Years and years ago, a friend bragged that he bought his coffee from a west coast firm and had it shipped to him in Rochester, NY.
To further impress, he indicated he paid $15 a pound for it. Plus shipping. Because, back then, in olden days, shipping cost the buyer money.
At the time, the rest of the coffee-drinking world was sipping mocha-colored swill produced by such ordinary manufacturers as Chock full o’Nuts. At $2.29 a pound. Heavenly.
Coffee snob, right?
Fast forward a few years. Now it seemed everyone was drinking the west coast coffee, Starbucks. Their distribution had improved, prices slid (while remaining noticeably higher than any other brand), and the adoption curve moved from the elite classes of innovators and early adopters out to the great unwashed.
Cut to: the earliest years of consumer-based computing. While all were convinced the “internet-thing” and “world-wide-what-do-ya-callit” were the next Big Thing, everyone was also scratching their scalps over how to “monetize” it. But everyone was very good at making up new words.
How, in other words, does one make money off of access and information?
A kind of funny-looking guy out in the middle of nowhere began selling books. At first, previously enjoyed books, later new ones. And they were cheap. Really cheap. So cheap that even those normally not predisposed to buy a book began buying.
What the heck, right? At those prices, the books can decorate a coffee table and impress guests.
Gradually, and not especially rapidly, Amazon widened its interest and inventory from printed books to commodities purchased daily by nearly everyone; from milk to toilet paper.
Starbucks broadened its physical footprint. So much so that it became a running joke that its shops were no longer landmarks helpful in giving directions to out-of-town pedestrians. (“Turn right at the Starbucks.” “Huh? Which one?”) Amazon drove out of business the awful and dreaded Big Box Book retailers (e.g., Waldenbooks, Borders, B. Dalton), thereby relieving the landscape of those architectural abominations.
As Amazon begins its move into other in-store (physical) retail markets – groceries, apparel, pharmaceuticals, beauty products – public opposition grows. Unsurprisingly, what Amazon seeks is an enhanced “share of wallet” by entering untapped physical markets as its Prime membership plateaus.
Hero to zero. Just like that.
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