business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Seattle Times:

"Amazon is preparing to open its second automated-checkout grocery store on the Eastside and is hiring managers for a third store in the nation’s capitol.

"The commerce giant’s grocery strategy is also advancing on another front, with new locations of its conventional checkout grocery stores coming to Seattle, California, and the Chicago and Washington, D.C., areas.

"The company says on its website a Go Grocery store is 'coming soon' to what was formerly a Sears automotive building in Redmond near its border with Bellevue, where it is also adding corporate offices. Amazon opened its first Go Grocery on Capitol Hill in Seattle this year after a lengthy development period, its latest move in an ongoing effort to capture more of consumers’ grocery budget.

"The Go Grocery concept is a larger version of the Go convenience stores it began testing publicly in late 2016 and which now number 26 locations in Seattle, New York, Chicago and San Francisco, though several are temporarily closed. The stores are equipped with cameras and other sensors that enable the company to bill shoppers through an app for items they pick off shelves, eliminating the need for a checkout line."

The Times points out that "Amazon also introduced a grocery store format with a conventional checkout — separate from the Whole Foods Market chain it acquired in 2017 — at a store in Woodland Hills, California, that opened early this year but was converted temporarily in March to fulfill online grocery orders only as the company struggled to catch up with a rapid increase in demand amid the growing coronavirus pandemic. A second store in Irvine, California, was similarly repurposed."

•  From Axios:

"Grocery delivery company Instacart has raised $100 million in new funding, on top of the $225 million it announced last month, the company tells Axios. This brings its valuation to $13.8 billion.

Why it matters: This funding comes at what could be an inflection point for Instacart, as customers it acquired during coronavirus lockdowns decide whether they want to continue with the service or resume in-person grocery shopping … Instacart has raised over $2.2 billion since its 2012 inception and says it's accessible to over 85% of U.S. households in all 50 states, and more than 70% of Canadian households."

The other inflection point could come if retailers realize that by doing business with Instacart they are sleeping with the enemy - a company that has total access to their data and the contractual right to weaponize it against them, a company that is planning to open its own dark stores that will serve markets where it does not have retail partners or where those partners have decided to go it alone.