Amazon Will Bury Walmart

Walmart_mess

I’ve never seen the great allure of Walmart. Actually before I moved from NYC to the DC area more than a decade ago, I had never even seen a Walmart–and that was just fine. 

But I had heard these amazing tales of how they were superstores with everything you could ever want and at low prices and the shopping experience was supposed to be, oh what a delight!

So I cannot tell you my utter disappointment the first time I went to Walmart–shabby storefronts, elderly door greeters handing out store circulars and stickers, messy aisles and shelves, with low price tags on a swirling everything, and sort of the image of crummy leftover merchanidse throughout, and top that off with pushing crowds trying to save a couple of bucks on the junk. 

Let’s just say, I’m not running back to Walmart, especially when we have online shopping experiences like Amazon–now that is much closer to nirvana. 

No drive, no crowds, no wait, no up and down the aisles looking for what you want, no shlepping, and no in your face “everyday low prices” image and we won’t let you forget it–instead easy to find, interesting, varied, and quality merchandise of all types, at reasonable prices, with an easy checkout process, home delivery, free shipping, and easy returns. 

And as opposed to Walmart which is stuck in costly and inconvenient large brick and mortar stores, Amazon is investing in infrastructure of the future with convenient warehouse and delivery centers throughout the country, and more recently with their purchase of Kiva Systems in March 2012 for implementing robotics in their fulfillment centers. 

On top of it, Walmart (with nearly 2.2 million employees worldwide) in its endeavor to keep prices low, have spun up their workforce with jobs–that are often part time and unpredictable, low wage, lacking proper benefits, unsafe working conditions, and with questionable advancement opportunties (especially for women). Throw on top of that bribery allegations for which they’ve hired a new complaince officer. Yet, Walmart has also somehow managed to keep their workforce from unionizing to improve things. 

So how should we say this: how about straight out–Amazon gets it and Walmart does not!

And while Walmart has their own .com site–which coincidentally looks very much like Amazon’s–Amazon is eating Walmart’s lunch online, with according to NBC News a 41% revenue increase for Amazon’s online sales versus just 3.4% for Walmart’s. Moreover, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 March 2012) reports that Walmart’s 2011 online sales amounted to less than 2% of their U.S. sales–they just can’t seem to make the digital transformation!

So While overall Amazon sales at $48 billion are still only about 1/9 of Walmart colossal $419 billion, Amazon with it’s high-tech approach (including their successful Kindle eReaders, cloud computing, and more) is anticipated to reach $100 billion in online sales by 2015

Like the other big box retailers of yore, Kmart, Sears, JC Penny, Circuit City, Best Buy, and more, Walmart will decline–it will just take a little longer and with a little more thrashing, because of the size of their checkbooks.  

Perhaps, as the New York Times implied years ago (17 July 2005) only stores like Costco (and throw in Nordstroms as well) with their tall aisles stocked neatly with quality goods, at low prices, and with better human capital ethos, will survive the big box retailer Armageddon.

My prediction is that within a generation Amazon will bury Walmart, if not literally so they are out of business, then figuratively with the best and most lucrative online shopping experience around–and as for the matchup betweent them, it won’t even be close.  😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Fuschia Foot)

Here, There, Made Where?

With so much of U.S. manufacturing activity going abroad, it is almost hard to believe that there is still a store in Elma, N.Y. called “Made in America.” According to the Wall Street Journal (23 November 2012), it’s true.
The store is 6,000 square feet and has sales of about a million dollars a year.And as their name says, they only sell goods that are completely made in the U.S. of A.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find lots of items there.

Forget literally anything electronic or that runs on a battery. It doesn’t exist.

Fashion clothes, also – go somewhere else.

Even if you are looking for a simple electric can opener, this won’t be the place.

How about some tea bags – Made In America has found that while there is still some tea made here, the bags aren’t. So it’s no longer stocked there.

However, if you are looking for simple things like socks, candy and greeting cards – this store may be the place for you.

Reflecting on this, I remember hearing Joel Osteen speak about how with pride, every country labels their goods, “Made In…” (wherever).

Osteen compared it to us human beings, the children of G-d, and how he imagined that even we have a label, or mark, on each of us, that we are made by our Great Creator.

Osteen said that it doesn’t matter how we look on the outside, that our Creator takes great pride in each of us – in what’s inside.

On one hand, it is deeply troubling that there are less and less “things” that we can label “Made in America.” However, perhaps we can still take pride, as G-d does, that what’s on the inside of us as a nation is what is truly valuable and inspiring to the rest of the world.

While high tech and hot fashion is no longer necessarily made here, the dream of human rights, democracy, freedom and creativity for all is still very much our own.

We still have that label – those values are “Made in America” and we’re lucky to have them.

That said, let’s get our American manufacturing engines working again, so we can compete effectively in the global marketplace, not just on ideas, but on hard products as well. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Hollywood PR)

The Soul of A Shoe

I took these photos today of a cross section of a shoe.

I was surprised that this was all there was too it.

So what costs $140???

A little cowhide on the outside, a little cushion on the inside, and a some rubber sole on the bottom.

Add some eyelets and laces, and some stitching to hold it all together.

While there are certainly lots of styles, colors, and sizes out there, most are sort of commoditized, boring, and non high-tech.

Where are those jet-powered rocket shoes they promised when I was a kid.

Come on Nike–“just do it.”

What is The Secret of Laserman

 

This is a terrific performance by Laserman. 

He seems to break all the laws of physics and manipulates laser light beams as if it is both a vapor and a solid. 

He stops and redirects it, yet at the same time he pushes and twirls it–huh? 

While I am not a fan of the movie Tron–I think I actually fell asleep in the theater (and more than once), this performance more than makes up for it. 

My favorite piece is at 1:39 when Laserman picks the laser light up out of the stage–people start yelling as no one can believe it!–and he starts twirling it around like a baton now. 

Then at 1:48, he breaks the light beam in two and starts twirling both and sticking them back in the stage only to start bending the light again. 

To me, this performance is really cool and inspiring–it  makes me think of a bright future for all of us–one that is agile, high-tech, heart-pounding, and where natural laws are almost made to be broken. 

Someone please tell me how he does this…I promise, I won’t tell 😉

Bringing The Marriage Back Into Our Jobs

Federal Times (11 Sept 2011) reported on a human capital study done by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and Deloitte that found that “after the three-year [employment] mark, employee’ satisfaction scores plummets” from 77.2 the first year to 66.2 after the third year.

Tim McManus, the VP for PPS underscored the significance of employee dissatisfaction on productivity and retention, when he stated that “it’s more than just the end of the honeymoon period; your marriage is on the rocks.”

For sometime now, we have been hearing about the high frequency of job changing for Gen Xers and Yers; this week, I actually heard of someone who had changed jobs literally 50 times before the age of 30!

Certainly, I would imagine that living in a high-tech, fast-paced culture that we do now, contributes to the number and rate of job changes, where people are looking for lots of responsibility and recognition in short order or they simply move on. There is a notion that life is too short to waste it in an unproductive or unfulfilling job.

Further, the poor economy, where layoffs have become commonplace has likewise contributed to an employment culture where employers and employees no longer feel beholden to each other, and each is looking out for their own best interests rather than their mutual success.

Unfortunately, what is getting lost in this employment picture is the notion of career. To employers, a person has become a human capital asset–kept on-board only as long as they remain more of an asset than a liability. And correspondingly, to many employees a “job is just a job” now-a-days–it is a temporary phenomena for X hours a weeks for “as long as it lasts,” rather than a long-term place for personal and professional growth.

In a class this week, I had the privilege of hearing a terrific career development officer discuss the lifecycle of a job, as follows:

1) Steep Learning Curve — We all go through it…can anyway say, “how do you use the copy machine?”

2) Strong Expertise — This is the point where we are really excelling…we have become subject matter experts and are valued for that expertise.

3) Losing Your Edge — At a certain point, people start to lose interest, performance, or get out of sync with their boss or the organization.

4) Hitting Rock Bottom — If there is no course correction, employees who have “lost their edge” go on to become restless and dissatisfied and risk a precipitous decline.

Picture step 4 as a potential big SPLAT.

Most people start off their careers “bright eyes and bushy tailed,” but at some point, if they are not well-managed, they become discouraged, disillusioned, demoralized and so on.

Obviously, this hurts the organization and the employee–both suffer when the two are out of sync. However, employees may change jobs at any stage in the lifecycle of a job, but the later stages become more painful for boss and employee.

So as leaders, are there things we can do to keep job satisfaction scores high or does the very notion of a lifecycle of a job mean that eventually “all good things must come to an end”?

I think we certainly can do things to make for a longer and more fulfilling job life cycle–training and career opportunities, ethical management, good communication, recognition and rewards, mentoring and coaching, work-life balance, treating people fairly, and more.

At the same time, even in ideal situations, people, organizations, and markets change, and we must change with them. It is important to recognize, when things have changed inside ourselves and our organizations, and when it’s time to make a change outside in the job market. This is healthy when it’s done for the right reasons and when it results in new opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute.

Every situation brings new challenges and opportunities and we need to meet those head-on striving for job satisfaction, working through times of dissatisfaction, and recognizing life cycles are normal and natural–we are all human.

Good luck!

Best High-Tech Looking Couch

Space_invader_couch

Just want to nominate this couch for the best high-tech looking couch award of the year.

 

It’s called the Retro-Alien Couch by 27 year old, artist Igor Chak.

 

The couch is made of leather and designed and manufactured in Los Angeles, CA.

 

“Buy now” cost is $5000.00 with free shipping to the first 10 customers from here.

 

The website says that you can customize it–and I’d like mine with first-person shooter lasers and remote control that electronically rise out of of the armrests. (Zoom, Zoom!)

 

This couch so reminds me of the video game, Space Invaders, which I played on Atari as a kid my friends in Riverdale, NY.

 

In terms of it’s high-tech look and it’s retro video game feel–this couch is completely awesome!

 

Another favorite Atari game was Missile Command, how about some coffee tables to match? 😉

>A Combat Vehicle That Rocks and Rolls

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http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

I don’t endorse this vendor or product, but this BAE BvS 10 Viking military vehicle used by the UK Royal Marines (and others) is something to see.

It is amphibious, all terrain combat vehicle and can be configured for troop transport, command and control, repair and recovery, ambulance, and even carrying UAVs.

What is fascinating to me is the combination of the speed and versatility of this thing.

The 2-part vehicle (as well as the front antennas) give the effect of a caterpillar–rocking and rolling–making its way over any surface.

In theatre in Afghanistan since 2006, this combat technology is being tested and improved with additional armor and more power.

As mentioned by Defense Tech, it would be cool if in its next evolution, it could deflect Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) like the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles with their V-shaped hull, which is so important for protecting our troops.

(Credit Picture: Joost J. Bakker)

>Fit For A King

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So technology really does come to everything, eventually.
Check out Kohler’s new high-tech toilet, the Numi.
Aside from all sorts of automatic functions from opening the toilet (from up to 8 feet away), to raising the seat for men based on foot sensors, to even flushing with varying power level based on how long you’ve been doing your business, the Numi really performs as the “toilet of the future” as CNET calls it.
Using a touch-tablet remote (that magnetically docks to a wall panel):
– It washes (through an extending bidet with LED lights)
– It dries (with an built in air dryer and deodorizer)
– It cleans (the bowl with 2 modes–1.28 or 0.6 gallons of water for the eco-conscious, and it also cleanses the bidet head with water or a bath of UV light)
– It warms (by controls for seat temperature and blows warm air at your feet), and
– It entertains (with FM radio and speakers as well as integrates with your iPod/iPhones).
For $6,400 you get yourself a true throne with form and function fit for a gadget king.
(Credit Picture of Remote to Scott Stein/CNET and Credit Picture of Numi Side to Kohler)
Kohler_numi Toilet_side