business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    My second video from my Bahamas trip focuses on the power of a differential advantage - that thing you do that is different from what everybody else is doing, and better than everybody else is doing.

    In this case, the store is Vernon's, on Elbow Cay in the Abacos.  Hardly the most impressive retailer you've ever seen (pictures below) … but with key lime pie to die for.  (And, more importantly, to get up early for.). That's today's business lesson.

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    by Michael Sansolo

    There’s no simple way to measure the importance of team players who find a way to make things work, even when everything around them is falling apart. But it’s a skill that should never go overlooked, underappreciated or unrewarded.

    For that reason every team leader might want to spend a few moments with their charges this week talking about a stunning moment that happened in the final game of this year’s National Hockey League Championships or just examining this photo.

    But first, some context:  On Sunday night the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup hockey championship by dethroning the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. However with less than two minutes remaining in the game things might have turned out very differently thanks to a fluke play.

    Down just a goal at that point, Tampa was desperately pressuring for a tie when Colorado player Gabriel Landeskog stopped a shot with his skate, a fairly usual occurrence in hockey. What happened next was unusual.

    The shot actually knocked his left blade clean off his skate. You don’t have to know much about hockey or skating to know that a person simply cannot skate on just one blade and Landeskog was left down on the ice while his teammates scrambled to control the play.

    At that moment, with the entire game hanging in the balance, Colorado could obviously not afford to play with a disabled skater. So Landeskog’s teammate, Nathan McKinnon, grabbed him by the jersey and dragged him toward the bench so that the hobbled player could crawl off the ice, which he did. A substitute replaced him and Colorado hung on for the win.

    And right there, McKinnon provided an incredible example of teamwork and seeing a bigger picture. It’s highly unlikely that any hockey team has a drill for what to do when a teammate loses a skate blade. And McKinnon had to know that while he was helping his disabled teammate he was, in essence, taking both himself and Landeskog out of the play.

    But he also understood that doing nothing would potentially be a bigger disaster, leaving his team with a useless player at a critical time. And that’s the lesson all staffers need to understand. There is tremendous benefit in being aware of the situation around you and knowing when and where to step up and help someone else. It might be a time when the front end lines are too long or when shelf stocking is becoming a nightmare.

    Or it could be when a simple piece of equipment malfunctions or thanks to staffing shortages (a common occurrence these days) help is needed somewhere else. 

    It’s about knowing the situation, seeing the bigger picture and understanding that there is good reason to rise above a single job to do something essential.  Such moments should be recognized and applauded. Perhaps we could start the McKinnon award for recognition of those times. That could be better than a Stanley Cup.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

    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: June 28, 2022

    CNBC reports that Amazon, which already has scheduled its annual Prime Day promotion for July 12-13, plans to schedule a second Prime Day event in the fourth quarter of the year.

    A fourth quarter Prime Day "could help drum up additional sales for Amazon, which booked the slowest revenue growth for any quarter since the dot-com bust in 2001 in its latest earnings report," CNBC writes.  "It could also help retailers clear out some of the extra inventory they’ve accumulated, as inflation squeezes shoppers, and they shift their spending to areas like travel and entertainment."

    The story points out that "it will be the first time Amazon will hold two shopping events exclusively for Prime members in the same year, and comes as the company is gearing up for for Prime Day … The company recently began notifying select third-party merchants of a 'Prime Fall deal event' via its internal seller portal, called Seller Central. The notice doesn’t name a date for the event, but it instructs sellers to submit limited-time 'lightning deals' by July 22nd, well in advance of the fourth-quarter event."

    KC's View:

    Wasn't it just yesterday that, in this space, I wrote that Amazon might be backing off some of the traditional hoopla it has applied to Prime Day to something else that would differentiate it?

    Didn't expect it to be a second Prime Day, to be honest.  But to do something right before the end-of-year holiday shopping season might have the effect of driving a big bump in sales at a time when money actually could be tighter - we'll still be dealing with inflation, and recession could be imminent.

    I would expect that this will be just one move by Amazon to shake things up.  Maintaining a today-is-day-one approach means being willing to try lots of different stuff … it can capture the imaginations of shoppers, as well as keep the competition off balance.

    I am reminded of the approach advocated in the book "Death to All Sacred Cows: How Successful Businesses Put the Old Rules Out to Pasture."  It is an approach that more retailers should embrace, asking themselves, "What are the things we do because we've always done them?" and then deciding to change things up.

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    Walmart Canada has launched a new online convenience store, Walmart Now, designed to deliver orders to customers in 30 minutes.

    The service, powered by Instacart, currently is available in the Toronto metro area.

    According to the announcement, "Walmart Now service provides customers with the opportunity to shop from Walmart’s wide assortment of fresh groceries, pantry and household essentials like pet, baby and personal care items, snacks and more with delivery in as fast as 30 minutes. It’s the latest example of how Walmart is unlocking its stores capabilities and leveraging its existing footprint to enhance its omnichannel experience for customers and provide more choice."

    In a prepared statement, Laurent Duray, Chief eCommerce Officer, Walmart Canada, said that "launching Walmart Now, our new Canadian convenience offering featuring our quickest delivery speeds, is proof that Walmart Canada is here to drive change in the eCommerce space.  We’re nimble, we’re determined and we’re here to change the way Canadians shop online with Walmart. Piloting 30-minute delivery is a milestone in our roadmap to making it faster, easier and more convenient than ever to shop with us." writes that this is Instacart's way of "challenging its restaurant competitors’ hold on the virtual convenience store space … Back in August 2020, DoorDash announced the creation of its DashMart virtual convenience stores, beginning with a rollout in eight U.S. cities. In February of this year, Grubhub announced the launch of its Grubhub Goods digital convenience store."

    The story notes that "Instacart has been coming further into competition with DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats, among other aggregators, in recent years, as these restaurant delivery services expand into the grocery category, announcing partnerships with major supermarket chains. Instacart, in turn, launched its Ready Meals Hub in January, offering cooked meals from grocery stores on demand for lower prices than restaurant delivery competitors."

    KC's View:

    A good move for both Walmart and Instacart, and I wouldn't be surprised if, should this test be successful, the concept gets expanded south of the border to US markets where customer density and a retail footprint combine to make it feasible.

    The question is, is the Walmart-Instacart partnership one that persists through an expansion?  If it does, what are the implications for other Instacart retail clients that find themselves competing with this concept?

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    The New York Times has a story about how, more fearful than ever about safety in their workplaces, retail employees want to take a more aggressive approach to their defense.

    "During the early months of the pandemic," the Times writes, "stores became tinderboxes for a society frazzled by lockdowns, protests and mask mandates. Many workers say that tension persists, even as pandemic tensions recede, and that they need more protections … According to a New York Times analysis of F.B.I. assault data, the number of assaults in many retail establishments has been increasing at a faster pace than the national average.

    "From 2018 to 2020, assaults overall rose 42 percent; they increased 63 percent in grocery stores and 75 percent in convenience stores. Of the more than two million assaults reported to the F.B.I. by law enforcement agencies across the country in 2020, more than 82,000 — about 4 percent — were at shopping malls, convenience stores and other similar locations."

    An example of a response:

    "In her 37 years in the grocery industry, said Kim Cordova, a union president in Colorado, she had never experienced the level of violence that her members face today.

    "So when she was negotiating contracts for 21,000 grocery workers in Colorado this past winter, the usual issues of wages and scheduling were certainly on the table. But just as critical, if not more so, was safety … The union negotiated a contract that ensures workers have the right to defend themselves if a customer attacks them. It is a grim acknowledgment of not only the violence plaguing many facets of American society but the increasing unwillingness of retail employees to keep turning the other cheek to crime in their stores."

    The Times goes on:

    "While the political debate swirls about the extent of the crime and its causes, many of the people staffing the stores say retailers have been too permissive of crime, particularly theft. Some employees want more armed security guards who can take an active role in stopping theft, and they want more stores to permanently bar rowdy or violent customers, just as airlines have been taking a hard line with unruly passengers … Stores, by their very design, can be a catch basin for society’s gravest challenges, such as homelessness and gun violence. And until those issues are solved more broadly, it is difficult to fortify spaces where the public is encouraged to roam freely and shop."

    KC's View:

    I'm a big believer in "broken windows" theory of law enforcement, as popularized by William Bratton, the former police commissioner in Boston and New York City, as well as former chief of police in Los Angeles - if you enforce the laws the apply to small crime, you are better able to prevent big crime.

    That applies to retail crime, as well - if you let people steal small stuff with impunity, they're more likely to steal big stuff.  Or worse.

    It is true that police departments are stressed in terms of personnel, and the criminal justice system doesn't have the resources it needs.  And it is true that many retailers are spending a lot more money on security than they are used to.

    I don't think we should be arming retail employees, but I do think they have to be empowered to react … up to a point.  One thing that needs to change right away - the Times story notes that "employees typically lose their jobs if they physically try to stop or confront a shoplifter, a policy meant to protect them from harm."  But at the very least, retailers have to take a more nuanced approach to such rules.  And maybe they need to have therapists on call who can tend to the emotional stress being felt by so many employees.

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    Wakefern Food Corp. announced yesterday that 10-store, Pennsylvania-based Gerrity’s Supermarkets, founded as a small meat market in 1895, is the 48th member to join its cooperative.

    According to the announcement, "The Fasula family operates supermarkets in Pennsylvania under the Gerrity’s Supermarkets banner. Upon their conversion, the stores will be rebranded as Gerrity’s The Fresh Grocer, a Wakefern trademark. Currently there are 11 Fresh Grocer stores located in Pennsylvania and New Jersey each independently owned by Wakefern cooperative members."

    "The Fasulas are a strong addition to our cooperative and another family-owned business that provides an exceptional experience and quality fresh foods for its customers and a great place to work for its associates,” said Joseph Colalillo, Wakefern’s Chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement.  “Membership in our cooperative allows independent operators like the Fasulas to maintain their entrepreneurial spirit while benefiting from the scale and services Wakefern offers."

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    Walmart has announced "augmented reality (AR) features on the Walmart app designed to making shopping easier."

    According to a blog posting by Brock McKeel, Senior Vice President, Site Experience, Walmart eCommerce, and Cheryl Ainoa, Senior Vice President, New Businesses & Emerging Tech, Walmart Global Tech, the first feature "allows customers to view furniture and home décor items in their spaces with a few simple swipes on their phones.

    "This experience will initially be available for 300 furniture and home décor items, with plans to expand to popular back-to-college items over the coming months. To access the feature, all a customer needs to do is click the ‘View in your space’ banner on AR enabled items when shopping in the Walmart app, and this will walk them through how to connect to their camera and see the item in their own space. They will also be able to toggle the item dimensions to check if the item will fit in their space and snap a picture for later, helping them feel confident purchasing with us. ‘View in your space’ will be available on iOS, with plans to roll out on Android and mobile web."

    As an extension of this functionality, the posting said, "Walmart Global Tech is developing a new AR in-store feature that changes how you’ll view key product information. You’ll never look at the store shelf in the same way again! The concept our technologists are building with Walmart designers will allow customers and associates to simply point their mobile device camera at our store shelves via the Walmart app to filter our assortment based on your personal preferences. 

    "Imagine you’re a customer who is gluten-free. Using the AR in-store tool, you’ll be able to use your phone to read food ingredients quickly and easily identify gluten-free products. Coupons are another future use case. For example, customers will also be able to scan store shelves to see which items are on rollback, clearance or part of a rewards program. Imagine the possibilities! Perhaps you could scan to see which items are on rollback or receive instant coupons."

    These features, the posting said, "are helping us deliver fast, engaging and personalized experiences that take the work out of shopping and underscore our commitment to using technology to save customers time and money."

    KC's View:

    I'm fascinated by the idea of using AR to provide customers with greater amounts of information and offering a higher standard of transparency.  That's always been the north star for me, and I think anything that makes this a goal is a smart thing.

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    The Dayton Daily News reports that Kroger has announced that it will help employees pay to travel out of state if they need an abortion.

    “At The Kroger Family of Companies, we strive to ensure our associates have access to a wide variety of benefits that provide value in their lives today and in the future. We invest in the whole person with a comprehensive benefits package that includes quality, affordable health care and travel benefits up to $4,000 to facilitate access to quality care for several categories of medical treatments and a full range of reproductive health care services, including abortion and fertility treatments, for company-plan participants,” the company said in a statement.

    Kroger joins a long list of companies - including Apple, Disney, Dick's Sporting Goods, Netflix, and Starbucks - that have said, in the wake of the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and end the federal constitutional right to abortion, that they will enable employees in affected states to access reproductive health care in states where abortion rights continue to exist.  The Daily News notes that "headquartered in Cincinnati, Kroger operates 2,750 retail stores. More than 300 of those stores are located in Ohio, and Kentucky, where abortion is now either banned or mostly banned."

    KC's View:

    Companies with stores in multiple states are going to be facing pressure from employees to make similar moves, and they're going to have to make decisions, going to have to take a position.

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that "some of the nation’s biggest retailers are rationing over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills as demand spikes following the Supreme Court ruling overturning a constitutional right to abortion.

    "CVS Health Corp., Walmart Inc. and Rite Aid Corp. were limiting purchases of the pills, which were in short supply or out of stock Monday morning on major retailer websites. CVS and Rite Aid were limiting purchases to three. Walmart had some pills available without limits, but only in cases where they wouldn’t ship until next month. Pills available this week were limited to four or six.

    "A CVS spokesman said that the company has implemented temporary purchase limits to ensure equitable access and that it has ample supply of the pills in stores and online. Rite Aid said it was limiting purchases due to increased demand. Walmart didn’t respond to requests for comment."

    The Journal offers some context:

    "The pills are often referred to and sold under the Plan B brand without a prescription. Also called morning-after pills, they are designed to be taken up to three days after unprotected sex. The medication mainly works by preventing ovulation and, failing that, may stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

    "Plan B pills are different from medication abortion, also known as plan C, which requires a prescription and involves the administration of different pills to terminate a pregnancy. In the U.S., medication abortion has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. Two medications - mifepristone and misoprostol - are typically used in a medication abortion regimen."

    KC's View:

    Part of the supply issue stems from the fact that there are concerns that some states will follow up abortion bans with even greater regulation that would ban the sale and use of such pills, and so some folks are stocking up just in case - not necessarily for their own use, but for friends and family members who might need them.

    For the record, Planned Parenthood has warned against stockpiling - these pills do have an expiration date, and hoarding could prevent women who really need them from having access.

    That said, I understand the impulse.  This is just part of the cultural and regulatory minefield in which many retailers are going to find themselves.

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    •  CNBC reports that Amazon is "giving minority-led organizations $23 million to build and preserve more than 568 affordable homes in Seattle, a step to ease the local housing crisis.

    "Amazon Housing Equity Fund, which emphasizes aiding households that earn 30% to 80% of an area’s median income, will support the investment. Launched in 2021, the fund has provided $1.2 billion for over 8,000 affordable homes across the Puget Sound region in Washington state, the Arlington, Virginia region and Nashville, Tennessee.

    "Amazon is working with three housing partners -- the Mount Baker Housing Authority (MBHA), El Centro de la Raza, and Gardner Global -- and focuses on neighborhoods with large populations of people of color."

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    •  Bloomberg reports that "Walmart-backed Flipkart India Pvt. launched an in-house innovation arm called Flipkart Labs to explore ways to expand onto the metaverse. 

    "Through the innovation arm, the Bengaluru-based e-commerce marketplace aims to test nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, virtual immersive storefronts and play-to-earn, according to a company statement Thursday."

    Published on: June 28, 2022

    •  Farm Journal reports that "the U.S. government filed a brief to the Supreme Court supporting the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) challenge to California’s animal housing law, Proposition 12. This state law seeks to ban the sale of pork from pigs that do not meet the state’s arbitrary production standards, including pork from pigs raised on farms outside of California, NPPC said in a release.

    "In an amicus brief, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said California “'has no legitimate interest in protecting’ the welfare of animals located outside the state,' quoting a previous Supreme Court decision."

    •  The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is out with a new survey saying that "high gas prices are taking their toll on sales at convenience stores, with 59% of retailers saying their customer traffic has decreased in stores over the past three months … Convenience stores, which sell an estimated 80% of the fuel purchased in the U.S., rely on in-store sales, not fuel sales, to drive profits. But high gas prices are hurting customer traffic in stores and 'basket' size: Nearly half of all retailers (49%) also say that those customers coming inside the store are buying less compared to three months ago when gas prices were $1.50 a gallon lower.

    "In addition, retailers expressed concerns that elevated gas prices could also depress sales over the traditionally busy summer-drive season: 53% say they expect sales to be lower this summer than last summer, with only 25% anticipating increased sales."

    •  PennLive reports that "Sheetz convenience stores will lower its price for unleaded 88 gasoline to $3.99 a gallon through the Fourth of July holiday.

    "Sheetz said it is helping to 'reduce pain at the pump.'  The lower prices are 'effective immediately.'

    "The average price for a gallon of unleaded 87 gas in Pennsylvania today is $4.95."