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On Monday, we reported that the efforts by D’Agostino’s Supermarkets to acquire Kings Super Markets in New Jersey from Marks & Spencer Group for $160 million had collapsed, apparently because New York-based D’Agostino’s was unable to secure the financing it needed in tough capital markets. One member of the MNB community wrote:

“It is probably the best thing that could have happened to D’Agostino’s, as it will save it from bankruptcy. I don't believe a New York operator can operate in Jersey and visa versa, and it was overpaying. A good price for Kings is $80-90 million, a fair price but overpaying just a little would be $100-110 million. Anything over that, and a company is grossly overpaying. The entire (Kings) chain makes about $15 million a year and over $6 million comes from one store, which is Short Hills and that store is going to be facing some new competition and is also in need of a remodel very badly. There is no return on investment for a buyer, as this company shows no value to the customer whatsoever. The real world is that Marks and Spenser overpaid and now it wants its money back and then some. If Kings were really worth something then Ahold would have bought it, as the price is not even lunch money for it…

“As far as Gristedes, look for it to tie the thing up and beat them down to an under $100 million price tag and probably finance $150 million and put 50 mil in its pocket for administrative troubles.”

Interesting analysis. We’ll see how it works out.

We posted a story yesterday with highlights of an Associated Press interview with Albertsons CEO Larry Johnston, in which he suggested that while warehouse clubs and Wal-Marts are price-driven destination shopping experiences, his company has the advantage of location. MNB user Jude Sturman wrote in to suggest that there’s another way to look at this:

“Interesting Johnston thinks "location" is the primary reason for shopping at Albertson's. Location should actually be viewed as a negative result from a store survey. It implies drivers like freshness, quality, customer service and price are not as appealing as driving distance.”

So this means, in essence, that “location, location, location” is a poor substitute for “fresh, clean, friendly”? That actually makes sense…

In response to yesterday’s story about Wal-Mart’s record day-after-Thanksgiving sales numbers, MNB user Dave Wiles writes:

“OK, Wal-Mart made a number. The best day after Thanksgiving ever. Now that is a good thing. But (Don't you just love those buts!) now they have to do the same thing next year or that will be a DOWN YEAR.

“I am glad I am not tagged with that number.

“This year's success is next year’s base number.”

We posted a dialogue yesterday between users talking about the high price of cereals and some of the other alternatives available…and MNB user Sherry Chard joins in:

“I now buy grains in bulk and use them in cereals and cooking. Organic food usage is on the rise. I have an illness called "multiple chemical sensitivity"--something fairly new and also growing in alarming numbers worldwide. Organic foods are a huge part of my treatment. All of us need to learn to eat healthier and avoid all of the pesticides being used and additives that our government allows to be put in our food. It has to stop!”

Yesterday, we posted a story about how Publix Super Markets reportedly is beginning to advertise its online shopping efforts in a number of online venues, using portals such as AOL and Yahoo! as well as sites such as to generate traffic for its site. One report we read on this noted that Publix does not currently collect email addresses of its brick-and-mortar customers…which, if true, we simply don’t understand. That seems to us to be the lowest fruit on the tree for any retailer…that asking shoppers for their email addresses is easy to do, and that responding to those who give out their email addresses is a simple and effective way to communicate with shoppers.

This comment generated a lengthy and thoughtful email from one member of the MNB community:

“Why not collect e-mail addresses indeed? As I was reading this question my perusal of the Monday MNB was interrupted by the prompt telling me I have mail. It turned out to be a message from my favorite grocery store - Super Saver. And yes, boneless-skinless chicken breasts at $1.28 lb. does sound like we'll be enjoying yard bird for supper. If I was a Publix customer and they'd put that on sale, I'd be left out in the cold on that one.

“My wife and I (without mentioning specific numbers), have been AARP members for more than a couple of years, and we're consistently surprised at the number of retailers who think we (and the rest of the folks our age) are somehow computer dead heads and skip by things like this, things that represent a (somewhat) personal touch and put useable information where it's most easily extracted. Here are some of the little things I see just in our family and close friends, things outfits like Publix need to notice:

“Three generations of females who stay in close touch and share bargains when they find them, from clothes to food. And there's three generations of guys who do the same thing. For instance, when Harbor Freight e-advertised 6-inch digital calipers at $19.95, I e-mailed all the DIY guys in the family. What a bargain!

“My wife and I have five kids, four through school and married, one more finishing a degree in engineering and sidestepping matrimony till the degree is finished. Aside from time on the telephone for daughters spread from Omaha, NE to Billings, MT, wife and daughters are forever sending e-mail messages, baby pictures, recipes, etc. Add our three sisters and their married kids and grandkids into the fray and you begin to see some numbers. Many of our close friends are in the same numbers game with family and friends. You send one of us a good deal and there's a chance it will soon pop up on everybody's computer.

“This is especially true for us older customers. Open your eyes. You'll see us at about the same time, on the same day of the week. Most of us prefer to shop early, before the crowds. We tend to be loyal, we can afford what we want and we're twice as easy to get along with as any other group. And we have more time to share stories (good or bad) and bargains then any other group. Believe me, if you don't want our e-mail addresses - you should, and after a while we'll begin to wonder why you don't. Is it because you don't care as much as other retailers, or are those other guys just smarter?

“It doesn't take a huge investment in technology to start connecting more closely with your customers. A PC, a little software, somebody who can type, a modem and VOILE!!! You're looking more like a good friend and less like ‘shopping with the dinosaurs.’”

Pay attention…there’s a lot of wisdom in this email.

Responding to yesterday’s piece about testimony about allegedly abusive labor practices by Wal-Mart, MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:

“What does it say about the American worker when Wal-Mart is taken to task for pressuring its employees to meet business goals? Why would any worker be satisfied producing anything less than their company's goals?”

It’s called “unionization.” We think.

Finally, the MNB community dialogue continues about the value of branding to retailers in general, and Martha Stewart’s brand value to Kmart specifically. MNB user Doug Gammage of Watt International writes:

“Interesting comments by an un-named reader on Martha Stewart's brand value in the context of meaningful consumer brands.

“Whether brands belong to manufacturers or retailers is of less significance to today's consumer so long as brand values are clearly defined and effectively communicated.

“The departure of Philippe Stark and Todd Oldham from Target suggests that Target's brand is under redefinition or perhaps that those particular designers pushed Target beyond the elasticity of their brand.

“If one looks at the top 10 retailers in terms of market value growth in the last decade (Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Safeway, Target, Walgreens, The Gap, Kohl's, Lowes, Kroger, and CVS)* one would observe that each had consistent expectations which were consistently (in the 90's at any rate) met.

“The challenge, as always, is to define a unique position in the market place, communicate it, and then back it up. Sounds easy, doesn't it?”

KC's View: