retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• The Ithaca Journal reports that at the end of the month, “Wegmans will stop providing plastic bags at its stores in Ithaca and Corning as the company heads in the direction of removing plastic bags from all of its locations in New York state. Wegmans announced in April that it will eliminate plastic bags from all its New York stores ahead of the state ban that will take effect on March 1, 2020.

“The grocer's goal is to convert all customers to reusable bags. Paper bags will continue to be available at 5 cents for each bag. All money collected from the pilot program will go to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.”

• The Associated Press reports that in about a month, LL Bean will open its first store in Canada, just outside Toronto, in a partnership with Toronto-based Jaytex Group. The iconic retailer launched a Canada-specific website last month.

According to the story, “L.L. Bean already owns 28 stores, a call center and a distribution center in Japan, where it has operated since 1992.”

I did a new Retail Tomorrow podcast taping the other day with Steve Smith, the CEO of LL Bean, and we’ll be posting it here in a few weeks … I think you’ll really like it, and will find it enormously illuminating. Stay tuned.

• The New York Times reports on what some might’ve seen as an unlikely scenario - the resurgence of Chipotle, which just a few years ago was suffering through a series of food safety problems that threatened to bring down the entire brand.

“In announcing its second-quarter earnings on Tuesday,” the Times writes, “Chipotle reported same-store sales growth of 10 percent, beating analysts’ estimates and continuing its momentum from the last five quarters. Its stock price surged in after-hours trading, though some analysts have cautioned that there could be a drop in the coming months.”

Given full credit is CEO Brian Niccol, who came from Taco Bell in 2018 and was charged with saving what appeared to be a sinking ship.

Niccol, the story says, “has presided over a resurgence in sales driven by a revamped advertising strategy and the growth of the chain’s delivery business … As chief executive, Mr. Niccol said he has tried to keep the chain’s management focused on a few key projects, including the chain’s digital presence. Last year, Chipotle started a partnership with DoorDash, one of the leading third-party food-delivery apps; delivery services are now available at 95 percent of the chain’s locations. Some restaurants brands have struggled to monetize the growing online delivery market, but Chipotle saw its digital sales nearly double over the past quarter.”

The piece notes that “one factor that has helped Chipotle’s delivery business is the densely packed structure of its signature burrito, which tends to stay fresh while it’s being transported. But perhaps more important, the chain has also found an efficient way to prepare food for customers who order online, installing separate assembly-line stations in nearly 2,000 of its kitchens.”

I must admit that I have not been to a Chipotle since 2018. Hard for me to get past all the problems … but maybe, one of these days, I’ll have to get past my hesitation.
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