business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Daniel McQuade about Jetblack, the personal shopping service owned by Walmart, targeted at moms who had to be invited to become members, and currently being tested in New York City, which is said to be a passion of Marc Lore, the head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business who jumpstarted Walmart’s e-commerce business when he sold it Jet, a startup he launched to compete with Amazon.

When you consider that Marc Lore has a deep dive experience with that market segment/customer archetype with his start up and also that Jenny Fleiss (Jetblack’s CEO) who co-founded Rent the Runway (which BTW just became a "unicorn" of only 14 out of over 130 vc backed unicorns that were founded or co-founded by women) has insights to the that same segment or "soon to be segment". I'll take the experience in the space, along with an army of HI (human intelligence) developing AI predictability that will tie in with the 8 billion voice assistants that will be in use by 2023. I think Walmart learned its lesson by giving Amazon the 5 year head start in e-commerce…they don't want to wake up on January 01, 2023 and see how far behind they are. The future...either you engage, embrace or compete with it...I'd prefer to do all three.

As Roger Bannister stated, to move into the lead means having confidence and fierceness...being a little skeptical or having a little bit fear must play some part in the attack.

No kidding.

On the general subject of e-commerce, MNB reader Richard Lowe wrote:

Had my stepson and wife arrive and tell us how happy they are with Meijer’s weekly grocery delivery service by interacting with the web site. Fresh produce is good, though there was a problem with the size of steaks being a little large. They also use Amazon’s subscription services for paper goods.

Funny, my wife and I enjoy the adventure out of the house to go shopping, and I enjoy multiple stops though she doesn’t. I like the exploring of shopping! Just like visiting a new city or country.

The world is changing!

No kidding.

One MNB reader had a thought about my criticism of Sears owner Eddie Lampert:

You are spot on with lambert. He is out for him and him only. I am sure he has a plan with sears but I will bet it’s a plan to satisfy “fast Eddie “ and fast Eddie only.

No kidding.

MNB reader John Rand had some thoughts about the two New York Times columns that we quoted yesterday as they talked about the future of the car:

The point of view from the Times columnist, cited in today’s column (the concept of never actually owning a car again) seems impossible to imagine.

I have owned cars, rented cars, leased cars. I cannot possibly imagine giving up immediate access to a car unless and until I am also forced to give up my house.

To be clear this could very well happen at some point.  I am, for reasons not entirely clear to me, not getting any younger. Winters bring snow that has to be removed from driveways. Mobility may indeed degrade to where I cannot maintain my garden, climb the stairs in my house, and other doomsday scenarios that may come to pass. We live long, these days, but we do not always prosper.

An awful lot of America, like me, lives in either a small town or a suburb, and there are few things more critical than personal transportation. Uber, Lyft, and such are sparse out here,  the idea that a car subscription service makes economic sense is absurd (I estimate it about triples the actual cost of the car) and the various quick day-rental services are reasonably practical for urban environments but won’t work in the ‘burbs, never mind more rural areas.

I may be forced to give up my car, but I cannot imagine not having one by choice.

Which leads me to a greater concern.

Convenience is at the heart of so much of the new, disruptive businesses today – on-demand, personalized, all the marketing buzzwords are essentially ways of enhancing or restating convenience. And it always – ALWAYS – comes at a price. A drink in a bar costs way more than one from your own bottle. A burger at home is both cheaper and better than one in a fast-food joint. A meal kit cost between 5 and 8 times per portion what my wife and I can cook up in our own kitchen. Home baked bread is actually quite cheap.

Sometimes the trade-off is worth it – I gave up doing my own oil changes quite some time ago, we buy convenience food from time to time – we are not Luddites. But let’s be real – there is a cost to convenience.

The monetary cost is obvious .  But there is a secondary long term cost as well. You become dependent on the packaged product, on the service. You become disintermediated from your own life.

My wife bakes bread from scratch. Not one family in a thousand knows how to do this anymore. We keep a small garden of veggies and herbs. I have shared fresh tomatoes with my younger co-workers who never in their entire lives had tasted a truly fresh tomato. Our parents and grandparents had skills, in the home, in the garage, in the yard, in the kitchen – that are being lost and forgotten.

I walk through a grocery store today and I see 100,000 ways to NOT enjoy food, to NOT cook, to NOT do things for oneself. What about those of us who still want to do these things? Who teaches the next generation, where do we find enough to consumers to WANT to bake, or cook, or garden, so that the ingredients and products needed remain available?

I remain a stubborn old Yankee. I make things for myself. And I like owning my own car, thank you.

Also on the subject of car ownership, from MNB reader Scott Nelson:

You and I are close to the same age.   I purchased an old (2001) Porsche 911 about two years ago I replaced the stereo with a new one with a 5” screen and added a backup camera to the car.  BTW, it is a six speed cabriolet.   I love driving it with the top down from Moorpark CA where we live in Ventura County (agriculture area) to the beach like I did yesterday.  As you know when you drive a car with a manual transmission you are more one with the car.  So fun!

No kidding.
KC's View: