business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, responding to a story about H-E-B's decision to no longer require customers to wear masks in its stores, one MNB reader wrote in to criticize the decision, saying , in part:

We used to say that we needed to be better than “good enough”. But in dealing with the coronavirus “good enough” became the motto. They let down their Partners and they let down their customers who tried to act responsibly. 

MNB reader Mark Delaney disagreed:

Given that HEB was so far ahead of many retailers in dealing with the pandemic and in fact has a senior executive whose sole function is to deal with crises like this doesn't anybody want to know why rather than throwing stones? There is very little MD or Phd supported evidence that healthy folks wearing masks makes any difference whatsoever. There is on the other hand tons of politically charged opinion around the subject. The WHO came out and stated pretty clearly that healthy people wearing masks could actually be hurting themselves by wearing masks - driving their bodies resistance down to the point that the common cold could take them out. Numerous MD's have stated similar POV's. I'm not straying into the politically correct nonsense as it is simply nonsense but perhaps before one is critical of such a well regarded retailer someone should ask why they made that decision? I suspect the answer might surprise some - but it's the right thing to do before piling on.

I think it is entirely fair to defend H-E-B.  Also, as it happens, to feel let down by one of its decisions.

However, in response to your comments about masks - I'm sure my certitude on this issue must've annoyed you - I would refer you to a CNN story from May 27:

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday called for a cautious approach to reopening the US and implored Americans to wear face masks in public, comments that are at odds with President Donald Trump's push to have America quickly return to normalcy.

"I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing," Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House's coronavirus task force, told CNN's Jim Sciutto on "Newsroom."

Fauci said he believes that while wearing a mask is not "100% effective," it is a valuable safeguard and shows "respect for another person."

Few things in life are 100 percent effective.  If Dr. Fauci wants to implore me to wear a mask, I am inclined to listen … and not write it off as "politically correct nonsense."

But that's me.

We had a piece yesterday about how Campbell Soup CEO Mark Clouse in which he said that he expects the sales increases generated for the company by pandemic-induced changed consumer shopping habits to be sustained over time.

I commented:

Companies like Campbell Soup are seeing bottom line improvements at the moment because of the pandemic, in which consumers wanted highly processed food that they could keep in the basement for long periods of the time.  They may continue to see an improvement in the short-term because, as the nation slides from pandemic to recession, many consumers may want cheap food.

But I think believing that highly processed, highly storable, cheap food is a long term strategy is not very evolved.  Big Food companies that had problems before the pandemic are eventually going to have those same problems again, and to think otherwise is foolish.  So enjoy the traffic, cash the checks … but invest some of that money in trying to get ahead of the shopper so you're not always playing catch-up.

One MNB reader responded:

You provided perfect commentary for the article! I wish I could have said it better, but you nailed it.

Thanks.  I get one right every year or so.  (This probably covers me until 2037.)

Regarding the transformation that Southeastern Grocers says it is going through, one MNB reader wrote:

They are three years into a five-year transformation? Really? I suspect the only transformation here is the continued sale of stores and DCs as the company slides deeper into obscurity.

On another subject, MNB reader Steve Worthington wrote:

Regarding your RIP for Bruce Jay Friedman this morning; I was curious over the use of 'execrable.'  I must admit I had to look it up, not knowing the definition.

Having only been fortunate enough to attend Long Beach Sate and USC, I was wondering if this is a Loyola Marymount word or a Portland State word?

I think you're kidding … but to be honest, I'm not sure.  I just like the word, mostly because it is a polite synonym for another word less appropriate for polite conversation and family websites.

And finally, responding to my commentary about the AMC movie theater chain saying it lost more than $2 billion in Q1, and has "substantial doubt" about its ability to stay in business, MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

When I was a small town kid, going to the movies was the treat of the week. Every Saturday after I collected my paper route I would take my earnings and go straight to the Murphy Theater for a double feature - 25-cents for the ticket, a nickel for a coke and another nickel for popcorn.

Today, I probably go to the movies a couple of times a year, usually when I am visiting kids and grandkids. I am not sure why. Here in Huntsville our six-screen cinema has a heck of a deal for senior citizens - three bucks a pop. If it came down to money, we should be going a couple of times a week. But, we don’t. The only thing I can come up with is it’s the fault of that big screen TV with Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTubeTV. I know it’s not the real big screen, and the sound sure isn’t the same. But it’ll do. I am not sure what it would take to get me to go to the movies on a regular basis.

What's the line from Sunset Boulevard?  "It's the movies got small…"  And maybe, these days, more suitable for home screens.  (In 2020, Norma Desmond probably would be making a miniseries for Netflix…)