Issue No. 174: Reshaping eCommerce

10 Startups That Are Reshaping eCommerce in 2017


Company: Affirm
Funding: $520M
Why? A widely trusted financing partner, I use them for our own eComm ops.

Company: OpenDoor
Funding: $320M
Why? Real estate as eCommerce removes bias and promotes intelligent transaction.

Company: Yeti
Funding: $67M
Why? Yeti is reportedly targeting an IPO at around $5B in 2017.

Company: Hollar
Funding: $47.5M
Why? America needs a reimagining of the dollar store.

Company: Gametime
Funding: $33M
Why? They did $50M+ in gross sales in 2016.

Company: Dia & Co
Funding: $25M
Why? Plus size clothing for the women who deserve to look their very best.

Company: TheSkimm
Funding: $16.4M
Why? They are the future of women’s eCommerce and most don’t know that yet.

Company: Away
Funding: $11M
Why? Us travelers all need smart suitcases.

Company: Mizzen+Main
Funding: $7M
Why? The company is set up to become a household name by next Christmas.

Company: Rogue
Funding: $0
Why? Quite possible the biggest eCommerce company that the industry “knowers” do not know.

Want to reach me? Email me at or ping me at @web.

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Issue No. 172B: The Boost

Graphic of The Week: Adidas v Nike v Under Armour


The first link of the day points to a recent article by Daniel Roberts, of Yahoo Finance, who does a wonderful job of explaining the influence and execution behind Adidas’ resurgence. Matt Powell of the NPD Group, who is fervently against the Kanye theory is cited several times in the article but he provides a meaning full perspective – as always.

As it relates to the macroeconomy of shoe wear and athleisure, here is another insightful bit from Matt:

E-commerce, which is already a force in the industry, will continue to rise. According to NPD research, one-in-four athletic shoes were sold online last year. Over time I expect that contribution to rise to two-in-five. The physical limitations of brick-and-mortar stores will continue to drive this growth.

Retailers will quickly figure out that ‘buy online, pick up in store’ will be another way to leverage e-commerce to help save physical stores. Retailers will use this additional store visit to create add-on sales. (Read more at this link)

Additionally, since today’s email was so late, it allowed me to include a link to commentary on Nike’s earnings call which led to a 3+ % stock jump today. Despite Yahoo’s praise of Adidas, the German brand is nowhere near out of the woods. Just today, I visited a specialty running store and saw, for the first time, the Nike International collection. This is Nike’s attempt at high fashion athleisure – a space that Adidas was primed to rule within. There are several forces at play here: changes in eCommerce behavior, shifts in athleisure appeal, the shift from the athletic shoe to the lifestyle shoes, and frankly, the commoditization / normalization of synthetic fibers in clothing. Every athletic brand wants to be a fashion label and every fashion label wants an athleisure arm. 

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Issue No. 144: Authenticity Prevents the Rebrand

Archive: Why A&F Will Continue To Rebrand and Rebrand and Rebrand?


From Today’s Columbus Dispatch:

The rebranding will be launched during the holiday season with the company’s largest advertising campaign. At the same time, Abercrombie will introduce a redesigned website, new digital advertising across video streaming websites, music platforms and social media and marketing in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

After the relaunch, Abercrombie will begin revamping its stores next year.

“This new brand position is the product of an 18-month effort to create a brand identity that communicates our focus on our customers’ needs and aspirations,” said Fran Horowitz, president and chief merchandising officer, in a statement.

An excerpt from an earlier blog of mine (January 2015):

The brand’s most capable play is their very first one. The majority of America doesn’t know that the brand is over 115 years old. And that’s important because the next evolution of the brand will be a reversion to its glorious past.  On a 37 foot wall of a New York City gathering place, there is an elephant head. Legend would have it that Teddy shot it and donated it to his alma mater and yes, his favorite social spot – New York’s Harvard Club. Roosevelt killed the elephant wearing Abercrombie & Fitch. Earhart flew her planes in Abercrombie & Fitch. Being a retail / branding geek, I ponder what I would do if I were in-charge of rebranding Abercrombie. It’s simple, I wouldn’t aim to evolve; I’d aim to remember.

Abercrombie’s history is so rich, it’s nauseating. So many pivotal historical moments happened with that logo on a pioneer’s apparel. The Abercrombie & Fitch brand is too entrenched in history to ignore it. The rebranding efforts will shutter a lot of today’s status quo but if they can get it right, it will be here for another 100 years. And their marketing executives do what they’re supposed to, the old outdoors brand will be heralded for what it was when Teddy was king.

This new strategy is unlikely to achieve the objectives that the company needs. [ANF]

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Issue No. 132: The differentiator is?

Last Word: Amazon’s AWS is the differentiator


I’ve always viewed Amazon’s stock price as a bellwether for the entire eCommerce industry. It is a leading indicator of what is possible. Amazon ($AMZN) passed Exxon today, as the most fourth most valuable publicly traded company. But as much as I like to give eCommerce the credit, Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) is the enabler of much of Bezos’ success. AWS subsidizes product prices allowing the eCommerce provider to better compete against the likes of Walmart,, eBay, and the rest. It is Amazon’s primary source of net profit. Here’s more about AWS, below.

via Ben Thompson and

In the case of AWS, Amazon isn’t simply renting you servers. I mean, yes, you can effectively do that, and a lot of companies do, and yes, Amazon has very real advantages when it comes to scale and availability, but if that were the only point of AWS then the biggest reason to think the company could win in the long run is a cultural one: the company has the stomach for low margins in the way its competitors don’t.

But again, AWS as on on-premise substitute isn’t that cheap, and the division’s margins are not only good but they are growing. To be sure, some of this is a function of having a head start and, well, brand; most new companies especially don’t even consider going anywhere else, and since AWS makes it easy and cheap to get started, by the time costs are a consideration the hassle of moving weighs much more heavily.

More than that, though, Amazon is already much further along in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service to Platform-as-a-Service transition than most people think; the key is that Amazon’s platform offerings tend to be so open and flexible that they look like infrastructure. The sheer breadth of services offered by AWS, including a growing number that enable completely serverless applications, is extremely impressive, and unlike traditional PaaS offerings they can be used in nearly any development environment.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No 129: Technological (r)evolutions, all at once.

Third Transportation Revolution: Counterpoint

Assuming that you read today’s fourth article. Here is a great clarifier and counterpoint. If not, just ignore this!

via Ben Thompson, (Subscribe, trust me):

Zimmer’s piece had the sheen of futurism — autonomous vehicle fleets, the end of private car ownership, the changing nature of cities — but honestly it’s material that has been covered pretty thoroughly over the last few years. What was interesting was the complete absence of any data points that suggested Lyft would create the future Zimmer described. So what was the point of writing it?

In fact, I suspect the New York Times already told us last month.

Lyft, the second-biggest ride-hailing company in the United States behind Uber…has found that its options are limited. The company, which is based in San Francisco, has in recent months held talks or made approaches to sell itself to companies including General Motors, Apple, Google, Amazon, Uber and Didi Chuxing, according to a dozen people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. One person said it was Lyft who was approached by interested parties…

Lyft failed to find a buyer partly because of cost, the people said. Lyft was valued at $5.5 billion after an investment round by G.M. and others in January, making it one of the more pre-eminent unicorn companies in Silicon Valley. Any sale would most likely have to fetch a premium from Lyft’s last valuation to be desirable to the company and its investors.

In this context Zimmer’s piece makes perfect sense: one of the primary conclusions in my piece Google, Uber, and the Evolution of Transportation-as-a-Service is that winning the future of transportation entails far more than simply building a self-driving car, and that Uber’s lead both in terms of its technology and customer mindshare is very significant. To that end, Lyft does make sense as an acquisition target for any company wishing to be more than a commodity supplier: they have useful technology and some degree of mindshare. The problem, though, is that Lyft itself is a doomed business; Uber can and will spend them into the ground, which makes that valuation tough for a potential acquirer to swallow unless Lyft is seen as the missing piece in winning the future. So, Zimmer is selling that future.

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Issue No. 115: New shifts to note, the GOAT pivot, world’s fastest

Graphic: Consumers Want Bolder Experiences, Fewer Things


Consumers are beginning to increase the consumption of trips and unique experiences while de-emphasizing their appetite for big ticket belongings. This trend is becoming more evident during a time when digital products are beginning to outpace the purchase of physical goods. Another shift to note, the continued growth of photo and video based self-expressions over social media. I do believe that improved iPhone / Samsung / LG cameras and increasingly adopted video platforms (Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope, FB Live) will continue to motivate travel to new places and the photography of picturesque moments. Memories are now just as important as things and until Total Recall becomes a reality, experiential consumerism will continue to uptick.

All in all, we will continue to see a fetishizing of travel and the commerce that is associated with it. These burgeoning categories include: tours and activities, alternative accommodations, inspiration (Frommers, Nat Geo, Travel and Leisure, Foursquare).

See more of the issue here.