MNB TV: From Amazon to Zipcar - Innovations from the E-Revolution, Part Eight
"The Mobile Horizon" - Part 8 of a 12-Part Series
Today: Why the mobile revolution is good news for retailers - in terms of cost, data and the ability to be more effective marketers.
This morning, MNB continues a series of videos culled from a presentation that I did at the recent Food Marketing Institute (FMI) 2012 Show in Dallas. The session, entitled "From Amazon to Zipcar: Innovations from the E-Revolution," featured an extended conversation with Tom Furphy, CEO of Consumer Equity Partners and the guy who helped Amazon.com get into the grocery business.
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Amazon.com yesterday made some news when it announced that it has created a "Never Before on DVD" site with more than 2,000 titles - movies and TV shows - available to consumers for the first time.
Well, I had a chance to thumb through it a bit, and what was interesting to me was how many of the DVDs are being made on demand - in other words, Amazon is only manufacturing them when it gets orders for them. (In many cases, one can download the movies and TV shows, avoiding the need for any sort of physical product.)
Now, there's a lot of stuff on this list that few people ever will be interested in. But the whole "made on demand" approach points to a broader cultural trend. Not only do people expect instant gratification, but companies are going to need to find a way to provide customized content or products that meet their desires. We're quickly getting to the point where everything will be available all the time ... which will create enormous challenges and opportunities for retailers trying to find ways to differentiate themselves.
Safeway CEO Issues Apologies To Clinton And Pelosi For Inappropriate Joke
Corporate Counsel reports that Safeway CEO Steve Burd has written letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi apologizing for what generally is seen as an inappropriate joke that the company's general counsel told recently at the company's annual meeting.
His letter read:
You may have heard about the regrettable attempt at humor by Safeway’s General Counsel, Bob Gordon, at our recent annual meeting of stockholders.
Mr. Gordon has sent a letter of apology directly to both of you. I simply wanted express to you how sorry I am for what occurred. The joke was inappropriate and I deeply regret that this has obscured the respect we hold for you and for your service to our nation. We intend to do all we can to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
Again, please accept my apology.
I think everybody involved with this mess has learned their lesson. Time to let it go ... but to make sure that it does not happen again.
Budget Resolution Said To Threaten Census Bureau Survey That Helps Business
The StoreFront BackTalk blog has an interesting piece in which it bemoans the fact that "on May 10, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget package that eliminates funding for the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), which collects large amounts of data useful to retailers under the census’s umbrella."
What is distressing to the blog about this vote - which, to be clear, is a long way from becoming law - "is that data from the ACS couldn’t be accurately generated by private-sector surveys. At a time when retailers can finally sift through huge datasets cost-effectively, this one could disappear ... This is not a good program to kill. The ACS, which collects information from about 2 million different households each year, gathers more detailed economic and demographic data than the every-10-year census (it’s a replacement for the old long-form census, for anyone who remembers being selected for that particular long march). The data gives a more statistically accurate picture, down to the city level, than anything else available."
It seems to me that, without getting too political here, this is the kind of discussion that is fraught with philosophical landmines, especially in an election year.
Republicans want to cut the budget and get government off the backs of the people. Except that in this case - and no doubt in other selected cases - there will be government programs that, if eliminated, could actually hurt the private sector. But we live in a world where, on both sides of the aisle, adult conversations, compromise and budget-cutting-with-a-scalpel are less and less possible, giving way to ideological posturing and an unwillingness to compromise and work with the other side.
Saving ACS may require more maturity than most people in Congress can muster.
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The MNB Walmart Watch
• Bloomberg Business Week reports that Bill Simon, president of Walmart's US division, says that the company is seeing "early success" with its Walmart Express small stores, and that they "are profitable less than a year after the company started opening them." Walmart now has 10 such units.
"So far, so good," Simon told a Morgan Stanley Retail Conference. "The next phase is, how big this could be."
The Washington Post has a column by Katherine Tallmadge, author and registered dietician, in which she talks about seven foods often described as bad for you that actually have health benefits...
• Gluten and wheat, she writes, "such as whole wheat, rye and barley, are vital for good health, and are associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and excess weight."
• Eggs may not be as big a cholesterol problem as previously believed, she writes. Besides, "some of the biggest egg eaters in the world, the Japanese, have low cholesterol and heart disease rates, in part because they eat a diet low in saturated fat. In contrast, Americans eat eggs alongside sausage, bacon, and buttered toast."
• "Potatoes have been blamed for increasing blood glucose levels, insulin resistance, excess weight and Type 2 diabetes." But, Tallmadge writes, they also "are a great source of potassium, Vitamin C and fiber that many cultures — Scandinavians, Russians, Irish, and Peruvians — relied on as a nutritious staple for centuries. And they were not fat."
• "People often ask me if fruit is too high in sugar, especially for diabetics. This fear of fruit, I believe, is left over from the Atkins craze, which discouraged eating some fruits on the grounds that they are high in carbohydrates. Avoiding fruit could actually damage your health. Study after study over many decades shows that eating fruit can reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes. Fruit is high in water and fiber, which help you feel full with fewer calories, one reason why eating it is correlated with lower body weight. Even though they contain simple sugars, most fruits have a relatively low glycemic index. That is, when you eat fruit, your blood sugar raises only moderately, especially when compared with refined sugar or flour products."
• "Soy is sometimes seen as dangerous after studies found elevated rates of breast cancer among rats when they were fed a concentrated soy derivative. But studies looking at whole soy foods in humans have not found a connection. In fact, the reverse may be true."
• "Alcohol is feared because of the potential for abuse and alcoholism and complications such as liver disease, which are valid concerns." But in addition to having demonstrated benefits in preventing heart disease, "wine may have additional benefits because its grapes are filled with nutrients called polyphenols, which reduce blood-clotting, inflammation and oxidation."
• "While it’s true that frying food usually increases its caloric content, that doesn’t necessarily make it unhealthful. As long as food is fried in healthful oil instead of butter, shortening, or trans fat, and it’s eaten in moderation, it isn’t less healthy. In fact, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and heart-healthy, cancer-preventive carotenoids such as beta-carotene (e.g., carrots, sweet potatoes), lycopene (e.g., tomatoes) and lutein/zeaxanthin (deep-green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale), need fat in order to be absorbed by the body."
As one MNB user is fond of writing me whenever these kinds of stories pop up, there are no bad foods. There are just bad diets. It is how we eat things, and the quantity in which we eat them, that create negative effects.
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The Seattle Times reports that while Amazon.com annual shareholder meetings traditionally have been sleepy affairs, this year was different as "more than 100 protesters gathered outside ... to call on Amazon to pay more taxes, treat its workers better and drop its membership in a conservative public-policy organization."
According to the story, "Amazon, addressing some of the criticism, told shareholders that it planned to ... drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)" because of positions taken by ALEC not related to its business. (ALEC has lobbied in favor of so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws and voter ID legislation, positions that have brought it much attention from the left and led to pressure on companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola and now Amazon to break off ties with it.)
In addition, the story says, CEO Jeff Bezos "said the company will spend $52 million retrofitting its warehouses with air conditioning. Amazon has come under public scrutiny for its treatment of workers after newspapers, including the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call and The Seattle Times, revealed harsh conditions at some of its U.S. warehouses. The Allentown stories described temperatures above 100 degrees last summer in Pennsylvania."
In 2012, it would not seem like asking for air conditioning would be a big deal.
• According to Pensions & Investments, "The $24.7 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds, Hartford, will vote its shares against the re-election of seven members of the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. board at the company's annual meeting June 1.
The pension system owns $38 million in Wal-Mart stock and bonds.
"The vote is in response to allegations that Mexican government officials were bribed by Wal-Mart executives in that country..."
• The Seattle Times reports that Costco "plans to ramp up new store openings later this year. It will open just 16 new stores in the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 2, but plans to open 13 new locations in the last three months of the calendar year. Costco has 602 warehouses worldwide."
• The Los Angeles Times reports that "the Los Angeles City Council has moved toward banning plastic bags at grocery stores in the nation’s second-largest city.
"The council voted 13-1 Wednesday to approve a policy that would ban single-use plastic bags ... The ban would take effect later this year after an environmental impact report that is expected to take four months and the council adopts an ordinance.
"The city’s program would be modeled after bag bans in 48 other California cities."
Large stores will have six months to phase out the bags, while smaller retailers get a year.
• Reuters reports that "PayPal unveiled deals with 15 retailers including Toys R Us, J.C. Penney and Barnes & Noble as the online payment giant expands into more physical stores ... Other retailers announced on Thursday for PayPal's in-store service were Office Depot, American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Rooms To Go, Jos. A. Bank , Aeropostale, Foot Locker, Nine West, Jamba Juice, Guitar Center, TigerDirect and Advance Auto Parts."
The story notes that "the deals add to a pact with Home Depot, which began accepting PayPal in about 2000 stores this year."
• Wakefern Food Corp. announced that Cheryl Williams, Vice President of Digital Commerce and Innovation, was recognized by Executive Women of New Jersey (EWNJ) at the recent “Salute to Policy Makers” Dinner. The biennial event honors women of professional distinction in New Jersey, as well as generating proceeds that have been converted to more than a million dollars in scholarships for women in New Jersey seeking advanced degrees.
• Whole Foods Market named Scott Allshouse, Omar Gaye and Rob Twyman as regional presidents following the promotion of David Lannon and Kenneth Meyer to executive vice presidents of operations.
Allshouse fills Meyer's former role as president of the company's Mid-Atlantic Region. He moves from his position as president of the South Region.
Gaye takes the South Region president position vacated by Allshouse, moving from his position as the South Region's vice president.
Twyman is now president of Whole Foods Market's Northern California Region. He fills David Lannon's former role and moves from his position as vice president of the Northeast Region.
• Washington State-based Haggen's Inc. announced a number of leadership moves for the 28-store chain...
John Turley joins Haggen as Senior Vice President of Operations and brings over 40 years of experience in grocery retail, including marketing, merchandising, and operations. He's held various positions at Vons Grocery and Kroger Co., as well as Quality Food Centers (QFC) where he was responsible for the operations, merchandising and marketing strategy for 95 stores in the Pacific Northwest.
Clement Stevens, who has been with Haggen for two years, has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Sales and Merchandising. Prior to Haggen, Stevens ran his own retail consulting company in Boise, ID focused on product development among the Fresh Foods vendor community. Prior to that, he spent 30 years with Albertson's.
Guy DiPasqua is Haggen's new Vice President of Pharmacy, and comes to the company with more than 34 years in Pharmacy operations in a leadership role. He's worked as a lead for Savon and Osco Pharmacy operations, as well as the Target Corporation where he was responsible for pharmacies in 64 stores.
Ronette Snyder is the new Vice President of Marketing, where she will facilitate marketing efforts for the Northwest Fresh brand across advertising, marketing and merchandising, assisting Haggen to pioneer emerging trends in social and online media. Prior to Haggen, Snyder spent nine years at The Campbell Soup Company, and prior to that spent seven years at Seattle's Best Coffee.
Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...
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Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...
Department of Corrections
Yesterday, MNB reported that "Pittsburgh-based multi-format food and fuel retailer Giant Eagle Inc. is scheduled to open the company’s second Giant Eagle Express, a new 14,500 square-foot neighborhood grocery store, in Indiana today."
What we should have said is that the store was being opened in Indiana, Pennsylvania."
No emails today ... because I went to the dentist yet again yesterday, and what was supposed to be a 90 minute appointment stretched into more than three hours. Thank goodness for Xanax and gas, which help to alleviate my phobic anxieties and dull my consciousness. (Though walking home from the appointment was a bit of an adventure.) I was in no shape to starting going through emails yesterday, and in even less shape to write witty responses.
OffBeat: Vivid And Authentic, From Books To Sandwiches
Most writers would love to have a month like Ace Atkins is having this month.
It started with the publication of "Lullaby," his first novel in the Spenser series as he takes up the mantle of the late, great Robert B. Parker. As I told you a few weeks ago, "Lullaby" is a book that "goes a long way toward capturing Parker’s musical phrasing as well as his sardonic yet hopeful world view,"and it "captures the flavor of Parker’s novels without being too imitative, and allows characters that have become old friends to many of us to continue." I've been happy to see that "Lullaby" has been on the best-seller lists, and I look forward to the next one.
On June 1, Atkins is back with "The Lost Ones" (Putnam, $25.95), which is the second book in a new series he is writing about Quinn Colson, a former Army Ranger who has become sheriff of Tibbehah County in Mississippi. "The Ranger," the first in the series that came out last year, was a terrific novel - so steeped in the culture that one could almost taste the grit and grits, with a compelling protagonist and a fascinating group of supporting characters. "The Lost Ones" concerns Colson's desire to bring down a baby selling racket, while simultaneously putting him in the cross-hairs of a mexican drug cartel. The characters are vivid, the atmospherics seem authentic, and the plot has drive and irony.
Very quickly, Ace Atkins has leapt to the top of the list of my favorite current writers. Go buy his book, and see if you agree. You can thank me later.
You may remember the story that we had here on MNB the other day about how a group of guys that had created a new watch called the Pebble - designed to link with the iPhone, iPod and iPad - were using a new site called Kickstarter.com to raise money for production of the watch. (They were hoping to raise $100,000, and ended up raising $10.2 million.)
Now, one of my other favorite authors, Michael Connelly (of the Harry Bosch series), also is using Kickstarter.com to raise money to finish a documentary he is co-producing, Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Project.
Morgan is described this way: "Frank Morgan was a prodigal alto sax player who, like so many of his fellow musicians of the era, saw his career plagued by drug addiction. What sets Frank apart is not just his exceptionally beautiful, classic alto playing, but also the amazing fact that he survived 30 years of revolving door incarceration and drug abuse and went on to a much heralded comeback career in the last 22 years of his life. His story is one of brilliant promise in his youth, a journey through the depths of hell, and redemption through his art."
They're about halfway to the $60,000 they are looking for to finish the film, and I may throw a few bucks in just to support a project that sounds worthwhile. But what i really find fascinating is the thousands of projects listed on Kickstarter ... they just make me feel good about the state of creativity and innovation in America.
BTW...you can find out more about the Frank Morgan project here.
I'm an enormous sandwich enthusiast. MNB readers will know this...I regularly will wax rhapsodic about a sandwich I had at a Lunds store more than three years ago - made with smoked turkey, Jarlsberg cheese, a slice or two of bacon, topped with cranberry mayonnaise and served warm on toasted thick cinnamon bread.
Well, let me tell you about a sandwich I had this week that goes into the Coupe Sandwich hall of Fame. It was at a Ben & Bill's deli in the Price Chopper store in Saratoga Springs, NY, and it is called a "Woody Allen," stacked high with warm, melt-in-your-mouth corned beef and pastrami, served on thick homemade rye bread with mustard, and with an "old pickle" and store-made potato chips on the side.
Heaven. Pure and simple.
I have two wines to suggest this week:
the 2007 Kick Ass Cabernet, from California, which is aptly named (and out to be consumed in honor of Ryan Young).
the 2010 Domaine Mardon Quincy Cuvée Tres Vielles Vignes, which is a really fancy name for a white wine that has a nice citrus thing going for it and is elegant without being prepossessing.
That's it for this week.
As mentioned above, I'll be off on Monday...but will be back on Tuesday with an all-new MNB.