Eva Pascoe | Digital Retailer

New York New Crowdsourcing

Amazon Go shops are expanding in US, after a cracking start in New York. Although it has the charm of Argos on a rainy day and only a fraction of Argos’ range, the shop off Broadway in NY is packed and Xmas Gifts buying customers.  Product range is not selected by a human but by Artificial Intelligence, using top sellers on Amazon on line, so the selection follows Amazon navigation tabs per category from the Internet Web pages to the Store. Although this copying from the web feels a bit literal and somewhat charmless, there is something re-assuring and trust-inducing that millions of people bought just this particular gadget or new toy. Store format is now proven and rolls out to major US cities before Xmas.

Accidental Loyalist

As Amazon is testing if online loyalty translates into off line loyalty, Café Nero is working on increasing loyalty to the brand rather than just your particular, local store. It wants you to always chose Café Nero, even in a new part of town where there are other coffee choices.

Café Nero signed up YoYoWallet.com loyalty and payment supplier to remind us through each coffee and each payment that it pays to stay with Nero. YoYoWallet is a London-born brand and we have been fans of the solution ever since it has been installed in our very own Westminster University Cafes back in 2013. The fight will be hard as our addictive coffee drinking has bred a new breed of Accidental Loyalists like BBC Bill Thompson @billt, who has tweeted a resigned photo of his vast selection of coffee shops loyalty cards, all with more less equal number of stamps. Tough cookie! For now the reason to chose a particular coffee shop is mostly a handy  location, but with YoYo Café Nero is hoping to change that. Good luck @michaelRolph

You can’t live on coffee

Are we over peak coffee? Coffee shops are seeing the writing on the wall and saturation in the pure coffee business, so many are looking to beef up (sorry) their offering with more extensive food range. Where the much loved Shoreditch Grind started, adding hot food to their menu, others, like @HackneyCoffeeCo follow, turning their hand into a full kitchen offering. Back in 90’s, when we run Cyberia Coffee shops, we quickly added sushi and panini menu as gamers and surfers simply couldn’t live on coffee and Internet alone. But as thousands of cafes are turning into full restaurants,  where will all those new chefs come from as Brexit looms?

The Winner takes all

In many European cities restaurants follow Aggregate or Die principle,’ as we are going thru a period of intensive aggregation of competing chains. Food inflation, new plastic regulation and shortage of staff are all causing headaches to management teams. The latest raid by Frankie and Benny on Wagamama was greated with horror on the streets on London.

This deal will be watched closely, as Londoners will not forgive Private Equity if they damage their favourite eaterie with ill-concieved ‘optimisation’. Our mystery shopper schedule is in place and restaurant critics’ twitter addresses at the ready. 

IKEA in town

No Swedish meat balls but still oozing Scandi charm is the new innovation on the High Street, this time from our IKEA chain. Since Big Is No Longer Beautiful, many furnishing brands are plunging for a smaller shop format pilots. IKEA, despite a healthy 15% of business coming from online, has lost 40% of profits and is still not sure where the future may be for the chain. A new smaller stall at Tottenham Court Road is a opening soon, with a warderobe and a kitchen planning zone, in the heart of ‘furnishing zone’ of London. Customers can pop in to Heals, swing by Habitat and drop in to IKEA planning shop, all in one short afternoon and without using a car. It stacks up well against a trip-from-hell to Neasden and having to endure 1 hour labyrinth walk thru, being forced into a close encounter with IKEA range like a cadet on a boot camp. 

Events

We visited Stylist London at Olympia for pre-Xmas gifts buying spree, where the fashion, home and beauty brands were showing off their Xmas offer, curated by our favourite fashion and lifestyle mag Stylist. There were catwalks, beauty talks, emergency make up stations, express blow dry bar for hair and of course macaroons. Shows are the new High Street?

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