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    Published on: February 23, 2021

    by Michael Sansolo

    If you have any doubts on the importance people are placing on mask wearing, social distancing and other covid measures, doubt no more. Forget about what they are doing in stores and consider how covid is impacting the world of dating.

    Now admittedly, I haven’t dated in a really long time.  (I got married during Ronald Reagan’s first term.)  I knew nothing about this, but a key term in the world of romance these days is “Fauci-ing,” and it seems like something you need now.

    The Deseret News (along with many other outlets) reported on the new word and trend, which basically is code for breaking up, cutting off or ghosting a romantic partner who isn’t taking covid seriously enough. “Plenty of Fish,” a dating app, coined the term.  

    I can’t really feel badly about not knowing the term. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’s leading light on all things Covid, and the reason for the term itself, was himself unaware of it until it was explained to him by a cable news host.

    But I think the notion of Fauci-ing has implications for retailers in numerous ways.

    First off, think back to how you reacted to an article in Monday’s MNB in which Food City CEO Steve Smith referred to non-mask wearers as “boneheads.” I feel fortunate to know Steve and I know he isn’t someone to spout off for no reason.

    I believe Steve’s comment was likely triggered by seeing the anxiety and potential health problems created for store staffers and customers by those who resist wearing a mask or maintaining social distance. Certainly there will be some who will criticize Steve for his comment, but I’m betting far more will line up behind him.  He said what a lot of people were thinking.

    Secondly, as Kevin and I have speculated here in recent weeks, there might be a momentary competitive advantage for companies that can assure shoppers all in-store staff are safely vaccinated. There’s no reason for certainty on that point and no scientific studies to back us up.

    That is, until I heard about Fauci-ing.

    Again, it’s been a long time since I was on the dating scene, but I don’t ever once recall pondering vaccination policies prior to asking out a girl. I’m pretty sure that the word "pandemic" never crossed my mind back then.

    Though … I do know of someone who probably was thinking about pandemic back then.  Remarkably enough, Dr. Fauci became the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) on November 2, 1984 - just 18 months after I got married.  That's a long time…

    The mere notion that many folks on the dating scene are taking this so seriously tells us so much about how people really think about Covid measures that are, to my bewilderment, still debated in some quarters, and largely by, as Steve Smith so eloquently described them, "boneheads."

    The last thing any retailer wants is for customers or employees to be Fauci-ing the business.  Because that's not good business.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

    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.

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    KC thinks that hazard pay legislation passed in Long Beach, California, and Seattle, was bad public policy.  But not nearly as bad as a new proposal being considered in Seattle which he thinks is not just bad for retailers and bad for the city but, in his words, "completely nuts."

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    The US Census Bureau has published new data saying that "Americans spent $791.7 billion during 2020 on e-commerce, up 32.4% from 2019 … That behavior translated to e-commerce accounting for 14% of total retail sales, compared to 11% in 2019," CNBC reports.

    To put the numbers in context, total 2020 retail sales were up just three percent … meaning that e-commerce sales were up more than 10 times as much as total sales.

    CNBC writes:  "While consumers shopped online before the pandemic, they were pushed to rely on digital retailers even more during the Covid-19 pandemic, as many physical stores were closed and people opted to stay indoors as much as possible to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

    "Consumers filled up their virtual shopping carts with products that they might not have otherwise ordered online, particularly groceries, according to a chart published by the U.S. Census Bureau. Online purchases of food and beverage items grew more year-over-year than any other category between the second and fourth quarter of 2020."

    KC's View:

    The question is the degree to which these habits will persist post-pandemic.  I'm pretty sure that there may be some backing off as people embrace the idea that they can go to stores without putting their health at risk, but a lot of folks will quickly realize that e-commerce gives them time back in their days that can be used for things more rewarding than shopping.

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    The monthly Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey is out, saying that "The total U.S. online grocery market posted $9.3 billion in sales during January as more than 69.7 million U.S. households placed on average 2.8 orders across delivery, pickup and ship-to-home … The delivery and pickup segment captured $7.1 billion in January 2021, accounting for 77% of all online grocery spending during the month. "

    Other conclusions from the study:

    •  "Total sales grew 15% in January 2021 vs. November 2020, driven largely by a 16% increase in the number of households buying online. Among the total household monthly active users, 78% engaged with either a delivery or pickup service – up from 64% in November."

    •  "The ship-to-home usage rate dropped from 56% to 46% during the same period. Even with this growth, January’s overall usage rate fell short of the record 76.7 million households who shopped online in April 2020 when much of the U.S. was living under stay-at-home orders."

    •  "While the average number of total online grocery orders placed by monthly active users for January 2021 remained at 2.8, essentially flat versus November 2020, the delivery and pickup segment collectively gained nearly six percentage points of order share, accounting for 66% of all online orders completed during January 2021."

    •  "The average order value decreased nearly 11% in January 2021 versus November 2020 when analyzing the aggregated spend rates across all three segments (pickup, delivery, and ship-to-home)."

    KC's View:

    Some retailers will work on the premise that things will go back to the way they were, but there also are a lot of folks out there who are making significant investments in creating an e-grocery infrastructure that is appealing, convenient, relevant and resonant.  I've become a dedicated PrimeNow user, and it is hard for me to imagine giving up that particular convenience.  Not for everything, for for many things.  And I don't think I am alone.

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    The New Yorker has a Q&A interview with Whole Foods founder-CEO John Mackey that was conducted a few months ago in connection to the publication of his book, "Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business."  The book is focused on Mackey's "philosophical approach to business and offers an account of the difficulties of running a large company," the story notes, and writer Isaac Chotiner asks a series of questions that look to put the book into the context of decisions and policies implemented at Whole Foods.

    You can read it here.

    KC's View:

    I think this is fascinating, especially because of what seems to be between the lines - Mackey comes off as being humorless and not used to being questioned or challenged on the way he thinks and acts.  Maybe he was having a bad day, or maybe he really doesn't like being questioned.  But a good rule of thumb is that when you're being interviewed and recorded, "I don’t really like the way this interview is going" is probably the wrong thing to say.  You can think it, but you can't say it.

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    On Sunday's "Last Week Tonight" on HBO, John Oliver took aim at the meat business - not, as he said, to talk about "the grim conditions that animals face in factory farms," but rather to focus on "the grim conditions humans are facing working in meat-packing facilities."

    It is tough stuff.  Example:  the story shows footage of a worker at a Smithfield plant who takes off his gloves, relieves himself under the production line where he is working, then puts his gloves back on and goes back to work.  (First of all, I guess we can all be glad he was wearing gloves.  Second, this is not an allegation.  Smithfield conceded that's what he did.  They suspended him.)

    It is worth watching the "Last Week Tonight" segment even if you don't like John Oliver or disagree with his take on things, largely because this image of America's meat packing facilities is one that is gaining traction, and people who sell this stuff need to know it … if only to be prepared for when customers ask questions, or when the next industry scandal hits.  The industry likes to put out reports that explore "shopper perceptions, attitudes and behaviors regarding meat and poultry," but maybe it needs to focus more on some of the core issues raised in this segment.

    It may be John Oliver … but there is very little funny about it.

    Note:  As with all John Oliver/"Last Week Tonight" segments, profanity is used not just for punctuation, but also as nouns, verbs and the occasional adjective.  So be careful where and how you play it - this segment definitely NSFW.

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    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 had 28,826,307 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 512,590 deaths, and 198,114,140 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 112,335,379 total coronavirus cases, with 2,487,225 resultant fatalities, and 87,864,833 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

    •  The Washington Post reports that "at least 44.1 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 19.4 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 75.2 million doses have been distributed."

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    Newly reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. remained below 60,000 for the second day in a row and hospitalizations continued to fall, as the nation’s death toll from Covid-19 surpassed half a million … The total number of Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalization fell to 55,403, the fourth day in a row the figure has been under 60,000, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

    "Intensive care units also saw a decline in the number of Covid-19 patients, with 11,536 people in ICUs, the lowest level since Nov. 8."

    •  The New York Times writes that "the Food and Drug Administration said it will quickly analyze any vaccine booster shots against Covid-19 variants such as those from South Africa and the U.K., and won’t require further large clinical trials of the new shots’ effectiveness.

    "Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s center for biological products, which evaluates vaccines, said Monday that the analysis of whether vaccines prevent the new strains of Covid-19 will involve a few hundred research subjects over a couple of months. That would be faster than vaccine trials, which so far have involved thousands of research subjects over several months, followed by an FDA analysis."

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Drug companies planned to tell lawmakers Tuesday that they project a major increase in vaccine deliveries that will result in 140 million more doses over the next five weeks, saying they have solved manufacturing challenges and are in a position to overcome scarcity that has hampered the nation’s fight against the coronavirus."

    •   Reuters has an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in which he called the pandemic "the worst thing that’s happened to this country with regard to the health of the nation in over 100 years."

    •  Axios reports that "the number of coronavirus cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities has drastically declined over the last two months, almost certainly an effect of vaccinations … Nursing home vaccinations began in the second half of December, and around 4.5 million residents or staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

    •  Variety reports that "after nearly a year of closures, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given mYork City permission to reopen at limited capacity starting on March 5 … cinemas in the city will be permitted to operate at 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people. Moreover, other safety measures such as masks, social distancing and heightened sanitizing measures will be required. Last October, New York venues outside of the city were allowed to reopen with similar restrictions."

    This is a ruling that brings with it a series of problems for movie theaters.  If an auditorium normally can hold 150 people, but it only is allowed to seat 50, that cuts the amount of revenue coming in by two-thirds.  But the cost of opening are roughly the same - theaters may be able to cut back on labor a bit, but they're still going to be facing nine miles of bad road when it comes to profitability.

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    •  Reports out of Europe suggest that the two Aldi-branded retailers that normally operate completely separately are planning to join forces to work together on an e-grocery initiative.

    Aldi Sud (which controls stores in southern Germany, the US, Australia and China) and Aldi Nord (northern Germany, Europe and Trader Joe's) reported have co-founded  Aldi E-commerce Verwaltungs GmbH, based in Düsseldorf, according to Lebensmittel Zeitung.

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    •  The Wall Street Journal has a story about the "bullwhip effect," which is what happens when supply chains, cutting back on production because of a recession, are unable to deal with a fast rebound in consumer demand.

    Here's how the Journal describes the situation:

    "U.S. manufacturers aced the shutdown of their factories and warehouses last spring in response to Covid-19. They’re botching the recovery.

    "After carrying out an orderly retreat from assembly lines as the pandemic arrived in the U.S., many manufacturers pulled out the playbook they followed in past recessions, cutting costs and preserving cash. That left them unprepared for the sharp rebound in consumer demand that began just weeks later and never let up."

    Post-pandemic, the story says, "the bullwhip effect is even more pronounced because demand for consumer products has been extraordinarily high. At the same time, companies are placing supersize orders to compensate for the extra time it takes to procure supplies from factories and freight operators constrained by global efforts to contain the coronavirus. That’s exacerbating the strain on supply chains. "

    You can read the complete story here.

    •  The Chicago Tribune reports that "Jewel-Osco warehouse workers and drivers have authorized a strike as contract negotiations continue without agreement on key pay and benefits issues.

    "The strike authorization vote Friday gives the bargaining committee the power to call a strike after the contract expires March 6.

    "Teamsters Local 710 represents more than 850 Jewel-Osco warehouse workers, drivers, and dispatchers based at the Melrose Park distribution center, which serves more than 185 stores in the region. Nearly 98% of the 578 members who voted were in favor of authorizing a strike.

    "The union said Jewel-Osco is demanding concessions from workers in the contract even after a year of hefty profits. Its parent, Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons, the second-largest grocery store chain in the U.S., reported $125 million in profits in the third quarter that ended Dec. 5."

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    This week, Tom Furphy and Kevin Coupe open up their ongoing segment about technology strategies that are changing the world of retail, and build on this week's Innovation Conversation about the "buy or build" debate. In addition to their regular Wednesday video chat, they'll be hosting a room on Thursday afternoon on Clubhouse, the new social networking app that enables real-time  audio conversation between the hosts (Tom and KC) and fellow members.

    Date:  Thursday, February 25

    Time:  4:30 pm EST / 1:30 pm PST


    Come join the Innovation Conversation … and if you're not yet a member, get the app … reserve your username … and request access.  (It'll help if you know someone who already is a member…)

    See you Thursday!

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    Got the following email from an MNB reader:

    Thank you for your interview with Fawn Germer about how to keep ourselves relevant.   I am 59, and I have been “looking for a new opportunity” three times over the past 10 years, after an 18-year career with a major consumer products manufacturer.  I currently work for a great company in our industry.  Ms. Germer recommends continuous learning and marking sure we will be relevant in 5 years.  I have found that it is important to be aware of my personal brand, and specifically, how I am perceived by others.  We need to make sure we are part of the solution, and not part of the problem.  Most importantly, and perhaps a bit controversially, I have learned to actively listen and learn from others.  Many times when I know I am right, I am not.

    Regarding McDonald's establishment of diversity goals and then linking management bonuses to achieving those goals, one MNB reader wrote:

    I have a hard time with companies "mandating" a certain percentage of different races should be in management roles. How can you put a hard number to that? What if there's no qualified applicants for a particular role. You just pick anyone, qualified or not to fill in the numbers? That's what will happen when you tie bonuses to this kind of stuff. Then what happens to the overall health of a company. 

    I find this to be just as much of a problem as a lack of diversity. Now a white person is being discriminated against because a company has too many "white" people in charge.

    Coke has already got themselves in a mess with their antiracist training that tells the associate to "try to be less white".

    What the hell does that mean? If they said " try to be less [pick your ethnicity)" there would be riots and Coke Cola plants being burned down all over the US. (A whistleblower posted screen shots of that training.)

    We've gone FAR left here and it concerns me that reality has left the building.

    I'm a little unclear, based on my reading, the degree to which the stuff posted by the whistleblower reflects the totality of the Coke training program.  I gather that some of the criticisms are coming from quarters that are opposed to what's called "critical race theory," which among other things posits that one has to acknowledge that white supremacy exists and that existing law often serves to reinforce it.  (I don't think there's much question that white supremacy exists, and it certainly seems to me that white supremacists are being more public about it than ever.  But then there are some folks that argue that white supremacy doesn't exist.  I'm confused.)

    Sometimes the language we choose can be problematic.  In the end, I try to be understanding of the ultimate goals involved - that we all need to be less rooted in our own perspectives and biases, and more open to the views of others.

    I like to think of it as avoiding "epistemic closure."

    But that sometimes gets me in trouble with the radical empiricist crowd.

    On another subject, from MNB reader Robert Dyer:

    I also wanted to comment on that great story from the Austin HEB.  After viewing your video commentary, I copied the link to my peers at my company.  I noted that this was a great example of servant leadership and yet another indicator as to why HEB continues to own the Texas market.  I worked with HEB, Central Market, and their Monterrey division for a few years in my role as an a strategic consultant, and this type of an action is not surprising considering their focus on their markets, customers, and the spirit of Texas.

    And regarding Supermarket Employee Day, a new holiday proclaimed by FMI—The Food Industry Association "to recognize employees at every level for the work they do feeding families and enriching lives," MNB reader Jackie Lembke wrote:

    My husband, who is a produce manager at a local store, was given a t-shirt, is eligible for prize drawings and lunch/dinner will be provided today. It is a nice gesture for a group that is frequently overlooked. Thanks to all grocery store employees and the great job they have done during a very difficult year.

    Published on: February 23, 2021

    Sports Illustrated reports that Amazon founder-chairman Jeff Bezos has engaged in conversations that could lead to him buying a 40 percent stake in the Washington, DC, football team.  The story says that Bezos may be interested in acquiring the minority stakes of owners who want out;  if he bought all those shares, he would own 40 percent of the team.

    Majority ownership would remain with Dan Snyder, who is unpopular with many fans because of his management and the handling of the renaming of the team that used to be known as the Redskins.  Snyder also is the subject of an investigation into systemic sexual harassment of female team employees.

    Bezos already is something of a fixture in the Washington cultural scene because of his ownership of the Washington Post.

    KC's View:

    If Bezos can't get a foothold with Washington, I wish he'd put a bid in for the New York Jets.