business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday’s story about Tesco’s California plans, MNB user (and MNB fave) Glen Terbeek wrote:

Since Tesco has experience with prepared foods, high quality private label, consumer direct, shopper data base marketing, world class logistics systems, and various formats around the world; look for the Express stores in the U S to be the true "moment of value" stores; localized to the market it is in. Stores that combine all of the above skills for a "hard to beat" shopping experience. There is no other U S retailer with the breadth of their experience in all of these areas. For sure, they will not enter the US with a same ol', same ol' format. In addition, Tesco is not encumbered by the current US industry model, just like Wal-Mart wasn't when it started. And Tesco's global presences will help them get the manufacturers attention in the U S, even though they are just starting; an advantage that Wal-Mart didn't have.

What are "moment of value" stores? Think of stores with a strong prepared foods offering, great fresh products, and a "convenient" selection of core/necessary items. Stores that create value above and beyond distribution value. It's a fact; prices, margins, and return on space go up when the need is fulfilled immediately and easily. This offering would be embellished by a consumer direct offering of a very large assortment of core/staple items and niche items that can't economically be carried in stores. They would be preordered by shoppers for pick up at the Express stores on their next visit; as example, on their way home from work while they pick up their dinner. These items will be offered at very competitive prices, since many traditional costs have been removed. In fact, manufacturers might even put their items in the system on a contingent basis to make them immediately available to the Express shoppers, just like does. (What, no slotting allowances?) Think about new item introductions!

Wow! This will be fun to watch! Since I live in Southern California, I can't wait.

But wait a minute, wait a minute! This is unfair! The playing field is not level, again! The manufacturers are supporting an(other) alternative format! They can't do this! Don't they understand. We better work on logistics again! Here's a good idea, let's increase the slotting allowances! Let's form category teams! Let's consolidate! Let's.............

Another MNB user wrote:

They keep talking about the retail side of this operation, but have we heard any noise on what products they are going to sell in the them? In the UK they are very dependant on third party suppliers for fresh entrees, sandwiches, etc. Have they secured any alliances in this area in our country? If yes, with who?

This was a fundamental flaw in the other British retail acquisitions on the east coast. I believe M&S, Sainsbury, etc over estimated the American supply chain in this area and later found it was not what they were accustomed to on their home turf. Will Tesco learn from their mistake?

We think that Tesco learns from everything.

On the subject of Wal-Mart’s dedication to environmental issues, illustrated by the fact that Al Gore is bringing his message about global warming – as portrayed in the hit documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” – to a company meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, this week.

MNB user Art Turock wrote:

Count on Wal-Mart's sincerity in supporting sustainability. After watching the Annual Meeting in Fayetteville a few weeks ago, the major theme conveyed to about 18,000 associates was pride in company, and plenty of examples of sustainability. I don't think you proclaim a half-baked insincere gesture in front of shareholders and analysts.

I was also leading a seminar with an ice cream supplier in April. One of their Wal-Mart Account Team members related a story, where he asked a buyer to leave a styrofoam container left behind on an earlier sampling session at the front desk to pick up. The buyer refused saying, "You won't see me carrying anything made of styrofoam in this building. Come to my office and pick it up."

Lee Scott sees the connection between EDLC and sustainability and its becoming part of Wal-Mart best practices.

One MNB user disagreed:

I'm surprised you aren't more cynical. Yes, Wal-Mart may appear to be sincere now about environmental issues because it distracts the public from the negative press they have been receiving. However, it reeks of the "Made in America" campaign, which became obsolete when the new "Slashing Prices" campaign was invented so Smiley could mask the result of moving business overseas to reduce costs. When it becomes to expensive to remain conscientious about the environment, they'll drop it and find another button to push to appease the public.

MNB user Randy Aszman offered the following thought:

I haven’t seen “An Inconvenient Truth” either, and doubt I will, but in regards to the concerns voiced by Al Gore and others, I suggest viewing “The Real Eve”, a documentary produced by the Discovery Channel. It chronicles the migration of humans from Africa that basically spread the human race to Europe, Asia, Australia, and eventually the Americas 150,000 years ago. This migration was triggered by environmental changes, namely global warming. Our planet goes through cyclical changes that occur with or without the influence of the human population. And although we should be seriously concerned about and address the effluence we release into the air and our oceans, the shrinking ice caps most likely are part of our planets ever evolving growth and change. Now please excuse me while I go dig a foxhole to protect me from the tree huggers’ incoming wrath.

Another MNB user wrote:

I have not seen Gore’s movie, but as a student of life, I have delved into the debate, and read an extraordinary piece in the National Review (Snow Job-Jason Lee Steorts, 6/5/06), as well as “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton (great fiction, but the facts and citations at the end are incredible), and believe we just DO NOT KNOW ENOUGH to be so certain that global warming is as big an issue as it is being portrayed. Case in point, when I moved form the Midwest to the Southwest in 1977, all the talk was about the impending doom from the cooling and smog cover over major cities blocking out the sun. So, Southern California and Phoenix adopt stricter air quality standards, and today, a mere 29 years later, the air is cleaner in LA than in the 40’s-70’s (although much remains to be done), and we’re inundated with global warming hysteria! Point is, we all should be responsible stewards and live as lightly as we can through the choices we make, and Wal-Mart should be looking at this from a stewardship and what’s best for the business perspective.

Now, what’s best for the business in this case may be a longer term horizon, but if they can start on projects and programs that allow them to do better their job – “lower prices, always”, and it takes a number of years to reap the benefits, then so be it – saving the economy money and increasing growth in the long term is what sustains societies. While the media has a major head rush because of this (WAL-MART SEES THE LIGHT!), each side is using each other to forward their agenda in the court of public opinion – nothing wrong with that, just be prepared for the consequences of using the press for this, they will turn tide.

Another MNB user wrote:

When was "An Inconvenient Truth" declared a 'hit'? Who declared it? What were the criteria?

“An Inconvenient Truth” is the third highest grossing political documentary of all time, has been a critical success, and certainly is helping to create awareness and debate about the issue.

Sounds like a hit to us.

KC's View: