PhillyDeals: Montco affiliate delivers a bargain

Posted: March 18, 2014

Not that many years ago, was a low-wage warehouse network and online-shopping operator that, like the Japanese carmakers of the 1970s and '80s, seemed more interested in boosting market share than turning a profit.

By making purchases more efficient - sending boxes to your door free, or nearly so - Amazon was better able to kill real-world chains like  Borders and  Circuit City and cripple department stores.

But as it morphs into a cloud-computing, media-building, and advertising empire and projected profits rise into the billions, it has started raising prices.

And we know where that gets you on the Internet: After Amazon boosted its two-day free-delivery Amazon Prime yearly fee to $99 from $79 effective April 17 (or $299 for same-day delivery), ShopRunner - an arm of Michael Rubin's Conshohocken-based Alibaba- and eBay-backed Kynetic group of online retail companies - said it would give away a year of free delivery from Neiman Marcus and scores of other chain-store and clothing-supply clients, and promised to charge just $79 (its current price, and Amazon's old one) for the second year.

How's that going? "We're really, really pleased at the response," Fiona Dias, chief strategy officer at ShopRunner, told me. She won't say how pleased - it's a private company and purposely "vague" about its "over one million" members - but "there's a lot of zeroes" on the new sign-ups, said Dias, who lately relocated to Sarasota, Fla., to oversee ShopRunner's attempt to keep Amazon from strangling the rest of the chain stores and independent brands.

Not many left

The diplomats' strike that paralyzed Philadelphia's Counsulate General of Israel, in solidarity with other Israeli foreign-service offices, over their festering financial dispute with the national government may add a level to the debate noted in the Jerusalem Post and other Israeli media last year on how that nation should prioritize its foreign offices outside capital cities.

Some in the government, the Jpost noted, argue a major role for the nation's diplomatic offices is to serve as propaganda and fund-raising centers to rally supporters in cities, like Philadelphia, with significant commercial and personal ties to Israel.

Others urge consuls to focus more on new trade development and think the nation should consider closing offices in second-tier cities like Philadelphia to fund new offices in fast-growing countries full of potential customers and suppliers - say, China.

Israel is one of a handful of nations   that maintain full-time diplomatic staff in Philadelphia, 214 years after it ceased being the national capital and the top European embassies headed to Washington. Italy considered closing its Philly consulate last year but relented after protests, including a letter from Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) warning a shutdown would damage the "historically strong relationship" between la citta e la patria.



comments powered by Disqus