business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Bob Wheatley, responding to yesterday's FaceTime video about the importance of soul in a retail store:

The requirement of soul – amen and amen.

Food is an emotional category.

Humans are emotional creatures always led by heart-over-head. Should that insight inform retail strategy?

There are two kinds of food retailing platforms: the selling of boxes, cans and bags off shelves at velocity on razor-thin margins. Or, possibly, a four-walled food adventure that engages the soul of the shopper in all the magic great food experience can offer. I would argue this is an outcome, one way or the other, about how the leadership team sees the business. If you love food and wish to surprise and delight customers by inspiring them on their journey to culinary achievement or a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle -- that’s potentially more differentiating than the other. The other being a business sponsored by algorithms that inject efficiencies into a business model that benefits from less friction in the transaction.

They coexist to be sure. But you’ve indicated Kevin many times that the future of food retail benefits from more engaging, differentiated shopping experiences. Perhaps this goal is better delivered by a management team that actually loves the products they sell and is dedicated to inspiring the food and culinary interests of those who shop their banner? I wonder.

I don't.  I think that's the best way to compete - to actually be a category killer.

We've been having a conversation here this week prompted by an Axios report on how "the number of gas stations has been in steady decline for decades," and the likelihood that a combination of factors - volatile prices, the growing popularity of electric vehicles -  "will squeeze them even further."

The question came up about whether it is appropriate for communities to do things like ban the building of new gas stations, which some argued is wrong - that such investments ought to be dictated by market conditions and company priorities, not government regulators.

But I disagreed:

I think it is entirely legitimate for communities to make public policy decisions consistent with the kind of infrastructure leaders believe we are going to need for the future.  Communities buy properties and turn them into public parks and recreation areas because they deem them important to residents' future.  Planning and zoning boards are there to make sure that developers' plans are consistent with communities' strategic visions and to limit growth that could hurt a town or city.   Some communities mandate that a certain percentage of new housing units have to be put aside for people who might not be able to afford to live there otherwise - like local teachers and other public employees.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Communities also need to be aware of the revenue coming into their community, right?  So if communities begin converting retail space for what ever reason into green space, or affordable housing two things happen.  Jobs diminish and tax revenue from businesses diminish.  Where does the money therefore come from to keep the green spaces green?

All true.  But the taxes generated by businesses can't be the only determining factor.  If a government believes that a business is not, in fact, sustainable, then it would be a mistake to depend on those tax dollars, which eventually will go away.  Then, there will be no business and no green space (or whatever, depending on what the alternative would've been).

Nuance is important here.  Good public policy can't just be about taxes and private enterprise.