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AMZN vs. WMT Weekly: A Conglomerate Takes On A Pure-Play Retailer

With his first week in his new role under his belt, newly promoted Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has made it clear that he’s not only running the world’s largest online retailer, but he’s also sitting atop one of the world’s biggest conglomerates.

Jassy’s inaugural agenda saw the Seattle-based company announce expansions and enhancements almost on a daily basis, ranging from location services to pharmaceutical price checking to Halo Health, as well as a renewed push for its Sidewalk IoT connectivity/bundling play.

Alongside this stream of initiatives, Amazon also confirmed the dates for its upcoming — and earliest-ever — Prime Day sales event, as well as a raft of special perks and performers that will help generate fresh buzz.

Past Its Prime

Until last year, Prime Day had spent its entire six-year existence as a July event to coincide with and commemorate Amazon’s own birthday. But COVID-19 snapped that streak in 2020, pushing Prime Day back to October.

At first, that rescheduling invoked fears that “Christmas would be ruined” — or at least the Black Friday kick-off to the holiday shopping season would be cannibalized. In the end, neither occurred. Stores were half-filled as consumers shopped online instead — and when all was said and done, people spent more than most analysts expected they would in the throes of recession and a pandemic.

The only reason this matters is that this upcoming Prime Day, unfettered by calendar shifts, coronavirus or seasonal considerations, will be the closest thing we’ve seen to a fair fight in over a year. And by the looks of it, Walmart, Target and other retailers are up for the fight.

Not only did Amazon’s Arkansas-based rival instantly throw down its own counter-event, but it made theirs longer (four days versus Prime Day’s two days) and broader, with both in-store and online exclusives aimed at boosting traffic in both venues.

No sooner had Walmart’s upstaging “Deals for Days” event been scheduled for June 20-23, and Amazon raised the stakes itself by announcing its Prime Day Show, which it described as a groundbreaking three-part musical event featuring performances and storytelling from Billie Eilish, H.E.R. and Kid Cudi. Notably, those events will be available on June 17 — three days ahead of the anchor event.

In the coming days, we can expect to see more product and performance announcements, as well as a gradual claw back and expansion of deals and offers — from Amazon and its rivals — that will morph a two-day shopping event into a month-long marathon.

From Sheets to Meat

Fresh on the heels of its recent deal to launch a line of sheets, towels and home furnishings with Gap, Walmart announced its next private-label foray into meat — or, more specifically, beef.

In unveiling the new McClaren Farms beef line at 500 stores in five states, the nation’s largest grocery retailer said the initiative is aimed at creating an end-to-end supply chain for Angus beef. The announcement comes as retailers look to sweeten their private-label offerings across the grocery industry, taking advantage of the model’s high margins and its ability to keep customers coming back.

On its recent Q1 earnings call, Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner said the company was “pleased with the share gains that happened in meat and produce and bakery,” noting that “even within the food categories, the mix has been favorable to categories that tend to have better margins, which is enabling us to maintain the price positions that we’ve been running.”

And the Winner Is…

Meanwhile, Walmart also announced that it had whittled down its roster of 4,300 would-be merchants to a list of 1,000 “Open Call” finalists who will virtually travel to HQ on June 30 to give a 30-minute sales pitch to company executives in hopes of getting their made-in-America products on the retailer’s shelves.

Walmart said the list of contestants hail from all 50 states, representing part of its broader commitment to spend $350 billion on items made, grown or assembled in the United States.

“We know that U.S. manufacturing matters a lot to our shoppers,” Laura Phillips, Walmart’s senior vice president for global sourcing and U.S. manufacturing, said of the largest batch of new merchants the company has ever fielded. “Programs like Open Call serve to bolster communities, provide more value to our customers and improve the way we do business.”

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