Ah, but those smaller suppliers, as well as many online merchants, depend on the office-products distribution pipeline which is a duopoly: one network is Sycamore-owned/Staples-controlled Essendant, and the other network is S.P. Richards. Regional B2B players will still be constricted as none of them (except perhaps W.B. Mason) have the clout to buy direct-from-manufacturer efficiently enough to stand up to Amazon.
There has also been significant consolidation on the office-supply manufacturing side as well, often as Gene points out, driven by investment firms, and in reaction to the distribution-side consolidation that has already taken place.
At a minimum the FTC should demand Essendant be spun out with enough resources to remain a viable and vibrant distributor, as this will help preserve some degree of free-market competition.
I'm not seeing the opportunity. A little bit more margin on the money existing customers are already spending in store? They're not going to be handling mortgages or managing retirement funds, and their customer base doesn't have a lot in savings -- so just skimming a bit of velocity off checking accounts? Also, if they think banking regulation is going to be easy, they'd better check their assumptions again -- the Wells Fargo scandal and the incoming Biden administration are headwinds that will only keep growing.
If the U.S. can show the world we have learned from this long experience - publicly exposing our flaws and where we did not live up to our ideals - and are making significant, permanent, good-faith efforts to improve, then yes the world will look to us again. While Beijing may point fingers, we all saw what happened in Hong Kong yesterday (and that deserves its own discussion thread). Earth depends on the U.S. to do better, get back up after it stumbles, and lead the way because there is no serious alternative.
For my company's latest release of family-friendly card games, we added QR codes to the item packaging and countertop merchandisers that pop up video trailers and instructions when scanned. (I got to do some of the voiceover work, too :) .) The toy stores and game merchants appreciate the extra selling assistance.
Echoing Gary's comment, Target has perfected its curbside game, doubling its pickup lanes outside and staffing generously. Cars barely have time to shift into park! Target has also maintained higher-than-usual for January staffing at its inside checkout lanes as well. Parking lots are full but inside lines are short.
The food truck scene in the Twin Cities stayed strong all the way up to a couple weeks ago, well beyond what anyone expected. Traditional venues with their high fixed costs are shuttering, but "people still gotta eat" and crave variety/something new. I see the ghost kitchen setup as a way for entrepreneurs and chefs to get in the game/stay in the game as we all now see the convenience of online ordering. And centralized kitchens may finally create some scale economies for delivery service. So I see this as a long-term development (even though I can't wait to sit in a restaurant again!).
It's important for staff, shareholders, suppliers, boards, and communities to know if a CEO has a cogent vision and action plan - or if he's simply a stuffed suit. Social media helps everyone make that determination faster and more transparently - accelerating worthwhile change efforts and hopefully outing ineffective/destructive management before too much damage can be done. This needs to be a core expectation of the job, not a nice-to-have.
Several of our Lunds&Byerly's markets here in the Twin Cities have been doing this successfully since the 1970s, and the cumulative experiences of shoppers has served to ingrain the chain into our city's food culture -- and blunt the entrance of Whole Foods. Of course, Lunds drew upon the wisdom of Red Owl who'd been using this strategy from the 1930s. If you want visionary ideas for your grocery chain, just visit us in Minnesota where we worked it all out nearly a century ago!
I'm seeing exciting use of this in the travel and food channels - I have recently gotten invitations to follow livestreams in a Tokyo fish market and also in a Moroccan bazaar, where the host and crew will facilitate purchases in real time. Guests can ask questions/have the camera look at items in detail via chat. Exciting times!
I will say, though, that the ability to "deep dive" into research and constructing models uninterrupted by mundane tasks and reporting that a couple months of work-from-home gifted me with this spring - that I was able to bring back to the bigger team - was what gave us several "aha" initiatives that we are working into 2021 product launches as well as fundamental changes in our sales organization. Without that time to explore, ask questions, and really get deep in the weeds for days and days, we wouldn't have a go-forward plan now to come out of the pandemic better.
They'll still be staging and filming the items; if anything at a faster pace as online selling requires additional angles and even video. So there's no cost reduction in that respect.
From my own experience with publishing catalogs, the fixed costs for printing setup are the real hurdle, as is the ever-increasing cost of paper stock (as consolidation in that industry has shuttered mills in order to create scarcity - something the Biden Administration should look into).
Also even with common keycoding and matchback practices, it has gotten harder and harder to attribute sales dollars to print vehicles, especially with Amazon's rise (not IKEA's problem there but one for the rest of us.)
So whereas 10 years ago I was regularly dropping a million catalogs to teachers, this year I may well conclude it isn't worth it at all. My biggest complainers who call in? Amish and Mennonite home-school families - and there aren't enough of them to justify the fixed cost of production. Gen Z and Millennial teachers could care less.
I'm already experiencing delays and lost packages for items ordered well before Thanksgiving (one back in October!) The heroic efforts of the USPS to get ballots delivered may have burnt out their surge capacity, I fear...
I had an amazing experience with Target's curbside pickup this weekend: Mom's vacuum cleaner had gone kaput and Amazon couldn't deliver until the end of this week. My local Target had one in stock -- I snagged it with the mobile app, and when I pulled out of the garage the app asked me if I was on the way to the store. I said yes, and within seconds of pulling into the pickup lane a team member was at my car with the box. Yes I paid about $30 more than I would've on Amazon, but Mom is taken care of so it's worth it. And I'm instantly hooked on pickup because Target showed me how on top of the ball they were during the busiest weekend of the year, executing brilliantly.