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    Published on: May 3, 2022

    Thanks to all the MNB readers who wrote in last week to congratulate Mrs. Content Guy and me on our 39th wedding anniversary, saying that it is a notable achievement, and wondered how we did it.  First of all, she's a saint.  Second, I travel a lot - we've been married for 39 years, but I've only really been around for 29 or 30 of them.  I think that's important … and I suspect Mrs. Content Guy would agree with me.

    Most important, I married the right person … which is the lesson of this video.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    by Michael Sansolo

    In "The Tempest," William Shakespeare wrote: “What's past is prologue,” reminding us that what happened before frequently sets the context for whatever happens next. Sometimes, though the past gets forgotten far too fast, taking with it valuable lessons that suddenly we all need.

    Just last week, I had a sense of that while talking to a crowd of retailers in northern California. With the nation, and obviously supermarket operators, grappling with inflation for the first time since the early 1980s, I asked the crowd how many were actually working back then. In a room of maybe 250 people five hands went up including my own.

    The lesson is simple: most working people and, of course, most consumers, are actually facing inflation as adults and business leaders for the first time in their careers. And while the causes and landscape are starkly different this time than in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there remain lessons we need to learn from the past and pretty quickly.

    First off, let’s accept that 2022 is a world removed from 1981. Forget the obvious that back then the Internet wasn’t really a thing, smart phones didn’t exist and Amazon was just a river. Consider this: in 1981, the nation’s largest retailer was Sears and Walmart was merely a regional operator. In the supermarket industry, there were no Walmart Supercenters, Safeway was the industry’s giant and the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) was becoming ever less great on the road to obsolescence.

    Today’s retailers face a raft of challenges that were unthinkable back then, especially the ability for shoppers to price check items in multiple stores from handheld devices.  In addition, today’s marketplace includes extreme value operators such as Aldi, Costco, the array of dollar stores and, if I didn’t mention it yet, Walmart.

    Plus the nation is still emerging - in fits and starts - from the shadow of the Covid pandemic, which is still impacting supply chains and labor. 

    In other words, the current situation could make one nostalgic for the late 1970s (minus the disco music, of course).  But I believe there are lessons from that previous era that should be considered.

    First, private label products today are a force for quality and differentiation. The late 1970s era gave us black-and-white generics, long derided for their lack of quality, consistency and style. Consumers may go looking for extreme value again, but it would be a horrendous mistake to bring back an era of spotty products that were more a punch line than a solution.

    Second, in the years following the earlier era, the industry learned painful lessons about losing competitiveness. There are so many elements of inflation you cannot control, but you can look to create cost savings by eliminating any points of friction and inefficiency in your stores and supply chains. Recognize that many of your competitors will be taking a hard look at those same costs in hopes of finding small savings that can add up to big advantages.

    No doubt there are many more lessons from the past that can provide some guidance in this new era and it’s time to seek them out and fast. While past indeed may be prologue,

    we also know that, in the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    Let’s hope that doesn’t include disco!


    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com.

    His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    The Washington Post reports that "union organizers in New York pledged to keep fighting to organize Amazon workers Monday, despite a setback when workers at a Staten Island warehouse rejected joining the union.

    'Workers at the LDJ5 warehouse voted against joining the independent Amazon Labor Union, casting 618 votes against unionization, compared with 380 votes in favor. The union’s loss comes just weeks after it made history by organizing the first successful vote to unionize at an Amazon warehouse in the United States.

    "Labor organizers blamed, in part, Amazon’s union-busting tactics for the loss Monday and said the blow will not be the end of the movement."

    The Wall Street Journal quotes an Amazon spokeswoman as saying that the company is “glad that our team at LDJ5 were able to have their voices heard. We look forward to continuing to work directly together as we strive to make every day better for our employees.”

    According to the Journal, "A lawyer who has represented Amazon Labor Union, the fledgling group behind the effort to unionize Amazon facilities in New York and elsewhere, said the union was weighing whether to file objections against Amazon related to the vote, and that organizing efforts would continue at LDJ5 and elsewhere. Organizers at Amazon Labor Union had said they viewed the LDJ5 election as an important next step in their push to unionize other company warehouse locations."

    The Hill reports that "Amazon has been granted a hearing over its claims that the successful union vote at a Staten Island facility last month was improperly carried out … Amazon asserted that the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) Brooklyn office seemingly supported the union push, and the case was transferred to the Phoenix-based region."

    The Journal notes that "some workers at LDJ5 said they didn’t support the union because they were satisfied with their pay and benefits. Esther Jackson, a 50-year-old LDJ5 worker, said Amazon’s benefits, which include 401(k) and healthcare options, have been the best she has ever had. Ms. Jackson said she is grateful for Amazon, which hired her last year despite a criminal background."

    KC's View:

    This is a scenario that in some ways Amazon ought to appreciate … when it comes to the unionization movement there, to coin a phrase, Today is Day One.

    I'm still waiting for Amazon to make the big move - the moment in which it determines the need for a national strategy that redefines management-labor relations at the company, that applies high levels of innovation to the problem.

    Hasn't happened yet.  I'm not hopeful.  But hope springs eternal.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    TechCrunch reports that grocery delivery startup Food Rocket made a "funding deal with Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. that puts its 15-minute grocery delivery service in more than 14,000 Circle K convenience stores and Couche-Tard locations … The new $25 million in Series A investment, led by Alimentation Couche-Tard via its Circle K Venture Fund, will enable Food Rocket to deliver in 26 countries and territories, including more than 7,000 U.S. locations. In all, the company has raised $30 million to date."

    According to the story, "Food Rocket uses AI-enabled technologies to manage warehouse stocks, forecast demand and optimize delivery time by predicting the closest store that offers the fastest delivery time and the lowest costs of putting together and delivering the order."

    Food Rocket founder and CEO Vitaly Alexandrov tells TechCrunch that it is a partnership that should enable "the company to grow faster and more efficient and be able to reach profitability faster than others. It will also be able to leverage Circle K’s size and scale, consumer insights, marketing expertise, procurement network and supply chain, while Circle K can tap into Food Rocket’s proprietary software for forecasting stock levels and employee workloads.

    "Alexandrov also said the funding will be invested into expanding its service in both Chicago — to open around 15 stores there — and San Francisco, and into other cities, including Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Food Rocket plans to create over 2,000 jobs in new areas and continues to be one of the few startups offering full-time employment to all of its riders, he added.

    "In addition, he plans to launch a dark kitchen aspect of the business that will deliver foods that can be prepared in minutes — think coffee, bagels and pizza, that could still be delivered within 15 minutes. He also wants to take a step further eventually and deliver other items like phones."

    KC's View:

    It was just two months ago that Circle K signed a deal with online pure-player Farmstead, with the goal of exploring "innovative supply chain, distribution, e-commerce fulfillment and marketing models."  So there appears to be a pattern here - Alimentation Couche-Tard positioning itself to be far more competitive in the grocery marketplace, going beyond the traditional lanes occupied by c-stores.  

    By the way, the "dark kitchen" component of this makes a lot of sense to me - c-stores, if they can up their food game, are well positioned to tap into this trend.

    I remain a little skeptical about the while 15-minute promise being made b y so many companies.  I think that it does not allow for small problems like traffic, and creates a potential over-promise-and-under-deliver scenario.  But my skepticism aside, this seems to be a value proposition of them moment, at least until someone starts offering 10 minute delivery or product teleportation.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    BJ's Wholesale Club announced the opening of a "new concept club" that at 43,000 square feet is about half the size of one of its traditional units.  The store, in Warwick, Rhode Island, is described by the company as featuring "top-selling fresh foods, produce, sundries, and seasonal products for members of BJ’s Wholesale club, in a convenient, efficient shopping experience … At BJ’s market, members will find the same pack sizes and pricing as BJ’s clubs, as well as the same convenient shopping options including curbside pick-up … The new BJ’s market concept will include testing of exciting product assortments, displays, product demonstrations and convenience initiatives."

    “BJ’s market will serve as an exciting new innovation lab for BJ’s Wholesale Club,” said Bill Werner, executive vice president, strategy and development, in a prepared statement. “We are bringing the same great savings and value our members know and love, but delivering a convenient location closer to home.”

    KC's View:

    It is smart to find new formats to deliver a known value proposition, and that's exactly what BJ's appears to be doing.  It positions the company to identify some interesting real estate opportunities that traditionally would've been out of reach, which could be good for BJ's and bad for some competitors.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    Amazon said that will close six of its Whole Foods stores - in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama; Tarzana, California; Brookline, Massachusetts; and the Englewood and DePaul neighborhoods of Chicago.  The Englewood store will close "in coming months," while the rest of them are slated to be shuttered this week.

    The units being closed represent about one percent of the company's total US fleet.  However, the announcement grabbed attention because it was just a couple of months ago that Amazon announced that it was closing down all of its bricks-and-mortar bookstores and 4-Star stores, while putting more emphasis on its Amazon Fresh grocery stores, Amazon Go convenience stores, and a new chain of fashion-oriented stores.

    The move also drew criticism in Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot called it "disappointing," especially because in some communities consumers don't have many choices in terms of supermarket shopping.

    “Together with both communities and local elected leaders, my administration will work to repurpose these locations in a way that continues to serve the community and support the surrounding businesses,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “We as a city will continue to work hard to close food deserts that meet community needs with community at the table.”

    Bloomberg notes that "the Englewood location opened in 2016 with great fanfare by then Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had advocated for it as a way to bring fresh food and economic opportunity to a lower income, minority community on the city’s South Side. Amazon this month opened a new Whole Foods near the Chicago River North and Gold Coast neighborhoods."

    An Amazon spokesperson said, "As we continue to position Whole Foods Market for long-term success, we regularly evaluate the performance and growth potential of each of our stores, and we have made the difficult decision to close six stores … We are supporting impacted Team Members through this transition and expect that all interested, eligible Team Members will find positions at our other locations."

    Politico quotes Illinois House Speaker Emanuel Welch as lashing out at Amazon on Twitter over the decision:  “Jeff Bezos is worth $180 BiILLION dollars, takes joy rides into outer space, but takes away healthy food options to poor people because he cares more about profits than poor people. This is yet another reason why we should tax billionaires like Bezos more!”

    Politico also provides this analysis:

    "The store was a welcome addition to a community starved for decent fresh produce. But soon after opening, it was clear that the higher-than-average prices kept its popularity (and profitable) from taking off in a serious way compared the retailer’s other Chicago-area locations.

    "Whole Foods stayed committed to the location nonetheless, at least until Amazon bought it in 2017 … It’s not lost on the community that Whole Foods is exiting after vowed to invest in underserved communities in response to the protests of George Floyd’s murder in 2020."

    KC's View:

    It might've been better for Whole Foods' image - and Amazon's - if they had decided to convert the Whole Foods stores into something else.  Maybe an Amazon Fresh store that would have lower overhead and could be used as a virtual dark store into which customers could venture if they so chose?

    It does seem to point to the continued minimizing of CEO John Mackey's role at the company;  Mackey is scheduled to retire - and be replaced - later this year.  It also seems like a pretty good bet that his replacement may rank high in terms of IQ, but not so high when it comes to EQ.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    There is a fascinating piece in Scientific American that is must-reading for anyone who sells seafood or just enjoys eating seafood, since the scenario it paints has critical implications for both.

    Here's the basic premise:

    "The truth is that soon fish farming may be the only way for Maine’s struggling seafood workers to make any bucks at all. Thanks to overfishing, parasites and rising ocean temperatures, among other threats, nearly all of Maine’s commercial fisheries are in free fall. Maine cod is crashing, as are local shrimp. The wild mussel catch declined from 25 million pounds to a mere nine million over the past two decades. And lobsters, by far the state’s most profitable catch, are scuttling north to cooler Canadian waters. None of this bodes well for the state’s once robust seafaring economy: the average age of a Maine commercial fisher hovers above 50, suggesting that many young people have lost faith in the work.

    "As one wild fishery after another falters, the future of Maine - and, some say, the future of seafood - may lie in aquaculture, the cultivation of aquatic plants and animals. Historically, intensive fish farms have been linked to a lot of bad things: declines in biodiversity, habitat loss, the overuse of antibiotics, and animal welfare abuses, especially in Asia and Latin America. And in recent years fish die-offs and other problems have plagued North American sites."

    Now, the story suggests, a marine biologist named Carter Newell "represents a new breed of scientist with innovative approaches to growing fish that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. His kludgy mussel-growing apparatus generates three times as much seafood as traditional mussel farms. And because free-floating mussel larvae seed the ropes naturally and eat whatever phytoplankton drifts their way, Newell’s farms require no human-generated feed or energy, a boon for the environment as well as for his bottom line."

    Scientific American also pints to "a far more controversial experiment in Maine," which "involves cultivating finfish such as salmon and yellowtail either in immense net pens in the ocean or, more recently, in land-based operations where thousands of metric tons of fish circle gigantic tanks like felons pacing around a prison yard. Fish in these recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) consume a steady diet of scientifically designed feed and, if need be, infection-fighting drugs. The current they swim against is artificially generated, as is the LED light that bathes them up to 24 hours a day to hasten their growth. It is a surreal scenario, but proponents claim RAS are well positioned to bolster Maine’s economy while serving the nation’s growing demand."

    These experiments don't just have implications for the Maine economy:  "The Gulf of Maine is the least alkaline body of water on the Atlantic coast between Mexico and Canada, and its delicate chemistry is particularly vulnerable to disruptions both natural and human caused. Whatever their outcomes, Maine’s experiments will set an important precedent for seafood production around the globe."

    You can read the entire story here.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    Variety reports that "Apple’s digital services businesses fueled top-line growth in the first three months of 2022, as overall the tech giant handily topped analyst projections despite supply-chain challenges.

    "The services segment — which includes the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV+, iCloud and other subscription businesses — notched a record $19.8 billion in sales for the quarter, up 17%.

    "Apple at the end of March had more than 825 million paying subscribers worldwide (comprising both Apple-branded and third-party services), up more than 165 million in the last 12 months and up from 785 million in the year-end 2021 quarter."  However, "Sales of iPhones, Apple’s biggest product line, were $50.6 billion in the period, up 5.4%, a slowdown compared with a nearly 66% boom in the year-ago quarter. Still, it was quarterly record for Apple’s smartphone business."

    KC's View:

    Interesting to see that even in its business sector, Apple is finding that it may be more important to be a resource for customers rather than just a source of product.  And as this gains steam, Apple is also looking to develop a stronger base of subscribers that goes beyond those of us who are not just Apple users, but advocates.

    It may not be traditional retail, but the general outline is the same about building connections to shoppers that are based on creating relationships, not just generating transactions.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    The original Stew Leonard's store in Norwalk, Connecticut, has been through countless renovations over the years, which has added to the maze-like single-direction aisle format that adds to the treasure-hunt like atmosphere in the store.

    This summer, however, the retailer will embark on a far grander renovation - one that has been planned for some time, though it also comes as Wegmans has announced its intention to open its first Connecticut store just a few miles away.  The big renovation also comes as Stew Leonard's has been opening newer units in New Jersey and on Long Island, which in some ways put the age of the oldest store in sharp relief.

    While the project isn't scheduled for another month or so, Stew Leonard's has posted a video on YouTube that hints at what is planned:

    KC's View:

    As a regular shopper in that store, I'm fairly certain that parking is likely to be a nightmare once construction begins.  But they're smart - Stew Leonard's best as they can, is bringing us into the process, which tends to lower the temperature when logistics inevitably get dicey.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    Axios reports that the city of New York has delayed the implementation of a new salary transparency law that will require employers "to post the maximum and minimum salary for a role — so you can know how much a job pays before you take that interview."  originally scheduled to go into effect this month, it now will take effect on November 1.

    The reason for the delay:  "Business groups had argued that this law couldn't come at a worse time, when the competition for workers is hot and they want maximum flexibility on pay. Plus, they said it would put small businesses that pay less at a disadvantage.

    "Advocates for equal pay argued that employers still have a lot of flexibility to post high maximums and low minimums."

    However, Axios notes that laws like this one are trending:  "Salary transparency is believed to be a way to diminish unfair gender and racial pay disparities, and more states and cities are adopting the practice.  Colorado's law went into effect last year. Washington State just passed its own legislation. About a dozen more states are mulling laws."

    KC's View:

    I understand why businesses might find this to be annoying and an example of government overreach.  But I try to put myself in the position of people who are looking for jobs and worry about being exploited by potential employers who want to pay as little as possible.

    The problem isn't employers trying to be frugal.  Rather, it is employers who may see workers as a cost, not an investment.  Salary transparency may be less threatening if the person doing the hiring is thinking about ROI … and makes offers accordingly.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    There is an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which Alexandra Rosa, a shift supervisor at Starbucks, explains eloquently why she is involved with the union movement there.

    An excerpt:

    "Employees like my colleagues and I deserve to have a say in our working conditions instead of being subjected to what a megacorporation like Starbucks believes we deserve. We are the faces behind the counters, the people who make sure each store runs smoothly. We are the ones who have created record profits for the company, yet we are never considered."

    You can read it here.

    Just for context, CNBC reports today that "the union representing Starbucks baristas is taking aim at the coffee giant’s interim chief executive, Howard Schultz, alleging his recent comments about an improved benefits plan amounted to illegal threats and had a 'chilling effect' on impending union votes.

    "The union, Starbucks Workers United, claims in an April 22 filing with the National Labor Relations Board that Starbucks, via Schultz’s comments, violated the National Labor Relations Act and asks the agency to issue a complaint in the union’s favor.

    "Schultz last month told U.S. store leaders that the company was reviewing the coffee chain’s benefits program, but that the new benefits legally couldn’t be extended to stores that have voted to unionize without separately negotiated contracts for unionized workers. One of Schultz’s first moves as returning CEO was to suspend the company’s share buyback program to invest in benefits for workers."

    KC's View:

    When I read Rosa's piece, I do not get the impression that she hates the company.  Far from it.  This is a company that she seems to love and respect, but that she feels has lost its way.

    If I were CEO Howard Schultz, I'd do my best to connect with Rosa and her concerns … not try to marginalize her.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    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…

    •  The United States now has had a total of 83,170,407 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 1,021,089 deaths and 80,757,424 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 513,966,008 total cases, with 6,263,244 resultant fatalities and 468,592,248 reported recoveries.   (Source.)



    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77.6 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine … 66.2 percent are fully vaccinated … and 45.8 percent of fully vaccinated people have received a vaccine booster dose.



    •  The New York Times reports that "over the next 50 years, climate change will drive thousands of viruses to jump from one species of mammal to another, according to a study published in Nature on Thursday. The shuffling of viruses among animals may increase the risk that one will jump into humans and cause a new pandemic, the researchers said.

    "Scientists have long warned that a warming planet may increase the burden of diseases. Malaria, for example, is expected to spread as the mosquitoes that carry it expand their range into warming regions. But climate change might also usher in entirely new diseases, by allowing pathogens to move into new host species … As temperatures increase, many species are expected to spread away from the blazing Equator to find more comfortable habitats. Others may move up the sides of hills and mountains to find cooler altitudes. When different species come into contact for the first time, the viruses may be able to infect new hosts."

    Oy.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Amazon.com Inc. posted its first quarterly loss in seven years, a result that reflected broad economic trends related to a slump in online shopping, higher costs from inflation and supply-chain woes and market jitters over electric vehicle startups.

    "Revenue for the tech giant rose by about 7% for the January-to-March period, the slowest pace in about two decades as consumers returned to prepandemic habits and spent more money in person at stores. It lost $3.8 billion in the quarter, compared with a profit of $8.1 billion a year ago, when a surge in online orders due to the pandemic lifted Amazon’s prospects.

    "The performance for Amazon’s sprawling collection of businesses reflects several currents now roiling the tech industry. The amount of products Amazon sold during the quarter was essentially flat from a year ago, and the company reported a 3% year-over-year drop in its online stores segment, which include product sales primarily on its flagship site and digital media content. That’s the largest drop since the metric was first disclosed in 2016 … Meanwhile, revenue growth has slowed in its subscriptions business - which includes its Prime entertainment offerings—and in digital ads, where its rapid expansion in recent years has challenged industry giants Google and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook. Advertising services revenue grew 25% in the latest quarter, excluding currency impact - still fast but well below the 33% clip in the fourth quarter of 2021 and 76% in the first three months of last year.

    "Amazon signaled more uncertainty is on the way. It said it expects its operating income for the current quarter to be between a loss of $1 billion and profit of $3 billion. It posted $7.7 billion in operating income during the second quarter of 2021. The company’s shares were down roughly 10% in after-hours trading, reaching the lowest point since June 2020."

    Amazon has said that it plans to have its annual Prime Day event in July;  the heavily promoted Prime Day has consistently driven higher-than-usual sales in past years.



    •  Publix Super Markets announced that it is working with Instacart to debut "15-minute delivery in Miami powered by Instacart's nano-fulfillment solution, Carrot Warehouses … customers in Miami's Brickell, Coral Gables and   " neighborhoods will be able to have a wide range of fresh produce, pantry staples, household goods and more delivered from Publix in as fast as 15-minutes, whether it's early morning or late night. Publix is the first grocer to collaborate with Instacart on new fulfillment models through Carrot Warehouses."

    The New York Times has a story entitled "Instacart Searches for a Direction as Its Pandemic Boom Fades" in which it observes that "Instacart’s next act hinges on Instacart Platform, a set of new software and advertising tools the company announced in March, with an aim of becoming more of a technology provider to grocery companies. With tools like 'Carrot Ads' and 'Carrot Insights,' Instacart said it would bring its own advertising capabilities and analytics to grocers’ websites. The company is also introducing fulfillment centers stocked by its grocery store partners to help it deliver products in 15 minutes.

    "But after Instacart Platform was announced, grocery retailers were underwhelmed and confused by how it was different from what Instacart already provided, said seven grocery industry executives and consultants, some of whom asked to speak anonymously to avoid damaging their relationships with Instacart.

    "Burt Flickinger III, a longtime industry consultant, described the announcement as something 'grown in a hothouse at Harvard or Stanford that really had no common-sense, commercial application for the common shopper or retailer.'

    Since few people know more about this stuff than Burt Flickinger, the folks at Instacart ought to pay attention.  I'm heartened that its leadership continues to maintain it has no interest in opening its own stores, but it also has to avoid being perceived as throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.  Which is sort of how it feels.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Wall Street Journal reported that "personal-consumption expenditures increased a seasonally adjusted 1.1% in March from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Friday. Adjusting for inflation, consumer spending rose 0.2% last month, driven by higher services spending. Household spending also rose at a faster rate than inflation from a year earlier.

    "Consumers stepped up spending on services like travel and dining, as well as on goods like gasoline and food. Spending on durable goods declined for the second month in a row, led by lower spending on vehicles."



    •  From the New York Times:

    "The Arkansas state attorney general is suing the value-store chain Family Dollar, claiming the company knew of a 'massive and long-lasting' rodent infestation at a West Memphis distribution center but still continued to sell potentially contaminated products that were stored there.

    "The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday, came after the company temporarily shut down more than 400 stores in February following a Food and Drug Administration inspection that found 'a history of infestation' at the facility.

    "A fumigation completed in January revealed the presence of more than 1,100 dead rodents. Internal company records indicated that more than 2,300 rodents had been collected between March and September of 2021, according to an F.D.A. report.

    Federal inspectors said the company was aware of an 'increased presence of rodents' in the facility since at least January 2020.

    "The suit filed by the Arkansas attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, says Family Dollar willfully neglected the proper care of the West Memphis facility and misled consumers about potentially contaminated products, all while unfairly profiting from their sale."

    In a word … yuck.

    Published on: May 3, 2022

    Last week we noted that Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance and just one of two Black women to lead a Fortune 500 company, told Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies Summit that "a key indicator of a company’s ability to innovate is the diversity of its leadership."  And that includes the board of directors."

    I commented:

    I completely agree with this.  Companies are best served when their leadership reflects the diversity of their customer base and their employee base.  It has been my experience that making this statement often results in some level of resistance, but it usually is coming from old white guys, so I take it with a grain of salt.  Change, after all, can be hard.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Regarding your comments on Rosalind Brewer

    I think your commentary highlights a significant barrier to the realization of truly diverse thinking and approaches. When you say that resistance is coming from "old white guys, so I take it with a grain of salt" you are immediately dismissing their alleged POV based on a very shallow and condescending  stereotype.  While I have read you long enough to know there was likely at least some tongue in cheek to that comment, it does point out a common flaw in the diversity and inclusion discussion. 

    In my experience, often it is implicitly communicated that D&I means everyone except "old white guys" and that their reason for being exposed to D&I is just to reprogram them into more correct behavior.  It often falls short of the true meaning of diversity and inclusion, where different viewpoints and life experiences come together to provide better understanding and outcomes. 

    The barrier that is created for these "old white guys" is the same barrier that has long existed for any group.  No one likes to be dismissed just because of the way they look or others perceptions of what they may or may not believe. If you feel like your viewpoint is not welcome or valued in the overall discussion, then you are more likely to resist and separate yourself.  

    I look forward to the day that D&I actually manifests itself in the way that truly unlocks the potential.

    I get your point, but I think you miss the real point.

    The reason that diversity discussions focus on everybody but old white guys is that pretty much forever, it is the old white guys who dominated the power structure, defined the rules, set the parameters for who would be successful and have opportunities and who would not, decided who would be included and who would not, and established the framework within which institutions and businesses would work.

    Speaking, in fact, as an old white guy, I don't spend a helluva lot of time worrying about whether my perspective on things is being considered or valued.  I find it far more useful to keep reminding myself that there are other ways to see and experience the world.  I try to avoid, to use a term we often employ here on MNB, epistemic closure.

    Condescending?  I think not.  I think I have a lot to offer, but as someone said to me this weekend, "Kevin, you're a white heterosexual male of privilege, and what you don't know would fill a library."  My first reaction to that was to be defensive … but on second thought, it might be more helpful to read some of the books from that library.



    On another subject, from another reader:

    l have been in retail grocery business for almost 50 years.  When the pandemic hit and with all the out of stocks etc. I would put any and all information I received about what was going on for my customers.  They all were very appreciative of this and like you mentioned I also took names and phone numbers of customers I didn't already know and notified them when product did arrive or saved for them to pick up when they came shopping.  What better way of gaining new customers by doing something so simple.  On the lighter side I would also post cartoons that made the paper in whatever section of the store.



    And finally, from another reader:

    Speaking of baseball … Baseball has lost its allure as the national pastime... fewer stolen bases, few hit and runs, excessive time of games due to pitching changes and batter stepping out of the box after every pitch, failure to learn to hit to overcome the shift (batters can’t “go the other way” or bunt to overcome a defensive shift), the analytics obsession (exhausted at listening to a game with “launch angle”, “exit velocity”, “would have been a home run in X number of major league stadiums”, etc),  the era of strikeouts and the 3-run homer, outfielders failing to throw the ball properly and “sailing” throws to the plate, etc.

    Couple that with the high cost to take one’s family to the game… parking, food concessions, and ticket prices have made the game unaffordable for many families...Despite all this, I still love Trout, Ohtani, Joe Madden and my beloved Angels…. throwbacks to an earlier era.

    Baseball will always be my sport of choice.  It may not be the national pastime anymore, but it remains, in a way that no other sport can approximate, and in the words of Robert B. Parker, "the most important thing that doesn't matter."

    A perfect example of why was on Sunday … a gorgeous afternoon at Dodger Stadium … a terrific game with lots of exciting scoring … drinking beer and eating Dodger Dogs with the girl of my dreams. 

    Who could ask for anything more?