Andy – this is a very interesting article and highlights some of the impressive operating levers that Costco is able to pull. CNBC had a great documentary on this (http://www.cnbc.com/the-costco-craze-inside-the-warehouse-giant/) that highlights their business and culture. As I read your article, I couldn’t help but think about Amazon and question whether or not they pose a real threat to Costco. Although consumers are moving online, there is something unique about the bulk purchase opportunity that Costco offers. Given it is a trip that only happens once or twice a month for most families, it seems like something that they could be willing to continue doing. That said, I wonder if there is any opportunity for Costco to think about expanding online or being competitive in that space?
Annie – I was actually on a Southwest plane yesterday. They finally added wi-fi to planes which is fantastic! This is a very interesting essay, particularly given all of their recent advertising about “transfarency” and their commitment to not charging any incremental fees for bags, change of flights, etc. Given they have made a business commitment to not up-sell consumers for any incremental perks, it seems like they are significantly limiting their ability to drive sales and margin improvement. You have highlighted their key focus on the operations side which is about improving turn-around time. Do you think they will be able to continue this trajectory without upsetting consumers? I wonder if there is a tipping point where consumers begin feeling turned off by being rushed off the plane, cleaning their own seats, or whatever Southwest thinks up next.
Ban – you raise interesting points about the importance of centralized decision making in managing the ABInBev brands. Although I understand that beer is a product that seems to have no borders, I wonder if scale will become an increasingly difficult issue to manage. Consumers seem to be preferring craft beers and a variety of options which is broadening the ABInBev portfolio in terms of types, sizes, and brands of beer. Do you think it is possible for them to continue their centralized decision making throughout this evolution or do you think this organization will be able to start leaving decisions in the hands of local or regional business leaders?