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    Published on: March 26, 2008

    The New York Times reports this morning that a Conference Board survey suggests that Americans are more pessimistic about the economy now than at any time since 1973.

    “Americans are bracing for rising unemployment and shrinking salaries, a gloomy outlook that could translate into a serious cutback in consumer spending, the primary engine of the economy,” the Times writes, noting that while fears can be overblown, “expectations can often be self-fulfilling: worried consumers are less likely to make the big purchases that help keep the economy humming.”

    The Times continues: “The gloom among consumers appeared widespread. A quarter of those surveyed said that businesses conditions would worsen in the next six months, and nearly a third said the economy would have fewer jobs. Fewer Americans plan to purchase big-ticket items like refrigerators, vehicles and television sets, and more than half said that jobs were currently ‘not so plentiful.’

    “Responding to a question about income expectations, the proportion of Americans who said they expected their incomes to rise over the next six months dropped to 14.9 percent, the lowest level since the Conference Board began its survey in 1967.”

    By the way, a new survey released by Citigroup Global Markets this week said that about a quarter of consumers would change their supermarket if 1) food prices continue to increase and 2) they find a place that sells groceries for less. And more than a third of consumers say they are spending less on indulgent food products.

    KC's View:
    It seems to me that we all make a big mistake if we spend a lot of time whining about the economy, whether the problem is a recession or a broader transformation.

    We would all be better off – and by “we” I mean government, industry and personally – if we started trying to figure out where the country and private industry ought to be in 20 or 30 years, and then start moving in that direction…dealing with the short-term pain in search of long-term reward.

    If we don't do that, if we focus more on short-term reward, then we probably are doomed to continue making the same mistakes over and over…with is the definition of insanity.

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    In New Jersey, the Courier-Post reports that ShopRite Supermarkets of Cherry Hill has decided not to sell tobacco in any of its six stores, with owner Jason Ravitz telling the paper, “It's not a good business to be in (in) New Jersey, which imposes the highest state excise tax on cigarettes in the nation. There is almost no profit in it anymore.”

    The company had already stopped selling tobacco in three former Stop & Shop stores that it had acquired, and now is extending the policy to the rest of the company.

    The move reflects a small trend, with companies such as Wegmans, Andronico’s, Fresh & Easy, Dorothy Lane Markets and DeCicco Markets all deciding to get out of the tobacco business – some for the reasons expressed by Ravitz, and some pointing to what they felt was the incongruity of marketing health and wellness while also selling tobacco.

    KC's View:
    I agree that selling tobacco products can diminish the brand equity for a company working to build its reputation on health and wellness.

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    The Detroit News reports that “an upswing in upscale customers helps Southfield-based Dollar Castle increase its revenue while other businesses are trembling in the economic turbulence, according to Eddie Denha, CEO of the 24-store chain … His franchise owners and store managers report people in mink coats and Ralph Lauren wind breakers rolling carts through stores chock full of its top 10 purchased items, including paper towels, batteries, cleaning supplies and candles.”
    KC's View:
    Attention must be paid. See our first story this morning.

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    In Vermont, the Burlington Free Press reports on the ongoing success of MyWebGrocer.com, which “builds the online shopping feature that a supermarket hosts on its own Web page” and has persisted and grown for eight years even as other online grocers and e-commerce service providers have gone out of business.

    CEO Rich Tarrant “is under no illusion that online grocery shopping is something everyone will flock to that will appeal to everyone,” the Free Press writes. “But, he said, a growing number of people are more comfortable on the Internet and online grocery shopping will develop a larger audience.”

    The paper notes that MyWebGrocer has been profitable for the last few years, generated more than $5 million in revenue 2007 and that Tarrant projects “just under $10 million” in revenues for 2008. And, Tarrant tells the paper that “some of MyWebGrocer’s clients have as much as 10 percent of sales coming through online shopping … he expects the number of purchases to grow at 40 percent a year.”

    KC's View:
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you are a food retailer who is not working to develop some sort of online sales capability, you are risking irrelevance in the eyes of the younger generation of shoppers that does everything on the Internet, and will be looking for food shopping options online as they become the center of the food marketing target.

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    The Atlanta Business Journal reports that Kroger plans to open one of its Fresh Fare stores, combining traditional groceries with organic, natural and gourmet foods, in the upscale Buckhead section of Atlanta. While Kroger is not commenting on the move, the Journal says that the store will be a conversion of an existing unit that would be finished sometime this fall.

    Kroger operates Fresh Fare units in California, Ohio and Michigan.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    Supervalu Inc. announced that it has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership, a voluntary program to promote green technologies, strategies and practices that protect the ozone layer and reduce greenhouse gases. The Partnership is one of several of the retailer’s environmental stewardship initiatives.

    By signing the GreenChill Partnership pledge, Supervalu said that it has expanded its environmental stewardship efforts by 1) “using only non-ozone-depleting refrigerants in all commercial refrigeration applications in new construction and store remodels involving rack additions or replacements,” 2) “reducing emissions of ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas refrigerants every year,” and 3) “participating in an industry/government research initiative to assess the performance of advanced technologies.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    Agency France Presse reports that Japan has joined South Korea in banning all imports of Italian-made buffalo mozzarella cheese, a move made after Italian regulators discovered high levels of dioxin present in 66 buffalo herds near the city of Naples.

    According to the story, “Italian authorities suspect the problem was caused by the bad diet of the buffaloes around Naples, a major mozzarella region which is suffering from a waste crisis that has left rubbish piled up in the streets.”

    KC's View:
    I’m having trouble with the image of buffalo herds roaming the streets of Naples nibbling on piled up garbage. (Agency France Presse maybe needs to elaborate on exactly how this is happening…)

    Regardless, I’m glad I get my mozzarella fresh-made at Stew Leonard’s.

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    • The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Procter & Gamble is acquiring the luxury hair-care brand Frédéric Fekkai & Co. from the private-equity firm Catterton Partners, a move that the Journal characterizes as P&G’s “latest foray into the luxury sphere.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    • The Detroit News reports that the Motor City is about to get two new fresh food stores. “Zaccaro's Market opens April 7, about a week later than scheduled, in Brush Park, said owner Cindy Warner. And operators of Downtown Foodland east of downtown expect to open in July after some construction-related delays,” the paper writes.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    Hal Riney, one of the most influential advertising executive of the last half-century, died of cancer earlier this week at age 75.

    Riney was responsible for such campaigns as the one that introduced the Saturn division of General Motors, and the Bartles & James wine ads.

    But perhaps he was best known for the commercials he produced for President Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984, in which he intoned, “It’s morning again in America…” Riney, as it happened, wasn’t just a smart advertising guy; he also had one of the best and most accessible voices ever used in commercials.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2008

    In the first two games of the 2008 Major League Baseball season – taking place in Japan – the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics have each gone 1-1.

    In game one, which went 10 innings, the Red Sox defeated the Athletics 6-5.

    In game two, just finished, the Athletics retaliated with a 5-1 win.

    KC's View:
    Baseball has resumed. All is right with the universe.