business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The Washington Post has a piece about how Trader Joe's, which it describes as " the idiosyncratic chain for its eccentric snacks and peppy cashiers," as well as its festive approach to interior design:  "Each of the 500-plus outposts has custom, handmade signage, all created by staff artists. Your grocery store is their art gallery."

The artists perform other tasks within the store, but they are usually recruited as "crew member with sign making talent" …  for the artists, the work isn’t just about selling produce or marketing the latest peppermint-coated, jalapeno-infused, almond-butter-filled whatever. It’s a way to channel their artistic energy in a world that doesn’t make being creative easy. While job postings list pay for sign artists starting as low as $14 an hour, for many, it’s the stable art job they never thought they’d have."

While so much commercial art has been digitized," the story says, "it might seem absurd that Trader Joe’s still pays people to hand-draw cartoons of dancing potatoes to sell a new type of chips. But Trader Joe’s didn’t woo its loyal fan base by being ordinary."

•  Variety reports that "debt-laden exhibition giant Cineworld … which owns Regal Cinemas in the U.S., has hired lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis LLP and consultants from AlixPartners to advise on the bankruptcy process."

The reason is simple:  the world changed, driven by the pandemic and the ways in which technology changed the ways in which consumers accessed entertainment content.  Despite the fact that move theaters have seen a resurgence of sorts, driven by high-profile hits such as "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Thor: Love & Thunder," there just weren't enough tickets sold and high enough prices to be able to make up for the company's extensive and expensive infrastructure.

There also was little sign that things were likely to get better anytime soon.  Numerous stories have detailed how, while there are some how profile movies expected to do well during the holidays - "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" and a long-awaited sequel to "Avatar" - the fall looks to be short of guaranteed hits.

Just another example, I think, of trends to which retailers need to pay attention.  Circumstances change.  Technologies improve.  Consumer behavior shifts.  And suddenly, the basic premises upon which business are built are called into question, and you're talking to bankruptcy lawyers.  I'm not saying this is going to happen to all traditional retail, but I am saying that one has to be awake to the notion that there is no such thing as an unassailable business model.

•  From the New York Times:

"The online furniture retailer Wayfair, which has struggled to maintain momentum after experiencing a surge in sales in the early months of the pandemic, said on Friday that it was laying off about 870 employees, about 5 percent of its global work force and 10 percent of its corporate team.

"The job cuts are part of the company’s 'plans to manage operating expenses and realign investment priorities,' Wayfair said in a regulatory filing.

"A spokeswoman for Wayfair said the layoffs primarily affected corporate roles in North America and Europe."