Posts tagged with "Walmart"

Walmart rolls out robotic ‘smart assistants’ at its locations nationwide

April 10, 2019

Every hero needs a sidekick: Think of the selfless contributions of R2D2 of Star Wars fame, Optimus Prime of the Transformers superhero franchise, and Robot from Lost in Space.

And now, Walmart believes, the stockroom, janitorial, sales, and front-end associates at its discount stores could use a little robotic help, too. So, as of April 9, the largest U.S. retailer has announced that it will be putting automated helpers at its locations nationwide.

“Smart assistants”—which is what the retailer has dubbed its automated staff—“have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly,” Walmart said in a press release this week.

Indeed, Walmart has been pioneering new technologies to minimize the time each associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks—such as cleaning floors or checking shelf inventory. This gives associates more of an opportunity to serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor.

Throughout the year 2018, pilot tests of these technologies have been well-received. “But it’s not enough to have these cutting-edge systems in just a few locations,” the company says.” That’s why additional technologies are coming soon to stores across America.”

And, Walmart promises, “We’re going big.”

Among the new additions will be:

  • 300 additional shelf scanners, aka “Auto-S”: This technology scans items on store shelves to help ensure availability, correct shelf location, and price accuracy.
  • 1,200 FAST unloadersWorking with the shelf scanner, the FAST unloader automatically scans and sorts items unloaded from trucks, based on priority and department. This allows associates to move inventory from the back room to the sales floor more quickly.
  • 900 pickup towers: When a customer places an order online and selects for an in-store pickup, an associate loads the ordered item into a pickup tower. The customer then receives a notification via email that the item is available from the pickup tower; which works like a giant vending machine to retrieve and unload the purchase.

That’s a lot of extra help for associates—and the staff is enthusiastic. According to SVP of Central Operations for Walmart U.S. John Crecelius, “Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable, and manual.

“It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”

Research contact: @Walmart

It’s not for ‘mindful shopping,’ but there’s a mental health clinic at Walmart

March 21, 2019

You already can pick up your groceries, prescriptions, tires, sofas, computers, pet food, sporting equipment, and crafts supplies at Walmart.

So what else could you possibly want or need? Now, a Boston-based company is taking the discount retail concept to a new level (and arguably, to an even broader base of consumers)—by offering mental health counseling to Walmart shoppers, the Boston Globe reports.

Beacon Health Options— a provider of clinical mental health and substance use disorder management; as well as specialty programs for autism and depression, grief, and relationship issues—has opened a small clinic in the Walmart store in Carrollton, Texas.

The company, which already claims to serve 40 million people across all 50 U.S. states, plans to roll out the program in other Walmart retail locations nationwide, with the goal of increasing access to mental healthcare.

Staffed for now with one licensed clinical social worker, the clinic treats patients who either walk in or make appointments.

 “The goal is to fight stigma and simplify the process of finding help, while also assuring quality, Russell C. Petrella, Beacon Health’s president and CEO, told the Globe, adding, “ “People don’t know how to find a behavioral health or mental health professional. “People don’t know where to go and what to do.”

The retail clinics will promise access to a credentialed professional in a familiar environment, he said, noting, “We’re trying to mainstream behavioral health services.”.

Shoppers have become accustomed to visiting clinics in department stores or drug stores for sore throats, ear infections, and other everyday medical problems. But whether patients will be equally comfortable revealing their sorrows and worries in a Walmart remains to be seen.

Bonnie Cook, executive director of Mental Health America of Greater Dallas told the news outlet that she welcomed the idea of a Walmart clinic, saying it is likely to reach people in need. Recently, Mental Health America, a national advocacy group, gave Texas the lowest rating of all states for access to mental health services.

“As a mental health community, we have to start thinking outside the box,” Cook told the Boston Globe.

Beacon Health has not decided where to locate its future retail clinics yet, Petrella said. But the Boston area, he said, “is not on the radar” because of its high concentration of providers. A clinic may someday be considered for more rural parts of the state, he said.

The retail clinic in Texas is intended for people with milder forms of mental illness. People with serious mental illnesses and those in crisis will be referred to other professionals in Beacon’s network, as will those who need a prescription.

As backup if the clinic gets busy, patients will be able to speak remotely by Skype or other services to another professional.

The clinic has a sliding-fee schedule for those without health insurance and is in the process of getting approved for Medicaid reimbursement in Texas.

Research contact: felice.freyer@globe.com

Walmart caves to pressure on jobs for disabled ‘people greeters’

March 4, 2019

Following more than a week of backlash from consumers and disability rights advocates, Walmart has pledged to make “every effort” to find other roles for handicapped workers slated to lose their jobs when the retailer eliminates the “people greeter” position at 1,000 stores in April, CBS News reports.

In late February, the discount stores began replacing greeters at its locations nationwide with what the company calls “customer hosts,” a Walmart spokesperson told the network news outlet. The newly created position requires employees to check receipts, help with product returns, and generally help with upkeep at the front of stores.

The disabled and the elderly—who number among other current employees in greeter positions—would struggle with the physical demands of the such job requirements, critics say.

Indeed, outraged customers and others in Walmart communities started online petitions, formed Facebook support groups; and called and emailed Walmart corporate to register their displeasure.

“This is a shameful day for the country’s largest corporate employer, and a slap in the face to thousands of veteran employees and others with physical disabilities who have given years of service to the corporation,” Kristi Branstetter, leader for OUR Walmart, Walmart associate. and member of worker advocacy group United4Respect, said in a statement.

OUR Walmart already has activated a network of 150,000 Walmart associates, according to a spokesperson for the group.

Walmart’s actions—fueled by an uncompromising quest to slash costs, no matter the consequence — seem to be discriminatory, plain and simple. We see you, Walmart, and we’re not having it,” Branstetter continued.

After the greeter positions disappear at designated stores in April, Walmart originally said that employees would have 60 days to explore other jobs at the company. Now, Walmart has assured employees with disabilities that they can consider their options “indefinitely.”

“This allows these associates to continue their employment at the store as valued members of the team while we seek an acceptable, customized solution for all of those involved,” Walmart said in a statement.

Among those who are scheduled lose their greeter jobs is Adam Catlin, whose plight caught national attention in February after his mother, Holly, posted on social media that he would be let go by the Silinsgrove, Pennsylvania, store come April. However,Catlin  was offered a new job March 1 by Walmart that he will be able to start once the change takes place, according to his mom’s latest Facebook posts.

When the greeter jobs are eliminated April 26, Catlin will be able to start a new job as a self-checkout customer host the following day. Catlin will be moving his seat 30 feet from his place at the door to the self-checkout line where he will encourage shoppers to use the service.

“We’re just very, very happy that they took another look at this and worked with us,” Holly Catlin said.

The 30-year-old Catlin has cerebral palsy and has worked at his Walmart store in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania for more than a decade, CBS News said. Catlin, who is legally blind and uses a walker, was previously offered jobs last week as a cashier or a photo lab assistant, neither of which he would have been able to do as he is legally blind, lacks the finger dexterity to count money, and can’t move around the photo lab in his walker.

Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart’s U.S. stores, said in a memo to store managers on February 28, “We are taking some specific steps to support” greeters with disabilities.” Walmart then released the memo publicly.

Acknowledging the change had “created some conversation,” Foran wrote: “Let me be clear: If any associate in this unique situation wants to continue working at Walmart, we should make every effort to make that happen.”

Research contact: @CBSNews

Allswell rolls out tiny home retail concept for mattresses, bedding, and more

February 15, 2019

Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to mattress prices. To celebrate its commitment to offering tiny prices married with luxe quality, Allswella one-year-old digital startup from Walmart that, in addition to mattresses, offers a chic, contemporary line of home goods—has launched a tiny home retail concept this month.

The custom-built, highly-stylized and functional house on wheels will be open to the public for viewings and shopping. Featuring the brand’s two mattresses—The Allswell and The Luxe Hybrid—among a bevy of shoppable bedding elements and social media-friendly vignettes, the home made its debut in New York City on February 7, before departing on a coast-to-coast tour.

The 238 square-foot home, custom-built by Columbus, Ohio-based  Modern Tiny Living, comprises four rooms and showcases the brand’s two signature mattresses—one in a sleeping area and one on a convertible daybed in the living area..

“We have had customers begging us to come to their cities so they could test out our mattresses,” says Allswell Brand President Arlyn Davich, adding,. “We couldn’t think of a better way to do so than … literally welcoming people into our home, allowing them to fully immerse themselves in the brand.”

Upon entering the Allswell tiny home, visitors will be encouraged to pull a surprise promo code from a “Dream Jar.” As guests explore the tiny home’s quarters, they can shop and immediately buy the Allswell mattress and bedding items they see. The “Dream Jar” discounts will range from 10%-20% off and unique codes ranging from $150-$500 off.

From a custom-tiled “It Was All a Dream” shower to a bird’s eye photobooth looking down on the master-suite mattress where visitors cans pose among pillow props and customized signs, the tiny home is also entertaining.

those that just can’t get enough, an Allswell-designed tiny home will be available for purchase beginning February 7on https://allswellhome.com/pages/tiny-home with a starting price of $100,000.

Over the course of three months, the Allswell tiny home will travel across the country, making numerous stops including: New York City, Philadelphia, Washington,DC, Atlanta, Nashville, Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland (Oregon). To follow the tour, see specific dates and locations and learn when additional stops get announced, visit https://allswellhome.com/tiny-home.

Research contact: taylorf@alisonbrodmc.com

Consumer wallets ‘spring a leak’ as prices soar on diapers, kitty litter, and toilet paper

February 12, 2019

Most of us cut back on everything but the essentials when household prices go up, but our budget remains the same. However, according to a February 10 report by The Wall Street Journal, the cost of staples—including such fundamentals as diapers and cat litter—is expected to increase in 2019, leaving us little choice but to ante up.

Producers of household products, from toilet paper to bleach, are set to raise prices again this year after already hiking prices in 2018, hoping to offset higher commodity costs and boost profits, the financial news outlet says.

New Jersey-based Church & Dwight already has increased prices for about one-third of its products, including Arm & Hammer cat litter and baking soda, and some OxiClean cleaning products.

“The good news is that competitors are raising [prices] in those categories as we speak,” Church & Dwight CEO Matthew Farrell said on a conference call last week, during which the company reported higher quarterly sales and lower profits.

What he left out of that statement to financial analysts was that it was good news for the company and its stockholders—but not for America’s consumers.

The company is now discussing more price increases with retailers, including for personal-care products, Farrell told analysts Tuesday. Those brands include Nair, Arm & Hammer Toothpaste, Orajel, Simply Saline, Waterpik, and Viviscal, among others.

Other household names that are planning to release similarly “good” news, according to the Journal, include Procter & GambleColgate-Palmolive, and Clorox, which are raising prices in response to higher costs of raw materials and transportation, as well as unfavorable foreign-currency swings.

For much of the past decade, the Journal notes, price cuts have been far more common than price increases as U.S. companies were mostly reluctant to test consumers’ spending power and brand loyalty in a fragile economic recovery.

When companies tried to raise prices, “they better have had a uniquely strong innovation or be willing to lose market share to competitors,” Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj told the news outlet.

Adding to the challenge of raising prices is that more shoppers have been switching to store-branded paper towels and discount detergents, or opting for online upstarts such as Dollar Shave Club.

Traditional brands also have been under pressure from big-box retailers such as Costco and discounters like Walmart Inc. and Amazon to keep prices low—pushing the manufacturers to focus on lowering costs in their supply chains or pare back advertising.

Finally, after failing to see success when they tried to combat weak demand by lowering prices, the industry’s biggest player, P&G, shifted its course last summer, announcing it would charge more for several of its brands—and several rivals followed suit, the Journal reports.

The recent price increases are largely playing out in the companies’ favor, Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog told the Journal. Sales volumes of household and personal products in the United States. declined 1.4% in January, according to Bernstein’s analysis of data from Nielsen. Dollar sales of those products rose 0.7% in the period, Bernstein said, indicating that the price increases, on balance, are padding the bottom lines at consumer-goods companies.

How consumers will deal with the price hikes long-term remains to be seen.

Research contact: aisha.al-muslim@wsj.com

What’s with all of the decluttering?

January 17, 2019

Healthcare. Gun control. Privacy. Global warming. At a time when most major issues are out of our control, Americans have focused on the pressing need for decluttering. If we cannot fix the world, at least we can bring some order to our own small parts of it.

It began back in 2014, with a manifesto by a professional organizer based in Japan—“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”—and it has built to a cultural climax with the hit Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

And while, The Chicago Tribune reports, Marie Kondo’s minimalist manifesto is a phenomenon unto itself, with Twitter testimonials (#tidying, #konmari) and hundreds of YouTube videos, the author also has helped to espouse a broader societal cleaning spree: Your family, friends, and neighbors are accepting the 40 Bags in 40 Days (#40bagsin40days on Twitter) clutter-removal challenge—which runs from March 6 through April 20 this year.

They are listening to Graham Hill’s TED Talk (“Less Stuff, More Happiness,” with 4.4 million views and counting), posting photos of dumped junk on Instagram, and snapping up popular get-rid-of-it guides targeting minimalists (“The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay).

“The whole decluttering thing is a huge trend right now,” Kristin Collins, 40, of Raleigh, North Carolina, told the Tribune. She has been on a self-described clutter reduction “bender” for the last few years. “It’s what everyone’s talking about.”

Collins, a communications professional who lives with her husband and their nine-year-old daughter, told the news outlet that she doesn’t even have to purchase kid clutter; it comes to her. “Birthday parties (mean) piles of presents, and there’s treasure boxes at school, and they come home with all these cheap junky toys and goody bags, and then grandparents are shipping lots of cheap stuff from Walmart that breaks in the first two weeks and scatters on your floor. I feel like we’re at a point where it’s reaching a critical mass and people are just losing their minds

How did decluttering rise through the ranks of the American self-improvement agenda?

In a pioneering 2001-2005 University of California at Los Angeles study that sent researchers into the homes of 32 middle-class families to carefully chronicle their possessions, researchers found refrigerators covered with magnets, photos, calendars, memos, and kids’ art; common spaces full of toys; shelves stuffed to overflowing with DVDs, books; and mementos; and garages so full of boxes, bins and rejected furniture that there was no room left for cars.

The researchers began their report on “The Clutter Culture,” by describing the value system of the home owners: “Get stuff. Buy stuff. Get more of it. Keep that, too. Display it all, and proudly.”

“One thing that was really striking to everybody that worked on this study was just how much of a clutter crisis our families are facing right now,” Darby Saxbe, now a professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California, told the Chicago Tribune. “They were surrounded by stuff to the point where it seemed emotionally and physically stressful and taxing for them.”

Saxbe traces the clutter buildup, in part, to unprecedented access to deeply discounted consumer goods.

“We’ve got Walmart, where you can buy anything for $10, and we’ve become used to this very acquisitive style, where if you can’t find your stapler, you just go buy another stapler,” she said “I was just reading the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books with my daughter, and if they wanted a doll, for example, they had to make it, and it was incredibly labor-intensive.”

Ergo, the success of Kondo’s book, which was a best-seller in Japan and Germany before hitting the U.S. market. The book—which is part cleaning memoir, part decluttering how-to—centers on the author’s personal “revelation” that our possessions, themselves, create stress. As a young girl, she learned to cull them mercilessly, keeping only those things that brought her joy. She built a system of decluttering based on that insight, as well as a business.

In a true Kondo household, every object has its place and is returned to it religiously after it is used. Kondo makes the remarkable — and very seductive — claim that no one who has completed her private tidying course, which involves a one-time, full-home purge, has rebounded into disarray. No one.

“This whole Marie Kondo thing has changed my life,” Jamie Gutfreund, the global chief marketing officer at the global digital agency Wunderman, told the Tribune.”Everybody who knows me right now is so tired of me talking about it, because I feel so much better,” Gutfreund says. “I really feel so much better. I (used to) lose my glasses every day. The whole thing is, you have to respect your items, and you have to put them in the places where they’re supposed to go. So now I’m putting my glasses where they’re supposed to go, and I don’t lose them — funny! I probably gained 20 minutes a day.”

There’s also an emotional aspect to decluttering, and for some a spiritual one. Like meditation and yoga, decluttering appeals to overscheduled Americans seeking calm and focus, Gutfreund says.

And that’s the key to the decluttering revolution—that sense of calm and control within the turbulence that characterizes our current society.

“I am the opposite of a neat freak — I’ve always been a messy person,” Collins says. “But even I just feel a sense of calm when there’s not stuff piled in every corner of my house.”

Research contact: @Marie Kondo

Who are ‘influencers’ and how do they get paid?

December 17, 2018

If you enter the hashtag #influencer on Instagram, you’ll quickly navigate to a page with nearly 10 million posts. But that’s only the tip of the influencer iceberg, so to speak. According to Mediakix, there will be 21.7 million brand-sponsored influencer posts on Instagram by the end of the year—and 32.3 million by the end of 2019.

From micro-influencers making $50 per post to Instagram superstars like singer Ariana Grande , who command half a million dollars per post, the Instagram influencer market runs the gamut in terms of following, audience, and engagement; and it has even the biggest brands buying in. AdidasSamsungAmerican ExpressMicrosoft, and many more are finding ways to partner with Instagram influencers to reach their audiences and create new ones.

But how do you get started? In the case of Amber Venz (#venzedits), who spoke to CNN for a December 12 report, by the time she was in high school, she was designing and selling jewelry. And by the time she was 23, Venz was running a website that showcased her work as a personal shopper

 “I posted three times a day, and it was like trend stories and sale alerts,” Venz told the network news outlet.

Within a few months, the site was generating so much buzz around her hometown of Dallas that The Dallas Morning News ran a full-page story about her site. “It said ‘Meet the Blogger… She is now doing all these services online for free.’ My blog actually became quite famous,” she says.

But the “for free” part irked her. According to the CNN rags-to-riches tale, Baxter Box (who was her boyfriend at the time and is now her husband) got her thinking about how she could make money from the “free” fashion and style tips she was offering on her site. That’s when they came up with RewardStyle, an invitation-only platform that allows fashion and lifestyle bloggers and influencers to make money from the content they post.

Created in 2010, the company website says, “RewardStyle influencers have exclusive access to an innovative ecosystem of monetization tools, a global network of 4,500+ retail partners, and tailored growth services-all designed to power the monetization of your content.”

Today, the website has formed a global community of more than 250 team members, 30,000 top-tier influencers, and 1 million brand partners across more than 100 countries.

“With a proprietary ecosystem of innovative technology, strategic growth consulting, global brand partnerships, and expansive consumer distribution, we’re doing more than just monetizing the industry—we’re defining it,” Venez claims.

Here’s how it works, CNN reports: Bloggers write a post or post a photo on social media and hyperlink to a particular brand or retailer’s web site. If a person clicks on the link and purchases the featured product, then the blogger gets a commission. Venz says the commissions vary depending on the brand, but are typically between 10% and 20%.

RewardStyle gets a cut as well, but Venz wouldn’t disclose how much the company makes each time an influencer helps make a sale. “Everyone only gets paid when a consumer actually makes a purchase and the retailer is paid. It is all commission-based,” she said.

“These are primarily women who love fashion or interiors or talking about their family or their fitness routines and they have attracted an audience that loves their point of view and comes to their content on a daily basis,” says Venz. “We’ve given them a way to monetize that.”

And 4,500 brands, including Walmart, CVS, Amazon and Gucci, also use the platform, which has racked up $3.8 billion in total sales since it was founded.

Despite the company’s success, Venz told the news outlet that wants to keep innovating. “We are not low on ideas. So the thinking that we’ve peaked early is honestly not something that’s crossed my mind,” she says.

In 2017, for example, the business introduced a consumer shopping app called LIKEtoKNOW.it. The app lets users take a screenshot of content anywhere on the internet created by an influencer. RewardStyle will then send them links to buy the products that appear in the screenshot. The app has 2 million users and has generated $210 million in sales for its retail partners so far.

“One of the things I love about RewardStyle is that it is empowering thousands of women to do the thing I always wanted to do, which was work in the fashion and media industry,” says Venz.

Research contact: @rewardStyle

UK ‘player’ Hamleys may expand into U.S. toy sector

December 11, 2018

Although Toys R Us has returned as a pop-up store at Kroger for the holidays (and maybe longer), the retailer that used to rule the toy realm is just a shadow of its former self. And, without the industry leading Toys R Us megastores, nationwide, an $11 billion toy industry has been left with no dominant retail player in the sector, reported CNBC on December 10.

Companies like TargetWalmartAmazon and Kohl’s are trying this holiday season to sell more toys to kids and their parents, but the verdict is still out on which company will best fill the void that Toys R Us left behind, the news outlet said.

But now—seeing a huge opportunity— one iconic, international toy retailer could soon make its first move into the States with a flagship location in New York, and plans for a wider rollout of stores to follow. British toy retailer Hamleys is close to finalizing a deal for roughly 30,000 square feet at 2 Herald Square in Manhattan, near Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret, a person familiar with those negotiations told CNBC, requesting anonymity because the talks are confidential. The store is expected to open in 2020, should the deal go through, said the source—cautioning talks are still ongoing between the tenant and landlord and nothing has been finalized.

According to CNBC, Hamleys has been around since 1760 when it opened its first location in England. Today, it has a flagship shop on tourist destination Regent Street in London, in addition to locations all across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. And in North America, Hamleys has three stores in Mexico.

In the United Kingdom, Hamleys’ stores are known to draw kids in for exciting experience, including the opportunity to play with life-size Lego figures. Often, employees dress up as fictional characters to entertain shoppers. This excitement in stores is what many people say the toy industry is now missing in the United States, CNBC reports. And shoppers prefer it to the online experience, where it is impossible to pick up a toy and look at it, or try it.

After an opening in New York, Hamleys would likely mote into other  major markets such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami to open store;  and would consider moving into some of the more profitable malls in the country, said the person familiar with its plans.

Hamleys didn’t immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Research contact: @laurenthomasx3

StarKist faces $100 million fine for fixing tuna prices

October 23, 2018

Charlie the Tuna is “on the hook” for a felony. StarKist—which has long been represented by the cartoon mascot (or spokes-tuna) in its brand advertising—has agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of packaged seafood sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced on October 18.

The DOJ said StarKist—which is owned by Dongwon Industries of South Korea— faces up to a $100 million fine when it is sentenced, the Chicago Tribune reported. In addition to pleading guilty, StarKist has agreed to cooperate in the investigation.

Prosecutors allege that the industry’s top three companies conspired between 2010 and 2013 to keep prices artificially high.

“The conspiracy to fix prices on these household staples had direct effects on the pocketbooks of American consumers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “All Americans have the right to the benefits of free and open competition—the best goods and services at a price free from collusion.  We will continue to hold companies and individuals who cheat consumers accountable.”

“Our citizens’ confidence in the ability to buy goods within an unbiased market is key to sustaining an efficient and fair economy,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, FBI-San Francisco. “This investigation stands as a symbol of our commitment to holding corporations and senior leadership accountable and ensuring that activities such as price-fixing will not be tolerated.”

“We have cooperated with the DOJ during the course of its investigation and accept responsibility,” said StarKist CEO Andrew Choe in a formal company statement, adding, “We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost transparency and integrity.  While this process is long-term in nature, we have addressed the necessary actions required in this plea agreement, including continuing to strengthen related compliance best practices.”

The scheme came to light when Thai Union Group‘s Chicken of the Sea tuna brand attempted to buy San Diego-based Bumble Bee failed in 2015, according to court records. Chicken of the Sea executives then alerted federal investigators, who agreed to shield the company from criminal prosecution in exchange for cooperation.

Bumble Bee Foods last year pleaded guilty to the same charge and paid a $25 million fine—$111 million lower than prosecutors said it should have been, the Tribune reported. Prosecutors said they feared putting the financially struggling Bumble Bee out of business with a high fine and agreed to let the company make interest-free payments for five years.

Two former executives of Bumble Bee and one from StarKist have also each pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges. None of them have been sentenced, the Tribune said..

In addition, the three companies face mounting lawsuits from wholesalers, food service companies, and retailers—among them, Walmart, Target, and Kroger.

Research contact: @TheJusticeDept

Levi Strauss CEO takes a stand on gun violence

September 12, 2018

Support for tougher gun laws hit a 25-year high last March in the United States, in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A Gallup poll fielded that month found that 67% of Americans  supported tougher restrictions on guns.

At that time, several businesses, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, responded to the death of 17 students—and the nationwide fear of gun violence—by limiting their sales of semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15, as well as the bullets that go with them.

But those companies with no ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA) or gun sales hesitated to take a stand, for fear of alienating their customers. Except, that is, for Levi Strauss & Co., which in November 2016 requested in an open letters from its CEO that gun owners not bring firearms into its stores, offices, or facilities—even in states where it is permitted by law.

In a September 4 commentary piece published by Fortune magazine, Levi Strauss President and CEO Chip Bergh recalls the backlash after that letter became public—and challenges other like-minded businesses to do the same.

“In the days after I published that letter,” Bergh says, “I received threats to our stores, our business, and even on my life. It was unsettling. But these personal attacks pale in comparison to the threats that activists and survivors from Parkland, Sandy Hook, and daily incidents of gun violence face every time they speak up on this issue.”

However, he says to other business leaders in the opinion piece, “We simply cannot  stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work. While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option….Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and walks of life.”

As of September 4, Bergh said, “on top of our previous actions, Levi Strauss & Co. is lending its support for gun violence prevention in three new areas.”

  • First, says Bergh, the company has established the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants from Levi Strauss & Co. over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.
  • Second, Levi Strauss will partner with Everytown for Gun Safety and executives including Michael Bloomberg to form Everytown Business Leaders for Gun Safety—“a coalition of business leaders who believe, as we do, that business has a critical role to play in and a moral obligation to do something about the gun violence epidemic in this country.”
  • Third, he says, “We know that some of our employees have been personally affected by this issue and want to see change.” Therefore, the company is doubling its usual employee donation match to organized aligned with its Safer Tomorrow Fund. In addition, Levi Strauss is encouraging its staff who are concerned to get involved. The company provides employees with five hours a month (60 hours a year) in paid volunteer time—and recently expanded this to include political activism.

“As a company,” Bergh says, “we have never been afraid to take an unpopular stand to support a greater good. We integrated our factories in the American South years before the Civil Rights Act was passed. We offered benefits to same-sex partners in the 1990s, long before most companies did. We pulled our financial support for the Boy Scouts of America when it banned gay troop leaders.

“While each one of these stands may have been controversial at the time, history proved the company right in the long run. And I’m convinced that while some will disagree with our stand to end gun violence, history will prove this position right too.”

The NRA commented immediately after the opinion piece ran, saying” In a repulsive insult to the nation’s 100 million gun owners, Bergh likened Levi’s campaign to restrict the rights of law-abiding Americans to previous company efforts aimed at combating pre-Civil Rights Era racial bigotry. Among gun owners, Levi’s has used its name and resources to attack gun rights.

“Given the majority of Levi’s 165-year history, Bergh’s decision to use a formerly quintessential American company to attack a quintessential American right is a particularly sad episode in the current surge in corporate virtue-signaling. We can only assume that Levi’s accountants have determined that resulting skinny jeans sales will be enough to offset the permanent damage to their once-cherished brand.”

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com