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In Focus: Amazon's Plans; The Life of Joe Gibbs; Endangered Cows Stage Comeback

Aired December 9, 2012 - 16:30   ET



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Against nearly $600 billion in holiday shopping, one company is threatening to revolutionize retail, dramatically changing how, when, and where we shop.

BARNEY JOPSON, REPORTER, FINANCIAL TIMES: It's a very secretive company, and operating below the radar helps it.

SUCHARITA MULPURU, RETAIL ANALYST, FORRESTER RESEARCH: It's a wolf in sheep's clothing is probably a better way to describe it.

FOREMAN: Hall of Fame football coach, NASCAR guru, and now evangelist.

JOE GIBBS, OWNER, JOE GIBBS RACING: At some point, I'll probably run out of gas. But right now, I feel like I still got a full tank.

FOREMAN: The third coming of Joe Gibbs.

An endangered species makes a remarkable comeback. The miracle that moos.

And a sight for sore eyes. The inspiring story of the leader of the band. All on this edition of "In Focus."

Welcome. I'm Tom Foreman. Despite joblessness, low wages, and everything bad about the economy, holiday sales right now are looking pretty good. The National Retail Sales Federation predicts when all is said and done, they'll be up by about 5 percent this year.

So why are some retailers so worried? Because there is a rapidly growing giant out there gobbling up customers like nothing before. So much so that this may be one of the last Christmases you'll ever see with shopping quite like this.


FOREMAN (voice-over): America's holiday mall mania is as traditional as tinsel. Consumers spending more than a half trillion dollars this year will fuel more than a half million seasonal jobs. But the real frenzy is at home, where online shopping is exploding under the relentless hand of one company,

What is Amazon up to? JOPSON: Well, the ambition, it seems, is to take over the systems of consumption.

FOREMAN: Barney Jopson, a reporter for "The Financial Times," has just written a book about Amazon's extraordinary rise.

JOPSON: Amazon's sales have been growing at about 20 or 30 percent a year. And this is phenomenal if you consider that the rest of the retail sector is growing best at 5 percent a year. There is competition, but Amazon is really the 800-pound gorilla. It's got a big head start on everyone else, and size generates momentum of its own.

FOREMAN: How much momentum? So much that Amazon had a hand in more than 20 percent of all online sales for 2011, according to Forrester Research. So much that economic analysts say traditional brick and mortar stores like Walmart, Radio Shack, and Barnes & Noble are scrambling to hold on to customers.

JOPSON: Here in the U.S., we have seen Circuit City, the electronics store, Borders the book store, go out of business, largely because of competition with Amazon. There are a lot of smaller retailers that have also closed down because they could not compete with Amazon.

FOREMAN: Based in Seattle, Amazon was started in the mid-90s to sell books online, and for years made no profit. But it soon became clear that founder Jeff Bezos and his notoriously secretive company had bigger plans. They started expanding in the late 1990s into videos, music, games, electronics, kitchenware, clothing, shoes, jewelry, business services, information storage. Amazon turned the corner to profitability in 2002, and today, Amazon is a $100 billion global company. And though Bezos declined our request for an interview, he recently told "Fortune" magazine's Andy Serwer.

JEFF BEZOS, CEO, AMAZON: Our goal is to be the most customer obsessed company. We like to find, is there somebody out there doing some element of what we do better than we do it? And if so, how do we improve?

FOREMAN: While that may be good news for millions of consumers who enjoy Amazon's low prices, it is daunting for many businesses. Even those that call Amazon a partner.

MULPURU: It's a wolf in sheep's clothing, is probably a better way to describe it.

FOREMAN: Sucharita Malpuru is a retail analyst at Forrester Research, and she says Amazon has a pattern. Find a company with a good product, make a deal to help it market and distribute, then gradually push the partner aside.

MULPURU: What happens is that you see 18 to 24 months of growth, and then it kind of dies because Amazon has decided to get into the business of selling goods themselves that were once your products. And that's a pretty common complaint that we often hear. FOREMAN: If a competitor doesn't want to join forces, she says, Amazon will often just start selling a similar product at a lower price, even if it means taking a loss.

MULPURU: They use a lot of these kinds of programs to -- to gain more market share. It's like the expression from "The Godfather," it's like make them an offer they can't refuse.

FOREMAN: Amazon has also been aggressively acquiring other e-commerce retailers -- 70 since 1998, including and All of it has led to a practice called showrooming. Customers go to stores, look over a product, and whip out a smartphone to order from Amazon.

JOPSON: Now that is infuriating, and unjust in the eyes of a lot of these brick and mortar stores.

FOREMAN: But it's happening all the time.

JOPSON: It's happening all the time. And the brick and mortars stores, they're paying wages for staff, they are paying the rent for the stores, but they're not getting the sales.

RUDY HAYDEN, GENERAL MANAGER, THE GREAT OUTDOOR PROVISION CO.: Put it on your Christmas list. Super nice pants by the same company.

FOREMAN: Some shop keepers like Rudy Hayden, who runs the Great Outdoor Provision Company in Charlotte still believe they can thrive by focusing on service and by specializing.

HAYDEN: We can't compete with Amazon. That's not our business. Our business is a local company that supports local brands, local companies. And you know, you're not going to be able to try a shoe on on Amazon.

FOREMAN: But Amazon may even be after him. The company is now offering same-day delivery in select cities.

JOPSON: It's all about eroding one of the last advantages that bricks and mortar stores have, which is immediacy.

FOREMAN: Amazon sees it very differently. In a written statement telling us, "Amazon helps more than 2 million businesses and individuals expand their reach beyond their hometowns to more than 188 million customers around the world." Noting that that accounts for almost 41 percent of Amazon's business. Bezos, as usual, is not revealing much more about the latest tactic.

BEZOS: I'm a little skeptical that same-day delivery will ever be a huge part of the business.

FOREMAN: But Mulpuru suspects that may be because Amazon is once again thinking bigger, using same-day delivery merely as a stepping stone to launching its own delivery company to compete with FedEx and UPS. MULPURU: Amazon has already invested so much in its delivery network and a fulfillment network that I think they -- I think that they believe they're in a position to, you know, kind of capture some more of that last mile, too.

FOREMAN: Amazon is not doing anything wrong in all of this, but its appetite for buying up businesses worries some people. As other stores are consumed, shrink, or are just washed away.

JOPSON: It's emptying out the heart of a lot of cities. That's one of the concerns.

FOREMAN: Do you believe that?

JOPSON: I don't think anywhere has quite become the desolate landscape that Amazon's critics are discussing, but you can see a movement in that direction. And consider this, that online shopping is still only 10 percent of total retail.

FOREMAN: Meaning Amazon in all likelihood is just getting started.


FOREMAN: Coming up, fast times and fate. An unstoppable career takes a surprising turn.

And the cow that came to dinner. When "In Focus" continues.


FOREMAN: If you are the kind of person who thinks the holidays are a good time to slow down, take stock, and reconnect with family and friends, you might want to steer clear of one man down in the Carolinas. He is not relaxing this holiday season. No, after a lifetime of extraordinary achievements, he's taking on a whole new mission, preaching the gospel of never giving up.


FOREMAN: The race tracks of NASCAR are a young man's world, where top speed, quick reflexes, and raw power are prized. So what is this man, well past retirement age, doing amid the chaos of pit row? The same thing Joe Gibbs has always done. He's running the show.

GIBBS: Get them, man.


GIBBS: All right, man.

FOREMAN: You're at an age where most people would be content to golf and take it easy. Why don't you stop?

GIBBS: That's a good question. To me, life is so exciting. To me, it's always trying to beat somebody in something competitive. It's kind of been my whole life. Let's get this thing right here.

FOREMAN: Are you as excited about what you do today as you were when you were 20, 25?

GIBBS: Let's go, guys. Let's get us one here, we're due one.

I really think I am.

FOREMAN: Gibbs' rise to sports superstardom began in the 1980s when he took the struggling Washington Redskins, a team with few stars and even fewer playoff hopes, to not one but three Super Bowl championships, earning the respect of the league and the adoration of fans.

GIBBS: There's no other fans in the world that would come out on a day like this. (INAUDIBLE).

This is the floor where the cars are stored.

FOREMAN: Less than a decade later, he stunned those same fans by turning from football to auto racing, setting up shop in his native North Carolina with admittedly little knowledge of what he was getting into.

GIBBS: I was kind of a novice. And I was kind of scared to death.

FOREMAN: But Gibbs applied his formula. Work around the clock, hire great people, and relentlessly push for perfection. And soon enough, the championships starting rolling in here as well.

GIBBS: Last week, we celebrated our 100th win.

FOREMAN: Which is what makes his latest career turn so unusual, because now he's talking perhaps more than ever before about losing.

GIBBS: When you look from the outside, a lot of people say, hey, you won Super Bowls and you won NASCAR championships. But what people miss on the outside when they look at you many times, they muss the heartaches and the defeats and the mistakes you made. My life is still full of them.

FOREMAN: In a new book of Biblical devotions, "Game Plan for Life," Gibbs writes frankly about many of his failures, about just as his coaching career was soaring, he was facing private calamities, including a bad real estate deal that had him losing $35,000 a month and spiraling into bankruptcy.

(on camera): You made some colossally bad business decisions.

GIBBS: Bad, bad decisions, really bad.

FOREMAN: Do you think there were times at which you were just flat out going to go broke?

GIBBS: Oh, yes. FOREMAN: Years of neglecting his health were followed by the startling news that he had developed diabetes, which he's now had for two decades. Years of choosing work over family led to strained relations.

Would you make the same decisions again?

GIBBS: No, I would not. I look at that as probably one of the biggest mistakes I have made in life.

Father, thank you for letting us do this and just help us today to be at our absolute best.

FOREMAN: Always a spiritual man, Gibbs says he found comfort amidst turmoil in the renewal of his faith.

GIBBS: Amen.

Let's go, guys.

FOREMAN: And that's why he's sharing his private trials in this public way. So others can understand his belief that even winners lose when they lose their way.

GIBBS: Thank you (Inaudible).

I really want to spend the rest of my life getting out this word. You know, what is the right way to play the game of life? I look at life as a game. You know, we're the players, God's our head coach. We're playing the biggest game of all.

FOREMAN: It's all made him more introspective, more humble.

GIBBS: I was not a very good athlete. So I spent my whole life -- only awards I ever got were most improved.

FOREMAN: And more inclined to leave the office a little earlier for family time. He has eight grandchildren, after all.

GIBBS: If I keep God first in my life, if I keep the idea of my family, friends, second.

We win this thing, you get them down here.

Then I keep my occupation third, that's when I've found success.

FOREMAN: But make no mistake, Joe Gibbs still preaches the gospel of winning. And he still thinks that's part of God's plan for him, too.

How much longer do you think you're going to keep chasing championships and coming to the office and working?

GIBBS: I think you're asking the wrong guy. You need to ask the Lord on that one. Because I think, you know, at some point, I'll probably run out of gas. But right now, I feel like I still got a full tank. Man, I'm going. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Up next, George Washington's cows. Some of America's rarest animals in so many ways. "In Focus."


FOREMAN: Each year around this time, conservationists come up with lists of the world's most endangered animals, and predictably, there are a lot of rhinos and pandas and tigers. But this year, they might want to add another -- George Washington's cow. Because it's not only rare, it's achieving the rarest of feats. It's making a comeback. With a twist. Dan Lothian has that story.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are looking at one of the rarest, most endangered animals on the planet, the Randall lineback cow. They are more endangered than polar bears, mountain gorillas, pandas, or tigers. It's estimated there are fewer than 500 of these cows left on the planet. Not in some far-flung corner of the world, but most right here on a bucolic farm in Northern Virginia.

JOE HENDERSON, FARMER: This is essentially the past now in the present. This strain is 400 years old, and it's the only remaining American colonial strain, especially in the north.

LOTHIAN: Joe Henderson, a real estate executive and part-time farmer, is on a mission to save this historic breed of cattle from going extinct.

HENDERSON: They're American. It's not only the rarest of all the cows, but it's an American cow. And it's something that has an enormous history connected with it.

LOTHIAN: The cow, known for its strength and beauty, played a key role in the revolutionary war, helping George Washington haul cannons for miles across rugged terrain, from the capture of Ft. Ticonderoga to the battle for Boston. But this hardy utility cow, with its trademark white stripe down the back and black sides, faded with time. A healthy herd dwindled to an estimated 15. That's 15 in the world. The Randall lineback was branded critically endangered.

HENDERSON: They had no escape plan, no survival plan. Nobody was interested in them.

LOTHIAN: Until Henderson came along.

HENDERSON: A dairy cow compared to these looks way boney and it's overdone. It's all too much.

LOTHIAN: A self-described conservationist with 500 acres, who knew how to make money in real estate but had no experience raising cows.

HENDERSON: You could say I was a sucker for it, or you can that I was a visionary. It's probably closer to a sucker for it. I mean, you cannot look at these cows and tell me they're not beautiful. Because they really are. And those little teeny babies--

LOTHIAN: They're cute.

HENDERSON: You got to -- they are more than cute.

LOTHIAN: What did you call them?

HENDERSON: They are the pandas of the cow world.

LOTHIAN: But it's very expensive raising these bovine pandas.

HENDERSON: In all of these rare breeds, if they do not have monetary value, they don't survive. You can only -- looks only take you so far. Right?

LOTHIAN: In the past, they pulled their own weight, but now with no cannons to haul --

HENDERSON: This animal, to survive, must find a job. I think we have found a job, and the job is --

CATHAL ARMSTRONG, CHEF: Is it kind of counter-intuitive that to rescue this breed, you have to consume them.

LOTHIAN: Cathal Armstrong is a top chef in Washington, D.C. His restaurant, Eve, has been serving the Randall lineback for four years. A pleasure for the palette, and conservation is an extra side dish. Many diners would hardly recognize this organic, lean, grass-fed meat as beef. A far cry from the fatty, marbled steaks American diners crave, and more than three times the cost.

ARMSTRONG: I don't call it beef, I don't call it veal because it's not. So it's kind of in the middle between beef and veal. It has a milder, more delicate flavor than beef, but a much considerably more robust flavor than traditional veal does.

LOTHIAN: Because the breed is so rare, the price is considerably higher. Meaning only exclusive chefs like Armstrong can get their hands on the delicate and difficult to prepare meat.

HENDERSON: This is never going to be in McDonald's, so this animal has got to go to higher-end use.

LOTHIAN: What's the most important thing, that you're saving a cow or you are creating this new eating experience?

HENDERSON: For me, the most important thing is you're saving an animal that would otherwise go extinct. I think it's a piece of nature and natural beauty that just needs to be kept going.


FOREMAN: When we return, taking the band on the run. Even when the way is not clear. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: There is something intrinsically inspiring in people overcoming great adversity, and when they do it at a very young age, it's even more impressive. So you can imagine why our Dr. Sanjay Gupta was so captivated by a college student in the Midwest who this football season marched to a very different drummer and led a lot of people along the way.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As a drum major for Marching Mizzou, the University of Missouri's famed marching band, Paul Heddings is living his dream. It's a new dream, because his original dream of playing professional baseball was disappearing.

PAUL HEDDINGS: September 7th, 2007, just barely into my junior year of high school.

GUPTA: The 17-year-old woke up and his world was changing.

HEDDINGS: Everything was just a little blurry. It didn't seem like anything was wrong.

GUPTA: But something was terribly wrong. His retinas had detached and started to tear apart. In both eyes.

HEDDINGS: I could potentially go completely blind. I could, if I'm lucky, go the rest of my life without another detachment. This happened to my mom, my grandma, a couple of uncles. Even my little sister is having similar issues. Luckily in all of their cases, it was found early enough that a lot of vision wasn't lost.

GUPTA: Paul, on the other hand, is now legally blind.

HEDDINGS: My left eye has blind spots. My peripheral vision is great. And that's why I'm so high functioning. The right eye is just kind of there, to be honest.

GUPTA: He wears a contact lens in his left eye. He can read, but not well, by digitally scanning books into a computer that has screen magnification software. He says family, friends, and music saved his life.

HEDDINGS: I just realized that no amount of worrying or being upset or feeling sorry for myself was going to change it. And the only thing that was going to change the outlook of the future was how I approached every situation. So I just, you know, strapped up my boots and went to work.

GUPTA: He made the Mizzou drum line first playing cymbals, and then after an extensive interview process, clinched the coveted drum major spot. Most in the band didn't even know he was legally blind.

BRAND SNOW, DIRECTOR, MARCHING MIZZOU: He's definitely, you know, more than dusted himself off. He's set the standard for every drum major that I'll ever have again in my career.

HEDDINGS: I could wake up tomorrow and have lost significantly more vision. I could walk away from here today, and something could happen, and I could lose vision. You just never know. So you just try to move on without thinking about that, and just do the best you can with what you got.

GUPTA: Heddings hopes his time on the ladder will change the perception of visually impaired people.

HEDDINGS: I want to be able to say when I leave here that I did something special. And that I didn't let this hold me back. I'm always looking for something new to do that somebody says I can't. That's usually, you know, when you tell me I can't, that becomes my new goal.


FOREMAN: And with that, we are marching on, too. For all of us at IN FOCUS, I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks for watching.