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    Published on: February 4, 2003

    We wrote yesterday about a Time magazine story that noted that 25 percent of teenagers are now vegetarians, defining the practice of now eating meat as “cool.” Time also reported that The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has launched a website that attempts to link beef consumption with being hip and coo, and informs them about the nutritional disadvantages of being vegetarian. The site, according to Time, suggests that teenagers, especially girls, ought to “keep it real” by eating beef often -- as much as three or four times a day.

    We got the following email from Kim Essex, executive director, Public Relations, for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association:

    “First, you should know Time.com got it wrong, and they are correcting their piece. There is no reference in our website that encourages kids to eat beef three or four times per day. There is a reference that says eating regularly, every three to four hours, helps sustain energy, which is entirely different but the only reference to "three to four" on the website.

    “Also, we wanted to let you know the beef industry is not targeting teen vegetarians. In fact, the number of teens who report following a vegetarian diet has remain flat according to data collected by a vegetarian group. The data we have collected suggests the same thing. Furthermore, a nationally representative online poll just conducted with more than 1,000 U.S. girls ages 8- to 12-years-old shows the percent of girls who believe vegetarians are healthier than meat-eaters has declined 11 percent in the last two years.

    “The goal of our Youth Education program is to help kids adopt lifelong healthful habits at both a critical time of growth and independence, which can put healthful eating, in particular, at risk. And we attempt to do it in a kid-appealing way.”


    Point taken.

    Though we did a little research with our kids, and found that they weren’t at all surprised that a substantial number of teens might be practicing vegetarians.

    And then they asked us to make them cheeseburgers.


    It also was interesting that a number of MNB users connected the vegetarian piece to another story we had yesterday about the shortcomings of US school lunches.

    One MNB user wrote about the terrible school lunches:

    “Gee, put this together with the 'hip teenage vegetarians' and maybe we have a little cause and effect.”

    if we had to eat these school lunches all the time, we’re not sure we’d move to being a vegetarian. We’d think more about fasting.


    MNB user Jane Larson wrote:

    “(My 18-year-old son) became a vegetarian almost 2 years ago. It has become much easier to cook stuff that appeals to his sense of environmental responsibility and my taste buds, because more and more grocery items are being labeled as vegetarian. Lo and behold, they are also being packaged more attractively AND 'mainstreamed' in with regular grocery items. Brilliant.

    “So imagine my wonder and joy when a recent trip to the doctor revealed that my cholesterol, formerly in the 210 range (above normal but not horrifying), was now 175. Without pills, wacky diets, suffering or deprivation. Whoda thunk it. And yes, we do eat eggs and cheese, in the form of quiches, omelets, you name it.

    “So to the beef industry, I say, "Suck eggs." Ha ha. No pun intended.”



    MNB user Eric Peabody wrote:

    “Nothing new here. I (being mid-forties now) remember reading Elaine Lapp's “Diet for a Small Planet” in the seventies and announcing to my folks that I'd decided to be a vegetarian. My folks said fine and my dad went back to grilling the burgers he'd started.

    “That night I feasted on trimmings. I'm happy to say that the experiment lasted about two weeks and I wouldn't pass that burger up now! Teenagers try a lot of things on for size while trying to "find themselves". It’s no reason for the cattlemen to be concerned!”



    Another MNB user wrote:

    “I think the beef industry is suffering a classic case of knee-jerk reaction. I have worked in and around the natural products industry for 14 years both in-store and as a consultant, and have had what I believe is significant experience with teen-age vegetarians. While they are eschewing beef--all meat for that matter-- for now, many will return to consuming meat. For most of the kids I've spoken with & lectured to about teenage vegetarian choices, most are concerned about the quality of life and care the animals receive prior to being dispatched.

    “When told that there are shopping alternatives to their neighborhood mass-market stores, and that there are owners and managers of natural product grocery stores that uphold ethical treatment of animals, they are surprised and interested. Education is the key and the large natural foods retailers should address both teenage vegetarian issues and ethical alternatives for meat-eating teens.”



    We got a lot of email on this subject, especially because we said we wouldn’t be particularly alarmed about our kids becoming vegetarian. MNB user Jem Welsh wrote:

    “Just a note regarding the dangers teens may create for themselves by going vegetarian. Certain nutrients, among them vitamin B12 and essential fatty acids, are not found in any significant measure in a strictly vegetarian diet. Parents of those teens considering a veggie diet will need to make sure the kiddos supplement these nutrients. Some essential fatty acids are found in avocados and nuts, but for the most part, found more readily in GOOD meat sources, such as fish.

    “A few years back, parents of a group of teens embroiled in the politics of PETA-type stuff, sought my nutritional counsel regarding their children's diets. After a bit of questioning, it become apparent that the teen's food habits now largely consisted of bagels, doughnuts and sodas. The parents were searching for healthful alternatives. I recommended nutritional supplements, as well as some healthful vegetable/protein sources I thought maybe the kids would eat. FAT CHANCE! (no pun intended). The majority of the teens gained weight quickly on their diet and their conflict became aesthetics, not politics!

    “Some nutritionist will tell you that they have never seen a healthy vegetarian, while others insist it is the best way to eat. You may not think your kids need counsel when they make a lifestyle choice like this, but they do need to know what they are doing. Having a political agenda, thinking vegetarianism is "cool" or simply not eating meat as a personal statement are all indicative of a person's (can I call teens that?) beliefs and should be honored, but should not be taken lightly. Information about their new diet should be provided.”


    Of course they need full information. We were just saying that in the range of things that our kids could say that would be really alarming, vegetarianism isn’t high on the list.




    Regarding our essay yesterday about the downfall of a unique DC-area men’s clothing store called Britches of Georgetown, and the lessons it offers to all retailers, MNB user Gene Grabowksi of the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) wrote:

    “I used to be a loyal Britches shopper -- back in the 80s when the store was in its prime. As you said, it felt like a club, and its employees were knowledgeable and seemed proud of their work.

    “The store capitalized on the then-current trend of foppish dress at work and at play -- complete with braces, collar stays, cuffed and pleated trousers and elegant shoes. Even its casual wear was special.

    “Alas, when trends among young professionals turned to thick-soled brogans, sloppy casual shirts at work, loose, baggy cotton pants and the like, Britches didn't keep pace. I'm convinced the store's customer base was made up of up-and-coming boomers who had a great deal of disposable income to put toward their wardrobes in the 1980s. When that group (including me) began to age and have children, take on mortgages and buy groceries for families, we began to seek clothing that was more bargain-priced and practical. Men's Clothing Warehouse here we come.

    “Whether or not Britches could have survived by re-inventing itself is debatable. The fact is, the "classic" looks and attitudes that once could sustain a company, a brand, or an industry for decades are no longer powerful in a world where consumers are constantly seeking something new and different. I heard Spike Lee opine last night on the "Actor's Studio" program on Bravo Network that music videos with their constant scene cuts have destroyed the attention span of young viewers, making it nearly impossible to create a popular movie with lengthy scenes that are required for true story-telling.

    “In many ways, the same things are happening on the retail front. Today's consumer has been conditioned to constantly expect something innovative and new, something entertaining, something ahead-of-the curve and, often at the same time, something low-priced.

    “The owners of Britches will no doubt invent another retail strategy behind another brand. Perhaps we're now living in the world of the disposable brand.”


    Interesting points…especially because you wouldn’t necessarily expect someone from GMA to use the phrase “disposable brands” in a sentence.

    We agree that the consumer has been conditioned to expect something innovative and unique…and would add that many retailers don’t live up to that expectation, preferring to focus on price, and therefore lowering the bar on what is offered and simply not taking advantage of what could be considerable consumer interest.

    One other note that we think may have some applicability across varying retail venues. Gene writes about Men’s Warehouse suddenly becoming the clothing store of choice for men who are seeking bargain-priced items. Our wardrobe tends to be made up of high fashion pieces from classy designers like Eddie Bauer and LL Bean…but when we’ve bought suits and ties, we’ve never, ever had a good experience at cut-rate clothing stores. The clothes simply aren’t as good, and once you’ve paid for alterations, the savings aren’t as much as you’d think.

    Sometimes, low cost is an illusion. Quality never is.




    On the subject of school lunches, we suggested that there may be little that retailers and manufacturers can do to change things. MNB user Amanda Archibald disagreed:

    “Nothing that retailers or manufacturers can do. Huh? It is the nature of manufacturers to find an outlet for their product. Look hard at the brand names on product being supplied to the school nutrition programs and I think you will find some nice representation. A market is a market - right? Perhaps we should turn out attention a little more acutely to the lobby-ridden USDA to discuss the nature of food or "commodities" that arrive in schools. After all - wasn't ketchup at one time deemed a vegetable????

    “The simple fact is that the face of school nutrition can change. Some schools really are reaching out to local suppliers and growers and finding that indeed - children do like greens, fresh food and a meal prepared and served with dignity. When we lead with an example – then our children can and do eat healthfully. The challenge you face now is simply that you have a generation of parents feeding kids who themselves have had no culinary education. So - they cannot lead by any better example themselves. They ate burgers and fries. Their kids will eat the same - unless we show them differently.”



    And while we characterized many school lunches as “crap,” MNB user Dee Munson had a different perspective:

    “I have to differ! I went to school for lunch with my grandson last week. Several kids in each grade were allowed to invite parents to join them for lunch in the cafeteria. Parents had to let the school know if they planned to eat from the cafeteria line. I saw no parents go through the line but I saw at least 2 dozen bring in fast food lunches: burgers, fries, soft drinks. The pot roast, potatoes, carrots and milk being offered in the cafeteria sure looked lower in fat and with at least a few more vitamins and minerals!”


    Another MNB user wrote:

    “Why do we abdicate parental control of children's diet to a system that is unhealthy and at times unsafe? If one complains about school lunch for flavor or nutrition, they only have to change it by using the brown bag. Better yet, have the kids make their own lunch using the flavorful and nutritious items you bought. It teaches responsibility and tastes better. Quit complaining and take control.

    “If that doesn't work get on the school board and make some changes. You can't be alone in this thinking.”


    Funny, we’ve been thinking about the school board. But we’ve been told that because of our big mouth, we are unelectable.

    Go figure.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 4, 2003


    • John C. Rocker, former VP of operations at Homeland Holdings in Oklahoma City, has been appointed to the same position by Wisconsin-based Fresh Brands, the retailer/wholesaler that operates Piggly Wiggly and Dick’s Supermarket stores.



    • Hershey Foods named Kristen E. Anderson to be the company’s vice president of brand integration, responsible for overseeing the packaging and marketing of all of Hershey's confectionery brands.

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 4, 2003


    • Weis Markets posted fourth-quarter net income that was up 28.3 percent to $16 million, compared to an 18.2 percent increase in 2002. Income from operations increased 22.9 percent to $23.1 million.

      Fourth quarter sales increased 0.7 percent to $507.2 million, while same store sales were up 0.9 percent.

      Annual total sales were up 1.4 percent to $2 billion for 2002.



    • Ingles Markets posted first quarter net income of $3.2 million, compared with $4.1 million during the same period a year ago, and sales of $495 million, a nearly one percent drop from last year, owing to the closure of four stores. Same store sales were off less than one percent.

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 4, 2003


    • The European Union plans to ban the use of slogans for food that promise health benefits that cannot be scientifically confirmed. The new rules will require that all health claims on labels be “scientifically based, clear and reliable information regarding both the nutrient content of foods and their associated health benefits," according to a spokesman for the EU.



    • Reuters reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) believes that terrorists may use chemical, biological or radioactive agents to contaminate the food supply. The WHO called on its 192 member governments and on industry to minimize risk by boosting surveillance and emergency response measures.

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    Kmart Corporation has launched Urban Direct, a new entertainment and lifestyle newspaper supplement with celebrity interviews, articles and product offerings targeted at urban demographics.

    This is Kmart’s second such venture, the first being the Spanish language La Vida.

    One million copies of Urban Direct are being distributed in nine markets, including Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Detroit; East Brunswick, New Jersey; Long Island, New York; Miami; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C., wrapped around Kmart’s weekly ad circular.
    KC's View:
    It was just a few weeks ago at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference that we heard about the untapped opportunities available in America’s urban markets. So maybe Kmart is onto something here…but the merchandise inside the stores had better reflect the editorial inside the supplements.

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    The Toledo Blade reports that Spartan Stores may be trying to sell or find a partner to acquire part of Food Town Supermarkets, which it bought less than three years ago.

    The paper reports that all 39 Food Town units have been listed as “for sale” in an information sheet put together by a local investment banking firm.

    Spartan has not officially confirmed the sales effort.
    KC's View:
    Remarkable, isn’t it, how the world has changed over the past three or four years.

    We suspect that Spartan will make a deal if it can find a buyer willing to meet its demands, but will hold off if it cannot. This gives the company flexibility in its moves…especially because it is so difficult to project where the economy and competitive situation will be in six weeks, much less six months from now.

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    A Retail Week survey indicates that four out of ten British consumers would prefer to see Safeway purchased by Wm. Morrison Supermarkets – if Safeway is to lose its independence.

    Just 12 percent of shoppers said they viewed an acquisition by Morrison’s of Safeway as negative, while thirty-five percent of shoppers said they saw a purchase of Safeway by Wal-Mart’s Asda Group as a bad thing. Thirty-three percent said it would be a negative if Sainsbury bought Safeway, and 31 percent didn’t want to see Tesco buy Safeway.
    KC's View:
    Unfortunately for British consumers, the decision about what company gets Safeway won’t be made by popular vote…though perhaps the UK’s competition authorities will pay attention to the preferences of the nation’s shoppers.

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    Reuters reports that J. Sainsbury has ended its test with Boots Group, which had Boots’ HBC sections in nine of the food retailer’s stores.

    “Sainsbury's has learned a lot from this trial but we have been unable to agree commercial terms for roll-out," Sainsbury management said in a statement. The company plans to increase its own HBC presence, according to Sainsbury.

    The test began in September 2001. Ironically, there have been reports that the Sainsbury-Boots combination had upped HBC sales by some 10 percent. There had been rumors that Sainsbury might try to acquire Boots, but nothing ever came of it; Sainsbury said it now will concentrate on trying to acquire Safeway Plc, an effort in which it faces at least five likely competitors.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    This week on SupermarketGuru.com, Phil Lempert reports:

      “Over the past few months we’ve heard a lot about the airlines charging for food, and in many cases eliminating their meals altogether. Their food is the butt of many jokes, but the reality is airline food is more important that one acknowledges until they are locked in a narrow tube with two or three hundred strangers for a few hours.

      “Hooters just announced they are going into the airline biz – but before you snicker…what is so smart is that they are separating job functions – flight attendants will handle the boarding/safety issues and Hooters Girls will be restaurant trained and will handle the bulk of the hostess and food functions (as allowed by FAA regulation).

      “This is one of those ‘Duh! Why didn’t I think of that’ revelations. Airlines have outsourced the food preparation to non-descript caterers for many years, and even experimented with serving McDonald’s Kids Meals as special orders. But the idea of outsourcing the actual in-flight service as well as the food is one that warrants test. Let’s see – The Palm for First Class and TGIFridays for Coach? This could well be the solution for both passengers and the airlines.”
    KC's View:
    The idea of separating traditional duties to deal with non-traditional times is a very interesting idea…and the opportunity of providing in-air food for consumers seems to us to be a terrific opportunity for retailers.

    But they have to move on it fast.

    By the way, if you haven't checked out the new SupermarketGuru.com site, you should. It has tons of info that puts you in touch with consumer attitudes and interests.

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    MNB continues our newest feature: “The BIG IDEA Beat” Contest, in which the thought-leaders who make up the MNB community have the opportunity to share their perspectives on critical issues facing the industry and win a signed copy of Agentry Agenda: Selling Food in a Frictionless Marketplace, by Glen Terbeek.

    Each week, we offer both a Premise and a Challenge to MNB users. The Premise will seek to state either a fact of life for the food industry as it currently exists, or a trend that seems to be developing as retailers and manufacturers seek a better way of conducting business.

    Your Challenge will be to respond by identifying the best ideas and examples that typify where the industry ought to be heading.

    Entries should be emailed to kc@morningnewsbeat.com.

    “The BIG Idea Beat” contest will be featured each Monday, and repeated Tuesday and Wednesday…answers must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. Winners will be picked and featured on MNB by Friday. Some weeks there may be single winner…other weeks, there could be multiple winners. Selection of the winners will be solely at the discretion of Glen Terbeek and MNB Content Guy Kevin Coupe.

    Premise:

    The supermarket industry grew up through leveraging central buying and distribution to a "standard" store in a Greenfield marketplace. However, the marketplace dynamics have changed, through the saturation of like stores and products, exasperated by a slow growth marketplace (population growth of less than 1 percent a year) that make this model less effective. Accordingly, significant false economics have developed using the current business processes, often estimated at 15% of the manufacturers sales or 7.5% of retailers’ sales. And new "alternative format" competitors have taken market share by exploiting these discontinuities. It therefore can be concluded that the current organizations, measurements, and business processes are out of touch with the marketplace realities of today and tomorrow.

    Challenge:

    Focus on the organization issue. What are your ideas for the organizational design of the future supermarket chain that will enable it to compete successfully in the very competitive marketplace of today? (Hint, you might want to review the responses of the first two Big Idea Challenges.)
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 4, 2003


    • In US, E-Grocery Still Alive And Kicking
      Reuters reports that just a few years after the highly publicized flameouts of high profile e-grocers such as Webvan and Kozmo, there still is plenty of vitality in the e-grocery business.

      Jupiter Research predicts that online sales of groceries in the US will reach $5.4 billion by 2007, up from $1 billion last year. However, some analysts say it is hard to gauge how well the industry is doing because many of the current online grocery ventures are components of brick-and-mortar operations run by Albertsons and Safeway, and those companies don’t break out the performance of their Internet ventures.


    • Canadian E-Grocer Facing (Gasp!) Profitability
      The Canadian Press reports that Grocery Gateway, the Toronto-based online grocer, predicts that it will be profitable in “months and not years.”

      In part, the company says its progress comes from the network of associated retailers with which it is working -- Grocery Gateway sells Sobeys private label products and Home Depot products on its site. Once the company manages to achieve a higher order rate -- which management says it is confident will happen sooner rather than later -- the business model will be working, according to John Mozas, general manager of Grocery Gateway.

      Grocery Gateway's revenues are growing at about 30 per cent year over year, according to Mozas, with annual sales expected to be in the $70-million range by the end of the fiscal year in June.

      About 40,000 people have used the online retailer in last three months, Mozas said.

    KC's View:
    Nice to hear positive stories about e-shopping in the grocery channel, even if the US companies are a little cagey about the results.

    In Canada, it’s all about frequency, traffic, volume, and, increasingly, networking with other retailers to build additional volume and traffic. And it seems to be working.

    We think that while there always be missteps, as time goes on there will be more successes than failures, more momentum than reversals, more good news than bad.

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    Business 2.0 defines category management as a “bizarre and controversial place in which the nation's biggest retailers ask one supplier in a category to figure out how best to stock their shelves.”

    While “category management is now standard practice at nearly every U.S. supermarket, convenience store, mass merchant, and drug chain,” the magazine reports, some observers are beginning to question the practice.

    “In their view, category management is retail's Faustian bargain: Lured by the savings and convenience of getting manufacturers to mind the store, retailers have ceded not only responsibility for their shelves but also any hope of differentiating themselves.”
    KC's View:
    Exactly.

    This article essentially argues that the pursuit of efficiency has corrupted the shopping experience to the point where it is hard to find a store that offers anything other than prices that are low, lower, lowest and lower still.

    Sure, there are exceptions. But one must wonder whether this tendency has bled the originality and innovation out of a business that can be, at its best, marvelously creative.

    We’ve always believed that great retailing can be an art, not a science. But great art can be more and more difficult to find.

    Great piece in Business 2.0, and well worth reading.

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    In the first of a two-part article, the folks from The Hartman Group offer a look at the consumer and wellness trends that will have an impact on retailers and manufacturers in the coming year.

      With 2003 well on its way, we still see many of the influencers of the past year. Though 9/11's impact sits farther back in our minds, the fundamental shift that followed in the days, weeks and months after the attacks still reside, exemplified by a deepening of values and a desire for simplicity.

      As this shift in consumer behavior continues, here are a few other trends we see shaping up in 2003:

      The Price is Right.

      Continuing Price Elasticity in Niche-Market Spaces. After traveling around the country for the past year talking to consumers of all persuasions, our most consistent, powerful finding is that fiscal instability is not leading to heightened price sensitivities in the specialty retail sector. To be certain, while some consumers may have less money to spend all around, said cash flow shortcomings do not appear to be significantly altering retail shopping behavior for those retailers offering added value via experience and community. In short, consumers are frequenting high-margin, niche-market, specialty retailers in the same proportions as before the perceived economic slowdown.

      The Battle for the Lowest Price. We will see this initially in terms of an increase in price wars between conventional retailers that will eventually lead to the expansion of Wal-Mart and dollar stores at the expense of everyone else trying to compete on price. We've already seen this happen with the mass discount stores and have seen the beginnings of this with grocery stores. Expect to see the process continue in grocery. At the same time, expect to see a counter-trend develop in which everything but price is manipulated, as retailers attempt to carve out a space that differentiates themselves from Wal-Mart. This will lead to some innovative successes and some creative failures, but the end result will be a widening gap between the (relatively) pricey retailers valued by consumers and the rock-bottom price retailers that consumers currently love. The middle ground will continue to give way to these two extremes (much like the income distribution). Specifically, all this will take the form of:

      Intensification of the price wars
      Extension of these price wars from mass discount and grocery to other channels
      Further differentiation of retailers unable or unwilling to compete solely on price with the consequent increase in prices for their wares
      Disappearance of many mid-priced goods and services and the retailers that concentrate on them, to be replaced with higher priced private label brands at one end and inexpensive commoditized brands at the other.


      Keeping it Local. Keeping it Real.

      The Local Store. Retail grocery stores found 2002 the year to get local. In this past year, we've seen stores like Albertson's make significant shifts in how they do business at the local store. Currently large chains are learning that they need to cater to the local market; therefore, more stores are offering products as well as store formats to meet the local needs.

      The Local Connection. More consumers will flock to farmers' markets or local produce stands. Buying local in 2003 will become as important as products like organic in that the significance of "local" is that it represents similar values to where your customers live, work and play. Buying local gives them the direct link to extend and expand into their own community, empowering them and giving them the sense of belonging. It also reverberates the experiential nature of the community with the immediate and impactful realization that they're involved. Finally, it reinforces the idea that the grocery store is "their store" -- their own personal space -- where they can participate and join in their neighborhood environment, where they, in turn, leave their own thumbprint. This relationship is realized not just in the layout and space of the physical store, but the products and services themselves become an experience of their own local community.

      Coming Thursday: “The Transformation of Organic from Specialty to Ordinary,” and C-stores Get The Wellness Gospel.

      For more information, check out The Hartman Group at http://www.hartman-group.com/
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 4, 2003

    Kmart Corp., the discount retailer struggling to emerge from bankruptcy protection, and Fleming Cos., the food wholesaler, have dissolved the supply contract that they signed in 2001 and that should have run through 2011.

    Kmart is Fleming's biggest customer, and accounted for roughly 20 percent of its revenue last year. Fleming expected Kmart to generate about $4.5 billion in revenue in 2002, but reports are that the actual amount was closer to $3.3 billion…a number that was expected to drop to $2.5 billion this year.

    The companies announced that that the deal was no longer in either of their best interests. They will continue working through issues of transition and the resolution of outstanding claims.

    Kmart President and CEO Julian Day said, “We have determined that given the change in our store base, among other things, the Fleming supply arrangement no longer meets our needs and the rejection of the contract at this time is appropriate.” Kmart is in the process of closing more than 300 stores and laying off more than 35,000 employees; the company has declared its intention to emerge from bankruptcy by the end of April.

    Fleming Chairman and CEO Mark Hansen said, “The basis on which the parties entered into the agreement have substantially changed, warranting an end to the relationship." Hansen said Fleming had tried to negotiate better terms with Kmart, but had been unsuccessful.
    KC's View:
    You could see this one coming a mile away, and the real question now is which of the companies is going to be affected more by this development.

    Fleming loses a big customer, and being in the process of divesting its retail division, suddenly looks like a smaller company.

    Kmart loses its main supplier of grocery products, and will have to find a new one…though it seems to be moving away from the grocery business to a certain extent.

    Being in business together may have been counter-productive…but we’re not sure that either company is in better shape for being apart.

    Gee, Wal-Mart has been thinking about getting into the wholesaling business. We joked a couple of weeks ago that it might want to buy Fleming…and were promptly razzed by MNB users who didn’t understand that we were kidding around.

    But if Wal-Mart indeed gets into the wholesaling biz, you think it would be interested in supplying Kmart…?