retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Content Guy's Note: I am aware, largely because of the all the email I get, that not everybody who reads MNB likes it when I include stories about the intersection of business and politics. I'm also aware that my subscription numbers tend to go way up when these stories appear.

For the record, my goal is always to be relevant, even when it takes me into areas that can be tricky and controversial. In fact, especially when we go into those areas. Like it or not, the current political situation is one in which there will be relevant stories about business and politics, and I'm going to try to cover them as fairly and objectively as I can, while still bringing as much attitude as I can to commentaries where appropriate.

But, I've also decided that when it makes sense, I am going to segregate many of those stories into this new section. That way, if you don't want to read them, you can skip right over them. That's not to say that there won't be stand-alone business/political stories ... but it is going to depend on what I think about the stories and how important I think they are. (For example, I played the story about a pro-border tax coalition on its own because it seemed fair after I played the story about anti-tax efforts the same way.)

I recognize that this won't make everybody happy. That's okay. I always think that my job isn't to tell you the stories you want to read, but rather tell you the stories I think you need to know.

Plus, I'm fascinated by this stuff.

One other thing. As in FastNewsBeat, brief, occasional and sometimes gratuitous commentary will be italicized…


• Uber CEO Tracy Kalanick announced yesterday that he is withdrawing from President Donald Trump's economic advisory council after an uproar over an executive order restricting immigration into the US from seven predominantly Muslim countries caused many Uber customers to delete its application from their smartphones. (It didn't help that chief rival Lyft not only denounced the executive order, but pledged a million dollar donation to the American Civil Liberties Union.)

The New York Times writes that "Kalanick’s exit from the advisory council underscores the tricky calculus facing many Silicon Valley corporate chieftains who try to work with the new administration. On one hand, many tech executives have openly tried to engage with the president, a path that is typically good for business. Yet Mr. Trump’s immigration order has been so unpopular with so many tech workers — many of whom are immigrants themselves and who advocate globalization — that they are now exerting pressure on their chief executives to push back forcefully against the administration."

The Times also writes that "other corporate chiefs, including Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX, and Mary Barra of General Motors, are also on the president’s economic advisory team. Mr. Musk said on Twitter this week that the group of economic advisers planned to come to some sort of 'consensus' on immigration, and to influence Mr. Trump by engaging directly with him rather than cutting off ties completely."


• The New York Times this morning reports that Nordstrom has decided to cut its ties with Ivanka Trump-branded products.

However, the store says it isn't making the decision for political reasons. Rather, it says that based on the brand's performance, it was decided not to carry any of her products.

However, the story also notes that social media reaction forced Nordstrom to defend carrying her products in the days following the election; it said that carrying the products was a fashion and business decision, not a political calculation.

Ivanka Trump-branded products are still carried by Macy's, which stopped carrying her father's shirts and accessories after he described Mexican immigrants as “killers” and “rapists" when he declared his candidacy.


• The Wall Street Journal reports that yesterday, "hundreds of similar delis, bodegas and small New York City businesses owned by Yemenis closed for the afternoon." The story says that "the business owners and employees were protesting President Donald Trump ’s executive order that temporarily restricts Yemenis, and people from six other countries with predominantly Muslim populations, from entering the country. Mr. Trump has said the measure was necessary to protect the U.S. from terrorists."

The Journal story also says that "according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 42,000 Yemenis in the country. Organizers of Thursday’s rally say there are at least 3,000 Yemeni-owned groceries in the region, though no one has an exact number ... The closures of Yemeni grocery stores were exceptional for a kind of business that is known for being open long hours. It is a running joke that some shops don’t even have keys, said Abdul Mubarez, 56, who owns an ATM company and is among those helping to lead the protest ... Before getting into the ATM business, Mr. Mubarez owned 10 stores in midtown."

To be honest, I don't give a damn about overpriced stiletto heels and handbags, and I'm not really worried about whether Tracy Kalanick is misunderstood or not, or whether he gets to serve on a White House council. These people will all survive.

I find the story about the Yemeni grocers to be much more compelling, and far more deserving of attention. The Journal - hardly a liberal rag, by the way - tells the tale of one hard-working grocer who is deeply concerned that he is now unable to bring his wife and daughter to the US after spending significant time working on the immigration process. I'm not sure that closing down in protest actually will get anything done, though it certainly has gotten some media attention. Maybe that's worth something.

Businesses need to step carefully because in the current climate, people and opinions are so polarized that there isn't a helluva lot tolerance. That's too bad. But I think we need to be equally worried about how people who don't have a lot of options, don't have a lot of lobbying juice, who have done everything right, and who have a deep and abiding belief in what this country represents, are being affected.

KC's View: