retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The other day, MNB picked up on a story from Glossy:

"To help its existing and potential partners in the long-term, Neighborhood Goods is planning a new project called The Commons, a rent-free and rotating space within each of its three stores for brands, artisans, artists, musicians and chefs to set up shop. Brands have to apply for the limited free space, which will be given out with a preference for smaller local brands that have been hit particularly hard by coronavirus. The Commons will open when Neighborhood Goods’ stores reopen."

I commented:

I love this.  In fact, I think it could be a model for what a lot of retailers could do to help suppliers - especially small and local businesses - as we move into a late-pandemic and post-pandemic world.

If a retailer could create sections for those businesses that would have a different economic model - designed to get those vendors back on their feet - it might be a powerful creative, economic and social statement, focused on a common and greater good.

One MNB retailer responded:

Regarding the Commons concept at Neighborhood Goods stores, a similar approach might thrive at shopping malls with failing traffic and empty storefronts looking for ways to stay relevant. Every vendor, maker or artist given that temporary opportunity brings their own community out to support them and presumably shop other businesses while they're there.

Good point.

Regarding our pandemic coverage and comments,  one MNB reader wrote:

Governments are usually good at reacting to situations. This time, not so much. Long term threats require vision, commitment and investment. Even then engaging and convincing the general population of the future threat when all you want is to get reelected to another term isn't on the top of lawmakers' lists.

Responding to the conversation about how the pandemic is affecting the movie theater business (which I think holds some parallels for retailing), one MNB reader wrote:

Back in the late 70’s, there was a Company called ONTV when we lived in Southern California before satellite TV was even popular. They use to broadcast in-theater movies locally, using a very small dish antenna on your roof, pointed toward Los Angeles.  

Prior to Oscar voting season they would broadcast all the nominated movies, every one of them. It was awesome! 

We didn’t have 85” 4K TV’s back then so we thought 32” screens were the bomb! 

Granted, it is an experience to go to the movies, but the newer theaters are much smaller and we really don’t like eating food now that we cannot see. The movie experience can sometimes be better in your own living room!

MNB reader Robert Hemphill chimed in:

Like you, I’m a big fan of movies and video in the theatre and at home.  Netflix, Amazon Video, Vudu, Hulu, Disney+ and more are great for all of us to isolate in place.  In addition, I'm a home video nut, with over 800 digital movies on my Plex server.  And I haven’t noticed any significant degradation of signal - truly a silver lining. 

Remember the kerfuffle about Net Neutrality?  It was implemented in 2015 and was based on treating the Internet as a static commodity that needed to be governed centrally, with less incentive for investment in improvements or expansion.  It was repealed in 2018, and in the US there has been significant growth in internet bandwidth at much higher levels than the European model which embraces heavy-handed regulations to allocate access to the existing network.

Coronavirus has heightened the need for bandwidth.  In Europe officials have asked Netflix and other services to degrade their streaming quality from HD to SD, whereas US networks have many fewer problems.  It appears the emphasis on private investment in a free commerce society has paid off for us. 

Or ?

To be fair, I think the objection to the rollback of net neutrality rules had less to do with objections to private investment and more to do with concerns that big companies could choke off high-speed access for small companies.

I do know this.  Despite all the changes of the last few months, the internet hasn't broken.  I don't know about you, but I think that is sort of remarkable, and not to be taken for granted.

On another subject, from MNB reader Jim Dunnigan:

I read where Publix stepped in when farmers in FL were reported to be turning crops into mulch in their fields, due to lack of a market for the products (mostly due to the majority of restaurants being closed). Publix agreed to act as a go between moving vegetables between the fields and the food banks that so desperately needed the food….I thought, why can’t more quick solutions like this be the norm any more?

Responding to yesterday's FaceTime video suggesting that when Starbucks starts reopening its US stores again, it ought to use its app to be both strategically smart and socially responsible, MNB reader Mark Dixon wrote:

Great clip this morning, I could not agree more. What a better way to get additional connectivity with your customer base. Spot on observation, hope someone from Starbucks gets to view this.