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Rich Duprey

Contributor, The Motley Fool
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  • Posted on: 04/23/2021

    Can retailers wait any longer for government to move on climate change?

    Why do retailers need to wait for the government at all? If they believe their carbon footprint is negatively impacting the environment, they're free to move forward on their own right now. The only reason they don't is they don't want to bear the cost. They want the government (i.e., the taxpayers) to bear most of the burden, hence the talk of "incentives." The U.S. was one of the few countries to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Accords and we weren't even party to it. Now President Biden has added the country back in and it will be U.S. countries (again, taxpayers) who will pay for the rest of the world's inability to rein in their own pollution. China is one of the biggest polluters in the world. Real "climate change" would start with addressing their lack of action. The U.S. has made monumental strides over the past few decades, largely without the heavy costs on the economy climate activists would impose. And today, with consumers more environmentally aware, retailers should step up and do the right thing and reduce their own waste and pollution without waiting for the government to tell them to act or demanding taxpayers pick up the bill for their failures.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2021

    Do consumers see brand activism as genuine or simply pandering?

    Except in racing to be politically correct, Quaker Oats steamrolled the accomplishments of a black woman, Nancy Green, who was born a slave and overcame real racism. It's her image that appeared on the syrup and pancake mix and was subsequently erased. not some "Gone With the Wind" trope. Same with the Land o' Lakes Indian woman that was removed from the butter packages. By trying to be woke, the company chose to replace a symbol of Indian heritage and history with an image of a white farmer. Pretty colonialist, no? As for Delta, they were consulted about the law before it was enacted and even issued a statement in support of the law days before it was signed. Now they come out saying they stand against it.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2021

    Do consumers see brand activism as genuine or simply pandering?

    I continue to maintain businesses should just shut up about politics because they're going to disappoint, or more likely anger, half their customers. Delta's activism over Georgia's voter ID law is a case in point. It's railing against having to show an ID, but just try to get on a Delta flight without showing one. Reasonable people can disagree over whether it should be necessary to prove who you are and where you live when you're voting, but a company weighing in on one side or the other divides its customer base. Mostly it's just corporate pandering. Look at all the companies expressing righteous indignation over events here in the U.S., but refusing to say anything about human rights abuses currently underway in China because it would impact their pocketbook (looking at you NBA, Disney, etc.). When it's convenient and easy to do so, with few financial repercussions, businesses will speak out, but when it might affect their lucrative contracts they clam up. That's why they ought to just be silent on political issues, regardless.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2021

    Will hiring a celebrity designer turn Walmart into a fashion destination, à la Target?

    How many times is Walmart going to try this? Back in the aughts it launched fashion lines with Max Azria, Norma Kamali, and others and they failed. Jet.com was an attempt at having a high-end e-commerce presence that it has abandoned, Jetblack was a white glove concierge service that it killed off, and while Lord & Taylor set up a third-party store on walmart.com, I can't imagine many upscale shoppers are turning to the everyday low price leader for their fashion sense. Every time Walmart forgets who its customer is -- the price-sensitive shopper -- it ends in disaster, and will undoubtedly fail this time too. Beefing up quality is one thing, trying to be something different is simply another fashion faux pas.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2021

    Walmart gives workers a raise and weighs in on the minimum wage debate

    It's nice that a corporation that was allowed to profit at the expense of many of its rivals is endorsing increasing the minimum wage. There was no reason Walmart should have been declared "essential" and allowed to open when other specialty retailers were forced to close during the pandemic. Social distancing guidelines could have been implemented in other retail stores just as they were in Walmart. So Walmart enjoyed record sales and profits as a result while thousands of other businesses were bankrupted or have been brought to their knees. Now Walmart wants to increase the labor costs on its competition as well as on businesses in all industries, regardless of size, regardless of whether they can afford it. Some jobs just aren't worth $15 per hour. Flipping burgers is not a $15 per hour job. A cashier is not a $15 per hour job. Low-skill jobs are not worth $15 per hour. What happens when these low-tier jobs see their wage rates artificially inflated is it puts pressure on the wage rates above them. A worker currently earning $15 will now demand higher compensation than the low-level entry worker getting the same pay. The one good aspect of McMillan's proposal is phasing it in and indexing it to location. Businesses in West Virginia can't readily keep pace with those in NYC so if you're going to advocate saddling your competitors with higher costs, this is at least a better way of doing it.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2021

    Is Kroger justified in closing stores over a hero pay ordinance?

    “Hero pay” is an absurd term, as it’s a word thrown around way too easily. Sorry, but it’s not heroic what they’re doing and that demeans those who truly go above and beyond. As for the issue, it’s easy to demand businesses pay extra money, but grocery stores already operate on razor thin margins. Kroger made the right choice, unfortunately for their employees, they have politicians who prefer grandstanding.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2021

    Is My Pillow being ‘cancelled’ or is its CEO trashing the business all on his own?

    Nope. MyPillow is totally not being cancelled at all. Looks like we'll have lists for those who practice wrongthink. Hmmm. I seem to have read about this kind of practice somewhere.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2021

    Is My Pillow being ‘cancelled’ or is its CEO trashing the business all on his own?

    Of course he and his company are being cancelled. He doesn't have the right, politically correct viewpoint so retailers are rejecting him. Why shouldn't he be allowed to freely speak without repercussion as those CEOs who do tow the PC line and speak out are permitted to do? With that said, I think CEOs really ought to STFU about politics. No one buys a pillow or a cup of coffee or a car because of the politics its CEO holds (OK, some do, but not in the main). I don't care what Lindell's politics are, or those of Starbucks' Howard Schultz or Salesforce's Marc Benioff. Stick to your business, that's what what investors are paying you for.
  • Posted on: 12/18/2020

    Does David’s Bridal need a loyalty program?

    A friend's father gave the following toast at his wedding: "Marriage is a sacred institution because it is something a man only does two or three times in his life." Maybe David's Bridal should run with something like that as its tag line.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Should Yelp be calling out businesses accused of racist behavior?

    This is a horrible idea. It's terrible because it will be abused -- Yelp's current system is already abused even without adding the awful racist label to a business. This will simply be a modern day Salem Witch Trial where the mere accusation is enough to be proof of guilt. Yelp has failed to outline even the rudimentary guide as what is considered "racist" behavior. Instead it says it will rely upon each individual's own truths. The company has likely opened itself up to potentially ruinous lawsuits after some business is falsely accused and subsequently destroyed. As has been said, Orwell's "1984" was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not an instruction manual. This is an insanely stupid idea.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2020

    Can Trader Joe’s shake off its racist branding tag?

    This was a solution in search of a problem. Companies are responding to a (very) vocal minority when the vast majority of people of all ethnicities did not view it as an issue. Attempting to score a few, cheap woke points on social media only encourages the mob to push further and further. Trader Jose's is hardly a "racist" term (leaving aside for the moment that nationality is not race) and changing it is dumb. Companies have already been charged with cultural appropriation for supposedly white washing contributions from other cultures, so what Trader Joe's has done is actually eliminated the culture altogether. Also, is there no longer allowed to be humor? The current state of comedy would suggest no, we're not allowed to poke fun at anyone anymore because of "feelings," but calling a product "Trader Jose's" is simply fun, not bigoted. If the mob is given its druthers, soon all we'll be allowed to have are plain boxes with plain lettering, just like when generic products first hit the shelves many years ago. So Trader Joe's is not going to hurt its relationship with customers one way or the other, but it's not solving racism and bigotry either. It's a nonsensical action to pander to a small subset of the population.
  • Posted on: 05/28/2020

    Do retailers need ‘trickle up economics’ to beat COVID-19?

    What a horrible idea! Simply giving people money for nothing does not improve their situation, particularly when they have already proved themselves inept at handling day-to-day expenses. It will also invite inflation as more money chases the same resources, thus further cutting into the value of their money. The economy doesn't need to be stimulated. Consumers were already spending beforehand. What needs to happen is businesses need to be allowed to open and people need to be allowed to work again. Throwing money at a problem the government created by shutting everything down won't solve the underlying issue.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2020

    Is it okay to profit from a pandemic?

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, though obviously I disagree. In fact a company can't charge whatever they want for a product because people wouldn't buy it. There are prices that no one will pay for a product and a company would go bankrupt if it insisted it continue charging those inflated levels. The consumer is king because he determines what a "fair" price is, even in a pandemic. And I disagree on price gouging causing more shortages. Rather, the outsized profit potential would actually draw in more manufacturers, which would end up increasing the supply and drive down the price again. Yet the reputational risk you cite would also keep most companies from charging excessively high prices in the first place because of the bad optics of it and they would fear ruining their good name. What we do know, and what happens time and again every time price controls are imposed, is that we do end up with shortages because people hoard wanting to get it while they can before their neighbor does. Cheers.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2020

    Is it okay to profit from a pandemic?

    I'll take the very unpopular position that not only are profits good during a pandemic, but that price gouging isn't the terrible thing it's been made out to be. In fact, so-called gouging is actually beneficial because it helps conserve scarce resources. Look at what happened with toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc. because prices were kept artificially low relative to demand. A few scoop up and hoard the limited supplies and others are forced to go without. "Gouging" would have regulated the supply, and while prices may have spiked initially, they would have settled down and reached an equilibrium allowing many more people to have access to these items. Forcing manufacturers and retailers to keep prices low guarantees there will be shortages. You can't suspend the laws of supply and demand, or rather, when you attempt to do so through price controls you end up with the current situation where you still can't find Lysol and many other necessities on store shelves. So allowing people to profit -- especially during an emergency -- is a requirement.
  • Posted on: 12/18/2019

    Why is Amazon banning FedEx ground delivery?

    This is a perfectly reasonable response by Amazon. While it seems like payback for FedEx's decision to stop making air express and ground deliveries, FedEx has been having trouble delivering packages on time and Amazon wants to ensure its Prime customers are getting the best service. Third party sellers are only restricted from using Express or Ground deliveries for Amazon's Prime members; they can continue using the services for other customers. Amazon has promised its loyalty program customers 1-day shipping guarantees and if FedEx is unable to meet the requirements then it's completely fair for Amazon to restrict usage of the option. Amazon is able to get 94% of its packages delivered on time and UPS can do it 93% of the time. FedEx, on the other hand, can barely get 90% of them delivered on time. That reflects poorly on Amazon with its customers, not FedEx, because customers blame the seller for slow delivery, not the carrier. It was why Amazon began building out its logistics operations in the first place after the Christmas debacle of 2013. It is misguided to hate on Amazon for trying to run the most efficient, profitable business to satisfy its customers needs. There are certainly areas of Amazon's operations to be critical about, but this doesn't seem to be one of them.
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