business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we had a story about howAmazon has patented a blockchain system designed to provide transparency from product source right through to the consumer, arguing that it reflects a larger reality - that consumers deserve to know everything about the provenance of the products they buy.  I argued that retailers and manufacturers need to figure out ways - independently, or using third-part systems - to make that data available and accessible.

This prompted one MNB reader to write:

I read your blog daily and for the most part enjoy it except for the political stuff. I noticed in this article what you are describing is exactly the same process Repositrak, a subsidiary of the Park City Group,  has offered for many years. I know they were (are?) one of your sponsors for some time although I haven't seen them on the site lately.  You failed to mention them……..why?

The fact is I just didn't think of them in the moment … though if I had, I would've had no problem mentioning them.  I just would've said - full disclosure - that ReposiTrak has been a sponsor and will be again.  You know, in the interest of transparency.

There was no subterfuge.  Just evidence, I think, that I don't give sponsors preferential treatment in editorial coverage.

I mentioned in the commentary that I knew of one company that has been in the transparency business for a decade, though not originally using blockchain technology - Made in USA (which, I noted - transparently - was an MNB sponsor early in its development).

Adam Reiser, who started Made in USA all those years ago and now is CEO of its parent company, Verity International, wrote in to say:

Thanks for the mention in MNB today.  A couple of comments:

Traceability and transparency are the values that have driven Verity International Ltd.’s business since its start nearly 17+ years ago.  Our original business services were validating supply chains and claims for our registered trademark Made in USA certification.  Verity’s standard is recognized by the FTC, EU, WTO and with partnership with the Chinese Government for the Transparent Made in China Certification.  We are now in 43 countries, recognized as the worldwide leader in third party independent verification of products.  We are the leader in validating PPE products and our seals currently appear on over one million new masks each day that are distributed to meet each country’s standards.

We have been doing traceability using AI (Watson) Blockchain, IoT devices for over five years.  We offer our capabilities to any country, retailer or company needing this service.  We agree that Amazon’s move to transparency is the right direction.  Any efforts to improve consumer trust in products sold improves a retailer’s position in the marketplace.

Agreed.  Which is the reason I sort of just gave you what amounts to a free commercial. Once.

On another subject, MNB reader Mike Bach wrote:

Kevin, while I don’t have the data to prove this, it seems that Amazon is setting the high bar in terms of employee, product and system health and safety.  To me, few businesses seem to care about this as much as Amazon.

Amazon runs more ads promoting sanitary cleanliness and employee safety than any other retailer. Other retailers have reshot footage showing wearing of mask and shields between cashier and customer, but they haven’t gone far enough.

DSD and distributors to retail stores could do a better job promoting what they are doing to make shoppers feel better about picking up their products. Often, we’re left with the only impression of importance for these companies being based on what we see when looking at their in-store shelf merchandiser.  Many of them seem focused on speed to task completion, without masks & gloves.

I think the airlines could actually learn something from what Amazon is doing. Instead of promoting their credit cards through on-plane announcements (which they are still doing on UA and AA as recently as last week) they could promote the investment the airline put into hygiene / cleanliness since that particular planes last flight, for example.  Flying for business and pleasure is one area where fliers have great hesitancy to re-engage, yet on the flights I’ve been on recently, a couple of the airlines seem to be doing a good job tactically (handing out wipes, etc.) even if they are not promoting it, on-air or even on-plane. If you miss the airlines CEO email blast, you wouldn’t know the airlines are cleaner (more sanitary) today.

To me, this is just another example of where Amazon is demonstrating its leadership without ever having to play the price card.

Regarding H-E-B's decision to no longer require customers to wear masks in its stores, one MNB reader wrote:

H-E-B must truly have a truly effective PR department. H-E-B, at least in Houston, never enforced the requirement that masks be worn by customers even though it was mandated by the city and county.

When I asked store management about the lack of enforcement, I was told that at 5:55am, on the morning the mask requirement was to take effect, corporate sent out a notice that customers would not be required to wear masks.

I am practically an H-E-B evangelist. H-E-B is a wonderful company to work for (I am a retired Partner) and they respond quickly and wondrously during natural disasters. They support food banks, education, and countless community functions. In all those ways H-E-B is the ideal corporate citizen.

We used to say that we needed to be better than “good enough”. But in dealing with the coronavirus “good enough” became the motto. They let down their Partners and they let down their customers who tried to act responsibly. 

And finally, from MNB reader (and self-professed Philadelphia Phillies fan) Kirsten Saybolt, regarding our story about how Japan's Yomiuri Giants had to cal off a preseason game after two players tested positive for COVID-19 - which I argued illustrates why it will be so hard for sports to come back:

I had a chuckle this morning when I opened your email.

I was so hungry for sports news that ‘The MNB Sports Desk’ was the first link I clicked on. (I love sports but usually start from your first article and read down)

All kidding aside, you have a good point there. The entire NBA shut down immediately over one player’s positive test result. What will they do when (not if) that happens again?  I sense that this could be the subject of an upcoming ‘Eye Opener’.

Thanks for the great insight on all things retail and more

Well, that was so nice I'll even forgive you for being a Phillies fan.

All they need is one person on one team to test positive, and everything could get thrown into chaos … the question is whether it is better to try to open up and risk being closed down again, or just giving up on the season until this pandemic is under control?

I don't know the answer to that … but if someone gets very sick with a career-ending respiratory illness, or actually ends up dying, then those who pushed to reopen sports may end up looking short-sighted.