business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Detroit News:

"Meijer is expanding its store hours starting Friday, including adding more time for dedicated shopping by senior citizens, front-line workers and those with chronic health conditions … Meijer had reduced its store hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 20 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, and offered one hour twice a week to dedicated shopping for seniors, essential workers, the chronically ill and company employees."

“These extended hours will best serve all our customers and provide more flexibility to shop Meijer stores,” said CEO-president Rick Keyes. “As communities begin to reopen, it’s more important than ever that we find new ways to adjust and reshape how our important than ever that we find new ways to adjust and reshape how our customers shop for products they need while keeping their families safe.”

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Grocer Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV says it is accelerating development of a robotic arm because Covid-19 created an urgent need for technology to help workers clean stores and process orders.

"'All the researchers said this Covid situation is so urgent, we see a direct application for our work right now because there’s scarcity of people who can work in stores,' said Bart Voorn, the Dutch grocery giant’s director of data, artificial intelligence and robotics.

"The robotic arm is connected to a mobile base that eventually will be able to navigate around shops, he said. Developers in the company’s two AI research labs, which it opened last year in the Netherlands, are testing the technology. Ahold Delhaize partners with universities in the Netherlands for its AI research."

This is, the story suggests, one sign that "some companies will increase automation as they adjust to the economic pressures of the coronavirus pandemic."

•  The Consumer Brands Association (CBA) - the trade association formerly known as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) - has "called on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to prioritize supply chain performance and resiliency by developing a National Supply Chain Index and Performance Dashboard," saying that such an dashboard "would house the necessary data to provide an early warning system about potential supply chain issues and disruptions using both public and private sector data sources. The increased transparency and visibility of a supply chain index could also help drive strategic policymaking, inform private sector investment, forecast inflation and aid in emergency response efforts."

“Perhaps no time in history has highlighted the degree to which supply chains shape the health and well-being of our nation,” wrote Tom Madrecki, vice president, supply chain and logistics, Consumer Brands, in a letter to Secretary Ross. “The acute evaluation and benchmarking of supply chains would mark an important step toward friction point visibility and pinpointing, prioritizing and addressing supply chain challenges.”

•  MarketWatch  reports that "J.C. Penney Co. Inc.  is poised to file for bankruptcy protection in the coming days, according to multiple reports … The battered retailer has a roughly $4 billion debt load, and was facing serious financial problems even before the coronavirus pandemic forced it to temporarily shut all its stores."

The story notes that "Penney operates more than 800 stores in the U.S., employing about 90,000 people."

•  Bankrupt fast food chain Krystal is selling itself "for approximately $48 million to an affiliate of its senior lender Fortress Investment Group … The deal involves a $27 million credit bid and the assumption of liabilities up to $21.5 million from Fortress affiliate DB KRST Investors LLC," Marketplace reports.

Krystal, the story notes "oversees approximately 300 units in the Southeast including Mississippi, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee."

•  USA Today reports that there are some projections out there suggesting that by 2026, Amazon founder-CEO Jeff Bezos is likely to become the world's first trillionaire.

Analyst Comparisun says that its projection "is based on taking the average percentage of yearly growth over the past five years and applying it to future years.

Comparisun shows Bezos' net worth grew an average of 34% over the last five years."

It is a projection and status that Bezos might prefer to avoid.  After all, we're in the early stages of a recession that some worry could worsen and become a depression, and Amazon already is being criticized for a variety of labor practices.   Having the boss become a trillionaire isn't necessarily the best look.