retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Why here and why now? That’s a question I’ve heard quite a lot since I announced I’d be leaving FMI full time and joining Kevin in this merry pursuit. The reason is pretty simple and it goes way beyond my long friendship with Kevin. The community of the future can be built on-line. Ask all those students you know about Facebook.com. We’ve got important issues to discuss and Kevin and I are going to air them here constantly as we look to build a new dialog.

There are plenty of things on which I disagree with Kevin when he engages in his various MNB rants; however, one of the things that drew me to this partnership is the open dialog. Whether we all agree or disagree, opening ourselves up to opinions and views that cause us to think makes us better. I look forward to engaging Kevin in debate and discussion, as well as engaging with the MNB community on an ongoing basis – if you disagree with me, just let me know...and if you feel strongly about something, take your best shot.

So let’s get things started by telling you what I believe in (especially because some of these issues just aren’t going to come up again):

Rachael Ray turns me on. She’s spunky and believes in home cooking. Then again, I could say the same things about my wife and she actually cares that I care.

I think we’d all be a lot better off if we tried to listen to people with opinions different than our own. I know people who never listen to anyone more liberal than Rush Limbaugh or more conservative than Michael Moore. We’re all capable of hearing a contrary point of view and maybe learning. Plus, it gives you a chance to yell at your radio. (By the way: the media is always biased…especially when it disagrees with me.)

I love Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, but I really worry that there are Americans getting their news from a guy who had a supporting role in Big Daddy.

People with Bluetooth phones need to wear a feather in their hair when conducting a phone conversation. I grew up in New York and people seemingly talking to themselves in elevators, subways cars or on the street still freak me out. You want the convenience of Bluetooth, wear a feather! If not, I promise to get involved in your conversation.

My parents told me lots of stuff that still matters. Start with their number one lesson: treat others as you want to be treated. Lesson number two, always be proud of what you do every day. Mom and Dad had it together.

When I worked a cash register we had to count change the right way. I love technology, but the art of counting change (and the math skills it teaches) is something we could use these days, plus it made the cashier always interact with the customer. Being a cashier also teaches you to treat everyone with respect. You never know who is in line.

The truth is way easier to remember than a lie. I live near Washington, DC., which is a city badly in need of this motto.

The designated hitter is killing baseball. Also, I don’t think God cares which team wins the Super Bowl or the World Series...except when the Mets are playing.

The media is always biased…especially when it disagrees with me.

When it comes to the industry:

Consumers are confusing. They are contradictory, can be very hypocritical and sometimes they are misleading. It’s just the way it is.

We need way more diversity in the industry and fast. The population is more mixed than ever, but company leadership isn’t. This industry has got to reach into the inner city, the Hispanic community and more to match the face of the shopper. Plus, we need lots more women making decisions or we need lots more men cooking and shopping.

Buyer/Seller relations are always going to have rough spots and some will never get worked out. However, there are so many areas where cooperation rules that we could solve problems almost constantly. Restarting ECR-like efforts to address data accuracy, create common standards on food safety, sustainability, energy use and nutrition labeling might produce some nice gains.

Speaking of ECR, the industry possesses more good research, studies and guidebooks than anyone can ever use (including those from the ECR project itself.) We have got to start turning all of this into action. Start with this one suggestion: don’t let any one on staff attend a meeting out of town without an assignment to bring back one new idea. If they don’t get any ideas, don’t send them to that meeting again. EVER!

There are amazingly smart people in this industry and on all sides of the fence. I know single store operators who have management skills that would amaze anyone.

The best companies I have worked with have had a common trait. They are permanently dissatisfied with the status quo. They know that winning today means nothing tomorrow and constantly look for ways to get better.

There’s more, but the goal here at MNB is context and dialog and not just listening to ourselves. Let’s get this new conversation started.
KC's View:
Just FYI…”Sansolo Speaks” will be a regular feature on MNB…usually appearing at least once a week, and more often when Michael feels a rant coming on.