Nordstrom Gets Strong Same Store Sales with Ship-From-Store

25 08 2010

There’s an interesting story in the New York Times about how Nordstrom is driving strong same store sales with a supply chain and inventory system that allows online customers from Nordstrom.com to see what’s in each store online.  The customer can then drive to the store and see the product live, or can have the product shipped to them from the store.

What?  You can’t do that with every major, high-end retailer?

The vast majority of multichannel retailers (as they’re called, although any retailer that’s surviving or succeeding must be a multichannel retailer) run each channel separately.  “Traditional retailers have a traditional way of doing things” as Adrianne Shapira, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, points out in the article.

A large share of the innovation you’ll see in Retail and E-commerce will be in more efficient supply chain and inventory management.  These improvements that seem to be behind the scenes will drive the blurring of online and physical, and play a key role in change and innovation in the coming decade.

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Get Rich Slow, Now

10 04 2009

Great article in Time Magazine, Get Rich Slow, about the rise of the small startup that can cost nearly nothing and grow into something very valuable.  Paul Graham, Jason Calacanis, and many others have been preaching the rise of the zero-cost startup.

Not only is this my life right now, but it’s the basic basis of most every big Internet success in the 2.0 era: Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, on and on.

I’m surprised I’d never heard the term “ramen profitability” before, but I love it!

If you’re unemployed, get something going now.  Time is your most valuable asset.  If you’re gainfully employed, do something on the side – costs you no more than a hobby, and I think it’s more fun (and creates more value for the world) than most hobbies.  If you don’t, someone else will.  Simple enough.

(via 37Signals)





Hometown Paper Goes Down… To Online

16 03 2009

Seattle P-I goes online only (from Mashable’s Adam Ostrow) today, and the largest daily paper to go online only according the seattlepi.com homepage.

My first wage job was as a Seattle Times paperboy.  Bonus: online newspapers don’t get wet, don’t need to get plastic bagged, and don’t get chewed up by the dog.





Kindle App Brings Primetime eBooks to iPhone

5 03 2009

I got the Kindle iPhone application this morning.  It’s basic seeming, which can be a good thing and it nicely gets the job done.  I was reading the first chapter (free sample) of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers within minutes.  You have to download eBooks from Safari – seems fine to me until closer integration for purchasing in the app becomes available.

Something is a little obnoxious about reading on the tiny iPhone screen.  Really all I need right now is more reason to stare at the damn thing more often.

In San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle is facing what looks like impending doom.  It’s just a matter of time before the paper portion goes down.  Mayor Gavin Newsom was on Real Time with Bill Maher, proclaiming that bloggers aren’t real journalists (or something to that effect) and that real news will suffer because if newspapers shut down.  Mayor Newson thinks that the Chronicle will probably find some way to rearrange its business.

A rant on why this is a little off would be a whole thing itself.  Writing is writing is writing, and there’s no reason why “real” journalism can’t exist on the web just as easily as on paper – is that not simple enough?  A workable business model is a different story – that’s the piece that’s being worked through.

Marc Andreessen thinks the New York Times needs to kill the paper portion now, as (paraphrase) acute pain is better than years of chronic pain.  Yet he admits that he owns something like 6,000 CDs – quite the counter-argument to the death of media.

Just because a book or newspaper “feels better” doesn’t really mean anything, nor does the fact that staring at a screen so much seems just wrong.  Everyone can have their preferences.  It does not mean that the newspaper, books or CD will go on.  Technology changes things, and hopefully and generally for the better.  Amazon does print books on demand, as do a number of start-ups.  If I want a book to read on the beach, I’ll buy it – plain and simple.  Wasting a tree everytime I want to read the latest marketing guru no latter seems sane though.

My point being – don’t confuse a gut reaction with what way of doing things is really better.  Then, you too can be a futurist and see why paper isn’t dead – it’s just a mostly unnecessary remnant of media delivery.

Mashable gets the credit for breaking this, for me at least.





Why Americans Should Be More Thankful Than Ever

26 11 2008

I’ve resisted writing much about the economy, but since it’s a rainy day in San Francisco as people start taking off for the long weekend, here it goes…

Last night, I watched Magic Johnson, Steve Wynn and Eric Schmidt on Larry King Live.

It was a surprisingly thoughtful (not that I didn’t expect it but sometimes these interviews are broken records) treatise of what’s ailing now and what to do next. They identified their focus now:

  • People
  • Innovation

Again, it’s called adding value- and these are the key ingredients.

They identified top priorities in getting the economy moving again:

  • Unfreezing credit markets, in a direct fashion
  • Infrastructure Investment. Green technology, physical infrastructure- roads, transportation, etc.

I would also add Leveling The Playing Field to the list, such as Net Neutrality. Steve Wynn mentioned that government is good as some things, such as regulation, and bad at others. I agree wholeheartedly, set the right regulations and rules in place (which is a fluid process) then get out of the way. I believe fundamentally the new administration agrees, no matter what the rhetoric being thrown out there may say.

Steve Wynn also suggested it’s a good time to save money and hunker down a bit. Eric Schmidt continued to focus on the Google mantra of creating innovations and value-adds that people delight in.

All three men were remarkably optimistic. Granted, I would find it hard not to be optimistic but you also have to remember all three are self-made men.

Sage advice is not to ignore the realities of today. I hold that this is healthy for America.

Americans should be more thankful than ever because this is the richest country in the world, by far. Americans should be thankful because we’re free. We can have an open debate about free market capitalism, dangers of greed, and how to best cure the spreading divide between rich and poor without harming the very economic system that got us to where we are today.  Be thankful because amidst the chaos, we live in a place that allows us to strive for a better tomorrow.

Have a wonderful and joy-filled Thanksgiving!





Simple Idea. Add Execution.

22 11 2008

In today’s economy, there’s no financial room for error. Get your cash flow straighted up, or get out.

That doesn’t mean that IDEA error, or trial-and-error, is not alive and well. The zero-cost startup is absolutely a reality, birthed both Six Apart and Google during the post-dotcom downturn. (Please don’t argue the exact timing – Google was born during the bubble, but benefited from a zero/low-cost basis to build something great. Scaling search is a different story.)

There’s never been a better time to start with a simple idea (but it should be big – huge distinction), but do it well. I thought it’d be fun on Friday to comb over a handful of startups I’ve looked at on my blog to see how they are doing.

Startups I’ve commented that have marginally (or more than marginally) improved an existing business model or technology:

Jellyfish: Perfectly elastic cash rebates. Acquired by Microsoft, now powers its Live Search Cashback system.

Farecast: Predictive airfares – buy or wait predictions. I’ve mentioned them on several occasion; I’ve linked to a previous post about the web needing applications that solve real problems. Acquired by Microsoft.

RetailMeNot: Social coupons and deals. Mentioned in an inquiry about gwallet (still yet to launch), but re-reading a TechCrunch post a while back mentioning RetailMeNot as a 3 person operation reminds me how far great execution on a simple idea can go. They just launched BeatMyPrice. Seems mostly like a price comparison wrapper on RetailMeNot. May not be acquired soon, but no doubt they’re making a boatload of cash from the deal/price/coupon model.

Startups that haven’t rocketed upward:

Genietown: Local services marketplace. I liked the concept, but rightly saw a few things mis-executed. If they have cleaned them up, it might not have been enough as they haven’t yet helped Genietown make its growth spurt in a tough, tough market.

Stagr: Apparel startup by Nick Swirnmum (founder of Zappos). Stagr looks like it’s given up on its broad, ambitious model and looks like it’s only selling Stagr branded apparel on their web site. When both the idea and execution go away, we know what happens.

Moral: Building a company is hard. So start simple, and execute every single day.





Facebook App Racket Does Not Strike Me As Wise

18 11 2008

A pretty spot on analysis by Mike Arrington at TechCrunch about the new verified application process as a… Protection Racket.

I also don’t have a problem with this. In fact, I would generally applaud a company for finding a fair way to generate a significant revenue stream.

Except this doesn’t strike me as wise. Name one open platform that has charged a fee for inclusion, and seen this somehow improve the platform. Can’t? OK, maybe Facebook can be the first one to make it work for them.

The only company I can remember charging for inclusion, in a previously open and free product, is Yahoo Directory. Eventually, the Directory became a stale product that was somewhat costly to maintain. It made a whole lot of sense to charge $299/year for inclusion, both for Yahoo and the price was right for the vast majority of sustainable businesses. So far with Yahoo, we know what going down that road does for you.

The step basically admits that your model is becoming stale. You’ve run out of monetization options. Maybe it’s a wise admission (profit extraction), but I would have liked to have seen Facebook exhaust further monetization options first: complete its promised payment system (as Mr. Arrington mentions) or some virtual currency system.

Marc Andreessen said for Ning that a long tail of inactive accounts is valuable. The same applies here. I indeed believe strongly that revenue must be king, especially now. And, yes, quality of applications wil go up – $375 is not a huge amount of money. However, for a company with grand ambitions and broader promise than most any other, I just don’t think this is the right move at the right time.

Only time will tell, I suppose, but we may look back at this moment as an interesting inflection point.