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    Published on: November 19, 2021

    This morning, as I celebrate MNB's 20th anniversary … the first edition was posted on November 19, 2001 … I want to offer something a little different.

    The video below is a brief look back at 20 years of MorningNewsBeat … some of the places I've been and, most importantly, just some of the wonderful people I've met along the way.

    I offer this with grateful thanks to you - the MNB community - for making it lively and keeping me honest.  To paraphrase the song … I've always gotten by with help from my friends.

    Enjoy. (I did.)

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that Lunds & Byerlys has adopted a new perk designed to attract and retain employees - it will "its employees decide when and how frequently they would like to be paid for the hours they work."

    Including, if they wish, on the same day that they work.

    "We are excited to be among the first 100 companies in the United States to utilize Ceridian's on-demand pay feature so our team can get paid when it's most beneficial to them," said Casey Enevoldsen, vice president of employee experience at Lunds & Byerlys.

    Some context from the Star Tribune story:

    "As companies struggle to find workers, some employers are looking at offering paycheck flexibility as an added perk to help recruit and retain workers.

    Paycheck-advance apps popping up in recent years give workers early access to their earned wages. Some like Earnin are available for anyone to use. Others — including Branch, DailyPay, Even and Payactiv — are offered to workers through their employers.

    "Proponents of these services say they offer workers who live paycheck to paycheck much better alternatives to payday loans, cash advances, late payment charges and overdraft fees. Consumer advocates warn that the services should be used carefully, especially since some of them charge small fees for early transfers. Lunds & Byerlys employees will pay no fees."

    KC's View:

    I love this perk.  The fact is, there are a lot of people who live day to day, hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck.  And a program like this simply acknowledges this fact and creates a system that works for them, not for the employer.

    Which, in the end, works for the employer.  Kudos to Lunds & Byerlys.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    Starbucks and Amazon announced yesterday that they have teamed up to open a new store in midtown Manhattan that combines a Starbucks Pickup format with a limited assortment Amazon Go store.

    This is just the first of a number of combo units planned by the two companies for opening next year;  the next will be in the New York Times building, at West 40th Street and Eighth Avenue.

    The unit, located at at 59th Street between Park & Lexington Avenues, is described as "utilizing the order ahead feature in the Starbucks app and Amazon Go’s Just Walk Out technology to create an easy checkout experience, alongside a modernized lounge that features individual workspaces and expanded tables with power outlets and USB ports. The new store offers the full Starbucks menu and a curated assortment of food and beverages in the Amazon Go market, including fresh-prepared salads, sandwiches, bakery items, and snack options."

    The announcement elaborates:  "Starbucks Pickup stores primarily accept orders that are placed through the Starbucks app prior to the customer arriving at the store … Once the customer arrives at the location, they can find the status of their order on a digital screen in the store and then pick up their order directly from a Starbucks barista.

    "To enter the Amazon Go market and store’s lounge seating, customers can use the 'In-Store Code' in the Amazon Shopping app, Amazon One or a credit card, and then shop the Amazon Go market like any other Amazon Go store. Once inside, anything customers take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart. Anything they put back on the shelf comes out of their virtual cart. When a customer is done shopping, they can either sit in the lounge area to enjoy their Starbucks® beverage and food item selected from the Amazon Go market or be on their way. After the customer leaves the Amazon Go market, their card will be charged and they can access their receipt within a few hours, sometimes faster."

    Some context from the Engadget story:

    "Over the past year-and-a-half, Amazon has expanded the availability of its cashierless technology. It teamed up with airport stores to implement the check-out free experience and opened the first full-size Fresh grocery store with the technology in June. Amazon also added the technology to a few Whole Foods locations and, more recently, licensed it for use to UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's. This partnership with Starbucks is yet another step towards making Just Walk Out more ubiquitous than before."

    Starbucks says that "this new store concept aligns with Starbucks trade area transformation strategy, which builds on the strength of Starbucks digital customer relationships and the Starbucks app to meet evolving customer preferences for convenience, higher levels of mobile ordering and contactless pay, and reduced time waiting in lines."

    (Pics from Starbucks)

    KC's View:

    It also aligns with Amazon's strategy - be everywhere, and be as much a part of everybody's lives as much as possible.

    The folks at Amazon and Starbucks must've gotten a chuckle out of the speculation about this format that went public about a month ago, with some naysayers suggesting that the two companies were having trouble aligning their priorities.

    Can't wait to check it out.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    CVS Health plans to close 900 stores over the next three years, or close to 10 percent of its current fleet, a move that it says is part of a broader re-evaluation of its retail and healthcare strategies.

    The closings will begin next spring.

    According to the company, "As part of the company's strategic review of its retail business, CVS Health will also create new store formats to drive higher engagement with consumers. Three distinct models will serve as community health destinations:  Sites dedicated to offering primary care services … An enhanced version of HealthHUB locations with products and services designed for everyday health and wellness needs; and … Traditional CVS Pharmacy stores that provide prescription services and health, wellness, personal care and other convenient retail offerings."

    In its coverage, the Wall Street Journal offers some context:

    "CVS, with around 10,000 locations at the end of 2020, added dozens of stores since 2018 while rival Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. closed nearly 600 in that time. After decades of proliferation, the two giants comprise an ever-larger share of U.S. drugstores as independent pharmacies and small chains shut down or are acquired by CVS or Walgreens.

    "Both chains have played a key role in the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic. Retail pharmacies working in partnership with U.S. health officials have administered close to one-third of vaccines given to date, with CVS and Walgreens delivering the bulk of those shots.  In many cases, when a drugstore closes, CVS or Walgreens acquires the patient list and starts serving those customers at existing locations.

    "Staffing shortages have stressed both chains, as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians scramble to juggle Covid-19 testing and vaccines with filling prescriptions and serving customers. CVS said it hired nearly 20,000 pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and nurses in the most recent quarter, which included a one-day career event meant to draw 25,000 new workers."

    KC's View:

    This seems perfectly in synch with what has been CVS's approach for some time now, which has been to redefine itself as it tries to redefine healthcare.  Or maybe it is trying to redefine healthcare as it tries to redefine itself.  No matter.

    Listen, I still think CVS has a long way to go.  But the fact is, deciding to lop off 10 percent of your store fleet is a hard decision.  They get a lot of credit for that, I think.

    One of MNB's rules for most of the past 20 years has been, "Stores have to be a resource for the customer, not just a source of product."  CVS seems to be a strong example of putting that phrase into action.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    At a time when "help wanted" signs seem to adorn the front doors of almost every retailer in the country, and countless headlines have addressed the personnel shortages that are afflicting the economy, Walmart and Target apparently have decided not to participate in the phenomenon.

    CNBC reports that "Walmart hired nearly 200,000 workers in its third quarter in a push to meet the expected high level of demand during the holiday shopping season."  

    “We’re not as concerned about that as we would have been saying two months ago,”

     Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said this week.

    At the same time, CNBC writes, Target "has taken a slightly different approach, trimming back its typical amount of seasonal hires and instead giving more hours to existing employees. While the company said it would still likely hire about 100,000 seasonal employees, that would be lower than the 130,000 it has hired in each of the past two years.

    "Instead, Target said it plans to have its existing store staff of around 300,000 work about 5 million more hours during the holiday season."

    KC's View:

    There are certain advantages in being enormous and having the resources to both retain and attract people at a time when everybody else is struggling.

    I was in a Starbucks yesterday when the sign on the door announced that after 2 pm, only the drive-through window would be open, and that the store would be closing at 7 pm - three hours earlier than usual - every night for the foreseeable future.  The reason?  Nobody is available to work, I was told.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    From Engadget … a story about how Google is expanding upon an earlier test and making its Pickup with Google Maps feature available in more than 2,000 stores owned by kroger, including Kroger, Fry's, Mariano's and Ralphs banners.

    This means, the story says, that "when you shop at a participating outlet via its website, you'll be able to track your order status in Maps, share your ETA with the store and let them know when you've arrived. According to Google, people who use pickup with Maps 'typically wait less than five minutes for their groceries'."

    The successful pilot was run at Kroger's Fred Meyer banner in the Pacific Northwest.

    KC's View:

    If the end result is removing friction from the customer experience, this is an excellent idea.  And yet another example of how Kroger continues to look for ways to move the ball forward.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    From TechCrunch … a story about how "Instacart is rolling out new safety features for its delivery workers. The company has launched a new 'Shopper Safety Alert' feature that will notify its delivery providers of local critical incidents. The feature leverages law enforcement, social media and local news to create automated alerts.

    "Instacart delivery workers who are within the area of an incident will see the alert in the Shopper app so they can assess the situation and potentially avoid the area. If a delivery worker is in the middle of an order, the app will automatically pause the order. Instacart says it will assess incidents and may pause operations altogether in specific regions if they pose a risk to its workers."

    KC's View:

    At a time when Amazon is getting a lot of criticism for allegedly creating and/or enabling systems that put its drivers at risk, it makes sense for Instacart to look to differentiate itself by making safety-first statements.

    Make no mistake - this new approach seems to be as much about helping delivery personnel be efficient as it is about keeping them safe.  But often how you tell the story is the way the issues get framed.  And at a time when Amazon seems to be a little bit on defense, the competition is wise to play offense.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    From the New York Times … a story about how "a group of cryptocurrency fans lost a much-anticipated bid for a rare first printing of the U.S. Constitution at a Sotheby’s auction on Thursday.

    "The group, ConstitutionDAO, conducted a frenzied, weeklong online crowdfunding campaign to place a bid on the artifact, one of only 13 copies known to exist. It had raised more than $40 million in less than a week for the bid.

    "The final sale price was $43.2 million, according to a Sotheby’s spokesman. The winner’s identity was not immediately known."

    KC's View:

    I know this has nothing to do with retail … unless, of course, the winning bidder was Jeff Bezos.  But since MNB took note of the planned bid by cryptocurrency enthusiasts earlier this week, I wanted to make sure we wrote about how it all turned out.

    Published on: November 19, 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, we've now had a total of 48,398,455 Covid-19 coronavirus cases, resulting in 789,155 deaths an d 38,330,073 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 256,348,897 total cases, with 5,147,163 resultant fatalities and 231,550,769 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 79.8 percent of the US population age 12 and older, and 68.8 percent of the total population has received at least one dose of vaccine.  And, 69 percent off the 12-and-older population is fully vaccinated, as is 58.9 percent of the total US population.

    The CDC also says that 38.2 percent of ther 65-and-older population, and 16.6 percent of the total population, has received a vaccine booster dose.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  GeekWire reports that "Amazon is taking plastic liners, bubble bags, and some of the consumer guilt out of grocery deliveries.

    "The company says it has created new packaging for cold and frozen foods that is made from recycled paper, and can be recycled in curbside bins. It rolls out starting this month for Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods grocery deliveries.

    "The packaging is also produced in different regions of the United States, closer to the locations that will use it, further reducing the environmental impact, says Stephenie Landry, vice president of Amazon’s grocery business, in a post announcing the new packaging."

    The move, the story says, is "part of Amazon’s Climate Pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. It’s also part of a larger effort by the company to shift to recyclable packaging."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Macy’s Inc. said it hired consulting firm AlixPartners to evaluate whether it makes sense to spin off its e-commerce operations, a move that comes amid pressure from an activist investor to separate the fast-growing digital segment from the department-store chain’s physical stores.

    "Macy’s Chief Executive Jeff Gennette said in an interview Thursday that the company, along with its board and advisers, had previously looked at whether it made sense to split its digital business from its physical stores.  'What’s new now is the market is assigning huge value to e-commerce businesses,' Mr. Gennette said.  'We wanted one more time to pressure test our assumptions and analysis.'

    "He said it was too early to tell what the results of the analysis would be, but said it would hinge on whether a separation would yield additional shareholder value beyond Macy’s current strategy."

    Shareholder value … but not, it seems, customer value.  Maybe I'm wrong, but if this happens, it seems completely designed to put money in investors' pockets, which is not necessarily the same things as making Macy's more viable and innovative long-term in its ability to deliver a more complete shopper experience.  

    But then again, maybe Macy's wasn't doing that anyway, and so cashing out is the only way out.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    •  From The Verge:

    Walmart and drone delivery company Zipline are launching a delivery service in Pea Ridge, Arkansas — the first commercial drone delivery service offered by Zipline in the US. Customers will be able to choose from 'thousands of products,' though are restricted to health and wellness items like 'over the counter allergy medicine, bandages, ibuprofen.'

    "The project’s launch shows there’s continuing belief in the potential of drones to perform commercial deliveries. But the technology’s slow rate of adoption (Walmart first tested drone deliveries back in 2015) and the lack of large-scale implementations (the Pea Ridge service only covers a 50-mile radius) also shows there are plenty of questions to be answered if drone deliveries are to become commonplace for regular consumers."

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    •  From Bloomberg:

    "The group organizing Starbucks Corp. baristas in New York is now seeking to unionize some of their Arizona co-workers, expanding a campaign that could create the first labor outpost among the company’s thousands of corporate-run U.S. stores.

    "Workers United said it has signed up a majority of employees at a Starbucks store in Mesa, Arizona, and is filing a petition Thursday asking the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election there … The expanded effort underscores the renewed strength of labor across the U.S. as unions capitalize on a tight labor market to push for better pay and working conditions. Organizing efforts have launched this year at a number of major companies, and private-sector union members are authorizing strikes at a rate rarely seen in modern America."

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    …will return next week.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    In Thursday Night Football action, the New England Patriots took apart the Atlanta Falcons, winning 25-0.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    …will return.

    Published on: November 19, 2021

    Today, as part of our series of conversations built around MNB's 20 anniversary - which happens to be today - KC and Michael Sansolo have an extended and (we hope) entertaining chat about the last 20 years, the innovations that have defined the two decades and their work, and answer some of the common questions posed by ther MNB community.

    If you want to download and listen to this conversation as a podcast, click below.