business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we took note of a Boston Globe piece about C&S Wholesale Grocers, the New Hampshire-based company that may prove to be the lynchpin in Kroger's proposed $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons;  C&S would buy more than 400 stores, for close to $2 billion, that the two retailers are offering to divest in exchange for regulatory approval of their deal.

The Globe wrote that "with this deal, C&S has arrived at a critical moment. The company has evolved from a family-owned supplier serving small New England grocery stores into one of the country’s largest privately owned firms, with $30 billion in annual revenue. And by buying Kroger’s stores, C&S appears willing to wade deeper into the retail grocery business, where it could find itself in bruising competition with industry leviathan Walmart."

One MNB reader responded:

Not one expert or person has mentioned the possibility that behind closed doors, C&S and Kroger are in talks of national distribution.  Retailers opt for third-party logistics like C&S to save on logistics, labor, lease/real estate, and inventory.  Along with cost savings, there could be perceived “incentives” third-party logistics offer to retailers for their services. 

One has now.

Another MNB reader is skeptical:

C&S will not succeed.  They cannot compete against Kroger/Albertsons, Costco and Walmart . In the last forty years we’ve lost how many small chains and independents? A few of the 400 may succeed but the rest will take C&S down…

So we should mark you down as a "maybe"?

Reacting to our posting yesterday of a CBS Sunday Morning story about the return of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus - the new version has been mounted without animals, traditional clowns or ringmaster, and with a reimagined approach to sound and visuals that "moves at the speed of TikTok" - MNB reader Dave Lauder wrote:

I was watching this yesterday as well and had the same thought. The pace of change and evolution in our world is unparalleled. Just as the circus, after 146 years of tradition, found it imperative to adapt its fundamental approach, so too must the grocery industry take on a transformational journey. This is no small feat. However, embracing a paradigm shift in our approach to differentiation across all facets of our operations is essential to securing our future.


Another MNB reader wrote:

I also saw the Ringling Bros piece on CBS Sunday Morning.  Did like it but found it interesting that not once did they mention Cirque du Soleil which they seem to be somewhat copying in the new version.

We had a story yesterday about the challenges that climate change are presenting for winemakers, which led one MNB reader to write:

Think it was 60 Minutes but a year or so ago saw a piece on this.  They noted that French winemakers were now growing grapes in the UK as the weather there was similar to what it used to be in France. 

We also had a piece last week about how climate change is affecting olive oil production, which prompted one MNB reader to write:

I read the olive oil piece last week. Two days later I’m in Toledo (Spain, not Ohio). Walking thru a Lidl, a friend commented on the high price of olive oil and the decline in local olive tonnage in an area of Spain known for olive oil production. No doubt the Spanish wine industry faces the same dilemma. 

No doubt.

And finally, yesterday we reported:

In what may have been the most extraordinary athletic achievement of the weekend, Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya won the Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:00:37, breaking the previous world record of 2:01:09 by 34 seconds.  That's right - he was the first person to run a sanctioned 26.2 mile race in under 121 minutes.

Which means, of course, that it is practically inevitable that at some point - probably sooner than later - someone will run a sanctioned marathon in under two hours.

This would mean, of course, that someone would have to beat Kiptum's marathon time by 38 seconds.

One MNB reader responded:

Yeah, 38 seconds doesn't seem like that much of a stretch.

Spoken by someone who, I suspect, has never run a marathon.

I have.  Twice.  To be clear, both times I was slow as molasses - I cannot even imagine how fast Kiptum is and may eventually be.

My first marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, in 2001 - it took place just weeks after 9-11, and began and ended in the shadow of the Pentagon, which still was smoldering.  It was a chilly day, I was slow but steady, and finished in 5:23:21

My second marathon also was the Marine Corps, in 2004 - four days before my 50th birthday - and it was a warm day, and I finished in 5:29:03.  (I had a great - for me - first half, but last 8-10 miles were horrible.)

I've "retired" from marathoning.  In each case, one year later, I had to have meniscus surgery on one of my knees.  These days, four miles are more my speed.  ("Speed" probably is the wrong word.  I average between 14 and 15 minutes per mile.  Which means, to put it in perspective, that in the time that Kiptum takes to run a marathon, I'd be able to run about eight miles.  If my knees don't hurt.)

All of which is a long way of saying that I think under these circumstances, 38 seconds are precious.  They're forever.  They're the difference between extraordinary and miraculous.

And I find the idea that someone would say that finishing a marathon in under two hours vs. finishing it in 2:00:37 is not "much of a stretch" to be (to put it kindly) naïve.

Jean-Luc Picard once said, "Things are only impossible until they're not."  But bridging the distance between impossible and possible can be long and arduous, requiring mental, physical and even spiritual commitment and discipline that most of us cannot even imagine.  It requires people, quite literally, to stretch further and in directions that most people don't even think about.