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    Published on: June 23, 2004

    As expected, the granting of class action status to a gender discrimination suit against Wal-Mart Stores, charging that the company systematically denies female employees compensation and promotion opportunities equal to those enjoyed by men, was given considerable attention by virtually every newspaper in the country this morning.

    It was given considerable attention that the suit is the biggest civil rights action ever filed against a private company.

    The decision means that the suit, originally filed in June 2001 on behalf of a half-dozen former and current female employees of the company, now could represent as many as 1.6 million women who have worked for Wal-Mart in the past or are presently employed by the company.

    The judge made the ruling based on evidence that Wal-Mart’s hiring, pay and promotion policies were consistent across the country, and therefore the company could be held culpable on that basis. Wal-Mart is appealing the decision.
    KC's View:
    It was interesting to see the words “Wal-Mart” and “Martha Stewart” used in the same sentence so many times, as papers questioned whether the same sort of negative publicity that has hurt Stewart also could affect Wal-Mart.

    We’re not sure they are the same, but it does suggest that Wal-Mart could be in for public relations nightmares that could dwarf its legal problems.

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Starbucks’ ultimate business goal – to become as well known as Coca-Cola.

    It was a goal that the company established for itself eight years ago – and has made progress toward faster than expected. "This has really happened far more rapidly than I ever imagined," Orin Smith, Starbucks' president and CEO, told the paper. "We're not even 10 years into that 25- or 30-year plan ... and yet we're on the playing field" of brand awareness.

    The company currently has more than 7,500 units around the globe, with more than 1,300 new stores planned for this year alone.

    But the lynchpin of Starbucks’ plans seems to be creating “concierge services” that will capitalize on its brand awareness – offering, according to the paper, “not just a good cup of joe but all sorts of services and products befitting someone willing to shell out $2 or more for a cup of flavored caffeine.”

    Typical of its thinking is its Hear Music concept, which it has been testing in a Starbucks store in Santa Monica, California – allowing people to burn customized music CDs in the store. The test has been successful enough that Starbucks plans to open similar units in Seattle, with a further national rollout expected by the end of the year.

    There’s also the company’s rapid rollout of wireless Internet services, which make Starbucks an ideal place to have a cup of coffee and use high-speed wireless Internet connections to browse email.

    On the radar screen as possible services: restaurant tie-ins, and perhaps even movie or concert ticket sales.
    KC's View:
    What’s interesting about the Starbucks approach is that it all seems centered on building the basic brand, on bringing people into the store, on creating a cultural center for various communities – even while expanding its portfolio of offerings.

    Starbucks seems to be becoming a kind of portal for a wide variety of experiences, but while remaining relentlessly focused on standing for something very specific.

    It’s that whole “third place” philosophy – becoming a place other than home and office that people feel welcomed, where people can get together in community.

    Love the coffee, Love this approach.

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    Coca-Cola Co. has named Chuck Fruit to be its new chief marketing officer, succeeding Daniel Palumbo, who is leaving the company after just a year or so in the marketing job.

    The move is just the latest by Coke’s new CEO, Neville Isdell, to reshape the company’s top management.

    Fruit's promotion comes a week after Isdell named Irial Finan, a retired 23-year company veteran, to a new position responsible for managing bottling equity investments and overseeing company-owned bottlers. And earlier this month, COO Steve Heyer left the company after being passed over for the CEO job when Douglas Daft announced his retirement.
    KC's View:
    Fruit is called a “cutting edge” marketer by some analysts…which means that we may be seeing some interesting moves by Coke, which often is criticized for being too staid in its marketing approaches.

    Our friends at Coke will probably get mad at us for this, but…does it occur to anyone else that the name “Isdell, Fruit & Finan” sounds like a law firm from a Monty Python movie?

    Not that this is a bad thing.

    Makes us want to have a Coke and a smile.

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    A new study by ACNielsen suggests that an increased interest by men in their appearance, hygiene and grooming has contributed to the growth in Personal Care categories around the world.

    The study — What's Hot Around the Globe: Insights on Growth in Personal Care — analyzed retail purchases in 56 countries across nearly 60 categories. For instance, the sales value of shower gels, one of the fastest growing personal care categories worldwide, grew by seven percent in 2003, primarily on the strength of sales in male-oriented products. Two other categories — deodorants and razors & blades — are also benefiting from men’s newfound attention to appearance.

    Sales of male-oriented products grew twice as fast as those of female-oriented products, according to the study.

    "Women aren't the only ones focused on personal grooming," said Jane Perrin, ACNielsen Managing Director of Global Services and sponsor of the study. "In many of the countries we studied, the growth in personal care categories was impacted by the introduction of new male-oriented products. In the UK, for example, the shower gel category grew by only four percent last year, but the male segment grew by 18 percent."

    The ACNielsen study also found the trend toward older populations is affecting purchases in the Personal Care arena.

    "With the Baby Boomer segment getting older and continuing to influence the consumer marketplace, sales of anti-aging products are growing. Face & eye moisturizers grew by 10 percent with the introduction of creams that do everything from reducing wrinkles and minimizing dark circles to lightening age-spots," Perrin said. "We also saw 48 percent growth in products that remove stains from your teeth and whiten your smile."

    Another age-related category that experienced growth was adult incontinence pads/pants, which was up four percent globally.
    KC's View:
    Our first reaction when we saw this story yesterday that this was just one more example of self-obsession, and that we guys ought to have more to worry about than face and eye moisturizers. Like the Mets. And the Red Sox. This whole metrosexual thing is getting a little out of hand…not that there’s anything wrong with it.

    Then we opened the mail…and saw that five months earlier than expected, we had been sent the dreaded membership card from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). This on the same day that our oldest son graduated officially from high school.

    Getting old. Oy.

    Suddenly, personal grooming seems more important…like maybe we should start worrying more about those crows’ feet…the shape of our teeth…and maybe that whole incontinence thing.

    How come you can’t find “botox” in the yellow pages?

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    With all the debate and discussion about foods that can help or hurt you, Newsday has interviewed a number of nutritional experts to compile a “top 10” list of foods that people should eat for the greatest nutritional and disease-fighting punch:

    • Blueberries, which have more antioxidant power than any other fruit, plus seem to help fight heart disease and cancer. They’re also low in calories.

    • Green leafy vegetables, which help prevent macular degeneration, may slow the growth of prostate cancer and fight cardiovascular disease, and maintain blood pressure.

    • Nuts, which help to reduce heart disease.

    • Fatty fish, which contain omega-3s, which can reduce the chance of heart disease enormously.

    • Avocados, which are packed with nutrients and can help prevent muscle damage.

    • Whole grains, which may help prevent cancer, heart disease and birth defects; provide fiber, and which help lower cholesterol, may protect against certain cancers, aid bowel function and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.

    • Legumes, including soy, which are loaded with nutrients, are proven to be critical to a heart-healthy diet, and may help fight cancer.

    • Low-fat dairy, which provide calcium as well as providing bacteria that can prevent stomach infections and gastrointestinal problems.

    • Eggs, which may protect against eye disease and certain cancers.

    • Dark chocolate, which can help blood flow.

    Other highly beneficial foods that did not make the list include broccoli, sweet potatoes, and melon.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Target is planning a new store for Chicago’s South Loop that will be the company’s new P2004 format, offering consumers a broader selection of frequently purchased products such as milk, packaged foods and paper goods, as well as more baby and entertainment products.

    The unit also will have a Starbucks and a food court – but no grocery store, probably because there is a new Whole Foods going in just blocks away.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, is launching a new service on its website that offers easy-to-use legal products to consumers.

    The goal, according to a statement by CEO Laura Wade-Gery, is to "de-mystify the law” by making “products simple and easily available on the web.” In addition to forms that will allow people to craft their own wills and deal with property disputes, the offering also will provide consumers with directories of lawyers and their specialties.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    • Publix Super Markets has made a second investment in Crispers, giving it a majority interest in the Florida-based salad and sandwich chain.

    • General Mills Inc. reportedly will raise prices between two and nine percent on a number of its products, including Progresso soups, some frozen breakfast items, yogurt, and Totino's snack foods.

    • Coca-Cola Co. reportedly will shortly acquire a new UK water-producing site that will allow it to bring its Dasani bottled water back to the market. The company was forced to withdraw Dasani from the British market when it was revealed that it contained potentially harmful chemical bromates because of where the product was being sourced.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    • Kroger Co. reported first quarter earnings $262.8 million, down from $351.5 million during the same period a year ago, a decline attributed to costs associated with the four-month grocery strike in Southern California.

      First-quarter sales increased 4 percent to $16.9 billion from $16.3 billion a year ago. Same-store sales were up 1.3 percent.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 23, 2004

    …will return.
    KC's View: