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: March 9, 2021

    by Michael Sansolo

    It’s hard to argue with the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. But maybe it’s time for a new corollary: Covid and technology are the parents of innovation. If nothing else, it’s certainly cause for a shotgun wedding.

    Thanks to Covid our lives are suddenly full of new ways to do a wide array of things. It’s hard to believe that Zoom became so essential in just one year and that’s only the most obvious example. Think of all the ways you and your families utilize technology for simple tasks that 13 months ago you did in person.

    And if you have any notion that this is going to stop, just think of Ted. 

    Ted, as the Washington Post recently reported, may herald an entirely new way of attending all manner of performing arts.  It probably is important to accept the likelihood that this kind of technology will not stop there.

    As a quick explanation, Ted is basically a mannequin minus some key body parts. But as the article explains, Ted is being used as a virtual audience for the Detroit Symphony, allowing patrons to attend socially distanced concerts through virtual reality devices.

    If you haven’t tried virtual reality the experience is, in short, amazing. As the article describes, you can purchase a VR devices with prices ranging from the hundreds to just a few bucks. I have experienced the low end of the spectrum thanks to a cheap cardboard device and was blown away by it. Once in the world of VR, I could look around, move and slightly interact with the “experience” as if I were there.

    What Ted and the Detroit Symphony demonstrate is some of the economic possibilities of these devices, and that should catch your attention. As the author explains, thanks to Ted a concert audience that was once limited to the number of seats in the theater could now conceivably hold a limitless crowd, or certainly one in the thousands.

    It’s hard to know whether classical music concerts can dream of filling Dodger Stadium this way (I have to hope, as my son is a classical musician) but the possibilities are endless.

    And that’s why traditional businesses need contemplate the impact of this. As Covid has shown us, a lot of traditional experiences can become virtual by necessity. But honestly, they lack so much thanks to the two dimensional limitations of technology today. Virtual reality changes all of that.

    As I have written before, a recent report from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (for  which I am the research director) examined the future shopping experience and how technology may create incredible enhancements.  Thanks to virtual reality or augmented reality shoppers could encounter famous chefs in the aisles who could help guide them to key ingredients for new recipes. Or perhaps they could visit farms to get a better sense of where and who are growing their products.

    If that sounds far fetched just remember how many people played Pokemon Go, a wildly popular augmented reality game, four years ago. As Ted and the Detroit Symphony demonstrate, technological advances combined with changed consumer needs have taken this entire conversation to a new level.

    As always, it’s simply a matter of time until future possibilities become today’s expectations. That’s reality, virtual, augmented or otherwise.

    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.

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    Talk about a branding lesson.  Oprah Winfrey showed us the other night that if a brand has something that people want, that's the very definition of power and influence.  Which, KC suggests, is the bottom line for any brand.

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    by Kevin Coupe

    Burger King is getting grilled.  And the fast feeder deserves it.

    In the US and the UK, Burger King decided to celebrate International Women’s Day with a full page New York Times ad and accompanying social media posts designed to highlight the fact that there needs to be greater emphasis on hiring women chefs in the restaurant business.

    The problem was the headline it decided to use:

    Women belong in the kitchen.

    Here's the Times ad:

    Advertising Age writes, "Reactions on social media showed that many people were disappointed by the brand's choice of language. Burger King is often outspoken in its marketing and uses some snark in some of its social media posts. But the backlash to the attempt at flipping the intention of 'women belong in the kitchen' shows the risk of getting too playful with social media marketing, especially when many viewers see messages in isolation, and not as part of a broader campaign. Burger King saw more than 251,000 mentions before 12:30 pm ET, nearly as many of the 323,000 mentions it has seen in the past two weeks with sentiment skewing towards negative, with perhaps surprisingly 71% of the mentions coming from men, according to analytics firm BrandTotal."

    It is hard for me to imagine that there was nobody sitting around that (probably virtual) table who said, "Are we sure this is a good idea?"

    You have to ask that question, especially these days, when women's careers have taken a real hit from the pandemic.  A lot of surveys suggesting that there are real concerns about how long it will take many women to regain career momentum lost to the coronavirus.  Plus, there is plenty of evidence out there that a lot of people haven't been paying attention to the #MeToo movement.

    To be fair, Burger King did back off pretty quickly, apologizing on social media.  But it was too little, too late.

    Some will say that people need to have more of a sense of humor.  While I generally agree with that statement, I also think that women are entitled to say that there is nothing funny about offensive behavior, especially since they end up being the brunt of the "jokes."

    The thing that amazes me is how so many people - largely, but not exclusively, men - have learned so little and seem to think so infrequently.

    Take, for example, the governor of New York State, who wants us to believe that in 2021 he was unaware of the fact that one should not call female subordinates "sweetheart," should not kiss them, should not put your hands on them, should not invade their personal space or treat them in a way that might be perceived as harassment or in any way sexual.

    Here's the deal - and it shouldn't be an Eye-Opener.  Anybody who does not know that in 2021 isn't qualified to hold any public office, isn't qualified to hold any leadership position, and in fact isn't even qualified to run a single Burger King.

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    Amazon announced this morning that its Amazon One technology, which it says offers "a fast, convenient, contactless service for people to use their palm to enter, identify, and pay" is expanding to additional Seattle-area stores.

    According to the company, Amazon One "is expanding to additional Amazon physical retail stores in the Greater Seattle area. As of today, March 9, Amazon One is now a payment option at the Amazon 4-star store in Lynnwood. In the coming weeks, we will also add Amazon One as a payment option to three additional Amazon stores in the Greater Seattle area, including Amazon Books in Bellevue and Amazon 4-star and Amazon Pop Up in South Lake Union. With this, a total of 12 Amazon physical retail stores in the area will offer Amazon One as an option."

    Dilip Kumar, Vice President, Physical Retail & Technology at Amazon, said in a prepared statement, "Thousands of customers in our Seattle-area Amazon stores have signed up to use Amazon One and are providing us with great feedback on the experience, from how quick it is to how they appreciate its contactless nature."

    KC's View:

    Amazon continues to impress with its focus on eliminating friction ;points in the shopping experience, including in its bricks-and-mortar stores.  Not only is it expanding its Amazon One technology, but it also is using its Amazon Go checkout-free technology in its first UK Amazon Fresh store.

    I have to believe that at some point, Amazon is going to stop dipping its toes into these waters and is going to just jump in … creating not just a splash but a wave that will envelop as many of its stores as possible - including, where possible, Whole Foods units.

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Ahold Delhaize CFO Natalie Knight is saying that the company "plans to keep investing" in e-grocery "so that online shopping will become a larger part of the grocer’s overall revenue."

    The Journal writes that for Ahold Delhaize, "the pandemic served as a wake-up call to accelerate its e-commerce business, including click-and-collect services that allow customers to pick up online purchases from a store, and home delivery."

    E-grocery, the company says, represents about 4.3 percent of total sales this year, up 15.6 percent from a year earlier.  Knight says that having doubled the company investment in omnichannel in 2020, Ahold Delhaize plans to do the same in 2021.

    According to the story, "Knight is pulling a range of levers to boost Ahold’s e-commerce sales. The company is expanding its click and collect business to cover 1,400 locations in the U.S. by the end of the year, up from 1,116 at the end of 2020. It recently launched a subscription service at its Giant Company business, on top of other existing subscription services.

    "Ahold also wants to learn from FreshDirect, in which it became the majority stakeholder after its deal to acquire an 80% share in the online grocer closed in January. Private-equity firm Centerbridge Partners LP holds the remaining 20%."

    And, the story says, "Ahold also continues to experiment with different fulfillment solutions for online orders, following the example set by Walmart Inc. and other retailers. Instead of having an employee shop for the customer in a store, one solution Ahold is testing will have robots pick and choose products in a micro-fulfillment center in Philadelphia. The new trial comes after Ahold in 2019 launched another automated fulfillment facility in Hartford, Conn."

    KC's View:

    To be honest, considering all the acceleration that took place in e-grocery throughout the industry, the Ahold Delhaize numbers seem low.  But I would argue that they don't do a very good job of marketing it.  I live right in Stop & Shop's backyard, I am a member of its frequent shopper program, and yet I can't remember the last time that I got an email pitching me on why I should use its online services.

    You can't just assume that the crops you want will grow … you actually have to plant some seeds.

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    "With dining room restrictions in place for much of the country during the pandemic," the New York Times writes this morning, "drive-through and pickup windows became critical ways for a variety of restaurants to remain afloat.

    "Now, as the dining industry looks toward a post-pandemic world, many companies are betting big that digital ordering and drive-throughs will remain integral to their success. And the basic experience of sitting in a single line of cars, speaking into a sometimes garbled intercom and pulling up to a window to pay for your food before driving away is poised to be demonstrably altered for the first time in decades."

    The Times writes that "a number of restaurants are moving quickly to improve their online order and app abilities, change their physical designs or add two or three drive-through lanes. Some are testing artificial intelligence systems to tailor suggestions for individuals who pull up to the menu board.

    You can read the entire story here.

    Published on: March 9, 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, there now have been 29,744,652 total confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 538,628 deaths and 20,449,634 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 117,814,133 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,613,648 resultant fatalities and 93,496,463 reported recoveries.  (Source.)


    •  The Washington Post reports that "at least 60 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 31.3 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 116.4 million doses have been distributed."

    These numbers reflect an important benchmark - there now have been more people in the US who have gotten both does of the vaccine than have, in total, been diagnosed with Covid-19.  


    •  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday released guidance for how fully vaccinated Americans can behave going forward, offering citizens a glimpse of a more "normal" future.

    The Washington Post reports that the CDC "said people who are two weeks past their final shot face little risk if they visit indoors with unvaccinated members of a single household at low risk of severe disease, without wearing masks or distancing. That would free many vaccinated grandparents who live near their unvaccinated children and grandchildren to gather for the first time in a year. The guidelines continue to discourage long-distance travel, however.

    "The CDC also said fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with those who are also fully vaccinated. And they do not need to quarantine, or be tested after exposure to the coronavirus, as long as they have no symptoms."

    According to the story, "CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the recommendations attempt to balance potential risk to those who are unvaccinated and on community transmission, against the benefit of 'getting back to some of the things that we love in life' for those who have gotten their shots … CDC will continue to update this initial guidance, perhaps loosening travel restrictions if new infections continue to decrease while vaccinations go up, Walensky said. But with over 90 percent of the population still unvaccinated and levels of virus high, even those who have received the shots 'might get breakthrough infections with lesser amounts of virus,' she said, referring to a fully vaccinated person getting infected."


    •  Axios reports on a new Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus survey showing that a majority of people seem committed to behaving responsibly even after being vaccinated for the coronavirus.

    "Just 7% of respondents said they plan to stop wearing masks in public after they've been vaccinated," the survey says.  "Only 13% said they plan to stop social distancing … 81% said they'll keep wearing masks, and 66% said they'll keep social distancing until the pandemic ends -  even after they've gotten the shot … 87% said they'll keep frequently washing their hands until the pandemic ends."


    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "The U.S. reported a rise in newly reported coronavirus cases, even as vaccinations continued to gather pace and safety guidelines were relaxed for fully inoculated people.

    "The country reported more than 50,000 new cases for Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that was published early Tuesday. The data may update later. Monday’s total was up from the 40,903 new cases reported on Sunday but still sharply lower than peak levels in January, when daily tallies often exceeded 200,000."

    Remember - from the beginning Dr. Fauci said that we needed to keep the daily case number below 20,000.  We're making progress, but there is a way to go.


    •  From the Washington Post:

    "The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine appears to be highly effective against a more contagious variant of the virus first discovered in Brazil, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, raising hopes that ongoing vaccination efforts will help curb the variant’s spread.

    "The study of the vaccine produced by U.S. firm Pfizer and German partner BioNTech was conducted by scientists from the two companies and researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch. It comes as public health experts warn that the more transmissible variants could drive yet another surge in covid-19 cases, particularly as restrictions are lifted across the United States."


    •  And finally, you may remember that last week, when she got her first vaccination, Dolly Parton (who wrote a check for $1 million last year and donated it to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which used the money to help develop the Moderna coronavirus vaccine), not only did it on camera but also sang a pro-vaccination song that changed the lyrics of her hit, "Jolene."

    Yesterday, singer-songwriter Carole King contributed her own pro-vaccine ditty:

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    •  The Dallas Morning News has an interview with Stephen Butt, president of He-E-B-owned Central Market, which which he says that coming out of the pandemic, "We believe digital shopping will level out somewhere between 10% and 15% of sales. We were well below that at Central Market when the pandemic started. We saw our percentage of weekly online business jump. But we think it will settle back into that range, depending on the store and depending on the community. The prepared food business has been a challenge, much like our restaurants and catering, and we’re hoping that business will rebound."


    •  USA Today reports that "Costco is continuing to test curbside pickup at its three New Mexico clubs to determine if the service could roll out to additional locations."

    CFO Richard Galanti said that "the pilot's going well. Our members have responded to it and basket size have actually surpassed our expectations.  Our focus, of course, is how can we be more efficient at doing it to determine if this offering can become scalable and make economic sense for us."

    The Costco curbside pickup offering comes at a cost - a minimum order of $100 and a pickup fee of $10, though it does offer "dedicated pickup parking spaces."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon-backed Deliveroo, one of the UK's most prominent food delivery services, "took the first step Monday to list on the London Stock Exchange."

    The story says that Deliveroo is expected to be valued at $10 billion, though it is unknown how much the company wants to raise in an IPO.


    •  Bloomberg reports that "Amazon.com Inc. has scooped up a minority stake in a cargo airline that operates a portion of its fast-growing air cargo division, the latest sign of the company’s long-term ambitions to expand its air freight operations.

    "Amazon spent $131 million to acquire about 13.5 million shares of Air Transport Services Group, the air cargo operator said in a securities filing on Monday, exercising warrants Amazon had previously acquired. Amazon also acquired roughly 865,000 additional shares through an agreement in which no cash changed hands. The purchases are contingent upon approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, ATSG said.

    "Following that approval, Amazon will own about 19.5% of ATSG."

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    •  In Chicago, WBBM News reports that "it appears there’ll be no interruption in warehouse deliveries to Jewel Food Stores in the Chicago area, as a strike has been apparently been avoided.

    "The union representing Jewel-Osco warehouse workers and drivers reached an agreement on a new contract with the grocery chain late Sunday night, minutes before a strike that could have disrupted deliveries across the Chicago area … The old contract expired over the weekend, and according to one union official, the situation was not looking good, as the 850 members of Teamsters Local 710 were about 15 minutes away from going on strike when things got serious at the bargaining table."


    •  Reuters reports that UK supermarket chain Tesco has "committed to increase its sales of healthy food to 65% of total sales by 2025 following pressure from some shareholders to set targets.

    "Some investors have been calling for Tesco, which has 27% of the UK’s grocery market, to sell more healthy food, saying it was lagging rivals in its efforts to encourage healthy eating and combat obesity in the country … Tesco said on Friday its 65% healthy products sales target would represent a jump from the current level of 58% and it would use the government’s nutrient profiling model to define those products.

    "It said it would report its progress against the targets annually, and also laid out plans to increase sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300% by 2025 and make products like ready meals healthier through changing the ingredients to include more vegetables."


    •  CNN reports that "Unilever, the owner of Dove, Vaseline and Axe, is dumping the word 'normal.'

    "The consumer goods giant announced Tuesday that it would no longer use the term to describe certain physical characteristics on its packaging for beauty and personal care products, which include Rexona deodorants and Sunsilk shampoos.

    "The company says the move 'comes as global research into people's experiences of the beauty industry reveals that using 'normal' to describe hair or skin makes most people feel excluded'."


    •  Nestlé said yesterday that it is acquiring premium water brand Essentia Water, just two weeks after it sold its North American bottled water business - which included  the Poland Spring and Deer Park brands - to private-equity firms One Rock Capital Partners and Metropoulos & Co. for $4.3 billion.

    Terms of the Essentia deal were not disclosed.

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    •  The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Starbucks has promoted Midwest Regional Vice President Dennis Brockman to the role of senior vice president and global chief inclusion and diversity officer.  

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    I don't think it is too much of a stretch to suggest that someday - hopefully sooner rather than later - we'll be living in what people in a dystopian movie would call the "after-times."  But for the sake of simplicity, let's just call it post-pandemic.

    I've been writing here on MNB almost from the beginning about how retailers needed to think about how they would be different coming out of the pandemic than they were going in … and one of the areas in which I think that virtually every food retailer needs to focus on is fresh.  Especially in an environment where e-commerce has gained market share, bricks-and-mortar retailers are going to have to get better at fresh in order to differentiate themselves as a worth-the-trip alternative, and e-grocery companies are going to work to be better as a way of growing their businesses.

    Which is why I was so pleased to be asked to host/moderate a one-hour webinar tomorrow on the subject of "The Quest for Quality Produce in a Post-Pandemic World," in which we'll be talking with a variety of expert players in fresh produce business about how they are working to assure a stronger and more reliable supply chain that will deliver the quality that consumers have every right to expect.

    I hope you'll join us for this complimentary webinar, sponsored by iFoodDS.  My goal is to make sure the session is both illuminating and entertaining, while asking the questions that you'll want answered.  And if I don't - you'll be able to.

    For information about how to register for this session, click here.

    Published on: March 9, 2021

    Yesterday we posted an email from MNB reader Rich Heiland in which he described a confrontation over masks that took place in an H-E-B store:

    One day I witnessed a red-in-the-face woman screaming at an employee - a young African-American woman in her teens - that she would "not put on no damn masks" and she went into the store. The young woman was trembling and near tears. I went over to her and told she did fine, try to forget about it.

    This prompted an email from an MNB reader:

    Kevin, reader Rich Heiland noted the HEB employee was African American. Why?  What did her race have to do with it?  If the employee had been white would he have called it out?  I doubt it. This is the kind of inherent racism that is alive and well in our country. It needs to be pointed out when it occurs.

    I know Rich Heiland, and this was not racism.  But I figured that it would be better to ask him to answer for himself.  And he did:

    I debated that. Yes, the basic point was about mask compliance so on one level the race of either party should not have mattered. But, this was East Texas, where Old South racism is alive and sadly well, especially in the wake of the last few years. 

    This was a big loud white woman wearing a lot of red, which in East Texas today you can read a lot into. Her behavior was aggressive. For a young black woman in East Texas  to be yelled at in public is much different than for a white woman. I wonder if the woman would have been that aggressive with a white employee? Dunno.

    I am an old school reporter. I tend to look at a story as it presents itself to me, not through the lens your reader used, though I understand it. That is why I said I debated it. In this instance it became news to me when I looked at the young girl's face.

    But, been on the receiving of criticism and pushback for a lot of years and welcome it, respect it and hope to keep learning from it.

    I'll add this.  Rich Heiland, to the best of my knowledge, is the only MNB reader who can be described as a former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and newspaper publisher.  I totally trust his instincts … and I also appreciate his thoughtfulness.

    From MNB reader Phil Herr:

    Here’s a suggestion for retailers to enforce mask wearing. Hire “bouncers” — stationed at the entrance. Nothing like a 6’5” person to step up and say, "please put on your mask before entering the store”. And if necessary, an additional bouncer inside to ensure the mask stays on.

    Takes the pressure off your front-line workers and gives additional folks meaningful employment.

    And MNB reader Howard Schneider wrote:

    I agree that stores should not be held liable for harm to customers or staff in Texas – provided the irresponsible state government is.

    Excellent idea.  Though it is my experience that lawmakers protect themselves first


    Got the following email from an MNB reader about vaccination passport proposals:

    I don’t see the necessity of mandating a card to show proof of vaccination.

    What about the people that contracted the virus and now have immunity?

    What about all those that have been vaccinated and don’t have a card?

    What about all the current gov. regs in place?  They seem to be working well.

    What about all the protocols in place currently by airlines and businesses?  They seem to be doing well too.

    This appears to be additional government overreach and totally unnecessary and a desperate attempt to shift focus.  I wouldn’t take stock in anything Gov. Cuomo says.  He obviously does not have the ability to make prudent decisions or stand behind his actions.

    I think Cuomo is the very definition of "imperfect messenger" when it comes to any of this stuff.

    I also think that if we all wear masks for the duration and get vaccinated, then passports designed to prove it won't be relevant.  But if we get complacent or arrogant about it, then we may have to take additional steps.  And it'll be only pour fault.


    Responding to our ongoing conversation about branding, one MNB reader wrote:

    I have 3 sons in their 30’s and I am constantly asking them questions about brands, trends, etc. I am too old to understand what is relevant today….to the target consumers of our brands.

    NFL and NBA players constantly talk about themselves as brands….in the end, we are all brands. Hey, you are Mr Content Guy!

    Good point.


    Yesterday MNB took note of a Seattle Times report that "an Amazon telehealth outfit that started as a pilot service for Seattle-area employees and their families has quietly filed paperwork to operate in 21 more states, a signal of Amazon’s expanding ambitions for the $3.8 trillion medical sector."

    Not only is it expanding the number of states where it wants to expand - the  company has filed paper work in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming - but it also reportedly is pitching other companies on using the service.  Among them, Seattle-based Zillow.

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    This is scary AF. I mean, why not sell your personal health information to Amazon? Imagine the ways they can tie into this. Oh, think of the personalized ads and recommendation. 

    Note - I am decidedly not a conspiracy theorist, but I’ve grown very wary of this type of centralization. Amazon is too big. Way too big. And please don’t tell me this will be “good” for the consumer.

    Okay.  I won't.


    Responding to yesterday's story about Albertsons laying out expectations for how suppliers will support its e-commerce initiatives - incremental to existing trade dollars - one MNB reader wrote:

    I agree that ecommerce is the way of the future, but to your point, manufacturers are redirecting trade funds for this and not creating another bucket.  It appears to me that Albertsons doesn’t truly embrace this direction.  They are simply implementing a new silo for manufacturers to fund.

    Q: If more of their customers are moving to e platforms, then how can Albertsons expect the same level of return from their traditional programs?  You have to wonder, when will retailers understand this and truly embrace this new avenue.  It would seem to me that honest partnering with manufacturers is a far better long term approach, instead of just another revenue attempt.


    Finally, I got this thoughtful email from an MNB reader, responding to our coverage of conflicts taking place inside stores between employees and customers:

    It's a whole new ballgame.  The Pandemic has changed the "face" of retailing in a way that who we are as a business in terms of our people pales in comparison to what we do in response to the  Pandemic.  Customer loyalty once was defined by our tenured Team Members who provided a sense of comfort and trust.  Now there is little comfort, and even less trust, but that has nothing to do with who we are and everything to do with what we do.

    Initial objectives a year ago was to try to preserve the sanctity of our store to provide a respite to those who needed a break from the stress of the blossoming Pandemic.  It was a failed strategy as we quickly discovered that we needed to provide a sense of security and protection above all else, or we were going to lose tremendous market share and be vilified by our community and Team Members alike.  So we adapted and continued to adapt and evolve over the course of 2020.

    As we continue to wear masks, and continue to adjust to the purple tiers, the red tiers, and the ever changing definitions of everything "tier" we are still held to the standard of what we are doing to keep our community and our Team Members safe.  Once known for our superior service, that was truly based on close and meaningful contact with our customer base has truly evolved into the protection and care of our customer base and our Team Members, from a distance of at least six feet.  And I wonder if who we are as people, working in this supermarket environment, will ever carry the same meaning again?

    It is hard to know.  Will plexiglass be a budget line in every store's list of expenses going forward?  I honestly do not have an answer … I do think we are forever changed by the pandemic and that there is no going backward to what used to be.  Does that mean that close and meaningful connections between shoppers and store employees will beyond our reach?  I hope not … but there may have to be different ways to achieve them.