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    Published on: August 23, 2021

    While in Southern California for a speaking engagement last week, KC had the opportunity to visit his first Amazon Fresh store;  while a number of stores using this format have opened, the pandemic has largely prevented his travel to locations where they are operating.

    That said, KC's expectations were high.  However, he was enormously disappointed.  These are first impressions - one store, at one moment.  But, as they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

    Here are some photos to back up the video:

    And here is a brief video that shows how the tech-enabled shopping carts work:

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Amazon is making plans "to open several large physical retail locations in the U.S. that will operate akin to department stores, a step to help the tech company extend its reach in sales of clothing, household items, electronics and other areas … The plan to launch large stores will mark a new expansion for the online-shopping pioneer into bricks-and-mortar retail, an area Amazon has long disrupted."

    The plans were disclosed by the Journal by "people familiar with the matter."

    According to the piece, the first of these stores are expected to be opened in Ohio and California, and will be about 30,000 square feet - significantly smaller than most typical department stores.

    How big is the average Kohl's?

    How big is the average Whole Foods?

    The sources quoted by the Journal say that the stores "will offer items from top consumer brands," as well as Amazon private label items in a variety of categories.

    The Journal notes that "Amazon’s plans represent an evolution in the company’s efforts to move into bricks-and-mortar retail after years of taking market share from big-box operators - moves that helped to push many into bankruptcy. The company’s growth in online shopping helped accelerate the fall of mall operators and other once-potent physical-store empires. Amazon is now the largest seller of clothing in the U.S., surpassing Walmart Inc., according to Wells Fargo & Co."

    KC's View:

    It isn't just that Amazon - along with other retailers that embraced e-commerce's possibilities - push department stores into bankruptcy.  This trend also exposed their flaws, clarified the frictions they often brought to the shopping experience, and pushed them into irrelevance.

    So what the hell is Amazon thinking when it considers a strategic move into department stores?  Especially when, as I hope I made clear in my FaceTime commentary this morning, it isn't even close to having its act together when it comes to the food business, a category in which Amazon has said it places a premium in terms of desired success.

    Well, let me make a few observations…

    First, there is the size of the store format reported by the Journal.  Thirty thousand square feet is awfully small for a "department store" - it is at the low end of the average Whole Foods, and, as a point of reference, significantly smaller than the average Kohl's (which tend to run about 80,000 square feet, though there are some that run as small as 30,000 square feet).

    So is Amazon really planning to open department stores?  Or does it really have something different in mind?

    Fashion, and the ability to allow customers to try on products before buying them, are said to be central to Amazon's thinking about department stores. 

    But what this thinking ignores is the fact that Amazon does allow customers to try on products - they just have to order them, get delivery (often the next day), and then can return them (in ways that seem to become increasingly accessible) if they don't like them.  In some ways this may be seen as inefficient, but I know some young people who wouldn't want to shop for most clothing any other way.

    There is a lot of commercial real estate out there that's available, and probably at fairly decent prices.  Is it possible that Amazon really wants to take over some of this space, use some of it as a place to display its wares (remember showrooming?).  And then use the rest of it as a place from which to stage deliveries?  If Amazon wants to reduce the length of the last mile - and ameliorate Walmart's advantage in terms of store proximity -  this strikes me as one way to approach the problem.

    Here's a question that comes to mind:  How many of the locations that Amazon has identified as being for "department stores" are zoned for retail, but not for "warehouses?"  Is it possible that by establishing these as retail stores, and saying that the delivery functionality is just ancillary, Amazon can avoid drawn-out zoning battles with local communities?

    I may be disabused of this opinion by people who are far smarter than I'm, but for the life of me I cannot imagine why Amazon would want to get into the traditional department store business.

    That said, I always was skeptical of Amazon's intentions to get into the mainstream grocery business, and the Amazon Fresh rollout would suggest that I was wrong.  Except that I don't think Amazon is doing a very good job of it.

    Put me down as unpersuaded.

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    The Wall Street Journal reports that "grocery-store chains are still battling supply challenges that some executives said are as bad as what they saw in spring 2020, when hoarding left holes in stocks of some staples.

    'Industry executives say new problems are arising weekly, driven by shortages of labor and raw materials. Groceries including frozen waffles and beverages remain scarce as some food companies anticipate disruptions lasting into 2022. A wider range of products is running short and logistical challenges are compounding for many retailers."

    The story goes on:

    "Many grocery chains said that it is hard to predict how complete or on-time their deliveries will be due to limited guidance from suppliers, and executives said there is often little recourse when trucks show up with a fraction of what was ordered. Demand is higher than expected by retailers, with monthly sales up about 14% from two years ago and 3% from a year ago, according to data from research firm IRI.

    "To keep stores stocked, retailers are rethinking when and how to procure products they sell. Some are carrying fewer flavors or sizes, selling different brands and gathering inventory whenever possible. Regional and smaller grocers are struggling more than the biggest chains, industry executives said."

    KC's View:

    It seems to me that this presents two opportunities for retailers.

    One is to use the moment to communicate effectively with shoppers.  Rather than let them come into the store (or go onlineZ) and find out-of-stocks, retailers actually could get ahead of the wave and explain the problems to customers.  Tell them what is hard-to-find, and why.  Offer alternatives.  Be pro-active, rather than reactive.  Be an advocate for the consumer, not just a sales agent for the supplier.  (Gee, didn't Glen Terbeek say that like 20 years ago?)

    The other opportunity is to start culling out non-relevant, less-than-core products that don't differentiate the retail experience.  Carry few flavors and sizes, as the Journal suggests some retailers already are doing.  Figure out what is essential - to the customer, and to your differentiated value proposition - and focus on those things.  (If you have 40,000 SKUs, are they all essential?  Are 4,000 of them essential?  Are 400?)

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    H-E-B has launched a series of clever new commercials for its Favor delivery service, which it acquired in 2018.

    KC's View:

    What I love about this is that H-E-B is taking ownership of the delivery experience, not just outsourcing it.  

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    The Washington Post has a story suggesting that the proliferation of dollar stores around the country signifies a problem with the nation's economy - a widening income disparity that may not serve the country well in the long term.

    Here's how the Post frames the story:

    "A growing number of Americans are relying on dollar stores for everyday needs, especially groceries, as the coronavirus pandemic drags into its 18th month. Chains such as Dollar General and Dollar Tree are reporting blockbuster sales and profits, and proliferating so quickly that some U.S. cities want to limit their growth. The 1,650 dollar stores expected to open this year represent nearly half of all new national retail openings, according to Coresight Research.

    "Foot traffic at the largest such chain, Dollar General, is up 32 percent from pre-pandemic levels, far outpacing the 3 percent increase at Walmart, one of the few retail winners of last year, according to, which analyzes shopping patterns using location data from 30 million devices.

    "Analysts say the explosive rise of dollar stores is yet another example of how the pandemic has reshaped the economy and widened the gulf between the wealthiest and poorest Americans. Rising grocery prices — inflation is up 5.4 percent from last year — coupled with disproportionately high job losses among low-income workers have left many of the most vulnerable Americans in even worse shape,"

    The Post goes on:

    "There are more than 34,000 dollar stores in the United States, more than all Walmart, Starbucks and McDonald’s businesses combined. The two largest chains — Dollar General and Dollar Tree, which owns Family Dollar — make up the vast majority of them, with more than 32,000 locations. Many are concentrated in lower-income areas, and analysts say it’s increasingly common to see three, four and even five dollar stores within a few blocks of one another, making it difficult for smaller chains and grocery stores, which have thinner margins, to compete."

    The Post notes that "growing income inequality, economists say, has also led to rising polarization among retailers. Discount chains and high-end retailers have in many cases fared much better than their midrange counterparts."

    KC's View:

    One thing the story misses is the fact that a lot of affluent people like to shop at dollar stores - it is, in fact, one of the ways they got to be affluent.

    But the larger point is a good one, especially about polarization and how we're seeing the business bifurcate into two different industries.  That's the point that Scott Moses of PJ Solomon was making in our recent conversation, which you can watch here.

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    The Associated Press reports that "pop-up restaurants, many started as stopgap measures by struggling chefs and owners, may have staying power as consumers continue to embrace takeout and delivery and the delta variant threatens to make dining in less of an option.

    "Pop-up restaurants can take a variety of forms, from a ramen maker appearing for one-night only at an established bar or restaurant, to a taco maker using an unused space to temporarily host diners, to a chef offering meatballs for delivery only.

    "Cheaper to operate than regular restaurants because they have less overhead and staffing costs, pop-ups let chefs and owners keep working and making a living during the early part of the pandemic when dining rooms were closed and the economy was teetering. They’ve helped bring buzz to existing restaurants that host them. And some have even morphed into permanent new businesses."

    KC's View:

    Food retailers looking to differentiate themselves ought to be taking advantage of this trend, offering space and resources to restaurant start-ups that can bring some excitement and innovation to their stores.  If I were a retailer looking to establish greater food credibility and generate some enthusiasm, I'd develop a program of rotating restaurant pop-ups - every two or three months, I'd bring in a new concept, give them a stage on which to perform, and use it as a way to test new cuisines and push the envelope a little.

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    From the Los Angeles Times:

    "California’s giant ride-hailing and delivery companies suffered a setback Friday as a state Superior Court judge invalidated a 2020 ballot proposition that allowed Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and other app-based businesses to classify their workers as independent contractors.

    "In a lawsuit brought by the Service Employees International Union and several drivers, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that Proposition 22 is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

    "That’s in part because the law, Roesch wrote, infringes on the power of the Legislature explicitly granted by the state Constitution to regulate compensation for workers’ injuries."

    According to the story, "Uber and other gig economy companies spent more than $220 million last year in the nation’s costliest-ever ballot initiative campaign to exempt their drivers from a 2019 law, AB 5, requiring gig workers across many industries to be classified as employees with benefits such as minimum wage, overtime and workers’ compensation in case of injury.

    "Californians overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure, which won with 58% of the vote in the November election."

    Uber has promised to appeal the ruling.

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    The Los Angeles Times has a piece about Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant started by Alice Waters, which next Saturday will celebrate its 50th birthday.

    Here's how Bill Addison, the Times restaurant critic, assesses its legacy:

    "Its scrappy, dreamy origin has become a legend of American food culture, and the restaurant — the phenomenon that its owner and the many, many people who worked in its kitchens and dining rooms created — molded our nation’s modern culinary sense of self.

    "Waters’ travel-stoked pursuit of pleasure was intertwined with an ambitious antiestablishment doctrine of sustainability: Buy food grown, raised and fished by local purveyors whose practices tread lightly upon the earth and seas. Serve dishes based on fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients. And we’ll discover that how we eat can change the world."

    However, Addison suggests that the cooking there may have lost a few steps over the years, not to mention creating questions - rather than providing answers - about who really has access to the kind of food reflected in its aspirations.  It may be, he says, that "the greatest legacy of Chez Panisse (is) on the page rather than on the plate … The blurred lines of homey cooking, community symbiosis and professional skill that the restaurant embodies come into clearest focus in cookbooks."

    Provocative piece, and you can read it here.

    Published on: August 23, 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…

    •  Here are the US Covid-19 coronavirus numbers:  38,545,144 total cases, resulting in 645,058 deaths and 30,472,804 reported recoveries.

    The global numbers:  212,681,275 total cases, with 4,446,651 resultant fatalities and 190,303,408 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 71 percent of the US population age 12 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 60.2 percent being fully vaccinated.

    •  From the New York Times this morning:

    "The Food and Drug Administration is poised to give its full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as early as Monday, and health officials are hoping the decision will lead to policy changes, shifts in public sentiment and an increase in the vaccination rate among hesitant Americans.

    "The approval is expected to pave the way for a series of vaccination requirements by public and private organizations.

    "For instance, as many schools and universities across the country prepare for students to return to campus, some, like Indiana University, are already requiring vaccines for students. But others, like the University of Memphis, have signaled that they will pursue a vaccine mandate as soon as the vaccines gain full federal approval.

    "Federal and state health officials are also hoping that full approval will win over those who had been reluctant to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine only authorized for emergency use."

    •  Excellent piece in the New York Times about how, to use its headline, Americans are "getting a crash course in scientific uncertainty."

    Here how the Times frames the issue:

    "When the coronavirus surfaced last year, no one was prepared for it to invade every aspect of daily life for so long, so insidiously. The pandemic has forced Americans to wrestle with life-or-death choices every day of the past 18 months — and there’s no end in sight.

    "Scientific understanding of the virus changes by the hour, it seems. The virus spreads only by close contact or on contaminated surfaces, then turns out to be airborne. The virus mutates slowly, but then emerges in a series of dangerous new forms. Americans don’t need to wear masks. Wait, they do.

    "At no point in this ordeal has the ground beneath our feet seemed so uncertain."

    What is happening, the Times writes, is that "Americans are living with science as it unfolds in real time. The process has always been fluid, unpredictable. But rarely has it moved at this speed, leaving citizens to confront research findings as soon as they land at the front door, a stream of deliveries that no one ordered and no one wants."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "children under age 12 aren’t yet eligible to be vaccinated, and vaccination rates for those between 12 and 17 remain relatively low, according to data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although children are much less likely than adults to develop severe Covid-19 or die from the virus, recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services show pediatric hospitalizations for Covid-19 are at the highest point since the agency began tracking them last year, driven by states that have been hit hard by the Delta variant.

    "Children’s hospitals are bracing for even more cases as schools reopen. They are hiring more nurses, reworking discharge protocols, speeding up room cleanings, laying contingency plans to expand bed capacity and preparing staff for an uptick in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. A rare condition that can occur several weeks after Covid-19 infection, MIS-C can lead to organ damage or even death without the proper diagnosis and management."

    •  United Airlines announced last week that its customers now "can access even more COVID testing locations, including more than 3,000 new Walmart and Albertsons Companies locations across the U.S., through the airline's website and mobile app in the Travel Ready Center.

    "Customers can now easily book COVID-19 testing appointments at more than 3,800 total testing providers powered by Accenture technology and the CLX Health's TrustAssure network and have their results delivered within 4 to 48 hours of their test and directly submitted to United's website and mobile app to be reviewed for their flight … Through United's Travel Ready Center, customers can view a list of localized, eligible COVID testing locations, now including select Albertsons Companies and Walmart locations, as well as additional popular drug store, pharmacy chains, and local healthcare providers across the country."

    •  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now is dealing with the fact that some people who have been resistant to taking a coronavirus vaccine - in part because to this point vaccinations have only received "emergency authorization," not full authorization - have decided that they are better off taking de-worming medicines designed for horses and cows when treating or trying to prevent Covid-19.

    The New York Post notes that "ivermectin is approved for both humans and animals, but animal drugs are concentrated at levels that can be highly toxic for humans. The FDA has no data proving ivermectin’s use as a COVID treatment."

    The FDA posted the following statement on Twitter:

    “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it."

    The Post writes that "the Mississippi Poison Control Center on Friday reported an 'increasing number of calls' from individuals who took ivermectin meant for animals and ended up with symptoms such as rash, nausea and vomiting.

    "At least 70 percent of calls to the state poison-control center were from individuals who had ingested ivermectin from livestock supply centers, officials said in a statewide alert."

    The New York Times points out that Mississippi is a state where "only 37 percent of the population is fully vaccinated … Mississippi, which has seen a surge in cases recently, reported 5,048 cases on Friday. Hospitalization and death rates have also been rising."

    Proving, I think, that while people may not in fact be horses, some may actually be horses asses.

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  "The U.S. online grocery market generated $6.7 billion in sales during July, as ship-to-home sales declined to $1.4 billion while the combined pickup/delivery segment remained steady at $5.3 billion for the third straight month," according to the new Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey/.  "The overall sales decline of 2% was driven largely by an 8% drop in ship-to-home sales versus June, while pickup/delivery sales have stabilized.  Sales levels for pickup/delivery and ship-to-home are respectively 4.5 and 1.8 times greater than pre-COVID sales in Aug. 2019."

    The numbers, according to the analysis, suggests that "July’s overall sales decline was caused by a decrease in spending per order and a slight drop in monthly order frequency, which were partially offset by an increase in the number of monthly active users (MAU)."

    •  Interesting piece in the Boston Globe about how five candidates to be the city's next mayor all have expressed some level of antipathy toward Amazon, which has expressed its desire to expand its operations there.

    Amazon, the story says, "employs nearly 4,000 well-paid workers in Fort Point and Kendall Square, many of them working on the company’s tech offerings such as Alexa and Amazon Web Services, with plans to add at least 3,000 more over the next few years. Likely thousands more Boston residents work as drivers and warehouse workers around the region. The blue vans that crisscross the city are a visual reminder of Amazon’s popularity with consumers — and its impact on struggling brick-and-mortar retailers."  And, it wants to get bigger.

    Any future mayor, the story says, "will have to reckon with this massive company that offers both high- and low-end jobs, fuels shiny new office buildings and street-snarling traffic, and is at time both loved and loathed by consumers."

    At the moment, the bone of contention is where to put the first big distribution center in Boston.  As Joseph Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, puts it, “It’s forcing elected officials, especially ‘blue city’ mayors, to confront some of the controversies and contradictions embedded in the company.”

    •  From the Washington Post, a story about how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has "refiled a bolstered version of its antitrust case against Facebook in a last-ditch effort to save what has been described as its most important competition lawsuit in decades.

    "Seeking to overcome a judge’s stunning dismissal of its original lawsuit because the FTC had not presented ample evidence that Facebook is a monopoly, the FTC argues in its new filing that Facebook is in a class of its own and shouldn’t be compared to popular apps such as TikTok, Twitter and Pinterest, which attract a public-facing audience. The complaint argues that Snapchat, with tens of millions fewer monthly users than either Facebook or Instagram, is the company’s next-closest competitor … Although the filing does not offer profoundly new evidence, it provides a more detailed description of the company’s history alongside an explicit explanation of how Facebook’s alleged behavior harms consumers. It notably expands on an argument that Facebook’s platform, which allows people to maintain relationships with family and friends online, is singular and a wide range of companies that aim to distribute content to strangers should not be considered competitors."

    The Post writes that "it remains to be seen whether this renewed argument will be enough to persuade the judge, in a legal battle that will be an early and much anticipated assessment of FTC Chair Lina Khan. Khan is under immense political pressure to score a victory in the case, as Facebook’s reputation in Washington has deteriorated dramatically in recent years following privacy and other scandals."

    In its story, the New York Times writes that "the criticisms of the first version of the Facebook case levied by the judge, James E. Boasberg of the District Court of the District of Columbia, showed the steep challenges regulators face. Although the companies dominate the markets they are in — social media, in the case of Facebook — the courts often look at whether prices are rising as an indication of monopolization. Facebook’s most popular services are free.

    However, the FTC's revised argument, as I understand it, suggests that Facebook's dominance cannot just be judged in terms of how it impacts competitors, but also in terms of how it affects consumers outside of the issue of pricing.   I'll buy that argument, but I'm neither a lawyer nor a judge, so what do I know?

    •  Call it a symbol of what is coming.

    The Los Angeles Times reports that "the Academy of Country Music Awards is making the switch to streaming, moving from a TV network to Amazon Prime Video and marking the first time the streaming service will exclusively air an awards show …  the ACMs announced the move from CBS, which previously said it would air the Country Music Television awards show next year."

    “This partnership, which reinforces our position as an innovative, progressive awards show, will deliver the broadest possible audience and, simultaneously, deliver massive value to our artists whose music lives inside this ecosystem, enabling fans to discover and stream music as they watch,” Damon Whiteside, CEO of the ACM, said in a statement.

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    •  The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that Publix Super Markets has opened its new Public Greenwise Market in Tampa, a 26,000 square foot unit that "offers a longer list of organic and specialty food products than your average Publix," according to the story.

    "From the inside, the new GreenWise store looks a lot like a traditional Publix but with more bells and whistles," the Times writers.  "There’s a fridge filled with rows of kombucha in the produce section, a jar of bee pollen priced around $12 next to the honey and cans of collagen sparkling tea. Shoppers can have a machine grind Jim’s organic coffee beans from coarse to espresso-fine."

    “Our curated mix of high-quality specialty make-at-home and grab and go items will add a level of convenience for residents and visitors looking for easy meal solutions as they enjoy the events and activities available in the surrounding area,” said Publix President Kevin Murphy in a prepared statement.

    •  Target's Q2 total revenue rose 9.5% to $25.16 billion from the same period a year ago, with net income that was $1.82 billion, up from $1.7 billion a year earlier.  Comparable store sales grew 8.7%, while digital comparable sales grew 10%.

    •  SpartanNash said last week that Q2 net sales of $2.11 billion were down 3.6 percent from the same period a year ago, on same-store sales that were down 2.7 percent - though they were up 12.1 percent compared to the same period two years ago, before the pandemic.

    The company also reported net earnings of $16.8 million, compared to $28.5 million in the prior year quarter. 

    •  BJ’s Wholesale Club announced that it will award its store and warehouse employees a total of $8 million in appreciation bonuses for their “continuing hard work and commitment to serving BJ’s members.”

    Full-time, hourly qualified employees will each earn $300 and part-time, hourly employees will receive $150.

    •  Bloomberg reports on speculation that Apollo Global Management is considering a bid for J Sainsbury Plc, reflecting a growing interest in the UK's supermarket sector on the part of buyout firms.

    The story says that "Apollo, which has $88 billion of assets under management, is interested in the U.K. supermarket industry, having previously lost out on the chance to take control of Asda, the country’s third-biggest grocer, to the Issa brothers and TDR Capital."

    At the moment, however, Apollo is more focused "on partnering with Fortress Investment Group on its bid for Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc.  Apollo already announced last month that it’s in talks with a consortium led by Fortress. If it joins the group, that could rule out any potential involvement in a bid for Sainsbury."

    The Fortress effort would compete against Clayton Dubilier & Rice LLC, which "last week raised its offer for Morrison to 7 billion pounds ($9.5 billion) as the bidding war with Fortress to win control of Britain’s fourth-largest grocer intensifies."

    Bloomberg writes that "Britain’s supermarkets are attracting intense buyout interest as the economics of the industry have dramatically improved since the onset of the pandemic, which elevated sales and accelerated changes in shopping habits. Supermarkets generate substantial cash and have large property portfolios. The rise in online shopping has made e-commerce more profitable."

    •  CNBC reports that next year Macy's will start opening Toys R Us boutiques in about 400 of its department stores.  It already is offering Toys R Us products online.

    The company says that the move is designed to build on a growing toy business, as well as attract parents who will then purchase higher margin items.

    Toys R Us emerged from bankruptcy in 2019 as an entity known as Tru Kids;  brand management company WHP Global has since acquired a majority interest in that company.  Tru Kids has floated a variety of plans to open new stores, and also has tested out relationships with retailers such as Kroger and Target.

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    •  Wegmans Food Markets announced last week that Nicole Wegman -  the sister of current CEO Colleen Wegman, the daughter of former CEO Danny Wegman, the granddaughter of former chairman and CEO Robert Wegman, and the great-granddaughter of Walter Wegman, who founded the company with his brother John Wegman in 1916 - has been promoted to the role of president of Wegmans brand, a newly created position in which she will oversee Wegmans' store-brand program.

    Nicole Wegman has worked for the family-run grocery store chain since 1989, most recently serving as senior vice president of Wegmans brand, a role she held since 2017.

    •  Walmart last week announced the hiring of Matt Miner, described by Reuters as "a top partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and former U.S. Justice Department leader during the Donald Trump administration," to be its new chief global ethics and compliance officer.

    Published on: August 23, 2021

    I got a number of emails about last week's MNB/In Conversation segment with Dr. Charles Steinberg, president of the Worcester Red Sox, in which we talked about minor league baseball and explored business lessons that it can offer retailers.

    Among them…

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Enjoyed your conversation with Dr. Charles, he was not only very articulate, you can also instantly tell that he is passionate about everyone experiencing baseball and the lessons baseball can teach us. Everyone is a consumer and I have found that consumers will gravitate to and therefore return to positive shopping experiences. Technology can be a catalyst to frictionless transactions, but let us not forget that ultimately we all strive for recognition and positive human interactions.

    Keep posting life’s lessons as they are all around us! Play Ball!

    MNB reader Tim Callahan wrote:

    I will travel from Philadelphia to Worcester, MA this weekend and have tickets for the game on Saturday.  I am now looking forward to the game more than ever.

    Thanks for a great preview.

    My pleasure.

    From another reader:

    I really enjoyed your interview with Dr. Charles. What a delight and way to think outside the box. I have two take a ways from that call that both came right at the end.

    First is that I couldn’t agree more that I have no idea why more hitters don’t beat the shift by going the other way? That’s all that’s needed to change that pattern, no need to regulate it. Being a baseball purist I have struggled for the last several years with all the changes that have been made, ostensibly to shorten the game or increase viewership and attendance. I believe that the people watching now like the game and the people that think it’s too slow or boring are not the audience that you're going to change the minds of anyway because they really don’t understand the game at the strategic level, like understanding what every position player should be doing in any situation with any pitch count, or even anticipating the pitch to be thrown based on the defensive alignment.

    Second, I thought Dr. Charles’s opened minded answer to your question about the changes was enlightening! “Let’s give it a try,” and , “it’s not bad,” can be used in our everyday lives for a host of situations going on in our world, even dare I say politically!

    From another reader:

    Thanks to you, I have Apt (on Cape Cod) on my list of places to visit once the Covid 19 numbers improve.

    Reading the “Your Views” section this morning and the comments regarding employee knowledge and customer service, I couldn’t help but think about this TED Talk from Louise Evans entitled “Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication, Determine Your Success”---many refer to it as the “5 Chairs” talk.  One of the many benefits of this talk is that it isn’t just business, but all communication……wondering if you’ve ever seen it?  I have had some great customer service and made a comment about “chair”…..many times the response is along the lines of “YES, I love that TED Talk!”

    I was first introduced to this TED Talk by my best friend.  She’d patiently listened to me vent and, instead of blasting me, suggested that this might be helpful.  That is a true friend!  And, it was very helpful and continues to be……..

    Thanks for the work you are doing……..and the positives you insert in this crazy time.

    On an entirely different subject from an MNB reader:

    I live in a small upper middle class Columbus, OH neighborhood not far from downtown.  There is a Dollar General 1/2 mile from me in a small strip center at the edge with less affluent areas to the north and east that I suspect is their core audience.   For me it has served as a bargain super convenient store.  I stopped there today mainly to get bread and buns.  To my amazement one entire side of the store wrapping around the end is now refrigerated/frozen.  (But there were huge out of stocks in dry grocery.)  

    What an evolution.  Fresh produce next?  I can see me probably buying more there.

    Regarding the decision by several trade shows to limit attendance to people who can prove they are fully vaccinated, one MNB reader wrote:

    I agree with you this is a smart move, but I hope people that are vaccinated (like myself) do not kid themselves they can’t catch the virus and then retransmit it to someone else.  That is very possible reality.  These shows could still be “spreader” type of events, just at a different level for those there.  The after the event and those they are in contact with could be impacted.  Be responsible, be careful and live your life the best you can with respect for others.

    One of the comments I made last week was that the last thing the National Grocers Association (NGA) and Groceryshop - each of which is holding a conference next month in Las Vegas) - need is to have Lester Holt using their names and "super-spreader event" in the same sentence.

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    Does anyone listen to Lester, “what’s his name again”, or if they do, can they believe it?

    A response that, I have to admit, annoys the hell out of me.

    First of all, let's be clear.  "The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt" garners an average of about eight million viewers each night.  Now, those aren't Walter Cronkite numbers - he averaged somewhere around 25 million viewers a night - but Cronkite only had to compete against ABC and NBC - not the plethora of online and cable news sources that exist today.   (I'll be honest here.  Holt even gets slightly better numbers than I do with MNB.  Pains me to admit it, but so it goes.)

    But what really annoys me about this response is so wrong-headed it is, focusing on the thing that doesn't matter rather than the thing that does.  The reader takes a shot at a mainstream evening news broadcast rather than dealing with the point I really was making - that the food industry cannot afford to be seen as being irresponsible in town it grapples with Covid-19 and its variants.

    Retailers actually have done a very good job of dealing with all these issues.  The trade associations that represent them have to be careful not to put all that hard work at risk.