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    Published on: July 14, 2021

    Every retailer, at every possible. moment, should tell a story - preferably one that delights the customer.  KC just got a retailer press release that did more than that - it told a retailer's story with an uncommon and surprising sense of humor and perspective, right down to the final lines.

    Published on: July 14, 2021

    Protocol has a story about an Amazon patent application for "an army of autonomous cars."

    Here's how the story describes the application:

    "Autonomous delivery vehicles are becoming more popular, with companies like Nuro getting permission to launch a fleet of driverless cars to make local deliveries. But, as this patent notes, autonomous delivery equipment, such as sensors, navigation equipment and processors, can be very pricey. And if the car itself is small, all the equipment might not leave much room for groceries.

    "Instead, this patent imagines one car acting as a primary car, housing all the necessary equipment and sending commands to other vehicles that don't need all that equipment. The primary car could send a bunch of other cars off to do other deliveries. In the end, there's just a little army of autonomous cars being directed by one primary car, and I don't know about you, but that sounds both cool and terrifying."

    KC's View:

    The story also makes the point that "big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and … most never amount to anything."

    But, Protocol also points out, "some end up defining the future."  

    Yikes.

    Published on: July 14, 2021

    Bloomberg reports that food delivery company GrubHub is contracting with Yandex NV, described as "Russia’s leading internet company," to bring to the US a "fleet of robots to make sure hungry college students can get munchies quickly regardless of the weather."

    According to the story, "Yandex NV’s self-driving unit will deploy suitcase-sized robots that have been in use in Russia since last year as part of Grubhub’s campus delivery program, which covers over 250 colleges around the US … The robots, which will be rolled out at some campuses during the fall semester, mark Grubhub’s first attempt to use autonomous vehicles as the restaurant business turns to drones as a novel way to eventually cut delivery times and, eventually, costs. Nuro, which operates a fleet of self-driving pods, started delivering pies for Domino’s Pizza Inc. in Houston this April, while California-based Kiwibot introduced a model this year that can bring food indoors."

    Bloomberg writes that "about 100 robots make several hundred deliveries a day and have proved themselves effective in Russia’s notoriously bad weather, Fokin said. They have also been tested in a pilot program in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan."

    KC's View:

    The really cool part of this deal for the college students is that the Russian internet company also will be offering a special service - for a fee, it will hack into the colleges' computer systems, altering grades and even scheduling days off when students would rather go to the beach or the ski slopes than go to class.  Think of it as what the Russians would call sinergiya.

    Just as a matter of interest, Yandex's founder-CEO is Arkady Volozh, who has been identified by the US government as one of many oligarchs who have "flourished" during the reign of Vladimir Putin.

    Published on: July 14, 2021

    Kmart has abruptly turned out the lights at its last Manhattan store, closing a unit on Astor Place in the East Village that has been open for more than two decades.

    AM NY writes that "on July 12, the once three-floor department store — which had shrunk to two floors by 2018 —shuttered their revolving doors for good, leaving some confused and others reminiscing of memories made there.

    "The morning was filled with disappointment for prospective consumers as one by one they sidled up to the storefront, only to find it locked or to be turned away by security guards inside saying, 'Out of business'."

    There reportedly are still four Kmart stores operating in the outer boroughs, and 23 open around the country.

    Kmart currently is owned by Transformco - which also owns Sears.

    KC's View:

    It seems like the only thing that Transformco - controlled by Eddie Lampert, a hedge fund guy who seems on a mission to prove that he is the most inept retailer ever - is good at transforming is open retail businesses into empty real estate.

    I can't get this song out of my mind … though, to be fair, the party's been over for a long time:

    Published on: July 14, 2021

    •  7-Eleven announced yesterday that it "has expanded its new Mobile Checkout contactless shopping solution to an additional 2,500+ stores across the U.S. Using the 7-Eleven app, customers can quickly scan items and pay for purchases without ever standing in a checkout line. Mobile Checkout is now available in more than 3,000 participating 7-Eleven stores in 32 states including Washington, D.C."

    The company says that "the frictionless shopping experience is a benefit of 7-Eleven's award-winning 7Rewards loyalty program where members (rather, more than 50 million of them) can earn and redeem points on product purchases and receive coupons and promotional pricing. As an incentive to try Mobile Checkout, for a limited time, 7-Eleven is offering 10x the rewards points for every purchase made using the new feature in the app."

    Published on: July 14, 2021

    •  PCC Community Markets, the largest community-owned food market in the U.S., announced yesterday that "it has discontinued the sale of plastic bottled water sized below one gallon. This move broadens an earlier PCC ban on single-serve plastic water bottles of 500ml or less and the change will eliminate the sale of roughly 100,000 single-use plastic bottles across PCC’s 15 stores each year.

    "The expansion of the existing ban on plastic water bottles is part of the co-op’s ongoing mission to reduce use of petroleum-based plastics … The ban does not apply to sparkling water or enhanced waters such as high-PH drinks."

    PCC says that it "has worked to provide shoppers with more sustainable options, including water sold in refillable and reusable aluminum bottles.  Rather than single-use cans, these bottles are sturdy enough to be reused multiple times and if it gets damaged, the bottle can be easily recycled. Similar to glass, these aluminum bottles are infinitely recyclable.  Additional ways that PCC provides alternative options for water continues to include:  Bulk water dispensing … Boxed water (in packaging similar to milk cartons) … (and) Water in glass bottles, which are reusable and recyclable."


    •  The National Grocers Association (NGA) announced that this year's winner of the Thomas K. Zaucha Entrepreneurial Excellence Award is Cheryl Sommer, owner, president and CEO of Kaune’s Neighborhood Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    Kaune’s Neighborhood Market has operated in Santa Fe since 1896, when German grocer Henry Spenser Kaune started the business. In 2003, Sommer acquired the store and since then has been the only locally owned independent grocery store in Santa Fe.

    The Zaucha award has been presented annually since 2009 to recognize an independent grocer’s persistence, vision and creativity.


    •  Forbes has an interview with Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller, in which he said that he "believes that a healthier future for the company lies in making healthier foods more available, affordable and convenient."

    “Covid amplified the vulnerability of those with obesity and diabetes to serious illness,” Muller said. “We need to take an active role in helping people eat healthier foods at affordable prices.”

    The story goes on:  "The company is adding more plant-based choices, and its Hannaford stores even have nutritionists on hand to guide consumers who are new to this type of eating. The largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, Albert Heijn, has doubled the number of vegan products this year. The Delhaize stores in Belgium saw a 20% rise in plant-based volume recently. Muller believes that 'a balanced diet that includes significant plant-based products can make a difference.'  Along with adding more plant-based foods, the company has also banished cigarettes from its Hannaford and Giant Food Company stores in the US."

    Published on: July 14, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Kroger yesterday announced that Steve McKinney, senior vice president of retail divisions, will retire from the company after more than 40 years of service.  McKinney will be succeeded by Valerie Jabbar, currently group vice president of center store merchandising.


    •  Sifter.shop, the personalized grocery shopping platform launched by Andrew Parkinson and Thomas Parkinson, who in 1989 created Peapod, the world’s first online grocer, has announced "the formation of its Medical Advisory Board … composed of medical academics, practitioners, and industry leaders who will work with leadership to make sure Sifter.shop remains at the forefront of evidence-based science and diet trends."  This board, the company says, "reinforces the Sifter.shop commitment to solid science, personalization, and promoting better health … all highly regarded in their field of expertise … chosen for their thought leadership to support and enhance Sifter’s scientific pillars. Each brings a unique body of knowledge and insight to ensure best practices that our consumers can trust and depend upon."

    These members include Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN, LD,  Carina Venter, PhD, RD, Beth Stark, RDN, LDN, Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN, Christianna Moran, MS, RDN, LDN, and Amy Campbell, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES.

    I continue to find what the Parkinsons are doing to be interesting, and you can see the conversation we had ab out Sifter here.

    Published on: July 14, 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 total of 34,807,813 Covid-19 coronavirus cases, resulting in 623,435 deaths and 29,304,451 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 188,694,339 coronavirus cases, with 4,067,181 resultant fatalities, and 172,493,478 reported recoveries.   (Source.)


    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 67.7 percent of the US population age 18 and older has gotten at least one dose of vaccine, with 58.9 percent being fully vaccinated.


    •  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "New Covid-19 cases are on the rise in a number of states across the U.S., worrying health officials and epidemiologists as many Americans remain unvaccinated and the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads.

    "The U.S. is averaging more than 23,000 new cases a day, double the seven-day average of around 11,300 cases three weeks ago, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. On 17 of the past 18 days, the seven-day case average was higher than the 14-day average, also suggesting cases have been rising nationally.

    "The uptick follows a significant slowdown in Covid-19 metrics after a deadly winter surge, when newly reported cases peaked at around 240,000 cases a day in mid-January, and it comes as public-health officials push to reinvigorate the nation’s vaccination campaign and get shots to undecided or isolated Americans.

    "According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly all recent Covid-19 cases and deaths from the disease are among unvaccinated people. Americans 65 and older, who are most likely to die from Covid-19 infections, have high rates of vaccinations."

    Published on: July 14, 2021

    In the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Denver last night, the American League defeated the National League 5-2, powered by a 468-foot home run hit by game MVP Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays.

    KC's View:

    A few notes on the game, if I may…

    •  I'm normally not a big All-Star game fan, but for some reason I found last night's game to be enormously entertaining.  Lots of new stars to watch, and a great energy to the game.


    •  The best news from the All-Star break came when Commission Rob Manfred, in his state-of-the-game presentation, said that two of this year's most annoying  changes - double header games that last only seven innings each, and extra innings that begin with a runner starting on second base - are likely not to survive into the 2022 season.


    •  The worst news was the softball-style uniforms that the two teams wore last night - they were, in a word, awful.  I hope that next year - when the All-Star game will be played at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles - they allow the players to wear their own teams' uniforms, as is the tradition.