business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• The Wall Street Journal has a story about how former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is building his CloudKitchens business, "buying up cheap properties across the U.S. and in India, China, the U.K. and elsewhere. The hope is that their proximity to densely populated areas will make them good candidates for commissary kitchens that can provide food exclusively for delivery, or even miniwarehouses for products people will pay to have delivered quickly."

This isn't an entirely new story; MNB reported on it here. But the story also makes the point that Kalanick has enveloped the business in a veil of secrecy, to the point that he "forbids employees to list their affiliation in LinkedIn profiles." All of which points to the possibility of a big reveal of some kind down the road.

Also, "Kalanick isn’t the only one chasing the opportunity. Other companies building ghost kitchens include Reef Technology, which has raised more money than CloudKitchens, from investors including SoftBank Group Corp. ’s Vision Fund, and Kitchen United, backed by Alphabet Inc. ’s venture arm GV."

USA Today reports that "Coca-Cola North America will debut AHA in March, a sparkling water brand that will mix flavors like strawberry and cucumber and even pop in a little caffeine in two of the line's flavor combinations … At a time when consumers are increasingly looking for healthier alternatives to sugary soft drinks, AHA won't have calories or sodium. But its citrus and green tea, and black cherry and coffee flavor combinations will contain 30 mg of caffeine."

The story notes that "the flavored seltzers will be the newest entrant in a crowded category that includes La Croix and PepsiCo's Bubly. AHA is Coca-Cola North America's first significant brand debut since its Gold Peak tea launched in 2006."

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Transformco, the holding company that owns Sears and Kmart, said yesterday that it "will shut 96 more Sears or Kmart locations by February, as the country’s once dominant department store chain disappears from most American malls.

"Following the closures, there will be just 182 Sears or Kmart stores in operation, down from 425 locations as of February. Just five years ago, the company still had nearly 2,000 locations. Both Sears and Kmart have been gutted by falling sales, as people shop online or at rivals like Walmart Inc."

The Journal writes that "the continued shrinking of Sears and Kmart is the latest setback for financier Eddie Lampert, who had controlled the retailers for more than a decade and steered them into bankruptcy protection in October 2018," and then bought the company's stores out of bankruptcy.

Steered into bankruptcy protection. And then, apparently, right into the shoals of reality.
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