KC had a chance to visit a brand new Big Y supermarket in Clinton, Connecticut, the other day - a big, beautiful store that looks good and seems, based on customer interactions, something local folks needed and to which they were looking forward. But there was something else KC noticed, which struck him as a sign of the times as well as an indicator of the future.
Albertsons yesterday said that it is launching what it calls the "Albertsons Media Collective," which it describes as "a retail media network designed to deliver digitally native, shopper-centric and engaging branded content to the company’s ever-growing network of shoppers."
The initiative is being led by led by Kristi Argyilan, Albertsons Cos.’ SVP of Retail Media, who, the announcement says, "will offer partners a digital marketing platform and omnichannel solutions with the core consumer in mind,"
The network, the company says, will be "focused on providing opportunities to connect brands with their most loyal shoppers by opening up native display and sponsored product inventory throughout the company’s websites. Media opportunities include advertising placements on Albertsons owned properties such as its homepage, department, category, sub-category, email, search, app, pharmacy, as well as on Albertsons’ off-site targeted ad placements.
"Brand campaigns will begin February 27, 2022, and allow partners to access some of the most valuable positions across Albertsons Companies’ websites and apps, tapping into over 100 million shoppers across the country, including more than 2,200 store locations and over 27 million members of the company’s Just for U loyalty program."
Business Insider quotes Argyilan as saying that "Albertsons will use its loyalty program data from 100 million people to differentiate itself. Albertsons will sell local advertising as part of retail media packages, which other grocery chains do not. An ice cream brand, for example, could choose to zap ads at areas with warmer temperatures and turn off ads in cold weather areas.
"The size of Albertsons' data, she said, is on par with Kroger, Walmart, and Target. She declined to say how much Albertsons makes from advertising."
Argyilan also told Business Insider "that the company also plans to pitch advertisers that don't sell items within its stores. Retailers like Amazon have long pitched advertisers that don't sell products on their platform to attract larger ad budgets devoted to branding. In one example, Argyilan said that an automaker could use Albertsons' data to find people in the market to buy a car or people who travel based on what they buy."
One of the real advantages that companies with the scale of Albertsons have is the ability to deliver a highly targeted audience, and in doing so, creating a new revenue stream that can underwrite other retailing initiatives.
That's critical, though it does prompt me to ask a question. Why do retailers that look to bring in-house their own media efforts then outsource much of their e-commerce infrastructure? Seems to me that if you want to have some sense of control over all elements of the customer experience, you need to own the entire continuum.
Though maybe what'll happen is that these media initiatives can help fund retailers' efforts to take greater control of their e-commerce businesses.
Within five minutes yesterday, I got two emails from MNB readers … one asking me if'd seen anything interesting about inflation that I planned to share with the MNB community … and the second sharing with me a column in The Guardian by Robert Reich, the former US Secretary of Labor and current professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.
Reich writes, "A major reason for price rises is supply bottlenecks, as Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, has pointed out. He believes they’re temporary, and he’s probably right.
"But there’s a deeper structural reason for inflation, one that appears to be growing worse: the economic concentration of the American economy in the hands of a relative few corporate giants with the power to raise prices.
"If markets were competitive, companies would keep their prices down in order to prevent competitors from grabbing away customers."
It is a provocative point of view … one that won't be shared by everyone, I suspect, but worth reading here.
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-19n coronavirus numbers: 47,693,516 total cases … 780,775 deaths … and 37,729,489 reported recoveries.
The global numbers: 252,812,973 total cases … 5,098,890 fatalities … and 228,728,114 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 79 percent of the US population age 12 and older, and 67.7 percent of the total population, has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Fully vaccinated - 68.5 percent of the 12-and-older population, and 58.5 percent of the total population.
The CDC also says that 32.4 percent of the 65-and-older population has received a vaccine booster dose; 13.4 percent of the total population has received the booster.
• Axios reports on how "public officials in rich countries are imposing new restrictions on unvaccinated people as many nations struggle to raise their COVID vaccination rates … Austria's chancellor said a lockdown for unvaccinated people is 'probably unavoidable' … in New South Wales, Australia, unvaccinated people over the age of 16 are no longer allowed to visit another person's residence, except in limited circumstances … some German states bar people who choose not to get vaccinated from indoor venues like restaurants and clubs."
This is in addition to the previously reported move by the Singapore government to stop covering Covid-related medical bills for unvaccinated people.
The underlying fact behind these decisions, Axios writes: "Unvaccinated people are 5x more likely than vaccinated people to get infected and 10x more likely to die."
• Walgreens has produced a remarkable video that puts reticence in the Black community about the Covid-19 vaccine into historical perspective. The message is delivered by Johnny Ford, who, the company notes, "first became mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama in 1972, the year news broke of the notorious Tuskegee Experiment that would shatter Black trust in the medical establishment for generations.
"Despite this tragic legacy, Mayor Ford says, with trusted Black scientists and doctors leading this vaccination effort no one should use what happened in Tuskegee as a reason not to get vaccinated now."
With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• Instacart yesterday "announced a number of new features rolling out across the Instacart App that are designed to make online grocery shopping more affordable. From a Deals Tab and exclusive savings for Express members, to a new reduced cost and free delivery option and new 'Dollar Store Hub' destination on the Instacart marketplace, the company is rolling out more ways for customers to save when shopping from their favorite retailers."
The company said that these new features are designed to help consumers navigate the retailing experience at a time when inflation is raising costs across the board.
Sounds to me like Instacart is doing an excellent job of establishing itself as consumers' source for deals and discounts, some of them delivered by client retailers and some of them delivered directly from manufacturers. But the end result may be that Instacart ends up disintermediating those client retailers from the customer relationship, which may be good for shoppers, good for Instacart, but not so good for those retailers.
• Ahold Delhaize-owned Peapod Digital Labs yesterday said that it "surprised 11 diverse-owned suppliers that participated in its first Accelerator with $10,000 stipends to support further business development and growth."
In addition, the company said, it "selected Harbar, a National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) certified, Hispanic-owned business, as the participating supplier with the freshest perspective and awarded Harbar an enhanced stipend of $20,000 … Harbar received the designation based on excellence in products, strong focus on quality, innovative ideas, keeping up with new health-focused dietary trends, local, and passion for meeting consumer needs."
• CNBC reports that "JD.com plans to increase investment overseas … as Chinese e-commerce giants look to tap international users. The technology giant has been less aggressive than its rival Alibaba in expanding its presence overseas. But international expansion from both Chinese firms could challenge the e-commerce dominance of Amazon in certain parts of the world."
• From the New York Times this morning:
"The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said $84.5 billion in merchandise was sold on its platforms during the Singles Day shopping festival that ended on Thursday, an 8.5 percent increase over last year and an indication that Beijing’s campaign to tighten regulation of internet companies has not dimmed consumers’ enthusiasm for buying stuff online.
"Even so, the growth in sales was down from the 26 percent increase that the company reported in 2020 compared with the year before.
"The number Alibaba announces each year after its big retail bonanza is gross merchandise volume, which is meant to represent the total value of orders. There is no standardized way of calculating this metric within the e-commerce industry, so Alibaba has leeway to choose the result it reports."
• Bloomberg reports that Starbucks failed this week in its efforts to persuade the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to delay a unionization vote at three of its Buffalo, New York-area stores. The retailer already had lost another argument - instead of employees at these three stores voting, it wanted employees at all the area stores to vote on unionization, which experts say would've given it a better shot at defeating the unionization move.
Ballots were mailed to employees on Wednesday.
Three more Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area have filed unionization petitions, the story notes.
• The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that "Johnson & Johnson plans to break up into two companies, splitting off the $15-billion-a-year division that sells Band-Aid bandages, Tylenol medicines and Johnson’s Baby Powder in a shift indicating just how much healthcare has changed since the company helped pioneer the industry.
"The world’s largest health-products company by sales will separate its high-margin but risky prescription-drugs and medical-devices business from its storied but slower-growing consumer group, creating two publicly traded companies.
"J&J will shed its consumer division in 18 to 24 months, Chief Executive Alex Gorsky said. J&J decided to make the change, he said, because the businesses, their customers and markets have diverged so much in recent years, including during the pandemic. Lawsuits that alleged use of Johnson’s Baby Powder caused cancer didn’t play a role, he said."
• The Los Angeles Times reports that "Kellogg Co. has filed a lawsuit against its local union in Omaha complaining that striking workers are blocking entrances to its cereal plant and intimidating replacement workers as they enter the plant.
"The company, based in Battle Creek, Mich., asked a judge to order the Omaha chapter of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union to stop interfering with its business while workers picket outside the plant. The workers in Omaha and at Kellogg’s three other U.S. cereal plants have been on strike since Oct. 5."
The story notes that "Kellogg’s lawsuit comes after a vehicle struck and killed a United Auto Workers member as he was walking to a picket line to join striking workers outside a John Deere distribution plant in northwest Illinois. An Iowa judge issued a temporary restraining order against Deere workers in Davenport limiting their demonstrations to four picketers at a time.
"Kellogg said in its lawsuit that union members have been physically blocking the entrance to the plant as semi-trucks and buses try to enter and leave."
Finch is one of those movies that, having had its release plans affected by the pandemic, reflects a possible/likely future for many entertainments.
The film stars Tom Hanks in an eponymous role, a robotics engineer who is one of the last survivors of an apocalyptic event - a solar flare that destroyed the ozone layer - that has left much of the Earth uninhabitable, with ultraviolet radiation making it impossible to be outside in the sun, and extreme weather events popping up in unexpected and devastating ways. Finch has company - his dog, Goodyear, and two robots, Dewey and Jeff - with whom he interacts and, eventually, begins a cross-country trip from St. Louis to San Francisco.
The thing is, Finch in many ways is an odd construct - a family movie about the end of the world. It is essentially what in the business is called a two-hander - Tom Hanks and Caleb Landry Jones, who voices Jeff. And while there is tension, it is sort of tension lite - enough to keep you engaged, but hardly the stuff of which zombie apocalypse movies are made. And that's okay - Hanks is excellent and, as always, good company, and Finch is generally entertaining, an undemanding way to spend as couple of hours on a Saturday night.
Finch originally was supposed to be released in theaters, but when the pandemic made that plan problematic, Apple TV+ bought the film and has just released it for subscriber streaming. To me, it was the perfect kind of streaming movie - not quote good enough to require a trip to the theater, but work deserving of an audience. Hanks, as terrific as he is, may be a little past his expiration date when it comes to being able to open a blockbuster … but Finch and his earlier pandemic at-home releases, Greyhound and News of the World, show that his nuanced work may be perfect for what may not be a new art form but certainly is a new business model.
If the film industry can figure out the economics of streaming, it could be yet another nail in the coffin of theatrical releases, save for films about Star Wars, Marvel superheroes and maybe James Bond.
My daughter got me a bottle of wine for my birthday that I opened the other evening - the 2019 Arterberry Maresh Pinot Noir from Oregon's Dundee Hills - and it was spectacular. This Pinot Noir was juicy and fresh - I'd never had a wine from this Willamette Valley winemaker before, and my daughter hit a home run with this one. I suggest you do the same.
(I like to think it is because I raised her right, but it probably is more attributable to her mother's influence.)
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.