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, there now have been 4,634,985 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 155,285 deaths and 2,284,965 reported recoveries.

The global numbers:  17,499,767 confirmed coronavirus cases, 677,184 fatalities, and 10,956,538 reported recoveries.

•  Herman Cain, the onetime CEO of Godfather's Pizza who went on to become a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has passed away at age 74 after having contracted the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Cain had tested positive for the coronavirus on June 29.  He also was a cancer survivor, but it is unknown the degree to which underlying conditions contributed to his death.

•  From the Washington Post:

"As more major U.S. retailers require their customers to wear masks, a growing number of store employees are being confronted by unruly and sometimes violent customers who refuse to comply. Now, the head of the largest union representing retail workers said businesses have unfairly burdened their employees with enforcing mask-wearing policies, to the detriment of workers and customers alike.

"Employers bear the responsibility to provide a safe workplace, said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who called for companies to hire security to enforce a store’s mask policies or task members of the management with the role."

I think most people would agree that front line personnel should not be charged with dealing with recalcitrant, selfish and often irrational customers.  I understand why many retailers with mask mandates are not enforcing the policy - it puts their employees at risk - and why many executives with whom I have spoken argue that the mandates need to come from lawmakers … customers are less likely to ignore them if they have the power of law behind them.  There always will be some people who have a misguided and narcissistic view of what "freedom" and "patriotism" mean, but one hopes that most people would at least follow the law.

•  The New York Times reports that "coronavirus cases in New Jersey, which just a week ago had plunged to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, are rising again, fueled in part by outbreaks among young adults along the Jersey Shore.

"In the past seven days, New Jersey has recorded an average of 416 cases per day, an increase of 28 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to a database maintained by the New York Times.

"The increase has worried elected leaders and public health officials who say that young people who are enjoying summer parties are not taking enough precautions."

•  The Washington Post reports that "Tyson Foods is launching weekly on-site coronavirus testing for employees at all 140 of its U.S. production facilities, making it one of the first major American employers to commit to such regular and expansive testing of its workforce.

"The food conglomerate behind Tyson, Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm has grappled with outbreaks of the novel coronavirus at its meat-processing plants that have sickened thousands of workers and led to supply chain slowdowns … With face masks, temperature checks and hand-sanitizer dispensers now common in American workplaces, systematic testing shows the lengths to which companies may go to ensure the safety of their workers — and ultimately their customers — as U.S. coronavirus infections surge past 4.4 million."

It also illustrates, the Post suggests, the degree to which "the nation’s piecemeal response to the pandemic has forced businesses to take a more proactive approach to a public health crisis that has resulted in a recession."

•  USA Today reports that McDonald's "announced a partnership with the Mayo Clinic on Thursday for COVID-19 infection prevention best practices."

"I think Mayo was a natural place for us to go. They are renowned for their medical expertise," McDonald's president-CEO Chris Kempczinski tells the paper.  "I'm not a doctor; I sell burgers and fries. And to be able to get the advice of someone like the Mayo Clinic to make sure we keep people safe made a lot of sense."

•  The Washington Post reports that "weeks before classes resume, coronavirus outbreaks linked to college campuses are becoming a growing headache for administrators.

"At the University of Southern California, at least 40 coronavirus cases have been linked to an outbreak at the school’s fraternity row, officials said Thursday. Meanwhile, Colorado State University suspended football team workouts after eight players tested positive, and another outbreak was linked to a fraternity house.

"Preseason workouts are also on hold at Rutgers University, where 15 football players are infected with the coronavirus. Six of those cases were detected through mandatory testing in the past week, and an on-campus party attended by several of the athletes might be to blame, reported.

"A cluster of a dozen cases at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., are likewise believed to be the result of an off-campus social gathering where no masks were worn and students failed to practice social distancing. The outbreak included some students who were on campus to help lead orientation programs last week, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"Many other colleges refuse to disclose how many of their students have tested positive, making it harder to determine whether outbreaks are happening."

For the record, the colleges refusing to disclose their case numbers are not doing so because the levels are so low.  It just doesn't work that way.

One other thing.  I've had some MNB readers ask why I'm spending time writing about the schools situation, suggesting that it isn't related to business.  But I would disagree.  If kids can''t go to school, it will affect the workforce, and it also will affect people's consumption and purchase habits.  And if they do go back to physical; classrooms, I am completely persuaded (and I say this as the husband of a teacher and the father of another) that this is going to lead to spikes and resurgences all over the country, which is going to affect the economy, which is going to affect business.  Make sense?

•  Some other coronavirus notes from the Washington Post:

  • "Despite experiencing milder symptoms, children may carry as much of the coronavirus in their respiratory systems as adults, according to a new study published Thursday in JAMA Pediatrics."
  • "An Indiana school that reopened Thursday had a student test positive for covid-19 on the first day of class, as battles over returning to classrooms continued to rage nationwide.

"Some school districts in central Indiana resumed in-person classes this week, making them among the first in the nation to do so. At Greenfield Central Junior High School, the emergency response protocol immediately got put to the test when administrators learned that a student had tested positive midway through the school day, WTHR reported. The student was isolated at the school’s health clinic while officials reviewed schedules to identify any other students who might have been exposed and notify their parents."

  • "Nepal is reopening Mount Everest to international visitors in an attempt to make up for lost revenue after the country closed its borders in March.

"Lockdown restrictions in the Himalayan nation were lifted last week, and Nepal is now open for tourism, 'including mountaineering and trekking,' officials told AFP. International flights will resume on Aug. 17."

•  From the Associated Press:

"Dunkin’ Brands Inc. expects to close up to 800 underperforming U.S. stores this year as it tries to shore up its portfolio in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The company had previously announced the closure of 450 stores within Speedway gas stations. But the company said Thursday it’s targeting an additional 350 stores, most of which are unprofitable. Closing the restaurants would allow their franchisees to reinvest in newer stores in higher-traffic areas, Dunkin’ Chief Financial Officer Katherine Jaspon said during a conference call with investors."

The company says that the units being closed are eight percent of the fleet, but just two percent of sales.

•  The Los Angeles Times reports that "California Pizza Kitchen Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, becoming the latest restaurant chain to try to cut debt as it grapples with the pandemic … The company, which operates more than 200 restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, has reached an agreement with a majority of its senior creditors on a restructuring plan. It’s looking to reduce its debt by $230 million, more than half of the total, and raise additional funding from existing lenders to buttress its balance sheet, according to court filings."

•  From ESPN:

"The Philadelphia Phillies have canceled all activities at Citizens Bank Park, including a weekend series against the Blue Jays, after a member of the coaching staff and a member of the home clubhouse staff tested positive for the coronavirus, the team announced Thursday.

"The Phillies said no players have tested positive.

"As a result, Saturday's doubleheader and Sunday's game in Philadelphia have been postponed, said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who told reporters that his team plans to remain in Washington for the weekend after completing their series Thursday with the Nationals … The Phillies have not played since Sunday. They are currently not scheduled to play until a four-game series against the Yankees -- in New York on Monday and Tuesday and at home Wednesday and Thursday."

ESPN notes that "the new positive tests Thursday come after an attendant for the visiting clubhouse tested positive after a weekend series against the Miami Marlins, who have had 19 positive tests in the past seven days."