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    Published on: November 4, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Boston Globe has a story about a new Wayfair sales strategy that is freaking out some of its customers.

    It works this way. The company has a "new customer service team, the Wayfair Insider Program, that monitors shoppers’ online browsing habits and then steps in to offer assistance as a way to close a sale." If you are spending a lot of time looking at at item and appear to be indecisive about buying the items, you get a phone call from a Wayfair Insider, who offers to help close the deal.

    Now, according to the Globe, the company says that "calls were not based on real-time browsing and noted that customers get an e-mail from Wayfair offering assistance before anyone places a call … there is a 48-hour lag time between someone browsing on the site and receiving a call, and that shoppers provided their phone number to the company in advance of their being contacted."

    But some folks still are creeped out by this, and are telling the Insiders a) not to call again, and b) let their superiors know that this is a little too much.

    The line, of course, is different for everyone … which is one of the reasons that companies have to be careful about such efforts.

    I got an email over the weekend from an MNB reader who saw my reference to the Quip toothbrush last week, Googled it, and since then keeps seeing sponsored posts for the product online. This is, to be sure, a common technique … not to mention one of the ways in which companies like Google and Facebook make money.

    Companies always are going to use data to target potentially receptive customers. Not only are they going to do it, but I have long argued that they should do it … that the collection and then use of actionable data is one of the great differentiators in the current marketplace.

    The trick is doing it in a way that doesn't make people feel like their privacy invaded. Or, maybe, doing it in a away that doesn't actually invade people's privacy.

    We have an ongoing debate about this in my house. Mrs. Content Guy feels violated by these ads, but I argue that if I am going to see ads, I'd rather see them for products in which I might be interested or might find relevant.

    So we draw the line differently in this case.

    On the other hand, I am offended when I get robocalls that start out, "Hello, senior!" And the other day, I got in the mail and offer for reduced-cost, high-functioning hearing aids, which really ticked me off.

    Mrs. Content Guy, on the other hand, found this to be enormously amusing.

    I think that's an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    The Wall Street Journal had a piece the other day about the tensions that are growing at a number of supermarkets when actual customers bump - sometimes literally - into people who are picking for customers who have ordered online.

    This has especially been true at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, which can be "flooded with what the company calls Prime Now shoppers, under pressure to accurately fill grocery orders for customers to arrive in as little as an hour. As these hired shoppers dash through aisles and bang carts into shelves of quinoa, there is less room for the niceties that many customers felt justified the chain’s 'whole paycheck' reputation for high prices.

    But the collision in priorities also is taking place at retailers such as Kroger and Albertsons and others, which often have made deals with third-part delivery companies such as Instacart to pick and deliver online orders. "As a result," the story says, "a legion of gig-economy shoppers has flooded U.S. supermarkets, scouring shelves for goods customers have ordered online. That is causing consternation in aisle three."

    The Journal writes that "Amazon is trying to keep the Prime Now pickers out of customers’ way. A Whole Foods in a Milwaukee suburb earlier this year closed its juice bar to make room for an Amazon delivery station, employees said. Workers that once made smoothies now chop watermelon for sale in the store in the backroom.

    "At another Whole Foods, a coffee bar was razed to make room for an area for the Prime Now shoppers to put their bags. One employee at a Whole Foods in Minnesota said managers placed signs in the storage area reminding Prime Now shoppers to walk on the right side of the corridor to tamp down congestion."
    KC's View:
    This is a tough one, and a really good argument for so-called dark stores that can serve online shoppers without impeding the forward movement of bricks-and-mortar customers who actually come to the store.

    It also is a good argument for a redesigned shopping experience, and new stores that do not replicate the fresh-food-on-the-perimeter-with-groceries-in-the-aisles legacy model familiar to just about everybody. Most of the new and redesigned stores I go to seem to be making infrastructural changes around the edges, as opposed to rethinking the entire store with new shopping patterns in mind.

    I don't mean to put too much emphasis on the new stores that Amazon is said to be preparing to open laster this year, but I'd be shocked if they did not address these issues in some sense. And that may tell us something about one path that retailing could take to a different future.

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    Steve Easterbrook, the president/CEO of McDonald's who has engineered a number of strategic and menu changes designed to keep the company relevant and profitable, has been fired by the company's board after it was found that he “violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee."

    Easterbrook will be succeeded by Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald's US, while Joe Erlinger, McDonald’s president of international operated markets, was named president of McDonald’s US.

    In an email to company employees, Easterbrook copped to the violation: "This was a mistake,” he wrote. "Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on."

    The board declined to provide details about the relationship. Easterbrook, the New York Times reports, is divorced, with three daughters.

    The Times also notes that "McDonald’s recently began offering new online and in-person training programs to its employees in the U.S. in an effort to combat workplace sexual harassment. But that step has not satisfied the company’s critics."
    KC's View:
    Interestingly, the stories I've read about this have not made mention of what is happening to the employee. Is she or he losing her or his job?

    I'm not suggesting in any way that this person should be let go. Far from it. I'm just curious about the circumstances, and seeing the whole picture filled out.

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    Google said late last week that it is acquiring fitness tracker company Fitbit for $2.1 billion, giving it yet another entry point in its data-centric understanding of how consumers live their lives - especially the 28 million active users around the world who have bought 100 million of the devices.

    The AP story points out that "Fitbit is a pioneer in wearable fitness technology, making a range of devices that have become pop-culture accessories, from basic trackers that count how many steps you take each day to smart watches that display phone messages and notifications. They can track activities such as running, cycling and swimming and record heart rates and sleep patterns. Fitbit typically asks for date of birth, gender, height and weight to help with such things as estimating calories burned. Some people use Fitbit’s app to record what they eat and how much water they drink, or to track their periods."

    In announcing its acquisition, Google promised that it would not sell advertising based on data collected from Fitbits.

    The story suggests that the acquisition is "likely to face scrutiny from state and U.S. Department of Justice antitrust authorities, who are already investigating Google and other big tech companies over whether they have abused their market power."
    KC's View:
    The question of privacy - who gets to have it, and who will attempt to invade it - continues to be asked. And it should be.

    There was an interesting piece in the Washington Post over the weekend along these lines, talking about new software called e-Hallpass, which is being used to track students when they leave the class room to use the bathroom, visit the nurse's office or go to see the principal, collecting data "for each student’s comings and goings so approved administrators can see pass histories or look for patterns." This is, the story says, just one of many applications that "are being used at schools across the country to do everything from track homework to modify behavior. They can collect data about intelligence, disciplinary issues, personalities and schedules."

    Needless to say, Google is one of the companies developing these apps … and the Post says that all of them promise "that student data is not shared with third-party companies for marketing or advertising, and parents can request deletion."

    One MNB reader wrote to me last week when this acquisition was at the rumor stage, "Google gets more information about us. What could go wrong?'

    And I get the point.

    But … in about a week we are going to drop a new Retail Tomorrow podcast here that will, I think, speak to how this all can be a positive thing, not just changing people's lives but actually making them possible in fundamental ways. I hope you'll listen to it.

    It is notable and a little disconcerting that Google has to keep saying, "Yes, we'll have data, but we're not going to use it."

    Maybe. But probably we are in trust-but-verify territory here.

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    Fast Company reports on the annual ranking of the globe's biggest plastic polluters, and concluded that the 10 biggest offenders are Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris, and Perfetti Van Melle - in other words, all companies that make products sold on the shelves of almost every supermarket in the world.

    "It’s not a big shocker that giant corporations that make bottled drinks—C0ca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo—are the world’s biggest plastic polluters," Fast Company writes. "But what’s a little disturbing is that these three companies were named the top plastic polluters last year as well, and none of them appear to have done anything significant to change their place in this shameful ranking."

    The story notes that "these brands have expanded to every part of the globe, selling their plastic-encased fizzy drinks, potato chips, shampoo, and toothpaste to people everywhere." While "developed countries have waste-management systems that collect our plastic, which is then either put in landfills, incinerated, or recycled," developing countries tend to have less advanced waste-management facilities," which means that "plastic waste is much more visible, littering the streets and washing ashore on beaches."

    The rankings were compiled by BreakFreeFromPlastic, described as "a three-year-old organization consisting of nearly 1,500 companies working to tackle plastic pollution. The organization issues an annual ranking of the world’s top plastic polluters. The list takes a lot of work to produce. This year, the organization engaged 72,541 volunteers across 51 countries to conduct 484 brand audits. The volunteers collected plastic waste close to where they lived, amounting to 476,423 pieces of plastic, 43% of which was clearly marked with a consumer brand. Plastic was cataloged in every part of the globe, including remote regions of Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Bhutan."

    Here's one of the questions being posed:

    "Given how much we know about plastic’s impact on the world, should these plastic polluters be made to pay for all of this destruction? It’s something worth considering. Part of the problem is that it’s hard to put an exact price on the damage plastic causes to the planet and humans. But perhaps it’s time for economists to begin quantifying it so that governments can impose taxes on these companies for healthcare costs, carbon emissions, and cleanup."

    Indeed, increased concerns about plastics are being manifested in other ways. Bloomberg reports on how, after four decades of significant and seemingly unending growth, the bottled water business seems to run into a kind of dam - in the form of environmental concerns.

    Here's how the story is framed:

    "Increasing concern about the carbon and plastic waste generated by that process is fueling a backlash that threatens the business. Across the industry, sales are softening and some towns (from Concord, Massachusetts, to San Francisco, California) are even banning plastic water bottles - spurring producers to respond with alternatives ranging from canned water to flavor pods for tap water to dispensers that sell sparkling and flavored mixes."

    Examples of the impact this consciousness raising has had on business:

    "Danone, the maker of Evian, on Oct. 18 reported its biggest decline in quarterly water revenue in a decade. That same day, Coca-Cola Co. said water sales were lower than it expected.

    "With shipments headed for a second annual decline, Nestle is reorganizing its bottled water business. Buffeted by lower-price rivals and high transport costs, Nestle raised prices—which sapped sales of its mass-market offerings such as Poland Spring and Pure Life as consumers shifted to cheaper generic brands."

    The story says that "with bottled water now outselling carbonated soft drinks in the U.S., one part of that “something” is aluminum cans filled with water. Coke introduced cans of Dasani in the northeast U.S. this year and plans to try selling it in aluminum bottles in 2020. Pepsi has been selling canned Aquafina at restaurants and stadiums and is testing it in stores." And, some companies are testing the addition of various flavors and fizz to traditional waters in order to create the perception of greater and differentiated value.

    It remains debatable how effective measures like these will be, as Howard Telford, head of soft drinks at Euromonitor, tells Bloomberg that all these changes point "“to a future where flavor, carbonation, and functional additives - rather than disposable packaging and simple convenience - could be the main value drivers in packaged water."
    KC's View:
    Yet another example of how it may not just be about value anymore … but values in a global sense. And all these companies have to be aware of the new environment (and I mean environment in a variety of ways).

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    The New York Times has an interesting story this morning about how Walmart, in trying to "navigate the nation's culture wars," seems to have a basic strategy - "alienate as few customers as possible and do no harm to its core business."

    Examples: "Walmart is getting out of the vaping business, but still sells cigarettes. It is working to reduce plastic packaging for the products on its shelves, but continues to use plastic grocery bags in its checkout lines. After a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso this summer, the retailer said it would no longer offer certain types of ammunition, but stopped short of banning customers from carrying their guns into stores."

    And, the strategy seems to be successful. "Walmart’s stance on guns, for example, drew a lot of attention but had 'no discernible impact' on overall sales, according to a top executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters," the Times writes.

    The point of the story is that there is considerable tension between Walmart's need to remain growth-driven and profitable even at a time when consumers are demanding more than just value from the retailers with which they do business - they also want to have a sense of the company's values. At the same time, events sometimes force companies like Walmart to deal with issues that they'd rather avoid, as in the case of the El Paso mass slaughter.

    The Times notes that "it is perhaps no coincidence that Walmart’s public relations victories come as its rival Amazon is being battered by antitrust concerns and criticism about onerous working conditions, issues that the original big-box retailer has spent years trying to defuse, with some success."

    CEO Doug McMillon is credited "with positioning Walmart as a socially responsible company," the Times writes, "while also finding ways to increase sales in the United States for 20 consecutive quarters."

    "Politics moves around,” McMillon has been quoted as saying. “We are on our 11th administration, since Walmart was born. There will be a 12th. There will be a 13th."
    KC's View:
    I do think that Walmart is trying to be a little bit pregnant, but I also think it doesn't have much choice. It is an enormous, public company, and its executives have fiduciary responsibilities to keep the ship afloat and move forward.

    Would I got further in a lot of these areas? Sure. But I have the luxury of idealism unfettered by having to make quarterly reports.

    That said … if there is schism in so much of the citizenry and electorate these days, Walmart and its retail brethren have to be sensitive to the shifts and cracks. I also think that it has to know when to use the phrase that Tom Cruise uses in Risky Business, and make moves that have less to do with business and more with right and wrong.

    Published on: November 4, 2019

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

    • Amazon announced this morning that in anticipation of the end-of-year holiday shopping season, it "has expanded its fast, free, and convenient delivery options. From Los Angeles, Calif. and Killeen, Texas to Elkhart, Ind. and Philadelphia, Pa., Prime members across the U.S. now have access to over 10 million items available for delivery the next day for free, including popular holiday gifts such as toys, games, and electronics. Amazon has also expanded its Prime Free Same-Day Delivery, bringing the convenience of doorstep delivery within hours to millions more members since last holiday season. This is in addition to free shipping on millions of items that all customers can enjoy year-round on orders over $25."

    In announcing the Prime Free One-Day Delivery and Same-Day Delivery options in 46 major metropolitan areas, Amazon looked to head off some criticism by saying that "these delivery options are not only convenient for customers – they’re better for the planet because the fastest delivery speeds ship from local fulfillment centers so they travel shorter distances and generate the least carbon emissions."

    Bloomberg reports that Apple is hoping that the second time is a charm, as it hires a team of engineers to work "on new smart-home software and devices in an effort to catch up in a field where Google and have dominated … The overhaul is designed to spur more outside accessory and appliance makers to connect smart-home products such as lights and garage doors with the iPhone and Apple's voice-activated digital assistant, Siri. The team also is exploring the possibility of building new home devices beyond the HomePod speaker."

    The story goes on: "Gaining a foothold in the smart-home market is critical for Apple as it looks for new offerings beyond the iPhone and seeks ways to keep people buying its products and services. The company first dipped its toe into the area in 2014 with the launch of HomeKit, a Siri-connected platform that connects smart-home devices to Apple products like the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and HomePod. Apple offers a Home app on most of its devices, letting users lock and unlock doors, connect to sprinklers, open blinds, and control media on TVs and speakers using its AirPlay protocol. While Amazon and Google have opened up their Alexa and Google Assistant to third-party products, the Siri voice assistant is only available on Apple devices, but it can control third-party products via HomeKit."

    However, HomeKit didn't really catch on, and so now Apple is trying again.

    If at first you don't succeed… Actually, this isn't much of a surprise. This market is too big and has too much potential for Apple not to take another shot at it. But Apple's seeming inability to compete was evident to me a year and a half ago when I filed this piece.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    • Sprouts Farmers Market said last week that it plans to slow down its growth trajectory next year, reducing the number of new stores that it opens to 20, from the 28 it is opening this year.

    CEO Jack Sinclair said last week that this is just a temporary slowdown, and that a faster growth rate is likely in 2021. However, Sinclair also said that the company is focusing on how to build smaller stores than it traditionally has operated, believing that such stores can be more productive.

    Sinclair also said the company will continue to grow its e-commerce business, which saw delivery sales up 200 percent in Q3 compared to Q2; while Sprouts also has been launching a click-and-collect service, home delivery to this point has proven to be more successful.

    • The Associated Press reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has disclosed yet another E. coli outbreak connected to romaine lettuce. However, the story says that "by the time it identified romaine as the likely source, it says the tainted produce was no longer on shelves. It says 23 people were sickened between July 12 and Sept. 8. No deaths were reported."

    The FDA does not know how the romaine became contaminated.

    • The BBC reports that "Unilever, which owns household names such as Marmite and PG Tips, has vowed to stop its brands running adverts on porn sites. The move comes after its men's grooming range Dollar Shave Club ran a campaign on the controversial website Pornhub."

    While Unilever said that Dollar Shave Club has "operational independence" over its marketing activities, in the future that will not extend to porn sites.

    However - apparently enamored with the fact that Pornhub "has 110 million daily visits and 71% of its audience are male" - Dollar Shave Club's creative director Matt Knapp has been quoted as saying that the decision to advertise there was "strategic," saying, "It's not expensive. But interestingly, the exposure that you can get and the impressions are huge." "Exposure you can get?" Maybe a different choice of words would've been appropriate. And maybe, in an era when such attitudes can create pariahs out of executives, a different choice of creative directors?
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    • Chris Sherrell, president/CEO of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, announced his resignation last week, and will be succeeded by Gerald Melville, the regional vice president of stores at Meijer.

    Sherrell has led Fresh Thyme since its beginning in 2012 and the company has since grown to 77 stores, primarily in the upper Midwest.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    • Gert Boyle, the chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear who built the company into a national brand after the death of her husband, has passed away at age 95.

    Boyle was 46 years old and a mother of three with little business experience when she took over the company in 1970. Since then, her famously tough and perfectionist personality became the core of a company ad campaign that portrayed her as "one tough mother" and "born to nag."

    The Associated Press writes that while her son Tim ran the company on a day-to-day basis in recent years, "Gert Boyle continued to put in 40-hour work weeks well into her 80s and signed every company check."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    Got the following email from MNB reader Gary Harris (who, it would be hard to figure out, works at Wegmans):

    The articles keep coming in, and all of us at Wegmans are at the same time proud and humbled by what they say. I recall when we announced several years ago our plans to open a store in Brooklyn, there were naysayers. Those who said Wegmans may be biting off more than they can chew, or that our way of doing business won’t play in Brooklyn. No way we could find the quality of staff we would need to carry the Wegmans culture and our brand of service and engagement to the jaded customers we would find in Brooklyn.

    Of course, we went ahead anyway. I had a chance to visit the store and meet many of our new employees several weeks ago at an event we hold for every new store opening. I can tell you, the Brooklyn team was every bit as excited, enthusiastic, and friendly as any group I’ve met in the 20+ years we’ve been doing these. In some cases even more so.

    I’m celebrating my 40th year with Wegmans this year, and it has been one of the great blessings of my life to be a part of this company and to have known and worked for 3 generations of the Wegman family. They not only set the tone for the culture you see in Brooklyn and in all our stores, they support a work environment that allows, enables, and to some extent compels the rest of us to follow suit and to lead one another to do likewise. It is an amazingly unique and special place, and shame on me if I ever lose sight of that.

    Gary, I hope you'll let me know when you come visit the Harrison, New York, store pre-opening. I'd love to get together.

    MNB the other day took note of a Business Insider report that Kroger plans to test a new delivery service, dubbed Kroger Package Services (KPS), in some 220 stores later this year. The service will have it teaming up with United Parcel Service (UPS), the US Postal Service (USPS), and FedEx.

    Here's how the story described the new service: "The program is rolling out amid rapid growth in package deliveries in the US and globally. More than 12.5 billion parcels were shipped in the US last year, marking an increase of nearly 8% over the previous year, according to estimates from Pitney Bowes.

    "Under KPS, select Kroger stores accept packages - including those that require signatures - from major carriers including UPS, USPS, and FedEx, and store them in a secure area until customers pick them up. The program also allows shoppers to drop off pre-labeled packages or bring in unboxed items for shipping anywhere in the US. Automated kiosks enable shoppers to print or purchase shipping labels as well."

    One MNB reader responded:

    Based on my experiences at more than one Kroger store in the Central Ohio area, Kroger is biting off more than they can chew.  The Krogers I know do not have a "Service Counter", it is better described as the "Dis-service counter".   The waits are often even longer than at their check out stations (and they close down at 9 p.m. or earlier).   Lines are shorter than at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, but longer than even the U.S. Post Office.  Kroger's slogan is "Customers First", but actions speak louder than words.  Yesterday at 6 pm only two checkout lanes were open as they continue in their attempts to force patrons to use self checkout.

    And, responding to a different Business Insider report that Kroger plans a major rebranding effort, having concluded that its customers do not have a firm enough grasp of what the nation's largest traditional supermarket chain stands for, one MNB reader wrote:

    How does that old country song go? “You gotta stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything”. Perhaps this is where Kroger finds themselves when asked what they stand for.

    I spent a great deal of my thirty plus years in the supermarket industry competing with Kroger. I thought they were always like a chameleon in that they could pretty much build the same “Kroger” in any neighborhood and find some success. What works in any neighborhood? Vanilla? Hmmm…probably more so than pistachio. So yeah, I would say that the folks at Kroger have great insight into their brand issue; and that is that no one can define it!

    But do they really know how to go about fixing it, or better yet, uncovering it.

    In my opinion, a brand, brand equity, or brand promise can’t be defined or shaped, found, or created by a new initiative, or slogan. A brand in the world of retail is a culture driven thing. Culture drives the process, standards, and protocols; directs the initiatives and keeps the train on the tracks in a consistent manner from one location to another.  How? When a supermarket chain is culture driven, everything tends to work towards one goal as defined by their culture. Publix probably comes as close as any other supermarket retailer to being a chameleon, but ask just about anyone that has ever shopped in or competed against a Publix for any amount of time and they will tell you that Publix stands for outstanding customer service and superior operational execution. Why? Not because they came up with some program that dictates all employees say hello to all customers when they make eye contact, or because of some front end excellence program, but because It's their internal culture and everything they do is born through and seen through that cultural lens. It’s their brand in the markets they serve as defined by people outside their company. It’s who they are. I worked with a great personnel manager that once told me that there are three of you…The person you think you are, the person other people think you are, and who you really are.

    I always figured that at the end of the day, you are who other people think you are, It’s your personal brand. Kroger hasn’t been around this long without building a culture. Somewhere deep inside, it’s there and so is their brand. I’ll say this…every supermarket chain that’s been around as long as Kroger has employees that have worked there for thirty, forty, or maybe even fifty years. These folks always know what you were back when, what you are now, and how you got there. There’s advice of gold buried deep within those folks.  

    I commented last week about this story:

    It is possible that Kroger's greater willingness to try a variety of initiatives has unintentionally diluted its brand identity, and I give the company credit for recognizing the problem and addressing it. It may be that while it is making major investments in things like Ocado-powered robotic warehouses, that message - and its relevance to shoppers - is not making it through to the consuming public.

    One thing I'd be thinking about is bringing all Kroger's delivery options in-house, and part of a centralized approach to logistics that does not farm any of it out to third-party delivery services like Instacart (which really only wants to take shopper data and compete with its client chains). I'd make the delivery of high-quality products and services a core brand value … and begin the transition to in-house systems.

    I'd also think about developing a replenishment option that could compete with Amazon's Subscribe & Save (itself a $10 billion business), but might have even greater relevance when combined with an effective bricks-and-mortar option.

    These are just some ideas. The folks at Kroger are a lot smarter than I am, and really don't need my help. I do, however, agree with the idea of enhancing and strengthening its brand image and value proposition. It may be that it is seen as being too middle of the road, and the middle of the road is where you find roadkill.

    MNB reader Todd Ruberg responded:

    I agree with your idea starters on Kroger rebranding. I’d encourage them to really think about what are their positive “points of difference” for their shoppers vs. their competition.

    What is fascinating to watch right now is how they, and really all grocers, are spending tons of money on those fulfillment capabilities—direct to consumer, online grocery store pick up, etc…….much of that to catch up to Amazon. But since all of them are doing it, it may only be a “point of parity”……a huge investment with the risk of it being no differentiated than anyone else. I realize they can’t NOT do it for competitive reasons, but what else can they do to drive a meaningful difference and reason to shop there?

    Regarding the StitchFix business model, MNB reader Will Rigby wrote:

    I received a Stitch Fix gift card for my birthday this year, and just got my first fix last week.

    When I received it, the box did not contain the return bag into which my returns would have gone. When I called them to ask for the bag, they sent me a prepaid shipping label, extended my return date, and gave me a $20 credit.

    In all, I am thoroughly impressed with their customer service, and they won me over as a loyal user with that one interaction.

    Not to mention the sweater and shirt I received were absolutely lovely.

    Looking forward to my next fix!

    And, responding to the story about the new mini-store opened by Starbucks in N YC last week, one MNB reader wrote:

    That model is a replica of the “Luckin Coffee” business model in China. Which by the way has terrible coffee IMHO...for Luckin it’s about more about convenience. But have to give Starbucks some cred...they are always flexing their innovation muscle.

    I got a lot of response to last week's FaceTime about my adventures at the DMNV and Social Security office, which ended with a worker at the latter suggesting that I was born before lamination was invented. (Not true. Lamination was invented in 1912. But a funny line, nonetheless. Check out my video here.)

    Here are just a couple of emails…

    One MNB reader responded:

    Ha ha ha. I had a similar issue when I got my DL a year ago. I had to bring my birth certificate so I dug it out and went down to the DM. I had to wait half an hour, got to the Window and told the girl I wanted the new DL for flying ... the one with the star. She asked for my certificate and I gave it to her. She took one look at it and said it couldn’t be a copy. I showed her that it had the official stamp on it. She acted surprised and said she had to talk to her supervisor. The supervisor rejected it saying it couldn't be a copy. I told her that was official since it had the stamp on it. She did agree with that but said the writing was so faded that she couldn’t accept it. So she sent me to the local court house where another half hour is wasted. I get to the counter and the court gets me a copy! I told her DMV said a copy won’t work .... it she tells me it is the only official copy because of the stamp. I look at what she gives me a it looks EXACTLY like the one I have ... faded and all. If she assures me it will work. I go back to DMV, present the new document and the girl says I didn’t do what they told me to do. I said that is all I can get from the court. She has to go back to her supervisor. The supervisor comes out and starts to yell at me for trying to give them the same document I did before. So I showed her the first one. They even compared them side by side and the faded writing was the same. But It has the the stamp I keep telling them. I’m tying up the window for an hour arguing about the faded certificate being the only one I was ever going to get ! The supervisor finally huffs off saying to give me the DL. I’m sure she thinks I scammed her. You were born before laminate .... I just faded away.

    From MNB reader Chris Breen:

    Lol. I am 49. My Social Security card is laminated too. Thanks for the heads up. I am pretty sure it says on the back of my card "Do Not Laminate."
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    In Week Nine of National Football League play…

    Houston 26
    Jacksonville 3

    Chicago 14
    Philadelphia 22

    Indianapolis 24
    Pittsburgh 26

    NY Jets 18
    Miami 26

    Minnesota 23
    Kansas City 26

    Tennessee 20
    Carolina 30

    Washington 9
    Buffalo 24

    Detroit 24
    Oakland 31

    Green Bay 11
    LA Chargers 26

    Tampa Bay 34
    Seattle 40

    Cleveland 19
    Denver 24

    New England 20
    Baltimore 37
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 4, 2019

    Emerging technologies in the health and wellness segment are empowering consumers who more and more are invested in self-care … which can best be defined as a cultural trend keyed to people who want to feel good, look good, live longer and live better. In this new Retail Tomorrow podcast, recorded in front of a live audience at the recent GMDC Selfcare Summit, we talk about the technologies and trends that we heard about there, provide insights into how consumers will interact with them, and offer guidance to companies looking to invest in this burgeoning segment.

    Our guests for this podcast are members of the regular Retail Tomorrow podcast family:

    • Tom Furphy, CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners.

    • Nancy Giordano, a strategic futurist who specializes in the post-digital world.

    • Sterling Hawkins, co-founder of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology.

    The host: Kevin Coupe, MorningNewsBeat’s “Content Guy.”

    You can listen to the podcast here, or on iTunes and GooglePlay.

    This edition of the Retail Tomorrow podcast is brought to you by GMDC, the Global Market Development Center.

    Pictured, below, from left: Kevin Coupe, Nancy Giordano, Tom Furphy, Sterling Hawkins

    KC's View: