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    Published on: October 5, 2020

    There is a new report - called the fourth annual Global State of Frontline Employee Training Study -  from a training company called Axonify that looks at how employees are faring as they continue to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Among the study's results:

    •  Only 61% of grocery store and 62% of retail employees felt supported by their manager.

    •  In receiving regular training, only one out of two respondents reported receiving it for grocery (50%) and retail stores (52%).

    •  When frontline employees were asked to take on additional tasks or a new role, only 65% of those in a retail environment felt they were provided with the training and support they needed.

    •  One-third of grocery store associates felt their employer had not taken proper action to keep their staff safe through this crisis.  

    Let's be clear:  It is entirely expected that a report on training from a training company is likely to suggest more training.

    But what I found to be particularly interesting about this study is the degree to which its findings seemed to line up with anecdotal conversations that I've had with numerous retailers - many of whom have done a terrific job supporting their workers, but who nonetheless suggest that six months into the pandemic, their employees are feeling beaten up and exhausted.  Employers and employees alike are facing both a holiday shopping season that is  starting much earlier than usual this year because of strategies laid out by Walmart, Amazon and Target;  they're also dealing with the likelihood that we will see spikes in coronavirus cases as the weather gets colder and people spend more time inside.

    So things may not get much better anytime soon.

    The timing of the study's release was propitious, however, because just a few weeks ago, on the Retail Tomorrow Podcast, our guest was Terry Hawkins, an international expert on employee training … and also someone who struck me as highly intuitive about how to motivate and inspire employees in challenging circumstances.

    And so, I asked Terry to do an MNB Interview in which we would talk about strategies and tactics for dealing with exhausted and stressed out employees.  She kindly agreed, and here is our conversation.

    FYI … You can check Terry out here.

    Published on: October 5, 2020

    Walmart announced on Friday that it is selling a majority stake in its UK-based Asda Group, to a consortium that includes buyout firm TDR Capital and the billionaire Issa brothers, Mohsin and Zuber, for $8.8 billion.

    Walmart acquired Asda in 1999 for $10.8 billion, hoping to be able to disrupt the British supermarket industry.

    Now, Bloomberg writes, "Walmart hailed the deal as creating the 'right ownership structure for Asda, whilst bringing a new entrepreneurial flair' to U.K. retailing … The self-made Issas are touted by Walmart as the secret sauce of the deal, who will recharge a business that has seen its market share fall to 14.5% from 17% in the past five years, based on data from Kantar, a research and consulting group."

    However, the story suggests, "the buyers will face the same challenge that frustrated Walmart: Finding a winning strategy in arguably the world’s most competitive grocery market at a time when the way people shop is changing and the pandemic and Brexit are making food security more vital than ever."

    One possible strategy would be to extend the Asda on the Move convenience format to the EG Group's gas station fleet owned by the Issa brothers.

    As for Walmart, the Wall Street Journal writes, "In recent years, Walmart has shifted its focus toward building a larger online and digital business to rival Inc., selling struggling international businesses and favoring regions where executives believe there is potential for growth."  In other words, bail out of the UK and Brazil, and invest heavily in India.

    Walmart will keep a board seat on the company and will continue supplying the retailer.

    KC's View:

    We have a story below about how Tesco has been successfully competing against Aldi, but one of the more revealing comments in the piece is how Asda has almost become an afterthought.  Which says a lot.

    I'm a little surprised by the "new entrepreneurial flair" remark, if only because it strikes me as a concession that this is something that Walmart can't bring to the table.  It is probably true, but is it something that Walmart really wants to admit, seeing as entrepreneurial flair is something that retailers of every size ought to aspire to?

    In a broader sense, I wonder if this says something about the world and how retailers like Walmart view it.  There are old economies and new economies, and it probably is fair to say that Walmart views the UK as an old economy and places like India as a new economy.

    What this makes me wonder is, what is the US?  And how do we avoid slipping into the realm of old economies?

    Published on: October 5, 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 7,637,066 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 214,615 deaths, and 4,849,454 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 35,432,909 confirmed coronavirus cases, 1,042,289 resultant fatalities, and 26,643,410 reported recoveries.

    •  There are a lot of high-profile names among those cases at the moment:  President Donald Trump (who at this hour remains hospitalized and is being aggressively treated for Covid-19), First Lady Melania Trump, Sen.Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Sen. Mike Lee from Utah, Sen. Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, Notre Dame University President John Jenkins, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Trump aide Hope Hicks, and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Coronavirus cases have risen in 33 states and Puerto Rico since late August, and at least a dozen states have reported rising hospitalizations in recent days, according to data analyzed by the Washington Post.

    "The coronavirus map shows flare-ups coast to coast and from the Canadian to the Mexican border. Brooklyn is once again dealing with a spike in cases, and the state of New York on Friday reported its highest one-day case count since May 28.

    "New Jersey and Delaware have experienced rising numbers, as has Texas, which just recently endured a midsummer surge. Wisconsin, a critical swing state in the presidential election, has been hammered. It had logged record highs in case counts for 20 straight days as of Thursday, and recorded more than 17,000 new confirmed infections in a single week."

    The Post goes on:

    "'I’m concerned we are going into the fall and ultimately the winter season, when the weather changes, [and] we are stuck at this baseline of 40,000 new infections every day,' Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview before news broke about the president’s infection … Fauci and other infectious-disease experts say a cold-weather surge is not inevitable. They urge people to adhere to simple public health guidelines that are effective in limiting transmission — wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowds, interacting with people outside rather than inside if possible, and frequent hand-washing."

    •  From the Boston Globe:

    "The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients is steadily increasing across Massachusetts as health care leaders dig in for what they suspect will be a long winter of illness and unease.

    "Since late August, when the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients across Massachusetts hit a low, the caseloads are up 41 percent, according to Sunday’s data from the state’s Department of Public Health. The steepest increases have come in the past two weeks … The rise in the number of infected patients is a far cry from the spring surge. Yet it is increasingly apparent among several hospitals in so-called red zones — communities determined by state health officials to have an elevated risk of coronavirus infections."

    •  The New York Times reports that "Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that he intended to “rewind” the reopening in nine neighborhoods in New York City that have had a testing positivity rate of more than 3 percent over the last seven days.

    "That means the closure of nonessential businesses, public and private schools and day care centers in those neighborhoods, which are in Brooklyn and Queens. Many of them have large populations of Orthodox Jews, and the virus has been spreading rapidly in those communities in recent weeks … In total, the mayor’s plan would affect only 20 of the 146 ZIP codes in the city. Still, the move reflects the growing fear of a second wave of the virus, and marks the first major reversal in the city’s reopening since it was hit hard by the outbreak in March."

    •  One of the results of the pandemic and the recession it helped to create:  "tens of millions of Americans who have turned to a local food bank for help after becoming newly food insecure," the Washington Post writes, adding, "About 10 percent of American adults, 22.3 million, reported they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat within the past week, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse Survey fielded between Aug. 19 and 31. That is up from 18 million before March 13."

    Here's the bigger problem, according to the Post:  "Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, projects a 6 billion to 8 billion meal shortfall in the next 12 months, a deficit that may be magnified with federal food assistance programs set to expire in the coming weeks and months. The Feeding America analysis estimates the total need for charitable food over the next year will reach 17 billion pounds, more than three times last year’s distribution."

    •  The Wall Street Journal offers an elegy for the salad bar, which along with hot bars has become a "casualty of the pandemic" because of concerns about safety and health.

    "To those who always sniffed at the self-serve station, it should have been tossed long ago, and merits no eulogy," the Journal writes.  "Salad-and-hot bars snobs find them unappetizing, their open-air fixings exposed to coughs and picked up with shared utensils, containers topped with sneeze-guards splattered with ranch dressing.

    "But to devotees, the banishment of buffet bars signifies the closing of a cherished chapter in childhood memories. Salad bars, mirages of healthful eating, provided free choice for kids. Affection for the set-up often carried into adulthood."

    •  James Bond may have been able to defeat Ernst Stavro Blofeld in numerous movies, but he apparently is having a lot more trouble with Covid-19.

    No Time To Die, the 25th film in the James Bond series, has seen its release postponed yet again, to April 2, 2021.

    The film, featuring Daniel Craig in his fifth and final outing as 007, originally was slated to open this past April, ands then was pushed to November 20 because of the pandemic.

    Variety writes that "back in March, No Time to Die was the first major tentpole to shift its release date before the global health crisis caused by coronavirus could even be classified as a pandemic."

    •  The postponement of the release of No Time To Die was in many ways the final nail in the coffin of this year's fall and winter movie season, as Cineworld Group, which owns the Regal chain of movie theaters in the US, the second-largest multiplex chain here, has decided to indefinitely close all of its US operations.

    The move affects a total of 663 theaters, 40,000 employees in the US and 5,000 employees in the UK.

    There has been a "cascade" of movie postponements over the past six months, the story says, and the delay of the new Bond film made it clear that things were not going to get better anytime soon, especially since in some communities movie theaters have not been allowed to reopen since being shuttered earlier this year.

    "After witnessing moviegoers’ subdued interest in Tenet, Warner Bros. said it was moving Wonder Woman 1984 to Christmas Day, from October," the Journal writes.  "Walt Disney Co. quickly followed suit, shifting release dates on 10 titles, including bumping its Marvel spinoff Black Widow by six months."

    The folks at Cineworld have been criticizing the studios for postponing their movie openings, saying that they could provide a safe environment for patrons.  The problem is that most patrons don't believe it.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  In any given year, I would go to the movies dozens of times - way more than the average American (46 percent of whom go to the movies once or less a year), and I have no interest at the moment in going to a movie theater.  If you can't get me into a theater, then you have a real problem.

    •  The New England Patriots-Kansas City Chiefs football game, originally scheduled to be played yesterday, now is slated to be played tonight.  It was postponed after Patriots' quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for the coronavirus.

    The game only will be played if all the players on both teams test negative for the virus.  So for, reports say, only Newton has tested positive.

    •  From the New York Times:

    "For more than a century, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival has been an irrepressible force, unstoppable by wars, disease, labor strikes or political repression.

    "Raucous celebrations took over city streets despite the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, during both World Wars and through Brazil’s military dictatorship. Glitter flew, hips swayed and drummers pounded in 2008, despite a dengue outbreak that sickened more than 200,000 in the state.

    "Even in 2014, when trash collectors struck, the revelry continued amid the filth … But now, amid the pandemic, the official carnival parade has been suspended, indefinitely. Rio is reeling."

    According to the story, "The organizers of the parade decided, for the first time since 1932, when Rio’s samba parade became official, to suspend it, depriving the city of an important source of revenue and its citizens of performances that often deliver skewering political commentary.

    "The heads of the city’s leading samba organizations found that without a vaccine, conditions would not be safe."

    Published on: October 5, 2020

    USA Today reports that a new survey from Piplsay Research suggests that 11 percent of those questioned said that they had subscribed to Walmart+, the retailer's response to Amazon Prime, just two weeks after it was launched.

    According to the story, "An additional 27% of those surveyed said that they 'may go for it soon.'

    "A full 47% said they hadn't heard of Walmart's membership program yet. More than a third of those surveyed (35%) said they were most excited about the unlimited free delivery, while 24% said they like the same day/one-hour delivery window. Fourteen percent of respondents were impressed by Scan & Go, the self-checkout feature, while 12% were excited about the fuel discounts."

    USA Today points to one interesting surprise:  45 percent of those surveyed said they also had memberships in Amazon Prime.

    KC's View:

    I find it hard to believe that anyone used to Amazon Prime will find Walmart+ to be a satisfying experience, but we all have different needs.

    I will tell you this.  I find it hard to believe that Walmart will be able to replicate the experience I related in my FaceTime video this morning.

    Published on: October 5, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has revealed the three 2020 winners of its Impact Award, designed to "recognize individuals and organizations who have had a transformative effect on the produce and floral community, consumers, and the world," and to "honor excellence and inspirational actions of people and organizations helping to grow a healthier world."

    This year's winners include:

    •  Al Romero, senior merchandising manager at 99 Cents Only stores, "for his work bringing greater access to produce in his urban Los Angeles community."

    •  Jones Valley Teaching Farm in Birmingham, Alabama, which "has created a community movement that helps children access and learn about farming through a meaningful a hands on experience that is shaping their relationship with food, providing a deep learning experience, and shaping their communities in a very important way."

    •  Georgia Organics’ Food Fight GA , "created as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support both restaurant workers and the Georgia farm-to-foodservice supply chain … (it) seeks to serve Atlanta’s restaurant family by providing fresh produce to former staff while also maintaining the local food system. Thanks to funding from the Jamestown Charitable Foundation and Ponce City Market, Food Fight GA is able to order directly from the small farms that are often existing sellers to the restaurants to be bagged, sorted and shared with those now unemployed in the restaurant community."

    The announcements come in advance of the October 13-15 PMA Fresh Summit, which is being held virtually this year.

    I wanted to draw attention to the Impact Awards because I think it is notable how the winners essentially are coloring outside the lines of traditional business.

    Most people would not expect 99 Cents Only stores to have a decent produce section, much less an exceptional one.  But it does.

    A teaching farm that puts kids in touch with their food comes from?  What a great idea.

    And a business that does not just look inward when dealing with a national health crisis, but also looks outside its own concerns at the needs of its community?  That's the very definition of community.

    To me, these are Eye-Openers, and heartening news in troubled times.

    Published on: October 5, 2020

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Coca-Cola "is discontinuing its Zico coconut water brand and considering axing some less-popular versions of Coke and Diet Coke as it slashes its product offerings in response to the coronavirus pandemic … Products now under review include Diet Coke Feisty Cherry; Coke Life, a lower-calorie version of the cola sweetened with stevia; and regional American soda brands such as Northern Neck Ginger Ale and Delaware Punch, according to a person familiar with the matter."

    Coke, the story says, "has 500 fully or partially owned brands around the world and last month said it is aiming to cut that number by more than half. The effort is part of a broader restructuring spurred by the coronavirus crisis that includes layoffs and a revamped marketing strategy."

    •  This Is Money reports that "Tesco's popularity among shoppers is on the rise after strategic initiatives such as its Aldi Price Match promise ramped up its appeal, analysts have revealed.

    "Research from Swiss bank UBS indicates customers' perception of Tesco's prices, the near-record uptake of its Clubcard and its 'net promoter score' – the number of customers who would recommend the store – have all shot up since February … UBS said industry experts believed 'Tesco is tactically doing the right thing by targeting Aldi, with the view that the price leader in the market is the latter and not Asda any more'.

    Published on: October 5, 2020

    Bob Gibson, the Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, has passed away at age 84.  Gibson had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

    Gibson was a fierce competitor, scowling and intimidating on the mound, working fast, sportscaster Vin Scully once said, "as though he’s double parked."  He had 251 wins, and drove the Cards to a pair of World Championships, in 1964 and 1967, and was named the World Series MVP both times.

    Perhaps Tim McCarver, the sportscaster who caught Gibson for much of his career, put it best:  "Bob Gibson is the luckiest pitcher in baseball.  He is always pitching when the other team doesn’t score any runs."

    KC's View:

    You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, in a piece about writer Roger Angell, I referred you to a piece in The New Yorker that he did about Gibson.  It is pure poetry, pure pleasure … and you can read it here.

    Published on: October 5, 2020

    In Major League Baseball, the two American League Divisional Series begin today, with the Houston Astros facing off against the Oakland Athletics at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, and the New York Yankees opposing the Tampa Bay Rays at Petco Park in San Diego.

    The two National League Divisional Series will kick off tomorrow, with the Miami Marlins playing the Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park in Houston, and the San Diego Padres playing the Los Angeles Dodgers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

    In Week Four of the National Football League…

    Saints  35, Lions  29

    Chargers  31, Buccaneers  38

    Jaguars  25, Bengals  33

    Vikings  31, Texans  23

    Seahawks  31, Dolphins  23

    Browns  49, Cowboys  38

    Cardinals  21, Panthers  31

    Ravens  31, Washington  17

    Giants  9, Rams  17

    Bills  30, Raiders  23

    Colts  19, Bears  11

    Eagles  25, 49ers  20