Amazon is poised to shake-up retail once again by dramatically expanding its distribution network and speeding up delivery. To keep pace, competitors need logistics and fulfillment knowhow, and where better to find it than at Amazon?
Retail chain Target this week announced it has hired Arthur Valdez Jr., a 16-year veteran of Amazon and most recently Amazon’s vice president of operations at the retailer’s international supply chain. Previously, Valdez had worked with Amazon’s fulfillment centers.
This isn’t that unusual. In recent years, execs with experience at Amazon have been hot property.
Earlier this year, startup Instacart, a company led by a former Amazon employee that promises customers one-hour grocery delivery, hired Mike Swartz, Amazon’s director of operational excellence, as vice president of operations. Last year, Sears hired Girish Lakshman, a former Amazon vice president of worldwide transportation strategy, to become president of fulfillment. In 2014, Deliv, a company that hires part-time drivers to provide same-day delivery for items purchased from retail stores, hired Amazon logistics manager Jeff Helms to lead delivery operations.
Retaining talent may become more difficult as Amazon continues to build out its distribution unit and crank up pressure on competitors. Amazon is on a mission to deliver immediate gratification to customers as well as reduce shipping costs.
At minimum, CEO Jeff Bezos appears to be readying Amazon to take a far larger role at delivering the company’s goods itself. Some have speculated, however, that Bezos’ ultimate plan is much more ambitious. Some analysts have predicted that Amazon will create a service that competes head-to-head with UPS, Fedex and other package-delivery services.
The retailer has acquired delivery vans, leased cargo planes and ocean vessels. Amazon is trying to convince regulators to allow it to deliver products via drone aircraft.
With Amazon Fresh, the retailer is speeding groceries to customers homes in select cities. Amazon’s European operations is readying to roll out its own package lockers, and is rumored to be close to acquiring one of France’s top package deliverers. And according to reports, Amazon is doing some hiring of its own.
Dcvelocity.com, an online publication that focuses on logistics and supply chain, reported last fall that Amazon had contracted a top recruiting firm to a assemble a high-level management team to oversee its transportation network. And just this week reports surfaced that longtime Amazon exec Ian Freed was taking over the company’s restaurant delivery operations.
Amazon can’t enjoy having its talent poached, but CEO Jeff Bezos probably won’t complain too loudly. In 2002, Walmart filed a lawsuit accusing Amazon and Drugstore.com of trying to steal trade secrets when they hired away a total of 15 employees. The case was eventually settled.