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    Published on: June 20, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    As Michael Sansolo noted in his column last week, the musical "Hamilton" seems to have pervaded every part of the culture.

    Including, as the Chicago Tribune reports, the beer business.

    Because, when Jin Koch of the Boston Beer Co. showed up for an interview there recently, he took note of the fact that his Sam Adams brand gets a shout-out onstage when one of the characters says, "I'm John Laurens in the place to be! Two pints o' Sam Adams, but I'm workin' on three, uh!"

    Love it! Love it! Love it!" Koch tells the . "You know, somebody probably said, 'You can't have the founding fathers as black actors doing rap,' and look at what they did. That's kind of the story of Sam Adams. People saying you can't do it. You shouldn't do it. But I said I'm going to do it anyway."

    Indeed, Koch says that his entire business model - which arguably started the craft brewing business that has become so strong in this country - is based on challenging conventional wisdom.

    "A guy who worked with us for many years had this nice phrase," Koch says. "He said at Boston Beer Co., there's a restless dissatisfaction with the status quo, and that has been kind of one of our values. The status quo sucks. The status quo exists because we haven't figured out yet how to make it better, but we will. We're constantly innovating, not listening to people who say you can't do that."

    "The status quo sucks." It may not be poetry, but to people who prize innovation - and/or drink beer - that kind of sentiment is music to their ears.

    And my kind of Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    The Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch reports that "a 74,000-square-foot Wegmans supermarket planned for the Brooklyn Navy Yard will swallow the entire first floor of a new five-story building at 21 Flushing Ave., according to architect renderings and plans filed this week with the city."

    The story goes on to say that "the popular supermarket chain will be moving into the city at a time when local favorite Fairway is struggling to stay afloat. Fairway filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, setting both employees and customers on edge.
    Wegmans, on the other hand, has said its first New York City outpost will initially employ 450 workers, of which 150 will be full-time — although that number could grow to 250 in the future."
    KC's View:
    In financial terms, Wegmans would be seen as a growth stock. Fairway? Not so much.

    In fact, I can't think of anyone who would rather have a Fairway store in their neighborhood as opposed to a Wegmans. This speaks both to the high quality that Wegmans brings to the marketplace, as well as to the way in which Fairway's owners have almost completely squandered the consumer good will that it had built up over decades.

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    The New York Times Magazine over the weekend had a long and fascinating piece by Joe Nocera that looked at Netflix, examining both its business model and its culture and wondering, as the headline said, "Can Netflix Survive In The New World It Created?"

    One of the things most interesting about the story is the way in which Netflix has continued to evolve, shape-shifting when necessary - and sometimes even when not - to adapt to what its senior management sees as a changing landscape in both the entertainment and technology worlds. In some ways, as much as Netflix has captured the popular imagination - not to mention many consumer dollars - its greater challenges lay before it as the competition on many fronts rises up to change the way they do business.

    But there's also another cultural phenomenon at Netflix that grabbed my attention:

    "For those who fit in, Netflix was a great place to work — empowering and rational," the story says. "There are no performance reviews, no limits on vacation time or maternity leave in the first year and a one-sentence expense policy: Do what is in the company’s best interest. But those who could not adapt found that their tenure at Netflix was stressful and short-lived. There was pressure on newcomers to show that they had what it took to make it at Netflix; those who didn’t were let go."

    In fact, one of the company's earliest hires, Patty McCord, served as Netflix's chief talent officer. In that role, she challenged founder Reed Hastings to "ask himself a few times a year whether he would hire the same person in the same job if it opened up that day. If the answer was no," the story says, Netflix should just write the person a large severance check and move on. It was a sometimes painful way to do business, but McCord - and eventually Hastings - saw it as a critical step in making sure Netflix always had the right people to take it into the future, as opposed to just the people who had been successful in the past.

    And then, one day, Hastings looked at McCord and decided that if the chief talent officer job opened up, he wouldn't hire her to do it. And so he let her go.

    You can - and should - read all about it here. It is a great piece of journalism about a company that has quite literally helped to change its corner of the world, while having an enormous impact on consumer behavior ... and still realizes that the folks there have to work twice as hard to make sure that it is positioned to do it again.
    KC's View:
    It also is worth noting, if you are in the retail business, the extent to which Netflix's business strategy has evolved from an understanding that if it only is in the business of renting stuff that customers could get elsewhere, that ultimately would be an unsustainable model that would leave it open to competitive threats. Which is why it spends so much money and time these days focusing on original content - which is something that retailers call "private label."

    It is, in fact, the differences - not the similarities - that define whether or not a company is going to be successful. And the faster retailers come to that realization, the better chance they have of surviving the very real threats to their continued existence.

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    The Oregonian reports that Amazon plans to open a bricks-and-mortar bookstore this fall in the Washington Square mall in Portland, Oregon.

    It will be the third such store opened by Amazon. The first, in Seattle, opened late last year and was the subject of an MNB "FaceTime" piece that you can see here. The second is slated to open in San Diego this summer.

    Amazon Books features only best-selling titles, using online sales as the benchmark by which stocking decisions are made; customers also can order books not carried in-store for delivery. It also features a broad range of Amazon devices - ranging from Kindles to Fire TV to the Echo - that all serve as conduits through which people can buy additional products from Amazon.
    KC's View:
    Okay. Another reason why Portland rocks.

    Not that anyone will be surprised to see that sentiment here.

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    USA Today reports that today is the day that Costco "is switching credit card providers to Citi Visa, ending its 16-year relationship with American Express. For those among the Costco's 81.3 million members who use credit cards for their purchases, it's a big deal."

    Costco no longer will accept any card other than Visa, but will also accept cash, checks, debit cards, Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and Costco Cash Cards.

    In addition, customers who have been using  Costco's TrueEarnings American Express cards will now find that they don't work anywhere. But, "Citi will be mailing out new Citi Visa cards, officially called the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, to all Costco members who currently have an American Express Costco card ... Costco includes the cost for the card as part of your annual $55 Costco membership, so there is no additional fee to get the new card and no annual fee to use it beyond your Costco membership."
    KC's View:
    I suspect it won't have any long-term impact on Costco, but there is a certain sentiment out there among some customers that this was done more for Costco than for them. Not any sort of major customer revolt ... just a little rippling in the Force.

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    • The Associated Press reports that a Missouri judge has ordered Walgreen "to pay $309,000 for violating an agreement between the drugstore chain and the state of Missouri over allegedly deceptive pricing." The penalty was $1,000 "for each of the 309 times Walgreens was found to have left sales tags on the shelves after the sales period ended, Attorney General Chris Koster said. Koster says that was in violation of a 2014 deal mean to halt suspected overcharging of customers."

    Walgreen said it would continue working to fix its pricing issues, and expressed gratitude that the judge also didn't cite the company for contempt.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    • Publix Super Markets announced that Carol Jenkins Barnett, daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins, is stepping down from the company's board of directors. Barnett, 59, has been diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer's.

    She reportedly will remain on the board and serve as president of Publix Super Markets Charities.

    In a statement, she said that "in sharing our journey, we hope to provide greater awareness and education of Alzheimer's disease that affects more than 5.4 million Americans. We remain strong and hopeful that a cure will be on the horizon. We are grateful for the many thoughts and prayers. We know you will understand our request for privacy as there is much for our family to process and to learn about the challenges before us."
    KC's View:
    It probably would've been easier just to slip off and not say anything except to family, but that's not what leaders do. Those of us who have had family members afflicted with Alzheimer's and dementia know how tough a road it can be, and I cannot even imagine facing this sort of news at age 59. I wish her and her family all the best ... they will remain in my thoughts.

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    Anton Yelchin, a 27-year-old actor best known for playing Ensign Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek films, has died, killed, as the Associated Press reports, "by his own car as it rolled down his driveway early Sunday," pinning him against a pillar and security fence.

    Beyond the Star Trek films (the third of which comes out next month, Yelchin was seen as a rising star who had acted in projects ranging from Hearts in Atlantis, Terminator: Salvation, Green Room and, improbably enough, The Smurfs.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2016

    In an absolutely riveting Game 7 of the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 93-89. becoming the first NBA team in history to come back and win the championship after having been down in a best-of-seven series three games to one.

    The championship avenged the Cavaliers' 2015 loss in the finals, and also ended a 52-year major sports championship drought that had afflicted the city of Cleveland.
    KC's View: