retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to our story about JetBlue suing Walmart for trademark infringement over its new Jetblack concierge shopping service, one MNB reader wrote:

Didn’t Walmart purchase an on line fulfillment service name Jet? Are they not merely extending the use of the already established Jet franchise that they already purchased. Your observation is correct - it's a long stretch to confuse and airline with an on line supplier.

yesterday, MNB took note of a Wired report that Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, has released detailed plans for its Toronto project, where the city has given the company access to an undeveloped section of the waterfront and, in essence, offered it the opportunity to create the neighborhood of the future.

According to the story, “The four-volume plan highlights ambitious and sometimes flashy innovations from Sidewalk Labs, which has pledged to spend $1.3 billion on the project if it goes forward. The company hopes to construct all the buildings with timber, which it says is better for the environment, and build an underground pneumatic tube system for garbage removal. It wants residents to lean on public transit, walking, and biking rather than personal vehicles, and plans to build streets with autonomous vehicles - perhaps from its sister company, Waymo - in mind.”

Wired noted that there is a very Google-like, data-centric sensibility at the core of this development: “Sensors would stud the Quayside development, tracking everything from which street furniture residents use to how quickly they cross the street.

“This data collection is the most controversial part of Sidewalk’s plan. The company says the data is essential to building a new kind of urban space, where traffic, pollution, and noise levels are calibrated to keep residents happy … Sidewalk Labs has pledged to create new methods of protecting data collected in public areas, where residents and visitors aren’t actively consenting to its collection. It said all information would be depersonalized and disaggregated, to shield identities and sensitive information. It said it would never sell data to third parties. And it promised to create a transparent process through which it might allow others access to its collected data.”

I commented:

had the opportunity last year, as part of a Retail Tomorrow immersion conference, to visit the Sidewalk Labs outpost in Toronto, and I was very impressed … I found what they are doing to be fascinating, very much the model of where cities are going, and one of the reasons young people are lured by urban environments - they are about tomorrow.

There need to be safeguards. But the possibilities are endless.

MNB reader Lisa Malmarowski responded:

I agree with you but wow, just wow … I mean, what could go wrong? I’m sure we can trust this. Yeah, completely trustworthy. Sure.

I think I detect a certain cynicism.

We reported yesterday that the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the public does not have the right to know where more than $60 billion in taxpayer money that is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) specifically is being spent.

The case was precipitated back in 2011 when the Sioux Falls Argus Leader sued the federal government to obtain, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), data about how much money some 320,000 supermarkets were getting under SNAP, often referred to as food stamps; it was part of reporting projects on food stamp fraud and a look at the nation’s food deserts. After the federal government lost the case, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) stepped in and initiated appeals that eventually went to the Supreme Court. The FMI argument was that the release of the information would cause competitive harm to the supermarkets involved.

I commented:

I have a bias here. I started out a a newspaper reporter, and so I reflexively and instinctively tend to support the journalist position … which I always have in this case. As I’ve written here before, nobody would be surprised if Walmart is a major beneficiary. But what if we found out that, say, Whole Foods was? That was would be interesting … and not exactly worth keeping a secret … As a taxpayer I believe that I have a right to know where my money is being spent. I get twitchy when transparency is resisted by the federal government.

In this case, however, resistance actually has been futile.

MNB reader Leo Martineau responded:

Oh no Kevin, the Borg have taken over the federal government. Apparently we will be assimilated.


Here’s my response.

Finally, the other day we commented on published reports saying that a new poll from says that close to 40 percent of people between the age of 18 and 24 have not used deodorant in the last 12 months, and that close to half of people in that age range have not purchased deodorant in the last 12 months.

Based on a recent experience, I’d suggest that a sizable percentage of them are riding the New York City subway system.

It is, I wrote, an Eye-Opening generational portrait … and at least one company seems to think it has figured out how to get young people to use deodorant. Schmidt’s is teaming up with Justin Bieber for a new natural deodorant line called Here + Now.

This wouldn’t necessarily be my choice for how to entice young folks, but hey, whatever works … Please.

MNB reader Carol Schnabel responded:

Oh yes, please and soon.  More and more young people in offices and you surely can tell they don’t use deodorant.

Oh yuck!!!

KC's View: