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    Published on: May 5, 2020

    In a new series of weekly Retail Tomorrow podcasts, Sterling Hawkins, co-CEO and co-founder of CART-The Center for Advancing Retail & Technology, and MNB "Content Guy" Kevin Coupe team up to speculate, prognosticate, and formulate visions of what tomorrow's retail landscape will look like post-coronavirus.

    Continuing bad economic news has been leavened - to some degree - by some promising news on the healthcare front - a possible vaccine that could come faster than most people expected, and an experimental treatment that could reduce the number deaths related to the Covid-19 coronavirus.  But, as the pandemic and its implications continue to play out, questions remain.

    What new consumer habits are being formed?  How sustained will they be?   And, what can/should retailers do to meet these needs and desires as they position themselves to be in the right place at the right time in the world of Retail Tomorrow.

    LISTEN HERE.

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    by Michael Sansolo

    Despite the general weirdness of life and business at the moment, we all need to grapple with big questions moving forward starting with whether today’s new behaviors are going to linger once COVID-19 is blessedly behind us.

    Let’s be honest.  There are some changed behaviors that many wish would stay whether it’s the overwhelming return to eating at home (and the supermarket shopping that supports it) to the general appreciation of front-line retail workers.

    Healthline.com, a website that features many articles on human behavior, recently examined the question of how long does it take for a new activity to become a habit. Drawing on guidance from a series of psychological journals, Healthline projected that it takes about 66 days for that to happen. Given that many of us have been hunkering down since mid-March, we are drawing ever closer to that magic number.  (KC and Sterling Hawkins also talk about this in this week's Retail Tomorrow podcast.)

    It’s interesting to consider how this strange little period is going to impact long-term behavior and possibly commerce in the more normal years to come. For example, there are countless articles predicting the end of the handshake, which to my mind is an overdue idea. The Atlantic recently opined on how the lockdown era might impact retail overall and might even slow the urbanization of America, possibly diminishing the appeal of crowded city centers.  (You can read that story here.)

    But we must also ponder more prosaic activities.

    Years ago I noticed a very strange (to my American eyes) behavior in a supermarket in Milan, Italy. In the produce section of the store, there were dispensers of plastic gloves, which each shopper used when selecting any item. The Italian retailer explained that the social custom in the area was to use the gloves to avoid touching while purchasing any produce item. That way, when I selected my own tomato or apple, my bare hands at home would be the first to touch them.  (Except for those of the farmer, of course.  And maybe the person who built the display.  And the trucker who brought the tomatoes from the farm to the store.  But you get the point - perception can be as important as reality.)

    I could see that catching on in the US now with shoppers possibly using plastic produce bags to sort through the items they want. Or perhaps we will see a surge in packaged produce - though that would be a major change for retailers that have delighted customers by building mass displays.

    More significantly, we all need ponder if the incredible emphasis on e-commerce for groceries is a permanent shift or a lockdown created blip - a question with enormous implications for food retailers.

    The enormity of these questions might be more than many businesspeople want to contemplate in the middle of this storm, which is why I was also moved by an interesting article in Inc. about the best way for small companies to fight back against overwhelming odds and larger competitors.

    The answer may shock you: essentially do nothing.

    That’s really not true. It’s not a matter of doing nothing, but rather doing what you do best better than ever. Yes, there will be changed behaviors coming from the great lockdown just as there are changes brought about by periods of economic uncertainty. Inc. argues that the best course is understanding your company’s strengths and building on them while fortifying relationships with your customers.

    So yes, there will be shoppers who will accelerate their move to on-line shopping, but there may be far more who are longing for the experience of walking a store unmasked and at leisure. As KC suggested in FaceTime yesterday, this is an important time to form an internal team to focus on whatever comes next. But part of their task should be identifying what makes your store/product/company/service special and then figuring out how to enhance those attributes.

    Success in the post-Covid world won’t be any easier than in the pre-Covid world. But one habit you need form (and quickly) is understanding what makes you special and how to play it up better than ever.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com.

    His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    Sometimes a cup of coffee is just a cup of coffee.  But KC suggests that sometimes it is much more ... like a small yet important symbol of normality yearned for and, in a small way, returning.

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    Like we didn't have enough to worry about.  Now there's something called the "murder hornet."

    There may be some synergies with the coronavirus, however - we can blame the damn thing in part on China.

    Reuters reports that "hundreds of Asian giant hornets, an invasive, predatory insect dubbed the 'murder hornet,' have turned up in Washington state near the Canadian border, where they pose a threat to humans and the beekeeping industry, state agriculture officials said on Monday."

    That not scary enough for you?

    How's this for Eye-Opening?

    "The stinging Vespa mandarinia can grow as large as 2-1/2 inches (6.35 cm) in length and is native to Southeast Asia, China and Taiwan," the story says.

    Sven-Erik Spicheger, managing entomologist at the Washington state Agriculture Department, explains that "an Asian giant hornet can sting you multiple times and deliver larger doses of venom just because of the size of them. The venom itself is fairly toxic and creates localized necrosis around the wound so you’ll see melting flesh around the wound … What we’re told from the literature is that most people can survive one or two stings.  But if you sustain multiple stings, the necrosis and the venom will actually start getting into your bloodstream and will start working on your organs. And multiple stings could literally be fatal."

    The murder hornet also apparently "presents a danger to agriculture and the apiary industry … because the insect is known to attack honey bees, with a few of the hornets capable of wiping out an entire hive in hours."

    (Admission:  I had to look up "apiary industry."  It is better known as beekeeping.)

    Reuters notes that "scientists don’t know for sure how the Murder Hornet made its way to Blaine. The most likely scenario is that it arrived on a container ship docking at one of Washington’s ports. Intentional transport of the killer bug into the United States would violate federal law."

    Like I said.  It isn't like we didn't have enough to worry about…

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    From the Seattle Times:

    "Tim Bray, a veteran technologist and one of Amazon’s top engineers, resigned from what he called 'the best job I’ve ever had' to protest the company’s dismissal of two leaders of an

    employee climate group who had spoken out about treatment of warehouse workers.

    "He described the firings as 'evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison'," and added on his blog, "I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19."

    Bray said he was walking away from m ore than $1 million in pretax income and stock.

    Here's some context from the Times story:

    "Bray, a vice president and distinguished engineer, objected to the terminations of Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, leaders of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), on April 10, as well as of warehouse workers who have organized walkouts … Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Costa and Cunningham circulated petitions from warehouse workers seeking improved safety conditions and policies, helped organize video conferences where warehouse workers could share their experiences with Amazon’s tech and corporate employees and called for employees to take a sick day in protest … Amazon said Costa and Cunningham were fired for repeatedly violating company policies."

    The story notes that Bray "was the highest ranked of more than 8,700 Amazon employees to sign an AECJ letter in spring of 2019 urging CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s board of directors to take the lead on climate change."

    The Times writes that "Bray said the underlying issue is not how Amazon is handling COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, but something more fundamental to the power structures in the company and the system in which it flourishes. He said that while Amazon is 'exceptionally well-managed' and skilled at finding and exploiting business opportunities, the company 'has a corresponding lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power'."

    KC's View:

    I'm not sure the degree to which Bray's resignation will hurt Amazon's business operations, but you can bet that it will generate a lot of headlines and attention.  It also likely will result in Bray being invited to testify before some Congressional committee or another, since Amazon seems to be a magnet for that kind of attention these days.

    I keep saying it - Amazon seems to have lost control of this narrative.  If I were there, I'd be doing everything possible to regain it.  Though, to be fair, Amazon is saying that it is doing everything possible to treat its employees fairly and compassionately.

    I must admit that the phrase that sort of bothers me is the one about a "lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power."  I wonder if statements like that create any introspection at Amazon.   If someone accused me of that, I'd be mortified … and probably would obsess on it for a long time.  But then again, I rank very low on the whole accumulation-of-wealth-and-power scale, which probably explains something.

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    Fast Company has apiece about how some stores are redesigning the experience to account for changes wrought by the pandemic.

    An excerpt:

    "Over the last few years, startups such as Warby Parker, Casper, Bandier, Outdoor Voices, Away, and Allbirds have invested heavily in physical stores, which is one reason many have taken such a big financial hit as a result of the coronavirus. Now, some states are giving them the green light to reopen, but many remain tentative about their plans … But regardless of their game plan for reopening, founders know that retail won’t look the same in a post-COVID-19 world. For now, they’re focused on redesigning their stores and reimagining the shopping experience to prepare for the day when they’re able to fully open their doors to the masses."

    You can read the entire piece here.

    KC's View:

    It is an irony that pure play online retailers have over the past few years expanded into the bricks-and-mortar realm, believing it would allow them to be even more relevant to their customers … only to find, as the pandemic hit, that it also may have made them more vulnerable to the virus that infected not just people, but also the retailing community.

    Published on: May 5, 2020

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

    •  In the United States, as of this morning there have been 1,212,955 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 69,925 deaths and 188,068 reported recoveries.

    Globally, the count is 3,663,760 confirmed coronavirus cases, 252,758 deaths and 1,205,904 reported recoveries.


    •  Axios reports that the US Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) has compiled an internal model projecting that "by June 1, the U.S. will see a surge in daily new coronavirus cases from about 25,000 to 200,000, and an increase in daily deaths from about 1,750 to about 3,000."

    According to the story, "The projections by the CDC underscore the fear that relaxing social distancing guidelines could put the U.S. back where it was in mid-March, when the surge in new cases threatened to overwhelm the health care system in some areas.

    "Currently, the U.S. is experiencing about 1,750 deaths and about 25,000 confirmed new cases per day, with little decline throughout the month of April despite mitigation practices."

    The Trump administration responded to the release of the model by saying that "this is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed."


    •  The Washington Post this morning is reporting that despite the Trump administration's executive order mandating that the nation's meat processing plants remain open, "Tyson Foods said during an investor call that U.S. hog processing capacity had dropped by 50 percent.

    The company has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the story says, as workers in its plants have been diagnosed with Covid-19.  "Three of Tyson’s six main U.S. processing facilities remain closed, and three others are operating at reduced capacity."

    In addition, "Steve Meyer, an economist for Kerns and Associates, an agricultural risk management firm, said Tyson’s production numbers may be even more dire."

    The Post writes that "according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, 115 meat and poultry processing facilities in 19 states had reported covid-19 cases as of Friday. Among approximately 130,000 workers at these facilities, 4,913 cases and 20 deaths have been recorded."


    •  From Axios:

    "Most Americans say they doubt the U.S. death count — but whether they think it's actually higher or lower depends on whether they're Democrats or Republicans, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index … This may be the most jarring evidence to date about just how deeply partisanship has infected our collective ability to trust institutional sources and agree on science and facts."

    The story goes on:  "When it comes to the death toll, roughly one in three Americans across party lines say the numbers being attributed to the virus are probably about right. Such partisan agreement evaporates when it comes to the remaining two thirds.

    "A majority of Democrats, around half of independents and one in four Republicans say they think virus-related deaths are being undercounted.

    "Republicans lead the pack among those who instead think the deaths are being over-reported, while fewer than one in 10 Democrats agrees."

    If you are a retailer, I'm not even sure how you navigate a world in which there is such a separation in terms of perception.


    •  Kroger said yesterday that it is expanding the access of symptomatic employees to coronavirus testing.

    CNBC reports that Kroger "will provide workers with a self-administered test kit or an appointment at drive-thru locations run by Kroger Health, the health-care division of the company … The company will use the same criteria as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as prioritizing those with symptoms and underlying medical conditions."


    •  New Jersey-based ShopRite has kicked off a campaign "to thank the important healthcare workers, first responders and supermarket associates everywhere who are serving our communities through the COVID-19 crisis. The campaign, called Essential Thanks, gives everyone an opportunity to show their gratitude by posting a thank you note to COVID-19 frontline workers.

    "For each message of thanks people post through ShopRite’s newly created www.EssentialThanks.com website, ShopRite will donate one dollar to regional food banks for COVID-19 relief efforts.

    "Thank you notes can be uploaded directly to  www.EssentialThanks.com or by tagging #EssentialThanks on Instagram and Twitter. ShopRite is asking people to thank truck drivers, grocery store associates, warehouse workers, healthcare providers, first responders and other essential workers on the front lines during this national emergency.

    "All thank you messages should be posted between April 20 and June 30."

    "Earlier this month, Wakefern, through its ShopRite Partners In Caring Fund, donated $1 million to regional food banks to help meet the dramatic increase in demand for food and essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic."


    •  Nordstrom this morning sent out an email to its customers informing of them of the approach it intends to take to reopening its physical stores.

    In the note, signed by Pete and Erik Nordstrom, the company says that "we want to be sure the approach we're taking to reopen our stores is thoughtful, and that we're creating a store environment that's safe for everyone. Our stores won't open all at once. We're going to take a phased approach, only reopening stores when: it's allowed by state and local governments … we're prepared with the right safety measures and protocols … and we have confidence we can ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees and customers.

    "When we do reopen, more than anything we want you to feel safe and comfortable when you're shopping with us. We're making updates to our stores and the way we serve you to help keep everyone healthy. Some of those updates include: conducting health screenings for our employees … providing face coverings for employees and customers … taking steps to allow for social distancing of six feet or more, including limiting the number of employees and customers in the store … increasing cleaning and sanitization … modifying the fitting-room experience … continuing to offer contactless curbside services at selected Nordstrom stores … pausing or adapting high-touch services and customer events … keeping tried-on or returned merchandise off the sales floor for a period of time … and altering hours of operation."


    •  New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced yesterday that the state’s schools will stay closed for the remainder of the academic year to continue to curb further spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.


    •  Bloomberg reports that Hertz is preparing for a bankruptcy filing, having lost the vast majority of its business because of the national shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which ended up with far fewer people being in the driver's seat.

    The story says that "the rental-car company has been talking to some of its creditors about how to ease its burden without going through bankruptcy, but negotiations have been a struggle and the company is preparing to file for Chapter 11 court protection … A Chapter 11 filing would permit Hertz to stay in business while it works out a plan to pay its creditors and turn the business around."

    The story notes that "while the U.S. government has a $50 billion bailout plan for airlines, Hertz hasn’t been able to access that program, and its chief rival, Avis Budget Group Inc., had a stronger balance sheet going into the crisis."


    •  CNBC reports that JC Penney has gone to court to stop beauty products retailer Sephora from closing its locations inside its department stores.  JC Penney has gotten a temporary restraining order that at least for the time being will prevent Sephora from making a move that it views as being highly disruptive to its ability to survive.

    Penney spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said in a statement Monday that "we remain committed to working together to drive sustainable, profitable growth, as SiJCP continues to be a beauty destination that serves millions of customers each year.”

    “We have been in active discussions with JCPenney regarding our agreement for some time,” Sephora said in a statement. “Although this is a sudden and unfortunate development, we are hopeful of continuing discussions and reaching an amicable agreement for both Sephora and JCPenney.”

    CNBC notes that the two companies have been in business since 2009, and while Sephora's business has been hit hard by the pandemic, forcing it to do more business online, JC Penney's very existence has been threatened by current circumstances.

    Not sure about the legalities, but I don't blame Sephora for wanting to get as far away from JC Penney as possible.


    •  USA Today reports that Gold's Gym, which recently permanently closed 30 locations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday as it continues to grapple with the pandemic and mandated shutdowns.

    The story says that Gold's Gym "was forced to seek relief from its creditors," but that once it was allowed to reopen its remaining 700 fitness centers the bankruptcy would not have any further impact on operations.

    CEO Adam Zeitsiff said, “We’re not going anywhere.  Unfortunately our industry has been hit hard like many others, but we don’t have takeout service or curbside pickup, so it’s hard for us to keep revenue going during this."

    No pain, no gain.  (Too soon?)


    •  Add the onion growers to the list of agricultural businesses hit by the pandemic.

    From the Argus Observer:

    " The Idaho and eastern Oregon Onion Growers are seeking assistance from the federal government to address losses caused by the loss of sales to the foodservice industry, which has been predominately shut down as a result of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

    "The Idaho Onion Growers Association, the Malheur County Onion Growers Association and the Idaho-Oregon Fruit and and Vegetable Association sent a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Tuesday reporting on the devastating losses that growers and shippers have been experiencing and will likely see this fall.

    "Industry leaders explain that the massive closing of restaurants, schools and other food-service establishments designed to curb the spread of the virus has hit the regional onion industry hard … Industry officials says they will face greater challenges this fall when the new crops starts coming off the fields in early August, and since most of the onions are normally planted in early spring, most of them were planted before growers knew the effect of the virus."


    •  The Cape Cod Baseball League - which describes itself as "the premier collegiate summer baseball league in the nation," and was founded in 1885 - has cancelled its 2020 season because "the league determined it would be impossible to guarantee the safety of players, coaches, umpires, host families, volunteers and fans during this unprecedented health crisis."

    This may seem like small potatoes if you've never been to a ballgame on Cape Cod in summer … but trust me, it is a loss that hurts … and illustrates  yet again that this will be a summer like few others, and for all the wrong reasons.


    •  From Variety:

    "London’s West End will remain closed for at least the next two months.

    "The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) on Tuesday confirmed that theater closures have been extended from May 31 to June 28. The organization, which represents venues across London’s theater district, underlined that 'this does not mean theaters will reopen on June 29'."

    The heart breaks a little bit more.


    •  The New York Times reports that Carnival Cruise Lines said yesterday that it plans to begin limited operations as soon as August.  

    "The company’s flagship cruise line said that eight of its ships could begin sailing on Aug. 1, about a week after a government order banning cruises in the United States is set to expire," the Times writes.  "Those ships, part of the Carnival Cruise Line brand, are scheduled to depart from ports in Galveston, Texas, Miami and Port Canaveral, Fla.

    "It would be only a partial reopening, and the timing could change as the company devises new safety protocols for its cruises. The eight ships that are slated to return to service are a small portion of the Carnival Corporation’s fleet of 105 vessels. Carnival Cruise Line said voyages on several of its other ships would be canceled through the beginning of October."

    The Times points out that "for months, lawmakers and epidemiologists have blamed Carnival for failing to contain outbreaks on its ships and spreading the virus across the world. Its response to the pandemic is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Australian police and a congressional investigation in the United States."

    I'm sure Carnival will be happy to get those boats back on the water so they can get back to their usual business of overflowing toilets, overpriced alcohol, overcrowded facilities and people occasionally falling (or being tossed) overboard,

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    The  Financial Times has a story about what iut calls the "Disney Parks Indicator," which it says can be seen as a "bellwether economic indicator for our post-coronavirus world."

    Here's why.  

    "In the 2019 financial year, Disney’s 'Parks, Experiences and Products' segment accounted for 45 per cent of the Mouse empire’s operating profit, but just 37 per cent of its $68 billion of revenues."  Which speaks to the profit margins generated by the theme parks.

    FT writes that "the coronavirus pandemic has, for the moment, drained this profit pool. Bar one trespassing visitor, Disney’s parks - from Tokyo to California - remain closed to the public.

    But how brutal could it get?

    "Research firm MoffettNathanson released a note Monday morning estimating profits from this segment will collapse 65 per cent in 2020, with revenues not recovering through the next two years."

    The story points out that "a visit to Disney, and in particular Florida’s Disney World, requires that a consumer does everything they’re not doing right now. First, they need to feel comfortable about their future income enough to blow almost $1,500 per person on a week’s trip. Indeed, staying at some of Disney’s higher end resorts — such as the palatial Grand Floridian — can cost that per night.

    "In a recession, we know consumers tighten their belts. That means less spending on discretionary items such as holidays, car upgrades and eating out."  If they don't go to Disney World, they're also not spending money on the flights to get them there, and all the other ancillary expenses.

    "Then, of course, there’s the fact that being at a theme park involves being crowded with strangers in tight spaces," FT writes.  "Whether it be in a queue for a ride, a river rapids boat or a 4D theatre, the experience is of being kept in perpetual contact with others who, we should stress, are from all over the world. Not the sort of environment which keeps a pandemic at bay.

    "Again, it’s hard to imagine that, absent the emergence of a vaccine or effective treatment for Covid-19, consumer confidence will be high enough to visit a theme park in the near future.

    "So all-in-all, Disney’s parks have all the ingredients to make it a bellwether economic indicator for our post-coronavirus world."

    KC's View:

    I totally agree with this … as has been noted here before, Disney's business model - which not long ago looked invulnerable - actually ended up being uniquely vulnerable to circumstances that stopped or discouraged the congregation of people.  

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    Content Guy's Note:  The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is having an enormous impact on people of all ages, backgrounds, and places around the globe;  some are having shared experiences, and some are individual to specific people and circumstances.

    Among the people I've been thinking about are the young people who have just started or are about to start their careers, and who now may be facing enormous uncertainty and questions about what comes next.

    I decided to reach out to some young people I know - some of them former students of mine at Portland State University in Oregon, as well as at other schools with which I have developed relationships - to ask them to answer a pair of questions:

    How has the pandemic has affected you personally or professionally?

    How do you think the world - including but not just the business world - should be different whenever and however we come out of this.

    This series of occasional guest columns continues this morning with a contribution by Meredith Lord, a food marketing fellow at Cornell University majoring in agricultural science. She will be graduating in May of this year and will be starting her career as a District Manager with Aldi.

    by Meredith Lord

    How has the pandemic has affected you personally or professionally?

    Life has changed in astounding ways for myself, my classmates, and my future coworkers over the course of the pandemic thus far, and will undoubtedly continue along a trajectory of radical re-alignment.

    As a senior in college, I held so many expectations for the last few months of the semester. So many of us follow a well-trodden path through high school and into higher education for a blissful four years of freedom tempered by the structure of a university. This time shapes many of us into the adults that hopefully have the tools to make it in a world with less of a roadmap than the first twenty odd years of our lives offered. We are all adjusting to the loss of the experiences shared by decades of students: our last days of class, our senior traditions, our graduation ceremonies. These expectations disappeared in a matter of weeks and have left us sorting through a completely new set of challenges. The loss of our time on campus is largely overshadowed by the implications COVID-19 has for our communities and careers.

    As businesses shift to working remotely, internships have been cancelled across most industries, eliminating key learning opportunities for many students. The rescinding of job offers for my classmates has been even more jarring. After working hard for years, and in some cases having committed to these jobs months ago, many of my peers feel at a loss for how to move forward. This disorientation grows with the consideration of the health of our friends, family, and the global community.

    The impact of this virus on my professional life stands in contrast with that of many of my peers. After graduation, I will be working in grocery retail for Aldi. The change in consumption habits within the U.S., most notably the move away from eating at restaurants, has put an added importance on the role of retailers. I have incredible admiration for all of the retail workers and members of the supply chain who have stepped up to meet the needs of the U.S. population. With this increased demand at retailers, I was given the opportunity to start work early to help meet the needs of customers. While I was not able to do so given my course load, the realization of the vital role that food retailers play has increased my excitement to begin my career with Aldi this summer.

    How do you think the world - including but not just the business world - should be different whenever and however we come out of this?

    Trials like those being experienced around the world force a re-evaluation of priorities for nations as well as businesses. Going forward, I am inclined to think that the world will become more nationalist, with countries and businesses reorienting their international trade to create more durable supply chains. I believe the key components of this will be a greater emphasis on food security and medical supply security. Throughout my academic career I have heard about food desserts and food security, but I believe this will be brought to the global stage alongside similar issues surrounding medical supplies and services. Ensuring that populations will have access to food and medical supplies not just in ideal conditions, but in the worst, should become a priority when we ultimately move past this crisis.

    More to come…

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Financial Times reports that the European Union has concluded that "online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay should be liable for any faulty and unsafe goods they sell," and that during the pandemic they also should "take more responsibility during the coronavirus crisis for the numerous products with untenable health claims being marketed online."

    The EU's consumerist arm recommends that these standards need to be institutionalized and mandated, as opposed to made voluntary,  According to FT, "Despite the coronavirus crisis, officials in Brussels are keen to push ahead with a new Digital Services Act, which will replace the two-decade-old Ecommerce Directive. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said on Monday:  "The crisis has shown that it's more urgent than ever to get the Digital Services Act because you really need to be able to trust what you do online as well as what you do offline."

    As a consumer, I have no problem with this.  I think online platforms should be responsible for the products they sell, and the product sales that they enable through marketplaces.  Power demands culpability and accountability, and some of the wealth that these companies have accumulated ought to be devoted to the vetting of products and services.

    •  The Economic Times reports that in India, "Amazon and Flipkart will lease over 3 million square feet warehousing space across major consumption centres as they expect a major bounce back in demand once the Covid-19 crisis ends."

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  From MarketWatch:

    "Starbucks Corp.'s credit rating was downgraded to BBB from BBB+ at Fitch Ratings, citing the coffee seller's high debt leverage amid a 'significant business interruption' from the coronavirus pandemic. Fitch said the rating outlook is negative, which warns of further downgrades. Starbucks's credit rating is now two notches above 'junk' territory at Fitch … Fitch said the negative outlook reflects the downturn on discretionary spending caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which Fitch expects 'could extend well into 2021'."

    This is way above my pay grade.  All I know is that while it will take time for Starbucks to regain the traction it had before the pandemic hit, it also has an enormous reservoir of consumer affection - not to mention data about those consumers - to work with.  And, as I mentioned in FaceTime this morning, it provides just a bit of normality in a world that is anything but.  In other words, I think Starbucks will be just fine.

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    •  Pennsylvania-based Weis Markets announced that Brian Bosworth, its  director of center store merchandising, has been promoted to the role of senior director of center store merchandising and sale.

    At the same time, Ashley Odom, the company's director of adult beverages, dairy and frozen, has been promoted to the role of director of center store merchandising.

    •  Albertsons announced that Juliette Pryor, currently senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Cox Enterprises, will join the company as executive vice president and general counsel, succeeding the retiring Bob Gordon.

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    •  Don Shula, the winningest coach in National Football League history, who guided the 1972 Miami Dolphins to the only undefeated season ever achieved in the NFL, has passed away.  He was 90.

    The cause of death was not disclosed.

    Shula's Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins won 328 regular-season games, and 347 games in total when playoffs are factored in.  Shula was a head coach for 33 seasons, and his teams had winning seasons in 31 of them.

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    Regarding the invitation issued by the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee to Amazon CEO-founder Jeff Bezos to testify about the usage of third party vendors' sales info to make decisions about private label items, one MNB reader wrote:

    Thinking about Bezos testifying before Congress, would that not be “Bezos meets Bozos”.

    Good line.  Wish I'd thought of it.

    One MNB reader had a thought about Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a liberal Democrat who represents much of Seattle, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, and who has become a major critic of Amazon:

    As they always say: follow the money. Jayapal has major support from the unions. Don’t you think it more than possible and probable those unions are lobbying her hard since they would love all those Amazon employees as members. 

    This is not to excuse poor or unsafe working conditions but……

    Maybe.  Everybody lobbies everybody hard.  That alone isn't enough to make me dismiss her position out of hand.

    On another subject, from an MNB reader:

    Your comments about retail gaslighting are thought provoking, particularly because of the accusations  of gaslighting by our political leaders.  It will not be as easy for retailers to gaslight their shoppers because customers regularly experience the reality of retailers’ operations.  People are not going to continue to be loyal to retailers who make promises that are not then evidenced when shopping.  I think the cleanliness issue that Chipotle went through is a great example.  Chipotle had to consistently and broadly prove to their customers that the cleanliness procedures that they implemented were actually being executed in their local store.  Another great example is the regular, honest communication from Stew Leonard.  He takes time to highlight the actions he is taking while in a store, so viewers can actually see his promises in action.

    And finally, from MNB reader Jennifer B. Seeley:

    Hi KC – I love that of all movies to highlight in OffBeat last week you brought up The Stranger … I am a huge fan of old movies but had never seen it until a week ago; I really enjoyed it. As you said it’s done on a small scale & is maybe lesser known picture, so I was surprised to see you mention it in MNB, but it’s very well done.

    I also just saw The Magnificent Ambersons this week…I guess I’m on an Orson Welles kick (plus, who doesn’t love Joseph Cotton?).

    May I assume you are a big fan of The Third Man

    Published on: May 5, 2020

    I'm happy to announce that on Friday, at 8 pm EDT / 5 pm PDT, we're going to do it again … our third MNB Virtual Happy Hour.

    I'm scheduling this one a little later in the day to make it easier for west coast readers to join us.  (You can, of course, join in no matter where you live.)

    The folks at GMDC have once again agreed to sponsor and host it, and I'll have a link and instructions for you later this week.

    Hopefully, you can put it on your calendar … choose a libation for Happy Hour … and then prop up your laptop or warm up your computer on Friday for a conversation and a drink.  (You don't have to let me know you're coming, but it would be nice to know.)

    More to come…