business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we reported that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have issued a draft of new merger guidelines that, if adopted after a 60-day public comment period, would establish more than a dozen standards that would be applied to all proposed mergers and acquisitions.

One MNB reader reacted:

Reading that list of criteria is frightening.

They radically empower the FTC—an appointed entity—to challenge virtually ANY merger or acquisition.

And they don’t really address how markets are defined for purposes of determining current or potential future concentration….which is the basis on which any future consolidation should be calculated.

The whole point is that we need to think, in terms of nuanced, relevant public policy, whether competitive issues and antitrust ought to be redefined for 21st century realities.

Yesterday, Instacart released its first-ever Economic Report, looking to quantify "the company’s economic impact across all four sides of the Instacart marketplace — customers, shoppers, retailers, and brands."

I commented:

That's a lot of marketing power being consolidated in one brand that represents a lot of competitors - the question that a number of them are asking is what their next iteration of e-grocery should look like, and whether they should be so beholden to one technological and marketing entity.

One MNB reader responded:

It is a lot of marketing power and you have to respect their influence.

Supermarkets were “beholden” to local print technology for many years and seemed to thrive…when one media overstated their importance; the market shifted. The art and science of “moving” between e-commerce platforms may be simpler than the past efforts to “build” e-commerce platforms. With independent USA supermarkets alone generating over $253B in annual sales and supporting almost 1.2 million jobs (these are NGA numbers – not sure about Instacart’s standard for small grocery stores)  - it seems like there is room to grow. It would be interesting to see how much these incremental sales are from “other” food providers. My own Instacart usage is typically to avoid a trip to a fast feeder – not scientific data  - but it makes me wonder if the Instacart brand is gather sales from these areas.

Yesterday we posted a Scott Moses column focusing on the real causes of inflation, and why retailers are not as much to blame as sometimes is assumed.

One MNB reader wrote:

Scott makes a lot of valid points, but I believe the impact of energy costs has impacted every step of the supply chain and gets passed to the consumer.  Second is labor costs driven by higher state minimums, or labor shortages or labor contracts have a significant cost at the retail level which puts pressure on retailers to increase their margins. 

On another subject, an MNB reader wrote:

I'm rather surprised that you prefer self checkout? You exemplify that stores personnel engage with shoppers.  But at the last stop for impressions you don't want to be engaged?

I've had stupendous interactions with "cashiers" who already know me (in two different stores), and are always ensuring I'm getting the best deal. Try to do "that" at self checkout! And many employ disabled or challenged badges who are the most kind people I know.

You've walked away from a learning experience, or business lesson.

Sometimes, I must admit, I'm not looking for a business lesson.  I'm looking for a fast, frictionless experience.

And finally, from MNB reader Ron Beltramo:

Kevin...Just listened to your "Gray Value" Face Time and think that you are spot on -  more "seniors" (like me) are wanting/needing to continue working in some capacity for a number or reasons:

We still enjoy working & contributing.

We have a lot of skills & experience that can benefit smaller companies.

It is fun to work with younger folks when "the chemistry" is right.

We still want/need to make some money to live and stretch our financial resources out.

It keeps us "sharp" and on our game.


And MNB reader Gary Harris chimed in:

Thankfully Wegmans agrees with your premise, I was planning on retiring at 70 this past June but was offered to stay on part-time to help with a new project. Lots of fun and learning for me, plus it helps me wean myself off of a 40+ year career with one of the finest companies in the world. Great gig!

I'm hoping that the fellow who owns MNB will offer me the same opportunity.  But he's not the most progressive thinker in the world, so we'll see how that turns out.