|Future mail box|
Let me connect the dots for you if that comes as some sort of surprise.
Amazon didn't buy Whole Foods to get into the fresh food business. Oh sure, it kind of seems like they're similar companies who fit together, and they do, sort of, but at least half the reason (and maybe more) was to immediately have a massive delivery system. Instead of Amazon building it up truck by truck and warehouse by warehouse and product manager by product manager, they bought it lock, stock, and barrel. It's ready to go. So now all they have to do is put a kiosk in every store to handle Amazon shipping. They're calling the kiosk "Amazon Locker."
Some companies who share mall space or shopping center space with a Whole Foods already saw this coming, belatedly but at least they anticipated it. They had their leases updated to essentially say that any pre-existing Whole Foods in that particular shopping center or mall can only distribute and sell food and food related items. Mattresses, computers and t-shirts don't count. However, refrigerators and ovens and bbq grills and tables and high chairs and forks and cups do count. (My local Whole Foods, which is on its own corner and shares space with no other business, has already added in a very small clothing section- only scarves and gloves and hats- but it's like watching the tide come in. You know it's going to happen, you see it start to happen and you watch it happening.)
Anyway, these restrictions won't last long and will get torn up because there's no going back now. The mall will have two choices. 1) Keep the exclusivity lease and see ALL customers leave because Amazon put a kiosk in the strip mall or building across the street.
Allow Whole Foods to have a kiosk that can distribute whatever the hell it wants to distribute. I originally anticipated this as needing a human to run the kiosk, kind of like a pharmacy or a small post office inside a grocery store, but they've decided to use the locker and that means they don't need people. And this means they can put it practically on every corner if they want to.
(On a personal note, the Whole Foods where I saw the Amazon Locker was a fading grocery store called "Jerry's Meats" when I was a kid, and the only reason we ever went there at all was because it had a post office kiosk. I don't know if the kiosk closed before Jerry's closed, but either way the Amazon Locker installation at this particular Whole Foods seems like things coming full circle, at least in this regard.)
But the toughest mile in distribution is always the last mile to the house.
Think about the internet in the early days. Phone companies had the monopoly on the internet because they had already strung cable to every house and apartment building in America. Developing the technology is easy compared to getting it to everybody. My beginning journalism teacher (Tom Volek, for you University of Kansas types) told this to our whole class in 1994, and it stuck with me because I'd never thought of it like that: the toughest part is the last mile.
It's like a bus route. It's reasonably close to get a bus near your house, but unless you live on a main thoroughfare the bus can't directly take you home or pick you up.
This is why Amazon wants to use drones to deliver packages. It's that final mile. If they can do that, then they can bypass the postal service completely.
The post office doesn't deliver on Sunday. Right? That's how it's been forever, really. Nothing on Sunday.
So how stunned were you the first time you saw a mail truck buzzing through your neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon? You were probably really confused and wondered if you weren't accidentally missing work or turned into Rip Van Winkle or something like that.
Nope. It was Amazon.
Amazon has enough money to hire the post office to only deliver packages for them on Sunday, not actual mail.
That is why, eventually, maybe sooner than we all think, Amazon is going to buy the post office and deliver your mail. And get even more of your retail dollar.
|A small section of clothes at Whole Foods|
photos by author