retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's "Burt Flickinger (Uncut)" Skype interview, MNB reader Joe Axford wrote:

Excellent and informative interview Kevin. It's time for the big chains to up their game, move away from vendor funds as a source of income, and focus on the consumer. Perimeter departments, as you've been saying for years, are where stores can and should differentiate themselves. Keep up the good fight, I love these videos!

And MNB reader Glenn Cantor wrote:

I don’t ever watch 35 minute internet videos (with the exception of Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters as guests on a Tonight Show with Johnny Carson), but for Burt Flickinger I made an exception.  What a treat!

And…he’s wearing a jacket and tie for a Skype interview.

I told him he didn't have to.  But he insisted.

I commented yesterday:

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.

Prompting MNB reader Jason Wirl to write:

As you probably know, Texas is BBQ country, and Austin (where I live) has it's share of good ones. Rudy's is one (that's also got stores outside of Austin and Texas) that has embraced the "restaurmarket" concept by taking their dining room and turning it into a marketplace. If you haven't been, the stores have both a restaurant side and a C-store side. The restaurant side has table-cloth covered picnic benches both inside and outside lined up end-to-end to facilitate getting to know someone you don't which will be frowned-upon for a little while. They've taken them out and put store shelves there and are selling some staples: bread, toilet paper and other things they get from their FS vendor. In the already-established coolers on the C-store side, there are items like eggs and milk in quantity they didn't have before. I didn't get any pictures as we were there only to pick-up an online order. When we go again and if we are still in the current status, I'll snap a couple. I agree it's a trend that MIGHT stick around to some degree.

From another reader, on the same subject:

Great story on HEB and partnering in the Houston market.  My wife tells me Nestle has partnered with local restaurants across the country to feed staff lunches at their various factories.  It’s really interesting and comforting to watch food companies reaching into their communities to help local businesses survive.  Long-term dividends will definitely pay out.

On another subject, from another reader:

An off topic question triggered by your comment about food service distribution employees finding temporary placement in the retail sector and an observation from a recent shopping trip.

First the observation- This unnamed retailer, like many of their peers, was completely sold out of their regular brands of flour and sugar, but they had something on the shelves that looked suspiciously like food service flour.  It was in an clear bag and had what appeared to be a service department scale label on it.  I’ve declined  to name the retailer because I’m not certain all the required info was on the label, but I found this to be an innovative solution to satisfy some of their guests’ needs.

Now the question.  All the restaurants and bars are closed or are open only for pickup.  What happened to all the face masks, gloves, disinfectant, hand soap, toilet paper, flour, sugar, etc. that the food service industry would normally be using?  Have their suppliers redirected these commodities into the retail sector and hospitals or are they sitting unused in warehouses waiting for the food service industry to rebound?  Just a thought.

Regarding some changed consumer behavior during the pandemic, one MNB reader wrote:

I haven’t stopped shaving (different folks draw the line differently I suppose) and I moved my Harry’s shipment forward to make sure I had enough of them & shaving cream.  Do the numbers include subscription services?  But I’ve stopped using cologne altogether….

Okay. More than we needed to know.  🙂

MNB fave John Rand wrote:

Reading your website this morning when you (accurately) noted that sales in the Covid Era are up substantially for basic food supplies like bread and pasta, up for comfort items like ice cream and fell off a cliff for things like perfume and shaving supplies – and it suddenly occurred to me that I have seen this pattern in my life before; not from a virus, but from when I retired.  As soon as I stopped working, with its schedule of traveling, going to a company or a client’s office, frequenting airports and hotels, my habits and needs clearly changed.

This pandemic may be an unparalleled opportunity for people of all ages to consider what their eventual retirement might be like. Can you cook for enjoyment? Do you have hobbies and interests that you can use to fill your time and keep yourself engaged? Can you enjoy your own company? Do you know your neighbors?

This may be a good practice run, especially for people who are past the “young children” phase of life but might still be many years away from retirement age.

Maybe … but a lot of the folks who are at home right now actually are working harder than ever, and when they think about retirement it may be in terms of asking certain questions, like…

•  How soon do I get to retire?

•  How hard did my IRA get hit?

•  Forget retirement … when is it an acceptable time to open the wine?

Not that I have any personal experience or anything.

And finally, one MNB reader wrote:

Just wanted to let you know that I have been enjoying MorningNewsBeat for a while now.  One of the things I enjoy most is FaceTime with the Content Guy.  Very glad to see that while we are all locked down, you are doing FTwtCG every day!  I can imagine that it’s a bit time consuming, but I think it’s a great idea to have these every day, especially right now as we all have such a lack of contact with people – so thank you!  I am hopeful that whenever the physical distancing is over and people return to their offices/everyday lives, that you still consider doing FTwtCG more than once per week.

As you mentioned today, it’s a great time to reach out to people that you haven’t talked to in a while.  I have been doing this for a couple of weeks and it’s great.  I’ve really enjoyed catching up with old friends.  Long overdue and it’s too bad that it took something like Covid-19 to kick me into gear.

I'm glad you like them.

I have gotten the occasional question about why I'm no longer providing text versions of the videos, and it is simply because the vast majority of MNB readers don't seem to want or need them … and now that I am doing them every day - sort of running and gunning at a moment's notice, text versions don't seem to work as well.  I am trying to provide brief synopses, however.

One or two people have mentioned that their employers do not allow them to watch videos on their work computers, and I feel bad about that.  But I'd really suggest that these employers need to join the 21st century and recognize that information isn't just communicated via text these days.  Businesses that block video (and, I'm guessing, audio) are putting themselves, their employees and, ultimately, their businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Trust your people, folks!  The vast majority will not waste time watching crappy YouTube videos … and the message you send with your distrust is a vivid one.

And, one more thing…thanks again to all the members of the MNB community who have sent in puppy pictures.  As I've said, we're going to put together a montage of "The Dogs of MNB," and are still taking submissions.  Just email them in.

Though it will be tough to top Spenser: