Published on: August 4, 2003We got a number of emails regarding last Friday's story about the Consumer reports ranking of the nation's top supermarket chains, based on more than 25,000 responses to a poll questioning consumers about their food shopping experiences during 2001 and 2002.
The top ten were: Raley's, Wegmans, Publix, Harris Teeter, Hannaford, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Stater Bros., and Vons.
You can read the full story at:
We had commented that because different divisions of the same companies often had diverse rankings, it demonstrated that centralization often does not actually deliver a consistent shopping experience. (We used Safeway as an example.)
MNB user Derek Newell responded:
Although I've never been in a Dominick's, I'm guessing the shopping experience is probably fairly consistent between them and Safeway. It's the expectation of the customers that is the real differentiation. Hence, your own comment later: "That said, it has to be pointed out that while these rankings are interesting, an inherent flaw in the reasoning is the fact that almost nobody is able to compare all of the chains and make an objective comparison. They are all different, and are competing in widely varying markets."
We think that's the main problem with centralization as a strategy - it doesn't take into account the differences between markets and customers.
MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:
It is interesting to observe that the large, national, and public chains -
all with strong cost cutting objectives - don't rate well with consumers. Perhaps the most thought-provoking observation is that most of the best chains, in the opinion of shoppers, are private companies that don't have to answer to equities markets.
Last Friday, we reported about how in California's Contra Costa County, Wal-Mart has collected enough petition signatures to force a public referendum on a county ordinance that would restrict retailers with stores in excess of 90,000 square feet from devoting more than five percent of their floor space to non-taxable items such as groceries.
The countywide referendum could take place as early as this November.
We noted that while Wal-Mart says that it has no current plans to build such a store in the county, management said it has to fight the ordinance on principle. Local officials and citizens, on the other hand, say they are fighting for principle of being in charge of their destiny, not Wal-Mart.
One MNB user wrote:
You chose to miss the point.
On the surface and superficially it's about local control and "us" versus the evil plague of the corporate profiteers and exploiters of our neighborhoods (sociologists versus capitalism and freedom). How can a intelligent analyst chose to disregard the issues of free enterprise and markets free of governmental interference?
The union and governmental activist are so brazen that they dispel the lie of "local land use control" as the pretense to impose market and merchandise controls and interference. On that basis, our local governmental bureaucrats, and elected officials will make it as their place to tell Sears they must limit the area of hardlines in their department stores and focus only on apparel and home furnishings. "Out with the appliances, auto services and tools!!" That won't happpen because Sears is not a threat to a powerful special interest with campaign contributions and political clout demanding protection of a union wage scale in grocery stores (inflated above the market scale).
Beyond the true conflict of a union lobbying government to construct special interest protection of its dues base and pay scale (which is in conflict with consumer choices and interest), on the profound scale it is about a group of trustees of government authority asserting a mission to impose its choices upon the consumer, and decides for the market what it needs and will get.
Beware of elitists, who believe they know better and should decide for your family the needs and wants that they know are worthy, or, not compelling.
Next year they could be telling Barnes & Noble which categories of books that should be limited in their assortment. Special interest has influenced government to take priority over consumer choice - plain and simple. What is next?
We may be accused of being a little naïve on this issue, but we think that it may be somewhat unfair to suggest that this is just elitist local officials and labor unions trying to limit Wal-Mart's expansion. Certainly the unions are playing a role, but local officials usually are local residents with a strong point of view about the shape and substance of their communities…and it would seem to us that within the boundaries of the law and ethical behavior, they have both the right and responsibility to control commercial growth in their towns.
We live in a small Connecticut town, and if Wal-Mart had decided to put a store here (as opposed to just up the road apiece in another town), we would have felt obliged to oppose it - not because Wal-Mart is the evil empire (which it is not) and not because we are elitist (which we probably are), but because it simply would have put too much stress on an already overburdened infrastructure and created traffic issues that we are not able to deal with. We would have suggested that the best way to deal with a proposed Wal-Mart would have been to put in place zoning regulations that would keep out all such big-box stores.
We would have opposed such stores not because we are the unwitting tool of labor unions, nor because we believe in government controlling what people can sell…but because we have opinions about what is right for a place where we have lived for 20 years and where our children are growing up.
This is not to say that Wal-Mart is wrong and its opposition in Contra Costa County is right. Far from it. It is, however, to suggest that people have a right to make their opinions heard, and to do so without being labeled as union dupes and elitists.
- KC's View: