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    Published on: September 11, 2008

    Now available on iTunes…

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio.

    Seven years ago, on 9-11-2001, the world changed. Not just for Americans, though the vulnerability we suddenly seemed to have was unfamiliar, and shattered so many preconceptions we had about ourselves and our world.

    I remember that crisp, clean morning well. It started with a run on a day that seemed to define perfection, and quickly turned into a nightmare. Friends and neighbors were lost, and our town on the coast of Connecticut was not so far from New York City that we could not see the smoke that rose from the tip of Manhattan.

    One of my main memories from that day, and the days that followed, was the sense of coming together that seemed pervasive. I was working on another website business then, and I can still remember the emails that we got and ran that had little or nothing to do with the business, but that just gave people a chance to talk to each other, and to listen. To be part of a community. I think that’s one of the reasons why, when that website business folded, I was intent on starting up what became MorningNewsBeat – because I felt the power of community.

    Not too many weeks later, I found the same thing when I ran in the Marine Corps Marathon, which took us within a hundred yards or so of the Pentagon. The hushed chant went up from the runners and the spectators, the workers and the guards, seemingly spontaneous on another cool clear morning: “USA, USA, USA…”

    The sense of community was almost overpowering that day.

    9-11. When I see those numbers, or hear them, it is always with mixed emotion. Because while they symbolize the terrible divides that separate many of the world’s citizens, they also represent for me a sense of possibility, of what can happen when people come together in a community.

    There will be many moments of silence observed today. But what is a better legacy of 9-11, I think, is for people to actually talk. And listen.

    For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    MSNBC has what is becoming a familiar story, reporting that Americans, faced with a tough economy and declining income, increasingly are turning to supermarkets for prepared foods. The story notes that a number of companies – ranging from Stop & Shop to Kroger to Whole Foods to Supervalu - are upping their presence in the area, stressing not just convenience but also taste and nutrition.
    KC's View:
    Ah, meal solutions. Once again the concept rears its head and becomes the flavor of the month.

    I would agree with the notion that the troubled economy is playing into the successful efforts of supermarkets to generate more interest in their prepared foods selections. But I also would point out that when meal solutions was a hot topic a decade or so ago, many retailers brought unreasonable expectations to its execution – a lot of people thought that it would solve all their problems overnight, and that simply by saying that they offered “restaurant-quality foods” they could steal market share from restaurants.

    The fact is that no initiative solves problems overnight. Supermarkets have to commit time and energy and money to the concept, and be both patient and rigorous in demanding high quality product. Companies such as Wegmans and Lunds/Byerly’s and Dorothy Lane Markets did all these things years ago, and continue to be successful in the prepared foods arena to this day. Chains that did not now find that they have to reinvent the concept.

    For their sakes, I hope they get it right this time.

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Financial Times report that Walmart has plans to open one of its new small-format Marketside stores in San Diego – just two mils from a new Tesco small-format Fresh & Easy store in Vista, California.

    Now, a subsequent story in FT reports that “Wal-Mart has also leased a 12,000 sq ft space in a new condominium development in downtown San Diego, in a rapidly gentrifying area adjacent to the city’s baseball stadium.”

    Until now, Walmart had only confirmed that it was going to open four Marketside stores in the Phoenix area, and the company maintained that it was just a test. But faced with Tesco’s rapidly expanding Fresh & Easy chain, which has more than 70 stores in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, Walmart may have its own definition of what “test” means.

    There is, of course, a subtext to the Marketside entry into San Diego, since it was less than two years ago that the city voted to ban the building of stores larger than 90,000 square feet that use 10 percent of their space to sell groceries – a decision clearly aimed at curbing Walmart’s expansionist impulses.

    KC's View:
    That is a very cool area of San Diego, and a hotbed of activity. That seems like an excellent location for a small grocery store …

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    Tesco’s Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets division in the US said yesterday that it plans to introduce more than 200 new private label products before the end of the year, building on what the chain says is 70 percent of sales being generated by private label products.

    The new private label SKUs include: Vegetable Curry with Brown Rice, Mushroom Stroganoff, Chicken Parmesan with Linguine, Broccoli and Cheese Soup, Shrimp Alfredo, Orange Chicken, Organic Honey, new coffee and tea flavors, different varieties of cereals, new flavors of kettle and veggie chips and new juice blends.

    KC's View:
    The point was made earlier this week by an MNB user that regardless of the mixed reviews that Fresh & Easy gets in some quarters, it continues to make moves that have the potential of nudging the broader food industry in interesting directions.

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    Reuters has a story saying that plans to unveil an online wine store next month, and should be able to sell the product in 26 states.

    According to the story, “Napa Valley Vintners, a nonprofit group representing 315 vintners in the famous California wine-producing region, has already begun to set up workshops for wineries interested in selling through the retail giant … Industry insiders said Amazon's entry into the wine market would be a good counterpoint to the shrinking pool of distributors amid consolidation in their industry.”

    KC's View:
    The really good news is that, according to the story, wine purchases on Amazon will qualify for its Amazon Prime discount shipping program, in which goods are shipped free for a yearly fee of $79.

    I’ll be very interested to see what kinds of wine clubs Amazon sets up, and how it allows consumers to build preference lists that it can market against.

    Full disclosure: MorningNewsBeat Content Guy Kevin Coupe has a business relationship with…but he’d be excited about the wine club possibilities even if he didn’t.

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    The Birmingham News reports that 65-store Bruno’s Supermarkets plans to “refresh its brand” by remodeling three or four stores a year, plus opening two or three new stores before the end of the decade. According to the story, “New locations have not been made final, but they are expected to be in major growth markets.”
    KC's View:
    If this story is accurate, it means that Bruno’s fleet of stores will finally be remodeled in about 2024.

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    The New York Times reports this morning that Iowa-based Agriprocessors Inc., the nation’s largest kosher meatpacker, may lose its kosher certification after the company was hit with criminal charges related to more than 9,000 child labor violations.

    According to the story, “Rabbi Menachem Genack, who is in charge of kosher supervision for the Orthodox Union, the major kosher certifying organization in the United States, said he had set a deadline of ‘several weeks’ for Agriprocessors to name a new chief executive, or the group would suspend supervision of kosher production at its plants.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    The Washington Post this morning reports that Safeway plans “to open a 58,000-square-foot store in downtown Washington tomorrow, the only full-service supermarket in that neighborhood and the first store that the company has built in the District in 11 years.” The store is located at 5th Street and New York Avenue NW, described as being “on the former site of a wax museum.”

    According to the story, “The store is Safeway's 17th in the city and one of only five in the company's eastern division with a nut bar, where shoppers will be able to grind their own cashew butter and other spreads. Dubbed an ‘urban lifestyle’ store by the company, it also features an open-flame hearth oven and a large assortment of wine priced up to $300. Thai chili peppers, daikon radishes and cactus leaves sat chilling in the produce section yesterday.”

    KC's View:
    Depending on how the elections turn out, the store may even offer lessons next year on how to field dress a moose.

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    CNN has a story about Whole Foods, suffering from the impact of the current economic decline, “now plans to target new stores sized between 35,000 to 50,000 square feet, more than 20% smaller than what the company identified a year ago as its ‘sweet spot’ amid successes with some large locations. The company is also renegotiating leases at several stores for smaller spaces than originally signed.

    “Smaller stores come with a host of lower fixed costs for rents and utilities, and also require fewer employees to run. That can help bolster key profitability metrics like sales-per-square-foot and sales-per-employee and improve the company's return on invested capital.”

    • The Orlando Sentinel has a story saying that the city’s first downtown supermarket to be opened in almost 30 years will debut this weekend when Publix opens a new 29,431-square-foot store on the ground floor of the Paramount condominium complex there.

    According to the story, “ The new Publix features a number of distinctive urban elements in addition to the smaller-than-normal shopping carts. There's a 140-space parking garage directly under the store, with access provided by elevators large enough for shoppers and shopping carts. Residents of the 300-plus-unit Paramount have their own parking above the store, as well as a 24-hour doorman and a separate entrance to the market. ”

    • A group of fifteen American almond growers and wholesale nut handlers filed a lawsuit in the Washington, D.C. federal court on Tuesday, September 9 seeking to repeal a controversial government-mandated treatment program for California-grown raw almonds.

    According to the statement released by the plaintiffs, the almond farmers and handlers contend that their businesses have been seriously damaged and their futures jeopardized by a requirement by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that raw almonds be treated with propylene oxide (a toxic fumigant recognized as a carcinogen by the EPA) or steam-heated before they can be sold to American consumers. Foreign-grown almonds are exempt from the treatment scheme and are said to be rapidly displacing raw domestic nuts in the marketplace … The USDA, in consultation with the Almond Board of California, invoked its treatment plan on September 1, 2007 alleging that it was a necessary food safety requirement.

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    • Whole Foods announced that it is launching what it called “a newly designed Web site that is not only easier to use, but offers new avenues for shoppers to interact transparently with team members as they do in the store … The new home page includes features on vendors, local loan recipients, in-store brochures, top-rated recipes and the latest blog entries. And since every Whole Foods Market is part of its local community, visitors are also able to access their local store's Web pages to learn about events, store specials, and everything else that makes their store unique.”

    According to the announcement, “The new site offers several other interactive options, including high quality videos that provide visitors the opportunity to watch cooking demonstrations, meet local producers, and learn about micro-lending recipients of the Whole Planet Foundation.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 11, 2008

    MNB had a story yesterday about the reprieve given to Corti Brothers, the Sacramento gourmet grocery icon that looked like it was going to be forced out of its location and replaced by “Good Eats,” a gourmet bistro-market partly owned by Michael Teel, the former Raley’s CEO. It looks like Corti Brothers is going to be able to stay in its location for the time being, which thrills its supporters.

    However, in my commentary I wrote:

    Reprieves only come every so often. I’m not entirely sure why such an institution would find itself to be at risk. At some level, it seems to be because Corti’s business acumen is not as sharp as his knowledge of food.

    But to stay viable in 2008 and beyond, you have to be good at both, you have to be able to marry business smarts with food intelligence.

    MNB user George Whalin wrote:

    The problem was with the lease on the building Corti Bros. has occupied for many years. The landlord was going to substantially increase the amount of the lease making in prohibitively difficult for Mr. Corti to remain in the building.

    Another MNB user responded:

    They used to have the finest stores in town. I say stores because I believe they had 5 - 6. They'd build them and have the best of everything with a very compelling reason to shop there, However, they left them right there. In-fighting with the family and other bad examples of running a business and now there sits one Corti Brothers left in an area where there is a busy Trader Joe’s, newer remodeled Safeways, Save Mart etc.

    So Corti sits there and still looks and feels and gives you a whiff of the early 1960's (no....stop thinking about the herb department - there is nothing like an old smelling store). There is now no more compelling reason to go there except, perhaps, that some of the folks around the area feel comfortable with it being there even though they shop at TJ's and the others I mentioned. I mourn the day of the "Corti" because there was some much promise to what it could have been. In fact, just wander over to Nugget Market in Elk Grove, El Dorado Hills or Rocklin and you will see what it could have been.

    Fair warning to all the stores that are really good today, tomorrow is coming up soon.

    Retailing requires both balance and momentum. The moment you think you are an icon, that you deserve to be in business, that’s when you begin the decline into irrelevance.

    I think MNB user Dave D’Arezzo gets it right:

    I told my wife when I heard this story, I can imagine the typical Sacramento suburban Sunday morning over-the-paper chit-chat. "Dear, did you see that Michael Teel is trying to oust Corti Brothers?! How dare him! Doesn't he have enough money being Joyce Raley-Teel's only son? Good-God, what would Sacramento be without Corti Brothers? I haven't been there in years, but it's an institution. Oh, do we have any more of that Costco smoked salmon in the fridge? No, okay, I'll make a Costco run today, and make a Trader Joe's list too, I'll stop there on the way home."


    Responding to yesterday’s guest column by Art Turock, one MNB user wrote:

    I enjoyed this year’s summary of Art Turlock’s experience at USC as much as I enjoyed last year’s. And I might add, even though it is implicitly understood, the whole team must be on board with a competitive, learning organization philosophy…drifters deter excellence!

    MNB user Tom Devlin wrote:

    I totally agree with Art Turock in his views of the USC practices along with Pete Carroll. I have two views to add that some may agree or disagree.

    1. Today’s young executives have a hard time looking at a ten-year growth plan. Many feel if they are not promoted or moved to a new position in year one there seems to be a problem. This is not to knock the generation but an observation of the McDonaldlization of Society to get everything through the drive in window ... Including experience and education.

    2. I think we throw the word “Great” around to easily in business. There are so many people who are “Very Good” at what they do or can be called an expert. I think greatness is when you are very good or an expert at what you do and you make other people you work with better at what they do as well. This is the formula for a winning team.

    MNB had a story yesterday about how Westport, Connecticut, has banned the use of plastic shopping bags by retailers, and opined:

    I was talking to a New England retailer the other day who told me that plastic bag usage is down 20 percent in his stores since the introduction of canvas bags – and, perhaps more importantly, since signs were put up in the parking lot reminding people to bring their canvas bags. The impact is going right to the bottom line…so this isn’t just about environmental purity or ecological altruism. More and more, when I bring my canvas bags into various stores, I look around and see that the people in front of me, behind me and in adjacent aisles are using canvas bags.

    To which MNB user Dustin Stinett responded:

    Isn’t it fabulous that, someday, plastic bags—the vast majority of which are made in the United States—will be banned throughout the country thus saving the planet from certain doom! Isn’t it fabulous that, soon, they will be replaced by canvas bags—the vast majority of which are imported from China! Isn’t it fabulous that the environmentally concerned folks behind this initiative are the same people who claim to be concerned about the outsourcing of American jobs! Isn’t it fabulous that these people don’t see the hypocrisy of their own warm-fuzzy feel-good actions!

    Give me a break.

    I happen to think that cutting back on the amount of crap that goes into landfills is a worthwhile enterprise…not to be derided with the obviously sarcastic “saving the planet from certain doom.” Not only does it have environmental advantages, but it also can save retailers money, which goes to their bottom line.

    Furthermore, one can be concerned about the outsourcing of American jobs and come to the conclusion that what this really means is that we have to do a better job here about being competitive. But it strikes me as oxymoronic to suggest that one of the ways to save American jobs is to follow policies that result in more crap in landfills.

    This isn’t an exact science. People are trying to do the right thing, and sometimes that’s complicated by a kind of domino effect…and you have to start making choices and examining repercussions.

    But that doesn’t make these people “hypocrites,” and it certainly doesn’t mean that their efforts ought to dismissed as “warm-fuzzy feel-good actions.”

    We had a story yesterday about the growth in small stores, and noted in commentary that chains opening small stores are able to serve the modern customer who wants what she wants, when she wants it, how she wants it, where she wants it, at a price she believes is appropriate. It simply makes sense for retailers to offer a variety of options, ranging from different-sized stores to online shopping…because to not offer a variety of venues is to concede at least some opportunities to another retailer.

    Several readers had the same reaction to this commentary.

    MNB user Lance Hollis McMillan wrote:

    What’s with the “she?”

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    I read the MNB everyday and even sometimes agree with your assessments. However, there are many of us men who walk the isles every week and understand the concepts the stores are trying to project….it is not just she want, what she want… is also he ….

    Point taken. Sometimes I can’t win.

    It so happens that I do 95 percent of the grocery shopping in my household…Mrs. Content Guy doesn’t like to cook or shop. So I understand that men do more grocery shopping than ever.

    I just had to choose a pronoun.

    I’m just glad I didn’t say anything about putting lipstick on a pig…

    KC's View: