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    Published on: June 3, 2021

    by Michael Sansolo

    Chances are the most you’ve thought about jeans in the past year is when you’ve actually considered them dressing up from sweat pants. But somehow, those very same workhorse-clothing items have become symbolic in an unexpected generational divide between Millennials (born between 1980 and 1996) and Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012).

    Truth be told, many of us boomers likely don’t draw much of a distinction between the two generational cohorts.  We may have children who we think of as being in the same generation, but who, demographically speaking, are not.  For us, Millennials and Gen Z  are the two young generations at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to workers or shoppers.

    But that generalization is a huge mistake.  And the first place you can find the dividing line is in their jeans.

    As Gotham recently reported, skinny jeans (something I’m never going to wear) apparently belong to the Millennial crowd, while their younger Gen Z counterparts opt for more comfortable denim pants, whether you call them baggies, mom jeans, dad jeans, or whatever.

    The jeans war is a stark reminder that we cannot ever paint with an overly broad brush.  Given that these are two large generational cohorts who are currently or will shortly be everyone’s core consumers, it’s important we understand how they are very different in many ways beyond their jeans.

    SalesForce recently did a lengthy outline of those important differences. For example, SaleForce posited that Millennials are far more likely to value customer experiences, while Gen Z is looking for more innovation in products and services and are more cost conscious (likely because they’ve experienced so much economic turmoil in their young lives.  SalesForce described Gen Z as more pragmatic, while Millennials are more idealistic.

    Most importantly, while both generations value authenticity, Gen Z takes it to a new and higher level, which if correct should be a warning sign out there to all companies as both marketers and employers. Don’t fake it!

    And incredibly, while both generations are savvy at on-line shopping, the younger Gen Zs seem more willing to return to offline shopping once covid is fully tamed. 

    Likewise, they exhibit different goals and desires as staffers, which may even more important to know in the current battle to find and keep associates.  Both generational groups want to understand how their employer works for the greater good of society, both expect to be technologically enabled and they want clear and consistent communication from employers. 

    But Millennials put a higher priority on job flexibility, while Gen Z looks for stability (again, probably because of all the economic turmoil they have witnessed impacting their families.) Millennials value work-life balance, while Zs are looking for salary and advancement. And while both want feedback, Gen Z wants it straight and unvarnished, while Millennials like a touch of encouragement.

    Given the size of both groups (Millennials are the largest cohort in the US, while Gen Z is just slightly smaller than the Baby Boom generation) it behooves companies and managers at all levels to get a clear sense of just who these young people are to better manage and sell to them. 

    Here’s a hint: look at their jeans!

    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: June 3, 2021

    KC did something yesterday he hadn't done in more than 15 months - he packed his bags, drove to the airport, got on a plane, and flew to Dallas for the GMDC/Retail Tomorrow Summer Sessions, where he'll be getting up in front of an audience (something else he hasn't done in 15 months) to do a LIVE "Innovation Conversation" with Tom Furphy.

    This is a brief chronicle of that trip.

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    Day One:  "Milk Money"

    KC reports from the GMDC/Retail Tomorrow Mid-Year Meet-Up in Dallas, where futurist Nancy Giordano, author of "Leadering," offered an apt metaphor about unexpected change, and KC builds on it with a typically cynical observation about how change-resistant industries approach transitional moments that, either way, can come to define them.

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    GeekWire reports that Amazon took two steps to lessen the tension among its warehouse employees.

    First, it said it is "modifying its infamous Time off Task employee tracking software to provide more breathing room for bathroom breaks, conversations with supervisors, and equipment repair. 

    "The changes, revealed in a blog post by Dave Clark, CEO of the worldwide consumer division, comes on the heels of another report about the company’s unusually high warehouse injury rate."

    And second, it said it would support  legalization of marijuana at the federal level, and would "stop screening for use of the drug for certain classifications of employees."

    The shift in how the company uses Time Off Task software came as Amazon deals with a new report criticizing the level of warehouse injuries in its facilities.

    "Starting today, we’re now averaging Time off Task over a longer period to ensure that there’s more signal and less noise - reinforcing the original intent of the program, and focusing Time off Task conversations on how we can help," Clark wrote in the blog posting.

    "The goal is to re-focus the conversations on instances where there are likely true operational issues to resolve. We believe this change will help ensure the Time off Task policy is used in the way it was intended."

    GeekWire writes that "on the same day as Clark’s post, union-backed Strategic Organizing Center published a study that it said showed Amazon fulfillment centers had 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 employees, a rate nearly 80% higher than non-Amazon warehouses. Similar to the reasons stated for the attempted union organization in Bessemer, Ala. this spring, the SOC blamed Amazon’s Time-off-Task-driven work culture and pressure."

    As for the shift on marijuana, GeekWire writes that Amazon now "is supporting the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021, legislation that would legalize pot and help clear expunge criminal records while investing in communities most affected by severe drug laws."

    Clark blogged, "Given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course.  We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use … We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law."

    KC's View:

    Did someone at Amazon have an epiphany on the road to Damascus?

    Even as it relaxes its Time Off Task and stops testing employees for pot, there is a Business Insider piece about how Amazon has put out a "wellness guide" for warehouse employees telling them to train like "industrial athletes," and to buy shoes immediately after ending their shifts so they'll better fit on swollen feet.

    And, according to Vice, "in one of its most dystopian moves yet, Amazon is introducing tiny booths where its overworked warehouse employees can momentarily escape a job so grueling, many employees say they don't feel like they have enough time to even use the bathroom."  These booths are being referred to as "ZenBooths'' or "Mindful Practice Rooms."

    The thing is, Amazon might be able to address these issues simply by being more humane and less strict in how it manages warehouse employees.

    But if that doesn't work, I have an idea.  Having relaxed its time-off practices, Amazon should actually make sure that the zen rooms have foot baths complete with Epsom salts, so that people can deal with their swollen feet that way.  And then, maybe they could supply some complimentary marijuana for when people are meditating and soaking their feet, and could rechristen the rooms as Blunt Booths.

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    The New York Times has a piece about how newly relaxed federal guidance about mask wearing - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying that people who are fully vaccinated now can go maskless in most indoor and outdoor settings (though not in airports, train stations, hospitals, doctors offices, and on mass transit) - is creating enormous anxiety among  retail employees.

    "More than a dozen retail, hospitality and fast-food workers across the country interviewed by The New York Times expressed alarm that their employers had used the C.D.C. guidance to make masks optional for vaccinated customers," the story says.

    Workers say they are concerned that they have no idea of the customers not wearing masks are vaccinated or not.

    The Times writes that "the effect of the change appears to be most acute in politically mixed or conservative areas, where many people have chafed at mask requirements and vaccination rates are lower. In liberal enclaves, where public support for masking has generally been high, many customers continue to wear masks whether or not they are required.

    "In mixed and conservative areas, workers said, employer policies were often the only thing standing between them and customers who were neither masked nor vaccinated. As a result, they feel far more exposed now."

    “We just feel like we’re sitting ducks,” says one Virginia employee at a Kroger store.

    KC's View:

    Unstated in the piece, but equally problematic, is the fact that even if some of these retailers decided to enforce a mask mandate despite the relaxation of CDC guidance, employees then would be put into the uncomfortable position of becoming "mask police," which can fuel a different kind of confrontation.

    Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to any of this except for higher vaccination levels.

    Some employees told the Times that "they had been vaccinated but worried they could still get sick or infect family members who were not or could not get vaccinated. Others said they had yet to be vaccinated."

    Which is the point that some folks seem to miss.

    I got an email from an MNB reader the other day that said, in part:

    Can we stop worrying about people who don't get vaccinated??  Why challenge retail stores to enforce rules to protect people who do not want protection? … If a person chooses not to be vaccinated, it is up to them to protect themselves not everyone else to protect them.

    What folks like this one do not understand - or maybe don't care about - is that this is not about protecting people who do not want to be protected.  Listen, if you want to put yourself at risk, go ahead.  Just don't take other people with you.

    I have no problem if a person likes to drink, and if that person also likes to drive.  I just think it is eminently reasonable to require that this person not drink and drive at the same time, because they may do harm to someone else.

    People who choose not to get vaccinated and not wear masks could pass on the coronavirus even to people who are fully vaccinated, who could be asymptomatic and then infect someone at their home who may be immunocompromised ar too young to have yet gotten the disease.

    Maybe the odds of this happening are long.  Maybe we have enough medicine now to insure that it is less likely that these people will die as a result.

    But to my mind, trying to make sure this doesn't happen is worth wearing a mask for a few more weeks and months in enclosed spaces where infection is more likely seems like a simple act of compassion.  Call it being neighborly.

    The Connecticut stores where I shop have kept a mask mandate in place, presumably to keep their employees and customers healthy.  It is inconvenient, but I'm happy to do it.  It also seems appropriately idealistic, and a salve for my sometimes cynical heart;  I believe in the Raymond Chandler line, "Without idealism, there is no integrity."

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    "Last Week Tonight" was off this week, but host John Oliver did a special web version that focused on the cereal industry … and how he's a little frustrated by a lack of innovation.

    You can watch it below … but be warned, like most John Oliver material,  it is definItely NSFW:

    KC's View:

    On the other hand, maybe John Oliver got it wrong.  (And I rarely say that.)

    Guilty Eats has a story about how "Kellogg’s seems to have made the connection between college students and cereal … because they’re now bringing cereal vending machines to two college campuses. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Florida State University will be the first to get this new vending machine called the Bowl Bot."

    The story goes on:  "Inside the machine are 22 different ingredients you can choose from including a ton of Kellogg’s cereal, milk, greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, and seeds. There are also special menu items that combine different cereals together.

    "The first special menu item is About Last Night which consists of Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Kellogg’s Krave, chocolate drops, banana chips, and espresso syrup. If this doesn’t wake you up, nothing will."

    Think of this as Kellogg's cereal-centric version of the Coca-Cola Freestyle vending machine, which allows you to customize your own soft drink flavor.

    Not sure if this will live up to John Oliver's definition of innovation.  But there's at least a decent shot that he'll mention the Bowl Bot on a future program … though there likely will be expletives involved.

    Published on: June 3, 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 34,154,305 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 611,020 deaths and 27,986,511 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 172,426,494 total coronavirus cases, with 3,706,563 resultant fatalities and 155,060,668 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 62.9 percent of the US population 18 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 51.9 percent being fully vaccinated.

    •  The Associated Press reports that the White House, looking to achieve its updated goal of having 70 percent of adults in the US receiving at least one dose of vaccine by July 4, has launched what it is calling a "month of action" to get shots into arms, largely through public-private partnerships.

    According to the story, " the White House is partnering with early childhood centers such as KinderCare, Learning Care Group, Bright Horizons and more than 500 YMCAs to provide free childcare coverage for Americans looking for shots or needing assistance while recovering from side effects.

    "The administration is also launching a new partnership to bring vaccine education and even doses to more than a thousand Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons, building on a successful pilot program in Maryland.

    "They’re the latest vaccine sweeteners, building on other incentives like cash giveaways, sports tickets and paid leave, to keep up the pace of vaccinations … new incentives include a $2 million commitment from DoorDash to provide gift cards to community health centers to be used to drive people to get vaccinated. CVS launched a sweepstakes with prizes including free cruises and Super Bowl tickets. Major League Baseball will host on-site vaccine clinics and ticket giveaways at games. And Kroger will give $1 million to a vaccinated person each week this month and dozens of people free groceries for the year."

    Another offer:  "a promotional giveaway announced Wednesday by Anheuser-Busch, saying it will 'buy Americans 21+ a round of beer'" once the 70 percent goal is reached.

    It also was announced that "many pharmacies are extending their hours this month — and thousands will remain open overnight on Fridays. The White House is also stepping up its efforts to help employers run on-site vaccination clinics."

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Boston Globe reports that Butcher Box, a meat subscription delivery service, is partnering with Instacart, which "will deliver ButcherBox products to customers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Miami this summer through a pilot program."

    “We’re meeting customers where those customers are,” ButcherBox founder and CEO Mike Salguero tells the Globe. “They’re not just on, they’re shopping on Instacart, they’re at restaurants. It’s about how we as a brand attract people wherever they go.”

    I understand that Butcher Box wants to reach more customers, but it also needs to understand that Instacart now is going to have access to a lot of its customer information, which it can use if it decides it makes sense to start up a competing service, or can use in other marketing efforts.

    I happen to be a  Butcher Box subscriber, but the moment that box of meat gets delivered to me via Instacart, I'm outta there.  I don't want to be a pawn in Instacart's growth plan.

    •  Bloomberg Businessweek reports that "a new study from the Progressive Policy Institute, which was founded in 1989 as a centrist Democratic think tank and promises 'radically pragmatic thinking,' calls Amazon its No. 1 'investment hero.' It estimates that Amazon boosted its U.S. capital spending by 75% in 2020, to $33.8 billion, from the year earlier, which was more than twice that of any other company.

    "The study names 25 investment heroes based on their U.S. capital spending. The rest of the top five for 2020 are Verizon Communications, $16.1 billion; AT&T, $15.6 billion; Google’s parent Alphabet, $14 billion; and Intel, $12.5 billion."

    According to the report, “The willingness of these companies to keep spending essentially made it possible for large chunks of the economy to move forward despite the pandemic … Investment by broadband and tech companies kept people connected at home during the shock of the lockdown; and the investment by e-commerce firms helped keep essential goods flowing while many Americans could not go out shopping."

    •  In the UK, This Is Money reports that "Amazon is predicted to overtake Tesco as Britain's biggest retailer in 2025, marking a major change of the guard. 

    "The pandemic has turbocharged online shopping and put Amazon, which started selling books in the UK in 1998, on the road to dominance … Tesco, founded by Polish migrants as London market stall in 1919, employs 340,000 staff in its 3,400 UK stores."

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    •  USA Today reports that "Walmart is increasing store hours for the first time since November after drastically cutting them in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

    "Starting June 5, stores will open an hour earlier – at 6 a.m. each day – except for Tuesday mornings, when Walmart will continue to hold its weekly senior hours for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 … Most pharmacies and vision centers will resume pre-COVID hours beginning July 3."

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    •  Smart & Final has announced that it is "commemorating its 150th Anniversary in 2021. Smart & Final’s history dates back to 1871 when it was founded in Los Angeles under the name Hellman-Hass Grocery Co. With more than 250 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada, it stands as one of the oldest and longest continually operating food retailers in the United States. To celebrate, the company is paying homage to their history and celebrating customers’ special moments after a historically difficult year."

    •  Bloomberg reports that Apple plans to add more bricks-and-mortar stores to the 500 that current make up its fleet, believing that "retail locations offer an opportunity for people to experience new technology, ask questions and attend workshops on Apple’s products."

    "On our online site people can learn a lot about the products; in a store they can touch them and get a feel for them," Deirdre O’Brien, Apple's senior vice president of retail and people.  "We intend to add more stores."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that eyewear brand Warby Parker "is doubling down on its bricks-and-mortar strategy" as the pandemic recedes and it comes off a year during which many of its 135 units had to be temporarily closed.

    According to the story, "Since reopening stores last summer, the company has been aggressively expanding its bricks-and-mortar footprint and says it is on track to open 35 new stores this year. Co-founders and co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa said the 11-year-old business has faced down its toughest year and increased its sales."

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Tyson Foods is getting a new CEO, as Dean Banks stepped down after just eight months on the job.  He is succeeded by Donnie King, described as "a three-decade veteran of the Arkansas company who earlier this year was named chief operating officer."

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    MNB reader Thomas Parkinson had a thought about our story headlined, "Summer 2021 Could Be Best Of Times For US Teen Workers."

    One thing I really liked about the Dutch minimum wage is that it increases as you get older. Basically the grocery stores (and all businesses) were able to hire high school students at a lower wage.  The minimum wage increases as you get older until 21 where you get the full wage.  Another way for the US to look at it.

    Here's a link to the Dutch system

    I love that idea.

    I commented on the story this way:

    I worked my way through high school and college to pay the tuition (admittedly, a long time ago, when such a thing was possible), and it was in those retail stores that I got an enormous education that prepared me for life as an adult.  (And, in their own way, for life as the Content Guy;  I never dreamed I'd spend decades of my life writing about this stuff and reconsidering lessons learned so long ago.)

    Prompting MNB reader Mike Moon to write:

    I fully understand your comment about how your work during high school prepared you for life as an adult. 

    When we owned our supermarket, my wife and I established a $500 annual scholarship for a local graduating senior. The qualifications? They had to plan to attend a 2 year or 4 year school, have successfully held a job while in high school (somewhere, it didn't have to be my employee), and they had to have a letter of recommendation from their employer. We always felt that the lessons learned on the job were as important as those learned in the classroom.

    The other day we took note of a Financial Times report on an internal Nestlé presentation conceding that "more than 60 per cent of its mainstream food and drinks products do not meet a 'recognised definition of health' and that 'some of our categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much we renovate'."

    MNB reader Tony Moore responded:

    Would love to know what the percent is for the top 10 food companies globally. 

    I’m guessing not too far off from the number Nestlé is reporting. 

    This could be the challenge of the decade for these huge organizations that have a heavy focus on processed foods and beverages  Which, based on my personal experience working for several of these companies, is the mainstay of their portfolios. Not sure what the answer is here. 

    From another reader:

    At least Nestle is admitting what we all know about package products.  If you walk the aisles of any grocery store, the majority of the items they are selling on their shelf have ingredients that are not healthy.  Many of the items on which food retailers make the most profit are unhealthy- salty snacks, soft drinks, seasonal candy, etc.  As a result, we have an epidemic of obesity related illnesses.  Yet, people in this country have the freedom to choose what they want to eat.  Retailers offer the solution, because they choose what they want to sell to their customers and how they want to educate people about what they are eating.

    And another:

    I don’t think that Nestle will dramatically change what they produce unless one thing happens, the consumer doesn’t buy it.  There are plenty of choices out there for healthier eating.  So if you want to eat healthier, then don’t buy the unhealthy foods.  I fell our family eats well and maintains a healthy diet.  However there still is nothing like a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich every now and then. Over 500 calories thank you very much.

    Regarding another subject we've been discussing here on MNB, Steven Ritchey


    JIT or Just In Time was born of a need to limit inventory in production plants.  It works very well in situations where production and material needs can be plan in advance, so the need for parts and other manufacturing materials can be planned in advance.  Assembly plants, particularly automotive assembly plants had deliveries planned down to the quarter hour, ideally so that just as the last unit was installed on a new car, the next shipment arrived and was placed at the assembly lines disposal.  JIT puts immense pressure on the suppliers as in a manufacturing facility, it frequently requires multi deliveries daily to the assembler.  You can see where this creates all kids of issues to be solved in receiving so many deliveries, daily, moving the goods to where they are needed in the plant, etc.

    I don't know how feasible this would be in a retail setting, particularly in a supermarket retail setting where economies of scale demand buying so that you get your suppliers best price.

    In a manufacturing concern, it doesn't matter how empty your supply shelves look, provided the stock arrives in time to keep the line operating, the consumer never sees that.

    However, in a retail environment, particularly a supermarket, if a store looks empty, like it's controlling it's inventory and keep only what it sells, it looks like it's going out of business, not the message you want to give your customers who still shop in person, and at least in lots of the stores I call on, lot's of customers still are shopping in person.

    So, it may work, but, it will have to be a program designed specifically for the retailer and maybe even for specific retailers and only for certain items.  

    I know JIT will appeal to bean counters who are eyeing efficiency.  But, when it comes to efficiency or effectiveness, I'll take effectiveness.  I know, I'm paraphrasing what you have already written.  Keep in mind, this is an old retailer person talking, with several decades of experience in the old ways of doing business.

    Sometimes there is a reason those old ways have lasted so long.

    And, regarding price hikes in the meat business, MNB reader Dan Jones wrote:

    In March and April of last year – as restaurants were forced to shut down – there was a glut of proteins available to grocery stores and prices were artificially low.  Here we are a year later and restaurants are able to fully open – and so the demand on proteins is high as foodservice pipelines are refilled.  Inflation is real and protein prices will be higher, but we are probably over-stating the true inflation number due to the chaos of the 2020 comps. 

    Responding to the piece about the soon-to-come increase in postage costs, one MNB reader wrote:

    I find it interesting that the USPS wants to raise rates.  This coming at a time that they are falling further behind in the via for mail delivery.  UPS, FedEx, Google are all thanking USPS for there direction.  How many Christmas cards will you send out this year???

    And, regarding the latest case of an extortion attempt by foreign criminals, this one of JBS, the world's largest meat supplier, MNB reader Dale Tillotson wrote:

    I feel that it is safe to say as ransomware continues to increase and it gets paid off by the victims, all consumers then become victims as the price is passed along the chain, that seems quite obvious to me. We need all be concerned.

    Published on: June 3, 2021

    •  Mike Krzyzewski, the longtime Duke men's basketball coach who is the winningest coach in Division I men’s college basketball history - 1,170 wins, five national titles, plus three Olympic gold medals as the coach of the US men’s national team - announced that he will retire after next season.

    Reports are that Duke plans for Krzyzewski to be succeeded by Jon Scheyer, an assistant coach with the team and one of his former players.