business news in context, analysis with attitude

We received a number of responses to yesterday’s “MNB On The Road” piece, including this one from MNB user Ken Robb:

“I agree with you...the connection with the customer should be precisely the same...whether at a restaurant or the supermarket.

“Last fall I set up an apartment in Chicago to be near my office, and had the pleasure of shopping at the new Dominick's Fresh Store near O'Hare Airport. The store was very busy, but I was struck by the level of attention given me in virtually every perimeter department. As I considered which of the many different pasta dishes to purchase from the deli...the clerk offered me samples of each along with his own personal recommendation. When I questioned the bakery clerk as to the availability of single size servings on their wide selection of cheese cakes, she also offered samples of each as well as her own preferences, and offered me several options for my purchase of less than a full-sized cake. This experience was repeated in other departments. I was extremely impressed and felt completely at home. Needless to say I have returned to that store many times.”

Another member of the MNB community chimed in:

“MorningNewsBeat is great! Most days I don't write but today your third note from your "Notes from Seattle", hit a cord with me. Why do people in our industry always fall back on a "That's a restaurant not a Grocery store" response? It is all about the experience and how we respond to either good or bad experiences, and that translates across every aspect of our daily lives. As a consumer, I love shopping at a Loblaws banner store in my neighbourhood. It is clean, the people are helpful, atmosphere is comfortable and I generally have a positive shopping experience whenever I am shopping there. There are many other less expensive stores within the same radius or closer but I choose to go where I know I will feel good about my trip. As a packaged goods supplier, I don't feel Loblaws does a particularly good job with our category and with their private label product, are a major competitor, yet I continue to go back. People have different keys to a positive experience and thus there are a variety of types of stores but the bottom line is, Price, Service and Atmosphere all play a significant role in determining the appeal of every shopping experience.”

And another MNB user wrote:

“…how does one keep up with the fickle consumer? Is it the service? Is it the ambiance or presentation? Is it the product being sold? Is it the price? Is it employees. Is it culture? Is it something else too?

“I contend it is how all six of these are orchestrated and implemented. Who is the customer? No one can be all things to all people. There is no holy grail. Where is the greatest return in terms of customer acceptance? Right now Wal-Mart seems to be in the drivers seat with price. That does not mean there is not a market for service, ambiance, product, knowledgeable employees that care, and/or higher pricing. Target has proven that. The answer is capitalism. Who can win the most profit from the customer? And the customer is like the sifting sand on our wind blown shores. Always changing ever so subtly. That is why retailers always have to be testing and playing with the focus of all four of the variables. Kmart and many others failed in paying attention to all the details and were unable to implement.”

Another MNB user offered the following perspective:

“I agree with you, it does not matter if it is a supermarket, a restaurant, or any type of retail environment.....the experience must be a memorable one in order to make sure the patron returns for the "next" experience. Spending your money should be fun and worthwhile! If you are ever in the Cincinnati/Dayton area, hope you will stop in and see Jungle Jim's and Dorothy Lane Stores. They thrive on making your shopping experience a fun time.”

We know both well, and wholeheartedly agree.

In response to our comment about the danger of focusing on short term economics at the expense of long term strategic innovation, one MNB user wrote:

“I'll validate your comment. You must have been listening to a conversation I had with a grocery executive on Friday. He had just gotten out of two days of meetings with the top brass of the company, where they were told not to focus on anything that didn't deliver ‘very immediate and tangible benefits.’”

Worrisome. Very worrisome.

In response to an email we received from an MNB user who said she’d been in a store recently where an employee stepped into the checkout lines, used a hand scanner on products in the basket and then handed her a slip to speed up the checkout, we asked what stores were doing this. We got a bunch of answers: Wal-Mart. Sam’s Club. Home Depot.

Tragically, nobody mentioned a single mainstream supermarket retailer.

And people wonder why Wal-Mart is conquering the world.

We waxed rhapsodic about our experience at Etta’s, a Seattle seafood restaurant, and received the following email:

“Tom Douglas is not only one of the finest talented owners/chefs in the area (Etta's, Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen), he is real and down to earth, which is reflected in his commitment to the total experience you had. It's not unique and a reason I recommend his restaurants to many. The quality of the food is most always outstanding, and the service thoughtful and timely. Glad you enjoyed Seattle. We live in a pretty special area (but don't let the word out so we can't get into some of our favorite restaurants!)”


And finally, responding to yesterday’s MNB Sports Desk piece about the baseball playoffs, MNB user Robert Reynolds wrote:

“Your narrative displays the typical, tunnel-vision east coast sports
mentality. You mention five teams in your brief narrative. Three California teams are in the playoffs. You mention none. In case you did not know, baseball has been played here since 1958. Get used to it.

“Go Giants.

Actually, though we hate to differ, we mentioned all eight teams in the playoffs. We just don’t think any of them are going to the World Series. We just don’t think Anaheim or Oakland can beat the Yankees, and are fairly sure that Barry Bonds will once again choke in the post-season and not propel the Giants to victory.

Of course, we could be wrong…as one MNB user pointed out in an email yesterday:

“’The Braves are not going to win the division this year. Get used to it.’

“I believe that was your quote back in April. What happened to your Mets?

“Braves all the way!”

Y’know, that’s not fair. We like it that you’re reading our stuff, but actually remembering what we said six months ago and then throwing it back at us when we’re wrong?

You folks are tough.
KC's View: