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    Published on: June 1, 2005

    With apologies to Maya Angelou, it sings because it is no longer caged.

    Wild Oats Markets yesterday announced an agreement with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that will ban the sale of eggs from caged birds in all of its 75 Wild Oats Natural Marketplaces, located in 23 states.

    "Demand for improving the welfare of farm animals has never been higher," said Perry Odak, president/CEO of Wild Oats Markets, Inc. "We are hopeful that our decision not to approve egg farmers who use caged birds for our national and regional product lists will encourage the egg industry to move in the direction of phasing out its use of battery cages, and shifting toward cage-free methods that take the animals' welfare into account."

    According to the Humane Society, about 98 percent of eggs sold in the United States come from birds confined in barren "battery cages so small the birds can't even spread their wings, let alone engage in other natural behaviors such as nesting, foraging, perching, and dust bathing.”
    KC's View:
    The interesting thing about announcements like these is that they illustrate how retailing companies such as Wild Oats take a holistic approach to their marketing and operations – it isn’t just about selling stuff, but walking the walk as well as talking the talk.

    Published on: June 1, 2005

    Interesting interview with Starbucks CEO Jim Donald by MarketWatch in which he discusses the company’s gradual move into the food business. Asked what happens when the smell of food overwhelms the small of coffee, Donald was very clear:

    “We caught that in the test market that there was an aroma of a warm savory sandwich. We stopped the test and went through a very, very deliberate process of buying the convection/microwave oven that doesn't send the smells into the air. We've got it and now you don't get that smell into the stores.

    “We would never actually make food in the stores. We'll always have it made and brought in. The sandwiches are made fresh and we're getting daily delivery and a high-quality sandwich. Nothing has been skimped on.”

    But no smells.

    Donald also waxed rhapsodic about the importance of being in the field, especially when you are the CEO. “If I could spend every day in the field it would be great. It just doesn't get any better than this.

    “And when you sit around a table like this with the store manager, the district manager and store managers-to-be, this is the future of our company. And the enthusiasm in the 9,300 stores that we have now is just in the beginning stages.

    “We are truly in the very, very early stages of our growth. We've said we think there's room for 30,000 stores worldwide. We're just in the first couple of innings.”
    KC's View:
    Interesting. Usually we’re critical of food stores where you can’t smell anything…but in this case, the concern is that the food is too aromatic.

    Guess it is all a matter of priorities. And coffee aromas remain the priority.

    Published on: June 1, 2005

    MNB reported yesterday that the University of Michigan index of consumer confidence dropped to 86.9 in May from 87.7 in April. The silver lining –the preliminary May reading was 85.3, so 86.9 looked like an improvement.

    Well, apparently the University of Michigan is talking to different consumers than the Conference Board is…because the Conference Board said yesterday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 102.2 from 97.5 in April – better than the 96 rating that had been expected and the reversal of a three-month downward trend.
    KC's View:
    What was it that George Bernard Shaw said about economists?

    Oh, yeah:

    “If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.”

    Published on: June 1, 2005

    • Wal-Mart may be a behemoth, but it certainly is trying to create the image of being anything but intransigent – especially when it comes to environmental issues.

      Two different stories this week focus on how Wal-Mart is altering its traditional game plan to meet concerns about how its stores affect the environment. The Oregonian reports, for example, that “with a new-found willingness to compromise, the company could expand dramatically in Oregon, adding to the 29 stores here now. There are eight new stores on the drawing board and a new Northwest food distribution center could fuel dozens more -- making the chain the state's largest retailer.

      “Its new Oregon stores -- especially the ones in urban areas -- will look little like the retailer's 3,081 other stores and Supercenters across the nation. They will be on smaller pieces of property, have something other than 1,000-plus surface parking spaces and look more like other neighborhood stores, albeit ones that can fit three football fields inside.”

      At the same time, the Dallas Business Journal reports that Wal-Mart “will be showing a gentler, greener-side this July when it unveils its experimental Wal-Mart green-designed building under construction in McKinney.

      “The McKinney Wal-Mart is one of only two environmentally friendly stores the giant retailer is building. The other is in Aurora, Colo. The green Wal-Marts will feature wind turbines as an alternative power generator and xeriscaping -- environmentally friendly landscaping -- among other features...Ultimately, the green buildings may serve as a blueprint in the design of other Wal-Mart stores. The retailer has said it would like to partner with universities to study the stores and then share that information with the retail industry.”

    KC's View:
    The issues in the two states are different – Oregon, after all, has a vastly different political and cultural climate than Texas. But the point seems to be that Wal-Mart is moving fairly swiftly to mitigate some of the criticism leveled against it.

    Like it or hate it, Wal-Mart has never been obdurate – especially when it comes to making changes that allow it to pursue its own growth agenda.

    There seems to be a lot of this going around. The Toronto Globe and Mail reported yesterday that Wal-Mart is going on what it called a “charm offensive” in Canada to try and repair its damaged image there.

    It may take more than charm. But Wal-Mart is almost certainly prepared to do a lot more than just be charming.

    Published on: June 1, 2005

    There are reports in the Canadian press about an elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta, where the administration is considering a ban on milk sales because there are two children attending the school who are severely allergic to milk.

    There are a total of 400 students going to the school. These students would be allowed to bring milk to school, but would be unable to buy it in the cafeteria.

    There are several problems with this possibility. One is that some people think the school is overreacting. The other is that once they ban milk, they may have to ban other dairy products, such as cheese.
    KC's View:
    Our first thought when we read that the school was going to allow kids to bring milk products to school was to wonder if the school was going to provide refrigerators in which the milk can be stored.

    Then we thought about it some more and realized that we’re talking about Canada. Most of the year, they can just leave the milk outside.

    Gosh. Many schools are trying to ban soft drinks, but this one is trying to ban milk. Go figure.

    We can’t help but feel that banning all milk from being sold in this school is a bow to political correctness that seems like it is going too far. There has to be an easier, more equitable solution.

    Published on: June 1, 2005

    • Winn Dixie has asked the US Bankruptcy Court for a four-month extension in its reorganization schedule, which would have it submitting a plan to the court by mid-October.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 1, 2005

    Larry R. Inserra, the owner and chairman of New jersey-based Inserra Supermarket Corp., which owns and operates 22 ShopRite supermarkets, died Saturday. He was 76.

    Inserra started in the family business as a butcher, and took control of the company in the late seventies. He remained an active owner even after contracting multiple sclerosis 20 years ago.

    In addition to being survived by his son, Larry Inserra Jr., who now runs the company, Inserra is survived by his wife, Theresa; two daughters, Laura Dupont and Marie Larsen, and 11 grandchildren.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 1, 2005

    We had a story yesterday about how Sony and Nike are opening new stores in the Windy City region that cater expressly to female shoppers – considered unusual since the two companies traditionally have targeted male shoppers. The stores are designed to resemble boutiques, with color schemes, lighting and decor that feel intimate in a 5,000-square-foot space. The goal in each case is to demystify categories and provide more support and education than might ordinarily be offered.

    One MNB user responded:

    Maybe the direction that should be taken from Nike, Sony and Best Buy is exactly the opposite of the tact these companies are taking? The supermarket has typically been designed for, and the domain of, female shoppers. Maybe the cue that should be taken here is to create a shopping experience that caters to men who are increasingly more involved in getting the groceries and preparing the family's meals. Stores that "demystify categories and provide more support and education than might ordinarily be offered."

    Actually, we think that food is a mystery to a lot of people these days, regardless of gender. We live in a fast food culture, and people just aren’t as educated as they used to be…which is why any educational, de-mystifying approach would seem to be a smart idea.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    On stores marketing to women...Gentlemen (because I don't believe that the big pushes to market to women are really being driven by women...sad, ain't it?), you're walking a very thin line here, and I think I speak for many women... I *do* want to feel welcome in a store, and I *don't* want to feel lost or confused in a store.

    I also *don't* want to feel pandered to or patronized. Just like the rant published a few weeks ago about the "girlie" wine -- don't you DARE make me feel like you've dumbed down your sends the message that you don't think I'm smart enough to deal with the real deal...and will send me running to your competition every single time.

    Spa services in Best Buy? Get real -- I go to BB to buy stuff – not for a manicure...DUMBED DOWN...(Keep in mind, too, that we are picky about who we'll let do manicures/facials/etc -- and don't switch easily.) Boutique feel for sneakers? Probably not -- I want to buy a pair of sneakers from someone who can answer my questions about fit and how they'll perform...period. I don't want to soak up the ambience, I'm there to buy a pair of sneakers. That's all. (Realizing, of course, that I must be really old to call them sneakers instead of running shoes/crosstrainers/walking shoes/etc etc etc -- but isn't that a point, too?)

    Sony doing a better job of educating the consumer? GREAT! Tell me why yours is better than the competition, in intelligent language that gives me credit for having a normal IQ...That'll sell more product, regardless of the gender of the customer.

    By marketing to women, you also have to be careful not to alienate the it's a dangerous path you choose -- not necessarily an unsuccessful or imprudent path, but one you have to tread carefully to succeed.

    We referenced an old Buffalo Springfield lyric - There's something happening here…What it is ain't exactly clear… - in our commentary, which led MNB user Don Stuart to continue the metaphor:

    The Sounds of Silence: That’s what more and more retailers will hear if they don’t get their Retail Marketing acts together. Retailers aren’t simply merchants anymore, they must be true marketers ---identifying customer needs and addressing them. Aspirational is just another way of viewing the evolution of consumer wants into needs.

    At one point we may have wanted to go out for an occasional coffee; now we NEED to go to Starbucks every morning.

    Retailers need to realize that “For What it’s Worth” was a protest song and their consumers are now protesting with their feet by exiting traditional channels in droves.

    Retailers must address these concerns with clear, unequivocal communication and a shopping environment that delights. Marketing is too important to delegate in their stores.

    As the song said: You better stop, hey, what’s that sound, everybody take a look around. It’s getting very quiet out there…

    And, along those same lines, MNB user Mark Heckman observed:

    Kevin, you may be on to something. Maybe an exclusive interview with Stephen Stills on the state of the grocery industry is in order! He couldn’t be any more clueless than those in the industry that continue to see cutting expenses and running “Super Double Coupons” as the answer to all their problems!

    MNB user Jennie L. De Gaglia had the following observation:

    I have to say I directly experienced a Retailers lack of "customer service" twice this Memorial Day weekend. I went to Best Buy to purchase a notebook computer, a new mobile battery along with a new ear piece. Well, not only did I get ignored (when I clearly had the "I'm going to buy" face on), but I spent 45 minutes in a store where no one even said "hello" to me. I gave up and went over to the CD's to find a new release and was also unsuccessful at that task. I entered a store expecting to spend about $1500 and walked out with NOTHING! I won't even speak of my other encounter at TARGET, but I once again walk-out without spending a dime. I have to say, both these stores are fighting the almighty "W" and although all people don't shop at stores just for price, they do expect some customer service. Many restaurants close for lack of good service versus lack of good food ….. Retailers need to spend time training their employees on what customer service means, after all that may be the only thing these stores have going for them that Wal Mart doesn't!

    Regarding the debate between scientists over whether people who are a little overweight will live longer or not, MNB user Brendan Haslam wrote:

    As a person with more than a couple of extra pounds, I’ve been feeling real good after I read what the CDC and CI said about weight and its effect on life expectancy! Alas, everything else I read says I’m more at risk and should expect my life expectancy to be shorter than those who are fit and in good shape. Selective reading usually will make me feel better, but this seems a bit irresponsible for such powerful organizations to make such claims, don’t you think?

    MNB user Bob Vereen had a thought about a request by some shareholders that Wal-Mart change the way it compensates its senior executives:

    As a longtime Wal-Mart stockholder, I've noticed that compensation for its top execs is well below that of many other retail (and non-retail) companies, especially when you take into account its sales size.

    Compare Lee Scott's pay, for example, to that of Target's CEO, Depot's Nardelli and Lowe's CEO. By comparison, Scott is very much underpaid.

    And, another MNB user weighed in on whether traditional stores should have dollar store-style sections:

    The dollar aisles at Target -- ARE FUN! I only rarely buy something from the dollar aisle, but somehow I can't resist looking. And, unlike most of the dollar stores and dollar aisles at the competition, most of what's in Target's dollar bins are things that might actual get some use -- and while aren't high-quality, don't look as though they'll disintegrate before I get them home, either. (And I'm a faithful Target girl -- I'll drive past WM any time I can -- Target's just an overall better shopping experience....)

    As for aspirational marketing, MNB user Al Kober wrote:

    This is like what I use to promote Certified Angus Beef. The "average " person cannot afford to drive the rich man's BMW or live in the rich man's million $ house on the hill, but for just a dollar or two more, everyone can eat the very best, the same great steaks that the rich folks eat, Certified Angus Beef.

    I know this is a commercial and cannot be printed as you do not do unpaid commercials, but I thought I would just pass this along as this is what came to mind as I read your story.

    We don’t think of this as an unpaid commercial. Just a good example of what we were writing about yesterday.
    KC's View: