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    Published on: November 13, 2020

    Today, KC ends the week where it started … with a discussion that started with criticisms of Hy-Vee for a culture that some say has changed, and with observations about broader lessons that can be drawn from the conversation on MNB that ensured.

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    Today, we look back almost exactly 50 years … to a story that got a lot of national attention at the time, and continues to live on via the internet.  

    For which I say, thank goodness for the internet.

    To be honest, I was unfamiliar with this story until now, even though I've spent a lot of time on the Oregon coast, which is where this story took place.  I am glad to be acquainted with it now … and am in awe of the deadpan way in which television correspondent Paul Linnman narrates it in the clip below.

    And there is, of course, a business lesson … about how it is important to know not just what to do, but what not to do.

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    Amazon announced yesterday that it is expanding its Key In-Garage Delivery service - which "lets eligible Prime members enjoy contactless package delivery securely inside their garage, and offers convenient delivery confirmation for customers using the Key by Amazon app - from the 50 cities where it originally was launched to "more than 4,000 cities across the United States," where it will be available to "tens of millions of Amazon Prime members."

    Here's how it works:

    "Key In-Garage Delivery lets eligible Prime members with a myQ smart garage door opener receive packages securely inside their garage. Once they link their myQ app with Key, customers simply select 'FREE In-Garage Delivery' at checkout on Packages are securely delivered by a delivery service professional, and customers can easily use the Key by Amazon app or the Amazon mobile shopping app to be notified when their package is delivered. To view videos of their delivery, customers can also use a compatible Ring smart home camera with their Ring Protect Plan, or LiftMaster Smart Garage Camera powered by myQ with a myQ Video Storage Subscription."

    Amazon also said that  it "is also launching Key In-Garage Grocery Delivery. Beginning today in five cities, this new service enables eligible Prime members to have their grocery orders from Whole Foods Market or Amazon Fresh delivered securely into their garage. The service will be available in select areas of Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle before expanding to other cities in the U.S."

    KC's View:

    If Amazon's goal is to become inextricably intertwined in all out lives - and I think that is precisely the plan - then creating enough confidence that people will allow them into their garages is a key part of the strategy.

    It also points to the degree to which Amazon wants to own the delivery function, and not just depend on third-parties to which it outsources a key component of the customer experience.

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart "is placing 'pop-up' e-commerce fulfillment centers inside dozens of its regional distribution facilities as it braces for an expected crush of online sales during the holiday season.

    "The 42 sites will hold fast-moving items in sections of warehouses that are traditionally used to ship pallets of goods to Walmart stores. The network of pop-up sites will ship up to 30% of Walmart’s online holiday volume, the company said in announcing the plan Thursday, adding to the fulfillment capacity at its stores and dedicated e-commerce campuses that typically contain two or more fulfillment centers."

    “It is a seamless merge of stores and e-commerce, so our buildings can do either one,” Srini Venkatesan, an executive vice president at Walmart Global Technology who oversees supply-chain technology, tells the Journal.

    KC's View:

    It is the "seamless merge" line that grabs my attention.  It is not about channels of trade, or formats.  It is about connecting to customers in as frictionless and consistent a way as possible.

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning on how Walmart, Target and Kroger believe that advertising revenue connected to their online business will "help juice their profits over the long run … Those plans got a boost from the pandemic, which has accelerated the e-commerce transition by years, giving well-placed retailers a sudden windfall of online traffic and consumer data."

    An excerpt:

    "A retailer can earn advertising dollars off this trend in a couple of ways. The most obvious is by selling advertising space to its suppliers, including targeted coupons, sponsored results or even a landing page dedicated to the brand. But they are also able to gather a lot of data on where individual consumers’ dollars go, giving them insights that they can then sell to others. Having a robust third-party marketplace, as Amazon does, helps a lot, because it broadens the number of potential clients. Both Walmart and Kroger have made big steps in that direction: Walmart has increased sales on its e-commerce marketplace by triple digits in the last reported quarter, while Kroger opened its website to third-party vendors for the first time this year."

    Advertisers, the Journal writes, "are finding that it is much easier to measure their returns on ad dollars spent on sites such as Walmart as opposed to podcasts, YouTube, social media influencers and the like, according to an April 2020 report compiled by marketing agency Catalyst and market-research company Kantar."

    Here's a success story for you:  " In its third quarter, Amazon’s 'other' revenue, which now primarily comprises advertising, grew roughly 51% from a year earlier to $5.4 billion, a much faster pace than the rest of the business."

    KC's View:

    It isn'r just about generating more revenue that goes to the bottom line.  It is about having more dollars on hand with which to compete and put other retailers at a disadvantage.  Dollars aren't just a measure of success.  They're also a weapon.

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    In a piece about about the troubles that so many malls have encountered, largely because of shifting consumer behavior that was prompted by e-commerce and then accelerated by the pandemic, the Financial Times writes, "The shopping centre is not a lost cause. It could even gain from the pandemic in the long term, if more families take advantage of remote working and move to suburbs. They will not want to spend all their money online and gathering shops in a convenient spot remains a sensible idea.

    "But malls need to evolve from the two-storey, air-conditioned boxes that border many towns, with department stores such as JCPenney anchoring the ends and food courts in the middle. They must be more enticing, less uniform and smaller; they could even learn from the high streets they replaced."

    To read more, click here.

    Published on: November 13, 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 10,873,936 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 248,585 deaths and 6,728,120 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 53,198,401 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,301,384 fatalities, and 37,281,310 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "The U.S. for the first time reported more than 150,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, driven by record infection counts in more than a dozen states … California became the second state in the country after Texas to surpass one million total cases.

    "Across the country, daily caseloads surged. Illinois reported a record number of infections for the second day in a row. Ohio and Minnesota each topped 7,000 daily cases for the first time since the pandemic began, while Pennsylvania and Indiana reported more than 6,000 cases in a day, according to Johns Hopkins. Other states recording all-time highs included Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oregon, New Hampshire and Vermont.

    "The rising numbers of cases pushed hospitalizations higher. The number of people hospitalized due to Covid-19 rose to a record 67,096 for Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Intensive-care units continued to face pressure. As of Wednesday, there were 12,796 Covid-19 patients in ICUs, the highest number since May 2."

    •  From the Washington Post this morning:

    "Covid’s long, dark winter has already arrived in the Upper Midwest, as cases and deaths surge, snatching lives, overwhelming hospitals, exhausting health-care providers and raising fears that the region’s medical system will be completely overwhelmed in the coming days.

    "As coronavirus cases grow across the United States — up 70 percent on average in the past two weeks, with an average of 130,000 cases per day nationally — the situation is particularly acute now in the Upper Midwest and Plains states, with North and South Dakota leading the nation in new cases and deaths per capita over the past week, according to Washington Post data."

    •  From the New York Times:

    "No state is seeing cases decline. Thirty-one states — from Alaska and Idaho in the West to Connecticut and New Hampshire in the East — added more cases in the seven-day period ending Wednesday than in any previous week of the pandemic. Vermont, Utah and Oregon were among at least 10 states with single-day case records on Thursday.

    "But the outlook is especially dire in the Great Lakes region. Pennsylvania, Indiana and Minnesota all exceeded their previous single-day records on Thursday by more than 1,000 cases. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio warned that hospitalizations had soared to record levels. Wisconsin surpassed 300,000 known cases this week, an increase of more than 130,000 in just a month."

    •  The Washington Post reports that "a record-breaking surge in U.S. coronavirus cases is being driven to a significant degree by casual occasions that may feel deceptively safe, officials and scientists warn — dinner parties, game nights, sleepovers and carpools.

    "Many earlier coronavirus clusters were linked to nursing homes and crowded nightclubs. But public health officials nationwide say case investigations are increasingly leading them to small, private social gatherings. This behind-doors transmission trend reflects pandemic fatigue and widening social bubbles, experts say — and is particularly insidious because it is so difficult to police and likely to increase as temperatures drop and holidays approach."

    •  The New York Times this morning reports that "Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, urged Americans on Thursday to 'double down' on basic precautions as coronavirus cases soared across the country and more Covid-19 patients were hospitalized than ever before."

    Fauci said he believed that a national lockdown would not be necessary if Americans were to embrace actions such as social distancing and masks.

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that "grocery stores are reinstating purchase limits on items like paper towels or soap for the first time since the spring, as consumers stock up on staples amid rising Covid-19 cases.

    "With people staying at home more, retailers say there is renewed demand for paper products and frozen foods. Stores also are reporting new shortages in staple cooking ingredients like butter and spices.

    "Kroger Co. , the nation’s largest grocer, and Publix Super Markets Inc., a chain of more than 1,200 stores in the Southeast, reinstated limits on bath tissue and paper towels last week. Kroger also brought back limits on hand soap and disinfectant wipes … Some grocers, including Wegmans Food Markets Inc., haven’t fully lifted limits on staples to build up extra inventory. Others, including Albertsons Cos., are enforcing limits in some regions rather than across all of their stores.

    "Grocery executives say they have learned that consumers care more about buying what they need than getting a specific product. Retailers are giving priority to ways to keep their shelves stocked, focusing on the key staples instead of offering a variety of choices."

    •  Albertsons said this week that "through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Strategy for COVID-19 Vaccination," its pharmacies "will receive a direct allocation of COVID-19 vaccine once it is authorized or approved and recommended for use in the United States. 

    "The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made the announcement earlier today, in which it outlined its partnership with pharmacy chains to maximize access to COVID-19 vaccines for all Americans."

    •  MarketWatch reports that "Costco Wholesale Corp. will require all employees and customers to wear face masks or face shields starting Monday.

    "Costco has required masks in stores since May 4, but customers who could not wear face masks due to a medical condition were exempt from that rule. That will no longer be the case.

    In a letter to members, CEO Craig Jelinek wrote, "If a member has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, they must wear a face shield at Costco … This updated policy may seem inconvenient to some, however we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience.  Our goal is to continue to provide a safe shopping environment for our members and guests, and to provide a safe work environment for our employees."

    With the pandemic numbers surging all over the country, this strikes me as the only logical response.  No exceptions.  It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

    •  Fox Business  reports that "the pre-concert checklist for music fans is about to get more complicated, as Ticketmaster is planning to check the coronavirus vaccination status of concert-goers prior to shows once a treatment is approved … The ticketing giant plans to have customers use their cellphones to verify their inoculation or whether they’ve tested negative for the virus within a 24- to 72-hour window, according to the exclusive report.

    "The plan, which is still being ironed out, will utilize three separate components, including the California-based company’s digital ticketing app, third-party health information firms like CLEAR Health Pass and testing/vaccination distributors like Labcorp or CVS Minute Clinic."

    If this technology is demonstrated to work and is widely available, then all the organizations that have had to postpone or cancel live conferences ought to adopt it ASAP.  And companies like CLEAR ought to be aggressively marketing their services to these organizations.

    •  Variety reports that "Disneyland is expected to remain closed until the end of the entertainment and media conglomerate’s fiscal first quarter, which falls on Dec. 31 … The Anaheim, Calif. theme park has been closed since mid-March amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As of Nov. 11, California had nearly 1 million recorded cases of COVID-19 and over 18,000 deaths."

    Disney execs expressed "disappointment" that California's approach to the pandemic is keeping its doors closed.

    According to the story, CEO Bob Chapek "urged state leadership in California to 'look objectively' as opposed to setting an 'arbitrary standard' that he says has kept cast members, as Disney parks employees are known, out of work. He says the closure is 'decimating' small businesses in the local Orange County community."

    •  Variety reports:

    "Six weeks before Wonder Woman 1984 is scheduled to open in theaters on Christmas, Warner Bros. execs are considering whether to push the highly anticipated superhero sequel to the summer of 2021, or keep the movie on its Dec. 25 theatrical debut and then put it on the HBO Max streaming service in early January, according to sources with knowledge of the plans.

    "The fate of the highly anticipated superhero film has been in limbo since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March, pushing the film’s theatrical release from June 5 to Aug. 14, then to Oct. 2, and finally to Dec. 25. But with COVID-19 cases spiking at alarming rates across the country, Warner Bros. is facing the the specter of another widespread shutdown, especially in major urban areas that drive the vast majority of the theatrical business. A cursory theatrical release could still support exhibitors on the knife’s edge of collapse, while also boosting subscriber growth for HBO Max, which has struggled to build an audience large enough to compete against Netflix, Amazon, and Disney Plus."

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    This one is from Coca-Cola, and is directed by Taika Waititi, who probably is best-known for his work on Thor: Ragnarok … and was mentioned by several MNB readers who were charmed by the Supervalu commercial we ran yesterday.

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    •  Walmart's website reportedly went down yesterday, overwhelmed, apparently, by people "rushing to buy" Sony's next-generation PlayStation 5.

    CNet reports that its "staffers and people on social media reported having the console in their cart with shipping info before the site crashed and said it was out of stock.

    "A message on Walmart's site featured a photo of a dog wearing a pair of felt reindeer antlers and read: 'Oh, deer. The whole North Pole is trying to save big right now, so please try again in a moment. Yule love our holiday deals'."

    The problem seems to have persisted, despite Walmart's best efforts:

    "The new console is expected to sell out quickly at every major retailer, but unlike some other retailers, Walmart is making its PlayStation 5 inventory available in segments throughout the day, at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. PT. Walmart is offering the $400 digital-only version of the PS5 as well as the $500 model with Blu-ray. 

    "During the second staggered release at 12:00 p.m. PT, the site appeared to crash even faster, with the 'add to cart' button not appearing for several minutes while the page loaded. Pushing the button then produced error messages, while reloading the page led to a 'could not connect to server' message. Once the page finally reloaded, a message saying 'This item is no longer available and wasn't added to your cart' appeared. Many others on Twitter reported once more having the console added to their carts before it was removed after a long loading time.

    "Would-be Walmart customers experienced the same thing during the third drop at 6:00 p.m. PT, with the PS5 apparently selling out within seconds."

    I got the following email, a first-hand account, from MNB reader Joe Ciccarelli…

    So today was the launch of the new Sony PS5 PlayStation. I wanted one for a Grandson. After researching I found out this is a hot item. So it seemed Walmart had plenty in stock as they announced today they would begin online shopping at 12:00 noon, then 3:00 PM; then 6:00 PM and then 9:00 PM. So I logged into the website with my credentials and was ready at 11:59. Exactly at 12:00 I placed my order. After several failures with messages that we’re busy try again I finally get to the item and place the order.

    Again I waited a good 5 – 6 minutes before it showed up in my shopping cart. Now I go to my shopping cart – the $499 item is sitting there and I purchase. Again 3 or 4 failure messages but finally I get the next step – shipping which they already had that. Now it takes me to payment which my credit card is stored and I go to checkout. Waited a good 7 or 8 minutes with the message we’re processing your order. Bingo – I get a screen “sorry we’re sold out – try again”. How in the world can an online retailer put something in a cart and take them all that way and then say – in essence – “sorry – we know we got you excited but try again”?

    I’m real disappointed in Walmart – first their IT people never realized the demand and they could not handle it. Second, they should have immediately told you that you’re too late and we’re sold out. They were teasing, maybe hoping you go back to the website and buy something else. Very, very bad customer relations. I would be hard pressed to ever return – not that Doug McMillion cares about me but he should read a little retail history and take a good look at some other giants like Woolworth, W T Grant, K-Mart, Sears, E J Korvette just to name a few. They all lost touch with the customer and became driven by Corporate goals and greed and just didn’t care about the customer. All the more reason for any successful small retailer today to always keep the customer in focus, what the customer experience is and constantly asking the customer what are we doing right and what can we do better. They are the ones who will survive and flourish.

    •  Walmart said this week that it "will sell pet insurance from Petplan and connect customers to dog walking and more through Rover," CNBC reports.  "It is launching Walmart Pet Care, a new landing page on its website as a central hub where customers can find its full range of animal products and services."

    Melody Richard, vice president of Walmart Pets, tells CNBC that "Walmart customers will get unique discounts and perks. Customers can save up to 10% on insurance policies by going through the big-box retailer and will get gift cards for Walmart if they book pet sitting or dog walking through Rover."

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    •  The San Fernando Valley Business Journal reports that Amazon has opened its latest Amazon Fresh grocery store in Northridge, a Los Angeles neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley.

    According to the story, "The new grocery banner fills a 30,000-square-foot vacancy left behind by Whole Foods Market, which relocated to the neighboring Vineyards at Porter Ranch shopping center. Whole Foods is also owned by Amazon … The Northridge store is the third Amazon Fresh location. The brand’s inaugural store opened in Woodland Hills in September, and an Irvine location followed in October."

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    •  Wine Enthusiast has named Albertsons its 2020 Retail of the Year, pointing specifically to the autonomy that the company gives to its stores and regions.

    "Indeed, Albertsons, which includes Safeway, Haggen, Shaw’s and numerous other grocery stores, puts a strong emphasis on regional identity and local preferences in its wine selection, from Paso Robles-heavy offerings in southern California to Washington-centric bottle choices in Seattle," the story says.  "This also holds true for spirits and beer … Albertsons gives local stores considerable autonomy in what they offer. That knowledge and expertise of the local beverage scene is then leveraged nationally to ride and drive trends."

    •  BJ's Wholesale Club said yesterday that it plans "to offer members a free turkey this year for Thanksgiving," according to a story from WAVY.  "BJ’s members can get a free fresh or frozen Butterball turkey through Nov. 25 with a coupon when they buy any four qualifying items while supplies last … The offer is valid with curbside pickup, in-club pickup and same-day delivery."

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    In Thursday Night Football action, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Tennessee Titans 34-17.

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    …will return.

    Published on: November 13, 2020

    One of the real pleasures of my job is that publishers, from time to time, send me books to read and review.  I recently got a slim volume entitled "The Golfer's Carol," by Robert Bailey … and to be honest, I was skeptical.  I don't play golf and am not much interested in it, and I didn't know Bailey's work as a legal thriller writer.

    But I cracked it open anyway, and found myself utterly charmed by a modern fable that combines elements of Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, and It's A Wonderful Life.  That's a pretty strong combination, and I wanted to chat with Bailey to find out what led him to write the book.  And so, via Zoom, I did … as part of my ongoing series of occasional author interviews.

    A note:  Our Zoom connection was a little spotty from time to time, but I think the conversation was worth it.

    "The Golfer's Carol" is available at Amazon here, at iconic independent bookstore Powell's here, or wherever books are sold.

    That's it for this week.  I'll see you Monday.

    Have a great weekend … stay safe … be healthy.