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🎄📦 Sent Items #110: Wednesday, December 23, 2020 🎄📦

Hi All!

2 days until Christmas!  We…. made it! Sort of...  If you’re still shipping orders or gifts … well, you’re almost out of luck. Upgrade to Next Day via UPS or FedEx and then cross your fingers!

Only 9 more days to go in this crazy year. Remember when we were all so jazzed about flipping the calendar to this new decade a year ago? Hopefully the worst is behind us and ‘21 proves to be a move in the right direction.

I hope everyone is staying safe, and healthy, and that you enjoy the final few days of the year. I am planning on sending a final issue of the year next week but it will likely be shorter and possibly include a brief survey for feedback. The Sent Items subscriber list has almost doubled this year and I’d love to get feedback from all my new and OG subscribers on what they want to see more and less of going forward.

For example, do you care to see more articles like this one of the beleaguered Dippin Dots supporting the COVID vaccine distribution?

Happy Holidays, Happy Festivus, and Merry Christmas!

- Matt

As holiday shipping deadlines approach, retailers are going all in on same-day delivery - Modern Retail

  • Apple kicked off same-day courier delivery of eligible purchases across what it described as “most metro” areas. For a limited time, they are offering 2-hour delivery provided by Postmates on in-stock items for a $5 fee. The announcement follows in the footsteps of electronics retailer Best Buy, which began offering local deliveries powered by Instacart last month. Now that delivery carriers like USPS and FedEx are experiencing record demand, delays are mounting. As a result, brands are seeking out new last mile partners to help with last minute shopping.

  • Apple is just the latest high profile brand to add same-day delivery options. In recent weeks, others have scrambled to roll out same-day delivery to supplement already-delayed shipments. Chico’s announced a partnership with delivery platform Roadie. According to the company, the rollout already covers 97% of its locations. Petco also announced the debut of an exclusive partnership with DoorDash, which offers shoppers free same-day delivery on purchases over $35.

  • As Christmas steadily approaches, Dalton said retailers will likely switch to promoting same-day delivery. She also pointed to Sephora’s recent Instacart partnership as an example of a retailer tapping into a logistics service’s network to deliver orders in time for the holidays.

Amazon Has Turned a Middle-Class Warehouse Career Into a McJob - Bloomberg

  • Amazon job ads are everywhere. Plastered on city buses, displayed on career websites, slotted between songs on classic rock stations. They promise a quick start, $15 an hour and health insurance. In recent weeks, America’s second-largest employer (Walmart is #1) has rolled out videos featuring happy package handlers wearing masks, a pandemic-era twist on its annual holiday season hiring spree.

  • Amazon’s object is to persuade potential recruits that there’s no better place to work. The reality is less rosy. Many Amazon warehouse employees struggle to pay the bills, and more than 4,000 employees are on food stamps in nine states studied by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Only Walmart, McDonald’s and two dollar-store chains have more workers requiring such assistance, according to the report, which said 70% of recipients work full-time. As Amazon opens U.S. warehouses at the rate of about one a day, it’s transforming the logistics industry from a career destination with the promise of middle-class wages into entry-level work that’s just a notch above being a burger flipper or convenience store cashier. 

  • I must say, I don’t fully agree with this narrative. There are many reasons I believe working a warehouse at Amazon differs from flipping burgers at McDonald’s. One reason is the difference this time is that Amazon is paying a minimum of $15/hr. I can’t recall what McDonald’s pays, on average, but I believe it is < $10 in most markets. Amazon is trying to pay as much as reasonably possible, and their $15 minimum has forced essentially all their warehousing peers and competitors - be it Walmart, Wayfair, Home Depot, or any 3PL in the market to offer similarly high wages. 

Jeff Bezos and Amazon execs have discussed launching a rival to Shopify, whose meteoric rise has increasingly intruded on the online giant's turf - Business Insider

  • Amazon executives this year considered launching a new service that would compete with Shopify dubbed “Project Santos”.

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was directly involved in the talks, as Amazon executives have grown "defensive" about Shopify's massive growth in recent years, a person familiar with the matter said.

  • The company previously shut down a similar service called Amazon Webstore in 2015.

  • Unlike Amazon, Shopify doesn't sell anything directly to consumers or operate a marketplace where other merchants can sell their products. Instead, Shopify sells various online services, like the technology needed to run a website and accept online payments.

  • But the two companies effectively fight over the same online merchants, who typically sell on both Amazon and their own websites, often run by Shopify's technology. For Amazon, it's important to keep those merchants selling on its marketplace, as they add to the number of products available on its site, which in turn attract more customers.

Supply-Chain Technology Provider Project44 Gains $100 Million in New Backing - WSJ

  • Logistics technology provider project44 raised $100 million in what will help to expand the reach of its supply-chain visibility software and build its business as it weighs a potential public stock offering over the long term.

  • The investment is the latest in a growing surge of financial support going to digitally-focused logistics providers and software startups that are looking to bring new technology tools that help companies run supply chains more efficiently.

  • Project44’s technology provides visibility allowing companies to see how their shipments are moving through distribution networks and to help make adjustments in case of snags or changes in market demands. The company’s platform uses application program interface technology, or APIs, and other connections to collect information from numerous freight transportation and logistics providers and put it into a standard format that retailers, manufacturers and other shippers can use.

Passport, the Modern International Shipping Carrier, Raises $12M Series A 

  • Passport announced it has raised $12M in Series A funding, led by M13 with participation from Resolute Ventures, Precursor, Kleiner Perkins, RiverPark, and Republic. The company plans to use the funds to invest in its parcel supply chain network and continue to scale operations across the board.

  • Since its founding, Passport has shipped nearly 3M packages to countries all over the world from ecommerce and DTC brands like Betabrand, Native and Bombas, helping customers grow their international shipping volume by 43% year-over-year.

  • Passport is a modern international shipping carrier that helps ecommerce merchants instantly unlock a global customer base by managing the digital, logistical and regulatory complexities of cross-border shipping in one simple solution. The company blends deep international parcel logistics expertise with value-added software and support that integrates seamlessly into any brand's shopping cart and 3PL to deliver a consistent brand experience to every country in the world. Founded in 2017, Passport is led by CEO Alex Yancher, the company is based in San Francisco, CA. For more information, visit

  • Disclosure: I’m an investor in and advisor of Passport. 

UPS Announces New SurePost Rates, Effective December 27 - Parcel

  • UPS has finally announced its SurePost rates for 2021. Just like the previously announced increases to UPS’s other services, these rates will go into effect on December 27. 

  • The overall increase is 5.2% for 2021. SurePost ounce rates are going up by 7.2%, another significant jump. The SurePost minimum billable amount is increasing by almost 8%.

  • UPS is taking significant increases in the same segment of its business that has grown tremendously in 2020. With more packages being delivered to residences, and the average residential package weighing less than commercial, shippers are going to see an increase significantly higher than the announced 4.9%.

  • UPS will reinstate its pre-holiday peak surcharge rates beginning Jan 17, for an indefinite amount of time. The January surcharges cover UPS Ground Residential Service and UPS SurePost, as well as large packages and those that require additional handling. The surcharges on Ground Residential and SurePost packages will apply to any shipper that has shipped more than 25,000 packages in any single week since February. In May, the surcharges applied to any shipper moving 25,000 packages more than its average volume in February.

Marketplaces Year in Review 2020 - Marketplace Pulse

  • Joe Kaziukenas is the smartest person I know when it comes to Amazon and ecommerce marketplaces.

  • He just put out this report which looks at the state of marketplaces and describes the most important trends.

  • As he puts it, “2020 was the best year for e-commerce marketplaces in over a decade. E-commerce growth had a step change, and marketplaces captured most of it. In aggregate, it was the most successful year for sellers and brands that transact through them, too.” Worth reading cover to cover.

Tobi Lütke - The Observer Effect

  • Excellent long-form written interview with Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify and one of the most thoughtful and original leaders today.

  • The most original thinker in tech: Shopify founder and CEO Tobi Lütke has a fascinating mind. He's developed mental models around creativity, product creation, and learning. "I find that going wide and learning the best lessons from the people who have dedicated their entire lives to a certain pursuit gets you really, really close to mastery,” he says. This is a fascinating deep dive into Lütke's approach to leadership: he talks about "expansion pack teams," "greenpathing exercises," and "the trust battery."

How Amazon Wins: By Steamrolling Rivals and Partners - WSJ

  • The competitive zeal that helped build Amazon into an online retail juggernaut is drawing sharp pushback. While founder Jeff Bezos has publicly focused on keeping customers happy, Amazon executives behind the scenes have methodically waged targeted campaigns against rivals and partners alike. The efforts include aggressive operations against online retailers like Wayfair and what some third-party sellers say are strategies to root out closely-held information on the merchants’ suppliers. They say Amazon’s goal is to manufacture its own similar products. Amazon’s tactics are under fierce debate in the logistics sector as the company builds a distribution network that could compete with traditional providers. Amazon most recently has zeroed in on Shopify, a fast-growing company that helps small merchants create online storefronts and has become a favorite of sellers looking for alternatives to Amazon’s marketplace. Amazon calls its secret Shopify team “Project Santos.”

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© 2020 Second Marathon Consulting, LLC
Matthew Hertz is the founder of Second Marathon.

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