Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

Grocery Wars

Walmart wants Access to Your Fridge, Amazon wants French Grocery Stores

The grocery business is a changing fast. Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Deliv want to get into your refrigerator, while Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) wants to take over French grocery stores.

Walmart and a company called August Home are testing a service in which Deliv drivers restock customers’ refrigerators, UPI reported. Drivers use a special security system provided by August Home to access the house. Special security cameras allow homeowners to monitor their activities online.

So far only a handful of retailers in Silicon Valley (the San Jose area) are participating in the program. In the scheme, a customer orders items from Walmart’s website and a Deliv driver restocks them in the refrigerator or pantry.

Walmart Grows relationship with Deliv

The privately-held Deliv is a delivery service company that Walmart subsidiary Sam’s Club is working with for same-day delivery in Miami. Deliv is now offering its own grocery delivery serviced called Deliv Fresh but no major supermarkets are participating.

Deliv is participating in Alphabet’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google Express delivery service in which some major grocers such as Whole Foods participate. Walmart is also participating in Google Express, but there is no evidence Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) is participating in the experiment with August Home.

Many questions remain about the program including that of liability and the potential cost. Insurers will presumably surely require bonding and criminal background checks for the drivers entering homes. That might raise costs beyond reasonable levels.

A better solution might be something like the old milk boxes that are found on some pre-World War II houses and apartments in the United States. The delivery person would place the items in a special lockbox on the doorstep, which would eliminate the need for entry to the home.

Amazon Wants a Piece of French Grocery Business

The Everything Store wants a piece of France’s grocery market. Amazon is discussing entering into a “logistics partnership” with France’s largest supermarket-operator the E. Leclerc Group, Reuters reported.

Details of the partnership were not available but it would presumably involve E. Leclerc accepting Amazon returns and possibly letting customers pick up Amazon orders in its stores. Another possibility is that customers might be able to order groceries from E. Leclerc through Amazon. Amazon recently entered into a similar arrangement with the ailing American department store chain Kohl’s (NYSE: KSS).

The privately-held E. Leclerc is France’s largest supermarket with 21.1% of the nation’s grocery market in April 2017, Statista reported. There were unsubstantiated rumors that Amazon might attempt to buy France’s second largest grocer Carrefour (OTC: CARR). Carrefour currently controls 20.9% of the French grocery market.

Amazon approached several French supermarkets; including Casino (OTC: CASP) and E. Leclerc, with acquisition and partnership offers, LeMonde reported. Only E. Leclerc head Michael-Edouard Leclerc acknowledged the offers.

“Yes, we have been approached by Amazon,” Leclerc told Reuters on Wednesday. “Amazon could – why not? – be our logistics partner.”

It is not clear if Amazon has approached grocers in other countries such as Canada, Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom yet but it is likely. Another likely partner for Amazon is Britain’s Tesco (LON: TESCO) which is struggling with intense competition from the German-based Aldi and Lidil.

Amazon recently acquired the well-respected U.S. organic grocer Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM). Further grocery acquisitions and partnerships by Amazon are likely in the U.S.; probable partners and targets include Safeway and regional grocers such as Publix and Winn-Dixie.