business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story last week about howe Walmart is changing store staffing structures to make them more efficient.

I commented, in part:

While it is necessary to adjust a workforce based on changed circumstances, it will be curious to see the degree to which these changes help a workforce that no doubt has been battered  by the pandemic.  One of the things I hear from retailers across the board is that employees are generally feeling beat-up and exhausted … it has been a long six months, and there are few signs that things are going to get a lot better anytime soon.

The other thing I wonder about is whether fewer leaders means that more front line employees have great responsibility and autonomy to make decisions.

One MNB reader responded:

I have been associated with Walmart in some capacity as both a supplier and an associate, for 26 years.  In some ways, it looks like they are taking a step back to the way it was in which there is more ownership at the department level to run the department as they see fit, vs having the responsibilities split up among teams in the stores.  I think this is a positive move in getting the departments running more smoothly.  I do expect Walmart to put more of a squeeze on the supplier world as the increase in wages has got to come from somewhere, and with the investment they have been making in .com,  it will come from the supplier as they will probably not be raising prices to cover this.  As a supplier there are the more stringent guidelines on OTIF, and other requirements for spend.  It has been a goal for about the last 10 years, to “drain the swamp”.  As a supplier, I think the ground is dry enough to build.

Sometimes what is old is new and sometimes what is old, just goes by a new name. Tis the cycle we live in.

But another MNB reader wrote:

Autonomy and decision making for front line workers? Those words no longer fit in the same sentence. It is now all about corporate making the strategy and front line workers executing that strategy flawlessly. All under the shopper getting the same experience at all branded locations. 

On another subject, from MNB reader Bob Thomas:

I read the events of the market introduction of the Sony PS 5.  It is a classic example of a poor distribution chain.  With the break in the chain (that may have been  helped by some insiders) the next shoe to fall will be counterfeit units appearing in the market.  Some companies don’t mind counterfeit units on the basis that the consumer is “buying” their brand rather than a competitor’s brand.   A market shortage also increases the risk of theft.  In 2011, according to the US Attorney in Philadelphia, stolen PS 2 units were involved in a money laundering scheme benefitting the terrorist group Hezbollah.  Sony could figure out what happened to their distribution chain but will they?

And regarding all the TikTok contretemps, one MNB reader wrote:

TikTok ... is simply a well-executed product that's addictive to hundreds of millions of users ... globally.

Whereas China protected its industry from overseas competitors, the likes of Google and Amazon, through market entry barriers, the US is now trying to protect its entrenched silicon valley incumbents from overseas competitors like TikTok.

Sadly, it can be argued, America is no longer on the leading edge of technology and applications in many key strategic markets.  Therefore the US is now demanding joint ventures and local cloud data sovereignty just like the Chinese Communist Party has demanded for years.

China and America now seem to be mutually engaged in a strategy that some call ... 'Gangster Capitalism'! Not sure how this will turn out ... but think you can rest assured ... the process will be contentious.

And finally, in a discussion here last week about someone who was critical of a position I took, I said that I didn't mind, that I welcomed criticism, and that "it keeps the conversation lively."

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Almost a Big Chill quote…

Very good.  Extra credit.