business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• The Houston Chronicle reports that “Kroger, in partnership with California robotics company Nuro, has officially launched its autonomous grocery delivery service in Houston. Residents in ZIP codes 77401 and 77096 will be able to shop online at their local Kroger at 10306 South Post Oak and have their groceries delivered home via an autonomous Prius vehicle, modified with LIDAR, cameras and sensors.”

The story notes that “Kroger's new service is the latest salvo in Houston's competitive grocery market, which has seen major grocers H-E-B, Walmart and Amazon-Whole Foods investing heavily in new technologies to offer more convenience services to customers, such as home delivery and curbside pickup.”

• The Washington Post reports that the Conference Board Global Consumer Confidence Survey, conducted in collaboration with Nielsen in some 64 countries, suggests that consumers in more than half of them “said they expect economic conditions to worsen in the coming year … Uncertainty over international trade negotiations, as well as Brexit and whatever President Trump might do or say next have taken a toll on how much people plan to spend, particularly in North America and Europe … Overall, the Global Consumer Confidence Index slipped one point to 106 in the first quarter of 2019.”

While the survey showed that “shoppers said they have cut back on clothing and entertainment costs in the past year, and have taken measures to save on gas and electricity,” there also is a dichotomy, because “they remained largely optimistic about job prospects and personal finances in the coming year. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they felt ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ about their employment situation, while 63 percent said they had a positive view of their personal finances.”

• Netflix said that in the just-completed first quarter, it added 9.6 million new customers, “ but only 1.7 million in its domestic market, fewer than it added in the U.S. a year ago,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “And the company, which recently raised prices, forecast slower gains in the second quarter in the U.S. and abroad. Despite the second-quarter forecast, Netflix said it still expects record subscriber growth for the full year … Netflix ended March with 148.9 million paying subscribers around the globe, surpassing its forecast of 148.2 million for the period. By that tally, it tops other subscription video services such as HBO and Hulu.”

The story notes that “for the latest quarter, Netflix reported profit rose to $344 million from $290 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 22% to $4.52 billion.”

Only going to get tougher for Netflix, which shortly will be facing off against new streaming entries from Apple and Disney, in addition to everyone else in the game. But I wouldn’t bet against Netflix, which has shown itself to be both resilient and persistently innovative.
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