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    Published on: March 31, 2015

    by Michael Sansolo

    In 1895 the first two cars ever driven on the roads of Ohio managed to collide. And just last week in Rosslyn, Virginia, an Uber passenger flung open a car door smacking right into a Bikeshare rider.

    So maybe Karl Marx had it wrong when he said, “history repeats itself; first as tragedy, second as farce.” Maybe irony comes first.

    One can only imagine the reaction folks in 1895 had when they heard about the accident of the only two vehicles in the state not attached to horses. They probably thought it ridiculous and couldn’t have imagined how dominant cars would become nor could they foresee the incredible rate of fender benders and worse.

    Just like that we have to consider the omens of a collision between a person using a high-tech mobile app-based transportation network and another on a communal bicycle - two people traveling via vehicles that neither owned, that were part of services that reflect a changing economy. It is possible that 100 years from now such services will be as commonplace as cars are now?

    Who knows?

    What we do know is that priorities are changing, needs are evolving, and companies are making decisions based on factors that just a few years ago would not have mattered at all.

    I happen to live less than three miles from the world headquarters of Marriott International - although that distance may be about to grow. Marriott is looking to relocate. The reason is that while the current facility is conveniently located near the junction of two major highways, it is inconveniently at least one bus ride from the closest mass transit train station.

    As Marriott executives explained recently to the Washington Post, the only way to attract the young employees the company needs is to simplify the mass transit commute. In fact, one of Marriott’s chief rivals, Choice Hotels, recently made that exact move one town away.

    There are countless articles these days about the changing lifestyles of the younger generation and the myriad ways those shifts are impacting the simple elements of life. It’s their lack of interest in homes, car ownership, cable television contracts, marriage and even all the stuff they have left in their parent’s homes.

    It takes a very small amount of extrapolating to see the incredible impact this has on food retailing. Mega-stores surrounded by even larger parking lots will have minimal importance to people who eschew car ownership and large homes. Rather, we see increasing pressure for smaller stores in walking-friendly neighborhoods.

    Now let’s first take a deep breath and remember, things change. These ownership-adverse millennials could shift their living habits drastically as they age, start having families and see the value of one-stop shopping and suburbs. Remember, the same generation (my generation) moved from “don’t trust anyone over 30” to ”60 is the new 30” in the blink of an eye. (Well, at least it seemed like the blink of an eye.)

    We know things change. We just don’t know how. But we still have to find ways to prepare.

    It is like the "butterfly effect" that Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) describes in Jurassic Park: " A butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing, and weather in New York is different."

    An Uber passenger opens a door, and hits a Bikeshare rider. And history changes. Again.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    Comedy Central announced yesterday that Trevor Noah, described as a 31-year-old biracial comic from South Africa, has been chosen to succeed Jon Stewart as host of the highly influential "Daily Show" when he steps down after a 16+ year tenure later this year.


    Noah, who is the child of a black South African mother and a white Swiss father - he describes himself in his standup routine as "born a crime" - will bring an new sensibility to the satirical news program - an international sensibility rooted in a very different upbringing than Stewart, a New Yorker with urban sensitivities and perspectives.

    Think about that for a second. It wasn't that long ago that Comedy Central's late night block was occupied by two white guys in their late forties ... and in fairly short order, it will be occupied by a biracial 31 year old from South Africa and a 53-year old African American (Larry Wilmore, who hosts "The Nightly Show" at 11:30 pm).

    That's a remarkable shift, and reflective of broader cultural changes that are taking place across the country as we become a more diverse place than ever before. Not a post-racial society by any means, but certainly a place where there is greater recognition and embracing of differing perspectives.

    And the thing is, it is only people of a certain age who even look at these shifts as being remarkable ... if you are a young person, such changes (whether they have to do with race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation) seem natural and mainstream, not out of the ordinary.

    I can't help but think that this is a good thing. A great thing.

    If you want to get a taste of Trevor Noah's trenchant and highly relevant humor, check out his first appearance on "The Daily Show," above. While Noah has only appeared on "The Daily Show" three times, he's hosted a comedy show in South Africa ... so he knows what he's doing. As this debut is, at least in my view, a knockout ... and yes, an Eye-Opener.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    It didn't take "Saturday Night Live" long to weigh in on the decision by Starbucks to ask its baristas to enable conversations with customers about race in America by writing "Race Together" on coffee cups. That decision prompted a lot of conversation and debate ... and this particularly funny bit.


    KC's View:

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    The Associated Press reports that Amazon is getting into the referral service business, putting it into competition with the likes of Angie's List.

    "The system, called Amazon Home Services, is the e-commerce company’s latest attempt to expand its empire beyond online shopping," the AP writes. "It was introduced on Monday across the United States after several months of testing in New York, Los Angeles and Amazon’s home city, Seattle."

    The story goes on: "Amazon says it believes connecting consumers with handymen and home-maintenance specialists will be a logical extension to its e-commerce business because about 85 million of its customers buy products needing installation or periodic servicing. About 700 different services, including housecleaning and goat-grazing, can be booked through Amazon in major United States cities. Amazon collects a commission ranging from 10 to 20 percent from most of the services. All companies listed in the service are vetted by Amazon, which also guarantees all the work."
    KC's View:
    Goat grazing? Really?

    I have to admit that I'm a big Angie's List fan ... it is a great resource and I've never been disappointed by the people I've hired through it.

    I'm not sure how successful Amazon will be at this, but it certainly will have tons of data about its customers with which to target its pitches. But maybe it doesn't have to make that much money ... it is all about getting a piece of every transaction, which means making money quite literally on the margins. If Amazon can fold even more people deeper into its ecosystem, that's good for Amazon, and not necessarily bad for consumers.

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    The Canadian Press reports that Target expects to have all of its 133 Canadian stores shuttered by mid-April, about a month earlier than originally planned.

    According to the story, "Some locations have already ceased operations — 17 stores closed in the middle of March. Another six Target locations will shutter on Monday, while 23 are slated for closure on April 1, and 32 more on April 2."

    The Press writes that "a liquidation has been underway since last month, while lawyers are in court trying to iron out the details of Target’s departure. A variety of creditors that include landlords, suppliers and others impacted by the closures, are trying to determine what will happen to money they’re owed."
    KC's View:
    I have to say that I really admire the way that Target CEO Brian Cornelll has moved as quickly as possible to get this off his plate ... if he dithered or delayed, Canada was going to become his problem, and he had to make sure that it remained the problem of the previous management.

    Plus, I loved the way in which he framed the decision; in one story, he said that he knew he had to pull the trigger when he went into parking lots of Canadian stores just before Christmas and saw a lack of cars ... and figured that if the stores could not generate traffic at that time of year, they'd never be able to.

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    In the UK, the Guardian reports that Tesco is looking to simplify and streamline its relationships with suppliers, "cutting the number of ways in which it charges them from 24 to just three." CEO Dave Lewis says that "this year it would reduce the number of ways it can seek payment from suppliers to five. By 2017, it will cut the number of reasons to demand a bonus payment from suppliers to three – volume, premium positioning on the grocer’s shelves, and compensation for items that have to be recalled."

    The move comes as Tesco continues to deal with the fallout from an accounting scandal in which it overestimated revenue and underestimated costs, prompting a federal investigation into its business practices and dealings.

    And, the story says, "The restructuring plan reveals just how important income from suppliers had become to supermarkets, often prompting them to put products on their shelves because they generate payments, rather than because shoppers might want to buy them."

    In other Tesco news, Reuters reports that the retailer "has started the process to sell-off land from abandoned supermarket development projects, seeking to raise cash to help to finance its recovery plan."
    KC's View:
    Wow. A supermarket chain actually seems to be addressing the fact that it was making more money on the buy than on the sell ...

    The whole promotional payments system is the ultimate in lower-case corruption, enabling an environment that focuses on all the wrong things. Too bad it took an accounting scandal, federal probes, and (perhaps not coincidentally) a new CEO who comes from the supplier community to recognize the problem and create some measure of change.

    Better late than never.

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    National Public Radio's The Salt has a piece about the modern supermarket wars:

    "Traditional grocers are increasingly losing market share — some 15 percent in the past 10 years — to more nimble competitors like smaller markets, convenience stores, farmers markets and even dollar stores. That, along with the rise of online food shopping, is forcing the old-school grocers to innovate in ways that should yield a better overall experience for consumers down the road."

    The story goes on to say that "some companies are adapting faster than others." Phil Lempert, the "Supermarket Guru," tells The Salt that "most big grocery chains have realized that if they're going to win back some of the shoppers who have drifted away, they're going to have to get a lot more creative and flexible."

    Good piece, and you can read it in its entirety here.
    KC's View:
    There won't be anything in here that will surprise most retail executives who have been paying attention, but one of the reasons it is worth taking a look at it is because it frames the shifts taking place from the consumers' point of view. I always think that, whatever business we happen to be in, it is important to remind ourselves how we are perceived from the outside. Otherwise, you're guilty of epistemic closure, and that can be fatal.

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    Reuters reports that Walmart will "omit a shareholder proposal that sought to link executive pay to a measure of staff motivation from a vote at its annual meeting in June after the U.S. securities regulator ruled in the retailer's favor ... The Securities and Exchange Commission sided with Wal-Mart's assertion that it could be omitted on the grounds that it had already been 'substantially implemented' in other ways by the company, according to the ruling posted on the SEC's website."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that some San Diego McDonald's are offering breakfast menu items all-day long as they look for ways to increase the fast food chain's consumer relevance.

    "We know our customers love McDonald's breakfast, and they tell us they'd like to enjoy it beyond the morning hours," the company said. "We look forward to learning from this test, and it's premature to speculate on any outcomes."

    • The Associated Press reports that Dunkin' Donuts is saying that "10 percent of eggs sourced for breakfast sandwiches in the U.S. will be cage-free" by the end of next year, and that it is assessing its ability to make a shift to all cage-free eggs on a global basis.

    In addition, the story says, Dunkin' Donuts "said that by 2022 it will only source in the U.S. pork that does not use gestation crates" (the metal pens used to house pregnant pigs that are so small that the pigs cannot turn around, that have been declared as cruel by animal rights advocates). This move follows similar decisions by Burger King and Wendy's.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    • The newly merged Albertsons and Safeway chains announced that Brad Street, most recently vice president of operations for Jewel-Osco, is now president of the company’s Intermountain Division. He succeeds Susan Morris, who has been appointed president of the company’s Denver Division.

    • The Advocate is reporting that Emile R. Breaux will become president and CEO of Associated Grocers on June 1, completing a transition that started more than a year ago when J.H. “Jay” Campbell Jr. announced his planned retirement.

    Campbell, the story notes, "will remain with Associated Grocers as its executive chairman and member of the company’s board of directors."

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon has hired Sean Cassidy, described as "an Alaska Air Group Inc. pilot and former member of a Transportation Security Administration aviation-security advisory committee" to oversee "partner relationships" for its drone delivery program.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    Bloomberg is reporting that James Wood, the CEO of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. during the 1980s and, before that, CEO of Grand Union, has died. He was 85, and the cause of death was listed as congestive heart failure.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 31, 2015

    Yesterday, MNB reported on coverage of the new Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law last week by Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the extent to which many in the business community are opposing the initiative, saying that it creates the potential for discrimination against the LGBT community.

    I agree with that assessment. I wrote, in part:

    I've stated my opinion on similar bills here before - that history is replete with examples of people and institutions that use religious freedom as an excuse to discriminate. I don't think there is any room for that sort of thinking, and I believe that this opinion is firmly in the mainstream.

    Businesses need to think about this issue, and be prepared to respond to questions from customers, employees and business partners. It won't just be the media asking.

    MNB user Kirk Brown responded:

    Agreed that the language needs to be clarified to prevent outright discrimination of protected classes outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    However, if a business or religious organization is opposed to something based solely on their religious beliefs, they should not be forced to participate in that which they are opposed. Especially if there is an alternative to their business that a consumer can choose to patronize.

    A Jewish deli is approached by a black organization to cater a party and the party that requires Prosciutto, baked ham, and other pork products are part of the deli trays. All of those products are legal and easily attainable in the open market, but the deli refuses because their religious beliefs don’t allow them to handle pork. The deli is not anti-black, nor is it discriminating. They are abiding by their religious beliefs, and those consumers can simply choose to go elsewhere.

    A Muslim bakery is approached by a gay couple to build a wedding cake that features two men kissing on top of the cake. The decoration on top of the cake is legal and easily attainable on the open market. The bakery refuses because they are morally opposed to participating in that which does not align with their religious beliefs, and may even get them in trouble with their local religious leaders if they do. Why compel them to participate in that which they are morally opposed to?
    One should not be compelled to violate their religious beliefs because the government says so.
    If the behavior of these businesses is so reprehensible, the market will decide if they should stay in business.

    From another reader:

    Let's forget about this "religious freedom" frenzy.  The salient issue is any company's inalienable right to choose whom to do business with.  While every taxpayer is equally entitled to government services, private transactions should be governed only by the mutual desires of buyer and seller to partake.

    First of all, that's nonsense. If it were true, then businesses would be legally able to not sell to black people ... or Jewish people ... or Irish people ... or anybody they choose, based on whatever criteria they choose.

    Which they cannot. You choose to do business in the public square, you have to provide your services to anyone willing to pay for them. That's the deal. Discrimination is illegal.

    As for the examples offered by the first email, I don't think there is any law that mandates that a deli operated by an Orthodox Jew has to carry prosciutto, baked ham, and other pork products. If someone walks in and wants those products and they're not on the menu, then they have to go elsewhere ... but the deli doesn't get to choose not to sell to someone because of their ethnicity.

    And as for the bakery asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding ... the thing I've never understood is why baking that cake is a sin. It isn't like the bakers are being forced into a same-sex marriage. They just have to bake a cake ... and I'm not sure there is anything particularly sinful selling people any figures they want for the top of the cake.

    But here's the bigger question. Exactly how many such cases have taken place in Indiana in recent years that forced the governor and legislature there to push for this law? Was there an outbreak that broke the camel's back?

    Not everyone who wrote in agreed with the Indiana law.

    MNB reader Rob Wray wrote:

    Great recap on the business community’s response to this divisive law. Your comments were very insightful — our industry needs to be able to respond on this issue. Discrimination in public accommodations — including retail stores and lunch counters — should be against the law for everyone.

    From another reader:

    What horrifies me is the huge disconnect between Gov. Pence and the majority of Americans.  Where are they getting the message that we want, or even need this legislation?  Wow.  Glad I don't live there.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post yesterday that read, in part:

    There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country.

    A wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states, would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors. Some, such as the bill enacted in Indiana last week that drew a national outcry and one passed in Arkansas, say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.

    Others are more transparent in their effort to discriminate. Legislation being considered in Texas would strip the salaries and pensions of clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — even if the Supreme Court strikes down Texas’ marriage ban later this year. In total, there are nearly 100 bills designed to enshrine discrimination in state law.

    These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.

    America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms ...

    Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination ... This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.

    On a somewhat less serious note, yesterday I took note of the closing of a Lake Placid, New York, Howard Johnson's ... leaving only two in existence, in Bangor, Maine, and Lake George, New York. (Amazing for a company that once was the largest restaurant chain in the country, but totally misread the marketplace ... think A&P or RadioShack or Blockbuster or Borders...)

    I added that the locales of the two remaining Howard Johnson's surprised me:

    Because I would have bet real money that there was one in Rock Ridge.

    MNB reader Mike Freese responded:

    Simply one of the great movies of all time and love the reference to one of the many "Johnsons" in Rock Ridge.

    MNB reader Keith Gleason wrote:

    My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention at the news…

    And Tom Redwine wrote:

    Oh, Kevin… I do so dig the voodoo that you do SOOOOOOO WELL! Thanks for my first giggle of the morning!


    And for those of you who didn't get the reference....go watch Blazing Saddles.

    KC's View: