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    Published on: August 28, 2020

    The goal of "The Innovation Conversation" is to explore some facet of the fast-changing, technology-driven retail landscape and how it affects businesses and consumers. It is, we think, fertile territory ... and one that Tom Furphy - a former Amazon executive, the originator of Amazon Fresh, and currently CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners (CEP), a venture capital and venture development firm in Seattle, WA, that works with many top retailers and manufacturers - is uniquely positioned to address.

    Tom, who was there at the beginning when Amazon got into the grocery business, and Kevin evaluate and analyze the new Amazon Fresh grocery store in California - slated to be the first of a fleet, and reflecting how Amazon sees potential and possibilities in a bricks-and-mortar world that is integrated with its e-commerce expertise.

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    Zoom, which has become such a critical part of so many people's work and personal lives in the past few months, had an outage the other day.  What was really impressive, KC suggests,  was how its president stepped and addressed the issue with customers.

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    Walmart announced yesterday that it is joining Microsoft in pursuing an acquisition of TikTok's US business from Chinese internet company ByteDance.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that "the retail giant’s entry into the global sweepstakes was a surprise and comes as the parties grapple with a valuation for TikTok, which is facing a potential ban in the U.S. from the Trump administration over national-security concerns … The Trump administration has said it wants TikTok’s U.S. operations to be owned by an American company with tech expertise."

    In confirming its role, Walmart said in a prepared statement, "We are confident that a Walmart and Microsoft partnership would meet both the expectations of U.S. TikTok users while satisfying the concerns of U.S. government regulators.”

    The bidding at the moment seems to be between the Walmart-Microsoft partnership and an investor group headed up by Oracle.

    The New York Times writes that "Prices for a potential deal have ranged from $20 billion to $50 billion, people with knowledge of the talks have said. It was unclear what bid amounts were submitted.

    "Microsoft, with $137 billion in cash and a market value of more than $1.7 trillion, is far larger than other potential acquirers and has the deepest resources. Oracle, with a market value of $175 billion, has roughly $43 billion in cash and short-term investments, and also holds debt."

    The Times reports that "a deal with Microsoft and Walmart could draw on Walmart’s digital sales background to turn TikTok into a kind of e-commerce app for both creators and users, people involved in the talks said … A deal with Oracle, the enterprise software company, would be more of a data play. Oracle could use TikTok’s data about social interactions to benefit its cloud, data and advertising businesses, the people said."

    CNBC reports that TikTok was on Walmart's radar before it teamed up with Microsoft:

    "Walmart was part of a consortium put together by SoftBank Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure, which also included Google parent company Alphabet, according to people familiar with the matter.

    "SoftBank’s Claure felt Walmart’s all-American image and Google’s cloud computing infrastructure backbone could be a way in for the Japanese technology company, which has specialized in buying young, high-flying technology companies in recent years, including Uber and WeWork, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private. The deal structure would have had Walmart as the lead buyer, with SoftBank and Alphabet acquiring minority stakes. One or two other minority holders held talks to join the consortium, two of the people said.

    "Walmart wanted to be the exclusive e-commerce and payments provider for TikTok and have access to user data to enhance those capabilities, one of the people said."

    KC's View:

    It seems clear that if this deal goes through, Walmart is going to get a lot younger … at least in terms of its orientation.

    One of Walmart's priorities recently has been in building up its third-party marketplace, and having access to TikTok customers and their data would be an enormous advantage as it looks to bring in new vendors and suppliers.  And since this builds on an existing relationship with Microsoft, one would imagine that the process would be relatively frictionless … or at least as frictionless as any $50 billion acquisition can be.

    These are customers to which Walmart may not have much brand equity, and so this could be a powerful tool … though I'd guess that Walmart's role may be hidden rather than out front.  (It works better as a TikTok marketplace as opposed to be branded as Walmart.)

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    Bloomberg reports that Amazon "is buying 1,800 electric delivery vans from Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, the retailer’s biggest commitment to date to cut the carbon footprint of its delivery operations in Europe.

    "The deal, for the German automaker’s eSprinter and eVito models, will be complete by the end of the year, Amazon said in a statement on Friday. It comes two years after Amazon agreed to buy 20,000 conventionally fueled Mercedes Sprinter vans to help build its package delivery operations in the U.S."

    The story goes on:  "Amazon, which is increasingly delivering shipments with its own staff or contractors instead of relying on major carriers, last year announced a deal to buy 100,000 custom-built electric vans made by Rivian Automotive Inc. The electric truck startup expects to start production next year and complete the order by 2030. The Mercedes purchase makes it clear Amazon will also seek vehicles from other automakers to remove planet-warming greenhouse gases from its delivery fleet."

    There is a piece today in the New York Times about the broader trend:

    "The rush to electrify, prompted by concern about climate change, a chance to offset growing delivery costs, government regulation and big advances in battery technology, is occurring as the coronavirus pandemic has caused a huge spike in package delivery. UPS, for instance, was delivering up to 21.1 million packages a day in the second quarter, a nearly 23 percent jump in average daily U.S. volume from a year earlier. Avery Vise, vice president for trucking at FTR Transportation Intelligence, said big increases in delivery truck orders hadn’t shown up yet, but they’re very likely coming."

    KC's View:

    The part of this that really intrigues me is the passage about how Amazon "is increasingly delivering shipments with its own staff or contractors instead of relying on major carriers.

    On my street in Connecticut, there is a steady parade of delivery vehicles - FedEx, UPS, USPS - making the rounds multiple times a day.  (Not just to my house, despite the recent crack by an MNB reader describing me as a "know-it-all retail analyst who has an orgasm every time an Amazon package arrives."  I live at the end of a cul-de-sac which has about two dozen houses on it, and everybody seems to be using e-commerce on a regular, even frequent, basis.)

    But the pic above is of one vehicle that seems to be showing up at least daily … and the driver has mentioned to me that he anticipates being here more since Amazon wants to do more of its own deliveries.  In fact, this fellow is a high school teacher who is worried about going back to school, and when I talked to him he was considering just doing Amazon deliveries for the coming year because it seemed safer and potentially more lucrative.

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    The Washington Post reports that delivery service Instacart is being sued by the Washington, DC, Attorney General Karl A. Racine over allegations that "it has failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in District sales tax and deceived local consumers into believing extra service fees were actually tips for workers."

    Here's how the Post frames the story:

    "Racine’s office claims that from September 2016 through April 2018, the company charged consumers in the District a default 'service fee' set at 10 percent of the order total, which the lawsuit alleges appeared as a tip to any 'reasonable customer.'  Instacart users had an option to adjust the percentage or waive the fee entirely, the suit says, but 'unlike a tip, the service fee went to Instacart and did not change the wages or commissions that the company paid its shoppers.'

    "Racine’s office says Instacart implemented a mandatory service fee in 2018 after media reports highlighting the issue but has since refused to refund customers who they say were deceptively charged.

    "The suit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, also claims that Instacart failed to collect sales tax on the service fees and delivery fees it charged users for the entire time it has operated in the District."

    Instacart has replied that the lawsuit is "meritless and argued that customer transparency is 'incredibly important'."

    The Post notes that this is not the first time that the DC Attorney General has played at this particular table:  "Racine sued the popular food delivery service DoorDash last year, accusing the company of pocketing millions in worker tips and using them to cover labor costs."

    KC's View:
     

    Without passing judgement on the merits of the case, I would just point out that the DC-area retailers using Instacart as their e-commerce solutions provider - while simultaneously allowing it to have access to customer data with which it eventually can/will compete with those retailers - now are in a position where the company that interacts with its shoppers now is being accused of deceiving them.

    Just sayin'…

    Published on: August 28, 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 US, we now have had 6,048,404 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 184,834 deaths and 3,348,744 reported recoveries.

    Globally, here are the numbers:  24,655,052 confirmed coronavirus cases, 836,143 fatalities, and 17,114,130 reported recoveries.


    •  From USA Today:

    "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attempted Thursday to clarify controversial coronavirus testing guidelines published Monday that said people with no symptoms 'do not necessarily need a test' even if they were exposed to an infected person.  The medical community criticized the agency's looser guidelines, which some scientists said had been made for political rather than scientific reasons."

    The story goes on:  "Public health officials said testing people who might have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they show symptoms, is crucial to knowing how many people in the USA are infected. It makes it possible to do effective contact tracing and quarantining to stop the spread of the virus. 

    "Before Monday, the CDC website said testing was recommended 'for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,' the virus that causes COVID-19.

    "Monday, that was changed to say that someone who was in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes but didn't have symptoms does not 'necessarily need a test.'

    "Guidance released Thursday by CDC Director Robert Redfield says those who come in contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 patient can be tested, even if they don’t show symptoms."

    According to USA Today, "Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Brett Giroir said during a news conference Wednesday that the change was meant to encourage more 'appropriate testing, not less testing'."

    The piece points out that "the USA leads the world in the number of reported COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. As of Thursday, the country had about 24% of the world's reported cases and about 22% of COVID-19 deaths, but it has about 4% of the world population."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Texas reported more than 3,900 cases Thursday, down from Wednesday’s total of 6,300 new cases, which was the state’s highest daily tally since Aug. 18, according to Johns Hopkins data.

    "California reported more than 4,800 new cases for Thursday, though the actual number may be higher. Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week that wildfires were affecting some of the state’s testing labs."


    •  CNBC reports that Gap Inc. is one retailer that seems to have benefitted from the pandemic - it reported that during its most recent quarter, it sold $130 million worth of face masks.  And its online business was up 95 percent.

    That wasn't enough to rescue the company's overall performance, though - total sales fell about 18% to $3.28 billion from $4 billion a year ago.


    •  From the Washington Post:

    "A poultry plant in California’s Central Valley where 358 workers have tested positive for covid-19 and eight have died has been ordered to close, authorities said Thursday.

    The outbreak began in late June and is the “most severe and long-lasting” in Merced County, local health officials said in a statement. Since the official tally of cases is largely based on employees who chose to get tested and reported the results, the actual number of infections may be higher, they added.

    "Months before issuing a shutdown notice for Foster Farms’ chicken processing plant in Livingston, Calif., health officials recommended making “significant changes” to break spaces and expanding testing for employees, the statement says. The company allegedly ignored those suggestions. Earlier this month, as the outbreak spiraled out of control, the county twice issued official directives ordering testing for all employees who had worked alongside infected people.

    "Those directives went unheeded as well, and the outbreak has shown no sign of slowing down, authorities said. The plant now accounts for 18 percent of deaths among people under 65 in the county."


    •  The Washington Post reports that "University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen threatened to close the college on Thursday, saying in a town meeting that coronavirus cases had doubled in a single day, the Post and Courier reported.

    "Saying that the university 'cannot sustain' another single-day increase of 191 new cases, Caslen told faculty and staff that he had asked administrators to research 'shutdown options' and he 'will pull the plug if I have to.' Many of the new cases are coming from fraternities and sororities in USC’s Greek Village, where five houses have been placed under quarantine, according to the paper."

    Caslen says that this turn of events is both predictable and unacceptable.  Well, if it was predictable, why wouldn't an institution of higher education act in an educated and intelligent way and keep its students safe?

    Also from the Post:

    "The University of Connecticut placed an entire dormitory of nearly 300 students under quarantine on Thursday, while the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shut down a sorority house with a cluster of cases for the second time in one week. At the University of Dayton, a 'sharp increase' in the rate of positive tests for undergraduates has delayed plans to return to in-person classes for another two weeks, president Eric Spina said."


    •  From the Boston Globe:

    "If you’re not planning to head back to the office anytime soon, you’re not the only one.

    Many of Massachusetts’s white-collar employees expect to be conducting business remotely into 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey found.

    "Only one-fifth of the workforce expects to be back at their workplace by Labor Day, and 39 percent anticipates to return by January, according to the survey, conducted earlier this month by the nonprofit public policy group Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and its business association collaborators.

    "Of the 106 companies — representing 127,229 employees — surveyed between Aug. 3 and 14, 40 percent responded they are still operating 100 percent remotely, while 92 percent reported over 50 percent of all employees are working from home."


    •  Good piece in the Los Angeles Times about the new pressures the end-of-year holidays will bring this year:

    "Do you really need to risk your health, or someone else’s, for the satisfaction of a shared meal and the privilege of arguing politics with your wrongheaded cousins?

    "This is one of many questions wrapped up in the larger pro-con conversation about whether extended families should gather this year for the holidays.

    "The principal pro is clear: You and your kin will have the comfort of being together after a miserable year. That prospect will surely bring many families together in November and December, especially if they can drive rather than fly.

    "The big con, of course, is that you might infect one or more of your kin. Or they might infect you. Maybe your family has been lucky so far, but the U.S. death count passed 170,000 on Aug. 17, and that list is dominated by grandparents and great-grandparents."

    Makes sense, I think, for food retailers to adjust their strategies and tactics this year to account for the fact that the holidays will unfold differently this year … families will congregate differently, and eat differently, and there may be ways to market to this new reality.


    •  And, from the New York Times:

    "As the fall semester begins, many college students will be attending classes from the relative safety of their family homes. Others have arrived to live on university campuses, with varying amounts of success; even schools that enforce strict social distancing guidelines are seeing outbreaks of the coronavirus.

    "But some students are pursuing a third option: Renting giant houses with friends — sometimes in far-flung locales — and doing school remotely, together. Call it the rise of the college “collab house.”

    "Two groups of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, have rented large houses in Hawaii for the fall semester. Six rising seniors at Columbia University will be living in a house in Portland, Ore. Several rising seniors at Harvard are renting property in Montana. There are at least seven large houses that have been rented in the greater Salt Lake City area alone, filled with students from different colleges.

    "These houses range in scale from lavish and pricey productions to smart, budget-friendly solutions for first generation, low-income students."

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    Amazon is rolling out Amazon Halo, described as "a new service dedicated to helping customers improve their individual health and wellness. Amazon Halo combines a suite of AI-powered health features that provide actionable insights into overall wellness via the new Amazon Halo app with the Amazon Halo Band, which uses multiple advanced sensors to provide the highly accurate information necessary to power Halo insights. Customers in the U.S. can request early access to Amazon Halo starting today, with the Amazon Halo Band and 6 months of Halo membership available for a special price of $64.99."

    The regular price will be $99.99, with membership automatically renewing for $3.99 a month after the initial six months.

    The company says that the Halo app will focus on core features that include activity, sleep, body fat percentage, and emotional well-being.  

    Key to the system is the Halo Band:  "Amazon Halo Band is purpose-built to focus on your health and wellness - unlike smartwatches and fitness trackers, it doesn’t have a screen or constant notifications," Amazon says.  "The small sensor capsule delivers highly accurate data, and includes an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor, two microphones, an LED indicator light, and a button to turn the microphones on or off, among other functions. Amazon Halo Band is water resistant for all-day wear and the comfortable fit means it won’t snag or irritate at night. Plus, the battery lasts up to seven days and fully charges in under 90 minutes. Customers can choose from three fabric band colors at purchase, with fabric and silicone sport accessory bands available in 15 additional colors."

    The Wall Street Journal writes that as a way of addressing privacy concerns, "Amazon said it encrypts users’ health data in transit and in the cloud, and body-scan images are removed from the cloud after processing. Speech samples used to analyze a user’s voice will also be deleted after processing, the company said."

    KC's View:

    This seems right in line with Amazon's strategy - be part of as much of people's lives as possible, enabling them to live their best lives in every way possible.

    Prime makes it possible for me to get fast shipping on almost everything.  Subscribe & Save allows me not to even order stuff that I use regularly - it just comes - which saves me time.  And now, if I have Halo,  I can track how all the jogging I'm doing in the time that I'm not shopping is paying off for me.

    I'm the only one in my family who doesn't wear a Fitbit, and I have to admit to being a little leery about having all this information being tracked.  Amazon knows a ton about me, heaven knows, and I'm not sure I need to give them more information.

    I'll have to think about this one.

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Reuters reports that "Britain's Marks & Spencer (M&S) will make the first deliveries through its new online food shopping joint venture on Tuesday, a cornerstone of its latest attempt to turn the company around and offset problems at its pandemic-hit clothing business."

    The M&S e-commerce initiative is fueled by the company's partnership with Ocado, which required a $2 billion investment.  However, the story notes, "Online grocery shopping has doubled its share of the UK market to 14% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and M&S's joint venture partner Ocado reckons it could reach 30% over the next few years."

    The piece notes that M&S needs some sort of boost - its sales and market share numbers have been going in the wrong direction, and won't be helped as Amazon ramps up its online grocery business in the UK.  That said, it must be pointed out that M&S is doing something that most retailers were doing years ago, and so it is late to the party.

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    •  Bloomberg reports that Walmart is selling yet another of its online brands - footwear website Shoes.com - to private-equity firm CriticalPoint Capital.  This follows the announcement earlier this week that it is selling its lingerie brand Bare Necessities.

    According to the story, "The divestments follow Walmart’s sale of indie apparel brand ModCloth in October, and its decision earlier this year to shutter the Jet.com e-commerce site. After acquiring various brands and sites in recent years, Walmart’s U.S. online business now wants to simplify the shopping experience and better compete with Amazon.com Inc."

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Spectrum News 1 reports that while the pandemic has accelerated the decline of numerous bricks-and-mortar retail chains and the malls in which they were housed, the federal government believes that there could be an upside - the conversion of at least 10 percent of that vacant space into badly needed affordable housing.

    According to the story, "So-called adaptive reuse has been happening in Los Angeles since 1999, when the city enacted an ordinance that allowed vacant banks and other historic buildings downtown to be converted into housing. But with more consumers shifting their shopping from brick-and-mortar to online stores, and many workers now telecommuting, the city plans to earmark more types of buildings for residential conversions.

    "It couldn’t be happening at a better time. Nationally, about 25,000 stores could close this year because of the pandemic, according to the retail analytics firm Coresight Research. That’s coinciding with a growing need for more affordable housing. The Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing estimates there is a current shortage of 551,807 rental homes for households earning less than $41,500 in L.A. County."


    •  From CNN:

    "Lord & Taylor, the first department store established in the United States, is officially going out of business, ending a nearly 200-year run.

    "The bankrupt company announced Thursday that all of its 38 remaining stores and website have begun liquidation sales — a reversal from last week's decision to keep 14 locations open … Lord & Taylor filed for bankruptcy on August 2, joining a string of upscale retailers filing for Chapter 11 in recent months. It initially announced 19 stores were closing, then increased that number to 24 a few weeks later. Now every store will close for good."

    Lord & Taylor over the years has had ownership rooted in both the retail and private equity worlds, and in 2019 was sold to Le Tote, Inc., "a fashion rental subscription service, for $75 million," CNN writes.  "Le Tote tried reviving the brand with a pop-up store in New York City and remodeling its remaining stores with a focus on technology."

    Too little, too late?


    •  Women's Wear Daily reports that France-based retailer Carrefour has reached an agreement to acquire Span's Supersol chain.

    According to the announcement, "The transaction involves 172 convenience stores and supermarkets, located mainly in Andalusia and the Madrid region. The enterprise value of the transaction is 78 million euros($93 million US). The acquired stores posted net sales of around 450 million euros ($536 million US) in 2019."

    The transaction is subject to regulatory approval, with the two parties expecting it to close early next year.


    •  USA Today reports that "Starbucks employees will not have to choose between working their shift or voting on or before Election Day as the company looks to increase vote participation.

    "Starbucks unveiled a plan on Thursday to support employees' and customers' ability to vote. 

    "'Through conversations between managers and nearly 200,000 partners, we’ll ensure you have the tools and the time necessary to register and cast your vote,' Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement."

    If recent history is any indicator, there will be a bunch of retailers that will either close for Election Day or guarantee workers time off to vote this year.

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    Content Guy’s Note: Stories in this section are, in my estimation, important and relevant to business. However, they are relegated to this slot because some MNB readers have made clear that they prefer a politics-free MNB; I can't do that because sometimes the news calls out for coverage and commentary, but at least I can make it easy for folks to skip it if they so desire.


    •  The New York Times reports that "a debate between the White House and the Treasury Department over President Trump’s payroll tax suspension has delayed crucial information about how the executive order will be carried out, according to people familiar with the matter, leaving businesses across the country uncertain about how to proceed … The executive order aims to stimulate the economy by allowing companies to stop withholding payroll taxes until the end of the year, putting more money in workers’ pockets."

    The story goes on:  "The White House, which is eager to push through a tax cut before the November election, wants the Treasury guidance to ensure that companies, not workers, are held liable for paying the employee portion of the tax when the tax holiday ends.

    "It is unclear why the Treasury Department has not been willing to issue such guidance, but businesses, which have been fielding questions from their employees about when the tax cuts will begin, would prefer that Congress legislate any changes to tax policy. It is also not clear that the White House would have the legal authority to shift the tax burden in such a manner."

    The US Chamber of Commerce, along with a number of business groups, has opposed the executive order, writing that "the E.O. creates a substantial tax liability for employees at the end of the deferral period … Without congressional action to forgive this liability, it threatens to impose serious hardships on employees who will face a large tax bill as a result of deferral."

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    From Axios Sports:

    "The sports walk-out first started by NBA players after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha grew yesterday, with even more leagues joining the historic strike."

    In the NBA, "All three playoff games were postponed for the second straight day, but players met and voted to resume the season by this weekend."

    In the NFL, "Nine teams canceled practice, and the Giants are considering sitting out a game."

    in Major League Baseball, "Seven games were postponed as players opted again to sit out."

    And, in the NHL, "After playing on Wednesday, the NHL postponed Thursday and Friday's playoff games, but plan to resume Saturday."

    KC's View:
      Ironically, today is being observed in baseball as Jackie Robinson Day, which celebrates Robinson's breaking of the sport's color barrier when he took the field in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The day usually is observed on the anniversary of Robinson's first game as a Dodger, April 15, but no baseball was played on that date this year because of the pandemic.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Jackie Robinson was not just one of the most important athletes of the 20th century, but one of the most important people of the 20th century.

    And I am reminded today of what he once said:

    "Life is not a spectator sport. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life."

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    Yesterday, in our "Sports Desk" section, we wrote about how much of sports came to a virtual halt on Wednesday as athletes looked to draw attention to racial injustice and, specifically, the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

    This prompted the following email from an MNB reader:

    I'm a little frustrated with the lack of complete reporting on a lot of these police shootings. The latest with Jacob Blake. Why aren't they reporting that he has a rap sheet a mile long, including sexual assault? He had a warrant for his arrest when this incident occurred. I found this information, so why isn't that reported with the story in an unbiased way and allow viewers to come to their own conclusions. If this sexual assault was against my daughter, trust me, I would have no sympathy for this criminal. But all these stars, professional players, etc are making these people out to be heroes. I would not want to be associated with a criminal much less stand up for them. I shake my head every time a police shooting happens and it could be prevented if the offender would just follow the police instructions.  But they don't, they try to escape.  Most have rap sheets and past criminal activity or just committed a crime. What am I missing here? No, they should not be killed, but I also think the police need to do whatever they can to remove this menace from the streets. 

    All I ask is that the media reports the whole story. Any rookie reporter could find out that these people have rap sheets and past criminal activity. I know reporting that with the story would dim the sensationalism on the story, but it would be real reporting. 

    Okay.  First of all, I think you may want to be a little careful with the word "they."  Just a suggestion.

    But when I read your email, I must admit to being curious, since I read a lot of newspapers and had not seen anything about Jacob Blake's criminal record.  I wondered about it, and so I Googled it.

    In about five seconds, I was on the Politifact site, where there was a story about this very subject.

    (Note:  Politifact is a nonprofit organization created specifically to fact-check statements by politicians.  It has been criticized by liberals, conservatives and independents at various times, and best I can tell, tries to be nonpartisan.  But if you want someone to do a solid fact-checking job - like pointing out when a politician says that "James Madison was just 25 years old when he signed the Declaration of Independence," in fact James Madison never signed the Declaration of Independence, Politifact can be counted on.)

    Apparently at least some of the charges against Jacob Blake appeared on Facebook, and so Politifact did a little checking.

    I don't want to spend too much time on this here, so let me give you a link to read the piece

    But I will give you the basics, as researched by Politifact.  It seems evident that Blake was arrested in 2015 and charged with one felony count of resisting arrest and one misdemeanor count each of carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, endangering safety-use of a dangerous weapon, and disorderly conduct.  However, there seems to be no evidence that he was convicted of any of these charges;  in fact, there are no court records at all indicating the disposition of the case, which, Politifact says, means that either the case was dismissed or he was acquitted.

    As for the current warrant, it appears that he has been charged with one felony count of third-degree sexual assault and two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing.

    Two things are really important to point out here, it seems to me.

    According to Politifact, there is no evidence that he is a child rapist or that he even has been accused of having sex of any kind with a minor.

    (By the way, I'm with you - if my daughter were the victim of a sexual assault, I'd have no sympathy for the accused person, either.  Which is why they don't put the parents of victims on the juries charged with deciding guilt or innocence.  Probably a good thing,)

    And second, it seems clear from the Politifact research that Blake never has been convicted of anything.  Last I checked, you have to be convicted to be considered a criminal.  I'm also not sure he qualifies as a "menace."

    You mentioned how you would feel as a father if your daughter were a victim, but let me suggest that it might be a good exercise to look at it another way.  What if it were your son who had been accused of a crime but never convicted, but who ended up in the hospital having been shot in the back?  Where would your sympathies lie then?

    I'm not arguing here that Jacob Blake is a good guy.  It actually doesn't matter - he is entitled to the same rights and presumption of innocence that you and I are.  I'm not even arguing guilt or innocence of the person who shot him.  There's video.  There will be investigations.  There will be a trial.  I hope that justice will be served, though there is a pretty good argument that if justice were part of the equation, he never would've been shot to begin with.

    I posted the sports story yesterday because I believe it is important to understand that institutions - whether sports figures or teams or governments or businesses - are looking at a period where they may be held to a higher standard than in the past.  It won't just be about playing the game or getting potholes filled or making the sale and generating profits.  It also may be about taking moral and ethical positions on issues that in the past could have been avoided.  No more.

    I posted the email above, and spent time crafting a response, for another reason - to illustrate why I do not get my news from Facebook or social media.  (And by the way … don't just get your news from MNB.  Do what I do … if a story interests you, read more about it.  In lots of sources.  Even those with which you might be inclined to disagree from time to time.)


    Reacting to yesterday's story about the new H-E-B food hall in Austin, Texas, MNB reader Ian Smetona wrote:

    I love seeing grocers do this and as usual, HEB executes it wonderfully. We have seen these food halls doing well out here in Orange County, CA with 4th Street Market, Anaheim Packing District, and The OC Mix.

    Your point of “be in the freakin’ food business” is spot on. Innovation more often than not comes from food service. Consumers are introduced to new flavors, concepts, ingredients, etc at the food service level. If a grocer can provide that level of education at its point of sale, I think you have a winning combination.


    Responding to my FaceTime video about the vacant 80,000 square foot former Fairway store in Stamford, Connecticut, one MNB reader responded on my YouTube page:

    80,000 square feet just so happens to be the current Market Basket new-store footprint. Just sayin'...

    If Market Basket came to this market, it would cause a lot of disruption.

    Now, to be fair, the closest Market Basket to that store, if my research is correct, is more than 150 miles away, in Fall River, Massachusetts.  But, I also suspect that there could be a lot of real estate coming available in the I-95 corridor, which runs east-west between New York City to Rhode Island and Massachusetts, which would allow Market Basket to fill in.

    Doesn't have to be Market Basket.  I did a quick check, and Price Chopper has a Market32 store - a format I really like - just 40 miles away or so in central Connecticut.  So it wouldn't be nearly as big a leap for them.  Be interesting to see if they'd be intrigued by the possibility of moving into what is called Connecticut's Gold Coast.

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    …will return.

    Published on: August 28, 2020

    I'm happy to announce that on Friday, August 28, at 6 pm EDT / 3 pm PDT, we're going to do it again … an MNB Virtual Happy Hour.

    The folks at GMDC/Retail Tomorrow have once again agreed to sponsor and host it.  Hopefully, you can put it on your calendar … choose a libation for Happy Hour … and then prop up your laptop or warm up your computer on Friday, August 28, for a conversation and a drink.  (You don't have to let me know you're coming, but it would be nice to know.)

    To join us, click here.

    If you can't join us … have  a great weekend, and we'll see you Monday as we embark on what for all practical purposes is the last week of summer.

    Stay safe.  Be healthy.