Stepping into the future

This weekend I got a chance to dive head first into what I think is the future of post-COVID-19 economy.

A while back I signed up for the freelancing site Upwork.com. You can check out my profile here if you’re curious.

I bid on a contract to help with some blog postings. I got it.

The contractor was in Dubai, who in turn needed the help to get a company in Somalia up to speed on how to write excellent web content for their website.

It was an enlightening glimpse into what a post COVID-19 global world might look like. As we’ve been forced to retreat from social interactions, much of our life is now done online. It is no surprise that much of our commerce is done online these days. We were already heading down that path before the pandemic. This has only sped up the change.

I found it eye opening to what could be. First off, the need for reliable internet is going to be paramount for the 21st Century. I’ve written that we need to change our perspective on internet in this country before. Second was how Africa is going to be the new frontier. Much of how China was toted as being the new economic frontier in the 1990’s, the focus has shifted to Africa. China is already capitalizing on this trend, focusing on it’s infamous Silk Road Initiative.

If our economy is going to recover post COVID-19, we’re going to have to look globally. To new frontiers and new economies to engage in. Africa is one of those new frontiers we ought to be looking at.

Carbon Pricing is here to stay…That’s a good thing.

The news of Canada is of course, the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal price on carbon emissions is of course constitutional. You can read it in it’s entirety here:

As the title suggests, I’m in favour of this ruling. For starters it finally puts an end to this pointless and petty argument from Conservative premiers in the country. We can finally focus our attention on real issues of the day.

More importantly, it forces our economy to finally leap into the 21st century. As I’ve written before, innovation and competition is in short supply in this country. As well, its time we faced facts that the fossil fuel industry isn’t the panacea we’ve all be raised to believe. We’ve had two Prime Ministers now, of two different parties, all keen on building pipelines. Yet the world is moving on. We in Canada need to as well.

Economies of the world are embracing new technologies. The internal combustion engine a staple of the modern era is going the way of the dinosaur. Green electric vehicles will soon become the norm. The repercussions of that will be widely impacted through out the economy.

A carbon pricing method, is the kickstart our economy needs to foster and boost innovation and invention to meet the new demand. As pricing increases, its basic market principles that will encourage efficiency and sustainability as cornerstones for manufacturing and logistics in the economy. While companies will no doubt pass along costs to consumers, what a carbon price does is encourage ways for companies to reduce their production costs which will of course be passed along to consumers. In the long terms, consumers benefit from a cleaner environment and cheaper products. Win, win.

The good news is that carbon pricing has already fostered invention. As can be seen here:

It’s not the end all solution. And some of the questions raised in the report definitely need to be addressed, yet it’s the kind of innovation that I like to see. If we’re to build a better and more sustainable economy post COVID-19, then this is the kind of thinking that will be required.

What if we could live in the future, today?

The most recent episode of The 905er. We spoke with Mike Moffatt on the reasons why housing in the province does nothing but go up. If you live in Ontario, I highly recommend you listen:

We’ve been paralyzed in this province by a lack of vision.

Too long the people of the province are caught between developers and NIMBY’s. Development in our province is reduced to an all or nothing proposition. Often it’s either small town Ontario, or Downtown Toronto. In the end developers win and we are left with a mish mash, hodge podge looking community.

It is clear density is needed, if we are to preserve our farmland and greenspace. Yet that doesn’t mean we need to stuck into a binary argument. This pandemic has presented options that we never needed to contemplate before. Working is becoming decentralized. The old model of planning of creating suburbs for people to live while commuting to a larger city on highways is outdated and quite frankly dead.

We have seen that working from home can be the wave of the future. If our community planners would embrace this as the model for the future, imagine the cities and communities we could live in? More viable greenspace and parks for people to enjoy, public wifi access in urban centres, denser living but more hospitable to humans. We could live in truly 21st Century environment.

We just need the will to do it.

Further Proof That I am Ahead of the Curve…

Last night The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiered on Disney +.

Four years go I tweeted this:

Where is the competition?

Big news in the business world yesterday in Canada was about Sobey’s purchase of Longo’s for $357 million. Giving them 51% control of Longo’s with an option to control 100% down the road. Normally, it would be the case of another business deal in Canada, however take a step back and see just what the parent company of Sobey’s now owns. Empire Company Ltd., now owns Farmboy, Safeway, IGA, Sobey’s FreshCO, Foodland and now Longo’s.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Rogers is looking to purchase Shaw in the telecom industry. A move that would make them the second largest telecom company in the country.

Read more…

Did we Miss an Opportunity?

We are reminiscing on the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its natural to look at the lives lost, the jobs lost, and the upending of our lives due to this pandemic. However, there has been something that has been stuck in the back of my mind. Despite the losses we have all felt from this pandemic, I believe there is an opportunity presented to us. A chance to innovate and improve on the status quo.

Going into lockdown one year ago, left many industries and businesses forced to redesign long standing logistics and business models. While service and professional industries could realign into a virtual environment relatively easily, the retail and restaurant industries were forced to seriously rethink their models. The restaurant industry continues to struggle, mostly due to its nature of being a socially active endeavour. However I have noticed that retail locations in Canada are notoriously slow to adapt to change.

It is well known that Amazon has been making a killing due to COVID-19. If there was a company that was made to thrive during a global pandemic, Amazon seems to be it. The criticism of Amazon for building a monopoly in online retail is somewhat undeserved in my opinion. Amazon has simply foreseen the landscape of commerce and is capitalizing on the opportunity that COVID-19 has present it with. I ask, where are the competitors. More importantly, why aren’t they Canadian?

Currently, the biggest competitor to Amazon is Walmart. For years the American retail giant has been encouraging customers to purchase online, with a big component being their curbside pick up:

During the pandemic, Walmart has upped their game to expand their e-commerce platform into fully automated fulfillment centres. Much akin to Amazon’s testing the waters with their Amazon Go sites. Walmart recently announced a partnership with new Canadian start up Ghost Kitchen, expanding their ability to bring American Brands to the Canadian market. All of this bodes well for consumers, as major brands strive to accomodate our lifestyles as opposed to demanding we meet theirs. The pandemic has encouraged Amazon and Walmart, to embrace innovation and change in order to remain competitive in the market place.

This of course, raises the question of where is the great Canadian innovation? We are with our own well known Canadian brands of course, and yet when it comes to see what they are offering, we are left wanting. I look at who would be positioned to at least make the in roads to disrupt the old styles of shopping in Canada and the first options I come up with are Indigo and Loblaws.

Indigo already has a starting point to compete with Amazon. Both companies started out with selling books. Indigo has expanded their online retailing to offer some additional wares from their retail locations. Unfortunately that seems to be where the innovation ends. Anecdotally, my wife bought an online gift card for Christmas from Indigo. Unfortunately, there was a mix up and she had to return it. The refund was only put through a few weeks ago, after a needlessly frustrating encounter with their customer service department. Is this an apples to apples comparison, no, but it did indicate a difference in cultures between Walmart and Amazon and Indigo.

In the case of Loblaws, for a year now, curbside pickup has been synonymous with the retail experience. Major retailers that offer apps to place orders are common place. However, they do not charge fees. Shopping online at Fortinos, a subsidiary of Loblaws, comes with added fees for curbside pickup. I cannot say if these fees carry over to other Loblaws locations, as we not have any others in our community. However the argument that the fee is required for the cost of curbside is ludicrous. Call it what it is, a deterent to the service in order to drive traffic inside their stores, so that they can rely on good ol’ product placement to encourage shopping. This technique is antiquated and more harmful in the long run.

Where is the drive on the part of major Canadian brands to meet the consumer where they are currently? Curbside, mail order, and online shopping are no longer premium nice to haves in the retail landscape. Like it or not, COVID-19 has sped up the change that was already here. Online retailing is the future. The age of the brick and mortar store is dying. Make the effort to change and make the changes to encourage your customers to embrace the changes.

We need competition in the market place. Walmart and Amazon are not invulnerable to upstarts. Canadian brands are well placed to take on the challenge. The only thing holding them back is culture. Innovate and look forward, rather than wait for things to return to normal. Normal isn’t coming back. New habits have formed after a year. If retailers wish to thrive once pandemic restrictions are lifted, they need to be poised to run as soon the gun is triggered. If Canadian retailers are expecting a return to old, they will be sorely mistaken. Some things from this pandemic aren’t going away. One of them is increased use of online retail. Now is the time to get this right. Playing it safe will not be its own reward.

Why you shouldn’t leave social media to just anyone…

This was tweeted out by Burger King in the UK on International Women’s Day…

Think before you tweet.

And yes I understand it was part of a thread to promote a new initiative to help women pursue their culinary endeavours. However that announcement could’ve been done better.

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