• Bloomberg reports that Apple has decided to reopen half its stores in China, apparently persuaded that the coronavirus is less of a problem than it was just a few weeks ago. However, some of those stores will be operating under shortened hours.
The story says that Apple is "trying to rebound from a sales hit tied to the coronavirus … Apple’s retail footprint in China is critical to the company’s sales. The store closures were one of two main reasons for Apple saying it wouldn’t meet its revenue target of at least $63 billion in the current quarter ending in March."
I would be very disappointed if Apple is only reopening stores because it is concerned about its bottom line … and I must admit that it doesn't look to me like the coronavirus epidemic is lessening. Most public health experts seem to feel like a) a pandemic is likely, b) it is going to hit the US at some point, and c) we aren't ready. The question is, will we get to the point where Apple - and a lot of other US retailers - will have to start closing stores.
• In San Diego, at the National Grocers Association (NGA) convention, the “Outstanding Marketer” and “Outstanding Merchandiser” in the Creative Choice Awards were announced.
Outstanding Marketer was awarded to K-VA-T Food Stores, Food City for their Grand Opening in Abingdon, Virginia.
Outstanding Merchandiser was awarded to Brookshire Grocery Company for their Big Grocery Cart that is over 12 feet in height and can carry 1,000 bags of groceries.
• Marketing Daily reports that "at a time when everyone is understandably jittery about passing on germs, Procter & Gamble has introduced a new antibacterial home sanitizing product, Microban 24, that it says will keep surfaces protected against bacteria for 24 hours, if used as directed … Microban 24 is sold as a sanitizing spray, a multipurpose cleaner, and a bathroom cleaner in both fresh scent and citrus scent, and P&G launched Instagram and Facebook accounts for it to provide tips on how to use it."
Good timing. Every news report about the coronavirus will serve as a kind of sales pitch.
• From CNN:
"The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to the Jimmy John's sandwich chain, saying certain vegetables it served were implicated in five outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella in the past seven years.
"The letter accuses the chain of engaging in a pattern of receiving and selling 'adulterated fresh produce, specifically clover sprouts and cucumbers'."
Jimmy John's president James North responded by saying that sprouts have been removed from his stores. "Food safety is our top priority ... This removal (of sprouts) was out of an abundance of caution and was not initiated by any known, immediate threat," he said.
• This Is Money reports that Tesco has officially departed China with the sale of its 20 percent stake in its Gain Land joint venture to a unit of its state-run partner China Resources Holdings for the equivalent of $1.2 billion (US).
The story notes that Tesco has been "has struggled to crack the Chinese market … Tesco combined its 131 stores Chinese stores with partner CRH's almost 3,000 sites in 2014." Tesco pulled out of South Korea in 2015.
This Is Money writes that it is possible that Tesco could pull out of Thailand and Malaysia as well, which would "reduce Tesco's non-UK operations to central Europe and Ireland. Tesco has 1,967 stores in Thailand and 74 stores in Malaysia and has been operating in Asia for over 20 years."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"Fast-casual dining chain Così Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time since 2016, saying it would place a greater focus on catering after closing 30 of its soup-and-sandwich restaurants … Così reduced its bricks-and-mortar footprint with a round of restaurant closings in December."