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Amazon rivals thrive during the pandemic as shipping delays level the playing field

Bookshop.org CEO Andy Hunter said his newly-launched e-commerce platform for booksellers reached 100,000 customers in about three months during the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the nine months Andy Hunter courted investors for his online bookselling business, Bookshop.org, he was repeatedly told it was doomed to be crushed by Amazon.

Three months since its launch with less than $1 million in funding, Hunter said the business has already far exceeded levels he'd hoped to achieve by Christmas. By early May, Bookshop has been selling more than 10,000 books a day to 175,000 customers before spending a dollar on advertising, according to Hunter.

Bookshop's timing was uncanny. The site, which provides an easy way for independent booksellers to set up online storefronts for delivery orders, launched in beta on Jan. 28. After a steady first five weeks, Hunter said, the business began to take off as stay-at-home orders proliferated across the U.S.

"My goal was to capture 1% of Amazon's book market, and we're there now; we're over 1% of their sales," he said in a phone interview in late April. "I thought it was going to take three years to get there, and instead it took 11 weeks."

While the pandemic threatens to cripple small businesses such as book stores and restaurants that tend to rely on foot traffic, it's also creating opportunities for some online businesses to expand. Bookshop's early success shows that Amazon may not be the only e-commerce business to come out of the pandemic stronger than before. As the retail giant has been forced to loosen its speedy delivery times in the face of unprecedented demand and inventory shortages, smaller e-commerce services have also seen a boom as consumers scramble to find goods online.

High demand for grocery deliveries

Demand for grocery delivery has spilled over to several smaller services now working to quickly ramp up capacity. Many consumers are seeking to avoid their brick-and-mortar grocery stores, which are some of the last remaining gathering places in many regions.

With open delivery slots for Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods becoming so rare that one coder built a program to alert people to their availability, consumers are now finding alternative services they haven't used before. Two local delivery services in New York City, Go Organic NYC and Farm to People, have seen a wave of new customers and been forced to rapidly expand their facilities to keep up with the demand.

Prior to the pandemic, Go Organic mainly stocked corporate offices with produce. But with many of their customers now working from home, the company has become an entirely residential delivery service. The shift allowed it to take on hundreds of new customers in the first two to three weeks of the crisis, according to Brian Lai, president and part owner. 

Lai said he anticipates many of those customers will return to their grocery stores after the current health crisis passes but he hopes to retain about 15% to 20% who have been introduced to the freshness of local, organic produce.

Farm to People similarly saw its customer base triple over two weeks in March, forcing it to create a wait list so it could catch up to the demand. The wait list ballooned to more than 3,000 customers during a two-week break from letting people into the service. 

As of mid-April, co-founder Michael Robinov said, the company had the capacity to build 2,000 food boxes for customers but was looking for additional warehouse space that would bring that capacity up to as much as 7,000.

Robinov said as the company tries to meet the surging demand, his goal is to be transparent about inventory shortages and wait times. He said widespread reports about supply chain challenges seem to be making customers more forgiving than usual of delays and missing items from their orders. 

"If Jeff Bezos had to put everyone on Amazon Fresh on a wait list, if they can't figure it out, it's really hard for a small company like us to do it perfectly," he said. 

An Amazon spokesperson said the wait list applied only to new customers to Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods delivery and pick-up. The wait list was installed due to increased social distancing measures at Amazon warehouses and stores. The company has suspended the wait list in several cities and 80% of eligible Prime members are now able to shop from the services without requesting an invitation, the spokesperson said.

Robinov hasn't been able to dig into the data yet to figure out which customers are likely to stay with the service post-pandemic. But he said "there's definitely a breadth of customers" visiting the service for the first time. While Farm to People used to rely mostly on targeted marketing on Instagram or through events, Robinov said lots of customers now seem to be coming through referrals. 

"I'm asking from a marketing angle, how many of these customers just need food and will take it from anywhere, and how many of these are truly Farm to People customers and will stick around for a long time?" he said.

Retail sites spike

In normal times, Amazon had become the place to buy everything and anything. But as shipping delays and inventory shortages have weighed on supply, consumers seem to be looking further to meet their needs. 

Many traditional retailers have been reporting big spikes in online shopping. In an April business update, Best Buy CEO Corrie Barry said the company had seen domestic online sales grow 250%. Target said on April 23 digital sales had grown 275% month to date. 

Wayfair, an e-commerce furniture and home goods business, said in its earnings call last week it had already seen revenue growth trending up 90% year over year after finishing the first quarter ended March 31 up 20% in net revenue.

Some shoppers seem to be going straight to direct-to-consumer sites for things they need right away, such as monitors and office equipment to help them comfortably work from home. A spokesperson for electronics manufacturer Lenovo said in a statement it has seen a "surge" in global e-commerce traffic with "increased demand for products that customers can get quickly with short lead times."

Overstock.com, one of the original e-commerce retail players, saw 120% year-over-year growth in retail sales in April, including over 100% growth in office furniture sales.

Without brick-and-mortar furniture stores competing for business, customer acquisition costs have declined for Overstock, according to retail president Dave Nielsen. That's allowed Overstock to spend even more on ads, though it's shifting some of its TV spend to cable news networks gaining more traffic as people seek out relevant health updates.

A United Parcel Service worker loads orders onto a truck in the shipping area at the Overstock.com distribution center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ken James | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Overstock has been communicating with customers about shipping delays that could last up to a week. Nielsen said the pandemic has provided "a short window" where customers are "more understanding" about delays.

He doesn't see a day when brick-and-mortar retail dissolves, but said with more customers being forced to try online shopping because of the lack of alternatives, they'll likely discover how easy it is for at least some of their needs.

"There's going to be some stick to this," Nielsen said.

Still a win for Amazon

Make no mistake: The shift to e-commerce shopping will still benefit Amazon. Even as consumers peruse other sites, the more shoppers grow accustomed to shopping online versus in stores, the more opportunity exists for Amazon to make a buck. 

Amazon is still poised to come out stronger on the other side of this crisis. Despite inventory shortages that extended its delivery times, Amazon grew net sales by 26% year over year in the first quarter, the company reported. Amazon has also shown signs shipping times are improving. It recently resumed allowing third-party sellers to ship nonessential goods to Amazon warehouses and restarted other features on its site, such as discounts, that normally encourage people to buy more.

As Amazon's U.S. retail e-commerce sales have grown every year, its share of total U.S. e-commerce sales has grown as well, according to eMarketer. The firm estimated Amazon will reach more than $260 billion in domestic retail sales this year and hold 38.7% of the market. Walmart, the runner-up, will own just 5.3% of the market this year, according to eMarketer.

And while Washington lawmakers and local officials are still watching the company's competitive and labor practices, many are also praising the company in the same breath, recognizing the important role it has played in the coronavirus response. 

Amazon has now committed to spending its expected $4 billion second-quarter profit in efforts related to the pandemic, including developing testing capacity for its employees and beefing up its shipping network to get products out on time. Some analysts speculated that Amazon's testing capacity could eventually open a new business line, though its CFO wouldn't indulge the idea just yet.

For brick-and-mortar businesses, the threat Amazon posed to their income has been compounded by a new danger.

"Amazon was the threat that I had in mind when I created Bookshop," Hunter, the CEO, said of the independent booksellers on his platform. "And then Covid-19 emerged as a much more urgent and immediate threat." 

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WATCH: Netflix, Apple and FAANG stocks fight coronavirus in quarterly earnings

Sours: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/14/amazon-shipping-delays-level-the-playing-field-for-e-commerce.html

Does the Thrive Patch Work for Weight Loss? Fact vs Fiction

The Thrive Patch is a weight loss plaster that you apply to your skin.

It’s sold as part of an eight-week lifestyle program created by the company Le-Vel.

The program claims to aid weight loss, support healthy digestion, promote healthy aging and improve brain and immune function.

It’s sold through the company website and via advocates of the program in a multi-level marketing scheme — meaning that people who use the program sell it to their friends.

This article reviews the Thrive Patch and whether scientific evidence supports its promises.

What Is the Thrive Patch and How Does It Work?

The Thrive patch is a weight loss aid that you apply to your skin like a plaster.

It’s sold as part of a lifestyle plan which claims to help people “experience and reach peak physical and mental levels” (1).

The plan consists of three steps that people are advised to carry out daily. It costs around $300 for an eight-week supply.

The product line is advertised as containing vitamins, minerals, plant extracts, antioxidants, enzymes, probiotics and amino acids.

These are taken in various forms. Participants take supplement capsules in the morning, a shake at lunch and change their Thrive Patch in the afternoon.

The patch stays on for 24 hours and is said to work by delivering its unique formula directly through your skin.

Summary

The Thrive Patch is a weight loss aid that you apply to your skin like a plaster. It’s sold as part of a three-step lifestyle program.

What’s in the Thrive Patch?

The Thrive Patch contains a number of active ingredients, including:

  • ForsLean — the commercial name for the herb Coleus forskohlii
  • Green coffee bean extract
  • Garcinia cambogia
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
  • Cosmoperine — the commercial name for tetrahydropiperine, a compound extracted from black pepper

There are also other patches available — namely the Thrive Ultra Patch and Black Label Patch.

These patches include additional ingredients, such as:

  • Satiereal saffron extract
  • Green tea extract
  • 5-HTP
  • L-theanine
  • L-arginine
  • Quercetin
  • Guarana
  • Yerba mate
  • Vitamin B12

Customers can choose to upgrade their regular Thrive Patch to either of these options for an extra cost.

Summary

The Thrive Patch has six main active ingredients. These include ForsLean, green coffee bean extract, Garcinia cambogia, CoQ10 and cosmoperine.

Does the Thrive Patch Aid Weight Loss?

No studies have assessed the effectiveness of the Thrive Patch for weight loss.

However, three of the ingredients in the Thrive Patch have been studied in this regard.

ForsLean

The effects of the herb Coleus forskohlii on weight has been studied in two small randomized, double-blind, controlled studies — one in men and one in women.

In women, it had no effect on weight, but the herb was noted to have a small effect on body composition in men and resulted in a 4% reduction in body fat (, ).

However, the results in the men’s study were variable and the effect on body weight insignificant.

Green Coffee Bean Extract

Green coffee beans are unroasted. They’re a source of chlorogenic acid, a carbohydrate blocker that aids weight loss by blocking the absorption of carbs.

One 12-week study found that participants drinking coffee enriched with chlorogenic acid lost an average of 11.9 pounds (5.4 kg), compared to 3.8 pounds (1.7 kg) for the control group that received regular coffee ().

However, another study on coffee bean extract found that it had no significant effect on weight ().

Garcinia Cambogia

Garcinia cambogia is a popular weight loss supplement. It’s said to aid weight loss by increasing fat burning and reducing appetite.

Results of weight loss studies have been mixed, with the positive studies only showing marginal effects ().

For example, in one 12-week study, participants taking the supplement only lost 1.94 pounds (0.88 kg) more than the control group ().

Effectiveness of the Patch’s Technology

Overall, research to support that any of the active ingredients in the Thrive Patch are effective for weight loss is currently insufficient.

Additionally, it’s unclear how much of the active ingredients are in the patch and whether they’re present in sufficient amounts to have any effect.

Dermal fusion technology (DFT) — the technology used to deliver the ingredients — has also not been studied, and it’s impossible to know how effective it is at delivering the active ingredients from the patch through your skin.

This means that in addition to a lack of evidence for the effectiveness of the ingredients within the patch, it’s currently unclear whether the patches are even able to increase your blood levels of these active ingredients.

Summary

Research to back up claims that the Thrive Patch or its individual ingredients aid weight loss is currently lacking. The technology used to deliver active ingredients through the skin has also not been studied.

Do the Other Health Claims for the Thrive Patch Stack Up?

In addition to promising weight loss, the Thrive Patch also claims to increase energy levels and improve brain function, appetite management and digestive health.

As with the weight loss claims, the lack of studies examining these supposed benefits means it’s impossible to assess whether they’re true or not.

Some of the ingredients in the Thrive products, including the Thrive Patch, have been linked to some of these effects.

For example, the lifestyle capsules contain caffeine and the probioticLactobacillus acidophilus, which may offer some of these health effects, such as reduced fatigue and improved gut health (, , ).

The Thrive Patch also contains CoQ10, which has been linked to reduced muscle fatigue and a subsequent improvement in exercise performance ().

However, it’s unclear how much of these ingredients the Le-Vel products contain and whether they’re available in quantities high enough to have any effect.

Additionally, given the lack of research and vague nature of some of the claims, it’s probably wise to be skeptical towards the effectiveness of the products.

Summary

No studies have examined the effects of Thrive products on any of the claims made by the company.

Side Effects and Risks

Thrive patches are not recommended for anyone under the age of 18, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women (12).

However, as they haven’t been studied, no side effects have been listed on the Le-Vel website.

That said, anecdotal reports on websites and forums suggest possible side effects, such skin rashes at the site of the patch. Anxiety, nausea, stomach cramps, palpitations and headaches, have also been cited by people taking the products.

These reports are hard to verify but may be attributable to the products taken by consumers using the plan.

Summary

The Thrive Patch has no side effects listed on the Le-Vel website, and as it hasn’t been studied, no side effects have been recorded by scientists either. Anecdotally, some people report skin rashes, gut issues, palpitations and headaches.

The Bottom Line

The Thrive Patch is claimed to aid weight loss and improve energy, brain function, appetite management and digestive health.

Though some ingredients may provide such benefits, research is insufficient, and it’s unclear whether the patch’s dermal fusion technology can deliver these ingredients through your skin.

It’s also worth remembering that while the product has received numerous positive reviews, many people that use it also sell it. This makes differentiating between genuine recommendations and sales pitches very difficult.

It may help some people kickstart their healthy lifestyle — or it may be an expensive gimmick.

Without evidence from independent studies, it’s impossible to tell.

As with most health and lifestyle products promising seemingly unrealistic results, it’s always a good idea to keep a skeptical mindset.

Sours: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/thrive-patch
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Amazon rivals thrive during the pandemic as shipping delays level the playing field

Lauren Feiner, CNBC

Over the nine months Andy Hunter courted investors for his online bookselling business, Bookshop.org, he was repeatedly told it was doomed to be crushed by Amazon.

Three months since its launch with less than $1 million in funding, Hunter said the business has already far exceeded levels he’d hoped to achieve by Christmas. By early May, Bookshop has been selling more than 10,000 books a day to 175,000 customers before spending a dollar on advertising, according to Hunter.

“My goal was to capture 1 percent of Amazon’s book market and we’re there now; we’re over 1 percent of their sales,” he said in a phone interview in late April. “I thought it was going to take three years to get there and instead it took 11 weeks.”

While the pandemic threatens to cripple small businesses like book stores and restaurants that tend to rely on foot traffic, it’s also creating opportunities for some online businesses to expand. Bookshop’s early success shows that Amazon may not be the only e-commerce business to come out of the pandemic stronger than before. As the retail giant has been forced to loosen its speedy delivery times in the face of unprecedented demand and inventory shortages, smaller e-commerce services have also seen a boom as consumers scramble to find goods online.

Read the full story here.

Geoff Bennett

CDC expected to release detailed reopening guidance today

The CDC is expected to release on Thursday the detailed guidance for states about how and when to reopen public places like schools, stores and restaurants, parts of which were shelved by the White House over concerns it was too restrictive, two administration officials told NBC News. 

A source familiar with the guidance said the CDC, the White House Office of Management and Budget and members of the White House coronavirus task force worked over the last week to provide the revisions that were determined “as necessary” weeks ago.

McConnell slams Dems' relief bill as 'an unserious product from an unserious House majority'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday slammed the House Democrats’ proposal for the next coronavirus relief package. 

“The House gave themselves no assignments for two months except developing this proposal," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "Yet it still reads like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word “coronavirus” on top of it — an unserious product from an unserious House majority that has spent months dealing itself out of this crisis.” 

McConnell, for his part, has agreed with Trump administration officials that Congress needs to pause work on providing more relief aid to Americans because lawmakers have already approved massive assistance measures already.

The House is expected to vote on the Houses Democrats’ proposal on Friday. 

Oxford vaccine candidate shows promise in small study in monkeys

An experimental coronavirus vaccine from Oxford University appears to be effective at preventing COVID-19, according to findings from a small study in six monkeys.

Oxford scientists posted the preliminary findings on the vaccine on the preprint server bioRxiv early Thursday.

Read more.

Claire Atkinson

Delta Air Lines to retire its entire fleet of Boeing 777 jets as international travel tumbles

Delta Air Lines is retiring its entire fleet of Boeing 777 jets as part of cost-cutting measures as the air travel industry battles for survival amid its worst crisis since the events of September 11.

“With international travel expected to return slowly, we’ve made the difficult decision to permanently retire our Boeing 777 fleet — 18 aircraft — by the end of the year,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian told staff Thursday morning.

The company will instead rely on “fuel-efficient and cost-effective” A330s and A350-900 planes, made by Boeing's European rival, Airbus.

“Our principal financial goal for 2020 is to reduce our cash burn to zero the end of the year, which will mean for the next to three years, a smaller network, fleet and operation in response to substantially reduced customer demand,” Bastian said.

Delta just reported its first quarterly loss in five years, and received $5.4 billion in support from the Treasury Department to keep the airline afloat. The company said last month it expected second quarter revenue to fall by 90 percent.

Virologist hospitalized with coronavirus believes he got it through his eyes

Virologist Dr. Joseph Fair, an NBC News contributor who has been hospitalized with coronavirus despite being in good health and taking precautions against getting sick, said Thursday that he believes he contracted the virus through his eyes on a crowded flight.

The 42-year-old virologist and epidemiologist, who has responded to multiple outbreaks around the world, got sick about three days after a flight to his home in New Orleans.

"I had a mask on, I had gloves on, I did my normal wipes routine ... but obviously, you can still get it through your eyes," Fair said on the "TODAY" show from his hospital bed. "And of course I wasn’t wearing goggles on the flight."

"That’s one of the three known routes of getting this infection that we just don’t pay a lot of attention to; we tend to pay attention to the nose and mouth because that is the most common route," he said. "But you know, droplets landing on your eyes are just as infectious."

Read more here.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says video of mother being arrested was 'deeply troubling'

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was "deeply troubling" to see a video of a mother with her child being arrested for allegedly not properly covering her face.

Officers with the New York City Police Department said they stopped Kaleemah Rozier, 22, in a subway station and attempted to enforce the face-covering rule, according to NBC New York. The mother and her child had on face masks but were not covering their nose and mouth, the outlet reported. 

A video of the arrest surfaced on social media this week and showed officers escorting the mother out of the station as she screamed and told police not to touch her. At one point, Rozier is seen slapping away an officer's hand. Police then took her to the ground and placed her in handcuffs, according to NBC New York. 

De Blasio said at a news briefing on Thursday that no matter what else was going on the situation should not have escalated to a mother with her child being arrested.

"It's not what we want to see in our city," he said. The mayor, however, told the public they need to respect the police and "not ignore the instructions of police officers." 

"But what we saw there did not reflect our values; it did not reflect our value of de-escalation and we have to do better," de Blasio said. 

The arrest this week comes after newly released statistics on the police department's social-distancing enforcement show that black people account for the majority of arrests in Brooklyn.

NYC now has 100 children with rare syndrome linked to COVID-19

New York City now has 100 cases of children with a rare inflammatory syndrome thought to be linked to the coronavirus, including one child who has died, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

That is up from 52 cases of the illness, called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, that the mayor reported for the city on Tuesday.

De Blasio also cited other figures that were more positive.

Hospital admissions for people with COVID-19 are down to 59 from 78 as of May 11, the mayor said. The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units is also down to 517 from 561, while the percentage of tests showing positive cases of the virus dipped to 11 percent from 13 percent. 

He credited social distancing guidelines and people's wearing face coverings while out in public for the improved numbers. "Today is a very good day," de Blasio said. 

New York City plans to expand testing for residents to those who have had close contact with a coronavirus patient and to people who work in settings such as nursing homes and shelters. T

Patient dances out of hospital after recovering from COVID-19

A heartwarming video shows healthcare workers cheering for a patient who danced out of the hospital after spending nearly 30 days there fighting COVID-19.

Tom Berisha, 49, was first admitted to New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan for COVID-19 treatment in early April. After some 27 days in the hospital fighting the virus, he was finally well enough to be discharged. 

In the video posted on social media by New York-Presbyterian Hospital, healthcare workers line the hospital’s hallway clapping and cheering as Berisha is wheeled out in a wheelchair. Berisha, visibly emotional as he is reunited with his family, then stands up and dances. Hospital employees roar in excitement. 

“To finally see him standing up, reuniting with his family, and going home to get better was overwhelming,” Cynthia Quezada, a clinical nurse manager, said in a statement released by New York-Presbyterian Hospital. “We really appreciate the success stories through this pandemic. It is a light at the end of the tunnel for the patient and for the staff.”

Sours: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/live-blog/2020-05-14-coronavirus-news-n1206776/ncrd1207101
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