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    Published on: August 16, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe

    Last week, Major League Baseball announced that next summer, the New York Yankees will play the Chicago White Sox - at the Field of Dreams field in Iowa, which was popularized in the Kevin Costner-James Earl Jones movie.

    For me, a big Eye-Opener.

    You want to create excitement? Touch people’s hearts.

    And I’d just like to say that I totally agree with Marketing Insider columnist Jon Last, who wrote:

    “Creating immersive experiences that put fans into the action or creating virtual environments may evoke an intimacy that has often abated as sports has become more about the biggest stages and athletes have been anointed as unapproachable superheroes or demi-gods.”

    The Field of Dreams game, Last writes, “checks the box for both creativity and broader cultural relevance, in lockstep with MLB’s efforts to reach more broadly into audiences that it doesn’t always directly connect with … the concept also makes sense by drawing perfectly from what research for individual teams and sports properties has shown: An added level of intimate access coupled with an innovative yet authentic extension of the core brand can elevate the resonance of a sports marketing activation.”

    Last goes on: “The Field of Dreams timing in mid-August occupies a place in the calendar typically void of other major sports competitions, but should also further evoke a nostalgic piece of  the final weeks of summer in America that can reinforce MLB’s differentiated positioning. And the limited number of tickets available adds an elusiveness to the proceedings consistent with two recent non-baseball related studies that drew insights on those elements that make a particular event special and personally relevant.  The Field of Dreams Game’s combination of exclusivity and intimacy follows that road map.”

    Plus, it’ll just be fun.

    I hope they et Costner to throw the first pitch. And they sure as hell ought to get Jones to say those magic words, live:

    People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn into your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door, as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,” you’ll say, “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” And they’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it, for it is money they have and peace they lack.

    And they’ll walk off to the bleachers and sit in their short sleeves on a perfect afternoon. And find they have reserved seats somewhere along the baselines where they sat when they were children. And cheer their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as they’d dipped themselves in magic waters.

    The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray.

    The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

    I have goosebumps. (Wonder how I get tickets?)
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    USA Today reports this morning that “subscription meal delivery services for kids are ramping up for the back-to-school season as parents … search for kid-friendly lunches and dinners that don’t require time in front of a hot stove or scrambling to find a substitute for peanut butter sandwiches at nut-free schools.”

    The story says that “Companies like Yumble and Nurture Life differentiate themselves from the subscription meal kit industry by offering foods specifically for children, rather than young adults hoping to avoid grocery store lines or simplify meal prep.” Yumble, for example, is described as “a subscription meal service that delivers pre-made, kid-friendly meals to her doorstep once a week. A quick zap in the microwave, and (a) mom … has a meal ready for her children in minutes.”

    Yumble also offers school lunch subscriptions, suitable for kids to take to school.

    Nurture Life, the story says, “has a similar model but offers more daring foods like cheesy zucchini pomodoro and Thai coconut chicken. It also offers products for babies, toddlers and children up to 18 years old, changing food types and increasing portion sizes as children get older. The plans range in price from about $52  to $119 per week.”

    The story notes that “the online subscription market grew from $57 million to $2.6 billion from 2011 to 2016, according to a 2018 study by McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm.”
    KC's View:
    I love this concept, but have to wonder why more supermarket retailers haven’t invested in similar programs. You’d think it would be a natural outgrowth of a traditional retail business, but they tend to need outsiders to show them the way. Not quite sure why.

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    Nielsen is out with a new study saying that while “Amazon remains the leader in online consumer packaged goods (CPG),” its “share growth has slowed … Back in 2017, Amazon had a 43% hold on CPG e-commerce. This year, that figure has fallen to 39%. On the flipside, we’ve seen Walmart triple its share to 6%, Instacart double in size to 8% and we’ve witnessed healthy share growth among merchants like Target, Kroger and"

    The study goes on: “A downward shift in Amazon’s share of CPG sales in the U.S. sends an important message to retailers and manufacturers. Traditional and non-traditional retailers have been accelerating their responses to Amazon by adjusting their omnichannel offerings and strategies. These adjustments have helped them steal share from the global online player, but other factors are at play.

    “Today, the playing field online has become exponentially more crowded, and while that does bring complications, it also means that many merchants have begun to hit their stride with consumers online.”

    Nielsen goes on:

    “From competitively priced and timely delivery to the expansive array of pick-up locations and click-and-collect models (from curbside pick-up, to drive-thrus and more), online fulfillment of CPG e-commerce has been redefined in America. While the broadened distribution of e-commerce dollar share bodes well, the U.S. market is still in its infancy when it comes to adopting and localizing online purchase fulfillment. One in 10 surveyed Americans are already using in-store click-and-collect purchasing. But that pales in comparison to the 29% of Indian, 27% of Vietnamese and 26% of Chinese shoppers who are already accustomed to ordering online and picking up their purchases in stores.”
    KC's View:
    It was inevitable that as other retailers got better and faster and more able to exploit their own advantages, Amazon’s growth would slow. I wouldn’t count Amazon out by any means, but it certainly seems clear that the battles will be more pitched and that outcomes may not be as pre-ordained as they would’ve been just a few years ago.

    Good for consumers. But tougher and tougher for retailers as everybody gets better.

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    Gizmodo reports that United Parcel Service (UPS), working with self-driving freight truck startup TuSimple, has actually been hauling mail across the state of Arizona for several weeks.

    According to the story, UPS said yesterday that “its venture capital arm has made a minority investment in TuSimple. The announcement also revealed that since May TuSimple autonomous trucks have been hauling UPS loads on a 115-mile route between Phoenix and Tucson … TuSimple claims it can cut the average cost of shipping in a tractor-trailer by 30 percent.”

    The US Postal Service (USPS) also has announced a pilot program to deliver mail between Phoenix and Dallas, a 1,000 mile trip, using TuSimple technology.
    KC's View:
    There has been a rash of stories recently about how autonomous vehicle technology may take longer to get traction than expected, but then stories like this one come along.

    It probably makes sense to work on the premise that autonomous vehicles, like most technological innovations, probably will happen faster than we expect, not slower.

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    …with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    • The Seattle Times reports that Amazon is opening a new Amazon 4-Star store “at the foot of Amazon’s newest corporate office tower on Westlake Avenue” in its headquarters city, featuring some 2,000 SKUs that all “average at least four out of five stars from those who have purchased them, or have been selected because they are new or trending on Amazon’s website.”

    The story says that “under each item is a digital price tag that updates as Amazon algorithms adjust pricing — usually by pennies — as many as five times a day … The tags also show a lower price for Prime members, highlighting a benefit of Amazon’s $119-a-year shipping and digital-media service.”

    The Times writes that “the Seattle store will not accept cash at first, though Amazon is transitioning to include that payment method at all its locations.”

    Amazon has been operating 4-Star stores in New York City, Northern California, and Colorado, with another planned for Dallas. The interesting thing about the format is that the selection can vary with geography - top rated items in New York City may be different in Seattle, and Amazon can use its deep well of data to customize these stores. Which strikes me as an enormous competitive advantage.

    • Ahold Delhaize-owned Food Lion has announced that it plans to expand its click-and-collect service to additional stores that it operates in North Carolina and Virginia, with expectations that it will eventually be chain-wide.

    CNBC reports that Amazon “is launching a new donations program, called FBA Donations, for third-party sellers that store their inventory in Amazon’s warehouses in the U.S. and U.K. … The donation program will become the default option for all sellers when they choose to dispose of their unsold or unwanted products stored in Amazon warehouses across those two countries … The donations will be distributed to a network of U.S. nonprofits through a group called Good360 and UK charities such as Newlife and Barnardo’s.”

    The story notes that Amazon had been criticized for “routinely destroying unsold and unwanted inventory, with one French TV documentary estimating Amazon to have destroyed over 3 million products in France last year.”

    • Earlier this week, it was Walmart that was being attacked for selling online t-shirts that seemed to promote gun violence.

    Now, Amazon is being attacked for some of the t-shirts it is selling … except that in this case, the t-shirts have slogans on them that “support anti-government protesters in Hong Kong,” and that attacks are coming from the Chinese social media community.

    Amazon closed down its Chinese business earlier this year, but products still can be shipped there from outside the country.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    Business Insider reports that Walmart has come out in favor of a Congressional debate about “the effectiveness of an assault-weapons ban.”

    "We made our own decision about MSRs [modern sporting rifles] several years ago when we removed that category from our stores, and we believe it's time for Congress to debate that issue as well," Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs for Walmart, said. "And we will lend our perspective and support as somebody who's been a firearms dealer for more than 20 years.”

    Walmart CEO Doug McMillon put it this way: “We do not sell military-style rifles, and we believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness in keeping weapons made for war out of the hands of mass murderers. We must also do more to understand the root causes that lead to this type of violent behavior.”

    The Walmart comments come in the wake of a recent mass shooting in one of its stores, in El Paso, Texas, which resulted in the deaths of 22 people.

    The Business Insider story notes that “Walmart also revealed Thursday that it accounts for 2% of gun sales in the US and 20% of ammunition sales.”

    TechCrunch reports that “Walmart’s relationship with Instacart deepened today with an expansion of their partnership across Canada for grocery delivery. Walmart Canada had previously run a 17-store pilot program with Instacart, starting last September, in both the Greater Toronto area and Winnipeg. With the expansion, Walmart Canada will offer same-day grocery delivery from nearly 200 Walmart stores nationwide … The service is currently live in cities and communities throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the retailer says.”

    A thought here. Let’s say you are an Instacart customer. Instacart has all your sales data. Then Walmart, which already has a relationship with the delivery company, decides to buy Instacart. Which means that Walmart has all your sales data … and an ability to grow even more its already impressive footprint in the e-grocery business.

    Will this happen? I have no idea. Could it happen? Sure. Should you be concerned? Absolutely.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    • The Wall Street Journal has a story about the continued popularity of Cotton Candy grapes, “real fruit that tastes similar to the spun-sugar treat,” which came on the market about seven years ago, “forever changing the American grape landscape. Producers began immediately looking for other candy-like varieties, some of which are just now coming to market. Before that, grocers mostly carried three fairly bland versions of green, red and black grapes, varieties that have what industry breeders call a ‘sweet neutral’ taste.”

    According to the story, “Produce breeders are rushing to come up with new flavors, from sweet to spicy, that will garner the same enthusiasm as Cotton Candy grapes. And produce buyers at retailers are vying to sell promising varieties before the competition.

    “This month, Sam’s Club started selling what it hopes will be the next big hit: Grape Soda Grapes … Shelves at the Walmart Inc. -owned warehouse club have also featured Candy Hearts grapes, as well as grapes called Candy Snaps, Gum Drops and Moon Drops.”

    Oddly enough, however, “The explosion of new flavors have done little to get children or adults to eat more grapes … Overall, U.S. per capita consumption of grapes has stayed mostly flat the last five years.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    • The other day MNB featured an excerpt from “CBD Reality: A Consumer's Guide to Cannabidiol,” by my friend Dr. Russell Zwanka, who teaches food marketing at Siena College in up[state New York. (You can check it out here.)

    BTW … Gallup is out with a new poll saying that one out of seven Americans use CBD-based products, with the numbers even higher among younger Americans and those who live in the western US.

    I got a note from Russell that I thought was worth passing along, because it is instructive to retailers getting into - or considering an entrance into - the cannabis marketplace. His message - CBD is just the beginning.

    “I was interviewing and touring THC and CBD retailers last week, “ Russell wrote, “and this is a big one: If you are a CBD only retailer, and your state legalizes THC, you had better do everything you can to obtain a THC license.  The "CBD only" stores were dead, when customers are given the option to purchase CBD and THC in the same state.  It was observational, but stark.  The THC/CBD stores were packed!”
    KC's View:
    In other words, CBD is just the beginning.

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    Yesterday’s Eye-Opener started this way:

    The Washington Post has the very definition of an Eye-Opener this morning, reporting on places where the average temperature has increased by two degrees Celsius since 1895, which “has emerged as a critical threshold for global warming. In the 2015 Paris accord, international leaders agreed that the world should act urgently to keep the Earth’s average temperature increases ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 to avoid a host of catastrophic changes.”

    The story says that an “analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius mark … Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans - 34 million people - are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.”

    I wrote that this Eye-Opening story is worth reading here, and you can even use its interactive tools to figure out where your home is on the climate change continuum.

    MNB reader Christopher Cash/Dooley responded:

    While the 2015 Paris Accord may have assumed catastrophic changes in the future unless human activity is dramatically altered, taking us back to an earlier age in many respects, they also surmised that even if TRILLIONS were spent to essentially force the curbing of greenhouse gases, only a fraction of a degree Celsius would be improved by 2100. Basically meaningless, as there isn’t much we humans can really do about it on this little spec in the universe. And that is only if all the countries in the world committed to their hypothetical pledges, which is highly doubtful (particularly in developing countries), as no one is going to sacrifice bettering their standard of living for a minuscule (perceived or not) impact. Fact remains though, considering that even the brightest minds consistently get wrong their predictions of the weather tomorrow, I don’t put much credence in “scientists” forecasting the possible climate almost 80 years from now.

    I disagree, and am not even sure why you’d put “scientists” in quotes.

    Trying to deal with climate change may require more than the human race is capable of, and more synchronicity of effort and purpose than the many peoples and nations of the world can muster, especially when some of these folks would put the word “scientists” in quotes.

    But not trying … not leading … strikes me as deeply unethical and immoral. Not to mention delusional.

    By the way, this morning, from the Associated Press:

    “July was the hottest month measured on Earth since records began in 1880, the latest in a long line of peaks that scientists say backs up predictions for man-made climate change.

    “The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that July was 0.95 degrees Celsius (1.71 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 20th century average of 15.8 C (60.4 F) for the month.

    “Because July is generally the warmest month on the calendar, meteorologists say this means it also set a new all-time monthly record for the past 140 years. Last month’s temperatures narrowly topped the previous July record, set in 2016, by 0.03 C (0.05 F).”

    MNB reader Jackie Kirkpatrick had a thought about yesterday’s FaceTime commentary, “Hey, Bob!”…

    Boy, did your message today hit home!

    Many years ago I had a woman by the name of Edith McFadden train me when I first started my career as a cashier.

    I remember her saying “We always say hello to our customers and we must always thank them”.  If I forgot to say “Thank you”, she would do it for me.  When the customer left, she always reminded me to ALWAYS thank the customer for shopping at our store.

    All to often I shop in grocery stores and cashiers never say hello or thank me for my business….  Not good.  That should be part of training for every retailer out there!

    And, from MNB reader Mike Bach, about my Ace Hardware story:

    The point about differentiation surrounding quality at Ace is spot-on. With my local Ace carrying Milwaukee Tools, I have now joined their rewards program and purchased far more “$ worth*” in Milwaukee tools.
    *- data masked in case my better half reads MNB tomorrow…

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    In this, the second of two podcasts recorded on the exhibit floor at the United Fresh Produce Association show in Chicago and produced by GMDC, we look at how companies go outside their traditional lanes to explore new consumer connections and marketing advantages as they seek fresh (in every sense of that word) levels of relevance and resonance to the shopper. Our guests are two executives from the world of retail who operate in completely different geographic areas but who, as the retail world goes through a series of revolutions, seem to have more in common every day.

    They are:

    • Greg Corrigan, senior director of produce and floral at Raley’s, where he’s worked for two decades; Greg also is the current chairman of United Fresh.

    • Tony Stallone, the “produce guru” at Ahold Delhaize-owned Peapod, where he brings a lifetime of experience in the produce business to one of the first and arguably most sustainable e-commerce business models.

    The host: Kevin Coupe, MorningNewsBeat’s “Content Guy.”

    You can listen to the podcast here, or on iTunes and GooglePlay.

    This edition of the Retail Tomorrow podcast is sponsored by Hillphoenix, shaping the future of retail through technology and design innovation.

    Pictured, left to right: Kevin Coupe, Greg Corrigan, Tony Stallone

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2019

    One of my favorite movies of the summer is Yesterday, a delightful fantasy/romcom from writer Richard Curtis (Love Actually, About Time, Notting Hill) and director and director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting).

    The premise is very simple. Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a singer/songwriter who cannot seem to get any traction; the only person who seems to believe in him is his manager (played by Lily James), who also happens to be secretly in love with him, so maybe she’s a little biased. One night - for reasons completely unexplained - the entire globe suffers a brief blackout, and when the lights come back on, it is a world in which the Beatles never seem to have existed. Except that Jack remembers all their songs … and is able to use them to turn himself into a music sensation.

    One of the things that I think Yesterday does very well is somehow allow us to rediscover the Beatles catalog all over again; while we know the songs, when we see other people supposedly hearing them for the first time, it is oddly energizing and thrilling. (It is also amazing how many great Beatles songs aren’t used, a reminder of why they were the greatest rock band ever.)

    We also get a sense of the emotional roots of so many of their songs; Jack can say he wrote them and can perform them to great acclaim, but when he’s asked why he wrote “Eleanor Rigby,” for example, he doesn’t really have an answer. Authenticity matters, and we know that Jack is not being his authentic self. But there is something to be said for keeping the Beatles legacy alive, even if nobody knows who John, Paul, George and Ringo were.

    I found Yesterday to be very funny and sharply observed; it helps that there are a couple of terrific supporting performances from Kate McKinnon (who makes everything she is in better) and Ed Sheeran (unexpectedly funny). It is a fair criticism to say that Yesterday has its share of Richard Curtis-style sentimentality, but I’m completely okay with that. Love Actually and About Time are two of my favorite movies, and so I’m all in.

    I really liked Himesh Patel, who I’ve never heard of before, as Jack; there is a rueful self-knowledge in his performance, and he does the songs proud. And Lily James is, as always, delightful.

    Go see Yesterday. It’ll make you feel good about the world, and for a few hours at least, your troubles may seem far away.

    Another music-based film that’s gotten some justifiable attention this summer is Rocketman, the Elton John biopic. I liked it, certainly a lot more than , and appreciated the fact that the filmmakers (director Dexter Fletcher, writer Lee Hall, and the producers, including Elton John) didn’t seem to sugarcoat the singer-songwriter’s life and tribulations.

    The cast is terrific. Taron Egerton is totally invested as John, and there are terrific supporting turns from people like Jamie Bell, Gemma Jones and Bryce Dallas Howard. And Richard Madden, who plays an exploitive and manipulative manager, is great - his ability to communicate casual cruelty, in my mind, makes him a p[rime candidate to be the next James Bond.

    And the music … fantastic. Which you’d expect.

    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend.

    Back Monday.

    KC's View: