Beware the unending growth engine: The Federal Trade Commission finally took action this week, filing its much-anticipated antitrust complaint against Amazon for (among other things) using pricing and other tactics that unfairly punished merchants selling on its platform. Forbes contributor Greg Petro draws a comparison between Amazon and the department store giant Sears, which ultimately went bankrupt and shuttered in 2018. Like Amazon, Sears became the target of anti-monopolists, Petro writes, but ultimately it wasn’t those efforts, but rather the growth in specialty stores and general merchandise newcomers like Walmart, Costco, and Target — that ultimately took down the department store goliath. As for Amazon’s fate with the FTC and its other challenges? It all remains to be seen. —Chloe Riley
Biking for sales: So you think video screens and other digital in-store tech will increase sales? Nah, all you have to do is have an employee ride around the store with an ice chest full of tamales tied to their back. Ah, I can hear Seinfel’s George Costanza making that slow-motion “tamale” call now. Credit an H-E-B in Texas with this stroke of marketing genius. And of course there is a video making rounds on social media of the H-E-B worker toting around the tamales for sale. And the biker came with his own sales pitch: “I got pork and I got chicken, which one you pickin’? I got tamales here!” You don’t need to reach for all the fancy gadgets and latest advancements to push product…sometimes just a cart full of tamales and a bicycle is all that’s needed. —Bill Wilson
Walmart’s Amazon strategy: Walmart introduced its exclusive rewards program Walmart+ a little over a year ago, but in recent months it made a key change: It has transformed the initiative into Walmart Cash — a perk available to anyone, similar to the company’s cash-back Walmart Rewards Mastercard. The maneuver is likely part of Walmart’s ongoing strategy to win market share from Amazon Prime, and its Amazon Prime Visa card. It’s a necessary one, Forbes writes: 87% of Walmart+ members also belong to Amazon Prime at a combined annual cost of more than $230. Pretty soon, these members may start questioning whether they really need both memberships: and then the play for subscribers will really begin. —CR
I’m here for the free food: Why work for Instacart? For the free food, duh! If you are one of the lucky shoppers who experiences a last-minute order cancellation or a no show at the front door, then the grocery bags are all yours. Instacart shoppers use a company debit card to pay for all ordered food up front, so when transactions go haywire Instacart absorbs the loss and the shoppers absorb the perk. Of course, the contents make all the difference. Nobody really wants to be left with brussels sprouts and mushrooms, even if they are free. And you can forget any bonuses like a bag of candy, because all non-perishable items do get returned to the shelves. But, hey, if you get lucky as a shopper, you could end up with all the apples a growing person needs. —BW
Costco’s golden opportunity: The pandemic made consumers hoard a lot of seemingly random items like toilet paper, but now Costco has done its market research to stock another nontraditional item that it keeps selling out of … gold bars. The big box retailer is selling 1-ounce gold PAMP Suisse Lady Fortuna Veriscan bars, and Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said the bars are in hot demand and don’t last long when in stock. PAMP SA is an independently operated precious metals refining and fabricating company, and the industry is doing well: Gold has risen more than 15% over the past year and more than 55% over the past five years. Only Costco members can see the price, but according to chatter on Reddit, the bars were selling for a little shy of $1,900, recently. Costco lately has accelerated offerings of dried foods and other survivalist goods (like an emergency food preparedness kit), and gold is just as appealing because it is considered “safe,” amid inflation, bank failures, and other looming news. The bars of gold are available online, but there is a two-per-customer limit. —Alarice Rajagopal
Amazon was sued by the FTC this week over monopoly concerns. Forbes contributor Greg Petro thinks Amazon could be the next Sears, which also had anti-trust regulators on its back for years. Of course, other factors caused the retail giant to go under. Do you think the monopoly lawsuit against Amazon holds water?
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