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    Published on: August 2, 2022

    by Michael Sansolo

    More than 100 years ago, an official from the US Patent Office made a statement that has echoed through the decades as a whopper of a mistake.

    Basically, he said, that everything that could be invented had been invented. He was obviously wrong.

    But let’s cut that long-dead official some slack, first off because the quote is believed to be misremembered and secondly because we can all understand his thinking. Look around your office or home at the wild array of technology you have and admit that at times you too think that pretty much everything possible has been created.

    And, of course, that too would be very wrong.

    A peak into where technology could take us next was recently highlighted in TechCrunch and it’s a sign of what could be. TechCrunch examines a new test project launched in partnership by Delta Airlines and (the wonderfully named) Misapplied Sciences at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, a major Delta hub.

    Think for one second about the last time you were in a hub airport, be it Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth or Chicago O’Hare. You got off a plane and raced to see one of the flight boards, always inconveniently positioned, to find the gate for your next flight. You scanned a seemingly endless list of flights and gates hoping somehow to find yours before the screen moved on to another list.

    Delta and Misapplied Sciences have changed all of that. If you register with Delta upon checking in your face is in the computer bank so that as you stare at the screen you will see only your flight, your gate and your name. Incredibly if multiple people stare at the screen at the same moment, each will only see their own information.

    It’s as if technology is telling us, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

    As Albert Ng, Misapplied’s CEO told TechCrunch, “The point of Parallel Reality is that you can create an entire venue that is customized just for you. The vision is of course, as you walk through from curb to gate, throughout the airport, you’ll be able to have the entire airport just handhold you and provide a seamless, personalized experience for you.”

    As we have seen through endless technological breakthroughs in recent years, what happens in one industry rarely stays there alone. So if this incredible experiment in personalized information works in Detroit (in all fairness, the project has been substantially delayed by the pandemic) it likely won’t be long until it shows up in other consumer facing industries. And that includes retail.

    It’s not hard to image frequent shopper programs getting tied to a similar gathering of information that would allow supermarket shoppers to traverse their usual store, guided by technology that would take them through their shopping list product to product. There absolutely might be hesitation thanks to privacy concerns, but if the experience is so vastly improved for the shopper even that could be overcome.

    It’s even possible to imagine how else such personalized technology could be applied to enhance and improve the shopper experience to allow personalization and service in previously unimaginable ways.

    The reality is that most certainly everything that can be created hasn’t happened yet and who knows what is next. What Misapplied Sciences and Delta are doing is a sure sign of that, so get ready. More is coming.

    BTW, Here's how a local TV station covered it:

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

    His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

    And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    The demise of the Choco Taco last week didn't impact me much - I don't like desserts with peanuts - but it certainly created a kerfuffle on the internet.  While manufacturer Klondike is saying that it now is "discussing next steps," it seems to me that this actually is an opportunity for savvy retailers.

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    CNBC reports that Amazon will begin offering same-day delivery for a number of retail brands, including GNC, PacSun, Diesel and Superdry, in 10 US markets.

    According to the story, "The service is free for Prime members when they spend $25 or more, or $2.99 if they spend less than $25, Amazon said."

    Some context from the CNBC story:

    "Amazon continues to invest heavily to make one-day and, in some areas, same-day, delivery the default for its Prime members. The company has expanded the number of one-day eligible products, and it now has 'thousands' of items that can be delivered in a few hours.

    "Consumers are increasingly demanding faster delivery speeds from online retailers, as evidenced by the explosion of ultrafast grocery platforms in the last year. Retailers have also jumped on the trend by partnering with on-demand delivery providers such as DoorDash, Uber’s Postmates, Instacart, UPS’ Roadie, as well as Target’s Shipt. The partnerships mean that consumers can often get a new t-shirt or dress in a matter of hours.

    "With the new partnership, retailers will fulfill orders from inventory in their stores, and a Flex delivery driver will pick them up from the retailer. Doing so allows Amazon to get online purchases to shoppers’ doorsteps even faster."

    KC's View:

    It has been well established that during the pandemic, Amazon overbuilt its logistics network.  One way to deal with that problem is to find new ways to use it, which means making deliveries for other companies.

    This seems like it always has been in the cards.  Amazon has been building out its delivery business as a competitor to UPS and FedEx, and so it makes sense to start offering it to select partners.  I'd bet that this is test of sorts - none of these retailers are huge, but if this works, Amazon then could offer it to a more sizeable entity.

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG) said yesterday that "it has entered into a channel partnership agreement with DoorDash to offer on-demand grocery delivery solutions to independent grocers through the DoorDash marketplace app and website. These grocers can leverage the DoorDash platform to build an ecommerce offering that meets the needs of their local community base and extends to areas where they may not have previously been able to reach."

    According to the announcement, "The agreement will enable independent grocery retailers to grow their businesses, attract new customers, and offer increased convenience to existing customers in their local area. With grocery delivery through DoorDash, consumers can order their groceries and essentials on DoorDash’s marketplace app and website with no time slot, queues, or minimum order size required."

    "We know demand for this functionality continues to be very strong, and to remain competitive, retailers need solutions that offer simple set-up and increased convenience for customers,” said Stacy Bowen, AWG Vice President of Sales, Support and Solutions.

    KC's View:

    There still are independent retailers unable or unwilling to do this on their own, so they need aggressive wholesalers to put the pieces in place.  I'm all in favor of it … as long as the customer data remains the property of the retailer and isn't available to the likes of DoorDash to do wish as it pleases.

    Full disclosure:  AWG is a longtime and valued MNB sponsor.

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    Dollar General, which last year said it would put more investment into healthcare products and services, this week announced the members of a healthcare advisory panel designed to help it achieve its goals.

    The panel will be chaired by the company's chief medical officer Dr. Albert Wu, and will include Dr. Patrick Carrol, chief medical officer at Vida Health and formerly chief medical officer at Walgreens … Dr. Kat, chief strategy officer at Personal Care Medical Associates and National Board Director for National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization … Dr. Von Nguyen, Clinical Lead of Public and Population Health at Google … and Dr. Yolanda Hill Wimberly, Senior Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer at Grady Health Systems.

     “With a belief in furthering our mission of Serving Others, the panel will provide guidance and prioritization of efforts in the areas of health and wellness at DG,:" Wu said in a prepared statement.  "We are proud to have a diversity of perspectives and experience represented on the panel, helping us better understand our customers and provide meaningful solutions to the complex problems of healthcare."

    KC's View:

    Everybody is getting into the healthcare act, and so it'll be interesting to see what Dollar General brings to the table.  If it can make a difference in terms of bringing costs down for customers, that's a good thing.  On the other hand, dollar stores work a very specific and somewhat narrow lane, and the company has to be careful not to let this venture dilute its image and value proposition.

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    CNBC reports that organized labor representatives are asking Starbucks to extend pay hikes and improved benefits being offered to non-union employees to those workers working in stores that have voted for unionization.

    Starbucks has said no.  And not only has it said it won't, but it can't.

    According to the story, "The request comes after Starbucks announced in May that it would hike wages for workers and add other benefits such as credit card tipping by late this year. But the Seattle-based coffee chain said it wouldn’t offer the enhanced benefits to workers at unionized stores because it needs to go through bargaining to make such changes."

    Workers United, however, disagrees, and says that the "company can legally offer benefits to employees at unionized stores without bargaining, as long as the union agrees. The letter notes other companywide benefits announced in recent months, including faster sick time accrual and medical travel reimbursement for employees seeking abortions or gender-reaffirming care."

    The CNBC story notes that "about 200 Starbucks stores have unionized so far, while 40 have voted not to unionize, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Starbucks has roughly 9,000 locations in the U.S."

    KC's View:

    While I've not been a fan of how Schultz has dealt with the union threat - it's been all arrogance, no humility - I think they're right on this one.  Once employees in a store have said that they want different rules to apply to them, that is the reality with which they have to live.  Now it is up to those employees to send their union reps to the table, charged with getting an equal or better deal.

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    The Information has a piece about how "Netflix’s decision to launch an advertising-supported version is a risky move that flings the giant into a business it has resisted for years. But the push—scheduled for next year—has one thing going for it: Advertisers are thirsty for more ways to reach people watching streaming TV and movies online."

    The story notes that "cord cutting has left brands with a supply-and-demand problem. As broadcast and cable viewership diminishes, traditional TV advertising isn’t reaching as many people, and networks are packing in the ads to avoid steep revenue declines. But streaming services like Hulu, Roku and HBO Max are selling ads sparingly so as not to alienate watchers."

    You can read the entire piece here.

    KC's View:

    To me, this story is worth reading because there are so many retailers developing their own media platforms, hoping that advertising will bring a new and lucrative revenue source.  But Matt Spiegel, executive vice president of digital marketing at TransUnion, which partners with ad-buying firms to better target their ads, makes an important point:

     “This pie does not grow endlessly.”

    Spiegel says that "Netflix, if it can scale, will pull from the same ad market as network and cable television."  And from retail media platforms.

    Not only doesn't the pie not grow endlessly, but there also are a limited number of existing slices.

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    •  CNBC reports that "Amazon’s carbon emissions jumped 18% last year, as the company reckoned with a pandemic-driven surge in e-commerce and grew its business to meet that extra demand.

    "In its annual sustainability report issued Monday, Amazon said its activities emitted the equivalent of 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021. That’s up 18% from 2020, and an increase of nearly 40% from 2019, the year Amazon first began disclosing its carbon footprint."

    The story says that the wave of demand created by the pandemic "pushed Amazon to expand its logistics network of delivery vans, planes and trucks. It also rapidly opened new warehouses to process the stream of orders. During the year ended 2021, Amazon doubled the size of the fulfillment network it had built over the previous 25 years, the company said."

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    •  The Orlando Sentinel reports that Q2 "sales at Publix grew to $12.9 billion … but the company’s earnings fell.  The Lakeland-based grocer’s sales were up 9.3% in the quarter, compared with $11.8 billion in the same quarter the year before.

    "Net earnings for the three-month period were $628.4 million, down 37.7% from $1 billion in 2021."  Q2 same-store sales rose 7.8 percent.

    •  The Associated Press reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced new proposed regulations "that would force food processors to reduce the amount of salmonella bacteria found in some raw chicken products or risk being shut down" by declaring "salmonella an adulterant — a contaminant that can cause food-borne illness — in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products."

    According to the story, "USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin said it marks the beginning of a broader agency effort to curtail illnesses caused by the salmonella bacteria, which sickens 1.3 million Americans each year. It sends more than 26,000 of them to hospitals and causes 420 deaths, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data."

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Whatever you come in hoping to eat, restaurants want it to be chicken.

    "Big chains are advertising it, cooking up new flavors and pushing poultry hard at the register in these inflationary times. Restaurant owners say they can often make more profit per order on white meat than beef. And consumers are still buying up crispy chicken sandwiches, industry data show.

    "Panera Bread, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and other chains have added new chicken sandwiches to their menus in recent months to attract consumers. KFC, Wendy’s Co. and Burger King have each spent tens of millions of dollars advertising their chicken sandwiches on national television this year, according to ad-measurement firm Inc. McDonald’s Corp. and other chain executives have pointed to poultry items as a means to boost sales among U.S. consumers.

    "Panera Chief Executive Niren Chaudhary said introducing the chain’s first chicken-breast sandwiches in March helped attract more men looking for a substantial meal than the company has traditionally attracted, and the items are now the chain’s most popular sandwiches."

    •  From CNBC:

    "PepsiCo announced Monday a $550 million investment in energy drink maker Celsius Holdings as part of a long-term distribution deal with the smaller company … Celsius is expecting to gain more shelf space in existing retailers and expand more into independent stores, such as gas stations. Pepsi will assist with the distribution starting Monday.

    "Pepsi’s investment in Celsius translates to a minority stake of roughly 8.5% in the company. The food and beverage giant will also nominate a director to serve on Celsius’ board.

    "Celsius, which was founded in 2005, has reported explosive growth for its energy drinks during the pandemic. In the first quarter, its U.S. revenue soared 217% to $123.5 million."

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    •  Danny Meyer, the highly regarded CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, described by Eater NY as "a celebrated fixture in the NYC dining scene," announced yesterday that he is stepping down from the role, and will be succeeded by USHG president-COO Chip Wade.  

    Eater NY writes that "Meyer founded Union Square Hospitality Group 37 years ago, in 1985, with the opening of Union Square Cafe in downtown Manhattan. In the following decades, he's opened a parade of mostly well-received restaurants in NYC under the USHG umbrella: There are Michelin-starred spots including Gramercy Tavern and the Modern, all-day cafe Daily Provisions, barbecue spot Blue Smoke, and the more recent critically acclaimed addition of Ci Siamo at Manhattan West."  And, there's Shake Shack, which has grown from a downtown NYC experiment to a fast food chain with higher ambitions and an international footprint.

    The story notes that "the famed restaurateur will still have a presence at the company, however. Meyer is staying on as executive chairperson of USHG and will still be involved in creating new restaurants, consulting on company expansion ideas, and 'remain an active advisor and mentor' to the team, according to a press release on the news. He will also continue his other roles as managing partner of USHG's investing arm Enlightened Hospitality Investments, and board chairperson of the popular burger chain Shake Shack."

    Published on: August 2, 2022

    Yesterday's FaceTime video lamented (with pictures) the tendency of men to wear their pants so low that their butt cracks show.  Not a business issue, I know, but the moment presented itself while I was at a beer garden with Mrs. Content Guy and I couldn't help myself.

    The good news - it got lots of reaction.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Sitting out on the back porch spitting coffee laughing at the butt crack piece. And amazed you did it w. Straight face. Agreed it would help make the planet a butt better.

    Hardly the only pun offered by MNB readers, as MNB reader Duane Eaton wrote:

    Was he drinking a Heinie-kin?

    Very good.

    From another MNB reader:

    OMG what a great way to start a Monday morning!  I agree 100% with your statement but also want to share that it’s not only men that often have their butt cracks out.  My family and I attend Woodhull Raceway in NY some Saturday evenings in the summer and butt cracks are always the highlight or “feature” for our girls.  In fact a few weeks ago we witnessed a husband taking a picture of his wife’s butt crack and then texting it to her – almost like they were celebrating the butt crack.  There is usually just as many women as men with their cracks out when we attend those races!  Thanks for the chuckle this morning!!

    And another:

    I agree with you on the butt crack thing.  Yeah, just not interested in seeing them and my wife isn't either.

    And another:

    LMAO, too funny.  I agree.  You would not believe the butt crack I see while working in the store - men and women!  Crack kills. 

    And yet another:

    That may be the funniest bit you’ve done……

    I'd say my work here is done … but I'm not quite ready to retire.  Yet.

    From another MNB reader:

    I loved the smirk at the end of your comments about plumbers butt.  (Yes - that's what it's called in Kentucky).  You know what's coming - so "buckle up".

    Actually, I got a lot of email … all of it supportive.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    So it appears from the video that Mrs. Content Guy was actually the unfortunate one with the view.

    Hopefully you were a gentleman and invited her to sit beside you on your side of the table?

    Actually, I was the one with the view at the table … we only switched for a few minutes for purposes of shooting the video.

    Finally, we ran an email yesterday from a reader reacting to last week's story about edible utensils, saying:

    We have had an edible plastic straw alternative for nearly 100 years. It's called the Twizzler.

    To which I responded:

    I'm sorry.  That sounds like the waste of a perfectly good Twizzler to me.

    In my house, we refer to Twizzlers as "heroin."  Because if I eat one, I'm likely to eat a two-pound bag.

    This prompted another MNB reader to write:

    As the owner of three small (tiny, really, under 3000 sq ft) stores I always find your news and insights useful, interesting and refreshing. However I was HIGHLY offended by something you wrote in today's newsletter. To imply that Twizzlers are anything more than plastic tasting garbage is too much for my delicate sensibilities. I'm not sure if I'll be able to continue to read anything written by someone who would eat Twizzlers over real licorice, namely Red Vines! I guess I can give you one more chance but you need to watch it with this dangerous talk.

    I've learned that the world can be separated into two camps - people who prefer Red Vines, and people who prefer Twizzlers.

    I'm afraid that I'm in the latter camp.  For some, that is an unforgivable sin.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.