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    Published on: March 15, 2021

    T-commerce - the ability to watch TV and buy stuff that you see on shows - has long been a marketing dream, but never has gotten traction, largely because watching and buying have had to exist on parallel, not integrated, platforms.  But that may be about to change … because guess who has a "massive, global infrastructure and delivery systems and the ability to tie television and buying all in the same platform?"

    Published on: March 15, 2021

    In North Carolina, the News & Observer reports that Wegmans has decided not to open a planned second store in the community of Cary.

    The reason:  

    “Online shopping has grown tremendously, fueled in part by COVID-19, enabling us to serve customers in a much greater radius than was originally projected,” the company said in a statement.  “This has allowed us to plan our growth differently than we have in the past.  As a result, we have decided not to move forward with the proposed Cary, NC location.”

    According to the News & Observer, "There are currently Wegmans stores in Raleigh, west Cary and Chapel Hill — all of which opened in the last two years. The Chapel Hill location just opened Feb. 24.

    "Wegmans still is opening a location in May in Wake Forest at 11051 Ligon Mill Road. A future store in Holly Springs remains in the works for N.C. 55 and Ralph Stephens Road, according to its website."

    KC's View:

    Seems to me that this is just the beginning of what could be a broad rethinking of food retail footprints going forward in the coming year.  

    It was just last week that Schnuck Markets announced what it called "a new format grocery store" for Jasper, Indiana, to be opened this summer … an 18,000-square-foot “Schnucks Fresh” store that "will include a heavy focus on fresh departments such as produce, meat, seafood and bakery" and will staffed by about 30 people - a far cry from the usual Schnucks store.

    As much as the Wegmans decision, this is a reflection of an understanding that the food retail world has changed forever, that e-commerce will play a permanent role in how people buy packaged products, and that fresh-focused stores may be a way for companies to expand their reach with less of a real estate investment.

    Published on: March 15, 2021

    The San Jose Mercury News reports that the California Grocers Association (CGA) has filed lawsuits challenging the cities of San Jose and Daly City over "hazard pay" mandates requiring grocers to pay front line store employees an ongoing hourly bonus over regular wages.

    In San Jose, the hazard pay is $3 an hour, while in Daly City, the extra amount if $5 per hour.

    According to the story, CGA "seeks to have a court declare the laws unconstitutional and halt them from taking effect.  The lawsuits filed Friday in the Northern District of California argue that the regulations are illegal because they single out certain grocers while ignoring other groups that employ essential frontline workers. The association also claims the regulations are preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act, which protects the integrity of collective-bargaining."

    “In addition to clearly violating federal and state law, the extra pay mandates will harm customers and workers,” Ron Fong, president & CEO of the California Grocers Association, said in a statement. “A $5/hour mandate amounts to a 28 percent average increase in labor costs for grocery stores. That is too big a cost increase for any grocery retailer to absorb without consequence.”

    CGA already has filed similar suits against other municipalities that have imposed hazard pay mandates.

    KC's View:

    At this point, I am repeating myself - this is bad public policy that will do very little for shoppers and may well end up with fewer stores being operated and fewer people being employed.

    Published on: March 15, 2021

    WWD reports that Target has decided to move out "of its City Center offices in downtown Minneapolis one year after the coronavirus made its way around the globe and the company’s corporate workforce was forced to work remotely.

    The new development is part of the big-box retailer’s plan to allow employees to continue to work from home, at least partially, post-pandemic."

    According to the story, "the roughly 3,500 Target employees currently based in the City Center building will be relocated to one of Target’s four other spaces in the Twin Cities region, split between downtown Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park, Minn., later in the year … A representative from Target confirmed that the company is not laying off employees in the move and that the Twin Cities will remain the retailer’s headquarters."

    "We are embracing this moment to think differently and reimagine the future of work at headquarters,” Melissa Kremer, Target executive vice president and chief human resources officer, said in an email to employees.  "Our hybrid ‘Flex for Your Day’ approach will offer team members the benefits of both virtual and on-site collaboration when we gradually return to headquarters later this year.

    "Our headquarters will always play a central role in who we are and how we work at Target.  We believe in the culture, collaboration and competitive advantages of working together at our vibrant headquarters in the Twin Cities and around the world. But the reality is that ‘Flex for Your Day’ will require less office space."

    KC's View:

    As the story notes, Target is just one company rethinking the notion of what "headquarters" means in 2021 and beyond, as innovations imposed by pandemic-era adjustments are adapted for what some already are referring to as the "after-times."

    It's not that offices are going away - providing people with a place where they can mingle (eventually) and stimulate ideas and energy is going to remain important.  But a stasis that may have developed is being challenged, and that's a good thing.

    This story makes me think of the late, great Feargal Quinn, who when he was running Superquinn in Ireland had a rule - what most people call "headquarters" had to be referred to as the "support office," or people would have to pay a small fine.  The goal was to make sure people remembered what was important - the stores, the front line employees, and the customers.

    If one accepts that notion, then it absolutely makes sense to rethink the idea of a monolithic headquarters building.

    Published on: March 15, 2021

    Axios has a pieces about how the pandemic has changed the restaurant industry:

    "As the country feels safer eating out, we'll venture out more often for delicious food cooked by professionals," the story suggests.  "But that alone won't get us back to where we were.

    "At the peak of $65 billion per month, the vast majority of the restaurant meals consumed weren't fine dining, savored as something special. Often, they were valued more for convenience than for flavor.

    "The bottom line:  The future of the restaurant industry doesn't depend on where we eat the meals we remember for years. Rather, it depends on where we go for our forgettable, quotidian sustenance."

    KC's View:

    I'm not suggesting that supermarkets ought to aim for satisfying people's desire for "forgettable, quotidian sustenance."  I actually think they ought to make it a priority to elevate the daily meal, using inspiration and innovation to persuade people that even after the pandemic, it is good for the stomach and the soul to feed your family more nourishing, delicious food that you've actually made yourself.  this ought to be a priority, not an afterthought.

    Published on: March 15, 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 30,081,657 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 547,234 deaths and 22,169,237 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 120,465,898 total coronavirus cases,  with 2,666,246 resultant fatalities, and 97,010,929 reported recoveries.  (Source.)


    •  The Washington Post  reports that "at least 69.8 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 36.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 135.8 million doses have been distributed."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. were down from a day earlier, dropping below 40,000 for the first time since early October … The number of cases reported each day tends to be lower at the beginning of the week, as fewer people are tested over the weekend. Cases have been generally falling since the highs of around 300,000 registered in January, but have fallen less rapidly over the past three weeks."

    The Journal goes on:  "While Covid-19 deaths head lower, states around the country are steadily finding previously unreported deaths that are causing data confusion. The issues largely involve systems that states are using to try to report Covid-19 data in near real time, and not deaths reported more slowly through death certificates. These front-line numbers are the ones that fuel state dashboards and data trackers, such as that of Johns Hopkins’."

    The Journal goes on:

    "While Covid-19 deaths head lower, raising hopes that the U.S. is turning a corner as vaccinations continue, states around the country are steadily finding previously unreported deaths that are causing data confusion.

    "The issues largely involve systems that states are using to try to report Covid-19 data in near real time, and not deaths reported more slowly through death certificates. These front-line numbers are the ones that fuel state dashboards and data trackers, like the closely watched one created by Johns Hopkins University, which help policy makers and the public closely monitor pandemic trends.

    "Ohio in February announced more than 4,000 additional deaths while reconciling its data, and Indiana added about 1,500. Smaller revisions have also recently come from Virginia, Minnesota and Rhode Island. On Thursday, authorities in West Virginia said medical providers hadn’t properly reported 168 deaths to the state’s public-health department."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said yesterday that "the U.S. could experience another Covid-19 surge like Europe if it lifts restrictions too soon … Referring to Europe, Dr. Fauci said, 'They always seem to be a few weeks ahead of us in the dynamics of the outbreak. Then they plateaued because they pulled back a bit. They thought that they were home-free and they weren’t. And now they’re seeing an increase.'

    "His warnings came as some states, such as Texas, have begun allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity and dropping mask mandates against the advice of public-health officials. Mr. Fauci called the decision in Texas 'risky and potentially dangerous'."

    Fauci also said that "his biggest outstanding question going forward is 'what impact these variants are going to have.'  He said 'the best way that we can avoid any threat from variants is do two things, get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can, and to continue with the public health measures'."


    •  The Washington Post reports that the governments of the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Norway, and Denmark are among those that have stopped the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine - which has not yet been approved for emergency use in the US - amid concerns that there could be a connection between it and recent deaths from blood clots.

    In a statement, the Post writes, "AstraZeneca said that of the 17 million people so far inoculated with its vaccine, jointly produced with Oxford University, there have only been 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 pulmonary embolisms.  'This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines,' the company said."


    •  Bloomberg reports that "Amazon.com Inc. has been ordered to close a facility outside Toronto for two weeks as public health officials worry about rising COVID-19 cases inside the complex.

    "Although the rate of COVID-19 infection has been falling in the Peel region in the last few weeks, the rate inside the Brampton, Canada, fulfillment center 'has been increasing significantly,' the local health authority said Friday in a statement. Every employee at the site may have experienced 'high-risk exposure,' the agency said.

    "'This Amazon facility is in a vulnerable community and employs thousands of people,' Lawrence C. Loh, medical officer of health for the Peel region, said in the statement.  'This was a difficult decision but a necessary one to stop further spread both in the facility and across our community'."


    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Colleges and universities around the country are beginning to detail their plans for next fall, anticipating more students on campus, a full slate of in-person classes and even concerts and cheering sports fans.

    "But, they warn, plans could change.

    "After months with virtual classes and sparsely populated dorms, schools including Michigan State University and the University of Oregon say they expect to return to mainly face-to-face classes for the 2021-22 academic year. The forecasts are couched in disclaimers in case the institutions decide to pivot back online.

    "The announcements come as Covid-19 case counts continue to recede from wintertime highs and vaccination rates increase—and right as prospective students are weighing their college options."

    The story says that there is a certain peer pressure among educational institutions, as they worry about fall enrollments - those that do not commit to in-person classes are worried that they will be at a disadvantage compared to those that do.


    •  The Washington Post reports that "Tesla’s Bay Area production plant recorded hundreds of covid-19 cases following CEO Elon Musk’s defiant reopening of the plant in May, according to county-level data obtained by a legal transparency website.

    "The document, obtained by the website PlainSite following a court ruling this year, showed Tesla received around 10 reports of covid-19 in May when the plant reopened, and saw a steady rise in cases all the way up to 125 in December, as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus peaked around the country … Musk fought vigorously against the county-mandated shutdown, arguing Tesla should be allowed to continue producing cars despite the stay-at-home orders. In late April, he railed against the government mandates, hurling expletives during an earnings call and calling them 'fascist'."

    The story also notes that "Tesla also came under fire for its treatment of workers. It had promised they could remain home if they felt uncomfortable returning to the line. The Post reported in late June and July that workers concerned about covid exposure received termination notices after they did not return to work."


    •  The Washington Post reports that a new role has emerged at many hotels and resorts - covid navigator.

    "The idea of a covid specialist is still a novelty in the hospitality industry, but over the year, hotels have been introducing new amenities that speak to these anxiety-riddled times. In the early months of the pandemic, hotels were loading up guests with complimentary masks and hand sanitizer. A second wave of perks is now upon us, triggered by a January announcement that all air travelers entering the United States must provide proof of a negative 'viral test'."

    Now, the story says, hotels are finding that having someone on staff who can coordinate coronavirus tests as well as make sure that guests are comfortable with a property's protocols, simply makes sense of they are going to re-energize their businesses after a disastrous year.


    •  The Chicago Tribune reports that over the weekend, after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that the pandemic had forced the cancellation of the St. Patrick's Day parade on Wednesday and that the Chicago River would not be dyed green, as usually happens each year, the city secretly dumped green dye into the river.

    The goal, the paper said, was to give citizens a taste of "normal" without creating an event that would cause people to gather.  "Lightfoot sanctioned the famous river dyeing to proceed ... without confirming the exact time, marveling passing revelers, dog walkers and joggers alike."


    •  Finally, the Berkshire Eagle reports that on Saturday, when world-famous cellist and part-time Berkshires resident Yo-Yo Ma went to Berkshire Community College to get his second dose of vaccine, he spent the 15 minute wait after the shot treating people there to an impromptu concert.

    Class act.  here's a snippet:

    Published on: March 15, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  CNN reports that Ikea, having discontinued its traditional print catalog, now is offering "an audio version as a 'handy and hands-free' alternative to the traditional behemoth. Ikea's 2021 catalog, which is its final edition ever, is now a nearly four-hour podcast with a narrator flicking through each page and describing what's in it … Each audio chapter focuses on a different furnished home from the traditional catalog as well as offering how-to tips on furnishings and decorating. The audio is available on YouTube, Spotify and Audiobooks.com for free.

    The prologue suggests that this audio version was designed to give bored people stuck at home something to listen to.  I cannot imagine being that bored.


    •  CNBC reports that "Nike has laid out a five-year roadmap to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce … as corporate America is increasingly being held accountable for their values and the actions that come with them.

    "For the first time, Nike said, it will also be tying its executive compensation to the company making progress in deepening diversity and inclusion throughout its workforce, protecting the planet, and advancing ethical manufacturing. It didn’t offer further details but said compensation would be tied to the company hitting its 2025 goals."

    According to the story, "By 2025, Nike said, it aims to achieve 50% representation of women in its global corporate workforce (which doesn’t include retail store and warehouse workers), and 45% representation of women in leadership positions (VP level and above). It’s targeting 35% representation of racial and ethnic minorities in its U.S. workforce by then, too."

    Published on: March 15, 2021

    •  Carlisle, Pennsylvania-based The Giant Company announced that Glennis Harris, most recently regional vice president for Ross Dress For Less, has been hired to be its senior vice president of customer experience, succeeding the retiring John Ponnett.


    •  SpartanNash announced the hiring of Jason Monaco as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO).   Monaco most recently served as CFO for Dallas, Texas-based Cornerstone Chemical Company. Mr. Monaco also has served as CFO of Dallas-based Borden Dairy.


    SpartanNash also announced the promotion of Todd Riksen to Vice President, Corporate Controller, succeeding the retiring Tammy Hurley.


    •   Weis Markets announced the promotion of Greg Zeh, the company's Vice President/CIO, to the role of Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer. 

    Published on: March 15, 2021

    •  The Boston Globe reports the passing of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the undisputed middleweight champion from 1980-87.  Hagler was 66.  The cause of death was not disclosed.

    The Globe notes that "Hagler was 62-3-2 with 52 knockouts. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993."

    Published on: March 15, 2021

    This year's Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, and here are the nominees in major categories:

    Best Picture

    The Father

    Judas and the Black Messiah

    Mank

    Minari

    Nomadland

    Promising Young Woman

    Sound of Metal

    The Trial of the Chicago 7


    Best Actor

    Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

    Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

    Anthony Hopkins, The Father

    Gary Oldman, Mank

    Steven Yeun, Minari


    Best Actress

    Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

    Andra Day, The United States v. Billie Holiday

    Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman

    Frances McDormand, Nomadland

    Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman


    Best Supporting Actor

    Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

    Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

    Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami

    Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

    Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah


    Best Supporting Actress 

    Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

    Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

    Olivia Colman, The Father

    Amanda Seyfried, Mank

    Youn Yuh-jung, Minari


    Best Director

    Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round

    David Fincher, Mank

    Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

    Chloé Zhao, Nomadland 

    Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman


    Best Adapted Screenplay

    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

    The Father

    Nomadland

    One Night in Miami

    The White Tiger


    Best Original Screenplay

    Judas and the Black Messiah

    Minari

    Promising Young Woman

    Sound of Metal

    The Trial of the Chicago 7


    The Oscars ceremony, likely to be radically different this year because of pandemic concerns, will take place on Sunday, April 25.