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As Amazon continues to take over the world and be a one stop shop for EVERYTHING, the uber online retailer has once again made news by setting a company sales record during its third annual Prime Day, which is a one-day-only global shopping event in which Prime members get big discounts on countless items for a 30-hour period. Amazon not only experienced more than a 60 percent increase in sales from last year’s Prime Day, but sales were higher than their Black Friday and Cyber Monday numbers combined. Couple that with the fact that the company has been granted a patent to prevent online price comparisons while in their physical retail locations and another patent for an “Aquatic Storage Facility” which will let them store products in a body of liquid in which the depth is controlled by a cartridge attached to each product, and it seems only a matter of time before Amazon influences every aspect of our lives. You can check out the entire “Aquatic Storage Facility” patent here at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/9624034.pdf

If Amazon doesn’t take over the globe, it appears robots will. Ocado, a British online-only grocery store, started testing its first self-driving “CargoPod” delivery vehicle in June. The autonomous truck, which was developed in conjunction with Oxbotica, a startup specializing in self-driving technology, contains eight numbered compartments in the back. Orders are loaded into the CargoPod at a nearby depot and then driven manually to a starting location, where it’s then flipped into autonomous mode. When it reaches its destination, a light will illuminate around the numbered hatch which contains the corresponding order. The customer can unlock the “pod” with the press of a button. The technology is still in the early stages, but it is a definitive glimpse into the future of robotic deliveries.

Not to be outdone, China’s Hefei University and Swiss company Wheely’s have collaborated on a mobile, self-driving grocery STORE. Yes, you read that correctly. STORE. Dubbed “Moby Mart,” this mobile supermarket is an autonomous retail vehicle that will come to the customer’s home when prompted via a smartphone. Customers will scan their purchases of the shelf and will pay through a phone app and for those who need help shopping, there are plans for holographic clerks. Plus, it is both electric and solar powered and has built-in scrubbers to purify the air, so it will be friendly to the environment. In an email to NPR, Per Cromwell, the lead designer of Moby Mart, stated, “Stores need to be more flexible to meet the demands of the future. Rents will go up in prime locations, margins will go down on a lot of products due to online retail. Stores need to become more efficient. Mobile and staff-less is to date the most flexible and efficient solution. When online and offline merge, a new kind of store is needed.” Already being tested in the streets of Shanghai, there are plans for four to six more Moby Marts in the coming year alone, with production of hundreds more slated in 2018. The demo video is definitely worth a watch at www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9IqJOpfa5c

In an attempt to take the name out of the game, entrepreneurs Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler have just launched Brandless, an online-only store made up of consumer basics that cost $3 each. Founded on the principle that “better shouldn’t cost more,” the retail site opened with just 115 basic household and food products on hand, with plans to add new items as it grows. Sharkey, who was a co-founder of iVillage, and Leffler, a co-founder of the skincare company Yes To, believe that by removing the “brand tax” (where the consumer ultimately pays extra to cover the cost of warehousing, distributing and retail space) and offering quality no-name products, they can significantly cut the costs of standard consumer packaged goods, thereby putting a significant dent in the market. Clearly someone thinks they have a successful strategy on-hand as they have raised more than $50 million in venture capital funds. “We’re unapologetically a brand, but we’re reimagining what it means to be a brand today,” stated Sharkey. I think as price conscious as the Millennials tend to be and holding no loyalty to brands the way their predecessors do, this could be a new way of shopping for the current “It” generation.

Giant/Landover hosted a “Red White and BBQ Fundraiser for the Troops” late last month at the new Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbeque restaurant in Alexandria, VA. The event, which benefitted the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore, included appearances by the Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal and former Redskins defensive back Brad Edwards and was emceed by the voice of the Wizards, Dave Johnson. Mixon himself was the perfect host, showcasing his tried and true talents as a four-time barbecue World Champion by presenting an outstanding array of perfectly executed barbeque for the guests. The dinner, which brought in more than $100,000, was a great lead-in to the 25 Annual Giant Capital Barbecue Battle, which took place over the June 24-25 weekend in downtown DC. As the title sponsor for a second year in a row, Giant/Landover raised more than $400,000 for the USO of Washington-Baltimore through in-store campaigns, the Myron Mixon dinner and fundraising during the event. With so many great food and music options well as several appearances from celebrity chefs, TV cooking personalities and cookbook authors, the BBQ Battle is a fun family event that I look forward to attending each year. Plus, it is all for a wonderful cause! So, congrats to Giant/Landover on another successful BBQ Battle under the belt!

Not to be outdone, Landover’s sister retailer, Giant/Martin’s, made a sizeable donation to the USO and American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces through its in-store campaign, “Support Our Troops.” The Carlisle, PA based retail division of Ahold USA gave donations totaling $643,518 to the two non-profit organizations, which provide programs and services to soldier and their families. “Giant/Martin’s is proud to support our brave men and women who are serving our country and help to keep them connected to their families,” said Tom Lenkevich, president. “In the 12 years we have held the ‘Support Our Troops’ campaign, more than $4.5 million has been generously donated to organizations like the USO and the American Red Cross to help our soldiers abroad and at home.”

Safeway Eastern is also no stranger to philanthropy. The Lanham, MD-based retailer just launched its annual in-store campaign to raise funds for people living with disabilities. Throughout the month of July, the 123 Safeway stores in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Florida and District of Columbia will collect donations to support non-profit organizations that provide children with access to ability-specific camps, help individuals receive specialty services, give people employment training and help gain employment and provide special needs persons with care and treatment. Last year’s campaign raised almost $300,000 and the retailer hopes to surpass that with this year’s campaign. Good luck to Safeway Eastern on such a worthwhile fundraiser!

Hopefully, all of you had a wonderful 4th of July holiday and are enjoying the summer so far!
Until next month…