Next-day and same-day delivery will take a knife to brick & mortar retail

Next-day and same-day delivery will take a knife to brick & mortar retail

“Retailers closed a record 102 million square feet of store space in 2017, then smashed that record in 2018 by closing another 155 million square feet, according to estimates by the commercial real-estate firm CoStar Group.”

And that’s before Amazon unveiled the shift in its Prime service to one-day from two-day shipping. In short order, we’ve seen both Walmart and Target join the one-day shipping ranks. In our view this will only add gas to the fire that is brick & mortar retail closures and it sets the stage for a painful second half of 2019. We’ll look for confirmation in the volume of truck and van deliveries that are likely to ensue as next-day and even same-day delivery gets those potential digital shoppers off the fence and joint in this  aspect of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme.

Target is among the latest merchants to boost its same-day delivery offerings. The retail chain is making same-day delivery though Shipt available to all of its shoppers. The retailer’s June 13 announcement shows Target is moving to compete with Amazon and Walmart in an ongoing bid to provide customers with the quickest delivery service.

Target said online customers in 47 states can now get items delivered on the same day for a flat fee of $9.99 per order. Target acquired Shipt in 2017 for $550 million. Previously, Target customers could get same-day delivery by being a Shipt member, for $99 a year. That’s still an option, but now customers can also get one-day delivery for just one order.

Not to be undone, Walmart recently said it is expanding its next-day delivery service before the start of the back-to-school shopping season. The retailer is opening up the service to a dozen new states, including in parts of Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Wisconsin. It originally launched in May for customers in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Southern California, and Walmart previously revealed it wants to reach about three-quarters of the U.S. by the end of the year.

Walmart’s next-day delivery is available for customers who spend $35 or more. Orders are shipped in one box to address complaints from customers about receiving multiple boxes.

Source: Same-Day Delivery Wars Heat Up | PYMNTS.com

Shopify expands footprint into fulfillment services

Shopify expands footprint into fulfillment services

As consumers continue to shift to digital shopping, a key stool in our Digital Lifestyle investing theme, we are not only seeing more companies embrace the direct to consumer (D2C) business model, but we are also seeing more digital shopping solutions for those companies come to market. Internet shopping platform company Shopify is doing just that as it expands its reach into our Digital Infrastructure investing theme by moving into distribution and fulfillment services. Interesting indeed, but what caught our eye is how they are using machine learning, an aspect of our Disruptive Innovators theme, to do so.

E-commerce technology company Shopify Inc. is extending into physical distribution, offering customers access to a network of dedicated U.S. fulfillment centers to store and ship consumer goods for online orders.

The aim is to speed up delivery for retailers racing to keep up with Amazon.com Inc. while keeping a lid on transport costs by placing inventory across a distributed network within easy reach of major population centers.

Ottawa-based Shopify provides internet shopping platforms and other services that help companies sell items online. It has also branched into payment technology and hardware for use at retail stores and pop-up locations as more online businesses open bricks-and-mortar locations. Its customers include Unilever PLC, Kylie Cosmetics and footwear maker Allbirds Inc.

Shopify said Wednesday that its new service uses machine learning to forecast demand, allocate inventory and route orders to the closest fulfillment centers. The company is working with logistics providers and software companies in Nevada, California, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“Our aim is to make fast and inexpensive shipping the new standard on the internet,” said Shopify Chief Product Officer Craig Miller.

Shopify’s move into warehousing services puts it in competition with companies such as Belgian Post Group-owned Radial, which provides technology and e-commerce services for retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. at 21 fulfillment centers.

The services are part of a growing array of operations that startups and traditional shipping companies have launched to compete with Amazon’s expanding distribution system, including a Fulfillment by Amazon business that ties its online marketplace for third-party sellers to its burgeoning network of distribution centers and transportation options.

Source: Online Retail Provider Shopify Adds Fulfillment Service – WSJ

Warehouse Hiring Surges on Rising E-Commerce Demand

Warehouse Hiring Surges on Rising E-Commerce Demand

We see this every month in the Retail Sales report and almost every week in our everyday lives – consumers continue to flock to digital shopping – and that is spurring demand for distribution centers and warehouses as well as workers to fill them. As Amazon looks to expand not only the reach of its private label brands but move into the online pharmacy market courtesy of its PillPack acquisition, the odds are high that Walmart, Target and other companies will look to combat Amazon by at a minimum matching its buy/ship service. And that’s even before Amazon announced it will debut one-day shipping with Prime. More packages, more distribution centers, more jobs. A plain and simple result of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme.

Warehouse operators stepped up hiring in April as e-commerce demand drove up employment in distribution centers even as job growth across the rest of the freight-transportation sector slowed.

Warehousing and storage companies added 5,400 jobs last month, according to preliminary figures the Labor Department reported Friday, the fourth straight month of growth in a sector that includes fulfillment centers that process and ship online orders. The sector added nearly 70,000 jobs over the past 12 months.

The gains in warehousing and delivery come as rapid e-commerce growth pushes companies to open more fulfillment centers near major population centers to speed up delivery to customers. U.S. online sales jumped 14.2% in 2018, generating an estimated $513.6 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Brian Devine, senior vice president of logistics-staffing firm ProLogistix, said he is seeing “huge growth” for logistics and e-commerce workers in key hubs like Southern California’s Inland Empire; areas of New Jersey near New York City; Atlanta; Indianapolis; and Memphis, Tenn.

“There are not enough workers in those markets,” Mr. Devine said. “The unemployment rate is so low that it’s difficult for us to fill those positions.” He said the average wage for ProLogistix workers jumped 6.8% in April from the same month a year ago, to $13.81 an hour.

Source: Warehouse Hiring Surges on Rising E-Commerce Demand – WSJ

The U.S. government is knocking for student loan

The U.S. government is knocking for student loan

While there are talks of student loan forgiveness on the 2020 campaign trail, the Treasury Depart is stepping up its game to collect on delinquent student loans. Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) points to disposable income once again coming under pressure during the first quarter of 2018. Paired with rising gas prices and renewed uncertainty over the global economy as well as the current state of US-China trade, we see the average consumer remaining in a tight spot.

It comes as no surprise to us that loan inquiries at consumer finance platform company LendingClub jumped significantly in the March 2019 quarter as consumers look to shore up their personal finance and manage existing debt levels. Disposable dollars for debt servicing take a bite out of consumer spending, which means our Middle-Class Squeeze investing theme remains an economic headwind. It does, however, bode very well for companies like Costco Wholesale, BJ’s, Walmart and Amazon that help consumers stretch their spending dollars.

Your rich Uncle Sam is calling in his chips.The U.S. government stepped up collections on delinquent student debt to $2.9 billion last year — or an average of $1,000 from 2.9 million former students and their cosigners, according to the Treasury Department. And the trend continues. In the first six months of fiscal 2019, which started Oct. 1, collections totaled $3.3 billion.

Source: U.S. Stepping Up Enforcement on Delinquent Student Loans – Bloomberg

Walmart teams with Google for grocery voice play

Walmart teams with Google for grocery voice play

Walmart is teaming with Alphabet Inc. to take the grocery fight via voice ordering to Amazon and its Whole Foods, Alexa combination.

In a blog post, Walmart shared that starting this month, customers would be able to grocery shop through the Google Assistant by saying, “Hey, Google, talk to Walmart.” This seems like a positive for Google, especially if they are able to share in the data collection with Walmart, while for Walmart it seems like the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It’s also a way to add the functionality associated with our Disruptive Innovators investing theme without having to develop a solution in house.

Kudos to Walmart for continuing to innovate and partner for the new digital world we live in. And to be clear, while Amazon and Walmart compete on several levels, Walmart lacks the profit and cash flow powerhouse that is Amazon Web Services.

According to data from Loup Ventures and published by Voicebot.ai, Amazon’s Alexa had 52% global market share in 2018 vs. 32% for Google Home/Assistant. For now, that would appear to give Amazon the edge, but the reality is it comes down to the percentage of people using these devices to order groceries.

Here’s the thing, just because Walmart makes it available, it doesn’t mean consumers will be using Google Assistant to order groceries. Even I still like to pick out fresh produce and select my cuts of meat. But for generic and boxed items ranging from detergent to garbage bags, this could give not only Amazon a run for its money but also Costco Wholesale and Target.

Now to see how usage develops and what if any other other potential partnerships follow.

Retailers are turning to voice assistants to make it easier for customers to shop for groceries amid strong competition. Walmart, in one case, has rolled out an offering called Walmart Voice Order by working with partners such as Google.

The feature allows consumers to use voice commands to shop for groceries. Beginning in April, shoppers will be able to say “Google, talk to Walmart” and Google Assistant will add products directly to their Walmart grocery carts. Shoppers can also manage their shopping carts on the go, as the technology is available on a host of devices, such as Android phones.

The technology uses the shopper’s past purchases to create a more personalized experience. If a shopper instructs Google Assistant to add milk to the shopping cart, for example, the feature will add the size, brand and type of milk he or she regularly chooses.

In a blog post, Walmart Senior Vice President of Digital Operations Tom Ward noted, “We know when using voice technology, customers like to add items to their cart one at a time over a few days – not complete their shopping for the week all at once. So, this capability aligns with the way customers shop.” While Walmart is rolling out the function with Google, Ward hinted that other voice assistant options will be available in the future. “We’re kicking off the work with Google, adding others to the mix as time goes on,” he noted, adding that the service would be available to more customers in the weeks to come.

Source: Voice Shopping: Walmart’s Newest Grocery Play | PYMNTS.com

SpartanNash Introduces Clean Ingredient Initiative for Private Label Products

SpartanNash Introduces Clean Ingredient Initiative for Private Label Products

Grocery and fresh food distributor SpartanNash has introduced a Clean Ingredient Initiative for its Our Family and Open Acres private label brands that focuses on simpler products with reduced ingredient lists and clean, easy-to-read labels. SpartanNash is joining a growing movement among private label product companies to tap into our Clean Living investing theme and to a lesser extent our Middle-class Squeeze and Digital Lifestyle ones as well.

While most first think of private label brands because of their more affordable price points, as Nielsen points out “private-label growth is also being driven by the wider choice that the digital economy offers to consumers and the globalization of shopping trends (media, technology, e-commerce).” We’ve seen this first hand with Thematic King Amazon as it flexes its private label products across food, furniture, apparel, and basics. Add in the growing tailwind associated with consumers shifting their food, snack and beverage preferences for healthier and good for you products, and SpartanNash has tapped a thematic trifecta.

 

In 2018, more than 425 private label products underwent packaging redesigns or reformulations to remove synthetic colors, MSG and other ingredients. This year, another 175 products will be added to the Clean Ingredient Initiative. For example, Our Family ice cream now has four SKUs that contain only four or five ingredients, including milk, sugar, cream and the appropriate flavoring. SpartanNash has also successfully partnered with its manufacturers to remove added MSG from a number of Our Family soups, and Our Family fruit and grain bars have been reformulated to remove synthetic colors.

“Consumer preferences are changing, and our store guests are looking for healthier food options, clean labels and ‘free from’ formats when shopping at their local grocery store or putting food on the table,” SpartanNash VP, Private Brands John Paul said. “Our Clean Ingredient Initiative provides them with exactly that, all while giving them the quality, budget-friendly savings and great taste they’re used to with Our Family and Open Acres products.”

Source: SpartanNash Introduces Clean Ingredient Initiative for Private Label | Progressive Grocer

Doubling Down on Digital Infrastructure Thematic Leader

Doubling Down on Digital Infrastructure Thematic Leader

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Adding two Middle-class Squeeze call option positions ahead of earnings this week

Adding two Middle-class Squeeze call option positions ahead of earnings this week

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