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From: Glenn Petersen9/19/2017 10:11:44 AM
   of 163401
Booze delivery businesses were Amazon-proof — but now they're bracing for the Whole Foods factor
  • At the end of August, Amazon quietly expanded the cities included in the alcohol delivery service through Prime Now, one of its subscriber services that mainly delivers groceries.
  • It's one of many new perks that make it easier to imbibe if you subscribe to the e-commerce membership.
  • The rise of Amazon Prime booze is another shoe that's yet to drop for the start-ups that compete with Amazon.
Anita Balakrishnan | @MsABalakrishnan
Published 9:44 AM ET Sun, 17 Sept 2017 | Updated 15 Hours Ago

Alcohol has been mostly out of grasp for Amazon — until recently. Even with a network as vast and complex as Amazon, the logistics of shipping booze is somewhat nightmarish.

Intoxicating liquor can't be mailed in the U.S., and services like FedEx have strict requirements for delivery. Then there are individual state mandates on both shipping and retailing, not to mention the need to check the ID of every purchaser.

But at the end of August, Amazon quietly expanded the cities included in the alcohol delivery service through Prime Now, one of its subscriber services that mainly delivers groceries.

Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio.

Columbus, Ohio got the service in March, but resident Sourabh Ratnaparkhi said it's been mostly under the radar.

"I'm a casual drinker that likes to keep a six-pack in the fridge at all times, and I also like to try a ton of new beers which I think this service will help give me more options," Ratnaparkhi said. "I think it's great for the city of Columbus because the brewery scene is booming and something a lot of people here are proud about, so this helps the breweries reach a wider customer base."

It's one of many new perks that make it easier to imbibe if you subscribe to the e-commerce membership. Voice-activated assistant Alexa, for instance, can now be used to order alcohol in some areas. And MillerCoors created an Amazon Dash button this year — a physical button that triggers an Amazon beer run when pressed.

And Amazon's acquisition of natural grocer Whole Foods gives it physical locations that could help it realize its "strong interest in home delivery of beer," MillerCoors wrote in a blog post about the merger. It could, for instance, allow consumers to "click and collect" their beer at a local Whole Foods.

"Beer is very different from other consumer categories that have been disrupted by Amazon. But there's little doubt that the industry will feel the impact of the largest online retailer expanding into grocery," the beer giant wrote.

The rise of Amazon Prime booze is yet another shoe that's yet to drop for the start-ups that compete with Amazon — like Blue Apron, which ships exclusive wines, or Postmates, which just started rolling out its alcohol courier services this year.

One such start-up, Thirstie, added mail-order services to its on-demand liquor delivery service last year, in order to appeal to consumers searching for hard-to-find varieties. Many brands that offer online delivery, like Dom Perignon, actually use a white-label version of Thirstie.

"They are clearly a massive giant, they can get into any market. There are some very real challenges," said co-founder and CEO Devaraj Southworth. He added: "We've seen companies that have raised millions of dollars to do this, many of those companies no longer in existence."

Jerald O'Kennard, director of, said he's consulted with wineries that currently list on Amazon. He suspects that there will be few, if any, brands that turn down the chance to get the exposure of an Amazon listing, given how hard it's been to get national exposure online in the past.

"The joke in the industry is the only person that made money on is the person who sold the URL," O'Kennard said. "It's a thing, it's just a tricky thing. It's a nightmare to organize that. Adult beverages have a lot more strings attached. Taking the approach of shipping to your retail network, really is kind of a brilliant coup on Amazon's part..... It probably underreported the impact it will have on the industry. "

The industry has lingo for the holy grail of liquor delivery — the "three-tier system" of distributors, retailers, and producers that's considered the only way to fairly abide by the laws.

That's something Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos now stands to disrupt, said Duane Stanford, executive editor at Beverage Digest.

"The three-tier alcohol distribution system is a complicated web of state-by-state laws that make it tough to scale online delivery," Stanford said. "If anyone can apply pressure and creativity to the problem, however, it's Amazon, and Whole Foods gives Bezos yet another paint brush."

Southworth said he thinks that greater variety, whether it's through local shops or Thirstie, stands to separate Amazon and Whole Foods from other options. Thirstie works through local shops to do the deliveries and has an algorithm that only shows consumers in each city in state the options that are legally available.

"This has been a mystery for decades," Southworth said. "It's something that we've spent a lot of time to get right."

Great Lakes Brewing Co. is one Ohio brand that's participated in Amazon's PrimeNow push, and said it's been an exciting way to reach its fans. But it's still unclear how the future will unfold as more liquor sales go online, the company said.

"This is still very new territory for us," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "Because of the three-tier system, we (the suppliers) provide beer to our distributors who then work with the retailers to get our beer on the shelf. In this case, Whole Foods (a retailer) is now working with both distributors and Amazon to coordinate online beer sales. Since we're not directly involved with this step, it's a bit hard for us to give any real insight as to how it's going."

But with winter approaching in Ohio, Ratnaparkhi might sooner give in to the temptation of Amazon.

"Winters here are brutal, so if I know the Amazon service is readily available, I think it provides way more convenience than physically going to pick up the beer," Ratnaparkhi said. "Amazon is really about to run the world for millennials."

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To: Sr K who wrote (162852)9/19/2017 3:07:34 PM
From: ig
   of 163401
All-New Amazon Fire HD 10: 1080p Full HD Display

Oh, that looks interesting. I've had the HDX 8-incher for several years and they've never topped it. Been waiting for something like this.

Edit: They still haven't topped the HDX, which has a resolution of 2560 x 1600.

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From: Glenn Petersen9/20/2017 5:57:15 AM
1 Recommendation   of 163401
Amazon reportedly working on Alexa-enabled 'smart glasses'

It's said to be audio-only with no screen or camera, however.

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
September 20, 2017


Amazon wants to make Alexa a more formidable competitor to Google Assistant and Siri by letting you put it on your face and take it anywhere, according to a Financial Times report (paywall). The company is said to be developing a pair of normal-looking eyeglasses that tether to your smartphone and allow you hear, and presumably speak to, Alexa via a bone-conduction audio system. There won't, however, be a screen or camera on the model as with Google Glass.

Though the lack of a screen and camera would seem to neuter the glasses, dropping them would dramatically improve its battery life. And in any case, the idea is not to have Google Glass-like vision, but to give users a direct line to Alexa on a smartphone without having to open an app, as is currently the case. That would make them much more useful in a vehicle or on the street, especially if they can be incorporated into comfortable, daily-worn eyeglasses.

On top of that, the lack of a screen would simplify the development process considerably, reducing the time to market and increasing its chances of success. While Amazon's popular Alexa Echo devices are arguably the king of digital assistants, it's easy to forget the retailer had a string of failures before that, especially the Fire Phone. If "Alexa Glasses" or whatever is a hit, then it might embolden Amazon to offer a camera- or screen-equipped model.

Amazon's top-secret (whoops) Lab126 group is also reportedly working on home-security products, particularly a connected security camera not unlike models from Nest and others. It could be controlled by Alexa-enabled Echo products, and show the video feed on Amazon's Echo Show screen (above). It could also signal you when an Amazon product has been delivered, completing some kind of weird retail loop.

Adding merit to the FT report (which hasn't been confirmed by Amazon), Google Glass founder Babak Parviz, hired away by Amazon in 2014, has been reportedly heavily involved with the Alexa glasses project. Given his area of expertise, it seemed inevitable that Amazon would do something spectacle-related. The eyeglasses and security products are supposedly coming by the end of the year, presumably in time for Christmas.

Update: Amazon tells Engadget that it has "no information or comment" about the Alexa-powered glasses.

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From: FUBHO9/22/2017 10:23:15 AM
   of 163401
Jihadi bomb kit like one used for Manchester Arena terror attack bought on Amazon for £95 – without proper security checks

The Sun was able to buy all the parts needed for a similar 'Mother of Satan'-style bomb used at the Manchester Arena attack that killed 22

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To: FUBHO who wrote (162856)9/22/2017 5:13:14 PM
From: John Carragher
   of 163401
i thought you could buy this stuff almost anywhere. what is so special about amazon?

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To: John Carragher who wrote (162857)9/22/2017 5:28:24 PM
   of 163401
Amazon would have the ability to see all the products == bomb, then associate with a Muslim name, and figure out this for an imminent terror attack.

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To: FUBHO who wrote (162858)9/22/2017 5:49:12 PM
From: John Carragher
1 Recommendation   of 163401
yes, if they wrote the software to do such a thing. i doubt these orders are for one vendor but multiple suppliers who all sell their products as individuals on amazon. i think this is a stretch to single out amazon. all these supplies can be purchased in your local communities.

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To: FUBHO who wrote (162858)9/22/2017 7:49:54 PM
From: Labrador
   of 163401
Are we now Ok with "profiling" for Muslim names? Or could the person use another name to avoid this?

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To: Labrador who wrote (162860)9/22/2017 7:53:00 PM
   of 163401
I don't think people can use aliases on their credit cards. Pressure_Cooker && Muslim_Name == FLAGGED

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From: Glenn Petersen9/22/2017 8:47:36 PM
1 Recommendation   of 163401
Inside Jeff Bezos’s $5 Billion Bet That Amazon Can Win India

By Saritha Rai
September 20, 2017

-- Festival of Diwali is India’s biggest shopping season

-- Amazon and rival Flipkart have competing sales this week

It’s mere weeks to the festival of Diwali, the season of lavish, reckless consumption, and in a cavernous warehouse minutes from the Hyderabad airport, hundreds of workers are furiously sorting mountains of everyday items.

There are sunglasses and shaving creams, sewing machines, vegetable slicers and microwave ovens, all lined up by Inc. to sate the shopping frenzy that’s India’s Black Friday and Christmas combined. The windowless 400,000 square foot facility is fitted with 500 kilometers of cables and 16,000 fire sprinklers. Sellers pour in with their wares precariously balanced on two-wheelers, or in autorickshaws and pickup trucks.

Employees prepare packages for shipment at the Amazon fulfillment center in Hyderabad.
Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

It’s Amazon’s largest – and newest - such center in the South Asian country, and it offers a view into the company’s ramp up in this crucial market ahead of a festival sale collision this week with local rival Flipkart Online Services Pvt. The Indian investments show the Seattle-based retailer using a strategy similar to the U.S., where a vast network of warehouses allowed it to offer quick, cheap delivery and distinguish itself from competitors like Ebay Inc.

The e-commerce giant has a lot riding in the country after its washout in the world’s other large market, China, where Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.and other local players have prevailed. Amazon has said its international loss grew over fivefold from a year ago to $724 million in the quarter ending in June. Part of that can be attributed to its investments in India, including additions to storage capacity.

“Fulfilment centers are extremely critical for the success of our Indian operations,” said Amazon’s India head Amit Agarwal, using company-speak for warehouses. “We have doubled our storage capacity in the last one year to meet our rapid growth in India.”

Amit Agarwal
Photographer: Namas Bhojani/Bloomberg

Bangalore-based Flipkart still has a lead in the Indian e-commerce market. But Amazon is also expanding at ripping speeds, and in the last year alone has roughly doubled size on several metrics. Warehouse capacity has risen to 13 million cubic feet, sellers to over 225,000 and products to more than 160 million.

During the lead-up to the annual holiday, Amazon and Flipkart have played a cloak-and-dagger game, each waiting for the other to announce sale dates. Recently rejuvenated with an added $3 billion in cash after fresh funding from big name investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., Microsoft Corp. and SoftBank Vision Fund, Flipkart is preparing to launch its own holiday blitzkrieg.

When the domestic player finally went public with its timetable, Amazon responded by timing its four-day Great Indian Festival Sale to exactly overlap with Flipkart’s Big Billion Days Sale. The buzz of activity at the warehouse will only quicken when the Amazon sale opens on Thursday.

Flipkart, meanwhile, says it’ll triumph by doubling sales over its own numbers last year and trounce competition by quadrupling shipments of smartphones. “Our Big Billion Days sale is not about discounts alone, but about exclusive selections on a plethora of products in mobile, fashion and appliances that rivals do not have,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

A deliveryman for Flipkart handles a package for Diwali at the company's office in Bengaluru.
Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

It’s also boasting of industry firsts such as monthly payments against purchases charged to debit cards and hundreds of thousands of personalized video promotions on social media during the sale days. On warehouses, the company said it doesn’t share numbers.

Diwali is the time when annual bonuses are paid in India, and families do their heaviest shopping. The festival extends over several days, starting Oct. 17 this year.

“Amazon and Flipkart are more evenly matched today than ever before and it’s a lot tougher to predict who’ll be the winner in this year’s peak selling season," said Mrigank Gutgutia, engagement manager at researcher RedSeer Consulting Pvt. “With the war chests they have, both are building up warehouses and logistics infrastructure.”

Within miles of the new Hyderabad storage hub, is one of Amazon’s largest global customer service centers as well as one of its biggest software development facilities in the world. All of these are hidden from public view - except on rare occasions like this warehouse visit. They are all testimony to Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos’s aggressive Indian expansion that is backed by a $5 billion budgetary allocation.

Amazon’s 41 warehouses in India are vital in a country where the largest online retailers are marketplaces without any inventory of their own in accordance with foreign investment rules for e-commerce. Their locations are crucial because the nation’s logistics networks can be unreliable. They have to be close to sellers and with easy access to a density of buyers.

Those in the real-estate trade alert rivals to each other’s warehouse searches, and competition is intense. Alibaba-backed Paytm E-commerce Pvt. is the newest competitor in the fray and just beginning to build capacity.

“On-ground superiority can give an edge to the players, bringing down supply chain costs, optimizing shipping and providing premium customers the fastest delivery,” said Gutgutia, the analyst.

Operation inside Amazon’s fulfillment center in Hyderabad.
Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

Walk beyond the “Work Hard.Have Fun.Make History” sign inside the non-descript Amazon warehouse codenamed HYD8, and the floor has a traditional Indian ‘rangoli’ drawing of the company’s fulfillment mascot, Peccy. Pass the wall of metal detectors, and there’s a 1.6 kilometer long network of conveyor belts snaking through the building’s innards. The goal is to fulfill orders at the fastest time with the lowest possible cost, but there’s not a single robot in sight.

“In India, we’ve adopted a hybrid model, a blend of people and conveyor,” said Akhil Saxena, vice president, India Customer Fulfilment. Full-on automation and drone deliveries are as yet distant specks on India’s e-commerce horizon. Fixed costs are high in the country while labor costs are low, the inverse of the West. So a vast number of workers toil in comparatively smaller warehouses.

The nation’s patchy logistics network and the vendors’ poor digital grasp mean that most operating on Amazon’s marketplace prefer to drop their products to such depots, have their names appear in the ‘sold by’ box beside the product listings, and let the company worry about packing and deliveries.

There are about a dozen steps before items are shipped to the country’s far-flung corners. Products ranging from shiny idols of India’s elephant-headed god, Ganesha, to colorful smartphone skins and small hacksaws, are each quality checked, barcoded and laser scanned for exact dimensions. Finally, a computer algorithm helps ‘slot’ and optimize storage, calculating charges for sellers who pay for warehouse space - down to each cubic foot.

Unlike well-ordered supermarket shelves, goods are simply stowed where they fit, sprinkled across the facility for quick access based on computer algorithms. A row of kitchen blenders lie near a rack filled with baby diapers. Across the aisle are pillows, but sheets are nowhere in sight. The random sorting actually creates efficiencies, Saxena said. Ultimately, it’s meant to be a streamlined operation to rein in overheads in a country where Amazon still bleeds copious amounts of money as it builds up.

In India, the company has grown revenue at about 124 percent year-on-year, totting up 85 percent growth in the first quarter and 88 percent in the second quarter this year, according to Agarwal, the country chief. A lot, however, rides on the upcoming peak sale period when Amazon and Flipkart will strain their hardest to get buyers’ attention. Agarwal says he’s counting on a "brilliant" season in terms of traffic, new customers and sales.

The Amazon fulfillment center in Hyderabad.
Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

As he walks around the massive space, Saxena, a tall man with a mass of salt and pepper hair, can’t help remarking on the big challenge Amazon has ahead in this vital geography.

In India, everything from sellers to logistics is at a different maturity level, Saxena said. To tackle it, he said, Amazon has to be "not just a global company, but also local."

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