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On December 13, 2015, HKrentzman commented on Sephora: Behind the Scenes of the Beauty Behemoth :

Great job, Baker’s Dozen! This is a really interesting example. You laid out the business and operating models quite clearly.

A couple of thoughts:
1) Sephora is a unique example of a beauty retail concept that has extensive private label products. How do you think this will scale given its position in the broader LVMH organization, which includes a host of other beauty brands? Do you think it could eventually become a standalone brand? How would that impact its relationships with its suppliers?

2) It is remarkable that Sephora has no real direct comparables–the only one I can think of is Blue Mercury, which is significantly smaller in size. The only other “competitors” in terms of replaceable customer experiences are beauty departments in large department stores. Do you think there is room for a new entrant with a similar model?

3) I thought the Interactive Beauty Technology was especially interesting as a tool to drive sales among existing products. Its pigmentation reading technology reminded me of Mink, another product that aims to deliver high personalization in makeup choice, but does so by bypassing established brands. How do you think Sephora would view a product like Mink?

On December 13, 2015, HKrentzman commented on Bim – pioneer of discount retail in Turkey :

Good job! This is a great example of a business that is able to align its business and operating models.

I was especially interested in the way that BIM manages a limited SKU portfolio in order to consolidate its bargaining power among suppliers. Although this strategy makes sense from their perspective, how does it impact the customer experience? Do you think this model would be successful in markets where customers expect more choice? Do you think it is sustainable in its existing markets as consumer expectations may change?

ALDI (the parent company) also owns Trader Joe’s in the US. There are some similarities between the two concepts around their emphasis on private label, but Trader Joe’s maintains a focus on in-store merchandising and product variety that BIM does not. Do you think that ALDI believes that the BIM model is transferable to the US market, or is Trader Joe’s the most palatable concept to the US consumer?

On December 13, 2015, HKrentzman commented on Blue Apron: Lifelong Learning For All :

Jamie, Great job! I enjoyed reading this post, and was especially interested in the vendor management aspect of the business–I wasn’t aware of the way they managed their relationships with local farmers. I think you raised a lot of valid concerns for the viability of the business going forward, namely the high costs and potential issues around customer churn rate. Another area of concern that I have with Blue Apron is their packaging. As a former customer, I was always a bit disturbed by how much packaging is used in the product. I can foresee this becoming a problem for them as I would assume many of their consumers, who value locally sourced food, may also value eco-friendly packaging. I am curious to see whether they are able to improve this part of the experience going forward. It is possible that by investing in establishing more distribution centers they will have less of a need to insulate certain elements of the meal. However, I think the nature of the product requires a lot of packaging to keep the food fresh and protected.