Amazon Is Dropping List Prices

The New York Times: Amazon “built a reputation and hit $100 billion in annual revenue by offering deals. The first thing a potential customer saw was a bargain: how much an item was reduced from its list price. Now, in many cases, Amazon has dropped any mention of a list price. There is just one price. Take it or leave it.”

Larry Compeau, of Clarkson University comments: “They are trying to figure out what product categories have customers who are so tied into the Amazon ecosystem that list prices are no longer necessary.”

“In some categories, like groceries, Amazon seems to be using just one price, the buy-it-now price. If Amazon brings the milk and music into your house, not to mention videos and e-books and the devices to consume them on, as well as a hot dinner and just about any other object you could want, that presents a pricing challenge of a different sort. Untangling what those deals are worth — as opposed to what they cost — is probably impossible.”

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Selfridges Stages ‘Refashioned Theater’

The Stage: “London department store Selfridges is to launch a 100-seat theatre that will allow customers to watch a Shakespeare production being rehearsed and performed. The department store has also teamed up with drama school RADA to provide two weeks of workshops and masterclasses for shoppers. Called the Refashioned Theatre, the venue will have a traverse stage, a box office, a designer royal box and a bespoke lighting rig from White Light.”

“The theatre company will offer audiences the chance to watch rehearsals, which Selfridges compared to the experience shoppers get while looking at its own window displays. The play will feature nine actors, plus five “digital cameos”, where digital images will be projected on to mannequins.”

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Project Sync: Home Depot Streamlines Shelves

The Wall Street Journal: “Instead of filling its warehouse-style racks to the ceiling with Makita drills, rolls of Owens Corning insulation and cans of Rust-Oleum paint, Home Depot wants fewer items on its shelves and it wants them to be within customers’ reach … It is a shift happening across the retail sector as companies try to figure out ways to profitably serve the growing needs of online shoppers while making their network of stores less of a financial burden.”

Home Depot has “instituted ‘Project Sync,’ a series of changes that include developing a steadier flow of deliveries from suppliers into its network of 18 sorting centers … When the shipments get to stores, workers move them right to the lower shelves, eliminating the need to store and retrieve products from upper shelves using ladders and forklifts … Savings can be used to have more workers on the floor or finding orders for shoppers who are picking them up.”

“This also keeps stock from collecting dust out of reach. ‘You would stack it high,’ says Jessica Thibodeaux, manager of a Home Depot just outside Houston, ‘but it wouldn’t fly’.”

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Indie Bookstores: Something Better Than Amazon

The New York Times: “The pronounced stock shortage inside the Librairie des Puf … is not the result of an ordering mistake, but the heart of the shop’s business model. There are books, but they are not delivered in advance from wholesalers. They are printed on request, before the customer’s very eyes, on an Espresso Book Machine … It is a radical reinvention of a store that first opened its doors in 1921.”

“Independent bookstores … are beginning to carve a path out of their business’s decade of decline. ‘It’s an industry which is very much starting to rebound,’ said Nick Brackenbury, one of the founders of NearSt,” which “aims to help local shops adapt to the needs of the modern customers by making local shop inventories ‘shoppable’ from a smartphone, allowing customers to search for titles, find local stores that sell them and see routes there.”

“We just want local stores to be able to offer customers something which is just better than Amazon,” Mr. Brackenbury said.

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Have a Beer at Barnes & Noble?

The Washington Post: Barnes & Noble “will market test four redesigned stores later this year that feature larger café areas offering wine, beer and an expanded food menu, as well as table service. The goal is to boost traffic to the stores and to grow food and beverage sales from just under 10 percent of the retailer’s total sales to a larger pillar of the business.”

“The new design is aimed at making Barnes & Noble a competitor for your dinnertime dollars, not just your morning or afternoon pick-me-up … The café changes aren’t the only ones Barnes & Noble is implementing to try to make its stores into more of a gathering place. It is moving to add more seating throughout the store so you’ll be enticed to curl up with your book, and it is doubling down on events such as hands-on play sessions in its toy and game department.”

“And it is trying to reorganize the stores with better navigation. In some cases, that will mean simplifying signage, such as changing a section called ‘entrepreneurship’ to just ‘business.’ In others, that will mean putting items close together that are likely to appeal to a single shopper. So a new section of infant and toddler sleep books will be nearby those about baby food and baby sign language.”

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PS: Ikea Beyond The Basics

Fast Company: “Every few years, Ikea releases its limited-edition PS Collection—a series of experimental products that aren’t intended to supplant its perennial offerings, but rather to add a jolt of energy into its stores … For its 2017 PS Collection, Ikea’s designers chose a theme they call Young Urban Life, delving into new material research, fabrication techniques, and product types.”

“Some of the more idiosyncratic products include a seating piece that looks like the love child of a Papasan chair and a rocker, a sofa that looks like it’s composed of pillows, and a throw blanket that can be worn like a jacket … For the practicality-minded set, there are still a few space-efficient pieces, like stackable storage bins, collapsible side tables that fold away when not in use, and arm chairs that join to become a love seat.”

Henrik Most Nielsen of Ikea: “Ikea is for the many, but the many are different. We’re trying to attract customers who think Ikea isn’t at the front of design. We’re moving from basics to embodying a strong personality and style.”

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Walmart Imagines a ‘Shopping Cart Robot’

Geek: Walmart is collaborating with Five Elements Robotics to create a shopping cart robot … The company’s main focus is on Budgee–a personal robot that follows its owner around and has a large storage area for your shopping, or just to carry items from place-to-place. That same tech can be integrated into shopping carts, meaning rather than pushing them around they’ll instead follow you, leaving your hands free to browse the shelves.”

“It’s also thought the robotic carts will help customers shop. Simply let the cart see your shopping list and it can help locate everything listed … The robo-cart will respond by navigating to the correct aisle, saving the customer both time and the effort of finding an employee to help them.”

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Auto Boutique: Tesla @ Nordstrom

USA Today: “Tesla opened an electric-car boutique in the men’s section of the Nordstrom store that could become the model for others. Tesla has had its own stores in malls, but not one inside of a department store. Not only could it potentially cut the automaker’s real-estate costs, but it could also help Tesla attract more customers who discover the car just by walking by.”

“Reached for comment, the automaker issued a statement stressing that the two companies have a lot in common”: “Tesla and Nordstrom share a relentless drive to engage and delight customers with new and innovative shopping experiences,” it said. “The Nordstrom shopper embodies a lifestyle that parallels that of many Tesla owners –- people who are forward-thinking, savvy, and curious to explore the latest and best trends.”

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Small Bore: Is Apple Thinking ‘Different’ Enough?

“Apple’s view increasingly feels like an outdated way of thinking about tech. Many of its competitors have been moving beyond devices toward experiences that transcend them,” writes Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times. These new technologies exist not on distinct pieces of hardware, but above and within them … it’s hard to tell if Apple is thinking big enough.”

“Apple still seems to view online services as add-ons to its devices — not as products or platforms that rise above them.” For example: “Siri, as Apple is positioning it, is becoming a better app launcher for your phone … But it’s not clear that it’s becoming a truly intelligent assistant.”

“One problem is that the new Siri will not integrate with all kinds of apps … It’s hard to shake the suspicion that Apple is using Siri to give its own apps a leg up … Another problem is that Siri is still hopelessly tied to each Apple device … If Siri is an intelligent assistant, why … can’t she call Uber from the cloud, regardless of which device you happen to be using?”

“Google, Amazon and several start-ups seem to be rushing headlong to build such a system. But … I’m not sure Apple is,” Manjoo writes. “It’s taking a more moderate app-based, device-centric path. Many of its voice features will be fine — useful, even. But it sure isn’t pushing for a revolution.”

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The Swiffer Effect: Walmart & Procter Butt Heads

“Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, and P&G, the world’s biggest consumer-goods company, are increasingly butting heads as both try to wring more revenue out of their slow-growing businesses, The Wall Street Journal reports … A battle last year over the popular Swiffer mop suggests the tensions aren’t likely to abate soon. P&G’s consumer research revealed that existing packages weren’t large enough to prompt repeat purchases, and so it upped the number of wipes in a pack, improved the handle and increased the price … Around the same time, Wal-Mart introduced a less expensive store brand, irking P&G.”

“To settle the matter, P&G had to offer a temporary discount on the company’s Swiffer products. Not only did P&G employees worry about lost sales, they believed the store-brand refills were of a lower quality and would stop first-time Swiffer users from sticking with the habit. ‘They sell crappy private label, so you buy Swiffer with a crappy refill,’ said one of the people familiar with the product changes. ‘And then you don’t buy again’.” A Walmart spokesman said: “Our Great Value products provide a quality alternative for customers looking to save money.”

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