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    Published on: November 8, 2022

    Well, one small example of what's wrong with America.  This example is, I think, a microcosm of a larger problem that I've been ranting about forever (at least, Mrs. Content Guy says it seems like forever).  One other thing - it has nothing to do with politics or elections.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    Walmart has announced that it is "removing inflation on an entire basket containing traditional Thanksgiving items. We made significant investments on top of our everyday low prices so customers can get a traditional Thanksgiving meal at last year’s price at Walmart … We’re proud to offer customers this year’s Thanksgiving meal at last year’s price so families don’t need to worry about how they’ll set their holiday table. We are currently rolling out the pricing, and customers can take advantage of the savings for all their holiday meals through December 26, 2022."

    The company says that "all the basics" are included in the promotion, "like turkey, ham, potatoes and stuffing, but the convenience items are there too, like ready-to-heat mac and cheese or freshly made pumpkin pie, and we ensured that the price for the same basket of items does not cost more than it did last year."

    KC's View:

    The whole rolling-back-prices thing may get some momentum in the coming days and weeks.  Aldi just the other day said that it is "rewinding prices" for Thanksgiving in the US, rolling them back to 2019 levels.

    People tend to spend a lot of money on their holiday meals, and so when companies use the approach, they're probably going to get some sampling from folks who might've previously shopped elsewhere.  This could be an opportunity for some retailers to gain some share of stomach that they may be able to keep beyond the holiday season.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    The Wall Street Journal reports that a unit of Walgreens Boots Alliance "struck a deal to combine with a big owner of medical practices and urgent-care centers in a transaction worth roughly $9 billion including debt, the latest in a string of acquisitions by big consumer-focused companies aiming to delve deeper into medical care.

    "The drugstore giant’s primary-care-center subsidiary, Village Practice Management, agreed to acquire Summit Health, the parent company of CityMD urgent-care centers, the companies said Monday."

    Context from the Journal:

    "Summit Health, which is backed by private-equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC, has more than 370 locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Central Oregon, according to the company’s website. Current and former physicians also own a large interest in the business.

    "Village Practice Management, which does business as VillageMD, provides care for patients at free-standing practices as well as at Walgreens locations, virtually and in the home. In 2021, Walgreens said it had made a $5.2 billion investment in VillageMD, boosting its stake to 63%. At the time, Walgreens said the investment would help accelerate the opening of at least 600 Village Medical at Walgreens primary-care practices across the country by 2025 and 1,000 by 2027."

    The story notes that insurer Cigna "is also investing in the combined company through its Evernorth unit, which will be a minority owner. Cigna has been expanding its footprint in other health-services businesses through Evernorth, which already includes virtual care and behavioral health, among other areas."

    And, of course, " Inc. in July agreed to purchase primary-care operator 1Life Healthcare Inc., which operates under the name One Medical, for about $4 billion. In September, CVS Health Corp. struck a deal to acquire home-healthcare company Signify Healthcare Inc. for $8 billion. Cano Health Inc., which operates primary-care centers, has attracted interest from both CVS and insurer Humana Inc. in recent months."

    KC's View:

    If we accept the notion that food is inextricably linked to our health, then I have to wonder if we're reaching the point where major food retailers are going to start investing in businesses that will give them front line connections to the health care business.

    I haven't really thought this though, but … could it be argued that Kroger might've made a more transformational move by acquiring a health care business/insurer than it is making by trying to buy Albertsons?

    The Albertsons acquisition probably is more about incremental growth than transformation.  Maybe that's enough.  Maybe what I'm suggesting doesn't make sense from an operational or strategic point of view.  But the ways in which companies are approaching health care, especially on the front lines, clearly is evolving.  I wonder if big retailers need to be part of that conversation.  (Amazon is.  Walmart is.)

    Just asking.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    Bloomberg reports that "Tesco Plc is expanding its experiment with stores where customers can walk straight out with their shopping instead of visiting a checkout counter. The only catch is, this time there will be traditional cashiers on offer as well.

    Three new GetGo stores in London and Birmingham will follow a 'hybrid format' designed to avoid alienating customers who have been put off by cashierless technology.

    "Tesco followed Inc. last year by opening its first cashierless store in London’s High Holborn, allowing customers to check in with the Tesco app, pick up groceries and leave thanks to a network of cameras tracking what they buy. 

    "The three new stores will use the same technology, but shoppers who don’t want to use the app will still be able to use self-service tills or have their goods scanned by a person."

    KC's View:

    I'm sure this decision is a reaction to consumer demand, but it seems to me that this is chickening out a bit.  If you're going to lead, lead.  Don't prevaricate.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    In a memo to company employees yesterday, Lunds & Byerlys president-CEO Tres Lund announced that COO Phil Lombardo will retire on January 6.

    An excerpt from the memo:

    "Inspirational leaders radiate authenticity and encourage collaboration. They embrace risk to drive innovation and growth. And they influence and inspire others to grow personally and professionally.

    "All of this and more encapsulates the inspirational leadership Phil Lombardo, our Chief Operating Officer, has provided to Lunds & Byerlys for more than 20 years. Now he will be moving into the next chapter of his life when he retires on January 6.

    "Phil joined us in 2002 as Director of Grocery. Throughout his career, which includes advancements to Vice President of Merchandising, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Chief Marketing & Merchandising Officer and Chief Operating Officer, Phil has demonstrated remarkable leadership because of his sharp strategic thinking and strong business acumen. He is a decisive leader who has always had a common thread of humbleness and inclusivity …  Phil’s career has been extraordinary and inspiring. His leadership has helped place us on a path in which we are further differentiated from our competition and poised for continued growth."

    KC's View:

    I don't usually give retirement announcements this kind of visibility, but I'm making an exception here because I've gotten to know Phil a little bit over the past decade, and have enormous respect for his skills and insight - it seems to me that he knows all the right questions to ask about where the business (and the industry at large) is going, and more often than not as a strong sense of what the answers are.  And, if he doesn't know the answers, he is enormously collaborative in figuring out where and how to find them.

    I tease Phil that he's too young to retire, but that probably is projection on my part.  I just hope that at some point down the road, we're able to enjoy a Cactus League game together, along with a beer.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    Building off the enormous popularity of his "Searching For Italy" series on CNN, actor Stanley Tucci is getting into the meal kit business.

    Food & Wine reports that Tucci, in collaboration with S.Pellegrino, "is dropping a recipe kit that features one of his favorite pasta dishes of all time – gnochetti con salsiccia e broccolini. Available for purchase starting November 7, each recipe kit includes products sourced from Italy and fresh, seasonal ingredients, including gnochetti sardi (a small Sardinian dry pasta), crumbled salsiccia, fresh broccolini and fennel, Pecorino Romano and extra virgin olive oil. Of course, there's also a bottle of S.Pellegrino."

    Tucci is a celebrity endorser of S.Pellegrino.

    The story says that "each four-serving 'Taste of Tucci' recipe kit is available from World Chef for $120, plus shipping, and it includes instructions and all the ingredients needed."

    According to the story, "The actor ate the classic Southern Italian pasta dish growing up, though 'there are so many different iterations of it,' he explained. 'It’s a really nice thing visually. I love to look at the broccolini and the sausage all together. There’s something so satisfying about it, then grating the cheese on it. It’s really rustic, but it’s celebratory'."

    Tucci goes on:

    I love this recipe. It’s kind of a classic Italian dish.  It’s quick to make, it’s inexpensive, and if you’re a vegetarian, you can leave out the sausage. It’s really rustic, but it’s celebratory."

    KC's View:

    Well, it may be inexpensive, but at $120 for four servings, this iteration kind of stretches the definition of that word.   A bit.  (I am an enormous Tucci fan, but it is important to point out that $120 for a meal-for-four isn't inexpensive for most people.)

    BTW…I found this recipe online in about 12 seconds.  There are lots of versions available, but this one strikes me as similar and yet a lot less expensive.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    The Boston Globe reports that "fans of Market Basket are in a tizzy this season about the New England grocery store chain’s recent announcement that an unusual — yet apparently very popular — product is back on its shelves: official Market Basket-branded buckets.

    "According to a spokesperson, the five-gallon plastic tubs, which feature an old-school 'DeMoulas' logo, emerge irregularly depending on supply, and stay on display for about a month and a half — before they eventually sell out."

    According to the company, "A spokesperson for the company acknowledged the product, which might ordinarily be more common in a home improvement store, 'is not an item that customers normally have on their shopping list.'

    "Still, many have found uses for the food-grade plastic containers. The writing on the buckets themselves promote a number of possible uses, ranging from storage of dry goods like pet food and rice, to ice melt, compost, and potting soil.

    "Lots of customers, the spokesperson said, use the buckets to brine their Thanksgiving turkeys."

    KC's View:

    On the one hand, they're plastic tubs.  But when driven by social media and some well-timed scarcity, an item becomes wildly popular and even a status symbol.  

    Go figure.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    The Cincinnati Bengals said this week that Dayton, Ohio-based Dorothy Lane Markets' iconic Killer Brownie has been named the team's official brownie.

    From the press release:

    "The signature Killer Brownies® are decadent gourmet desserts featuring layers of rich, fudgy brownies that are stuffed with creamy caramel and inclusions, like nuts and Belgian chocolate chips.

    "An Ohio-native company, Killer Brownie proudly announced a multi-year partnership with the Cincinnati Bengals. 'As a Bengals fan since I was a little girl, this is a dream come true,' said Chimene Mayne-Ross, President of The Killer Brownie® Company. 'But my real draw is to the Brown family and the amazing organization they’ve built. We are so proud to see the Killer Brownie brand alongside a family team whose values inspire us daily.'

    "Over 40 years ago, Killer Brownie was born in the bakeries of the famous midwestern grocer, Dorothy Lane Market, and quickly grew a local cult following. To keep up with demand, DLM’s CEO, Norman Mayne, created The Killer Brownie Company, which thrives under the leadership of his daughter, Chimene Mayne-Ross.

    "The Killer Brownie has been our signature item for years at DLM, and now that we are partnering with the! I couldn’t be more excited,” said Calvin Mayne, President of Dorothy Lane Market. “Our family is also passionate about making our fans and friends happy, and we look forward to making sweet memories together with the Bengals.”

    KC's View:

    I love the Mayne family.  Love Dorothy Lane Market.   Love the Killer Brownies.  (I'm a Jets fan … but three out of four ain't bad.)

    I think this is terrific … I hope they sell a million Killer Brownies as a result.  As Norman Mayne would say, "It's a living."

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Information reports that "Shopify’s sales growth has evaporated over the past year as the boom in online spending sparked by the pandemic has dissipated. But the e-commerce software giant has focused on squeezing more money out of its existing merchants from the sale of other services.

    "One notable way it’s doing that is by fronting money to cash-strapped online sellers. Its six-year-old lending business topped half a billion dollars in new loans for the first time in the third quarter - a nearly 30% jump from the prior year. More importantly, that growth has outstripped growth in merchants’ sales volume in five of the past six quarters.

    "Shopify executives expect the souring economy to continue boosting the company’s money-lending business - especially heading into Black Friday and Cyber Monday - as merchants’ working capital is stretched thin due to surging inventory and other costs and as traditional lenders dial back on handing out money to small businesses."

    The story notes that "Shopify’s capital arm offers its customers a form of financing known as a merchant cash advance, with eligibility based on their sales history on the platform. Shopify charges a fixed fee for the service on top of the money it advances, and collects a slice of the merchants' daily sales until the advance is repaid. (Shopify also provides loans with fixed repayment periods in some U.S. states.)"

    I understand that this is good for these small businesses, but I just hope that it doesn't become a matter of owing their souls to the company store.

    •  Amazon said this week that "Amazon is ready for its first-ever holiday season with its fleet of custom electric delivery vehicles designed by Rivian. Hundreds of the vehicles rolled out this summer in more than a dozen cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis. Since then, Amazon has expanded its fleet and now has more than 1,000 electric delivery vehicles making deliveries in more than 100 cities across the U.S.

    "Customers will begin spotting the vans delivering holiday gifts and packages to doorsteps in new cities, including Austin, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Madison, Newark, New York, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Portland, Provo, and Salt Lake City. This expansion comes as Amazon and Rivian continue their progress toward having thousands of vehicles on the road by the end of the year and 100,000 vehicles by 2030."

    •  The New York Times reports that Amazon is considering the placement of a disclaimer on a video and book called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which has been decried by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as being “deeply and unequivocally antisemitic."

    The film has gotten a lot of publicity recently when is was endorsed on social media by Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who subsequently was suspended by the team when his apologies were judged to be insufficient and insincere.

    The Nets and the ADL sent Amazon a letter asking the company "to take down or add explanatory context to the film and the related book, saying they were 'designed to inflame hatred and, now that it was popularized by Mr. Irving, will lead directly to the harm of Jews'."

    The Times writes that "Cory Shields, an Amazon spokesman, said the potential disclaimer would appear on the documentary’s main detail page, which viewers would see before buying or renting the film. A similar note potentially would be added to a page where customers could buy the book that the film is based on."

    I'm offended by a lot of this, including the fact that people keep referring to this vile crap as being a "documentary."  Propaganda, maybe, butt it doesn't seem like a documentary to me.

    At the risk of affecting my browsing history on Amazon, I went online this morning and can't find any disclaimers - except for the audio book, where the audio publisher notes that "the views expressed in this audiobook may be offensive to some listeners and do not necessarily reflect the views of the audio publisher."

    I think there are times when being the "everything store" goes too far.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Publix Super Markets announced that "as a token of appreciation for their service, Publix will offer veterans, active military and their families a 10% discount on their groceries on Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11.

    "To receive the discount, at checkout customers must present a veteran or military ID card discharge document or driver’s license with veteran designation.  This discount is for in-store purchases only."

    •  The New York Times reports that "Macy’s, the largest department store in the United States, plans to invest $30 million over the next five years into three financing channels meant to support businesses run by people from underrepresented groups in the retail industry. It is working with Momentus Capital, which will oversee the loan fund. The retailer, which brought in $25 billion in annual revenue in 2021, said total financing for these programs would equal $200 million.

    "The money will be offered in the form of loans for working capital and commercial real estate, as well as growth equity capital. Macy’s executives said they wanted both the vendors it works with now and new ones to be involved with the program. They expect the initiative to boost profits for the company, they said, in part because they believe their customer base will expand and diversify."

    The program began to stake shape when, "a year and a half ago, while analyzing spreadsheets and data, Macy’s executives determined that something didn’t add up. They saw that some vendors from underrepresented groups were well regarded by Macy’s merchants and consistently provided quality service, but were only doing less than $10 million in business with the department store when they could have been doing more.

    "For example, Macy’s wanted to grant a Black female-owned trucking company more business to transport goods from its distribution centers to the stores. The company was unable to take on the extra business because it could not afford to buy the additional trucks it would need, according to Adrian Mitchell, Macy’s chief financial officer.  'It became very, very apparent that the combination of capital and support were in the way,' Mr. Mitchell said."

    It is called putting your money where your mouth is.  Good for Macy's.

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Blue Apron Holdings Inc. on Monday cut its target for fiscal 2022 after the online meal kit company posted lower-than-expected revenue for the third quarter and awaits funds from its largest stockholder.

    "Shares of Blue Apron fell 15% Monday to $1.77 after the company withdrew its revenue growth target of 7% to 13% for the year. The company had forecast revenue growth between $503.3 million and $531.6 million.  It reported $470.4 million in revenue for 2021. Its shares are down 73% year to date."

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    •  The National Grocers Association (NGA) announced that it has hired John Richard, most recently a policy analytics associate at the Aluminum Association, as its senior manager of government relations and policy analysis.

    And, NGA said, it also has hired Ryan Cagney, most recently a Houston-based political consultant, as its manager of political affairs and fundraising.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    •  The Boston Globe reports that "Home Depot workers in Philadelphia rejected the first store-wide labor union at the world’s largest home improvement retailer Saturday night, a loss for a fledgling movement to organize at major US companies.

    "Workers voted 165 to 51 against forming Home Depot Workers United, which would have represented 274 employees at the store, according to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the voting. The company and union organizations have five days to file objections.

    "The defeat for the organizers could discourage activist workers who have successfully formed the first unions at big chains, including Amazon, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and Apple, but have since suffered setbacks in getting collective bargaining off the ground or organizing more unions."

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Information reports that as advertising agencies and brands express concern about Twitter's brand image, pausing campaigns in the wake of Elon Musk's $44 billion acquisition of the company, firing of about half its employees, and use of Tweets to advance controversial positions, the company has experienced "a massive drop in revenue."

    Musk is blaming the problem on “activist groups pressuring advertisers."

    Some context from The Information:

    "Twitter’s revenue was already in decline ahead of the acquisition. The company reported $1.1 billion in revenue for the second quarter, which ended in June. That’s down 1.2% from the same time last year. Across the digital ad market, revenues have slumped with Twitter rivals Google and Facebook reporting sharp slowdowns in the third quarter.

    "Musk doubled down on his message that Twitter is the victim of politics, rather than business. 'Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America,' Musk wrote, just two days after posting a poll mocking advertisers which asked whether they should support 'free speech' or 'political correctness' and less than a week after Musk posted a homophobic misinformation about a violent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband."

    Just to be clear, this is not a free speech issue.  Twitter is a private company, not a government entity, and so the First Amendment does not apply.  At the same time, advertisers have the right to associate with whoever and whatever entities that they think are good for their brands, and from my perspective, the problem is not activist groups, but an unhinged CEO.

    However, it needs to be pointed out that not everyone is abandoning Twitter.  Business Insider reports that "Twitter's head of safety and integrity said 300 users posted over 50,000 tweets with a 'particular slur' in 48 hours.  Research showed the use of N-word on Twitter rose by nearly 500% after the takeover deal closed.

    "Yoel Roth said Twitter has banned the accounts involved in the trolling campaign."

    •  The Information also has a story about how Twitter, having fired half its 7,500 employees last week, "began asking some of the affected staff to return. It’s unclear how many people could be asked to come back, but managers discovered that Twitter laid off some people by mistake and that they needed others to build new features ordered by Musk."

    Some of those folks may go back for the paycheck, and some of them are about to get raises because they suddenly have negotiating leverage.  But I have to imagine that a bunch of these folks are going to say "no, thank you," because if you don't need the money, who needs the tsuris?

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    In Monday Night Football, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New Orleans Saints 27-13.

    Published on: November 8, 2022

    Just want to say "thank you" to all of you who wished me a happy birthday last Friday.  It was a terrific day and weekend - among the presents from my kids was a key lime pie and Oregon pinot noir, and Mrs. Content Guy got me a Harvey Dodd watercolor.  And, we went to Cape Cod for a little time away.

    As heartwarming as anything, though, were all the emails and texts from the MNB community. I'm lucky to have you, and I never forget it.