Justin Ernest

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On November 28, 2017, Justin Ernest commented on Is Happy Hour Over? The Impact of Climate Change on E & J Gallo Winery :

Interesting take on the challenges facing the wine industry. It’s unbelievable that wine production will drop 8% YoY in 2017. Expanding production areas will help, but is this going to continue to be possible with new entrants entering the market seemingly every year? The barriers to entry for this industry are incredibly low, so I am skeptical that the large producers can sustain this practice.

Increasing awareness for sustainable strategies will be vital moving forward, so it will be interesting to see if large producers will be open to partnering together for a mutual benefit. I’m also wondering what the effect of new technologies will have on the industry. Farming techniques have improved dramatically over the past several years with new developments in tech – will the wine-making industry follow suit?

On November 28, 2017, Justin Ernest commented on Can Ocado Weather the Disruption of the Grocery Industry? :

Very interesting piece on a company I had not previously heard of! It’s amazing how ahead-of-the-curve they have been, but I find myself wondering why they haven’t been able to grow faster (revenues of 1.3bn GBP in 2016). I think monetizing their IP will be a difficult revenue stream to count on moving forward since competitors are catching up rather quickly. I’m also not a fan of giving up the proprietary technology that the business was founded on. Autonomous delivery vehicles will be a step in the right direction, but competitors such as Amazon will benefit from this too. One thing to ponder is whether Ocado would be an interesting target for Amazon to acquire. Do they still have differentiating technology that would help a giant like Amazon, or have others caught up via investments in technology over the past few years?

On November 28, 2017, Justin Ernest commented on SHAKE SHACK: IS ‘ENLIGHTENED HOSPITALITY’ BECOMING DIGITALIZED? :

Very interesting take on the challenges facing the food service industry over the next several years. Consumer tastes (pun intended) are constantly evolving, and they expect more out of fast casual restaurants seemingly every day. I think the move to a centralized supply chain application is a smart one, as we’ve seen many players in the market do this over the past year or two.

One thing to keep an eye on will be how fast Shake Shack can move on the technology front. Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks have both found massive success with their ‘order ahead’ mobile apps, and I think this will greatly benefit Shake Shack. Partnerships with food delivery services such as DoorDash, UberEats, and Postmates will also be vital to medium and long term growth.

Lastly, the question you raise about automation’s effect on labor is an interesting one. I think the ‘behind-the-counter service’ component is an important one for many quick service restaurants, although I’m not sure if it’s vital for Shake Shack. Will they be able to improve margins (while at the same time increasing their investment in new technology) with automated service? Only time will tell…

Very interesting article, Triston. One of the first quotes that stuck out to me was that of Costco’s CFO, saying that they were “a little late to the game on purpose”. In today’s economy, being late is extremely costly (as several taxi companies can attest to). The Whole Foods purchase by Amazon (and before that, the Jet.com purchase by Walmart) has put a lot of pressure on Costco moving forward. An interesting question to ponder: As Costco spends money to further their expertise in digital, will they be able to keep the low prices they have become known for? I think this will go a long way in deciding whether they can compete with Amazon moving forward. I’m also wondering if they will keep advertising the “bulk buying” that they have done in the past. Do consumers want to buy in bulk online? Personally, I do not. It will be interesting to keep an eye on this over the next several months.

On November 28, 2017, Justin Ernest commented on Nike Tries to Outrun Nationalism :

Interesting piece on the impact for Nike of withdrawing from the TPP. For multinationals such as Nike (especially ones that manufacture so much of their products overseas), free trade is essential to business. Even though China’s overall growth has “slowed” to about 5% over the past couple years, the country is still a huge potential growth area for China (as well as other countries in Asia and, in my opinion, South America). If a trade war persists, would China move manufacturing back to the US? I’m not so sure, but they would need to act quickly in any case. Like the author mentioned, Nike needs to continue to lobby in DC and educate consumers on free trade policies. More than anything, they need to continue to innovate in their supply chain to reduce costs so that manufacturing in the US won’t be [as] costly for them, should they decide to ultimately go that route.

On November 26, 2017, Justin Ernest commented on UnitedHealth: Losing Ground to New Entrants :

Faraz, great article. It’s really interesting to read about how UHG is competing with newer entrants in the healthcare space (not unlike other sectors where startups are disrupting the status quo). It seems like they have been more successful than other large companies in “digitizing” although I think they have a ways to go. I think they need to keep utilizing M&A to compete with the new players on the block. Could they be a possible buyer for some of the main competitors in the industry? This would be an expensive, although potentially worthwhile, strategy for UHG.

I think the biggest question moving forward, as you mentioned, will be whether UHG can implement a disruptive mindset within the organization. This has to start from the top down and will require buy-in from the employees. It will be interesting to see what they do over the next 2-3 years as more entrants enter marketplace.