This Week in Logistics News (July 28 – August 3)

logistics newsGrowing up in the 80’s, malls were a pretty big deal. They were the social hotspots for teenagers, the place where you could buy anything (so the original Amazon), and even spawned a full-on tour for Tiffany, aptly named “The Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour ’87.” One of the best things to do at the mall was to go into stores where you knew there was no way you were buying anything. For me, the big three was Spencer Gifts, The Sharper Image, and Brookstone. Brookstone was especially fun as you could try out the massage chairs and all the new technology that you didn’t quite understand. In a bit of sad news, the company filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday and said it would close its 101 mall-based stores. The company will also put its 35 airport-based stores up for sale. This is just the latest mall-based company that is feeling the effects of low foot traffic in the digital age. And now, on to this week’s logistics news.

With demand for home delivery of every food product known to man increasing, Starbucks is jumping on the bandwagon. According to multiple reports, the coffee giant is teaming up with Alibaba’s food delivery unit, Ele.me, to deliver coffee and snacks to Chinese consumers later this year. Starbucks has said that China had been the company’s biggest growth driver recently, but same-store sales have lagged. The move comes as a natural response to the growing demand and competition for coffee in China. While Starbucks and Alibaba “have nothing to share at this point,” reports have the partnership beginning with home delivery this fall. This will certainly be an interesting partnership to follow.

In recent articles, I have talked about the growth factors and strategies for success for the transportation execution market. There has been a rather large consolidation in the space, as Stamps.com has announced the acquisition of MetaPack for approximately $230 million. Metapack will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Stamps.com. Given Stamps.com’s presence in the SMB market, this move makes sense as Metapack brings on more retail enterprise customers. In the short term, Stamps.com expects MetaPack to operate autonomously, with day-to-day operations continuing as normal. No changes to the management team are being made and there will be no platform effect on peak stability or uptime.

For the last two years, almost to the day, Uber has been making headlines since its multi-million dollar acquisition of autonomous truck start-up Otto. Since that time, Uber and Otto have come under fire for a variety of reasons. While Otto demonstrated that ability to run an autonomous truck for Budweiser deliveries in Colorado, Uber is focusing its efforts on autonomous cars. The lawsuit filed by Waymo seems to be a factor in the pivot made by Uber. However, given Uber’s push towards the trucking industry, Uber Freight will still continue to operate.

Australia’s largest footwear chain is rolling out same day delivery as a direct response to combatting the pressure from Amazon. Accent Group started sending same-day deliveries out of 12 of its Platypus shoe stores last week, and over the next two months intends to extend the service to all 350 of its Australian stores, which include the Hype DC, Skechers, Vans, and The Athletes Foot banners. The rollout is part of a suite of changes as part of Accent’s strategy to become more omni-channel, a move that includes the recent introduction of “click and collect” which accounts for 10 to 20 percent of online sales depending on the brand.

Domino’s Pizza has launched a mobile campaign that allows customers to order a pizza through Snapchat’s “shoppable AR.” Snapchat users that took a selfie saw their picture had a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses with a pizza in the reflection. If they turned the camera around, they saw a pizza box that opened to reveal a pepperoni pizza. From there, they could order a pizza directly through the app. This is another move by Domino’s to make the customer experience easier and more enjoyable. The company has also added additional hotspots, public places where customers can have pizza delivered.

UPS is partnering with Los Angeles-based startup Thor to build a new electric truck. Earlier this year, Thor unveiled an electric semi-truck prototype, with plans to beat Tesla to the market. Thor is targeting a relatively short driving range of “approximately 100 miles”, but they are also planning for an even shorter range of 50 miles – though that version will be less expensive with a targeted production price “as low as $68,000.” The testing will “include off-road evaluation to address durability, battery capacity, technical integration, engineering and any items found during on-road testing.”

And finally, Walmart has been hit with a $2 billion lawsuit by Zest Labs and its parent company Ecoark Holdings. Zest Labs claims that Walmart unfairly and illegally used its Zest Fresh intellectual property in the development of Walmart’s Eden food freshness technology. According to the complaint, “Zest Labs engaged with Walmart to demonstrate the value of Zest Fresh to reduce waste and improve delivered shelf life consistency. During this time, Zest Labs’ proprietary information and trade secrets were shared with Walmart, including members of Walmart’s executive leadership team.” This is significant given that Walmart’s food traceability solution is about the only blockchain solution making any traction in supply chain management today.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now.