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    Published on: April 12, 2021

    KC had the opportunity to do something last Friday that he hadn't done since February 2020 - he attended a new store opening.  Roche Bros. has opened a new store in Watertown, Massachusetts, in a growing lifestyle center.  Both the store and the center reflect the many changes in what consumers want and how retailers are adjusting to a shifting reality.  And yet, it all seemed refreshingly normal.

    A view from the front door of a fresh-dominated corridor at the new Roche Bros. store. And yet, there are differences...

    Even before the pandemic kicked in, the folks at Roche Bros. were seeing a move toward more self-service and grab-and-go, which meant that traditional service departments such as the bakery were being adjusted ... which made products more accessible and also cut back on some labor costs. In produce, there also are more packaged products, in keeping with heightened food safety concerns prompted by Covid-19.

    This fixture was made specifically for Roche Bros. - it is holding grab-and-go items now, but can be transitioned into a hot bar if and when the appetite for such offerings returns.

    At the entrance, the emphasis on fresh continues - roll-up garage doors allow Roche Bros. to offer seasonal produce items to folks looking just to make a quick stop.

    The store was designed so it could satisfy a robust and growing appetite for click-and-collect services.

    There's a side entrance to the store that connects a grassy campus-like setting with a coffee-smoothie shop; the added advantage is that the grass also serves to connect the store to a pair of biotech office buildings being built in the center - offering easy access for workers looking for meals or snacks.

    The multi-use Arsenal Yards has Roche Bros. (and other retailers and restaurants) at street level, with garage space and high-end condominiums (creating an additional supply of shoppers) above. The "lifestyle center" is an easy eight-mile commute to downtown Boston, and Cambridge is even closer. It is all part of creating a suburban center that offers urban amenties that will make it even more attractive.

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    Lots of postmortems being done in the wake of last week's unionization vote results from the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, where the online retailer won a solid victory over the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).  Seventy-one percent of those casting ballots - which represented about 55 percent of the total workforce there - voted not to unionize.

    •  From the New York Times:

    "In interviews, labor leaders said they would step up their informal efforts to highlight and resist the company’s business and labor practices rather than seek elections at individual job sites, as in Bessemer. The approach includes everything from walkouts and protests to public relations campaigns that draw attention to Amazon’s leverage over its customers and competitors.

    "'We’re focused on building a new type of labor movement where we don’t rely on the election process to raise standards,' said Jesse Case, secretary-treasurer of a Teamsters local in Iowa that is seeking to rally the state’s Amazon drivers and warehouse workers to pressure the company … The idea is to combine workplace actions like walkouts (the ground war) with pressure on company executives through public relations campaigns that highlight labor conditions and enlist the support of public figures (the air war). The Service Employees International Union used the strategy to organize janitors beginning in the 1980s, and to win gains for fast-food workers in the past few years, including wage increases across the industry."

    The Times goes on:  "The strategy reflects a paradox of the labor movement: While the Gallup Poll has found that roughly two-thirds of Americans approve of unions - up from half in 2009, a low point - it has rarely been more difficult to unionize a large company.

    "One reason is that labor law gives employers sizable advantages. The law typically forces workers to win elections at individual work sites of a company like Amazon, which would mean hundreds of separate campaigns. It allows employers to campaign aggressively against unions and does little to punish employers that threaten or retaliate against workers who try to organize."

    •  Reuters reports that "Democratic Representative Bobby Scott, who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, urged the Senate to pass the PRO Act which passed the House last month to make it more difficult for companies to interfere with union organizing.

    "The Protecting the Right to Organize Act would allow unions to collect dues from non-members covered by their contracts and forbid companies from holding mandatory meetings to lobby against a union, among other measures.

    "'America’s workers will not have consistent access to free, fair, and safe union elections until we strengthen our nation’s labor laws. We cannot continue allowing employers to interfere with workers’ decision whether or not to form a union,' Scott said in a statement."

    •  From CNet:

    "Amazon is trying to position itself as a leader on labor issues and directing the conversation away from unions. In a statement Friday, the company emphasized its advocacy for a $15 federal minimum wage for the '40 million Americans who make less than the starting wage at Amazon, and many more who don't get health care through their employers.'

    "Even if no warehouse workers try to organize in the near future, the scrutiny on working conditions at Amazon is likely to get even more intense. The National Labor Relations Board is reportedly considering investigating the company for a possible pattern of unfair labor practices, after receiving 37 complaints of retaliation from Amazon workers who say they were fired or disciplined for organizing walkouts or complaining about working conditions. And Amazon's thousands of workers, called essential during the coronavirus pandemic as they processed orders while risking infection, will likely continue calling attention to conditions they say leave them exhausted, at risk of injury and in fear of losing their jobs."

    •  Bloomberg writes that Amazon "always had the upper hand in its high-profile battle with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union over its fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. It had the deeper pockets, of course, and with mandatory workplace 'information sessions,' could slyly proselytize on the shop floor against the union and the financial burdens of membership.

    "Beyond that, Amazon also enjoyed a stark economic calculus. Three years ago, the Bessemer region wooed Amazon with an incentive package worth an estimated $51 million, one of the largest financial enticements the company has ever received to open a warehouse. At around the same time, the nearby city of Birmingham constructed three giant faux-Amazon cardboard boxes around town, part of an unsuccessful promotional stunt to try to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to the city. Like a lot of other states, Alabama wanted Amazon and its jobs in a time of widespread economic anxiety.

    "Employees seemed to get that voting for a union and thumbing their collective noses at Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos would have interfered with that objective."

    Bloomberg suggests that Amazon "probably needs to act on a few important lessons" from the Alabama fight:

    "The first is to listen more carefully to employees. Amazon, of course, would publicly vow that already it does so, religiously; but it didn’t instill much faith when it denied that its drivers were forced to use bottles along their routes, then apologized for the tweet a few days later and acknowledged it was a problem. During the union fight, Amazon employees told other harrowing stories; about being ordered into mandatory overtime without much forewarning or explanation; long walks to the break room or bathroom that eat into their two, half-hour breaks in a 10-hour shift; and the physical toll that comes from standing on their feet for a whole workday."

    In addition, "Amazon might have to reconsider the transitory nature of work in its fulfillment centers. The company trumpets its $15 hourly wage, which is about the national median for 'hand laborers and material movers,' according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics - as well as the prospect of 55-cent per-hour raises every six months. But what’s not as commonly known is that these raises stop after an employee reaches three years of service, unless he or she is promoted. The ceiling is deliberate: Amazon wants employees either to matriculate into management or leave the company for opportunities elsewhere."

    And finally, "Amazon will also have to address concerns that the fight in Bessemer indicated a larger problem in its relationship with Black workers," which seem to extend from its warehouses to its white collar workforce.

    •  And, the Wall Street Journal writes that "Amazon isn’t finished confronting labor battles. As ballot-processing took place in the Bessemer election, a small number of employees held a protest at a Chicago facility over working conditions. Workers in Europe recently went on strike over similar issues, and the National Labor Relations Board during the past year has found the company at fault on multiple occasions of retaliating against workers who have spoken out on different issues. Amazon has said disciplinary measures with workers are due to violations of workplace policies. The company has said the Chicago protest didn’t disrupt its operations."

    KC's View:

    I cannot help but think of ther passage from Mark 8:36…

    For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

    I continue to believe that a lot of consumers expect Amazon, which promotes itself as a kind of prototypical 21st century company (that probably is already thinking about how it will be a 22nd century company), to behave like an enlightened 21st century company.  And are disappointed when it does not.

    At the same time, consumers also expect Amazon to continue to deliver on its value proposition - making almost everything available to them as fast as possible, sometimes even defying the laws of physics.

    There is little question that Amazon will continue to face labor issues, and, I think, little question that it will continue to face political pressures.  The question that nobody can answer is whether any of this will result in a reordering of its priorities.

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    Lee Delaney, the president-CEO of BJ's Wholesale Club for the past year, who joined the company in 2016 as Chief Commercial Officer, has passed away at age 49.

    The company said it was "due to presumed natural causes."

    Christopher J. Baldwin, Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, issued the following statement:

    "We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney. Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community. We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to his family, especially his wife and two children. We will honor his legacy and remember the extraordinary impact he had on so many. Our thoughts are with them during this difficult time.”

    Bob Eddy, Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative and Financial Officer, has been named Interim CEO by the Board of Directors, effective immediately.

    The Boston Globe writes that "Delaney previously worked for Boston consulting firm Bain & Co. for 20 years."

    “We will miss Lee immensely,” said Tamar Dor-Ner, who heads Bain’s Boston office, in a statement to the Globe. “He was brilliant and generous and funny and fun. An impossible number of us considered him a good friend or an extraordinary mentor and in many cases both. We send our love to his wife and sons."

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    The Financial Times reports on the growing investor appetite for food delivery services, which found themselves much in demand during the pandemic.

    There is, FT writes, ""a growing crowd of rapid delivery apps that have become beneficiaries of a lockdown-fuelled funding bonanza. Investors have ploughed almost $14 billion into on-demand grocery delivery services globally since the beginning of the pandemic, according to PitchBook Data, with more funding arriving during the first three months of 2021 than the whole of last year. The long-familiar concept of a doorstep delivery service, whose origins might be found in the humble milk float, has been turbocharged by a combination of the pandemic and Silicon Valley’s hype machine.

    "'One huge benefit during the past year is all this forced adoption [due to lockdowns],' says PitchBook’s Alex Frederick. 'It gave them [the delivery groups] a ton of consumer data to improve their products, and so you’re seeing these companies raise all this capital, to better serve what their customers want.'  Apps such as DoorDash and Deliveroo, focused on restaurants and takeaway meals, have proven consumer appetite for deliveries that are ordered online and arrive in as little as 30 minutes. But the new generation of start-ups eyeing the far greater market of groceries — estimated at $1 trillion in the US and more than €2 trillion in Europe — promise to deliver a basket of essentials in just 10 minutes."

    You can read the piece here.

    KC's View:

    A couple of things are likely to play out here.

    One of that there will be a bunch of companies that will over-promise what they can offer to consumers and over-estimate their ability to be profitable … which will lead to some business collapses (and at least one or two will be spectacular flame-outs).

    The other trend we're likely to see is more of these delivery services adopting hybrid models, which will allow them to both service retailer clients' e-commerce shoppers and create more autonomous business segments (making direct deals with manufacturers, offering their own promotions and credit cards, opening dark stores so that they don't need retailer clients) that they think will allow them to improve their bottom lines.

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    CNBC reports that the locations of the first four Amazon Fresh grocery stores have been confirmed by the company - one in Washington, DC … one in Franconia, Virginia … one in Chevy Chase, Maryland … and one in the Warrington, Pennsylvania, suburb of Philadelphia.

    Some context from CNBC:

    "In September, Amazon opened its first Fresh grocery store in Los Angeles’ Woodland Hills neighborhood. It has since opened a handful of other locations throughout Southern California and in several suburbs of Chicago.

    "Amazon’s Fresh stores look like a traditional supermarket, but also feature some high-tech touches, such as smart Dash Carts that let shoppers skip the checkout line, and voice-activated Echo Show displays. However, unlike Amazon-owned Whole Foods, Fresh stores are meant to appeal to a broader array of shoppers, by offering products at lower price points than the upscale grocer, as well as traditional staples including Coca-Cola drinks and Kellogg’s cereal. There’s also a dedicated store area for shoppers to pick up and return Prime packages.

    "Amazon now has 11 Fresh stores in operation. Last month, Bloomberg identified at least 28 more Fresh locations that are in the works. The company is also testing its 'Just Walk Out' cashierless technology at a Fresh store in Illinois."

    KC's View:

    Just a guess here … for every Fresh store location that Amazon has announced or confirmed, there probably are a dozen or so that are on the drawing board.

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    Marc Lore, who sold the company that launched for $545 million and then later sold to Walmart for $3.3 billion, apparently has decided what to do with some of that money - he is teaming with retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez to acquire the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association and its sister team,  the Minnesota Lynx of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

    ESPN writes that "he purchase price in the deal is expected to be in the $1.5 billion range."  Lore and A-Rod are said to be join the team as minority investors, with current majority owner Glen Taylor remaining in charge for two years.  Lore and A-Rod will then take over majority ownership in 2023.

    Recode wrote earlier this year that as Lore left Walmart, where he'd been in charge of US e-commerce, he said his "next big entrepreneurial swing will be something far afield from his current expertise: a multi-decade project to build 'a city of the future' supported by 'a reformed version of capitalism'."

    "It’s a new model for society we’ll be testing," he said.

    A-Rod, on the other hand has expressed interest in becoming a major league sports owner since retiring, and last year made an unsuccessful  play to acquire the New York Mets.

    KC's View:

    I'm not sure if it is good or bad, but it is only here that Lore gets billing above A-Rod.

    Published on: April 12, 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 31,918,601 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 575,829 deaths and 24,480,522 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 136,728,940 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,951,278 resultant fatalities, and 109,965,166 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  The Washington Post reports that "at least 119.2 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 72.6 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 237.8 million doses have been distributed."

    •  The Wall Street Journal writes that "younger people who haven’t been vaccinated are helping drive a rise in new Covid-19 cases, health officials are finding.

    "Five states - Michigan, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey - account for some 42% of newly reported cases. In Michigan, adults aged 20 to 39 have the highest daily case rates, new data show. Case rates for children aged 19 and under are at a record, more than quadruple from a month ago. There were 301 reported school outbreaks as of early last week, up from 248 the week prior, according to state data.

    Epidemiologists and public-health authorities have pointed to school sports as a major source of Covid-19 transmission. Since January, K-12 sports transmission in Michigan has been highest in basketball, with 376 cases and 100 clusters; in hockey, with 256 cases and 52 clusters; and in wrestling, with 190 cases and 55 clusters. Overall, cases and clusters have occurred in over 15 sport settings, data from the state shows.

    •  Axios writes that "all the things that could prolong the COVID-19 pandemic - that could make this virus a part of our lives longer than anyone wants - are playing out right in front of our eyes … This is a preview of the longer, darker coronavirus future the U.S. may face without sufficient vaccinations — one that many experts see as pretty likely.

    Although the pace of vaccinations is still strong, there’s a growing fear that it’s about to slow down. In some parts of the country, particularly the South, demand for shots has already slowed down enough to create a surplus of available doses."

    While "the U.S. is still making fantastic progress on vaccinations," the story says, "as variants of the virus cause new outbreaks and infect more children, the U.S. is also getting a preview of what the future could hold if our vaccination push loses steam - as experts fear it soon might … Variants are beginning to infect more kids, even as schools are on the fast track back to reopening, making the pandemic 'a brand new ball game,' as University of Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm recently put it."

    Axios writes that "the more widely a virus can spread, the more opportunities it has to mutate. If the U.S. and ultimately the world don’t vaccinate a sufficient percentage of the population, we’ll be setting ourselves up to let the virus keep spreading, and keep mutating, continuing to give us new variants that will continue to pose new threats."

    •  Bloomberg reports that "Covid-19 vaccination requirements are fast becoming facts of life in the U.S., spreading business by business even as politicians and privacy advocates rail against them.

    "Brown, Notre Dame and Rutgers are among universities warning students and staff they’ll need shots in order to return to campus this fall. Some sports teams are demanding proof of vaccination or a negative test from fans as arenas reopen. Want to see your favorite band play indoors in California? At bigger venues, the same rules apply. A Houston hospital chain recently ordered its 26,000 employees to get vaccinated."

    However, "privacy advocates are bristling over so-called vaccination passports, with some states moving to restrict their use … Civil-liberties advocates worry about the privacy implications of any passport system."

    To this point, the companies requiring such passports are in the minority:  "A recent survey by the consulting firm Mercer Total Health Management found that 73% of employers don’t plan to make vaccination a requirement."

    •  CNN reports that Costco, which shut down eating areas and trimmed the menu in its food courts because of the pandemic, is getting ready to get them back to normal, "albeit slowly."

    According to the story, a "return to normal is gaining steam. Costco recently began adding back ice cream and smoothies to the menu and is bringing back tables and chairs in stores that have outdoor seating areas. The company also is bringing back churros to the menu and plans to resume indoor seating as more states loosen Covid-19 safety restrictions."

    Costco CFO Richard Galanti expects a full return to normal for the company's popular food courts: "God willing. But it's going to take some time," he tells CNN.

    •  I've written before about how I think retailers can actually use a high vaccination rate among employees into a competitive advantage … which is exactly what Stew Leonard's did over the weekend with this email to customers:

    And then, Stew's also circulated this video - cheeky, a little irreverent and just plain fun - internally to promote even further participation among staff:

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    •  Recode reports that Amazon may be planning its annual Prime Day promotion - which actually takes place over multiple days -  for June this year.

    The event usually happens in July, but was moved to October in 2020 because of complications created by the pandemic.

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said Monday that it would invest in measures to support merchants on its platform, two days after China’s antitrust regulator imposed a record fine against the company founded by Jack Ma for abusing its dominant position over vendors and rivals in the country’s e-commerce industry.

    "In a conference call, Chief Executive Daniel Zhang said the company has reduced service fees and charges for vendors, and invested in improved technology and tools for them on its platform. The initiatives will cut further into profitability for the company, which said it would use existing liquidity to pay a $2.8 billion fine announced Saturday."

    •  The Verge reports that "Google is shutting down its mobile Shopping apps for both iOS and Android and directing users to its web Shopping site instead … The app allowed users to choose from among thousands of online stores and make purchases using their Google accounts. to quickly shop across thousands of stores and purchase stuff using your Google Account."

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    •  USA Today reports that "a public health alert has been issued for approximately 211,406 pounds of raw ground turkey products potentially linked to salmonella hadar illness.

    "The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued the alert Saturday night for the products that were produced by Plainville Brands, LLC, which is based in New Oxford, Pennsylvania.

    "The affected products were shipped to stores nationwide and have January 'use by/freeze/sell by' dates. The health alert said there were concerns that 'some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers'.

    "According to the USDA health alert, a recall was 'not requested because it is believed that the products are no longer available for consumers to purchase'."

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    Content Guy’s Note: Stories in this section are, in my estimation, important and relevant to business. However, they are relegated to this slot because some MNB readers have made clear that they prefer a politics-free MNB; I can't do that because sometimes the news calls out for coverage and commentary, but at least I can make it easy for folks to skip it if they so desire.

    •  The Washington Post reports that "more than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders gathered online Saturday to discuss taking new action to combat the controversial state voting bills being considered across the country, including the one recently signed into law in Georgia.

    "Executives from major airlines, retailers and manufacturers - plus at least one NFL owner - talked about potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures, according to four people who were on the call, including one of the organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor.

    "While no final steps were agreed upon, the meeting represents an aggressive dialing up of corporate America’s stand against controversial voting measures nationwide, a sign that their opposition to the laws didn’t end with the fight against the Georgia legislation passed in March … The call’s goal was to unify companies that had been issuing their own statements and signing on to drafted statements from different organizations after the action in Georgia, Sonnenfeld said."

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    •  John Naisbitt, who leapt to fame with his 1982 book "Megatrends," has passed away.  He was 92.  No cause of death has been divulged.

    The Washington Post writes that his book, which "projected trends in business and society, became a bestseller and made him an adviser to presidents, prime ministers and corporate titans … Naisbitt , a onetime public relations executive and federal official, became an independent business analyst in the late 1960s, first in Chicago and later in Washington.

    "Spotting trends in newspapers and magazines, he summarized his findings in reports for businesses, research groups and libraries. He struggled for years, declaring bankruptcy in the late 1970s — and pleading guilty to bankruptcy fraud — before 'Megatrends' made him an international star of futuristic studies."

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    Got a number of emails about Amazon's victory over the union in the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse unionization vote.  In the MNB update on Friday in which I reported the final vote, I commented:

    I do think that the celebration at Amazon should be short-lived, because it is going to have to figure out how to deal with similar  movements around the country.  Alabama always was going to be problematic for union organizers - it is a so-called "right to work" state where, even when a business is unionized, workers do not have to join in order to keep their jobs.  The question was whether Amazon's treatment of workers, as characterized by organizers, was sufficient to get people past an anti-union prejudice.

    The question is how a similar vote might've gone in California or Ohio or Illinois or New York.  I suspect Amazon may be about to find out.

    In addition, this will only draw more Congressional scrutiny, with new calls to regulate the company's growth or break it up.

    Amazon better learn to tell its story more effectively, and work on having a better story to tell.  I think that it positions itself as the very paradigm of 21st century business, and so it becomes a requirement that it behave like one.  I'm not sure that it measures up on that particular scale.

    MNB reader Bob McGehee wrote:

    I was born and raised in Southern Illinois, the one-time home to a veritable army of coal miners.  In less than 2 generations that army is now barely a platoon.  The multiple unions representing those workers could do nothing to stop the climate change/acid rain advocates.  Obviously, there was a need for unions at those mines to protect their members.  My grandfather worked in those mines and suffered significant health issues as a result.  He also lost his only son in a labor dispute but since the son was shot in the back by a member of a rival union, his allegiance to unionism wasn’t very strong. 

    The time for unions today is minimal.  The name of the union attempting to organize the Amazon facility in Alabama says a lot.  The RSDWU was originally at least 4 or more different groups but dwindling membership has forced a significant consolidation which says to me their need is also dwindling. 

    It should be noted the NLRB (and a lot of the SCOTUS rulings on which today’s unions rely) was originated during FDR’s tenure thus a liberal interpretation is predisposed. Therefore any efforts by Amazon that made it’s way through the existing regulatory mine field has to be balanced against those rulings. 

    Since the people in Bessemer feel like the need for a union isn’t required they should be allowed to work without one.  The lawsuits that will undoubtedly be waged are a cost that can and should be avoided BUT I’m sure the lawyers at RSDW are looking forward to cranking up the billable hours.

    Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

    From another reader:

    Hey Kevin - I was a production supervisor for a union sawmill years back.  New employees hated the unions since they had such a hard time getting entry level jobs.  As they bounced around from temp job to temp job, they were unable to obtain permanent work since the unions were protecting their members, as job quantities decreased, against new hires.  As automation continues to increase, and permanent entry level jobs decrease, it is logical that what I saw years ago continues.

    And from another:

    Kevin, you do a dis-service to Ohio lumping us in with CA, NY and IL – vastly different politics in this state, my friend. And while we’re not ‘right-to-work’ we would be if not for our previous left-of-center GOP governor.

    Apologies if I've offended any Ohioans.

    Though I am trying to figure out which previous GOP governor is left of center … because I can't imagine that such a description would be applied to John Kasich.  Bob Taft?  George Voinovich?

    On Friday I did a FaceTime commentary in which I pointed out that Netflix distinguished itself from its earliest days by how it defined its mission and competition, which drove it to offer proprietary context and disrupt its way to becoming the top streaming service.  But in the last research period, Netflix may have lost close to a third  of its streaming market share, which creates a new challenge that I think offers lesson to all retailers.

    MNB reader Rich Heiland responded:

    Interesting commentary. My first question was "did Netflix lose market share or viewers?" If the market grows you can be doing just fine bottom line even if share drops. Still, I get your warning.

    In our case we dropped DISH a couple of years ago. We now have Youtube TV which gives us local channels and a solid range of cable channels. We also have Prime and Netflix - all for a tad more than half what we were paying for DISH. But, where do we go from here? We have more channels than we can watch, and I am not even counting movies, original content etc. That's why we have not gone to the newer streamers like Peacock. We haven't scratched the surface of Prime and Netflix. There are times, though, when HBO Max gets tempting.

    I think the key point you made was the one about post-pandemic viewing. How many people, as they return to more activity, will think they are over-booked on streaming services? That, to me, is the true incentive for re-invention. Services will have to be than enjoyed by viewers, they will have to be needed. As an aside, that's where traditional cable, DISH and DIRECT to  me are the real vulnerable players in the delivery market.

    The other day we took note of a Bloomberg Businessweek story about how "one of the most economically significant trends of the past few decades has been the emergence of a global middle class. The expectation that this cohort of consumers would continue to grow relentlessly, as rising incomes in developing countries lifted millions out of poverty each year, has been a central assumption in multinationals’ business plans and the portfolio strategies of professional investors … You can now add that to the list of economic truths that have been upended by this pandemic. For the first time since the 1990s, the global ­middle class shrank last year, according to a recent Pew Research Center estimate."

    I commented:

    What's really sobering about this story's implications is how many businesses have been created to cater to the middle class, and to appeal to now-crushed aspirations.

    There's a sentence in the story that I can't quite forget:  "Strivers face a far more uncertain future than in years past."  The issue is how deep the damage is, how long it will last, and what can be done to rectify the situation.

    One MNB reader responded:

    I take a different view on this.  If you want to stay down and wait for someone else to lift you up, then in the future you will always be down and look at yourself as a victim of the circumstances around you. 

    Strivers, by their very nature, do not see themselves as victims.  They look at what is presented and then figure out how to better themselves and others with what is at hand.  So, the statement that “Strivers face a far more uncertain future than in years past.”  isn’t true.  Everyone’s future is uncertain.  It’s the strivers that make something of it. 

    I don't disagree that it is a mistake to view oneself as a victim.  But that's not to say that all people have an even short.  Wouldn't it be pretty to think so.

    And on another subject, from another reader:

    The retailers cried when the pandemic hit and said they are losing money because of the increased costs.  Now I would venture to say they will cry when food service busts open again.

    So, they just cry no matter what the issue is.  Maybe instead of crying they should have done something to keep the increased traffic and purchases.  But sadly, I don’t think they did.

    I can be as critical as anyone of retailers who do not compete as effectively as they ought to, who are complacent about their situations.  But I also think it is important to not paint with a broad brush - there are many out there who are much better at making their competitors cry.

    Published on: April 12, 2021

    Hideki Matsuyama was victorious in the Masters yesterday in Augusta, Georgia, winning by one stroke with an overall 10-under par performance, making him the first Japanese man to win a major golf championship.