business news in context, analysis with attitude

The discussion about Victoria's Secret's new board composition (seven women, one man) and new approach to marketing (the "angels" are no more, replaced by a number of high profile and accomplished women), continues to generate email … especially in reaction to the MNB reader who wrote in the other day that one of those women, Megan Rapinoe, was "humorless and brittle" and that "there is no poll anywhere in the world, not even from the fake media, that backs up the idea the general public is anywhere close to embracing this anti-human nature woke horse&*@#."

I pointed out that it wasn't like Victoria's Secret was a thriving brand in recent years - it was desperately in need of a new direction and new customers.  And, I wrote that this particular reader…

seems to have a problem with Megan Rapinoe (who I find to be a breath of fresh air), among other things and people … and has real chip on his shoulder, which he verbalizes in terms that I think are hardly uplifting.

I sometimes struggle with whether or not I should post emails like this.

On the one hand, I believe in the Brandeis principle, which is that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

But on the other hand, sometimes sunlight allows certain things to grow, like weeds and poison ivy and hemlock.

One MNB reader took issue with me:

We are soooooo far apart on this issue !!!

Megan Rapinoe kneels for America’s national anthem but wants lots of Money to do ads here in America to enrich her personal wealth !!!

Did she Share her big Subway paycheck with the “man with burger,” “man with phone,” or “man next to man with phone?” NOPE !!! What a Hypocrite !!!

Let me be perfectly CLEAR I would NEVER EVER Buy ANYTHING  Megan Rapinoe was associated with!

I think I'll mark  you down as "undecided."

I'm a little confused by one part of your email.  (Not the kneeling during the National Anthem part.  You're clear on that one.)

But what is the thing about sharing her paycheck?  I'm not exactly sure what you expect her to do that, I'm guessing, no other paid (male?) spokesperson would do.  While she may have certain beliefs with which you may or may not agree, is that to say she doesn't have the right to earn a living?  (Of course, it is sort of ironic to bring this up in connection to Rapinoe, since she was part of a lawsuit brought against the US Soccer Federation accusing it of discriminating against women because they aren't paid the same as men.  That's something that she is associated with that I am absolutely, positively willing to buy into.)

From another reader:

Regarding your VS reader's comment. Although it may be a “tad” to the right, I think it is important to show various POV’s since the left is controlling the vast majority of news these days.  The direction of the company to reach out to a broader base is a good choice.  However, it is my opinion, that they don’t need to go less sexy, they need to figure out how to appeal to the base that wants to be more sexy.  It will be interesting to see where this goes.  But from my male standpoint, angels are good.  On a side note, anyone take note of the latest H&M commercials?  I changed the channel. 

One MNB reader responded:

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in, but I always enjoy reading the “Your Views” section of MNB because your readers often offer additional insight to previous articles that you’ve reported and it’s generally very interesting. I’ve noticed that since the pandemic more and more of the views are turning… aggressive. I appreciate your response to the truly vile response from the sexist transphobe who seems to have a bone to pick with Victoria’s Secret. I’m of the opinion that while I may not agree with everyone who writes into your newsletter, I can’t see any point in giving a voice to those who choose to be as nasty as that last guy was.

And as a woman who shopped at VS in her late teens/early 20s, the brand started to become frustrating by pushing “bigger cup sizes = sexy” when I could get a better fitting bra from a dozen other retailers who didn’t tell me that I was actually 2 cup sizes bigger than my actual body size. Hopefully a refresh in the board of directors at VS will lead to some better sizing and marketing towards their intended audience.

Interesting you bring up the fact that the tone of some emails has become more "aggressive."  I got a similar note from another reader:

MNB, like the rest of the media landscape, has definitely had an uptick in the amount of folks writing in to holler about liberals and fake news media and etc etc. Or maybe you're just publishing more of those letters?

I am generally happy in my leftie bubble but I do appreciate that you will run letters from people with differing views than mine, but this last letter you ran was just… I don’t know. I don’t need to add more white guy rants into my morning routine. This was so incredibly insensitive, offensive and… just stupid. Obviously he (and there is just about zero doubt that this person is a he, and I will bet that he’s also white but I do live to be proven wrong) has an issue with women, with successful women like Megan Rapinoe specifically, with trans people, with people who aren’t skinny model types catering to his every whim. I have to imagine the insane amount of jealousy he feels at the fact that there’s strong successful women like Rapinoe out there, and hoo boy he sure doesn't like that she doesn’t even like men!! He’s so triggered! And it would almost be funny but it’s honestly just sad.

Her claim to fame is actually leading the US women’s soccer team to TWO world cups but somehow even that gets denigrated to some weird metaphor that doesn’t make sense. What is a Luxury Whine?? And no doubt he’s got a “first wife.” I bet he even has a “third wife,” or more likely no wife at all. Did a lesbian soccer player break your heart, boo? How many world cups have you led your team to win? 

How about we ask this guy to send in a photo of himself.  My guess? He’s an aging pot belly who maybe once was very close to getting on the varsity football team but didn’t make it. Let’s all have a look so we can be as judgmental and hateful as he is. What do you say?

I love MNB and I love that you’re not afraid to put yourself out there and if this is what you’re publishing I shudder to think what letters you’re getting that you’re NOT publishing. I think I’m just finally at a breaking point trying to figure out what people like this guy think their opinions are adding to the world. Fat women aren't going anywhere. Lesbian superstar soccer players aren't going anywhere. Transgender people aren't going anywhere! How about let's just learn that what someone else does with their life is ok. I think the phrase is "you do you."  None of the above things are going to hurt you, babe.  

ps. Writing this was just catharsis for me, but I also want you to know that you have readers who aren't insane. Despite some of what I wrote … which I admit, is mean. 

We all need a little catharsis from time to time.  I hope you got it out of your system … I'm not sure it is constructive in terms of dialogue, though.  

I do think that the polarization that is playing out in the national dialogue is finding it way into the conversation here on MNB.  That's too bad, but I think I'd rather have people talking (admittedly, moderated and curated by me) than not.

I don't think I'm posting more of these emails on purpose.  There just may be more of these emails.  (And you don't really want to see the ones I don't post.  Trust me.)

From another reader:

Regarding the "charged up" individuals with their collective panties in a twist about Vickie's--These are just more old, white guys trying to exercise their opinions and will on the female body. Cue the collective female eye roll. (Yes, including myself, a 30yo millennial woman.)

Have they shopped in a VS lately?? Do they even have women in their life who would shop there?? The products VS currently sells are not sexy, they're laughable. Tell me what the heck a "micro strappy open back cheeky panty" is or how to even get into a "Very Sexy banded logo shine strap teddy" ($119.50--for something with no discernible fabric!) or why on earth any woman wants her breasts pushed up to her neck. Surprise--women want to be comfortable AND sexy. Victoria's Secret has not offered that in a very long time... or perhaps ever.

Getting more women--who understand WHAT WOMEN WANT--with leadership and influence within the company and becoming more inclusive and approachable externally can be nothing but positive for VS (note I only said "positive" not necessarily "successful").

Thanks for all you do, KC!

Your email made me think about the old saw that if men got pregnant, there's be no discussion in this country about abortion, birth control, parental leave, child care and all the other so-called "women's issues" that really aren't women's issues at all.  This Victoria's Secret conversation might take a different tone if men had to buy and wear all this (apparently) over-priced, uncomfortable crap just because that's what some female marketer decided was "attractive."  (Y'think stiletto heels would be a thing if men had to wear them?)

And from another reader:

My jaw is on the floor after reading the ‘Your Views’ section today on Victoria’s Secret.

I feel so sad for the person that wrote that for the amount of hate and shame they must be holding on to from a clearly non-empathetic and misogynistic upbringing.

Just WOW.

Thank you for sharing, it’s important to remember there’s still a long way to go for a LOT of people.

Yup.  That's true.

And from yet another reader:

I'm raising two preteen boys right now, and the (very) good news is that they and their friends have a much more generous, loving, and open minded attitude about women, beauty, and sexuality than this neanderthal. Thank God.  That kind of old school thinking is exactly why Victoria's Secret and the commenter need to rethink their narrow world view - it's hurtful, regressive, and condemns the speaker far more than the targets he aims for.

I hope your sons realize how lucky they are.  If they don't, they will.

And MNB reader Steven ritchey chimed in:

I've only been in a Victoria's Secret store a few times, both were with my girlfriend as she looked for "things" for her daughter.  To quote Robert B. Parker, "I stuck out like a moose at a gazelle convention."

That being said, I applaud their efforts to turn the company's fortunes around.

There's also a few things I would remind the writer of the scathing comment, and may I say somewhat crude comments.

Yes, sex is fun, and it should be for both parties involved.

Finally, if a woman feels sexy and pretty, then she is.

Maybe just maybe it is time to let the gender that actually wears these garments decide what looks sexy and pretty, and what they actually want to wear.  Maybe sales will go up.  Maybe they have some ideas Mr. Neanderthal hasn't thought of.

Now to quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Wow.  You got Robert B. Parker and  Forrest Gump into the same email.  Extra credit.

We had a story yesterday about how, somewhat unexpectedly, supermarket sales are still are growing, even as restaurants are reopening.

One MNB retailer observed:

A couple thoughts on this.

Loosening of restrictions came at the beginning of summer, so people are looking to get together more.

Restaurants are not in full swing yet due to hard-to-find labor.

The shut down hurt a lot of people financially.  People are tightening their belts some.

You may now have more people like me, who actually prefer having people over verses gong out and spending $8 to $12 dollars for a glass of wine or $35 dollars for a steak, when I can get the same bottle for a little more and grill my own steak.

I think people are more cautious with their spending due to the “in the back of your mind” fear of having less spendable income due to the looming tax increases.   So to me, not much of a surprise, more of directional indication.

And, regarding the slow demise of conventional supermarkets, MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

I think it is important for your readers to understand that “conventional supermarkets” are more than just a physical asset or a format.  In fact, those are the shell in which “conventional thinking” (as you noted) lives…which is the real cause of death.  Conventional retailers think about making money on the buy-side, as well as the sell-side.  In fact, a lot of grocers would have to admit that the buy-side generates the bulk of their margins.  Things like slotting fees, promotional fees, new product introduction charges, off-invoice penalties, etc., etc., etc.  They spend countless hours and human resources trying to maximize these instead of focusing on innovation and the customer.  This is what kills conventional models.  It creates costs and aggravation throughout the supply chain, ultimately resulting in customer dissatisfaction.  That is partially why more people are shopping online…to access more for less aggravation.

Once early in my retail career, I almost derailed it by telling a group of my company’s senior executives that "an entire generation of grocery executives would need to retire or expire before the industry became innovative”!  Yikes…that was nearly thirty years ago…maybe it has happened!

From another reader:

I couldn't agree more KC, you look at Stop and Shop, Shaw's, Hannaford, they all look basically the same as they did 10 years ago. Who will be the first to really shake things up format wise? However the exception to this being Market Basket, whose stores look like they did 40 years ago, just larger, minus the sawdust. Dairy being the first department you see as you walk in, not produce!

But they're successful because they are perceived as being the lowest on price.

MNB reader Dave Wendland wrote:

I believe the future of retail – in particular grocery – will be based on three critical levers: technology, delivery, and omnipresent access. Your references to Seattle Microhub, Alibaba, and Sears underscore how shopper expectations are changing and smart retailers/service providers are stepping up to reinvent the playing field. We’re not talking about minor incremental changes (tweaks) to a broken system (e.g., Sears), but game-changing strides to “level up.”

Got the following email from an MNB reader:

I was quite surprised to hear it was Amazon Prime Day – and I didn’t find out till that evening when my wife mentioned it.  I didn’t receive any type of notification from Amazon letting me know Prime Day was coming, nor did I receive any notifications that day.  Granted, I’m not the primary account member (my wife is), but I am a family member under my wife’s account – and I receive many other emails from Amazon regarding new music, recently added tv shows and movies to stream, order information, etc.

I’m a bit baffled as to why Amazon wouldn’t have promoted Prime Day more strongly.  (Although, I probably saved quite a bit of money by not knowing.)

On another subject, from an MNB reader:

Great article on Sears.  It is ironic that the columnist’s last name is “Lazarus”.  Unlike the namesake, Sears is not coming back from the dead.

And from another reader:

Sears, the company you could buy a house from.  They became irrelevant.  Down graded product quality.  Lack of service in the stores. They failed to make their stores an event.  It became a chore to go into Sears, not an enjoyment.  Then add in the e commerce piece and goodbye.  Maybe the lesson to staying alive is focusing on providing a pleasurable environment, good service, and quality items.  Then the e commerce piece won’t hurt as much. 

On the subject of big retailers vs. small retailers, one MNB reader wrote:

So Amazon and Walmart are at the top, with the exception of some very strong regional players, like Meijer, for one.  It's been a while since the last big supermarket merger, will we see one this year?  Could Amazon look at buying Albertsons?  Hard to say.  Can Stop and Shop and Shaw's figure out a way to slow Market Basket down, who is eating their lunch?  Does Kroger try to get into the Northeast by acquisition, and with Ocado do they really have to?  All food for thought, and it could be an interesting second half of the year!

Responding to our commenting on the New York Times piece about Subway tuna fish sandwiches not having any tuna in them, MNB reader Dave Ahrens wrote:

Really Kevin – letting Subway “off the hook” on a tuna fish story?

Not at all.  I think it seems possible that Subway is being victimized by its tuna provider, but that's no excuse - I think it should be doing these kinds of tests long before the Times, and that every retailer ought to be responsible for everything it sells.

Regarding my skepticism about bipartisan legislative and regulatory efforts to curb big tech companies being as nuanced and informed as it ought to be, MNB reader Joe Ciccarelli wrote:

I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I’m a fan of free enterprise but when large powerful, dominant companies start behaving badly they bring this action on themselves. But at the end of the day the lobbyists will buy off (think mid-term elections) enough of representatives to either kill the legislation or save face with a “watered-down” bill which is basically a slap on the wrist.

The other day we took note of a New York Post report on how an Atlanta Ikea store "sparked outrage with what employees are calling an intensely problematic menu curated to celebrate" Juneteenth - it promoted a special menu that included "fried chicken, watermelon, mac n cheese, potato salad, collard greens, candied yams.” 

The Post noted that "the selection, including items that have historically been used to demean African-Americans through stereotyping, resulted in multiple employees calling out of work in protest."

I commented:


I'm going to choose to believe that ignorance is the problem here. Though ignorance is hardly a defense.

One MNB reader wrote:

I suppose it is inevitable these days that the menu Ikea chose for their lunch is seen as racist but as one who grew up in the south it seems worthwhile to point out I have eaten that very menu on numerous occasions and particularly during summer holiday gatherings. Wish I’d been there to sample the fare.

Sorry, but I think that - especially on Juneteenth - it was racist.  Maybe unintentionally so, but that's just as bad.

I'm with the writer Ibram X. Kendi, who, if I understand him correctly, argues that it isn't enough to be anti-racism.  One has to be actively anti-racist.

And finally, the other day I did a piece about Netflix enlisting Steven Spielberg on its side in the streaming wars, and quoted Sean Connery's Jimmy Malone from The Untouchables about bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Speaking of Spielberg and bringing a knife to a gunfight….

Extra credit.