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Instacart is quietly building a billion-dollar ad business.

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Today’s highlights: A judge rules employers can mandate vaccinations. How the pandemic has changed executive recruiting. And would you pay $34 for a lobster roll?


Instacart is quietly building an advertising business to compete with Facebook and Google: “These ads come largely in the form of paid listings for items like Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Ketel One Vodka that shoppers see while searching for groceries to buy and browsing through Instacart's app. The business has caught on with brands trying to get in front of customers they'd otherwise reach through in-store promotions or grocery-store circulars.”

  • “One industry executive familiar with Instacart's business said the company could do close to $1 billion a year in ad revenue by 2022.”

  • “The business differentiates the company from other gig-economy services such as Uber and DoorDash. When ordering a ride or a dinner from a restaurant, consumers are less likely to be lured by marketing into buying other things.” READ MORE

Shopflix wants to be QVC for online shoppers: “Inspiration struck while [Matt Matros] was shopping last year for a baby stroller before the arrival of his first child. It was mid-pandemic and Buy Buy Baby was closed, so test-driving a stroller wasn't an option. Images on brand websites were fine but didn't tell the whole story. YouTube reviews weren't cutting it either. ‘I found that the best source of information for which stroller to buy for our family came from just watching people in the park on a Saturday in Chicago,’ Matros told me. The experience led him to start Shopflix, Matros's latest venture that's aiming to be a 24/7 video streaming network where brands can tell their stories, and where shoppers can see high-quality demos of products they want to buy.”

  • “It started as a mix of ‘QVC meets Peloton meets Netflix,’ Matros explained. The QVC element being demonstration shopping, Peloton for the ability to follow specific hosts and tune in when they're live, and Netflix for its catalogue of content.”

  • “Shopflix makes money by charging brands to be featured, though not all brands pay to be part of Shopflix, Matros said. The company also takes a cut of the sales that take place on the Shopflix platform.” READ MORE


A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by employees at Houston Methodist Hospital who sued the hospital system for requiring Covid vaccination: “In a five-page ruling issued Saturday, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes upheld the hospital's vaccination policy, saying the requirement broke no federal law. ‘This is not coercion,’ said Hughes. ‘Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer."

  • “The hospital says that nearly all of its roughly 26,000 employees agreed to the policy, but suspended nearly 200 staff members without pay for refusing to comply.”

  • “In his ruling, Judge Hughes called the plaintiffs' claim that currently available COVID-19 vaccines are ‘experimental and dangerous’ an argument that is both false and irrelevant.” READ MORE

Nearly a third of companies have yet to develop a vaccine policy, according to a survey conducted by human resources software company Tinypulse: “Most companies are hoping to avoid requiring vaccines. The federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws says they can, but chief executives fear vaccine mandates would lead to lawsuits, invite political upheaval and be hard to enforce. But they’re worried about safety. An outbreak could force a company to retrench on masking and social distancing policies, making it even harder to get back to normal. So they are trying everything short of a mandate, without yet ruling one out.”

  • “As companies weigh their options, many are canvassing employees to determine how many have already received a shot.” READ MORE


Not everyone thinks remote workers should be paid less if they live in less expensive locales: “A dollar in New York doesn’t go as far as it does in Omaha, so the employee in New York is effectively getting paid less for the same job. But many experts say that’s misleading because an employee’s ultimate worth is really about the quality of the work, not the geographic area where it is done. ‘If you’re asking [employees] to do the same job that they did before, why do they become less valuable if they’re doing it from somewhere else?’ ask Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who says cutting pay for employees who relocate isn’t a good idea.”

  • “While remote work can give companies access to a much wider pool of talent nationally, Dr. Cappelli predicts that any employer that opts to reduce pay in these situations stands to lose its best employees.” READ MORE


Companies are looking for new leaders, and executive recruiting may never be the same: “The pandemic has transformed the process of recruiting CEOs and other top executives. For one thing, it’s getting faster, as virtual interviews have cut the time it takes to interview and hire to roughly four to eight weeks, rather than being drawn out over months of time-heavy trips. But the changes go well beyond speed. Some recruiters say the virtual process also has broadened the applicant pool, given more people inside the company a chance to speak with applicants and generally broken down formality in interviews.”

  • “The pandemic created all sorts of disruption, from technology to corporate culture and a greater focus on diversity. As companies seek executives who can navigate this environment, some are looking for new qualities, such as the ability to speak to a broad audience of stakeholders.”

  • “‘There’s a very public voice that a CEO carries now,’ says Tierney Remick, vice chairman and co-leader of board and CEO services at executive-search firm Korn Ferry. ‘There is increased demand for their voice across many constituencies, including employees but also customers.’” READ MORE


More workers are quitting their jobs than at any time in at least two decades: “In April, the share of U.S. workers leaving jobs was 2.7 percent, according to the Labor Department, a jump from 1.6 percent a year earlier to the highest level since at least 2000. The shift by workers into new jobs and careers is prompting employers to raise wages and offer promotions to keep hold of talent. The appetite for change by employees indicates many professionals are feeling confident about jumping ship for better prospects, despite elevated unemployment rates.”

  • “While a high quit rate stings employers with greater turnover costs, and in some cases, business disruptions, labor economists said churn typically signals a healthy labor market as people gravitate to jobs more suited to their skills, interests and personal lives.”

  • “For many workers who want a change, there appear to be plenty of options. Some sectors, such as manufacturing and leisure and hospitality, are getting a boost from government stimulus packages and enthusiastic consumer spending. Employers are on the lookout for workers, eager to snap up promising candidates.” READ MORE

Because of the chip shortage, restaurants that already couldn’t hire enough people now can’t obtain POS systems: “These systems connect servers’ handheld ordering devices to terminals and printers in the kitchen and dining room. At a moment when just about every restaurant in the country is short-staffed, not having enough handheld machines or terminals adds another layer of problems. Here’s an example: With summer weather prompting every restaurant to maximize outdoor space, servers who lack these ordering devices have to rush indoors to put in orders or add another round of drinks — with time ticking.”

  • “The companies that make the equipment are scrambling to come up with workarounds, like online payment and scannable tabletop codes that allow customers to order from their phones.”

  • “For an industry that has been decimated and rebuilt during the coronavirus pandemic, the chip shortage could change the dining-out landscape, erasing thousands of server and bartender jobs forever.” READ MORE

A restaurant in Nantucket is considering hiring eighth graders: “Gabriel Frasca, a chef at the Massachusetts island's Straight Wharf Restaurant, told Fox Business that the restaurant was particularly hard hit by the labor shortage, because commuting was unviable. The island has a population of less than 12,000. ‘We're at the point in the hiring process where not only are we considering eighth graders, but we're interviewing them,’ Frasca said. ‘That's new … for me but hey, he's got housing.’”

  • “‘Right now when we need to fill 11, 12, 13 positions, we're pretty far away from that.’” READ MORE


A family-owned bedding business in Ohio pays tariffs on Chinese feathers even though competing Chinese companies don’t pay tariffs on finished bedding shipped to the U.S.: “The family-owned business, Down-lite International, won an exclusion from import tariffs last spring after arguing that there are few other places besides China where it can get the feathers it needs to stuff its quilts, comforters and other bedding. The exclusions that were granted to Down-lite and thousands of other U.S. companies expired by late last year, however, and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office says it won’t consider granting new exclusions until it completes a top-to-bottom review of tariffs on these and other Chinese imports imposed by the Trump administration.”

  • “Meanwhile, no tariffs were ever imposed on many of the finished bedding products from China—such as down-filled comforters and quilts, mattress pads, feather beds and sleeping bags—putting Down-lite at a disadvantage to its Chinese competitors ...”

  • “Down-lite has paid more than $500,000 in tariffs since the exclusions expired, said Mr. Werthaiser, whose family has been in the down business for over a century, and founded Down-lite in 1983.”

  • “Down-lite and other companies granted exclusions assumed the Biden administration would quickly restore the exclusions or drop the tariffs entirely. Instead, the tariffs have remained in force pending the review.” READ MORE


Would you pay $34 for a lobster roll? “Up and down the coast of the northeastern United States, the price of lobster — and thus, lobster rolls — is at historic highs, say restaurateurs who serve them. ... As with used cars and houses, the price spike in lobster meat is, in part, a matter of supply and demand exacerbated by the pandemic. Home cooks, stuck inside during the lockdown, turned to all manner of seafood to expand their palates and learn new kitchen skills over the past year. ‘The processing sector is demanding a lot of meat,’ said Dick Douty, an owner of Douty Bros., a lobster wholesaler and processor in Portland, Maine. ‘There’s more players, and there’s not more lobsters.’”

  • “But the lobster industry is also ‘inefficient by design,’ said Annie Tselikis, the executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association.”

  • “And when it comes to processing, she added, ‘We don’t have a lot of automation in this industry because we’re dealing with an animal that has two large claws, eight legs, a tail and an exoskeleton.”

  • “All of which has resulted in an epic mismatch between supply and demand so far this year.” READ MORE

If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren