Reading time: 6 minutes

June 3, 2019

Happy June, and welcome back to your weekly update on the changes, trends, and movers-and-shakers making headlines across marketing, brand, consumers and more!

Lots to cover between this week and last – but if you’re in need of a beach read, Bill Gates and JP Morgan both recently shared their recommended reading lists for summer 2019.

From Deepak’s neuroscience desk, a little entertainment to start your week – and a warning to those who “love their jobs” from Duke University.



  • Anchored in both a unique experience and attention to sustainability, Nike’s new store (a Lab, really) in Chicago may hint at the future of retail.
    • Consulting POV – Abloh, like his creative partner Kanye West, has deep Chicago roots, and the store’s design as a place to hang out feels very much born from the experience of wanting that type of place in the Chicago of his youth.  Nike continues to do really interesting things to make retail specific to its neighborhood – and that may be the most futuristic thinking of all for a large consumer brand!
  • Walmart Canada is piloting “fast lane”, a new checkout system that lets customers avoid cashiers and registers. This comes as checkout loans increasingly gain traction among both consumers, and retailers. In other point-of-sale news, Bonobos has been quietly piloting a “try before you buy” service in three of its Boston-area shops and is looking at expanding the service to the West Coast.
    • Consulting POV – 0% APR introductory credit deals are as old as retail – it’s unique that the retailer is letting another brand be the keystone to that relationship instead of white-labeling it as their own brand. The Bonobos idea is interesting and reveals why Walmart bought this business – it has a funky relationship between stores, inventory and purchase which allows some interesting learning: Tiffany Hogan profiles a series of different retail service models here. The Fast Lane is a slight evolution of Walmart’s Scan and Go technology which they actually shelved about a year ago, though it was revived in March at Sam’s Club. 
  • As CB Insights profiles the seven industries Amazon could disrupt next, Wharton’s Barbara Kahn and Emory University’s Ryan Hamilton wonder if Amazon is getting too big. However, Business Insider reports that Amazon’s private labels aren’t damaging most third-party sellers.
    • Consulting POV – Amazon’s skills as a private label retailer are significantly over-rated: its share of business dedicated to PL is much smaller than most of its competitors irrespective of category. The CBI study seems to underrate the difficulty of disrupting the pharmaceutical industry; Kantar’s Brian Owens takes an interesting angle in his detailing of The Amazonation Of Healthcare. Some of CBI’s other guesses are definite possibilities. The “Is Amazon Too Big” conversation doesn’t really make sense though: they’re as big as they are. That size creates opportunities and challenges – just like any business of any size. 
  • McKinsey offers guidance to help retailers prepare for the onset of automation in the category.
    • Consulting POV – The most interesting thing in this piece (which includes a truly silly piece of analysis on AmazonGo) is the bit on how infrequently companies change capital expenditure priorities. This ties right into the IRG theme of “Managing Multiple Business Models” being the key to success. 
  • Boots is getting a makeover amid growing irrelevance, evolving competition, and a need for reinvention and reinvigoration. Meanwhile, JC Penney reminds us that turnarounds take time, especially when in pursuit of customer-focused, sustainable – real – growth.
    • Consulting POV – Boots is in about 100 times better shape than JC Penney, a business that’s been irrelevant for half a generation. Kantar’s Bryan Gildenberg both knows and likes Helen Normoyle (the CMO of Boots UK) so is rooting for her and this reinvigoration of the Boots brand. JC Penney is a helpful reminder that if you do a 360 degree turnaround, you’re going the same way as when you started. 
  • A cheap, brutally efficient grocery chain, Aldi’s is nonetheless upending US supermarkets.
    • Consulting POV – Aldi has been growing in the US at about the same pace for the last 15 years or so; Nathaniel Meyerson at CNN has a habit of making his discovery of something newsworthy whether it actually is or not. Aldi’s a great business in the US that will keep growing. Catherine Lang’s “5 Slides You Need” is a great start to truly understanding them. Read anything by Catherine or Simon Johnstone on KRIQ about Aldi if you want great insights!
  • Target’s ongoing commitment to offering convenient fulfillment options appears to be paying off – so much so that the retailer plans to expand its same-day services feature.
      • Consulting POV – Target has taken an improvement in its eCom/fulfillment and combined it with a reinvigoration of key categories (like apparel and beauty) and put together an actual retail turnaround. For more detail, Laura Kennedy’s Target overview is a fantastic resource. 
  • MarketingDive suggests that, considering their ability to test out new products and packaging designs, promote private label products, gauge interest in new markets and get consumer feedback on new store concepts, pop-up shops can indeed be a worthwhile approach for grocers.
    • Consulting POV – Temporary retail space is a very large idea, and the descriptions in this piece are examples that really have very little to do with one another (Hy-Vee selling some fortuitously-sourced outdoor furniture and Blue Apron trying to maintain relevance for its brand are not the same thing). Evaluate tactics like this on strategic foundations (do they make sense; is something clearly trying to be accomplished) not by putting them all under the same giant umbrella.