business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday’s story about an Oliver Wyman study suggesting that Lidl is gaining some traction, and my comment that such formats could be formidable when, inevitably, the nation goes into recession, one MNB reader wrote:

You are way too optimistic about companies like Lidl. Not sure why Lidl’s 55 stores warrant the space. Dollar General probably opened that many stores in the last month ! Lidl has been commissioning these kind of “independent” reports…….Very narrow survey base, must be tough to find a whole 164 Lidl shoppers in Virginia!

More relevant news on Lidl is they continue to scramble … a new USA CEO appointed May 18 and they have run ads featuring primarily national brands.

A year ago most press pundits breathlessly wrote about Hard discount taking over the USA, watch what happened to Europe etc. The Lidl truth is what was supposed to be a road to 500 stores is stalled at 55. As you’ve stated many times, a retailer must have a compelling offer and a sense of retail entertainment to survive. If having low prices on private label was a winner, then any mainstream USA retailer could simply drop prices on the thousand of private label skus they already stock offering their consumers both private label plus national brands (sounds like Winn Dixie or A & P).

Fair points, though I’m shocked, shocked to hear you suggest that a company like Oliver Wyman would slant the findings of a study to satisfy a client. (For the record, I don’t know that Lidl commissioned the study.)

I would just be a little careful about underestimating their potential (as opposed to their current reality, which has been underwhelming).

Yesterday, MNB took note of an Associated Press report on a US Labor Department study saying that “more than 15 million Americans were working as independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary workers and for contract companies as of May 2017. That’s equal to about 10.1 percent of the American workforce, down slightly from 10.8 percent when the government last conducted the survey, in 2005.”

These figures, the story noted, are at odds with conventional wisdom that more people than ever are working as independent contractors, including a 2016 study saying “that the number of people in alternative work had risen by more than 50 percent in 2015 from a decade earlier, to 23.6 million.”

MNB reader Yvonne Manganaro wrote:

I think one of the most important reasons that IC’s were likely undercounted was the methodology of the survey. They did not count individuals who had a primary position elsewhere, and did not count those who had not worked that week. Most Lyft and Uber drivers I have met have primary sources of income other than the ride sharing services, and I imagine for many “gig” workers, it’s the same situation.

Good point.

Our Monday Eye-Opener was about a number from the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “More than half of U.S. households — 53.9% — rely entirely on cellphones.” In other words, they don’t have landlines.

The other interesting conclusion:

“The health statistics center’s survey also found that members of cellphone-only households were more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, lacking health insurance and driving without seat belts, although the survey did not delve into why that might be.”

One MNB reader opined:

Data showing that cellphone only persons engage in more risky behavior is easily explained by looking at the age differences.  We old people are more apt to keep our land line even if we have finally succumbed to the lure of an iPhone. And I suspect old people engage in less risky behavior.

Finally, yesterday we reported on a new NPR/Marist poll saying that “close to two-thirds of Americans now say they've bought something on Amazon … That is 92 percent of America's online shoppers — which is to say, almost all of them.”

I commented, in part:

It all comes back to the ecosystem that Amazon is creating, which makes it an incredibly and almost unprecedentedly powerful competitor. Here’s how NPR sums it up: “It’s much more than an online store. It makes movies and TV shows, has a massive cloud data-storage business where it keeps information from the government and numerous other companies, runs the Whole Foods grocery chain, offers people Internet-connected door locks, and makes the popular Alexa smart speaker.”

Amazon is a habit. Here’s a little test: Try to remember the last day when you did not have some sort of interaction with Amazon.

I can’t remember one. And the only other company I can say that about is Apple.

But one MNB reader challenged me on this:

I can’t remember the last day I had any sort of interaction with Amazon unless you count the day I went to Whole Foods to see what all the commotion over that Amazon acquisition was about, and then only spurred by a Chase Hyatt VISA Card promotion that gave me a $20 credit on a $50 purchase, most of which was spent on beer.  I have not been back since.  But that might be explained by my being in the 65+ category.


But I’m 63, so I’m not sure the divide is as generational as you think.

In fact, I think we’re talking about multiplication, not division.
KC's View: