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    Published on: September 6, 2022

    Recently, outgoing Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said that younger people "don't seem like they want to work" partly because they want meaningful jobs.  "You can't expect to start with meaningful work. You're going to have to earn it," he said.

    I disagree.  Profoundly.  And to lead a company with an attitude like Mackey's, I think, is tantamount of managerial malpractice.  Let me explain…

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    by Michael Sansolo

    A number of years ago, the Grateful Dead wonderfully reimagined the old saying that "every dark cloud has a silver lining," saying that, in fact, "Every silver lining's got a touch of grey."

    With that in mind, consider what’s currently happening in Minnesota.

    As the Washington Post reported this Labor Day, Minnesota currently has an incredibly low unemployment rate - under 2 percent - and in some parts of the state, the rate is even lower. 

    Great news, right?

    Well, maybe not so much.

    Long ago I learned in economics class that functional full employment is when the unemployment rate hits 4 percent, because at that point everyone who wants a job pretty much has it. Above that level we’ve got people chasing jobs and below it the jobs chase the people. 

    I have to imagine that nearly everyone in the retail food industry understands that point because jobs have been chasing people for more than a year with the national unemployment rate at 3.7 percent. As the Post article details, in Minnesota that has lead to companies importing workers from far off locations (such as Puerto Rico), booking hotels to house them and even offering wages like $17 per hour for ice cream scoopers at a local shop.

    Employers in the state talk of hiring people for jobs who never show up to work because a better offer came their way.  Again, something lots of food retailers have encountered.

    Sadly, there is no simple solution to this current situation and, not surprisingly, the Post article doesn’t find any, but it offers some thoughts. For instance, the article highlights how businesses in Minnesota are trying to be more attractive to the state’s population of Somali immigrants by offering benefits that fit the group’s religious practices.  And clearly there is a need for Minnesota businesses to improve diversity in their companies - the one group with relatively high unemployment in the state is African-Americans.

    But there are larger lessons, I would argue, for retailers in Minnesota and beyond in how to weather this storm. Countless studies through the years have reminded us that the first best step in having a strong workforce is simply retaining the good people you currently have. A good deal of that rests on properly training front-line managers in the key skills they need to make the workplace both a successful and inviting place.

    Some of those skills are as simple as improving communication with staffers (both talking and listening) to make them feel connected and as engaged as possible.  And let’s emphasize the importance of each and every job.  (Gee, y'think that's what Kevin was talking about in FaceTime this morning?)

    Obviously, managers alone cannot change the current situation because right now workers have outsized power, knowing the company or store may need them more than they need the job. What’s more, we know there is no simple solution to such an unexpected problem. Right now, workers are empowered in a rare way that gives them the upper hand on money, working conditions and more. But if we start with a defeatist attitude (such as, we can never train or keep these people), we’ll end up with a terrible self-fulfilling prophecy. 

    Finding and keeping good workers has been an industry issue no matter what the economic times, so perhaps the urgency of the current situation could lead to a widespread recognition that we can all get better. And that constant turnover is never a good thing. Plus, let’s keep in mind that the current situation in Minnesota won’t stay localized to one state as experts say demographic trends make it likely that labor shortages will be with us for a while.

    In the meantime, we could move to Minnesota to scoop ice cream for top dollar. It hasn’t started snowing yet.

    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: September 6, 2022

    by Kevin Coupe

    I've written here before of the regular "Around The Store" emails that I get from Stew Leonard Jr., CEO of Stew Leonard's, the store in Connecticut where I have done much of my food shopping over the past four decades.

    These emails generally are engaging, informative and entertaining - I've found that they do an excellent job, especially during the pandemic and subsequent period of inflation, of positioning the company's seven stores as being agents for its customers.

    But this weekend's email caught me by surprise - because it demonstrated a level of confidence that was extraordinary, even for Stew Jr.

    This week's "Around the Store with Stew" had more than a dozen items, ranging from a remarkable candid description of customer complaints to a sharing of a video showing Stew Jr. dancing with one of his daughters at her wedding.

    But it was the second item that really grabbed me:

    Amazon Fresh just opened in Paramus, NJ. I visited last Saturday with my nephew Jake. If you want to see an ultra-modern store, go check it out. They are also opening in Danbury and Westport, CT. First, you scan your Prime app as you enter the store. Then, there must be 1,000 cameras in the ceiling recording every item you put in your cart. Everything is by the UNIT. Honey Crisp apples are 99 cents EACH. It’s like what Trader Joe’s does with their bananas. Met a customer in the store from Stew’s and he recommended we get their Rotisserie Chicken. We “bought” one… meaning we just walked out of the store without going through a check-out lane. Amazon recorded all our purchases and simply charged our account. Problem is, I looked at a cookie package and Nutpods in the dairy aisle and then put them back, but I guess we didn’t put them back in the right spot. We were charged for those two items along with the chicken. Like all new stores, they have some kinks to work out, but it’s worth a visit.

    Really?  It's worth a visit?

    When was the last time you saw a retailer recommend that customers go visit a competitor?'

    I've been doing this a long time, and I can't recall it ever happening before.

    Now, let's be clear - Stew Jr. is using the recommendation to draw some clear lines of differentiation between his stores and the Amazon Fresh.  He's arguing that his price of apples ($2.99/lb. vs. 99 cents apiece) is lower.  And, he's pointing out that there may be some flaws with the technology.

    But, implicit in Stew Jr.'s email is enormous confidence that Stew Leonard's value proposition - strong on fresh, terrific theater, sharp pricing, and a limited assortment of some 1,200 items - can compete effectively with Amazon Fresh - in fact, he's confident that if you compare the two, you'll prefer Stew Leonard's.

    That's pretty gutsy.  It's also an Eye-Opener - because if you don't have a value proposition and the kind of differentiated brand equity that would allow you to make the same argument, the there's a question that you need to answer:

    Why not?

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    Meijer announced late last week that in early 2023 it will open "a new brick-and-mortar store concept" that it is calling Meijer Grocery "that will provide convenience for customers who are looking for a simplified shopping experience, while providing communities easier access to fresher foods."

    The Meijer Grocery store are "convenient by design," the company said, with "parking wrapped around a singular corner entrance to maximize the number of parking spaces near the door."  However, they are small and convenient in comparison to the supercenters that the company traditionally has run - the company said they will range from 75,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet,

    The first two Meijer Grocery stores will be in Michigan's Orion Township and Macomb Township."  The company said that the new concept is the its first since introducing "the neighborhood market small format concept in August 2018 with the opening of Bridge Street Market on Grand Rapids' west side."

    KC's View:

    Maybe it just me getting old, but I don't find 75,000 square feet to be particularly convenient.  But I'm just one kind of customer, and everything is relative - for many Meijer customers, this doubtless will be a welcome format.  And, I love the idea of retailers operating different kinds of stores for different markets and customers.

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    Bloomberg reports that Amazon, as it tries to right-size its delivery infrastructure, "has abandoned dozens of existing and planned facilities around the US, according to a closely watched consulting firm. 

    "MWPVL International Inc., which tracks Amazon’s real-estate footprint, estimates the company has either shuttered or killed plans to open 42 facilities totaling almost 25 million square feet of usable space. The company has delayed opening an additional 21 locations, totaling nearly 28 million square feet, according to MWPVL. The e-commerce giant also has canceled a handful of European projects, mostly in Spain, the firm said."

    The Bloomberg story notes that CEO Andy Jassy "has pledged to unwind part of a pandemic-era expansion that saddled Amazon with a surfeit of warehouse space and too many employees. The company has typically weaned its ranks of hourly workers by leaving vacant positions open, slowing hiring and tightening disciplinary or productivity standards. But warehouse closings are also part of the mix, and workers are bracing for more. During the second quarter, Amazon’s workforce shrank by roughly 100,000 jobs to 1.52 million, the biggest quarter-to-quarter contraction in the company’s history."

    KC's View:

    The key here is "right-sizing," and maintaining the flexibility necessary to grow again when necessary.  I have no doubt that this is all part of the game plan.

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    The New York Times reports this morning that CVS Health has made a deal to "acquire Signify Health, which runs a network of doctors making house calls, for roughly $8 billion in a deal that cements the pharmacy chain’s move away from its retail roots.

    "The deal, if approved by shareholders and regulators, would give CVS, which has nearly 10,000 stores nationwide, a new avenue to reach its customers: at home.

    "Pharmacies like CVS have been searching for new ways to strengthen ties with their large customer base, particularly as consumers increasingly head online for the everyday items that used to draw them into stores. In Signify, CVS is acquiring a company that offers analytics and technology to help a network of 10,000 doctors provide in-home health care to 2.5 million patients across the United States. Signify has a focus on those on Medicare and in underserved communities."

    CVS outbid the likes of Amazon in making the deal.

    KC's View:

    It tells us something about the marketplace that a number of our stories this morning concern healthcare initiatives by the likes of CVS, Amazon and Walmart … the groundwork clearly is being laid for the next great battle among retail behemoths no longer satisfied with their core retail businesses, looking for growth opportunities and revenue streams.

    I'm still a little skeptical about CVS's efforts … and submit for your consideration yet again a picture of what I recently saw at its pharmacy counter.  If this is the best they can do at retail, do we really trust them with our healthcare?

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    Starbucks late last week announced that Laxman Narasimhan, the CEO of "multinational consumer health, hygiene and nutrition company" Reckitt since 2019, is joining the coffee company as its new CEO.  He will succeed Howard Schultz, who has been serving as interim CEO since the resignation of Kevin Johnson, who retired from the job after five years in the CEO's office.

    The announcement said that "Narasimhan brings nearly 30 years of experience leading and advising global consumer-facing brands. Known for his considerable operational expertise, he has a proven track record in developing purpose-led brands. Building on companies’ histories, he has succeeded in rallying talent to deliver on future ambitions by driving consumer-centric and digital innovations."  And, Starbucks noted that as Reckitt, "he led the company through a major strategic transformation and a return to sustainable growth."

    “Laxman is an inspiring leader. His deep, hands-on experience driving strategic transformations at global consumer-facing businesses makes him the ideal choice to accelerate Starbucks growth and capture the opportunities ahead of us. His understanding of our culture and values, coupled with his expertise as a brand builder, innovation champion, and operational leader will be true differentiators as we position Starbucks for the next 50 years, generating value for all our stakeholders. On behalf of the entire Board, I am thrilled to welcome Laxman as Starbucks next CEO,” said Mellody Hobson, Independent Starbucks Board of Directors chair.

    The New York Times writes that "Narasimhan was tasked with cleaning up Reckitt, which had struggled with slowing sales and an ill-fated $16.6 billion takeover of the infant products maker Mead Johnson. He quickly moved to cut costs while investing in Reckitt’s supply chains and product research. He also sold underperforming divisions, and scrapped a potential breakup of the company."

    The Times also notes that "Narasimhan will gradually take the reins at Starbucks: He’ll join the coffee chain in October as 'incoming C.E.O.,' but he won’t formally lead until April. During that transition, Schultz said, Narasimhan will get 'immersed' in Starbucks’s culture by traveling to stores worldwide and even working behind the counter at some locations."

    KC's View:

    First, an admission - I got this wrong.  I've been of the opinion that Schultz would give up the CEO job at Starbucks when they pried it from his cold, dead fingers.  (Okay, that's a little bit of hyperbole, but you get the picture.)  But, I predicted - when nobody else did - that he would at some point dislodge Kevin Thomas from the job, which he did, and so I guess I'm batting .500.

    I don't want to jinx poor Laxman Narasimhan, so I won't speculate as to how long he'll last at Starbucks.  But I don't envy him having to report to a board on which Howard Schultz is a presence.  That's like following Mickey Mantle as the New York Yankees' center fielder.  (Schultz, no doubt, will appreciate that comparison.)

    I must admit that I am conflicted about this appointment.  Narasimhan, best I can tell, has no retail experience, and I've always felt that retail leadership requires someone who understands the unique alchemy of art and science that goes into creating an effective retail environment.

    But … it also appears that Narasimhan overlapped with Vivek Sankaran, now CEO of Albertsons, and Indra Nooyi, the retired CEO of PepsiCo, when he was at PepsiCo, and I have a lot of regard for their leadership styles and management pedigrees.  So maybe it will work.

    But man … Starbucks has got a lot of issues to resolve - from reengineering its stores to dealing  with some challenging labor issues.  It may not be enough for Narasimhan to be a strong leader.  he may need to be a miracle worker.

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    The Stockton Record reports that Kenneth Mueller, the CFO at Raley's, and Richard Conte, the company's chief pilot, "died when their twin-engine plane crashed near Galt (California) less than 20 minutes after taking off from Tracy Municipal Airport on Sunday."

    Chelsea Minor, a spokeswoman for Raley's, said, "Our organization is deeply saddened and heartbroken.  At this time, we are focused on supporting their families, friends and our colleagues."

    The aircraft went down in a "marshy area" inside a private orchard.  The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    Food and pet care manufacturer Mars late last week announced "that its entire portfolio of more than 40 Mars food, treats, ice cream, and pet food brands are now available for same-day delivery through Instacart, the leading grocery technology company in North America … the Mars-Instacart partnership gives consumers across the U.S. access to their favorite Mars brands straight from their smartphone or laptop. Reaching 90% of households in North America, Instacart delivers from more than 70,000 stores in more than 5,500 cities."

    Kelly Goering, Vice President of Sales at Mars, said in a prepared statement that "offering our entire selection of Mars products on Instacart allows consumers to shop for the snacking and food brands their families and pets love most." 

    KC's View:

    "Entire selection" is an interesting phrase, since it implies that even if client retailers do not have Mars' complete portfolio of products, Instacart will carry them … which has the potential of disintermediating traditional retailers.

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    The Washington Post writes that Amazon's decision to close down its Amazon Care telemedicine business may reflect a recognition that while the industry may be ripe for disruption, it is easier to achieve through acquisition than startup.

    An excerpt:

    "To understand where Amazon is headed next in health care, the industry is looking for clues from a different direction: Amazon’s acquisitions.

    "Amazon is in the process of acquiring primary care start-up One Medical for $3.9 billion, although regulators said Friday they are taking a closer look at the deal. While the e-commerce giant’s exact path into health care is unclear, Amazon has shown sustained interest in the primary care market, including providing home health care for seniors (a burgeoning opportunity as the baby-boom generation ages) and selling telehealth and mental health services to employers."

    (The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Amazon's proposed purchase of One Medical's parent company, which "could delay its completion as federal competition investigations often take months to finish. Significant U.S. antitrust probes on average take about 11 months.")

    "Amazon has long experimented with different models for expansion and growth," the Post writes.  "Amazon Web Services, its dominant cloud division, stemmed from its own needs but became a huge revenue center when Amazon started selling it to other companies. For years, though, it failed to break through in groceries with Amazon Fresh, and in 2017 it acquired Whole Foods to boost that side of its business.

    "Health care may lend itself to the latter model. The Post previously reported that former Amazon Care employees had concerns about the tech giant’s fast and frugal approach to health care and that medical professionals hired to provide care sometimes clashed with the company over its approach. And in a note to staff announcing the closure, the current executive in charge admitted that Amazon Care was failing to please its corporate customers."

    The Post writes that there are two probably models for how Amazon will proceed in healthcare.  One is to have narrow health-care goals, with a focus on "employer-based models, or virtual mental health care, or caring for the 65+ population."  But the other possibility is that Amazon will seek "to ultimately dominate consumer health care across the board, much like its efforts in e-commerce, logistics and cloud services."

    The New York Times has a rather skeptical analysis of Amazon's current direction:

    "Any company claiming its innovation will revolutionize American health care by itself is selling a fantasy. There is no technological miracle waiting around the corner that will solve problems caused by decades of neglectful policy decisions and rampant fraud. And a fix aimed at just the upper crust of employer-sponsored health coverage has no hope of making health care more accessible to those who are truly being left behind.

    "Amazon Care and One Medical saw the same market opportunity within the crisis-ridden American health care system: a paid escape hatch for the better-off. Not the really wealthy - they have always had concierge care on demand - but the middle- to upper-middle-class worker who has a job and insurance, yet who can’t believe how hard it is just to see a doctor.

    "One Medical, pitching itself as 'no ordinary doctor’s office,' lets people with means leapfrog some of the hassles and waits of American health care, while promising longer appointments and friendlier doctors. Its offices are concentrated in wealthier areas and do not accept Medicaid, which reimburses providers far less than private insurance and tends to cover sicker patients who require more costly care.

    "Amazon will have a big task on its hands to make One Medical work: The company, which charges $199 a year for membership, has not been profitable, losing $91 million in the first quarter of 2022."

    The Times also offers this pithy note:  " It might be possible to deliver a spatula to someone’s apartment in 24 hours, but applying the same approach to health care seems a taller order."

    KC's View:

    When you have almost limitless resources, it is possible to experiment with various options and see what works and what doesn't.  FYI … Tom Furphy and I will talk a lot about this tomorrow when The Innovation Conversation returns…

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    Amazon said over the weekend that more than 25 million people globally had watched the premiere of s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” on its debut date, September 2 - the largest audience for the debut of any program or movie in Prime Video's history.

    “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and is reported to be the most expensive TV series ever filmed;  it cost Amazon in the neighborhood of $715 million to obtain the rights from the Tolkien estate, and has been a passion project for the company's founder, Jeff Bezos.

    The stakes are high - Prime Video is engaged in streaming warfare with the likes of Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock.

    From the Journal story:

    "While 'Lord of the Rings' is Amazon’s biggest bet to broaden the reach of its Amazon Prime Video streaming platform, it is far from the only one. Earlier this year, Amazon acquired the MGM movie and television studio for $6.5 billion. MGM’s library includes the 'James Bond' and 'Rocky' franchises as well as 'The Pink Panther' and 'RoboCop.'  Amazon is expected to use the assets of the studio to advance its own movie and television ambitions.

    'Amazon Prime Video’s next big event will be 'Thursday Night Football.'  The company secured long-term rights to stream the National Football League package of games in a deal that costs around $1 billion per season."

    However, Amazon is doing its best to control the game.  The Verge reports that "Amazon has introduced a new weapon in the battle against internet trolls: delays."

    Prime Video reportedly has "introduced a new 72-hour delay for all user reviews posted to Prime Video … Each critique is then evaluated to determine whether it’s genuine or a forgery created by a bot, troll or other breed of digital goblin.

    "The practice caught notice after the premiere of the first two episodes of 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power' … The series appears to have been review bombed - when trolls flood intentionally negative reviews for a show or film - on other sites like Rotten Tomatoes, where it has an 84% rating from professional critics, but a 37% from user-submitted reviews.  'The Rings of Power' has been fending off trolls for months, especially ones who take issue with the decision to cast actors of color as elves, dwarves, harfoots and other folk of Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth."

    KC's View:

    I have very little interest in seeing this series, largely because it just isn't my genre.  I like science fiction, not fantasy, and so if I watch this, it'll only be because Mrs. Content Guy is a big "Lord of the Rings" fan, and I wouldn't mind spending time with her.

    It has been interesting to watch the extraordinary marketing power that Amazon has been able to put behind this project.  It seems like most of the envelopes and boxes that have come in from Amazon have featured promotions for "Lord of the Rings," and many of the ubiquitous gray Amazon delivery trucks have been repainted to feature "LOTR" ads on one side and NFL ads on the other.

    It is worth pointing this out because it illustrates the degree to which Amazon can use its omnipresence to promote any and all of its various businesses.  That's worth keeping in mind - anyone competing with Amazon has to know the degree to which it can brings its power to bear on anything it wants to.

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    •  From Fierce Health:

    "Walmart's telehealth provider, MeMD, is rolling out the virtual diabetes program as a standalone service or as part of a comprehensive medical and behavioral telehealth program for enterprise customers and health plans. The retail giant collaborated with the American Diabetes Association on the virtual program, which was developed to help employees and members close gaps in diabetes management through early intervention, Walmart Health executives said … The integrated telehealth solution merges personalized diabetes education with behavioral health awareness and counseling.

    "As part of the program, members participate in an initial consultation with a licensed medical provider to discuss patient history, eating habits and more, looking to identify gaps in care, depression risks and schedule a follow-up visit with licensed behavioral health therapists to address each area with a focus on mental health management, according to the company."

    “Our aim is to empower patients with the most up-to-date diabetes education and clinical care so they can take control of their health. Our program focuses on a patient’s physical and mental health, which also helps employers maintain healthier workforces and drive down overall healthcare costs," said John Wigneswaran, M.D., Walmart’s chief medical officer, in a statement.

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  CNBC reports that "Amazon turned off solar energy systems at all of its U.S. facilities in 2021 after a rash of fires and explosions, including one at its Fresno warehouse in 2020.

    According to internal company documents viewed by CNBC, "between April 2020 and June 2021, Amazon experienced 'critical fire or arc flash events' in at least six of its 47 North American sites with solar installations, affecting 12.7% of such facilities. Arc flashes are a kind of electrical explosion.  'The rate of dangerous incidents is unacceptable, and above industry averages,' an Amazon employee wrote in one of the internal reports."

    CNBC notes that "the solar snafus underscore the challenge Amazon and many other large corporations face in their quest to shrink their environmental footprint and reduce reliance on fossil fuels."

    •  The Information reports that "instant-delivery startup Jokr is in talks with investors to raise between $35 million and $50 million in Series C funding at a pre-money valuation of $1.3 billion, according to two people familiar with the company’s fundraising efforts. That represents a slight increase from its valuation of $1.2 billion set last December.

    "The fundraising comes at a critical time for fast-delivery startups. Several, including Jokr, have pulled out of the U.S. market in recent months amid heavy losses. Jokr gave up its U.S. operations in June and decided to focus its efforts on Latin America, where labor costs are lower and competition is less intense."

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "When Amazon announced its plans to build a second headquarters somewhere in North America, cities and states around the continent stopped at nothing to woo the tech giant. They made promises of billion-dollar tax breaks and massive financial incentives - in a few cases, bigger than some countries’ economies - to get picked as the company’s new home.

    "Nearly four years after winning that sweepstakes, Arlington County has yet to pay Amazon a single penny. And that’s by design.

    "The coronavirus pandemic shrank some of the tax revenue streams that executives and elected officials said would grow as the e-retailer built its offices in this affluent Northern Virginia suburb. That has meant no cash grants paid out to Amazon - at least not yet - for its $2.5 billion capital investment in the county."

    The story goes on:

    "The county had initially projected it would pay $22.7 million in total to Amazon in annual payments through 2035. These pay-as-you-go grants are based on Amazon’s commitment to occupy a certain amount of office space in Pentagon City and Crystal City and on an expected increase in local hotel stays stemming from the company’s activity … But if the news may suggest less of an economic windfall for the county than officials and executives had touted just a few years ago, the company and its boosters say it’s too soon to make any snap judgments."

    It was just a few years ago that the term "HQ2" was all over the news and seemed like the biggest deal, at least for Amazon and the sundry municipalities seeking its approbation.  But like so many things during the pandemic, it didn't turn out the way anyone expected.  Go figure.

    •  Variety reports that "Netflix is moving up the timeline for the debut of its cheaper, ad-supported plan to November - in order to get out before the Dec. 8 launch of the Disney+ tier with advertising.

    "In July, Netflix told investors that it was targeting the launch of the ad-supported plan 'around the early part of 2023.'  But now, Netflix’s ad-supported is set to go live Nov. 1 in multiple countries, including the U.S., Canada, U.K., France and Germany, according to industry sources who have been briefed on the streamer’s plans. That would be a little over a month before Disney+ Basic, priced at $7.99/month, hits the market in the U.S."

    Interesting to watch as streaming services, designed in so many ways to disrupt traditional broadcast and cable TV services, turn to more orthodox ad-supported models to generate new and needed revenue streams.

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    •  The New York Times reports that "a federal labor official who presided over Amazon’s challenge to a union victory at a Staten Island warehouse has recommended that the challenge be rejected, the National Labor Relations Board said on Thursday.

    "The labor board official, known as a hearing officer, concluded in a report that Amazon’s objections to the election should be set aside and that the Amazon Labor Union should be certified to represent workers at the warehouse, known as JFK8.

    "A regional director of the labor board will issue a formal ruling in the coming weeks or months after considering the hearing officer’s report. Regional directors typically follow a hearing officer’s recommendation in such cases, but Amazon could still appeal to the labor board in Washington if the regional director’s ruling affirms the election result."

    •  Fast Company writes that when Trader Joe's closed down its only (and, from all reports, very popular) wine shop in New York City with five years left on its lease, it may have been because a majority of the workers there were prepared to unionize.

    According to the story, Trader Joe's employees there "spent the past four months building support to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union."  But, the very week that workers intended to "gather up the completed union cards … then submit their petition for a union election to the National Labor Relations Board … Trader Joe’s sent a memo informing store team members it was 'time for us to explore another location' at which to use the company’s sole New York State license to sell wine.

    "Because wine can’t be sold in a grocery store in the state, Trader Joe’s decided 15 years ago to open a dedicated wine shop adjacent to one of its busiest grocery locations near Manhattan’s Union Square. In fact, the store was named Trader Joe’s Union  Square Wine Shop (rather ironic, in retrospect)."

    The UFCW,  Fast Company writes, has "declared the move 'egregious and blatant union busting.'  The shop’s organizing committee claims Trader Joe’s management confirms no new location is lined up yet, nor is there any time line to reopen, 'leaving many of us unsure of whether or not we have a job.'  The UFCW added in its statement that it’s 'ready to pursue all legal action, including filing charges against Trader Joe’s' and warned it will 'aggressively pursue all legal recourse available' if the company “retaliates further against workers involved in organizing efforts."

    Ironically, last month when employees at a Western Massachusetts Trader Joe's filed for a union election - the first in the company's history, a company spokesperson said, "We have always said we welcome a fair vote and are prepared to hold a vote if more than 30 percent of the crew wants one … We are not interested in delaying the process in any way."

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    •  Ottawa-based Intouch Insight is out with its annual Convenience Store Trends Report, concluding that "convenience does not trump brand loyalty for today’s consumers. For example, when it comes to their cup of joe, 70% of shoppers would seek out their favorite brand over the most convenient cup."

    “In a world where channel blurring is forcing c-stores to compete with other verticals such as grocery or quick-service restaurants (QSR), leaders need to go beyond being the most convenient option to being one that also offers top quality products, speedy and accurate service, and a variety of shopping methods,” said Cameron Watt, president/CEO at Intouch Insight.

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports on the apparent suicide of Gustavo Arnal - a former Avon and Procter & Gamble executive who joined Bed Bath & Beyond in 2020.

    Arnal, the story says, "just days after he had briefed investors on the company’s restructuring efforts and closed a financing deal that gave the company about $500 million in cash. As part of the restructuring, the company said last week two more senior executives - its chief operating officer and its chief stores officer - were leaving … Those departures follow a management shake-up that started June 29 when Chief Executive Mark Tritton and Chief Merchandising Officer Joe Hartsig left the home-goods seller after it reported plunging sales and deep losses. The following day the company said its chief accounting officer, John Barresi, who reported to Mr. Arnal, had resigned.

    "Mr. Arnal was one of the few senior executives to stay in his role during a time of tumult for the company and several members of his finance team have either left or recently been promoted into their roles. This new team now faces the task of completing the accounting for the company’s results and work to reassure vendors and lenders about its operations."

    Published on: September 6, 2022

    …will return.