retail news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• In his commencement speech at Arizona State University, Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks, suggested that there is one word that they need to keep in their minds and hearts - "Ubuntu."

"Ubuntu," he said is a South African word that means "I am because of you."

Schultz said in his speech that "not every business decision is an economic one and success is not an entitlement, it has to be earned and earned everyday through humility."

I am a Starbucks fan and customer, though I've been known from time to time to be less than completely persuaded about the decisions they make. But I have no reason to doubt Schultz's sincerity on this, and I agree with him - business should be about more than just business, and the greatest business leaders know that.


Bloomberg reports that Walgreens Boots Alliance has taken steps "to force U.S. antitrust officials to decide within two months whether to approve its proposed takeover of rival pharmacy chain Rite Aid Corp. The companies have notified the Federal Trade Commission that they have complied with the agency's request for information related to the deal, a move that triggers a 60-day deadline for the commission to clear the merger or sue to block it ... Walgreens and Rite Aid have been grappling with the FTC for months in an attempt to resolve the agency's concerns that the merger of the No. 2 and No. 3 pharmacy chains could undermine competition."


• The Wall Street Journal writes that the new CEO of Coca-Cola, James Quincey, "wants the company to shake off a culture of cautiousness that has dogged the soda giant for more than a century," a problem that has been nicknamed "New Coke Syndrome."

While Quincey concedes that messing around with Coke's flagship beverage is problematic, with smaller brands and opportunities, “If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.”

Quincey adds, "The trap you fall into as a big company is you start… looking at the world through the lens of your existing business: How can I leverage what I’ve got to get more? But the way to avoid getting disrupted is to start with the consumer and say: What’s actually happening out there?”


Reuters reports that "Bumble Bee Foods LLC has agreed to plead guilty to one count of fixing the prices of canned tuna sold in the United States and to pay a criminal fine of $25 million, the Justice Department said ... In its complaint, the Justice Department said that executives from Bumble Bee and unnamed other companies held 'discussions and attended meetings' from 2011 to 2013 'to fix, raise, and maintain the prices of packaged seafood'."
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