Will locals choose Brooklyn over Bezos?

Photo: RetailWire; Source: cinchmarket.nyc
Sep 14, 2020
Tom Ryan

With a tagline “Shop Brooklyn, Not Bezos,” Cinch Market is a newer online marketplace aggregating the inventory of local Brooklyn businesses to support same-day delivery.

The platform emerged from the ShopBrooklyn Movement, which is designed to help local stores partner to better compete against national online sellers, such as Amazon.com. The end-goal, according to its website, is keeping “our neighborhoods strong and money in our community.”

Cinch Market, launched in June, cited three beliefs. From the website:

  • Community > Profit: Businesses don’t pay to join the team. The community sends them orders and they’re asked to share (up to) nine percent of the sale, to help cover costs of delivery, etc.
  • Take Good Care of Each Other – Delivery staff are paid $20-$25 an hour (plus tips).
  • We Are Better Together – There is no “secret” to this mission. Using scale lets us reduce costs for everyone. When we team up, we all succeed by keeping money in our community.

Described as an “Everything Store,” CinchMarket.nyc offers only about 20,000 items from 31 stores, compared to “hundreds of millions” promised from Amazon. However, about 30 additional stores will soon be added to provide a deeper range of Brooklyn-based product, according to a Wall Street Journal profile. A Manhattan-based portal is set to launch later this month.

The service gives consumers an easier way to purchase locally, as doing so has increased in appeal during the pandemic. Customers are charged a $5.95 delivery fee that’s waived for orders over $59. Orders placed by 10 a.m. are delivered that day.

For businesses, the nine percent fee compares to the 15 percent cut Amazon takes on the majority of product sales. Stores expand their reach and benefit from one-stop online shopping.

“I have a beautiful website but I don’t get any hits from it,” Anthony Fauci, co-owner of Runnin’ Wild Toys in Carroll Gardens, told Brooklyn Paper. “On Cinch, shopping is easy. That’s the beauty of places like Amazon, where you can get your gift card, your children’s school supplies, your shoes, all in one place. It’s just like you’re standing in a mall.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the potential pros and cons of the Cinch Market business model? What will be vital to its success?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Cinch Market gives people a real, viable and local alternative to the big monoliths."
"Great initiative, but I live in Brooklyn and had never heard of it."
"Cinch Market is a strong enough business model to be sustainable, but not anything that Amazon is going to put on its radar."

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27 Comments on "Will locals choose Brooklyn over Bezos?"

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Neil Saunders

This is a great initiative and it underlines how, with some creativity and thought, small businesses can compete against Amazon and other big chains. One key advantage is that the offer will likely be more curated than Amazon, which can be hard to shop because of the sheer volume of choices. For these retailers, I think playing on a sense of community can create a point of difference – especially if other aspects of the proportion are already optimized.

Paula Rosenblum

I think if the price and timing is right, yes, this taps into consumer sentiment.

The challenge will definitely be being profitable and creating awareness. Consumers will like it.

Bob Phibbs

I wish them luck. It is hard to market two brands at once. I wonder how many people will discover new places to shop from it and how the business model works paying people $25 an hour to deliver, but it’s great to see the creativity.

Suresh Chaganti

This is a co-operative model of business, and I will be watching with interest. With a non-profit approach, in theory it could be a win-win for all stakeholders. But how scalable it is remains to be seen. It could work really well for certain categories – particularly grocery, locally produced and uniques.

Georganne Bender

Shop Brooklyn, Not Bezos – you know I love this!

Giving consumers an easy way to shop locally is a smart move on the part of these retailers, and they aren’t alone. Pike Place Market in Seattle does something similar with curated Market Boxes that offer a rotating mix of product each week.

I see so many pros in this program, the key will be convincing retailers to join.

Raj B. Shroff

I think the pros of the concept are the local community, the proximity and the social good aspects. I hate to say it but on the con side, it seems like a novelty — great hype in the early stages but not financially viable over time. I hope that’s not the case because it’s really creative and helps the smaller shops get exposure.

Vital to its success will be awareness and being able to fulfill on their promises and success for the shops involved. I wish I lived in Brooklyn, I’d be getting some bread from Amy’s Bread right now!

Amazon should watch out for these guys, the risk Amazon’s run is the ‘Innovator’s Dilemma’; a little idea from Brooklyn could easily be ignored but you can’t deny the underlying insight that people think Amazon is big, bad, ugly, etc. But for now, when push comes to shove, most Americans just want the cheapest option.

Dave Bruno

I love this idea. Cinch Market gives people a real, viable and local alternative to the big monoliths. I think the Brooklyn Market is especially well-suited to the initiative and I suspect this will be very successful. I wish them well and will be following closely.

Laura Davis-Taylor

I was just responding as I saw your post Dave. I agree, particularly in light of the very special community mindset that Brooklyn retailers seem to hold dear. If anyone can make this work, it’s them. So I’m very much looking forward to tracking their progress! It’s inspiring.

Dave Bruno

I couldn’t agree more, Laura, and you know that Brooklyn market as well as any! If only I knew how you became so knowledgeable… ;^)

Brandon Rael

Brooklyn is one of the prime boroughs in NYC that has experienced a community and cultural revitalization, and it has been a grassroots movement. If there is one area that the Cinch Market business model could resonate with, it’s the various Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Areas of Brooklyn such as Williamsburg have proudly reignited the artisan and locally sourced/manufactured movement. The socially conscious and local first consumer will be attracted to visiting these merchants and the digital commerce presence will help the artisans scale up to meet the consumer demands well beyond Brooklyn.

Bindu Gupta

Definitely a great initiative and in line with promoting local businesses but to compete against giants like Amazon where there a millions of products and literally everything available, Cinch Market has to add on as many stores/products as possible, provide excellent customer service to resolve issues and play on the quality of the products they have.

Lee Kent

I absolutely love what is going on in Brooklyn. They have created a fun and cool shopping mecca now supported with its very own community minded curation and delivery. It makes Brooklyn sound like a great place to live, too. I have a niece moving to NY and I even suggested that she consider Brooklyn — and I’ve never been there. How’s that for community spirit and my 2 cents?

Ben Ball

It scores on the twin benefits of contactless delivery and local patronage. That’s a great start. It is an online version of the local bazaar. It won’t hurt Amazon, but it will give local retailers who have suffered from reduced traffic an opportunity to recoup.

Jeff Sward

Sounds like “Shop Local” is becoming a more and more powerful motivator for customers everywhere. Now they just need some of the same delivery efficiencies that the big guys offer.

Harley Feldman

Cinch Market is a great idea for local Brooklyn businesses to raise their visibility and snare part of the Amazon sales. The challenge for the businesses is to provide the service (quick delivery) at a similar price to what Amazon would charge. Also the limited number of SKUs will make it difficult to compete with the huge breadth of SKUs offered by Amazon. The fact that they are adding more stores with additional products is a good thing. Vital to Cinch’s success is the expansion of SKUs, being price competitive with Amazon, and providing same-day delivery.

Steve Montgomery

This reminds me of buying co-ops or buying groups. The underlying principle is to aggregate the mass and leverage it for the benefit of all. The difference here is instead of buying cheaper the members of Cinch Market are trying to work together to provide a platform for local sellers to reach local buyers. It combines local and one-stop shopping. The more retailers they get to participate the more likely that any of them will get eyeballs on their products and make a sale.

Ed Rosenbaum

We would all like to shop local and support local businesses. The bigger question would be, is local business able to compete with the bigger online competition? If a local business can compete from a quality, price and delivery level they have a good chance. They will never put the larger competitors out of business. But they will have a better chance of saving their business.

Gene Detroyer

Locally-centric online malls are really a fun idea. I believe we will see more pop-ups in various places. But how long will it last?

My bigger question is, how do you get traffic to maintain viability? Habits are tough to change, and the Amazon habit is more ingrained today than it was pre-pandemic.

I went to Cinch Market and searched for the last 10 items I bought on Amazon. Cinch Markets had three. That means I would have to go to Amazon in any case. So why not just go to Amazon? While the thought is great, Cinch Market is not making my life any more convenient. I suspect those who try it out will fall away over time.

Evan Snively

Cinch Market is a strong enough business model to be sustainable, but not anything that Amazon is going to put on its radar. Success will depend on the sign-on of a handful of well-known local businesses that really help champion the platform. There needs to be a reason for buzz and exploring start-ups or small businesses that are hit or miss wont be sustainable. Being able to hit the same-day delivery mark consistently could also be a reason to create some social momentum. Best of luck to them.

P.S. – who knew Dr. Fauci was such an entrepreneur!

Casey Golden
15 days 4 minutes ago

Great initiative, but I live in Brooklyn and had never heard of it. The timing, mission, and process is on-point with shopper demand. Execution is always hard with aggregate physical deliveries.

Kai Clarke

This is a very “cool” community effort that needs to be refined from a business perspective in the grocery world. Most grocers do not have an additional 9% of their gross to pay for delivery. Instead, having a top-line delivery charge is more transparent, more reasonable, and communicates the overall total cost to the customer in a more positive way. Also, everyone would love to pay their employees $20-$25 to box groceries, or restock shelves, but why spend an extra $5-$10 per hour on employees, when instead you can invest in the workplace for every employee through things like free childcare, free meals during each shift, flex hours, etc. Happy employees are much more important than just paying more money.

John Hyman
14 days 23 hours ago

It takes more than a clever and heartfelt tagline and well-intentioned mission statement to make a successful business. If they deliver [pun intended] on their promise it just might.

14 days 22 hours ago
There are few who don’t see the benefit of buying locally. It helps individual communities on so many basic levels, that there’s little (if any) winning argument to the contrary. But here lies a conundrum: the idea of gathering local merchants to enable local citizenry to shop online sounds great; but isn’t it just for a time? It seems the overarching reason for this type of one-stop shopping site is to take care of the anxious needs of customers still fearful of going out to buy things. Once (if/when) we get back to shopping more normally and locally, in physical terms, doesn’t it make such operations moot? Besides, is not the real strength of “supporting local businesses” founded greatly on in-person transactions? A few other considerations. Curated in this instance means the merchants are doing more of the decision-making for the consumer. That’s fine, if the buyer is disinterested, at the moment, in “browsing.” It is also a process of selection that works for some essential items, but definitely not for those one wants to… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar

Conceptually, this is great! Another modern reinterpretation of the mall! Raising awareness in the community will be critical as this sort of initiative needs strong momentum to carry it forward to success. Otherwise, I’m not sure the business model will hold. “Shop Local” has become even more powerful during the pandemic so the time is right for this. It could work in other location too, apart from Brooklyn. However, the first thing that popped into my mind was Shopify’s Shop app, with which I have had many good experiences buying from local shops. Now when I open that app, I’m immediately shown all the local Shopify sellers in my area. The only piece missing is the aggregated delivery Cinch Market offers, but this tells me there is a demand for this approach to an online mall of local sellers.

James Tenser
I love the “shop local” intention of Cinch Market and applaud its cheeky call-out of the Amazon founder. It will likely stumble at scale, however, due to the disconnect between local shop inventory data and the digital shopping interface. Instacart, Shipt and their rivals struggle with this issue providing similar services for shoppers at far more sophisticated retailers. Their OOS rates can never be better than the stores where they fulfill and the processes for handling substitutions are time-consuming and unwieldy. Can Cinch improve on this to a significant degree? The new service proposes to fulfill orders with fulfillment visits across multiple local merchants who have far less effective inventory visibility. At $20-25 per hour, this is an expensive way to keep pantries stocked. For individual specialty and gift items, the math might work out a bit better. Certainly, some of the target households in its upscale zip codes will be willing to pay the freight, if the service is quick and accurate. It might work brilliantly if Cinch Market provides participating local merchants with… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom

Competition works best when it concentrates on tangible benefits to the consumer (price, quality, service, etc.); bringing in other factors (ownership, location, etc.) complicates things. All else being equal, most people would probably “shop local,” but of course things are seldom equal; platforms like this are useful in helping to bridge the gap for issues like visibility and ease-of-ordering — things which small businesses are usually unable to compete on (even minimally) — but do little about price or (product) availability. I wish them well.

Rachelle King

Anyone who knows New Yorkers, know how much they value their local shops. This is a great way to help community members support their local shops during this pandemic. In a city where you can have just about anything delivered anytime, this fits the New York mindset. Whether it might translate to less urban markets that rely less on local deliveries is a question to be explored. However, for similar markets with high affinity for delivery and supporting local shops, this concept could be a welcome way to stay connected to your community when so many feel disconnected right now.

"Cinch Market gives people a real, viable and local alternative to the big monoliths."
"Great initiative, but I live in Brooklyn and had never heard of it."
"Cinch Market is a strong enough business model to be sustainable, but not anything that Amazon is going to put on its radar."

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