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: April 21, 2008

    Content Guy’s Note: Harold Lloyd is, by pretty much any measurement, one of the most popular and successful motivational speakers on the circuit today. For years, he has offered his unique perspective on retail excellence to groups big and small, and has combined experience with showmanship to get people to think about their businesses from unique perspectives and in new contexts.

    Harold – who I have known for more than 20 years – has just written a new book focusing on one specific retail quality – leadership. “Am I The Leader I Need To Be?” uses specific examples and offers defined measurement tools for how to identify and gauge leadership, while never losing touch with the intangible qualities that can make for potent leadership abilities within an organization.

    Leadership, of course, is hardly a subject that has been ignored by business authors….which is where we started our discussion in this exclusive e-interview:

    MNB: I checked, and when you go to and do a book search under “leadership,” you get more than 255,000 results. So what made you want to write another book on the subject, and what do you think is the central premise that you’ve arrived at that is different from most of those other books?

    Harold Lloyd: I guess “Am I The Leader I Need To Be?” (the book) began as people saw me getting older (gray hair), more traveled, and maybe a bit wiser. They saw that I had many opportunities to interact with some of the great leaders in the retail industry. Over time, advice on the subject of leadership turned into a seminar, which then morphed into this book. Looking over some of my original notes, the process took over 11 years.

    I am very proud to identify four significant differences between my book and most others on the subject. The first, is that mine numerically quantifies, one’s ability to lead others. This leadership score provides a benchmark for future growth. Secondly, there are four chapters which almost never appear in other books on leadership: Genuine leaders are Health Conscious, Family Focused, they Discontinue Things, and they Know the Numbers.

    Third, my target audience is the middle manager/leader and those planning to become one. Not the CEO’s of major corporations. Finally, this book addresses the three roles most of us play in life; parent, coach, and boss. It’s not just a business book but also a practical text on how to more effectively lead others.

    MNB: Do you think leaders are born or made?

    Harold Lloyd: Actually both. I’m convinced we are born with x% of our leadership skills. The y% amount is what we acquire through study, observation, and experience. Some are blessed with a large x factor, others are more challenged and have to develop their y% (x (born with) + y (acquired/developed) = total leadership ability.

    MNB: It would be my argument that many companies in the industry are so focused on hitting today’s numbers that they breed managers, not leaders. Would you agree? How tough do you think it would be to make the kind of cultural changes necessary to change this approach?

    Harold Lloyd: I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, I offer a comparison between a leader and manager on page 19. I’ve seen case after case where managers are remanded for years to a role of compliance,…eventually losing all sense of how to lead others. They instead become automatons, following orders from the number crunches above who are oftentimes clueless to the essentials of creating an engaging workplace.

    As in any cultural change, time, talent, and determination will overcome a maligned culture but its never easy or quick. I worked with this exact scenario a few years ago. A merger of sorts had married a “numbers matter most” management philosophy with a close-knit, people first culture. Three years is the earliest conversion period that can be hoped for. Five or more is more realistic.

    MNB: If you were in charge of building a retail or supplier organization today, what would be the three most important things you would do in order to nurture leadership in the company?

    Harold Lloyd: The 3 things I would do, without a doubt and in priority order, would be to:

    • Establish high priority communication systems in my organization such as a daily “huddle up,” weekly manager meetings, monthly “What’s stupid around here?” sessions, quarterly letters to the home of my associates and 360-degree feedback surveys annually.

    • A performance review system (detailed on pages 140 to 144) would be established immediately to specifically review the associates’ past performance and develop goals for future growth both professionally and personally.

    • Introduce educational (external and internal) opportunities that would include an on-going mentoring program to give self-starters ample challenges to grow any area needing extra attention.

    MNB: What’s the biggest leadership-oriented mistake that most companies or people make?

    Harold Lloyd: There are two mistakes I see…the first is not remaining objective and open-minded about where genuine leaders actually come from. One need not to have packed groceries for three summers, cut meat for two years, or have been a grocery manager for seven years to become the best store leader that ever lived. In fact, I found my best store manager (leader) in my grocery buyer’s office. She was a part-time order entry clerk, mother of three young children. After a bit of encouraging and four years various mentoring and developmental assignments she was promoted to and successfully performed as a marquee store leader.

    The second mistake, which happens later on, is that too many owner/executives look at the above-mentioned developmental assignments as a COST, not an INVESTMENT.

    Great companies that create Genuine Leaders budget dozens of hours and thousands of dollars to grow their good leaders in a concerted effort to help make them great. Ask Hy-Vee, which brings all their managers (220+) together quarterly for additional communication, education, and fun. Ask Ron Pearson, Hy-Vee’s former President and Ric Jurgens, the current president - two genuine leaders and by-products of one of the best retail leadership development programs in the world.

    For more information about “Am I The Leader I Need To Be?” or to order a copy, go to:


    KC's View:

    Published on: April 21, 2008

    Ahold-owned Stop & Shop has announced a new bag policy that looks to get beyond the plastic-paper-canvas debate. For every shopping bag that a customer brings from home – no matter what it is made of – the chain will discount five cents from the total shopping bill. This policy kicks in on May 9.

    In addition, the chain has teamed up with General Mills on a bag promotion keyed to this week’s Earth Day observations. Through this Thursday, any Stop & Shop customer who purchases $15 worth of select General Mills products in one transaction will receive five reusable bags for free; General Mills products that are part of the promotion include Hamburger Helper, Green Giant vegetables, Yoplait yogurt, Progresso soup, Old El Paso taco ingredients, and Pillsbury baked goods.

    KC's View:
    While I remain firmly in the canvas bag camp, I sort of like the Stop & Shop approach since it gets at the real issue – that if we reuse things instead of disposing of them, the world will be less polluted and cluttered. And I like the idea of a retailer teaming up with a manufacturer to promote reusable bags.


    Published on: April 21, 2008

    In North Carolina, the News & Observer reports that farmers, manufacturers and processors from across the state recently gathered for a one-day symposium designed to teach them how to sell to Wal-Mart. The retailer ran the session as way of putting meat on its stated goal of securing more local product for its Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores.

    “Small-business owners are eager to tap retailers on the scale of Wal-Mart, which can generate major sales and consistent paychecks, despite the potential headaches, including notoriously shrewd negotiations on price and contract terms,” the News & Observer writes. “For Wal-Mart, local sourcing is an opportunity to impress an increasingly conscientious public concerned about the national trade deficit, rising fuel prices and environmental concerns related to long-distance transport and shipping. That benefit can outweigh the hassle of dealing with greater numbers of small and relatively unsophisticated suppliers.” And, “on a broader scale, Wal-Mart recognizes that local suppliers often have a more intimate understanding of local needs, which are not always in sync with regional or national trends.”

    The symposium was the second run by Wal-Mart in the southeastern US, and the company reportedly is considering holding more.

    There are some pretty significant dollars involved here. The News & Observer reports that in North Carolina, “Wal-Mart is looking to buy more locally produced textiles, apparel, furniture and especially agricultural products. The company reports that it bought $4 billion worth of goods from 1,829 state vendors in the 12 months that ended in February 2007, the latest data available.”

    KC's View:
    I always get the sense that Wal-Mart’s knowledge about such things seems to increase exponentially rather than arithmetically.

    Published on: April 21, 2008

    The Wall Street Journal reports on an agreement that will eliminate the ban on the import of US beef into South Korea, a ban that was put in place in 2003 because of concerns about mad cow disease.

    The deal will lead to the “full reopening of the market” by mid-May, and reportedly is part of a process that will get the US Congress to take action on a free-trade deal with South Korea – a deal that was pretty much in limbo until the beef controversy got resolved.

    Expectations are that the South Korean market could be worth $1 billion a year to US cattle exporters.

    However, the deal also takes place in an environment increasingly unfriendly to trade deals. The WSJ writes, “Many lawmakers complain the deal doesn't fully open the Korean market to American-made autos -- an issue critical to powerful auto-state lawmakers such as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Michigan).

    “More broadly, skepticism about the benefits of globalization has taken root on Capitol Hill as U.S. economic growth has sagged. Anxiety that free trade is costing American workers their jobs is a central issue in the Democratic presidential campaign, with both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama expressing reservations about free trade as they woo blue collar voters."
    KC's View:
    Putting the broader free trade issue aside for a moment, I want to know what the over-under is on when another case of mad cow disease in the US will start shutting down all these markets yet again, reigniting the debate about whether the US does a good enough job of tracking and testing for mad cow.

    Published on: April 21, 2008

    Marketing Daily reports on an NPD Group study of changing food consumption habits in the US, and notes that increases in food prices are having one specific impact – they are making leftovers a lot more popular.

    Almost 60 percent of people surveyed said they are eating leftovers for dinner at least once in a two-week period, Harry Balzer, vp of The NPD Group, tells Marketing Daily.

    And, the story says, “55% say they are preparing more meals at home than they did a year ago, while 54% are stocking up on groceries. The report, which found one third of adults feel their financial situation is worse this year than last, says those with larger families are most concerned.”

    There’s also something else unique happening, Balzer says. For the first time in years, food price increases are not being offset by more women entering the workforce, which traditionally has offset higher food costs.

    KC's View:
    What all this means, according to the story, is that “home” is the big winner – and supermarkets, which offer 1) ingredients, 2) prepared foods, and 3) complete meals, are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this trend.

    However, I would suggest that perfect positioning only will take you so far. One has to really be aggressive about taking advantage of this positioning if one is going to take advantage of this trend.

    And, by the way, I find the information about women not entering the workforce in increased numbers particularly fascinating.

    Published on: April 21, 2008

    The Post Standard in upstate New York reports that even as The Penn Traffic Co. lost $42 million last year and dealt with the consequences of two bankruptcy filings and a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation, it lost $5 million on "a proposed acquisition that was not consummated."

    According to the story, written by the always-dependable Bob Niedt, “Twice on Friday, the public relations agency and key executives for the supermarket company based in Syracuse declined to define the nature of the proposed acquisition, and would not comment on whether it might have involved the sale of Western New York's Tops Markets supermarket chain.”

    Penn president/CEO Gregory J. Young told analysis in a conference call only that the company would “look at creating opportunities when they come along.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 21, 2008

    Schnuck Markets has been announced as being the first retailer to attain Produce for Better Health Foundation's (PBH) Supermarket Retail Role Model honors for its support of their Fruits & Veggies-More Matters health initiative.

    "Throughout 2007, Schnuck Markets exhibited a true commitment to support the Fruits and Veggies-More Matters brand," said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of PBH. "Schnuck's has played a significant role in distributing the message of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption for better health across all areas by featuring the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters logo in the fresh section and on its private label canned and frozen vegetables."

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 21, 2008

    • The Daily Mail reports that Tesco plans to offer “degrees in the art of shelf-stacking and retail management,” and that the company “wants the two-year course to be recognised as the national qualification for store managers.” The program is designed to be a combination of classroom and online instruction.

    However, the proposal is not without controversy. The Daily Mail notes that some in the UK say that this reflects a “dumbing down” of the educational system, objections that also were raised when McDonald’s units there were able to take vocational courses for college credit.

    • There are numerous reports out of the UK that Tesco is planning a massive overhaul of its headquarters operations that could result in the elimination of as many as 300 jobs. The goal, according to various stories, is to reduce middle management clutter mostly in the nonfoods segment and reduce overhead costs, even as the company continues it expansion in markets like the United States.

    KC's View:
    Funnily enough, I got an email over the weekend that read:

    Just once I would like to see a column without any reference to Tesco or Fresh & Easy!!! Of course, the soonest it could be would be tomorrow now, wouldn't it?


    I feel your pain. Every once in a while, I get the same complaint about the plethora of Wal-Mart stories.

    But here’s the deal. Tesco is the third biggest food retailer in the world, and is trying to challenge conventional wisdom in the United States. When Tesco does something, it is both news and grist for speculation…which is sort of what I do.

    So, I don’t really know how to ignore Tesco.

    And in my heart, I’m pretty sure that most people don't want me to.

    Published on: April 21, 2008

    I continue to catch up with the voluminous number of emails I got last week while in Spain but was unable to read and post for a number of reasons…

    Not to belabor the whole Tesco/Fresh & Easy thing, but last week, after I wrote about the changes I would make at Fresh & Easy if I were in charge, including moving the Kitchen Table/sampling station up front, I got the following email from a Fresh & Easy staffer and MNB user who asked not to be identified:

    As an employee, just wait until we continue to launch new stores! Lots planned!

    Although I have nothing to do with the Kitchen Table, I do like your concept. However, it would behoove you to read up on the “War and Peace” of Health Permitting.

    In the three AZ NV and CA states it is difficult to have a standard code. If you compare tables from one store to another, some counties allow toaster ovens some don’t without a vent. And even with a vent then it limits us in locating the tables to an outside wall or having to put in a loud vent that makes it difficult to have a conversation with the consumer. We could have a huge kitchen table but then it would take away from our nice wide isles or increase our store size bringing us closer to standard grocery that for the most part don't even have tasting stations, unless it is a vendor operated folding table.

    I would love to have food stations like I see at the Whole Foods (Paycheck) but there is a reason why it is called that and that it is 5 times our store size. With the economy turning the way it is I believe that our ideal of being consumer oriented not just in their hearts, and time but also respectful towards their wallets will earn us customers, their respect and make us successful.

    Points taken. We’re all interested to see what you folks have planned for future stores…

    On the subject of small store formats being pursued by retailers other than Tesco, MNB user and fave Glen Terbeek wrote:

    The problem for most current supermarket chains is that operating smaller stores effectively implies (requires) much more local niche marketing and local operating control of the store, like in the early days of independent retailers. Unfortunately, their central buying and distribution mentality won't permit them to take advantage of the trend.

    MNB had a story last week about how a drought in Australia is having an enormous impact on rice production. My comment:

    One of the interesting problems that this article posits is that if indeed global warming is having a discernible impact on food production, this is just the beginning…and that in fairly short order, these problems will not be just agricultural and economic, but also political, with the haves being pitted against the have-nots in a world of dwindling food supplies. It all begins to sound like a science fiction movie come to life, and will make at least some of us wonder what kind of world we are leaving to our children and our children’s children. There will be others, of course, who will believe such worries are the stuff of Chicken Little.

    To which one MNB user responded:

    Droughts happen and we don’t know why, period. When our industrial revolution was in its infancy drought was creating the dust bowls of Kansas and Oklahoma. If that were to happen today it would surely be pinned on global warming. So maybe it’s the cause in Australia, and maybe its not, we should be environmentally conservative out of respect for the planet and its finite natural resources. And while I’m at it growing corn for fuel only takes fertile acreage out of production driving up the cost of all food. Seems our solution might be part of the food problem at the moment.

    Responding to our story about how some retailers were cutting back on financial reporting as a way of tamping down on what they see as wrong-headed analysis and speculation by investment types, MNB user Richard Lowe wrote:

    That is precisely what is wrong with Wall Street. Too much short term thinking and gambling to make the fast buck. That is not how the real world works and never has or never will. We need to get the powers to be to enforce more long term investing and mind set. Puts, calls, and all these other mystery investments need to be eliminated.

    Regarding continuing protests – on both sides – about the upcoming Beijing Olympics and various retailers’ and manufacturers’ roles in the event, MNB user Rick McHone wrote:

    Protesters of the China Olympic sponsors need to stop their narrow minded view of a US company sponsorship and open their eyes to what a sponsorship is all about. It supports the USA teams. Training centers, food, travel etc. It is at the very least an effort by corporations to help our young men and women strive to compete and win. Where the Olympics are held is never taken into consideration when considering a sponsorship of our own athletes. Those that have issues with China should just concentrate on China and not companies such as Coca Cola that have given so much to help our Olympic teams and athletes.

    On the subject of Wal-Mart’s settlement of a lawsuit that charged it with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act, one MNB user wrote:

    I worked at Wal-Mart for over a decade, and in that time we hired several employees, and some are still currently there that had disabilities. These disabilities ranged from mental disabilities (severe autism, down syndrome, etc) to physical disabilities. However all the people hired with disabilities were door greeters. They may have been greeters in different areas of the store, (electronics, exit greeter, lawn and garden greeter), but they were all greeters. There was no discrimination, but merely that the other job descriptions involved lifting heavy objects of some kind, or the ability to do math as a cashier. However even our cashiers were required and often did lift
    heavy items, and were pulled from registers often. Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not sure why he sued? Was it because he didn't want to be a door greeter? I don't intend to be ignorant, but I'm afraid I missed where the EEOC had an opportunity to pursue this lawsuit.

    Possibly all the position he was qualified for were full? Please forgive my ignorance on this story.

    According to the stories, the man in question was not hired for any job, and the store was hiring.

    I noted last week that I thought it was borderline irresponsible for a retailer like Kohl’s to be aggressively trying to get its customers to take out new credit card accounts at a time when too much credit card debt seems to be a major economic problem here in the US. Got a bunch of responses to this one….

    One MNB user wrote:

    I’m sure the MNB crowd will teach you a course in economics but so will I, your statement is not true … Actually the retailer doesn’t care if the consumer fails to pay the credit bill because the retailer has already been paid for it by the credit card bank. So the more the consumer shops on credit the greater the sales for the retailer. The risk as we are seeing it now is in the banks and not in the retailer.

    You’re right. I was taking a more holistic view.

    MNB user Todd W. Toombs wrote:

    I could be wrong here (would not be the first or last time), but although it has their name on it, I think most if not all of the store credit cards are not actually owned or managed by the retailer itself. The store, Kohl’s or whomever, are only the conduit by which a bank or other financial institution offers their line of credit. I’m sure the banks and the store have some kind of a shared interest or the retailer wouldn’t offer the ubiquitous “10-15% off today’s purchase if you sign up for the card”, but the bottom line financial risk is not typically the retailer’s. The retailer hopes that by carrying “their card” you are encouraged to shop at their store and your application provides them some valuable demographic data about their consumers and shopping habits. The credit card provider hopes you use it so they can collect the hidden transaction fees from the retailer and secondarily hopes you can’t afford to pay off the balance each month so that they can collect the usurious 20-25% interest.

    And a pound of flesh, when you don't make your payments, I expect.

    Responding to last week’s story about Kroger offering incentives for people who bring their government economic stimulus checks to its stores, one MNB user wrote:

    I am in the retail business and I think someone (at Kroger) clearly was thinking about doing something proactive and quite frankly, surprisingly interesting, especially coming from such a large company as Kroger. I know where I am going to take my check.

    Music to Kroger’s ears.

    Finally, I want to thank the many MNB users who wrote in last week responding to Friday’s “OffBeat” column. I’ll have more emails and responses as we go through the week and I catch up with the emails I was unable read and post last week, but there were two I wanted to run this morning because they touched me.

    MNB user Stephanie Smith wrote:

    I read your Morning News Beat every day and especially look forward to Fridays and your Offbeat thoughts. I often think of emailing you to show my agreement with most everything you say and yet, I haven't sent an email yet.

    So, in the spirit of not waiting until it is "too late", I am writing to you to tell you that you have moved me today. This is not the first time nor will it be the last, I am sure.

    The first time, I think, was when you commented on Bill Belichick's behavior after the Colts/Patriots playoff game in 2006. You were right on…

    But today, what compelled me to write you was your thoughts on your Barcelona trip with your daughter. It was absolutely beautiful and I was moved to tears. I always wanted that kind of relationship with my father. I never did have it ... until recently. My father is dying of liver disease brought on by an autoimmune form of hepatitis. We are hoping and praying that he will get a liver soon. His health has been deteriorating over the last year and in a week he will be coming to live with me until the transplant. I am so glad he is coming. I will be able to look after him. It is very hard for him to let go of his independence and depend on others. I think it is especially difficult for him considering the tumultuous relationship we have had over the years... with me seeking his love and approval and he unable to show it. He shows it now and I am grateful to have the opportunity to really get to know him. It makes me sad that it took something like liver disease to bring this opportunity. But blessings come in many forms... and tragedies. Weird, but true. It is not too late for him or me. I believe he will get a liver and live. And our relationship after this harrowing experience will be that much stronger.

    I have learned that it is never too late to love and show it and your poignant words today crystallized what has been swirling around in my mind and heart for months.

    It is never too late.

    Thank you for writing with passion, speaking your mind and showing your heart in what you do.

    And MNB user Jerome R. Schindler wrote:

    I never took any of my children on business trips - but after my mother died, I took my father (in his late 70's and 80's) on numerous business trips, mostly conventions that of course are held in cities with plenty to do. That too was well worth the effort - which was minimal.

    These are both wonderful points. After my mom died and before he remarried (at which point he had other priorities), I took my father on a couple of trips, including one to the FMI Show in Chicago. And those were great times.

    Never too late.

    KC's View: