business news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding the new effort by Barnes & Noble to upgrade the foodservice component of its business, one MNB user wrote:

I will be incredibly interested to see how this works. To your point, it is often the independent bookstore that seems to tug at our heartstrings, not the chain. Take Kramerbooks in DC. Located in Dupont Circle. While I lived in DC it was a favorite for brunch on Sat. or Sun. with a terrific book selection. Unlike B&N you couldn't take a book to brunch with you, but while waiting for your table you had no choice but to peruse the selections. More than half the time I ended up buying a new book.

My significant other, on the other hand, loves B&N. We live in South Florida where chains abound and restaurant choices are mediocre (save for some delicious Cuban restaurants and Argentinean bakeries). Her work is a little unconventional and she often likes to do some website design or research on a topic away from home. Her environment of choice? B&N at the Starbucks... having eaten more s'mores bars than she'd ever admit. I would guess she clocks more than 10-15 hours a week there. As for the number of books she has purchased, she tries to support them when it makes sense, but it isn't uncommon to check the price of a kindle book or hard copy from Amazon first.

If the key to survival of the bookstore is the independent bookstore I wonder if there is an opportunity to franchise. To create something that can have local flare and feel, but with some standards and buying power of a larger entity. Would we be more apt to support our local franchise vs. national companies? I liken this somewhat to Ace Hardware vs. Home Depot.

Great line from an MNB reader reacting to our story about Amazon doubling down on its Dash button business:

My wife has a Dash button, it’s called ME!


Also got a note from MNB reader Joseph Brennan about yesterday's story regarding Unilever's declaration that it will avoid typical gender stereotyping in its advertising:

I am awaiting the day when fathers or men in general in commercials and on TV shows are not portrayed as the dumbest and most inept creatures ever planted on the planet earth.

Two responses to this.

One, sometimes we are the dumbest and most inept creatures ever planted on the planet earth. Just ask Mrs. Content Guy.

Two, there was a fellow who was pretty powerful in the TV business, who decided that the world needed a TV series that not just broke with the tradition of idiot dads on TV, but also treated a minority family with respect and dignity. The show launched in 1984 and ran for eight seasons. It was called "The Cosby Show," and starred Bill Cosby ... and for reasons related to sexual assault allegations against Cosby, the show's reruns are very difficult to find on television these days.

Also got a lot of reaction to yesterday's piece taking note of a Reuters report that just days after registered UK voters cast their ballots in favor of leaving the European Union, "quit the European Union hit sterling and raised the prospect of another recession," retailers saw both their sales and stock prices fall. At the same time, expectations are that the Brexit vote also could impact any new merger-and-acquisition activity that might take place in the UK.

I commented:

Lots of questions about what's going to happen now, and very few solid answers ... though just the immediate impact on the UK economy appears to have created some buyer's remorse. (John Oliver did a wonderful job of explaining - and deconstructing - the Brexit situation on last night's edition of "Last Week Tonight" on HBO.)

I can understand some of the emotions that might have led some British people to vote to abandon the European Union; globalization can be a scary thing, especially if you see your job being threatened. But it seems to me that expecting that a vote and a political statement can hold back the forces of globalization is akin to expecting that one can vote to change the weather. I just don't think it is possible to put that particular genie back in the bottle ... and my guess is that the countries, companies and people who figure out how to make globalization work for them, as opposed to using to create fear and loathing, will be the ones that are most successful in the long run.

One MNB user wrote:

I have read your publication since the start of my career almost 10 years ago, and find that I hold your viewpoint about 60% of the time – which keeps me reading.  As one of those much-maligned and often misconstrued Millennials, I do fit the stereotype in that I enjoy differing opinions that are well thought-out.

But your Brexit viewpoint is deep in the other 40%.  You wrote “my guess is that the countries, companies and people who figure out how to make globalization work for them, as opposed to using to create fear and loathing, will be the ones that are most successful in the long run”.  To me, that’s exactly what the Leave camp was petitioning at its core.  For all the rhetoric and fear-mongering on both sides, this vote was not about trying to shut the door on globalization – it was about having control over the doorway.  It strikes me as supremely reasonable that a country as strong as the UK would want more decision rights on how to navigate the global marketplace and its challenges than it had as part of the EU, which has completely devolved from its original purpose.

I fully expect there to be short-term turbulence for our friends across the pond – in large part due to the threats and posturing of an embittered EU parliament.  But I also believe they have made a courageous and bold decision that will position the country better for the very globalization from which you believe them to be running away.  They are free to navigate change in the nation’s best interests, not the bloc’s.

I also really enjoy John Oliver’s monologues, but his Brexit version was disappointing – it just came off as biter, crude, and pouty.  I think he – and much of the media on this issue – were practicing their own version of epistemic closure in espousing the idea of the EU versus its reality, when often the entity they were describing has not existed in over two decades.

From MNB reader Tom Herman:

I think it is a severe mistake for people to assume that fear of globalization is what is driving people to vote to exit the European Union.  This isn’t a bunch of backward ignorant British blokes that woke up one day and decided to leave the EU.  Globalization isn’t the issue.  The issue is that a group of unaccountable Elites in Brussels are making decisions that affect real people lives without them having a direct voice in the decisions.  Some people believe that decisions are best made at the local level, just like the people closest to the customers should have more of a direct voice.

And from another reader:

Kevin, These feeling of remorse were created by the press. How else could they explain the complete rejection of the liberal ideology?

This exit will do wonders for their country as they will be able to shed the ridiculous laws and unnecessary burdens created when the EU decides that a typical work week is 30 hours and you need to retire at 50. Not to mention that it is illegal to sell crooked cucumbers.

This might be coming a little closer to home as well. I expect Texas to renew their charge to secede from the union as well. With the win in Britain, I expect Texas to have a new found hope that it will happen.

Really? You're rooting for Texas to secede from the union?

Listen, I'm not sure it is fair to blame all the reactions to the Brexit vote on the media. (You can really only blame the mainstream media/liberal press for so much.) Best I can tell, currencies are wildly fluctuating, the stock markets are way down, and the UK is a smaller, less economically powerful country today than it was just a few days ago. It may also end up not being the UK, if Northern Ireland and Scotland bail out on it.

It also seems to appear that once they won the referendum, the people who were leading the "leaving" charge did not seem to have a plan to implement, have been spending a lot of time saying that there is no hurry, and have been backtracking on some promises they made.

I'm also fascinated by the fact that millennials, apparently, overwhelmingly voted to remain part of the EU ... and now are convinced that they are facing far more limited job prospects than just a week ago.

Could this be good for the UK in the long run? Maybe. The question may be how much damage is done in the interim. (At the very least, it seems likely that the next James Bond movie will have the master spy driving a Mini and not an Aston Martin.)

Maybe you're right about this not being about anti-globalization. But maybe you're wrong ... and this really is about a segment of the country that wants to go back to a time when it seemed to be stronger, better, greater. The question to me is whether this promise is real, or illusory.

I guess we're going to find out.
KC's View: