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Hello, this is the Co-op Digital newsletter - it looks at what's happening in the internet/digital world and how it's relevant to the Co-op, to retail businesses, and most importantly to people, communities and society. Thank you for reading - send ideas and feedback to @rod on Twitter. Please tell a friend about it!


[Image: Apollo 11]

"You can’t take any precautions really”: no-deal Brexit

The UK’s food supply chain is especially vulnerable to no-deal Brexit, says Ocadoboss Tim Steiner:

"You can’t take any precautions really. We run our business on around a week of inventory in total. So to buy a week of inventory we would have to double the size of our facilities and our facilities are full so we’d have to buy replica facilities for that one week. It's just not possible."

Neither are other supermarkets particularly upbeat about the risks of a no-deal Brexit that meant tariffs and supply chain delays. Tesco: “more difficult to do that in October” [than in March because Christmas]. Sainsbury’s: “not far off the worst day possible”. ASDA: “fresh food sitting in ports rotting”. UK Warehousing Association: "there is no available [warehouse] space".

Search engines in the real world

Most sales on are by independent retailers who buy (or make) some stock and then sell it to shoppers browsing the site. Sometimes a product’s prices are lowest on Amazon and sometimes they’re not. When you can buy products in Some Shop and then resell it for more on Amazon, you have an opportunity for “retail arbitrage”. You go find discontinued flavours of cat food in this run-down mall in this town in Texas, load up on them, send them off to Amazon’s warehouse where you’ll sell them at a margin. You find the product and Amazon finds the customer, who will be happy because they didn’t have to search Texas for the cat food. 

In this independent retailer buying and selling game, your key skill is that you’re a patient search engine, sifting through everything in the real world that isn’t Amazon’s shelves: Nomads travel to America’s Walmarts to stock Amazon’s shelves. You are being a bit like a computer in order to make the retail world a bit more like the internet.

Amazon says it will retrain 100,000 workers in the US by 2025. The scale of the programme is ambitious (~17,000 workers reskilled annually for ~6 years) and it suggests that Amazon expect to install a large amount of automation in the next few years.

Facebook, currency and trust

Libra/Calibra/Facebook talked to a US Senate committee last week, and the questions were pointed (Facebook's crypto plan called ‘delusional’). The committee perhaps think well, we were too slow to act on social media so we’d better not be slow here. Facebook/Calibra said that the Libra cointhing will be for payments only, not an entire, separate, national-state-dissolving financial system, and to Trust Us. 

Each time this newsletter mentions “Libra” (the payments system/cryptocurrency) and “Calibra” (and organisation that’ll oversee it) we’re caveating it with “Facebook” because the fear is that it won’t be as separate from FB as advertised. The trust concerns come from how big tech companies think of the world (often, differently to societies, governments and individuals). Both of these opinion pieces seem to have some truth:

Internet companies think of the world as borderless, because the Internet is borderless; lawmakers think of the world in terms of nation-states, because they are the governing officials of nation states.


JPMorgan is trying to build a JPM Coin for JPMorgan, while Facebook is trying to build a stablecoin for the world. JPMorgan sees itself as an actor in a system, and is trying to accomplish its goals within the rules of that system. Facebook sees itself as the system; it has decided that the world needs a new currency, and so it sets up its own new worldwide governance body to solicit input from others about how to build that currency. Of course the other governance bodies - like Congress - will be annoyed.

More fines, tax and regulation

Europe's competition watchdog is launching a major anti-trust investigation into Amazon “to determine whether it is using sensitive seller data in an anti-competitive way”. UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is looking at Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo. (In the US, anti-competition law is sometimes called “anti-trust”. The “trust” word is a legal term that refers to “a group of businesses that team up or form a monopoly in order to dictate pricing in a particular market”. It’s a shame that “anti-trust” is already taken, because in future you’d think there could be more regulatory oversight that looks specifically at trust in big tech.)

British Airways will be fined 183m by the ICO for 0.5m customer data breach in Sep 2018 - UK’s biggest GDPR fine so far, and large enough that boards will be asking executives whether security arrangements are up to scratch. (Marriott hotels are also to be fined 99m.)

Facebook’s FTC fine for privacy breaches was 5bn - the stock market must have thought it pocket change because FB’s price went up.

France prepares a 3% digital sales tax for companies with revenue of more than €750m and of which at least €25m is generated in France. (Silicon Valley: not happy.)


An estimated 16% of UK retail is empty, according to surveys of councils.

Spending on “online shopping” overtook grocery and restaurants in June in US - online is now the second largest US retail category behind car dealers.

“It’s estimated that, in America, there are eight parking spots for every car, covering up to 30 percent of our cities”.

The binary code on the new £50 bank note shows Turing’s birthdate - but don’t read the replies because they’re determined to prove that Twitter must always be about finding the bad in the good.

Co-op Digital news

Member pioneers: matching tech to their needs.

Most opened newsletter in the last month: 1-click neighbourhood watch/is everyone breaking personal data law? Most clicked story: Communicating effectively through storytelling at Co-op Digital.


Public events:

Internal events:

  • Delivery community of practice - Mon 22 Jul 1.30pm at Fed House.
  • User experience future vision - Mon 22 Jul and every day this week 4pm at Fed House 5th floor.
  • What has the web team been up to playback? - Tue 23 Jul 1pm at Fed House 5th floor.
  • Food ecommerce - Tue 23 Jul 1.30pm at Fed House 5th floor.
  • Health show & tell - Tue 23 Jul 2.30pm at Fed House 5th floor.
  • CRM and data ecosystem show & tell - Wed 24 Jul 3pm at Angel Square 13th floor breakout area.
  • Membership show & tell - Fri 26 Jul 3pm at Fed House 6th floor kitchen.

More events at Federation House - and you can contact the events team at And TechNW has a useful calendar of events happening in the North West. 

Thank you for reading

Thank you, clever and considerate readers and contributors. Please continue to send ideas, questions, corrections, improvements, etc to the newsletterbot’s news sparrow @rod on Twitter. If you have enjoyed reading, please tell a friend!

If you want to find out more about Co-op Digital, follow us @CoopDigital on Twitter and read the Co-op Digital Blog. Previous newsletters.

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