business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "U.S. consumers have pulled back on purchases and limited holiday shopping in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic triggered new business restrictions, potentially snapping a six-month stretch of retail sales growth.

"Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal forecast that retail sales decreased a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in November from a month earlier. The Commerce Department will release the November figures on Wednesday.

"That would mark the first month-over-month decline since April in the department’s measure of spending at stores, vehicle dealerships, restaurants and online."

The story goes on:  "U.S. shoppers spent less than last year over a five-day stretch including Black Friday and Cyber Monday as increased online shopping was offset by fewer people visiting physical stores during the pandemic. People spent an average of just under $312 on holiday-related purchases from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, down 14% from 2019 though on par with 2018, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics."

•  From the Washington Post:

"A historic crush of e-commerce packages is threatening to overwhelm U.S. Postal Service operations just weeks before Christmas and runoff elections in Georgia that will decide control of the U.S. Senate, according to agency employees and postal industry tracking firms.

"As Americans increasingly shop online because of the coronavirus pandemic, private express carriers FedEx and UPS have cut off delivery service for some retailers, sending massive volumes of packages to the Postal Service.

"That has led to widespread delays and pushed the nation’s mail agency to the brink. Postal employees are reporting mail and package backlogs across the country, and working vast amounts of overtime hours that have depleted morale during another surge of coronavirus infections nationwide."

Not to pick on the USPS … but did anyone else notice that as the federal government formulated plans for shipping vaccines around the country, the Post Office never really entered the conversation?  

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that as FedEx and UPS "are holding a harder line by enforcing a preset limit on the daily number of packages they will pick up," hoping that this will stop the system from being clogged, "the policy is creating backlogs in some of the shippers’ warehouses, affecting retailers as large as Costco Wholesale Corp. down to small- and medium-size companies.

"For consumers, that means deliveries could arrive late, and anyone determined to get a gift delivered by Christmas needs to order it today without having to pay extra shipping fees."

In other words, finish your online holiday shopping today.  Just as soon as you finish reading MNB.

•  The New York Times has a story about why so many new varieties of Oreos have been released in just the last eight years - 65, including Blueberry Pie Oreos, Waffle & Syrup Oreos, and some that only were available outside the US, like the Hot Chicken Wing Oreos and Wasabi Oreos, which were only sold in China.

"Novelty Oreos sell reasonably well," the Times writes.  "According to Nielsen, sales of flavored, seasonal and other novelty Oreos were up over 12 percent over the last three years.

"But the sales are not the point. Novelty Oreos … play a much purer role: They help drive consumers back to milk’s alleged favorite, the 108-year-old paterfamilias, the plain old Oreo. In other words, the new flavors function as advertisements for the original."