Tag Archives: economic news

A Whole (Foods) New World For Amazon

Whole Foods: it’s fresh, it’s organic and it comes with a hefty charge. So where on earth does Amazon fit in? Procurious investigates…

Last week, to the public’s surprise and the retail world’s horror, Amazon announced that it was buying organic supermarket chain, Whole Foods. For the meagre (in Amazon terms) sum of U.S.$13.7bn the retailer will take ownership of the United States’ first certified organic grocer.

It’s a bold and unexpected move given that Amazon is well known for its cheap price points, which have traditionally  undermined brick and mortar stores. Whole Foods, by contrast, is a reasonably exclusive and fairly expensive, organic retailer.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO said “Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

The annoncement has sparked much discussion and speculation ; What are Amazon’s intentions? How will other supermarkets be impacted? Will Amazon reinvent Whole Food’s supply chain?

John Mackey, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO believes “This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers.”

What does this deal mean for other retailers?

Whole Foods is most prevalent in the U.S. with 431 supermarkets. Unsurpsingly, rival retailers were dealt a hefty blow following the announcement.. Walmart’s shares fell 4.7 per cent, Target’s fell 5.1 per cent Costco’s fell 7.2 per cent and Kroger’s  by 9.2 per cent.

The impact was even felt in the UK, despite there being only nine stores as Tesco and Sainsbury’s by some 4-5% on Friday.

Raanan Cohenn, CEO of last-mile delivery software provider Bringg asserts that “Amazon has become a leading player in the grocery industry overnight. It’s crunch time for the industry.”

“In one word, it means pressure” he continues. “Profit margins are traditionally razor-thin for grocery chains and Amazon will have a greater ability to squeeze margins throughout the supply chain even further.

Latest news implies that Walmart could enter into a bidding war; it’s certainly true that the biggest competitors will do their utmost to make this deal as tricky as possible for Amazon. Given that Whole Foods stock is trading significanlty more per share than Amazon’s $42 offer, a counter bid is entirely conceivable.

The Supply Chain challenge for Amazon

“The challenge for online grocers is that freshness and variety are hard to combine — if they sell one type of tomato, their stock will turn over fast and be very fresh. If they offer 20 types, the choice is wider but the tomatoes will sit in warehouses longer. The supply chain for groceries is trickier and costlier than for non-perishables”says , writing for the Financial Times.

It might be the cost-effective reigning champ of online efficiency but fresh, organic produce is a whole new ball game, and not one that Amazon has been good at winning in the past.

Jason Busch and Pierre Mitchell, Spend Matters, speculated that “Acquiring Whole Foods is perhaps proof that Amazon is willing to buy its way into managing adjacent supply chains in which it has struggled or not focused on yet. It also could provide a fascinating localized test-bed for Amazon Go bridging the consumer and B2B divide.”

If, bidding war allowing, the offer is accepted, Amazon is in a favourable postion to redfine the retail market. They’ll be able to sell fresh groceries online and give customers the option to collect  their deliveries from Whole Foods stores, which would  become instant fulfillment centres. Perhaps Amazon’s ultimate aim will be making same day delivery for groceries the norm.

And, as ZDNet pointed out, “Whole Foods’ roughly 30 million (typically affluent) customers are also likely to be Amazon Prime customers already, which further strengthens the connective tissue between the two brands.”

What do you think about Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods? How will retail supply chains be affected? Let us know in the comments below. 

IBM Announces Blockchain Truck-Tracking

  • A partnership has been announced between IBM and AOS, a Colombian provider of logistics solutions, which finds the two firms developing a new blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) solution for the logistics business
  • IBM Blockchain and IBM Watson will be able to track the provenance and status of trucks and their goods using RFID tags that contain the vehicles’ data
  • The solution integrates with IBM’s Watson IoT system to check in on factors like weather and temperature, which can impact the journey and the estimated delivery time

Read more on Coin Desk 

AI to spot Slavery Site From Satellite Images

  • Online volunteers are helping to track slavery from space. A new crowdsourcing project aims to identify South Asian brick kilns – frequently the site of forced labour – in satellite images
  • Nearly 70 per cent of the estimated 5 million brick kiln workers in South Asia are thought to be working there under force, often to pay off debts
  • So far, over 9000 potential slavery sites have been identified by volunteers taking part in the project. The volunteers are presented with a series of satellite images taken from Google Earth and they have to click on the parts of images that contain brick kilns

Read more on New Scientist

Norway Bans Palm Oil Procurement

  • The Norwegian Parliament has voted to introduce a ban on the procurement of palm oil and palm oil products for use as biofuels
  • Rainforest Coalition Norway, which had been lobbying for the ban, welcomed the move. It said: “Palm oil-based biofuel is a bad choice for the climate and drives rainforest destruction”
  • The organisation believes this is the first time a country has banned all use of palm oil biofuel by public bodies

Read more on Supply Management

Rising Oil Price Shows Green Shoots of Commodity Recovery

As oil prices hit their highest level for 15 months, there is hope that this signals a recovery for other commodity prices too.

green shoots recovery

On Wednesday last week, global oil prices reached their highest levels for 15 months. The US Energy Information Administration reported that domestic crude oil supplies had dropped by 5.2 million barrels in the week ending October the 14th.

The oil price was further spurred on by an announcement from Saudi Arabia regarding future oil production. The announcement confirmed that non-OPEC producers have shown willingness to join efforts to limit global crude output.

The reduction of the ‘glut’ in oil supplies helped to buoy global markets, and sparked discussion on the recovery of other commodities. So is a reduction in supply going to lead to a global commodity recovery? Or is it too premature to say?

Green Shoots of Recovery

Talk of the recovery was lead by the Chief Executive of the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton. In the company’s first quarter production report, Andrew Mackenzie, stated that, “Fundamentals suggest both oil and gas markets will improve over the next 12 to 18 months.”

This viewed echoed earlier positive quotes from another resource giant, Rio Tinto, regarding the oil and gas markets. Increasing demand from China is anticipated to drive commodity prices up from the last quarter this year, and through 2017.

Also benefitting from production decreases from China itself are commodities such as iron ore, whose price has risen 35 per cent this year. Metallurgical coal prices have tripled in the same period for the same reason. Prices of zinc too are at their highest level since the middle of the year, as production is decreased.

The recovery comes after five consecutive years of falling prices, mainly due to falling demand from China. At one point during last week the commodity market stood on the edge of being a “bull” market for the first time since 2011.

The strength of positivity behind the commodity market also lead to better performance for US markets. This is welcome news for many companies after a particularly volatile year.

Rises Expected to Continue

The recovery doesn’t appear to be a short-term thing either. The price of a barrel of oil is expected to rise to around $55 during 2016. Beyond that, it’s estimated that the price will continue to rise, reaching $70 during 2017.

Rising prices are good news for other industries which have struggled in 2016. Maritime shipping has seen an overall loss of around $5 billion this year, with Hanjin being a high-profile example of the industry’s woes.

However, if rising prices are combined with increasing volumes, the shipping and transportation industries could see a recovery too. As more shippers move forward with scrapping large numbers of ships, it’s hoped that an increase in demand could help drive more profits next year.

However, there is also the feeling that the only way that the maritime industry will fully get back on its feet is through M&A. There have been large moves in this area this year, but not enough to combat the prolonged over-capacity seen in the industry.

Consumer Goods Could Suffer

However, the rising prices aren’t good news for everyone. As we saw in last week’s news, as commodities and raw material prices rise, so does the cost of manufacturing goods. Unilever’s proposed price rises that were rejected by retailers came partly as a result of this.

Palm oil, crude oil, and aluminium are all contributing to rising costs for consumer goods. Allied with fluctuating consumer demand, even at a time of year where sales would be expected to be high, it means difficult times ahead for manufacturers.

And although the likes of Unilever, P&G, and Reckitt Benckiser have seen increased revenues recently, this has been attributed more to increasing prices, rather than an improvement in demand.

As ever, what is good news for one group, inevitably turns out to be worse news for others.

Do you think oil prices are a sign of economic recovery? Or could prices going too high actually lead to decreasing spend as goods become more expensive? Let us know below.

While we tracked the rising price of our seasonal shopping, we were on the lookout for the week’s big headlines…

Another South Korean Shipper Facing Bankruptcy

  • STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co., South Korea’s fourth largest shipbuilder, has applied for bankruptcy protection in the USA.
  • The move is designed to stop creditors seizing US-based assets while the company searches for a buyer.
  • One creditor is New York-listed Teekay Tankers Ltd., who won a $32 million arbitration award last year for non-delivery of four oil tankers.
  • Although STX has received billions of dollars to keep it afloat, the issues in the industry have hindered any recovery.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

How does the NHS Spend its Money?

  • Ever wondered how the NHS spends its money? Think there’s a lot of waste?
  • The BBC has launched a series of articles aimed at answering the public’s questions about the NHS.
  • Though spending is being cut across the service, it remains the most cost-effective health system in the world.
  • However, this counter-balanced by outcomes being at lower levels to other countries who actively spend more on healthcare.

Read more and Get Involved on the BBC

Facebook launches “Workplace”

  • Facebook has launched a business collaboration tool, said to be ad-free and not connected to users’ regular Facebook accounts.
  • Businesses can sign up as an organisation for a small fee per user that drops as more users sign on.
  • The tool offers group chat, video calls, live video and a news feed, with relevance algorithms just like regular Facebook.
  • Though many collaboration platforms already exist, Facebook is hoping to build on the familiarity of their public platform for user experience.

Read more at Facebook

Strike Puts Jim Beam Distilleries Under Pressure

  • Over 200 workers at Jim Beam distilleries in Clermont and Boston are striking over staffing shortages and long hours
  • The shortages come as the distilleries struggle to keep up with growing bourbon demand.
  • Bourbon is a $3 billion industry in Kentucky, providing an estimated 15,400 jobs and providing 95 per cent of the world’s bourbon supply.
  • Negotiations are expected to resume this week between striking workers and Beam Suntory, owner of the Jim Beam brand.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune