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    Published on: April 28, 2005

    Good piece in BrandWeek about a new trend called “multiminding,” which it says means that “today's typical woman, even if she appears to be relaxing in front of a late night television show, reading a magazine or tackling an array of projects at work, is constantly thinking about and preparing for the multiple dimensions of her life, mentally juggling an unending array of work, home and self-care concerns while tackling or embracing the moment.

    “Increasingly, multitasking has meant that single-focused pursuits, like recreational shopping or watching television, have become quaint reminders of a simpler past. Research shows that fewer women than ever are browsing malls and that when women are watching television or cooking dinner, they may be simultaneously working online.”

    The message is that the demands of modern life and the enabling facets of technology have allowed the line between work and home to get ever-thinner, and that women are the beneficiaries/victims of this trend. After all, a recent US Department of Labor study noted that the average working woman spends almost twice as much time as a working man on household chores and childcare, and that while 85 percent of men work for a living, 78 percent of women are in the workforce.

    The article suggests that marketers need to keep this trend in mind when creating messages – and by extension, retail environments – that appeal to women in 2005 and beyond. The author says that marketers have to spend more time asking women what they want instead of making assumptions; have to be far more conscious of the demands on her time, and create targeted, relevant messages; and take her needs and desires seriously.
    KC's View:
    It strikes us as interesting that in this space yesterday, we had a story about how one company, Stonyfield Farms, was using blogs to communicate with its customers, creating evolving forums that allowed it to listen to shoppers’ voices and craft relevant responses. And today, we hear that the nation’s primary shoppers, women, are dealing with increased demands on their time, minds and emotions, and are likely to respond to marketers who, well, listen to their voices and craft relevant responses.

    One thing is for sure…marketers and retailers that do not take these shifts seriously, changing both the style and substance of their offerings to accommodate this evolving consumer, simply will be doomed to irrelevance.

    It won’t be a quick death. It’ll be slow.

    But someone once said that life is a series of choices between deep change and slow death…and that this is true seems pretty evident in the retailing an d marketing sectors today.

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    The New York Times had an interesting story yesterday that reported on the new appearance of “girlie wines,” packaged “in gift bags resembling see-through organza negligees and bearing cosmetics-counter names like Seduction or hip-cute ones like Rosé the Riveter or Mad Housewife.”

    For example, the NYT notes. Beringer Blass Wine Estates is introducing a low-alcohol, low-calorie chardonnay called White Lie Early Season Chardonnay. “The wine, its pedicure-red label and romance-novel cursive lettering - to flaunt on supermarket shelves - has a promotion involving Jennifer Weiner, a best-selling chick-lit author. The corks carry messages, familiar white lies like ‘I'll be home by 7’ and ‘It's my natural color’.”

    The big reason for these changes: Women buy 77 percent and consume 60 percent of the wine in America.
    KC's View:
    After almost 22 years of marriage, we can only pretend to understand what women want. (Other than for us to say “yes” to any question, request or order, of course.)

    But we wonder if a lot of women might find all this to be slightly demeaning. Or even insulting.

    It’s like the manufacturers don’t trust them to appreciate the real qualities and benefits of wine, and therefore feel the need to seduce them into buying some cutesy version.

    Mrs. Content Guy would be appalled.

    And we’d be hard-pressed to disagree with her. (Like usual.)

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    An editorial by Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson criticizes the federal government for taking a hypocritical approach to fitness and nutrition when it introduced a new nutrition pyramid designed to tell people how much they should eat and exercise.

    “The government tells people to cut the fat with fitness at the same time it is trimming fitness right out of the budget,” Jackson writes. “In Bush's budget proposal for fiscal year 2006, he would cut federal funds for physical education teachers and equipment from $74 million to $55 million.”

    Furthermore, he writes, “That is just the top of a crumbling pyramid. The budget crunches in the states, due in part to White House priorities for war and tax cuts to the wealthy, continue to result in physical education classes being stripped from schools all across the country. The percentage of high school students who participate in physical education dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 28 percent in 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    “Similarly, only 25 percent of high school students report doing exercise that makes them breathe hard and sweat at least five days a week. A significantly higher percentage of high school students, 38 percent, watch television three or more hours a day during a school week.”

    Jackson’s conclusion: if the federal government and the nation’s citizens really want to move the needle on obesity, then the notion of physical education has to be at least as great a priority as nutrition education.
    KC's View:
    No disagreement here.

    Ironic, isn’t it, that at a time when parents are criticized for over-programming their kids in soccer leagues, baseball leagues, basketball leagues, tennis lessons and the like, their kids actually are getting fatter.

    Probably two reasons for this.

    One is that we’re all driving our kids to all their practices and games, instead of making them walk or ride their bikes.

    The other is that our kids have lost the habit of just going outside and playing, choosing up sides for a quick game of basketball or stickball or whatever.

    So yes, we have to make physical education a higher priority in schools. But as parents, we have to do more than tell the schools what to do.

    We have to get our kids outside just playing. And maybe even play with them.

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    UK-based retailer Tesco announced that it will introduce a new food labeling system on its private label products that will offer - on the front of packaging - what it calls “key nutritional information” about per-serving amounts of salt, fat, saturated fat, sugar and calories.

    The system is described as more nuanced than a traffic light system that was recommended by the government but rejected by Tesco. The goal is to make it possible for consumers to figure out how much of any product they can safely consume – depending on their specific nutritional needs or medical conditions – without having to do complicated calculations.

    “Signposts provide clear and easy to understand information in a way which gives customers the power to choose products that will help them follow a balanced diet,” said Tim Mason, Tesco’s marketing director. “Because they are split into five main categories the signposts also help customers who have specific dietary needs to keep a close eye on any area they might be worried about.”
    KC's View:
    We’ve always believed that an information-centric approach to marketing makes a lot of sense, especially in an environment where there is so much confusion among consumers about what they can and should eat. Putting nutritional information of the front of the label is a major step forward…and one that more manufacturers can and should emulate.

    Tesco is being aggressive in telling it shoppers about the program, sending information about the system to the 300,000 members of its Healthy Living club.

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    National Public Radio reflected yesterday that it is ironic that at a time when so much is being made of the nation’s obesity problem - with new nutritional pyramids and upgraded restaurant menus being designed to help consumers make better decisions – there are fast food companies out there doing exactly the opposite, marketing bigger and fattier products.

    There’s the Hardee's Monster Thickburger, made with two 1/3-lb. patties, cheese and bacon, packs 107 grams of fat and more than 1400 calories. Or the Burger King Enormous Omelet Sandwich, which has two slices of American cheese, two eggs, three strips of bacon and a sausage patty on a toasted bun, and has 760 calories and 50 grams of fat. And Hardees and Carl’s Jr., which have changed their milkshakes so that they have hand-scooped ice cream – the old version had 700 calories and seven grams of fat, while the new ones have 715 calories and 33 grams of fat.
    KC's View:
    The sad reality, of course, is that this stuff is on the menu because it sells.

    Of course, the R&D costs for these products have gone up a lot from the old days…because these companies have to add a budget line to keep lawyers on retainer to defend them against possible obesity lawsuits. And money for lobbyists to try and get state legislatures to pass laws indemnifying them from any potential lawsuits.

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    The Detroit News reports that the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. has decided to close nine of its 10 no-frills Food Basics stores in the Detroit area.

    The units will be closed or sold within 90 days. A&P isn’t saying which. Not yet, anyway.

    It was just yesterday that it was reported that A&P was closing three Toledo-area Food Basics stores.
    KC's View:
    What we said yesterday is becoming a theme at A&P – it seems to be a company surviving more on memories than dreams…

    Dead company walking.

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    Ahold announced that it has sold the 198-store Wilson Farms c-store division owned and operated by its Tops Foods division.

    The stores are being sold to WFI Acquisition and Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co.

    The move is part of Ahold’s elimination of non-core businesses in the wake of the multi-million dollar accounting scandal that roiled the company, resulting in the sale of Bruno’s, Bi-Lo, and now Wilson Farms.
    KC's View:
    The rumors are hot and heavy that Tops will be the next to go.

    Soon.

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    The New York Times reports this morning that “supermarkets, long the domain of paperback romances, pulp thrillers and astrology guides, are the new frontier of book selling. Chains like Wegmans, Kroger and Albertsons have greatly expanded their book sections, adapting the techniques that move large amounts of Velveeta and Count Chocula and applying them to Nora Roberts and John Grisham.”

    It is more than just expanding selection. “Grocery stores have gone beyond the traditional spinning racks of pocket-size paperbacks, adding mahogany fixtures, sitting areas and cafes, and often placing their book sections in the center of the store, where shoppers are likely to stroll,” the NYT writes. “Eye-catching displays of new hardcovers are sprinkled throughout the stores, encouraging impulse purchases: a big display near the entrance, cookbooks near the spice aisle and, in summer, beach reading near the seasonal displays of sunscreen.”

    Publishers say that the new aggressiveness by supermarkets is having an impact on book sales, accounting for a growing share of book sales.
    KC's View:
    At a time when people worry about illiteracy, it’s great to see book sales driving sales. We take this all personally – it’s hard to make a living as a writer if there is a declining population of readers.

    There’s a good reason for supermarkets to do this, by the way. The NYT has a photo of a Wegmans store sponsoring an author book signing event…which is a great way for a store to give itself a differential advantage and get people into the stores.

    Smart move.

    By the way, we’re always available to sign copies of MNB. Not that anyone’s asking…

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    Target Corp. has introduced a new kind of pill bottle, which it describes as an upside-down version of the traditional pill bottle. The new version sits on its cap, features easier to read labels, and even has color-coded plastic rings that make it simpler for family members to find their own medicines.
    KC's View:
    Sometimes, you can reinvent the wheel. We’ve seen pictures, and this bottle looks like a real innovation. It’ll be interesting to see if it helps Target steal Rx sales from the competition.

    Published on: April 28, 2005


    • The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the man who originally told Wal-Mart management that there were questions about then-vice chairman Tom Coughlin’s expense reports – questions that eventually exiled Coughlin from the company and resulted in an investigation by the US Attorney’s office and a grand jury probe – is questioning why he was fired by the company.

      Former Wal-Mart vice president Jared Bowen is asking whether Wal-Mart violated government rules preventing companies from firing whistleblowers.

      "Wal-Mart has an obligation to Jared and all employees to create an environment in which people can come forward, report wrongdoing, and not worry about retaliation," said Bowen’s attorney, Steve Kardell. "But in this case, Jared came forward, reported wrongdoing, and the company packed up his things and sent him on his way. Someone will have to explain to me how that's not retaliation."

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2005


    • The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that Safeway’s plans to offer buyout to seven thousand of its Vons and Pavilion employees in Southern California have been at least temporarily derailed because of union concerns that the buyouts will hurt health and pension funds. Negotiations continue.


    • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Shop ‘n Save is building gas stations at two of its stores in the market, hoping that it will be able to attract consumers with lower fuel prices than being offered by traditional gas stations – a strategy already being used there by Giant Eagle, Wal-Mart and Costco.

      The company says that it will test gas sales for three to four months before deciding whether to roll out gas stations to other locations.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2005


    • Anheuser-Busch Cos. reported that first quarter net income fell to $512.8 million, from $549.9 million a year earlier. Sales rose 2.5 percent to $3.56 billion – an increase that the company attributed to a 29 percent increase in sales in the company's international beer segment.


    • Starbucks reported second quarter net income of $100.5 million, up from $78.9 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 22 percent to $1.52 billion. Same-store sales were up seven percent.


    • France-based retailer Casino reported that its total first quarter sales were up just 1.2 percent to the equivalent of $6.7 billion (US), with the company’s struggling French operations hurting overall performance.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    The story ran on the wires the other day about a man who went for a walk in the woods near Strasbourg, in the Alsace region of France, and found 40,000 pounds of gourmet salami and cured hams wrapped in plastic and apparently perfectly edible.

    The meats will be double-checked by health officials and then distributed to area charities.

    The local gendarmes reportedly believe that the meats were found by thieves when they stole a truck – and that they apparently only wanted the truck.
    KC's View:
    If this speculation is correct, it tells the officials much about the thieves – that they are from out of town, because no French thief would abandon the gourmet foods.

    We know this because the original Coupes were from the Alsace region of France. (Before they marauded their way across the continent to England and Ireland and eventually to the US.)

    Published on: April 28, 2005

    …will return. Really. We promise.
    KC's View: