business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The Wall Street Journal has a story about how Kroger "hopes to boost its health business through its pandemic efforts. It aims to deliver millions of vaccinations to people nationwide and create more repeat customers for its pharmacies and supermarket offerings.

"The pandemic, and stay-at-home orders combating it, helped make 2020 a banner year for U.S. grocers."  In Kroger's case, it has administered about 28,250 doses at a single Lexington, Kentucky, mass-vaccination site since February.

"The post-pandemic path is less clear for Kroger and other supermarket chains," the Journal writes.  "Reopened restaurants will likely reclaim some of consumers’ food purchases, industry executives and analysts say, while pandemic-related safety measures elevate supermarkets’ expenses.

"Kroger is betting that its in-store pharmacies and clinics can keep its supermarkets central to consumers’ lives even as the coronavirus recedes, with shoppers spending more in a continuation of the company’s pandemic-fueled growth. Over the past year, Kroger also has provided hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 tests in stores and drive-through sites, delivered prescriptions for no charge and offered virtual health services.

"'Covid has taught us that pharmacy is always really important and will be important as we go forward,' Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chief executive, said in an interview."

•  Bloomberg has a profile of Linda Rendle, the new CEO of Clorox, who is the youngest CEO in the company's history and the first woman in that role.

Rendle is looking at a future in which some will suggest that pandemic-era buying, which played to Clorox's advantage, will not continue.  But when Rendle "looks at all the scrubbing and wiping (and worrying) of the past year, she doesn’t see habits that will disappear along with the pandemic … Rendle points to internal research showing that more than 90% of people say they won’t revert back to their pre-Covid cleaning and disinfecting routines. She’s one of them."

According to the story, "Her conviction can be seen in an Atlanta suburb, where last week Clorox opened a second production line at a factory that boosted the number of wipes canisters it can ship to 1.5 million each day. To keep that facility busy as Covid-19 recedes, Rendle is increasing the company’s marketing budget by 30% and is using the Clorox brand’s sudden high-profile to push into new places, including partnerships with the NBA and Uber."

•  The BBC reports that "thousands of Asda supermarket workers have won a major victory at the Supreme Court in their battle for equal pay.

"The court upheld an earlier court ruling that lower-paid shop staff, who are mostly women, can compare themselves with higher paid warehouse workers, who are mostly men.

"The judge stressed the ruling did not mean the 45,000 claimants had won the right to equal pay.  However, they are now free to take further action."

According to the BBC story, "An Asda spokesman said there was a long way to go before the issues were finally settled:  'This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion.

"'We are defending these claims because the pay in our stores and distribution centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of their gender. Retail and distribution are very different sectors with their own distinct skill sets and pay rates'."

I have no idea how this will turn out, but the story reminded me of a Margaret Thatcher quote:  "If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman."