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    Published on: June 30, 2020

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

    Sterling did something the other day that he hadn’t done for several months:  he took an airplane trip.  On this week’s podcast, he talks to KC about the experience - from his front door to the airport to the boarding area to the flight and to his arrival in Denver and then back again - and finds the little moments and big adjustments that characterized the trip and how businesses have adapted to a new reality.  The bottom line:  the airlines that are working overtime to build up good will among customers have to be careful not to squander it, just as retailers need to think about how they will remain “essential” in a post-pandemic environment.

    You can listen to the podcast here, or on iTunes and Google Play.

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    by Michael Sansolo

    In the midst of the many colliding current challenges to the status quo, it’s good to know that this weekend we’ll all get a gigantic reminder of the power of those who think way outside the box. We’ll get it twice, actually.

    First, it will come via the annual celebration of July 4th, which is certain to be extremely different this year given the challenges of Covid-19 lockdowns and ongoing protests on the historical challenges faced in the United States. Luckily, on July 3rd we’ll get an extra boost this year as “Hamilton,” the Broadway smash musical that has been an impossible ticket at any price for five years, debuts on Disney Plus.

    The streaming debut of  “Hamilton” seems especially appropriate this year for reasons that even businesses need carefully examine in such tumultuous and challenging times.  First off, as the show makes crystal clear, American independence was itself a radical, rule-breaking idea carried out by people we revere as the founding fathers, but who were called rabble rousers, trouble makers and worse at the time.

    And to make it even more relevant, the mere airing of the hit show is itself a radical, rule-breaking idea.

    In an interview with the Washington Post, the show’s creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda laid out that latter point clearly. “The conventional wisdom is you don’t put out a movie while your show is still in theaters. The conventional wisdom is wrong,” he said.

    (Of course, it needs to be pointed out that theaters are closed … and "Hamilton" won't be available to Broadway audiences until next year sometime.  And that's if things go well.)

    But put that aside for a moment.  As Miranda explains, more people will likely see his show in its debut night on streaming television than have seen it on New York’s Broadway and all its touring companies to date. He sees that as an opportunity to build Hamilton’s audience and reach, not as a risk to getting theatergoers back into expensive seats whenever the virus-caused lockdowns end.

    It’s that risk taking approach that I think we all need consider, which is why Miranda’s works and words matter so much. To begin with, the young composer took countless risks with his production, infusing a Broadways show with a mix of song genres from jazz to hip hop. Plus he cast the historically based show with mainly actors of color. But as he said in past interviews, the revolution wasn’t brought about by the rich and powerful.

    However, I find his willingness to challenge conventional wisdom the most relatable part of this story. In essence, Miranda is creating an omni-channel presence. He’s obviously hoping that theaters will reopen and that patrons will continue to shell out hundreds of dollars to see the show live. But those live performances will now compete with a videotaped version of the show now available for streaming adjacent, as he says, to “The Goofy Movie” and other Disney fare.

    I think what he’s suggesting is that the video version will expose an extraordinarily massive audience to his masterpiece, but will also entice an entirely new population to see the live production so they actually can be in the room where it happens.

    In essence that is omni-channel thinking in a nutshell. Miranda is trying to create a great experience in two very different media, in hopes that the combined effort will be bigger than anything before. Retailers needs adopt similar thinking as they consider all those shopping dollars moving to e-commerce. The online experience must be great on its own, while simultaneously challenging the live, in-store shopping experience to be even more compelling.

    “Hamilton” provides endless entertainment and lessons, but maybe nothing is more important than Miranda’s quote, “Conventional Wisdom is wrong.”

    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 30, 2020

    The pandemic has been hard on a lot of retail businesses.  It actually has been pretty good for food retailers, who now have to beware the kind of complacency that can kick in when you're having some of the best quarters of your lives.  KC has a thought.

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    USA Today reports that Walmart "will stop the sale of 'All Lives Matter' merchandise on its website, noting that it is putting its emphasis on Black people and other people of color whose lives are being 'impacted by ongoing racial injustice'."

    The story says that Walmart "is removing the items which are sold by third-party sellers 'indefinitely,' after hearing from some employees and customers who were concerned about the meaning behind the merchandise."

    In a statement, the company said, ""We fundamentally believe all lives do matter and every individual deserves respect.  However, as we listened, we came to understand that the way some, but not all, people are using the phrase 'All Lives Matter' in the current environment intentionally minimized the focus on the painful reality of racial inequity."

    It was just last week that Walmart said it would no longer fly the Mississippi state flag at its stores in the state because the design included the battle flag of the Confederate States of America.  (Walmart banned the sale of the Confederate flag in its stores five years ago.)  The Mississippi state legislature has now voted to remove the symbol of the Confederacy from the state flag.

    KC's View:

    I would suggest that the current pace of change is breathtaking, but there are folks who would justifiably point out that the Civil War ended, as did the Confederacy, 155 years ago … which doesn't exactly suggest warp speed.  And, they would point out, the nation is still reckoning with crimes against humanity that took place 400 years ago.

    And they'd be right.

    Still, good for Walmart.  Right move at the right time.

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber Technologies is in talks to acquire delivery service Postmates for a cost of about $2.6 billion.

    Such a deal, if it is reached, would allow Uber to supplement its Uber Eats business, while continuing the delivery segment's consolidation trend.  Early this month, Uber tried to buy GrubHub but was outbid by Just Eat Takeaway, which spent $7 billion to make the acquisition.

    The Journal notes that "Postmates, which has held discussions with other possible buyers since at least last year, has been simultaneously planning an initial public offering. Just Monday, people familiar with the matter said the closely held meal-delivery startup was preparing in the coming days to make its IPO filing public, which could presage a trading debut later this summer."

    The story points out that "there has been a beehive of deal activity lately among food-delivery companies, which are seeking to better position themselves amid cutthroat competition and as the coronavirus pandemic boosts demand. By combining forces and cutting costs, the companies could jump-start their path to profitability, something investors are increasingly eager to see."  Consolidation is seen as a way to bring profitability to a segment in which most players either are losing money or barely breaking even;  the pandemic-related problems facing the restaurant industry has not helped.

    KC's View:

    If the economics of the segment are questionable, that would suggest to me that we're likely to see some pricing increases as consolidated companies look to make a buck.  It also seems likely that we're likely to see some boundary busting, as delivery companies that previously served mostly fast feeders branch out to work with supermarkets, figuring that there is money to be found in the category.  All of which could lead to even more consolidation.

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    Ahold Delhaize-owned Giant Food, which serves the Washington, DC, market, yesterday announced "a new integrated eCommerce shopping experience for customers available on the new Giantfood.com website and Giant Food mobile app. The integrated platform joins together the prior Peapod.com and Giantfood.com sites to create a single site on Giantfood.com."

    The announcement goes on:

    "Customers who had previously opted for pickup or home delivery through Peapod by Giant at Peapod.com will now access the same great eCommerce service through the integrated Giant website or free mobile app. For prior Peapod users, there will be no interruption of service as all Peapod account information, orders and history will transition for users seamlessly to the new Giantfood.com site.

    "At a time when demand for online grocery is at an all-time high, Giant is making it easier than ever for customers to safely and efficiently browse aisles, fill virtual grocery carts, plan ahead for an in-store trip and schedule a contactless Giant Pickup or Giant Delivers order, so they can get back to the moments that matter most."

    KC's View:

    As much as I'm going to miss the Peapod brand - after all, it was a pioneer in this space - this probably makes a lot of sense.   If you're going to make e-grocery a real and easy option, you have to make it as frictionless as possible.

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    West Sacramento, California-based Raley's has opened its first Raley’s O-N-E Market in the Northern California town of Truckee, a 35,000 square foot store that it says "blends the grocer’s 85-year commitment to exceptional service with a focus on transparency and education to create a unique shopping destination with a highly curated product selection."

    According to the announcement, the store "is set apart from a conventional grocery store thanks to a highly curated assortment of products that are fresh, nutritious, organic when possible, minimally processed and sustainably sourced. In every department, the items on the shelves are carefully selected to exclude ingredients from the Raley’s O-N-E Market banned ingredient list, such as high fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated fats and oils."

    The company goes on:  "The first-ever Raley’s Something Extra Health program, currently offered exclusively at Raley's O-N-E Market, is a new feature of the company’s loyalty program designed to help interested customers on their personal wellness journeys. In-store tours and classes, personalized nutrition counseling and supplement recommendations will be offered by a full-time Nutrition Advisor and Registered Dietitian."

    Design notes from the announcement:

    "Raley’s opted to launch the first Raley’s O-N-E Market in Truckee, California, because it is a community that supports an active and healthy lifestyle. The store was designed to resemble a ski lodge to fit the community and will serve as a meeting place for locals and visitors alike. It has two patios, one per floor, with plenty of outdoor seating and each with a fireplace. It also boasts several sustainable elements, including high-efficiency LED lighting, motion sensors in all refrigerated and frozen cases, a highly reflective 'cool roof,' a low water consumption adiabatic refrigeration condensing system, 210 photovoltaic solar panels and an anaerobic digester process that converts organic waste into bio-natural gas to power homes and fuel school buses. The Jeffrey pine trees cleared for the site were harvested and repurposed into the store’s design as well, including décor elements and approximately 10,000 square feet of paneling on the A-frame ceiling."

    KC's View:

    I don't think I've ever been to Truckee … but this certainly makes me want to visit.  Plus, I have an old friend who lives in Nevada City, California, which isn't that far away.  So now I have two reasons to go there … if I ever, ever travel again.

    Published on: June 30, 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, we now have 2,681,954 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 128,785 deaths and 1,117,177 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there are 10,429,791 confirmed coronavirus cases, 508,630 fatalities, and 5,684,091 reported recoveries.


    •  Axios reports that "World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday the coronavirus pandemic is 'far from over' and 'is actually speeding up,' as countries continue to reopen economies."

    According to the story, " Tedros said although some countries have made progress, 'the worst is yet to come.' He added a 'lack of national unity and lack of global solidarity' was 'helping the virus to spread'."


    9:45 am … BREAKING NEWS … The European Union this morning announced that non-essential visitors from just 14 countries will be allowed to visit the 27-nation bloc because their countries have made sufficient progress in lowering their Covid-19 coronavirus infection rates.

    The United States, which has the most coronavirus cases of any country on the planet, is not on the list.

    Neither are Brazil or Brazil, which are second and third in the global ranking of total coronavirus cases.

    China has only been included provisionally, contingent on it signing a reciprocity agreement.

    On the list:  Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

    Some context from NBC News:

    The E.U. and U.S. experienced infection spikes in late March and early April. But while strict lockdown measures have seen those numbers decline across Europe, in the U.S. there have been recent flare-ups in states such as Florida and Texas while President Donald Trump has encouraged society to reopen … Back in March, when Europe was the world's coronavirus center, Trump announced sweeping travel restrictions - without telling any of his E.U. counterparts first.

    "But the E.U. says its selective travel list was not about political grudges and instead is based on epidemiological criteria.

    "A European briefing last week noted that the U.S. had seen 107 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days, whereas the average across the E.U. was 16 cases per 100,000 people."


    •  Axios quotes former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb as saying that "even aggressive action in virus hotspots won't show effects for weeks, so Americans should expect case numbers to continue to climb.  'Look at New York. New York implemented the stay-at-home order on March 20, it was a Friday. It went into effect on Sunday. They peaked in terms of the number of daily cases that they were reporting on April 7,' Gottlieb said.

    "'So almost three weeks after they implemented the stay-at-home order, the cases continued to build and then they started to slowly decline'."


    •  The Los Angeles Times reports that "Los Angeles County will close its beaches Friday and ban fireworks displays in anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday, a move health officials say is necessary in light of an alarming spike in coronavirus cases … All public beaches, piers, public beach parking lots, beach bike paths 'that traverse that sanded portion of the beach' and beach access points will be closed from 12:01 a.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday."

    “I know how much we look forward to this time of year,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “But not this year. This year we have to think about saving lives to protect what we have in this country ... and to make sure our economy doesn’t take more steps backward.”

    The Times reports that "Garcetti said that at the current rate of spread, Los Angeles will revert to numbers reached at the height of the pandemic in about a week. Over the next week, the county’s infection rate will increase, from one of every 140 people being infectious to one out of every 70 people. At the same time, hospital capacity is decreasing."

    "Garcetti also said there is a 'hard pause' on reopening any additional businesses, including concert halls, theme parks, movie theaters and bars."


    •  The Los Angeles Times reports that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has "ordered a limited closure of bars in seven counties that have fallen short of the state’s guidelines for more than two weeks," saying that there has been "a 45% increase in coronavirus cases in the last seven days and said the rate of positive tests is now at 5.5%. As of Monday, the state is monitoring and working with 19 counties that have failed to meet guidelines for hospitalizations, transmission of the virus or sufficient testing for at least three days."

    According to the story, "The new state requirement shutters only bars that do not serve food in Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Imperial counties. Bars are allowed to remain open in those counties and serve alcohol if they sell dine-in meals in the same transaction and meet state safety guidelines for restaurants. Establishments that do not traditionally serve food are also allowed to contract with an outside food vendor to remain open.

    The state recommended that bars in eight other counties also close their doors under the same criteria."


    •  Fox News reports that "New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that indoor dining in the state will not resume this week as concerns mount of the surging number of coronavirus cases nationwide … Murphy said he chose to make the decision not to allow indoor dining to resume after seeing reports of overcrowding, a disregard for social distancing, and few people wearing masks at restaurants across the state."

    “We had planned to loosen restrictions this week. However, after #COVID19 spikes in other states driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining, we have decided to postpone indoor dining indefinitely,” Murphy tweeted.

    The story notes that "troubling surges in confirmed cases have worsened in several states that set single-day records for new cases last week, including Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Some of those states also broke hospitalization records, as did North Carolina and South Carolina."


    •  Axios reports that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey "is ordering bars, clubs, movie theaters, waterparks and gyms to close for 30 days in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus … Ducey also said that an executive order going into effect at midnight would ban organized events of more than 50 people and push back the first day of school for in-person learning until Aug. 17."

    The story points out that "Arizona, which has reported more than 3,000 new cases in five of the last seven days, is one of several states that has been forced to put its reopening plans on pause as the outbreak has accelerated across the Sun Belt."


    •  From the Seattle Times:

    "Amazon employees and contractors who worked in the company’s operations business throughout June will receive a one-time bonus — $500 for full-time hourly employees — as thanks for their work during the pandemic, the company announced Monday.

    "The bonus for each individual ranges from $150 for contract delivery drivers who worked at least 10 hours in June to $3,000 for owners of small delivery companies set up to drive for Amazon. Full-time employees working in the company’s warehouses and Whole Foods Market stores will get a $500 bonus. Divided across a 40-hour-per-week schedule for the month of June, the $500 bonus is slightly less than $3 an hour.

    "In recognition of their role helping the company respond to a surge in demand as the coronavirus upended normal life, Amazon paid its hourly employees $2 an hour extra during part of March, April and May, and increased overtime pay. It canceled the pay boost June 1, despite the continued spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus."


    •  Forbes reports that "starting July 1, American Airlines will no longer leave the middle seat empty and allow flights to be booked at full capacity.

    "The airline said it will notify customers and allow them 'to move to more open flights when available, all without incurring any cost.'  After boarding, passengers will also be allowed to move to a different seat in their ticketed cabin if there’s space - taking into consideration any aircraft weight or balance restrictions, the airline said … United Airlines is also booking full flights, but Southwest, Delta and JetBlue are continuing to enforce social distancing by limiting seating capacity."

    The story points out that "the number of people traveling is increasing after plummeting in March, though it is still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels: According to the Transportation Security Administration, the agency screened 623,624 passengers on June 25, which is up 83% from the same day the previous month."

    Gee.  What a terrific position to take at a time when coronavirus infections around the country are surging.  Wait for some flight to be identified as a "death plane" because of all the infections that are transmitted there, and then all the lawsuits that emerge from that and other incidents.

    Sometimes I think the airlines are their own worst enemy.


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Las Vegas Strip hospitality workers filed a lawsuit against casino operators on Monday, accusing the companies of failing to protect employees from Covid-19, one of the first efforts to hold employers legally responsible for infections as cases in the U.S. surge.

    "The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas against the owners of Harrah’s, MGM Grand and Bellagio casinos, says the companies didn’t immediately shut down food-and-beverage outlets and other areas after learning of positive cases, didn’t immediately inform employees when co-workers tested positive and didn’t adequately contact-trace before allowing colleagues of infected employees to return to the job."

    At the moment, at least as I understand it, companies are not shielded from such lawsuits by employees.  And so this is a battle that I suspect we're going to see play out in a number of other places.


    •  Variety reports that "AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibition chain, is pushing back its reopening by two weeks.

    "The move comes as coronavirus rates continue to rise in the United States, where AMC has the bulk of its operations, and after Hollywood blockbusters such as Tenet and Mulan delayed their release by several weeks. AMC said it now expects to open 450 of its more than 600 theaters on July 30. It hopes to be essentially fully operational by early August."

    The story goes on:  "AMC had initially planned on reopening on July 15. It’s possible those plans could be foiled yet again. Major markets such as New York City and Los Angeles have yet to allow cinemas to reopen and studios are hesitant about distributing movies in theaters without those cities, both of which account for a major percentage of box office revenues. Complicating matters is the fact that states such as Florida and Texas that have taken an accelerated approach to reopening their businesses have also suffered from surging rates of coronavirus infections."

    I wouldn't bet on it.


    •  Variety reports that the Broadway league announced yesterday that New York City's theater district will remain dark until early 2021.

    The story says that "this marks the fourth extension for Broadway, prolonging the shutdowns that began in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the longest period of time that theaters have been closed.

    "The Broadway League announced Monday that theater owners will refund or exchange all tickets purchased for musicals and plays through Jan. 3. But there’s a chance that some shows might not return until even later … The Broadway League said it continues to work with city and state officials to find the safest way to reopen, including screening and testing for audience members and employees, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing measures, and revamping backstage protocols. Broadway, as an industry, is particularly at risk because theaters are often small and tightly packed with patrons."

    Variety notes that "when Broadway shut down on March 12, 31 musicals and plays were running, while eight new shows were in preview and another eight were preparing to debut in the spring. Already, three shows — Disney’s musical “Frozen,” Martin McDonagh’s play “Hangmen” and Edward Albee’s revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” with Laurie Metcalf — have announced they won’t return when Broadway reopens.

    "Other shows, such as Neil Simon’s revival of “Plaza Suite” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, have delayed their openings until 2021."

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    The New Yorker has a long piece that indicts the dollar store retail segment for, in essence, being more concerned about the prices of the products it sells than the cost of the lives that have been lost because of a lackadaisical approach to safety.

    An excerpt:

    "The Gun Violence Archive, a Web site that uses local news reports and law-enforcement sources to tally crimes involving firearms, lists more than two hundred violent incidents involving guns at Family Dollar or Dollar General stores since the start of 2017, nearly fifty of which resulted in deaths. The incidents include carjackings in the parking lot, drug deals gone bad, and altercations inside stores. But a large number involve armed robberies in which workers or customers have been shot. Since the beginning of 2017, employees have been wounded in shootings or pistol-whippings in at least thirty-one robberies; in at least seven other incidents, employees have been killed. The violence has not let up in recent months, when requirements for customers to wear masks have made it harder for clerks to detect shoppers who are bent on robbery. In early May, a worker at a Family Dollar in Flint, Michigan, was fatally shot after refusing entry to a customer without a mask.

    "The number of incidents can be explained in part by the stores’ ubiquity: there are now more than sixteen thousand Dollar Generals and nearly eight thousand Family Dollars in the United States, a fifty-per-cent increase in the past decade. (By comparison, Walmart has about forty-seven hundred stores in the U.S.) The stores are often in high-crime neighborhoods, where there simply aren’t many other businesses for criminals to target. Routine gun violence has fallen sharply in prosperous cities around the country, but it has remained stubbornly high in many of the cities and towns where these stores predominate. The glowing signs of the discount chains have become indicators of neglect, markers of a geography of the places that the country has written off.

    "But these factors are not sufficient to explain the trend. The chains’ owners have done little to maintain order in the stores, which tend to be thinly staffed and exist in a state of physical disarray. In the nineteen-seventies, criminologists such as Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson argued that rising crime could be partly explained by changes in the social environment which lowered the risk of getting caught. That theory gained increasing acceptance in the decades that followed. 'The likelihood of a crime occurring depends on three elements: a motivated offender, a vulnerable victim, and the absence of a capable guardian,' the sociologist Patrick Sharkey wrote, in 'Uneasy Peace,' from 2018."

    You read the entire piece here.

    KC's View:

    The sentence that haunts me from the story is this one:

    The chains’ executives are candid about what is driving their growth: widening income inequality and the decline of many city neighborhoods and entire swaths of the country.

    It seems likely, as recession happens, caused by and then exacerbated by the pandemic, that inequality and decline will grow, and the situation only will get worse.  Attention must be paid.

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    •  CNN reports that more companies are joining the advertiser boycott of Facebook, which is centered on what is seen as the social media site's failure to stop hate speech on the platform.

    New companies that have said they will pull their ads for a period of time and reconsider their approach to social media advertising are Clorox, Adidas, Beam Suntory, Blue Bottle Coffee, Denny's, Hersey, HP, and Ford.

    They join companies that include The North Face, REI, Patagonia, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry's, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Eddie Bauer, and Unilever.


    •  From Bloomberg:

    "Amazon.com Inc., Overstock.com Inc., and Fisher Scientific Inc. have won highly lucrative U.S. government e-commerce contracts, giving them the power to control how vendors sell billions of dollars in goods to federal agencies.

    "The General Services Administration announced on Friday that it had chosen the companies to develop portals to sell products such as office supplies to federal agencies, opening up a new multi million-dollar revenue stream for the firms.

    "The GSA has said the project, known as the Commercial Platforms Initiative, is intended to streamline the government’s Byzantine acquisition process by making it, faster, cheaper and more transparent."


    •  The Consumer Brands Association (CBA) has announced that it has "brought together 23 consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and retailers to launch a new task force that will study the impact of a contactless pick-up and delivery protocol to create greater efficiencies and reduce employee risk during deliveries. The Contactless Delivery Task Force brings together manufacturers, supply chain partners and retailers to develop scalable, uniform standards for safely transporting and exchanging freight, with an initial focus on electronic bills of lading (eBOL)."

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  MLIve reports that "cash temporarily won’t be accepted at Meijer self-checkout lanes due to a national shortage of coins.  Customers who want to pay with bills will have to visit Meijer’s staffed checkout lanes for the time being, according to a company statement. The change is in effect at most of Grand Rapids-based retail giant’s 250 supercenters."

    The story says that "the national coin shortage is a side effect of the economic slowdown related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury. Reduced business activity means smaller amounts of cash, including coins, are circulating through the economy."


    •  Los Angeles-based Gelson's yesterday announced a new rewards program that it says will allow customers to "earn points for every dollar they spend. The more you spend, the more you get! With four different tiers (Foodie, Gourmet, Connoisseur, Epicure) come different perks; free items, Gelson’s brand BOGO events, % off whole store events and first to market samplers."

    The retailer says that "Instacart is also integrated into the program making it easy for customers to order online, pick up and still earn points."

    So now Instacart will know not only who orders what, but who Gelson's best customers are.  Only making it easier for Instacart to go after those customers if it decides such a move in its own best interests.  


    •  The Associated Press reports that Elsie the Cow has a new barn to call home, as Borden has been sold for $340 million to Capitol Peak Partners and KKR, the latter serving as a minority investor.

    According to the story, "Borden’s 12 U.S. plants - which produce 500 million gallons of milk per year - will remain open and its 3,300 workers will keep their jobs, the company said. Borden CEO Tony Sarsam will step down when the sale is completed."

    I wouldn't count on the status quo staying that way for very long.  The story also points out that "Borden, founded in 1857, has been hammered by changing American tastes. Milk consumption is down as U.S. refrigerators are increasingly stocked with juice, soda and milk substitutes made from soy or almonds. Liquid milk consumption in the U.S. has tumbled more than 40% since 1975."  Which doesn't sound like the kind of situation likely to remain in place for very long … especially since Capitol Peak's founder is Gregg Engles, the former chairman-CEO of both Dean Foods and WhiteWave Foods, which makes Horizon organic milk and Silk plant-based milk.  In other words, not someone likely to take a hands-off approach.

    Published on: June 30, 2020

    Responding to yesterday's story about Whole Foods saying store employees cannot wear Black Lives Matter masks at work, one MNB reader wrote:

    Whole Foods is entitled to maintain there policy!  It’s not racist or prejudice against anyone. Furthermore, I’m sick and tired of these groups!  They are now reverse discrminating, and forcing their views and philosophy down everyone’s throats!! “Comply or pay the price” That’s not freedom!!! It’s terroism, intimidating, and violent elimination of people’s rights!  

    It’s time EVERYONES rights is protected!!! 

    These companies along with the authorities are complete cowards!! 

    Sick of it all!

    No argument that Whole Foods is entitled to maintain its policy.  That's not the question.  The issue is whether it should, and whether that will be viewed as disingenuous considering the company's previous statements and actions on these issues.  And I think it is entirely fair to say that Whole Food's position is not inherently racist or prejudiced - it is walking a tightrope and trying not to fall off it.  But that may not be possible in the current climate.  The net ain't what it used to be.  Which probably is a good thing.

    I would, however, argue with the notion that everybody's rights need to be protected.  A business does not have the right to discriminate against people because of their color or ethnicity or gender or religion.  If you are a business owner, you may have the right to hold certain opinions, but you do not have the right to implement those opinions in terms of policies that discriminate.  You don't have the right to act on those opinions in other ways … hence, the notion of hate crimes.

    I'd also gently suggest that if you were faced with a world in which you were suspect or discriminated against because of the color of your skin, you might be a little resentful, too.  If you then protested or marched or coordinated boycotts as a way of drawing attention to inequality and societal inequities, I suspect that you might resist being characterized as a terrorist.  You might, in fact, be "sick" of it all.

    Businesses are being forced - like it or not - to make choices that have little to do with value and have everything to do with moral and ethical values.  

    I think we all would do well to consider the words written by playwright Robert Bolt in "A Man For All Seasons," and put into the mouth of Sir Thomas More:

    "If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we'd live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all... why then perhaps we must stand fast a little - even at the risk of being heroes."