business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's FaceTime commentary about how Helzberg Jewelry is having its employees ordained by the Universal Life Church so that they actually can marry people who come in for wedding rings, MNB reader Angie Dahman wrote:

There is plenty of space in the malls to have a small chapel, heck a large cathedral!

True enough.

On the subject of kroger's layoffs, one MNB reader wrote:

As a former Kroger employee and also an individual that very closely follows and evaluates Kroger nationally, I believe that Kroger is getting WAY too much credit for their "all-in" initiative on the eCommerce-side of the equation.

With the recent news of store layoffs - with certainly more to come - what has not been published is that Kroger recently laid off nearly all of their Real Estate group (70+ individuals), meaning that Kroger will likely open only a handful of stores for the foreseeable future - and will place a very small amount of capital into store remodels. This may appear to make sense on the surface, unless you're in Houston, where Kroger is getting absolutely beat down by HEB, as HEB continues to open stores in that market; and with each new HEB, there are likely 4-5 Kroger units being impacted. And given this latest news, Kroger is certainly playing with fire as they start eliminating store personnel and likely needing to raise prices to help offset the Ocado investment.

Kroger made huge strides several years ago with an investment in Customer Service/ Frontend experience. Any of those gains are now negated, as store conditions - and morale - are quickly eroding. Bottomline is that Kroger (Rodney McMullen) has made the conscientious decision to wager everything on eCommerce and "turning their back" on the brick and mortar experience. That's a dangerous wager and one that I believe will ultimately be the collapse of once-dominate chain.

If I'm an independent operator or a privately-held chain, I'm "smelling blood" and looking to exploit Kroger's complete dismissal of the brick n mortar experience.  I'm sure that Amazon (the great "disruptor") is nothing but elated at Kroger's recent moves, especially as they start rolling out brick n mortar units. Not unlike the book store disruption that Amazon brought onto Borders, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

Yesterday's Eye-Opener was about how more and more people are eating alone, and I at one point wrote:

The Greek philosopher Epicurus once wrote that "we should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf." I'm guessing he didn't see that as a good thing. I prefer, in this case, the writings of Robert B. Parker, whose detective protagonist Spenser takes pleasure in cooking and eating alone - he understands that part of living life well is being willing to take the time to cook good food and drink good wine, even if by oneself.

Prompting this wistful email from a reader:

Ah yes, Robert B. Parker & Spenser... we miss him around Cambridge & Boston..Thanks for the memories!

Hard to believe in January it will be a decade since RBP passed away. But at least we still have Ace Atkins writing Spenser novels ("Angel Eyes" will be out next month), and at some point in the next few months Netflix will be out with a new Spenser movie, Wonderland, based one of Atkins' Spenser novels.
KC's View: