retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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 US, there now have been 3,6987,318 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 141,143 deaths and 1,680,424 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 13,977,396 coronavirus cases, 593,438 fatalities, and 8,304,305 reported recoveries.

•  From the New York Times:

"As clashes over face-covering mandates and school reopening plans intensified throughout the United States, the country shattered its single-day record for new cases on Thursday — more than 75,600, according to a New York Times database.

"This was the 11th time in the past month that the record had been broken. The previous single-day record, 68,241 cases, was announced last Friday. The number of daily cases has more than doubled since June 24, when the country registered 37,014 cases after a lull in the outbreak had kept the previous record, 36,738, standing for two months.

"Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease specialist, warned senators in June that cases could reach 100,000 a day in the United States if outbreaks at the time were not contained.

"It’s not just cases that are breaking records, so are deaths. Florida on Thursday reported 156 new fatalities, its highest number. It was one of 10 states to reach a record for deaths in a single day this week, joining Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that even as "across the U.S., governors and other public officials are ordering citizens to cover their faces to help stem the spread of the coronavirus that has infected more than 3.5 million people and killed more than 138,000 nationwide … in many of those same communities, law-enforcement officers are refusing to enforce the rules."

The Journal writes that "some of the defiance is driven by political opposition and even disbelief of public-health officials’ advice that masks help prevent the spread of the virus.  But many police departments say going after people who don’t wear masks simply isn’t a priority."

I can relate.  Someone broke into my Mustang the other night - it was parked in my driveway - and the officer who came to take my statement had a mask, but it wasn't over his mouth … and he basically dismissed mask requirements as so much conspiracy nonsense.  (I didn't get sanctimonious with him, BTW.)

I don't think mask violations should be a revenue-generating opportunity for communities.  I think the police are better off giving warnings rather than tickets.  But then again, if there are speed limit laws, and laws about littering, and laws about wearing clothes while walking through town, and all those are worth enforcing, then why not a law requiring masks?  

•  The National Grocers Association (NGA) announced that it "sent a letter yesterday to congressional leadership outlining the top priorities of independent grocers in the upcoming coronavirus relief economic stimulus package: rewarding essential frontline workers, limiting liability exposure of essential businesses and expanding nutritional access for hungry Americans."

NGA urged the following actions:

- "The AG CHAIN Act (H.R. 6841), introduced by Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Evans (D-PA), a bill that provides an exclusion from gross income taxes and temporary payroll tax relief to essential food and agriculture workers."

- "The Get America Back to Work Act (H.R. 7528), a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Cuellar (D-TX) and Graves (R-LA), which would help ensure grocers are protected if they made their best efforts to comply with federal, state and local guidance."

- "Inclusion of the Expanding SNAP Option Acts (H.R. 7535 / S. 4202) in the relief package, to expand consumer access to online SNAP by providing grocers with technical assistance to help in implementing an online program and deferring expensive startup costs for retailers that lack capacity and resources necessary to get online."

Additionally, NGA urged Congress "to consider modifying the unemployment insurance (UI) program if additional benefits are extended beyond their July 31 expiration. A cap on total unemployment benefits at a certain percentage of the applicant’s previous compensation level should be considered as an alternative to the current policy of offering additional benefits that have shown to be a disincentive to continuing or returning to work."

•  From the New York Times:

"The pandemic has devastated many of the country’s small-business owners; nearly a quarter of companies closed either temporarily or permanently in March and April, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. But for firms that have been part of their communities for 100 years or more, there’s more at stake than livelihood — there’s legacy and, in some cases, generations of family ties.

"Since March, the pandemic has claimed at least a half-dozen businesses in or near the century club. For example, the Boston Hotel Buckminster, which opened in 1897, closed its doors; Ritz Barbecue, which opened in a small shed in Allentown, Pa., in 1927, served its last ribs and ice cream last month; Hickory Grove Greenhouses, just north of Allentown, decided to close after 103 years; and Michigan Maple Block Company, a wood products company in northern Michigan, is shuttering its manufacturing plant and laying off 56 workers after 139 years."

Sad story.  

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that American Airlines CEO Doug Parker looked at the moment and decided he had a choice.

"Hunker down" and wait for the pandemic crisis to pass.  Or "spend scarce cash to get back in the air."

Parker chose the latter.

“Let’s go fly, for God’s sake,” he tells the Journal. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll pull it back.”

Of course, the story points out, it will be the "coronavirus’s trajectory" that "will determine whether American’s approach will turn out to be judicious or reckless. All U.S. airlines have said they must shrink to match demand that is likely to remain diminished for years. The question is how much, for how long."

If an airline wants to be aggressive about building back its business, that's fine, but I think a certain amount of judiciousness is required in terms of assuring people's safety.

Here's the passage from the Journal story that bothers me:  "Taking a big swing in a crisis is comfortable, even enjoyable, said Mr. Parker, 58, who twice pulled off mergers with larger airlines going through bankruptcy. His deal-making culminated in the combination of US Airways Group Inc. with American into the world’s largest airline. He said he hoped the pandemic could be a reset for American, leveling the playing field with competitors."

He might find this to be comfortable and even enjoyable.  But people's health and lives are at stake here.  There is a thin line, I think, between ambition and arrogance.

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Cruise lines won’t be able to sail in U.S. waters until as late as October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as it extended its no-sail order amid a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in several states.

"The CDC extended the ban to Sept. 30 from July 24 but said the order could be lifted earlier if the secretary of health and human services declares that Covid-19 is no longer a public health emergency, or if the CDC director modifies the order based on public health considerations.

"Several major cruise lines have agreed to voluntarily suspend sailings to U.S. ports through mid-September.

"The CDC on Thursday said it extended the no-sail order to ensure that sailings resume with proper preparations."

Los Angeles Magazine reports that "the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association has announced today that there will be no Rose Parade in 2021. This will be the first time that the parade has been canceled since World War II, and only the fourth skipped parade since the tradition began in 1891 … The Rose Bowl college football game itself is expected to still take place, though that’s subject to change."

That's the understatement of the year.