business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story the other day about Ikea taking back its used furniture in exchange for vouchers, prompting one MNB reader to write:

What would happen if Ikea and Rent-a-Center put their models together……more stylish furniture that perhaps one could rent for their semester-long needs, and then do it all over again. Maybe?

That's a very good idea.

From MNB reader Clay Hoerauf:

I think the buy back program is a fantastic idea…. Unless you have to put it back in the original box.

Fair point.

Regarding the dropping birth rate, one MNB reader wrote:

Unintended consequence of social distancing ?????

That'll be the case if the birth rate is down again this year.  Last year was something else.

Another reader chimed in:

Excellent point, fewer births, fewer consumers. This ties back to immigration debate. In 2000-2010 census, 50 % of USA births were to Hispanic households. I support a strong border, but the severe limitations on legal immigration stunt population and economic growth. We are already seeing certain industries like restaurant, construction, and manufacturing facing employee shortages. 

Mouths plus money = opportunity.

From another reader:

Our family has numerous educators.  All of them have seen the decline in school enrollment over the years.  So, this is no new story.  The decrease in upcoming consumers has been trending for many years.  Couple that with an aging population and I predict we will continue to see the consumer pot get smaller.  Plus those full fat ice cream sales will decline too!

At my age I can't do much about the birth rate.  But I'm happy to help out with the ice cream issue.

On the subject of "professional shoppers" who I complained have been clogging up checkout lanes, an MNB reader the other day wrote:

The family needed a few items for dinner on Sunday so I ran up to Target.  I have to say, I was almost hit by the Target online shopper with their ”specialized” red carts about 6 times.

Which led another MNB reader to write:

Kevin- no one “almost gets hit six times,” unless they’re looking for confrontation.

Maybe not.  But I have no reason to doubt what this fellow is saying.

From another reader:

I have never been behind an Instacart shopper, so what am I missing?

I do the bulk of my shopping at Wegmans and LOVE the app. I put the bags in my cart, bag as I go, weigh my produce, scan price, and, boom, all set. I wish they had a separate checkout for app users. Waiting for people who don’t know how to use self checkout is a pain. 

We took note the other day of a Washington Post story about how mass shootings like the one at a King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado, have resulted in a supermarket workforce that feels under siege.

I commented:

Reading this story makes me think yet again that all of the emphasis that was placed on mandated hazard pay in some quarters was misplaced.  If you're worried about being caught in the kinds of mass shootings that have become all too common, and that the FBI has labeled as domestic terrorism, then a few bucks more per hour aren't going to make a difference, aren't going to assuage your anxieties.

One MNB reader commented:

Pay them more, and they will come.  Totally agree, just another misplaced attempt to provide a non-real solution.  This government direction says to me, If you get mugged, bombed, held at gun point, shot, knifed, or basically threatened in any way, let’s just pay you more and it will all be just fine.  Yeah, I don’t think so. 

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported the other day that Wegmans has no plans to bring back its self-serve hot and cold bars in their previous incarnations at any time soon, but instead will continue offering items previous sold from those installations in pre-packaged form.

I commented:

People I know who shop at Wegmans regularly have observed that the pandemic has not been kind to the retailer in terms of how it traditionally has presented itself.  Wegmans, to its great credit, always has had a kind of magic … and some folks say that it is like the retailer has been forbidden to do magic.  The stores are still big and efficient and effective, but I'm told that there is something missing.

That said, I would imagine that Wegmans - more than almost any other retailer - will find a unique and innovative workaround.

One MNB reader wrote:

Agree, on a swing through Chapel Hill last week, visited  Wegmans and was overwhelmed by the dominance of Private label in the grocery sections.

Our Raleigh friends stated that they visit Wegmans once per month, almost like a Whole Foods or Trader Joes, but do their regular weekly shop at Harris Teeter just to get their favorite brands.

We had a complaint the other day about misspellings on the signs at New England's Market Basket stores., leading one MNB reader to respond:

As a customer of MB going back to when Mike Demoulas was still running the show (and Lee Drug and stores named DeMoulas were things) I think DSM's somewhat insular culture is to blame for its idiosyncratic signage (and décor, and flyer design, and...) I think most customers accept this as the (very small) price to be paid for a shopping experience that places a premium on competitive pricing (albeit not as much as before the buyout) customer service and deeper assortment (SKU rationalization be damned!) Having said all that, I do look forward to the impending replacement of their archaic POS systems so my cashier won't have to ask me "debit or credit" every time I check out. Rejection of modernity only gets you so far...

And regarding my concerns about what Ahold Delhaize is going to do with FreshDirect, one MNB reader wrote:

Kevin, I agreed with you then and I still do on this subject.  I feel A/D is somewhat a ship without a rudder.  They are constantly changing and rearranging, in an attempt, to recover lost share and consumers. ie decentralization after centralizing.  With that leadership now taking the same mind set to this acquisition, I see that losing focus and connection.  Shame.  BTW, I hear A/D is going to re-centralize buying again.  We will see. Ever changing circles, never a straight line.