retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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."

Exactly.




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…..it 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: