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    Published on: April 6, 2020

    It isn't like retailers have a shortage of things to worry about.  MNB Content Guy Kevin Coupe identifies one more consumer issue they may have to navigate in the uncertain times we all face.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    Excellent piece this morning in the New York Times about the debate taking place among economists about what it will take to return to a place in which the economy is full-functioning - which is hard to quantify or qualify since the data doesn't exist within which to formulate an answer.

    However, the Times writes, economists say "there won’t be a fully functioning economy again until people are confident that they can go about their business without a high risk of catching the virus … Aggressive suppression measures could lead to a gradual resumption of activity that begins in some places as soon as May, several experts said. But business as usual might not come back until a vaccine is developed, which could take more than a year."

    After all, as the Wall Street Journal reports, "At least one-fourth of the U.S. economy has suddenly gone idle amid the coronavirus pandemic … Forty-one states have ordered at least some businesses to close to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, according to Moody’s. Restaurants, universities, gyms, movie theaters, public parks, boutiques and millions of other “nonessential” businesses have shut off the lights as a result. The upshot: U.S. daily output has fallen roughly 29%, compared with the first week of March, just before the spate of closures, the analysis shows."

    But there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of unknowns - perhaps the most important of which is how effective and how aggressive these suppression measures prove to be.

    Some excerpts from the Times story:

    •  "Public health experts are beginning to make predictions about when coronavirus infection rates will peak. Economists are calculating when the cost of continuing to shutter restaurants, shopping malls and other businesses — a move that has already pushed some 10 million Americans into unemployment, with millions more on the way — will outweigh the savings from further efforts to slow the virus once the infection curve has flattened out."

    •  The story notes that there is "widespread agreement that the United States desperately needs more testing for the virus in order to give policymakers the first key piece of evidence they need to determine how fast the virus is spreading and when it might be safe for people to return to work … Policymakers will also need better data on how strained hospitals and entire regional health care systems are likely to be if the infection rate flares up and spreads. Ideally, they would sufficiently control the rate to establish so-called contact tracing in order to track — and avoid — the spread of the virus across the country.

    "Once such levels of detection are established, it is possible that certain workers could begin returning to the job — for example, in areas where the chance of infection is low. Some experts have talked about quickly bringing back workers who contract the virus but recover with little effect. Testing is the best way to identify such workers, who may have had the virus with few or no symptoms and possibly not realized they were ever infected."

    •  "Policymakers will need patience: Restarting activity too quickly could risk a second spike in infections that could deal more damage than the first because it would shake people’s faith in their ability to engage in even limited amounts of shopping, dining or other commerce."

    (If you're interested, you can read the entire Times story here.)

    This latter, Eye-Opening point in some ways strikes me as the most important one - that the nation runs the risk of even worse and more sustained economic damage if an attempt is made to impose a sense of normality before the country is ready, as opposed to allowing normality to return in some sort of organic way.

    Meanwhile, there is another perspective in what it will take to get back to some semblance of normal, from the Wall Street Journal:

    "Sports will be back. At some point in the possibly distant future, athletes will head back to work in arenas, ballparks and stadiums, and leagues will promise a return to normalcy. There will finally be something to watch on television again.

    "But there are some people who might not be ready so quickly: the fans.

    "What happens next in sports may be beyond the control of leagues and the television networks that pay them billions of dollars. The people with the power are the ones who packed the stands. And sports will only be normal once the public decides it’s socially and psychologically acceptable to be around thousands of strangers again … It’s no longer a given that play will resume this year. 'Until you’re widely vaccinated,' Bill Gates said last week of mass gatherings, 'those may not come back at all'."

    Scary and uncertain times ahead, to be sure.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    Burt Flickinger of Strategic Resource Group joins MNB Content Guy Kevin Coupe for a wide-ranging, no-holds-barred, provocative conversation about the state of the food industry today, how it got here, and how it gets beyond its current challenges.  

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    Save A Lot on Friday announced the "successful completion of a comprehensive recapitalization that significantly deleverages its Company’s balance sheet. Under the terms of the unanimous, fully consensual and out-of-court agreement, the Company has completed debt-for-equity and debt-for-debt exchanges that eliminated ~$500 million in debt and provided an infusion of $350 million in new capital from a combination of new and existing lenders to support the Company’s operations and acceleration of its transformation plan."

    Save A Lot was acquired by private equity group Onex Corp. from Supervalu for $1.365 billion in late 2016;  it has about 1,300 stores and more than $4 billion in annual sales.  While there have been reports that Onex wanted to sell the chain, such a sale has not happened, but the company did need to recapitalize itself and reduce debt in order to remain viable.

    “With the completion of this recapitalization, we are moving forward with a substantially stronger financial foundation as we continue serving our customers and executing our transformation plan,” said Kenneth McGrath, Save A Lot's CEO. “Our ability to achieve this outcome through a fully consensual and out-of-court agreement is a significant achievement and reflects the confidence of our new owners and lenders in our business model and long-term growth prospects. We thank our vendors and retail partners for their trust and support throughout this process and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them into the future.”

    Scott Moses, Managing Director and Head – Food Retail & Restaurants Investment Banking at PJ Solomon, who served as financial advisor to Save A Lot, described Save A Lot as "one of America’s great discount grocery brands; during this critical time, when customers will increasingly need access to high quality food at affordable prices, Save A Lot is now meaningfully better positioned from a financial perspective to continue to serve its communities."

    KC's View:

    The recession in which the country now finds itself mired should, in theory, be something that will be good for Save A Lot's business … there are a lot of people out there who will be extraordinarily cost-conscious, and its value promise should be very appealing.

    That said, it has to deliver on the promise.  But for the moment, Save A Lot at least is in a better position to do so.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    FMI - The Food Industry Association this morning announced the launch of what is being called the Eightfold Talent Exchange, described as "a nationwide marketplace connecting HR and business leaders to immediately employ associates whose jobs are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The platform will act as a bridge between organizations who need to quickly hire and their counterparts with employees who have been furloughed or laid off, allowing business leaders to collaborate across corporate and industry boundaries to fulfill the tremendous swings in labor needs."

    The Exchange is being created with, the inventor of the Talent Intelligence Platform.

    Almost 10 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in just the last two weeks as business have closed and laid off workers because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

    "“We are in a situation where businesses need to quickly fill roles to keep operations moving at this critical time. Talent Exchange, with its matching technology, is exactly what we need to hire quickly based on talent and potential,” said Ashutosh Garg, CEO of “If you’re hiring, it’s an incredible way to help the community. And if your company is going through tough times, you can place your workers into roles at other companies that need their help. Doing so will fill critical shortages and create goodwill with your workers, in hopes that they will rejoin you when business conditions improve.”

    KC's View:

    It actually has been kind of cool to watch supermarket retailers that are hiring reach out to closed retailing and restaurant companies to identify and quickly hire people who are qualified, talented and ready to work - like the one Kroger has established with Sysco and U.S. Foods.  This has created an efficient pipeline of personnel, and good for FMI and being able to figure out how to create a structure that will help other companies and employees.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    Nielsen is out with new research into recent CPG sales compared to a year ago, concluding that "overall CPG sales were +21.5% for the week ending 3/28/20, vs. the same week in 2019. Overall CPG sales were +67.9% for the week ending 3/21/20, vs. the same week in 2019."

    The increases, of course, reflect the high levels of buying by consumers concerned about the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

    Some coronavirus-related specifics from the report:

    •  "Bath tissue (toilet paper): +47.5% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +112%.  Was +123.5% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Paper towels: +36.2% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +89.7%.  Was +127.4% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Aerosol disinfectants: +148.3% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +342.1%.  Was +264.1% dollar growth for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Multi-purpose cleaners: +84.6% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +166.3%.   Was +182% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Hand sanitizer: +63.4% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +238.5%.  Was +192.8% dollar growth for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year." 

    •  "Bath & shower soap (includes both liquid and bar, hand and body): +69.6% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +123.3%.  Was +172.8% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    Some other interesting numbers:

    •  "Baking yeast: +456.7% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +335.5%.  Was +647.3% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Pasta: +86.5% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +114.7%.  Was +227.8% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Breakfast cereal: +28.4% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +43.8%.  Was +93.7% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Ice cream: +29.8% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +26.8%.  Was +50.2% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Blades and manual razors: -17.9% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): +0.9%.  Was +5.4% for the week ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    •  "Perfume: -45.2% for the one-week period ending 3/28/20 vs. same week previous year.  Latest 4-weeks (ending 3/28/20): -26.9%.  Was -40.6% for the one-week period ending 3/21/20 vs. same week previous year."

    KC's View:

    A vivid illustration of how we deal with stress.  We eat ice cream and bread and pasta , and we stop shaving and making ourselves smell good.

    Welcome to America 2020.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

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

    •  In the United States, there are 336,851 cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 9,620 deaths and 17,977 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there are 1,284,665 cases of the coronavirus, with 70,320 deaths and 271,721 reported recoveries.

    As a matter of context, the US now has almost as many coronavirus cases as the next three nations - Spain, Italy, and Germany -  combined.

    •  The Houston Chronicle reports that H-E-B has "partnered with James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality, downtown's Cherry Block Craft Butcher and Kitchen and and Midtown staple Brennan’s of Houston to offer chef-inspired meals-to-go …  the prepared grab-and-go offerings, part of H-E-B’s Meal Simple program, are set to hit shelves this week."

    The story says that the program brings "much-needed economic assistance to Texas restaurants as they struggle to keep the lights on amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    The restaurants will set the price for each meal and H-E-B will pay them for what is prepared. What's more, they will receive 100 percent of the proceeds."

    “We can’t thank H-E-B enough for giving us this opportunity. This provides us with additional outlets to sell our ‘Take and Bake’ items to Houstonians, which will allow us to pay our rent, support our farmers and hire our furloughed staff back faster,” Shepherd tells the Chronicle.  “H-E-B is a company that not only takes care of its communities but also takes care of the businesses within the communities like us. They’re leading the way, and we’re so grateful to be a part of it.”

    Of course, when it comes to H-E-B, that's no surprise.

    •  The San Diego Union-Tribune reports on how "several San Diego restaurants and specialty shops … have overthrown their entire business model to convert into tiny supermarkets. Leaning on restaurant suppliers that have excess food and nowhere to sell, these business owners are filling a gap that grocery chains have been unable to serve … Chefs who once baked racks of lamb and Norwegian salmon are now unwrapping massive boxes of restaurant-grade meat, flour and other pantry staples, weighing them by the pound and wrapping them in Ziploc bags for individual sale."

    Denyelle Bruno, the CEO of Southern California restaurant Tender Greens, tells the Union-Tribune that "there’s going to be a major change in the restaurant landscape, and it will be devastating to a lot of companies.  But there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. [Americans] do a lot of outsourcing of everything in our lives, and this situation is forcing us to connect more directly with people and businesses in our communities. I think there are going to be some positive outcomes.”

    I wonder if at some level restaurants - like supermarkets - may have to redefine their roles in communities over the long term.  It seems entirely possible that it could take many years for what we've come to think of as "restaurant culture" to regain past glory, and those creative people are going to be looking for outlets while still fulfilling their desire to feed people.  People often talk about "grocerants," as supermarkets that also can serve as restaurants.  But maybe we're also going to see "restaurmarkets," which will approach the creative and competitive challenge from the other direction.

    •  From the Associated Press:

    "Every day, grocery workers are restocking toilet paper, eggs, produce and canned goods as fast as the items fly off the shelves.

    "They disinfect keypads, freezer handles and checkout counters as hundreds of people weave around them, sometimes standing too close for comfort amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some work for hours behind clear plastic barriers installed at checkout counters, bulwarks against sudden sneezes or coughs that can propel germs.

    "They aren't doctors or nurses, yet they have been praised for their dedication by Pope Francis, former U.S. President Barack Obama and countless people on social media, as infections and death counts rise."

    As a result, the story says, "In the U.S., a handful of states — Minnesota and Vermont were the first — have given grocery workers a special classification that allows them to put their children in state-paid child care while they work. Unions in Colorado, Alaska, Texas and many other states are pressing governors to elevate grocery workers to the status of first responders."

    That seems entirely appropriate to me.  Too bad the country couldn't do something like that on a national basis … because it is not hyperbole to suggest that if these folks decided to stop working, to stay home and protect themselves, the rest of us would starve.

    •  The New York Times has a story about how Amazon has learned of Covid-19 coronavirus cases in more than 50 of its warehouses and distribution centers, "out of the more than 500 it operates across the county.

    "In recent weeks, Amazon has raised wages and added quarantine leave, and it is offering overtime at double pay. It said it had tripled its janitorial staff. And it has added space between many workstations. But in private groups, conversations with their managers and public protests, some workers have expressed alarm about their safety."

    The Times writes that "as millions of Americans heed government orders to hunker down, ordering food and medicines and books and puzzle boards for home delivery, many of Amazon’s 400,000 warehouse workers have stayed on the job, fulfilling the crushing demands of a country suddenly working and learning from home. Orders for Amazon groceries, for example, have been as much as 50 times higher than normal, according to a person with direct knowledge of the business.

    "The challenge is keeping enough people on the job to fill those orders, according to more than 30 Amazon warehouse workers and current and former corporate employees who spoke with The New York Times. (Many requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly and feared losing their jobs.) For all of its high-tech sophistication, Amazon’s vast e-commerce business is dependent on an army of workers operating in warehouses they now fear are contaminated with the coronavirus."

    There is an irony in that Amazon's strategic plan always has been that it would be so efficient, so effective and so ubiquitous that it would be seen almost like a public utility - a factor in virtually every buying decision for almost everything.  But now, under enormous stress, it is having to face legitimate scrutiny for its practices, and apparently some justifiable criticism for breakdowns in the system.

    •  Reuters reports that Amazon "is in touch with two coronavirus test makers as it considers how to screen its staff and reduce infection risks at its warehouses.

    Internal meeting notes seen by Reuters say the online retailer is talking to CEOs at Abbott Laboratories and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

    "The CEOs said they'd like to work with Amazon but said their testing capacity is taken up by the U.S. government."

    •  Orlando Weekly reports that "in an effort to keep fingers off keypads during the coronavirus outbreak, Publix announced Friday that they’re finally accepting Apple Pay and other forms of mobile payment.

    "In a statement released April 2, the Lakeland-based grocer said it will roll out contactless payments including Apple, Google and Samsung options at all of its store locations by April 4."

    •  The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that area grocers Schnuck Markets and Dierbergs Markets have both announced that they will only allow customers to send one-person-per-household into stores, as a way of allowing for physical distancing during the pandemic.  Once stores reach capacity, people will be asked to wait on line outside stores for admittance.

    Exceptions will be made to the one-person-per-household rule for a parent with children, and for adults needing assistance.

    One would assume that responsible adults would not only embrace this rule, but would not need it.  A responsible adult wouldn't want to bring people into a store unnecessarily.

    •  Politico writes that "the coronavirus pandemic is leading the food industry and regulators to change policies as they grapple with empty shelves, a glut of fresh produce and milk, and sudden shifts in consumer buying habits.

    "The problem isn’t a shortage of food and commodities. If anything, food waste is becoming a bigger issue as traditionally big, bulk buyers — like college dorms and restaurant chains — suddenly stop receiving deliveries. As a result, millions of gallons of milk are being dumped, and farmers have no alternative but to turn fresh vegetables into mulch."

    Indeed, the Reading Eagle reports that in Pennsylvania, "Berks County dairy farmers dumped thousands of pounds of milk on Tuesday, in the latest loss blamed on the coronavirus COVID-19.

    "Producers who send their milk to Clover Farms Dairy for processing were told to dump two-days' worth of milk, said dairy farmers Dave Wolfskill and Paul Hartman.

    Wolfskill of Mar-Anne Farms, in Lower Heidelberg Township, said he dumped 5,500 gallons of milk on Tuesday … Hartman, who with his two brothers manages Scattered Acres farms in seven townships in Berks and Lancaster counties, said he dumped 32,000 pounds of milk on Tuesday, and expected to dump a comparable amount on Wednesday, as requested by Clover Farms."

    The story says that "according to farmers, producers for Clover Farms were instructed to dump their milk because the dairy is full … The farmers will be paid for the dumped milk, and milk pickups are resuming on Thursday, according to the federal milk order letter. "

    The problem, according to the Eagle, is that so many milk sales outlets - like schools and restaurants - have been shut down.

    This is a time when a lot of folks are losing their jobs, and may be having trouble actually buying milk for their families.  You'd think there would be a way to not waste all this food, and use it to help folks who need it.

    •  The Boston Globe reports that "Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Sunday said he is asking everyone in Boston to observe a curfew and to wear masks when they are outside their homes, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the city and the state rises toward a peak that could test the region’s public health infrastructure in coming days.

    "Walsh said the recommended curfew will be in place between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. starting Monday and running at least through May 4. He said people should rely on cloth face coverings and leave sorely needed medical grade masks for health care workers. The city is also closing sporting facilities at Boston parks, including basketball courts."

    •  From Marketwatch:

    "Walmart Inc. sales rose rapidly in stores and online in recent weeks as shoppers, worried about the spread of coronavirus, rushed to stockpile water, face masks and canned goods before shifting their focus to necessities for a prolonged stretch at home.

    "Walmart sales from its over 4,700 U.S. stores increased nearly 20% over the past four weeks compared with the same period last year … Sales on rose over 30% over the past eight weeks. Downloads of Walmart's online grocery mobile app skyrocketed."

    •  The Wall Street Journal has an interview with John Catsimatidis, who owns one chain of supermarkets, Gristedes, and a controlling interest in another, D’Agostino, and described himself as "angry" at the recent run on toilet paper.

    “There is no reason to panic about supplies,” he says. “I want people to know that. Only panic buying causes shortages.”

    According to the story, Catsimatidis "says the pandemic will have a 'huge impact' on how Americans live - and how they shop. He sees changes in behavior unfolding in real time that he doesn’t think will be reversed once the coronavirus abates. 'You have the brick-and-mortar stores like ours, and the internet companies that deliver, like Instacart.'  People are ordering 'the heavy stuff, the paper goods' online, and won’t stop. 'They’ll rather have it delivered and pay the extra dollar than—how do you say that Jewish word?—schlep it home themselves'."

    The Journal goes on:  "With the paper-goods business migrating online and 'half of all drugstore space now used for food,' Mr. Catsimatidis says supermarkets like his may have to repurpose themselves into 'convenience stores where people come to buy specific food products'."

    I wouldn't disagree with Catsimatidis' assessment of how a lot of stores will change - in fact, what he is saying now is what people like Tom Furphy and I have been saying for years.  I'd just be careful about taking any prescriptions for retail relevance from the guy who owns Gristedes, and brought all the expertise he's developed there to a terrible attempt to run for Mayor of New York City.

    •  From the Boston Globe:

    "A man allegedly coughed and spat on produce at the Stop and Shop in Kingston, and police say they’re pursuing criminal charges against him.

    "Kingston police were called to the supermarket, at 160 Summer St., just before noon on Saturday for a report of a disturbance. Police said the 65-year-old Duxbury man, who has not been publicly identified, had allegedly been coughing and spitting and then 'became confrontational with staff and witnesses.' A physical confrontation ensued … Police are seeking a criminal complaint, which may include the following charges: assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot), assault and battery, and destruction of property (produce)."

    •  The New York Times reports that "Corona beer has become a temporary victim of the coronavirus.  Grupo Modelo, the brewer behind Corona, Modelo and other beers, said in a statement on Thursday that it was suspending its beer production after the Mexican government ordered nonessential businesses to close in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus."

    •  Barter, apparently, is back.

    From Bloomberg:

    "Unattended folding tables have popped up on corners and at the end of people’s driveways, offering everyday goods like rice, a jar of jam or bread. Take what you need and leave what you can, the signs say.

    "Barter, the trade system prevalent in the Middle Ages, is back in the time of coronavirus pandemic, with a few modern twists. One twist is the stay-home order and social distancing. Another twist is technology.

    "Social networks Facebook and Nextdoor are flooded with posts from neighbors and friends seeking to swap eggs for toilet paper. Small and midsized businesses, whose cash trade has dried up from the economic fallout of shelter-in-place orders, are turning to online barter exchanges."

    The story notes that "the International Reciprocal Trade Association represents 100 barter exchanges, each catering to thousands of businesses. Some exchanges reported a 20% to 35% increase in member signups in March, said Ron Whitney, president and chief executive officer of the group, known as IRTA."

    II wonder if there is a role that retailers could play in this.  After all, it has become clear that food and drug retailers play an until-now unappreciated role as community centers … and maybe, if they could help facilitate barter programs, it would further cement that image.  I cannot imagine it would hurt sales much, and the boost it would give to their value and values propositions would be enormous.

    •  The New York Post reported over the weekend that "cooped-up New Yorkers are flooding lawyer phone lines with divorce inquiries — with an avalanche of filings expected once the courts re-open … Already-balky spouses are cracking under the strain of quarantine, lawyers say — including one Manhattan hedge fund manager who suddenly finds himself imprisoned in his Hamptons mansion with the wife, the kids, and a failing marriage."

    The story notes that "there’s an added financial incentive to filing as quickly as the coronavirus clouds lift, and the courts reopen … On the day a divorce is filed, the value of some of a spouse’s most valuable assets — including their business and any self-managed stock portfolios — is basically set in stone.  So it will make far better sense, financially, for many spouses to file for divorce before those stocks and businesses start to rebound post-coronavirus."

    Does anyone else find the phrase "imprisoned in his Hamptons mansion" to be more than mildly offensive?

    •  Finally …

    Embracing the notion that we are all in this together, Walmart has released a new commercial, entitled "Walmart Neighbors," which consists of a series of its employees from around the country singing "Lean on Me," the class ic 1972 Bill Withers tune.

    While the commercial clearly is timed to express Walmart's connection with employees and customers during the pandemic, there is an added irony - Withers died last week at age 81.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    Time has a piece about acclaimed chef José Andrés, who one observer calls "a walking model of what the 21st century citizen should be.”

    Andrés' "rapidly expanding charity, World Central Kitchen,"Time writes, "is as prepared as anyone for this moment of unprecedented global crisis. The nonprofit stands up field kitchens to feed thousands of people fresh, nourishing, often hot meals as soon as possible at the scene of a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or flood. As a global public-health emergency, COVID-19 hasn’t been limited to any one place. But it pulverizes the economy as it rolls across the world, and people need money to eat. World Central Kitchen already is distributing meals in low-income neighborhoods in big cities like New York, and monitoring the globe for food shortages elsewhere, some sure to be acute.

    "In the meantime, Andrés is a lesson of leadership in crisis. In a catastrophe in which the response of the U.S. government has been slow, muddled and unsure, his kitchen models the behavior - nimble, confident, proactive - the general public needs in a crisis (and, so far, has provided it more reliably than the federal government)."

    You can read the piece here.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

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

    •  USA Today reports that Amazon's annual mega-promotion, Prime Day, is likely to be postponed from its usual July perch this year.  The reason - the impact of the coronavirus on Amazon's infrastructure, plus the crisis-infected mood of the country, make it hard to roll it out on schedule.

    They're saying August is likely.  But somehow I'm dubious.  It may not matter to the bottom line, though, since Amazon is said to be doing Prime Day-type sales every day these days.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    •  From the Financial Times:

    "Luckin Coffee on Sunday apologised and pledged to strengthen controls after an internal investigation found hundreds of millions of dollars of alleged fake sales last year, wiping about 75 per cent off the company's market value. Lu Zhengyao, the company's chairman, said on social media that he was shamed and accepted all questions and criticisms, while promising to do his best to recover the losses."

    According to the story, "Several employees, including Luckin's chief operating officer, have been suspended and are under investigation and Luckin said it reserved the right to take legal action against them. The group warned last week that its previous financial statements could no longer be relied on. Law firms in the US have already begun recruiting investors with losses to join class-action suits against the lossmaking company, which had more than 4,000 outlets by the end of 2019.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    •  Nordstrom announced the appointment of two new members to its board of directors - the estimable Jim Donald, co-chairman of Albertsons, and Mark J. Tritton, president/CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond.

    Published on: April 6, 2020

    Got the following email from MNB fave Glen Terbeek, in which he posed some important questions that the industry needs to consider:

    Will work from home change the way shoppers think more about (become comfortable with) virtual shopping or why go to a store?

    Or how will restaurants required to focused on pickup or delivery meals compete with supermarkets longterm?

     Or will work from home teach the industry that work from store (remember that is where the shoppers are) might be better than work from “headquarters”(remember that is usually where the distribution center is)? 

    Will virtual shopping/working emphasize the need for retailers to compete for the value added shopping experience (real and virtual) local market by market (really shopper by shopper)?

    Will/should the “standard" operating measurements used in the industry be challenged? As example, in the shopper focused shopping experience,  do the traditional "like item” categories measurements make sense?  Are the current organizations/measurements consistent to the future opportunities resulting from the disruption caused by the virus?

     Do we measure the value of long term shopper loyalty? (Remember Feargal Quinn?)

    These all are questions that need to be answered.  Glen is certainly right on this last one.   Irish retailer Feargal Quinn answered it - correctly - decades ago.

    On another subject, from another reader:

    I just got home from shopping at a Winco store in Gresham, OR, 8:30 am. The produce department was 100% full with great pricing and lots of everything. The meat department was totally fully stocked, as were all the perimeter departments. The bath tissue and paper towel sections were pretty bare, as were the wipes and sanitary shelves. The rest of the store shelves were in pretty good in stock shape. They had several checkouts open with people in line with really full shopping carts. It is plain to see why Winco is truly one of the very best grocery retailers in the USA, clean stores, employee owned, and the best prices in their markets.

    Responding to our follow-up story about the Lucky Devil Lounge in Portland, Oregon, one MNB reader wrote:

    It isn’t often I laugh out loud over something I read (outside of a Carl Hiaasen or Nelson DeMille book) but the Lucky Devil Lounge story cracked me up. Well done.

    One of the things I told the MNB community last week was that, having posted a lot of pics of our puppies the past few weeks, that I'd love to put together a montage of your dogs … just send me the pics, and we'll put it together.

    We got a lot of pics over the weekend, and are happy to take more.

    Also got some emails.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Okay Big Dog, are you ready for all the puppy pictures you are going to receive? It will be a lot of fun to see what your MNB readers send. Woof woof.

    MNB reader Jim Antrup was a little disappointed:

    Really enjoy your Daily newsletter, my only beef is why “Only Dogs”, don’t get me wrong, I like dogs, but we are a cat family and in normal circumstances (whatever normal is) we travel a fair amount and cats can take care of themselves for a few days at a time. Yes, they  aren’t as nearly as happy to see me when I get home, they don’t fetch or go for a walk, but they are an important part of our family. Just my 2 cents, keep it coming.

    I wasn't insulting the cat population, but I needed to draw a line on this particular effort if only to keep it under control.  Otherwise, I wouldn't just be getting dogs and cats, but rabbits and horses, and hamsters and goldfish and who knows what else.

    Maybe we'll get to other pets down the road.

    Maybe.  Let's see how this goes.

    (Below, from left, Spenser and Zazu...)