retail 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: October 22, 2020

    Quibi called it quits yesterday, having been able to survive just six months on $1.75 billion in investment capital.  (To put that in context, Webvan - another classic business failure - was able to stay in business for three years, and went through about $400 million, though that was about 20 years ago.)  KC notes that it is important in a business startup to a) have a good idea, b) enough money, and c) luck and/or good timing.

    Though for Quibi, maybe it was just 2020.

    Which reminds me of a fanous movie scene:

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    The Seattle Times reports that "insurance actuaries at the Washington Department of Labor & Industries" have identified what they say is a disturbing trend - that there is "greater risk of injury to workers inside Amazon’s high-speed e-commerce warehouses" than at "mechanized logging operations, law enforcement agencies, meatpacking plants and more than 260 other Washington industries."

    As a result, the Times writes, "To reflect the greater risk of injury to workers inside Amazon’s high-speed e-commerce warehouses, state officials propose charging the commerce giant a higher workers’ compensation premium for its fulfillment centers … 

    Public hearings are scheduled next week on the proposal, which follows several years of steadily increasing workers’ comp claims from injured fulfillment center workers."

    The story says that "L&I’s move comes amid intensifying scrutiny of Amazon, even as its sales (and stock price) have climbed during the coronavirus pandemic. The company is accelerating the expansion of its logistics operations as people buy more goods online. Amazon has at least 24 logistics facilities in Washington state, according to a database maintained by logistics consulting firm MWPVL International, covering nearly 7 million square feet."

    KC's View:

    Yikes.

    I don't even know what else to say.  If it is accurate that it is more dangerous to be an Amazon warehouse employee than a logger or a police officer, that is a bad look for Amazon.

    The thing is, I would have to guess that other states will take notice of this revelation and will start to examine their own numbers.  

    There's a line from the Society of Actuaries' "Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice," that says, “An accountant is someone who attempts to value the present. An actuary is someone who attempts to value the future."

    As people drill down on these numbers, it certainly has the potential of casting a shadow on an important part of Amazon's future.

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    KSAT-TV News reports that H-E-B yesterday direct-deposited $500 bonuses to all its full-time and part-time employees, saying it was a thank-you for how they've dealt with all the issues faced during 2020.

    H-E-B President Craig Boyan has released the following statement:

    "At H-E-B, our success starts with our people. In the face of many challenges this year, our Partners have confronted each obstacle with grace, compassion, strength, and resilience. Our Partners continue to raise the bar in pursuit of excellence, uplifting and inspiring people across our great state and beyond. As we look toward the holiday season and to 2021, it’s with immense pride and great excitement we celebrate our Partners and their families for the passion and heart they exhibit every day to Texans across our great state."

    The story notes that "according to an email sent to partners, employees will also receive a thank you card, a pair of socks with the H-E-B logo and a shirt from one of its brands: H-E-B, Central Market, Joe V’s, Mi Tienda or Favor."

    KC's View:

    There are lots of ways to make people feel essential.  Money is just one way, albeit a really nice way.

    It is worth pointing out that H-E-B largely is considered to be a company that consistently gets this stuff right, and yet it persists … there is no complacency, not taking of people for granted.  That's critical to its ongoing success.

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "New applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign of improvement for the U.S. labor market.

    "Weekly initial claims for jobless benefits fell by 55,000 to a seasonally adjusted 787,000 in the week ended Oct. 17, the Labor Department said Thursday. The number of people collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs, which cover most workers, decreased by 1 million to about 8.4 for the week ended Oct. 10 … New applications for unemployment applications and payments still remain above pre-pandemic peaks but are down significantly from this spring, when the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns caused both measures to rise to the highest levels on record back to the 1960s."

    Published on: October 22, 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 8,585,748 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 227,419 deaths and 5,603,025 recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 41,549,987 confirmed coronavirus cases, 1,137,332 fatalities, and 30,945,745 reported recoveries.  (Source.)


    •  Axios offers a grim assessment of the nation's pandemic state of affairs, reporting that "every available piece of data proves it: The coronavirus pandemic is getting worse again, all across America … at a moment when containing the virus ought to be easier and more urgent than ever, we are instead giving it a bigger foothold to grow from.

    And that's even before we head into winter, when the risk of cases and deaths is expected to grow as everyone huddles indoors in closed spaces."

    The story goes on:  "The U.S. is now averaging about 59,000 new infections per day — the most since early August. New cases were up by about 15% over the past week.

    That’s the sixth straight week of increases, following a brief improvement after the summer's surge in cases.

    "Hospitalizations are up, too. There are about 39,000 people in the hospital today for COVID-19, also the most since early August.  In 16 states, the share of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients is as high right now as it’s been at any point in the pandemic.

    "Another key metric — the percentage of all tests that come back positive — is also on the rise."

    There is some good news in the Axios story - the death rate from Covid-19 actually is going down:

    "Patients who are in the hospital for the coronavirus — those with the most severe infections — have about a 7.6% chance of dying, according to new research. That’s a significant improvement from the early days of the pandemic."  However, the story notes, "a 7.6% chance of death is still higher than other infections, including the flu.

    And even if it doesn’t kill you, the virus may still do lasting damage to the heart, lungs, immune system and maybe the brain."


    •  From the Associated Press:

    "US health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters.

    "For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more — so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.

    "The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks."


    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is exploring ways to shorten quarantine periods for schoolchildren who have been in contact with people infected with Covid-19 in an effort to speed their return to classrooms, according to people familiar with the matter.

    "Public-health officials at the CDC and state health departments are collecting and analyzing data to study whether it is possible to condense the 14-day period during which children are advised to stay home after coming in contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19.

    "Options the CDC and public-health officials have discussed include allowing children who have tested negative for the virus after a certain number of days to cut their quarantine short or paring back the number of days it advises children remain isolated."


    •  From the Boston Globe:

    "All Boston Public Schools students will return to remote-only learning starting Thursday, as the city’s coronavirus positivity rate continues to rise, city and school officials announced Wednesday.

    "Boston’s coronavirus positivity rate rose to 5.7 percent for the week ending Oct. 17, jumping up from 4.4 percent the week prior and 4.1 percent the week before that. It was the largest one-week increase city officials had seen in a while and the highest positivity rate in Boston since late May, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in an interview after the announcement."

    According to the story, "Boston officials and the Boston Teachers Union previously agreed that a 4 percent rate would trigger a full school closure, but school officials have prioritized keeping high-needs students in school in recent weeks.

    "Only students with high needs — which include severe disabilities, limited English background, and those facing homelessness or involvement with child protective services — have been attending school in person. The rest of Boston’s student body has been attending school remotely since the academic year began on Sept. 21."


    •  From Axios:

    "San Francisco public school officials do not anticipate bringing students back into the classroom before the end of the year, partially due to limited coronavirus testing capacity."

    We do not anticipate bringing in students back before the end of the calendar year,” said San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Vincent Matthews, adding, “Our hope is that over the next eight weeks we’re going to have [testing] at 100 percent. We’re an educational system that’s been asked to be a testing agency."


    •  From National Public Radio:

    "Administrators at Brigham Young University's campus in southeastern Idaho say they are "deeply troubled" by reports that students may have intentionally tried to contract Covid-19, lured by blood donation centers that are paying a premium for plasma with Covid-19 antibodies … The school condemned the behavior, saying it is 'actively seeking evidence of any such conduct among our student body'."

    BYU says that "students who are determined to have intentionally exposed themselves or others to the virus will be immediately suspended from the university and may be permanently dismissed."

    Oy.  


    •  From the Boston Globe:

    "Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday implored the public to avoid the historic city between now and Halloween and said there will be early businesses closings, significant parking restrictions, and no traditional holiday events this weekend and next in an effort to thin out crowds amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."

    Salem had cancelled all its Halloween Haunted Happenings back in August, but there apparently are persistent concerns that the public will ignore the city's moves and flock there anyway.


    •  The New York Times has a story about how Alaska managed to get through the summer with "some of the fewest coronavirus cases per capita in the nation."

    But, "as temperatures begin dipping back below freezing and sunset arrives with dinner, the state’s social gatherings, recreational activities and restaurant seating have started moving indoors — and the virus has seized new opportunities. With new case clusters emerging throughout the state, the acclaimed contact tracing system has grown strained.

    "At a time when cases across the United States are rising and people are growing fatigued by months of restrictions, Alaska’s struggles provide an early warning that winter could bring the most devastating phase of the pandemic … On Friday, the weekly case average in Alaska reached its highest point of the year. The percentage of people testing positive has doubled in recent weeks. In parts of the state, tribal villages have been forced into lockdown."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reported that Chipotle is bucking the negative trend that has affected so many of the nation's restaurants, posting "its largest-ever quarterly sales as online orders helped offset lost restaurant traffic during the coronavirus pandemic, though the shift created costs that are weighing on profit …  same-store sales grew 8.3% in its third quarter over last year, exceeding the 7.3% increase analysts expected. Digital transactions, which tripled, accounted for nearly half the company’s revenue … Chipotle’s earnings, on net income of $80 million, were $2.82 a share, down from $3.47 during last year’s period. Revenue in the quarter was $1.6 billion."

    Chipotle has been testing price increases in some locations as a way to compensate for higher costs, and also has been " building new locations even as tens of thousands of independent restaurants are closing their doors as the pandemic has wiped out their dine-in business. Chipotle added 44 restaurants during the quarter, 26 of them including drive-throughs. Drive-throughs oriented toward online orders, known as Chipotlanes, average higher sales than the chain’s traditional locations, Chipotle said."


    Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a sequel to the 1984 hit comedy, is the latest movie to get its release date pushed because of the pandemic's impact on movie theater attendance.

    Originally scheduled to open in July 2020, it already had been postponed to March 5, 2021 … but now has been pushed yet again, to July 11,m 2021.

    However, Variety writes, "Given the unpredictability of coronavirus and audiences’ apprehension to go to the movies amid a global health crisis, there’s no telling if the latest summer release date will stick."

    There clearly is something wrong in the neighborhood … but there's nobody to call.  We just have to stick it out … though I am worried that we're not all that far from fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!  Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...The dead rising from the grave!  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

    Me, I'm with Peter Venkman:

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    •  Amazon announced this morning that it has filed, along with manufacturer JL Childress, a lawsuit against 11 people, accusing them of "counterfeiting J.L. Childress’ products, including travel bags for car seats and strollers. The defendants, by offering the infringing products for sale in Amazon’s store, violated Amazon’s policies, J.L. Childress’ intellectual property rights, and the law.

    "The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington on August 10 and alleges the defendants conspired and operated in concert with each other to sell counterfeit J.L. Childress products."

    Amazon points to the lawsuit has reflecting its strict prohibition of "counterfeit products in its stores," and how it, "in 2019 alone, invested more than $500 million to protect customers and brands from fraud, abuse, and counterfeit."

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    •  CNN reports that Paul Kruse, the former president-CEO of Blue Bell Creameries, has been charged by a Texas grand jury with "wire fraud and conspiracy in connection with an alleged cover-up of the company's 2015 listeria outbreak … According to the indictment, Kruse allegedly directed employees to remove potentially contaminated products from store freezers without notifying retailers or consumers of the real reason.

    "Kruse instructed employees to tell customers who asked about the removed items that there was an 'unspecified issue with a manufacturing machine,' the indictment alleges.

    "Blue Bell did not issue an immediate recall of the products nor did the company inform customers about the listeria contamination, according to the indictment."

    Blue Bell is not commenting on the indictment, except to point out that Kruse no longer is with the company.  Kruse's attorneys have expressed confidence that they will prevail in a jury trial.

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    •  Hy-Vee announced that Casey Decker, the former CIO at Farm Bureau Financial Services, has joined the retailer in the same role, succeeding Matt Ludwig, who has become the company's executive vice president and chief supply chain officer.

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    Manuel Herrán, who co-founded Florida's Sedano's supermarket chain, has passed away from complications of diabetes. He was 83.

    The Miami Herald offers a remembrance of this fundamentally American story:

    "Manuel Agustin Herrán came to Miami as an immigrant from Cuba, giving generations of Cubans a taste of their long-lost country. But he was not Cuban.

    "Herrán, the oldest of five children, was born in Arenal, Spain, in a town of 500 people, where his family lived in a wooden three-room, two-story house above the lowing milk cows they raised.

    "His family fled a desperate Spanish economy in 1951 when Herrán was 14. He started working in a clothing store, where he met his wife of 56 years before their family had to flee again.

    "They escaped Fidel Castro’s revolution to Atlanta but soon his young wife’s uncle asked him to come to Hialeah. Armando Guerra told Herrán he needed his help running a 4,000-square-foot bodega he had just bought from a man named Rene Sedano."

    Herrán, the story says, "created a grocery store to reflect the tastes of the nearly half million Cuban immigrants who came to South Florida between Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959 and the early 1970s.

    "Where Publixes and Winn-Dixies might have an aisle dedicated to 'ethnic foods,' Sedano’s entire store was focused on the Latino palate. Yucca and plantains imported from Latin America and the Caribbean in the produce section. Cumin, bay leaf and garlic in the spice aisle. Olive oil, the key ingredient in everything from mojo marinade to simple salads, shipped from Spain.

    "For a community struggling — to adapt, to speak, to cook the flavors of home — Sedano’s made daily life easier.

    "Publix claimed 'where shopping is a pleasure.' Sedano’s countered, 'el gusto es nuestro.'

    "The pleasure is ours."

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    Got the following email from MNB reader Adam Dill, offering a new contribution to our chain of funny commercials:

    You might be getting a number of commercials, but my family and I think this is one of the funnier ones out there right now (and I have a house of teenage girls).

    This is a new one to me.  I agree - very funny.


    This question from an MNB reader, prompted by yesterday's Innovation Conversation:

    Was that the theme to “The Bridge on the River Kwai” that rang on your  cell phone today?  Also, a question for Tom Furphy:  Is that a Chagall print in your background shot?  Inquiring minds want to know……  Keep up the good work and great interview this morning.

    Thanks.

    It was, in fact, the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai.  That's what rings when Michael Sansolo calls.  (And I'm still embarrassed that I forgot to turn off my iPhone.

    I asked Tom about the picture, and he said it is not a Chagall, but rather a piece by an artist called Ping Pang Pong.

    Also a new one to me.

    Published on: October 22, 2020

    In Game Two of the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4.  The best-of-seven series is now tied at one game apiece.