business news in context, analysis with attitude

We wrote yesterday about the “disastrous holiday selling season” just concluded…which prompted one of our favorite people, Glen Terbeek, to send us the following email:

“Is ‘The Disastrous Holiday selling Season’ because the shoppers aren't shopping or is it because the industry has over saturated the market by continuing to build square footage at a faster rate than the increase in the number of shoppers?

“When you see Lowe’s build a store across the street from Home Depot, or you see Circuit City, Best Buy, and CompUSA all within a square mile of each other, you have to wonder. Do you buy more nationally branded drills because there are two stores instead of one? Or PC's? Or TV's? OR detergent and cereal? I don't think so.

“So if the season is disappointing if measured by same store sales increases of stores that offer the same (old) things, who is to blame? I think that the shopper has learned how to take advantage of the opportunity. And, I bet that stores with a special, innovative merchandise and or shopping experience offering did just fine.

“A nationally branded distribution industry model doesn't work well in over saturated markets. When will the financial analysts and associations like NRF understand? Maybe the wrong stores are being sampled?”

One of Glen’s phrases bears repeating, and in boldface:

”I bet that stores with a special, innovative merchandise and or shopping experience offering did just fine.”

We bet he’s right. And we’re convinced that the only thing that will prevent the wide scale homogenization of retailing is for more retailers to take this approach.

On the subject of McDonald’s reformulating its hamburgers, MNB user Dan Raftery of Prime Consulting wrote:

,i> “Does anyone else think this sounds like the New Coke strategy of 20 years ago? I'm pretty sure that McD's current customer base is not attracted by the quality of the food. Consistency maybe. Why walk away from that?”

Fair question.

In a story yesterday about home improvement stores catering to women, we asked why more supermarkets don’t appeal to men. This comment generated a number of emails…

MNB user Norma Gilliam wrote:

“You are so on the money! Stores should be teaching men to cook and how to shop for nutritious meals for themselves and their families. Many news reports show where men have become the "stay at home" dads, while women seek professional careers and become breadwinners. Then, there are a lot of single dads as well as dads that may even like shopping and cooking, if they knew how to do it effectively!

“A few years ago I spoke about a meat merchandising program called "Dinner By Dad." This could be a meal that the kids really look forward to, a fun time in preparation and eating. The meal doesn't have to be complicated, or a recipe by a chef. The traditional roles of the family have been changing over time and will continue to change. Retailers should look at this as an opportunity to differentiate themselves.”

However, one MNB user disagreed, and offered an interesting rationale:

“It’s not as socially acceptable for men to acquire kitchen skills as it is for women to acquire DIY skills. Unless, of course, he gets pretty darn good. And today's 21st century woman is not content to be dependent on some man who may be more interested in a nap after golf than a bathroom remodeling project. She wants the project finished this year.”

For us, being able to cook for oneself is a way of guaranteeing personal autonomy. Which is why we’re teaching our sons how to cook…
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