retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Lots of reactions to yesterday’s piece about experts weighing in on how to save McDonald’s…all of which should be taken into consideration by Mickey D’s management:

• “All they have to do is be nice to me and I'll come back. They are horrible to me and right now I avoid them at all cost.”

• “First, clean up the lobbies and bathrooms.... Nothing is less appealing than taking your two year old into a bathroom and feel like you would rather have their hands dirty than use their bathrooms. When you walk into the restaurant and tables and food is dirty, it makes you wonder about the food quality...not appealing to young families or anyone else.

“Second, I would also say do away with the made to order concept... it only slows down service and defeats the purpose of fast food. When you order something special at McDonalds you expected to wait a few minutes... now everyone has to wait. When I worked at McDonalds over 20 years ago, we tried to get everyone served in 1 minute or less.... Now that is fast food and fast service... I think people are more time crushed today than back then so that is even more important.

“Third, I wonder what percent of the expanded menu is in new products? Also why can I only get the McRib during certain months if it is that good why not have it on the menu all the time?

“Fourth, pay a little more and get a better employee... we have a franchise
near my house. I would guess they have at least 3 or 4 employees who have worked there over 5 years. They are not managers they are the people the public see and their service is fast. I will get in line behind 6 or 8 cars in drive-thru because I am out in 5 to 10 minutes. When other McDonalds it would take 10-15 minutes.”

• “I have four children and none of them like the food (I never eat it). McDonald's gets our business as a result of the entertainment from their playground areas and the Happy Meal gift. I have to almost force my children to eat the food, which normally ends up in the garbage.” In other words, improve the food!”

• “Service is their key problem. The food has never been great, probably never will. There are lots of other quick serves around and lots of casual style restaurants that can do a 'home made style burger' for not much more, price-wise.

“The compromise always was, and is I'm willing to accept mediocre food if I can get it quickly and at a moderate cost. Given their horrifying staff turnover, the food is still so-so if not worse. It’s taking way too long to get the food; often with the order messed up anyway. Automate the food prep and cooking as much as possible, minimize the 'teenager' hired help quotient and their business will improve.

“All the rest (product mix, new items, cliché ad copy, insincere smiles from miserable staff, incessant toy promos) are all bandages, and they won't change the fundamental problem with McDonalds calling itself a 'fast food restaurant'.”

Points taken. You all should be teaching at Hamburger University!




Responding to our story about an interactive shopping cart that integrates frequent shopper information into the shopping experience being tested at Ahold’s Stop & Shop, one MNB user wrote:

“I think this is great - finally some value (besides the privilege of paying pre-loyalty card era prices) in return for sharing my personal purchasing behavior information. This use of technology seems like it could enhance my shopping experience and provide reasonable incentive to identify myself upon
entering the store, rather than just upon checkout.”


Agreed.




We wrote yesterday about a new Retail Forward study that suggests warehouse clubs may be facing some competitive difficulties down the road. MNB user Robert D. Reynolds responded:

“Nothing is more predictable than the evolution of discount retailers:

• New firm enters market with good idea, price appeal, and low cost, bare bones operation.

• Expands rapidly on price appeal and bare bones operation

• Saturates markets -- Slowly adds features and services to expand appeal
beyond price. Cost of operation inches up.

• Expands services to take business away from traditional operators --
Perhaps add entirely new, high service operations. (e.g. Home Depot's Expo
operation) Add cost of operations.

• Dress up facilities to appeal to a broader customer base.

• Add more services to compete in saturated markets. Add costs of
operations.

• Wake up and find out you are no longer a low cost operation.

• Face a new innovative firm entering market with good idea, price appeal,
and low cost, bare bones operation.

The wheel turns, and turns, and turns.”


Exactly.


MNB user Norma Gilliam added:

“Perhaps it would be a good time for warehouse clubs to take a look at some serious on-line shopping for food items, not just the gourmet and gift items. People are used to purchasing larger packs, cases, etc., and maybe it would save the consumer, as well as the clubs, time and money by allowing them to place orders, pay by credit card, and drive through for pick up.”

This is a great idea. If our local Costco allowed us to place our order online and then pick up at a kind of depot on the property, it would be like dying and going to heaven…




We posed the question yesterday about who would be most likely to survive, Martha Stewart or Kmart. (We voted for Martha, though the last 24 hours have made her situation look even more dire…it’s looking like she may have to resign from her company). But we did get some other opinions:

MNB user Patrick Dunne of the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University wrote:

“I think Kmart best chance to survive is to keep their urban stores and sell their suburban stores to either Target or Kohl’s. This would be the only way they could compete with Wal-Mart (in the urban areas) and they need the cash from the sale of the suburban stores and Kohl’s and in some cases Target need these locations.

We agree. In some ways, a 250-unit Kmart chain seems a lot more viable than the bloated operation that exists today.


MNB user Don Sutton added:

“She got caught with her fingers in the wrong cookie jar and needs to face the stiffest fines, etc., the government can come up with…She should also do a few thousand hours of fairly demeaning community service, also the most allowable. I'd like to see her do a little time, of course, like everybody else, but the business is a house of cards, balanced on Martha, which means the jobs for a lot of wage earners with families to feed may take a big hit if she goes to the lockup.

“Hopefully the courts can find a way to penalize her without zapping a lot of innocent folks.”


We can only dream…


And MNB user Jane Larson wrote:

“Which one will survive? Neither. I'm betting that Martha gets her clock cleaned. She's probably working on designing an orange jumpsuit that will flatter any figure. Next task: bake a cake with a file in it.

“Without Martha, Kmart has nothing of interest.”


Sounds like Jane won’t be on the jury…
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