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Rich Duprey

Contributor, The Motley Fool
  • 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.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    Chick-fil-A Foundation changes charitable giving and controversy follows

    Giving in to the mob never works. Already Chick-fil-A is being criticized by those it kowtowed to. It’s said if CFA was truly sincere, then they would be donating to LGBTQ organizations. You will never satisfy your critics regardless of where they are on the political spectrum. CFA’s actions also implicitly suggests that the Salvation Army is now a controversial organization unworthy of charitable donations. Will they next be driven from in front of storefronts during the holidays? The fact is, Dan Cathay’s comments were never about CFA as a company, but his own personal beliefs. CFA also does not discriminate based on gender or sexual identity, so this entire controversy is based on an incorrect factual foundation. CFA can donate to whatever charities it chooses, but giving in to social media rage mobs will never give you the acceptance you seek.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    What will happen now that Five Below has gone above $5?

    The value of Five Below was that in targeting the teen and tween demographic, it gave kids a place to shop where parents didn't have too many budgeting concerns. While raising the ceiling to $10 may cause some budgetary thoughtfulness now, it is still an exceptional value store for its targeted customers. Any constraints on spending will be more than made up in volume due to the broader selection of goods it can offer and the higher quality those goods can bring.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    What will happen now that Five Below has gone above $5?

    And even Dollar Tree is now experimenting with price points above $1 in several test markets.
  • 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.
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