Pull Forward? Q4's Retail Conundrum: Plus CEOs of Zebra Technologies, Paper, Arctic Wolf
Anders Gustafsson of Zebra Technologies, Phil Cutler of Paper, Nick Schneider of Arctic Wolf
Adobe released its holiday forecast this week, and it’s a nail-biter: The company says retailers are trying so hard to get consumers interested in spending now, that they’re probably weakening demand for later in the season. This has implications across e-commerce, electronics, and possibly cloud.
A prime example: Amazon’s Prime Day this week. Wait a second, you say. Wasn’t the last Prime Day just earlier this year? Yeah, it was. Amazon’s doing two this year. Not to be left out, Walmart and Target are staging sales of their own, which no doubt serves as an opportunity for them (and for suppliers) to liquidate excess inventory ahead of the deluge of cashmere sweaters, scented candles and winter coats heading to warehouses next month.
What’s all this got to do with tech? Plenty.
I spoke with Zebra Technologies CEO Anders Gustafsson last week about how his company’s technology helps customers more efficiently keep track of items through the supply chain and on retail shelves, at a time when labor is scarce and expensive. He told me customers are embracing machine vision and warehouse robots even as they watch the bottom line, because they know they’ll need to do more with fewer people in both good times and bad.
I also spoke with Arctic Wolf CEO Nick Schneider about $400 million in new financing the company announced last week, and why cybersecurity (including Arctic Wolf’s hands-on concierge model) continues to see strong demand in a volatile economy.
The broader economy provides a challenging backdrop for a couple of announcements this week. Tuesday, Meta (formerly Facebook) hosts Meta Connect, an event where we expect to see the next-generation VR headset, nicknamed Project Cambria. Wednesday, Microsoft hosts a fall event where we expect to see new Surface devices. Both events are likely to pitch premium hardware to a consumer with shrinking savings, higher-interest credit card bills, and a chorus of SALE! enticements competing for attention.
And then there’s cloud infrastructure. One of the popular uses for the services Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and others provide is additional capacity during peak shopping seasons. What Adobe is predicting this year sounds to me like a dramatic smoothing out of the usual seasonal peaks. Revenue is expected to be flat to slightly up from last year, which suggests that in an inflationary environment, unit sales might actually be down.
What does this shift mean for a cloud ecosystem that’s known only a decade-plus of surging growth for online commerce during the holiday peak? We’ll find out together.
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