Online Retail Is Beginning To Look A Lot Like Real-World Retail

by MR Magazine Staff

Amid the grim march of the retail apocalypse, the industry has derived some hope in recent years from the rise of scores of digital-centric startups. There is cause for optimism, but there’s also reason to be skeptical of the hype surrounding these brands — not just because their business models aren’t proving durable, but also because many of them are now intertwined with the companies they are ostensibly disrupting. Consider, for example, the November announcement from supermarket behemoth Albertsons Cos. about the future of meal-kit maker Plated, which the grocer paid $200 million for only two years ago. The company said it was ending the subscription model for Plated and that its products would now simply be part of its private-label business. It’s hard to see that as anything other than a concession that the format is a dud. And that’s not the only meal-kit business that’s gone cold: Blue Apron Holdings Inc. had only 386,000 paid customers in its latest quarter, down from 646,000 in the same quarter a year earlier and 856,000 the year before that. The decline partly reflects a deliberate shift to focus on its best customers, but it’s also an indication that the long-term market for online meal-kits is just not that big. Read more at Bloomberg.