Amazon Building New Perishable Meal Platform for “Time-Starved Customers”

Speculation has been growing about Amazon’s recent grocery efforts. On the one hand, Amazon has built out its first few Amazon Go automated food stores in urban centers and is likely to roll the concept out much more broadly. On the other hand, Amazon has been leveraging its Whole Foods Markets real estate as mini Prime Now food distribution centers, and could build out more Whole Foods stores to be able to broaden its geographic reach and shorten delivery times in more cities and suburban areas.

But what will Amazon’s product strategy be?

An important part of what Amazon is currently thinking appears to be ready-made meals. According to a recent Amazon job posting (which has been taken down), Amazon is planning to build a “new perishable food platform” to deliver “world class meal solutions for time-starved customers.” The listing reads:

Are you interested in changing how customers solve the “what’s for dinner?” dilemma? If yes, Amazon is looking for somebody with your enthusiasm and skills to build and lead the team that delivers world class meal solutions for time-starved customers. We are looking for an entrepreneurial, analytical, operationally-minded category leader to deliver a new perishable food platform. This role will require the ability to set a vision and drive the end-to-end strategy that will fuel the growth and long term profitability of this critical assortment. The right person for this role will have deep experience developing and commercializing a portfolio of perishable packaged foods, communicating effectively to stakeholders and closely with the cross-functional teams as well as owning the P&L.

Ready-made meals is an interesting strategy because it leverages two major competitive advantages Amazon has been investing in heavily: 1) its Prime Now network of last mile delivery solutions, and 2) its growing network of Amazon Go and Whole Foods food distribution centers, er, grocery stores. Ready meals are a logical application to run on top of this infrastructure.

By focusing on ready meals, Amazon is apparently choosing a different strategy than the “mail-order ingredients you prepare yourself” meal kit companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, and many more. Instead, Amazon is focusing on the “time-starved” segment of the population. We think that makes sense. (Note, however, that Amazon does offer its own selection of non-perishable meal kits, but they appear to be sparsely reviewed. There is also a single perishable meal from Tyson available via AmazonFresh in our spot check.) Amazon does also offer perishable foods at Whole Foods and Amazon Go currently.

By ramping up its ready meal efforts, Amazon will also be competing more broadly with restaurants that offer takeout or delivery, and the logistics networks like Uber Eats that are virtualizing them. (Amazon is also building its own food delivery service, Amazon Restaurants, that is available in about 20 cities.) Just as Amazon has built out its own portfolio of private label brands across multiple retail categories, including non-perishable food, we could see Amazon creating its own “restaurant-like” private label brands for different types of ready meals (pizza, Thai, etc).

Given the investments Amazon has made in grocery and logistics thus far, we expect perishable meals and related new food products to be an area that Amazon is prepared to invest in and grind it out over a period of time.

A Few Updates on AmazonBasics Private Label Children’s Toys

Last month, we found several new AmazonBasics private label toys for toddlers and kids listed on Amazon.com.

After we found them, Amazon removed the item listings. Here is what we’ve found since then.

First, Amazon has since restored one of the product listings that it originally removed — the AmazonBasics Kids’ Toy Storage Organizer. That item is now for sale (with two color options) and has half a dozen Vine reviews from late December listed on its product page.

Second, we believe Amazon is planning on releasing the other items it posted and then removed in the relatively near future. We will follow up again if and when they start shipping.

Third, Amazon added an additional AmazonBasics toy to its site, called the AmazonBasics Soft Play Barrel, but has apparently just removed that item as well. We did grab a screenshot of the product page for that item, which is below. Like with the other AmazonBasics toys that Amazon added to the site and then removed, the listing for the Soft Play Barrel says the item is intended “for a playroom at home, a day care center, or a preschool classroom.”

In general, we think private label toys for young children represent an area that Amazon should be able to gain traction in. While toys aimed at older children are often branded with licensed IP, toddler toys are more generic. That being said, we could see Amazon moving into several categories of toys for older children as well.

On the whole, Amazon continues to ramp up its private label and exclusive brand selection across retail categories. Amazon is hiring both in the US and internationally to support this effort, and is growing the volume of exclusive private brands it offers through the Amazon Accelerator program.

This past November, Amazon mailed out its first printed holiday toy catalog to millions of customers. Amazon said that customers ordered over 18 million toys on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Amazon has been featuring Amazon Exclusive toys in its new Amazon 4-star retail stores as well.

Amazon Expands Cross-Promotional Real Estate on “Our Brands” Apparel Product Pages

Amazon is constantly tweaking the design of product pages. For instance, yesterday we found that Amazon has integrated its “Scout” ML-based product recommendations tool onto furniture product pages.

Today we are seeing some new designs on Amazon’s private label and exclusive brand apparel product pages in the US that contain expanded cross-promotional real estate for “Our Brands” and other Amazon apparel-related services. It’s the first time we have seen these particular layouts.

Here are some examples. In each, we are seeing two cross-promotional modules directly below the product bullet points. We are only seeing these on product pages for “Our Brands” (i.e. Amazon private label and Amazon Exclusive brand) apparel items.

In this first example, we are seeing a “Beauty Essentials, Amazon Exclusives” module that promotes Our Brands items from the beauty category, followed by a “More like this from Our Brands” module that is promoting Amazon private label and exclusive brand apparel items.

In the second example below, we see a “Our New Year, New You Ambassadors” module promoting the new Celebrity Fitness Stores we found earlier this week, followed by the “More like this from Our Brands” module promoting Amazon private label and exclusive brand apparel items.

And in this third example, we see a Shopbop image ad (Shopbop is an Amazon-owned retail site that Amazon still runs), followed again by the “More like this from Our Brands” module.

Sometimes, Amazon puts paid ads in place of the first module in each example above, but nearly all Our Brand apparel product pages we are seeing now include the “More like this from Our Brands” module in this location.

This is another example of the type of “marketing support” Amazon offers for participating in the Our Brands program.

As always, we’ll continue tracking Amazon’s Our Brand marketing efforts.

Amazon Launches AmazonBasics Line of Private Label Automotive Supplies in UK and Europe

Amazon has quietly launched a new line of AmazonBasics car care supplies in the UK and Europe, we have found. While it has not yet launched these products in the US, the move signals that Amazon may be moving further into the private label automotive supplies and accessories market in 2019.

Here are the new AmazonBasics automotive care products we are seeing for sale in the UK and Europe:

Leading brands that make similar products in the US include Turtle Wax, Armor All (owned by Spectrum Brands), Rain-X (owned by ITW Global Brands), Meguiar’s, and many more.

None of the new AmazonBasics car care items have reviews yet, so it appears they just launched.

In September, Amazon launched AmazonBasics private label motor oil, we found. In October, it expanded its lineup of conventional and synthetic automotive motor oils.

Amazon is also hiring dozens of engineers and designers to develop its Alexa automotive efforts. Similar to its efforts in the home, if Amazon can take over some or all of the control systems in the car, that would allow greater opportunities to integrate other Amazon services, including supply fulfillment.

Stay tuned to TJI as we continue to follow Amazon’s automotive efforts.

26 Amazon Exclusive Brands Added to TJI Amazon Brand Database

We’ve added the following 26 Amazon Exclusive brands to the TJI Amazon Brand Database:

US (19)

  1. Bellivera
  2. Blue Sunset
  3. Bounce Master
  4. Cozymetters.co
  5. Deer Lady
  6. Direct Protect Plus
  7. Elise Bloom
  8. Elysa Jayne
  9. Havana Breeze
  10. Hide & Co
  11. LLETTWIL
  12. MG Twelve
  13. Moondancers
  14. Otuoro
  15. PD Peppered Denim
  16. Picchio
  17. Robust
  18. Seanami Dazzling
  19. Silver Urbanism

UK (7)

  1. Civet Home
  2. Consuelo
  3. House of Pixie
  4. Maglev Essentials
  5. Pippa Dee
  6. Snug Fastener
  7. Villa Sapori

For more information, see theTJI Amazon Brand Database or Subscribe.

Amazon Appears to Have Removed Rivet Furniture Items That Williams-Sonoma Claimed Were Infringing

Williams-Sonoma, maker of the West Elm brand, has filed a lawsuit against Amazon accusing Amazon of patent infringement, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, trademark counterfeiting, and unfair competition in the US District Court of Northern California. Law.com, Bloomberg, and Furniture Today have the news.

Amongst Williams-Sonoma’s primary claims that we read in the suit are:

  1. That Amazon is not an authorized reseller of Williams-Sonoma brand items, yet Amazon strongly implies that it is such an authorized reseller by the way it presents Williams-Sonoma brand items for sale on its website.
  2. That Amazon copied patented or trademarked furniture designs (like the Orb Chair and the Slope Dining Chair) in products Amazon created under its Rivet private label furniture brand.

This is the first time Amazon has been sued for infringing private label product designs that we are aware of. We are not lawyers, but we anticipate this case could reveal interesting claims from both sides if it proceeds. Obviously, the designs cited by Williams-Sonoma appear very similar.

In general, Amazon has recently been aggressively expanding its array of private label brands and products, as we have been tracking here at TJI, in what appears to be a long-term strategy to grow its “Our Brands” program and offerings.

As a potential first step of response, possibly as a result of the suit (though we cannot be certain because we have not seen or heard any official comments from Amazon on this), Amazon appears to have removed certain Rivet furniture from its website that Williams-Sonoma cited as patent or trademark infringing in its lawsuit. For example, these items are no longer for sale on Amazon.com, but are still in Google’s cache:

  1. Rivet Modern Upholstered Orb Office Chair, 24.4″W (Google Cache)
  2. Rivet Modern Upholstered Orb Office Chair, 20″H (Google Cache)
  3. Rivet Industrial Slope Top-Grain Leather Swivel Office Chair, 24.41″W (Google Cache)

We will keep an eye on further developments as this case unfolds.

11 New Amazon Exclusive Apparel, Grocery, and Health Brands Launch in the US & UK

As we get closer to the holidays, we are seeing new Amazon Exclusive brands continue to launch.

This week we saw 11 new brands launch in the US & UK across the apparel, grocery, and health categories. They are:

 

  • Aarzoo – women’s clothing (UK)
  • Bioda – septic additives
  • Boutique23 – women’s dresses and tops
  • Broad Street Roasters – coffee
  • California Living – seasonings
  • Cashmeren – sweaters
  • Comfort Zone – insoles
  • Elevate Tea – tea
  • Healthy Spirit – incontinence pads
  • LederPelle – wallets
  • XES Underwear – women’s intimate apparel (UK)

These have been added to the TJI Amazon Brand Database.

To track Amazon’s ongoing private brand efforts, subscribe to TJI Briefing, our Amazon briefing service.

Even Amazon Private Label Brands Go Out of Stock Sometimes

It’s a challenge that all Amazon sellers face: run out of stock for any length of time, and your search ranking will likely suffer and take time and effort to recover.

Well, running out of stock happens to Amazon’s own brands too. Earlier this week, Amazon’s Presto! Ultra-Soft Toilet Paper was “Temporarily out of stock.”

It’s back now, with the top ranking in organic search results for “toilet paper” per our spot tests.

Amazon Launches Movian, a New Private Label Furniture Brand for Europe

As Amazon continues its global private brand expansion, today we are seeing another new Amazon private label brand in Europe, this time for furniture. The new brand is called Movian, and is reminiscent of Ikea furniture in both style and price.

We are seeing several dozen Movian-brand furniture items now listed on Amazon’s EU retail sites. For example, this Movian Adour Modern Oval Coffee Table is listed at £47.99. Amazon’s description of the item notes its “Stylish Scandinavian wood legs.” The name “Movian” also looks and sounds similar to a conjugation of the Spanish verb for “move.”

Movian is Amazon’s second private label furniture brand launched in Europe that we have found, as noted on our TJI Amazon Brand Database. Amazon launched Alkove, its other European furniture brand which offers higher-end leather furniture, only a month ago.

Amazon also sells Infinikit and Furniture 247 brand furniture under its “Our Brands” program for Amazon Exclusive brands. Amazon has also been selling home goods under the Rivet and Stone & Beam brands in Europe for the past few months, but Amazon has yet to launch furniture under those brands in Europe yet that we have seen.

Globally, furniture has been one of Amazon’s fastest growing private label categories this year. In addition to the launch of Ravenna Home, Amazon’s two largest private label furniture brands in the US, Rivet and Stone & Beam, have seen significant SKU growth this year. In mid-August, Amazon’s new exclusive home decor brand “Now House by Jonathan Adler” launched as well.

In addition to its growing European private label efforts, Amazon is doing more physical retail experiments in Europe as well. Last month, Amazon opened holiday pop-ups across several European capital cities, including Milan, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, London, and Amsterdam. Amazon Fashion ran its first pop-up in London a couple months ago as well.

Continue to follow TJI as we track Amazon.

Amazon Launching First Private Label Toys for Toddlers and Kids

Amazon’s private label efforts have grown substantially this year, with launches ranging from furniture to groceries. Today, we’re seeing what looks like the impending launch of several new AmazonBasics brand private label toys for toddlers and kids. It’s the first time we’ve seen Amazon launch private label children’s toys.

The toys are not shipping yet, but their product pages are now live on Amazon.com. We would generally expect the toys to start shipping in the coming days or weeks. The new toy products we are seeing are:

Update: Since our post, Amazon has apparently taken down the toys listed above from Amazon.com. We would not expect the items to start shipping until after Amazon restores the listings.

While we’re only seeing a few product listing pages for AmazonBasics toys now, if the past is any indication, we would expect Amazon to methodically ramp up its private label toy inventory.

The battle for holiday toy sales is particularly intense this year after Toys R Us closed its stores this summer. Four weeks ago, Amazon mailed out its first printed holiday toy catalog to millions of customers. Amazon said that customers ordered over 18 million toys on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Toy brands like Melissa & Doug and Little Tikes are sure to keep a keen eye on how Amazon rolls out its selection of private label toys for young children. While Amazon is starting in the toddler category, we could see Amazon moving into several categories of toys for older children as well.

While many toys are sold on brand and with officially licensed IP, Amazon should be able to gain traction for private label items relatively quickly in those areas that don’t depend as heavily on brand.

In general, Amazon continues to ramp up its private label and exclusive brand selection across retail categories. Amazon is hiring both in the US and internationally to support this effort, and is growing the volume of exclusive private brands it offers through the Amazon Accelerator program.

Amazon’s holiday catalog featured several dozen Amazon Exclusive toys by our count. In addition, brands that received at least one full page in the catalog included Lego, Marvel, Disney Pixar, Barbie, Baby Alive, Fingerlings, Melissa & Doug, Duplo, Fisher-Price, vtech, Play-Doh, Hasbro Gaming, Nerf, Hot Wheels, Playmobil, k’nex, Bose, and Star Wars.

Amazon is featuring Amazon Exclusive toys in its new Amazon 4-star retail stores as well.

We posted an update to this story on January 7, 2019. See A Few Updates on AmazonBasics Private Label Children’s Toys.