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    Published on: April 30, 2008

    Content Guy's Note: When I first read Death To All Sacred Cows: How Successful Business People Put The Old Rules Out To Pasture, my first reaction was simple: "Damn. I wish I'd written this."

    And now, having read it over several times, I haven't changed my mind.
    Death To All Sacred Cows is a terrific business book in that it treats a serious subject with all the irreverence and cheekiness that it deserves. Which is to say, a lot. Because sacred cows by their very nature tend to be put on a pedestal and worshipped, even if nobody can quite figure out why, they deserve to be punctured so that all the hot air escapes and companies can start to figure out what's really important.

    That's always been a kind of operating premise here at MNB, or would have been if we were big enough or serious enough to have operating premises. And it is great to read a book that treats sacred cows with all the disdain they deserve.

    To talk about the book and the guiding intelligences that created it – though I suspect he would not be happy about the phrase "guiding intelligences" – I engaged co-author Beau Fraser in the following e-interview. Fraser, who is managing director at The Gate Worldwide, a global advertising agency, co-wrote the book with David Bernstein and Bill Schwab, who are executive creative director and creative director, respectively, at The Gate.

    MNB: First of all, start with your basic premise – how do you define a “sacred cow” and why is it so critical that they all be killed?

    Beau Fraser: Sacred cows are the rules, approaches, formulas, standards and cues businesses follow for no better reason than that’s the way things have always been done.

    Sacred Cows are blindless bureaucracy run amuck…the status quo aggressively defended. The protective province of those without the imagination, initiative or energy to innovate. Businesses and people who’d rather hold onto the past as opposed to imagine what could be.

    At one time, sacred cows had their place and maybe even had value. But somehow they stayed in place even though the business, culture, environment or consumers have long since moved on.

    I’m not calling “business” cowards. So please don’t ask me to step outside. But too often businesses make decisions based on sacred cows.

    Companies need the courage to kill sacred cows because, by killing them, they can save time, money and lives. Okay, maybe not lives. But businesses that only look to the past to guide their futures are doomed to failure. In a rapidly changing world, anything dated tends to be dangerous.

    If the world were a stagnant, predictable place, then steadfast rules would be okay. But the world in which we live changes constantly. One day infants are supposed to sleep on their sides. The next day they tell you babies have to sleep on their backs. And the next day they tell you Britney Spear’s career is over. It’s hard to keep up. Anything more rigid than a guideline should be immediately second-guessed.

    If businesses do not question why they do the things they do, they’ll never be able to do them better. If they resist new approaches, they’ll be stuck with more of the same all the time. And if all decisions are based on sacred cows, which are rooted in the past, then your business will never have a chance to grow. You’ll end up like Britney Spears – probably without the embarrassing Internet photos or the millions in the bank – but you’ll be just as obsolete.

    If you want to accomplish something unexpected, have the courage to do the unexpected. And start by stop making decisions based on sacred cows.

    MNB: It probably is common to many industries, but it seems to me that one of the reasons that companies in the retailing business are so observant of sacred cows is that they tend to be process oriented and operationally driven...and therefore see killing a sacred cow as running the risk of losing focus. Would you agree? And are there things that companies need to do culturally that can allow them to kill sacred cows?

    Beau Fraser: I agree that there are more sacred cows at companies that are process driven. In fact, often that process becomes a sacred cow. But I digress.

    Absolutely, company culture is the key protector or slayer of sacred cows.

    Some cow wrangler smarter than me once defined culture as “what happens in a company when management isn’t looking.” In companies that have wild game sized corrals full of sacred cows, their culture is about protecting sacred cows.

    I think companies like this fundamentally don’t trust their employees. So they erect tight boundaries, prescribing, restricting and often scripting employee actions. Too often, employees at these companies are trained to ask "how does management want me to do this?” when instead I advocate them asking “what’s the best way to get this done.”

    If nothing ever changed, a restrictive process and culture is fine. But stuff changes.

    Sara Lee has a great way to deal with this issue. All employees wear buttons with the word “But” crossed out. To that I nominate buttons that read; “how about we…” or “what if we….”

    MNB: At one point in the book, you write: “What if you redefined competition... (and) instead of the store across the street, you thought of your competition as the things that prevent you from succeeding?” That strikes me as a very tough thing to do if you actually operate a store, have a store that you are competing with, and if you’re trying to succeed in a tightening economic environment like the current one...and yet, that may be the most important time to do it. So, how does one go from understanding this intellectually and actually operating this way?

    Beau Fraser: Great question, Kev.

    My point was that companies often use the competition as their primary benchmark. This leads to a myopic focus on the competition; defining themselves in the likeness of the competition (and thus, by definition not differentiating themselves) or worse, trying to duplicate the competitions successful strategies as a way to keep pace.

    The problem with that is its very hard to migrate successful strategies from one company / industry to another.

    Why? Because if a competitor’s strategy worked, it worked for many reasons. Reasons beyond the strategy itself. Reasons such as the competitor's scope, operations, brand, ability to execute, timing, personnel, geography, and more. If you can’t duplicate all those elements, and who can, then the strategy probably won’t work for you.

    Don’t strive to duplicate your competitor’s ideas. Spend less time on what the competition is doing and more on what makes YOU successful and do more of it and do it better.

    MNB: More and more, the retailers I talk to are numbers-driven, so your notion from the book that "'trust your research' is a sacred cow worth killing" would be completely foreign to them. Explain.

    Beau Fraser: My issue in not with numbers. I love numbers. As you know, I married the number 23. But I digress. Numbers are an invaluable measurement tool and benchmark.

    My issue is with bad research and the habit of business to blindly make decisions based solely on the “number” that research reveals.

    There is so much bad research out there. If you ask the wrong question to the wrong person at the wrong time and in the wrong way, you are going to get research results and a number. But a very bad number.

    To me, research should demystify decisions. But it should never be the sole reason a decision is made.

    In chapter 4 of my book, “Death to All Sacred Cows”, I tell the economically devastating story of a Chinese tea company that made a potentially transforming decision based solely on research. Research that turned out to be bad research. I won’t spoil the ending for those who have not yet read the book, but it is powerful example of making decisions based solely on research and the impact that bad research and bad numbers can have.

    Another reason why making a decision based solely on research can lead to bad decisions is that consumers are notoriously lacking in foresight. Consumers answer questions based on what they know – their experience – which is often limited and by definition looks backwards. They don’t know what could be.

    I find Starbucks new “” a prime example of this. While the idea of inviting customers for feedback and ideas is right, did you see what customers’ suggested? They were mostly small, tactical crap, more corrective or borrowed than revolutionary. More add-ons, line extensions or new flavors than truly business building ideas.

    I have no doubt that if Howard Schultz conducted research 28 years ago before launching Starbucks and asked customers if they are interested in buying Caramel Frappuccino, every day for $4.95, they would have said: “Ah. No thanks.”

    Research did not reveal and Starbucks did not address a stated consumer love for coffee. Starbucks created it.

    Research can tell you how customers feel, what they like and what they want. And that is very worthwhile. But I challenge anyone to name a truly great, groundbreaking idea that came out of research.

    Use research to fine-tune your business. Then use your refined understanding of your business to imagine something that customers will love, if they only had the imagination to understand what was possible.

    MNB: Why is ”attracting customers” a more important marketing goal than “selling stuff”?

    Beau Fraser: It’s a way of thinking.

    Call it heresy, but I think the marketing world is suffering from, well, too much marketing. Today's salesmen (and saleswomen) are chasing customers so aggressively; they've ended up alienating them.

    Of course, it wasn't always this way. In fact, it used to be marketing was pretty simple. Marketers spoke. And customers listened.

    Recently, they stopped. But we determinedly continued selling. We sold some products by extolling their features. We sold other products by claiming the emotional end benefit.

    To improve our sales ability, we even introduced new techniques.

    Take Direct Marketing, for instance. Here's a vehicle where you know what works and what doesn't. It's been the darling of the marketing world for the past 15 years. So beloved, that the medium has been grossly overused. So overused, that a .5 percent response rate is starting to look pretty good.

    Think about your own life. Isn't your mailbox overflowing with catalogs, credit card applications and home equity offers? How much of this do you throw away unopened? And you're hoping that the rest of the world is waiting by the mailbox for your self-mailer to arrive? Who has the time to read all those cute little folded pieces? All the segmentation studies in the world can't overcome the simple fact that it's become junk mail.

    Of course, no one sets out to create junk mail. It was customers who decided it was junk.

    Not to be deterred, we invented guerilla tactics. We now interrupt customers on the streets and try to sell them when they least expect it. Unfortunately, all we've taught our customers is how to take a different route home.

    Promotions? In this day and age, who's really motivated by sweepstakes or contests? How many of these things have we seen, ad nauseam, on everything from the back of peach cans to in-flight magazines?

    Technology hasn't helped marketers, either. The most interesting technology to come along in the past 10 years is TiVo. A clever device that gives customers the control to watch what they want, when they want-- minus our ads.

    The Internet was to be marketing's savior. Instead, it has made customers smarter, savvier buyers. And, ultimately, more independent.

    E-mail? E-mail blasts were seen as an inexpensive way to deliver a targeted message. Consumers call it "spam."

    The bottom line is today's customers are too knowledgeable and too cynical to be sold. So it's no wonder that ad recall scores are off, direct response rates are declining and web banner click-through rates are dropping like stones.

    The problem, however, isn't with the media themselves. It's with us as marketers. We have forgotten that we’re trying to attract someone to us. Instead, we chase, harangue and interrupt.

    We've become a lot like that overweight, obnoxious salesman seated next to us on the long flight to Los Angeles. Something to be avoided, not engaged.

    So, what do we do?

    Every store, every product, every service has an embedded truth that is appealing to a significant number of precisely defined perfect customers.

    You don't have to chase, harangue or interrupt perfect customers because they're naturally interested in you. They have a need for what your product or store has to offer. Or they're dissatisfied with their current options and sense there should be something better. Or, just maybe, they're the kind of person who's willing to try something new.

    You don't have to be the industry leader to attract these customers, either. There are many successful companies that are numbers 2, 3, 4 or 5 in their category. And there's something inherently beautiful about all of them.

    Even better, there are a significant number of perfect customers who also think so. That's why we call them perfect. You're a perfect match. Your inherent magnetism, or pheromone, attracts a group of people who will rave about you and stay loyal to you. These people are your heaviest users and, not surprisingly, the foundation for your business.

    Today, you can’t sell people. They are too smart. But if you identify your pheromone, and use it to attract customers, they’ll buy as much as you have to offer them. And ultimately, isn’t that what you want?

    MNB: In your business, advertising, give me an example how killing a sacred cow has resulted in a major business success with long-term implications. And, if possible, can you give an example of a client (not necessarily a retailer, but a relevant example) for whom killing a sacred cow was a transformational strategic move?

    Beau Fraser: The interesting thing about impending death is that we no longer care. We do things with reckless abandon. Like go skydiving.

    When things are really bad, you focus on what could be rather than what could go wrong and the result is that you experience life.

    Now, while I’d never go skydiving – that’s just crazy! - I think there is a lesson here.

    What is happening here is that people in these situations go back to basics. In this case: life is about having fun.

    We should all live like that. Even companies.

    Burger King is a great example of having to run its business this way. Discarded or years by prestigious parent companies, today, Burger King is a wonderful turn-around story. With irrelevance staring them in the face, BK stopped trying to be all things to all people and made some tough decisions starting with focused on perfect customers.

    Perfect customers is a term we use at The Gate Worldwide to define a target audience. I don’t know when it was but at some point the word “target” got re-defined to mean total, potential source of business. In other words, let’s go after any one who might possibly buy our product as opposed to “probable’s,” people who are most likely to buy, now.

    Faced with obsolescence, Burger King made the courageous to decision to focus on a smaller target audience. Specifically, young males who view food as fuel and who like to fuel up, often.

    That simple but tough decision led to more focus and relevant advertising, menu items, product concepts and more which helped clearly re-define who Burger King was for and myopically went after them.

    I think the lesson here is that when looking to expand, think vertical expansion before horizontal expansion. That is, think first about selling more of what you sell to the people who already know and love you as opposed to selling to a target who does not know you.

    It’s easier. Cheaper. And leads to faster results.

    KC's View:
    I don't know else to say it…

    Read this book! It is fun, it is thought provoking, and it'll get you thinking about business in new ways.

    Among other place, "Death To All Sacred Cows" is available on

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    Tim Hammonds, the three-decade Food Marketing Institute (FMI) executive who has served as its president/CEO for the past 15 years, announced his retirement yesterday. Next week's FMI Show in Las Vegas, where he will give the annual "FMI Speaks" state-of-the-union presentation, is expected to be his last in the role.

    A search committee, chaired by former Hy-Vee CEO Ron Pearson, has been created to find a successor to Hammonds, who will stay in the job until a new CEO is found.

    In a prepared statement released by FMI, the organization's current chairman, Steven Smith of K-VA-T Food Stores, said that Hammonds “ably led the organization during a time of extraordinary change in the industry."

    And, he said, “Tim Hammonds has made a major contribution to the expansion and enhancement of a number of programs that will continue to be of significant benefit to the food industry, especially in the areas of food safety, social responsibility, industry relations and political action."

    KC's View:
    Tim Hammonds has led FMI and the industry during years that could fairly be called tumultuous, and he deserves the thanks and gratitude of everyone who works in the food business. In my own personal dealings with Tim, he's always been a class act … and I wish him a happy and productive retirement.

    His decision should be seen by the industry as an opportunity, because it comes at a time when the world is changing at a revolutionary pace. Food is at the core of much of this change, and it isn’t hard to guess that the nature of food retailing – always changing at an evolutionary pace – also is about to undergo some fairly radical transformations for a wide variety of reasons.

    And so, the FMI board ought to be considering issues beyond who is the best person to replace Tim Hammonds. It needs to consider what the role and structure of a trade association is going to be a decade from now, and it ought to think about what the role of a trade show might be in just 10 years. Some of this is already in play, as FMI shifts to an education-only event in alternating years, starting with the 2009 conference in Dallas (which we'll be hearing much about over the next week or so, I’d guess).

    But in a world of instant and transparent communications, where traditional boundaries between industries and interests seem like they ought to be far less structured than they used to be, associations and their business models almost have to change in dramatic ways. Whoever gets that CEO job at FMI, I think, has to be someone who has a vision for what such an association's role should be in a decade, and have a clear strategy for getting there – not thinking tactically, but in big sweeping and strategic moves.

    There are two quotes that have appeared in MNB lately that struck me as appropriate to the decisions that FMI needs to make. One appeared yesterday, in the story about French wineries embracing screw-top bottles:

    "You can't escape history, but you don't have to live in the past."

    And the other actually appeared today, in the interview with Beau Fraser, when he said:

    "If all decisions are based on sacred cows, which are rooted in the past, then your business will never have a chance to grow."

    There should be no sacred cows at FMI if the moment that has presented itself is to be seized.

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    Wal-Mart announced yesterday that it has its own plan for getting a share of all the economic stimulus checks that the government is sending out this week – it is offering to cash them all for free.

    Unlike Kroger and Supervalu, which are cashing the checks and giving customers back gift cards in $300 increments with a $30 bonus, Wal-Mart says that no purchase is necessary to get your checks cashed there…though it is clearly hoping that once people have that cash in their hands, they will spend at least some of it in the closest retailing establishment. Which would be Wal-Mart.

    KC's View:
    This move speaks to the retailer's long-held position that many of its customers simply do not have banking or checking accounts…which is one of the reasons it wanted to go into the financial services business.

    The government wouldn’t let that happen. But that won’t stop Wal-Mart for cashing as many of those government checks as people care to bring in to its stores.

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    One of the reasons that consumers may be so concerned about the rising cost of food – and whether anything is being done to address it – is stores like this one in the Washington Post:

    "At Stephen Fleishman's busy Bethesda shop, the era of the 95-cent bagel is coming to an end.

    "Breaking the dollar barrier 'scares me,' said the Bronx-born owner of Bethesda Bagels. But with 100-pound bags of North Dakota flour now above $50 -- more than double what they were a few months ago -- he sees no alternative to a hefty increase in the price of his signature product, a bagel made by hand in the back of the store.

    "'I've never seen anything like this in 20 years,' he said. 'It's a nightmare.'

    "Fleishman and his customers are hardly alone. Across America, turmoil in the world wheat markets has sent prices of bread, pasta, noodles, pizza, pastry and bagels skittering upward, bringing protests from consumers.

    "But underlying this food inflation are changes that are transforming U.S. agriculture and making a return to the long era of cheap wheat products doubtful at best.

    "Half a continent away, in the North Dakota country that grows the high-quality wheat’s used in Fleishman's bagels, many farmers are cutting back on growing wheat in favor of more profitable, less disease-prone corn and soybeans for ethanol refineries and Asian consumers…"

    KC's View:
    I don't have to quote any more of the story…you get the picture.

    At this point, it seems to me, we're just feeling reverberations from scenarios like this one. But it isn't hard to imagine that scenes like these are being played out all over the country, and that stores will end up closing and jobs will be lost. But beyond that, I wonder if we're seeing some sort of cultural erosion at the core of these global food issues. Sure, it is only a more expensive bagel and a shop that may have problems surviving in this environment. But it could be dozens or hundreds of shops, affecting dozens or hundreds of neighborhoods, and somehow as a country we become a little bit less.

    And somewhere politicians will debate it on a macro level, and economists will call it progress.

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Starbucks plans to unveil two new drink lines – a smoothie-like beverage made with fresh fruit and whey powder, and a sweet, icy drink said to be more "indulgent" – in an effort to woo back customers who have deserted the company's stores.

    The company says that it expects the new drinks to be a "huge differentiator" that cannot be found at any of its competitors. In both cases, while the company is not divulging names and pricing, the drinks are expected to be affordable so that they will attract customers who may have decided that $4 lattes are too pricey during an economic slowdown.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    USA Today reports that the Conference Board's consumer confidence index was 62.3 in April, down from 65.9 in March – the lowest level in five years and the eighth drop in nine months.

    According to the story, "The percentage of consumers calling business conditions 'bad' rose to 26.7% from 25.5%. Nearly 28% said jobs are hard to get, up from 24.5% in March. Consumers were more pessimistic about the job market, and the share of them planning to take a vacation in the next six months plummeted to a 30-year low."

    KC's View:
    That good, huh?

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Roundy's – which announced this week that it will cash the economic stimulus checks currently being handed out by the US government and hand out gift cards in $300 increments, and also will add $30 to the card as a bonus for the shopper – has added a new wrinkle to the offer.

    According to the story, "The company says it will expand the offer to customers who show proof that they had a stimulus payment direct-deposited to their bank accounts. Proof can be an IRS notice showing the amount of the payment, or a bank statement showing the deposit. The direct deposit program will run from May 2 through June 14."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    Dow Jones reports on the latest quarterly market share survey in the UK, which suggests that Tesco's percentage of the market was 31.1 percent, down from 31.4 percent during the same period a year ago. Wal-Mart's Asda Group saw its share increase from quarter to quarter, to 16.9 percent from 16.8 percent; Sainsbury's market share was down to 16 percent from 16.4 percent during the same quarter a year ago. And William Morrison Supermarkets saw its market share up to 11.4 percent from 11.1 percent a year ago.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    • The Boston Globe reports this morning that during an analyst meeting in New York, Wal-Mart US CEO Eduardo Castro-Wright said that the company's low price positioning is both keeping its low-income customers loyal and attracting more affluent shoppers feeling the pain of the economic slowdown.

    "It's up to us with our store experience to capture their (more affluent customers') imagination and make sure they shop with us when things turn around…We are very well-positioned because, first of all, we have credibility in price leadership. That's not something you build overnight," " Castro-Wright said.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    • Campbell Soup reportedly will sell its Australian snack foods business to a group of local investors that includes snack manufacturer The Real McCoy. The company says that the deal should close in the fourth quarter, and is part of an effort to focus on core businesses.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    Sumner (Zeke) Goldman, a longtime executive with both Star Markets and Supervalu, as well as a member of the Price Chopper board of directors for two decades, died last Friday after a long illness.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 30, 2008

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Washington Post report that negotiators for the US Senate and House of Representatives have reached a tentative agreement "on a new $290 billion, multiyear farm bill that would add about $10.4 billion for nutrition programs while continuing to channel billions of dollars to farmers, even if prices stay at current record levels … Rising food costs gave a strong impetus to stepped-up funding for programs such as food stamps that help poor and near-poor families." And, the Post writes, "The bill would reduce the tax credit for ethanol made from corn to 45 cents per gallon from 51, but the tax credit would be extended through 2010."

    And I commented: Okay, someone has to help me with this last bit, because I'll admit to being confused.

    I keep reading that one of the reasons that food prices are going through the roof is that the US government has a flawed biofuels policy, essentially using subsidies to make it far more profitable for farmers to sell corn for ethanol than for food. (Do I have this right?) Does this bill, tentatively agreed to by both the House and Senate, simply continue a flawed policy? And does "stepping up" aid for poor families hardest hit by rising food prices just add to the subsidy problem without really addressing the core problem?

    One MNB user responded:

    When we the people realize that policies are based on who finances re-election campaigns of the politicians then the injustice of paying big farm agricultural interests subsidies -in this case corn for ethanol--are more easily understood. I live in the farm belt and the subsidies help the corporate farms more than the family farms. These subsidies guarantee votes for those politicians who represent them. Helping the poor comes from the humanity of those who want to help the poor and we don't see much of that in government these days. Tax cuts for the rich? You got 'em! Tax relief for the poor? Oops that's socialism, we can't do that! Note how long it takes to re-build big mansions destroyed by hurricanes in the east coast ( they're back thanks to government funding!) and how long it has taken to re-build New Orleans after Katrina (we're still waiting!). This story is analogous to the current food crisis which avoids taking care of those in need but has the money to help corporations. What a world!

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Farm Bill - good question about biofuels...also ask about...

    • the reduction in corn acres planted this year by 3.2 million acres
    • the Farm Bill paying farmers not to plant wheat and corn

    But don't forget that 50% of our US oil consumption happens on the farm (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, fuel, etc.); how does this affect cost of food?

    And don't lose sight of your earlier premise that we may be in a transitional phase between paradigms and we can count on the government to be the last to respond to transitional or even current trends.

    And lastly, the Farm Bill is designed to get the farmer to vote a certain way, not necessarily to manage the food chain.

    Several stories after the Farm Bill piece, I bemoaned the fact that there is a French winery selling Chablis Grand Cru Reserve de l'Obedience at $326 per bottle – and the bottle comes with a screw-top cap.

    Which led one MNB user to note:

    Impressive, you go from discussing how the economy is in bad shape and shoppers will be bargain hunting, to discussing handouts to millionaire farmer’s to a $300+ plus bottle of wine in about 15 inches of column…

    That's just the kind of guy I am. Some might suggest I am inconsistent. I prefer to think of it as versatility…

    Commenting on apiece about Aldi's growth and allure in the current economic environment, one MNB user wrote:

    My family of five switched to shopping at Aldi when we went from a two-income family to a one-income family six years ago…it was hard for me, having grown up working in and around the grocery industry and helping my father as he serviced grocery stores, to switch to buying private-label items almost exclusively. However, pure economics dictated that we make the change, and lo and behold!...we only identified a few items that we truly felt were a step down in quality or taste (such as peanut butter). It turned our private-label items weren’t so bad after all.

    Since then, Aldi has strengthened their private-label offerings, even introducing high-end private-label items. We only go to other grocery retailers for the fresh breads, cheeses and few other fresh items that Aldi doesn’t carry. The minimized selection at Aldi means we are in and out – no sitting in an aisle debating which of the fourteen pickle choices we should buy – and that means a lot when you go in with three young children. They hardly have time to holler and beg for what they want before we’re done.

    We make more money now, although we’re still not a two-income family…and I consider myself financially smart to continue to shop at Aldi. It lets me save the money I would otherwise spend on groceries for use elsewhere in the family budget.

    I think Aldi has a great format for the economic environment we’re facing, and I tell everyone I can how great they are. I’ve even driven my co-workers there on a long lunch to give them a tour of the nearest store. They can’t believe the price difference! Not to mention that as a retailer, I admire how they have cut labor and fixture costs at their stores without compromising products or customer service. If you’ve not been to an Aldi recently, you’ve got to go and check out what they’re doing these days.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Aldi has changed in many ways from what they were in the past.

    It seems that for years their customer might have been viewed as lower to middle income. When you have a chance you may want to do a walk through if you have not been in one recently. They are now locating stores in upper income trading areas. Their offering is much more broad than before. While the product is private label the quality is very good.

    Aldi is already a major player in a lot of markets, they just don't shout about what they do.

    I had a person tell me that "Aldi is for lower income people". I had to add, " and for smart people that know how to save money when food shopping for their family."

    They have carved out a nice niche for themselves.

    Still another MNB user wrote:

    In your article “Giant Edits Grocery Selection in Search of Efficiency” you close the article by saying, “and that the company has much work to do just to keep up with the estimable competition it faces – Wegmans, Harris Teeter, Trader Joe's and Safeway's new stores.” Your closing statement misses their greatest competitor right now and that is Supervalu’s very solid performer Shoppers Food & Pharmacy. It is that retailer that has given Giant terrible fits and has been one of the strongest forces pushing Giant into their current EDLP environment.

    And, we continue to get entries in the discussion of "best sports movie ever." They include lots of support for "A League of Their Own," "The Natural" and "Field of Dreams," plus mentions of "61*" (the Billy Crystal-directed movie about Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961), "Bang The Drum Slowly," "Cinderella Man," "Rocky," "Hoop Dreams," "Chariots of Fire," and a bunch of folks who loved "Brian's Song."

    This is, by the way, a subject that pops up every couple of years here on MNB - and it is one of my favorite discussions. And, as usual, we also got emails that nominated movies like "Happy Gilmore" and "Caddyshack"…

    Let the games continue…

    KC's View: