When I read that Amazon was in talks to partner with big fashion retailers like J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch and Neiman Marcus, it got my attention. Despite Amazon’s leadership position in online retail, you typically don’t associate these higher-end clothing retailers with a mainstream site that targets essentially everyone.
If we were talking about a partnership between Amazon and Wal-Mart WMT -0.94% or even Costco, that would be far less surprising because of their parallels in broad customer bases and emphasis on low prices. But rather than partnering, Wal-Mart is making its own investments to level the playing field with Amazon. So why are fancier retailers like Neiman Marcus considering such a partnership? What are the risks? And do these risks outweigh the possible benefits? I think they do.
One of the big financial stories of 2014 has been Amazon versus its investors. The company’s stock, after climbing nearly 40% in 2013, started to slip early this year, then plunged 11% on the last day of trading in January. Throughout February, the stock remained in the doldrums.
Investors, it seems, are weary of Jeff Bezos’ practice of plowing Amazon’s oversized revenue into secret projects designed to grow the massive company even more. The stock’s big drop in January coincided with the company’s announcement that it planned to raise the price of Amazon Prime, a sign that investors don’t trust management to use whatever money the price hike might generate to benefit shareholders.
Even before coming to Seattle for the first time on MIT Sloan’s Tech Trek, I had a feeling that I’d like this place. I’d heard how it’s laid back and outdoorsy. Yeah, rainy weather, but I’d also heard how friendly everyone is. Having just returned from our visit, I can say that the city lived up to its reputation. I really liked the vibe.
We visited three big tech companies on our visit: Amazon, Microsoft and Groupon. They had all given formal presentations on MIT’s campus and are always in the news, so we were all pretty well-informed about them. Visiting on their home turf, however, gave us a unique opportunity to observe and experience their culture, get a feel for the environment, and ask more probing questions. We also visited the venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group, which hosted a startup panel discussion.
During my recent visit to Seattle with MIT Sloan’s Technology Club, the city impressed me as a vibrant, outdoorsy town with a dynamic technological ecosystem. And man, do Seattleites love their teams.
As a native of Boston — a city famous for its rabid sports culture — I have to hand it to Seattle, whose fans regularly cause earthquakes by cheering for their football team. (According to seismologists, Seahawks fans shook the ground under CenturyLink Field during the recent playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, causing the second Seattle fan-generated earthquake in three years.) Respect.
Fervent fans aside, what I found most striking about the city was its entrepreneurial spirit. Sure, I knew about the creative work done by Seattle’s blue chip behemoths: Microsoft and Amazon. But I hadn’t appreciated the city’s thriving startup culture.
Having grown up in Portland, I didn’t really think anything would come as much of a surprise during my career trek to Seattle with MIT Sloan’s Tech Club. After all, I had visited Seattle many times with my family over the years.
While some of my classmates were shocked at things like the weather (yes, the sun does shine here), the silent traffic (no horns!), and the abundance of coffee shops, I knew to expect these things.
Philip Simko is a first-year student in MIT Sloan’s MBA program and vice president of treks for MIT Sloan’s High Tech Club. He is currently working as an intern at Wellframe in Boston, and is interested in working in the high-tech field