Is this the Last Holiday Shopping Season as We Know It?

Friday in 5 – interesting news bits from around the supply chain horn, served up in one spot to keep you up to date.

Christmas shopping is changing, and which is more important, people power or technology? Here’s a quick roundup of some industry news to help you navigate this busy holiday shopping season and beyond.

Amazon set to disrupt grocery shopping

The big news this week is the announcement by Amazon that it will open a physical grocery store called Amazon Go in Seattle. But the bigger news is that shoppers won’t have to go through checkout there. According to an article in the Washington Post, Amazon will employ leading technologies, including artificial intelligence, so shoppers can fill their bags, have an app add them to a digital cart, debit their Amazon account and then just walk out without having to go through any familiar checkout process. And this is just the beginning. Can big box stores and all of retail be far behind? Read Sarah Halzack’s article, Amazon will open a physical grocery store – and it won’t require going through checkout, to learn more.

How will Costco respond?

Amazon Go may be a game changer for retail but Costco Wholesale, the world’s third-largest retailer, with $116 billion in sales in fiscal 2016, still focuses on culture and people. Fortune journalist Neal Gabler reports, in The Magic in the Warehouse, that Costco still cherishes its people-oriented policies, including promoting from within and an open door management environment. Importantly, Costco now has such a well-trained workforce that it may actually be more adaptable in serving customers than e-commerce companies are. Costco’s rather old fashioned values may even appeal to the key millennial demographic. Gabler reports that millennials are Costco’s fastest-growing demographic and, overall, the company’s membership is getting younger.

Enthusiasm wins the job in retail this season

For another people power perspective, Reuters reports that retail hiring managers are looking for enthusiasm and brand evangelism in their holiday hires rather than just retail experience. Siddharth Cavale and Sruthi Ramakrishnan report, in U.S. retailers value enthusiasm over experience for holiday hires, that candidates who express awareness and enthusiasm for company products are seen as essential for making customers feel welcome and comfortable, persuading them to spend and countering the competitive threat from Amazon and other online retailers.

Online shopping going strong this season

Whatever the prospects for bricks-and-mortar stores, U.S. e-commerce sales since November 1 passed the $50 billion mark this week. According to Fortune magazine, that’s up 7.8 percent through December 5. In Online Holiday Spending Just Hit the $50 Billion Mark, Phil Wahba reports that if online shopping keeps going at this pace, U.S. online retailers could set a new record for the season.

Fast fashion in retail

Enthusiasm for a brand is fleeting, so both store and online retailers have to adapt quickly to shifts in fashion, often based on what retail managers say women are seeking. Patricia Kowsmann in the Wall Street Journal reports that Inditex SA has become the world’s biggest fashion retailer by sales through its ability to quickly deliver new designs for women’s apparel. In Fast fashion; How a Zara Coat Went From Design to Fifth Avenue in 25 Days, Kowsmann follows the journey of a new women’s garment from a design workshop in Spain to a retail display rack in Manhattan in just 25 days.

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