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 United States, we now have 4,170,333 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 147,342 deaths and 1,980,432 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 15,676,899 confirmed coronavirus cases, 636,966 fatalities and 9,562,907 reported recoveries.

•  The New York Times reports that "officials in Washington State announced new restrictions on gatherings at restaurants, bars, weddings, funerals and other businesses. 'This is not the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do,' Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.

"Alabama set a daily record for cases on Thursday, with 2,390. Four other states - Hawaii, Indiana, Missouri and New Mexico - also hit their single-day peak for new cases, while Florida and Tennessee had more virus-related deaths than on any other day."

•  The Washington Post reports that "Florida set a single-day record for fatalities and the number of coronavirus-related deaths across the United States surpassed 1,000 for the third consecutive day. More than 71,500 new cases of the virus were reported nationwide, as the U.S. infection rate has doubled in less than a month."

•  Referring to the substantial outbreaks in Florida, Texas and California, Dr. Deborah Birx, the Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told NBC's "Today Show" this morning that "what we have right now is essentially three New Yorks … and that's why you see us calling for masks and increased social distancing."

•  From the New York Times:

"As global cases keep soaring, the virus rebounds in places that seemed to have tamed it.

As the pandemic continues to grow around the world — new cases have risen more than 35 percent since the end of June — troubling resurgences have hit several places that were seen as models of how to respond to the virus.

"An outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, has rattled officials after extensive testing and early lockdowns had limited outbreaks for months. Hong Kong — where schools, restaurants and malls were able to stay open — has announced new restrictions in the face of its largest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic. And cases have surged in Tokyo, which has avoided a full lockdown and relied on aggressive contact tracing to contain flare-ups.

"Spain’s reopening has stumbled in the month after it lifted a national lockdown. New cases have quadrupled, with high infection rates among young people, and forced hundreds of thousands of people to return to temporary lockdown.

"As governments around the world look to relax rules put in place to combat the virus, the experiences show how difficult it will be to keep outbreaks at bay. And they reflect, in some places, a weakening public tolerance for restrictions as the pandemic drags on."

The Times goes on:  "The biggest sources of new infections continue to be the United States, Brazil and India; the director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted this week that almost half of all cases worldwide came from just three countries.  But the quick turn for the worse in places that once seemed to have gained the upper hand shows the range of vulnerabilities the virus is able to exploit."

This is the hard part, folks.  It actually ought to be sort of easy to lock things down and shelter at home when people are dropping around you.  It is a lot harder to continue to be vigilant and disciplined when things seem to get better, because that's when things can go south.  Fast.  (That's why I remain skeptical about the return of sports and downright negative about the reopening of bricks-and-mortar schools.)

Yes, I know a lot of you think I'm beating a dead horse here.   But I remain hopeful that the horse ain't dead yet, and that as a culture we'll find the gumption to do what is necessary to beat this thing.

•  President Trump yesterday announced that the Jacksonville, Florida, segment of the Republican National Convention, scheduled for a month from now, is being cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak that is ravaging the state.

The Wall Street Journal writes that "the president said delegates would still travel to Charlotte, N.C., the initial site of the convention, on Monday, Aug. 24, to formally nominate him for president. Mr. Trump said he would still give an acceptance speech, but didn’t offer other details, adding that he hadn’t decided where that would take place."

•  In the UK, the Independent reports that "supermarket giants have said they will not enforce new laws that make it compulsory for customers to wear face masks from Friday.  Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda are among the retailers who have said they will not challenge customers failing to wear a face covering and that it falls on police to penalise people."

The government yesterday "issued guidance on regulations that require people to wear masks in shops, takeaways, supermarkets, shopping centres and transport hubs."

First of all, it is a shame when people don't do what is necessary to keep their families, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens safe - because that's what masks do.

But it also is a bit of letdown to find out that the Brits may be falling into the same trap as some Americans.  When I think of the UK, I think of Winston Churchill, who once said, "As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us."

In other words, people should do the right thing, and responsible retailers - that want to keep their employees and customers safe - need to carry that mantle … and consider another Churchillian bit of wisdom:  "Don't argue about the difficulties. The difficulties will argue for themselves."

•  From the Los Angeles Times:

"A conservative group that has fought California’s stay-at-home orders is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom over his school-closure mandate for counties with high rates of COVID-19.

"The lawsuit announced Tuesday by the Center for American Liberty is aimed at halting Newsom’s order, announced Friday, that forbids all public and private schools from reopening for in-person learning in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list until those counties meet certain criteria.

"The lawsuit accuses Newsom of putting politics ahead of children and denying children access to a meaningful education. It says school closures will disproportionately hurt students of low-income families, students with disabilities and students of color."

There is no question that school districts and state and local governments have to do a better job making sure that "low-income families, students with disabilities and students of color" are not disadvantaged by e-learning (though I'd argue that in a lot of places, those kids are disadvantaged by their school systems in the best of times).  But sending these kids into what essentially are petrie dishes of virus so they get sick and potentially pass the disease along to their family members, seems just plain stupid.  

•  The degree to which the pandemic has completely disrupted the traditional film industry became clear yesterday as the major studios tore up their upcoming release schedules because they simply don't know when movie theaters will reopen and seem appealing to audiences.

Variety reports that "Disney has pulled Mulan from the studio’s release calendar as cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the country and new outbreaks roil major foreign markets … This is the fourth big-screen delay for Mulan.  It was initially scheduled to debut on March 27, but the film was pulled just before its planned release as coronavirus first began to spread in North America. Disney moved the film to July 24 and then to Aug. 21."

USA Today writes that "Paramount Studios delayed two of its biggest 2020 films on Thursday, horror sequel A Quiet Place Part II and Tom Cruise vehicle Top Gun: Maverick, to next year.   Walt Disney Studios pulled Mulan off its release schedule and pushed the next Avatar and Star Wars films a year."

The A Quiet Place sequel, which was set for a September 4 release, now will come out on April 23, 2021.  Top Gun: Maverick, which was scheduled for a December 23 release, now will come out on July 2, 2021.

Variety reports that "AMC Theatres has delayed plans to reopen its cinemas as coronavirus cases surge across the United States. The company, which ranks as the country’s largest movie theater chain with more than 600 locations, will now open its venues in mid to late August."

Want to bet?

At the same time, Variety reports that "Warner Bros. is adjusting its movie production and distribution plans in light of the prolonged shutdown of theaters driven by the coronavirus pandemic, AT&T CEO John Stankey told investors Thursday.

"Stankey emphasized that the studio still 'believes in the theatrical experience' but said it is inevitable that some titles planned for a traditional theatrical will have to shift to streaming platforms including WarnerMedia’s newly launched HBO Max."

AT&T, which owns Warner Bros., probably will be as open to shifting technology as anyone, since it services so many screens and devices.  It is more wedded to the idea of eyeballs than it is to venues.  So it is willing to not just accept disruption, but enable it.