Posts tagged with "Amazon"

Amazon slaps a $9.95 fee on Whole Foods deliveries—and Walmart pounces

November 1, 2021

Whole Foods shoppers may have received a shock this week, if they noticed a new $9.95 delivery fee on orders placed through Amazon Prime, reports CNN.

Amazon, which acquired Whole Foods in 2017, had previously offered free two-hour delivery for Prime members, but warned shoppers last month a new charge was coming.

The fee was put in place to help cover delivery operating costs like equipment and technology without raising product prices, a Whole Foods spokesperson told CNN Business. Whole Foods delivered three times as many orders in 2020 as it did in 2019, the spokesperson added, as the pandemic deepened customers’ dependence on delivery.

Although the fee is new, some Prime perks will remain, including free pickup on orders over $35 and exclusive discounts.

In an email to customers last week, Walmart announced that anyone who signed up for Walmart+—the retailer’s version of Prime—on Monday, October 25. would receive $9.95 back.

“Because customers deserve a grocery delivery service that won’t leave a Whole in their wallet for delivery fees — whoops, typo,” the email reads.

Walmart+ offers subscribers free grocery delivery, free shipping with no order minimum and contact-free checkout. The subscription costs $12.95 per month, or $98 for the year. Amazon prime costs $12.99 per month, or $119 for the year.

Research contact: @CNN

Macy’s sues to block Amazon from filching the billboard at its Herald Square flagship

October 4, 2021

In the heart of Manhattan, a battle is brewing between the traditional, bricks-and-mortar department store Macy’s and the e-commerce giant Amazon.

According to a report by The New York Times, the disagreement is over the high-visibility billboard next to Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. For 60 years Macy’s has advertised itself on the 2,200-square-foot perch that wraps around the corner of the building, with its star logo prominent against a red background during the annual Thanksgiving Day parade that Macy’s organizes.

Now Macy’s has sued to block Amazon from getting that prime piece of advertising real estate.

Last week the retail chain filed a lawsuit in New York State Court against the billboard’s owner, Kaufman Realty, claiming that the negative impact of allowing a “direct competitor” to promote itself from a block that has long been associated with Macy’s “would be immeasurable.”

“The damages to Macy’s customer good will, image, reputation and brand should a prominent online retailer (especially Amazon) advertise on the billboard are impossible to calculate,” Macy’s said in the complaint.

Amazon and Kaufman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the suit, which was reported earlier by Crain’s New York, Macy’s accused Kaufman of discussing the billboard with Amazon before its lease agreement with Macy’s expired in August. Terms set in 1963 prevent Kaufman from allowing a Macy’s competitor to advertise on the billboard, a prohibition that “runs with the land forever,” according to the complaint.

Macy’s said in a statement that it “continues to have rights relating to advertisements” at the location, adding that “we expect to realize the benefits of these rights and have asked the court to protect them.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Amazon to launch Fire TV sets in bid to firm up its foothold in living rooms

September 10, 2021

Amazon plans to roll out  a line of Fire TV sets that will feature its Alexa voice assistant—an expansion that also showcases a growing ambition to place itself at the center of customer living rooms, reports The Wall Street Journal.

On September 9, the tech giant announced two lineups of Amazon-branded TVs—one named Amazon Fire TV Omni Series, starting at $409.99, and the other Amazon Fire TV 4-Series, which will start at $369.99. The TVs will be available on Amazon’s website and at Best Buy. locations in October.

TV brands including Toshiba and Best Buy house brand Insignia have for years sold televisions powered by Amazon Fire TV’s operating system after Amazon and Best Buy joined forces in 2018.

What’s more, the Journal notes, Amazon has become dominant in streaming, with its Fire TV devices regularly ranking among top sellers. Its entertainment services include the Prime Video streaming platform, Fire TV operating system, and an assortment of streaming devices.

In recent years, Amazon has expanded its own-brand business in several arenas, including apparel, groceries and even items such as batteries. The company has opened branded grocery shops and plans to operate several department stores that will feature its private-label brands, the Journal reported last month.

Through its branded TVs, the online retailer is taking on a segment of electronics known for low margins that have dissuaded some competitors. Apple spent years studying the potential for an Apple TV, but has so far only developed a streaming device and the video service Apple TV+. The iPhone maker has long targeted opportunities to integrate hardware and software to make products where it can command hefty premiums and profit margins.

Amazon, meanwhile, historically has sought market share over profit and to appeal to customers with lower prices. The company in recent years has released an array of Alexa-enabled products, including ear buds and glasses.

An Amazon TV “speaks to Amazon’s product road map—anything customers spend time on, they want to take a shot at,” said Loup Ventures tech analyst Gene Munster. “There will be a market for cheap, good tech.”

The streaming industry is crowded with competitors. Amazon has faced steep competition from Roku  while being challenged by broadband giants such as Comcast,  which has worked with Walmart  and Chinese manufacturer Hisense to develop smart TVs.

Amazon said its Omni Series TVs will be equipped with the company’s Alexa assistant, which will feature “far-field voice controls” that enable customers to ask Alexa questions without a remote, much like the company’s Echo smart speakers.

The TVs will be available in sizes ranging from 43 inches to 75 inches diagonally and will have 4K resolution. Amazon said its Fire TV 4-Series will support Alexa capabilities available through its Alexa Voice Remote. The more affordable 4-Series TVs will be available in 43-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch models.

Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, said the television lineup will build on the company’s effort to bring ambient computing to people’s homes. He likened their capabilities to its smart speakers, with the Omni Series models responding and turning on to a wake word—often programmed as “Alexa”—even when they are turned off.

Finally despite launching competing TV products, Amazon said its partnerships with Toshiba and others aren’t changing. The company Thursday also announced new Fire TV-powered televisions by Toshiba and Pioneer. Amazon has clashed with partners and potential partners over how it has launched products that compete with them. The company has said it doesn’t use confidential information that other firms share with it to build competing products.

Aside from its branded TVs, Amazon on Thursday also revealed the latest iteration of its Fire TV Stick 4K product. The new Stick 4K “Max” (priced at $54.99) will include Alexa features and have power and networking upgrades.

 Research contact: @WSJ

Forever young? Jeff Bezos is backing anti-aging startup Altos Labs

September 8, 2021

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is pushing the envelope—on marketing, on suborbital space travel, and now on longevity. He is among a group of investors backing a new anti-aging company, according to a new report obtained by Fox News.

The company, Silicon Valley-based Altos Labs, is working on biological reprogramming technology that is targeted at essentially prolong human life, according to MIT Tech Review.

A Russian-born billionaire tech investor, Yuri Milner, and his wife, Julia, also have invested in the company, according to the report. Milner—who is known for investing in companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Airbnb—is worth about $4.8 billion, according to Forbes’ estimates.

Altos was incorporated earlier this year in the United States and the United Kingdom; and has plans to create institutes in California, Cambridge, and Japan, according to the report obtained by Fox News.  

It’s also reportedly seeking university scientists with deep pockets dedicated to researching how to reverse the process of aging cells.

Bezos’ investment office, Bezos Expeditions, did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

However, this isn’t the first time the world’s richest man has invested in this kind of research.  The 57-year-old Bezos has also invested in the startup company Unity Biotechnology, the New York Post reported.

Unity, according to its website, is working to develop a “new class of therapeutics to slow, halt, or reverse diseases of aging.”

Representatives for Unity did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Research contact: @FoxNews

Amazon broke law and should face new union election, labor official finds

August 5, 2021

A hearing examiner for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Amazon tainted the election process sufficiently during the union campaign at its warehouse in Alabama last April to warrant a do-over, The Huffington Post reports.

The labor union challenging its election loss at an Amazon warehouse cleared its first major hurdle this week, with a preliminary finding that the online retailer violated labor law during the closely watched union campaign in Alabama earlier this year.

A hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a report this week recommending that workers vote in a fresh election because Amazon tainted the mail-in election that ended in April.

According to the HuffPost, the finding undermines what Amazon had cast as a clean and resounding rejection of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) by its workers. 

The NLRB official said Amazon spoiled the process for a fair election in two specific ways: The company distributed “vote no” paraphernalia to workers in front of supervisors, which may have been coercive, and pressured the U.S. Postal Service to place a mailbox at the warehouse for the election.

The election was done through mail ballots, and the NLRB had determined beforehand that there would not be drop boxes onsite. Amazon’s insistence on placing a mailbox at work “usurped the [board]’s exclusive role in administering Union elections,” the hearing officer, Kerstin Meyers, wrote.

The mailbox, alone, “destroyed the laboratory conditions and justifies a second election,” she concluded. 

Meyers’ finding does not guarantee that another election will be held. Her recommendation will now go to a regional director at the NLRB, and after that, potentially to the five-member board in Washington, D.C., that ultimately settles such disputes on appeal. 

The Senate recently confirmed two of President Joe Biden’s picks for that board, assuring that Democrats will have control of it by September. A Democratic majority is more likely than a Republican majority to rule in favor of unions in contentious cases.

Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, said the union supported Meyers’ findings.

“Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable,” Appelbaum said in a statement. “Amazon cheated, they got caught, and now they are being held accountable.”

Amazon defended its decision to have a mailbox placed onsite by noting that it was the U.S. Postal Service that put it there. But Meyers wasn’t buying that argument, calling it “mere scapegoating.” She noted that Amazon had procured its own mailbox in case the Postal Service did not decide to place one there.

What’s more, Meyers found that the Postal Service, an independent federal agency, went to unusual lengths to help Amazon, a major client, in what turned out to be a violation of labor law: “In an effort to placate [Amazon], the USPS officials at the highest levels jumped through hoops” to get the company a mailbox as quickly as possible.

A Postal Service spokesperson did not immediately provide comment when asked for a response.

Amazon said in a statement that it plans to appeal any determination that the election be re-run.

Research contact: @HuffPost

‘Wigs are the next big thing’: Boston beauty startup simplifies purchase process for Black women

June 24, 2021

Mary Imevbore bought her first wig online in 2017 when she was attending Williams College in Massachusetts.

Like many Black women, she had decided to “go natural” years ago—forgoing damaging hair straightening treatments. But she had trouble finding a Black hair stylist in the rural Berkshires, and as a double major in political science and computer science, didn’t have much time to style her hair in a dorm room.

“I wanted something quick and easy, so I discovered wigs—but the shopping experience was terrible,” Imevbore recently told The Boston Globe.

It struck Imevbore that a better buying option didn’t exist “because the consumer is a Black woman.” So she teamed up with two Williams classmates, Tiiso McGinty and Susana Hawken, to create the kind of brand they would want to patronize.

After three years of work, the cofounders have officially launched beauty startup Waeve —pronounced “wave”— dropping a product line of six trendy, beginner-friendly wigs on a website designed with bold colors and a Gen Z aesthetic.

“We believe wigs are the next big thing in beauty and fashion,” Imevbore said. “We are building the ultimate destination.”

The 24-year old, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Connecticut, said wigs are popular among Black women because wigs allow them to reclaim the time they would have spent styling their natural hair. She called them an “extension of the natural hair movement,” since Black women who ditched chemical relaxers were looking for other ways to express themselves through their hair without ruining it.

“The perception is that a wig is a utility, like you have one umbrella,” she explained to the Globe, “but that is not how people are wearing wigs … people are building wig collections.”

In college, she and her friends would spend hours vetting companies, comparing contradicting product reviews on YouTube, and grappling with varying delivery times and changing prices. That was in 2017, when companies such as eyewear retailer Warby Parker and beauty products seller Glossier were disrupting markets by reaching customers online instead of through stores.

Imevbore figured the same thing could happen with wigs, and although she never considered herself an entrepreneur, she began thinking like one.

“Wigs are an expensive product that is growing in demand; people are spending hundreds of dollars on them multiple times a year,” she said.

The market for wigs and hair extensions in North America is expected to reach $2 billion by 2026, according to French research firm Reportlinker, with Black consumers accounting for a big chunk of that spending.

The trio started with $30,000 after winning two business competitions in 2018—one at Williams and the other at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—to launch a direct-to-consumer wig business.

That same year Imevbore, McGinty, and Hawken were finishing up their senior year of college, and they all happened to be headed to Boston and moved in together. Imevbore worked as a software engineer at online pharmacy startup PillPack in Somerville — which was acquired by Amazon that year — while McGinty pursued a program at Boston University, and Hawken started on a PhD at MIT.

The momentum started building in 2020 when the company raised $2 million in a funding round led by Boston venture capital firm Pillar VC, with participation from Maveron, an investor in consumer companies such as Allbirds, eBay, and Everlane. Waeve also garnered high-profile support from three current and former executives of Glossier. And TJ Parker and Elliot Cohen, cofounders of Pill Pack, also participated in the round. (Imevbore worked at Pillpack through the Amazon acquisition until last year, when she decided to pursue Waeve full time).

Waeve exists in a world that hasn’t always welcomed, understood, or catered to Black hair. While that allowed the startup to fill a gap, it also led to challenges behind the scenes. Imevbore said there was a learning curve with potential investors, who didn’t immediately understand why consumers would buy more than one wig.

The numbers were not in Waeve’s favor, either: Crunchbase found that in 2020, less than 1% of all venture capital funding went to Black founders, and a similarly small slice of money went to startups founded by women.

“As a team, I remember us griping,” Imevbore said. “If we were selling lipstick or shoes, we wouldn’t have to explain why someone wants those things. People are buying [wigs] like handbags and sneakers, but [that] is something I had to convey to investors.”

The Waeve team began interviewing Black women about their hair experiences, gathering testimonials and videos to show investors they were tapping a segment that had long been overlooked. It worked and also became the foundation for Waeve World, a grassroots effort to build a community around the brand through shared experiences and hair advice.

According to the Globe, Waeve’s first collection, “Days of the Week,” is inspired by the idea that wigs are an accessory that can constantly change. The company worked with a manufacturer in China to design six initial styles—which range from a curly, middle-part wig to a platinum blonde, straight cut—and it will drop a new line every quarter. Ranging in price from $72 to $398, the wigs are delivered to the company’s distribution center and office in Boston, where employees package them into “starter kits” filled with additional supplies.

Imevbore said she wants to build the type of cult-like brand loyalty for Waeve that other online brands enjoy, and it’s starting with Boston. Waeve has nine full-time employees and more than 5,000 followers on Instagram, and is already hosting community events, such as a recent picnic in the Public Garden.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

James Bond, meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon just bought MGM Studios for $8.45 billion

May 27, 2021

Jeff Bezos has a new pet lion, Fast Company reports.

Amazon has reached a deal to acquire the storied MGM Studios for $8.45 billion—a move that will significantly bulk up its content library and entertainment intellectual property (IP) in the escalating war between premium streaming services, reports Fast Company.

In a joint announcement on Wednesday, May 26, the companies said MGM’s arsenal of more than 4,000 titles—including franchises ranging from James Bond and The Pink Panther to the Rocky and Poltergeist movies—will complement the Seattle e-commerce giant’s existing Amazon Studios, which is largely focused on TV series.

For Amazon, the acquisition is the largest since it scooped up Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in 2017, Fast Company says. It comes as competing firms such as Disney and Netflix are spending more and more each year to keep their streaming services replenished with fresh movies, TV series, and familiar franchises.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,”

Research contact: @FastCompany

Styling with Amazon: The e-commerce giant opens its first hair salon in London

April 22, 2021

Amazon opened its first hair salon on Tuesday. April 20. Located in London’s trendy Spitalfields shopping district, Amazon Salon offers hairdressing services dressed up with technology—including augmented-reality hair consultations, Fox New reports.

The two-story, 1,500-square-foot store also includes entertainment streaming on Amazon Fire tablets and a test of a new “point and learn” experience for bricks-and-mortar retail. The technology lets customers point at an item on a shelf to display product information on a screen mounted behind.

Consumers looking to purchase items for sale, such as hair conditioner, must scan the QR codes displayed on the shelf to order them for home delivery on Amazon’s U.K. website.

In a statement, Amazon  said the space was designed as an experiential venue where it will showcase new products and technology. The company hopes to offer customers a new experience that will also benefit the wider salon industry, an Amazona spokesperson told Fox News, when asked about the site’s broader business purpose.

Amazon made its name and money in e-commerce, digital subscriptions and other web services, but has in recent years entered physical retail in ways small and large.

After opening kiosks in shopping malls to sell devices and Amazon-branded accessories and apparel, the company opened its first bookstore in Seattle in 2015. In 2017, it bought upmarket grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and went on to open a number of stores to showcase its cashierless Just Walk Out technology—including Go and Go Grocery. It also operates stores that only sell goods with four-star-and-above ratings on its e-commerce marketplace

The opening of Amazon Salon reconfirms the company’s interest in retail and may reflect its ambitions in markets that combine both goods and services, Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at marketing and communications companPublicis, told Fox News.. The technology giant already operates Amazon Home Services, which allows customers in some cities to hire external contractors for odd jobs such as furniture assembly.

But service-heavy businesses don’t tend to scale as well as those in the technology sector, given their reliance on labor, Goldberg added.

“So my immediate knee-jerk reaction is that the professional services aspect is kind of a necessary evil for them, and that they’re doing this to establish some credibility and a foothold” in the professional beauty space, he said. “But Amazon has surprised us before, and I certainly wouldn’t take it to the bank that they don’t have aspirations to make money on this.”

The salon’s opening follows the introduction of a professional beauty section on Amazon’s U.K. website, which offers local hair and beauty businesses supplies for spas and salons. Amazon Salon services will be provided by Elena Lavagni, owner of Neville Hair & Beauty, an independent salon based in London.

John Boumphrey, Amazon’s U.K. country manager, said in a statement that Amazon wants the new space to be a place “where we can collaborate with the industry and test new technologies.”

The salon may also be designed as a showroom for such innovations: The company began licensing its Just Walk Out technology to other retailers after proving it worked in its own stores, and could do the same with innovations such as the point and learn experience, Goldberg said.

Amazon Salon is currently open to Amazon employees only. The general public will be able to sign up for appointments in the coming weeks, the company said, adding that it has no current plans to open further salon locations.

Research contact: @WSJ

Hundreds of companies, CEOs band together to defend and protect voting access

April 15, 2021

Hundreds of business leaders and companies—including Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, General Motors,. and Netflix—have signed on to a statement promising to “defend the right to vote and oppose any discriminatory legislation” in the latest corporate response to a wave of Republican-led voting suppression bills being advanced in dozens of states.

Among the executive signatories are BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet, and Bloomberg CEO Michael Bloomberg.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, more than 300 companies, CEOs, and other executives signed the statement, which appeared as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and other publications on March 14.

It was organized by Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck.

“There is overwhelming support in corporate America for this principle of voting rights,” Chenault said. “The right to vote is fundamental to America. It is not a partisan issue.”

According to the Journal, the statement doesn’t directly address specific voting legislation, nor does it call on companies to take business action or halt political donations to lawmakers supporting such bills.

“Clearly, we’re not being prescriptive about how people manifest their opposition,” Chenault said. “Who in their right mind would say that they want legislation that will limit people’s ability to vote?”

Research contact: @WSJ

Square acquires majority of Tidal, Jay-Z’s streaming service, in $297 million deal

March 5, 2021

What did Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey talk about when they went yachting around the Hamptons together last summer? Beyoncé knows—and now we do, too, based on a report by The New York Times.

Square, the mobile payments company founded by Dorsey (who also is CEO of Twitter) announced on March 4 that it would acquire a “significant majority” of Tidal, the streaming music service owned by Jay-Z and other artists—including Jay-Z’s wife, Beyoncé, , and singer and entrepreneur Rihanna, who is a client of Jay-Z’s entertainment management company, Roc Nation.

Square will pay $297 million in stock and cash for the stake in Tidal. Jay-Z will join Square’s board, the Times says.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after Jay-Z announced that he would sell 50% of  his champagne company, Armand de Brignac—better known as Ace of Spades—to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton amid a downturn in the entertainment industry caused by the pandemic that has affected some of Jay-Z’s holdings.

“I think Roc Nation will be fine,” Jay-Z said in an interview last month about the sale of Armand de Brignac. “Like all entertainment companies, it will eventually recover. You just have to be smart and prudent at a time like this.”

Also last month, Dorsey announced that he and Jay-Z had endowed a Bitcoin trust to support development in India and Africa.

Tidal, which Jay-Z bought in partnership with other artists in 2015 for $56 million, provides members access to music, music videos and exclusive content from artists—but the streaming music industry has been dominated by competitors like Spotify, Apple and Amazon.

In 2017, Jay-Z sold 33% of the company to Sprint for an undisclosed amount. (After a merger, Sprint is now a part of T-Mobile.) Earlier this week, Jay-Z bought back the shares from T-Mobile, and most will be sold to Square as part of the deal.

Dorsey and Jay-Z began to discuss the acquisition “a few months ago,”  Jesse Dorogusker, a Square executive who will lead Tidal on an interim basis, told the Times.

“It started as a conversation between the two of them,” he said. “They found that sense of common purpose.”

Research contact: @nytimes