retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    The Wall Street Journal reports that a majority of economists surveyed by the paper now believe that the United States has “slid into recession,” an opinion shift that appears to have resulted from a US Department of Commerce report “that retail sales tumbled 0.6% in February; sales excluding volatile auto and parts decreased 0.2%.

    “The decline reflected a sharp slowdown in consumer spending, the primary driver of U.S. economic growth, as Americans grapple with high gasoline prices and the credit crunch, as well as drops in home values and other asset prices.”

    The nation also lost 63,000 jobs in February, the second consecutive monthly decline.

    The economists conceded that they have reached this conclusion despite the fact that the nation has not endured two consecutive quarters of declines in the gross domestic product; according to the paper, the National Bureau of Economic Research doesn’t necessarily follow that definition.

    Bringing the recession story home, Marketing Daily reports that “while rising fuel prices may get more headlines, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service says the Consumer Price Index for all foods (both at home and in restaurants) jumped 4% between 2006 and 2007, the highest annual increase since 1990. And it forecasts an additional rise of 3 to 4% this year.”

    KC's View:
    While there have been a number of people – both in the government and business - talking about the nation being in recession, the argument against that position has been that until the nation goes through those two consecutive quarters of declines, it was just unwarranted pessimism.

    So imagine my surprise to find out that the National Bureau of Economic Research doesn’t even accept that definition.

    And, to reiterate something that we’ve been harping on lately, the broader question is whether this is ultimately a recession or an economic transformation that will have longer-lasting impact. That was the argument advanced by IRI’s Thom Blishock last week in a conference session I moderated, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    The Times of London reports that Tesco has reassigned Jeff Adams, the American-born CEO of the company’s Thailand business, to its US Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market business, where he will be number two to CEO Tim Mason. Adams also is a former Wal-Mart executive.

    According to the story, “The move is likely to spark fresh concerns over the health of the new venture. Tesco has been dogged by persistent speculation that Fresh & Easy is missing internal sales targets set at the time of the launch in November last year.”

    However, while there has been considerable criticism of the Fresh & Easy format, sources at Tesco say that the company merely is shoring up the division’s executive ranks to support further expansion into Northern California; Tesco also is said to be considering moving into Colorado and Chicago.

    There currently are about 55 Fresh & Easy stores operating in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.

    KC's View:
    I don't believe for a second that Tesco is planning to pull out of the US, as some have suggested. Nor do I believe that the company is satisfied with the division’s current operations.

    The fact is that Tesco always has been flexible enough to make changes where necessary, and it certainly has the resources and bench strength to do so. The addition of Adams to the Fresh & Easy team makes sense, especially as companies like Wal-Mart and Safeway prepare their own small-store formats to respond to the challenge.

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    The Washington Post reports that a report issued by the US House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee says that while more than half of all inspections of spinach processing facilities in the US since 2001 have revealed serious sanitary problems, “meaningful enforcement actions” were not taken, leaving consumers vulnerable to increased instances of illness.

    The report also says that factories should have been visited annually, but only were inspected every 2.4 years.

    "The inspection reports . . . raise serious questions about the ability of FDA to protect the safety of fresh spinach and other fresh produce," committee investigators wrote. "It appears that FDA is inspecting high-risk facilities infrequently, failing to take vigorous enforcement action when it does inspect and identify violations, and not even inspecting the most probable sources of many outbreaks."

    KC's View:
    Our tax dollars at work. Sort of brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    Two pieces of good news for the nation’s supermarkets in today’s Wall Street Journal:

    • “The number of restaurant visits that Americans make annually has flattened out, and consumers have increased the number of meals they make at home. Last year, 207 restaurant meals were purchased per person, down from a peak of 211 in 2001, according to NPD. Meanwhile, Americans prepared 861 meals at home in 2007, compared with 817 in 2002, NPD says."

    • “Another small but striking shift is that men are whipping up more suppers. They prepared 18% of at-home dinners in 2007, compared with 14% in 2003, according to NPD. The growing popularity of fancy home grills may be linked to that increase.”

    KC's View:
    The question is this, if you are a supermarket retailer:

    What are you doing differently today to take advantage of these trends?

    Because this all smells like opportunity to me.

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott told a Wall Street Journal economics conference this week that the retailer is “gaining momentum because people need us more than ever” because of rising gasoline prices and food costs.

    Among the real growth areas, according to the story about the conference, have been private label food products and apparel.

    Also at the meeting, Scott conceded that while the retailer has taken many high-profile environmental initiatives in recent years, Wal-Mart is “not green.” He agreed that despite all his efforts, Wal-Mart’s global carbon footprint has continued to grow…a result, he said, if the company’s need to continue to grow.

    The WSJ writes, “Asked when he expected the company to meet his goal of having zero waste and 100% renewable energy over time, Mr. Scott said, ‘I haven't a clue’.”

    KC's View:
    I don't think Scott is being disingenuous on the environmental issue…I think he is trying to do the right thing when it comes to sustainability because it makes 1) economic sense and 2) ethical sense. And I think it takes longer and is more complicated than any of us would like…but that Scott and Wal-Mart get major props for trying to do the right thing.

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    The San Jose Mercury News reports that the federal government is considering an outright ban on salmon fishing in California, a move that would be an unprecedented response to a shortage that is being ascribed to everything from disease to predators to environmental changes, but that remains ultimately mysterious.

    According to the story, “Salmon populations are depressed from the Bay Area to Washington state, but the problem is particularly acute for California's most productive run - the Sacramento River fall run, which produces more than 80 percent of the salmon caught off the California coast. Not only did numbers plunge steeply and unexpectedly last year, but a key indicator suggests things could be much worse a year from now.”

    And, the San Francisco Chronicle chimes in, “Even representatives of the salmon industry, who have made it a practice to lobby for more fishing, are saying that the situation is so bad it would be irresponsible for fishermen to put their hooks in the water even if the commercial season in California opens as scheduled in May.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    Ukrop’s announced that it has introduced a line of private label rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin hormone) hormone-free milk and cream products.

    “Customers will not notice any difference in taste, color, nutritional value or price as a result of our transition to rBST-free fluid dairy products,” Sam Dortch, Ukrop’s frozen food and dairy category manager, said in a prepared statement. “We strive to provide the highest quality, freshest foods available, and this transition is an example of Ukrop’s ongoing commitment to meeting our customers’ needs.”

    KC's View:
    Wasn’t it just a few days ago that someone asked here on MNB whether customers would actually choose rBST-free products? Obviously, Ukrop’s thinks so…

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    • In the UK, Tesco has announced a series of price cuts totaling the equivalent of $345 million (US), which it said are designed to help “millions of families around the country (that) are struggling to cope with higher mortgage costs and rising energy bills.”

    • AOL has announced that it will launch a new service called Shortcuts that will use the Internet to allow manufacturers to distribute coupons. Consumers will be able to download the coupon values to their loyalty marketing cards, and then get the discounts when they check out at the store.

    While the online coupons now will be identical to those distributed on paper, eventually it is expected that at least some of the discounts could be Internet-only.

    Dow Jones reports that Starbucks plans to “unveil transformational initiatives” during its annual meeting next Wednesday. Stay tuned.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    • In the UK, William Morrison Supermarkets announced that its annual profits for the just-completed fiscal year were the equivalent of $1.1 billion (US), 123 percent higher than the year before. Revenue for the year was up four percent to $25.1 billion (US).
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    Well, it certainly has been an interesting week … but I guess that’s to be expected when one does not so much as touch the so-called “third rail” of discussion topics as grab it and hang on for dear life. But that’s fine…because it is interesting, and because at age 53 and having had 17 years of Catholic education (and that’s just the formal schooling), I find it fascinating that MorningNewsBeat has turned into a minor forum for discussion about the nature of sin and how it relates to issues such as genetic engineering and the environment.

    Go figure.

    Let’s get into it…

    MNB user Jim Hornecker wrote:

    You expressed difficulty with the notion of cloning and genetic manipulation being a sin according to the Catholic Church. Once one thing is understood, it's a fairly simple matter. If a human clone or a human embryo is a human person, then that person possesses certain rights. One of those rights is to be free from being killed by someone who wants to, as you say, "use the brains God gave them" to see "what is possible from a scientific point of view".

    Cloning scientists theorize that their research may one day produce fantastic medical advances. (Considering the consistent failures of embryonic stem cell therapies, your skepticism would be more than warranted here.) But consider this - most parents who see a child of theirs suffering tend to wish that they could bear that suffering instead of their children. That's a very natural urge and is a sign of their love. Yet, suppose I suffered from Parkinson's Disease, and a doctor informed me that he had a therapy that would improve my condition by 90%. Sounds great. But it involved creating a clone of me, who would be destroyed so that stem cells could be harvested, cultured and used for my therapy. If that clone is an actual person, then I would be deciding to impose death upon my offspring so that I could alleviate my own suffering. So where parental love should be, there is only a selfish desire to avoid suffering.

    If clones and embryos aren't persons, then the research and experimentation would be quite moral and ethical. But it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that they aren't persons as there is no serious philosophical or scientific candidate for when human life begins except for conception. So, given the personhood of the clone, it really shouldn't be hard to see why the Catholic Church would identify human cloning research as sinful.

    P.S. Although people may take issue with your opinions, I hope you continue to raise provocative issues even if they are religious, political, or ethical. It makes your website more personal, more interesting, and even more useful than other grocery news websites.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    I enjoy your views on religion, but I'm pretty sure my family has a nice beach house with a beautiful view of a big lake of lava. You are always welcome to the spare room if that's how the cards fall.

    I wish people were more open to discussing religion as the world may actually see progress. Instead people simply shut down at the thought of anything different than their own beliefs. I've always assumed that this is because we are taught religion at such an early an age that to reject what we are taught is to reject an entire life of learning. How can a 3 year old take an objective view of what they are taught when they are taught it as fact. It's not fair to the 3 year old and few can handle a change in views later in life. I'm amazed that brilliantly intelligent business folks can turn to you with a straight face and say Evolution never happened and actually believe it. If the church was wrong on that, what else could be wrong?

    I did see somewhere that the Catholic Church was fading in the US, but growing globally (think missionaries in Africa & South America). Although I've never understood the desperate desire to spread their own views on religion either. Maybe if everyone believes the same thing, then it must be right.


    MNB user Michael F. Parker wrote:

    Congratulations on making people think. Unfortunately, when you challenge people to think they assume you are attacking them. Religion and politics are normally off the discourse plane because the people who run both don’t appreciate thought or challenge. We only grow as individuals by listening to opinions contrary to our own.

    Unfortunately too many people have no interest in intellectual growth. Keep up the good work and make us think. You have far too many supporters to do otherwise.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    I always enjoy your column, whether I fundamentally agree or not with what you write. You’re a columnist, not a reporter — so I expect and want you to express your point of view. That’s the whole point, so to speak.

    One of your readers commented “I try not to discuss politics or religion with my friends and siblings because it always ends up with someone being hurt or just pissed off.” I ask why not? Intelligent and healthy discussion about politics, religion, philosophy, sports, food, wine, what’s funny-what’s not, women, men, parenting, literature, art, movies, business, education, health care, sin, anything — that’s what engages and energizes us. Just because two people don’t agree does not prevent them from engaging in a healthy and respectful discussion.

    William Buckley recently passed away. I seldom agreed with his political point of view, but I always admired him for his embracing of the discourse. I never felt hurt or pissed off when he offered an opinion contrary to mine, which was often. The reader who I quoted — I suspect his conversations are likely uninteresting. I’d much rather listen to someone who is willing to converse about something important, and it is not important whether or not we disagree.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    I think I learned more about some of the newer thinking in Vatican from your remarks and the responses thereto than I did at Mass last Sunday. Keep up the good work - if I get too upset I'll ask for a refund of my subscription fee!

    MNB user Janice LaDuke wrote:

    I just read your blog this morning. I still think you have some unresolved Catholic issues and you went too far in your column yesterday. However, I give you major props for honestly reprinting your reader’s views. You never spare yourself. That’s one of the (many) reasons I enjoy your blog.

    I actually need to make a point here. A couple of people have asked if I, a former altar boy and product of 17 years of Catholic education, ever was molested by a member of the clergy. (This was a serious question…they were concerned about my “issues” with Catholicism and wondered how deep the scars went.) I can tell you that I was never a victim of any such abuse…but I appreciate your concerns.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I was sure you were going to be inundated with emails re: the Vatican/GMO article and I’m sure you knew it as well when you decided to use that for your lead-off yesterday. I was actually looking forward to reading the responses and the ones you printed were extremely reasonable in their criticisms (I’m sure there were many, many more that were not).

    I wasn’t troubled so much by your original article because I knew you would present opposing points of view and, in this case, clarification/correction as to what was actually said and the context in which it was stated.

    In your response there were a couple sentences that inspired me to respond to you:

    “I remain unconvinced that the Vatican is pro-science” – Wow, what a “Duh?” statement. Why would you expect the Vatican to be pro-science any more than you would expect scientists to be pro-Catholic???

    “What I was questioning – and probably in a way that transcended the GMO issue – was the definition of sin. (This will probably open up a whole other can of worms, but what the hell.)” – Seeing as the Original Sin (according to the Catholic faith among others) was Man’s craving to know everything God knows I can understand perfectly how “genetic manipulation” would concern the Church as potentially sinful behavior. Any behavior, when it reaches the point of causing harm to self or others, can become “sinful” and it is the obligation of the religious authority to point out the pitfalls.

    As I said earlier, I wasn’t bothered by the article itself because I knew it would generate some interesting dialogue and you didn’t disappoint. This is your blog and you can write about anything you want, dammit.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    I really enjoyed your initial rap on the mortal sins. It was thought provoking. In fact, it was quite humorous, for me. Even though a few of your points were tough to read/swallow.

    Ironically, I really enjoyed reading today's feedback. It was also thought provoking. It was also quite humorous, at times, because I imagined those who people who emotionally wrote in and blood pressures rising as they typed. More importantly, I really respected these viewpoints. Even if a few of those points were tough to read/swallow.

    While I don't think you're going to change what you write about, please accept this email, as a Vote for Coupe in '08, to continue writing the way you always have about a variety of topics.

    Ok, so those are my initial thoughts, but I'd also like to discuss this quote: “The survey also lays out, just weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's first papal visit to the United States, the Catholic Church's challenge here: no American faith group has lost more adherents. Among U.S. adults, about the same percentage -- 24 -- call themselves Catholic as in the past, but that statistic masks significant turnover…"

    If 24 percent of US Adults call themselves Catholic, and that is the same as in the past…it's seems clear to me, that only two true conclusions can be reached, but one is probably a bit more fair: 1) 24% of US Adults call themselves Catholic, same as in the past, which is unchanged/flat in terms of change in % pts vs. the "past" (assuming this time reference is valid), or more likely, 2) Though 24% of Adults claim to be Catholic and this is the same as in the 'past' (again, I assume we're referencing back possibly 20+ years), because the overall US Population of Adults has increased significantly, this means that the overall raw number of Catholic's has increased over time.

    Does that make sense? Also, while the quote references the influx of Latin Catholics as the primary reason keeping the numbers flat (in terms of % of US Adults), I wonder if due diligence was completed in terms of looking back at the US History (which isn't that long mind you) of immigration's effect on the Catholic Base.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    As a product of 17 years parochial education, I've rolled my eyes many times over "official pronouncements" so the CC's views on what is now venial/mortal sin kind of fall into the 'eye rolling' category. What did get me fired up though was the CC's position that celebrating St. Patrick's Day on Saturday, March 15, 2008 was the more appropriate celebratory date. I understand the Holy Week thing, but come on, St. Patrick's Day is March 17. Always has been and always will be. The Sisters of Mercy and Christian Brothers were pretty sure of that and so am I.

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    Wow! I read your entry about the Catholic Church's new seven deadly sins (now deadlier?), and thought, "Kevin's going to get a lot of letters on this topic."

    I admire your convictions. You took a less than safe stand on a topic, and published many of the responses to your stand.

    The responses show a troubling and even disturbing trend among Western religious institutions. A reader pointed out that your discussion of genetic modified foods provided a narrow and even misguided interpretation of genetic engineering. The reader argued that the Church may have thought of stem cell research, and genetic mapping.
    Some of your readers misguidedly believe scientists are working toward a Brave New World scenario and the Church wants to resist.

    The problem I have with the Church's statement is that the Church has a centuries long problem with science specifically and social issues in general. The Church vehemently rejected the idea that the planets revolved around the sun. The Church views science as anti-religious and demands that science afford religion a wide latitude. The Church's new list of sins appears to be what it is - the continuing anti-science stance.

    Many American religious leaders and social policy makers take a similar stance toward science as the Church. Witness the ban on stem cell research in this country. Look at the efforts to pass off a non-theory as theory. These are not the marks of an open, enlightened society pushing for the advances of knowledge. These are the marks of a closed, frightened society looking for the succor of safety.

    The next great product developments will originate not from the United States but from Asia and Europe. We have spent two centuries creating a higher education system rivaled by no other country in the world. By taking cues from the Catholic Church and other Western religious denominations, we are squandering the system that produced a
    competitive advantage unrivaled and unparalleled in man's history. If we continue down this pass, the education systems of Europe and Asia will generate the needed knowledge to solve man's next set of problems.

    As to the broader context of the Church's sins, no organization with such a shameful record (see the Church's role in the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the worldwide pedophile problem) can wag their finger and cluck their tongue at another group. The Church simply lacks any moral rectitude to provide such a discussion as to whether genetic research represents a moral value.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    So . . If I understand this correctly, Bill Gates committed a mortal sin … because he is obscenely wealthy.? Let's not talk about what he does with his wealth and how many people have benefited from his generosity. Let's not talk about how he built the business. Do we really want to look at how wealthy the Catholic church is and what THEY do with the money that is given to them? They are not as wealthy as they once were . . . given all the litigations and bad press.. . but let's not be too hypocritical here.

    MNB user Jerry Edwards was kind enough to write:

    I am a long time reader of MorningNewsBeat and recent convert to social and environment movements. Your observation that since we’re all human, we all have room to improve was the key for me. Knowing I don’t have to become perfect, I just have to become better incrementally was empowering. After decades of working in sales & marketing roles (at Quaker Oats then ConAgra Foods), I was impressed by the need and importance of environmental sustainability. So I still face choices, but by considering the consequences, I’m making decisions that can and do make a positive difference.

    Thank you for the steps you are taking personally and for inciting pro-activism in our industry. You are making a difference.


    MNB user John Welsh wrote:

    Nice, even-handed, well-reasoned reply to the flak about the Catholic church and the newly compiled sin-list. Hang in there. You're doing what you've always done in MNB, and don't let some zealots change a thing.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I have to tell you I am amused by people “counseling/advising/recommending” that you “stick to retail discussion.” Obviously you struck a nerve with some readers and they felt compelled to tell you to get in line.

    The beauty of what you have created is that it is YOUR business, and the people that you serve (advertisers & readers) have a choice. They can vote with sponsorship and visitation. I guess they are not out of line by recommending you stay “on task” but I respect the fact that you continue to push the envelope on controversial topics that inspire thought and discussion. I would venture to guess that the overwhelming majority of your readership visit frequently not to understand whose comp sales are up, what’s the late breaking news in the industry (we all have access to news overload on whatever topic we want), but to get that “extra” piece that is brought into the fold.

    That extra piece is your wit, willingness to take a stand, the trivial things (I love your rants on the screwtop and that is brought up often at my entertaining occasions) and how it all comes together.

    Retail, by definition is a common denominator in all of our lives….all things (religion included) shape consumer motivation and how businesses respond to that.

    Your business, by definition has been clearly staked out and I would assume successful as a result. Keep up the good work.


    Thanks. Just as an aside, I think sometimes it catches some people by surprise when these issues pop up because not everybody has been reading MNB for the 6+ years it has existed. MNB’s subscription base is now well above 24,000, and grows between 75 and 100 names a week…so I’m not really surprised when someone new to the community is startled by the direction it sometimes takes.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    While talking about your environmental responsibilities, saying you try, but could do better...you left out one very important point...you and your staff create a newsletter, one of a small handful of newsletters, that brings attention to environmentally responsible behavior and habits, in a way that is practical and easily implemented. You are providing the industry and individuals with "green and safe things to think about" and in that context you and your staff are doing far more than you gave yourself credit for...KUDOS....

    The staff and I thank you.

    And MNB user Dennis Hogan wrote:

    I remember several years ago somebody recommending MorningNewsBeat. I subscribed to several industry publications at the time. I am a faithful reader and have since let my industry publications lapse. I get what I need to know in an easy to read format and I'm almost always entertained. Each day I can hardly wait to see how far over the edge you will go. What separates MorningNewsBeat from other industry publications is, you have an opinion and you are not afraid to state it. Sometimes you offend unintentionally and some times on purpose. I never feel that there is anything mean spirited in your writing. You apologize when appropriate. MorningNewsBeat is never boring.

    You offered an opinion about sin based on the latest clarifications form Rome. The purpose of good reporting is to stimulate dialogue. We all learn something from hearing divergent views, I know I did. I hope your computer memory holds.


    It did. And thanks…that description of MNB may be the best one I’ve ever read…and I may use it in my sales materials!




    Got the following email:

    I'm a little surprised that you didn't mention anything about Elliott Spitzer. Don't know about any direct interactions he had with grocers but his actions had direct impact on Wall Street. Furthermore, you often discuss topics that seem out of the box but put them into a perspective that is in line with the grocery industry. Just surprised that such big news escaped notice by MNB.

    Oh, sure…I don't have enough trouble, and you want to lead me into an area where I’m going to feel compelled to make hooker jokes.

    And actually, just for the record, I did make a joke on Monday, when the news broke:

    Spitzer? I hardly knew her!




    On another subject (thank goodness!), one MNB user wrote:

    Out of all the postings today, this jumped out at me.

    Larree Renda, Executive Vice President, Chief Strategist and Administrative Officer of Safeway Inc., was inducted into the California Grocers Association Educational Foundation Hall of Achievement this week – the first woman to be so inducted since the hall was created in 1993.

    I mean, come on guys... it took fifteen years to name a woman to the hall of fame?

    I used to work in sales, calling on the big conventional supermarkets. I got so weary of walking into meetings where I would be the only woman. The only places I regularly saw women working in executive positions were small grocers, family run chains and cooperatives.

    Really, despite one's political leanings, it's amazing to me the hoops Hillary Clinton has to jump through just by nature of her gender. The comments she endures that would be considered racist if the words were changed and directed at her challenger. But it's not surprising and mirrors the sexism I see In our industry - the grocery industry. I don't see many women or people of color. And this is something that needs to change.





    MNB user Joe Walsh had some thoughts about Michael Sansolo’s piece about the annual Meat Conference:

    I read with interest Steve Myer's concern about world food shortages. However, I think it's a little self-serving to point fingers at ethanol production when livestock production is arguably more contributory to worldwide grain shortages and ultimately, world hunger. The simple fact is that cycling food through animals and then using the animals for meat is a highly inefficient: Animals are terrible converters of soy, corn, wheat and other grains into food. Depending on who you talk to, it takes anywhere from 5 -18 pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat. The UN's World Food Council maintains that between 10 and 15% of cereals now fed to livestock is enough to raise the world's food supply to feed current levels of the human population.

    I am glad that Mr. Myers addressed this issue. His anger, however, should be equally directed toward the industry that he promotes. As 38,000 children die every day of starvation and malnutrition many of us are hitting the drive through at McDonalds; shopping for meat at Safeway, or eating a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's. This is a horrific number and completely unacceptable. Frankly, with 6.7 billion people occupying the big blue marble, meat consumption at present levels is unsustainable.

    For folks like Steve Myers who feel powerless to impact national energy policy, I'd suggest considering the impact of food choices.





    We had a piece yesterday about how CBS News interviewed Stew Leonard’s about the impact of rising food prices, which led one MNB user to write:

    I was in the new Stew Leonard’s in Newington, CT last week. It was my first visit to Stew Leonard’s. Talk about meal making ideas!!!! That store makes you feel like a food genius after you have spent an hour in there absorbing all the knowledge about food and supermarkets which my brain has not been exposed to. Its also one of those stores where the employees can talk all day about food and also - what a great place it is to work.

    And it has been my pleasure to shop at the original Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, Connecticut, almost every week for the past quarter-century.




    Finally, we had a piece yesterday about a Carnival Store in Texas opening an in-store dental clinic, about which I commented:

    Maybe it is just my phobia, but if I’m walking down the supermarket aisle and hear the very specific sound of a dentist’s drill, I’m leaving.

    Because the next thing I expect to hear is Sir Laurence Olivier muttering, “Is it safe?”


    Which prompted MNB user Jackie Lembke to write:

    You do realize that it is very likely some of your readers will have no clue about your “Marathon Man” reference. I do agree that the idea is forward thinking but the sound proofing better be very good on the dental clinic.

    Yes…but a number of people did write in to say they got the reference. (And one of my goals in MNB is to insert as many veiled and semi-obscure cultural references as I can…if only because they make me chuckle.)

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 14, 2008

    There was a fascinating moment yesterday at Western Michigan University’s annual – and always excellent - Food Marketing Conference.

    Tom Furphy, one of the speakers, is the man who runs Amazon.com’s grocery business. As he started to speak, he asked for a show of hands from people who have never ordered anything from Amazon.com…and I’d say about 30 out of the roughly 300 people in the room raised their hands.

    Surprising, I suppose, but not unheard of.

    Then Furphy asked another question: How many people in the room have never even been to the Amazon.com website? This is just a quick count, but I’d have to guess that roughly five percent of the people in the room, or about 15 people, raised their hands. And they weren't just old people…they were people in their forties and fifties.

    Here’s my reaction to that.

    If I’m a Western Michigan University student who is looking for a job in the industry, I try to very quickly figure out which companies are represented by the people who have never been to Amazon, or never shopped there.

    Because they clearly don't get it. And I’m guessing that this isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    Let me be clear about this. I am a longtime Amazon customer. I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with Amazon for more than a decade, and I am an enormous fan.

    But even putting all that aside, I cannot imagine how anyone in the business of retailing - anyone - can have avoided the Amazon website. It is unfathomable.

    One of the things Tom Furphy talked about yesterday is a program being tested by Amazon in the Seattle market. You order before midnight, and the products – including fresh foods that are part of the new “Amazon Fresh” offering – are on your doorstep by 6 am.

    Zowie.

    That’s almost worth moving to Seattle for.

    Think about it. You’re a mom, you’re putting your baby to bed at 11 pm, and you realize you are down to your last diaper. Or that you’ve run out of peanut butter, or bread. Or there are no bananas for your cereal, or you’ve run out of cereal.

    You go to your computer, you place an order, and when you roll out of bed in the morning, there it is…right at the front door.

    Could it get any better than that?

    Now, I have no idea whether this idea is scalable, and what the economics are. But what it proves to me is that Amazon is pushing the envelope in terms of what is possible, and extending consumer expectations in terms of what is doable.

    If you, as either a retailer or manufacturer, are not checking this out, you are making a serious mistake.

    Here’s what you need to do. Right now.

    Go to Amazon.com, and order two things. The biggest, heaviest jug of laundry detergent you can find. And a bag of potato chips. Ask for them to be delivered together.

    And then wait. If they show up in the same box, on time, and the chips haven't been crushed, then you have a problem. (Especially because you probably got a 10-20 percent discount on the order.)

    You’d better start figuring out how you are going to address this shifting paradigm. Right now. Because the train is leaving the station, and if you miss it, there will be no catching up.





    My wine of the week: the 2005 Borgianni Chianti, which is unbelievably heart and smooth.




    Drink the wine. Consider your future.




    That’s it for this week.

    Sláinte!!
    KC's View: