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    Published on: November 11, 2019

    Past Retail Tomorrow podcasts have focused on how technology can have an impact on business models and people's lives. In this edition, however, we drill down to talk about how technology affected one life … and, in fact, makes living a best life possible.

    Our guest: Heidi Dohse, senior program manager in Google's Cloud - Health and Life Sciences division. Dohse's personal and professional story makes for a compelling narrative that is at once provocative and inspiring.

    Hosted by 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.

    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    Forbes reports that in the wake of its failed merger with Rite Aid, "Albertsons has been quietly upping their online grocery game to take on the e-commerce market at a profit. Although the newsworthy merger didn’t work out, Albertsons executives still believe that partnerships are the best way to move the business forward."

    “We really believe, that given the changing state of the market, it is really important to partner with key stakeholders,” says Kenji Gjovig, vice-president of eCommerce Marketing & Merchandising at Albertsons.

    The story goes on: "In the past year, Albertsons has joined forces with not one but three digital players that they’re hoping will allow them to make their online grocery channel profitable. One of those partnerships is with BloomReach, a digital experience platform, using AI driven data to provide a better search experience for Albertsons’ online shoppers."

    Another partner: "Quotient is providing opportunities for CPG partners to work with Albertsons, to direct the right shoppers to their branded landing pages, including shoppable locations that allow customers to add products directly to their cart."

    And: "Through a partnership with Glympse, a location sharing technology, Albertsons is able to provide real-time status updates for customers’ delivery and pick up orders eliminating most of those calls."

    However, "Despite their existing partnership with Instacart, intended to scale up their delivery efforts to cover around 2,000 stores, Albertsons has also launched their own branded delivery subscription program.  The subscription program started as a pilot in March of this year. Like most other delivery subscription services they offer monthly and annual memberships in a similar price range to Instacart and Shipt."
    KC's View:
    Partnerships are important, as ,long as they serve the retailer's brand. I'm glad to see that Albertsons is backing off the Instacart relationship, because serving the Albertsons brand is most assuredly not what Instacart is about.

    If you are going to be a powerful retail brand, you have to own all facets of the consumer experience.

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    The New York Times has a story about the slow death of local bakery businesses in France, where "the lights inside the village bakery used to come on before dawn, an hour or so before the smell of baking bread would waft into neighbors’ homes. The storefront door would soon be heard, opening and closing, the rhythm as predictable as the life stirring awake across the French countryside."

    The sad fact is that "young people are no longer drawn to the long hours of the traditional bakers who live above their store. Shopping malls have taken root on the periphery of rural areas, drawing in people who are content to buy at supermarkets or chains. Customers, especially the young, are not eating as much bread."

    The Times writes that "traveling in rural France these days means spotting closed bakeries, the faded paint on old windows and doors giving an indication of when the lights went out. It means encountering people mentioning with visible relief that their village still has one … the bakery is very often the one business that clings on after the disappearance of the butcher shop, the grocer or cafe … Given the centrality of bread in France, and its links to its religious practices and political history, the vanishing of traditional bakeries has also come to symbolize the waning of the country’s rich village life."

    In some ways, France is dealing with the same urbanization issues as the US: "The number of bakeries overall is increasing in France, especially in big cities. In Paris, people walking home at the end of the day, munching on a bit of baguette, remains a part of the cityscape.
    But traditional mom-and-pop bakeries in rural areas are disappearing quickly - sometimes at a rate of four percent, or even higher, within a single year."

    You can read the story here.
    KC's View:
    C'est la vie.

    This actually is kind of a sad story … and I think that it fair to say that most of us can sort of envision that stereotypical French village, because we've read about it in books or seen it portrayed in films and television shows. It is sad when this happens.

    That said, in my little Connecticut town, a small bakery recently opened. They sell croissants and a couple of different kinds of bread. It smells great, the products taste great, and "closing time" is whenever they run out. Reading this story makes me think I ought to spend a little bit more of my money there … and then I ought to put my mouth where my money is. If you want to preserve a tradition, you have to be willing to invest in it.

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    With the launching of a variety of new streaming services - such as Apple TV+ and Disney+ - companies that have been in the space such as Amazon and Netflix now will be facing not just a crowded marketplace and well-funded competition, but also some level of uncertainty about how consumers will respond.

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings tells Cinema Blend that he's less worried about the specific competition than he is about broader consumer behavior.

    "Time will be the real competition," he says. "You’ll hear some subscriber numbers but you can just bundle things so that’s not going to be that relevant. So the real measurement will be time -- how do consumers vote with their evenings? What mix of all the services do they end up watching?"

    Cinema Blend assesses the marketplace this way: "While the market may be all but overrun with streaming services over the course of the next year, that doesn't necessarily mean that consumers will have to choose just one service. Inevitably, people are going to subscribe to multiple services but land on a favorite that takes up more of their time than the rest. Will consumers go for Netflix, or more for Hulu or Disney+ or Apple TV+? Or will they choose to do something other than streaming TV altogether?"
    KC's View:
    I do think there are a lot of parallels to the retailing business here, and maybe to some degree retailers can find some strategies and tactics that they can adopt effectively.

    One of the things that all of the streaming services have in common is that they all are playing what in retailing would be called the private label game - producing proprietary and differentiated content that is designed to lure people in. Disney+ has the Marvel and Star Wars films. Apple+ has Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon's new series "The Morning Show." CBS AllAccess has "Star Trek" in all its variations. And both Netflix and Amazon are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on movies and TV series that will make them stand out in the marketplace.

    Michael Sansolo wrote here some time ago about a Reed Hastings comment that Netflix's real competition "is sleep - and we're winning." That seems to be more true than ever as all these services crowd the market … forcing many consumers to make decisions not just about where they are going to spend their time, but how they are going to spend their entertainment dollars.

    Same thing goes for retailers. There is an enormous amount of overlap in terms of what most retailers sell, and so it becomes more incumbent than ever to define oneself in terms of differences, not similarities … looking for advantages and angles wherever and whenever they are available.

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    The Seattle Times reports that Amazon's Alexa-powered voice computing technology turns five years old this year.

    The story points out that "the voice-computing technology that can now control more than 85,000 different devices debuted Nov. 6, 2014. Some 10,000 people work at Amazon on various parts of the system of technologies, which is used by 'tens of millions' of customers each month, according to a company blog post marking its birthday."

    It also is reported that "more than 50 humans named Alexa currently work at Amazon, according to LinkedIn."

    But, while there are more than four thousand Alexas who also are turning five years old this year, Alexa as a baby name is actually declining in popularity.

    The Times notes that "other female-identified digital assistants have much less common names - Siri and Cortana. (Twenty babies were named Siri in the US last year, and five were named Cortana.)
    KC's View:
    I think there are several things you can count on. One is that Amazon is working on having a version of "Alexa" that will have a male name and voice. But I also think we'll end up seeing as customizable physical manifestation of the male and female versions that can be seen on a computer screen, and eventually turned into a customizable hologram, like the Doctor in "Star Trek: Voyager." Just wait.

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    The New York Times has a story about how in Scandinavia, "a decade ago, winemaking was regarded as a losing proposition in these notoriously cool climes. But as global temperatures rise, a fledgling wine industry is growing from once-unlikely fields across Scandinavia, as entrepreneurs seek to turn a warming climate to their advantage … Nordic vintners are betting that they can develop what were once mainly hobbyist ventures into thriving commercial operations. The dream is to transform Scandinavia into an essential global producer of white wines, which are beginning to flourish along Europe’s northern rim."

    The Times writes that "in 50 years, Scandinavia’s climate is forecast to be more like northern France’s, as regional temperatures climb as much as 6 degrees Celsius. In the last decade alone, warming has produced milder winters, a longer growing season — and a small but rising number of award-winning wines."

    The growth of the wine business there is significant, if small in comparison to traditional wine regions: "Denmark now boasts 90 commercial vineyards, up from just two 15 years ago, and around 40 have sprung up in Sweden. Nearly a dozen vineyards are operating as far north as Norway.

    "But many are in the start-up stage and are tiny compared with established wineries in Europe, which has 10 million acres of vineyards — enough to cover almost all of Denmark. Producers in France, Italy and Spain own three-quarters of that land, dominating the European industry. By contrast, Denmark and Sweden have European Union approval to grow less than 1,000 acres of vineyards, and questions persist about quality and price."

    There's also the matter of cost: "To capture consumers, though, the price must drop. Nordic wines average €30 to €40 ($33 to $44) a bottle because of labor costs that are triple those in France, Italy and Spain. Southern winemakers also get billions in European Union subsidies, which help them improve pricing and dominate the market. Denmark won European Union approval for winemaking only by promising to forgo subsidies."
    KC's View:
    Somehow, "a nice Norwegian red" doesn't roll trippingly off the tongue. On the other hand, it might roll smoothly past the tongue if the wine is good enough … and so what is going to be called for here is consumer education.

    As a consumer, I'm happy to do my part.

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    The Boston Globe reports that Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry's "is facing a lawsuit accusing the ice cream maker and its parent company of false advertising by saying the milk and cream in its products comes from 'happy cows' … environmental advocate James Ehlers said that many of the farms that produce the milk and cream are factory-style, mass production dairy operations and only some are part of the company’s “Caring Dairy” program."

    Ben & Jerry's "Caring Dairy" program, which is said to create happy cows that presumably produce higher quality milk, are said to embrace programs that include "building soil health through increased cover crops, alternative tilling practices, rotational crops and grazing techniques."

    The Globe writes that "the complaint by Ehlers, a former gubernatorial candidate, accuses Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever of violating the Vermont consumer protection act, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment. It says Unilever has breached the trust of consumers who are at risk of 'real and immediate threat of repeated injury, including purchasing deceptively labeled and packaged products sold at prices above their true market value'."

    Ben & Jerry's has not commented on the suit.
    KC's View:
    I have no idea how many of the cows providing dairy products to Ben & Jerry's actually are happy, nor how many of the dairy farms with which it does business would qualify under these criteria. I'm not even sure it can be proven if these farms actually have happier cows. (Ever seen a cow smile? Just asking.)

    But … it should be pretty easy to quantify how many farms qualify as "Caring Dairies." This is about tangibles, not intangibles.

    I've always admired Ben & Jerry's, and Unilever's stewardship of the brand and its value proposition. I hope that this isn't a case where it has been cutting corners and making promises to which it is not living up.

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    CNBC reports that "Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba set a new sales record on Singles Day, the world’s largest 24-hour shopping event. Gross merchandise value (GMV), a figure that shows sales across Alibaba’s various shopping platforms, surpassed last year’s 213.5 billion yuan record (nearly $30.5 billion) on Monday afternoon local time, and kept rising through the rest of the day."

    This is the 11th edition of Singles Day, and "to help boost sales, Alibaba expanded the number of discounted items available in this year’s event and put a heavy emphasis on livestreaming via its platforms to help sell goods." And, just to make sure people were paying attention, Alibaba enlisted Taylor Swift to launch Singles Day to headline with a three-song performance that counted down to the opening moments.

    Variety reports that Amazon has settled the lawsuit filed against it by writer-director Woody Allen, though terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

    Allen sued Amazon, with which he had a four-picture, $68 million deal, after the company backed out of the agreement.

    Amazon did so because of new publicity given to 25-year-old allegations that Allen was guilty of rape and child abuse, and comments that Allen made that were seen as being supportive of Harvey Weinstein, the producer who has been charged with rape. (Allen warned of a "witch-hunt atmosphere" in Hollywood.) But Allen charged, as Variety reports, "that Amazon was fully aware of that controversy when it entered the contract, and that the streamer owed him $68 million in minimum guarantee payments."

    Allen is right about one thing - Amazon did know what it was getting when it signed the deal with him, though there is no question that the atmosphere has gotten more charged since it did so. (Shame on the culture for it needing to become more attuned to the subject of sexual abuse, especially by powerful men.) Amazon needed to get this deal off the books, and get out of the Woody Allen business. I'm glad it did so.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    USA Today reports that Weight Watchers is rolling out a new "myWW" program that, in the words of president/CEO Mindy Grossman, has no foods that are off-limits. "It’s easy, it’s simple and I think that’s what people are craving for – something they can really live with," she says.

    According to the story, "the Oprah Winfrey-backed company's new plan includes whole wheat pasta, brown rice and potatoes – which have cost points in past WW programs – as 'ZeroPoint' foods, meaning they don't have to be measured or tracked."

    The company is color-coding its various plans to make it easier for people to choose what works for them and to sustain "myWW" as a lifestyle choice, not a diet.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    GeekWire reports that "Steve Kessel, the Amazon executive who oversaw the e-commerce giant’s landmark expansion into bricks-and-mortar retail, plans to leave the company early next year." Kessel, who has been with Amazon for two decades, "also led the launch of the original Kindle e-reader earlier in his career."

    In an email to employees, Kessel said he would "focus on community service, not for profit work, and other areas of interest.”

    An excerpt from his email:

    "It’s hard to leave something I’ve loved doing for so long, inventing alongside a fantastic group of people, but it’s a good time to make this change because of the teams and plans we have in place.

    "I’ve been able to see and participate in a lot during the last 20 years, and it’s clear to me that it is still Day 1 – our recent announcements of free grocery delivery for Prime Members is a good example! It’s been a privilege to watch this organization innovate and build, and I look forward to seeing what comes next."

    • Walmart announced that it has promoted Meredith Klein, who has been serving as’s director of media and PR, to be director of public relations, handling incubated brands such as Jet and Bonobos.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 11, 2019

    In Week Ten of National Football League action…

    NY Giants 27
    NY Jets 34

    Atlanta 26
    New Orleans 9

    Kansas City 32
    Tennessee 35

    Baltimore 49
    Cincinnati 13

    Buffalo 16
    Cleveland 19

    Arizona 27
    Tampa Bay 30

    Detroit 13
    Chicago 20

    Miami 16
    Indianapolis 12

    Carolina 16
    Green Bay 24

    LA Rams 12
    Pittsburgh 17

    Minnesota 28
    Dallas 24
    KC's View: