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    Published on: June 13, 2019

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    I recorded this FaceTime at the United Fresh Produce Association show in Chicago, where I spent some time this week recording a couple of Retail Tomorrow podcasts that we’ll be posting this summer.

    Now, you may be saying to yourself, wait a minute. The Retail Tomorrow initiative comes out of GMDC, the Global Market Development Center, which traditionally has focused on the nonfood part of the business, while United Fresh is all about the fresh side … so what do they have in common? Well, I don’t think that this is counter-intuitive at all, since both - GMDC with Retail Tomorrow and United Fresh with its BrandStorm event - understand that it is critical to think about the big picture, and that progressive organizations, like great retailers, have to be willing to venture outside their traditional lanes.

    Speaking out going outside lanes … one of my guests in the podcasts was Michael Stebner, who is the director of culinary innovation at Sweetgreen, the healthy food-oriented fast casual chain and fast-growing restaurant chain. One of the things that Michael talked about - and I was totally intrigued by this - is how Sweetgreen has developed what it calls its Outposts, which are helping the fuel its growth.

    A Sweetgreen Outpost is pretty simple - it is just a simple kiosk of sort that gets positioned in a company’s office, or a building, or an office park, or in shared work spaces like WeWork. People who work there know that if they place their order via mobile app by a certain time, their food will be delivered to that kiosk at a specific hour … and they don’t have to pay a delivery fee. Not only does this allow Sweetgreen to go to its customers - as opposed to waiting for customer to come to it - but it also allows Sweetgreen to schedule the ordering and delivery times in such a way that it takes advantage of slower hours in its restaurants to assemble these meals.

    I think this is simple, and kind of brilliant, and there clearly is a market for the concept. Sweetgreen had just 15 of them a few months ago, but now is approaching several hundred, with expectations that it won’t be long before it has several thousand.

    It is the kind of idea that more retailers ought to think about … taking click-and-collect to the next step, and making it highly focused (on meals) and highly targeted (on a customer who might otherwise be patronizing s competitor for share-of-stomach).

    In other words, the very definition of a brand-centric version of what retail can look like tomorrow.

    That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe

    Over the years, the subject of death - and, more specifically, the marketing of death - has come up here from time to time. From Costco’s decision to start selling caskets to changes that funeral homes have made in how they come to market, it has been interesting to see how leaders in this industry have innovated, and to look for metaphors that can be applied to other industries.

    Now, the New York Times has a story about the latest innovation: “The death services industry is heavily regulated and fraught with religious and health considerations,” the Times writes. “The handling of dead bodies doesn’t seem ripe for venture-backed disruption. The gravestone doesn’t seem an obvious target for innovation.

    “But in a forest south of Silicon Valley, a new start-up is hoping to change that. The company is called Better Place Forests. It’s trying to make a better graveyard,” and is doing so by “buying forests, arranging conservation easements intended to prevent the land from ever being developed, and then selling people the right to have their cremated remains mixed with fertilizer and fed to a particular tree.”

    Here’s how it works:

    “Customers come to claim a tree for perpetuity. This now costs between $3,000 (for those who want to be mixed into the earth at the base of a small young tree or a less desirable species of tree) and upward of $30,000 (for those who wish to reside forever by an old redwood). For those who don’t mind spending eternity with strangers, there is also an entry-level price of $970 to enter the soil of a community tree. (Cremation is not included.)

    “A steward then installs a small round plaque in the earth like a gravestone.

    “When the ashes come, the team at Better Place digs a three-foot by two-foot trench at the roots of the tree. Then, at a long table, the team mixes the person’s cremated remains with soil and water, sometimes adding other elements to offset the naturally highly alkaline and sodium-rich qualities of bone ash. It’s important the soil stay moist; bacteria will be what breaks down the remains.”

    I love this. I’ve always thought that when I go, I’d like my ashes to be tucked into a small, remote corner of a vineyard … far enough away from the vines so that they do not affect the terroir, but close enough that if someone comes to visit, they can stop at a nearby winery for some libations.

    The interesting thing about the Better Place Forests concept is that it is a fairly low-tech innovation that at least initially is designed to appeal to people living in one of the most high-tech places on earth, which may speak in an Eye-Opening way about people’s desire for something basic and elemental to define not just their lives, but their deaths.

    Life is ripe for disruption and innovation. So is business. And so, apparently, is death.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    CBRE Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate services group, is out with an analysis of where it believes the US grocery industry is going over the next decade, with some key takeaways:

    • CBRE believes the checkout line will disappear, made obsolete by technology advances.

    • It believes that most mainstream grocers will expand into the c-store business, seeing growth in convenience-driven formats.

    • “Collaborations,” the study says, “will expand grocers’ offerings in an effort to add higher-margin merchandise and services in their stores to counter the steep costs of last-mile delivery.”
    KC's View:
    Not surprisingly, since CBRE is a real estate company, it believes that “though grocery e-commerce will certainly rise over the next five years, online share will be much lower than most other retail categories and real estate demand will remain strong.”

    I think that while this may be true, the bricks-and-mortar stores that remain viable will be the ones that work to redefine the experience. They can’t be yesterday’s stores, and they will have to successfully integrate elements of the digital experience into the physical store.

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    Walmart announced yesterday that its Jet e-commerce business will be integrated into its the company’s mainstream business, though Jet will continue to be marketed as a separate brand, largely in urban areas where not being Walmart is seen as an advantage.

    Walmart bought Jet three years ago for $3 billion.

    Simon Belsham, the president of Jet, will leave the company, though he will remain there until late summer to facilitate the transition.

    In a blog posting, Walmart e-commerce president and CEO Marc Lore said that “across most of the country, we saw we could get a much higher return on our marketing investments with, so we’ve dialed up our marketing spend there. However, in specific large cities where Walmart has few or no stores, Jet has become hyper focused on those urban customers … While this has made Jet smaller from a sales perspective, it has helped us create a smart portfolio approach where our businesses complement each other … Jet continues to be a very valuable brand to us.”

    The Wall Street Journal writes that “Walmart said it isn’t planning to cut jobs and expects existing Jet employees to move to new roles within the retail giant. It declined to say how many employees work at Jet, an online seller of groceries, clothes and electronics, whose main offices are in Hoboken, N.J.”

    In its analysis, TechCrunch writes: “After Walmart acquired Jet in 2016, it merged a few of its teams, including supply chain. Combining fulfillment centers and mirroring inventory helped Walmart build its delivery logistics , enabling two-day free shipping and free next-day delivery without a membership fee, making it more competitive with Amazon, which charges a fee for its Prime program.

    “ relaunched last year to focus on customers in big cities, like New York, with a product assortment tailored to their shopping preferences and three-hour grocery delivery to compete with Amazon Prime Now.”

    In its report, Reuters writes that “Walmart has put more emphasis on shopper perks such as same-day delivery and curbside pickup of groceries ordered online, focusing on food and grocery sales using those delivery methods. Jet, as a platform to sell similar items, has fallen by the wayside … The Jet overhaul is the latest sign that Walmart is attempting to fix the ways it reaches shoppers using different websites and delivery methods. Earlier this year, it ended a delivery partnership with Google-backed Deliv and last year Reuters reported its struggles to use its own employees to deliver products.
    KC's View:
    A few years ago, Walmart was making noise in the fashion business, but I thought any real commitment to the category ended when it moved its fashion business from New York to Bentonville … which, nice as it is, is not exactly the hub of the fashion world.

    I don’t think this is the same thing, in part because Marc Lore is still there, and he’s been instrumental in making Walmart a lot more nimble and digital-centric than it was in the past. It seems to me that as long as they can keep the disruptive culture promulgated by Jet alive within the company, they’ll be okay. But whether it can do this remains an open question…

    Back in 2017, after Walmart acquired Jet, it made some news when it ended on-site happy hours at Jet’s New Jersey offices … drinking in the office was not in synch with Walmart’s culture. (Neither was swearing, which Walmart also banned … apparently never having seen an episode of “The Sopranos,”) Later on, Walmart backtracked on the drinking, but the move told us something about culture and instincts.

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    Agence France-Presse reports that Uber is testing drones to use in its Uber Eats food delivery service, though for the time being, logistics will require that “the drones will not deliver directly to customers, but to a safe drop-off location where an Uber Eats driver will complete the order. In the future, Uber hopes to land the drones on parked vehicles located near each delivery location to allow the final delivery by hand.”

    "Our goal is to expand Uber Eats drone delivery so we can provide more options to more people at the tap of a button," said Luke Fischer, head of flight operations at Uber Elevate.

    AFP writes that “Uber said it had developed a proprietary airspace management system called Elevate Cloud Systems that will guide the drones to their location.”
    KC's View:
    It was just the other day that Amazon said it would begin delivering via drone in just a few months. Now this.

    Competitors have a choice. Invest in drone technology. Or anti-aircraft guns.

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    The New York Post reports that Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks who said earlier this year that he was considering an independent run for the presidency in 2020, yesterday announced that he was suspending the effort and laying off all but a few senior staff members.

    The reason - Schultz said he was recovering from back surgeries and needed the summer to rest and rehabilitate. He said he would revisit his presidential ambitions at the end of summer.
    KC's View:
    I wonder if Schultz will be spending any time in traction? Because his presidential campaign certainly didn’t seem to get any.

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    Terrific story in the New York Times about East West Market in Vancouver, British Columbia, which wanted to shame its customers into not using plastic bags and bringing their own to the store. So, it printed up single-use plastic bags with rude sayings on them, such as “Dr. Toews’ Wart Ointment Wholesale,” “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium” or “The Colon Care Co-op.” Plus, it charged five cents each of the bags.

    The hope was that people would bring their own bags rather than be seen carrying such bags.

    It didn’t exactly work out that way. Rather, the bags became a hit, and customers started collecting them and carrying them as a kind of badge of honor.

    “Now that the entire region knows they are purposefully embarrassing, I’m even more inclined to get one. I might even buy extra bags to give to people,” one customer wrote on Twitter.

    This all takes place as Canada has announced its intention to ban many single-use plastic items by 2021, including bags, straws, cutlery and stirring sticks, to cut harmful waste that the government and activists say are damaging the country's ecosystems.
    KC's View:
    Go figure. Those funny Canadians.

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    • Amazon has become the world's most valuable brand, according to the 2019 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands ranking released today by WPP and Kantar. The ranking says that “Amazon's smart acquisitions, that have led to new revenue streams, excellent customer service provision and its ability to stay ahead of its competitors by offering a diverse eco-system of products and services, have allowed Amazon to continuously accelerate its brand value growth.”

    Technology brands dominate the top 10 list, as they have since it was first published in 2006. After Amazon, in order, the companies making the list are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Visa, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent, McDonald’s and AT&T.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    Bloomberg reports that “Walmart Inc. has updated the information network used daily by its suppliers to let them submit cost increases that are directly attributable to higher U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

    “The retailer introduced the tool, dubbed ‘Cost Change Scenario,’ a year ago and has been rolling it out across product categories, according to internal memos and emails obtained by Bloomberg. The online application, whose existence hasn’t previously been reported, replaces Excel-based forms that vendors had to fill out manually. The new process is quicker and lets vendors choose a reason for the cost hike from a menu that includes tariffs, labor, transportation and raw materials … The move shows how the world’s largest retailer, which sells billions of dollars of goods made in China annually, is incorporating the reality of tariffs into its day-to-day operations.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    Bloomberg reports that “Ocado Group Plc is investing in a pair of vertical-farming ventures as the U.K. maker of online retail technologies branches out following its mammoth deal with Marks & Spencer Group Plc.

    “The company said Monday it bought a 58% stake in Jones Foods Co., Europe’s largest operating vertical farm, based in Scunthorpe, England. Ocado will use its know-how in automation and distribution to make the herb grower more efficient and potentially integrate it with Ocado Zoom to deliver fresh products to customers within an hour.”

    Fast Company reports that “Beyond Meat is releasing a newer, ‘meatier’ burger … The new version will boast a few key differences, with an emphasis on texture and appearance to better represent the natural feel of beef.”

    The story says that “Beyond Meat burgers will now come with ‘juicy marbling,’ as the company puts it, to mimic white flecks of fat … In addition, burgers now quickly transition from fleshy red to barbecued brown during the cooking process. Food scientists accomplished the feat by way of apple extracts, which oxidize and change color (much like real apples) when exposed to heat. On the aroma end, the product reportedly possesses a ‘neutral aroma’ more in line with meat.”

    The story notes that “when Beyond Meat debuted on the Nasdaq in early May, the stock quickly soared. By the end of its first day of trading, the price more than doubled—closing at $65.75 after being set at $25. That makes it the biggest IPO pop for a company with a market cap larger than $200 million that Wall Street has seen since 2000. The trend continued through its first quarter, in which the food company surpassed analysts’ expectations. Revenue increased by 215% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2019 to $40.2 million, and it’s predicted its revenue will more than double in 2019.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 13, 2019

    In the deciding game of the NHL Stanley Cup finals, the St. Louis Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1, to take the best-of-seven series 4-3 and win the first championship in the franchise’s 50-year history.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 13, 2019

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    KC's View: