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    Published on: October 28, 2020

    by Michael Sansolo

    Like many of you, no doubt, I chuckled at the discussion Kevin offered last week about the new Die Hard battery commercial with the tie to the Die Hard movies. What was most interesting was the realization that many viewers have no personal experience or awareness of Die Hard batteries, which badly undermines the entire ad campaign.

    Staying current seems harder than ever in countless ways. Two quick examples: First, my wife and I were doing some Covid cleaning of our basement and came upon a toy my kids loved nearly 30 years back. It was a plastic replica of the space shuttle complete with a launching gantry and the reusable solid fuel boosters. We discussed giving it to a young neighbor, but realized that that since no shuttle has flown in nearly a decade, the toy might not seem as cool to today’s toddlers.

    And then, of course, is the Tik Tok commercial featuring a guy skateboarding while inexplicably pounding down cranberry juice and singing “Dreams,” a 40-year-old Fleetwood Mac song. Incredibly the video has launched Fleetwood Mac back on to the charts decades after the group broke up.

    More incredibly, ads for the video now feature the group’s drummer, now 73-year-old Mick Fleetwood, and now 72-year-old lead singer Stevie Nicks, two people who are probably complete unknowns to the core Tik Tok audience. It will be interesting to see what happens to the app’s popularity among Gen Z if aging boomers start signing up and shooting videos. (Worse yet, if we start skateboarding.)

    But that brings us to the question of understanding the difference between retro, which is cool, and a relic, which most definitely is not.  Consumer facing businesses have to constantly walk that line carefully understanding that there’s both a thin line and a chasm between something being cool versus feeling unnecessarily recycled.

    Clearly in Covid time there is some joy to be found in retro items, especially comfort foods that simply make us feel better in an unhappy world. But retro doesn’t work for everything. None of us are clamoring to go back to the gas guzzling death trap cars of the 1960s (remember the Corvair?) nor do we want computers featuring 20 megabytes of RAM and running MS/DOS.

    So sure, comfort food make great sense at the moment, but they cannot simply be recycled products from decades gone by. Consumers and their tastes have changed, not to mention their kitchen appliances and cooking skills. It’s one more argument in favor of gleaning knowledge from the diverse staff you hopefully have to help guide whatever efforts you are making.  (Age is diversity, too!)

    And while retro may work, nostalgia doesn’t outweigh modern needs. The New York Times recently profiled a long-awaited airport being built in Berlin, Germany. The airport, originally started to celebrate the city’s reunification after the Cold War, is way late, way over budget and already way behind the times.

    For example, an airport conceived 30 years ago wasn’t heavily reliant on self-serve kiosks that dominate airports today. And needless to say, charging stations for armies of cell phones weren’t part of the plans. (Wi-Fi wasn’t mentioned in the article.)

    It’s a stark reminder that what was once “state-of-the-art” can today seem incredibly outdated. So sure, retro can be cool and even Fleetwood Mac can get a new season in the sun. But change is the one constant we can count on, even in our dreams.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com.

    His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

    KC'S View:

    I called Michael after he sent me his column and told him that I was amused that he would spend some 600 words addressing the issue of knowing the difference between what's hip and what's not.

    I told him I could do it in just nine words:

    "If you and I think it's hip, it's not."

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    Really interesting story in the New York Times the other day about Tennessee Titans tailback  Derrick Henry, who has mastered what the story describes as "the most antique of football moves: the stiff arm."

    The stiff arm, the story says, "dates to football’s earliest days" and "has endured, with Jim Brown giving way to Walter Payton and so many others. Players like Garrison Hearst and Marshawn Lynch have bowled their way onto stiff-arm highlight videos that chew up clicks on YouTube."

    The Times suggests that while the stiff arm isn't really fashionable in today's National Football League, Henry is doing his best - he has not just one stiff arm technique, but three.  One is sort of a social distancing move, with "his long arms stretched out in advance of contact, keeping defenders away."  The second is described as the “it’s time to go to bed, son” move, "where a defender makes the mistake of going for Henry’s waist, only to have Henry push down on the defender’s helmet, like a father patting his son’s head."  And the third is the "barroom get the heck away from me” move, in which he grabs the opponent's shoulder and just shoves him to the ground.

    There were a couple of things about this story that struck me as possible business metaphors.

    First, the idea that a young player like Derrick Henry (he's 26) has found value in a technique that has dust on it … it is, after all, a move that is memorialized on the Heisman Trophy.  There's something to be said for historical knowledge and institutional memory … it won't always prevent you from making mistakes, but it does at least put mistakes (and victories) in context.

    Second, I'm impressed that Henry has three different versions of the stiff arm, that he can bring different techniques to a variety of situations.   Because it is important to understand that the old adage is true - if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    And that's the Eye-Opening metaphor that is Derrick Henry.

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    Inmar Intelligence is out with a new survey saying that " with the winter season approaching, 57 percent of shoppers are considering replenishing their stockpile of goods originally created at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another 54 percent of shoppers plan to always have a stockpile of goods from now on, in fear of another emergency situation like the pandemic."

    More results from the Inmar survey:

    •  "64 percent of shoppers created a stockpile of products as a result of COVID-19," and "57 percent said they still have products stockpiled as a result of COVID-19."

    •  "Over a quarter (27 percent) of respondents are considering a winter stockpile because they are concerned that certain products won't be in stock when they need them, and another 27 percent are concerned about the safety with in-store shopping during a second wave of the pandemic."

    •  "55 percent of shoppers are planning to purchase their stockpiled goods in-store, suggesting that brick and mortar retailers are still crucial for consumers when purchasing everyday items."

    •  Cleanliness and hygiene products continue to dominate shopper’s stockpile lists. Toilet paper (67 percent) and hand sanitizer (57 percent) were the top two products that are already in or will be in a shopper’s stockpile."

    KC's View:

    No mention of red wine and vodka stockpiling here, but maybe that just goes without saying.

    I know there are a lot of retailers out there that have been doing their own advance buying so they can be prepared for the consumer stockpiling that inevitably will come with spikes in the coronavirus.  If retailers have not done that, it probably is too late.

    I know Mrs. Content Guy has been complaining to me in recent days about the inability to find wipes and some brands of paper towels.  (I write about this stuff, so she thinks I actually have some influence over supply chains.  She's disappointed when I tell her that I don't … though not as disappointed as I am.)

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal reports that there is a lot of nuance to how online customer reviews impact shopper buying behavior.

    For example, "A moderately worded four-star review, for instance, can sometimes be more persuasive than a five-star rave. People pay more attention to reviews written using mobile devices. And talking about previous purchasing mistakes makes a reviewer seem more trustworthy.

    "These are just some of the conclusions from recent academic research on consumer reviews," the Journal writes.  "As more and more shoppers choose to block online advertisements and tune out companies’ messages, they are increasingly relying on reviews to help them make buying decisions—with a big impact on companies’ bottom lines. An increase of a single star in an overall rating on review site Yelp.com boosts a restaurant’s revenue by 5% to 9%, according to research by Michael Luca, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

    An example cited in the Journal story:

    "Daniella Kupor, assistant professor of marketing at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, gave volunteers a chance to buy a product with a slew of five-star reviews. Participants were shown the most recent review, which in some cases was another five-star write-up, and in others was a more moderate rating of four out of five. The moderate review persuaded 19% more people to buy.

    "'We found that when people saw the four-star review, they thought that the reviewer was more thoughtful and that the reviewer’s evaluation was more accurate,' says Prof. Kupor. As a result, they were more interested in trying the product."

    To learn more from the Journal story, click here.

    Published on: October 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 United States, we've now blown through the nine-million-case mark - there now have been 9,039,170 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 232,101 deaths and 5,878,859 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 44,322,504 coronavirus cases, resulting in 1,173,189 fatalities and 32,486,703 reported recoveries.  (Source.)


    •  From the New York Times:

    "The United States reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week, as states and cities resorted to stricter new measures to contain the virus that is raging across the country, especially the American heartland … The record reflects how quickly the virus is spreading. It took nearly three months for the first 500,000 coronavirus cases to be tallied in the United States — the first was confirmed on Jan. 21, and the country did not reach the half-million mark until April 11."

    While there is a lot more testing now than there was in the early days of the pandemic, public health experts say that the current numbers are a lot more accurate than those generated six months ago.

    According to the Times, "The new restrictions range from a nightly business curfew in Newark, N.J., to a two-week stay-at-home order in El Paso, Texas, to a halt in indoor dining in Chicago.

    "Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Tuesday that he was stopping indoor dining and bar service in Chicago, effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Oct. 30.

    "The city joins New York and Wisconsin, states that earlier this month issued restrictions or outright bans on indoor dining in restaurants and bars to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions have been loudly opposed by a restaurant industry that has been decimated by the pandemic."

    And more:  "In Newark, N.J., all nonessential businesses began closing at 8 p.m. Tuesday. As of Sunday, the three-day average citywide positivity rate was 11.2 percent, more than double the statewide rate for the same period, the city said Monday.

    "Gov. Brad Little of Idaho ordered the state on Monday to return to Level 3 restrictions including limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, requiring masks at long-term care facilities, and restricting bars and restaurants to serving only customers who are seated at tables. Idaho is averaging around 900 cases each day, up from about 260 in mid-September.

    "New mask mandates, the first in North Dakota, were imposed last week in the cities of Fargo and Minot. About 5 percent of all North Dakotans have now tested positive for the virus, the highest rate of any state."

    I feel terrible for restaurants in places like Illinois and Wisconsin that won;'t be able to swing open their doors even for reduced capacity … it already is getting cold in those places, and outdoor dining, even with heaters, is going to be problematic.  This is an argument for government support for the restaurant business, though, not an argument for reduced restrictions.


    •  Here's how the Washington Post frames the same news:

    "As days grow short and cold weather sets in across the northern United States, the country is logging more coronavirus infections than ever before. Tuesday marked the first time that the rolling seven-day average of new daily case counts — a metric considered more reliable than single-day figures — topped 70,000. Record numbers of infections have been reported in 29 states over the past week, in every region of the country."


    •  Axios reports on a new Vanderbilt University analysis saying that "coronavirus hospitalizations are rising much more dramatically in places that don’t require people to wear a face mask … The findings reinforce what experts have been saying for months: Masks — and mask mandates — work. They will not vanquish the coronavirus on their own, but they help. A lot."

    The study says that "in hospitals where at least 75% of patients are subject to a local mask requirement, COVID hospitalizations are at about the same level now as they were July 1.  In hospitals where fewer than 25% of patients are subject to a local mask mandate, however, hospitalizations are more than 200% higher than their July 1 levels."


    •  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is out with a new survey in which it concludes that "a vast majority of Americans of all ages have been wearing face coverings since April," the New York Times reports.

    However, the data only covered April to June … which may explain why coronavirus cases are spiking now.  


    •  The New York Times reports that "As the holiday travel season approaches, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the New York City region’s biggest airports, said on Tuesday that it would soon impose a $50 fine on travelers who do not wear a mask or face covering.

    "The agency, which in addition to operating Kennedy International, La Guardia and Newark Liberty International airports also oversees the PATH train system and two major bus terminals, said it would begin issuing fines on Monday. It was unclear how the agency planned to enforce the fine.

    "The Port Authority has required masks in its facilities and on its transit system for months but was not fining those who did not comply. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates New York City’s subways and buses and two of its commuter rail lines, last month began issuing a $50 fine against riders who did not wear masks."

    The Times notes that the whole notion of travel advisories can be problematic when it comes to the New York metropolitan area.  It is tough for New York to ban travelers from New Jersey and Connecticut since so many people from those two states travel to New York City for work (though fewer than did so before the pandemic).  The inter-connectedness extends to Massachusetts, where the infection numbers are high enough to merit a restriction, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has conceded that it is hard to simply ban Bay Staters from coming to New York.  But, Cuomo has urged people to avoid all non-essential travel.


    •  The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said yesterday that "people under 30 account for a large portion of the recent spike in Massachusetts coronavirus cases, and acknowledged that the state’s own efforts to trace the source of many new infections have been stymied … In the strongest terms since cases surged, Baker stressed that residents should avoid attending large social gatherings with the upcoming holidays, and that infectious disease specialists have identified informal gatherings as a prime spreader of the virus."

    I'm waiting for the post-Halloween spike to take place all over the country.  In my town, they've recommended against trick-or-treating and Halloween parties, saying that such activities will result in higher infection numbers.  And yet, there are families planning both … and it is a good bet that this will be a national phenomenon.


    •  The governors of Washington State, Oregon and Nevada have joined with the governors of California and New York to say that they will join in independent reviews of any vaccine that is approved for usage by the federal government.

    The goal of these reviews, the governors said, was not to delay distribution but to ensure that an effective and fair distribution plan is developed and implemented without politicization.


    •  The New York Times reports that "after weeks of dangling the possibility of early coronavirus vaccine results by October, Pfizer’s chief executive said Tuesday that would now be nearly impossible … In his remarks, he acknowledged the urgency of developing a vaccine amid a global resurgence in infections. In the United States over the past week, there have been an average of more than 71,000 coronavirus cases per day, and hospitalizations are increasing, too.

    "Let’s be very patient — I know how much the stress levels are growing," said Dr. Albert Bourla.  "I know how much the vaccine is needed for the world.” 


    •  From Bloomberg:

    "This fall, the U.S. will need to vaccinate huge numbers of Americans in the middle of a public-health crisis. It will also be a valuable dry run should a coronavirus shot arrive months later.

    "The annual U.S. flu vaccine campaign has been cast into disarray by Covid-19, with people staying away from pharmacies, schools, offices, hospitals and other places where they typically get their shots. But with fears of a flu surge colliding with the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities are looking at how one vaccine effort can inform the other. 

    "In Denver, public-health officials are trying to increase the number of adults who get the flu vaccine this year to 65% from 45%. To do it, they’re setting up 'strike teams' that can go from school to school giving vaccines, vans that can stop at construction sites and inoculate workers, and doing outreach to hard-to-reach communities."

    Meanwhile, Bloomberg also reports, "CVS Health Corp. has already surpassed the 9 million flu shots it gave during the entire previous season and expects to double that number by the end of this cycle, a spokesman said. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. has administered 60% more doses in its U.S. stores than at this point last year, said Rina Shah, group vice president of pharmacy operations."


    •  Axios reports as cases of the coronavirus spike around the country, so has "an increase in coronavirus-related startup funding, focused on both testing and pharma."

    An example:  "Gauss, a Silicon Valley computer vision startup focused on health care, tells Axios that it's raised $10 million to accelerate development and commercialization of an at-home rapid antigen test for COVID-19.

    "Gauss was founded in 2011 to focus on surgical bleeding, but earlier this year signed a partnership with biotech Cellex to create what would be the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be fully performed at home without involving a lab."


    •  Harvard University is out with a new study suggesting that people on airplanes are less likely to catch the Covid-19 coronavirus than people shopping in grocery stores.

    The argument, as CNN explains it, is that "specialized onboard ventilation systems filter out 99% of airborne viruses … Researchers at the university's T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that even though air is recirculated back into the cabin, it goes through high-quality filters first. And virus droplets from one passenger are unlikely to infect another because of a 'downward direction' of airflow, they said."

    The story goes on:  "The ventilation system, however, is not effective alone. Harvard's researchers described masks as a critical part of keeping travelers healthy and credited the role of disinfection and passengers' self-screening for Covid-19 symptoms."

    Still, it is not a perfect system:  "A study released by Irish researchers shows what can go wrong onboard, even when precautions are taken.

    "Through contract tracing, public health officials in Dublin and other cities linked 13 cases to a single passenger on a seven-hour international flight this summer. Fewer than one in five seats were filled. None of the travelers were known to not wear a mask on the flight."


    •  Axios reports that "Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday instituted a nationwide mask mandate, as the nation tries to combat a second spike of COVID-19 cases … Russia currently has the fourth-most coronavirus cases in the world, with 1,537,142, according to Johns Hopkins data, behind the U.S., India and Brazil. Russia has reported 26,092 deaths to date."


    •  The Guardian reports this morning that French president Emmanuel Macron "is expected to impose a new four-week national lockdown to halt the spread of Covid-19 … The announcement would follow record numbers of new cases in France that have put pressure on hospitals, and a startling rise in coronavirus deaths … Large swathes of France, including Paris, have been placed under a night-time curfew, but officials say this has not been enough to stop the virus."

    The announcement is expected to come in a televised speech this evening.


    •  Another movie casualty of the pandemic, as MGM announced yesterday that Respect, the new Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, which originally was scheduled to open two months ago and was delayed to January 15, now is slated to open on August 13, 2021.

    Variety describes the impact the pandemic has had on the movie business:  "The New York City, Los Angles and San Francisco markets remained closed due to the pandemic along with the Regal Cinemas chain, which shuttered its 536 U.S. locations on Oct. 8. Even though about 85% of U.S. markets are open, Comscore reports that only 49% of movie theater locations are open. In addition, other U.S. theaters are operating with reduced hours and at reduced capacity with social distancing restrictions."

    Theaters may have reduced capacity, but they also have reduced appeal to patrons … which is the real problem.

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    Fast Company has an interesting profile of Thrive Market, described as "a membership-based online market that offers the kinds of organic, health-focused products that you can find at specialty stores and Whole Foods."  In addition to positioning itself as a healthier alternative to Amazon, "Thrive Market is officially a registered B-Corp, meaning it prioritizes policies that embody 'business for good.' Thrive is the largest grocer to achieve the certification, with products that are certified regenerative, fair-trade, non-GMO, and biodynamic."

    You can read the story here.

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    •  In Kroger's business update call with investors yesterday, CFO-SVP Gary Millerchip 

    cited "the recent opening of a pick-up-only location in our Cincinnati market in response to COVID-19" as an example of the company's "innovative approach to improving efficiency."

    Millerchip said, "This facility has proven to be a great test-and-learn center, allowing us to identify significant efficiencies that can be applied through our pickup operation across all stores. By applying learnings from this facility, we have achieved meaningful reductions in the cost to fulfill a digital order and we are in the process of implementing additional improvements and technology enhancements that will further reduce costs and improve digital profitability."


    •  Amazon announced yesterday that it "has promoted more than 35,000 Operations employees in 2020 …  and that it’s creating an additional 100,000 seasonal jobs" that will consist of both part-time and full-time positions.


    •  Reuters reports that Amazon has opened its Swedish website for business, "offering customers more than 150 million products across 30 categories, marking its first entry in the Nordics."

    Swedes are familiar with Amazon because they were able to shop on its websites in other European countries;  they had to pay higher shipping costs, however.

    According to the story, Amazon also has "launched a 91-megawatt power project in Sweden to support Amazon Web Services data centres and expanding its retail business, and is expected to deliver 280,000-megawatt hours of clean energy a year for the Swedish grid."

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    •  From CNBC:

    "Walmart has put a modern spin on its baby department. Customers who visit the retailer’s stores and its website will see an assortment of stylish strollers, parent-friendly nursery decor and a celebrity-founded line of diapers and lotion made with plant-derived and organic ingredients.

    "Those additions could be well-timed for the big-box retailer, as it tries to win even more of families’ wallet share."

    Also working to Walmart's advantage:  "Some couples and families are moving out of cities and into more spacious homes in suburban or rural areas during the coronavirus pandemic, which may put them closer to a Walmart."

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    •  USA Today reports that Costco has promised "not to stock coconut products from Thai suppliers who have been accused of using monkeys as forced labor … Costco follows Walgreens, Food Lion, Giant Food and Stop & Shop, who also stopped stocking brands of coconut milk including Chaokoh after an investigation from PETA in Asia found monkeys in Thailand were picking coconuts."

    The PETA probe found that "the monkeys can pick around 400 coconuts a day while on chains. They are then confined to cages."

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    From yesterday's MNB:

    Kroger announced yesterday what it is calling a Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan, which it says features "both immediate and longer-term steps developed in collaboration with associates and leaders to accelerate and promote greater change in the workplace and in the communities the organization serves … Kroger's plan features five focus areas: Create More Inclusive Culture, Develop Diverse Talent, Advance Diverse Partnerships, Advance Equitable Communities, and Deeply Listen and Report Progress."

    I commented:

    This isn't just a story, and it isn't just an announcement.  It strikes me as a serious realization by a major American company that business-as-usual no longer can be allowed to stand, and that for a company to be exceptional, it has to do more and invest more to identify and nurture exceptional people from a wide variety of backgrounds and with diverse perspectives and experiences.

    Kroger is dealing with reality - that there is systemic prejudice in this country that won't go away by just wishing it were so or by saying it doesn't exist.

    There are some who think that this isn't important.  There are some who think that it is inappropriate or somehow un-American to do things like Unconscious Bias Training … but Kroger clearly has come to the opposite conclusion - that confronting our flaws and trying to address our weaknesses and to become "more perfect" is the exact definition of being American.

    Kroger doesn't need my approval.  But the leadership there certainly has it, because this is a critical part, in my view, of being as 21st century company.

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    We have come to expect bold, uncompromised opinions from you. I’m sure you’ll get a raft of xxxx for this, but that’s what makes MNB worth reading. Well done, KC.

    Thanks, but I didn't think I was saying anything particularly controversial.  It was how I was raised, and then, how I was educated.  (Blame the Jesuits.)

    Though I might've thought I was starting the obvious, I may have been wrong … as one MNB reader wrote:

    This is just another company taking their eye off of the ball and doing something that sounds and feels good. What things like this always lead to is passing over non minorities in favor of minorities, who are less qualified or perform at a lower level, so you can meet targets imposed from above. You end up with a more visually diverse workforce but find your best people have left. But damn, management sure feels good! After all, they did something. Get woke, go broke. Things like this make us less likely to shop at the local Kroger. I would prefer to see them deal with people as individuals, provide meaningful training and award performance; not pigmentation or sexual orientation.

    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

    This makes me want to shop at Kroger more.

    Plus, I would disagree with one implication of your email - that we live in a world where such initiatives are unnecessary.

    “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”  (To quote from Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises.")

    The fact is that we don't live in such a world, and there are a lot of people who have been denied opportunities for decades, even centuries.  If Kroger wants to do what it can to address inequities and systemic bias, then good for Kroger.


    Regarding Loblaw's decision to follow in Walmart's footsteps and charge suppliers extra fees that will keep prices down and fund store improvements and e-commerce initiatives, one MNB reader wrote:

    There’s no “Magic Pot of Money” that suppliers keep on hand for these types of things.  If Loblaws wants to charge fees, then guess what, they’ll get less promo funding from suppliers.  Same with Walmart.  Why don’t Loblaw and Walmart just add a fee to their customers bills to fund their investments…Oh wait, they can by raising prices.  I hope suppliers hold their ground on this insane approach, or better yet, cut out the middle man and sell direct. 

    On the same subject, I got an email from MNB reader Lynn Olsen:

    The Loblaw story about imposing additional fees to fund Loblaw’s internal investments took me back to the situation nearly 30 years ago in the early 1990s when the ECR (Efficient Consumer Response) movement took hold.  At that time the seminal study suggested ~$30B in benefits from improvement in supply chain cooperation and seamless, data-driven process improvement initiatives. I made that goal my life’s work for the next 20 years.

    Well, approximately 10 years ago at a Gartner-sponsored breakfast roundtable I posed the question of colleagues from many other organizations as to whether or not they thought fundamental progress had been made in light of all or the collective investment, work, and technology improvements since we began.  Their answer was “no, not really."

    Now again, 10 years after my retirement, the answer remains the same.  Same issues, different decade.  The Loblaw story, and so many others before it, underscores the difficulty in making structural change happen when the players involved have different interests and perspectives. Retailer profitability largely depends on supplier funding - then and now.  All we have done with all of the investments, new technologies, reorganizations, training, and work is enable the same behaviors to manifest themselves faster and with better analytics. 

    Lynn, you make an excellent point.

    I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've always thought that if I decided to retire, and then 10 years later came out of retirement, I'd likely find myself writing about many of the same issues and probably ranting about the same problems.


    I took note the other day of a Variety report that MGM, having delayed the theatrical release of the new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, several times because of the pandemic, actively explored selling the film to Apple, Amazon, Netflix or another streaming service for at-home viewing.  Nobody bought, perhaps because the asking price was $600 million.

    I commented that this isn't as expensive as one might think, considering the production and promotion costs for a movie like this, and added:

    Here's my prediction.  If theaters aren't getting back to normal by early next year, No Time To Die will follow the streaming route, and MGM will find some sort of workable formula to make it work.

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    Your prediction is going to be right on about the theater business.  The company I work for has products at the concessions, which has been non-existent since Covid-19.  All the theaters are scrambling trying to find ways to drive business through creative means.  In our discussions, we are trying to support their efforts, but our expectations are the business won’t be back until mid to late Summer of next year, if we are lucky.

    Big "if."


    On another subject, from an MNB reader:

    A couple weeks ago you talked about catalogs. The biggest surprise to me was a Walmart toy one we received in the mail. There may be more to it during the pandemic than we think. Usually the catalogs have some merit when you get then so I got scared and asked my girlfriend if there was anything she should be telling me? She is over 50!

    So it sounds like a catalog brought a bit of momentary excitement into your life?  Can't argue with that.


    Regarding some labor issues at Amazon, one MNB reader wrote:

    If Amazon becomes unionized, they will also become none competitive or workers that voted the unions in will lose their jobs.  Higher labor costs = less labor.  I don’t think Amazon would take a hit in profits just because their workers organized.


    Yesterday I had an exchange with an MNB reader who, after reading our story about malls being converted to senior citizen housing, had a negative reaction to my suggestion that they could think bigger, adding health care centers and community colleges to the mix, and maybe even provide some young person housing, for people just out of college with loan debt that they need to pay off … maybe they could figure out a rent formula based on income and monthly loan payment size.

    He argued:

    “Low rent housing inside a mall?  Great!  Let’s bring the projects to the suburbs!  Brrrrilliant!”

    I disagreed both with the argument and characterization, adding:

    I was talking about young people just out of college but loaded down with loan debt and who need a place where they can live at low cost while paying off those loans.  Paying off those loans allows them to more quickly transition to the place where they can buy cars and homes and become people who contribute to the tax base.

    One MNB reader chimed in:

    What a classist a#%hole. And no, at this point I don’t feel bad calling him/her that. Can you imagine being so against providing accessible resources to fellow Americans? As if people who are below you aren’t worthy of the opportunity to better their lives. Sheesh – my heart breaks every time I realize there’s another person like this among us.

    Thanks for highlighting this and calling them out – it won’t change everything, but it’s a start.


    Finally, speaking of a#%holes…

    MNB reader Michael Fetterer had a thought about something I wrote when commenting about new Apple Express stores being opened:

    Gotta say, I was a little dismayed by one of your lines in this piece:

    "...when I wanted to order the iPhone 12, I did so using my iPhone 11."

    Hundreds of thousands of people have died, thousands of small businesses shuttered, and millions have been filing for unemployment.  You write about this every day, so it came off as a bit braggadocios when you wrote about ordering the latest phone from the next-to-latest phone.

    A dose of humility may suit you.

    A fair point, I think.  It was not my desire to brag, but I did end up being unintentionally obnoxious.

    In my defense, I'm on a program with Apple that essentially has me leasing my iPhone - I'm allowed to upgrade every year, and this year, the monthly cost actually went down.  And I was just trying to make a point about the ease of ordering a phone these days.

    Sometimes I talk about details about my life with very little filter, and that may be a mistake.  Saying it that way did make me seem like a bit of an a#%hole.

    Thanks for making me think about it.

    Published on: October 28, 2020

    The Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series Championship since 1988 last night with a 3-1 defeat of the Tampa Bay Rays, taking the best-of-seven series 4-2.

    KC's View:

    I'm very happy about the Dodgers winning, and it was a nail-biter of a game, but I am disappointed that Justin Turner - who was pulled from the game in the seventh inning because his Covid-19 test came back positive - went out on the field afterwards to celebrate with his teammates without wearing a mask.  That was irresponsible and it potentially put his fellow players at risk.

    It was a low moment at what should've been a high point for the Dodgers.