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    Published on: May 16, 2023

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed its objections to the proposed $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons by Kroger, saying that it "would dramatically decrease competition within an already consolidated food retail market, which would result in fewer grocery stores and higher food prices, negatively impacting food and nutrition security for consumers across the country. Additionally, the proposed merger would substantially increase Kroger-Albertsons' buying power, worsening anticompetitive retailer marketing practices to the detriment of smaller suppliers and consumers."

    The letter to FTC chair Lina Khan argues that "post-merger, two firms would control over 55% of the national food retail market that includes supermarkets, grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and supercenters (Walmart and Kroger-Albertsons) … The proposed merger would continue the trend of concentration in the food retail market; over the past three decades, national market concentration, measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, has increased by 458 percent and county-level market concentration has increased by 94 percent … The merger would reduce competition in numerous states, increasing anticompetitive concentration in local markets … Kroger and Albertsons acknowledged local market competition concerns by proposing to divest 100–375 stores … However, divestitures as conditions of previous grocery mergers have proven unsuccessful solutions to local market concentration, leading to companies buying back stores and store closures."

    The letter also argues that a merger would reduce the access that some US communities - especially poor, Black and Latino neighborhoods - have to healthy food, and concludes that "the proposed merger is likely to harm consumers through an anticompetitive food retail market with fewer stores, higher food prices, and consolidated food manufacturer and processor control, ultimately reducing healthy food access. We urge the FTC to seek to enjoin this merger."

    You can read the full CSPI letter here.

    KC's View:

    The opposite argument by Kroger and Albertsons is that CSPI's logic is flawed, that the deal is good for consumers and will result in lower prices and great accessibility to healthy food.  And, no doubt, CSPI will be described by some as the "food police," dedicated to actually reducing choice by being dogmatic about nutrition issues.

    We've got another 6-9 months of this stuff, at least.  I have no idea how it will turn out, but I won't be surprised if the FTC tries to block the merger and that Kroger and Albertsons respond by going to court.

    Published on: May 16, 2023

    Fast Company has a fascinating piece about how Ikea is looking to transform its iconic physical retail experience and turn it into something sustainably experiential.  Here's how it sets up the story:

    "In late April, Ikea took over a warehouse in Milan for the world’s largest furniture fair. In the front, it built a vintage shop of Ikea furniture that dated back to the 1950s. It was a spin on Ikea as you would largely expect Ikea to be. But in the back were massive, multistory sculptures, built primarily from Ikea’s budget products, like light bulbs and bowls.

    "Things only became stranger at night, when Ikea welcomed the Milanese vinyl store Serendeepity to coordinate a few DJ sets while Swedish lighting designer Anders Heberling staged a light show across the space. What resulted were two full-blown raves - the latter of which an Ikea spokesperson tells me was shut down by police.

    "You might call it a stunt, but Ingka Group’s creative director Marcus Engman would call it a prototype to Ikea’s future retail experience.

    "Indeed, Ikea has big plans for physical retail across the U.S., as it’s pledged $2.2 billion in investments to expand its big blue box stores and open hundreds of smaller pickup storefronts in cities across the country—as it aims to compete more directly with Walmart, Amazon, and Target.

    "In other words, the big blue Ikea box store isn’t going anywhere, but its experience will soon change dramatically."

    Engman tells Fast Company, "There’s so many things that are challenging for retail. Just look at transportation. Most of our sales are actually out of the blue boxes [the traditional Ikea warehouse store]. And fewer and fewer young people have a driver’s license. It’s hard to shop at Ikea! That’s a very physical challenge … But then, it’s also, how do you make that experience something that is worthwhile? To go out for a day for, more or less. You need to rethink it a bit, still keeping the best parts, like the efficiency of Ikea, so you’re not jeopardizing it being affordable in the future.

    "Then I think it’s very much about the mix of things. I won’t say the word 'omni channel' because everybody’s saying that, and I don’t understand what it is. But life is a big mix. And that’s like the new normal. So how do we adapt to that and use each and every channel in a smarter way?"

    Engman continues:  "First, you have to make it easy for people, and then you could make it fun. If you start with fun, and it’s a struggle, it will never succeed. So I’m not thinking so much about a different digital layer. I’m thinking more like total experience."

    Creating a spectacle like the one in Milan just isn't sustainable, Engman said.  "It’s one, it’s a thing to create a [spectacle] like this [in Milan] once. But if you have a store on Oxford Street, for instance, like the old Topshop store, I would expect it to be sensational every time I go there. And every time I pass by. How do you create that? Some kind of retail programming needs to happen. Which is, to me, really interesting because you don’t want to make it too programmed either. It’s not like starting a TV channel. It’s more built upon surprises. And then you could put the layer of sustainability on that? You don’t want to create 'new' all the time because that’s not really sustainable. So how do you do that in a sustainable way?"

    KC's View:

    One of the interesting things about the piece is that Ikea clearly doesn't have all the answers yet;  Engman is exploring all the possibilities, trying to figure out how to balance efficiency with effectiveness, fun with a sustainable business model, and physical with digital retail.

    To me, this exploration is critically important.  Retailers who assume that the box essentially is going to stay the same are making a serious mistake - customer expectations grow and evolve as their options multiply, and retailers have to keep up.

    Let's start here:  Engman says that the ideal experience is "built upon surprises."   So let me ask:  When shoppers enter your store, are they ever surprised?  Are they ever really delighted?  Because if not - if there are no corners in your store around which, when shoppers make the turn, there is something that grabs their imagination - then you're missing an opportunity and giving another retailer the opportunity to steal that business.

    Published on: May 16, 2023

    From Fast Company, a story about how Instacart CEO Fidji Simo is spending some of her spare time and money.  An excerpt:

    "On the eighth and ninth floors of a pristine building in a research park in Salt Lake City, employees in gray uniforms tread under gold light fixtures, past abstract artwork, and around plush couches in the waiting area where they check patients in. This isn’t a high-end spa, though the gentle intake process was designed to mimic exactly that kind of environment. It’s the Metrodora Institute, a $35 million clinic and research facility cofounded last year by Instacart CEO Fidji Simo.

    "Metrodora is dedicated to treating women with neuro-immune axis disorders: diseases including endometriosis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, long COVID, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and more, in which the immune system appears to attack the nervous system. It opened to the public in March, and by the end of the year it expects to be treating 15,000 women, both at this outpatient facility, where there are currently thousands of people on the waitlist, and remotely, via telehealth consultations."

    Simo, the story says, "was inspired to start Metrodora after dealing with endometriosis during pregnancy and then falling sick again with another chronic illness, postural tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, which is triggered when a patient’s heart rate increases rapidly upon standing, causing light-headedness. It would take a couple of years for her to learn that though the symptoms for both illnesses are different, they can be related, and having one makes you at higher risk for having the other.

    "'I found that the level of care and the ability to find cures was, honestly, so poor,' Simo says. She wanted to create a clinic that would emulate cancer treatment centers like Houston’s MD Anderson, where silos between fields are removed, and treating a patient can involve many different specialists working together. When dealing with issues of the nervous system, she says, 'we need to understand the pathophysiology of the disease. We believe that every human is unique. Personalized medicine should be a thing.'

    "Personalization is central to her primary job, too. As CEO of Instacart, she works constantly to better tailor grocery delivery to individual customers. They are vastly different businesses, of course, but there is overlap: Both involve copious amounts of data, and both are complex marketplaces, with multiple stakeholders. At Instacart, Simo says that means keeping stores, brands, customers, and delivery people happy, while at Metrodora, where she is president - cofounder and neurogastroenterologist Laura Pace is CEO - it’s about caring for patients, staff, investors, and data partners. Combined, that’s a whole lot of interests for one person to manage, no matter how much yoga and soft lighting is involved."

    There's also a great passage about how the two businesses are seeing some overlap:

    "Recently, Simo has been applying her knowledge of healthcare to her work at Instacart. The newly launched Instacart Health lets customers’ own doctors suggest items they should buy, with part of the healthy haul covered by medical insurance. The platform 'uses technology to solve the problem of nutrition,' Simo explains, adding that 'a lot of insurance companies would benefit from reimbursing the cost of fresh food, but they haven’t had a technology partner that can scale to the entire country.'

    "Meanwhile, she’s also applying her knowledge of grocery delivery to her work at Metrodora: Content filmed in Metrodora’s test kitchen features chefs walking viewers through recipes that adhere to whichever diet their doctor may say will alleviate their symptoms, whether it’s gluten-free, sugar-free, or carb-free. Ultimately, if they can’t make it to Metrodora, they can order through Instacart: Shopping lists are included with Metrodora’s videos so that all the groceries can be ordered with one click. As Simo might say, everyone wins."

    You can read the entire story here.

    KC's View:

    I've not met Simo, but she seems impressive - I particularly like the idea that she sees the commonality between the food business and healthcare - it is all about using data to achieve personalization.  The more you can do that in both spaces, the better.

    It also is nice to see this approach to women's healthcare, especially at a time when it certain parts of the country it is closer to "The Handmaid's Tale."

    Published on: May 16, 2023

    Kroger announced that it is working with United Service Organizations (USO) to launch "two new Mobile Food Kitchens sponsored by Kroger to support military service members. Through this collaboration, the USO and Kroger provide nutritious meals to military members, whether they are supporting natural disaster relief, serving in remote locations or at basic training."

    The first USO Mobile Food Kitchen sponsored by Kroger was launched last year and "is based in Atlanta, Georgia and has been in service throughout the year, including support for National Guard troops deployed to the Southeast to provide aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The new mobile food kitchens will make their way across the U.S. this month to be stationed in Kansas City, Kansas, serving the Midwest and Salt Lake City, Utah, serving the West Coast."

    Published on: May 16, 2023

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  From Bloomberg:

    " Inc. plans to bring ChatGPT-style product search to its web store, rivaling efforts by Microsoft Corp. and Google to weave generative artificial intelligence into their search engines.

    "The e-commerce giant’s ambitions appear in recent job postings reviewed by Bloomberg News. One listing seeking a senior software development engineer says the company is 'reimagining Amazon Search with an interactive conversational experience' designed to help users find answers to questions, compare products and receive personalized suggestions. 

    "'We’re looking for the best and brightest across Amazon to help us realize and deliver this vision to our customers right away,' the company said in the listing, which was posted on its jobs board last month. 'This will be a once in a generation transformation for Search.'

    "Another posted job would be part of 'a new AI-first initiative to re-architect and reinvent the way we do search through the use of extremely large scale next-generation deep learning techniques'."

    I would be interested to see how using voice to search the Amazon site will dovetail with the company's clear emphasis on advertising, to the point that search results seem cluttered to the point of distraction.  If Amazon is going to be truly shopper-centric, then it should be focused on using all these technologies to be more laser-focused, not less so.

    Published on: May 16, 2023

    •  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

    "U.S. consumers are gorging on snacks, fueling boom times for cookie and candy giants while other packaged-food companies vie for bigger shares of the snack aisle.

    "Nearly half of U.S. consumers are eating three or more snacks a day, up 8% in the past two years, according to Circana Group, a market-research firm. U.S. snack sales rose to $181 billion last year, up 11% from the year prior, the firm said.

    "That has translated into big business for companies such as Hershey and Mondelez International, which make products from Oreos cookies to Ritz crackers and SkinnyPop popcorn.

    "Between fiscal 2019 and 2022, Hershey’s sales grew 30% while Mondelez’s rose 22%, outpacing other major food companies."

    The Journal notes that "as food prices soar and consumers increasingly look for cheaper alternatives to name-brand products, snack makers have been insulated because they tend to face less competition from lower-priced store brands … Often consumers will stick with their chosen brands of chocolate and other snack foods even when prices increase."

    •  The California Assembly has overwhelmingly passed, by a vote of 54-11, a bill that would ban five harmful chemicals from candy, cereals and other processed food."  The most prominent of these foods is Skittles, which - if the bill becomes law - would be have to be reformulated.

    The bill, according to Consumer Reports, would "end the use of brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propyl paraben, Red Dye No. 3 and titanium dioxide in popular food products sold in the state. The chemicals are linked to serious health problems, such as a higher risk of cancer, nervous system damage and hyperactivity.

    "European regulators have already banned the five substances from use in food, with the narrow exception of Red No. 3 in candied cherries. Given the size of California’s economy, A.B. 418 would set an important precedent for improving the safety of many processed foods."

    The bill now moves to the California State Senate.

    Published on: May 16, 2023

    Executive Suite is sponsored by Robin Russell Executive Search.

    •  Trader Joe's announced that Dan Bane, its longtime chairman-CEO, will retire on July 2, and will be succeeded in those roles by Bryan Palbaum, currently the chain's president-COO.

    At the same time, Jon Basalone, Trader Joe's president of stores, will take on the roles of vice-CEO and president of Trader Joe's Co.

    Published on: May 16, 2023

    Got this email from an MNB reader the other day:

    Your FaceTime today focused on the choices employees have when responding to corporate mandates/policies/encouragement about working from home.  The choice, you said, was about a job versus a career and that managers who see employees in the office are more likely to promote those physically present and if you wanted to become the "go-to" you had to be in the office.

    For almost three years the job was done.  With little to no notice we were ejected from our cubicles and required to recreate our workspaces at home.  We had to juggle the impact on every aspect of our family life while also achieving our work goals. People were hired, recognized and promoted during our time away.  There were employees who became the "go-to" person while working from home.  Managers had goals to achieve and employees either achieved them or were gone.  It was business as usual because employees figured it all out.   Now managers are struggling to find employees who want to come back - why has three days in the office become the norm?  Not because management wants to give employees a choice of job or career but because management saw people leave in droves and new hires won't come in five days a week.  And guess who else doesn't want to be in the office five days - managers!

    I believe management has the real choice.  Do they want to get the job done or not.  To do so they will have to recognize the need for workplace flexibility.  They will have to understand that many employees have made their choice that a job is all they want because their work/life balance is more important than a career.  They will have to overcome ingrained misogynistic blindspots (yes I went there) and realize the employee sees a commute as a complete waste of time - theirs and their employers.  And that the employer can't pretend they are fairly applying new "in the office" rules when they won't comply themselves.

    I agree with you about employers who want staffers to be in the office three days a week and then want to manage them from the Hamptons or some other enclave where they nurture their own work-life balances.  They may be able to manage from a distance, but that's different from leading.

    We had a story the other day about Steve Jobs' three tenets of teamwork, leading one MNB reader to connect the dots to the work-in-the-office piece:

    1) Trust

    2) Good constructive, respectful arguments.

    3) Focused on Ideas not Hierarchy.

    All require excellent, engaged leadership.

    None requires being face-to-face - especially with the newer generations of employees who are often very intimidated by face-to-face communications.

    We also had a story the other day about private label advances, prompting this email from an MNB reader:

    “While Americans still love their brands, the pandemic and inflation have turned the past year into a showcase for private label power.” – This is old-school thinking, and was happening long before the pandemic. Trader Joe’s, Great Value, 365, and many other “private label” products are also brands. And, they have their own distribution network, shelf space and advertising platform. These brands have learned marketing from the traditional brands… and they are now seen as equal to or better in terms of quality or value.

    But, from another reader:

    The PLMA has always touted the rise of private label.  That is their job.  I do agree that there is additional growth in PL from new offerings and some consumer switching, however that growth may not be that sustainable for a couple reasons, quality being the first.  There have been improvements, but still not the same or better than the like brands.

    In the article Forbes references many retailers showing growth that have been in PL for a long time or base the majority of their marketing as own brands.  TJ’s for one.  It was interesting that Aldi’s didn’t show, being one of the largest PL retailers in the country. These PL retailers see increases (which plays to PLMA’s story of growth) through the attraction of more customers, not brand switching.   Retailers that are feverishly attempting to provide the PL offer will struggle, because they are so dependent on the brand funding, that they can’t pull that needle out of their arms. So, they are inherently creating competition with the very funding “partners” that they rely on.  I believe retailers are still a long way from being able to dramatically redirect their corporate approach to greater dependence on PL offerings.  Brand dollars are too imbedded in the retailers DNA.

    On the subject of logistics adjustments being made by Amazon, one MNB reader wrote:

    Amazon’s refinement of its logistics network…and resulting cost saving should be recognized as a significant positive…and a reflection of its focus on improving its core competencies following its aggressive expansion to capitalize on the pandemic-driven surge in its online retail business.

    You seem to think this is a negative…that the bloom is off the rose for Amazon.

    I think it reflects strong management discipline and only strengthens their foundation for long term success.

    On the contrary.  I thought I was saying the opposite - that while I've questioned some of Amazon's recent choices, this suggests positive movement that could have long-term positive implications.

    Sorry if I was unclear.

    From another reader:

    Regarding the story in the WSJ on Amazon and why they shouldn’t be counted out of the grocery wars: I agree with the story’s points that Amazon will continue to pursue the grocery market because of its size potential. I also agree that Amazon’s approach has been largely “whiz bang” and that is simply not enough. Amazon is an information and logistics genius and while you are correct that they lack a clear sense of strategy regarding solutions to customer problem/need/desire, in my mind the biggest area of that challenge is around perishables. The challenges of doing fresh food well, including logistics, handling, product development, romance, connection to the producers, etc., is best served by what Amazon does worst—development of its people. In other words, all of the technology and AI in the world is not (yet, at least) good enough to help Amazon gain significant share from retailers who do fresh foods really well.

    On the subject of how and why companies are depending on retail media networks to drive economic growth, one MNB reader had a simple point:

    Slotting fees used to drive revenue… next is advertising dollars?

    Sounds like it.

    I did my FaceTime yesterday about why I love the Sur La Table physical store experience.  MNB reader Robert Wheatley offered his analysis:

    You have landed on the essence of brand building best practices in the age of cultural influence. The strongest brands are actually cultural markers for “tribes” of believers who resonate to the story/lore/environment/belief systems of the brands that matter to them.

    You are clearly part of the culinary adventure tribe that holds love of food and food creation in high regard. Sur La Table is actually a temple that celebrates the beliefs and values of people like you (me, too). They curate an environment with symbols and markers of what food lovers believe in. You likely buy from them because purchases today are mostly symbolic of what we want others in the world to see about what we hold to be important. The store is a reflection of who you are.

    Sur La Table started in Seattle when I was living there (many moons ago). My favorite thing was to go to the Pike Place Market on a Saturday morning to buy fresh salmon off the boat and produce from local farms, then wander up the street to Sur La Table to ogle the “instruments” of food creation they so artfully presented.

    The very best brands are respectful of tribal membership and work hard to activate the communities of believers that circulate through their aisles. It’s a shame so many in food retailing don’t fully see this and instead define their business as selling boxes, can and bags off shelves at velocity. If the business is redefined as a temple to those searching for food adventures and the way the stores is organized serves to activate the beliefs and values held by those who love food experiences, it would be a game changer.

    It's exciting when you come to discover the “tribes” of interest you hold dear as symbolic flags of who you are as a person. Strong brands know it is no longer about products and features and benefits, the paradigm of cultural influence centers on shared beliefs and values.

    I'm part of a tribe?  Yikes.

    I'm tempted to use the old Groucho Marx line:

    I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.

    On the subject of why retailers are leaving cities behind - which some argue is more complicated than just crime - one MNB reader wrote:

    While it is true that there are many aspects to the exodus of businesses and tax payers from the cities the glaring issue is safety. Crime and safety go hand in and hand and people want to feel safe. If they do not feel safe they will not go into an area no matter what the attractions or amenities.

    I just moved 30 miles north of Nashville from the Houston TX area. While in Houston I stopped going downtown to the restaurants I loved and even the ball games due to all the homeless people on the streets who were aggressively panhandling and sleeping (and other nasty things) on the sidewalks. I am hoping that Nashville is better but I have not been here long enough to venture into the downtown area yet.

    Having to walk city streets with my wife to enjoy those things we love is not in the equation anymore. We simply could not take the risk of something happening so we stopped spending my money in downtown and found other safer options.  This is  true for the cities we used to visit on vacation as well- we will not go anymore. For my vacationing I actually feel safer in Latin American than I do in major metro areas of the US.

    I have to travel to Chicago for business soon and I am dreading just having to go. I do not want to put myself into a situation where a group of wild teenagers robs me, beats me or worse. There are no more safe areas of town in most large cities and good honest people are fleeing and choosing safer options-business are following.

    Without a return to good policing where criminals are prosecuted and deviant behavior is punished I don’t hold out much hope for urban centers.

    I agree with you on a number of your points, but I must point out that we went to Chicago for a weekend at the end of March and had a terrific time - stayed downtown, visited a number of neighborhoods, and never felt unsafe.  I would agree that vigilance makes sense, but not to the point that we all stay in our cocoons.  That's just boring.

    From another reader:

    I am concerned about this snowball getting bigger.  Empty offices, and buildings equates to default on property taxes or zero property tax income to the city, therefore less money for the city to allocate and so on.  Not a pretty picture.

    Yesterday we took note of an interesting piece in the New York Times that charted a shift in the corporate mindset from a focus on "diversity and inclusion" to "diversity and belonging."  The Times wrote that "the question of belonging has become the latest focus in the evolving world of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion programming.

    I commented:

    Too often these kinds of initiatives are cast as efforts at being more "woke," when the fact is that more diverse companies tend to be more responsive to different customers' needs.  Different insights create more intelligent companies - and not just emotionally intelligent.

    At the same time, companies where a wide range of people feel like they belong are more likely to be companies in which employees feel invested - and that's good business.

    One MNB reader responded:

    I don’t see a lot of companies going around firing people based solely on these principles or that anyone is advocating for that.  In my view this is mostly about virtue signaling which in today’s society I must admit might be used to attract more talent than it repels.  However, pushed too far and it runs the risk of becoming a signal that white males need not apply, or that existing white male employees are likely to be overlooked or un-promotable causing key talent to leave. 

    I would say that today’s DEI initiatives are mostly aimed at new hiring processes.  Where I take issue with these policies is how they are executed.  I would much rather see people hired based on competence, experience, talent, aptitude or more plainly merit.  Best individual for the job.  True color-blind merit! 

    Seeking diversity first only narrows the talent pool of available candidates.  If you seek first to hire a woman for a role for example, you’ve eliminated 50% or more of the candidates.  If you then seek to hire a woman of color you’ve narrowed field by another 40%.  The odds that you will have hired the most qualified candidate are virtually zero.  You’ve basically said 8 out of 10 qualified candidates need not apply. 

    We know from psychology that men and women differ in interest.  Men are more attracted to careers in engineering and finance, where women outnumber men in health and human resources for example.  It doesn’t mean that there aren’t top women in engineering, because there are but there are just fewer of them to go around because of differing interest levels among men and women.  Many of these natural difference in interest are used as proof of some systemic perceived issue with diversity where one may not truly exist.

    I once recommended a woman for an open position that was backfilling my role after a promotion and was quite offended when a colleague suggested that same candidate based some notion of diversity.  I picked her because I thought she was the best candidate of the people that applied.  To place gender above her qualifications and talents seemed to me to diminish her as a person worthy and deserving of the role.  I was raised to see people as individuals rather than some amalgamation of gender, race or tribal affiliation that can lead to stereotyping based on those same affiliations. 

    Maybe these initiatives are an attempt to counter the racist misogynistic managers that are perceived to exist within organizations?  If true, maybe it would be better to ferret out those individuals and show them the door rather than sacrifice the best candidates on the altar of DEI.  Business is about competition and by not hiring the best talent, you do so at your own peril.

    I'm sure this all makes sense from your point of view.  The problem is, I suspect that there are women and people of color who would see your argument as not very progressive (and I do not use that word in the political sense).

    I also think that unless businesses are aggressive about being diverse, all the people in the room where it happens end up looking the same and reflecting the same perspectives.  They end up with blind spots.  And women and people of color end up looking on from a distance.  They're not looking for a favor.  They're just looking for a chance.

    And finally, from MNB reader Dan Blue:

    Regarding guns being the #1 killer of children… I see this stat repeated everywhere and objectively it’s not true. They get to this number by counting 18- and 19-year-olds as children which they aren’t. Remove 18- and 19-year-olds and the number of deaths is cut in half. Why the dramatic drop? Because the VAST majority of gun related teen deaths are caused by inner-city drug and gang violence. Remove those drug and gang deaths from the 13–17-year-olds and the number drops precipitously. Why is the data presented in this way? Because when people hear that guns are the #1 killer of children, they think of school shootings and a little kid tragically getting killed by finding an unsecured firearm in their house. Framing it in this way fits their goals.

    This is true of many of the stats parroted in the media. Of course, any death is tragic, but lives lost is never offset by defensive gun use statistics – between 60k-2.5M per year according to government statistics. Why don’t you hear those statistics? Because the CDC, who commissioned the study, was pressured by anti-gun groups to remove it from their website.

    You have said in the past that you aren’t a gun owner, and you don’t understand the argument for many of the firearms people buy. I suggest you seek out a few reputable resources to get their perspective. People like Colion Noir or organizations like USCCA have resources and counterpoints to many of the arguments out there. Watch a video or two if you have the time. I’m not saying it’ll change your mind, but it might give you perspective.  

    For the record, what I have said is that while I am not a gun owner and do not come from a gun culture, I want to be respectful of people's Second Amendment rights and of the cultures different from the one in which I was raised.  And I know gun owners, by the way.  I don't live in a bubble.

    This is not the place for a full-fledged gun rights debate;  it will send MNB down a rabbit hole from which there may not be an exit.  

    I will just say this - I don't think most people have a problem with folks who use a gun to defend themselves.  But kids are being killed in schools.  People are being killed in churches, in malls, at concerts.  Way too many people, and largely by weapons that I just don't see the justification for owning, used by people who largely should not have access to weapons.

    We're talking about the 200+ mass shootings that already have taken place in the US this year.  When does it end?   What will cause it to end?  I have no answer, but I have to believe that reasonable people on both sides of the issue could figure out a compromise that would at least address the problem.  The problem is that the narrative has been taken hostage by too many unreasonable people.

    Published on: May 16, 2023

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Peacock, the streaming service operated by Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, has struck a deal with the National Football League (NFL) for the exclusive rights to one playoff game on Saturday, Jan. 13, part of Wild Card Weekend.

    The cost is an estimated $110 million, the Journal writes.

    According to the story, "While NFL playoff games have been streamed before, this agreement marks the first time that a postseason game will be available mostly to consumers only through streaming and not a national broadcast or cable network as well.

    "The markets of the two teams competing will receive the game through a local television station, most likely an NBC affiliate, NBCU executives said."

    The Journal notes that "NBCU’s Peacock has 22 million subscribers and has already been spending heavily on sports as a way to drive growth. Peacock currently carries English Premier League soccer, college football and the Olympics … Besides Peacock, Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service was also pursuing the playoff game, some of the people familiar with the matter said. Amazon already carries 'Thursday Night Football' on Prime Video."

    KC's View:

    I think this kind of stuff is important because a) it reflects the degree to which content consumption is changing, and b) how services like Peacock - lagging far behind the likes of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Disney+ when it comes to subscriber numbers - are turning to differentiated and unique content to drive growth.

    That's a good lesson for retailers:  Differentiated and unique products and services are the best way to drive your own growth.  Just having the same SKUs as everybody else, with some of them a few pennies cheaper and some a few pennies more, just isn't an approach with staying power.