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    Published on: March 27, 2008

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    To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    There was a terrific column this week in Advertising Age by a guy named Tom Martin, how to hire people. The piece, Martin writes, was inspired by a young guy who was being interviewed for a job by his agency, and who, when given the opportunity to ask questions of his interviewer, said he had just one: What sucks around here?

    The question, Martin says, was the best one any interviewee ever asked him, because it made him think about the heart of what makes a workplace work – the people who, ideally, come together in the pursuit of common goals, fighting the battles together rather than against each other. When a workplace sucks, he said, it often is because the wrong people have been hired and the wrong attitudes pervade the space, whether the space be an ad agency, a retailer, or even an Internet start-up.

    Think about it. I did, and I think that is a savvy observation about what makes for a good job and a bad job. I’ve had my share of both, and in just about every case, the best and worse thing about the jobs was the people who I worked with and their attitudes toward both the process and the goals. There’s nothing worse than a job in which everybody is rowing in different directions – it is exhausting, you don't go anywhere, and you feel like you’re wasting your time.

    Martin also lists the qualities he looks for in new hires – both the qualities he wants to add to his staff and the deficiencies he wants to keep outside the building.

    The good qualities, according to Martin, include:

    • Character. It counts. We only want people who understand that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.
    • Someone who enjoys the journey to understanding more than already knowing the answer.
    • Strong, critical thinking skills and the ability to stand in front of a room, on a moment's notice and compellingly articulate your position.
    • Be highly motivated and settle for nothing less than total success.
    • Understand that failure is not an end but a beginning.
    • Aware of trends, people, ideas and technology. There are no new ideas, just folks that cast a long, wide antenna and are then able to connect dots in new and fascinating ways.
    • Has a sense of humor.
    • Drinks beer. Well not exclusively....

    I love those last two…

    And what doesn’t he want in new hires? Martin writes:

    • Drama: Life's way too short. No whining allowed.
    • Order takers: This is NOT an agency where we merely courier information between the client and agency or simply ask if they'd like fries with that. Our clients expect us to provide well thought out, strategically based opinions on how to solve their marketing challenges.
    • Someone who settles: Life doesn't stop nor should your passion for learning. Be driven to exceed and proficient at modeling that behavior day in, day out.

    Now, some of these qualities are specific to the ad agency biz, but they really do have applications elsewhere. It comes down to hiring creative, thoughtful, motivated, intellectually curious people who are willing to learn and try new things…and in doing so, are able to provide leadership within an organization and even help teach and inspire the people who hired them.

    Works for me. If I were hiring right now, that’s what I’d be looking for. And if I were looking for a job, I’d only want to work at places with these sorts of priorities…because I could be fairly sure that these were workplaces that treat their people like assets, not costs.

    For me – and I think for an increasing number of people – that’s the bottom line.

    For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    A new study of baby boomers, conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), looks at how many of them are likely to behave when they reach their seventies:

    • 74% still won’t be describing themselves as old;
    • 86% will be more practical and pragmatic in their purchases, and much less concerned about trendiness and indulgences;
    • 76% will be using technology to stay connected with family and friends;
    • 93% will have more time to do things like travel, dine out and pursue hobbies;
    • and 63% will be making some kind of move, but only nine percent of Boomers now in their 50’s or older imagine themselves at 70 still in search of “the dream home.”

    While this event is still eight years away for even the oldest baby boomers, who were born in 1946, the study suggests ways in which marketers need to prepare themselves.

    NMI managing partner Steve French says that the research suggests that “while Boomers will still be accountable for more than $2 trillion of consumer purchasing power, it appears there will be a fundamental shift in their buying patterns … Primary beneficiaries will be responsive companies that can deliver Boomers pragmatic value and style, such as restaurants offering smaller-portion Boomer specials centering on healthy, organic food and automobile companies that pack their economy cars with ergonomic features while also taking advantage of the robust market for used luxury vehicles that will be developing. This evolving market, in essence, will be rooted in sensible luxury.”

    The study also introduces a new term - ‘retrolutionaries’ – to describe these baby boomers. According to the study, “retrolutionaries are the vast majority of Boomer-aged consumers who are aiming to get their monetary expenditures in better alignment with values formed at earlier stages in their lives. Think the 2016 version of Birkenstocks and VW in the 60’s and 70’s: living affordably, but with style.”

    KC's View:
    Being someone who was born right in the middle of the baby boom – 1954 – I have to say that pretty much all of these projections either ring true or seem entirely plausible….

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    A new study released by Vertis Communications suggests that “quality” is the motivating factor in supermarket food purchases for just one percent of adults. Of growing importance, the study suggests, are factors like prices and convenience – with “close to home” becoming an ever more critical issue as gas prices continue to increase.

    According to the study, “almost half of chief female shoppers said price-related offerings such as lowest everyday prices, best advertised specials and store coupons were most important in deciding where to spend their grocery dollars. Forty-eight percent of women age 35-49 who do more than 60 percent of the grocery shopping value these offerings, as do 47 percent of chief female shoppers age 50 and older, and 46 percent of chief women shoppers age 18-34.

    “Furthermore, while the study shows price-related offerings are important to approximately 30 percent of chief male shoppers, 41 percent of male shoppers age 18-34 value convenience, such as proximity to home and work, more than any other supermarket factor.”

    In other words, the price-convenience lure seems to be cutting across gender lines in ways that are unexpected.

    Incidentally, Citigroup analyst Deborah Weiswig suggested in a note to investors this week that the economic downturn is most likely to benefit Wal-Mart and Kroger – because they are perceived by consumers as having the lowest prices. The drumbeat continues…

    Two other interesting trends detected by Vertis:

    “For men ages 18-34, the importance of the dairy and organic food sections has risen in the past two years, from 8 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2008 for dairy, and from 6 percent to 10 percent for organic food.” And, “Marketers’ attempts to promote the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and other heart-healthy elements of fish and other foods could be taking hold, with interest in the seafood section among young women rising from 5 percent to 10 percent from 2006-2008.”
    KC's View:
    I wonder if it is fair to blame the supermarket industry for the ways in which consumers set their priorities, and the fact that “quality” isn’t as important as one might expect.

    After all, it is an industry in which most companies emphasize price in ads and in-store, and in which given a choice, “value” almost always is defined in terms of dollars and cents … not in terms of why a product is valuable to one’s health and mental state.

    These priorities, of course, come into sharp relief in the present economy, when 1) food prices are rising for all sorts of reasons, and 2) financial strife is making price and convenience ever more important.

    If the Vertis numbers are correct – and the one percent number seems awfully, awfully low – I also wonder what it says about American culture that “quality” is such a low priority.

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    USA Today reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) “is considering a proposal not to identify retailers where tainted meat went for sale except in cases of serious health risk.”

    According to the story, “The plan is being considered as the USDA puts the final touches on a proposed disclosure rule. It had lingered in draft form for two years until getting pushed to the forefront in February, when 143 million pounds of beef were recalled by Westland/Hallmark Meat in Chino, Calif., after undercover video by an animal-rights activist showed workers abusing crippled cows.”

    And, USA Today continues, “Currently, the government discloses only a recall itself. It does not list which retailers might have received recalled meat. The same holds true for recalled vegetables. Consumer groups and Democratic lawmakers contend that the public should have access to the names of retailers in all meat recalls. As originally written, the rule would have applied to all meat recalls.”

    KC's View:
    Let’s just be honest about this and call it the “USDA Obfuscation Rule of 2008.”

    Such a rule clearly demonstrates that we have a government that is still living in a time when transparency was not considered to be a virtue.

    This is an absurd rule, even though it simply codifies a practice already in place.

    Consumers – and voters – ought not accept it. And frankly, retailers ought to oppose it as well…because it creates the illusion that they have something to hide. What retailers ought to say is, “We tell consumers everything, because we are the agents for the consumers.” In saying so, retailers in fact would be superseding the government, which clearly has other priorities in mind.

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    The Sacramento Bee reports that the California Medical Association Foundation has made two specific recommendations for people looking to deal with an obesity problem:

    1. Eat sensibly.
    2. Get more exercise.

    These bombshell recommendations are contained in a series of “tool kits” being made available to children and adults throughout the state.

    At a press conference announcing the release of the tool kits, Dr. Francisco Prieto told assembled reporters that, in the understated words used by the Bee, “the spiral notebooks that will be distributed to doctors do not contain new material.”

    KC's View:
    Stop the presses.

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    Interesting piece in the New York Times the other day about a new study of American eating habits conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which confirmed some conventional wisdom about how men and women differ when it comes to food consumption.

    For example, “It confirmed conventional wisdom that most men eat more meat than women, and women eat more fruits and vegetables,” the Times writes. “But there were a few surprising exceptions: Men were much more likely to eat asparagus, Brussels sprouts, peas and peanuts. They also were bigger consumers of frozen pizzas, frozen hamburgers and frozen Mexican dinners.

    “Women are more likely than men to eat eggs, yogurt and fresh hamburgers.

    “Men also showed a little more of an appetite for runny eggs and undercooked hamburgers -- two foods that health experts say carry a higher chance of contamination that can make you sick. Women were more likely than men to eat only one risky food, raw alfalfa sprouts, which in the past 15 years have been linked to outbreaks of food poisoning.”

    KC's View:
    I’ve always been comfortable with my sexuality, but now I am thrown into an emotional quandary, now that it ends up that real men like to eat Brussels sprouts. (I also hate to admit it, but I like yogurt, don’t like runny eggs and prefer my hamburgers cooked medium. Clearly, therapy is called for.)

    Seriously, the real lesson here is that conventional wisdom is exactly that – conventional. I’ve always thought that marketers in general – and the food industry specifically – miss out on lots of opportunities by making assumptions about gender differences and preferences.

    I feel even more strongly about this lately, since I am living with a 13-year-old girl who is a radical feminist. My daughter came into my office the other day complaining about a magazine spread that showed a man standing at the grill and a woman baking a cake…and her point was that this was a condescending and stereotypical illustration. She’s right…and more marketers ought to pay attention.

    (By the way, she doesn’t like Brussels sprouts, either.)

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    The Washington Post reports this morning about new research saying that “people who have big bellies in their 40s are much more likely to get Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia in their 70s.” According to the study, “the more fat they had in their guts in their early to mid-40s, the greater their chances of becoming forgetful and confused and showing other signs of senility as they aged. Those who had the most expansive midsections faced more than twice the risk of the leanest.”

    And, in a paragraph that seems designed to make one push away from the table and put down the fork, the Post writes:

    “The research is the latest evidence that fat in the abdomen is the most dangerous kind. Previous studies have linked an apple-shaped physique to a greater propensity for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Researchers suspect that belly fat cells are the worst because of their proximity to major organs. They ooze noxious chemicals, stoking inflammation, constricting blood vessels and triggering other processes that may also damage brain cells.”
    KC's View:
    This presents me with the almost irresistible opportunity to make fat jokes and Alzheimer’s jokes in the same story.

    Almost irresistible.

    This time.

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    • Marsh Supermarkets has announced that it will open a new, small-store format – called Marsh Hometown Market – in New Palestine, Indiana, on the site of a unit that the company used to operate as an Arthur’s Market.

    "We're excited to come back to New Palestine with an updated supermarket" said Frank Lazaran, chairman/CEO/president. "We believe we now have the right format to make this a successful supermarket location.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    Richard Widmark died yesterday at age 92. If you are younger than, say, 40, you may not remember Widmark, who made his last movie more than a decade ago – but he was very much a movie star during the fifties and sixties, playing a wide variety of roles. Go rent “Kiss of Death” to see one of the best portrayals ever of a psychotic killer. And then, rent “The Beford Incident” to watch a great cold war thriller. And then watch “Broken Lance,” a terrific western that co-stars Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner. And then, look at “Madigan,” a nifty police procedural directed by Don Siegel. Finally, go watch “Judgment at Nuremberg” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”

    Terrific career. Wonderful actor. If you are too young to remember him, you should check him out.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 27, 2008

    Responding to the news and the concerns about biometric provider Pay By Touch going belly up, MNB user Thomas Murphy wrote:

    A number of your responders to Pay by Touch going out of business referred to “not wanting some company to hold my fingerprints on file”. Understanding is part of the problem with adoption; evidently our industry has not done a good job on this.

    Fingerprints are NOT held anywhere. Every time you place your finger on the pad, a scanner and an algorithm create a unique number. That number is matched to the same unique number that was generated when you first scanned your fingerprint upon signing up for the service. In fact, for those who are confused, this is much safer than using a PIN, a password, a check, or even handing your credit card to a waiter who can go into a back room and copy your information. It is just a matter of time before the consumer demands this, or until those who resist or don’t comprehend…are gone!

    I agree with Tom on this. Just because Pay By Touch is going under doesn’t mean that the technology is flawed…just that the business plan wasn’t sustainable.

    Big difference.

    On the subject of yet another retailer deciding to get out of the cigarette business, MNB user Jim Donegan wrote:

    I remember a day in the grocery business when the answer to “What product has the highest profit per square foot in the grocery store?” was cigarettes. Things do change. I wonder if the profit was still there how many stores would continue to sell tobacco even at the risk of not being “health conscious”?

    In some cases, it is possible that certain retailers would continue to stock them. But I also think that it is virtually impossible to sell tobacco in a store that wants to associate itself with a health and wellness-oriented lifestyle.

    Yesterday, MNB had a story about buffalo mozzarella from Naples, Italy, being banned in some countries because of high levels of dioxin found in the buffalo – dioxin that apparently is related to garbage disposal problems in that city. I made a joke about buffalo wandering the streets of Naples eating the garbage…but one MNB user quickly corrected me:

    Actually, there are no buffalo roaming the streets of Naples, there are water buffalo that live in the ocean near Naples. The mozzarella is made from their milk and it is some of the best stuff in the world. The dioxin is probably from all the plastic that is in our oceans. The water buffalo mistake the plastic for food and it enters their blood stream and contaminates their milk. Bummer—since I love this stuff!

    Who knew?

    The great thing about this job is that I learn something almost every day.

    Yesterday’s MNB had a quick baseball report in which I noted the score of the just-ended Red Sox-Athletics game in Tokyo…which prompted MNB user Tom Devlin to write:

    WOW... Now MNB is giving us the updated has it just happened baseball scores... Is it a coincidence that the MNB was delayed twenty minutes because Mr. Content Guy was enjoying America's pastime ? I hope so as I enjoyed my son having no problem getting up early this morning to catch a few innings before school. Thanks for the update I actually thought I missed a day when I saw the second score..

    This will probably come as a surprise to anyone who reads MNB, but I’d probably give it all up tomorrow to either cover baseball or write movie reviews.
    KC's View: