Ocado wages a grocery war against Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba 14 November 2019
PANIC IS SWEEPING through supermarket aisles. Profits are meagre, convenience is king, discounters are rife. Even Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba, the world’s three biggest retailers, are trembling. No one has fully mastered the art of selling groceries online. The business represents just 2.3%, or $160bn, of a worldwide grocery market of $7trn. As that share rises, as it will surely continue to, it could be life or death for some in the industry.
In the midst of this mêlée is a fast-talking Brit, Tim Steiner. The firm he co-founded, Ocado, has shaken up the British online retail market, and it is trying to do the same internationally. By selling expertise from almost 20 years as a pioneering online grocer to supermarkets in America and elsewhere, he wants to help them become a fourth force in the industry—able to resist the big three.
His patter is honed by a career battling doubters (an analyst once put him down with the quip: “Ocado begins with an ‘o’, ends with an ‘o’, and is worth zero”). Sceptics still harbour deep reservations. Though Ocado has more than tripled in value in the past two years to £7.5bn ($9.6bn), its share price has plunged recently. But his insurgency shows how the battle to dominate online groceries remains wide open. Ocado has as good a chance as anyone.
Grocery is a sadomasochistic business…