business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we reported that the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) is formally challenging its loss at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, where employees overwhelmingly voted to reject an organization effort.

One MNB reader wrote:

Why would the union pick rural Alabama for an important vote?  My guess is Amazon provides some of the best jobs in the area so it seems workers have little to gain by voting union. There are bound to be Amazon distribution centers in more pro-union places where they could make an easier case. 

Regarding how Aldi is testing out a bulk merchandising approach to pasta and rice that is designed to cut down on packaging, one MNB reader wrote:

I think the direction is good.  The implementation maybe not so.  There are reasons that bulk sections are of old.  Sanitation, infestation, spillage, and hopefully the manager/employee won’t scoop up the stuff that falls out and put it back in the bin to save shrink.  Why not go to bio packaging?  That way everyone wins.  The consumer, the planet, and the retailer. 

Also maybe not well-timed during a pandemic.

Yesterday I did a FaceTime commentary about how a recent viewing of The Godfather, Part Two, surprised me when I noticed that Hyman Roth - portrayed as an aging Jewish gangster - is shown celebrating his 67th birthday.  It suggested to me how both the realities and perception of aging have changed, not to mention life expectancies.

MNB reader Joe Axford replied:

Great movie reference KC, I've seen Godfather II many many times, and never noticed his age on the cake, and I'm a detail guy(retail is detail, right?). Anyway Mr. Roth definitely looked like he was in his seventies to me. Being a 60 year old man, I don't see it in myself, because everyone my age looks old to me. Still a boy at heart I guess!

Me, too.

And MNB reader John Rand weighed in:

So Hyman Roth was “only” 67….

Seems to me one of the more obvious implications of longer life spans is that more older people are still alive.  Absurdly obvious you say?

Well yes but..

In a thousand ways retailers rarely understand how to parse the difference in shopping between disparate groups, age being only one factor. But as the world rushes to embrace technology of all sorts (communication, transportation, medicine) the uptake from different cohorts is always different both in speed of adoption and in some cases, refusal to adopt.

Just look at all the Covid vaccination troubles some old people had, navigating websites to get appointments.

At one point, a few years ago, I heard a demographic analysis of how the U.S., pretty much for the first time, had 3 consuming “generations” in the market at the same time. Since then we pretty much lost one (the WW2 generation) but gained two new ones. Although I personally hate the construct of “generations”, always preferring to use 10 year cohorts for analysis, the lesson is still clear.

Neither retailers not suppliers have ever been particularly good at nuance, at variety, at hitting multiple targets with multiple variable approaches.

Time to learn. There are a lot of old dogs out there who may not take well to a steady diet of new tricks.