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    Published on: July 22, 2020

    by Michael Sansolo

    As we continue living in these bizarre times, I think we need to consider the behaviors shoppers are currently using through the lens of a single question. That is:  What trends will end with covid 19, and which ones are here to stay?

    The answer I’d argue, as with so many things, is:  It depends.

    For example, electronic commerce or internet shopping has been on the rise for years but based on every statistic and observation one gets these days, e-commerce has clearly become way more important and prevalent. I find myself torn on this in looking to the future. 

    On the one hand, I think shoppers are discovering incredible convenience in e-commerce (if they hadn’t found it before) and are, like me, finding near endless products and services that can be procured on line. So it’s easy to argue that the stunning gains in e-commerce are here to stay.

    But then again, it also seems that the only disease more virulent than covid is cabin fever. It’s easy to see a future day - possibly right after we all get vaccinated - that stores and shopping malls suddenly look like Black Friday as everyone escapes confinement and heads back into public.  Of course, that moment will also be fleeting unless stores and shopping centers find a way of welcoming people back with experiences that come close to measuring up to what we all want and have been dreaming we missed.  (It also assumes that we all get vaccinated, which is anything but a safe assumption.)

    If not, the lure and ease of home shopping might look even more appealing now that everyone knows how to do it.

    In a similar vein, supermarkets are recording fantastic sales gains at the moment thanks to the near complete shutdown of the foodservice industry. Looking through rose-colored glasses, we could envision that shoppers are rediscovering the joys of cooking and will stick with it even after covid moves into history.

    But again, I wouldn’t count on that. There have been recent reports of of “mom rage," focusing on the pressure on female heads of household who are balancing shopping, meal preparation, cleaning, family entertainment and home schooling. A trip to the local McDonald’s may be looking really attractive right now.

    Here again, the opportunity exists for retailers helping those same moms (and, to be fair, in some cases, dads) cope with this situation now and beyond covid. The supermarket industry may be getting a rare opportunity to relive the history of all those sales and share of stomach lost to meals-away-from-home by fighting back with meal solutions, menu ideas and more.

    There’s no knowing what current behaviors will become habits and which will be dropped as soon as the virus threat fades. But we don’t have to sit idly by either. It’s a time for creative thinking about how to best offer solutions in a world that seems crazy to better align and serve customers. 

    Consider the story Kevin posted Monday about how LL Bean is rethinking its approach to selling products, by increasingly moving to marketing through other retailers. LL Bean isn’t alone in this. There are farmers, restaurants and foodservice wholesalers suddenly selling products directly to consumers. In normal times none of those actions might have taken place, but we aren’t in normal times and companies like Bean and others are looking for creative ways to stay relevant.

    Let’s all remember again the piece of political wisdom that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”  More than ever, this is a time for creative thinking and problem solving because a new and unexpected future may be possible. That kind of opportunity doesn’t come around often.

    Don’t waste it.

    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: July 22, 2020

    "Make Your Own Kind of Music"  Interesting story in the New York Times about how musicians, deprived of clubs and concerts, are reinventing themselves for streaming venues.  There’s a metaphor here for what business has to do in the moment … and KC explains it.

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    Walmart yesterday announced that "it will pay out another special cash bonus to store, club, distribution center and fulfillment center associates for their ongoing contributions and dedication to serving customers, members and communities during this unprecedented time. The bonus will be $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time hourly and temporary associates. Drivers, Managers and Assistant Managers in stores, clubs, DCs, FCs and Health & Wellness will also receive a bonus. It will add up to approximately $428 million."

    This is the third bonus paid out to Walmart employees during the pandemic.

    Perhaps more noteworthy is Walmart's announcement that it will keep all its US stores closed on Thanksgiving this year.

    “We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up. We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones,” said John Furner, President and CEO of Walmart U.S. “We are certainly thankful to our people for all of their efforts.”

    KC's View:

    There is a sense, I think, that in spending more time with our families and eating more at home, certain traditional values are being revisited because of the pandemic.  

    Giving retail employees Thanksgiving off certainly is a tradition - and I hope Walmart is setting a tone that its brethren also adopt.

    By the way … I have no idea off the top of my head how much business Walmart did in-store last Thanksgiving, but the loss of at least some of that business also has to be counted when tallying up how many hundreds of millions of dollars in bonus money has been paid out by Walmart.

    I am impressed.  This is a case of really putting your money where your mouth is.

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    Axios offers a bit of informed prognostication about what technology CEOs are likely to say when they testify before a House of Representatives committee looking into antitrust issues on Monday.

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Axios suggests, is likely to delivery the following message:  We're big because we've always given users what they want — fast delivery, wide selection and good prices.

    "Bezos is likely to point to Amazon's ability to get goods to Americans' homes during the pandemic as a public service," Axios writes.  "He will also need to defend the company against criticism of how it runs its third-party marketplace."

    Here's what the other execs are likely to say:

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: Congress should pass better laws. Let's work together and do that!

    "Zuckerberg will likely argue that it's Congress's job to write laws to bolster election security and establish consistent nationwide online privacy standards."

    Apple CEO Tim Cook: Our App Store creates opportunity for countless developers — and Google's Android controls more of the smartphone market, anyway.

    "The company says its tightly controlled approach keeps iPhone apps safe, maintains their quality, and protects users' privacy … Expect Cook to cite the size and vitality of the app market and the continued enthusiasm of Apple's customers."

    Google CEO Sundar Pichai: We won search by doing it well — why punish us for that?

    "Google doesn't dispute its clear dominance in search, nor of certain corners of the online advertising market," Axios writes.  "But it has long maintained in both cases that this is just a natural outgrowth of delivering value."

    KC's View:

    Axios suggests that "many of the loudest and most potent lines of attack on tech … can be countered with facts, but they're too politically useful to simply be dropped."  And I'd agree with that - especially in the 100 days before a national election.

    The bottom line, Axios writes, is that "the CEOs will get a chance Monday to rebut criticisms, argue that they're a net good for the nation, and tell lawmakers directly that antitrust enforcement is the wrong remedy for their ills."

    They'll have to argue that tech is good for us, and that it isn't all going to end up like this:

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has introduced a bill in the US Senate proposing that "federal income taxes would be suspended for essential workers up to an annual income cap set at the highest level of pay for an enlisted person in the U.S. Armed Forces. Additionally, the bill would provide suspension of federal payroll taxes for essential workers who earn up to $50,000 annually."

    "Our essential workers have risen to the challenge and continued in their daily jobs – to care for and protect Iowans, to produce and deliver food and essential goods, and to uphold our nation’s critical infrastructure throughout this pandemic,” Ernst said in a statement. “These front line workers - our nurses, truck drivers, and grocery store workers, child care providers, and so many others - have kept life going and our supply chains intact. These men and women are putting the interests of their fellow Americans ahead of their own. Each and every morning they wake up and go to work, and they should be rewarded for their selfless service."

    The bill is being endorsed by FMI - The Food Industry Association, the National Grocers Association (NGA), among other trade associations.

    In Iowa, the Dispatch Argus points out that the Congress only is scheduled to work for less than a month before going out on a summer recess.

    KC's View:

    It is worth pointing out - with no judgement one way or the other - that Ernst is engaged in a tough re-election battle.  I suspect that telling your state's "essential" workers that they're going to be excused from paying federal taxes for a period of time isn't just a good idea, but also good politics.

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    Interesting piece in the New York Times this morning about how, "at a time when Corporate America is speaking up on some of the most important issues of our time, there is a contradiction between companies’ words today and the role they played in helping create the moment we find ourselves in.

    "An examination of political spending over the past decade shows how those companies - and dozens of other Fortune 500 corporations - quietly funded political efforts that are antithetical to their public stances. They financed state attorneys general seeking to undo the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health insurance for millions of Americans during the pandemic; they provided funds that backed local legislators who tried to roll back L.G.B.T.Q. rights; and they gave money that supported candidates challenging federal climate change initiatives."

    The story can be read here.

    KC's View:

    There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip…

    My point here is less about the politics than it is about perception.  I've written several times in recent weeks about discrepancies between what some companies were saying (and causes to which they were donating money), and how some were behaving - especially when that behavior seemed at odds with their brand images.

    All I'm saying is this - I think it is important to be consistent as much as possible, because inconsistencies will allow activists to call your commitments into question.  And I'm not sure that works in today's climate.

    Published on: July 22, 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…

    •  There now have been more than four million confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the United States - 4,028,733, to be precise, with 144,958 deaths (there were more than 1,000 deaths yesterday) and 1,886,778 reported recoveries.

    Globally, we've crossed the 15 million line in terms of coronavirus cases - the number stands at 15,117,078, with 620,033 fatalities and 9,134,332 reported recoveries.


    •  The New York Times writes that it was the first time in weeks that "the daily death total in the United States exceeded 1,000 … as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were likely far more infections than have been reported."


    •  The Washington Post writes that "only a tiny fraction of the U.S. population has coronavirus antibodies, according to new data released by the CDC, even in hard-hit areas. The presence of antibodies in the blood indicates a person has had a covid-19 infection and gained some level of immune response."


    •  From Fox News this morning:

    "In his first official press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic since April, President Trump on Tuesday admitted that the public health crisis is likely to worsen as cases surge across the country and asked all Americans to wear masks in public.

    "While Trump hailed his administration’s response to the pandemic and the work toward developing a vaccine, he bluntly disclosed what many Americans already know: that the crisis is likely to spread more before it can be contained.

    "'It will get worse before it gets better,' Trump said of the pandemic that has infected close to 4 million Americans.  'That’s something I don’t like saying but it is.'

    "Trump’s comments come after weeks where he either downplayed the virus’ continued spread or focused on other issues – from unrest over racial injustice in American cities to the removal of Confederate statues – despite cases of COVID-19 surging, particularly, in parts of the south and southwest.

    "Noting the concerns among many of his supporters that facial coverings impinge on their personal freedoms, Trump pleaded with Americans to wear masks out in public to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  'We’re asking everybody when you’re not able to socially distance to wear a mask,' Trump said.

    "While his comment falls short of a national mandate, it is the strongest endorsement yet from the president who until recently had questioned the efficacy of masks."


    •  From the New York Times:

    "If you want to sell books during a pandemic, it turns out that one of the best places to do it is within easy reach of eggs, milk and diapers.

    "When the coronavirus forced the country into lockdown this spring, stores like Walmart and Target, which were labeled essential, remained open. So when anxious consumers were stocking up on beans and pasta, they were also grabbing workbooks, paperbacks and novels — and the book sales at those stores shot up … Big box stores do not generally break out how much they sell of particular products, but people across the publishing industry say that sales increased at these stores significantly, with perhaps the greatest bump at Target. In some cases there, according to publishing executives, book sales tripled or quadrupled."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Coca-Cola said yesterday that "revenue fell 28% to $7.15 billion for the quarter ended June 26, down from $10 billion a year earlier."

    However, the company said that "it believes the biggest challenges of the pandemic are behind it, despite the current surge in coronavirus cases in many parts of the U.S.

    "About half of Coca-Cola’s business comes from away-from-home venues - the restaurants, bars, movie theaters and sports stadiums that were shut around the world during the second quarter because of the pandemic."

    The belief seems to be that even as the US suffers, the China, Southeast Asia and Western European markets will rebound faster because they've managed the pandemic more effectively;  as shelter-at-home rules are lifted in the US, the foodservice side of Coke's business is likely to be lifted as well.

    However, Coke also is focusing on trimming "small, underperforming brands" from its portfolio.  Example:  "Coca-Cola earlier this month said it was closing its Odwalla juice and smoothie business."


    •  "With a new form of business casual taking over as millions of Americans work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the owner of Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank plans to close up to 500 stores," USA Today writes.

    "Tailored Brands announced Tuesday that it would shutter those locations 'over time' and cut about 20% of its corporate jobs by the end of its fiscal second quarter.

    "The move comes after temporary store closures and changes in people's clothing habits suddenly disrupted the company's prospects. Tailored Brands had about 19,300 employees and 1,450 stores as of Feb. 1, according to a public filing."


    •  The New York Times reports that Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, which several years ago pioneered the no-tipping trend in restaurants believing that it "contributes to unequal pay, racism, sexual harassment and power disparities in the industry," now is reversing course.  As it reopens restaurants after the pandemic-induced shutdown, tipping of servers once again will be allowed.

    According to the story, "Meyer said in an interview that he still believes that tipping contributes to inequitable pay, wage instability and other problems, and that he is collaborating with the national One Fair Wage campaign to eliminate it. But as the restaurants begin rehiring today — about 95 percent of the staff has been laid off since March — he is unwilling to deny any extra compensation that might be available to employees in a time of economic crisis."

    "We don’t know how often people will be eating out, we don’t know what they are going to be willing to pay,” he tells the Times. “We do know that guests want to tip generously right now.”


    •  In California, at least, it will be Friday Night Lights Out.  Blame the pandemic.

    Axios reports that "The fall high school sports season in California will be postponed until at least December, the California Interscholastic Federation announced Monday … The three typical high school sports seasons - fall, winter and spring - will be played between December and June and compressed into either fall or spring seasons.

    "Football — a staple of fall Fridays — will now take place in winter and spring, with the last game played no later than April 17, 2021.

    Basketball and baseball will now overlap and end in late June, forcing multi-sport athletes to make tough decisions."


    •  Hy-Vee announced yesterday that in an effort to protect its customers and employees from COVID-19, it "will distribute free masks to those entering its stores starting Monday, July 27. The company will hand out more than 3 million free masks in an effort to help support the CDC’s recommendation to wear masks in public by launching a new initiative called 'Mask It Up To Shut COVID Down. It’s Your Choice.'

    "Starting July 27, employees will be stationed at the front doors of all stores to hand out masks to customers who are not wearing one prior to shopping. Customers will also see signage, employee attire, and other reminders around the store about the educational campaign."

    The Des Moines Register reports that "though Hy-Vee requires its employees to wear masks, they are a choice - not a requirement - for most Hy-Vee customers. In just two of the eight Midwestern states where it operates its 240-plus stores - Illinois and Kansas - are masks required in public places like supermarkets."

    I think Hy-Vee is wrong to make this a suggestion - it has so much credibility with its customers that it could make them mandatory and sell it in an effective way that would, potentially, move the needle on infections.

    But … good for Hy-Vee deciding to give the masks away.  It challenges the allegation made by an MNB reader the other day that retailers only were mandating masks so they could sell them.


    •  From USA Today:

    "While more states and a growing number of retailers are requiring shoppers wear masks, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar have reversed course.

    "The two retailers, both part of Dollar Tree, Inc., had initially started requiring shoppers wear masks along with vendors and employees in stores, according to a July 8 update on its coronavirus updates page. 

    "But the company updated its mask policy last week to 'request' face coverings in stores where state and local ordinances are not in effect."

    According to the story, "Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations, told USA Today that the company did not have a comment beyond its policy."

    Not surprising, because the reporter almost certainly was going to ask questions that he would've had a hard time answering.  All I know is that these folks must be reading different news accounts than I'm reading.

    Actually, let me be more blunt:  This is nuts.


    •  Axios reports that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have no expanded the list of states from which visitors must self-quarantine for 14 days before going out in public.

    "The quarantine applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release.

    States included in the quarantine list include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

    Axios notes that "the tri-state area, the original hub of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., has successfully flattened its curve and is reopening. Officials fear, however, that the surge of cases in others states across the country could erase progress in New York and its neighboring states."


    •  From the New York Times this morning:

    "Six months since the coronavirus crisis was first detected in the United States, the Northeast stands in sharp contrast with the rest of the nation.

    "Along the East Coast, from Delaware through Maine, new case reports remain well below their April peak. As of Tuesday, five of the country’s nine states with flat or falling case levels are in that Northeastern corridor.

    "'It’s acting like Europe,' Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said of the Northeastern United States."

    "Like Europe, the Northeast suffered a devastating wave of illnesses and deaths in March and April, and state leaders responded, after some hesitation, with aggressive lockdowns and big investments in testing and tracing efforts. Residents have largely followed rules and been surprisingly supportive of tough measures, even at the cost of economic pain.

    "Dr. Jha said the difference in regional trajectories was so pronounced that, by the time flu season rolls around in the late fall, 'I would not be surprised if what we have is two countries, one which is neck-deep in coronavirus, its hospitals overwhelmed, and another part of the country that is struggling a little, but largely doing OK with their economy'."

    I know that in some places, "acting like Europe" is not seen as positive.  But hunkered down in Connecticut - feeling isolated, vaguely depressed, but reasonably healthy at least for the moment - I'm pretty good with that.  

    The Times does point out, correctly, that "it is also true that the Northeast remains the corner of America that has suffered most from the virus … New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have reported the country’s most deaths per capita over the course of the pandemic, with more than 61,000 combined. And the economic wounds from prolonged shutdowns are deep: Massachusetts’s unemployment rate in June climbed to 17.4 percent, the worst in the country, according to federal data released on Friday."

    In my little corner of southwestern Connecticut, you can still see the impact of the pandemic in the empty parking spaces at the train station.  The town where I live is largely populated by people who traditionally take the train to New York City early in the morning and return at night;  but these days, everybody seems to be working from home.  (People here are lucky that way.  It is important to remember that not everybody is as fortunate.)

    I also think that this is an important passage from the Times story:

    "Polls, so far, suggest that voters in the Northeast are prepared to tolerate prolonged economic pain in order to stop the spread of the virus. Governors from the states that were hit early in the pandemic have sustained the highest approval ratings in the country … The crisis has drawn out key regional differences in how Americans view the role of government in their lives, said Wendy J. Schiller, chair of the political science department at Brown University in Providence, R.I. The Northeast, she said, with its 400-year tradition of localized, participatory government, has been less affected by decades of antigovernment rhetoric."

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    CNN reports that Starbucks is making changes to its mobile app:

    "This fall, you'll be able to pay for Starbucks drinks on your app using -- get this -- a credit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay or even cash. And yes, you'll still be able to collect stars for rewards.

    "Starbucks regulars are familiar with reload panic. For years, customers have been required to load money onto a Starbucks card to buy food and drinks through the app and collect rewards. Although the app lets customers reload funds automatically when their balance is too low, they can't currently opt to pay for the transaction directly from a credit or debit card -- or cash."

    But now, CNN reports, "Customers in the United States and Canada will be able to pay Starbucks for the amount of their order directly from whatever payment method they choose. They'll also be able to order from the app and choose to pay by handing a barista a physical credit card or cash."

    But all things will not be equal - because if you use alternative payment methods, you'll only get half the stars you would otherwise.

    KC's View:

    This strikes me as silly … and it is a good bet that if there is any blowback from consumers, Starbucks will reverse itself on this decision.  I mean, I'm still spending a lot of money for a cup of coffee, and I'm still choosing Starbucks instead of someone else.  Why penalize me?

    Sometimes, I worry that Starbucks is breathing its own exhaust, and increasingly is taking an "our way or the highway" approach.  That's not where I would want to be, and it seems particularly tone-deaf at a time when it is coming off a time  when almost all its stores were shuttered during the pandemic.   

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    •  From Engadget:

    "If you live in Atlanta, Georgia or Franklin, Tennessee, your next Amazon order might arrive in one of the company’s Scout delivery robots. Amazon began testing its cooler-sized delivery bots in Snohomish County, Washington last year. They’ve been making deliveries in the Irvine area of California, and this week they popped up in Atlanta and Franklin.

    "Only a handful of Amazon Scout devices will operate in each city. They’ll be accompanied by a human, travel at walking speed and make deliveries Monday through Friday, during daylight hours. Customers will place their Amazon orders as usual, and there won’t be any additional cost for Scout deliveries."

    The story goes on:  "Amazon says the battery-powered bots fit into its goal of reaching net zero carbon by 2040 and that it will partner with schools in Atlanta and Franklin to support STEM and robotics activities. The company has corporate offices and logistics facilities in both areas. It's that kind of far-reaching footprint that could give Amazon an advantage over competitors like Postmates and Alibaba, which are also working on delivery robots."


    •  From USA Today:

    "Weeks after Target launched fresh and frozen grocery pickup in the Midwest, the same-day service is now available in more than 1,000 stores in 47 states. 

    "The Minneapolis-based retailer said Tuesday the program offering in-store and Drive Up curbside pickup of produce, dairy, meat and frozen products has quickly expanded to nearly 70% of the way to Target's goal of 1,500 locations by the holidays … Target says orders are usually ready for pickup within a few hours, and there's no minimum order required for free pickup or membership fees."

    The story goes on:  "The program was piloted in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and Kansas City markets and in late June arrived in 400 select stores in 10 states by the end of June, including Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, Utah, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky and Kansas … The newest stores adding same-day pickup services are located in Washington D.C. and the following states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia."

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Kroger Co., Stop & Shop and Albertsons Cos. have tentatively agreed to withdraw from a United Food and Commercial Workers International Union pension plan.

    "Kroger and Stop & Shop have agreed to transition to a new variable annuity pension plan for 33,000 Kroger workers and 18,000 Stop & Shop employees.

    Albertsons workers would transition to another variable annuity pension plan. The changes are subject to ratification by union members."

    •  From Fox Business:

    "Budget grocer Aldi plans to open 70 new U.S. locations by the end of 2020 as part of its 'coast-to-coast' expansion plan, the company announced Tuesday.

    "As part of its 'new wave of expansion,' the grocer will enter Arizona, its 37th state, with four new stores in the greater Phoenix area this year, the company said. By 2021, Aldi expects to break ground on a new regional regional headquarters and distribution center in Loxley, Alabama.  The center in Alabama will serve stores in southern Alabama, and throughout the Florida Panhandle, as well as Louisiana, marking the company’s presence in 38 states, Aldi said."

    •  USA Today reports that fast feeder Wendy's is creating a new loyalty program.

    "On Tuesday, the chain announced the launch of a new loyalty program called Wendy's Rewards, which will allow members nationwide to cash in points earned on purchases for free nuggets, a Frosty, a burger, salads and other items."

    •  The Washington Post reports that "Apple pledged Tuesday to make its entire business - including its vast supply chain - carbon neutral within the next decade, joining other tech giants in reorienting their operations around climate change.

    "The company, which is already carbon neutral for its corporate operations, said the move means that by 2030, every iPhone, MacBook and iPad sold will have no climate impact."

    "Businesses have a profound opportunity to help build a more sustainable future, one born of our common concern for the planet we share,"  said Apple chief executive Tim Cook. "… With our commitment to carbon neutrality, we hope to be a ripple in the pond that creates a much larger change."

    The Post points out that "the initiative follows major climate action from other trillion-dollar technology companies. In January, Microsoft announced plans to remove more carbon than it produces by 2030. Last month, Amazon - which has set its own carbon-neutral goal for 2040 - publicized the creation of a $2 billion venture capital fund to back ambitious efforts to develop decarbonizing technologies."

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    •  Schnuck Markets announced that Bill Bradley, the longtime Anheuser-Busch executive who most recently was the company's vice president of Community Affairs, has joined the retailer as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer.


    •  The Fresh Market announced that Brian Johnson, most recently senior vice president and division manager at Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co., has joined the company as  senior vice president of store operations.

    Published on: July 22, 2020

    From MNB reader Howard Schneider:

    As a loyalty marketing guy, I’ve long noted the key role of subscription models in driving customer lifetime value and retention, in a variety of product and service verticals. As applied to smart home technology, I couldn’t help thinking about one of the original tech models: The Phone Company. Their equipment rental system enabled Bell to sustain a pervasive monopoly for a century. While today’s tech world provides a vastly greater range of choices, we essentially have just handful of major ecosystems, each seeking the capture and retention of households in ways that make it difficult and costly to leave.


    Regarding our various articles and comments about diversity, one MNB retailer wrote:

    I worked for a Fortune 500 CPG company in Sales for 33 years. When I started in 1978, almost no minorities, no women. When I retired, probably 50% Women, and high percentage of minorities and in high level positions.  I saw Huge change. Some for the better, some, not so much. I’ve seen first hand reverse discrimination at its worst!  I was a hiring Sales Manager. By the early 90’s, HR would state outright. “ If the choice was a minority or Woman, they get priority over a White Male. Flat out reverse discrimination!! If it was a minority woman, double score!! 

    Now, I’m not saying there wasn’t a need for positive change, but today, Opportunities are endless for those that have the skills, regardless of Race, Religion, etc. well of course, excluding middle age White men. Don’t like that?  That’s a fact! 

    Stop complaining and take advantage of the opportunities!!  Things will never be perfect, but they have light years improved. Enough of this nonsense already!! 

    I suspect that there may be some people out there who would take issue with the suggestion that "opportunities are endless" for everybody, and that white males somehow are deserving of sympathy because they're ultimately the ones being discriminated against in the current environment.


    On another subject, from an MNB reader:

    I recently saw a sign that, for me, totally summed up the argument of whether or not it’s safe for schools to open in the fall: “If the people deciding if it’s safe to open our schools are meeting via video conference because it’s not safe to meet in person, why is this question even being asked?”


    Yesterday MNB took note of a Bloomberg story saying that "for anyone tired of dodging coronavirus, sick of arguments over masks or just fed up with the home office grind, Bermuda has an offer: a year at the beach. The British Overseas Territory of 64,000, known for its pink sand shorelines and balmy climate, is offering one-year, renewable residency certificates for remote workers and post-secondary students. It’s pitching itself as a refuge as Covid-19 cases continue to climb in other countries and upend rules about where people can work."

    I commented:

    I could totally go for moving MNB world headquarters to Bermuda.  This sounds wonderful.

    But MNB reader Tim Callahan pointed out:

    How would you get to Bermuda?  Are you ready to get on a plane or cruise line?

    Fair point.  I haven't even been to a bar or restaurant since February.

    I checked the real estate listings, by the way, and it would appear that the only folks able to take advantage of this offer will be really, really, really rich folks.

    However, if there is anyone in Bermuda who would like to offer Mrs. Content and me use of their guest house for an extended periods of time, I'll figure out the travel thing.


    Got the following email from an MNB reader who takes issue with an email yesterday from someone talking about the downside of having a proprietary e-commerce service:

    Creating and maintaining our own online ordering system for curbside or delivery a "recipe for failure"?  No way.   It has created jobs as we control every step of the process, and it has helped to add another level of service to our service oriented approach as an independent natural foods supermarket in our community.  

    When our customers pull up to our reserved curbside parking spaces they will receive their goods from a Team Member of our store who has communicated with them, shopped for them, helped with specific requests and circumstances, bagged their goods, and wished them well.  

    We would never turn all of those critical functions that could impact our customer relationships to relative strangers who have no real ties to the supermarket they are representing.   By controlling the process and the outcome we believe our online ordering system is a recipe for success, and it has been growing with a slew of great comments and scores on the scale of 1-5.  We also can provide in store pricing w/out giving away the farm to Instacart.  

    We wouldn't have it any other way.  

    Wow.  You're playing my song.  Or maybe I'm playing yours.  No matter - we're certainly singing in harmony.