Shalei Holway

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On November 20, 2017, Shalei Holway commented on Associated British Foods: Mmmmm…Brexit :

There are many advantages to allowing businesses to lobby government decisions. One of the foremost benefits is that it enables issues to surface that impact the lay consumer, however that the lay consumer probably would not be aware of. For example, if most civilians are unaware that Brexit would result in higher commodity prices, it is to the populace’s benefit that trade organizations and firms are able to surface this issue with lawmakers. The disadvantage to this, of course, is that oftentimes the masses would need to be highly organized, share a common view, and willing to pool resources in order to have the same share of voice as one business, which serves as a single point of communication and resources.

To the point at which businesses have a far disproportionate voice to the people, and moreover can coerce politicians though massive campaign donations, businesses carry an unfair weight in politics. However, this brightline is extremely difficult to draw and therefore I am sympathetic to a flat ‘no lobbying’ policy.

On November 20, 2017, Shalei Holway commented on Walmart: It’s my party and I can cry if I want to :

I want to build on Chris’s idea about leveraging brick-and-mortar stores as a competitive advantage. This would require integration with a fast delivery platform (which Amazon seems to have mastered with Amazon Prime’s Same-Day Delivery). Perhaps by partnering with a company like Uber to facilitate quick transportation from stores directly to the customer, Walmart can compete with Amazon’s uber-efficient supply chain (excuse the pun) and simultaneously shift customer perception to align with ‘operating at the frontier of technological innovation’.

Expanding on the app idea, another way that Walmart could convert in-store customers to online users is by introducing a ‘Walmart pay’ system whereby people could use a credit card linked to the app to make purchases (similar to Starbucks). This would enable the app to bridge the gap between a customer’s in-store behavior and online purchasing patterns, thereby allowing the app to make more customized recommendations for online activity.

On November 20, 2017, Shalei Holway commented on Holy Guacamole! Your Super-Bowl snack is about to get pricey. :

While I agree that it seems that the US may need to find new markets for avocados, I was surprised that China was a possible alternative. According to the US government, the shelf life of an avocado is 7-28 days (see link below). Asian suppliers of avocados would need to find a very efficient means of transporting the avocados in order for them to have the same life when they reach grocery stores as avocados from our neighbor Mexico.

As I was reading your post I was interested in the question that you raised of price sensitivity. Will US consumers be willing to bear the burden of higher tariffs? You mentioned that avocado prices have fluctuated due to changes in demand. I wonder if we could get a sense of price sensitivity by looking to this past data and measuring consumer responses.

Finally, are there any synthetic / greenhouse alternative options to avocado production that we could create here in the US? While this may be possible, my guess is that the higher production cost would be comparable, if not more, to that caused by the tariffs.

On November 20, 2017, Shalei Holway commented on Climate Change and H&M: Is Sustainability the Answer? :

I’m very glad that you chose this topic, Andrea, because we’re observing the huge environmental impact of the fast fashion industry as it scales. While your post was extremely informative, it begs a lot of interesting questions.

Intuitively, it seems that as people begin to view clothes as ‘disposable’ as opposed to long-lasting products, this will inevitably lead to more waste. While H&M’s Garment Recycling program attempts to combat some of this waste, it seems unlikely that a large portion of their customers would take part in this for a number of reasons including difficulty traveling to return the items (especially in developing countries or rural areas), perception of the clothes as disposable, and lack of awareness of the program. Given the fundamental ‘use it and lose it’ concept behind the ‘fast fashion’ industry, it possible to make fast-fashion as sustainable as non-fast fashion clothing companies?

More over, after reading the IKEA case today I can’t help but wonder about whether it is possible that when using these sustainable materials, H&M can also reduce their weight, thereby significantly reducing transportation waste. However, I have to wonder whether as H&M becomes that much more responsive to customer demand and is able to quickly stock stores, if this will inevitably lead to lower volumes being transported, shipping trucks that not filled to 100% capacity, and increased environmental waste. The issue of how H&M can quickly respond to customer demand while simultaneously be very efficient in their transportation is an interesting one.

With respect to your question about whether or not e-commerce will kill brick and mortar retail – I believe that for stores like Target it will shrink them but not eliminate them altogether. Customers who used to rely on regular trips to Target to purchase routine household goods such as paper towels may find it far more convenient to order them online. However, many Target customers such as my sister go into the store to browse (even on a weekly basis) with only a vague idea of what they’re looking to get, if anything. This is because for them, going into the physical store is an experience. The serendipitousness of running into an item you didn’t realize you needed or wanted, or a great deal, is much more rewarding and easier to create in a brick-and-mortar store as opposed to online, where much of the customer’s product discovery is through intentional search.

Target’s e-commerce platform can better create this experience of the unexpected ‘find’ by being able to track a customer as they interact with the customer both in the store AND online. This would provide a holistic view of customer shopping patterns, and would enable Target to better customize the online user experience. However as you alluded to, this is a huge challenge of digitalization.

On November 20, 2017, Shalei Holway commented on Cuckoo for Cocoa: One Confectioner’s Push for Sustainability :

This was a very interesting take on the future of my favorite food. While I have read a great deal about unethical treatment of laborers in the cocoa industry, I was unaware of how climate change will impact cocoa production. In addition to the solutions you’ve posed, I’m curious about whether Mars is considering two other alternatives: (1) diversifying the locations where the cocoa is sourced away from the West African countries that are being impacted by climate change and (2) whether they are looking into using cocoa substitutes. With respect to (1) we’d need to learn more about other areas of the world where the land is hospitable to harvesting cocoa, and whether these areas will be less impacted by climate change. For (2), it seems like there are some alternatives to cocoa, such as palm oil (see link to the Reuters article below). However would Mars, a iconic American chocolate company, want to venture into substitutes? Perhaps yes if cocoa becomes far more expensive, or worse, altogether unavailable.