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CNBC has an interview with former Walmart CEO Bill Simon, who the story says “slammed Amazon for using cloud and ad revenues to support what he called meager retail profits.”

Simon told CNBC that Amazon has been “gaining traction and profitability by other business activities that have nothing to do with retail," including Amazon Web Services and advertising. Walmart, on the other hand, “went out head to head, knuckle to knuckle and won market share in retail by executing a business model that customers wanted.”

The story notes that Simon “wondered about Walmart's ‘expensive’ trip into e-commerce but at the same time applauded the company's commitment to online.”
KC's View:
First of all, let me say that I respect Bill Simon’s career and especially his military service - he spent 25 years in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserve.

But I’m really getting tired of his whining about Amazon - these days, he seems to make a habit of appearing either on CNBC or Fox Business and complaining about how Amazon is treated and evaluated, and how unfair it all is. I wish he’d just knock it off … though, to be fair, his comments do reflect how some folks in the retailing community think. They complain rather than compete effectively.

Let’s just deal with these comments.

I don’t think there’s any question that Amazon has figured out a formula that helps to support its retailing business, which continues to evolve as the company looks for new competitive advantages. But that’s a smart thing, not something to mock. They figured out a better way, or at least a more effective way, which was something that other retailers were not able to do.

Now it is up to other retailers - such as Walmart - to figure out how to be competitive, as opposed to whining about it.

Simon “wondered about Walmart's ‘expensive’ trip into e-commerce,” but he might have been better off wondering why he didn’t figure out a way to better compete with Amazon, and peer around the corner into the future, when he was in Walmart’s c-suite between 2010 and 2014, a time when Amazon was achieving considerable competitive traction. If he’d done a better job then - he was replaced because of disappointing store sales - maybe current CEO Doug McMillon wouldn’t have to make all the expensive strategic moves he’s making now just to close the online gap between Walmart and Amazon.

On the other hand, it is possible that economic circumstances made it impossible for Simon to do what needed to be done then, even if he knew what to do. But he should keep in mind that economic circumstances now make it possible for Amazon to do what it does, and necessary for Walmart to do what it is doing.

I’m just asking Simon to stop whining. Show a little style, concede that Amazon has been smart enough to reinvent the game and create a new economic model, and talk about what its competitors must do to differentiate themselves and succeed.