business news in context, analysis with attitude

•  From the Boston Globe this morning:

"In the ever-escalating race to get goods to consumers faster, more so-called dark stores are cropping up around Boston, promising to deliver everything from ground beef to hummus to dairy-free ice cream in about 15 minutes.

"The spaces look a lot like a convenience store, with aisles, refrigerators, and freezers stocked with 2,000 to 3,000 items. But customers are not welcome inside. Instead, they place orders for delivery through a smartphone app.  The companies hire couriers to pack orders into insulated backpacks or containers and transport them via electric bike.

"The stores ― which are essentially mini-warehouses ― gained popularity in many US cities during the pandemic, including Boston, where about half a dozen companies now operate, including JOKR, Getir, Fridge No More, and Gopuff. Based on filings with the state and city and company estimates, there could soon be more than 20 instant delivery stores in the Boston area.

"But in the effort to cover the area with strategically located delivery centers, some companies appear to be flouting regulations and zoning codes, while others opened before obtaining a health permit to sell food. At least one city official, as well as residents, who live near the stores say more needs to be done to regulate these businesses, which are not required to go through a special permitting process that governs how a space is used. As it stands, a former mattress store could turn into an instant delivery warehouse overnight, with no community input."

According to the story, "Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn said he is concerned about how the stores are zoned and permitted, according to letters he’s sent to Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration … A spokesperson for Wu said in a statement that 'neighbors absolutely deserve a say in who becomes a part of their community.'  Her administration is 'monitoring the situation and its implications for small businesses, fair treatment of workers, and the revitalization of street life'."

One more thing from the Globe story:

"For now, Boston customers are enjoying deeply discounted prices and promotions, as companies look to hook people on the concept. Downloading any of the apps means getting constant push notifications, sometimes with discounts of up to $30 off an order.

"It’s coming at a steep price for the businesses. Industry investors and executives recently told the Wall Street Journal that instant-delivery companies are losing more than $20 on every order. In New York City, where the businesses saturated the market before coming to Boston, some are already shutting down and considering merging."

•  Travel & Leisure reports that "Delta Air Lines is teaming up with the online grocery delivery site Instacart to give SkyMiles members even more ways to earn miles while they shop … Loyal travelers can link their SkyMiles number to their Instacart account and start earning 1 mile for each dollar they spend and Instacart Express members will earn 1.5 miles for each $1 they spend … As a bonus, SkyMiles Silver and Gold Medallion members will receive a three-month complimentary Instacart Express trial, which offers customers free delivery on orders over $35 and 5% back on pickup orders. Platinum and Diamond members will receive a complimentary 12-month trial, according to Delta."

Instacart strengthens its value proposition, but I'm not sure it is doing the same for its client retailers. You get these points by using Instacart ... and the impact on retailers, at the very least, is diluted.