retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We took note on Friday of a Chicago Tribune report that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has described Amazon-owned Whole Foods as "not a good partner, period" for its closure of a once highly touted store in the city's Englewood neighborhood.  The store was originally opened six year ago, subsidized with $10.7 million in city money, and lauded for being part of Chicago's South Side, serving one of the city's most economically depressed areas.

I commented, in part:

At some level, everybody is doing their jobs here.  Lightfoot's job is to find ways to bring food stores to Chicago's food deserts.  Whole Foods' job is to position the company for the highest levels of growth and profitability (and do so at the moment in an internal climate of cost cutting).

One MNB reader responded:

I don’t really know  but maybe retailers that have been victimized over and over have thrown in the towel I believe some of the drug chains have left that area also.

They would never say it was crime, but maybe!!

MNB reader Daniel McQuade wrote:

A little bit of research would perhaps inform you of the underlying issues that are plaguing the South Side of Chicago, notably the Englewood Area.  Look at the crime/murder rates in this district.  And you are wondering why Whole Foods closed???

As an employer, is the safety of your customers and employees a first priority or changing the lives of people who need better food shopping experiences?

What about theft, shoplifting, and shrink? Target just announced it has lost a whopping $400 million in profits this year thanks to organized gangs of shoplifters who have been systematically stealing merchandise from its discount stores.

Perhaps Mayor Lightfoot should reflect on the real issues affecting the "reasons" for food deserts in her city and not deflect by threatening retailers for not showing up.

From another reader:

Would be interesting to talk with the store manager that managed the store that closed in Chicago.  Would provide a better picture of a day in the life and the challenges in profitability operating the store.  If the Chicago Mayor would go work a week and walk in the shoes of the store manager they would quickly learn how dangerous and significant the challenges are.    

And another MNB reader wrote:

I suspect crime and other factors that are similar are embedded in the criteria as well. Something Lightfoot refuses to acknowledge.

I'm aware of the crime issue.  I repeat - everybody is doing their jobs here.  Whole Foods is pulling out because the store wasn't making it, and Chicago is decrying that departure and looking for companies more able to stick it out.  (Though it is a fair argument to suggest that Chicago's leadership has not done its job in fighting the city's crime problem.)

I would suggest that while there is a crime issue to be considered, neighborhoods don't get safer if you pull out all the infrastructure that engenders a sense of community.  Now, that may mean coming up with some sort of new format - and new levels of security - that makes a store viable there.  And I'm not at all sure that there's been the kind of conversation that makes this possible.  After all, blame and recriminations are so much easier.

But I still think there is an opportunity, through food and retail, to to find a way to change the lives of people who need better options.  If we agree that stores are essential … aren't they even more essential to people of lesser means, who live in troubled communities?

On the subject of possibilities created by cows fed with THC-infused hemp, MNB reader Craig Espelien wrote:

I was fortunate enough to spend time at this past week’s PLMA meeting in Chicago with some leaders in the emerging hemp market (Hemp Brand Builders and their affiliated manufacturers). To say that excitements was palpable would be an understatement. There are hurdles - but none that can’t be overcome.

Hemp in and of itself has some great possibilities - protein can be extracted as can Omegas (3 and 6) to enhance multiple types of food and the “bio-mass” make an exceptional product for cleaning up liquid spills (what amazed me most was that compared to current cat litter style solutions, the OrganaDry product left zero oily residue) that makes just about everything else in this space look completely inadequate.

The key is to make hemp “Sexy” again (perhaps Justin Timberlake can do a riff on Bring Sexy Back???) as this downtrodden crop suffered at the hands of both the paper and the cotton industries and is painted unfairly with the CBD and THC brush (we could talk, however, about the 170+ variations of CBD - two of which, CBG and CBN have pretty cool medicinal potential for all natural remedies).

The future will be interesting - and folks who do not want to engage may get run over by the potential this market can bring.

Have an amazing holiday - a quick recommendation for Turkey Day is a Rose Prosecco from Costco (Kirkland Signature) bright, fruity and completely enjoyable across the Thanksgiving food spectrum.

Sounds good … except that I live in a state where Costco cannot sell wine.

MNB reader John Kemp wrote:

With regards to the "baked" cows, I'm sure you will be getting a LOT of comments on that.

My question is this, since the study staff noted a "lack of proclivity for binge eating" I am wondering what they offered the cows...just more plain old hay or Cheeto's?

I'm guessing that if it was the latter, the study may have gone differently.