on amazon.

This photo was taken last month, during a sunny Saturday spent hiking in the fields. Around 100 cows and sheep, accompanied by their shepherd, paused to nibble on the leaves from nearby shrubs, the jingle-jangle of their cowbells creating a melodic dissonance.

Jingle Bells.

The sun still shines, often and intensely. At night, the city lights up like a circus, post-work crowds dashing about in pursuit of holiday gifts or a Yuletide feeling.

What do you think about Amazon? Do you have strong feelings for or against it? I did some of my Christmas shopping on there. While waiting for the package to arrive, I began seeing some front-page articles advocating shopping elsewhere. This year, I completed orders for three items on Amazon: a lovely book on creativity, some shoelaces, and aforementioned gift. Had the shopkeeper given me a precise restock date for the latter, I would have bought it in the physical, nearby store where I had first seen it. I also placed three orders on Amazon in 2017, and two in 2016.

From this scant record, I think I am not a prime Amazon user, and that subscription to Prime would be lost on me. Although a writer of one of the articles started off with two or three Amazon orders a year, he noted that he had made 119 orders so far in 2018, his third year as a Prime user.

Here are some of the benefits of Amazon that I see. Amazon is a good one-stop aggregator of products, backed by a strong search engine. More often than not, you will find what you’re looking for on there, with the range of styles and prices presented to you in a no-frills, one-page format. For those who like Netflix and movies on demand, Amazon is now a strong player in that sphere, too. With Prime, shipping is cheaper, or free. As an aside, last year, when I introduced free global shipping to our own operations, it was in keeping with the New Way Amazon has introduced to e-commerce. It is now reasonable to hold the expectation of free shipping. Amazon is reliable. Items also seldom remain listed if they are out of stock. Returns processing follows a reliable and straightforward process. For new products, a date-specific pre-order option is usually available. A responder to one of the articles noted how much easier it made her life, as a person with a disability.

For those on the sidelines, especially those in e-commerce, it is good to note some of these characteristics, and to note which ones are worthy of emulation.

If something about the ethos of a company, etc, bothers you, research it to learn more about how that ethos affects you as a consumer or patron. If you can’t live with it, find alternatives. Or go without that good or service, entirely. It has been nice to read articles on why people are thinking of ending their Prime subscription. So if you have a platform, I think it’s a good idea to use it to express your views, and in the process, educate others (like me) on the pros and cons of continued patronage.

Update: I felt it necessary to include this update on Amazon Prime members’ recent reservations about the service, namely, that Prime 2-day shipping is now too often 5-7 day shipping. Also, that even with Prime membership, not all items are eligible for 2-day shipping, leading Prime members to comb through product listings to find the ones that are Prime-eligible. Here is a Fast Company article (19 Dec. 2018) that details these reservations, along with links to other users with the same issues, on Reddit and Quora.

On the Amazon logistics side, the challenge lies in the reality that human beings are still the ones doing much of the order fulfilment in Amazon warehouses, driving the delivery trucks, etc. One Redditor noted that the slowdown was more noticeable once AMZL, which I think is Amazon’s fulfilment arm to rival USPS, DHL, etc, was launched. And the quandary of people wanting their items delivered fast, sigh, particularly when they pay $119 a year for shipping.

One thing the article highlighted is the importance of stating when the 2-day count begins for shipping. Does it include processing times, or is processing time an 8-day add-on? Customers like to know this, and it is within their rights to. I hadn’t thought I would find logistics interesting, but it is such a vital part of customer satisfaction that I find myself giving it more and more of a thought as my company, Minku, advances.

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The 6 best luxury shopping sites for men and women

There is a joy in seeing very pretty things showcased together, and a thrill in knowing you can choose to own any of them at the click of a button. Natalie Massenet’s Net-A-Porter showed us we didn’t have to go to a Dolce and Gabbana store window or the Prado Museum to feel that high — it could be delivered, via high-resolution images, multiple-angle shots, and smart copy, with a click of a button or the swipe of a finger. With the new-era Net-A-Porter seeming to focus on scale and lose a bit of its indie charm, here are six of the freshest curated luxury sites to visit now.

  1. Totokaelo: if the name hasn’t already convinced you that this Seattle-based e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar retailer is Japanese in its philosophy, the sparseness of its design will. Rachel Comey, Yohji Yamamoto, and Maison Martin Margiela aren’t big accounts that are stocked everywhere, but therein lies Totokaelo’s finesse. Influence: Japan.
  2. Matches Fashion: I love the matches. You love the matches. Everybody loves the matches. Lanvin, Loewe, Oscar de la Renta, Matches’ selections each season are the creme of the crop of some of the most artisanal designers, of which there aren’t many left. Influence: Western and Southern Europe.
  3. Minku: Speaking of artisanal designers, Minku has a small, artisanal e-commerce presence with a handmade feel. Were there a slow-food movement equivalent for clothing and accessories, Minku would be a firm member. Erring on the side of having too few merchandise items, what this Nigerian brand does have — leather bags, luggage, leather-bound journals, glass-bead bracelets, and densely-woven cotton clothing — awakens desire through attention to detail in both creation and presentation. Influence: Nigeria and the sub-Sahara.
  4. Browns Fashion: How such a small London boutique managed to catch the eye at Net-A-Porter/Colette levels is still a mystery. One guess is that it is down to the fearlessness of their buyers. It’s the brands you know, like Del Pozo, Balenciaga, Olympia Le-Tan and Dolce & Gabbana, but some of their most desirable pieces. Browns Fashion is currently owned by FarFetch, a fashion e-commerce site that aggregates third-party boutiques/brands to sell on its site so seamlessly, it would have made this list were its zero-inventory ‘marketplace’ model not so different from the other e-tailers on the list. Influence: UK, Southern Europe.
  5. Luisa Via Roma: The name is long, but if you remember the order of all its vowels, it delivers a pretty selection of items. Like with Net-A-Porter, you may have to filter through quite some stuff to get to the heartwarming items (case in point: 1,682 items in the Fashion Jewelry category alone), but they are there. Brands: Dolce and Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Chloe, Saint Laurent, Dries Van Noten, Bottega Veneta. Influence: Western Europe.
  6. Kuznetsky Most-20: Named for its address in Moscow’s upscale Kuznetsky Most (Blacksmith’s Bridge) street, this online destination stocks all the cool-kid brands from the USA and Europe, as well as some of Russia’s finest casual wear designers. The selection includes Ashish, Off-White, Heron Preston, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Cav Emt, and Yeezy. Hip hop culture is alive and thriving beautifully in Moscow. Influence: USA, Russia.

Have we missed some of your favorite inspirations for a wine o’clock merch browse? Include them in the comments!

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