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On December 1, 2017, AMM commented on Amazon, Mexico and Trumponomics- Is the bet too high? :

Thanks Oded for an interesting post!

I tend to agree with other commenters that the Mexico warehouse is strategically important given the access it provides to Mexican and other Latin American consumers, regardless of how access to the US consumer may change.

It is interesting that the some of Trump’s proposals surrounding NAFTA changes may actually benefit Amazon – e.g. raising the $50 duty threshold to $800 [1]. These benefits may offset some of the costs of importing to the U.S. from their new Mexico warehouse.

Between this and the access to Mexican and Latin American consumers, I think the Mexico warehouse is still a good bet.


Thanks Eerik for a very interesting post!

GE provides an analog to further support strategic reasons to bring more of the supply chain in house. Over the last few decades, GE has outsourced an increasing percentage of their production across their business units (much of it to Asia, especially for their largest steel and special alloy forged components). As a result, they’ve seen their own suppliers leap-frog them in technological innovation on those parts, and margins contracted. For example, GE purchases highly specialized airplane engine blades made of titanium super alloys. As the super alloys became more complex, GE essentially trained a couple of their suppliers to create them (and GE had nowhere near the required capabilities themselves), and thus the suppliers charged higher and higher prices and GE’s margins felt the squeeze. They are now faced with a difficult task of vertically integrating, and deciding if they should build or acquire these skills.

A question I have is whether or not vertical integration in this case also means ‘on-shoring’ back to the U.S., or if it is enough for Boeing to own the manufacturing abroad? Whether or not goods created off-shore continue to be considered American-made (in certain instances) [1] or as imports will make all the difference here, and it will be an important question given the difference in manufacturing costs here vs. abroad. It is a complicated topic and will no doubt have even more complicated proposed legislation, so management will have to watch closely!


On December 1, 2017, AMM commented on El Niño Food Crisis in Southern Africa :

Yuwa, echo the other commenters in thanking you for bringing this incredibly important topic to light!

I agree with your potential solutions (irrigation projects and drought-resistant crops), and wanted to highlight the role education programs can play within a multi-faceted solution.

At Save the Children, we ran education programs for children and their families to learn more productive and sustainable farming methods, allowing them to increase yields with what they already have (in addition to providing drought-resistant seeds and in some cases larger-scale irrigation projects). Of course, this is dependent upon outside funding, the sustainability of which can be questioned. But on the whole I believe NGOs can be true partners to governments facing such crises and they should work education programs into their plans, along with seed and irrigation solutions.

If I were Victoria’s Secret’s management team, I would follow a similar approach to what they’ve already done in terms of sustainability in their fabric supply chain: play defense just enough to ward off terrible PR, position yourself to take greater control of your supply chain should regulations increase over the next couple of years, but don’t re-brand entirely or push the ‘eco-friendly’ image on consumers.

If there were a clear economic reason for Victoria’s Secret to pursue sustainable fabrics, I’d be more sold on pushing aggressive policies (and perhaps market them to consumers), but at this point, I can’t find research that suggests margin pressure due to more expensive fabrics. And since ‘eco-friendly’ is a stark deviation from their current brand positioning, I see no incentive for the management team to pursue. Given this, I doubt Victoria’s Secret will make much progress on sustainability in the short-term.

My worry for Stitch Fix and their competitors is that traditional retailers have caught up in the last couple of years to deliver the same key value propositions (personalization and free returns). StitchFix is left without much else to offer, and thus may be doomed to remain a niche product, or worse, a fad.

Traditional retailers (e.g. Nordstrom) and e-commerce focused retailers (e.g. Revolve or ShopBop) have made big investments in personal recommendation algorithms. For example, Nordstrom has leveraged Amazon’s AWS platform to streamline personal recommendations [1], and has partnered with TrueFit [2] to recommend personal sizing for its customers. Judging from personal experience, these recommendation algorithms deliver great results that have vastly improved over the last couple of years.

Suddenly the incremental benefits of StitchFix are slim – it simply removes any control or effort on the part of the consumer to choose their clothes. And I think the amount of consumers willing to pay for this incremental benefit is small – it seems to me that most people who are clued in enough on fashion trends to want to try a service like StitchFix also want some degree of control over what they wear.
I doubt that personalization is enough for StitchFix to continue to compete, and I question how big a market StitchFix can reach and ultimately how long they’ll be around.

[1] “AWS Case Study: Nordstrom”
[2] “Happy Anniversary to You, Nordstrom”,-Nordstrom

You make a compelling case for digitalizing hospital supply chains, and as other commenters have noted, up-front cost seems to be the biggest barrier.

Thinking through the entire supply chain, I wonder if there is an opportunity for medical supply distributors (e.g. Owens and Minor) to participate and make the up-front investment, rather than the hospitals investing themselves? As we’ve learned in class, transparency and free flow of information benefits every step in the supply chain, and I imagine in this case where distributors are bundling thousands of products for hospitals, the distributors stand to gain as much as the hospitals themselves. Furthermore, margins continue to be squeezed in the medical supply distribution business, so perhaps distributors have a greater immediate incentive to invest in digitalization and push the technology to their customers.

It appears Owens and Minor has already started selling some of its products through Amazon Business, and Amazon itself has been investing in it’s B2B platform, which may be an indicator of digitalization starting through distributors first. [1] One can only hope!

[1] “Amazon poised to deliver disruption in medical supply industry”