Back to school? My kids are only a couple of weeks into summer vacation and I’m already seeing ads for back to school shopping. I simply can’t wrap my head around that one yet. But, when I hear those words, there are three immediate thoughts that jump into my head. The first is of my own memories of going back to school (the excitement faded as I got older). The second is of Rodney Dangerfield pulling off the Triple Lindy. And the third is of Billy Madison singing a back to school song while waiting for the bus. Even though it seems too soon to talk about it, back to school is in full swing. As noted last Friday, retail imports could hit a new record as the industry prepares for both back to school and the holiday season. Back to school spending is expected to reach an all-time high this year. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, total combined back to school and back to college spending is expected to reach $83.6 billion, an increase of more than 10 percent over last year’s $75.8 billion. A big chunk of this money is spent on electronics, especially now that many school districts have implemented bring-your-own device (BYOD) policies. I’ll bet my parents are happy I only needed a new trapper keeper and some pencils every year…
And now, on to the news.
- FedEx says cyberattack to hurt its 2018 results
- Amazon files trademark to get into meal kits
- Walmart tells truckers it may drop them if they haul for Amazon
- Jet.com is installing Latch access systems in 1,000 NYC apartment buildings
- Tesco pledges to tackle hazardous chemicals in clothing supply chain
- Self-driving truck startup Embark raises $15M, partners with Peterbilt
FedEx continues to feel the pain from last month’s cyber attack that disrupted operations at its TNT Express business unit. In a regulatory filing earlier this week, the company indicated that TNT is still experiencing widespread service delays and that its fiscal 2018 results would be impacted. FedEx has said that while TNT depots, hubs, and facilities are all now operational, staff has resorted to manual processes to run the business. This is leading to significant delays for package delivery and an upset customer base. FedEx has said that it cannot estimate when operations will be up and running at full speed again.
Last week I wrote about Blue Apron and the subscription retail supply chain. One of the challenges I wrote about was the number of start-ups entering the market and the desire from Amazon to get in the meal kit delivery business. Well, the last point is now a reality. While the company already sells other companies’ meal kits, it has now filed a trademark application to sell its own. Many food companies are looking to partner with meal kit companies; now that Amazon has jumped into the mix, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these companies flock their way. Amazon has the distribution network, as well as its Prime Fresh and Whole Foods acquisition to meet the consumer demand. This could be bad news for the start-ups out there.
The rivalry between Walmart and Amazon continues to heat up. According to a transportation analyst familiar with the situation, Walmart’s logistics arm has been delivering a loud and clear message to carriers. Namely, if they do business with Amazon, Walmart may opt out of using them for deliveries. Most of the fleets that have heard this message are in the 100 – 300 truck range. The long-term goal for Walmart is not to hurt carriers that also work with Amazon; instead, it is a strategic move to ensure Walmart can get the capacity it needs when it needs it, rather than losing out to its rival.
Jet.com, the online retailer acquired by Walmart last year in its efforts to compete with Amazon’s online presence, has struck a new deal with Latch. Latch is a smart access provider which makes deliveries easier for consumers in urban areas. With the new deal, over 100,000 residents living in 1,000 buildings will get free and full access to Latch’s residential “R” system for the exterior door of their building, with the install paid for by a “joint investment” from Jet and Latch. For residents, this means residents can use their phone as a key, grant access to guests without walking downstairs, and most importantly (from a logistics standpoint at least) get packages delivered safely without being home. Building managers can also use Latch’s system to grant access to trusted delivery providers.
Tesco has pledged to remove hazardous chemicals from its clothing supply chain. The retailer is the latest in a long list of companies to remove chemicals that are thought to be hazardous, much to the delight of consumers. Greenpeace said Tesco will immediately begin the process of eliminating 11 groups of hazardous substances from its F&F brand, including phthalates, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, chlorinated solvents, and heavy metals. More than 80 international brands and suppliers have committed to the Greenpeace Detox Campaign. The Campaign calls for members to eliminate chemicals that may harm the environment, even if the type or magnitude of harm is not yet known, increase transparency about the suppliers they use and commit to eliminate all releases of toxic chemicals by 2020.
And finally, self-driving trucking startup Embark has raised $15 million in Series A financing, the company announced on Tuesday. Initially, Embark gained some attention in late February as it developed a retrofit system for existing trucks. According to Alex Rodrigues, the company’s co-founder, the cost to deploy the trucks, which use a combination of retrofit radars, cameras, and LiDAR depth sensors, should be less than $50,000. The company has now raised the additional funding while announcing a partnership with heavy equipment manufacturer Peterbilt, which will help it roll out its new group of test trucks. Embark is also focusing on handling freeway driving, with a human driver on board who navigates city streets.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and song of the week, Chuck Berry’s School Days.