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AMZN vs WMT Weekly: Amazon Rejects Monopoly Charges As Rival Walmart Rolls Hands-Free

Amazon is facing a broadened antitrust complaint from District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, this time focused on the eCommerce giant’s relationships with wholesalers and alleging anticompetitive acts.

Racine previously sued Amazon in May, claiming that the company has monopolistic powers because of its pricing contracts with third-party sellers. The new filing says Amazon’s “Minimum Margin Agreement” with first-party sellers has the effect of incentivizing wholesalers to raise their prices for online marketplaces outside of Amazon because those deals force wholesalers to guarantee Amazon a minimum profit.

Read more: DC AG Racine Expands Scope of Amazon Antitrust Complaint

In a televised interview with CNBC’s Jon Fortt earlier this week, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said he doesn’t believe the company is close to having monopoly power, which would entail the ability to increase prices “in an unconstrained way.”

“We compete with very large companies,” Jassy said. “These are companies like Walmart and Target and Kroger, and some very successful digital companies like eBay and Etsy and Wayfair, and we don’t have the ability to raise prices in any kind of unfettered way … The rhetoric sounds good, but you’ve got to look at what [the] reality is.”

Beauty and the Retail Beast

Consumers hoping for a second Prime Day this year may have been slightly disappointed this week when reports emerged that Amazon is instead planning to roll out a beauty products event next month to entice early holiday shoppers and bolster its standing in the category.

The eCommerce giant sent a slide deck to beauty brands saying that the company will likely hold the event between Oct. 4 and 25 this year, CNBC reported. Amazon is presenting the event as a way to draw customers in during Black Friday week “but also long term with additional marketing levers.”

“This is a unique opportunity for selected brands to reach both more shoppers and new customers,” Amazon wrote in the slide deck.

Also read: Amazon To Offer Beauty Sales Event in October

After months of being trapped inside, consumers seem to be embracing a post-pandemic beauty trend, driving traffic to retailers such as Ulta Beauty and leading others, including Target, JCPenney and Kohl’s, to open shop-in-shop experiences.

The beauty industry has also been of interest to Amazon as it tries to diversify, with the company working to expand its offerings. According to PYMNTS data, Amazon saw 4% of health and personal care sales in the second quarter, though it had a 44% share of eCommerce purchases in the category. Walmart, for its part, had a 5.9% share of the health and personal care category.

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Paving The Autonomous Road

Walmart is collaborating with Ford and Argo AI to launch driverless delivery services in Miami; Washington, D.C.; and Austin Texas, allowing consumers in certain parts of those cities to place online orders for groceries and other items for door-to-door autonomous delivery.

See: Ford, Argo AI and Walmart Bringing Driverless Delivery to Miami, DC and Austin

This is far from Walmart’s first foray into driverless technology, but the partnership with Ford and launching in three of the largest cities in the U.S. shows the company confidence in the technology and marks a leap forward in its rollout. The box store giant estimates that 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart location.

“This collaboration will further our mission to get products to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease, and in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery,” Tom Ward, Walmart U.S. senior vice president of last-mile delivery, said in a statement.

Argo and Ford have been operating in Miami and Washington, D.C., since 2018 and in Austin since 2019 to build autonomous ride-hailing and delivery services; Walmart previously tested with Ford in Miami in 2018.

Earlier this year, Walmart also expanded its pilot of using driverless trucks from a company called Gatik for inter-store deliveries, running tests without a human driver as backup after 70,000 miles with a person riding shotgun. The retailer also launched a test in Louisiana in which a driverless truck travels 20 miles between New Orleans and Metairie to deliver items from a Supercenter to a “pickup point” for customers.

Show Me Your Hands

Not to be outdone on the technology front, Amazon also said this week that it would be bringing its palm scanning equipment to entertainment venues across the U.S. through a partnership with ticketing company AXS, the first time it will be used outside of a retail space.

Read more: Amazon One Palm Scanning Tech Moves Into Entertainment With AXS Collab

The eCommerce giant launched the contactless Amazon One tech a year ago as an alternative to using a QR code or app to enter its automated Go stores, an extension of Amazon’s Just Walk Out initiative. The collaboration with AXS will first see hand-swipe stations installed at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver before moving onto more of the 350-plus venues run by the company.

Bryan Perez, CEO of AXS, said Amazon One comes to the industry at a moment when there is demand for “fast, convenient and contactless ticketing solutions” because of the pandemic. According to PYMNTS research, 63% of consumers would switch to transacting with businesses that implement contactless payment capabilities, and 48% said they would no longer shop at physical stores that did not offer contactless payment options.

Live events were hit particularly hard at the onset of the pandemic, with most events postponed for months or canceled outright throughout 2020 and early 2021. Even as venues reopen, surging COVID cases are forcing some acts to proceed with caution. Earlier this month, Dave Matthews Band was forced to perform a set of shows in Washington state in an “alternate format” because of potential exposure to the virus; and Bonnaroo canceled its 2020/2021 festival last month after postponing at least four times since March 2020.

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