business news in context, analysis with attitude

I commented yesterday in FaceTime about a great piece in Entrepreneur about how employee cynicism and irony get in the way of employee engagement, which, when nurtured, actually can be a tangible business advantage.

One MNB reader responded:

Engagement Behavior, you are not the only one! Well said and from an HR perspective (and a past operator) it is necessary as you need to balance wages with culture and the value proposition you offer to associates. Great wages are important and good but will not keep associates around for a long period of time if you have a bad culture.

Great work on the content of this video and for sending the message as I’m sure you will find many that believe in this engagement mission!

Yesterday we pointed to a Vox story entitled "'Going shopping' is dead," which argued that stores have essentially "sucked the fun" out of a traditional American pastime.

I wasn't entirely buying the premise, though, and I wrote:

I think there are plenty of retailers out there that are acting counter-intuitively, that are creating compelling, engaging, relevant and resonant shopping experiences.  Not all of them, to be sure.  Not even most of them.  The ones that are not will find themselves obsolete at some point.

But obsolescence is not a forgone conclusion, nor an inevitability.  It is, to a great degree, a choice.

One MNB reader responded:

For most people in the US, shopping in physical stores is not a “miserable” experience.  People want to get out and have something to do; shopping is a popular activity.  Besides, in most of the US, shopping is convenient and pleasant.  Stores and shopping centers have parking lots.  I think that there is a perception in shoppers to expect and actually look for negative shopping experiences.  This is what they share, but an overwhelming majority of shopping experiences are positive and therefore not communicated with others.

I'm not sure I'd go with "overwhelming majority," but I take your point.

We reported yesterday that new government projections for the coming decade suggest that hiring is likely to slow down, and that retail will be of the segments likely to suffer the most.

I commented:

First of all, it is important to acknowledge that modestly rising unemployment is good for the economy - it tends to result in lowered inflation.

The decline in retail payrolls, especially among cashiers, probably is inevitable.  That's what happens as technologies improve - certain jobs went away as horses gave way to cars, jobs will go away as gas-powered cars give way to electric vehicles, and so on.  It is called progress, and it is not the enemy.

The question that remains - and it really only be answered by businesses, not the Bureau of Labor Statistics - is whether some businesses will differentiate themselves by embracing the ways in which their people can make a difference, can be a differential advantage.

MNB reader Joe Gilman responded:

You’re right Kevin, you are not an economist, I am not sure when having a job is inflationary, became an accepted idea, but the last bout of inflation we had was really a supply issue.

The opening up of the economy after Covid and Trump and Biden throwing money at the problem, caused demand to skyrocket before the supply could accommodate it.

Ask yourself this, if unemployment has remained historically low to this point, why has inflation been cooling?

Shouldn’t inflation have been soaring ever higher?

By the way, I’m no economist either, these are just questions I have that I never see answered in our “Hair on Fire” business press.

Not to be defensive, but I've tried very hard not to write about this with a "hair on fire" subtext.  Or context.

At the risk of exposing my economic ignorance, I'd just point out that I'm not sure it is the having the job that is inflationary.  My understanding is that the shortage of jobs meant that wages were being driven up, which was inflationary.

But I think most economists would agree that the nation's economic strength has been surprising;  maybe those folks at the Fed actually know what they're doing.  (Wouldn't that be a kick in the head.)

Yesterday we took note of a story from The Street about one of the ways in which Walmart is looking to combat the epidemic of retail threat that it affecting its bottom line - when it reopens an urban Atlanta store, it will have a police substation inside.

I wrote:

Tough times call for tough measures, and I think the laissez faire approach to retail crime isn't good for the culture, the society, or for business.  Authorities ought to be working with businesses to apply the William Bratton approach to crime-stopping:  If you prevent the small crimes now, there will be fewer big crimes later.

One MNB reader agreed:

Crime unpunished is first step to problems down the road.  This is especially true when people do it deliberately and in full view.  They view crime unpunished is not a crime and our lack of focus has reinforced such behavior.  We all should view it as a  crime against each of us as we are ultimately the ones who fund it. And the sad part is no one is talking about it as a problem.  Closing stores ultimately harms the law and order folks who shop there.  Hats off to Walmart for stepping up. https://

On another subject, from an MNB reader:

I have followed C&S in their journey of successes in the wholesale food business for 40 years, and they don’t make many mistakes.

C&S is currently servicing some  Albertsons West Coast distribution centers with their Symbotic System for supply chain efficiencies. They are also handling Wal-Mart’s rebuild of their entire US Warehouse system.

Researching their newest ventures, you can only imagine the possibilities.  Symbotic Systems (SYM), and the partnership of  Softbank& GREEN BOX financing put all the systems  in place to move fast to solve the store problems that you have pointed out.  Looking at the players in the game, you can almost  guarantee their success.

And finally, yesterday we reported on how an Amazon shareholder is questioning the relationship between Amazon’s satellite broadband venture, Project Kuiper, and Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin."  The allegation is that both got a kind of sweetheart deal that didn't take into account the best interests of investors.  It seemed particularly annoying that the company never considered Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, which shareholders said was 'inexplicably'  not included in the process.

I commented:

I hate to say it, but while Musk inarguably is a brilliant guy, he's also a nut - I wouldn't want to bet anything of value on him.  If Amazon decided not to do business with him, I'd describe that as a feature, not a glitch.

One MNB reader responded:

Oh come on now KC… Musk’s companies have revolutionized two massive and complex industries… automobiles and space exploration. He is just crazy enough to try these types of projects and brilliant enough to pull it off. What part of that is nutty?  I would argue he is the best bet we have for transformational change in America right now.  If I am wrong, who would you nominate?

He's also managed to pretty much wreck the company that used to be called Twitter, and in doing so, I think, he has enabled the cheapening and coarsening of American discourse.  "X" has become a business that caters to the lowest common denominator (though, to be fair, I wasn't a big fan of it before Musk took over).  And this week, when he blamed the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for a precipitous decline in the site’s revenue, it struck me as both irresponsible, unsubstantiated - and dangerous.

As I said, I wouldn't want to bet anything of value on Elon Musk.