Abundance. Christmas. Retail, circa 2018.

I’ve long practiced retail avoidance, preferring to shop by app, website or phone.

This year – during a time of incredible abundance – offered a few chance encounters with traditional retail destinations, including Macys, Kohls, Wal-Mart, Madison’s Orange Tree Imports and nearby Camera Company.

Kohls pleasantly surprised me with a very fast checkout. Someone has thought about the experience, including queue management. That said, the signage and checkout counter aesthetics could be significantly improved. In addition, Apple Pay did not work.

Unlike Kohls, Wal-Mart was not all that busy on a recent Saturday. The checkout experience was reasonably quick, though Apple Pay is verboten, while Wal Mart pay, perhaps languishes.

Orange Tree Imports is always an intriguing stop, featuring interesting products and thoughtful staff.

Explore Orange Tree in the amuz app

The Camera Company offers extensive photo and video hardware along with excellent print and friendly support services. Oh, Apple Pay is no problem.

Merry Christmas!

“It’s as if nobody knows or cares about cooking”

A (relatively) quick visit to Woodmans offered a timely background to Derek Thompson’s retail review.

[Note the new charging stations…]

Considering the pricing, inventory and placement of products, particularly in large locales, is a canvas rich with intrigue if not influence.

And, so it was, while attempting a quick trip through Woodmans – I know, a contradiction in terms – that I found the new home of hummus to be informative.

Sabra, 50% owned by Pepsi, now has a very prominent place in a new set of coolers.

I often purchase local favorite Bunky’s hummus. Woodmans has carried this tasty product for a number of years. Yet, the new coolers have made finding Bunky’s a not small challenge. Happily, I did, but the inventory appeared to be significantly smaller.

I quickly moved to other parts of the store, seeking Nueskes bacon, among other occasional staples. Curiously, Nueskes is no longer found within Woodmans’ sea of bacon. Rather, it somehow migrated to a different row and cooler. A shout out to the Woodmans worker who knew its location.

I continued to dairy, where Weyauwega’s sour cream could no longer be found (a bit of cottage cheese was available). Rather, an ample supply of Daisy brand sour cream was displayed.

Background:

Slotting Fees

Placement Fees and “Supermarket Shelves for Sale”

Madison is blessed with a number of grocery stores that feature local and regional brands. The Willy Street Coop and Metcalfe’s compliment our often ample farmer’s markets.

Observing retail power plays at Woodmans is timely:

Derek Thompson:

“This is a restaurant city, not a food city,” said Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at NYU. “It’s as if nobody knows or cares about cooking. Young people barely know how to make coffee.” Tough words, but fair. The fastest-growing chain in New York City in the past decade was Dunkin’ Donuts, with 271 new locations added since 2008. That’s one new Dunkin’ franchise in the city about every 12 days.*

In this respect, New York City is right in line with national trends. Since around 2012, restaurant spending has surged, especially among the young, rich, educated, and urban. For the richest 20 percent, restaurant spending has grown by twice as much as spending on food prepared at home since 2012. Americans between the age of 25 and 34 now spend about half of their food budget eating out, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey. That is without precedent in American history. (In 1904, 90 percent of food was consumed at home.)

If the rise of restaurants is obvious in American wallets, it’s equally evident on American payrolls. Since 2012, employment at “food service and drinking places” has grown by more than 20 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—three times faster than employment in the overall retail sector. Supermarket jobs have barely grown at all in that period.

Restaurants are so critical to the future of retail that neighborhoods visibly suffer if they prove inhospitable to culinary culture. Maybe that explains what the hell is going on with New York’s West Village: Local regulators in this historic neighborhood with strict zoning practice strict alcohol abstention. In September 2018 alone, the community board that oversees the West Village denied 20 alcohol licenses, or alterations to existing liquor and wine licenses, to new restaurants and cafes. Restaurants are hard enough to keep open with an overpriced bar. Without the margins from cocktails and wines by the glass, it’s hard to afford rent in one of the most expensive zip codes on the planet.

Unrelated, but, hey, why not: A Badger bag tag found while boarding a jet, not in Madison:

“Travel as a Political Act”

Author and travel host Rick Steves recently gave a Madison lecture on “Travel as a Political Act”.

On visiting Iran: “I just think it is good practice to get to know people before we bomb them”.

“My mission is to inspire Americans to travel beyond Orlando”.

“People who don’t have passports are the most afraid”.

Steves ruminated on political borders and cultural “baggage”. I appreciated his words on loving one’s neighbors.

Explore Madison, and locations around the world with amuz. amuzapp.com.

App Store

Play Store

Christmas Cards: The Shutterfly Experience

The offer:

The Experience

We selected a card, saw the “add photos” and dragged them to no avail:

We learned that one must tap/click on the add photos icon:

Where, one must continue to navigate web pages:

The uploaded images appear on the bottom, but are not yet “imported”:

One must tap “Add” on the lower right:

The photos appear below the card, where additional steps remain:

And, finally, the photos are in place:

iPad app

We began the experience on the iPad app, which required fewer steps, but (!)

The Shutterfly app displayed photo folders randomly, which made finding images an impossible task (I have > 50K).

Further, the Shutterfly app seemed to not recognize photos recently added to the Photos app. Yesterday’s images always appeared first.

I sense that different groups built different functions and that Shutterfly, after all these years, lacks a cohesive product experience manager. This is rather surprising as another Christmas fast approaches.

Merry Christmas and Happy Thanksgiving!

Taxpayer Facilities and Political Data Mining

“I consent to receive recurring automated text messages from MobilizeAmerica and Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel.”

Should political events held at publicly financed facilities collect, use, aggregate and mine participant data?

I’ve pondered this while observing Madison political events. Participation often requires disclosure of some personal information, typically email and/or phone numbers.

Political organizations may then use this information for many purposes.

A few links to ponder: The Obama 2008 / 2012 campaigns and Facebook.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

Reformation @ 501; the view from America

The Baker Center’s 2018 Institutional Confidence Poll Key Finding #2:

How much confidence do you have in the following institutions?

Institutional Confidence, All Respondents

I reflected on this while listening to a Reformation service message. Martin Luther ignited The Reformation 501 years ago.

A salient passage, from the Verse app.

Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement

A bit of interesting commentary on the survey and results, here.

Politics (and therefore civics):

The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

iPhone (re)selling: Air India Edition

UPDATE: 10.20.2018 “With more than half of all iPhone buyers opting for installment plans”

The latter half of September, summer into fall for those of us north of the equator, has become a Groundhog Day [1] of sorts for me. A new iPhone is announced. I place an order and survey the market for my now nearly one year old model.

I begin with the eBay app, continue to Craigslist, then review commercial offers, from firms such as Gazelle and more recently the Apple Store app, conveniently displaying an estimated value during the purchase process.

For me, Gazelle and Apple’s offer represent the “bottom” of the market. eBay seems to reliably display a few euphorically priced examples, providing the top.

So equipped, I proceed. I’ve done the range over the years with mostly good results.

This year, I posted photos on Craigslist at a middling price. I received 6 offers (and one obvious scam) within 60 minutes and made arrangements to meet the successful bidder at a local coffee and tea establishment.

The buyer added his SIM card to my unlocked iPhone X, then connected to the internet via the coffee house’s wifi service. He passed the cash to me and handed the iPhone to his mother, bound for Delhi in the morning.

I later learned that they had been acquiring inventory for much of the day. “People in India love iPhones, but they are very expensive”.

Fittingly, this experience provided an answer to my question on secondary market iPhone value in light of Apple’s efforts to push new model prices up [2].

While contemplating the market, I wondered how the following facts might affect future cash buyer demand?

A. Cellular network operators (an oligopoly in the United States) have a bottomless pit of financing and contractual lock-in techniques. How many Americans understand the concept of an “unlocked iPhone”?

B. Apple is promoting an iPhone Upgrade program, with monthly payments “beginning at $37.41“. A recent Apple Store visit revealed a table full of iPhones displaying monthly payments on their screens. [3]

C. Apple is getting into the used hardware purchase and remarketing game, joining many auto manufacturers’ “Certified Pre-Owned” [4] experience. “There is nothing new under the sun” – Ecclesiastes 1:9.

D. Cellular operators are bundling services in an effort to to maintain, if not grow revenues. [5]

E. A meaningful introduction of the e-sim [5] offers both Apple and the cellular operators, fueled by Apple Pay (Apple’s own “currency” – why not?) new price, experience and contractual spaghetti opportunities. [6]

I sense that it will become more difficult to simply purchase an iPhone, unlocked. Perhaps Apple will use future price signals to help us do the right thing and pay monthly..

Apple Pay awaits our glance.

[1] Groundhog Day.

[2] A Dediu chart

[3] iPhone Upgrade Program

[4] CPO

[5] T-Mobile offers a Netflix bundle while Verizon is promoting a “free” six month Apple Music subscription.

[6] Apple e-sim. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon support Apple’s e-sim. Presumably the required deal making software has been completed.

P.S. Jean-Louis Gassee has used the term “cashectomy“, occasionally while discussing cellular operators. I seem to recall that Mr. Gassee applied the term to the early Apple + Cingular (AT&T) relationship that launched iPhone v1.

P.S. You Probably Bought Your iPhone With This Bank’s Help. Its Stock Is Worth Buying, Too by Lawrence Strauss: