The Jason & Scot Show - E-Commerce And Retail News

Join hosts Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis, and Scot Wingo, CEO of GetSpiffy and Founder and Executive Chairman of Channel Advisor, as they discuss the latest news and trends in the world of e-commerce and digital shopper marketing.
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
The Jason & Scot Show - E-Commerce And Retail News







All Episodes
Now displaying: August, 2021
Aug 25, 2021

EP273 - Amazon FBA Roll-ups with Alex Kopco of Forum Brands 

Alex Kopco is the Founder and COO of Forum Brands, a roll-up of digitally-native consumer brands selling via Amazon.

In this interview we discuss Alex’s experiences at Target and Amazon prior to founding Forum Brands. We talk about Forum Brands specific business model and their unique tools and expertise for Amazon sellers, the Amazon FBA Roll-up trend in general, and the future of commerce.

Episode 273 of the Jason & Scot show was recorded on Thursday August 19, 2021.

Join your hosts Jason "Retailgeek" Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis, and Scot Wingo, CEO of GetSpiffy and Co-Founder of ChannelAdvisor as they discuss the latest news and trends in the world of e-commerce and digital shopper marketing.


[0:24] Welcome to the Jason and Scot show this is episode 273 being recorded on Thursday august 19 20 21 I’m your host Jason retailgeek Goldberg and as usual I’m here with your co-host
Scot Wingo.

[0:40] Hey Jason and welcome back Jason Scott showed listeners Jason as you and mr. snow two of my favorite topics are Amazon and Entrepreneurship
lately there’s been a lot of exciting intersections in that area as different companies have been started to kind of quote-unquote roll-up Amazon FBA Sellers and explore a.
House of Brands kind of concept leveraging Amazon so we’re going to dig into that topic tonight and joining us on the podcast to help us explore that is Alex kopco he is the CEO and founder of form brands
Alex welcome to the show.

[1:18] Thank you so much super excited to be here guys.

[1:21] Alex we’re thrilled to have you and Scott,
that Scott wasn’t just giving you lip service these are his two favorite topics so he’s going to be super annoying to talk to,
but before we jump into form Brands which we are excited to get to we always like to give listeners a little bit of a taste about our guest,
backgrounds and how you came in your role and if I have it right I think you have kind of a perfect background for your current role.

[1:48] I do yeah it’s true I have spent,
really the last decade in e-commerce I got my start working for Target specifically for at the time when was actually still being powered by Amazon Target,
little known fact was the largest seller on Amazon’s Marketplace back when I was there and I was part of the team,
that was rolling off of the Amazon platform,
which was a great first experience in my career to see what this whole e-commerce thing was about working for especially a big box retailer and one is well respected as Target and is good at merchandising and all the great things that Target does
it really did feel like the wild west despite it being a 50 year old company
and then I transitioned was looking for just a change in life a change in scenery and you know the winters in Minneapolis can be pretty brutal and so
I actually had the opportunity to go work for Amazon and Seattle where
I over a number of years had basically every retail job that you can imagine at the company also did a stint at Amazon as a product manager where I was working on Amazon’s physical retail stores team.

[3:08] The non grocery version which was super super interesting a ton of Technology went into powering the Amazon stores as well and so I oversaw some of the technology aspects there and really,
over my course of my career at Amazon fell in love with the power of data the power of.

[3:26] You know under understanding customers based on what they do as well as what they say
and being able to provide you know surprise and Delight moments for them regardless of whether they were online or in stores and for me you know my passion for entrepreneurship since these are Scott’s two favorite things Amazon entrepreneurship.

[3:45] Sort of nurtured at a very young age and happy to delve into my memory Palace there but,
the the impetus for really leaving Amazon to strike out on my own was predicated on
they just ongoing shift to e-commerce and the adoption and of course you know the covid-19 pandemic has,
greatly sped that up but it was always a fascinating space for me and so really just had that itch and decided that the time was right at my career to make that leap.

[4:15] That is awesome and so just just so I’m being perfectly clear that our listeners you loved Amazon so much that when Target stopped working with them you quit and joined Amazon.

[4:25] In as many words yeah sure let’s go with that hahaha.

[4:32] Jason you are the chief digital officer of Target right do I have that right.

[4:35] Yes one of yes.

[4:37] Wrong Jason Goldberg goldberger.

[4:39] Oh gosh I get that confused.

[4:41] I have to confess Jason I did a double take when I first saw your name and was like this can’t possibly be goldberger and then realized that I was adding an ER to your name.

[4:50] Alex to make matters more confusing a you should know that the day that Jason joined Target I got three 800 LinkedIn invites from from target employees.

[5:01] One of those might have been me Jason.
When Jason joined he and I I forget how this happened but he and I was basically in the first meeting he ever had it Target and.
Then I was in a number of subsequent meetings and so we just sort of kept running into each other and it became a running joke over
the rest of my time at Target which was not that much longer that every time you ran into each other it was just you know one of those moments so it’s been fun to watch Jason’s career evolve.

[5:33] Yeah yeah.
Nobody cares but like the overlaps are are super complicated I’ve actually worked with Target for an awfully long time in fact I was in a conference room in Minneapolis on 9/11 with Jeff Bezos.
Doing the Amazon contract the the day that the Twin Towers was hit and did a lot of work with Steve Eastman and Michael Francis and although.

[5:59] Yeah yeah.

[6:00] So I do have a sort of a Target history and then of course I’m at publicist which owns Sapient which was the big team that helped stand up when you guys moved off of them.

[6:12] That’s right project Everest.

[6:14] Exactly so lots of overlaps but,
as per usual I just talk about all this stuff well you actually did it so so we’re excited to hear about it from you but I think Scott is undoubtedly going to ask you some Amazon trivia questions first.

[6:33] Yeah yes so it must have been interesting you know I haven’t been as deep as you guys have at Target but I have spent a lot of time at Amazon seems like a big culture difference there what was that like.

[6:46] Yeah it was a big culture difference I think the biggest difference in my experience was I was.

[6:56] Well there’s two two components to this first and foremost I felt like I had a tremendous amount of responsibility
from the very very first day at Amazon Amazon having built much of its own technology internally
you know there were there were safeguards there were checks and balances you couldn’t really screw anything up but I had a lot of control over,
Mi Piel which
you know when I would interview people or when people would join the team I would sort of like in my business too and I was a better manager and video games for a number of years and I would liken it to my little video games or my little comic book shop on the street corner and
you know we would talk about what is our window front look like today we’ve got to walk our store and make sure that you know some kid didn’t spit gum on our floor and so it was it was very much that feel and I had the power to
keep things clean and sort of do what I thought was in the best interest of customers.

[7:54] Target on the other hand it is a company that has one of the most iconic brands on the planet you see that Bullseye and you just instantaneously know even if you’re not,
from America we pretty much know what Target is and so with that you know with,
with great power comes great responsibility with great branding comes great responsibility and so my experience at Target was a little bit different in that,
a we were big you’re really big when I joined Amazon we weren’t that big at the time and I work for Amazon Canada so we were really not that big.

[8:27] Target was big and so the the conversations with vendors the responsibility that we had two guests You know despite being,
working for the e-commerce arm of Target we took.
Sort of the brand very very very seriously and everything was in the spirit of ensuring that people when they,
interacted with that Bulls I had the best possible experience and so it was it was just a different ethos right it was a different mindset,
and one worked great for one company for the last five decades the other was kind of making it up as they went along and now have become one of Earth’s largest companies and there were no guarantees either way but it certainly was a very interesting,
mindshift and I learned a lot of both to be totally honest with you and a lot of my
reasoning for going to work for Amazon was not because Target rolled off Amazon and then I went to work for Amazon but it was because I felt like I actually wanted both sides of that coin I wanted to both have the big box retail how do you how do you take.
A legacy brand and bring it into the digital world and,
what about that disruption what what about that company that is leading that disruption leading the efforts of bringing retail into the digital world and so.
It was a little bit selfishly I just wanted to be as well as well-balanced as I possibly could be.

[9:55] So did you work for Amazon Canada the whole time are you kind of bounce between the u.s. and Canada.

[10:00] So I work for Amazon Canada when I was in retail eCommerce retail for the whole time I did work very closely with my US based counterparts I worked on
the initiative which is now known as narf but internally was known as Naf n which was the unification of the North American supply chain
I supported the launch of Amazon Mexico and so you know one of the benefits of working for a smaller,
arm within a big company as you have a lot of resources at your disposal but you also have a lot of latitude to try things I launched which prime
in Canada when we bought which I brought virtual bundling technology to Canada’s a
twenty-five-year-old no nothing in the tech space which was incredibly interesting and again really started to give me that feel for the power of Technology,
and and and Building Technology that can enable anybody in the company to be successful not just the people who know how to wield the technology.

[11:03] A lot of people that have worked at Amazon that start companies they bring a lot of the management principles over is that something you plan on doing or you’re just like starting with the clean white board.

[11:15] Man yeah Amazon’s culture is it is definitive and we certainly have borrowed,
in many cases inadvertently a lot of the principles you know one of our our core leadership principles is bias for Action we have one that is called act like an owner we have one called the best ideas when which is you know,
hybrid of is write a lot and invented simplify and we did this sort of inadvertently but you have to admit the principles are pretty darn good.
And you know Dave Glick and I
saves over at Flex we often and he does a lot of post on LinkedIn talking about the impact that Amazon’s culture had on him and how he brings that to flex and I a lot of what he talks about resonates very deeply and we kind of joke about you know once an Amazonian always an Amazonian
it always comes back up in some in some fashion.

[12:09] Yeah someone that’s an outsider and having interacted with all the different tech companies the other ones have these like little Pro way things like,
yep what does it do no evil or be don’t be evil or something where’s the Amazons when you know and they end up being mocked by all the employees at the end of
the Amazon ones they just seem so much more solid and and you know I’ve seen the document where they give case studies and then what not to do and what you know Jeff Bezos little stories around the principle so it
it just has so much better thought out than any of the anything else I’ve ever seen.

[12:46] Yeah yeah you know we.
Even the most resistant employees I think drink at least a little bit of the Kool-Aid when you get there because it’s impossible to avoid you can’t not be in a meeting.
Especially when tensions are high and this is the whole purpose of having strong leadership principles is so that when you can’t be in every meeting and every discussion,
you want people
working for you to behave and make decisions in a way that are consistent with how you would do it that is the Hallmark of that of strong leadership principles and like you can read the everything store which I did when I was interviewing with Amazon
and they say you know.
Jeff has this thing about like oh the customer’s always in the room leave the empty chair like we talked about customers as if they’re actually in a room that’s not that’s not a lie that’s not like a thing that you know has been spawned at like we literally do that we say,
like what would the customer think about this how’s that going to impact the CX like we care very very deeply and that’s just one of the principles and so people use them in their vernacular and actually my wife still works for Amazon,
and our friends sometimes get a little bit annoyed because occasionally she and I will be talking about a hard thing at work and we’ll just default to,
sort of the Amazon lingo and they’re like you guys have to know how you sound to outside people which is.
Not great.

[14:14] Amazon Romance.

[14:15] I do think the Amazon leadership principles are legit and you know have certainly contributed to their their culture surviving even as its scale,
but just just a counter-argument to Scotts point they did add two new leadership principles this year and one of them basically is don’t be evil.
In parentheses it says two employees.

[14:37] Yeah I mean.

[14:40] That’s just an overreaction to crying at the dust particle.

[14:43] That was yeah I was there during during the infamous New York Times article it got some things right I got some things wrong.

[14:55] Were you crying at your desk.

[14:56] I was not personally crying at my desk no and I don’t know anyone who did but I also would not say that I knew every single person at Amazon either.

[15:13] Um
It’s fun fun for me not that much fun for probably listeners but I’ll just give you the anecdote,
Jeff is like a rare unicorn around Seattle and anytime you see him it is a Jeff sighting,
and people will like stop what they’re doing and immediately run back to their desks to tell everybody that they had a Jeff sighting and my only judge sightings really came from from the stage,
at the All Hands meetings I was fortunate enough to work on some projects
that one just do it Awards which is one of the awards where Jeff gives out a Nike shoe and there’s a whole story behind that and so my interaction was limited to the.
Jeff announcing a thing on the stage in my face being up on a on a wall that was those are my only sightings.

[16:12] Nice to get picture of you and Jeff.

[16:14] I did not yeah yeah yeah.

[16:15] We can Photoshop at Jason’s of Photoshop Drupal will create one for.

[16:21] Yeah you can you can put my face on.

[16:22] I’ll put all three of us.

[16:24] There you go yeah with chassis so when I was at Amazon actually co-founded an internal employee network called connected Amazon.
And it really sort of started actually it started from Target honestly because one thing that Target does exceptionally well is they have all of these sort of like.

[16:46] Affinity groups isn’t there like employee networks and there’s like an acapella group and there’s you know the women who ride motorcycles group,
and so I was a member of all these different sort of Target networks and I got to meet the global VP of Lego and I got to meet you know higher-ups at LinkedIn and it just was always really fascinating to me and sort of.

[17:09] Made me feel really happy that I work for Target and when I started at Amazon they had a finity networks but they didn’t do a lot.
I mean they were they were sort of identity based and it was not.
The programming just wasn’t as robust as what you got from the Grassroots Target organizations and so a friend of mine and.
A couple of other people got together I must have been there for months at the time,
and started this group connected Amazon to try to provide some some amount of programming for that and Andy Jesse was actually kind enough to be one of our fireside chat speakers,
and we booked the biggest room that they had on campus at the time I think it could fit about 400 people.
And we had 400 people like an hour and a half before the fireside chat even started and so we had all these people live streaming and all the like conference rooms and
one of the buildings there and from there you know it kind of took on a life of its own so I credit Andy for you know really
making connected Amazon as big of a deal as it has become which I think now they’ve got 30 40 thousand
amazonians are like registered members of connected Amazon and they’ve got a nice big budget and full-time people doing programming and that all came out of the grass roots.

[18:28] Very cool so truth be told we could probably do Amazon stories all night and be perfectly happy
but I do want to talk about foreign Brands obviously so before we jump into that into much detail Scott kind of alluded to the business model but can you kind of give us the foreign Brands elevator pitch.

[18:48] Yeah so you know Scott is right in that there are a number of
groups really around the world now who are looking to acquire Amazon FBA businesses do a sort of brand of Brands roll them together
fall into that but we think about ourselves a little bit differently I think the moniker that gets thrown around a lot is is aggregator.
We don’t see ourselves as that and you’ll.
Probably based on my background understand why you know our model is not to do a high volume of deals it’s too it’s to be principled and disciplined.
In the deals that we do do and we are much more focused on building,
a concentrated portfolio and specific categories that we believe we can turn into like household Staples and so actually as much as I love Amazon and again you’re right we could probably spend you know two hours just swapping stories about that.
Our goal is to.

[19:52] Take fledgling brands that we believe have a lot of potential and put them wherever the customers who want to shop for those products are shopping and that maybe on Amazon and we hope that it is but even if it’s not,
we’ll find ways to make sure that our products are available for the customers who want to buy them and so,
what that means is we might review a thousand deals a year and will acquire a handful of them rather than you know.
Does it meet our basic minimum criteria if yes then we’ll proceed and so it’s just a little bit of a different a different mindset for us and it causes our employees to make decisions differently which is.
And literally the document that we have when we due diligence is called the what you have to believe document it’s do we actually believe in this brand can it actually become a consumer household staple.
If yes then there’s a whole bunch of other criteria that we review if no we’re okay passing on a deal and it’s nothing against the brand owner it’s nothing against the seller we’re just very disciplined for what we’re looking for.

[20:58] And then so it is a busy space so how would you help
help me kind of have a mental map of how you guys fit in so there’s there’s thrashy oh there’s like one out of Austin whose name I can’t remember there’s a couple others,
how would you kind of feel that you guys differentiate from from the pack.

[21:20] Yeah we’re we differentiate in two ways first and foremost like I was describing where operators first.
Right we my two co-founders both come from the investing World they run a very efficient Ma,
process the other kind of oversees the holding company in the structure within I oversee all things related
to Brand growth and I have a team of probably fifty percent X amazonians who have have a similar mindset as me which is
again we build we believe in the power of a brand and we believe in,
brand Equity we believe in the direct-to-consumer space as a way of making sure that were able to reach customers who get genuine value out of our products,
and so that’s us was the most exciting thing so we’re again very selective in our deals secondarily is our Tech and Scott we were kind of,
bantering about this you know before we started recording but we are,
highly highly highly focused on building and integrated omni-channel system,
internal to form Brands and this is not this is not meant to be a knock to any of the software out in the world but my belief is that.

[22:39] Is that there is value to Building Technology that suits the company that we are trying to build rather than having to build a company that suits the technology that’s available to us today.
And again it sounds like a semantic difference but it’s a big mindset shift,
from my team where every single employee regardless of whether you’re in Mna Corporate Finance or marketing
you’re all product managers every single person is tasked with finding ways to automate the automatable use data to make decisions ask for systems that we either don’t have or that are underdeveloped
so that we can build something that works for form Brands and makes each and every one of our employees more efficient.

[23:23] Give us an idea of the scale like where are you guys maybe Capital raised or number of Brands kind of in your your pack if you will anything you can share but obviously don’t want anything super confidential.

[23:35] Sure sure so we’re not disclosing the number of brands that we have right now but we did recently announced a 27 million dollar series a equity raise led by Norwest Venture partners are seed was done by
and FX
at a Palo Alto and so you know that that 27 million that we recently raised is is being put two purposes one
hiring hiring like crazy building out the team of world-class operators first and foremost and then secondarily is to a focus on technology and that is
you know scaling up our Tech stack hiring a high-performing you know World Class Tech Team,
we’ve got a number of data scientists and we’re already finding ways to optimize our businesses that we do owned by way of machine learning it’s also we actually use machine learning to help identify
high quality Brands to potentially reach out to as well and so again it sort of tech underpins everything that we do and we’re investing very heavily in that space.

[24:43] Awesome and you kind of mentioned that you were being selective on Acquisitions like do you have.
Any specific criteria like are most your criteria around Financial metrics to other particular product categories or particular.
Go to market models are things that like sort of play into your your preferred portfolio companies.

[25:06] Yeah so we are focused on certain categories categories that we refer to sort of colloquially as.
I thought I was going to put your that word and I totally got it colloquially as consumer durables so we steer clear from food and beverage,
we steer clear from you know fad related items we I mean you could really like an us to sort of,
New Age Procter & Gamble where we’re focused on you no pets and home and kitchen,
patio lawn and garden we have you know we play in the fitness space the outdoor space and so these are really things that are like,
you know you would go,
to your cousin’s house and open up their cabinets or look in their closet and you would find a bunch of our products there that’s what we’re really focused on so we will stay away from like clothing we don’t do fashion brands,
um and from there you know we have what we call the four pillars because as a good Amazonian I love my Frameworks,
but you know it’s are sort of M A decision-making framework which you know we’re very transparent about when we get,
into the conversation with Sellers and it’s something that you know our approaches to be very seller friendly we.

[26:32] Over index in the hand-holding because we want to make the deal as comfortable as possible.
My co-founder Reuben who leads all the MMA efforts he still personally gets on
all the calls with Sellers and so Financial profile matters
category matters but again a lot there are a lot of other considerations that go into that what you have to believe what we have to believe collectively as a team as an investment committee as operators as brand builders,
and so were we are.
We view these deals as puzzle pieces that we look to fit together.

[27:13] Is part of your strategy to so you acquire these Brands you get them you know I think there’s probably some consolidation where
you know what we’ve seen with other players is a review of the packaging bringing them over into a Consolidated marketing team usually some consolidation around sourcing and fulfillment,
and then you get your technology platform let me play pause there is that is that you guys do all those things.

[27:41] Yep absolutely I mean I think a lot of that is you know and most of the players us included are what at most two two and a half years old so these are like there’s still a lot of table Stakes stuff.
To be done with these with these Brands as we’re fitting them into our process and our portfolio for sure.

[28:00] Gonna think I know the answer this one but I’ll ask anyway so then you know one strategy and I’m obviously a big proponent of this is if you can do acts on Amazon you can do
you kind of typically do you know the same amount call it
you know X again over on other channels is part of your your plan to then go across different online channels with the brands or do you really want to just kind of focus on Amazon for a while and DoubleDown based on on the platform Super Bowl.

[28:31] My Amazonian this is about to show here so we have what we have the concept of Amazon’s day one we have we have play books which we called a0 and A1,
and the day Zero playbooks are sort of that table Stakes stuff can we consolidate at ports,
can we you know is are there opportunities for us to redo the packaging,
will get deep into the reviews and apply NLP to reviews to make sure that we have a good understanding of what customers like and equally important what they don’t like about the products that were acquiring and so we’ll do all that day 0 stuff,
to sort of get our house in order and that is predominantly Amazon focused right most of these businesses,
do the vast majority of their sales on Amazon and so.

[29:20] For us to be world-class operators like we must be world-class at Amazon that that is core to the strategy.
From there we move into day one because at Amazon it’s always day one,
so really it’s day forever but we call a day one and those are the things that a our technology Powers right and Scott you know the power of optimization of being able to have an integrated platform where,
data from one part of the business marketing.
Informs actions in another part of the business product development and design packaging pricing right and so our ability to tie these things together these sort of disparate data points actually build a mental model and I,
I’m sure that my team is so tired of the phrase mental model because I preach it constantly but that’s really what it’s about for us as building that mental model so.

[30:10] That was a long-winded way of answering your question which is yes we will be opportunistic brand by brand,
um in channels off Amazon and you know we’re operating in eight countries right now we are operating across five or six channels and so our footprint is already,
diverse and you know were a year old at this point.

[30:37] Awesome side note you can always tell a tech first company when they start counting at day 0 instead of day one.

[30:45] Exactly I’m so glad Jason that you picked up on that.

[30:49] I’m tracking and so that reminds me I do want to kind of.
Cook down into your Tech stack for a second but before we do I’m just always curious like it seems obvious like one of the big.
I’m sort of investment theories here would be you acquire these companies and you have.
Unique expertise capabilities and Tech that then causes those companies to be more valuable.
You help them become more efficient on Amazon more successful etc etc and that that accelerates the value of your investment.
Each of those companies probably had some unique skill sets like I’m always curious.
Like does it work out that those companies are able to help each other very much and are using like.
Are you providing most of the value-add or are you acquiring a lot of value-add from these individual companies that then benefits the rest of the portfolio.

[31:48] Yeah yeah you know currently it has been.
The former we are providing most of the value-add.
So where we are actually seeing things move is as the space becomes.
More well-known I mean there are so many sellers right so many many many of them do still do not know that an exit.
Is an option for them many still are under the misconception that e-commerce.
I don’t want to do this anymore I guess I’ll just shut my store down I’ll go on Permanent Vacation mode and that is tragic to me.
Because they have loyal customers they’re generating real cash and so it’s a shame for companies to shut it down what we’re seeing more and more in the conversations that we’re having with.

[32:42] Perspective Cellars is.

[32:45] This desire to remain plugged into the brand and frankly this is how we win deals.
In a lot of cases is because we care very deeply you know Simon sinek has one of the most viewed,
TED Talks ever right we should start with why and that is how we start we start with why did the entrepreneur start this business,
and sometimes it was like I don’t know I was in college and needed some extra beer money or I had to pay rent or whatever other times it was you know my
mother had this malady that caused her not to be able to do a certain thing and so I found this product and decided that maybe it could help other people right and every single story is different
and so we learn a lot in the stories but we also do learn a lot from the sellers and we’re super flexible with our pricing structure we don’t have sort of a.
We don’t really have like a take-it-or-leave-it style we want a suit.

[33:44] Sellers in the ways that that works the best for them and so some are willing to take a little less up front but they want to benefit and participate in the upside over the next year we’re happy to do that and the extent that they want to be plugged in and.
Launch more products and use our Tech and you know get support from our team,
we’re happy to do that as well and so it really is a case-by-case basis there’s no sort of one sweeping,
you know this is how we do it forever flexibility is kind of the name of the game for us in a lot of ways.

[34:16] Got it and so let’s talk about that that Tech stack for a second I’m always curious what people.
Decided to build and find the most value and building like are you mostly building tools around.
Catalog management and digital shelf for you doing like magic pricing logic are you doing like ad.
Buying and placement and all that like what what sort of problems are you trying to solve with the tax debt with your Tech stack for to the sellers.

[34:46] I’d be curious to hear what your next two items would be Jason because everything you just said and more
actually where we started was we started with an engine that I alluded to earlier that helps us identify high quality assets that meet our criteria that’s where we began,
and so we you know started plugging into a variety of datasets from a variety of companies,
tying it together you know applying our own modeling on top of it and now use that to identify brands,
the tertiary benefit from that is when you have a lot of data at a category level.

[35:30] You can start to also Benchmark yourself,
and so we’ve been able to you know build benchmarks and say what should what should this company be doing what could this company look like what what if scenario A through Z happened where would we fall,
in this space and from there it’s kind of grown organically and so catalog management I mean you can’t run a direct-to-consumer business.
On one channel let alone many channels let alone in multiple GEOS if you don’t have a strong sort of item master so we certainly,
started their focused very heavily there in the early days to make sure that we had,
a sound way of tying all of these data points together across customers across orders across products and brands.

[36:17] And from there yeah I mean there are natural extensions in all facets right pricing drives forecast,
and our forecast drives our inventory Buys in our inventory buys Drive how much warehousing space we need or our consolidation at various ports are ordering Cadence and.
Guys let me know if you want to talk about the state of the supply chain right now around the world but that is a huge problem in and of itself and so we’ve invested heavily in,
Tech in Building Technology that gives our people visibility to every single step of the supply chain so that we know,
day by day minute by minute where goods are.
Because as I’m sure you guys know if you fall out of stock like falling out of stock especially on Amazon as a really really really really big deal,
because not only is there the Miss sales from that but you also have to then reinvest to you know get your advertising spun back up and to reclaim potentially your spot in Search and that’s really expensive to do and so,
The Economic Opportunity there is not just well we have you know Air Freight.
For extra holding costs or Miss sales but it’s also advertising its also customer experience it’s also,
bundles which also fall out of stock if a component is out of stock and so the blast radius is wider but we have a way to tie that all together and be able to make smarter economic decisions based on that.

[37:46] Yeah that’s a super important point and I’m still shocked how many people don’t don’t get that but if you’re out of stock for three days out of a month at Target and you was three days worth of sales.
Um but you’re out of stock at Amazon and what happens is you fall to what’s called page 2 of search which is equivalent to being delisted.
And then you’ve got to earn your way back and so that’s funny like my,
question about your text deck I’m always curious how people answer because well in the old world those were all separate tools and you could kind of buy best-in-class tools from all these different vendors and each one did a point thing but my hypothesis in like,
Dynamic digital shelf world is.
All those tools have to be integrated because they’re all totally dependent on each other like you like I’m shocked how many Amazon sellers are buying ads on out of stock.

[38:43] Oh my gosh.

[38:44] And like you know I mean it like just all these things are so so interrelated in a in a way that,
that is a very different model than traditional brick-and-mortar retail.

[38:56] That’s right you know we were opening up our office and one of the.
Super lame ideas that I had for a decoration was to build a physical value chain of paper chain and.
I thought it’d be really fun to you know first and foremost has have everybody’s names on it because Dan the day you don’t have a company if you’re only as good as the people that work for you that is.
That is true without exception.
Over the long run at least but but you’re absolutely right right like the interrelationship between every single.

[39:33] Touchpoint of a company whether you’re again MMA marketing for and growth supply chain.
Every single decision that you make has a ripple effect on every other person and so you know when we think about our organizational structure we try to be as flat as we can be we purposefully encourage people to meet,
their counterparts in other organizations so that they’re not just sitting in a silo and saying well I’m on the marketing team,
and that is a supply chain problem not my problem actually it is because you’re about to blow your budget getting that thing back on page 1 off the page of Doom because this thing went out of stock
so you need to be in lockstep so you can pull back on the spend so that you’re not buying spending 40 percent of your budget on out-of-stock,
right especially if it had a sin God forbid falls out of stock it’s a big deal and people need to be talking about it but my biggest thing and I beat this drum constantly is the problem with having.
You know 25 Point Solutions is then you have 25 dashboards you have to look at you have 25 systems you have to log into and you have to make the connections yourself and sorry but like human brain it gets tired
people have a bad night people have a bad day and you make mistakes but by being able to pull it all together visualize it in one space.

[40:55] And see.
How pulling lever a effects object Z like that that is what we constantly push ourselves for and constantly drive toward.

[41:07] Yeah yeah and so you kind of answered you ask me like what would the next things on my list be for your road map and you kind of the name them right its supply chain and analytics for those,
for those very reasons you just covered sidenote are you hosting your Tech stack on Azure did you did you go Google Cloud platform or azure.

[41:26] Wow I think you’re kidding but no Amazon Amazon web services all the way.

[41:33] I’m shocked that makes a lot of sense now but as soon as you try to expand off of Amazon to those other platforms your that’s going to become a.

[41:41] Yeah I know we use some gcp products we use looker we use five Tran for some API connection so we’re you know we started on AWS because frankly.
They gave us free credits and so why are they sticky with that.

[41:57] Yeah yeah that I hear that’s a decent business.
Um the you open the door to a super interesting topic right now which is like supply chain and product liability particularly around holiday this point.
Um earlier this week Target and Walmart both had earnings calls and they both assured investors that they were well positioned for holiday but why.
You hear from any of the suppliers and it sounds a little dicey no one can hire anyone everybody’s Factory workers are on strike.
Um tons of disruptions in Asia right now going the wrong way I’m on pandemic stuff like what what your POV for Holiday are we are we in for some pain or is it overblown.

[42:44] I mean by your gifts now is my POV you know it I think it’s going to be tough I think it’s going to be tough I don’t think,
well I don’t know covid is the big.
The big asterisk to everything I’m about to say because we’ve already seen in Ningbo for example the poor shut down for a couple of days because of a couple of covid cases they’re one of our factories got completely flooded by the typhoon I mean,
there are already so many issues beyond the fact that there are at any given time 50 boats trying to get into the port of LA and.
Some of those containers belong to us some of those containers belong to Target and Walmart and so we’re kind of all collectively in.
This for lack of a better term we’re in this boat together the difference is.

[43:40] The Big Box retailers and a lot of the big players have you know a much much larger physical Warehouse footprint where presumably.
They have seen these potential issues coming and have you know,
bought Goods in advance of meeting to get them on store shelves you know we certainly have but as early as we thought we were,
we probably could have even been a month or two earlier because we’re still seeing delays really across the board.
Um and it’s and a lot of it is international a lot of it is domestic right like will get bumped from you know delivery from point A to point B and you know Kentucky to New Jersey and you know UPS won’t show up.
And that’s not a knock on UPS like maybe their truck driver got covid right I mean there’s so many small things that compound the delays.
I think it’s going to be tough.
And I hope I’m wrong like I’m saying this but I really hope I’m wrong I hope we all get to sleep very happily at night because we had,
great holiday season kids are happy and we’re all happy I really hope that’s the case but we’re preparing for the worst.

[44:53] I know that it’s possible for both to be true right like Target and Walmart could have enough leverage that they do believe they’re going to be okay from a supply chain and it could be the rest of the world that.
Um struggles but right side note on the demand I think Home Depot also had an earnings call this this week and they mentioned that they got there first.
It’s mid-august they got their first shipment of Halloween goods and they’re already out.

[45:22] Oh man oh man.

[45:25] Yeah so / your shop early comment I think yet not only is availability a problem but also.
As you know everything’s just getting more expensive because the cost of those containers and shipping and everything just keeps,
keeps going up and that that leads me to part 2 of why I’m not going to sleep this holiday period last holiday Scott coin This this term that got a lot of Attraction ship a get in,
and we talked about you know the fact that like obviously covid drove everyone online and so there was this you know.

[45:58] Outsized demand for for e-commerce fulfillment and you know UPS and FedEx have a finite ability to flex to meet that.
The I’m curious like it seems like it’s going to be an equal or bigger problem,
this year and I’m chuckling because the United States Postal Service just announced that they discovered this new business practice,
the FedEx and UPS have been doing called surcharges so now even even US Postal Service is looking to do holiday surcharges and they’re you know all the quotas for Holiday are already out,
and of course your friends and Amazon are you know largely the one and only,
retailer add scale that owns their own a lot of their own Last Mile so I do you is is that an advantage for being on the Amazon platform are they likely to run out of capacity and constrain fbas like do you.
Worried about fulfillment this year and how that’s going to impact holiday at all.

[47:02] I am less worried about outbound fulfillment as I am inbound because of what you just said which is capacity constraints.
And you know any listener who has an Amazon business knows that.

[47:16] There was a change this year we’re while because last year Amazon started imposing,
skew level caps right and so even if you had a portfolio that was concentrated around one or two top selling products that do 85 percent of your sales you know at least you could probably be okay on those even if you
hit caps on sort of your tail selection they moved to a model which is,
it is at the account level now a cat and we were all super happy about that because we said well we have all these new products that we’re launching and because they have no sales history we can only Trickle,
20 units in at a time we followed a stock another 20 units we fall out of stock in the problem with the domestic delays is we could be out of stock for three weeks.
On that right even if our warehouse is next door to the Fulfillment center,
we could still not have our products sellable again for 3 weeks and there is nothing that will kill your cold start product launch faster thinking out of stock,
right and so that that has been an issue throughout the year and they kept saying you know July 1st the Caps will be lifted and they were and some cases and they weren’t and other cases and so my big concern is just that we won’t have the capacity,
available to us at FBA to get all of the goods in that we need to get in and so even if we are have a dozen two dozen.

[48:40] You know,
thousand shipments waiting there’s nothing that you can really do there’s no one that you can pick up and call and say hey can you like you know nudge nudge wink wink get my stuff in faster you just can’t do it and so you just wait.

[48:52] And that’s a really uncomfortable spot to be in so you know and then and so we operate in Canada right we have seen on Amazon Canada where,
the whole fulfillment centers have shut down due to covid and you see promised dates go from 2 days for Prime shipping to seven days for Prime shipping no matter which zip code you put in no matter where you say you are in Canada we’ve had some of our products that.

[49:17] The prime delivery date is a Six-Day window and that has been the case for months.
And so outbound from that perspective it does depressed demand that’s why I’m saying by stuff sooner because you might get a Six-Day promise,
but yeah I’m more concerned about the inbound and being able to keep Goods on the digital shelves through the through the entirety of the holiday season,
because you can’t you can’t remanufacture that demand and if we come out super super heavy like,
maybe it helps us through Lunar New Year which was also pretty tough last year but yeah it’s going to be really interesting and so again we’re doing everything that we can to try to.
You know make sure that all of our ducks are in a row all of our goods are Stateside everything’s ready to go.
On the chance that we can actually get you know Goods moved in but it’ll be a struggle.

[50:14] Yeah yeah and as you alluded to the Canadian Supply chains even more fragile because one of those sled dog teams get sick and a whole Province gets cut off namjoo.

[50:24] I had I had Xboxes the year Xbox One released idexx boxes on a train.
In the middle in the dead center of the country and we literally sent a helicopter to pick the Xboxes up,
the train and fly them to Toronto so that we could actually meet because we took pre-orders right and we had to meet release date delivery on those Xboxes so we’ve done some crazy stuff to make it work in Canada.

[50:52] Yeah that’s a whole new new definition of air air freight geez.
The the drones will hopefully sell help with that I did want to you mentioned that you were seeing kind of the the caps and quotas moving from from skews two categories,
one interesting hypothesis I’ve heard from a bunch of like reasonably high volume Amazon sellers at the moment is.
As the catalog has gotten so huge and there’s like some counts like 800 million skus in the catalog now,
um there’s a hypothesis that Amazon is strongly preferencing new skus and so a lot of people have said that they feel like.
The the caps and quotas that they’re getting on,
mature skews that in the old days like your quota would have just gotten bigger every year based on your sales history that they’re now running into this new problem,
Amazon is reserving a fair amount of space for new stuff instead of the old stuff and I can imagine,
that’s scary and or problematic in in your business model have you seen that at all is that viable.

[52:03] I have seen shatter about it that is we have empirically not seen that to be the case for our brands.
We also don’t operate in every category you know I’m sure there are plenty of higher-volume you know on a brand by brand.
Basis sellers out there who are seeing crazy stuff,
for us like I said we’re launching a whole host of new products and it’s 20 units at a time and then you sell out but now your cap is 60,
you’re like awesome I have three times the cap but it’s still 60 it’s not 6,000 which is what we would need to actually you know generate the volume that’s going to get us on page one and so.
While our you know top-selling products we are running up against caps there as well it has not been.

[52:56] The issue really comes from when you have a brand level cap your best selling products are inevitably going to take up most of the calf.
And in order for us to hold a rational level of Safety stock it doesn’t leave a whole lot of extra space for the new products and so you know again we’re not really seeing that that.
You know thought bear out in our businesses doesn’t mean that they aren’t.
But yeah it just we don’t we don’t pun intended we don’t put a lot of stock in that right now.

[53:35] The,
one question we’ve been following this kind of Amazon versus Shopify debate and we’ve had some folks on talking about headless Commerce,
have you guys thought about you know another big strategy for anyone selling on Amazon is it open up your own website have you guys chosen a platform there or do you have any opinions about kind of where the e-commerce platform Wars are going.

[53:59] I have a lot of opinions we are so the direct to Consumer space,
is is what we firmly believe is like very core to our ability as a company to build long-term value.
To have a website that customers interact with engage with our loyal to no no to find products from we believe that score for some Brands more than others right,
we have inherited.
By way of acquisition most people just spin up a Shopify account and then fulfill the FBA and so we have predominantly leaned into Shopify as a platform for now I think.

[54:51] We are still so focused.
At this time especially at this time in making sure that we’re in stock on Amazon and that we have sort of that nuts and bolts Day Zero operational excellence with Amazon which is core to our portfolio that we haven’t,
we haven’t we haven’t dedicated a tremendous amount of resources and fully kicking the tires on all of the Headless options all of the other platform options we’ve had conversations with all of them
we haven’t actually,
made a concerted effort to say we are 100% doing away with Shopify in favor of X for these reasons we haven’t seen the need quite frankly.

[55:35] And then so you’ve been in the retail game for quite a while one of our kind of favorite ending questions is if you kind of think forward let’s say 3 or 5 years kind of take you out of the, the current where do you where do you see e-commerce?

[55:52] Wow I asked a flavor of this question when I interview people.

[55:56] We’re turning it on you.

[55:58] So
What this is bringing up is feelings reactions to a lot of the changes around consumer privacy you know iOS 14 and all of their for the platforms,
that were.
You know I’ll say hoovering up data and applying it and sometimes great ways and in other times may be less great ways I.

[56:29] It hurts me a little bit inside because what I believe is that actually.

[56:36] The the ability for us to build like to use data to build products that Delight customers.
That is core to again building long-term value and I also believe in this is getting back to the question that the ability.
To reach customers where they want to shop with the products that they’re most interested or that that suit them the best I think we’ve taken a step back from that.
And my hope is that we will continue to evolve responsibly.
As a society and as companies as Leaders of sort of this new wave of retail in a way that can still surprising Delight customers that can
deliver product innovations that are meaningful and they’re not just you know we,
wiggle a little here we do a little dongle there and today it’s a new product because it’s actually fundamentally not like I love you.
The next 3 to 5 years as an evolution toward getting even smarter about the products that were building even better at,
reaching consumers who are actually interested in what we’re,
selling so that you’re not just on your endless Scroll of social media and you’re getting hit with ads that are is completely irrelevant and it sort of degrades your experience on that platform and the degrades the brand experience and that’s what we care about we care about the brand experience.

[58:02] That would be awesome if it plays out we’ll have to see ox.

[58:05] We will see.

[58:06] Exactly
well hopefully you’ll be like retired and fabulously wealthy so you’ll just be be watching it from Jeff Bezos jot but that’s gonna have to be where we leave it because it’s happening again we’ve used up an hour of our listeners time.
I know it goes fast we’ve certainly enjoyed chatting with you if listeners have any comments or questions they’re encouraged to,
hit us up on Twitter or leave us a note on our Facebook page and as always if you enjoyed this episode we sure would be grateful if you jump on iTunes and give us that five-star review.

[58:41] Alex we really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule dominating the Amazon aggregation world and if folks want to find you online what’s kind of the best place to you are you on the
the Twitter box are my spacer where do you hang out online.

[58:58] Oh my gosh do I still have a MySpace account that’s kind of scary.

[59:02] He has a Twitch account he’s he’s twitch he’s a twitch streamer.

[59:06] That’s right yeah no you can find me on Twitch no I am predominantly on LinkedIn you can connect this me follow me on LinkedIn shoot me a message there
feel free to drop me a line Alex at foreign otherwise I am on the Twitter box but I am.
Sadly not as much of a contributor as I wish that I that I wish that I could be I’m just not that funny.

[59:28] Well I think you did pretty good here on the show you were funnier than Jason which is what’s actually kind of a low bar but.

[59:33] Yeah don’t I don’t let that stop me for god sakes.

[59:35] Do you think is the most activity out of his grumpy old man tweets.
But that’s a topic for another show but thanks we really appreciate the time and.

[59:49] Until next time happy commerceing.

Aug 20, 2021

EP272 - Q2 Ecom Data, Earnings, and Amazon News

US Dept of Commerce Data

In July retail sales were up 13.3% from previous July (down 1.1% from June). Year to Date sales were up 21.1% vs. 2020. Apparel is in the biggest recovery, up 63%.

At peak of pandemic, restaurants lost nearly $51B/mo of sales to grocery stores. In July the gap has closed to $4B in sales. Restaurants sales for the past two months are higher than two years ago.

Retail sales for all of Q2 2021 grew 28.2% from Q2 2020, e-commerce in Q2 grew 9% during the same period (due to the very high covid driven e-com last year). E-Com was 13.3% of retail sales for Q2.

Q2 Retail Earnings Reports

  • Walmart – US Comp Store sales up 5.2%, E-Commerce up 6%
  • Target – US Comp Store sales up 8.9%, E-Commerce up 10%
  • Home Depot– US Comp Store sales up 3.4%, E-Commerce flat
  • Lowes– US Comp Store sales down 2.2%, E-Commerce up 7%

Stores selling essential goods are comping against a very large 2020 basis in Q2. Most stores saw increased foot traffic driving store growth. Concerns about Covid resurgence and supply chain disruptions loom for Q3 and Q4.

Amazon News

Episode 272 of the Jason & Scot show was recorded on Thursday August 20, 2021.

Join your hosts Jason "Retailgeek" Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis, and Scot Wingo, CEO of GetSpiffy and Co-Founder of ChannelAdvisor as they discuss the latest news and trends in the world of e-commerce and digital shopper marketing.


[0:24] Welcome to the Jason and Scot show,
this is episode 272 being recorded on Thursday august 19 20 21 I’m your host Jason retailgeek Goldberg and as usual I’m here with your co-host Scot Wingo.

[0:39] Hey Jason and welcome back Jason Scott sure listeners Jason we had a little bit of a break in there you had vacation and I got to focus on car washing and it’s good to be back together.

[0:53] It is I had a great time but I did miss you.

[0:57] Oh I did see that while you are on vacation your company won a big Walmart deal so I think they would like for you to go on vacation more often.

[1:09] Yes that is the general consensus the like I have great empathy for anyone in these spaces where you have these like huge drawn-out pitches but this was like.
More than five month pitch and.
Not shockingly it took the the client a little longer to pick a winner then they they promise so I you were kind of.
On pins and needles for a long time and then I went on vacation and we got a good result so I think all my my co-workers my the hundred of my co-workers that were involved in this pitch with me like are all eager for me to work even less than I already do.

[1:48] Well I heard it was because Doug mcmillon listens to the podcast.

[1:54] Yeah amongst others so Chef to all of our listeners from Walmart thank you so much for putting your trust in me and all the mean things that get said about you on the podcast all come from Scott please remember that.

[2:08] Absolutely not I love Homer I probably spend more time in a Walmart than you.

[2:13] That is debatable but I do know that you are a legitimate Walmart Shopper and and you have an awesome use case for Walmart.

[2:25] Which one are you referring to.

[2:26] I feel like Walmart is your go-to for hard to find Star Wars collectible toys.

[2:34] That is true I have spent many a midnight at a Walmart waiting for the pegs the toys to be hanging from the pegs and it’s just the best time to be at Walmart is the best people people watching that 12:00 to 3:00 a.m. period.

[2:47] Yeah they’re there are some interesting shifts that go on at a Walmart store especially the 24-hour ones.

[2:57] And then I’m super jealous because on your vacation you’ve got to go
two galaxies Edge before me and that is for the non Star Wars fan folks in the audience that is the new Star Wars attraction at both the California and Florida Disney parks.

[3:16] Exactly and it was awesome we went to California Disneyland as many listeners will know I’m a dad in the body of a grandad so I have a,
almost six year old son so we took him to Disneyland for the first time and generally,
my my Advanced age is a disadvantage but in this one case it was an advantage because I had a much better excuse than you do to take time off from work and go to Galaxy’s Edge.

[3:43] Awesome well I’m bummed was it fun how would you rate it.

[3:48] I highly recommend it I mean yes the whole trip was fun Galaxy’s Edge lived up to my expectations and there’s.
Kind of too wet in the old days we would have called e-ticket rides in Galaxy’s Edge.
Smugglers Run on the Millennium Falcon and this much more extravagant ride called rise of the resistance and they were both awesome I would say rise of the resistance is the best ride I’ve ever been at an amusement park so so,
totally cool totally worth it and you for sure have to go and I’ll go with you when you’re ready.

[4:22] All right strong words were gone we’ll take we’ll take all the listeners will take your mom and you know some of the other folks with us.

[4:31] I’m sure a lot of listeners would love to go the one that wouldn’t would be my mom because my six-year-old dragged her on every roller coaster at Disneyland and he had a blast but she was like white-knuckled the entire time.

[4:43] Okay so she’s already checked the Box.

[4:46] Exactly exactly you’re not a big enough draw only the grandson is a big enough traffic to your bed.

[4:53] Well I’m glad you had an awesome vacation and the last time we recorded a podcast was one of my favorite days which is Amazon earnings and today is one of your favorite days of the year this is when the US Department of Commerce who sidebar has been on the podcast they drop a big
load of data what did you discover in the data.

[5:15] Yeah so just side note I just to be jealous of my my month Disneyland.
Got got invited to keep working with my my favorite client for for the foreseeable future and I got quarterly e-commerce data from the US Department of Commerce so that’s what I call winning.
But yeah let’s jump into it so.
We’re recording this on a Thursday on Tuesday the US Department of Commerce released their monthly retail sales data so super brief.
Primer recap they published data every month.
For the previous month and that’s called the advanced retail monthly data it’s kind of a quick look at the the month it was 15 days prior.
And then they publish more comprehensive set of data for two months back which would be like 45 days prior.
So so that’s the data that we got on Tuesday and of course we’re all pretty interested in what July looked like because there was this whole kind of.

[6:19] Covid recovery and people rushing back to stores in the pivot from online back to stores and then there you know had been a lot of like negative news and rebounds because of Delta and so you know it’s kind of interesting to see.
See how the the data swung and so in general,
if you were someone that looked at month-over-month retail sales it was a Debbie Downer month so Joel I was about one percent lower than June,
but as I have counseled many times on this show that’s not a very important number to look at what we really want to look at is July 20 21 against July.
20/20 so so year prior data and retail sales for for this July were 13.3% higher,
then last July so ordinarily that would.
Um cause for a party that’s a huge growth like ordinarily we see like kind of for to unit three to four percent growth year over year in total retail sales so 13% is huge.
But of course.
Last July was still pretty impacted by by covid so we have this weird basis and as we’ll talk about later that’s why most retailers are talking about year over two years at this point but so first data point.

[7:44] July was a good month it was up 13 percent from the previous July.

[7:51] We I also like to look at year-to-date sales so I add up all the months and January through July of this year is up 21% versus January through July of last year,
which is also very healthy and again half of that period would have been pre covid versus last year so that’s that’s encouraging and then,
there isn’t a.

[8:14] In awesome measurement of e-commerce in the monthly data especially the advanced monthly data but there is this thing called non store sales which is kind of the closest proxy we have to e-commerce and that’s where things got interesting
it was about 5.9 percent up from last year so way slower growth.
Then you would normally expect for e-commerce so you normally expect retail the girl about four percent in e-commerce to grow 12 to 15% so so retail growing 13% is unusually fast and and Ecommerce growing 6% is unusually slow.
But again if you think about the fact that last July a lot less people are going to stores and instead spending online.
It kind of It kind of fits so I would from my perspective,
there was nothing there was nothing like super anomalous in this data it’s kind of where we would have expected it to be
and then I like to dive into the categories and see if there’s anything important in the categories and again the categories are kind of where you would expect,
by far the category that’s most up this year versus last year on a monthly basis and a year-to-date basis is a Peril so the apparel industry is like.

[9:32] Sixty-three percent better this year than it was last year because they were just absolutely creamed by by covid last year
restaurants and bars or up thirty percent over last year but then there’s some some categories that actually did well in covid but are still pretty significantly up so things like furniture and home,
Sporting Goods those and consumer electronics are all up significantly.
Even though they generally got a covid boost so.
That that is pretty interesting and then the thing that I most look at specifically related to covid is.
In covid everyone bought all their food from grocery stores instead of restaurant so restaurants got creamed grocery stores did really well and so we’ve been watching to see if that.

[10:26] Goes back to pre covid levels and it’s getting awfully close so you know in.
March of last year seventy percent of the calories got sold by grocery stores 30% by restaurants and that’s a that’s a that meant 60 billion dollars a month in sales that used to go to restaurants were going to grocery store so that’s huge.
And in July that Gap it became kind of,
52 versus forty eight percent so only a 4% Delta and pre covid-19 t-50 so that’s that’s about four and a half or five billion dollars a month,
that grocery store still winning that they didn’t win before covid but not surprisingly.
Like people were eager to go back to restaurants and they are going back to restaurants and that’s one of several indications we’ve seen that while.
Digital grocery grew a lot during covid and it’s going to keep some of those gains it does not appear to keeping all of those games and we are seeing some backslide and we’re seeing that in things like like instacart sales as well.

[11:40] Yeah there’s been wasn’t there a rumor that instacart was looking to be acquired.

[11:46] Yeah yeah there’s a few things out there there is a rumor that instacart was talking to doordash.
And then Super interesting this week and I’ll put a link to it in the show notes former guest and friend of the show Dan McCarthy who remembers the,
the professor at Emory that specializes in in customer lifetime value and cohort analysis he got a big.
Set of credit card panel data from Ernst research and he was able to use it to kind of.

[12:20] Back into the gmv which in the restaurant business or the grocery business they actually would call govt Gross order value
um and he was able to kind of figure out the size and stickiness of doordash and instacart and what he found was,
instacart got a bigger covid bump than door – but that door – is much stickier and and has a much higher rate of repeat customers than instacart in fact.
About 30% of he found that about 30% of door –
Shoppers repeat and only about 20% of instacart Shoppers repeat and that that difference,
is is very meaningful in the financial outcomes for those two companies and he kind of estimated that
insta cards govt is probably around twenty three billion dollars on an annualized run rate so he kind of looked at it and said hey
instacart does appear to have significant weakness versus door – and and so it kind of lien when the some Credence and some tangible Nest to the.
The rumor that you know instacart might be on a covid peak in trying to sell at it’s at its high we’ve also heard just some rumors that they’re you know struggling to retain some of their there,
customer Sellers and some things like that so so it’s going to be an interesting space to follow.

[13:48] Any other surprises from the dinner.

[13:50] Nothing wildly surprising in later in this podcast we’re going to talk about earnings and we’re going to talk about Home Depot and Lowe’s reported and so sort of a preview I would say like.
Um the do-it-yourself category was a category that did really well in in covid-19,
um and so you you know it’s interesting to see like if that sticky if
have you know as people are starting to go out more are they are they stopping the investment in their home and or are they reinvesting in their home this year is that a new habit so
I’ve been watching the do-it-yourself space and it had modest growth.
From last year so I want to from memory I want to say it was about eighteen percent up from last year and last year was a very.
Hi year so that that’s interesting and I won’t spoil it but it’s going to be that number will be even more interesting when we talk about how Lowe’s and Home Depot.

[14:53] Let’s jump into it.

[14:54] Okay so the next thing I wanted to talk about is so I mentioned that this monthly data doesn’t have awesome e-commerce data in it.
The US Department of Commerce publishes much better e-commerce data but they only publish a quarterly and that’s why this week is so fun is because this is one of those quarter months when they publish both the monthly data and the quarterly data so we just today
got the cue to e-commerce data from the US Department of Commerce and the top line here is
Q to 2021 Drew about 28% from Q2 2020 and e-commerce.

[15:38] I’m sorry tale so that’s all of retail which like that’s way higher growth than you normally see and eCommerce growth was 9% for that period so lower.
Then you would normally expect to see right and again that kind of follows the trend here.
E-commerce was artificially High last year and so you know even though it’s growing it’s growing against a bigger base and so the growth this year does not look as big.
So a lot of people are you know trying to talk about.
Growth on a two-year stack but that 9% growth becomes super interesting when you think back to Amazon you know Amazon got beat up because their rate of growth slowed a lot they were down to 22 percent
but 22% still means you’re more than growing more than twice as fast as the industry average.
And as we’re going to see you later like much faster than most of their competitors so so that that is pretty interesting and then a ton of news then writes like e-commerce is down.
Because nine percent is lower than we would usually expect but I just want to remind people.
That down doesn’t mean what you think it means like like we sold more stuff online in Q2 of this year than we did Q2 of last year and Q2 of last year was amazing.
It’s just the rate of growth is slowing down.

[17:02] This is where I always get confused because the headlines that came across my CNBC trackers were retail sales were down 1.1 percent and worse than expected.

[17:14] Yeah so that was.

[17:15] How do I reconcile that with 28%.

[17:18] Yeah well so the 1% is monthly and it was that mean that was down month over month so that’s June to July so,
July 2 July monthly going back the retail sales were actually up by 13 percent which is much more healthy and Q2.
Versus last Q2 retail sales are up what did I just say 20 that’s the.

[17:48] But okay but then the month-on-month is interesting because why do you you know if we’re still coming out of covid you would expect it to be kind of climbing up even if we were heading into the fall or.

[18:00] What you have to remember about consumer spending patterns and Retail is there it’s all heavily driven by these purchased occasions and there’s a bunch of purchase occasions that are tied to date and so the spending patterns you’d expect to see in
July are different than the spending patterns you’d expect to see in June so there’s there’s more people spending on summer activities in June than July and there’s more people starting to spend on back to school in July then in June and so there are all these
factors that make it really hard to.
Compare month-over-month in West you you do some like heavy seasonal adjustment gymnastics and even that tends to not work because,
some of these these purchase occasion shift from month to month from year to year so sorry it’s complicated.

[18:51] Got it dads and grads will scrap it up two dads and grads being in June.

[18:57] Yeah but so I mean my biggest takeaway is like as a retail I guarantee you every retail team I work with care a lot more about there.
Their sales bases from last year than they do their sales bases from last month.
Now the Miss versus analysts expectations that’s a separate story and some you know obviously is you know like investors tend to get squeamish when,
when the recharge missed the analyst expectations but it’s super hard to predict analyst
it’s a tough job for the analyst right now given all the uncertainty around health and covid and we simultaneously have states where
they’re throwing parades because covid over and people are opening up and then we have states where their reinstituting Mass mandates so it’s.
It’s like high degree of uncertainty at the.

[19:51] Um so in that climate some poor companies had to report their earnings and face investors and so this was to me a fun week for earnings calls,
Walmart reported their their Q2 earnings Target reported their Q2 earnings Lowe’s and Home Depot reported their Q2 earnings and then TJ Maxx reported their cue turning so it’s a pretty fun week in retail earnings
um and.
Again I tend to focus more on the operational metrics and less on the investor metrics so you know there were some beets and some misses in there that impacted stock performance and I don’t
pay that much attention to those.

[20:33] As a reminder because Amazon reported a couple months ago and we did a whole show a couple weeks ago we did a whole show about it,
Amazon is predominantly e-commerce and Amazon’s Q2 was up 22 percent from Q2 of last year so so,
put that data point in your head and then you go okay home Walmart and Target how did you guys do Target was up eight point nine percent.
Which was a beet and Walmart was up 5.2% which I want to say was a meat if I’m if I’m remembering right so so both those retailers did pretty well they
sold a ton of stuff last year during covid and they sold significantly more this year.
Um with less of a covid impact and less of an economic stimulus impact and so that that.
Was pretty encouraging both retailers throughout cautions about.
Their performance the rest of this year and so both retailers I think had some negative movement in their stock based on there,
um on there like forward-looking expectations but not based on their performance so so again.

[21:53] Amazon twenty two percent Target at eight nine percent will call it and Walmart at 5%.
Um that’s their total sales e-commerce was a much more interesting story targets e-commerce grew ten percent.

[22:09] And Walmart’s e-commerce grew three percent and those numbers are tiny by historical standards right so
Amazon is all e-commerce so their 20% growth means their e-commerce grew 22% so the so Amazon’s e-commerce grew more than twice as fast as Target and more than four times as fast or about four times as fast as Walmart
so that that makes Amazon’s performance look even more impressive if you think about Target like last year.

[22:41] They grew a hundred and ninety-five percent so,
so again like really sucky to comp against that that huge huge Peak and last year Walmart grew a hundred percent so they’re comping against a huge Peak so the,
the story of Q 2 for all these retailers is going to be,
you know how do they hold on in their total retail sales can they kind of beat the industry average and then.
You know where do they fall on e-commerce and candidly like.
Target Walmart and Amazon kind of don’t surprise me what surprised me was Lowe’s and Home Depot so remember I told you earlier that,
the do-it-yourself category is crony US Department of Commerce is performing reasonably well it’s like up like eighteen percent so.
Home Depot with retail sales for the quarter were only up 3.4 percent and lows sales were down 2.2%.

[23:52] So
Kind of hard to reconcile that in my head like there are many other do-it-yourself retailers besides Lowe’s and Home Depot.
I almost think this is like highlighting a problem in the US Department of Commerce categorization because it just,
I can’t put together a model where Home Depot only grew by 3 / 3.4% where lows went backwards 2.2% and yet the whole do-it-yourself category went forward,
yeah but that being said Home Depot’s e-commerce and super cheesy how they report this like they Home Depot totally tried to bury this but Home Depot’s e-commerce growth was flat,
they did not grow from last quarter from this quarter last year again off a big basis they grew a hundred percent last year and then was grew seven percent.
Which you know again that that’s actually better growth than Walmart and Lowe’s also had a big basis they had a hundred and thirty five percent so
on an e-commerce standpoint you’d say like glows actually kind of out performed in e-commerce but then the bad news for Lowe’s is they way underperformed and in terms of a brick-and-mortar thing which is of course much more meaningful to them.

[25:11] Um so those were kind of the monthly earnings so.
That I you know I think that is a trend the other thing that came out in these earnings calls is both Walmart and Target talked about how last year retail traffic was way down but ticket size was way up people came to the store to last and they bought more in each,
trip almost all the retail growth we saw this quarter was from increased trip frequency,
so it was almost all tied to more people walking into Targets in Walmart like there’s probably pent-up demand go shopping from people that were we’re doing more of their spending online so this is kind of,
all of these data points are converging to say that
people are are had kind of online fatigue and we’re happy to go back to stores and we’re seeing that in the industry data we’re seeing that in the earnings data and you know it’s going to be really interesting to look at Q 3 because.
It’s not clear that that trend is going to continue based on some of the the health news and.
State restrictions that are getting imposed and certainly based on some of the international news.

[26:22] Yet it was this time last year when we kind of coined the ship again,
I wonder if we’re teeing up for you even kind of a tougher holiday this this may be kind of teased out of the date a little bit like maybe
maybe Lowe’s was down because of supply chain issues of you know they just couldn’t stop the stores I don’t know that that’s one way to explain kind of why one retailer would be doing bad but the category did it better,
and yeah so you know the supply chains are all jammed up there’s just all the way from Manufacturing
to hear stories of you can’t get room on boats and certainly planes and then when it gets here you can’t get it off the dock because there’s not enough trucks
and then you know I’m living the nightmare scenario where you can’t buy vehicles and I have a business built on being buying Vehicles so you know there’s you know.
The whole system’s and need to add capacity for delivering more and there’s literally no vehicles to be had due to this tube shortage so it’s gonna be really interesting next four months to see how this plays out.

[27:35] Yeah no a hundred percent agree I’m super concerned about holiday the inventory levels like wouldn’t really show up in the,
the kind of reported earnings like where it would come up in is the transcript of the investor calls and I’ll confess
I didn’t listen live to I did listen to Walmart and Target I didn’t listen live to Home Depot or Lowe’s I kind of skimmed the transcript so I can’t I don’t I did not see,
then calling out supply chain as a reason for this quarter’s performance it definitely was called out as a risk factor for there.
Their future performance and what was a little interesting is
Walmart and Target vote both went to Great Lengths to express that they felt like they were going to be in a good inventory position for holiday
and I say that because none of us are expecting them to be in a great inventory position for holiday so they’re they’re trying to.
Push back that narrative and it like obviously those are two of the biggest retailers that have a lot of Leverage over the supply chain so it’s like,
you know if anyone can buy inventory it’s going to be them and they’re saying they’ve invested early and they think they’ve got the inventory they need for Holiday locked up.
Your points are all,
super valid like every step in the supply chain is more expensive and more fragile right now and the one that you didn’t mention is.

[29:05] It’s also just harder globally to get stuff made and you know if you look at the global,
like flow of covid there’s really only one economy economy that completely recovered and got a hundred percent of their retail foot traffic back for example and that was China and guess what China is,
like in the throes of a Delta pandemic and
foot traffic to retail as way down like they’ve had a back slide and that has impacted factory production and productivity and you know you mentioned one tangible,
way that’s playing out as these chip shortages but like there’s a bunch of them and then we also have this Global labor shortage,
and a place where it’s been particularly hard to hire people is in warehouses and factories and so I here in the United States we’ve got like a bunch of Labor shortages we’ve got a bunch of
labor dispute so I want to say Mondelez has like three big factories under strike so
Santa may not be able to get Oreos this Christmas like there’s a lot of those things playing out right now so I would say,
that Walmart and Target may have locked up enough inventory but there’s.

[30:21] Severe uncertainty about the holiday and I think everything we talked about for ship again in last year’s going to be worse this year.
FedEx and UPS have both announced their surcharges for holiday and they’ve already informed most of their customers of what there,
how they quotas will be so that’s going to for sure come into play the US Post Office which historically has not had surcharges is adding surcharges this year so lots of stuff going down and again,
I’ll be shocked of Amazon has as much capacity as they want but you know Amazon unique amongst all these retailers owns a lot of their own capacity and in fact.
They’re huge Amazon air Hub in Cincinnati just went online so.
Yeah yeah and even when you can get stuff it’s just more expensive like I want to say that like average price of a container with six thousand dollars last year and it’s 22 thousand dollars right now so.

[31:19] Effort Amazon Seller say 40,000 I don’t know.

[31:23] I think yeah it depends on what you know but yeah and so I again I’ve seen like.
Retailers by part of a porch in Canada I want to say,
um Canadian Tire like literally bought a shipping Port you know we’ve seen lots of retailers including Home Depot by their own container Freighters like,
we’re seeing all kinds of crazy reaches up into the supply chain to try to protect capacity so it’s it’s definitely going to be interesting.

[31:54] We will keep listeners posted well this is the place to go to where we’re called it last year early and we’re going to keep tracking it and calling it early this year.
Yeah and then since we’re doing a news episode it wouldn’t be a Jason and Scot show without a little.

[32:15] News new your margin is there opportunity.

[32:23] That’s right Amazon news
Jason I saw this one got your dander up a little bit on on the the Twitter there was a New York Times article where they talked about how Amazon is now officially a hundred percent
without any argument bigger than Walmart
and an article what they do is they use a third-party source for GM v data which I actually appreciate this because for a very long time I was trying to help educate
people that that you can’t just look at Amazon Revenue numbers that their impact is bigger because there’s this kind of
Iceberg neath the surface of gmv
that matters because if someone buys something from a 3rd party seller for $100 other retailers lost $100 they didn’t lose the around $10 commission that Amazon shows us Revenue
I thought this was pretty interesting and when you you gross up now the number they used was pretty aggressive I don’t know who this this Source was I don’t have a subscription but
it seemed a little aggressive and the lines are definitely going to cross I thought maybe they had pulled it into your to what we’re I know this kind of got you a little agitated what
what do you think about this.

[33:39] Yeah yeah so it’s super interesting it’s a great article it’s it prompted a lot of conversation I am mildly annoyed so first of all
the I have seen as a result of this this article got written in the New York Times and it’s a very accurate article.
But it then got echoed by hundreds of other Publications and it got.
Progressively worse so a I thought that would warm your heart is a ton of these articles go to Great Lengths to explain why revenue is in a valid way to compare these retailers and what gmv is and it’s like.
They all have discovered this year what you’ve been been teaching all of us for four.
Probably 10 years now at this point we’re old but so that was kind of fun so the New York Times article the headline first of all was people now spend more at Amazon than at.

[34:33] And then the subtitle is the biggest e-commerce company outside of China has unseated the biggest brick-and-mortar seller.
And so what this article is saying is,
they’re using a gmv estimate from a data company that sells data to investors and so it’s a Wall Street analyst firm called factset and facts that said,
Walmart’s trailing 12-month gmv,
was 500 Global GMB was five hundred sixty six billion dollars and Amazons
12-month gmv was six hundred and ten billion dollars so for the first time Amazon’s Global gmv is higher than Walmart’s and so Amazon has finally passed.
Past Walmart and you know we’ve hit this big milestone that everyone should be talking about right like so that was their article and nothing in its wrong I would argue that the fact that data tends to be on the aggressive side but,
maybe aggressive for both and,
facts that is not estimating gmv for Walmart just you know like they’re using revenue for Walmart and they’re using GM V for Amazon and as you know,
Walmart now has a meaningful Marketplace why got you know I don’t think they’ve disclosed what the.

[35:59] The ratio of 1 Peter 3 p is but Walmart has said they’re going to sell 75 billion dollars online this year so.
That you know their gmv is likely significantly larger than their revenue
but the biggest reason this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison is these two companies don’t sell in the same countries right so Amazon’s and many more countries than Walmart so you know their incontinence that that Walmart isn’t in and,
the there India is a quite large Market both of these companies are significant players in India,
the Amazon includes India sales in their gym
in the fact that Jim V there are the facts that GMB includes am India for Amazon Walmart revenue does not include any India sales because Walmart owns a minority majority interest in Flipkart.

[36:53] Um but that’s that’s really the way Amazon does business in India as well like
if you’re doing Apples to Apples I would argue that it’s probably true that Walmart is still slightly bigger than Amazon of you if you put India back into these numbers and and do a gmv estimate for Walmart instead but I don’t,
even really care about that what’s annoying is everyone that read the New York Times article then wrote a new article saying Amazon’s the biggest retailer in the world and that’s,
wildly untrue because.
Ali Baba’s gmv is bigger is like 1.3 trillion right so its bigger than Walmart plus Amazon’s estimate in these articles and that’s why the New York Times had to write the most awkward headline ever that’s like,
outside of China even and you go well why are they saying outside of China when both Walmart and Amazon are competing in China well it’s because they don’t want to talk about the fact that they’re both way smaller than Ali Baba.

[37:51] And so so again like I just I kind of don’t think this is a very big milestone I think Amazon spins more
time and effort trying to sell more stuff in the US than anywhere else and Walmart spends more time and effort trying to sell in the US than anywhere else it’s the whole market for both countries
for companies it’s highly likely that Amazon is going to pass Walmart for sales in the US in the near future I don’t think they have yet and when they do
that will be a big milestone that will be like when Walmart passed Sears Versailles in like 1990 but to me that’s the big milestone that this,
this kind of facts that data thing that New York Times is trying to spin and then you know everyone else misreported like to me it’s.
Not that interesting and so I’m kind of annoyed how much Buzz it’s gotten but I just blew it and gave it a bunch more buzz on the podcast.

[38:44] Okay another one Amazon this was kind of the big
big topic today there was a leak or someone figured out that Amazon is going to open a department store.
How do you feel about Amazon departments course I feel like they’re going to have put Target out of business in six months.

[39:09] I just sold all my Target stock it so it’s over.
I’m kidding yeah so I mean this is interesting news the.
I would say it’s very vague news at this point like I don’t think it surprises anyone that Amazon is interested in and is probably moving forward with trying a bunch of different retail floor mats I do think Amazon realizes that.
That brick-and-mortar is important I don’t think they think of themselves as purely an online,
retail and they’ve been investing a bunch of brick and mortar and a category they want to do better and is a parallel and they have been making a lot of progress in a parallel so it’s not shocking that they would be
trying to experiment with some apparel formats so so this news is kind of exciting I’d be eager to see what they what stores they do open and I’m aisle
you know quickly go visit them when they do to see what see what they’re trying but.
From this article it’s hard to know exactly what they’re talking about so the the leases that the.
The reporter found in this is an exclusive article from Wall Street Journal.
The wheezes they found were for thirty thousand-square-foot stores so the first thing is again everyone saying like Amazon’s getting into the department store business.
There are almost no 30,000 square foot department stores most department stores are much bigger than 30,000 square feet.

[40:33] Whatever it’s worth the the article says that apparel is one of the categories that’s likely in this new store from Anonymous sources that talk to them.
So does that mean it’s primarily an apparel store so that would make it like a Kohl’s or T.J.Maxx eyes store and that could be interesting and meaningful or does it mean it’s a
general merchandise store that has some apparel and also has a full grocery store because there’s a lot of
20,000 25,000 square foot grocery stores so 30,000 square feet.
Isn’t that much different than the the bigger store formats we’ve already seen Amazon starting to experiment with so I guess I’m just saying.
Any brick-and-mortar news from Amazon is interesting I’ll be super eager to follow it but there was nothing,
to me and this announcement that goes man my mind’s blown this is a major Game Changer or some some new industry that wasn’t worried about Amazon last week should be super worried about them this week like I think all those Industries should have already been worried.

[41:35] Yeah and a lot of people I saw coming and we’re saying they’re abandoning the bookstore this means the 4-star store
doesn’t work they’re getting rid of just je wat technology the Amazon goes towards and I think people just kind of,
At the heart of their DNA is to experiment with stuff doesn’t just because they’re experimenting with something doesn’t mean the other things failed they can run they have the resources to run
300 experiments retail store experiment simultaneously if they want to and that you can’t really read that kind of stuff into them I think that’s really jumping the gun.

[42:12] No I would a hundred percent agree with that and again it’s built right into their leadership principles like small autonomous teams right so it’s not like it’s one big entity and they can only do one thing at a time.
They’ve got you know a ton of entities that are doing a ton of things at a time so I I certainly.

[42:28] Purposely don’t talk to each other because it was a slow not yeah.

[42:31] Yeah absolutely.
So excited to see them doing new things I do think when they open new store formats they tend to be more Innovative than than traditional retailers that are opening new format so I hope they open them and I will be there when they do.

[42:48] And then while we were on the podcast Tesla announced they have a new robot swiped will have to you have to order one of those and then give us a gadget unboxing kind of walkthrough of how that goes.

[43:02] I feel like you are higher on the Tesla waiting list than I am so we may have to leverage your status but I’m all for doing a robot Deep dive at our earliest convenience.

[43:12] Yeah humanoid robots kind of freaked me out so I think I’ll lose my status to send it to your hostel we’ll see if it a skynet’s you or not.

[43:20] Yeah isn’t is there another Terminator movie coming out I think there is.

[43:23] There’s always another Terminator movie coming out sometime.

[43:26] Fair enough
awesome we’ll listen we set a goal for ourselves to do a shorter concise show and I said I think we can knock this out in 30 minutes so I totally blew that this
feels like about 45 minutes but hopefully it was valuable to listeners if it was we sure would appreciate,
five star review on iTunes if you have any questions or we got anything wrong in the show you want to talk about we would encourage you to hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

[43:57] Yeah I like to think we gave everyone 50% more for their money today so you’re welcome.

[44:03] Yeah and you and I earned fifty percent less what’s 50% of zero awesome well until next time happy commercing!