 2019. Earlier this year Jet.com — which has been functioning as a largely separate shop from Walmart — was folded into existing eCommerce operations. There are also rumors circulating that Walmart is looking to unload its affluent customer-targeted delivery service Jetblack — which reportedly loses about $15,000 per member per year.
New Leadership Watch: Walmart Names New U.S. CEO
Walmart has announced a change of leadership at the top of its U.S. operations. John Furner will become the president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S., replacing Greg Foran, who has held the position for the last five years. Foran will be the next CEO at Air New Zealand Limited starting in 2020, but will remain at Walmart until the end of January to help manage the transition.
Furner will report directly to Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon, and the move will be effective Nov. 1. To say he is a longtime Walmart employee really barely covers it. His first position at Walmart was in 1993, when he was an hourly associate in a Walmart supercenter. Over the last 27 years or so he has been a store manager, district manager, a buyer and executive in operations, merchandising and sourcing. Prior to becoming Sam’s Club CEO in 2017, he was chief merchandising officer for Sam’s Club.
Furner will partner with Walmart U.S. eCommerce CEO Marc Lore, who also reports to McMillon, to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience for Walmart’s U.S. customers.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity and ready to get started,” said Furner. “There’s no better place than Walmart U.S. to touch the lives of millions of customers and associates. Together with the team, we will build on the progress under Greg’s leadership and continue to make Walmart an even better place to work and shop. I also want to thank the Sam’s Club team. My years with you have been amazing.”
Logistics Play of the Week: Delivery With Drones Designed to Fly High
Cities can be hard places to delivery, with limited space issues endemic — not to mention concerns about leaving packages at ground level for consumers who live 23 floors up.
Walmart is apparently looking to innovate its way around those problems — as this week it has filed two patent applications for delivery systems aimed at solving for the complexities of urban delivery.
The first is a patented unit for an apartment window designed to take delivery from a drone, or “unmanned aerial vehicle,” as the application specifically says. The unit is a frame attached to a building wall and window ledge, with a net inside the frame. The net receives the package, and the customer opens the window to retrieve it.
It is fairly simple and low-tech — other than the drone. The other system is a bit more complex and involves both a shelf with a trap door mounted to an outside wall to receive the package and a transport system to move the delivered item indoors. The transport system could be a slide, chute, conveyor belt or elevator, the document states.
As with all patents filed by Walmart-sized players, these designs may never see the light of day.
A Walmart spokesman said Wednesday (Oct. 9) that the company has no plans for either of the drone delivery systems at this time, nor would they confirm a timeline for testing drone deliveries.
But then again, we do know for a fact that Amazon is doing drone, among other forms of autonomous delivery. And in a race for the consumer’s whole paycheck, it is usually safe to note that one racer does, the other will find a way to adopt it, and then iterate on it further.
And we, of course, will keep you posted as the race continues — expands its pace.