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    Published on: April 29, 2005

    Interesting stories this morning about electronics retailer Best Buy, which is trying out a series of different strategies in its efforts to create different kinds of relevant experiences for different consumers.

    For example, the Wall Street Journal notes that Best Buy is developing a series of smaller, differentiated formats that it believes will have considerable appeal. Two of them are in the Chicago area – “Escape” and “Studio D,” formatted to appeal to varying demographics.

    “At Best Buy,” the WSJ writes, “executives hope that experiments with boutiques will teach them how to create stores that match the hobbies and electronics interests of prized groups of customers. Toward that end, Studio D and Escape both encourage hours-long visits, emphasize training and other services. ‘We are in the process of reinventing what Best Buy means to its customers, [and] finding new ways to serve diverse customer groups,’ says Bradbury H. Anderson, Best Buy's chief executive officer.”

    James Damian, a Best Buy senior vice president, tells the WSJ that the new stores are "community-centric" retailing – “neighborhood stores that are closely tied to the interests and activities of area residents.”

    In this case, “community-centric” is more than just a marketing term. “Both stores sell yearly memberships that provide discounts on services and access to group events or private parties. And neither limits selling to the store floor. Studio D, for instance, sends staff to school and community events to demonstrate digital cameras. Escape has a hulking Lincoln Navigator that can ferry customers to or from Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and to clubs and parties,” the WSJ writes.

    Meanwhile the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Best Buy also plans to open up between 20 and 50 Geek Squad stores that “will sell technology products as well as offer rapid-response technology support, including virus removal, network installation and data recovery.” The openings come after a test of the service-intensive format proved more successful than expected.
    KC's View:
    We admire this strategy immensely. Even though Best Buy was growing and surpassing its competition, management knew that what Will Rogers once said is true – that “even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.”

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    CVS announced yesterday that it has made a deal with a Minnesota company called MinuteClinic to test several in-store health centers staffed by Certified Family Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants and offer diagnosis and treatment of common family illnesses, such as strep throat and ear, sinus, bladder and eye infections. The units also offer a series of health screenings for cholesterol, glucose, thyroid and early memory loss, as well as common vaccinations, such as tetanus, MMR and Hepatitis B.

    "Our partnership with MinuteClinic offers our customers convenient, high quality health care services and is a natural extension of our overall mission. Along with their reputation for high quality health care, we also chose MinuteClinic as our partner because of their proven ability to work collaboratively with physicians in the prompt diagnosis, treatment or referral of patients. We look forward to serving our customers with our first three MinuteClinic sites in June, with more to follow," said Tom Ryan, Chairman, President and CEO of CVS Corporation.

    According to the statement released by CVS, MinuteClinic is in-network with most major health care insurance providers in the markets where it operates, which means most patients pay an office-visit co-pay.
    KC's View:
    In an age when the health care crisis is top of mind, this strikes us as a very smart move by CVS – expanding the parameters of what it offers while remaining true to its core mission. It’s all part of being increasingly relevant to an audience that is looking for solutions.

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    Bloomberg reports that Kraft Foods CEO Roger Deromedi said in an interview that the company is “actively looking” to make acquisitions of healthy food and beverage brands, and would market such purchases – as well as future products developed in-house - under its South Beach Diet-connected brand.

    Deromedi also said that contrary to popular speculation, he has no plans to sell the Post cereals and Oscar Mayer meats businesses, saying that they both have plenty of growth potential.
    KC's View:
    We think the whole South Beach thing could be a mistake. Kraft can make and market healthier foods without linking it to one plan or another….and should, since we all know from experience that such plans tend to have a limited shelf life.

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    Here’s one we hadn’t heard of before…

    According to the Boston Globe, one increasingly popular marketing tool is to give people free merchandise in exchange for their talking up these products with friends and associates. Companies actually are recruiting people online to do this word-of-mouth marketing…but questions are being raised about the practice because some companies are using children to create product buzz.

    Concerns about the use of children is so strong in Massachusetts that the legislature there is considering a bill that would force children under 16 to have a parent’s permission before working on such campaigns.

    The Globe writes that “buyers have always considered suggestions from friends, but companies are finding ways to target such word-of-mouth networks. Companies like BzzAgent Inc., of Boston, have run campaigns for such firms as Kellogg Co., Polo Ralph Lauren, and Penguin Publishing.

    “BzzAgent has attracted about 85,000 members, who themselves heard about the program by word of mouth. To join, people sign up at the BzzAgent website, where they can choose which products they're interested in receiving and telling friends about. They receive free samples and are encouraged to spread the word. Those who are effective at creating '’bzz’ are eligible for rewards.”
    KC's View:
    While using kids for programs like these seems like a bad move, the notion of creating word-of-mouth buzz through free samples seems like an old-fashioned notion given a new spin.

    It’s an approach that more retailers ought to take. After all, people trust other people far more than commercials. As long as the system is above board, it’s a great way to go.

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    The Boston Globe reports that there may be a change brewing in how some retailers hire employees.

    “Retail has long been considered a second or third choice by many job seekers because of low starting salaries, high turnover rates, and relatively sparse benefits,” the Globe writes. “But that may soon change as a new breed of upscale, service-oriented companies looks to lure, train, and retain a more professional workforce - including the elusive college graduate.”

    Held out as a paradigm of excellence – The Container Store.

    The Globe reports that The Container Store, which has two New England units, “claims that its 20-to-25 percent annual growth can be credited largely to its efforts to educate and retain employees. For instance, each new employee receives more than 240 hours of paid formal training in the first year as compared to an industry average of only seven hours. Training includes learning multiple jobs. For instance, new hires spend time unloading delivery trucks and stocking shelves and even cleaning restrooms.”

    And, the paper writes, “The Container Store also shares information widely: everything from financial records to real estate expansion plans are made clear to every employee. Further, 10 percent of store revenue goes to store payroll, versus an industry average of 3 to 4 percent. And salaries - $42,000 a year on average for full timers - are 50 to 100 percent above the industry average. Employees can look forward to paid vacations, a 40 percent merchandise discount, and the opportunity to create their own career path within the company. Medical benefits are even available for part timers.”

    "A funny thing happens when you take the time to educate your employees, pay them well, and treat them as equals," The Container Store's co-founder/CEO Kip Tindell tells the Globe. "You end up with motivated and enthusiastic people."
    KC's View:
    Years from now, when the history of the supermarket industry is written, the strategy that will be identified as the single-most harmful to the business’s long-term viability will be that of depersonalizing the store and creating an environment that treats employees as costs rather than assets.

    Too many companies believe that their employees are mere functionaries, rather than ambassadors and salespeople who can truly differentiate their stores from others.

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    Published reports say that the Main legislature is considering a special sales tax that would be charged at so-called big box stores, the revenues from which would be used to reimburse the state for any public assistance provided to their employees.

    The Maine Merchants Association (MMA) has called the big-box tax, “discriminatory, punitive and perhaps unconstitutional.”

    Wal-Mart is a member of the MMA.

    The tax, if passed, would raise between $60 million and $90 million a year. The proposed legislation defines a big box store as 60,000 square feet or larger…but would exempt supermarkets and Maine-owned stores.
    KC's View:
    Chief among the Maine-owned stores, we expect, would be LL Bean’s stores…

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    • Wal-Mart Stores announced the promotion of John Fleming to be executive vice president and chief marketing officer, succeeding the retiring Robert Connolly.

      Wal-Mart said that Fleming, who has been president/CEO of, will “retain oversight of the company's online business as well as assume responsibility for all marketing and consumer communications programs, including advertising, consumer research, visual merchandising, signage, point of-sale programs and all in-store promotional materials.

    KC's View:
    It tells you a lot about Wal-Mart’s long term intentions, we think, that the company wants the same guy running all of its marketing and online efforts.

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    CNN had an interesting piece about marketers that took their eyes off the ball and lost their luster…and what they must do to get it back.

    Exhibit one: Krispy Kreme, which turned a cultural phenomenon (hot glazed doughnuts) into a company that grew too fast and lost its cachet both with customers and Wall Street…not to mention having the bad luck of being in the doughnut business during the low-carb craze.

    CNN interviewed two different analysts about what the company’s next steps should be, and came away with as many opinions.

    One analyst said that Krispy Kreme needs to expand into different kinds of food, a strategy that has worked well for Dunkin’ Donuts. And the other analyst said that the company only needs to be more efficient, and that new product offerings only will diminish its appeal.
    KC's View:
    While it is hardly surprising that two analysts would have different opinions, it actually is an interesting question.

    We actually have a third opinion. Just being more efficient clearly isn’t enough, in our view. That won’t help Krispy Kreme gain back lost cachet. But we’re also not sure that selling egg sandwiches, for example, would help the company recover.

    The biggest thing that Krispy Kreme needs to do is make a concerted effort to regain a reputation for high quality – and that should start by cutting back on all the locations where the damn things are available.

    We joked about this on April Fool’s Day, but we also think that the company ought to seriously consider some sort of merger or strategic alliance with a company like Starbucks, that “gets” the importance of maintaining one’s iconography.

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    One day after Ahold sold off its last remaining convenience stores in the US, in the UK, Sainsbury announced that it buying SL Shaw’s, a small five store c-store company that generates the equivalent of about $21 million (US) a year. This is the fourth c-store acquisition Sainsbury has made in the past year or so.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Shaw’s stores are to be converted to the Sainsbury Local banner.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    • Wild Oats Markets Inc. announced that it has appointed Robert Dimond to be its chief financial officer, replacing Edward Dunlap, who becomes senior vice president of operations.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    • Wild Oats Markets Inc. announced that it has appointed Robert Dimond to be its chief financial officer, replacing Edward Dunlap, who becomes senior vice president of operations.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    • Procter & Gamble Co. said that its third-quarter profit rose 13 percent to $1.72 billion, from $1.53 billion a year earlier. Sales in the quarter ended March 31 grew 9.7 percent to $14.29 billion.

    • Kellogg Co. reported that its first quarter income jumped 16 percent to $254.7 million, from $219.8 million in the year-ago period. Net sales totaled $2.57 billion, a gain of 8 percent from $2.39 billion a year earlier.

    • Coca-Cola Enterprises reported first-quarter 2005 net income of $46 million, compared to net income of $104 million in first-quarter 2004. Operating income totaled $220 million for the first quarter, down 28 percent versus prior year.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    The Louisiana Times Picayune reports on a man who was trying to shoplift at a local supermarket. Spied by employees, he started to run when questioned…eventually climbed above the store’s false ceiling and onto a maze of steel beams. Clambering along the beams, his feet slipped occasionally, and his feet went through the ceiling. But he regained his balance and kept going – until he finally fell and landed in an open case of meat in the deli department.

    Press reports gave a lot of credit to the police dog that was tracking the suspect, managing to ignore the open case of meat while trying to corner the suspect.
    KC's View:
    We don’t make this stuff up, folks.

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    Time to catch up with just some of the emails we’ve received over the past few days…

    We had a story earlier this week about how the American Family Association (AFA) of Tupelo, Miss., described as “a conservative, Christian-values group,” has announced that it has lifted its boycott of consumer packaged goods company Procter & Gamble that was launched because the group objected to P&G’s sponsorship of gay-themed television programs such as “Will & Grace” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

    In our original commentary, we supported the rights of people and organizations to boycott…but we suggested that we would have preferred if P&G had told the AFA to stick it…especially since P&G has been subjected to irrational boycotts because of allegations that it sends its profits to Satanists. Our feeling is that gay people wash their clothes and brush their teeth, too – and P&G has the right to sell them detergent and toothpaste without fear of being attacked by fringe groups.

    Not everyone agreed. One MNB user wrote that ”there was a time when it was not necessary for consumers to use the power of money to speak to advertisers using things not suitable for family viewing to advertise their products because advertisements used to be rated G. Sadly, that is not the case any more. Advertisements are often distasteful. Companies quietly support things that are distressing to the majority when they come into the light. Letting the company know that there are other ways to advertise is now necessary. Speaking out against things companies quietly support, that are not supported by the majority, should be done.”

    However, this particular response drew an objection from another member of the MNB community:

    In answer to your reader who supported the idea of the P&G boycott with his assertion that democracy is based on majority rules I have to point out that our country was most explicitly NOT founded on “principles of democracy where the majority rules”. This is unfortunately a popular misconception.

    Our country’s founders were far more concerned about avoiding tyranny, including tyranny of the majority. Everything about the checks and balances of our system, everything about the constitutional separations of powers, the existence of two houses of Congress, one of which does NOT have proportional representation…all of it is to prevent the majority, or anyone in temporary power, from dictating the entire agenda, or dominating the legal and social framework without dissent.

    I have no problem with a majority speaking their mind, or boycotting something or someone they don’t like. Go for it, it’s all good. I have a serious problem when a group, that may or may not be in majority, decides that their aim is to restrict everyone else’s choices to just whatever they approve themselves

    That is tyranny, whether you call it democracy or not. And cloaking it in the dark language of conspiracy, like, “the minority group using behind the scenes tactics” is just nonsense. If someone wants to watch a TV program in New York or L.A. that doesn’t sit well with the good folks in Oklahoma or Utah…I see no reason why P&G can’t advertise there. The folks who don’t approve have control of their own TV. Hopefully, they don’t have control of mine.

    We may be going out on a limb here, but it sounds like this person was talking about more than just the P&G boycott.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    What was your thought process in determining AFA is a fringe group? Their web site lists membership over 2 million members. AFA also works in conjunction with several other Christian groups. Yes, some Christian organizations, as well as some others, overdo it on the rhetoric. I find it hard to agree with an MNB user who calls AFA a special interest group when AFA's main issue is morality. I have seen true fringe groups with 30 members and bizarre reports get more media attention from the press if they agree with the slant.

    I think the public has a hard time figuring out what groups stand for. Also, many times there seems to be little middle ground on issues. Either the group's true intentions are obscure or the group name sounds so good that people inherently support them. Who could be possibly be opposed to a group with the word children or environment in the title?

    The MNB user's point on tasteless commercials is well taken and that's part of the bigger picture. By objecting to tasteless commercials or objectionable television shows, people have decided to take a stand against what they see as the decline of our moral standards. These are people that are fighting against "normalizing" things.

    Why do things seem to be more out of control with our youth? Partly, it's just me getting older, but there is one other big thing at work - lack of appropriate limits. Any parent knows from their own experiences as a parent and a child that children will push the limit and sometimes exceed it. If the bar is set at 6, kids will push it to 7 and 8. As parents, we are not as apprehensive with the choices are children may make exceeding these lower limits. If we let society raise the height of that bar to 9 and 10, children will be off the scale and in real danger.

    Teen sex and sex ed continue to be a topic from when I was in high school, although at that time no one was silly enough to suggest handing out condoms. I had sex ed in school, but my parents never really spoke to me about the subject. That was until they found out I had a condom, which I took from my dad's dresser. The thing is though - I never really intended to use it. But after my parents spoke with me I felt like they were giving me reluctant permission to have sex, like the permission parents sometimes give you on other things. I wished the message I received was an adult level discussion on why abstinence was the best choice. Abstinence is the ONLY method that is 100% effective against pregnancy and STDs.

    AFA decided to boycott P & G for its efforts to "normalize" homosexuality on television and by giving money to pass a local referendum on gay issues. In general, I am confused by the way that this issue plays out. Although the bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin (not sure how people are still disputing what the bible says on that), Christians should not condemn it any more than other sins. But Christians are taught that we are all sinners by nature, so why doesn't the church seem to welcome homosexuals the same as any other sinner?

    We’re going to let these questions go without answering some of them…mostly because as open as we try to be about our life and beliefs, there are a very few things that simply are none of anyone else’s business.

    But we will answer one question – what led us to label AFA as a “fringe group.”

    Any group that looks to institutionalize prejudice – against anyone, liberal or conservative, gay or straight or whatever – is what we would consider to be a fringe group.

    We wrote yesterday, as part of an article about the sale of Ahold’s c-stores, that rumors were rampant that Tops would be the next to go, and soon.

    One MNB user responded:

    I disagree with the rumors of Tops being sold. Giant Food Stores is making great strides with the Tops division and with the introduction of the Martin's design, I think you will see a steady turnaround of that chain.

    Tops has tough competition in Wegmans and Wal-Mart is a growing threat, but Giant has met with the likes of Wal-Mart in PA and has done an excellent job of differentiating themselves from the smiley face and the rest of the competition.

    You may be right. But the fact of the rumors is undeniable.

    We had a piece yesterday that referred to the fact that even as the government publishes a new nutrition pyramid to get people to eat better, the Bush administration, in its 2006 budget proposal, suggests a cut in federal funds for physical education teachers and equipment from $74 million to $55 million.

    We suggested in our commentary that it is ironic 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. 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, and 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.

    MNB user Carla A. Alexander responded:

    I agree that there is a gap in the exercise regimen for kids. However, as a mother whose children are involved in sports activities, there is NO WAY in this time of rampant child abduction that I will let my children WALK anywhere! If they ride bikes in the neighborhood, I am walking right between them, never letting them out of my sight. They are allowed to play in my fenced in back yard only if I am in the kitchen where I can keep an eye on them. I come from the generation where I left my house at sunup and my mother didn't see me again till the street lights came on. Can you imagine that now? Your children could be three states away by the time the street lights come on! I may be overprotective, but I'll live with that rather than have to get on television and plea for the improbable safe return of my child.

    You describe a different problem, albeit a big one. Not sure what kind of neighborhood you live in…but we have to admit that in our town, we allow our kids to walk the mile or so home whenever they want to. They know the rules, they know they have to be in pairs or more…but we think that it is important that they a) get the exercise, b) have some degree of autonomy, and c) not live in fear.

    Though we always check the clock and pay attention to when they are supposed to be home.

    Another member of the MNB community wrote:

    I couldn't agree with you more. The school has some responsibility to the children as far as physical education goes, but when did it becomes the schools job to tell kids how to eat and exercise. As parents we must take the time to take our kids to the park or for walks. Their health is our full responsibility not any one else's including the government or the education system. Children learn good eating and exercise habits from their parents.


    MNB user Charles Bartell wrote about the possibility of supermarkets helping to feed school kids in a more healthy fashion:

    School nutrition offers a small opportunity for grocers. The problem is growth of the government funded National School Lunch Program. In the program the government reimburses schools for free and paid lunches distributed. The program was designed to ensure that low-income children receive a nutritious lunch. The lunch program has spread to all schools in the past few years. Since the lunch program's objective is to ensure primarily that students receive a nutritious lunch the government established nutrition standards that had to be met by schools. Each meal had to meet a required protein, fruit and grain benchmark. Once the school met the benchmark they qualified for reimbursement. The amount reimbursed is up to $2.41 per student per day for lunch.

    Since lunch worked so well - the program was expanded to offering breakfast and after school snacks. The breakfast program grew out of the same need for nutrition among low income students. In the last few years the breakfast program has been expanded to higher income areas based on the studies that showed students who ate breakfast had increased test scores performance. The breakfast program reimburses schools up to $1.47 per student for a qualifying breakfast.

    Since the breakfast program worked so well the government is rolling out an after school snack program. The logic is that with many mothers working children need to be fed in the evening prior to dinner. The government will reimburse schools .61 per student for qualifying snacks.

    Now whenever you mix government reimbursement based on standards the schools will figure out how to subsidize their entire food program costs through the reimbursement and hopefully make a profit. The key is to provide the lowest possible cost foods that meet the grain, protein and fruit requirements.

    Schools can profit by offering menu items that meet multiple nutrition benchmarks. Products such as fortified donuts that meet grain, protein and fruit requirement are the weapons of choice among the schools. The donut costs about .25 to .29 each. Combine the donut with milk and the total cost of a qualifying lunch is less than .70. The school is reimbursed up to $1.47 - making a profit. Profit is probably not a good word - the excess funds may be applied to the staffing costs for school cafeteria. Many schools are faced with shrinking budgets forcing schools to get creative and offer more foods that meet dual requirements. Taste is secondary.

    One last note - the government also distributes commodities to all schools without income tests. The products come from commodity price support programs. An example is ground beef. Every school in a state, no matter how wealthy their student base, is allocated ground beef commodities. The schools can take delivery of the raw commodity and add value in the school or send it to processors and have it made into final use products such as burgers.

    As government funded feeding grows in the schools - you guessed it – another eating occasion is lost in the grocery store. Lunch for most schools is gone - breakfast is going (though may never go as far as lunch) - and after school snack programs are growing. All of this means that grocers will continue to see diminished sales in the categories that supply these eating occasions.

    Competing in this arena for grocers would be very difficult - hard to beat

    And MNB user Kevin McCaffery added:

    When the options for a 10 year old at school are a hamburger and fries or fried chicken and fries what are there options? where is the healthy choice? The point is they have no choice.

    When schools make a grilled cheese sandwich, could they make it with wheat instead of white? With one piece of cheese rather than 2 or 3? and do they have to coat it in butter before they toast it?

    The change does not have to be huge, just small changes could make a great difference.

    We got several emails in response to yesterday’s story about Target’s new pill bottles.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I recently had several prescriptions filled at Target, and got a chance to experience the new vials first hand. Having worked 16 years in retail pharmacy, 10 of those with the current number one chain nationally, I'm more than familiar with the challenges faced by patients, particularly those who are elderly and taking multiple medications. This new vial is incredibly effective, addressing issues that have plagued those taking medications and their pharmacists for years.

    Hats off to Target for putting the health and well being of their customer first, and taking on what had to be a very costly venture. It's deplorable to me that this was never addressed by companies whose business is driven by pharmacy. And as an aside, I received a call from the Target pharmacist the following day to see whether I had any questions regarding my therapy.

    Pretty impressive....

    MNB user Jerry Sheldon added:

    Not only are the colored rings a nice thought, but they have this new system for dispensing liquids. Instead of pouring the liquid onto a spoon or in a little cup, they give you a metered syringe that allows you to get out just the exact amount through an opening in the top, which prevents spillage. As a parent, it is a welcome improvement.

    We love getting unsolicited emails like this one, from MNB user Paul Schlossberg wrote:

    We were on an extended weekend in Phoenix and beyond. Looking for lunch, we drove in to a very nice strip shopping center (at Thompson Peak and Frank Lloyd Wright). Great store...good use of lighting. Layout is very engaging. Lots of demo's and sampling. Non-food and cooking related merchandising was very strong. Fresh food was involving and seemed to be set in European style. Outdoor grill and seating with overhead fans…

    Looks like they skipped the class in retail merchandising that every
    store must be the same.

    We reflected yesterday about a New York Times story about so-called “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 noted, 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.

    We wondered – based on almost 22 years of marriage – if some women would find this offensive or insulting. (We asked…and Mrs. Content Guy was even more appalled than we expected.) 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.

    One member of the MNB community observed:

    Re: Wine in negligees -- how utterly, unbelievably stupid do these people think we (women) are? That we'll buy a wine because it's wearing a nightie or has a pedicure? What, and the wine is vapid and dumbed-down too? Early season (nice euphemism for "too young to drink"), low-alcohol and low-calorie?
    It's fruit juice, then.

    Let's face it -- the smart women -- the ones who will not only NOT fall for such blatant pandering, but will be disgusted by it -- are the ones who have had some exposure to good wines, have developed their own tastes and palettes -- and most importantly, are the ones who earn the money to buy the wines that fit those tastes and palettes. The intelligent women I know don't read bodice-ripper novels (they read anything by Dan Brown or Carl Hiaasen), gossip rags or the magazines that try to tell us 50 new ways to look emaciated, (try Smart Money, Working Mother...and MNB, of course!) they are comfortable with who and what they are, and aren't afraid to buy what they like -- or to try something new that intrigues them.

    Get real, Beringer -- attracting a woman usually consists of catching her eye AND appealing to her mind. Do that, and she'll love you forever. Treat her like an idiot (or worse, a bimbo, which is what this sounds dangerously close to) and she'll kick you to the curb.

    What do you want to bet that this strategy was thought up by a room full of guys?

    We had another story yesterday about how “multitasking” women and becoming “multiminded” women – which, according to BrandWeek, means that 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.”

    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.

    To which MNB user Samantha Cessna responded:

    Wow, really interesting article. I loved it. It provided some really fun and challenging material to think about on our own and together as women in this day and age.

    It is important to keep in mind that if women are the primary consumers and they are more and more overextending themselves, that companies are going to have to reach them in new and creative ways. I love reading and learning about these new market trends and how they effect business today.

    To me, I thought this article was a little depressing though. Although women want to "do it all," it feels like it is at such a cost to our selves as individuals, as friends, etc. I hate to hear that the line between work and home is becoming increasingly blurred. to me, even now without children, a home, and real financial responsibility, it’s impossible to find time just to be still. I admire women who have the capability to juggle it all, but I by no means envy them. but how lucky we are to live in a place where we can make these choices. What a juxtaposition it is to think that we are in a society where we are changing the ways business' operate and there are women on the other side of the world who are fighting for simply the privilege to define their own destiny. god bless America!

    but really, in the area I live in, what choice do most women have but to bring home income in order to sustain this "orange county" lifestyle.

    Some fun deep insight for today... fascinating!

    Regarding A&P, which we described this week as “dead company walking,” MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

    When you have a CEO who can't be fired, regardless of his ineptness, you end up the way A&P has. Sometimes we in the industry are just taken back by the blunders made at A&P - usually the same recycled blunders. Its
    gotten so bad at A&P that making a profit is a dream. They get excited and cheer when their losses are narrowed. They get excited over small same store sales increases, even though the stores are still low volume. Basically A&P has such low expectation of themselves, they have lost touch with reality.

    And another MNB user wrote about A&P’s decision to fold Food Basics stores in Toledo:

    Having worked there (although I left sometime ago) it appears they have still not figured out how to match consumers and formats. The master of this is Loblaw’s in Canada who understands their customers and knows who shops where and why. Just building/opening low price stores is not any company’s answer. You need to know which trading areas are ready for them and which are not. A&P has been able to figure that out in Canada but apparently not in the U.S. Who would have taken a gamble in Toledo to begin with?

    We had a piece earlier this week about Wal-Mart offering a new online service, allowing people to create their own CDs, choosing their own music mix and having the final disk shipped to them. We observed that this sounds like old-world technology to us…that kids today don’t buy CDs…they download music off the Internet.

    To which one MNB user responded:

    Your piece on Wal-Mart's new custom CD included the line, "...Kids don’t use CDs. They download music off the Internet, and have no need or desire for the physical disk." The real problem in custom CDs from Wal-Mart, I would wager, is less that the idea is out of touch, and more that the Wal-Mart PC Filter would strip the selection/delivery of songs to the point that the service would be shunned by the "Kids That Don't Need CDs".

    It's often much easier to load a CD into iTunes than it is to wait for a download. In addition, even 'pirated CDs' are still recognized by the software and catalogued against Apple's database for the publication info, song titles, etc. If Wal-Mart creates CDs that the available software can recognize, then this could be a 'slam dunk'...

    ...if they don't strip the available tunes of everything the Kids That Don't Use CDs want to hear, of course.

    And MNB user Julie Diane Davenport chimed in:

    While "kids" may not use CD's, many college students still do. Many people who download music still burn music on the "physical disk." One of Wal-Mart’s problems is that they are charging a per song fee. The majority of the population has figured out how to download music for free. Still, this venture is probably of very little cost to Wal-Mart. There is always the opportunity to bring in customers who generally loathe Wal-Mart.

    Besides, Napster and other online music stores seem to feel that they will be able to sell music online instead of giving it away. Wal-Mart isn't alone on this. Not everyone is up to date. Yes, the demographic that buys CD's is aging, but isn't that how the technology industry always works? I believe that whoever decided to try this did not believe that there would always be a viable market for CD's. At the present time, many people are still using CD's and many would like to have custom CD's without the trouble of downloading the music.

    We based our observation on the fact that when we went to a college campus recently to host a seminar, the students there told us that they don’t buy CDs…they download. And we have a college-age son, a high school-age son, and a 5th grade daughter – and the older two only download. The only reason the younger one doesn’t is that she doesn’t have the open access to the Internet that would allow her to do so.

    We got several emails about the trend toward installing in-store television networks.

    MNB user Susan Kemp observed:

    My local stores have the TV’s installed. My teenage children were shopping with me and their comment was "TV in the store? There are commercials everywhere! We're sick of ads on everything trying to get us to buy stuff!"

    My children are not anti-TV, they are the products of a multi-media environment, but they were annoyed--they did not view it as an enhancement.

    Of course, although my children are uber-consumers, they are not the grocery shoppers in the family--I am. I noticed the TV, and promptly tuned it out. It was just one more noisy distraction. I won't avoid Jewel because of the TV, but I certainly don't find it an enhancement.

    And MNB user Mark Heckman wrote:

    I am generally a big fan of any innovation that could enhance the shopping experience. Unfortunately, in-store video networks thus far have not achieved that lofty plateau. There are several reasons why , but generally they just become irrelevant "noise" in an already cluttered environment.

    I led a project 10 years ago at Marsh Supermarkets to implement such a network, albeit with much more primitive technology than by today's standards. "In a nutshell" Austin Powers would put it, if you don't have lots of content....mega content, and you don't have a solution for "ambient noise", that is making the audio loud (if audio exists) when the store is noisy and softer when it is not, you will drive your employees nuts and likely find your shoppers annoyed with the new diversion.

    "Narrowcasting", however, that is getting the message closer to the point of purchase with on shelf or near-on shelf messaging with smaller screens and potential interactivity, is the way to go in my view. That is really what the brands want to do, break through the clutter..... not add to it For the shopper, if the message is related to "item and price", it becomes an actionable benefit, instead of watching unwanted commercials while you try to concentrate on which aisle the tomato juice is on!

    Time will tell if these new emerging networks have cracked the code on success. In the meanwhile, I will be working on the development of a companion product for these new networks called "Supermarket TiVo"!

    We also got an unsolicited email about the legislation signed into law this week that is aimed at helping parents keep their children from seeing sex scenes, violence and foul language in movie DVDs. The bill protects companies that create filtering technology that helps parents automatically skip or mute sections of commercial movie DVDs.

    We suspect that we got this email because we ran a series of commentaries some time ago that were very critical of companies that were editing R-rated movies and turning them into PG-13 versions…without the permission of filmmakers.

    MNB user Madelyn Matijevich observed:

    I am all for it. There are many really good movies that I (61 year old female) cannot watch because the excessive frightening violence and some of the explicit and/or unnatural sex makes me very uncomfortable - but I want to watch the good parts of the good movies!

    Case in point - the HBO series Sex in the City - I am thoroughly enjoying watching the sanitized version of it on TBS. When it was on HBO, I was not able to watch it. (Tried, but couldn't) Even the sanitized version is often pretty raunchy, but at least I can enjoy it.

    We went through a time when Hollywood couldn't seem to make a movie without sticking some really gross stuff in it - but if you could take out the gross stuff, you had a pretty good show. I agree that there are times when the violence or sex serves a purpose in the story - but the popularity of shows like Law & Order prove that most of the time it just isn't necessary and doesn't add to the plot. I know that's a TV show, but it proves my point.

    We are completely sympathetic to this point of view, and we’re sort of torn on the issue of filtering technology. On the one hand, it is sort of the technological/automatic equivalent of using the remote…but you don’t have to be quick on the draw…which seems reasonable. On the other hand, we think that if you don’t approve of a movie or TV show – all of which carry ratings – then don’t watch.

    We object to any censorship efforts that affect copyrighted material or that attempt to dilute the vision of artists. (Full disclosure: we studied filmmaking in Los Angeles during the mid-seventies, have spent some time working in the TV/film industry, and have written numerous unproduced screenplays as well as one produced script for an animated TV series…so we have some perspective and experience in this area.)

    Some films and TV shows are art. Some are crap. But when it comes to being protected from censorship, we don’t think it matters.

    And we know that many of you will disagree with us.

    Finally, we had a story yesterday 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

    Published on: April 29, 2005

    A couple of weeks ago, I waxed rhapsodic about a trip I took to the Napa Valley, and some wonderful wines that I tasted while visiting the Niebaum-Coppola Winery there.

    Well, needless to say, I brought home some of the bottles I liked the best…and last weekend, on a wild impulse, I decided to run up to Stew Leonard’s and pick up some lobsters and enjoy them with a chilled 2004 Rose made from Carneros Pinot Noir. The estimable Jeffrey Butler at Niebaum-Coppola told me that this new Sofia (named after Sofia Coppola of “Lost in Translation” fame) was wonderful with lobster…and he wasn’t wrong. Spectacular is the word that comes to mind for the lobster and the wine…and I recommend you catch yourself some lobsters and pour yourself a glass of Sofia ASAP.

    By the way, I owe Jeffrey Butler an apology. Two weeks ago, when I wrote the original piece about the trip to Napa, I said:

    I was hosted by a great guy, Jeffrey Butler, who took it all seriously but too much so – just enough to keep the afternoon interesting without being intimidating.

    Well, that clearly was a typo…I meant to write that he “he took it all seriously but not too much so.” He was a terrific host, he works in a terrific winery, and I had a fabulous time.

    If you want to read the original piece, go to:

    We’ve also enjoyed several other wines worth noting over the past week or so.

    • A 2000 Cana’s Feast blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the terrific Cuneo Cellars located near Portland, Oregon. This is a red that started out sharp and mellowed out nicely as the evening wore on…though, in all honesty, maybe it was me that started out sharp and mellowed. Who knows? Who cares?

    • Great with Italian food is a 2003 La Segreta from Planeta…not so spicy as to overwhelm the food, but great to sip and roll around in your mouth. Mmmm…

    I’m off to Chicago tomorrow for the annual Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show, and hope I have a chance to connect with many of you…if you see me wandering by, just reach out and grab me and say hello.

    I’m involved with two different sessions this year, both on Monday, May 2 - moderating the Super Session on “New Products: A View Forward,” and then jogging down to be on the panel discussion for the Learning Lab on “The Business of Retail Technology.” Whichever one strikes your fancy, I hope to see you there.

    As I’ve mentioned here several times... On Sunday, May 1, I will be hanging out at the bar at one of our favorite Chicago bistros, Bin 36, from 6-7:30 p.m. If any members of the MNB community would like to stop by, say hello, and chat for a bit…well, the first couple of bottles of wine will be on us.

    It’ll be a great opportunity for all of us to put faces and voices with the names and words that appear on MNB plus an excuse to drink good wine. (Not that we need an excuse…)

    Bin 36 is located at 339 N Dearborn on the west side of Marina City, between the river and Kinzie.

    See you in Chicago.

    KC's View: