business news in context, analysis with attitude

There were two Amazon-related stories over the weekend that illustrated why Walmart is making the kinds of move sit is making:

Business Insider reports that Amazon has disclosed via regulatory filings that it intends "to test experimental wireless communications technology, including mobile devices and fixed-base stations, in rural Washington and Seattle." While the purpose of the tests is not specified, the story says that "they hint at a new type of technology or wireless service, noting that the project would involve prototypes designed to support 'innovative communications capabilities and functionalities'."

The naming of Neil Woodward, a former astronaut who joined Amazon in 2008, as the apparent lead on the project, also is said to be "intriguing." Woodward "is now a senior manager for Prime Air, the team in charge of Amazon's drone-delivery effort." His role in the test "suggests the tests could involve some kind of communications system to control Amazon's delivery drones. But the details in the filings could also point to a wireless service designed to work with mobile handsets, such as Amazon's Kindle tablets, or perhaps the Echo home speakers that Amazon sells."

Business Insider also reports that Amazon "is about to tap into one of America's biggest clothing trends by launching its own athleisure brand, making it a competitor to Lululemon, Gap's Athleta, Under Armour, Nike, and other top sportswear brands." It also ramps up Amazon's ability to compete with "department stores like Macy's, Nordstrom, and JCPenney, which have been battling years of declining shopper traffic to malls."

Some context: According to the story, "Amazon was already expected to surpass Macy's to become the biggest apparel seller in the US this year, according to a 58-page report published by Cowen & Co. in October. 
The company's clothing and accessory sales are expected to grow nearly 30% next year, to $28 billion, according to the Cowen analysts. Macy's apparel sales, by comparison, are expected to drop 4%, to $22 billion, in the period."

Some more context: "Amazon currently claims about 6.6% of the market. That share is expected to increase to 8.2% by next year and further expand to 16.2% within five years, according to Cowen analysts."
KC's View:
This may be stretching metaphors a bit, but may I suggest that while Walmart is trying to get all its ducks in a row, Amazon is setting lots of ducks free, sending them off in all sorts of directions, and yet tracking them to see what it can learn and how it can grow.

The pitched battle between these two behemoths is going to be fascinating, and will dictate the shape of the retail landscape for years to come.

I was saying to a friend of mine yesterday that what makes this even more interesting is that some people see Amazon as the Death Star, and others see it as part of the Rebel Alliance. It all depends on where you are sitting.