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    Published on: February 8, 2008

    The Chicago Sun Times reports that British retailer Tesco, which has been opening Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in California, Arizona and Nevada, is looking for locations in Chicago, with Arlington Heights, Illinois, mentioned as a potential location.

    “Though the Chicago area grocery market has become increasingly competitive with entries and expansions by Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Aldi, Costco, Food 4 Less, Roundy's, Target and Wal-Mart, a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market would be unique because of its strong offerings of prepared foods, packaged perishables and selections of produce, meat and bakery,” the Sun Times writes.

    Tesco is not commenting on the report, and no timetable is suggested for when the Chicago openings might occur. The Sun Times attributes the report to “knowledgeable sources.”

    KC's View:
    It has been often said in this space that it is extremely likely that Tesco has people on the ground in virtually every market that it thinks has potential…and that certainly includes places like Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Boston and Seattle. That doesn’t mean they’ll be opening in these markets soon, but Tesco is nothing if not incredibly disciplined an forward-looking in how it approaches growth in new markets.

    One other thing also seems sure. The Fresh & Easy stores that it opens a year from now will not be identical to the ones it opened first…because Tesco also will continue to learn. Fresh & Easy 2.0 should be fascinating.

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    A new study from the Gartner Inc. says that banks continue to promote contactless and signature-based debit card payment systems to consumers, despite the fact that shoppers “prefer alternative payment types that earn banks less revenue, but which consumers believe are more secure.”

    According to the study, “When shopping at grocery stories, consumers prefer debit card payments that require entry of a PIN despite the fact that only debit and credit card payments with physically signed receipts typically earn them reward points … Consumers’ least-favorite payment type when shopping for groceries is contactless (wireless) payments, and there is similarly small interest in using mobile phones for making payments.”

    “Brick-and-mortar businesses who accept electronic consumer payments should promote use of PIN-based debit card payments by steering consumers to them through payment terminal programs and/or by offering store-based incentive programs,” says Avivah Litan, a vice president and analyst at Gartner. “Businesses pay less to banks for PIN-based payments and since consumers prefer them anyway, this is a win-win strategy for all parties except credit card issuers and banks.”

    KC's View:
    It is extraordinary how much money has been spent by the credit card companies in promoting schemes that do very little to help consumers and that are only there to improve the companies’ bottom line.

    Analyst Litan has the right idea – retailers can actually turn this situation to their advantage by marketing against the credit card companies. They may have to take these forms of payment, but that doesn’t mean they have to help their shoppers get ripped off.

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    The Washington Post reports that he World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled in favor of the United States and against the European Union (EU) in a case that concerns how the EU sets tariffs for banana imports.

    In the past, according to the story, the EU gave preferential treatment to bananas imported from former British and French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. But the US challenged the practice, and the WTO agreed that the practice was illegal.

    The EU still can appeal, according to reports.

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    • The Financial Times this morning reports that “low-income customers at Wal-Mart appear to be using Christmas gift cards to buy food and other basics rather than using them on discretionary gifts,” a strategy that FT suggests is a “telling sign of the economic pressures facing the least well-off US consumers.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart’s new agreements with health clinic operators, which will result in hundreds of new installations over the next few years, are calling for Wal-Mart’s name to put on the clinics.

    Also, the Journal notes that “as part of its effort to influence health-care procedures, Wal-Mart will require new clinic operators to use an electronic medical records and practice-management system from closely held eClinicalWorks LLC, of Westborough, Mass.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    There may be a separation between church and state, but that doesn’t mean that there is a separation between church and commerce.

    Up in Massachusetts, the Standard-Times reports that a local minister has been visiting a Stop & Shop in Wareham weekly for more than a year “to lead sessions of Christian meditation and talk to shoppers passing by.”

    On Ash Wednesday this week, Rev. Walter Wnek decided to take the arrangement to new heights. "It was this year, as we looked toward the Lenten period, that I thought, 'Well, why don't we provide ashes on Ash Wednesday?'" he said. "And so here we are today, hopeful that people will take advantage of this opportunity to receive the ashes of repentance and dedicate the period between now and Easter to a new desire in their hearts to live a new life following more closely the commands of God and living in the wonder of God's love and grace."

    KC's View:
    Can I get an Amen?

    Seriously, I guess the real question is whether the store would allow other faiths – and even (gasp!) secular humanists – to similarly preach and minister to shoppers.

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    • Hannaford Supermarkets announced that its is shifting the sales dates of its weekly flyer. Currently running Sunday through Saturday, beginning April 11, the flyer will advertise sales from Friday through Thursday. The company said that this would allow associates to update the store during the week to reflect upcoming sales, and afford “additional opportunities to serve customers during the busy weekend hours.”

    • A new study in the UK looking at consumer attitudes toward ethical food priorities suggests that people there are most interested in ethical trading, animal welfare and the environment. However, the study also says that the two least critical issues, at least in the consumer’s mind, seem to be packaging and climate change – which is seen as surprising since these are two issues that have gotten an enormous amount of publicity.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    • Diedrich Coffee announced that CEO Stephen V. Coffey has tendered his resignation, and will be replaced by J. Russell Phillips, a management consultant who also serves on the company’s board of directors.
    KC's View:
    If Diedrich’s last CEO was named Coffey, shouldn’t the next one be named espresso, or latte, or even cappuccino?

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    • Wal-Mart Stores said that its January sales were $27.3 billion, an increase on 7.9% over January 2007, with same-store sales up 0.5 percent. Sales were up 3.5 percent at domestic Wal-Mart stores, six percent at Sam's Club, and 20.8 percent internationally.

    • BJ’s Wholesale Club reported that its January sales increased by 11.2 percent to $652.0 million, on same-store sales that were up 7.8 percent.

    • Target Corp. released its January sales figures, saying that sales were down 16.1 percent to $4.106 billion, on same-store sales that were off by 1.1 percent.

    • Longs Drug Stores reported that its January sales were $452 million, up 28.8 percent from the year before; same-store sales were up one percent.

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    MNB took note yesterday of an article questioning the environmental purity of certain canvas bags, which, when thrown out, do not break down in landfills.

    MNB user Stan Barrett wrote:

    Has anyone done an analysis on the environmental impact of the inputs required to grow the cotton that is put in the “green” cotton bags? Surely there is fertilizer, irrigated water, etc. Are they assembled overseas by the same factories that have been criticized for employing child labor? Just to point out that there are two sounds to every coin.

    Of course there are. Just as there almost always are unintended consequences.

    But the fact remains, in my view, that we can analyze this stuff to the point where paralysis sets in, and we end up not doing anything, and the world goes to hell.

    You do what you can. You try to be responsible. And you try to be open-minded about better ways to do things.

    And I think there is no question that not using and throwing out plastic shopping bags will be better for the environment, and is a more responsible way of caring for the fragile planet.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I have been using the bags for a few months now. In this area, Kroger began with the 99-cent cloth bags, giving you a 5-cent credit for each bag you bring back. Farm Fresh jumped on the bandwagon. However, you only get 5 cents credit if you bring in a Farm Fresh bag! How do you like that for store policy! That is what the cashier told me! So much for being green!

    There’s green and there’s green.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    On the subject of Canvas bags, I’m impressed with the way that Stop & Shop reintroduced (they had a program back in the 80’s, which I still have a bag from) their canvas shopping bag: they gave it away to their top customers. As one of the only customers who was using these bags over a year ago, I had the cashiers at Shaws joking with me, asking if they could put the Shaws groceries in the Stop & Shop bags. Of all the “Top Banana” marketing campaigns that I have received from Stop & Shop, the free bags are enduring, as I continue to advertise for them every time I use them!

    MNB user Becky Seagraves wrote:

    For months now I have been thinking about moving away from the use of plastic bags in the grocery but was never really compelled to act until I read your article and realized there is really no reason (other than sheer habit) why I have put this off.

    When I went online to do a little research on what was available to the public, I found the most amazing thing...there are re-usable shopping bags being made in the Philippines by a women's cooperative, utilizing used juice containers. WHO KNEW??!!??? I also found (on the same website) fair trade market bags made from 100% recycled rice bags, by a disadvantaged Women's Co-Op in Cambodia.

    Needless to say, the idea of helping women and children along with our environment moved me to purchase. Thank you for the reminder - it has had a wonderful ripple effect.

    I’m glad.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    If plastic bags are so bad, why not eliminate the proliferation of plastics in the supermarket industry? Eliminate the plastic milk jugs and bring back the old glass milk bottles that can be reused 50-100 times before replacement. or do as in Canada where they package the milk in bags that are emptied into a pitcher at home. Replace the plastic soda bottles with glass that will keep the product colder.

    Eliminate the plastic clamshells that are both inconvenient to the customer and is a complete waste of natural resources. Eliminate the styrofoam egg containers with the old fiber containers that are more readily recycled.

    Do I expect to see these recommendations in your daily posts? Of course not. Returning to the "old way" would require a real commitment to eliminate all of the waste in the supermarket industry. It would require some thought and commitment.

    Replacing the plastic bags is one of those "feel good" provisions that retailers trumpet and place in their annual reports.

    You’re wrong. I will right now suggest that all those things probably make sense, and when my stores make those moves, I will embrace them.

    (FYI…my supermarket, Stew Leonard’s, doesn’t sell milk in plastic jugs…and only sells it in cartons.)

    The industry should take up these sorts of commitments and never look back. There’s nothing wrong with radical/fundamental change.

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 8, 2008

    Somebody once said that the thing about idiocy is that it is insufferable and unrelenting – it is forever in action and knows no rest.

    Clearly, this is a definition that applies to the company that manufactures an energy drink called “Cocaine.”

    That’s right. It’s back.

    It’s been returned to shelves by Redux Beverages, which just a year ago said that it was going to respond to consumer and media outrage over the naming of the drink after an illegal drug by pulling it off the market and perhaps even renaming it. The product was said to have 350 percent more “energy content” than Red Bull – it has 280 milligrams of caffeine, compared to the 80 milligrams of caffeine in an average cup of coffee. And what really annoyed people – and I would count myself among them – was the fact that the name of the beverage was spelled out on the can in what appeared to be white powder.

    And now, according to the company’s website, Cocaine is back by popular demand: “The world's most popular energy drink, Cocaine Energy Drink, is now available again. After thousands of letters and emails, and because of the overwhelming support from everyday people like you, we are proud to bring Cocaine Energy Drink back to stores.”

    Not only that, they are selling Cocaine from the company’s website, not to mention t-shirts and other items. And the can still has the name spelled out in what looks to be a white powder.

    Who the hell are these people?

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to allow Cocaine back on the market since the makers have eliminated the tagline that said it was “the legal alternative” and added an anti-drug message to the can. Which strikes me as an agreement that has the Redux folks laughing as they go out to peddle this crap.

    According to the trade magazines the company plans to be even more aggressive in its marketing and public relations efforts this time around, hoping to drown out any possible objections.

    We can only hope that they are unable to do so.

    Last year, I asked whether or not this manufacturer has any shame…because I think it fairly obvious that the people who work there don't have any children.

    From all appearances, they are absolutely shameless. Immoral. And utterly without any sense of social accountability. It is corporate and personal irresponsibility at its worst, meant only to score a buck with no regard for the welfare and psyches of the target audience. And what makes it worse is that Redux should have learned its lesson. And they are simply thumbing their nose at all the people who tried to tell them that manufacturers that tease and seduce young people with drink names such as Cocaine (and Xtazy and PimpJuice and Tantra Erotic, all of which have proved that there is no shortage of people in this industry without conscience) deserve only loathing and contempt.

    Maybe this time we can get them for false advertising, because there’s no way that this swill is the “world’s most popular energy drink.”

    Once again, let me state my hope that there is no mainstream retailer out there who would participate in this lunacy.

    I am disgusted by the return of this product. And I am distressed that there are idiots out there who think this is a clever marketing idea.

    The good news is that they someday will be together in a special – and, I hope, especially hot – corner of hell.

    The New York Times this morning has an intriguing column by David Brooks in which he compares the current political situation to modern retailing.

    “The essential competition in many consumer sectors is between commodity providers and experience providers, the companies that just deliver product and the companies that deliver a sensation, too. There’s Safeway, and then there is Whole Foods. There’s the PC, and then there’s the Mac. There are Holiday Inns, and there are W Hotels. There’s Walgreens, and there’s The Body Shop.”

    And, Brooks writes, “The consumer marketplace has been bifurcating for years! It’s happening because the educated and uneducated lead different sorts of lives. Educated people are not only growing richer than less-educated people, but their lifestyles are diverging as well. A generation ago, educated families and less-educated families looked the same, but now high school graduates divorce at twice the rate of college graduates. High school grads are much more likely to have kids out of wedlock. High school grads are much more likely to be obese. They’re much more likely to smoke and to die younger.

    “Their attitudes are different. High school grads are much less optimistic than college grads. They express less social trust. They feel less safe in public. They report having fewer friends and lower aspirations. The less educated speak the dialect of struggle; the more educated, the dialect of self-fulfillment.”

    Brooks argues that, in this scenario, Hillary Clinton is Safeway and PC, and Barack Obama is Mac and Whole Foods.

    “Hillary Clinton is a classic commodity provider,” Brooks writes. “She caters to the less-educated, less-pretentious consumer. As Ron Brownstein of The National Journal pointed out on Wednesday, she won the non-college-educated voters by 22 points in California, 32 points in Massachusetts and 54 points in Arkansas. She offers voters no frills, just commodities: tax credits, federal subsidies and scholarships. She’s got good programs at good prices.

    “Barack Obama is an experience provider. He attracts the educated consumer. In the last Pew Research national survey, he led among people with college degrees by 22 points. Educated people get all emotional when they shop and vote. They want an uplifting experience so they can persuade themselves that they’re not engaging in a grubby self-interested transaction. They fall for all that zero-carbon footprint, locally grown, community-enhancing Third Place hype. They want cultural signifiers that enrich their lives with meaning.”


    Go read the whole thing in the Times this morning.

    I know that Roger Clemens is scheduled to testify next week in front of the US Congress, at which point he is expected to continue to deny – under oath – that he ever used steroids or human growth hormone.

    Of course, that testimony may have been made more problematic by the fact that the trainer who allegedly injected him with the drugs, Brian McNamee, reportedly has given old syringes and bloody bandages to Congressional investigators, with the suggestion that somewhere in all that stuff there could be a trace of Clemens’ DNA.


    Let me be clear about this. I want Clemens to be telling the truth. I really do. It will be bad for baseball if he is found to be lying…not to mention or Clemens, who could find himself charged with perjury if he makes a mistake up on the Hill.

    But I’m afraid that he is not, and that he thinks he can intimidate his ay through this situation in the same way that he used to intimidate his way through nine innings.

    What he doesn’t realize is this. Elected officials swing a bigger stick. They often don't hit anything…but they’ve got the stick, and when they connect, it can make a lot of noise.

    The good news is that pitchers and catchers are about to report. Yippeee!

    Can I do a little shameless self-promotion here?

    Michael Sansolo and I are teaming up to give the keynote address at the annual Boston Seafood Show. We’ll be doing the presentation – entitled “Change Is Inevitable, Resistance Is Futile,” on Monday, February 25…and we both hope that if you’re an MNB reader and attending the show, you’ll stop by and say hello. We’re always thrilled to meet members of the MNB community…

    For more info, go to:

    My wine of the week: the 2005 Trimpilin, a wonderful Sangiovese that is terrific with – as you might expect – Italian food. It was a gift from my sainted mother-in-law, so I don't know how much it costs…but I’m guessing it probably runs somewhere between $20 and $30. And is worth it.

    That’s it for this week…see you Monday…and have a great weekend.

    KC's View: