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From The MNB Archives
Friday, November 11, 2016
by Kevin Coupe
Since today is Veteran's Day, let's dip into a CNBC story about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, in which he says that "he wants to raise the national awareness of what it means to serve by hiring veterans to recruit veterans within his company."
Schultz says, "What we need inside Starbucks in the HR group is we need veterans recruiting veterans who understand their language, their challenges, their issues. So the people who are recruiting veterans at Starbucks are the people who have worn the cloth of the nation ... "What we have learned is that the level of attrition rate among veterans is lower. The level of performance is higher, and these are great, great young men and women."
The company says that since making a commitment that it would hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018, it already has hired more than 8,000. And, "the Schultz Family Foundation has committed $30 million to help veterans with the challenges associated with transitioning successfully into the civilian workforce."
Schultz goes on: ""What I would say is simply we should not be acknowledging veterans who have served the country only on Veteran's Day. We should be doing it every single day. We owe them a great, great debt of gratitude."
He's got that right. Schultz and Starbucks are not alone in realizing this debt and making this commitment. Still, the point is worth making. It is an Eye-Opener.
The Sacramento Bee reports that California voters this week approved Proposition 67, a statewide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. The margin was 52 percent to 48 percent.
According to the story, "The ban takes effect immediately, which means grocery stores, retail stores with a pharmacy, convenience stores, food marts, and liquor stores will no longer provide single-use plastic carry-out bags to customers. So, if you forget to bring your own bag to the store, be prepared to pay at least 10 cents for a recycled paper bag or reusable alternative."
The Bee goes on to write that "the plastic bag industry, largely companies Hilex Poly and Formosa Plastics, paid for Proposition 67 to qualify for the ballot as a referendum to Senate Bill 270. The law banned single-use plastic bags and would have taken effect on January 1, 2015. But the industry’s referendum halted the ban from going into effect until voters weighed in at the polls. After the measure landed on the ballot, plastic bag companies largely stopped campaigning, which suggests the referendum was simply a ploy to postpone the law and buy time to sell more bags."
California actually has some 150 cities and counties that already have instituted their own bans; the new law says that any bans adopted before January 1, 2015, can be left in place, but those voted on afterwards have to give way to the state legislation.
Of course this happened in California, a state where there already is conversation in some quarters about it being a "rebel state" that is in many ways very different from the rest of the country. Not only did voters adopt a plastic bag ban, but they also voted to legalize marijuana, raise tobacco taxes, toughen gun control laws, extended a tax on high earners, and overturned a law restricting bilingual education in schools.
Rebel state, indeed.
The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Portland, Oregon-based New Seasons Market yesterday opened its first store in the Seattle market, on Mercer Island, about a half-dozen miles east of downtown Seattle.
The story says that New Seasons "calls itself a champion of the regional food economy. The company partners with farmers, ranchers and producers to deliver regional options and pairs that with other organic favorites and grocery classics ... The store includes indoor seating and a covered outdoor dining area. At the “Sips” counter, customers can select from chef-prepared snacks, featured wines by the glass and rotating taps of eight draft beers."
New Seasons has another store planned for the area, in Ballard, about five miles north of downtown; it is slated to open next fall. It now has 20 stores overall.
The retailer is competing in the market with the likes of local retailers Metropolitan Market and PCC Natural Markets, as well as Whole Foods. The Metropolitan Market competition is interesting since both it and New Seasons share an investor - Endeavour Capital.
I'm very interested in seeing how New Seasons does in the Seattle market. I love its stores, and think they are primed for effective expansion ... and I have this feeling that maybe they see PCC as potentially vulnerable. I'm looking forward to seeing these stores when I get back to the Pacific Northwest, which can't happen soon enough.
The New York Times has a story about the current tend which has online retailers deciding that it makes sense for them to open bricks-and-mortar stores, often with innovative approaches that make them stand out.
"A decade ago, most websites run by designers and manufacturers were essentially digital pamphlets comprising images, descriptions and specifications of products you could buy somewhere else," the Times writes. "But the online store soon followed, where the maker could sell direct.
"Now, pleased with becoming retail players while also establishing stronger relationships with their customers, many companies are taking it a step further by opening physical stores."
You can read the entire story here.
Yesterday, MNB took note of a Barron's story about how previous open hostilities between Donald J. Trump and Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos could create problems for Amazon.
The story noted that Trump has accused Bezos of using his ownership of the Washington Post “as a tool for political power against me and against other people, and I’ll tell you what, we can’t let him get away with it.” And Trump "raised the idea that Bezos had an antitrust issue on his hands because of Amazon’s e-commerce dominance."
For his part, Bezos has offered Trump a free one-way ticket into space on one of the rocket ships that he's been funding.
Now, Forbes reports that Bezos yesterday went on Twitter and offered Trump his best wishes in 109 characters:
Congratulations to @RealDonaldTrump. I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country.
The story suggests that the Tweet "could be read as Bezos’ concession to a man with whom he’s maintained a distant, albeit contentious relationship ... Those threats are no longer empty for Amazon’s CEO and shareholders. Since Trump’s victory, the company’s stock has dropped more than 6% as investors ponder whether the President-Elect will follow through on one of his many promises."
Bezos may be conciliatory toward Trump these days, but I suspect the reporters at the Washington Post won't be following in his footsteps. I expect that they will continue to investigate Trump's finances and history even though he won the election, especially later this month when the Trump University suit comes to trail. Corporate olive branches generally don't mean much in newsrooms. Nor should they. (This isn't partisan ... they've also been very tough on Hillary Clinton concerning her email server.)
Yesterday, MNB wrote about how residents of three California cities - San Francisco, Oakland and Albany - and Boulder, Colorado, all voted this week to tax sugary soft drinks, arguing that the imposition of such taxes could serve, by making such products more expensive, to help reduce consumption and address the health issues often related to them.
They weren't alone.
The Chicago Sun Times reports that "the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Thursday narrowly passed a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages ... The tax - which the beverage industry strongly opposes - will go into effect on July 1, 2017. It means the cost of a 99 cent can of soda would increase to $1.11; a 20-ounce bottle, from $2.19 to $2.39."
While health issues have been mentioned as a rationale for the tax, officials also say that "the new tax is necessary to help avoid devastating layoffs and close a $174.3 million budget shortfall for next year."
At least they're honest enough to admit that it is as much about revenue as health.
From MorningNewsBeat, September 15, 2016:
A US Department of Labor report recently revealed that there were 5.2 million jobs available in the United States ... which was said to be the highest level of job availability since these specific numbers started being tracked back in 2000. This despite the fact that there remains considerable debate, much of it cacophonous, about national unemployment and under-employment.. The problem, one expert said, is that what we have in this country is "one of the biggest mismatches between skills and lack of qualified help available in the nation's history."
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Winston-Salem, NC -- ProLogic Retail Services, the largest provider of loyalty marketing solutions to independent grocers, announced the extension of its contract with Lowes Foods, which operates close to100 full-service supermarkets in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Through the Fresh Rewards program, ProLogic enables Lowes Foods to segment its shoppers, identifying its top shoppers and understanding their purchase patterns. With this information, ProLogic enables Lowes Foods to run targeted promotions that are specifically tailored to individual shoppers or groups of shoppers. These targeted promotions help Lowes Foods to retain its best shoppers and expand their purchases throughout the store.
"We are very pleased to extend our longtime partnership with ProLogic," said Tim Lowe, President of Lowes Foods. "ProLogic delivers great value to Lowes Foods with a powerful, flexible loyalty marketing platform that enables us to create and execute intelligent promotions. The Fresh Rewards program is a cornerstone of our relationship with our guests and has proven highly effective in helping us retain our top shoppers and increase their purchases."
For more information, click here. Or contact Lance Recker at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 561-454-7646.
• The Houston Business Journal reports that HEB has expanded its partnership with delivery service Shipt, adding four more Houston-area stores to its coverage area.
HEB started working with Shipt last June, the Journal writes, adding that "a yearly Shipt membership is $99 for unlimited free grocery deliveries of orders exceeding $35. The company delivers both H-E-B and Central Market items."
HEB also is working with delivery service Instacart in the market.
I can't help but suspect that HEB's long-term plan is to take this stuff over itself, and is just using Instacart and Shipt to jump-start its online operations and provide some learnings.
...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• A California federal court has ruled that a lawsuit against four companies - all of which supply seafood to Walmart - can go forward. The suit has been brought on behalf of seven people who were recruited from Thailand with the promise of good jobs at good wages, but instead found themselves the victims of human trafficking, forced labor, and involuntary servitude.
The four suppliers had asked the judge to dismiss the suit, but the motion was denied.
• In Portland, Oregon, the Portland Business Journal reports that Macy's has announced its intention to close its large downtown store next spring, and will sell the iconic building in which it operates for about $54 million.
This came to my attention when an MNB reader sent me the story and asked what I think such a closing means for the health of a downtown? In this case, the message probably is mixed, and it depends on who buys the store and what they do with it. That area of Portland is pretty busy ... there is an Apple Store and a Nordstrom within a block or so. And there's a boutique hotel on top of the Macy's building that always seems very active. This may be more a reflection of Macy's lack of vitality than Portland's.
• The Tennesseean reports that Dollar General "has leased a portion of the former TGI Friday's restaurant space at the corner of West End and 21st avenues for the first location under its new, smaller-format store concept. The store, tentatively branded DGX, is expected to open this fall with a 3,400-square-foot sales floor. It will target busy, metropolitan shoppers with everyday low prices on essential items in a convenient, easy-to-shop format."
Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet and novelist turned singer and songwriter, has passed away at age 82. No details about the circumstances surrounding his death have been announced.
Cohen's five decades in the music business were marked by deeply felt songs that other performers loved to cover. Among them were "Bird on a Wire" and “Suzanne," and, of course, his best known composition, “Hallelujah." This last number has been recorded by more than 200 artists (from Jeff Buckley to Bob Dylan to Justin Timberlake) and used in a wide range of TV series and movies.
The New Yorker had a wonderful piece about him recently, referring to him as "a troubadour of sadness," which you can read here.
In Thursday Night Football action, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Cleveland Browns 28-7.
Arrival, the new film from director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners and Sicario) is out in theaters today, and it is a science fiction movie with a deep, soulful, beating heart that I heartily recommend.
The basic premise is one that has played out on movie screens countless times: aliens come to Earth, and humans have to figure out how to respond. Most such movies tend to have a thematic premise that serves as a through-line. In ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it is childlike wonder, in the first in the actual person of a child and in the second a man-child played by Richard Dreyfuss. In Independence Day, it is about going to war to prevent the apocalypse. In Arrival, unexpectedly, the primary emotion is sadness, which plays out effectively on a number of levels.
Amy Adams is the heroine of the piece, a grief stricken linguistics teacher who has lost her husband for unknown reasons and lost her child to a fatal illness. Despite the fact that she is in the communications business, she's been cut off from all the communications that really mattered to her, and she's just an emotional shell .... until she is asked by the government to help them communicate with the aliens.
The art and science of communication are very much at the heart of Arrival - not just between humans and aliens, but also between humans and humans. Arrival is about the power of speaking and listening with open arms and an open mind, rather than a closed fist and a knee jerk mindset ... a lesson that I think we all ought to learn these days.
I'm not going to tell you much more than this, simply because I don't want to give anything away; Villeneuve has a kind of riddle at the core of his film and he doles out clues sparingly ... I'd rather not get in the way of your discovery. I also, to be honest, am still puzzling some of it out. I was captivated by the performances and imagery, and they have stayed with me, and I find myself considering and reconsidering them. This is a good thing in any kind of art, and Arrival is the best kind of popular art - heartfelt, thoughtful, and consistently intriguing.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.
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