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    Published on: November 14, 2006

    The Washington Post reports that holiday shoppers looking for gift ideas this year should go no farther than the local supermarket.

    “No, we're not suggesting you give your wife a gallon of milk and some laundry detergent,” the Post writes. “Supermarkets are expanding their product assortment to include more non-food items, including best selling books, DVDs and even Beanie Babies. Plus, some stores are open on Christmas Day.

    “The quickest option is gift cards sold in checkout lines. Safeway and Giant carry cards for dozens of retailers and restaurants, including the Cheesecake Factory, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.”

    Andrea Astrachan, a consumer adviser at Giant, tells the Post that consumers can even combine gift cards “with other products to create themed packages -- for instance, pairing a Sports Authority gift card with bottled water and energy bars.”
    KC's View:
    All good ideas.

    But let’s take it one step farther. Maybe supermarkets should pull together some of those suggested gift baskets themselves, either as in-stock items or as samples that can generate some creativity on the part of the shopper. Why just wait for the consumer to come up with the idea?

    And maybe it would make sense for the store to even create a kind of Christmas boutique that could really push these items, and the whole notion of the supermarket offering differential advantages.

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    The Washington Post reports this morning that a new study by Harvard medical School researchers suggests that women in their twenties, thirties and forties who eat red meat on a regular basis may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

    The study, according to the Post, “is the first to examine the relationship between consumption of red meat and breast cancer in premenopausal women, and the first to examine the question by type of breast cancer. Although more research is needed to confirm the association and explore the possible reasons for it, researchers said the findings provide another motivation to limit consumption of red meat, which is already known to increase the risk of colon cancer.

    KC's View:

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    The Akron Beacon Journal reports that Acme Fresh Markets “is slashing prices by 25 percent on the top 100 generic prescription medicines dispensed at its 15 area pharmacies.” In addition, “Acme also is cutting the cost for 100 over-the-counter health products sold under the Top Crest name, the chain's private label.”

    The move comes as Acme tries to keep its head above the roiling competitive waters in the region’s pharmacy business, as chains such as Wal-Mart, Target and Giant Eagle dramatically reduce their prices for generic prescription medicines.

    Acme tells the Beacon Journal that its plan is designed to be more comprehensive than those developed by the other retailers, and includes medicines not offered by its competition.
    KC's View:
    The two biggest competitive shifts we’ve seen in the HBC area of the business in recent months have been the dramatic cuts in at least some prescription prices and the launching by so many retailers of in-store health clinics providing basic services.

    It will be interesting to see where the next shift will take us. Because while these changes have been both significant, in a lot of ways they are yesterday’s news. What we’re trying to figure out – and we have no answers yet – is what the next iteration will be.

    Any ideas?

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    The Dallas Business Journal reports on an interview with Minyard Food Stores president/CEO Michael Byars, who tells the paper that “Minyard has positioned itself for local growth by adding a new management team, renovating stores and concentrating its attention on Carnival, a grocery format aimed at the fast-growing Hispanic market.”

    Just 18 months after the chain was sold by the founding family to a private investor group, the Business Journal writes that “Minyard believes the key to growing those sales will be in serving the Metroplex's booming Hispanic population through its Carnival brand stores.

    “The company recently opened a new 56,000-square-foot Carnival prototype in South Dallas with an indoor dining area, juice bar, bakery, tortilla factory and extensive meat and seafood counters. The store grabbed the industry's attention with its colorful decor and upscale feel. Minyard has plans for two more Carnival stores in Fort Worth.” When the two new Carnival stores open, that will bring to 25 the number of stores carrying that banner; they will outnumber the 24 Minyard stores and 18 Sack 'n Save units also operated by the company.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    Amazon.com is offering its shoppers something called “Premium Delivery”, which it describes as “a white glove delivery service that is designed to ensure that your purchase arrives damage free and in a timely manner.”

    According to the retailer’s site, “Once you place your order, your purchase is prepared for shipment and is delivered to a specialized delivery agent in your area. When the product arrives in the local facility, an agent will call you to arrange a four-hour delivery window between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. In some metropolitan areas, Saturday delivery is available if you are unable to be at home on a weekday…

    “At your home delivery experts will place the carton in a room of your choice on the ground floor, unpack the product, and remove all packing materials from the residence. If you find signs of damage to your product, simply refuse delivery, and you will receive a refund. Your signature on the delivery receipt is your acknowledgement that the product was delivered in working condition and that you understand Amazon.com cannot accept the return of this product after delivery.” Cost of the service depends on the item purchased.

    In addition to this delivery service, Amazon also said this week that it is offering interest-free credit on selected electronics products that it is stocking and shipping itself (as opposed to those offered by third-party vendors on its site).
    KC's View:
    We have no idea of Amazon can make any money with this service, but we find it fascinating how the online retailer continues to redefine its business and services.

    We’ll really be impressed when they offer white glove delivery of grocery products, actually putting them away in the larder, refrigerator and freezer for shoppers.

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    The Providence Journal writes about Carcieri's Market, a 6,400-square-foot independent Rhode Island grocery store: “At a time when high-volume, low-price chain stores dominate the American retail landscape, local shops such as Carcieri's can seem like an anachronism. But according to those who run these small businesses, it's that old-world feeling and attention to specific customer needs that allows stores like Carcieri's to survive the big-box competition and keep providing jobs to their employees.”

    However, life isn’t going to get any easier for the owners – a 135,000 square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter is scheduled to open nearby. Owner Lara Amodei says she knows she has her work cut out for her. "Every time one of the major chains opens, in the beginning it draws away some of our business," she tells the paper. "It's curiosity. But, after a while, our customers come back. We're known for our meat department. We have people who come in all the way from Newport just for our meats. That's our niche."
    KC's View:
    Good luck.

    Our one observation is that the folks at Carcieri's Market can’t assume that people will come back. It has to go out and get them, over and over and over.

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    • Wal-Mart has decided to stop selling a T-shirt that was decorated with a skull and crossbones in the wake of report that the image was the same as a World War II-era Nazi SS emblem.

    The retailer was made aware of the similarity when a blogger posted a comparison on his website; a Wal-Mart spokesman said the company was not aware of the image’s origin.

    • Wal-Mart announced that it plans to renovate every one of its 138 stores in Brazil by 2009, at a cost of roughly $124 million (which works out to about $900,000 per store). The retailer also plans to open 28 new stores next year, double the 14 new stores that it is opening this year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    Published reports say that Ahold has closed on its purchase of 27 Konmar supermarkets from the Laurus chain in the Netherlands. The last two Konmar stores are slated to be bought by Ahold next year.

    Ahold reportedly will convert 21 of the stores to its Albert Heijn banner.

    Cost of the acquisition: $130 million (US).
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    • Published reports say that a group of female employees at a UK Tesco store have banded together to produce a calendar that is being sold to raise money for charity. The women didn’t want to pose nude, and decided not to use supermarket products to cover their private parts, so instead opted to pose in their lingerie.

    However – and MNB is not making this up – early versions of the calendar contained a typo that made it a collector’s item: it was labeled as a "2007 Chartity Calendar".
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    • Wal-Mart reported this morning that its third quarter profit rose 11 percent, with its net income rising to $2.65 billion compared to $2.37 billion a year earlier. Q3 sales rose to $83.5 billion from $74.6 billion, though same-store sales were up just 1.5 percent.

    • Tyson reports that its fourth quarter sales were even with the same period last year, at $6.5 billion, while the company suffered a $56 million Q4 loss, compared to the $117 million profit it had a year ago.

    KC's View:

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    We had a story yesterday about how Starbucks is launching a viral and socially conscious marketing program, which led one MNB user to write:

    I am also a bit of a Starbuck’s junkie and hold them to a “Higher standard” due to their social consciousness.

    However, I have to take issue with their “laissez faire” attitude towards smoking at many of their Atlanta outlets. Blessed by our mild weather, many Starbucks in Atlanta provide outdoor seating, often on the sidewalks by the entrance to their stores. Starbucks puts ashtrays on these tables and attracts a crowd of smokers searching for a place which still allows smoking. The problem is that it is a “disgusting” experience for a “non-smoker” to enter a Starbucks through a cloud of smoke. Local Starbuck’s management is less than sympathetic stating that they must cater to “Smokers and Non Smokers” alike.

    Sorry, KC, this is not acceptable approach from a company with an image like Starbucks. It also appears in direct conflict with their printed statements in stores promising a “smoke free” environment. To me, the environment includes the entire premises, not just the interior. We applaud Starbucks for their great products, but are puzzled by their “pro-smoking” approach.





    On the subject of ads taken out by Kraft in the new issue of People that feature the scents of various products that it is selling, one MNB user observed:

    I've always wondered why food companies haven't taken advantage of this technology and I agree that adding more scent to magazines may irritate some, but I'd rather have a magazine arrive that smells like bakery - but hopefully doesn't smell like that awful fake butter popcorn smell that frequently permeates our office. Now if only Gourmet Magazine would lose the perfume ads and replace them with food smells!




    MNB user David Zahn had some thoughts about Wal-Mart deciding to have its people say “Merry Christmas” instead of just ‘Happy Holidays” this year:

    When I was still in school, I took a job at a mall to earn some spending money for movies, pizza, etc. As this time of year approached, I was unclear and uncertain of whether to acknowledge Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or just keep my mouth shut and pretend not to notice the faux striped candy canes, sleighs, and mistletoe that had been hung to decorate the mall. Since you can't "tell by looking" who celebrates what holiday most of the time (or even if they do celebrate) - I just opted for a very generic "Enjoy the Holiday Season" comment as the transaction was completed. Wordy and a mouthful, yea...do I recommend it to others or suggest it be "THE" answer - not at all. It was just a way for me to get past my own awkwardness at not knowing what to do. In this way, I was acknowledging the time of the year, the likely reason for the shopping trip; but at the same time not making any assumptions about their faith or holiday celebrations. Merely being all encompassing and letting them choose whether they linked it to a specific holiday, the general good times associated with the end of November through the beginning of a new year, or an invitation to just shop at a time when prices are perceived to be most favorable to the consumer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 14, 2006

    In Monday Night Football action, the Carolina Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-10.
    KC's View: