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    Published on: March 23, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  This morning, there are 35,070 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the US, with 458 deaths.

    Globally, there have been 345,767 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and almost 15,000 deaths.

    What is alarming about these numbers is that they go up every hour.  You can watch it happen, and it is scary.  No other word for it.


    •  Stay-at-home orders that essentially shut down local economies with the exception of essential services have been issued, as of this morning, for the states of Ohio, Louisiana, Delaware, California, Illinois, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, as well as for the cities of Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri.

    MarketWatch reports that "this week the number of jobless claims rose by 70,000, but several sectors are ramping up hiring even as the coronavirus pandemic creates layoffs."

    Among them:  Walmart said this week it plans to hire 150,000 new workers … Amazon is hiring more than 100,000 workers in the U.S. to keep up with consumer demand … 7-Eleven, an international convenience chain with more than 70,000 stores, announced Friday it will be hiring as many as 20,000 store employees … Kroger is hiring 10,000 new associates nationwide across retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers … (and) Safeway is looking to fill 2,000 new jobs located mainly in California.

    More on this story from the New York Times:

    "The volume of food and paper products passing through a warehouse just outside Los Angeles is up 30 percent from the same time a year ago. Pizza deliveries are surging as people around the country hunker down.

    Medical product manufacturers are racing to help hospitals around the country lacking critical equipment needed to diagnose and treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

    "Millions of people lost jobs or saw their wages severely curtailed last week as many companies shut down or cut back on operations. But the pandemic has also created a spike in demand for critical products and services, causing some of America’s biggest employers to scramble to try to hire workers at a time when parts of the country are going into lockdown. Many are forgoing normal hiring procedures to add staff as quickly as possible."

    The Times also writes that "Britain's market-leading supermarket chain Tesco said on Friday it would hire 20,000 people to work in its stores for at least the next 12 weeks to cope with an unprecedented increase in demand for food and household products."

    Go figure - even Blue Apron, which has seemed perched on the precipice of collapse for as long as I can remember, is hiring.

    By the way … check out this morning's MNB Interview, which is specifically focused on the hiring issue.  You can see it below.


    •  From the Washington Post:

    "The pandemic has been a relentless destroyer of brick-and-mortar businesses as public health officials warn against in-person interactions. But the coronavirus is boosting almost anything that can be done online or with minimal human contact — grocery deliveries, online learning, takeout food, streaming video, even real estate closings done with online notaries.

    "The result, economists say, is likely to be dramatic losses in local retail and dining options, with millions of jobs disappearing as the biggest and wealthiest companies — especially those that do much of their business online — extend their gains. Telework, online education and streaming video have grown sharply, while movie theaters, schools and traditional workplaces close their doors. Some will never reopen in a world where the shift from real to virtual suddenly has gone into overdrive."

    More from the story:

    "The impacts of the coronavirus are cutting across the nation’s more than $20 trillion economy, closing down sports leagues and art venues, canceling concerts and funerals, and shuttering bars, boutiques, restaurants and toy stores.

    "Even before the crisis, retailers last year announced a record 9,300 store closures amid widespread bankruptcy filings. As the growing pandemic forces companies like Apple, Nordstrom and Macy’s to close thousands of stores temporarily, analysts say they are bracing for a monumental shift: Deborah Weinswig, head of the retail analyst Coresight Research, said that more than 15,000 stores are likely to announce closures this year.

    "The virus also could exacerbate an already widening gap between the country’s most successful retailers — giants such as Amazon, Walmart, Target and Costco — and the rest of the industry. Companies selling groceries and staples are thriving, while the rest are barely hanging on, a dynamic analysts say is likely to become even more pronounced as economic conditions worsen."

    You can - and should - read the entire story here.


    •  Bloomberg reports that "Amazon.com Inc.’s delivery delays of non-essential goods will extend for at least another month for many customers in the U.S. and Europe … The lengthening delivery times come on top of confusion over how the company identifies essential products, a task that appears to be performed by algorithms with little human oversight."

    The story notes that "Amazon is struggling to keep up with a surge in orders from customers buying groceries and other household necessities online in order to avoid crowded stores. The company on Tuesday announced it would stop accepting shipments of non-essential goods to its network of warehouses where inventory belonging to independent merchants is stowed, packed and shipped to Amazon customers. The aim is to keep warehouses stocked with the items people are buying now -- toilet paper, bleach and sanitizing wipes.

    That means the e-commerce giant is temporarily not accepting shipments of non-essentials like flat-screen televisions and toys."

    However, these moves have sown concerns among third-party sellers who sell on Amazon's Marketplace, often with order Fulfillment by Amazon;  these vendors stand to lose significant sales as order deliveries get pushed out a month or more, and many of them depend on Amazon for a significant percentage of their revenue.

    The delivery slowdowns also have served to highlight another advantage of Prime membership:  non-members reportedly are seeing more delays than members.


    •  Kroger announced over the weekend that all of its banners "will provide a one-time bonus to every hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing and customer service associate, amounting to $300 for every full-time associate and $150 for every part-time associate … The special bonus will be paid to frontline associates who were hired on or before March 1, covers the payroll period March 8 - 28, and will be payable on April 3. "

    The company "also expanded its COVID-19 emergency leave guidelines to include paid time off for self-isolation and symptoms as verified by an accredited health care professional. This expands the new guidelines, announced on March 14, which allows paid time off for associates diagnosed with or placed under quarantine due to COVID-19. In each scenario, all associates will be eligible to receive their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days)."

    “Grocery workers are on the frontlines, ensuring Americans have access to the food and products they need during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman/CEO. “Our associates are working around the clock to keep our stores open for our customers. I am incredibly grateful for all they are doing. The true heroes in this story are our associates, and we want to provide them with additional resources and support to help them continue their remarkable effort.” 


    •  Albertsons on Friday "announced an Appreciation Pay program to all non-union and union frontline associates. Structured to recognize the hard-working team members on the front lines, the company’s e-commerce pickers and drivers, store associates, distribution center associates and manufacturing plant associates will receive a temporary $2 per-hour-worked increase, above and beyond their regular hourly pay and overtime. "

    “In ways that we could not even imagine, overnight, our country changed – and as a result, it changed the way our teams conduct business,” said Vivek Sankaran, President & CEO. “I am so proud to say our teams did not skip a step. In our manufacturing plants, distribution centers and in our stores, our associates are working tirelessly to serve our customers. They work every day to keep our communities fed, their pantries and medicine cabinets stocked, and to ensure one less worry on our customers’ minds as we all face this unprecedented pandemic.” 


    •  MassLive reports that "grocery chain Stop & Shop and the retail company Target joined the ranks of Whole Foods Market and other businesses in announcing they would be increasing their employees’ wages during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    "Stop & Shop’s more than 70,000 workers in New England, New York and New Jersey will now receive a 10% pay raise. All union members employed by the company and by Peapod Online Grocery will also get an additional two weeks of paid sick leave, according to a statement from United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents roughly 1.3 million grocery and retail workers."

    The story says that "Target announced Friday it would be bumping up its employees’ wages by $2 per hour until at least May 2 'in recognition of the significant contributions its frontline team members are playing during an incredible time of need,' the company said in a statement."


    •  From Bloomberg:

    "Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos warned his company’s 800,000 employees that the coronavirus outbreak will likely 'get worse before it gets better,' according to an open letter shared Saturday on his Instagram account."

    “This isn’t business as usual, and it’s a time of great stress and uncertainty,” Bezos wrote. “It’s also a moment in time when the work we’re doing is its most critical.”

    The story notes that "the letter follows cries from U.S. lawmakers and his own employees that the world’s largest online retailer isn’t doing enough to protect its warehouse workers and delivery drivers who endanger themselves delivering products to Amazon customers looking to avoid stores."

    In his letter, Bezos wrote, "We’ve placed purchase orders for millions of face masks we want to give to our employees and contractors who cannot work from home, but very few of those orders have been filled … Masks remain in short supply globally and are at this point being directed by governments to the highest-need facilities like hospitals and clinics,” he added. “It’s easy to understand why the incredible medical providers serving our communities need to be first in line. When our turn for masks comes, our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working to get essential products to people."


    •  Expect a run on plexiglas, as more companies begin installing it at checkouts as a way of protecting employees from being infected by customers with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

    From Albertsons:  "As an added precaution during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Albertsons Companies is installing Plexiglas in its checkout lanes as a protective barrier between customers and checkers. The Plexiglas 'sneeze guards' will be installed in the company’s 2,200+ stores over the next two weeks, with many locations being complete in the next several days."


    •  Tyler, Texas-based  Brookshire Grocery Co. announced that it is offering "a temporary 5 percent daily discount for senior citizens, through May 5, 2020, in all four banners it operates – Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods, Spring Market and FRESH by Brookshire’s. The discount is available to guests age 60 or older with valid ID."  Brookshire also said that it has "waived fees for all guests on Curbside orders, where available, through May 5, 2020, and said that it is "strongly encouraging that the first hour of operations be reserved as a dedicated time for senior citizens. The company is asking for the community’s help in honoring this practice and in moving any senior guests to the front of the check-out line throughout the day."

    One of the things that the Stop & Shop in my town discovered when opening an hour early for senior citizens is that there was one flaw in the plan - seniors were coming up to the checkout before 7 am with beer in their carts, and in Connecticut you can't buy beer before 8 am … and so they were making the seniors take the beer back to the cooler and shelves.  


    •  From the Sacramento Business Journal:

    "Raley's is giving a bonus to all its hourly employees, as the West Sacramento-based grocery chain deals with heightened demand during the coronavirus outbreak.

    "On Saturday, the company said the one-time bonus will vary based on an employee's hours, but will average $500."

    The story says that "Raley's has said it expects to continue to hire more workers amid the outbreak. The company is the fifth-largest private-sector employer in the Sacramento area, with 5,574 full-time-equivalent local employees as of July."


    •  In California, the Press-Enterprise reports that "Stater Bros. on Friday announced it was boosting its workers’ pay $2 hourly, compensating them for working through frantic shopping days amid the coronavirus pandemic … The Stater Bros. raises are for its hourly employees, including warehouse, office and construction workers. The pay bump is effective Monday and will last for four weeks, the San Bernardino-based chain said in a statement."


    •  New Seasons Market and New Leaf Community Markets have "announced a number of additional temporary precautionary measures being implemented to support the safety and well-being of staff, customers and the community as the challenges posed by novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to evolve.

    "Beginning Saturday, March 21, 2020, select New Seasons Market and New Leaf Community Markets stores implemented temporary customer limits to support the health and safety of staff and customers. Limited entry will roll out to all stores by Monday, March 23, 2020. Capacity limits will vary based on the square footage of the store, and while the queue process may initially differ store to store, the grocers will introduce a digital process in the next few days to allow customers to wait in their car or take a walk around the block at a comfortable distance. We kindly ask customers to limit store visits to one person in their party to help minimize wait times."

    Limiting the number of people who go into stores at any one time is something that I'd guess will gain traction.  In my market, both Trader Joe's (a small store) and Whole Foods (much larger) have implemented this policy.  (Pictures below.)


    •  From Vox:

    "As more municipalities around the US recommend or mandate that residents stay at home to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, online orders for grocery deliveries are soaring … But for the people on the other end of the deliveries who are risking their health to deliver food to the rest of us (and pay their bills), the work comes with a long list of challenges. In the past those have included everything from companies playing games with their tips, to unpredictable wages and no insurance. Now, these workers are likely increasing their risk of contracting the coronavirus while either picking up or delivering an order."

    Vox spoke with a number of grocery delivery people to get a sense of what recommendations they would make to consumers in the current environment, and among their suggestions were to use no-contact delivery options if they are offered … "don’t give a crappy rating if an item is out of stock" … "suck it up if the order is late or an item is wrong" … and, not surprisingly, tip well - this is how these folks are making a living, and they're doing their jobs in order to help keep consumers safe.

    "There are many stressful jobs across the world right now," the story concludes.  "This is one of them. Don’t make it worse."


    •  Worth reading … a piece from the Harvard Business Review about how digital technology - especially as implemented and embraced in places like China - is a key to coping "with the social and commercial disruption" created by the pandemic.

    An excerpt:

    "The combination of consumer digital maturity and digitally supported supply chains has enabled local residents to organize home delivery of essential supplies to people in self-quarantine.  In the gated communities and neighborhoods that characterize Beijing, for example, residents have organized small groups of volunteers via group chat apps to receive supplies at the gate for the whole community, box them for each household, and deliver them to people’s doorsteps.

    "In the U.S. and Europe, however, the digital landscape seems rather less favorable for this kind of response than in China.  Although U.S. consumers are more than ready to shop on Amazon and other e-commerce platforms, only 16% of total sales in 2019 were on e-commerce platforms — a number achieved in China four years earlier."

    You can read the entire story here.


    •  Gizmodo reports that "as of today, Best Buy is restricting access for all U.S. stores solely to employees and switching over to “contactless” curbside service for customer pick-ups, exchanges, and returns in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic … The major tech retailer said this protocol would remain in place 'on an interim basis,' an open-ended deadline several companies have built into their covid-19 responses in the face of the outbreak’s rapid and precarious spread."


    •  The New York Post reports that in New York City, "less than a week after being ordered to close all dining room service and focus solely on takeout, eateries are pulling the plug on that business, too. Takeout and delivery orders in the face of crescendoing coronavirus contamination fears just aren’t pulling in enough dough to keep the lights on."

    Plus, they are concerned that operating a take-out business pouts both employees and customers at risk.


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the new coronavirus’s spread in America has prompted corporations to close offices, factories and stores, sending tens of millions of people home, where a swath of the workforce - from customer-service representatives to chief executive officers - have had to figure out new ways to work."

    As restrictions are put into place in an increasing number of places, "the result is perhaps the most radical and swift change in U.S. business in living memory. That’s posing a monumental management challenge of leading employees - those lucky enough to have kept their jobs - to sustain operations from home while also keeping them calm and safe … Many CEOs, cut off from their staff for the first time, are ramping up their communication with employees to address the confusion, anxiety and isolation setting in among the rank-and-file. They are sending daily companywide updates, hosting virtual town halls and sharing personal photos and stories from home."

    The Journal points out that "some research suggests short-term effects of remote work can be severe. Brad Bell, a professor who runs the Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, recently conducted research to figure out the effects, tracking 50 remote workers for two years. Three months after moving into a remote work arrangement, employees reported higher levels of work-family conflict than before."

    This clearly is something that business leaders are going to have to pay attention to moving forward - in addition to leading, they are going to have to minister to people's spirits.  I suspect that we are going to see a lot of cases where character will be revealed.


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports how "businesses, large and small, have been sending emails to reassure customers during the coronavirus pandemic, promising clean counters in kitchens and hand sanitizer in stores. But experts say that while companies are trying to inform and reassure their customers, there is a fine line between keeping them in the know and adding to the noise."

    In other words, businesses may be adding to customers' concerns rather than alleviating them.

    One of the things that makes for effective communications, the story suggests, is that they are specific to the relationship between the retailer and the customer, as opposed to giving the company a platform for a dissertation on current events.

    One company cited as doing it right is Levi Strauss & Co., which, when it decided to close its stores, "sent a short email explaining that while its doors were shut, its website would remain open, and that the company understood that 'shopping for jeans is probably the last thing on your mind right now'."

    “No one wants to get a bunch of emails from brands and stores saying what they are doing,” Levi’s Chief Marketing Officer Jen Sey tells the Journal. “It’s spam.”

    Agreed.

    I will say that sometimes companies seem to be using the coronavirus as an excuse, and are sending out deceptive messages.

    Such a case is Brooks Brothers, which tells the Journal that it wants to "always openly and transparently engage and communicate" with customers.  There has long been a Brooks Brothers in my Connecticut town, but it closed over the weekend, and posted a note on the door saying that "because of current circumstances," and because it values customers' and employees' health and safety, the store has been "temporarily" closed.

    However, as you can see in the picture below, the place has been cleaned out, the Brooks Brothers name has been taken off the building … and the reason, as local insiders know, is because the store did very little business and had a rent dispute with the landlord, not the coronavirus.  Brooks Brothers is one and not coming back to this location, and has managed to take the word "transparent" and turn it into a joke.


    •  The New York Times writes that "Target apologized on Saturday after coming under criticism for selling N95 masks, which are in acute demand by medical providers during the coronavirus pandemic, at some stores in Washington State.

    "The masks were made available to the public for purchase 'in error' in select stores in Seattle, the company said in a statement on Twitter. It said it was removing them and donating them to the Washington State Department of Health."

    “We’re also reviewing inventory for additional masks to be donated,” the statement continued. “Target’s commitment to communities is unwavering & we apologize.’’


    •  It apparently isn't just paper products that are in short supply.

    The New York Times writes that "as the coronavirus continues to spread, and people stock up to hunker down for weeks or longer, freezers are getting harder to find, making them another unexpectedly hot commodity for consumers."


    •  The Verge reports that "Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted Saturday that the company was donating 'millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe,' to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus … How (and if) Apple was able to get the two million masks…isn’t clear — The Verge has reached out to the company for more information."


    •  USA Today writes that an executive order signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo "requires residents to stay at home to the maximum extent possible, banning nonessential travel and requiring all businesses to shutter if they do not fit specific criteria … The state's list of essential retail includes 'grocery stores including all food and beverage stores' along with pharmacies, convenience stores, farmer’s markets, gas stations, restaurants/bars (for take-out/delivery), hardware and building material stores. Mass transit will stay operational; food delivery and takeout services will stay open."

    In addition, the story says, "liquor stores have been deemed 'essential' retail in the state of New York."

    I'll drink to that.  When restrictions go into effect in Connecticut later today, I hope that the same rules apply.  (Though, to be honest, we probably have laid in enough wine and Tito's to get us through a zombie apocalypse.)


    •  The New York Times reports that "Germany on Sunday barred groups of more than two people from gathering, except for families, and Chancellor Angela Merkel later said she herself was going into isolation because her doctor had tested positive for the coronavirus."


    •  Reuters reports that Amazon "will stop shipping non-essential products to consumers in Italy and France, the company said on Saturday, representing an escalation in the e-commerce giant’s response in regions hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak … Amazon considers baby products; health and household items; beauty and personal care; groceries; and industrial, scientific, and pet supplies as essential products.

    "The world’s largest online retailer said consumers in Italy and France can still order non-essential products from sellers on Amazon who do not use Amazon logistics to fulfill and ship orders, but deliveries could take longer."


    •  Gourmet Insider reports that "Sur La Table has decided to close until April 2, the company announced … In order to continue the Sur La Table experience throughout the outbreak. the company put together a compilation of recipes and instructions from its cooking classes as well as meal prep ideas. Customers will still have the ability to shop online."


    •  The New York Times reports that "the Super Bowl for spellers will have to wait, as the Scripps National Spelling Bee has been postponed indefinitely."


    •  CNN reports that "Canada and Australia will not send athletes to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo because of the risks associated with the coronavirus outbreak … Both countries' Olympic committees also are calling for the Games to be postponed until 2021."

    Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is saying that it may postpone - but will not cancel - this summer's games in Tokyo.  CNN  writes that "the IOC board said it is considering several options to deal with the ongoing outbreak, including modifying plans to allow the 2020 Tokyo Games to begin on schedule on July 24 or changing the start date for the Games."

    The IOC must be run by former Amity, Massachusetts, Mayor Larry Vaughn.


    •  From Media Play News:

    "Amazon early on Sunday, March 22 announced via email the launch of  Prime Video | Cinema, a new online hub where the company says 'you can watch the latest movies just released in theaters – without leaving home.'

    "Disney-Pixar’s Onward is available to buy for $19.99, while Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma are available to rent at the same price. The price is also the same for HD or SD.

    "All four films were made available for home viewing earlier than expected due to the closure of movie theaters in response to the escalating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic."


    •  Variety reports that "Netflix has created a $100 million relief fund to help members of the creative community who have been left unemployed and without a way to earn an income during the coronavirus crisis. The streaming giant said the bulk of the funds will go toward supporting laid-off crew members … The move comes as the entertainment industry is grappling with mass unemployment. Some 120,000 crew members have lost their jobs since the infection rate began spiking and production ground to a halt. Guilds and unions such as IATSE and SAG-AFTRA have been pressing the federal and local governments for help as their members face a stark economic reality."


    •  Variety writes that "Amazon and Apple are the latest companies to throttle back streaming-video bit rates in Europe, joining an effort to reduce congestion on the region’s internet networks that have become stressed during the coronavirus pandemic.

    "Earlier this week, Netflix and YouTube said they were putting measures in place to lower bandwidth usage of their services across the continent. That came at the request of European Union officials concerned about networks getting swamped as millions of people are staying at home amid the virus crisis."

    So far, the streaming slowdown has not hit the US.


    •  Hooray for Hollywood.

    The New York Times writes that "their doctors may be fake, but it turns out hospital procedurals like 'Chicago Med,' 'The Resident' and 'Grey’s Anatomy,' are awash in authentic medical gear. With production halted, and a critical shortage of supplies in real-life hospitals, the TV industry has stepped in to donate what would otherwise be their props: Surgical masks, gloves and more, originally intended for actors, are now en route to actual health care personnel."

    Published on: March 23, 2020

    Is it possible to apply the lessons of the gig economy, and specifically those taught us by the likes of Uber and Lyft, to the staffing needs of retailers large and small in a wide variety of categories?

    Dave Dempsey of Hyer believes so.  His company has created a platform designed to "provide organizations and individuals a unified, easy way to search for, book and manage independent work."  In other words - being able to identify and hire people when you want them and where you want them to do the jobs you need them to do, and allowing individuals to find jobs that suit their work-life needs and desires.

    Fascinating … and the subject of a Skype interview that MNB Content Guy Kevin Coupe conducted with Dave Dempsey just last week … a time when supermarkets were looking for hundreds of thousands of people to fill employment gaps created by the pandemic and panic shopping.  

    It is, to say the least, timely.

    For more information, go here.

    Or, you can reach Dave Dempsey at dave.dempsey@frictionlessenterprises.com

    Published on: March 23, 2020

    From Inc.:

    "Remember how five years ago, Dan Price, the CEO of Seattle-based payment processing company Gravity Payments, raised all of his 120 employees’ salary to at least $70,000 a year, taking a huge pay cut to make it happen?

    "A media firestorm resulted, including here in Inc.com, much of it focused on negative blowback from the decision, including executive resignations, sniping from local startups, and a lawsuit from Price’s co-founder (also his brother). Rush Limbaugh called Price 'a communist.'  All in all, the coverage painted a messier picture than a simple feel-good story of a generous CEO doing good by his employees."

    Five years later, the story says, Gravity Payments seems to be doing just fine.  The value of payments it processes each year has more than doubled, as has the headcount of employees.  More than 10 percent of employees have been able to buy their own homes, vs. one percent before the policy change.

    And, interestingly enough, the company has gone through a baby boom - five years ago, company employees were giving birth maybe twice a year at most - and over the past half-decade, there have been more than 40 babies born to company employees.

    "Another way to put that is employees are now actually living secure, middle-class lives and reaching markers of success like owning a home and having kids that were once assumed to be within grasp of most dedicated full-time workers. In short, Gravity Payments put the American Dream back within financial reach for its employees."

    KC's View:
      What's also impressive is that people working for Gravity Payments have not turned into slackers, but instead have worked harder … but they also seem to have happier personal lives - losing weight, paying off debt, and spending more time with their families.

    During a time when a lot of companies are giving employees temporary raises and bonuses to reward their work during the pandemic, I wonder if there is a larger lesson here.

    Published on: March 23, 2020

    One MNB reader passed along to me an email that an MNB fave - Scott Moses, Managing Director and head of Food Retail & Restaurants Investment Banking at PJ Solomon - sent to his industry friends.

    I thought it worth sharing:

    To my friends across the grocery sector,

    As a customer and a citizen, I want to thank each of you and your teams for the heroic work you are doing to help sustain all of us and our families during this difficult time. 

    I often talk about supermarkets being the families who feed America’s families and the important role your stores have played as pillars of thousands of American communities – for generations – not just for customers, but for the millions of teammates working in stores. 

    In a crisis, this is exponentially more apparent; grocers consistently are the last ones to leave and the first ones back in.

    The pivotal role our sector is playing during this extraordinary time is truly inspiring. I believe the way you are rising to this challenge to serve your communities during this time is going to be remembered for a long time to come, indelibly branding the hearts of your customers with lifetime loyalty. 

    As you will see in the attached material, market confidence in our sector’s ability to rise to the challenge and lift our communities has driven meaningful grocery sector valuation improvements this month, notwithstanding the broader market decline.  We remain committed to continuing to keep you updated on sector and macro developments, humbly following the great example you are setting.

    On a personal level, I have never been more proud to be associated with this sector. 

    I wish all of you and your families good health and the fortitude you will need to continue the Herculean work ahead of you.

    We are all pulling for you and know you will meet the challenge with grit and grace.

    With extreme gratitude,

    Scott Moses

    KC's View:
     

    I think Scott speaks for a lot of people.

    I'm a little more cynical than he is, though, so I would add a caveat - while people in the industry are working hard across the board and performing an enormous public service, the last thing they should be is complacent about their new prominence and definition as "essential."

    It won't necessarily last.

    I'm going to continue to hammer this point, which I made on Friday:

    I know that every company, big and small, is swamped and challenged by the demands of the moment.  But I think that every company that wants to be prepared for what the market is going to look like when we get to the end of the tunnel ought to have a small task force charged with figuring out what that company needs to look like at that point.

    What products and services will the company offer that it did not offer before?  What did the company offer before that needs to be jettisoned?  How should the company's management structure be redesigned to be more responsive?  To what degree can stores and the company's front lines be better empowered to be more responsive, relevant and resonant?

    You cannot wait to ask these questions until the crisis is over.  You need to ask the questions and begin formulating answers now.  Every company will be transformed, but the question is whether they will transform themselves or be transformed by events.

    And I don't even think that Scott would disagree with me on this.

    Published on: March 23, 2020

    Kenny Rogers, who sold more than 100 million records - including 21 No. 1 country hits and two No. 1 hits on the pop charts - has passed away.  He was 81.  Among his hits:  "Lady," "Islands in the Stream," "Reuben James," "Coward of the County." "Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town," and "The Gambler."

    KC's View:
     

    That last song I mentioned, "The Gambler," ends up being a great business lesson…


    Published on: March 23, 2020

    Regarding the Covid-19 coronavirus, one MNB reader wrote:

    The real question...what is going to happen next Flu season? No one is advocating death, however the death rate from just the Flu is significantly more. These are facts, not like the guessing going on now with Covid-19... The hypocrisy of “enhanced cleaning” is telling since these methods should have always been in place and permanent at best! Fear mongering, government restrictions, curfews, bias press, all make for a movie we have already seen!

    The Koreans have the model for fighting this virus and they didn’t have to lock anything down. Why is that?

    I'm neither a doctor nor a statistician, but my understanding is that while the flu each year kills more people, this new coronavirus seems to have a higher mortality rate … and we're just at the beginning.

    If you think this is about fear mongering and a biased press, I don't have an answer for you.

    From MNB reader Olivier Kielwasser:

    Coronavirus reports suggest younger people are less prone to developing symptoms, while older folks are more at risk risk if infected.  With this in mind, could the response be…. If you are of a certain age, practice social distancing, and if needed work from home, or find a work-from-home job.

    If you are below that age, and if you so choose, it’s ok to go to work anywhere, serve food in restaurants (to people of the same younger age) and take part in all activities as prior to this crisis hitting us.  Older people would be confined home respecting social distancing practices, but younger people could continue to work outside and make a living.  The economy would continue to move forward and create wealth.  Younger people would become more infected with no/less symptoms…. and would become immune.  After a while they could start interacting with older people, without risk of infection.  This would save the country hundreds of billions of dollars, that today scared politicians are promising everyone left and right with no real plan to address the situation.   

    I think your solution assumes a lot.  It only works until younger people start dropping.  It only works if you're willing to gamble that this won't happen.

    Again, I am neither a scientist nor a statistician, but there a story from NBC News:

    "Top U.S. health officials are 'looking very closely' at reports that a much higher percentage of younger Americans than expected need hospitalization as a result of contracting the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday.

    Fauci was responding to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which, after studying more than 4,000 cases in the U.S., showed that about 40 percent of those who were hospitalized for the virus as of March 16 were ages 20 to 54. Among the most critical cases, 12 percent of intensive care admissions were among those ages 20 to 44, while 36 percent were for those 45 to 64.

    "About 80 percent of people in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19 were 65 and over, with the highest percentage among those over 85."

    My kids are 33, 30 and 25 … which means they are less at risk than I am, but I'm still pretty pleased that they're not out doing business as usual.  

    Published on: March 23, 2020

    I like to keep the customers satisfied, so here's another puppy picture to brighten your day.  Hopefully.

    Today, there are three of them … Zazu (my daughter's puppy) on the left, Parker (my son's dog) in the middle, and my puppy, Spenser, on the right.


    Published on: March 23, 2020

    This is one of my favorite songs (which may say a lot about me), but see if you can a) spot the change in the lyrics, and b) get this song out of your mind as you go through the day.

    Enjoy.