retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Say what you will about Barack Obama. It seemed noteworthy the other night that in his 30-minute infomercial, the mom in the first family that was profiled was shown opening her refrigerator and explaining how difficult it was to feed her family in this time of economic strength. The husband in the second family that was shown was identified as a Walmart employee. The single mom in the third family was shown shopping I the supermarket. And the dad in the fourth family was shown taking his family out to a buffet-style restaurant (which seemed to be a bad decision since the voiceover was making the point that times were tough, and he might have been able to do better feeding his family at home – this doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily irresponsible, but it did imply that he is misinformed).

My point is this. The act of feeding one’s family and of shopping for food has a kind of primal power. It is something that almost everyone has in common, and how we accomplish these tasks goes a long way toward defining who we are and how we are fulfilling our responsibilities.

Forget for a moment about who you are going to vote for on Tuesday. That’s important, but it isn’t my point.

The specific nature of the shopping and feeding experience is what creates opportunity for people who are in the food business, whether they are in manufacturing or retailing. Connecting with that experience, and defining the relationship between food and the shopper in unique and compelling ways, can get the consumer to vote for one retailer over another.

That’s change you ought to believe in.




The pace and extent of change became abundantly clear this week when the Christian Science Monitor announced this week that next year it will suspend the publication of its daily print edition and become a web-only news service.

According to a story in the Boston Globe, “The news comes at a time when major dailies nationwide struggle with sharp drops in circulation and advertising dollars as more readers turn to the Web for their news and other information. Newspapers nationwide suffered an average circulation drop of nearly 5 percent, according to data released yesterday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.”

This reminds me of the recommendation made by Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, earlier this year that the New York Times shut down its print edition and become Internet-only. His reasoning was that while this would cause a lot of immediate pain, it would avoid the longer and tougher pain of death by a thousand cuts that would take place over the next decade…at the end of which the Times would have to become an Internet-only publication.

At some level, I hate this. I’m a newspaper guy, and love the feel and smell of newsprint.

But you know what? That’s progress, and we can't ignore it. We need to embrace it.

It may be that print publications with the word “news” in their title will be perceived instead as having the word “snooze” in their cultures. They will be seen as being regressive instead of being progressive. And they will be adrift in a sea of irrelevance




I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that Mike Singletary, the interim head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is my new hero.

Singletary instantly became such when last Sunday, frustrated with the attitude and play of tight end Vernon Davis, he ordered Davis to hit the showers during the middle of the game. And then, during the post-game press conference, said that he’d rather lose with 10 players on the field than have a full complement of 11 players like Davis.

I hope that the fans and ownership stand firmly and resolutely behind Singletary.




One of the benefits of reading as many newspaper websites as I do each week is that I see all sorts of headlines that catch my attention.

Here’s one of my favorites from this week:

“RESTAURANT CLOSED AFTER DEAD DEER FOUND IN KITCHEN”

The story actually was about the employee of a restaurant in suburban Buffalo illegally butchering a dead deer in the kitchen. Doesn’t matter, really. I think closing the restaurant was a good idea.

Here’s my other favorite:

“MAN URINATES ON DOG AFTER OWNER SPURNS SEX”

This story is fairly explanatory. A man propositioned a woman, she said no, so he urinated on her dog.

I read this, and I thought to myself, he should have tried flowers. Maybe a good bottle of wine. Dinner at a nice restaurant.

Or maybe just take “no” for an answer.




If you get a chance, read the op-ed piece in last Friday’s New York Times about how to reinvent the health care system.

It is notable not just for its approach, but for the authors.

One of them was Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, who is well known for getting maximum effect for minimum budget and who feels that the same approach can be applied to health care.

But it was his co-authors that really grabbed my attention.

They were Newt Gingrich. And John Kerry.

Just for the confluence of divergent political opinions, the article is worth checking out.

And in a broader sense, it is reassuring when people of differing opinions can come together, talk, and reach agreement.




I recommend to you the new Robert B. Parker Spenser novel, “Rough Weather.” Some of the reviews have called it “formulaic,” and in all fairness, it has to be said that Parker has his formula down pat. Spenser is tough but caring. Susan Silverman is ever-present and occasionally annoying. Hawk is, well, Hawk. The repartee is funny and stylish. The language has a kind of musicality to it. The plot is pretty good but doesn’t break new ground for the characters or the genre. And there are just enough surprises and twists to keep you turning pages.

But I loved it. Not in the way that I loved Parker’s books when I first discovered them three decades ago, but in the way one loves old friends that have carved out a permanent and cherished place in one’s heart.




My wine of the week is a serious “WOW!”

The 2003 Zaca Mesa Syrah from California’s Santa Ynez Valley, which is smooth and robust and just about perfect. It needs to be repeated: “Wow!”




That’s it for this week. As noted above, I’ll be in Argentina next week…and will try to share the experience as best I can.

Have a great weekend.

Sláinte!!
KC's View: