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    Published on: July 16, 2008

    MarketWatch reports that Supervalu-owned Jewel-Osco plans to open a new small-store format in Chicago.

    The 16,000 square foot store, which will run under the “Urban Fresh by Jewel” banner, will open this fall in Lincoln Park, just north of downtown. It “is designed as a specialty grocery store catering to the unique shopping needs of busy, on-the-go professionals and time-sensitive commuters,” according to MarketWatch. “ One of the store's key offerings will be a variety of ready-to-go meal solutions, ranging from gourmet sandwiches to dinner entrees. The store will carry produce and organic offerings, as well as a selection of fresh meats and seafood.”

    KC's View:
    Certainly sounds like a savvy move…and in line with the current investment in small stores by companies such as Walmart, Safeway and Tesco’s Fresh & Easy.

    Y’think it is a coincidence that Chicago is mentioned often as a likely next target market for Fresh & Easy? Maybe…but this certainly gives Jewel a way to preempt Tesco before it gets there.

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    A new Maritz poll suggests that 50 percent of customers have left convenience stores and 46 percent have left drug stores due to long wait times and 32 percent of customers across all categories will share their experiences with others.

    However, c-stores and drug stores hardly are the worst offenders when it comes to long lines – 72 percent of customers have left department stores because of long lines, 65 percent have left specialty stores for the same reason, and 53 percent have walked out of mail/shipping service stores.

    Supermarkets were not rated in the Maritz poll.

    Attitudes vary widely across categories when it comes to frustration with wait times, according to the poll. Respondents indicated that they expect to wait an average of 8.6 minutes at a drugstore, significantly more time than other categories – mostly because often they are waiting for prescriptions. Mail/shipping service stores averaged 7.5 minutes, while department stores averaged 6.2 minutes, specialty clothing stores averaged 5.7 minutes and convenience stores averaged 3.3 minutes.

    KC's View:
    The interesting thing about this poll isn’t the fact that people hate to wait. (I can certainly relate to this. I’m one of those guys who will spend 15 minutes driving on back roads to avoid a five minute wait on the main road, mostly because I prefer any kind of momentum. Though I may have to re-examine this practice in view of the carbon footprint issue…)

    No, the interesting thing about the poll is the idea that many of the respondents say that if employees would just be nicer about the experience and make it a little bit more palatable, they’d be willing to cut the store a little slack.

    This, essentially, is what Michael Sansolo wrote about yesterday in Sansolo Speaks - the importance of the front line employee in any sort of customer experience.

    While supermarkets are not included in the poll, they need to take the results seriously. People are always the biggest differential advantage. In these times of economic decline, there will of course be moves to cut costs, cut prices and focus on value. But the simplest things – a smile, a pleasant exchange – can be the biggest game changer.

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    The Sacramento Bee reports that California lawmakers in both the state Senate and Assembly have approved a bill that would ban restaurants and bakeries from using trans fats in their foods; the restaurant ban would go into effect at the beginning of 2010, and the bakery ban would start in 2011. The legislation now goes to the desk of to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not said whether he will sign or veto the bill.

    Democratic Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, a former fourth grade teacher who introduced the legislation, says that the ban could help to fight the state’s high obesity rate, especially in children.

    However, the legislation is opposed by the California Restaurant Association says that the bill is misguided and will not have the desired effect.

    KC's View:
    While I have no conceptual problem with banning trans fats, I do think that such legislation in a vacuum will not work. It isn’t just trans fats. It is food choices. It is portion size. It is sufficient exercise. It is nutritional education in school. It can be addressed through public policy, but only can be effective if addressed by parents with their children.

    This is a simplistic answer to a complicated problem.

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    Marketing Daily reports on new research saying that nutraceuticals are about the make an enormous leap into the US mainstream because of “more Boomers reaching AARP age every day, and new generations of teens and children who are not only hip to the long-term wellness benefits of healthful diets, but intrigued by beyond-nutrition benefit claims.”

    Nutraceuticals – foods and beverages that are said to have specific health, wellness and appearance advantages – already are a $27 billion business, with the average American said to be spending $90 on such products.

    The nutraceutical category is broken in five segments – nutrition by color, “beauty” foods that affect appearance, brain-power foods, “satiety foods” that fill you up and keep you from overeating, and digestive health foods such as probiotics.

    The research comes from the Center for Culinary Development (CCD).

    KC's View:
    No surprise here. Americans always are looking for the magic pill that will solve their ills.

    I remain highly skeptical. But, to be honest, not so much so that I would try any one of these products if I thought it would help me live longer, better, healthier. Or help me run faster or shoot a basketball more accurate. Or keep my hair from graying. Or whatever.

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    The Washington Post reports that “aquaculture is becoming the next big issue at the dinner table,” as supermarkets embrace new standards “for the farmed fish and shrimp that make up roughly half of U.S. seafood consumption, riding a wave of consumer demand for environmentally friendly products.”

    According to the story, Whole Foods “plans to announce today the first comprehensive set of aquaculture guidelines by a major retailer. Walmart has established standards for farmed shrimp and certified its factories with the Aquaculture Certification Council. And Wegmans worked with Environmental Defense Fund on its farmed-shrimp policy to ban antibiotics, avoid damaging sensitive habitats, treat waste water and reduce the use of wild fish to feed shrimp … The new policies would apply to all frozen, fresh, canned and smoked seafood, except mollusks. They include prohibitions on preservatives, antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals that can be harmful to humans but are typically used to stave off sickness and encourage growth in fish. Whole Foods plans to ban farms in wetlands and mangroves, and limit how much wild fish can be used to feed farmed fish.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    What do Publix and Clorox have in common?

    The wRatings Corporation, an independent competitive research firm, announced yesterday the results of its annual Most Competitive Retail & Consumer Goods Study. In the report, Clorox rises from #14 in 2007 to #1 in 2008 with a score of 96.1, while Publix is the #1 retailer with a score of 92.0.

    A W Score of 100 means the business built the highest consumer and economic advantages when compared with the 540+ companies in the wRatings national coverage.

    According to the report, “Being strong on both the consumer and financial fronts, highly competitive companies are most likely to withstand the economic downturn. For example, Clorox so far has successfully passed on rising commodity costs to consumers because consumers value their stability and usability over rival products. At Publix, consumers prefer shopping at the grocery store because of their superior customer service, something supercenters and warehouse clubs typically lack. No doubt that an employee-owned company helps motivate Publix staff.”

    KC's View:
    No doubt.

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), part of the Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime, have joined to praise the introduction of the Organized Retail Crime Act of 2008 (H.R. 6491), which would make organized retail crimes a federal felony for the sophisticated gangs of thieves that commit them. The bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Indiana) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

    The legislation would specifically recognize organized retail crime under the U.S. Criminal Code. It broadly defines the crime to include the theft, transport and resale of goods stolen by these criminals. It would cover criminals, for example, who repackage medicines and infant formula to fraudulently extend their shelf life, exposing consumers to useless or unsafe products.

    Six in 10 retailers (59.6 percent) reported that these crimes increased in their stores in 2006, according to FMI’s “Supermarket Security and Loss Prevention 2007” report.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) released a study saying that while tax rebate checks reached shoppers during June, spending of those checks largely seemed to be on necessities.

    According to the report, “health and personal care stores sales remained solid, increasing 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 2.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year … Sales at food and beverage stores increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from May and 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.”

    The numbers suggest a coming challenge for some retailers. “Many consumers have been practical with their tax rebate checks, using them to offset higher prices of gas and food,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “As retailers enter the back to school season, they will have to be creative in finding ways to get consumers to spend on discretionary items.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    • The Washington Post reports that health and agriculture officials from Mexico are traveling to Washington, DC, to meet with US officials in the hope that they can get a formal statement from the US government that Mexican tomatoes were not involved in the ongoing salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 1,000 people.

    • The Grocery Shopping Network (GSN) announced that it has added BI-LO stores, which operate in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee, to its list of grocery store website partners. Grocery Shopping Network will be supporting the 220-store chain on a new BI-LO initiative – MY BI-LO, a website designed to be an “online personal shopping assistant.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    • Jim Stengel, global marketing officer at Procter & Gamble, has announced his retirement from the company, to be succeeded by Marc Pritchard, who current works at P&G as president-global strategy, productivity and growth.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    • Johnson & Johnson reports that its second quarter net profits were up 6.5 percent, to $3.3 billion from $3.1 billion during the same period a year ago. Sales were up 9.3 percent to $16.5 billion from $15.1 billion.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 16, 2008

    In Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game last night, the American League defeated the National League, extending its unbeaten streak to 12 years – though it took 15 innings to do so by a score of 4-3.
    KC's View:
    It isn’t just because I’m a Mets fan, but I have to say that the current practice of giving the winning league in the All Star game home field advantage in the World Series is absurd…and gets more so every year. It gives one league an unfair advantage over the other, and MLB ought to go back to the old system of rotating home field advantage between the two leagues.

    Okay, enough with the negatives. It has to be said that MLB and the Yankees sure know how to throw a party. The pre-game ceremonies were outstanding (on a par with the Fenway ceremonies that featured Ted William’s swan song), and there were more than a few moments when I got tears in my eyes. (The old timers who showed up were almost all people I watched play baseball growing up…my son asked me how come there weren't any players that predated my youth, and I had to admit that most of them are dead.) And I was even touched by George Steinbrenner’s brief appearance.)

    Great stuff, and all why baseball is the greatest game – it touches the soul and the heart in ways that no other sport ever can or will.