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    Published on: July 22, 2021

    The next big c-suite job?   Axios suggests it will be the "Chief Purpose Officer."  KC has some thoughts about that, some of them from Pete Seeger (or Ecclesiastes, depending on your priorities):  If there is "a time to every purpose," that time may be now.

    Published on: July 22, 2021

    The Grand Rapids Business Journal reports that SpartanNash is scheduled to open a new micro-fulfillment center in Caledonia, Michigan - a 55,000 square foot facility carrying 16,000 SKUs that will "pick and pack Fast Lane orders for 24 Ada Fresh Market, D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare and Forest Hills Foods stores throughout West Michigan, primarily in the Grand Rapids and Holland area."

    According to the story, "The micro-fulfillment center will support more than 1,000 Fast Lane orders daily once fully operational, more than doubling current Fast Lane order capabilities, SpartanNash said. Once a Fast Lane order is picked and packed at the micro-fulfillment center, it will be delivered either directly to a store for curbside pickup or to the shopper’s home."

    “Fast Lane has been a tremendous value-add for our store guests as the pandemic heightened the importance of safe, efficient grocery shopping, pickup and delivery,” Tony Sarsam, SpartanNash president-CEO, tells the Business Journal.  “The micro-fulfillment center is an exciting investment designed to further elevate the Fast Lane shopping experience as we strive to continuously improve our fulfillment speed and product availability.”

    KC's View:

    The ability of MFCs to not just facilitate faster deliveries but actually expand retailers' marketing areas without necessarily needing to build new stores offers retailers - especially those not named Amazon and Walmart - a potentially powerful weapon in their ongoing battles.

    I'm fascinated … and I'm happy to say that we'll have a discussion of the trend during the e-commerce track that I'll be facilitating at the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show in Las Vegas in September.  I hope you'll join us … and stop by to say hello.  It always is great to see members of the MNB community.

    Published on: July 22, 2021

    Benzinga reports that Uber and Costco "have entered into a grocery delivery pilot with 25 locations across the state of Texas. This deal marks Uber's first pilot with a food wholesaler in the U.S.

    "Costco members could have their groceries delivered within hours with Uber and Uber Eats. In the coming weeks, seven additional Costco warehouses will be available to Uber users via Uber and Uber Eats mobile apps.  The minimum order amount is $35, and delivery is free for Uber Pass and Eats Pass holders."

    The test is slated to take place in Dallas, Austin, and Houston.

    KC's View:

    There was a terrific interview with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in the New York Times the other day, in which he was clear about his ambitions - he's been eliminating non-core businesses that were distractions and dreaming "about pushing a button and getting a piano delivered to your home in an hour and a half.  I think that’d be really cool … We’ll keep working on go-and-get. Anywhere you want to go, anything you want to get, however you want to get it, we’ll be there for you."

    Unlike Instacart, with which Costco also has done business, Uber seems to have no ambitions about becoming a retailer.  Which, in my view, makes Uber a potentially better partner.

    Published on: July 22, 2021

    North Carolina-based The Fresh Market, which operates more than 150 stores in 22 states, announced this week that it has filed for a initial public offering that it hopes could raise as much as $250 million.

    PitchBook reports that "The company was publicly traded from 2010 through 2016, when Apollo Global Management took the company private for $1.36 billion.  Founded in 1982, The Fresh Market last went public with an IPO of some $290 million in November 2010, when the company had 100 stores across 20 states … the grocery retailer recorded nearly $2 billion in sales for the year that ended on January 31, 2021, with comparable store sales growth of 22.3% in fiscal year 2020."

    Published on: July 22, 2021

    Foxtrot, the self-styled tech-enabled upscale convenience store format, says that it plans to open as many as 50 new stores in the next two years, an acceleration beyond what was announced just a few months ago.,

    The company currently has two nine stores in Chicago and two each in Washington, DC, and Dallas.  Markets in the company's crosshairs include New York, Austin, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles and Houston.

    Bloomberg has described the format this way:

    "Foxtrot distinguishes itself with its hybrid, locavore model vs. your typical 7-Eleven. The shelves are stocked with products made by local artisans in addition to major consumer brands. In Chicago that will include coffee from Metric, Do-Rite’s old-fashioned doughnuts, and IPAs from Pipeworks Brewing. Customers order via an app.

    "The chain also specializes in private label products, notably candy gummies. The best-selling online items are wine and ice cream; the average order is $50."

    The new stores reportedly will be larger than the original units, with an emphasis on in-store cafes where people can eat or grab a coffee or drink.

    KC's View:

    This is all part of an ongoing effort to redefine convenience.  It isn't enough to just own the concept … it also is critical to redefine it for what I assume eventually will be a post-pandemic environment.

    Published on: July 22, 2021

    A couple of stories on CNBC suggest a trend as big-box stores look to expand their appeal and bring in new shoppers.

    One piece says that Ulta Beauty "will open its first beauty shops inside of Target next month. The mini shops will feature an assortment of merchandise from more than 50 prestige brands for makeup, skin care and hair, including Clinique, Urban Decay, Tarte, MAC Cosmetics, Drybar, Jack Black and Ariana Grande … The retailers said they will open more than 100 shops by the end of the year, with plans to grow to a total of 800 shops over the next few years. That means more than a third of Target stores across the country could eventually include a mini Ulta shop. Each shop will be about 1,000 square feet — roughly one-tenth the size of a typical Ulta store."

    Target also will sell Ulta products on its website.

    CNBC also reports that while Bed Bath and Beyond "s reducing the size of its flagship store in New York City," it still is finding room "for a new strategic partner in Casper … giving the online sleep company its first-ever branded physical shopping location."

    According to the story, "Casper will also set up customer experiences at other select Bed Bath and Beyond locations and make products available at stores across the country later this year, according to a press release. Casper’s products will also be carried on Bed Bath and Beyond-branded websites."

    To this point, Casper has operated physical pop-up stores, but this is its first venture of this kind.

    Published on: July 22, 2021

    •  Bloomberg reports that "fast-growing delivery startup Gopuff is formalizing its experimental food truck program in a move that extends its menu by delivering hot food to customers and increases competition with DoorDash Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc.’s Uber Eats.

    "Gopuff Kitchen … will expand a pilot program of food trucks at or near more than 20 company fulfillment locations that prepare breakfast bagels, chicken fingers, coffee and other meal items for delivery. Gopuff said it will hire “hundreds” of employees in coming months to work in what will be a rapid nationwide rollout, more than doubling the number of food trucks by the end of the year. The company declined to specify how much it would invest in the initiative."


      TechCrunch writes that "Amazon is giving its Alexa voice platform a shot in the arm after seeing further declines in skill growth over the past year, indicating lagging interest from third-party voice app developers."  The goal, the story says, is to develop skills that will enable and facilitate shopping via Alexa-powered devices.

    According to the story, "The retailer’s hopes for Alexa as voice shopping platform may have not panned out as it had hoped, as only a sliver of Alexa customers actually made Amazon.com purchases through the smart speakers. However, the larger Alexa footprint and developer community remains fairly sizable, Amazon said today, noting there are 'millions' of Alexa devices used 'billions of times' every week, and over 900,000 registered developers who have published over 130,000 Alexa skills.

    "Still, Amazon hasn’t yet solved the challenge of helping customers find and discover skills they want to use - something that’s been historically difficult on voice-only devices."


    •  CNBC reports that Australian antitrust regulators have launched a probe "into the local units of Amazon.com, eBay and other online markets to ensure fairness in a sector where sales have soared through the coronavirus pandemic.

    "The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which previously slapped the world’s toughest content licensing rules on internet giants Facebook and Alphabet’s Google, called for industry submissions."

    “Online marketplaces are an important and growing segment of the economy so it is important that we understand how online marketplaces operate and whether they are working effectively for consumers and businesses,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement. “We want to be sure that the rules that apply to traditional retail are also complied with in the online context.”

    Published on: July 22, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  CNBC reports that "weekly jobless claims unexpected moved higher last week despite hopes that the U.S. labor market is poised for a strong recovery heading into the fall.

    "Initial filings for unemployment insurance totaled 419,000 for the week ended July 17, well above the 350,000 Dow Jones estimate and more than the upwardly revised 368,000 from the previous period, the Labor Department reported Thursday … The total was the highest weekly count since May 15 and comes amid expectations that the jobs picture will improve markedly as enhanced unemployment benefits end and companies get more aggressive about filling vacant positions."


    •  Bloomberg has a story about how sales of plant-based bacon are cooking.

    According to the story, "plant-based bacon is carving out space in the frying pan. Sales are up 25%—almost double that of meat-based bacon for the 52-week period ending April 18, according to data from Spins, which reports retailer data for natural and organic products. Nielsen, which aggregates data from conventional grocers, reported that the entire category of bacon alternatives almost doubled in 2020, to $267 million, compared to 2019."

    The reason?  They taste better, Bloomberg writes.

    "More alternative options are available as a new breed of bacon makers taps into popular ingredients to create the faux-pig products. They’re edging into a market that has been dominated for decades by such products as Lightlife’s Smart Bacon and Morningstar’s Veggie Bacon Strips, which have yet to deliver on metrics such as flavor, texture, and satiety.

    "The next generation of producers is employing innovative ingredients, processes, or both. The San Francisco startup Hooray Foods knits together coconut oil, rice flour, and tapioca starch through a patent-pending manufacturing process that encapsulates the fat droplets and lets the product cook more like the real thing. Prime Roots, which started in 2017 and came out of UC Berkeley’s Alternative Meat Lab, makes bacon out of koji that’s grown in large fermentation tanks. The koji, a fungus, is formed into slabs and smoked, then wrapped in colorful packaging. Trophic, another Berkeley-based alternative protein startup, is rapidly prototyping a bacon made from protein extracted from red seaweed."

    The Washington Post the other day had an interview with Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, in which he predicted that his company will help "eliminate animal agriculture in the next 15 years."  That's an ambitious goal … and I have to imagine that bacon could be one of the hardest hurdles.

    Published on: July 22, 2021

    •  Kroger announced that Lori Raya has been named president of its mid-Atlantic division, succeeding Paula Ginnett, who has been appointed group vice president of retail operations with Kroger’s corporate headquarters in Cincinnati.

    Raya most recently was Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer for SpartanNash;  before that, she was a division president of Albertsons.

    Published on: July 22, 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 35,146,476 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 625,808 deaths and 29,458,403 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 192,952,232 total coronavirus cases, with 4,145,253 resultant fatalities and 175,440,683 reported recoveries.  (Source.)


    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 68.4 percent of the US population age 18 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 59.6 percent being fully vaccinated.  


    •  From Time:

    "With every passing day, the United States appears more likely to be on the cusp of a dreaded fourth wave of COVID-19 infections … In the past two weeks, the number of average new daily cases has more than doubled, from 13,200 on July 4 to more than 32,300 on July 18, a surge that harbors grim reminders of the fronts of the second and third waves in the summer and fall of 2020.

    "But on closer inspection, this surge looks significantly different than those we have seen in the past - and may very well be worse than it looks on the page.

    "The coronavirus pandemic has never, even in its worst heights last winter, struck the U.S. uniformly. Instead, it has wandered from eruptions in specific urban areas to suburban and rural counties and then back again, like a persistent hurricane. Now, as the gap between states’ completed vaccination rates widens - Alabama has vaccinated just 33.7% of residents, compared to nearly 70% in Vermont - the per capita rate of new cases has clustered in a handful of regions where a majority of adults remain unvaccinated even as reopening continues apace."


    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 doesn’t pose an immediate risk to the strength of the U.S. economic recovery, with analysts expecting a robust expansion to continue in the second half of the year.

    "Many economists are maintaining forecasts for solid economic growth due to expectations of steady hiring and continued spending, driven by accumulated savings and Americans’ desire to travel and socialize more than a year into the pandemic.  They see limited disruptions to the economy as local health officials try to avoid restrictions and boost vaccinations in response to the recent case surge. Economists are more concerned about firming inflation than the Delta variant as they assess the economic outlook."


    •  There its a heartbreaking piece on AL.comm about an Alabama physician, Dr. Brytney Cobia, who went on Facebook to write that "all but one of her COVID patients in Alabama did not receive the vaccine. The vaccinated patient, she said, just needed a little oxygen and is expected to fully recover. Some of the others are dying."

    "I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” wrote Cobia.  “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

    "A few days later when I call time of death," she also wrote.  "I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.

    "They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was 'just the flu.'  But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives."