Sign up for the MNB Wake Up Call!

From The MNB Archives

Article Search:

Monday, March 25, 2019

  • Change Font Sizes:
  • A
  • A
  • A
  • A

Monday Eye-Opener: The Cannabis Opportunity - A Retail Tomorrow Podcast

Recorded at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, this Retail Tomorrow podcast offers a deep dive into the promises and challenges inherent in the cannabis industry. While it still is not part of the mainstream retail world, the momentum is there for an inevitable explosion of product, marketing muscle, and profit, especially in the self-care segment.

Taking us inside the business are two cannabis industry experts: Genevieve Gilbreath, co-founder and general partner at Springdale Ventures; and Mary Olivar, managing director at Greenbelt Capital.

Here’s where you can check our guests’ websites:

Genevieve Gilbreath: https://springdaleventures.com

Mary Olivar: https://greenbeltcapitalinc.com

The Retail Tomorrow Podcast is sponsored by the Global Market Development Center (GMDC), seeking to focus not just on best practices, but next practices. This podcast, as well as past editions, also can be found on the site. In addition, check out more details about GMDC’s Retail Tomorrow initiative here.

Pictured below, from left to right:

Mary Olivar, Kevin Coupe, Genevieve Gilbreath





Retrenching Walmart To Close Eight Stores Next Month

Business insider reports that next month Walmart plans to close eight stores around the country - a supercenter in Lafayette, Louisiana , and Neighborhood Market stores in Arizona, California, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

The closing date for all the stores is said to be April 19.

The story notes that “Walmart said last month that it plans to open fewer than 10 new stores over the next year. The company did not provide guidance on closings at the time.”

KC's View: It actually is sort of extraordinary that Walmart is closing almost as many stores as it is opening. In fact, it is even possible that it could close more stores than it opens - these are just the closings announced for April.

This strikes me as the very definition of retrenchment.

I have to wonder if there’s ever been a year in which Walmart did not measurably increase its domestic store count, much less reduce it overall.

This would seem to tell us a lot about its view of the future, especially as it continues to invest in e-commerce in general, Jet in particular, not to mention all the other initiatives being nurtured in Walmart Labs. While stores certainly remain central to its strategy, Walmart clearly sees a world in which to reach consumers, it will not need as many physical locations … it will just need to be able to reach customers in ways that are relevant to how they shop and live their lives. And it needs to put its money into the future, not into the past.

No question that this is a big swing, but Walmart seems to believe that in the current competitive environment, big swings are essential to big successes.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From Samuel J. Associates...

"It’s a bad time to be in the business of selling groceries, and the headlines are as bleak as you’d expect: "The Retail Apocalypse Is Coming for Grocery Stores" ... "Grocery Retail ‘Bloodbath’ Is Here" ... Conversely, it is a great time — arguably the best time ever — to buy groceries."
- New York Magazine/Grub Street


At Samuel J.Associates, we have a response to this assessment:

Bull.

We think it is a great time to be selling groceries, whether you are a retailer or a supplier. That’s because a more educated and demanding consumer, no matter the demographic, will reward businesses that are innovative, disruptive, and in touch with what people need, even if they don’t know they need it.

And, we know this: Those businesses require, and are fueled by, great people.

People who don’t just get the job done, but who set the tone in an organization, establish cultural and business priorities, who build teams, and who are able to not just adapt to competitive realities, but see the future and thrive in it.

And yes, ignore dire warnings about a "retail apocalypse" and see opportunities.

At Samuel J. Associates, we have a winning record of connecting great talent and innovative businesses ... as well as innovative talent with great businesses. We exceed your expectations so that you can do the same thing for your customers.

No bull.

Click here to find out more.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

Join The Fresh Case Revolution!

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Amazon’s Whole Foods Delivery Service Said To Be Sub-Prime

The Wall Street Journal reports that while Amazon has begun replacing Instacart as the delivery service for some Whole Foods stores that it owns, “some early users say Amazon has work to do before it gets the offering right.”

A major problem is said to be substitutions for items ordered, which sometimes are “downright bizarre.” (Kale instead of celery? Really?)

The Journal writes that some problems are “amplified because daily operations at the two companies are still largely separate. Whole Foods employees said Amazon workers routinely ask for help finding items on shelves or elsewhere, distracting them from their own duties. Technology that tracks Whole Foods’s inventory is old, and officials have discussed updating it for years.”

It isn’t a problem unique to Amazon/Whole Foods, the story points out: “There are a number of reasons why many online grocery services struggle to offer substitutions customers want. Shoppers typically depend on suggestions from online tools, and algorithms can make mistakes or suggest inappropriate alternatives. Services that rely on gig-economy workers who pick items off store shelves can exacerbate the selection problem, since many aren’t food experts and juggle many orders a day, grocery consultants say.”

KC's View: To be honest, I get a little stuck on the suggestion that delivery problems aren’t unique to Amazon-Whole Foods, and are in fact experienced by everyone in the segment.

Not that it isn’t true. It is. But what bothers me about the observation is that Amazon long as positioned itself as being a service that solves the problems that other companies have, and that offers solutions to the problems that consumers have. I get weird substitutions from anyone … I expect better from Amazon. And if Amazon has to substitute something that I’ve ordered, I want it to be as close as possible, with a superior level of communication and service.

Maybe that’s not fair, but Amazon has spent the better pat of two decades educating me that this is what I should expect from it. When it has flown above many others for so long, it can’t go getting pedestrian on me now.

One other thing. While Amazon has not confirmed anything, there is a ton of speculation out there that it plans to start rolling out its own chain of grocery-centric stores later this year. There are, apparently, places where it has been using Whole Foods as a decoy, with all the discussions with landlords and local authorities focusing on opening a Whole Foods, while its actual intention is to open one of its new store formats.

I have no problem with any of that, but I’ve said since first hearing about this new store format that I think its success will be dependent on Amazon bringing something new to the table - it cannot be just another store with lots of shelves and SKUs and traditional checkouts. There’s got to be something about it that takes advantage of Amazon’s unique position in the marketplace. Maybe it is open only to Prime members. Maybe it has checkout-free technology. Maybe it has a highly edited grocery selection that is keyed to grocery purchases made in the local neighborhood on Amazon. Maybe it will represent an entirely different relationship with vendors, with products stocked on consignment, so Amazon doesn’t own anything, and prices lower than usual with a different of economic arrangement. Maybe it’ll be all fresh food, with CPG items ordered online and picked up at the store or delivered.

Or maybe it’ll be all of the above. (Or none. I could be all wrong on this.)

Here’s my point. I’d like to see Amazon get its delivery of Whole Foods items right before it starts opening a separate chain of food stores.

But … that’s what separates Jeff Bezos from me. (Actually, there’s a lot that separates Bezos and me. I can think of only only one way in which I have him beat. Hair.) He may not be willing to have everything in place before again trying to change the world and the way we shop. He just moves forward, and takes both big swings and big risks.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From The Organic Produce Summit...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Judge Tells Lampert: You Owe Old Sears $35 Million

The New York Post reports that US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain told ESL Investments, the hedge fund owned by Eddie Lampert that acquired Sears and Kmart out of bankruptcy last month for $5.2 billion, that he “strongly” advised it to pay the old Sears $35 million for which he is contractually on the hook.

In this “contentious financial dispute,” according to the story, “Drain seemed to side with Sears, which says Lampert’s ESL swiped tens of millions from its coffers in the days before it closed on a $5.2 billion deal to create a new, smaller Sears chain with 425 stores. The judge warned that if ESL does not return the funds — about $14.6 million in credit card receivables and $18.5 million in cash — that it could be in violation of an automatic stay and liable for damages.”

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 18.

KC's View: I don’t know about you, but I’m shocked - shocked, I say - that Lampert and his hedge fund could be accused of trying to rip off the entity from which he was acquiring an entity that he seemed to do his level best to destroy why he owned and ran it.

I’ve been arguing for a while that it strikes me as inconceivable that anyone - including vendors and banks and landlords - would want to do business with this guy. This story does nothing to persuade me that I’m wrong about that.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

From WAFC...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

From Cornell University...


Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Auto Pilot: Two Views of The Road To The Future

The New York Times had two columns worth reading over the weekend - about the same subject, cars - that struck me as illuminating in how they viewed the world and the implied impact on business.

The first, by Vatsal G. Thakkar, a psychiatrist, was about a subject broached in the past on MNB - the manual transmission.

The piece noted that “backup cameras, mandatory on all new cars as of last year, are intended to prevent accidents. Between 2008 and 2011, the percentage of new cars sold with backup cameras doubled, but the backup fatality rate declined by less than a third while backup injuries dropped only 8 percent.” One of the reasons, experts suspect, is that many drivers are not aware that this technology has limitations; in addition, 20 percent of drivers “had become so reliant on the backup aids that they had experienced a collision or near miss while driving other vehicles.”

Thakkar writes, “The fact that our brains so easily overdelegate this task to technology makes me worry about the tech industry’s aspirations — the fully autonomous everything. Could technology designed to save us from our lapses in attention actually make us even less attentive?”

His solution: the manual transmission. “A car with a stick shift and clutch pedal requires the use of all four limbs, making it difficult to use a cellphone or eat while driving,” he writes. “Lapses in attention are therefore rare, especially in city driving where a driver might shift gears a hundred times during a trip to the grocery store.”

You can read the column here.

Times technology columnist Kara Swisher also has some thoughts about cars:

“I will die before I buy another car.

I don’t say that because I am particularly old or sick, but because I am at the front end of one of the next major secular trends in tech. Owning a car will soon be like owning a horse — a quaint hobby, an interesting rarity and a cool thing to take out for a spin on the weekend.

“Before you object, let me be clear: I will drive in cars until I die. But the concept of actually purchasing, maintaining, insuring and garaging an automobile in the next few decades?

“Finished.”

Swisher argues that this is the way of the future, and that “it will be easier than you’d think for a number of reasons that are increasing in speed and velocity, if you will excuse the pun.

“Consider how swiftly people moved from physical maps to map apps, from snail mail to email, from prime time TV to watching on demand. What had been long-held practices were quickly replaced by digital tools that made things easier, more convenient and simply better. Some of the shifts have been slower to develop, but then accelerated quickly, like what is now occurring in retail with online shopping and quick delivery pioneered by Amazon.

“Simply put, everything that can be digitized will be digitized … That is harder to envision with the heavy hunk of metal and fiberglass that is a car, but it is not hard to see the steps. You start using car-sharing services, you don’t use your car as often, you realize as these services proliferate that you actually don’t need to own a car at all.

You can read Swisher’s column here.

KC's View: I just found the confluence of these stories fascinating, with one of them suggesting that technology doesn’t solve every problem, and the other positing that the shift away from individual car ownership is inevitable.

MNB readers know where I stand - I love my Mustang, and I love my Mustang’s manual transmission. I am one of those people who wants to love the car I drive, and am particular about the attributes I want it to have (manual transmission and cloth top being essential).

That said, I don’t question Kara Swisher’s argument. I think she’s right, and that this trend eventually will challenge the reality that so many retailers have built their businesses on the proposition that people are going to own minivans and SUVs and load them up on a regular basis. These same businesses many be depending on people to have basements in which they can keep all this stuff, while the next generation may live in smaller homes or in urban apartments. Businesses are going to have to adjust, and need to be planning that adjustment now.

While I agree that the manual transmission makes me a better, more attentive driver, I must confess that I wish it had a rear view camera. (It wasn’t standard equipment when I bought the car, and I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it.)

Jean Modifications: A CEO’s Take On Corporate Culture

The Washington Post had an interview with Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh, a former Procter & Gamble exec who last week saw his jeans company go public after an eight-year period (the company’s shares started at $17 each and rose 32 percent the first day) in which his leadership helped resurrect what had become a moribund company and turn into a growth enterprise.

Some relevant excerpts:

On his biggest challenge when he took over: “Bad things happen to companies that don’t grow, and this is a company that had a very steep decline for a five-year period of time, and then it kind of bumped along for about a decade. When companies aren’t growing and creating value and paying bonuses and people [don’t] see their compensation growing over time, the good people leave.

“Now to be clear, there were still a lot of good people inside of the company, but they lost a lot of talent. I didn’t expect it when I joined, but I had to turn over almost my entire executive team. In my first 18 months, nine of 11 of my direct reports were gone. If you want to change the culture, you’ve got to change the people.”

On his management approach: “I’m not the smartest guy. I just ask good questions and can kind of connect the dots sometimes. It would be humility, and being really clear about expectations, giving people responsibility with accountability, and setting a really high bar for people.

“A big part of the culture that we’ve got now is one of trust and transparency. I do something we call ‘Chips and Beer’ - kind of cute, right? - we do it late in the afternoon. We actually serve beer. It’s basically open mic. People can ask me anything. Sometimes I can’t answer everything, but it’s good to know what’s on people’s minds. I’ve been doing this for six years now, and over time people recognize I’m approachable, I’m real.”

On the impact of taking political positions on issues like gun control: “That quarter and the ensuing quarter, our business grew double digits. I don’t think there was any negative impact. Maybe more consumers were coming to the brand, but it’s hard to prove that in either direction. I do think as governments back away from some of their responsibilities to society - and I’m not just talking the United States; I’m talking globally - I do think that as leaders we have a responsibility to step up and not be afraid to take on these important issues.”

KC's View: I like the idea that Bergh says that he will continue to run the company the same way, even though it now is public; he says that he’s always felt responsible to the board and stakeholders, and that he’ll feel and deliver on those same responsibilities now. The Levi Strauss family still controls the company through its stock, so it isn’t an enormous change.

But … there was a good piece in Forbes about the IPO observing that “the blue-jean maker is built for the long term, having done business since 1853 … But Wall Street has a way of converting long-term thinkers into short-term operators. Critics like James Dimon and Warren Buffett (both running public companies) point to the dramatic decline in listed firms over the past 20 years as evidence that quarterly earnings guidance and an obsession with real-time stock prices are ‘harming the economy’.”

Ecosystem Wars: Apple & Netflix Face Off

The New York Times reports on the pitched battle that is about to break out between Apple and Netflix, as there two giant companies face off over content as they battle for viewer attention.

Today, the Times points out, Apple is expected to unveil “its most ambitious media project yet - a news and entertainment bundle that is likely to offer access to magazines, newspapers, music and, perhaps most intriguingly, original shows and films. And when a tech giant like Apple jumps into entertainment, it’s going to create waves.”

The story notes that the amount Apple is committed to spending “on new material is nowhere near the $10 billion Netflix will plow into content this year, but Apple has something Netflix does not: more than a billion devices all over the world, which amounts to an infrastructure. That beats out the 139 million people worldwide who have subscribed to Netflix. If Apple is suddenly able to fill the screens of those devices with its own content, as well as programming from other companies it has struck deals with, it will turn itself into a beast sure to put a scare into Netflix.”

Apple is said to have committed $1 billion to its content ambitions, with that money going to some first-class talent - Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and M. Night Shyamalan are among the names toi be mentioned at today’s unveiling.

The Wall Street Journal offers this assessment of Apple’s ambitions: it is “to become an alternative to cable, combining original series with shows from other networks to create a new entertainment service that can reach more than 100 markets world-wide. It is the tech giant’s latest attempt to reinvent television, something it has tried to do for about a decade with limited success.”

And why? At least in part because it has to - iPhone sales, long a cash cow for Apple, are “sputtering,” and if hardware can’t generate growth, then software is the next best bet.

In the past, the two got along, and one could even sign up for and get content from Netflix on Apple devices, with Apple getting its standard cut of such transactions. But these days, while you can still watch Netflix on an iPad or iPhone, transactions are made on an external site, which means Apple doesn’t get to dip its beak. And, the Times writes, “Netflix has decided to opt out of the Apple bundle, which will upsell subscriptions to HBO and CBS in addition to its original programming. Netflix’s absence from the new platform says a lot about the state of play in the highly competitive streaming industry: a fight is brewing over how content is distributed.”

(FYI…the New York Times and Washington Post reportedly also have decided not to be part of the bundle, apparently because they were not happy with the financial terms. The Wall Street Journal, however, is said to have opted in.)

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says that it is all about having some control over the service: “We want to have people watch our service — or our content on our service. And so we’ve chosen not to integrate into their service, because we prefer to have our customers watch our content in our service.”

The Times explains it this way: “Netflix is a service, or a pipe, that would sit on another service, or pipe, if it agreed to be included in the Apple bundle. And if it had joined forces with Apple, Netflix also would have received little to no data about who is subscribing or watching its stuff. Further muddying the company’s identity, from the Netflix point of view, would be the fact that Apple users who spooled up ‘Stranger Things’ or ‘Orange Is the New Black’ may not be aware that they’re watching a Netflix show. Retaining the brand is as important as owning the data … The companies are battling for credit card numbers, email addresses and direct access to consumers.”

KC's View: I keyed in on this story today mostly because of the “owning the data” observation, which really is about “owning the customer.” I think this conversation has parallels in the retailing business, where I’ve argued - ad nauseam, according to some folks - that some retailers are actually giving their relationship with the customer away when they use services such as Instacart as a long-term solution to their e-commerce needs.

Customers are a retailer’s most precious commodity, and when they open the door and even allow for the possibility that they can be disenfranchised from that relationship, it is an enormous risk.

I will be curious to see how all these content wars play out. There is, it seems to me, an enormous possibility for viewer/consumer confusion. I currently have Netflix and iTunes and Amazon and CBS All Access (for “Star Trek: Discovery,” natch). I have online subscriptions to dozens of newspapers and magazines. Will this new Apple service streamline the process, or clutter it up? Will it force me to make decisions that I don’t need to make now? II’m betting yes.) And what will happen when Disney launches it own service, which will have access to all 20th Century Fox content? (I don’t even want to think about it.)

One thing I am pretty sure of - it isn’t going to be an easy time to be a traditional broadcast network or a legacy cable provider, because billions of dollars are going to be spent in making you irrelevant to the viewer/consumer continuum.

Which is sort of what happening to traditional/legacy retailers, when you think about it. (Me thinks we have come up with another metaphor…)

FastNewsBeat

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

• Last week we reported that Mark Bittman, who earned fame and fortune as a food writer for the New York Times as well as a prolific cookbook author, is launching a new online food magazine, Salty, that will reside on Medium, an online platform and publisher.

Except that now it won’t be called Salty.

It seems that it was such a good name, as the Washington Post writes, that “another publication had already come up with it.
Salty, in fact, is the name of a “sex, dating and relationships newsletter for women, trans and non binary people,” launched in March 2018. Its logo is similar, and its editors are ticked off, seeing the Bittman entry as evidence of disregard and/or disrespect for women, trans and non-binary people.

Bittman has said that it was a “stupid but honest” mistake, and the name of his online food magazine will be changed.

I love Mark Bittman’s work, but I hope they do more due diligence on the recipes than they obviously did on the title of their magazine. As for the folks at the Salty, they apparently would like some financial compensation … they should hold out for some investment capital from Medium.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

From FMI...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Your Views: Pennies From Heaven

Weighing in on the battle taking place between Anheuser-Busch InBev and other brewers over the use of corn syrup in beer, one MNB reader - who asked only to be identified as “an employee of one of the companies” - wrote:

Corn has been used in Beer since time began, as has rice, and ABI uses Corn and Corn Syrup in many of their other products in the brewing process, just not in Bud Light. The corn / rice is feed for the yeast and it devours it in the fermentation process and these adjuncts help produce a clean, crisp tasting liquid that the American beer drinker consumes in vast quantities even in times of competition from craft beer and wines & spirits.

From another MNB reader:

I used to work at General Mills several years ago and this reminds me of the situation between Campbell’s and Progresso over MSG in canned soup.  It started back in 2008 with Campbell’s calling out MSG in Progresso soups.  That escalated into a lot of overall negative attention for the canned soup category, with each manufacturer taking shots at the other.

If I remember correctly, it had a negative impact overall on the category and both companies ended up suffering.  I feel this could be a similar situation.


And another:

I assume other readers may point this out as well but MillerCoors isn't just taking this battle to court but to the masses as well. Last night was the first time I personally observed the commercial and I had a good chuckle at the retaliatory salvo by MillerCoors … It should be interesting to see how far this battle of the beer brands will go and what consumers will respond to. Personally, I think we'll see enough mudslinging in the upcoming 2020 political ads but if MC & AB can keep it witty and fun who knows.

And still another:

Way back when I first began in marketing, we looked at Sanka as a bad competitor. The constant knocking of coffee as causing irritability was likely a contributor to the decline of “coffee in a can”. Even now in the age of Starbucks and its ilk, coffee consumption in the US is still much lower than it was in the 1970’s.

Yes, AB is being a bad competitor and sacrificing the larger category for a potential short-term boost to its own brand.


And another:

When I first saw the ad, my reaction was “Who Cares?”

I don’t personally like either of those beers, but I mostly care about how it tastes. Unless they brew it with something radioactive or poisonous, the formula is not my concern.

The Ad is cute, but the issue is lame.




Regarding how technology could be used to improve the store experience, MNB reader Glenn Cantor wrote:

Store-based retail managers need to know who are their best customers, and more importantly, when these shoppers are in their stores.  They should use this knowledge to customize each shopping experience for these shoppers.  Not only does this reward the loyalty of shoppers who receive these benefits, but it encourages others who don’t get this kind of service to improve their loyalty so as to also receive this level of attention.

If a retail store’s best customers are encouraged to activate an app when they enter the store, the managers could receive alerts.   This is actionable data.  At that point, there should be nothing more important for the managers to be doing than to greet these customers.  This would ensure that a retailer’s best, most profitable customers continue to give them exclusivity and it would give others who see this attention something to which to aspire.  It works for the airlines and hotels; why not grocery stores?




On another subject, from MNB reader Frank S. Klisanich:

KC, I agree!

Ikea has made a huge strategic shift to capture the millennial consumer living in urban areas, not driving SUV's (to pick up the stuff).

They shop online and now Ikea can get them to visit their store and fine-tune the purchase....it's a 'phygital' experience.

I use this Ikea example in my Business Strategy class at Augsburg University because this news is timely....it's freshly baked.

Do you think the newer smaller stores will still have those heavenly cinnamon buns?




The new Ocado robotic warehouse being opened in Florida by Kroger prompted the following email:

Kroger's announcement that they will put an Ocado Robotics warehouse in the backyard of Publix is significant for these reasons:

-It will allow them to bring groceries to the Orlando market, without the cost of building stores, and utilize Walgreens as depots to pick up orders.

-The SGA expense line for this operation will be significantly less than Publix, which means Kroger will be able to invest in pricing to an extent that Publix can not follow.

-Expect to see Kroger Own Brands assortment show up at Walgreens locations in Florida, sooner than later, and well ahead of the Ocado warehouse being launched.  This will give Kroger the opportunity to build brand awareness, starting now.

Kroger may not be fast, but they are methodical and intentional with their customer journey.  Publix has never been a huge investor in technology, and still outsources to Instacart for home delivery.  On the other hand, Kroger is the leader in measuring and personalizing rewards to individual customers through their loyalty program and 84.51 resources.  It will be exciting to see how all this unfolds, but this impending battle almost doesn't seem fair.




Responding to our story about Instagram getting aggressive about a new e-commerce feature, one MNB reader wrote:

The story on Instagram was interesting and relevant to me because I recently bought a bathing suit after clicking through a sponsored ad on Instagram. This was the first time I had done that, and was with a company I had not previously shopped with. I received the product in the mail and didn’t love the fit so I reached out to their customer service to get a return label and they said they only accept returns for faulty products and not for sizing! I was shocked that an online retailer would have no return policy. I think this could get even more complicated if users are buying directly from Instagram because who has responsibility for informing the customer about policies etc such as returns?

Bad policy, a bad way to treat customers, and a bad reputation to get when you’re trying to grow one segment of your business.



Regarding Starbucks changing rewards program, MNB reader Andy Casey wrote: 

Simpler? It does provide some additional rewards but if anything these changes make it more complex with different redemption levels for various items. Simplicity is earn 125 stars, get a reward.

I think I agree with you on this.



MNB took note the other day of an Eater report that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed into law a ban on cashless stores and restaurants, which goes into effect immediately and imposes fines of up to $2500 on violators … in addition to requiring most retailers to take cash, the bill essentially would prevent Amazon from opening one of its Amazon Go checkout-free stores in the state.

I commented:

I can’t confirm this, but I’d be willing to bet that violators hit with a $2500 fine won’t be able to pay it in cash - official government agencies almost always want a check or credit card.

Kudos to the MNB reader who had an idea for how retailers should deal with fines:

The violating companies should pay the fine in pennies.



Finally, I loved the email I got about my “Searching for Travis McGee” FaceTime piece last week.

One MNB reader wrote:

I am a long time reader, but have never written to you. I am a retired exec from a News Corp company.  You are much more liberal than I, but I find that when it comes to books and movies we share the same taste. I look forward every Friday to your take on the latest novel or film that you have consumed. I owe it to you that I read Ace Atkins.

Anyway, I haven't seen anyone reference Travis in a long time. I read all the the books when I was a young man. I agree that we could use some of his ethics today.


And MNB reader Larry Ishii wrote:

Loved your piece. Yes, we need to think about "what ought we do?" far more than is the case.

Also, nice to know that someone else out there knows of J.D. MacDonald/Travis McGee and sees, at least, some virtue in the stories. Travis McGee is one of my faves. Have read several of his stories since last fall - been a refreshing break.


I’ve always thought there is more wisdom and good advice in most Travis McGee-Harry Bosch-Spenser-Lew Archer-Philip Marlowe novels than in most of the business books out there. And, they’re a lot more fun to read.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From Webstop...

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Meet The Content Guy at Home Delivery World 2019

I’ll be attending the Home Delivery World 2019 conference and exhibition next week at the Philadelphia Convention Center, and If there are any MNB readers who'd like to get together, I'll be camping out from 1:30-3 pm, on Thursday, April 4, at the Fleat booth, #005 - just inside the main entrance, to the right.

Fleat also is making copies of my book available, and I’m happy to sign them, as well as catch up with members of the MNB community.

Hope to see you there…

Finally, a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

“RETAIL 2020: What’s The Future (WTF)?” - A New Presentation by Kevin Coupe


In this fast-paced, interactive and provocative presentation, MNB's Kevin Coupe challenges audiences to see the fast-evolving retail world through a radical new technological, demographic, competitive and cultural prism. These issues all combine to create an environment in which traditional thinking, fundamental execution, and just-good-enough strategies and tactics likely pave the path to irrelevance; Coupe lays out a road map for the future that focuses on differential advantages and disruptive mindsets, using real-world examples that can be adopted and executed by enterprising and innovative leaders.

Constantly updated to reflect the hand crafted news stories covered and commented upon daily by MorningNewsBeat, and seasoned with an irreverent sense of humor and disdain for sacred cows honed over 30 years of writing and reporting about the best retailers and retail strategies, “RETAIL 2020/WTF” will get your meeting attendees not just thinking, but asking the serious questions about business and consumers that serious times demand. See a sample at left…




Here’s what Lori Stillman, Executive Vice President - Analytics, Insights and Intelligence, Advantage Solutions, has to say about a recent appearance:

"Kevin joined us as a moderator and facilitator for a two-day client executive event we hosted. His role in the success of the event went far beyond his time presenting and sharing his great wisdom and content. From the moment our planning process began and we selected Kevin as a key part of our program, he dove in and worked with our team to review session topics, ideate on programming and help ensure our overall event delivered on the goals we had established. His quick wit, deep industry knowledge and ability to synthesize conversations into key take-aways enabled us to hit a home run!”

And, from Joe Jurich, CTO of DUMAC Business Systems:

”Kevin recently participated in and spoke at our Annual User Conference.  Our group consisted of independent retailers, wholesalers, and software vendors – a pretty broad group to challenge in a single talk.  While his energy, humor, and movie analogies kept the audience engaged, his ability to challenge them to think differently about how they go to market is what really captured them!  Based on dinner conversations afterward, he appeared to have left everyone thinking of at least one new approach to their strategy!”

Want to make your next event unique, engaging and entertaining? Contact Kevin at kc@morningnewsbeat.com , or call him now at 203-253-0291.

PWS 51