business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    by Michael Sansolo

    A long ago mentor of mine was fond of stating a simple philosophy: “In times like these, it pays to remember there have always been times like these.” (It wasn’t until Google came along that I found out he was just paraphrasing a Paul Harvey quote.)

    You’re probably thinking that this is pointless advice for the current storm of health, economic and societal issues  - if the tempest in which we find ourselves is in many ways unprecedented, how can history tell us anything?

    Except, if we think back just a little historically we’ll discover that there was a fairly recent time that makes our greatest current problem, COVID 19, look beatable or at least something we can tame. And in the same way that the Dixie Cup created a killer app in 1918 (as Kevin wrote about yesterday, and elaborates on below), there’s a reason to consider yet another historical example.

    It was the 1950s, when the great calamity of polio was finally brought to heel thanks to a vaccine from Jonas Salk. Consider the following discussion of what went on back then and it won’t be hard to imagine you could read this today:

    “The newspapers published statistics every week. As of the Fourth of July, newspapers said there were 4,680 cases in 1953 - more than there had been to that date in 1952, reckoned to be the worst epidemic year in medical history, in which the final tally had been 57,628 cases. But none of the numbers were reliable; odd illnesses were added to the total, and mild cases went unreported. Nonetheless, the totals were not the most terrifying thing about polio. What was terrifying was that, like any plague, you never knew where or when it might strike.

    “The rules were: Don’t play with new friends, stick with your old friends whose germs you already have; stay away from crowded beaches and pools, especially in August; wash hands before eating; never use another person’s eating utensils or toothbrush or drink out of the same Coke bottle or glass; don’t bite another person’s hands or fingers while playing or (for small children) put another child’s toys in your mouth; don’t pick up anything from the ground, especially around a beach or pool, or swallow any of the water in the pool; don’t have any tooth extractions during the summer; don’t get overtired or strained; if you get a headache, tell your mother.”

    Those quotes and the incredible story of Doctors Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin are told in a magnificent essay written for Esquire magazine back in 1983, but it is totally worth reading today both for its timeliness and, oddly, its reassurances for our currently bleak world.

    The Esquire piece can be read here.

    What is so amazing about the Esquire article is its vivid description of the panicked world that existed for parents and children prior to Salk and how in a few short years the country’s (actually the world’s) most feared disease virtually disappeared. It’s a reminder that even the darkest times come to an end, but not without the benefit of innovative genius and a willingness of the general population to go along with a massive public health program.

    We can only hope that we’ll soon be the beneficiary of similar genius, luck and a national willingness to move forward together.  It is, I think, a historical lesson in hope and a reminder that there have always been times like this before.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

    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 29, 2020

    Yesterday's MorningNewsBeat featured a story about how the Dixie Cup found success - a decade after its creation - when it was marketed as a direct response to the health issues created by the 1918 Spanish Flu.

    But then an MNB reader posed a question:  In 2020, is it politically correct to use the term "Dixie Cup"?

    This made KC wonder … where did the name come from?  Is it reflective of some sort of racist framing?

    The good news:  there's this thing called the Internet that allowed KC to get to the bottom of the situation.

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    The Conference Board yesterday said that its consumer confidence index decreased to 92.6 from a revised 98.3, more than anticipated, "as Americans became rattled by the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and its effect on the economy and the job market," Bloomberg writes.

    According to the story, "The latest reading of sentiment adds to evidence of a slowing in the pace of the economic recovery from the pandemic as the virus interrupts reopenings in several states. Fewer than a third of respondents in the survey said they expected better business conditions and more jobs in the next six months, evidenced by an elevated number of Americans collecting jobless benefits.

    “Looking ahead, consumers have grown less optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy and labor market and remain subdued about their financial prospects,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “Such uncertainty about the short-term future does not bode well for the recovery, nor for consumer spending.”

    In a separate story, Bloombergreports on a new survey concluding that even as the US economy reopens - admittedly in fits and starts - "Americans aren't much interested in going out and spending … When asked about their social plans after the economy fully reopens, more than half said they weren’t looking forward to going to a movie theater, sporting event, concert or show."

    The story goes on:  "Americans - often stereotyped around the world as confident to the point of arrogance - have developed a fear of enclosed retail spaces. While about three-quarters of U.S. adults feel okay shopping inside grocery stores or small businesses, more than half don’t feel safe inside a shopping center, the data show. This is only adding to the woes of malls.

    "And that new preference for smaller retailers appears to have staying power: Even once the pandemic ends, nearly 30% of Americans say they plan to buy more from small businesses than they did before the virus."

    Bloomberg writes:  "Bars, in particular, have lost their appeal, with half of U.S. adults not even a little bit looking forward to grabbing a beer when the lockdowns end. That apprehension comes amid a recent surge in cases tied to drinkers spreading the virus. Around 100 people were recently infected from just four bars in Minnesota, and another 100 cases are linked to one watering hole in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

    "Americans appear less fearful of restaurants, but even then, roughly two-thirds say they’d feel better about eating indoors at an eatery that required employee masks, new kitchen cleaning protocols and spaced-out tables."

    KC's View:

    I wish I didn't feel this way, but I am in synch with the people in no hurry to go out.  I realized yesterday that with the exception of weekly trips to Stew Leonard's, two trips to a Mexican restaurant 13 miles away to do curbside pickup, and one drive to a hiking  trail about a dozen miles away, I haven't been more than four miles from my house since February 26 … which is a huge change from my past life.  I've not been to a restaurant or a bar or a theater of any kind and have no plans to … which also is a huge change from my past life.

    (I'm not complaining.  I continue to have several gigs, and my office always has been in my home.  I'm one of the lucky ones, and I do not take it for granted.)

    I just think it is going to take a long, long time for people to start to have any sort of confidence about going out and exposing themselves to potential jeopardy.  And retailers are going to have to factor that into both their short term and long term strategic planning.

    It won't be everybody, of course.  The Bloomberg story makes the point that "when the lockdowns fully come to an end, it’s those youngest Americans who will be first out the door. The survey shows 29% Gen Z consumers are looking forward to returning to restaurants, with about one in four getting excited about concerts and movies - more than any other cohort."

    Which isn't surprising.  Young people often think they are bulletproof.  But they're not.  Not by a long shot.

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    In written testimony submitted to the House of Representatives subcommittee looking into antitrust issues in the tech sector, Amazon founder-CEO Jeff Bezos will defend the company while focusing on its customer obsession.

    Then Washington Post writes:  

    "As dominant as Amazon is - it accounted for 38.5 percent of U.S. e-commerce in June, according to Rakuten Intelligence - Bezos called the global retail market 'strikingly large and extraordinarily competitive,' in written testimony submitted Tuesday afternoon to the House subcommittee that called the hearing. To fend off antitrust concerns, which often focus on consumer harm, Bezos noted that 80 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Amazon, according to 'leading independent polls' that he did not identify.

    “'At Amazon, customer obsession has made us what we are, and allowed us to do ever greater things,' Bezos wrote."

    The Post notes that "Bezos will swear an oath and appear at the hearing alongside Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai.," as lawmakers examine "the clout of the tech behemoths that represent a nearly $5 trillion slice of the U.S. economy."

    The Post goes on:

    "Other tech executives’ planned testimony also surfaced Tuesday evening.

    "At the hearing, Zuckerberg plans to emphasize Facebook’s value in connecting people and supporting businesses during the pandemic, and the fact that the social network competes with the companies at the hearing, according to testimony obtained by the Post … Pichai touts the company’s popular Internet services as major benefits for consumers and small businesses. Google products such as Search and Maps are free for everyone, he noted, and the company invests billions of dollars in research and development every year. He pointed to Amazon’s Alexa and Twitter’s news feed as competitors to Google Search, one of the areas the committee is probing … Cook tried to set Apple apart by highlighting the company’s focus on privacy and security. And he said Apple created the app store in part to help 'creators large and small to not only bring their ideas to life, but to reach millions of users and build a successful business in the process'."

    KC's View:

    I'm waiting for a moment like the one that came at the end of The Front. (You'll have to look it up on YouTube ... it contains a strong vulgarity.)

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    From USA Today this morning:

    "Walmart employees have a new tool to help shoppers find what they're looking for, whether it's a product or price.

    "Employees at more than 5,000 stores nationwide can now use a voice assistant app called 'Ask Sam' to pull up store maps, look up prices, locate products and receive real-time emergency alerts."

    The story goes on:  "The 'Ask Sam' feature isn't available on the Walmart app for shoppers, which the retailer recently combined with its Walmart Grocery app to allow consumers to shop for items in multiple departments, much like a trip to one of the company's Supercenter stores. But shoppers can find store maps in the app and scan items for prices."

    KC's View:

    I would hope that Walmart is working to develop a consumer component for the "Ask Sam" function … it is such great branding, and would really grab people's imaginations.  (Plus, if they get the voice right, it would be an interesting counterpoint to Alexa and Siri.)

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    Add Dick's Sporting Goods and Best Buy to the list of retailers that have decided to keep their bricks-and-mortar stores closed on Thanksgiving this year, saying that after a tough year they want to give employees time to spend with their families before the Christmas shopping rush really begins.

    Walmart started the trend last week, and then was joined in the move by Target.

    Published on: July 29, 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, there now have been 4,498,887 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 152,358 deaths and 2,189,592 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 16,920,350 confirmed coronavirus cases, 664,139 fatalities, and 10,484,480 reported recoveries.

    From The Hill:

    "Twenty-one U.S. states are currently in the 'red zone' for coronavirus outbreaks under federal criteria, reporting more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week, according to a new federal report.

    "Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin… Three of the states — Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin — had not been on the list when the last edition of the federal report was published in mid-July."

    The story goes on:

    "Only one state, Vermont, is in the so-called green zone, which indicates fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people per week. All other states, as well as the District of Columbia, are considered to be in the 'yellow zone,' or between 10 and 100 cases a week per 100,000 people."

    •  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "Some U.S. hot spots appeared to be getting a respite from skyrocketing coronavirus case counts as the number of confirmed infections in the U.S. dropped below 60,000 for the second day in a row.

    "But for some states, the decline in new cases coincided with a drop in testing over the past week, even as the number of tests performed nationally has grown."

    The Journal goes on:  "Almost 20 states, including several hot spots, have seven-day new case averages that are less than their 14-day averages, according to the Journal’s analysis.

    "In Texas, for example, the seven-day new case average is 8,079, compared with the state’s 14-day average of 9,326. In Florida, the seven-day new case average is 10,336 compared with a 14-day average of 10,737. Arizona and California also followed this trend."

    The Journal continues:

    "Several states are also still grappling with increased coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths. The Florida Department of Health reported 186 new coronavirus-related deaths among residents as of midnight Monday, the highest recorded increase over a 24-hour period. State reporting on coronavirus deaths vary, and it’s possible deaths reported on a particular day may not have occurred over the previous 24 hours.

    "North Carolina reported its highest number of hospitalizations during the pandemic so far, with 1,244 people in hospitals Monday. But new cases and testing positivity rates were stabilizing in the state, said Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, attributing the decline to prevention measures like the state’s mandate."

    •  The New York Times has a story about how pervasive the pandemic has been:

    "Not only are American cities in the South and West facing deadly outbreaks like those that struck Northeastern cities in the spring, but rural areas are being hurt, too. In every region, people of color will continue to suffer disproportionately, experts said.

    While there may be no appetite for a national lockdown, local restrictions must be tightened when required, the researchers said, and governors and mayors must have identical goals. Testing must become more targeted.

    "In most states, contact tracing is now moot — there are simply too many cases to track. And while progress has been made on vaccines, none is expected to arrive this winter in time to stave off what many fear will be a new wave of deaths."

    “'We are in a worse place than we were in March,' when the virus coursed through New York, said Dr. Leana S. Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner.  'Back then we had one epicenter. Now we have lots'."

    The Times writes that scientists to which it spoke "conveyed a pervasive sense of sadness and exhaustion. Where once there was defiance, and then a growing sense of dread, now there seems to be sorrow and frustration, a feeling that so many funerals never had to happen and that nothing is going well. The United States is a wounded giant, while much of Europe, which was hit first, is recovering and reopening - although not to us."

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "At 6:45 a.m. Monday, a volunteer in Savannah, Ga., received a shot in the arm and became the first participant in a massive human experiment that will test the effectiveness of an experimental coronavirus vaccine candidate. The vaccine is being developed by the biotechnology company Moderna in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.

    "The vaccination marks a much-anticipated milestone: the official launch of the first in a series of large U.S. clinical trials that will each test experimental vaccines in 30,000 participants, half receiving the shot and half receiving a placebo.

    "Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer also announced it was initiating a 30,000-person vaccine trial, at 120 sites globally."

    The story goes on:

    "'We are participating today in the launching of a truly historic event in the history of vaccinology,' Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a news conference. He noted that the United States has never moved faster to develop a vaccine, from basic science to a large Phase 3 trial designed to test safety and effectiveness.

    "Fauci predicted that researchers would probably be able to tell whether the Moderna vaccine was effective by November or December, although he explained that it was a 'distinct possibility' an answer could come sooner. Pfizer officials have said the company expects to be able to seek regulatory authorization or approval by October.

    "Company and government officials repeatedly underscored that although the vaccine development effort is moving at record-breaking speed, safety is not being sacrificed."

    •  Yelp has released a new survey saying that there is "a correlation between increased interest in restaurants, bars and nightlife, and gyms to a spike in COVID-19 cases across hotspot states."

    The report also shows "a declining trend in total business closures, however, permanent closures now account for 55% of all closed businesses since March 1, a 14% increase from June. Additionally, YEA finds slower, but still consistent changes in consumers getting back to pre-pandemic activities, as well as sustained interest in supporting Black-owned businesses."

    •  From CNBC:

    "The coronavirus pandemic is likely to change how and what consumers buy, forcing the retail industry to quickly innovate in a race that’s likely to squeeze smaller brands.

    Retailers were already under pressure prior to the pandemic, struggling to adapt to a growing online world and facing lower margins amid a plethora of competitors. The Covid-19 outbreak has accelerated some of these trends, with more people shopping online and an inventory excess that’s likely to cut margins even further."

    However, the story says, some analysts remain bullish on retail, believing  that consumers - especially younger consumers - are anxious to get their lives back to some semblance of normality and will return to stores when they can.

    •  Simply Flying reports that Delta Air Lines is as good as the word of its CEO, Ed Bastian, who has said that the company will play hardball with passengers not compliant with its mandated face mask policy.

    "Last Thursday," the story says, "despite instructions from staff, two passengers refused to wear masks onboard a Delta Air Lines flight to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As a result, crew turned the plane around to go back to Detroit Metro Airport."

    Delta also reportedly put more than 100 people who have not complied with its mask policies on a no-fly list, and Bastian has said that no amount of apologizing will get them back on Delta flights.

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "with fall semester just a few weeks away, the Covid-19 pandemic has stumped the brightest minds at universities across the U.S. There is no consensus about how college campuses are going to open, and what they will look like if they do. There are as many plans as there are institutions, and their guidebooks are being written in pencil, leaving families and students in limbo.

    "At stake are the health and well-being of more than 20 million students, faculty and staff - as well as billions of dollars in revenue from tuition, dormitories, dining halls and sports competitions. If colleges allow students back on campus, they could be inviting a public-health nightmare. Yet keeping classes online risks a drop in enrollment by students transferring elsewhere or sitting out the year. The University of Michigan, which plans to have students on campus, estimated this spring that its losses from the pandemic could reach $1 billion."

    •   The Associated Press reports that Massachusetts state education officials and three teachers unions " have reached an agreement that will allow public school districts across Massachusetts to delay the start of classes in September up to 10 days so schools can properly develop a plan to make sure students and staff are safe from the coronavirus.

    "Under the deal announced Monday between state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley and the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and the Boston Teachers Union, classes can start no later than Sept. 16.

    "The 10-day delay can be used for schools to redesign classroom lessons, learn techniques to help students overcome trauma they may have experienced during the pandemic, and to learn new safety and health protocols … When schools reopen this fall, most students and staff will be required to wear face coverings, desks will be reconfigured to maintain social distancing, and students will spend most of their time in small groups with the same students."

    •  The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) yesterday announced that its annual Consumer Electronics Show, scheduled to run January 6-9, 2021 in Las Vegas, now will be an "all-digital experience," with plans to return to Las Vegas for 2022.

    “Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” CTA president/CEO Gary Shapiro said in a statement.

    It was only a month ago that CTA had said it was still planning on the physical show taking place.  Variety writes that "even when CTA had been planning to go ahead with the in-person running of CES 2021 - with safety protocols - the group had acknowledged that it would be 'a smaller show than it has been in recent years.  Fewer people will be able to travel to the United States and to Las Vegas, and many of our smaller and international exhibitors will not be able to  travel to Las Vegas to  exhibit  this year'."

    Not at all a surprise, but the hit that already-stressed Vegas will take will be huge - CES brings in close to 200,000 visitors during the show.

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    It was just a few weeks ago that the AMC Theatres chain said that it would no longer run movies from Universal Pictures because of the latter's stated desire to shorten the 90-day window between theatrical releases and their availability for at-home viewing, which AMC saw as an existential threat to its increasingly tenuous business model.

    That all changed yesterday.

    Here's how Variety reports the story:

    "Universal Pictures and AMC Theatres have put aside a bitter feud and signed a multi-year agreement that will allow the studio’s films to premiere on premium video on-demand within three weeks of their theatrical debuts.

    "The pact, sure to send shockwaves throughout the exhibition industry, has the potential to reshape the ways that movies are marketed and distributed. Rival studios are likely to begin pushing for exhibitors to grant them more flexibility when it comes to determining when and how their theatrical releases can make their way onto home entertainment platforms.

    "Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. However, in a statement, AMC’s CEO Adam Aron said the company will 'share in these new revenue streams,' which means that it will get a cut of any money made on these digital rentals. Universal only has the ability to put its movies on premium on-demand, meaning the rentals that go for roughly $20 a pop. It cannot sell films or rent them for lower on-demand fees, in the $3 to $6 range, until three months after they debut in cinemas."

    There also seems to be flexibility in the system - if a movie performs well in theaters, then the at-home date can be delayed.

    KC's View:

    What I think is impressive about this deal is the same thing that makes it relevant to retailers - the willingness, admittedly driven by extraordinary pandemic-induced challenges to their business models, to find a new way forward that is consumer-centric.

    The fact is that there are a lot of movies that don't need to be in theaters, and certainly don't need 90-day exclusivity.  By finding a way to work together rather than battling for supremacy, both sides have figured out that adhering to old ways of doing business simply did not make sense, especially because those old ways were at odds with what consumers seem to want from the entertainment experience.

    These are the kinds of realizations that every business has to come to - the old ways sometimes have value and represent values, but they also sometimes just have dust on them that deserves to be blown away.

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    •  Ahold Delhaize-owned Food Lion announced that it "is adding its 'Food Lion To-Go' grocery pick up service at 38 new stores in North Carolina and Virginia beginning July 27, 2020.

    "Customers can use the Food Lion To-Go website or the Food Lion To-Go app to confirm availability and place orders."

    The announcement continues:  "With the click of a button, Food Lion To-Go allows customers to experience the same low prices and fresh food items without having to ever enter a store. The convenient service allows customers to place an order and pick up their groceries on the same day.

    "Additionally, by linking their personal MVP card to their account, Food Lion customers can use digital coupons and redeem their 'Shop & Earn' MVP rewards program savings. Customers can also see their accumulated Shop & Earn rewards on their checkout screen and view which clipped digital coupons will be applied to their order. This is in addition to their MVP discounts, in-store promotions and weekly savings specials."

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    •  Hy-Vee announced yesterday that in addition to offering this year's flu vaccine, it will have a drive-up option between August 17 and October 31.

    Hy-Vee Healthy You mobiles, the company said, "can be reserved for flu vaccine clinics as a convenient health and wellness benefit for a company’s employees. Clinics are typically held September through November."

    I wonder if demand for flu shots will be higher this year than in the past.  I'd guess it would be - the last thing I'd want to get is the flu and the coronavirus at the same time.  If I can prevent one, it would seem to be the smart move.

    •  USA Today reports that Anheuser-Busch InBev is about to introduce a new non-alcoholic beer - Budweiser Zero, described as "a 50-calorie beer with no alcohol, which is now rolling out nationwide."

    The beer was created in partnership retired NBA star Dwyane Wade, who can be expected to prominent in its marketing efforts.

    The story notes that "sales of non-alcoholic beers have risen 40% so far this year in dollars and are up 30% in volume," though "non-alcohol beer makes up only about 0.4% of the total $116 billion beer market."

    •  CNN reports that McDonald's has a tough Q2 - sales were down 30 percent, and net income was down 68 percent.

    As a result, the story says, McDonald's will "accelerate the closures of restaurants originally planned to shut down in years ahead. The company will close 200 locations this year, with more than half of them being in "low-volume" Walmart locations."

    There is some hope, however.  CNN notes that "US same-store sales were down 19.2% in April compared to last year. But that loss narrowed rapidly, to down 5.1% in May and just a 2.3% decrease in June."

    •  From USA Today:

    "The impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact Starbucks but there are signs of progress, officials shared Tuesday in the company's earnings call … The coffee giant said revenue in its fiscal third quarter plummeted 38% to $4.2 billion … Global same-store sales were down 40% for the April-June period, beating analysts' forecast of a 42% drop. Starbucks said it expects global same-store sales to be down in a range of 12% to 17% in its fiscal fourth quarter and for the full year."

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    •  Reese Schonfeld, who may fairly be described as one of the most influential news executives that most civilians never have heard of, has passed away at age 88, from complications related to Alzheimer's disease.

    Schonfeld was the founding president of Cable News Network (CNN), which he launched in 1980 with money supplied by Ted Turner, in the basement of an building in Atlanta that resembled Tara from Gone With The Wind.  Schonfeld only lasted for two years - he was fired by Turner for, among other things, demanding too much of CNN's on-air journalists - but it was his vision that set the template for now-ubiquitous 24-hour news networks.

    And then, in 1992, Schonfeld was part of the team that created the Food Network, and he was its first president.  “I am a newsman,” he told the New York Times in 1995. “My beat now is food.”

    KC's View:

    I actually worked for Reese Schonfeld during the early CNN days - I was part of a public relations team that handled CNN's launch, and I actually spent a week in Atlanta shadowing Schonfeld and some of the producers and reporters to gather material for press kits.  (I hated PR, but loved hanging out at CNN.)

    Schonfeld and I actually talked a few times after he left CNN - I remember chatting with him about the Food Network in the early days, and I have a vague memory of him telling me about some sort of TV series he wanted to do about the British royal family.  I remember liking him a lot, not least because while he was demanding, he also was utterly focused on getting the job done, and did not mind breaking a few rules and challenging orthodoxy.  It is fun to work for people like that, and I wish I'd known him better.

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    Regarding the new trend of retailers being closed on Thanksgiving, which I have applauded, MNB reader Rick Werner responded:

    I'm with you on this, KC, but let's not limit this to brick and mortar.  Send the warehouse and fulfillment teams home too.  We can all wait a day to get our stuff.  We have plenty of stuff.  What we don't have plenty of is time, and a national holiday centered on food, family, and gratitude for what we have seems like a really good idea.  Even if you look at it through the lens of revenue and expenses, a day off on Thanksgiving will contribute to employee morale and retention and make a great story to bond your customers to your brand.  That works for companies on main street as well as in the cloud.

    Yesterday, MNB took note of an interesting piece in Kaiser Health News questioning a decision by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt "new temporary guidelines allowing manufacturers facing supply chain shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic to make ingredient substitutions without changing food labels."

    According to the story, "While FDA spokesperson Peter Cassell declined to address specific concerns from consumers with food allergies, he said the new guidelines were developed in conjunction with other federal agencies as one of several temporary measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Manufacturers are required to make ingredient substitutions public."

    I commented:

    I'm sure that people who get sick or die from allergy attacks will take comfort in the fact that at least it was made easier for businesses to label their products in a time of pandemic.

    Geez.  What a crock.  This is about labels being inaccurate … and knowingly so.  It strikes me as a fundamental abdication of responsibility.

    MNB reader Liz Onstad responded:

    KC I almost always agree with your take but in this case it’s not as “evil” as you think.

    The article makes it sound like manufacturers have just been waiting in the wings, eager as anything to substitute ingredients left and right, and is a bit alarmist. The examples cited in the article (i.e. a parsley allergy) are a) extremely rare and b) often not subject to labeling requirements in the first place. In my opinion, changing ingredients without changing the label is unethical, but I do not believe this guidance opens that door as much as this article makes it sound; it is designed to allow a manufacturer to substitute jalapeno for poblano peppers or to use a slightly different variety of sour cream that has a different type of stabilizer, or use only pineapple flavoring in something branded “tropical” when the ingredient statement may previously have included papaya as well.

    For supply chain reasons, this is likely a necessary action taken by the FDA. The question of course is how responsibly manufacturers will use this new freedom.

    Yesterday's FaceTime video talked about about the future of e-grocery, which has been accelerated by the pandemic into greater relevance to the consumer, and therefore must be a higher priority for retailers.  I said that it is no longer a question of "if" or "when," but "how" … and laid out some recommendations.

    One MNB reader responded:

    Great video this morning!

    I retired from Harris Teeter IT at the end of January and am doing ExpressLane orders twice a week. Grocery stores are in my blood with my 83 year old uncle still operating the family neighborhood grocery store in western Pennsylvania. 🙂

    The ExpressLane volume has been tremendous. At my store, we are nearly out of room with our work area and in our storage cabinets/frig/freezer which holds fulfilled orders. In my opinion, HT will need to create a corral type area to give us more room. 

    As will almost everyone.

    Published on: July 29, 2020

    The Miami Marlins now have been benched by Major League Baseball at least until Sunday, as 17 members of the team, including coaches, have tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus.  The Philadelphia Phillies will not play at least until Thursday.

    Axios Sports writes that "what began as a few postponed games has turned into a weeklong hiatus with no clear end in sight."  On Sunday, four Marlins tested positive, but played against the Phillies anyway."

    The New York Yankees now will play an unplanned two-game series against the Baltimore Orioles this week to make up for the unexpected gap in their schedules.

    The story notes that "the 60-game, 66-day schedule leaves little wiggle room as it is, so it's unclear when or how teams will make up their missed games.

    "There's precedent (1981 strike) for seeding playoffs based on winning percentage rather than number of wins in a season with uneven games played."  This created the possibility that a 27-26 Phillies team could keep a 30-30 team out of the playoffs…

    KC's View:

    The great Bob Murphy had a term for this - "nine miles of bad road."  And that's what baseball is facing - it is almost unimaginable that this won't spread to other teams.