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    Published on: November 29, 2021

    In a visit to Columbia, South Carolina, KC visited a street fair/food truck installation that was teeming with energy.  While he's talked a lot in the past about the importance of being "essential," this experience suggested to him that "energy" is an equally important factor in creating an effective retail experience.

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    CNBC reports that "traffic at retail stores on Black Friday dropped 28.3% compared with 2019 levels, as Americans shifted more of their spending online and kicked off their shopping earlier in the year, according to preliminary data from Sensormatic Solutions.

    "Traffic was up 47.5% compared with year-ago levels, Sensormatic said. This time in 2020, many shoppers stayed at home due to fears around the coronavirus pandemic and as retailers operated on somewhat reduced hours."

    Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting at Sensormatic, tells CNBC that "it’s clear shoppers are shopping earlier this season, just as they did last season."  Field says that "the two main reasons shoppers are spreading out their holiday purchases are ongoing concerns about Covid and worries about the supply chain … Field said that shopper traffic on Black Friday was closest to returning to 2019 levels in the South, followed by the Midwest and then the West and Northeast. He doesn’t believe mounting fears around the new Covid variant, omicron, had any impact on consumers’ behavior on the day."

    KC's View:

    In perusing the business sections of a lot of newspapers today and over the weekend - which is pretty much how I spend a lot of my time - one of the common themes seems to be that Black Friday, as we've known it over the past few decades, may be an obsolete construct.  A number of realities have come together - technology, consumer preferences, supply chain shortages, a pandemic - to completely change the landscape, and there's no reason to think it will ever go back.

    The only store I walked into this weekend was a supermarket.  Otherwise, my achieved goal was to stay away from anybody who was trying to sell me anything.

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    The Los Angeles Times has a story about how, as "many retailers have exhorted consumers to shop early to avoid disappointment," Amazon is working to challenge conventional wisdom by embracing the challenge.

    "In addition to chartering ships … Amazon hired 150,000 U.S. seasonal workers to help pick, pack and ship items, boosting pay and offering signing bonuses of up to $3,000. It’s dispatching half-full trucks to get packages to customers on time.

    "The logistical effort’s projected $4-billion cost threatens to wipe out the company’s profit during its most important three months of the year. But for Amazon, which burnished its reputation serving as a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, the holiday season is an opportunity to extend its advantage over rivals.

    "If the company succeeds in meeting its promises to customers this year, that will be thanks to Amazon-chartered ships taking products from factories in Asia, Amazon Air cargo jets crisscrossing the U.S., Amazon-branded vans departing from hundreds of local delivery depots and the hundreds of thousands of employees and contractors at each step along the way."

    The Wall Street Journal also has a story about Amazon's logistics operation as built out during the pandemic:

    "Amazon blanketed the country with more than 450 new facilities used to store, sort and ship items, according to logistics consultant MWPVL International, doubling down on a logistics empire that aims to deliver items in one day or less, and increasingly to do so without the help of third-party shippers.

    "Many of the new buildings are concentrated near big cities, putting more items for sale on the website closer to large population centers. The facilities also include more than two dozen smaller outposts stocked mostly with bestselling items, allowing the company to prepare for supply disruptions while also expanding fast-shipping capabilities, according to MWPVL.

    "During the pandemic, Amazon put on hold its promise to deliver many items to customers in one day. Nevertheless, the company continued to build out a network capable of such a feat. The work prepared Amazon for an unusual holiday shopping season in which a national labor shortage and global supply-chain challenges have constrained the ability of many companies to obtain and deliver certain products in as timely a manner as they did in the past."

    KC's View:

    If Amazon's stated goal is to behave in a counter-intuitive way - finding advantages in the situations that plague its competition - then it underlines what we've always suggested here ought to be the best way to fight against Amazon's resources.  You have to do the stuff that Amazon can't or won't do, and do everything possible to create a high level of intimacy with one's shoppers.  

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    The Wall Street Journal reports that "consumers might no longer be able to count on delivery of pancakes, ice cream or whatever else they crave, whenever they crave it.

    "Some restaurants, struggling with labor shortages and the return of customers to on-site dining, are choosing to scale back at times on often less-profitable delivery and to-go orders, companies and restaurateurs said.

    "The move comes as restaurants try to juggle orders from dining-rooms, phone calls, websites and apps - sometimes all hitting stretched servers and kitchens during peak hours.  Some restaurant operators said they are shutting off delivery and online sales for periods to focus on dine-in customers, who generally provide the most profitable sales."

    Some context from the Journal story suggests that this isn't a universal trend:

    "Overall, delivery and carryout business is holding up for restaurants, even as consumers return to dining rooms. Nearly 44% of orders at sit-down restaurants were made to-go in the year ended in September, up from 20% in the same period before the pandemic, according to market-research firm NPD Group Inc.

    "DoorDash Inc. and Uber Eats reported growing sales in the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with the same period in 2020, despite restaurants largely having reopened their dining rooms from pandemic lockdowns. Sit-down chains including Texas Roadhouse Inc. and Brinker International Inc. are reporting higher sales this year than before the pandemic, in part because to-go sales haven’t dropped."

    KC's View:

    I get the problem, but I cannot help but think that these restaurants are doubling down on a business model that failed them during the pandemic.  It just strikes me as a better approach to find ways to spread out ones' bets … to define the goal as feeding people, not just as operating traditional restaurant models.

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    The Seattle Times has a story about how "the biggest chicken producers in the U.S. will have to overhaul their breeding programs within just a few years to meet tough new animal welfare guidelines promoted by Amazon and other major food sellers.

    "The Global Animal Partnership (GAP), an animal welfare certifier whose five-step method is championed by Amazon’s Whole Foods, is set to lower the number of breeds that meets its standards. According to people familiar with the process, it’s virtually impossible for any conventional chicken breeds — which make up more than 90% of U.S. production — to make the cut … While the new rules don’t go into effect until 2026, the move could drive changes in the industry with over 200 companies including Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Chipotle Mexican Grill promising to transition to breeds that meet GAP’s standards."

    The Times writes that "some chicken producers are already making moves to adjust to the higher standards.

    "Perdue Farms, the fourth-biggest U.S. chicken producer, has been preparing for an updated breed list for five years. In 2016, it began experimenting with heritage and hybrid breeds, which aren’t as susceptible to muscle problems like woody breast. The company has tested 15 different breeds so far."

    The story goes on:

    "The chickens that most of the world eats grow at lightning speed and prodigiously convert feed into protein. That’s made meat cheaper and more accessible to more people.

    "But high productivity has had trade-offs. A two-year study commissioned by the GAP had preliminary results seen by Bloomberg that concluded the world’s most ubiquitous chickens had poor outcomes due to genetics. The birds sat for most of their lives, and had more foot injuries and more problems like white strips of fat and tough, woody textures throughout their muscles. Their bodies grew faster at times than their organs, resulting in small lungs."

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    CNN reports that "amid shortages, Canada is tapping into its strategic reserves.

    "This time, for maple syrup.

    "The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, a leading trade group, said it is releasing roughly 50 million pounds from its strategic maple syrup reserves, almost half of the stockpile … The government-supported organization, which is often called the OPEC of maple syrup, uses its reserves to control syrup prices and supply. As of 2020, Quebec produced 73% of all maple syrup in the world, and its biggest customer by far is the United States, which accounts for around 60% of Canada's export volume.

    "The strategic reserve was created to keep maple syrup in stock during bad harvest seasons or when demand spikes. That is the case right now following a hot and short spring that led to a lower yield. Historically, 2021 was an average year for maple production in Quebec, with a harvest estimated at 133 million pounds, but sales rose 21% compared to last year, straining the available supply."

    KC's View:

    Sort of puts the whole supply chain issue into context, doesn't it?

    Me, I like my maple syrup from Vermont - no offense meant to Canadian readers.  My favorite is from Runamok, which I think makes the best maple syrup out there, bar none.  Especially the cinnamon-vanilla infused version, and the bourbon barrel-aged variety.

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    Vanity Fair has a profile of Amazon's new CEO, Andy Jassy, who comes across in most ways as the opposite of Jeff Bezos 

    An excerpt:

    "It takes a certain kind of personality to want to run one of the largest companies on the planet. Recent psychological studies have found that as many as 20 percent of corporate CEOs display psychopathic tendencies, meaning a huge percentage are thrill-seekers who feel no empathy for others and thrive on revenge. Bezos certainly has at least some of those personality traits. But Jassy, as far as I can tell, does not—at least not yet.

    "When the announcement went out in early February that Jassy would be taking over as CEO of Amazon, Wall Street wasn’t sure how to react. Analysts felt comfortable with Jassy as the new head of the company - as one tech investor told me, 'If AWS was a stand-alone business, it would likely be valued at close to a trillion dollars' - and they were also relieved to know that Bezos would be hovering above as chairman. But while the stock rose 1 percent on the news, it did not skyrocket as, say, IBM’s did when it announced a CEO change.

    "Sure, Jassy ran one of the most profitable segments of Amazon’s business, but Bezos, who had started Amazon 27 years earlier, formulating its massive potential on his laptop while on a cross-country road trip, wasn’t just an icon of American business, he was the icon of modern American business. Bezos was a killer - to quote Logan Roy of 'Succession' - and it was that instinct that had led him to grow the company in limitless size and scope.

    "Unlike Bezos, who is as famous as an A-list Hollywood celebrity, Jassy is largely unknown beyond those familiar with cloud computing jargon like 'SaaS' and 'CRM.'  One Amazon analyst noted that at the time of the announcement, Jassy instantly became the most googled person on earth. (Over the past couple of months, when I mentioned to people I was writing about Andy Jassy, almost everyone responded, “Who is he?”)

    "The questions about what would happen next at Amazon were endless. Could a guy who runs a cloud computing division run all of those entities? How much more could he grow a business that was already worth almost two trillion dollars? And perhaps most important, as Amazon approached one of the most volatile times in its history, was Jassy a killer?"

    You can read the entire story here.

    Published on: November 29, 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:  49,099,590 total cases … 799,414 deaths … and 38,880,081 reported recoveries.

    The global numbers:  261,898,828 total cases … 5,220,148 fatalities … and 236,574,161 reported recoveries.   (Source.)



    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 74.1 percent of the US population age 5 and older, and 69.7 percent of the total US population, has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 62.8 percent of the US population age 5 and older and 59.1 percent of the total US population has been fully vaccinated.

    The CDC also says that 42.1 percent of the US population age 65 and older, 20.5 percent of the US population age 18 and older, and 19.1 percent of the total US population has received a vaccine booster shot.



    •  The New York Times reports that a new Covid-19 coronavirus variant, dubbed Omicron, has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern,” which the story says is "the most serious category the agency uses for such tracking, and said that its numerous genetic mutations could help it spread more quickly, even among vaccinated people.

    "Scientists cautioned that relatively little is known about the new variant, and that only a small number of confirmed cases have surfaced globally. Still, there are worries that Omicron could have spread more widely before scientists in South Africa discovered it last week, and the memories of the rampaging spread this year of the Delta variant have prompted new waves of travel restrictions, aimed primarily at southern African countries."

    The Times writes that the WHO says that the Omicron variant "carries a number of genetic mutations that may allow it to spread quickly, perhaps even among the vaccinated.

    "Independent scientists agreed that Omicron warranted urgent attention, but also pointed out that it would take more research to determine the extent of the threat. Although some variants of concern, like Delta, have lived up to initial worries, others have had a limited impact."

    The Times also writes that "nations in southern Africa protested bitterly on Saturday as more of the world’s wealthiest countries cut them off from travel, renewing a debate over border closures from the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic and compounding the problems facing poorly vaccinated countries … The cascade of travel closures triggered a wave of resentment among Africans who believed that the continent was yet again bearing the brunt of panicked policies from Western countries, which had failed to deliver vaccines and the resources needed to administer them.

    "Richer countries, having already hoarded vaccines for much of 2021, were now penalizing parts of the world that they had starved of shots in the first place, scientists said."



    •  The Washington Post reports that the new variant "has been detected in Canada, the country’s health minister said Sunday, marking the first identification of the variant in North America as cases continue to emerge around the globe."

    Two cases have been detected in Ontario, the story says, as it also has been found "in countries ranging from Australia to Israel, Botswana to Britain, since it was first detected in South Africa."



    •  Indeed, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that the new variant likely already is in the US, and that vaccine and booster shots remain the best way for people to protect themselves against Covid, though it is not yet clear that current vaccines are effective against the new variant.

    The Wall Street Journal quotes Fauci as saying that the new variant “has the molecular characteristics that would strongly suggest that it would be more transmissible."  Fauci also says that "it remains unclear whether it will cause more severe disease and how effectively vaccines will work against it. He said U.S. officials have been studying the data and having meetings with their South African counterparts, where Omicron was first detected."



    •  The Post also writes that "Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday on CNN that scientists would need another two to three weeks to study the effectiveness of the vaccines against Omicron but that 'there’s good reasons to think it will probably be OK'."

    Collins "also said it wasn’t clear that Omicron would become a dominant variant in the U.S., noting how previous variants such as Beta never really took off."



    •  Axios reports that "the U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa … The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

    "The new policy does not apply to American citizens and permanent residents.

    "The restrictions are being implemented 'out an abundance of caution," the administration officials said, adding that this step was recommended by U.S. government medical experts and the COVID-19 Response Team."



    •  CNBC reports that "Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said Sunday the vaccine maker could roll out a reformulated vaccine against the omicron coronavirus variant early next year," though "it's not clear whether new formulations will be needed, or if current Covid vaccinations will provide protection against the new variant that has begun to spread around the globe."



    •  The Wall Street Journal writes that "U.S. companies responded to the new Covid-19 variant with a mix of both concern and confusion. Some executives scheduled calls with internal teams to assess the threat or peppered health advisers with questions, while many cautioned that they would hold off in making changes to operations until more is known.

    According to the Journal, "Food retailers say they are waiting for more clarity around the new variant before making changes to their current operations. Safety protocols, such as mask-wearing and sanitizing, have been helpful in protecting employees and customers during the pandemic, they say.

    "Staffers at Pennsylvania-based Giant Eagle Inc. have reviewed materials released by the World Health Organization and are in contact with local health officials, said Vic Vercammen, chief pandemic officer at the chain of more than 400 supermarkets. His team has discussed the reports and potential risks, including the likelihood that the variant will arrive in the U.S."



    •  Dave Clark, the CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer business, went on "Face The Nation" on CBS yesterday to say that it is too early to predict whether the new Omicron variant of the Covid-19 coronavirus will have an impact on the current end-of-year holiday shopping season.

    "It’s very early in the process of understanding what’s happening with the new variant," he said, adding, "Consumers are going to wait and see in terms of what happens ... but are going to move on with their lives into this holiday season."

    Clark declared himself "incredibly optimistic" about the ability of the public health and pharmaceutical communities to evaluate the impact of the new variant and develop treatments and vaccines to deal with it.

    I think it is important to remember that there is a lot more we don't know about this new variant than there are things we do know.  Which is why it makes sense to continue to act in a responsible manner that emphasizes safety, and await better information and guidance from public health officials.  "Readiness is all," William Shakespeare wrote in "Hamlet."  Good advice, I think.



    •  The New York Times had a story over the weekend about why retailers are resisting vaccine mandates for their employees.

    "As other industries with workers in public-facing roles, like airlines and hospitals, have moved toward requiring vaccines, retailers have dug in their heels, citing concerns about a labor shortage," the Times writes.  "And a portion of one of the country’s largest work forces will remain unvaccinated, just as shoppers are expected to flock to stores.

    "At the heart of the retailers’ resistance is a worry about having enough people to work. In a tight labor market, retailers have been offering perks like higher wages and better hours to prospective employees in hopes of having enough people to staff their stores and distribution centers. The National Retail Federation, the industry’s largest trade group, has estimated that retailers will hire up to 665,000 seasonal workers this year."

    Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette tells the Times that he is in favor of a vaccine mandate, but would like to see it delayed until the Q1 2022.  “I support it.  I would just love to have it on a timetable that works for us,” Gennette says. “We need more time.”

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    •  In Boston, WCVB-TV News reports that Amazon plans to open its first grocery stores in New England, with an Amazon Fresh unit scheduled to open in Saugus, Massachusetts, in a former Big Y location.  There also are reports of an Amazon Fresh store planned for Braintree, Massachusetts, as well as stores in Ridgefield and Westport, Connecticut.

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Americans filing initial jobless claims tumbled to their lowest level in 52 years last week, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

    "The number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims tumbled to 199,000 — the lowest level since November 1969 — the Labor Department reported Wednesday, part of a spate of positive economic news that signaled that many of the wrinkles of the nation’s recovery continue to be smoothing out.

    "It was just the latest bit of good news for the labor market, which remains about 4 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels but has staged a strong recovery, adding about 581,000 jobs a month on average this year.

    "Separately, the Commerce Department said that consumer spending increased by 1.3 percent in October, its fastest pace since March, in a sign that Americans are continuing to spend."



    •  Yahoo Finance reports that in the UK, "The billionaire Issa brothers are weighing up a merger of Asda and their petrol station business EG Group.

    "The Blackburn-based entrepreneurs have been reviewing options to break up their sprawling global forecourt empire.  But they could merge the two businesses instead, valuing the combined entity at about $35 billion."

    According to the story, "Last month it emerged that the supermarket chain would be lumbered with £500m more debt than previously anticipated after a deal to sell its own petrol stations collapsed.  The brothers planned to transfer Asda’s forecourt business to EG Group as part of a complex deal that was meant to reduce the supermarket’s debt."



    •  Bloomberg reports that "Ikea opened its biggest store in the world in the Philippines, with the new 730,000 square foot facility in Manila a cornerstone of the home-furnishings giant’s expansion plans in Asia … Its opening comes as Ikea has expanded its e-commerce presence -- which proved timely during the pandemic -- with online orders now accounting for 26% of its global sales. The company, which has more than 460 physical stores in about 60 markets, is planning to add nearly 60 more locations in the current financial year. And it’s not just looking toward Asia: It will take its first step into South America this spring, opening a branch in Santiago, Chile."

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    Stephen Sondheim, the greatest of modern musical theater composers and lyricists, passed away on Friday at age 91.

    His early lyrics included those for "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," while his work as both composer and lyricist includes "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Company," "Follies," "A Little Night Music," "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," "Merrily We Roll Along," "Sunday in the Park with George," and "Into the Woods."

    Sondheim, whose plays did not always achieve popular success when they opened, currently is having a moment - a new version of "Company" is in previews on Broadway, as is an Off-Broadway revival of “Assassins";  a new film version of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg, is due out next month.

    KC's View:

    Give me Sondheim over Andrew Lloyd Webber any day - Sondheim's work always is darker, more complicated, less concerned with being hummable and more focused on provoking thought and the consideration of new ideas.  

    Not to say that he wasn't fun and, sometimes, eminently hummable:

    I've seen "Forum" twice on Broadway … once with Phil; Silvers in the lead, and, years later, with Nathan Lane.  Brilliant … and much better than the movie.

    I also saw the original production of "Sweeney Todd" on Broadway, with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou:

    And then, of course, there is this classic:

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    From MNB last week:

    A federal jury in Ohio yesterday found that three of the nation's largest pharmacy chains  - Walmart, CVS and Walgreens - "substantially contributed to the crisis of opioid overdoses and deaths in two Ohio counties," the New York Times  reports.

    It is, the Times writes, "the first time the retail segment of the drug industry has been held accountable in the decades-long epidemic."

    All three chains said they would appeal the verdict.  CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis characterized the defense this way: “Pharmacists fill legal prescriptions written by DEA-licensed doctors who prescribe legal, FDA-approved substances to treat actual patients in need.  We look forward to the appeals court review of this case, including the misapplication of public nuisance law."

    I commented:

    I am completely sympathetic to the pain and agony suffered by patients and families that became embroiled in the opioid addiction epidemic, but I must admit that I am a little conflicted about the degree to which pharmacists could've or should've stepped in to prevent their distribution.

    The Times story points out that the plaintiffs argue that "pharmacies turned a blind eye to countless red flags about suspicious opioid orders, both at the local counter with patients and at corporate headquarters."  In other words, even as they detected a worrying rise in opioid prescriptions, they stopped counting pills because they were too busy counting profits.

    That is a reasonable argument, and it seems entirely possible that all three chains flunked the ethical test.  But allowing pharmacists to question and/or veto doctors' orders may be a slippery slope.

    One MNB reader responded:

    Having managed a store with a pharmacy: The pharmacists are caught in the middle. They have an obligation to point out a wrong, just like if they have two scripts that do not interact well. But when they are a part of a corporation many of the rules are enforced by the legal dept. Also you are correct, pharmacists do not like to question doctors. I have witnessed disagreements where the doctor threatens to have a pharmacist license over refusal to fill a script. Very ugly. Not to mention doctors can suggest NOT going to certain pharmacies. Comes down to money, drives all. 

    And, from another reader:

    I don't know the facts, I was not in court to hear arguments from both sides. That said, for years we have been encouraged to:  'See something - Say something'.  Did and when did that 

    Logic suggests there was a pattern of scrips written by one or a series of Drs. that would have been outside the norm. Pharmacists are highly intelligent, science educated individuals who I presume would be aware of extraordinary prescriptions and I presume many did and took action of some sort.  There is plenty of blame, morally and ethically, to be placed on all parties.  I don't know how you legislate/regulate moral and ethical behavior.  The Opioid crisis includes many both passive and active enablers.

    Your opinion was spot on.  Thank you!



    The other day we took note of a Star Tribune report that Lunds & Byerlys has adopted a new perk designed to attract and retain employees - it will let "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.

    One MNB reader responded:

    I keep thinking back to the old adage “give a man a fish and feed him for a day”.  I see this as people request their pay when they have a “want” but at the end of the month when rent comes due, they don’t have enough built up hours to take care of the “need”.  This has the feeling that it will drive more activity to payday loan places than less to help people cover large monthly expenses since they do not have a “regular” check.  It can also contribute to “the great quit” as associates can get their checks that day and never come back.  Perhaps a better solution would be in-house classes on budgeting, stretch assignments to help get people promoted into higher paying jobs even if it’s not with their current employer or use the cost of managing/providing this service to offer all the associates a raise.

    Just another take on a program that, in the end, is here to line the pocketbooks of the company that is offering the service at the expense of the lower wage earners.



    A story we had about how CVS decided to close down hundreds of drug stores prompted MNB reader Gail Nickel-Kailing to write:

    Since moving to Helena Montana 5 years ago from Seattle, we had to deal with a variety of culture shocks. No rush hour was the best (unless there is train crossing your street of choice), for example. But the hardest has been the paucity of retail options. The nearest Apple store is nearly 300 miles away!

    But the CVS stores (yes, there are 2) are the saddest excuses for a retail pharmacy I’ve ever seen. I expect at least one of them will close in this wave. That will leave 2 national pharmacies represented here: CVS and Walgreens. It can be really hard if you need a prescription and they are out of the necessary drug (that’s happened to us a couple of times) or if you need something outside their regular hours. Heaven help us if you need an emergency prescription in the middle of the night. I think the only option might be the hospital pharmacy; I have no idea what we’d do.

    We’re seniors on Medicare and the best priced pharmacy supplement for us is a Walgreens partnership, so we’re limited even more. It can be really scary for someone taking heart medication, insulin, or other prescriptions for chronic conditions.



    MNB reader Tom Murphy had some thoughts about retailers doing business with Instacart:

    Many of your readers, myself included, understand the risk a retailer assumes when they sign up for Instacart services.  MNB has done a good job of covering both sides of the Instacart model…what the app/service does for them and what is does to the retailer.  However, I personally don’t hold much hope for retailers “controlling” the Instacart service or market or reversing the damage already done.  Guys/gals like us (people over 50…being polite here) are much more concerned with whom our stores are than those younger than us.  There is a huge population (the digitally addicted) that cares mostly about convenience and prices.  If Instacart can convince them that it can provide the best of both…most  retailers (other than the big ones) will suffer accordingly.  I think this evolutionary mutation has already occurred, is spreading faster than the delta variant, and cannot be put back in the box.  

    Short of a major event or misstep by Instacart, I think the best quote is, “this train has left the station!”



    I made the offhand comment the other day that a Starbucks I visited went to drive-through-only at 2 pm, and closed at 7 pm, because of staffing shortages.

    One MNB reader responded:

    I was staying in Vegas for the Supply Side West convention last month and the Starbucks in my hotel did not open for the two days that I stayed there citing employees as no shows those days.

    From another reader:

    Count your lucky stars, KC.  The Starbucks here, in Auburn, Maine, closes at 4:00 in the afternoon for the same reason. 



    We reported a few days ago that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon "believes that current inflation rates are an opportunity for his company because it will allow Walmart to double-down on its longtime low-price approach … McMillon said, 'We’re proud to try and hold prices down.  Our conversations with suppliers today, tomorrow will be ‘How can you help us roll back prices and swim upstream and be different than everybody else?'"

    One MNB reader responded:

    Personally, I think this is how they plan to win: “Our conversations with suppliers today, tomorrow will be ‘How can you help us roll back prices”. I think we all know that Walmart pushes back on their suppliers and the suppliers will have to absorb the cost if they want to continue to do business with Walmart.



    Dollar Tree, which has spent more than three decades selling products for $1, announced that it raise its price for to $1.25 for most items by the end of April 2022.

    One MNB reader observed:

    Average manufacturer price increases are in the 6%+/- range.  Dollar Tree is going up 25%???  Hmmm … who’s gouging who?

    And from another:

    It may only be 25¢, but that's a 25 percent increase in cost.  That's not chump change!



    Reacting to east week's "MNB @ 20" conversation with Judy Spires, MNB reader Steve Workman wrote:

    Love your conversation with Judy Spires! I remember Judy from her early days at ACME Markets in Malvern, PA before Albertsons’ bought them.  During that time, I worked for Entenmann’s Bakery was on the Board of the Philadelphia AMR (Association of Manufacturer’s Representatives).  ACME was one of my accounts and I remember when Judy was promoted to VP of the Floral Department.  She used to come to our dinners when we honored ACME and was always very friendly.  It is no surprise that Judy has been as successful as she has in her Grocery career.  Judy has always been very friendly, approachable, and innovative.  BTW, she kept a smile for the full 35 minutes of your interview……

    MNB reader Douglas Madenberg wrote:

    I’ve been thinking about the Judy Spires conversation… she mentioned the old adage, Necessity is the mother of invention.  True enough, but doesn’t it seem the most groundbreaking inventions actually create the necessity on their own?  Thinking of iPod, EZ Pass, even Amazon, things  we never thought of and now can’t live without.  Maybe the best innovators are out ahead of the human need, not just the market opportunity.

    Anyway thanks for always providing the forum to allow the thoughts to percolate…



    And, in response to my conversation with Stu Upson, CEO of USA Pickleball:

    I was introduced to the sport by my brother and his wife while visiting them in Florida. Being a competitive person, I didn't take to well with him beating me as bad as he did. So, when I returned home, I started a movement in my neighborhood, started a Facebook group dedicated to Pickleball. To date, there are 34 members. We use this page to find players on a daily basis as well as share videos about the strategy of the sport as well as videos of us all playing. It's a great way to stay connected with each other and decompress from work and COVID fatigue. it's also great exercise and something my wife even likes to do. Needless to say, I am a fanatic and will continue to be.

    I am currently sidelined due to recent rotator cuff surgery on my non-playing arm and I can't wait to get back at it in early January 2022.

    Good luck.  



    Lots of kind email about MNB's 20th anniversary…

    MNB reader Glen Terbeek wrote:

    Congrats on your 20 years providing a great service to the industry, using a great format.  In today’s world, twenty years speaks to how effective you have been.  Here is to another twenty years!  The industry needs it,

    I remember talking with you at a FMI convention in Chicago when you were considering starting MNB.  Great job!

    One MNB reader wrote:

    I'm looking forward to your next 20 years or my expiration date, whichever comes first.

    MNB reader Michael Starkey wrote:

    Congratulations and thank you! As I have shared with you in the past, if I only have the time to read one newsletter in the morning, it's always MorningNewsBeat!!

    MNB reader Cindy Sorensen wrote:

    Congrats!! I remember where I was when I first heard about Morning News Beat.... working from my home office as a region sales manager for The Minute Maid Company. We received an email recommending we subscribe to this new daily newsletter...20 years ago. The rest is history.

    MNB reader Sandra Kednay, for former student of mine at PSU, wrote:

    Thanks so much for sharing this nostalgic trip down your memory lane.   What a star! Loved the format and the music too!

    MNB reader Joe Axford wrote:

    Loved the video, it gave me goosebumps -  (Especially the dog pics!)

    It's great that you've gotten to travel the country and meet so many wonderful people along the way, and I really appreciate what you do week in and week out, for twenty years. I consider myself a friend, congrats and here's to another twenty years!

    And another:

    Great photos and lots of memories over a very quick 20 years Kevin!  Thanks for letting us be a part of it.

    MNB reader Deborah Faragher wrote:

    Congratulations, Kevin, on 20 great years.  I’ve now been retired for 11 years and still read you every day.  I appreciate your thoughtful comments, your candor, and your humor.  Keep it up!

    And from another:

    Well done.  Great content and insights always with a sense of humility and humor.

    Well, maybe more humor than humility, if I'm going to be honest.

    From another MNB reader:

    I know I have read Morning Newsbeat for over 19 years and pretty close to 20 years.  I was reading a trade magazine (remember when they were in waiting rooms) and Michael Sansolo said in an article that the first thing he did every morning was read MorningNewsBeat.  I thought what the heck is that.  I did NOT “subscribe” immediately because the president of our company wanted to cut down on the number of emails on the server (pretty funny).  I went to your website every day to read your updates.  I finally subscribed. I think I did it just to upset our president who obviously was way behind the times.

    Proving that 20 years is a long time ago, I still have my monthly planner (hard copy) from November 2001.  I just looked up what I was doing during your founding week.  As a sales rep from a consumer products company, I called on two accounts that no longer exist.  Life changes slowly until it doesn’t.

    Thanks for your insight, humor and “offbeat” observations over the years.

    And from another:

    What a great milestone Kevin!  You have certainly found your niche in work and like thousands of others I look forward to reading and hearing your daily insights in the food industry.  

    MNB reader Jim Antrup wrote:

    Congrats on 20 years, I have only been following you for a couple of years but I do enjoy your news and commentary.

    MNB reader Terry Marshall wrote:

    Congratulations on the 20 years!  I am sure it has flown by since you are doing what you love.  I have been a reader for about 15 of those years and appreciate the content that you have written.  I believe it still has the edge it did when I first subscribed and leads us to think about the direction of retail, and in many ways society and culture.   I’d wish you another 20 great years but I think you will probably want to be fully retired by then, so instead, here’s to more great columns for as long as it lasts.  All  the best!

    MNB reader Steve Deatherage wrote:

    Congratulations on your 20 year anniversary.  I enjoy getting my updates every morning and the content within.  Your on the spot videos start my day and the updates and info in the content keep me informed across the US.  I really appreciate what you do and how you bring it to your readers.  Here’s to another 20 years and counting, thanks.

    MNB reader Bob Culbertson wrote:

    Just wanted to send you a note of congratulations on your anniversary. I can’t remember the date I started following you, but I retired over 8 years and still read it every morning. I spent 47 years of my working career working for independent retailers, some local chains, and 32 years working for Cub Foods/ SuperValu. The great thing about your newsletter, is that I not only get to continue to hear about what is going on in the grocery industry, but I get additional lessons from your connections that impact other industries. Many things you talk about even are good life lessons. 

    Keep up the great work.  Congratulations.

    From another reader:

    I just wanted to reach out and say congratulations on 20 years….keep up the good work!

    I really enjoy your newsletter and appreciate all of the industry news, notes and “hot takes” on our rapidly changing industry that you have provided over the last 2 decades.

    I originally signed up in November, 2001 per a colleagues recommendation at the time (I was working for Perdue Farms), and have continued my subscription over a couple of job changes since then.  

    Just curious…how many “long haulers” like me are still tuning in today?

    Good question … the shame of it is that I've changed email systems several times since the beginning, and the specific data has been lost.  But I can tell you that I started out with maybe 100-150 people that I knew, and now am lucky enough to be well into five figures.

    The operative word being "lucky."



    Finally, I had a headline the other day:  Organized Theft Causing Retail Employee Tsuris.

    Which led MNB reader Suzanne Shriner to write:

    Holy Cow, KC … It’s been ages since I needed to look up the definition of a word!  Tsuris.  Well done!  Cannot wait to regale my family members this Thanksgiving with my tales of tsuris!

    Glad I could help.  I like to think of MNB as having multiple uses.

    Published on: November 29, 2021

    In Week Twelve of National Football League Play…

    Cleveland Browns 10, Baltimore Ravens 16

    Los Angeles Chargers 13, Denver Broncos 28

    Los Angeles Rams 28, Green Bay Packers 36

    Minnesota Vikings 26, San Francisco 49ers 34

    Pittsburgh Steelers 10, Cincinnati Bengals 41

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38, Indianapolis Colts 31

    Carolina Panthers 10, Miami Dolphins 33

    Tennessee Titans 13, New England Patriots 36

    Philadelphia Eagles 7, New York Giants 13 (not a typo)

    Atlanta Falcons 21, Jacksonville Jaguars 14

    New York Jets 21, Houston Texans 14 (not a typo)

    Chicago Bears 16, Detroit Lions 14

    Las Vegas Raiders 36, Dallas Cowboys 33

    Buffalo Bills 31, New Orleans Saints 6