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Rich Duprey

Contributor, The Motley Fool
  • Posted on: 09/12/2019

    Is Amazon Go heading for a hard stop?

    There is also the groundswell of opposition by local and state governments to cash-less stores which contends that going cash-less discriminates against the poor and unbanked. New Jersey and Philadelphia passed laws banning most cash-less stores, joining Massachusetts in limiting their proliferation. Other states and localities are also exploring prohibitions. So beyond the daunting technological and financial requirements of a Go store, you have Luddites in government standing athwart innovation.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2019

    Will Walmart’s customers accept its rejection of the firearms ‘status quo’?

    The decision won't affect Walmart's business much, nor will it do one thing to reduce gun violence in society at large or in Walmart stores. A person intent on killing another is not going to care that Walmart has a "no open carry" policy. Yet like at other "gun free zone" locations such as schools, theaters, and shopping malls where most mass shootings occur, Walmart customers will now be left unable to defend themselves against an armed gunman. The only people the new Walmart policy impacts are law-abiding citizens. Criminals will still have their guns, they will still have their ammunition. Like most of the policy proposals offered by politicians on the issue, the so-called common sense gun law reform most people spout but never really articulate makes for good PR sound bites, but does little to actually stop the problem. The Odessa shooting was the first mass shooting where universal background checks "might" have prevented the shooter from getting a gun, but only if he and the buyer self-reported the sale (the shooter failed a background check at a dealer and bought his gun in a private sale). Again, a criminal buying a gun isn't going to follow the law. Walmart, like Dick's, may suffer a drop in sales initially, but as most boycotts ultimately fail, sales should eventually resume their growth.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Will a city’s ban on tobacco sales catch on across the nation?

    Yes, ban all the things! It's a simple matter: if you don't like something, just garner enough political clout to make it illegal. That's the obvious solution to today's problems. However, the slope becomes quite slippery when you try to draw the line on where to stop, and suddenly it's not such a great idea when it's your ox being gored. It's not surprising this started in California, and it will definitely spread to more cities there and beyond as plenty of cities exist with similarly narrow-minded views.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2019

    McDonald’s teams with AARP on national campaign to recruit older workers

    McDonald's will run into problems with this campaign. There's a reason working at the burger joint is considered a first job: wages earned there aren't meant to support a household. Bringing in older workers to take these positions is going put additional, significant wage pressure on the business. McDonald's has also already earned a reputation as a sub-par employer for paying its workers "low wages" who need to support families and this won't help. The Fight for $15 is already ruining job opportunities for teens; adding older workers will erode them further. Franchisees who will be the ones hiring most of them will see their profit margins dwindle even more from as older workers command the higher wage rates. There's also a deeper problem where "over-50" workers need to work at McDonald's. This isn't the elderly we're talking about looking for a way to make themselves feel useful to society, but rather a decidedly younger cohort that absolutely should have graduated beyond flipping burgers by now.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2019

    Kohl’s goes all-in on Amazon returns

    I remain skeptical this is driving any meaningful foot traffic to Kohl's let alone boosting sales. While it certainly doesn't hurt Kohl's to implement it nationally -- any traffic is better than none -- it seems hard to believe this is the wunderkind idea many paint it to be. Amazon returns are a tiny, tiny portion of their overall sales (it allotted just $627 million for return allowances last year globally for $207 billion in retail revenue), but there are numerous ways of returning a package to Amazon instead of having to run to the nearest Kohl's to do so. The local post office is a heckuva lot closer than Kohl's. Amazon even has launched a package-less return policy too where you can keep the item instead of sending it back (as well as banning those who return too much). Granted, Kohl's does the repacking and shipping for you, but the number of people availing themselves of this doesn't seem like it can amount to very many people running in to the retailer then turning around and buying something while there. Again, it's not a bad policy, it just seems like a neutral program at best in terms of sales and traffic.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2019

    McDonald’s reverses positions, won’t actively oppose minimum wage hikes

    I guess I'll be the lone voice saying that artificially raising wages will only hasten the reduction in entry level, unskilled jobs. Workers will win the battle of seeing an immediate pay increase but will lose the war as companies introduce new, more productive ways to do the same task without a human performing it. Hello self-ordering kiosks! Welcome burger flipping robots! The fact remains some jobs just aren't worth $15 per hour. A position that only requires an unskilled person to perform it shouldn't command a premium wage. Sorry, but dunking fries and mopping floors isn't worth that kind of money. And once the current labor shortage eases, as it eventually will, businesses will be saddled with a high-cost employee not worth their pay. The problem isn't McDonald's or any other company paying lower wages; it's that those jobs were never meant to be ones that you'd try to support a family on. They are entry level positions that teach youth the basic skills necessary to function in the workforce: showing up on time, performing certain tasks, learning to interact with coworkers and the public. They're stepping stones to better, higher paying positions. A government that has debased the currency and wrecked an economy that forced heads of families to accept entry level positions is the real culprit. Raising the minimum watch is simply addressing a symptom, not the root cause. It also causes a ripple effect of increasing everyone else's wages too, further inflating the cost to businesses. People currently earning $15 per hour will need to receive higher compensation too, and so on. The inflationary pressures will only continue to spiral up and those unskilled workers suddenly making $15 per hour will find themselves in the same position again. Make no mistake, if activists win this battle it won't be long before you start hearing demands for $20.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2019

    Will other cities follow Philly in banning cashless stores?

    Other cities (and states) will follow Philly in banning cashless stores and these Luddites will once again thwart innovation. There's this crazy idea of a free market with competing business models and while some stores like Amazon Go will be cashless plenty of others will accept it because there will be profit found in serving customers others ignore. It's ridiculous to think every single store will adopt this model; there would naturally being a mix of store types serving different customers. It doesn't have to be a one-size fits all, but of course, backwards politicians can't see that.
  • Posted on: 03/08/2019

    Has Dollar Tree gotten Family Dollar turned around?

    Starboard Value had the right idea: sell off the whole thing and be done with it. The acquisition was a mistake and shouldn't have been done to begin with. A quarter doesn't a trend make, as FDO has had a number of quarters since the acquisition where comps were positive. Operationally, the business continues to falter and Dollar General dodged a bullet by losing out to Dollar Tree. The disparity between Family Dollar and Dollar General only widens. With CEO Gary Philbin at the helm, though, the hard decisions won't be made because he was Family Dollar's CEO before the acquisition. It was one of the reasons FDO chose Dollar Tree over Dollar General, because Dollar Tree promised to keep existing management on, the same management that failed to make Family Dollar into a sound discount chain. I think Starboard Value's other recommendation to raise prices is also smart. It doesn't have to go the Family Dollar/Dollar General route, but increasing the price points another dollar gives Dollar Tree a lot more leeway in product selection. Five Below has been a tremendous success with a $5 and lower price threshold. But Family Dollar seems broken, and a single quarter's positive results don't instill confidence a turnaround is in the works.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2019

    Will pairing nail salons with shoe stores be a good fit for DSW?

    I see this as wasted space that could be put to better use. Maybe it's a bias since where I live there seems to be a salon every two blocks, but it is tying up square footage that could be better used to drive more sales. Whatever lift DSW is getting has to be almost incidental. A better use of the space would be gait-training treadmills or the run analysis sessions Nike conducts. That would actually help customers buy a better, more appropriate shoe. Simply having pretty toes doesn't really do that. It's good that DSW is going slow with its testing, but it's wasting time and energy on something that could have a more meaningful impact on sales.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2019

    Will FedEx’s robots help retailers solve the last-mile delivery challenge?

    I don't see self-driving robots as the future of last-mile delivery, or at least not everywhere. It may work in some suburban communities, but it's not going to be practical in an urban area where they will more likely be subject to theft and vandalism than in making it to their destination. Undoubtedly there's a use for them, but in real-world applications where people are already routinely stealing packages off of porches, unattended delivery robots are screaming for criminals to mess with them.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2019

    Will Marie Kondo de-clutter retail?

    I wonder how much it is really a result of Marie Kondo's Netflix show and not just a broader trend that was already building a groundswell of support. It seems she is merely riding on the coattails of others who blazed that path. I'm pretty sure they were called "professional organizers" back in the day. The tiny house movement, for example, is one that got its start back in 2002, but really gained traction following the financial markets collapse and resulting recession some five years later. Downsizing one's possession is an absolute necessity when moving into a 500 square-foot house (max). But while living in such small quarters doesn't necessarily have broad appeal (I would love to build and live in my own tiny home; my wife, not so much), the recognition that we have accumulated vast amounts of detritus has gained much wider acceptance, and that's what Kondo has tapped into. I view her more as simply the cultural flavor of the month more than any trendsetting icon of a new movement.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2019

    Are apps and voice assistants the keys to e-grocery adoption?

    I think product selection more than an app is what's needed to boost adoption. I'm one that *wants* to shop online for groceries, but the inability of retailers to make certain products available let alone the inane inventory system of most retailers in presenting the information keeps me from doing so. I tried shopping online at Walmart and Amazon and the process was incredibly laborious. Searching out the brands, comparing prices and sizes, and then not being able to get certain goods -- milk and eggs, for example, were unavailable for delivery -- means I still have to go to the store. (I did use Peapod years ago, but had the same issues.) Compare that to simply making a pen-and-paper list of general items I need and then going to the store and seeing the selection in front of me is infinitely easier. Perhaps "return trips" online would be easier if they recommend products based on what I've already purchased, but the initial set up of a shopping list took way longer than I wanted or was willing to invest and I abandoned my carts after about a half hour into each. No app is going to overcome that hassle.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    J.C. Penney dumps appliances

    J.C. Penney never distinguished itself as to what the point was of having appliances in the first place. It saw Sears going down and identified it as an opportunity to pick up customers, but why? Why should customers go to Penney instead of Lowe's or Home Depot? There was never a value proposition for the customer that JCP would be the price leader, the service leader, etc. It was just, yeah, we have appliances too. It was the same thing with toys. As Toys "R" Us careened into bankruptcy, JCP added toys (as did a lot of other retailers) on the proposition that customers have to go someplace. But a reason was never articulated for why customers should shop J.C. Penney. The mindset seems to have been, build it and they will come. I think Jill Soltau is doing the same thing with clothes, or at least re-emphasizing it with clothes. What is the reason consumers have to shop Penney's over the competition? Right now, there is none. Soltau needs to come up with an overarching theme for the chain and run some kind of bold marketing campaign to embed in the consumer's mind that J.C. Penney is a store to shop at for this reason. Simply saying yeah, we have clothes, we have toys, we have appliances is not enough.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Which commercial won Super Bowl LIII?

    Argh! The moralizing tone of most of these ads was unbearably tedious. I didn't find their message uplifting; they were ponderous. The Hyundai - Jason Bateman ad was probably the best, though I had seen the first five seconds of it on YouTube numerous times before hitting the "Skip Ad" button. I can also say I had no recollection until reading this article that it was for Hyundai, so was it actually effective? The Amazon ad for products that didn't make it was much more memorable, and I did like the Bud Light/Game of Thrones mashup. However, Anheuser-Busch touting that Bud Light wasn't made with corn syrup was exceptionally disingenuous because *numerous" A-B beers ARE made with it, including Bud Ice, Busch, Busch Ice, Busch Light, King Cobra, Natural Ice, and Natural Light. Bud could've rolled that big barrel up to its own gates. I also thought John Malkovich's AFC championship game commercial last year was better than this year's with Peyton Manning. I'd also point out his opposition to Manning using the gladiator imagery as trite conflicts with his prior commercial which compared the teams to David and Goliath. All in all, a thoroughly uninspiring job by ad agencies. Remember when Super Bowl ads were fun?
  • Posted on: 02/01/2019

    Can Domino’s gain customers by offering free pizza for pies bought at rival shops?

    Although this promotion seems derivative of Burger King's Whopper Detour and MacCoin deals, the Domino's version seems to be less effective because it encourages customers to buy its competitor's pies numerous times before qualifying for a Domino's pie. Moreover, because it delays the gratification of getting a Domino's pizza for six weeks, it diminishes the number of customers that will complete the challenge. As an attention-getting gimmick it may have some merit, but it seems flawed in actually converting many customers to Domino's.
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