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    Published on: June 18, 2020

    by Michael Sansolo

    If there’s to be a patron saint of improvement and making the most of the Covid-19 forced lockdown it might well be professional golfer Bryson DeChambeau. Go figure.

    Stay with me on this.

    DeChambeau used the long Covid forced layoff in his sport to whip himself into an entirely new level of fitness and apparently it worked so well that there is talk of changing the rules of the game to cope with what he did.

    In hopes of improving his ability to cope with a back injury, the golfer did some serious weight training to the point that his shirt size ballooned to extra large, up from medium.

    The impact on his golf game was more dramatic. Golf is a game that rewards the ability to hit a ball long distances and accurately. In last weekend’s first tournament since the pandemic hit, DeChambeau averaged 345 yard per drive (the longest shot golfers hit.) For reference, that was 51 yards longer than the professional average a year ago, a stunning increase by any measure.

    In fact, one retired European golf champion saw DeChambeau’s new skill as an assault on the game itself and suggested a change in equipment rules so that golf balls won’t travel as far.

    I see a business lesson here.  Of course.

    At its most basic, the story is this. A competitor forced to shut down by the Covid lockdown used the time to build up strengths (and minimize weaknesses) to an entirely new level of performance. 

    Two questions.

    Is this something your competition may be doing?

    Is this something you have done?

    And a third question:

    Even if you didn't have to close down, have you worked during the pandemic - even while trying to keep up with day-to-day business, have you also been working toward a future in which your strengths are stronger?

    An idea:

    A smart business could create its own DeChambeau Award for an employee who used this very unusual three-month period to think way outside the box to dramatically improve himself or herself, their team and your company.

    For example: your shoppers are eating a lot more meals at home these days. What have you done to capitalize on that?  Some of those meals may return to restaurants at some point, but how have you helped them through this tough period and possibly given then reason to stay in the kitchen when the virus is blessedly gone.

    Or how have you handled all the new forms of shopping from physical distancing to curbside pick up to delivery? Did someone on your team examine what you’ve done well and poorly in this rapid adjustment and help you see a path to an entirely new form of commerce?

    There may be countless other innovations that have popped up inside your company or perhaps there have been simple improvements in operations to make you more capable of dealing with the strangeness in your world.  Either way, that’s where the DeChambeau Award comes in to commemorate those who used the lockdown period to make a quantum leap in operations, rather than just a chance to watch everything available on Netflix.

    Pardon me for mixing my sports metaphors, but those types of improvements sound like a grand slam. And that’s exactly the thinking you want to encourage and reward.

    (By the way, DeChambeau finished this weekend’s tournament tied for third place, one shot behind the winner. He picked up $365,000 for his efforts.)

    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: June 18, 2020

    KC uses a Wine.com Zoom session with director/winemaker Francis Ford Coppola to share a critical and differentiating retail tenet - the importance of storytelling, whether in the store or online.

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe 

    There is a terrific piece in the Washington Post about how a hair stylist at a Great Clips salon in Springfield, Missouri, was diagnosed as having the Covid-19 coronavirus, "directly exposing 84 customers who had sat just inches from her face for up to 30 minutes each."

    The next day, the Post writes, "a second stylist at the same Great Clips tested positive for the coronavirus. She’d worked on 56 clients."  Several hundred people could have been exposed.

    City health officials steeled themselves for an outbreak.  Salons had just been open for two weeks, and they feared they'd have to impose another shutdown.

    But they didn't, because there was no new outbreak.  Best they can tell, nobody exposed to the two stylists got sick.

    One reason:  The Great Clips salon was religious about staff and customers having to wear masks in the salon.

    Robin Trotman, medical director of Infection Prevention Services at CoxHealth in Springfield, reacts this way:  “Which mask worked, the hairdresser’s or the client’s? I think the answer is yes. They both worked.

    "The system worked. Universal masking worked. It really doesn’t matter which one.”

    Exactly.

    Someone explain to me why masking isn't required for everyone out in public, at least until we break the back of this thing.  Which we can do if we take it seriously … but won't if we are cavalier about it.

    I repeat:

    As citizens, we can behave responsibly, and help achieve a lower number.  Or, we can go the other way, and the number could be higher.  We are not at the service of these numbers.  The numbers will be determined, to a great degree, by us.

    And that's the Eye-Opener.

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "New jobless claims held nearly steady at 1.5 million and workers receiving benefits were almost unchanged at 20.5 million, signs the job market is stabilizing.

    "A historically high number of workers continue to seek unemployment benefits each week, but applications have decreased substantially since an early spring peak amid signs the labor market and broader economy are recovering from the coronavirus-induced shock."

    The Journal goes on:

    "New jobless claims have eased as states allowed businesses to reopen and employers recalled workers. Others signs of economic growth have emerged, including a May rebound in retail spending. But with the economy having slipped into recession this year, many firms have remained cautious about rehiring, leaving millions of people out of work since the pandemic hit … Employers added to payrolls in May but only offset about one in 10 jobs lost in April and March."

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    Kroger said this morning that its Q1 digital sales were up a whopping 91 percent.

    Net income was $1.21 billion, up from $772 million during the same period a year ago, the company said.  Sales for the period were $41.55 billion, up from $37.25 billion a year ago, on same-store sales that were up 19 percent.

    KC's View:

    The folks at Kroger have to be enjoying the moment.  They've got to be exhausted, but feeling pretty good.

    Reminds me of the moment at the end of All The President's Men, when Ben Bradlee looks at Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and growls, "Look, you're both probably a little tired, right?  You should be, you've been under a  lot of pressure. So go home, have a nice hot bath, rest up fifteen minutes if you want before you get your asses back in gear…"

    Which is the way it is for Kroger and everyone else these days.  Even those having good months.  Enjoy the moment, rest up 15 minutes, and then get back in the game … and in this case, start thinking about Q1 2021, 2022, and beyond.  They'll be here before you know it.

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    PepsiCo's packaged foods business unit announced yesterday that it is retiring the Aunt Jemima brand, changing the name and packaging, because of the racist origins of the imagery that is featured on its labels.  No new name has been announced, but the company said the new products should be on store shelves by the end of the year.

    Within hours of the announcement, other brands featuring similar names and packaging - like Uncle Ben's rice, Cream of Wheat, and Mrs. Butterworth's - said they would be conducting brand reviews rooted in the racist roots of their label images.

    It is part of a broader national reconsideration of well-known tropes that are based on negative and stereotypical images that reflect systemic racism in the US.  As the Wall Street Journal writes, "The owners of the supermarket staples, much like the owners of classic films like Gone With the Wind and popular police TV shows, are rethinking their products and marketing … More companies are commemorating Juneteenth, and Nascar has banned the Confederate battle flag at its events in the wake of killings of African-Americans, like George Floyd, by police."

    The New York Times writes that "the recent widespread anti-racism protests have renewed the focus on companies that for decades have used racial images to sell rice, breakfast foods, dairy products and snacks, among other products and services."

    Earlier this year, Land O'Lakes removed the stereotypical image of a Native American woman that had long adorned its packaging, recognizing that it was out of step with modernity and not reflective of the "foundation and heart of … company culture."

    The Journal notes that "the Aunt Jemima brand dates back to 1889. It was inspired by a popular song, 'Old Aunt Jemima,' typically performed in minstrel shows by a white man in blackface.

    "The creators of the pancake brand hired a former enslaved woman, Nancy Green, to be its spokeswoman. She made her debut as Aunt Jemima at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, singing, telling stories and making pancakes outside a booth resembling a giant flour barrel, according to 'Black Hunger' by Doris Witt."

    KC's View:

    I'm sure there will be some people who will object to all this, suggesting that it is just political correctness run amok and that all of this imagery is harmless.

    Harmless to them, maybe.  But not to people for whom these images - no matter their history and no matter what rationalizations have been used to keep them intact over the years - represent a painful past in which they have been forced into slots, marginalized, and made to feel unequal.

    These confrontations with a new reality will be wrenching to some, and will affect everything from pancake syrup to flags to statuary.  But it can be done.  It is not about erasing history, but understanding it, and comprehending the impact that ignoring it can have on our American brothers and sisters.

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    Target announced yesterday that it is raising its starting wage to $15 an hour.

    The retailer had offered a $13/hour starting wage, but increased that to $15/hour when the pandemic hit, calling the extra $2/hour "hazard pay."

    “Team members have always been essential to Target’s success, and the current crisis has only amplified how their work serves communities and families every day,” the company said in a statement.

    The Washington Post writes that this move makes Target "the first major retailer to permanently increase pay during the pandemic."  It also "makes good on a 2017 promise to raise its hourly wage to $15 by the end of 2020. The company has incrementally raised starting pay in recent years: to $11 in 2017, $12 in 2018, and $13 in 2019. The latest bump will affect about 275,000 of its 350,000 employees, the company said."

    The Post goes on to say that "the announcement comes as many retailers do away with pandemic-related wage increases. Kroger stopped offering “hero pay” of an extra $2 an hour on May 17. By the end of May, Starbucks had done away with its $3-an-hour pandemic raises, and Amazon had stopped paying warehouse workers an extra $2 in hazard pay."

    KC's View:

    And, remarkably, Target is doing this at a time when finding employees is a lot easier than it was just a few months ago.  So good for them.

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, as of this morning there have been 2,234,854 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 119,943 deaths and 918,796 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 8,425,511 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 451,830 fatalities and 4,433,992 reported recoveries.


    •  From the Washington Post:

    "As novel coronavirus caseloads continue to surge across the South and West, officials are hoping that mandatory mask-wearing can stop a rapidly spiraling outbreak. On Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) reversed his previous stance and authorized local governments to require face coverings in public, while Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) mandated masks for more than half her state’s population. Several Southern cities — including Memphis; Montgomery, Ala.; and Fayetteville, Ark. — have also made masks compulsory in recent days."

    The Post also writes that "Florida is on track to becoming the nation’s 'next large epicenter' for the coronavirus, according to new modeling from PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which linked the spread in community transmission to travel during Memorial Day weekend."


    •  From Bloomberg:

    "A surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in states including Arizona, Texas and Florida is showing signs of straining health systems and increasing concern about how officials will respond to a new wave of infections after loosening lockdowns.

    "While some data points are encouraging - the case count nationally has dropped to a daily increase of about 1%, new fatalities have declined, and virus tests are far more plentiful, as is the personal protective equipment vital for safeguarding front-line workers caring for the sick - states like Texas and Florida report persistent increases in hospitalizations and cases weeks into their reopening."

    The story goes on:  "In Arizona, where coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising to the alarm of experts, hospitals still face a critical limitation: staff. Arizona reported its highest number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients, 1,582 on Tuesday, a count that for the first time exceeds New York.  While health-care facilities have stocked up on supplies and made plans to manage an influx of patients, a deficit of doctors and nurses can't be readily repaired."


    •  From Politico:

    "Colorado was the first Democratic-run state to reopen from a coronavirus lockdown, and so far it has avoided the fresh spikes in infection rippling across the West. Its measured approach could be a lesson for the country on how to reopen effectively.

    "Colorado Gov. Jared Polis stood out because he embarked on a slow and methodical economic recovery in late April — even before the White House’s stay-at-home guidelines expired. Polis limited when restaurants and other businesses could reopen, at first only allowing curbside pickups at stores, imposing strict social distancing on salons and other personal services and prohibiting gatherings over 10 people.

    "Colorado also benefited from a relatively young, healthy, active population that bought into the state public health officials’ message about wearing masks and social distancing. That experience could influence other states as localized outbreaks pop up even as people clamor for a more rapid reopening of the economy and something resembling a more normal way of life."

    The state's vigilance hasn't waned, however.  “We’re only a few steps ahead of this virus,” Polis tells Politico. “We can’t let good news give us a false sense of security. We see some of our neighboring states, Arizona and Utah, moving the wrong way.”


    •  The Washington Post writes that "flights, trains and buses into Beijing are being canceled as China attempts to seal off its capital from a feared second wave of infections."


    •  Bloomberg reports that Apple is "reopening 75 more retail stores across the U.S. this week, including some locations in major markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

    "The Cupertino, California-based technology giant shut all stores outside China in March to help curb the spread of COVID-19. It started reopening U.S. locations in May, and after this week’s moves, the majority of the company’s 210 domestic stores will be back up and running."


    •  In London, parts of the theater district will remain dark until next year because of the pandemic.

    Variety reports that "Musicals 'Les Misérables' and 'Hamilton' won’t return to the West End until 2021, producer Cameron Mackintosh has confirmed."

    In addition, Mackintosh said he will not be opening planned new productions of “Mary Poppins” and “The Phantom of the Opera” until next year, because of "“continued uncertainty over when the government is going to completely withdraw social distancing measures.”

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    The Boston Globe reports on some of the backlash against the Four Season hotel on Boylston Street there, after it laid off 192 people - almost half its staff - and didn't pay them the severance to which they were entitled.

    The story notes that the hospitality industry has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, "making layoffs unavoidable, but the Four Seasons caught flak for the insensitive way it handled the situation because the hotel is known for its stellar service provided by housekeepers, servers, concierge staff, and others. Many of those laid off had worked there for years."

    Its treatment of the employees "sparked outrage from politicians, regular guests, and a hospitality workers’ union supporting the nonunion workers."

    The Globe writes that "the Four Seasons handbook calls for one week of severance pay for every year worked, plus an additional six paid weeks for employees with more than 10 years of service, capped at 26 weeks. But it also contains a clause stating that in the event of a national emergency, the hotel is not obligated to provide separation pay."

    In a statement, hotel general managerMichael Pedder said that "the events and outcry of the last two weeks have given all of us much to reflect on.  In large part thanks to your efforts you have reminded all of us that, notwithstanding the circumstances, we have a duty to honor ― with respect and professionalism ― our people and their long-standing service and loyalty to the hotel. To the extent that we recently failed to meet that standard, we are sincerely sorry.”

    KC's View:

    Four Seasons didn't just commit a breach of trust with its employees.  It breached the brand equity and value proposition that it made core to its offering … which offended customers who expected more from it.  Four Seasons represented something more than a room - and when it veered away from its brand promise, people reacted.

    That's both good news and bad news … you have enormously loyal customers, but they expect more of you.  Sounds like a pretty good tradeoff to me.

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    The Atlantic has a story entitled "The Pandemic Shows Us the Genius of Supermarkets," which explains the evolution of the format that keep us "supplied with an abundance of choices."

    An excerpt:

    "…In recent months, the supermarket has assumed a new centrality in Americans’ lives. Cashiers, stockers, distributors, wholesalers, packers, pickers, and truck drivers have, even in the absence of adequate health safeguards, continued working to ensure that shelves stay stocked. Foodtowns, Nugget Markets, and Piggly Wigglys have emerged as crucial lifelines, spawning a broad re-appreciation for one of the most distinctly American institutions. Grocery shopping is no longer one in a long list of mundane errands. For many people, it’s the errand—the only one—and it now seems not inevitable, but somewhat amazing to be able to do at all."

    You can read the piece here.

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    •  Forbes reports that Walmart plans "to open more 'Walmart Health' centers that feature an array of primary medical services, dental care, and behavioral health services as part of a new model being replicated beyond Georgia into other markets."

    Two of the centers are open in Georgia, with a third to be opened there this month, along with another one in Springdale, Arkansas. 

    Forbes writes that "the move by Walmart comes as CVS Health opens hundreds of 'HealthHubs' which include additional health and wellness items and services beyond what’s already available in the drugstore chain’s MinuteClinics. Meanwhile, Walgreens Boots Alliance has been partnering with an array of companies, testing everything from urgent care in attached centers operated by UnitedHealth Group’s Optum MedExpress unit to Partners in Primary Care Clinics for Medicare beneficiaries that are operated by Humana."

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    •  Engadget reports that delivery service Door Dash now will deliver non-prescription items from CVS.

    According to the story, "DoorDash customers in select cities can order over 3,000 items from CVS -- ranging from groceries to cleaning products and over-the-counter medicines. The deliveries will be no-contact by default, and users won’t be required to sign up for a delivery time slot or pre-schedule.

    To start, the service will be available in Dallas, Houston, New York City and Philadelphia. DoorDash and CVS plan to expand the partnership in the Bronx, Brooklyn, San Francisco and Boston metro areas this summer."

    CVS is the first drugstore chain to work with Door Dash.


    •  In the UK, the Mirror reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being urged by "business chiefs … to hit web giants like Amazon with tough new taxes to prevent ailing shops going under."

    The story notes that "many firms were teetering on the brink before the pandemic hit and the high street has been losing £1.8billion a week in sales under the three-month shutdown … the Prime Minister was warned of the need to establish a level playing field with web giants.

    "The online firms undercut physical rivals and the Covid-19 crisis has forced more shoppers to use them. And experts have long slammed the high rates and rents shops face."

    The Mirror writes that accusation of tax avoidance continue to bedevil Amazon:  "Amazon paid just £63million in business rates here in 2018 on reported sales of £8.8billion. By comparison, Marks & Spencer pays about £184million in rates on annual sales of £10.7billion, while Tesco pays £700million on sales of £63.9billion."

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    •  Publix Super Markets announced that it has opened its first GreenWise Market store in Georgia, in Marietta's Sandy Plains Marketplace Shopping Center.

    GreenWise is described by Publix as a "specialty, natural and organic store with a large selection of prepared foods made from organic and antibiotic-free ingredients. Foodies can find in-store smoked meats, in-house made sausages, burrito bowls and specialty charcuterie options. The stores are divided into experience zones."

    The company says that "the first new-concept GreenWise Market opened in Tallahassee, Florida, in October 2018. Seven stores are now open, including the 25,089-square-foot Marietta location; stores in Odessa, Florida, and Nocatee (Ponte Vedra), Florida, are set to open this week."


    •  The BBC reports that Tesco is selling its 301-store Polish business to Denmark's Salling Group for the equivalent of about $226 million (US).

    According to the BBC, Tesco said "the sale would allow it to focus on its central European markets of Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia where it commands more of the market.  The company has also retreated from Thailand and Malaysia so far this year as it curbs its global ambitions."

    Published on: June 18, 2020

    •  From the New York Times this morning:

    "Jean Kennedy Smith, a sister of the Kennedy clan who as the United States ambassador to Ireland in the 1990s helped pave the way for a formal agreement to end decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, died on Wednesday at her home in Manhattan.  She was 92."

    The Times writes that  "Ms. Smith was the youngest and last-surviving sibling in a family that embedded itself in the American consciousness and wrote itself into American history, producing a president and senators and an unrivaled mystique fashioned out of political glory, personal charisma, great wealth and staggering tragedy."


    •  Vera Lynn, the British singer who became known as Britain's Wartime Forces' Sweetheart during World War II, sounding notes of optimism with performances in places like the London Palladium, on a BBC radio show, as well as in front of the troop in India and Burma, has passed away.  She was 103.

    The BBC writes this morning that during the war, she was "one of the country's most potent symbols of resilience and hope … As Britain's cities came under attack, her wistful songs, with their messages of yearning and optimism, were heard in millions of British homes."

    Ironically, as the UK dealt with the pandemic, one of her most popular tunes, "We'll Meet Again," used by Queen Elizabeth II in a televised speech meant to rally the British people.

    KC's View:
     

    "We'll Meet Again" is a great song, and so evocative of the World War II era.  Listen to it, and see if you can get it out of your mind…