Amazon buying Whole Foods – Notebook

I was on vacation last week, so this notebook is a little stale. Perishable news. (JOKES!)

The basics

  • The deal size is $13.7bn, a 30% premium; expected to close in the second half of this year (Todd Bishop)
  • Highly likely to remain independent: “Reading between the lines of Bezos’ statement, Amazon is signaling that it doesn’t plan to disrupt what Whole Foods is doing with a major shakeup of the retailer’s infrastructure or strategy in the near term. Amazon has a history of allowing acquired companies — from Audible to Twitch to Zappos — to continue operating with relative independence, with some product and feature integrations.” (Ibid.)

Not good for competition

  • Investors really believe in that AMZN magic: “In total, those five grocery chains [Target, CostCo, Kroger, Walmart, SuperValu] shed about $26.7 billion in market capitalization between the market’s close Thursday and Friday morning, as investors worried that Amazon deeper push into the industry could be a death knell for some.”
  • EU too: “The worries weren’t just contained to U.S. markets. Some investors in the U.K. and Europe also saw the purchase as a sign that Amazon could take its grocery ambitions global. Shares of French retailer Carrefour fell sharply on the news, about 4%, while in London, Tesco shed 6% and Sainsbury dropped 5%.”
  • See chart too.

Synergies, strategies

  • More brick-and-mortar, foot-traffic, and distribution centers for Amazon: “the acquisition provides the AmazonFresh program, currently only in 15 markets, with 465 new locations [the Whole Foods stores] that generate eight million customer visits per week as well as 11 warehouses.”
  • Amazon now has a big foot-print across the US, at least in affluent neighborhoods.
  • Like Amazon, Whole Foods is big into private label: “Whole Foods generates $2.3 billion worth of private label and exclusive brand sales per year; its private label products account for 32% of items in Instacart’s food category, taking up far more of the shelf than Walmart Grocery (16%) and Peapod (6%).”
  • (Further) driving down supplier costs: “It’s also possible that Amazon will use Whole Food’s partnerships with suppliers to get more of them on the Amazon platform. Amazon and Whole Foods will be tough negotiators, but the lure of the 300 million customer accounts on Amazon.com, in addition to all of its other CPG-related programs, will be tough to turn down.”
  • More: “he scale at which Amazon is making use of this strategy should force CPG brands and Big Box retailers to make some major changes to their distribution strategies.”
  • Ben Thompson, with some multi-sided platform theory sprinkled in:
  • “The truth, though, is that Amazon is buying a customer — the first-and-best customer that will instantly bring its grocery efforts to scale.”
  • “What I expect Amazon to do over the next few years is transform the Whole Foods supply chain into a service architecture based on primitives: meat, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, non-perishables”c
  • “At its core Amazon is a services provider enabled — and protected — by scale.”
  • This should remind you of the “middle-man”/unpaid for buy in my warehouse/drop-ship type of advanced retail play that the likes of Dell made famous.
  • I want pizza and baby-wipes, not software – this kind of argument (though, not really “invalid”) makes me bristle. It’s like a pizza company saying they’re a technology company. As long as the pizza comes in the box and the paper-towels come in the mail, they can call themselves whatever they want…but the pizza shop and Amazon are, to me, a pizza and retail company. How they get the pizza into my mouth is not my problem. Since I’m a paying customer in these instances, it’s not like the “you are the product” epiphany of .com, eye-ball companies.

Instacart?

  • Whole Foods had invested in Instacart in May 2016. What up with that, now?
  • Laura Entis: “Just last year, Instacart and Whole Foods signed a five-year delivery partnership, which gave Instacart exclusive rights to deliver Whole Foods’ perishable items.”
  • I guess it’d make sense for someone like Walmart to acquire them. Can Instacart be stand-alone now?

Getting that cash

  • For TAM:
  • FMI put estimate the US TAM at $668.680bn in 2016.
  • Statista, on the US market: $606.26 in 2015.
  • Very old, but the USDA in 2011 said, “The [US’s] 212,000 traditional foodstores sold $571 billion of retail food and nonfood products in 2011.”
  • Online grocery TAM: “Last year, online grocery sales were about $20.5 billion.” The growth rates, of course, are huge compared to in-store.
  • More market slicing numbers.
  • Room to grow, future cash to grab:
  • “Grocery remains the most under-penetrated e-commerce category, with less than 5% of sales happening online. However, with 20% of grocery sales estimated to begin online by 2025, brands investing in digital will reap the rewards.” (Elisabeth Rosen)
  • Online groceries penetration: “The online grocery business is still in its infancy. Last month, for example, 7% of U.S. consumers ordered groceries online, according to Portalatin. Of this group, 52% already has an Amazon Prime account. Groceries represent “the final frontier for Amazon — they haven’t quite cracked the code on that, but they already have a relationship with consumers.”
  • Some interesting grocery spending trends, by demographic, from Nielsen in 2015, via Cooper Smith:

grocery-spending.png

  • Mint says that last year, my family of two adults and two kids spent ~$15,000 at the grocery store. So that’s around what you’re upper-middle-class people (or whatever I am somewhere in the 90th percentile) spend, I guess.

For us consumers…

  • Many predict either free or highly discounted delivery fees for Amazon Prime members. That certainly makes sense as Amazon Video and Music, and Prime Now, shows.

More

Internet mattress momentum: Casper had ~$200m in 2016 sales

Casper had been out raising a large round of funding when the talks started, sources said. The startup generated around $200 million in sales in 2016 — its second full year in business — and was valued at around $550 million after its last private investment in 2015.

And, as the headline says: “Target looked at buying the mattress startup Casper for $1 billion but will invest instead.”

There’s a fair amount of commentary on this type of e-commerce stuff in this year’s Internet Trends report as well.

Link

Omni-channel at Target: 14% of 2016 sales were “digital,” with 68% fulfilled in-store

In 2014, more than 93% of our transactions took place in stores, less than 7% digital. That season we had just started shipping from a small number of stores. In 2015, that same timeframe, digital sales reached almost 10% of our total sales. We more than doubled our ship-from store-capability to nearly 500 stores. We fulfilled 41% of all our digital orders inside of a store.

For 2016, just a few months ago, just last year, digital sales climbed to 14%, more than twice what we did two years earlier. We double ship-from-stores again, more than 1,000 stores. Our stores were fulfilling 68% of our digital orders. We finished December with record digital growth, including record-breaking days on both Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

Always nice to see multi-year numbers.

Link

The Economist on Amazon – Highlights

  • Video: “In 2017 Amazon is expected to spend $4.5bn on television and film content, roughly twice what HBO will spend. But it has a big payoff.”
  • Prime momentum: “Mr Nowak reckons the company had 72m Prime members last year, up by 32% from 2015.”
  • Cloud: “Last year AWS’s revenue reached $12bn, up by more than 150% since 2014.”
  • Anti-trust, in the US: “If competitors fail to halt Amazon’s whirl of activities, antitrust enforcers might yet do so instead. This does not seem an imminent threat. American antitrust authorities mainly consider a company’s effect on consumers and pricing, not broader market power. By that standard, Amazon has brought big benefits.”

Are investors too optimistic about Amazon?

People (say they) will spend more on clothes that actually fit

It’s a sore point for many shoppers, who are ready and eager to spend more on designer clothes if only they were available: 78% of respondents in a recent survey of plus-size shoppers said that they’d be willing to spend more money if designers offered more options, and 80% said they’d likely purchase an item from their favorite designer if that designer made plus sizes.

File under “if anything, more money. Plus, bonus: morals!”:

More and more designers and retailers seem to be waking up to that fact. The market for plus-size women’s clothing is over $20 billion, by some measures

Link

Onshoring manufacturing, shoes edition

A nice scenario’ing of brining manufacturing back to the US, told through Under Armour. For example, with factory-automation and higher labor prices, you don’t end up hiring 1,000’s of people:

Plank has lamented that we’ve been making clothes the same way for 100 years, and he hopes to change that with the innovation happening at UA Lighthouse. But a huge innovation in the footwear industry, as in other industries, is automation. Adidas now has two Speedfactories, its automated robot-helmed sites. According to Fortune, these only require 160 employees, cutting out many of the humans formerly needed for this kind of factory work.

Plank is fully aware of this tradeoff. When asked about creating jobs in the US, Plank told Footwear News, “It’s not pegged to have 175,000 of those jobs come back to America. I just wonder if there is a way that we can be more thoughtful, creative, and innovative. What if we could bring 100 of those jobs or 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 here?”

Productivity!

There’s also a nice discussion about a border tax’s effect on retail.

The summary is: on shoring manufacturing will create jobs, but probably much less than “like back in the good old days” notions. Further, in the overall retail system, it’ll require much investment and change.

As ever, for an administration that wants to “shock the system,” it fits what’s on the tin. Get some rubber shoes.

Link

Retail: tech slow to enable omni-channel, Amazon is far ahead as a threat

…a survey of the top retailers in the US and Europe. About 75 percent of them said that despite all the unprecedented investments they’ve made in retail over the last several years, they feel ill-prepared to handle and provide omni-channel capabilities.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that you need so look at online as the starting point of most purchases: “60 percent or more of in-store purchases start online ‘through digital engagement.’”

Amazon is quick to enter new retail markets:

Amazon reports e-commerce growth of 30 percent, whereas core retail is growing at only 2 percent. Amazon Fashion launched in a “very nascent way” in 2002 – it’s now the biggest fashion player in the U.S. Amazon has spent about $17 billion dollars on R&D around e-commerce. Walmart has spent under a billion. If Walmart cannot spend the money necessary to stay with Amazon, how will other retailers keep pace?

All of this was from a SFDC retail-focused person, no details on the survey.

Source: Salesforce Commerce Cloud CEO at NRF – 75 percent of retailers are “ill-prepared” for the omni-channel

American Apparel sells for $103m, not including stores

I’m always amazed at how low IRL companies get valued. But: retail, manufactoring, and a history of funky management:

But fashion wasn’t the only thing to change; the retail business changed, too. The economic downturn was hard on the fashion industry as consumers cut back on spending. And brick-and-mortar stores have struggled as online retailers bite into their sales and target demographics. That can be especially harmful for brands like American Apparel, whose the business model is to open a bevy of stores and rely on foot traffic. “There are too many stores in too many places,” explained Cohen. “Everybody doing business in brick-and-mortar is migrating in some way, shape, or form to the internet. Everyone is seeing a chronic decline in the productivity of their real estate.”

It doesn’t include the stores:

All of this helps explain why the $88 million Gildan deal could be viewed as arguably the last great American Apparel marketing feat. Even with all its financial and legal woes, the company still attracted 12 bids. (Sources told Reuters that Amazon and Forever 21 were considering purchasing as well.) And while Gildan won’t be purchasing any of American Apparel’s 110 U.S. stores—which were also up for sale—the company was willing to pay nearly $90 million just for intellectual property and some equipment. That’s quite a feat given that the brand was built on the premise of selling such basic designs.

Still, that brand, tho.

Link

Amazon grocery store has no cash registers, uses phone

Customers scan the Amazon Go app on their smartphone as they enter the store. The company spent four years developing “just walk out” technology, which detects when items are picked up or returned to shelves and “keeps track of them in a virtual cart,” Amazon said. There’s no checkout line — just leave the store with your groceries, and Amazon will charge your account.

Link