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…

•  The United States is closing in on eight million coronavirus cases - we now have had 7,992,932 confirmed cases of Covid-19, resulting in 219,706 deaths and 5,128,492 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 37,786,413 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,081,848 fatalities and 28,374,689 reported recoveries.

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"The U.S. reported fewer than 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time in five days, while cases remained elevated in several states, particularly in the Midwest.

In Wisconsin, the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases hit 2,510 as of Sunday, the highest level since the pandemic began, according to the state’s Department of Health Services.

"Wisconsin’s daily tally was more than 2,600, down from a peak of more than 3,000 reached Thursday.

"Indiana reported more than 1,500 new cases for Sunday, down from a single-day record of nearly 2,000 cases reached Saturday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Illinois reported more than 2,700 new cases, slightly lower than the heightened levels of recent days."

And, the Journal writes, "The coronavirus infection rate ticked up over the weekend in some New York hot spots where the state has tightened social-distancing restrictions, state officials said Sunday. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed schools and nonessential businesses, banned mass gatherings and limited houses of worship to no more than 25% of their capacity - or 10 people - in parts of Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Rockland and Orange counties where clusters of Covid-19 cases have emerged in recent weeks."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that pandemic-induced "public-health restrictions and a weakened travel industry have kept conventions and meetings from returning to Las Vegas, a continuing setback for the city’s battered casino industry and the state’s overall economy. City officials and event producers say they expect Las Vegas’s convention business to return as coronavirus concerns ease, but no one knows when that might be or how conventions will be operating by then."

There has been some loosening of restrictions by the state government, but critics say it is too little, especially when compared to other communities around the country.

The Journal provides some context:

"The Las Vegas Strip has transformed over the past two decades into a hub for conventions and events, competing with cities like Orlando, Chicago and New Orleans. Casino companies have relied on group bookings to fill hotel rooms, restaurants, banquet halls and entertainment venues, keeping the Strip humming through the week.

"The state’s new gathering policy likely won’t attract much new business, people in the industry say, but it gives meeting planners some confidence for 2021.

"At Caesars Entertainment Inc., group bookings accounted for 15% of hotel occupancy at the company’s Las Vegas properties and up to 30% at Caesars Palace alone last year, the company said. Caesars companywide has had 2,500 meetings and events canceled since the start of the pandemic, and that number is growing, said Michael Massari, Caesars chief sales officer."

•   The New York Times  reports on the emergence of a new retail banner called Covid-19 Essentials, described as perhaps "the country’s first retail chain dedicated solely to products necessitated by an infectious disease.

"With many U.S. stores closing during the coronavirus pandemic, especially inside malls, the chain has seized on the empty space, as well as the world’s growing acceptance that wearing masks is a reality that may last well into 2021, if not longer. Masks have evolved from a utilitarian, anything-you-can-find-that-works product into another way to express one’s personality, political leanings or sports fandom.

"And the owners of Covid-19 Essentials are betting that Americans are willing to put their money toward covering where their mouth is. Prices range from $19.99 for a simple children’s mask to $130 for the top-of-the-line face covering, with an N95 filter and a battery-powered fan."

According to the story, "The chain has locations in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, and is looking to open stores in California."

This made me wonder, how many supermarkets - already defining themselves as essential, are creating pandemic essentials sections in their stores that feature relevant items in one place for ease of shopping?  After all, they'll have seasonal sections … so why not an pandemic essentials section?

•  From the New York Times:

"In July, one infectious disease expert said Walt Disney World’s reopening was a 'terrible idea' that was 'inviting disaster.' Social media users attacked Disney as 'irresponsible' and 'clueless' for pressing forward, even as coronavirus cases surged in Florida. A few aghast onlookers turned Disney World marketing videos into parody trailers for horror films.

"Attendance has been lower than anticipated. Travel agents say families have been postponing Christmastime plans to vacation at the Orlando-area resort, in part because of concerns about the safety of flying. In recent days, Disney World, citing continued uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic, began laying off 15,550 workers, or 20 percent of its work force.

"As tumultuous as the three months since the reopening have been, however, public health officials and Disney World’s unions say there have been no coronavirus outbreaks among workers or guests. So far, Disney’s wide-ranging safety measures appear to be working."

Some data from the Times story:

"New coronavirus cases in Florida have dropped steadily since Disney World reopened in mid-July. Florida had about 11,800 new cases a day when Disney’s theme parks unlocked their gates. A month into operations, the number was about 6,400. On Friday, Florida added 2,908 cases. The Orlando area has had an even sharper decline. Disney has said Floridians have made up about 50 percent of attendance since the reopening."

•  The Boston Globe  reports that because of concerns about Covid-19 spread, tonight's New England Patriots-Denver Broncos game has been postponed … but it is far more than just one game.

"It takes a wrecking ball to the league’s schedule," the Globe writes.  "The domino effect of having to move just one game is maddening — a total of eight games had to be moved around, affecting six other teams.

"Yet postponing Patriots-Broncos to next Sunday was the only decision for the NFL to make if it wanted to avoid a player revolt.

"A noticeable whiff of rebellion has been in the air this past week. With the Titans experiencing an outbreak that infected at least 24 people and the Patriots having to fly to Kansas City to play a game just two days after a significant portion of the team was exposed to Cam Newton, NFL players are starting to question the league’s protocols and the executives making the decisions.

"The Patriots are upset they were forced to play last Monday night against Kansas City. The Broncos are upset they practiced all last week and won’t get a true bye week. The Titans have lost faith in the testing system. The Dolphins, Jets, Jaguars, and Chargers want to know why their schedules were likely blown up by a Patriots-Broncos game that had nothing to do with them."

Of all those teams, the Jets should just hope that the rest of their season gets cancelled.  Now.

• The Wall Street Journal has a piece about how "several artists and theatrical producers are developing shows these days with Broadway (or off-Broadway) in mind, saying the pandemic has afforded them the luxury of time to work on these efforts. Some are projects that were in motion, with early-stage productions outside New York City, before theaters were forced to cease operations in mid-March, while others are ones that emerged during the shutdown.

"But either way, the current period is proving to be one of unbridled creativity."  Artists seem to be thinking that when venues finally are allowed to open, there will be a need for product - and they wan t to be ready.

Among them:  singer-songwriter Don McLean of "American Pie" fame, who has used the extended pause in his nonstop touring schedule to work on a long-planned Broadway musical.

I love this "let's put on a show" attitude, but I must admit that I am surprised by one thing - who knew that Don McLean has a nonstop touring schedule?