• The Wall Street Journal reports that “a surge in holiday shopping online has made Amazon a kingmaker. Amazon is expected to drive as much as half of all U.S. retail sales growth this year during the holidays, according to Morgan Stanley estimates. About 42 cents of every dollar spent online year-to-date went to Amazon, up from 38 cents during the holiday period a year ago, according to Slice Intelligence, which tracks a panel of more than 5 million U.S. online shoppers.”

The story makes the point that Amazon has a program called Launchpad that allows businesses “to forecast demand, boost marketing and plan for Black Friday, when discounting plays a significant role in the onset of the year’s most critical shopping period.”

According to the Journal, “Companies are using Amazon’s online reviews and marketing on the site as an alternative to persuading traditional retailers to add a new item to store shelves. In addition, the 2,100 startups that participate in Launchpad get special visibility on Amazon’s website, dedicated pages that include information about the company and founders and inclusion on gift lists. Amazon also buys inventory from the startups and sells the products directly on its site.

“Amazon handpicks and invites startups to join its free Launchpad program based on a number of factors, which can include existing customer reviews, online sales performance and outside awards. For Amazon, access to early-stage brands gives the company exclusive or new, hot products and a bigger selection than rivals.”


• In Toronto, the Globe and Mail reports that Loblaw “is testing a fee-based membership program to draw more consumers,” mimicking approaches taken by Amazon and Costco.

The new PC Insiders program will charge members $9.99 a month or $99 a year, and offer them “a range of perks, including extra reward points and free shipping for some purchases.”

PC Insiders benefits also can be used, the story says, at Loblaw-owned “Shoppers Drug Mart's beautyboutique.ca, its Joe Fresh offerings and joefresh.com online deliveries as well, and its Click & Collect e-commerce service at almost 200 of its locations.”

According to the story, “The PC Insiders fee-based membership program will provide subscribers with such benefits as 20 per cent back in PC points when they buy essentials such as diapers, infant formula and PC Organics products in-store and online; 20 per cent back in PC points for Joe Fresh products in-store and online at joefresh.com; and 20 times the PC points for purchases at beautyboutique.ca. Other perks include free Click & Collect pick-up service at almost 200 Loblaw stores; free shipping for beautyboutique.ca and joefresh.com purchases; a $99 PC travel credit once a year when booking a trip on pctravel.ca (for annual subscriptions only).”