retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Commenting yesterday on the fact that the new CEOs of both the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are women, I wrote:

It is interesting that at both FMI and GMA, the new CEOs are women who have long experience in the trade association world. It certainly is a good thing that these jobs have not been filled by the same middle aged white guys who tend to get these gigs, but it is just as noteworthy that the trade association mold is not being broken – there had been some expectation that with so many changes taking place in industry and government, this might be an interesting time for more unorthodox choices. As one person said to me yesterday, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

To which MNB user Joe Crocker wrote:

Maybe the readers of MorningNewsBeat would be better served by a woman than a "middle aged white guy.”

True. It would sadden me, but I certainly have to acknowledge the possibility that some folks might not find me to be as funny, perceptive and downright adorable as I think I am…and that gender might be part of the problem.

I’m just going to keep going until my age and my gender catch up with me.

Responding to yesterday’s e-interview with Tesco’s Terry Babbs about the new consortium of companies making up the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), one MNB user wrote:

Most interesting that your dialogue with Terry Babbs about the Global Social Compliance Program, of which Walmart is a part, is followed immediately by Walmart’s settlement of $54 million for forcing workers to work off the clock for no pay in the US.

Do you really think that this is any more than PR for these companies? I read no details about insisting on fair wages or improved working conditions but did see that there are; ”No plans to push for regulations.”

I would love to see a follow up as to exactly how this group has improved conditions for someone, somewhere or am I missing the point of this group. Do you know if there is any information regarding something actually happening to benefit working people as a result of pressure from this group of corporations?

This is a new effort, so there is nothing to show yet…but I promise that this is something that we will continue to watch and follow up on.

Through my work over the years, I’ve gotten to know some of the players involved with GSCP, and I have little reason to doubt their commitment, sincerity or good intentions. But your point is a good one – there has to be a result, or it will just be perceived as PR.

As for your Walmart note, I would only say that nobody and no company is perfect. And your point is a legitimate one. Walmart runs the risk of looking insincere when such stories overlap.

Also regarding Walmart, and its settlement of a case in which it was accused of forcing workers to labor of the clock, one MNB user wrote:

This company is possibly one of the worst things to happen to the world. Regardless of savvy marketing strategies and a “don’t worry, be happy” funny face bouncing around on high prices, a company that puts profits before their employees is doomed to fail. I will be glad if I live long enough to see that day come for Wal-Mart.

I praised Safeway the other day for getting involved in a real estate venture, and said that the company was smart to be spreading around the risk. One MNB user disagreed:

In a few years, I’ll bet you say they should have stayed focused on their core business. A few successes with little risk lead to bigger projects with more risk in areas they are not experts. (Although at present…they (Burd) seem to be leading rather successfully.)

Hardly a week goes by when I’m not proven to be wrong about something. (Though Mrs. Content Guy would probably say “hardly a day goes by…)

I suggested that Lee Scott, the retiring CEO of Walmart, would make a terrific auto czar if there is a taxpayer bailout of GM, Ford and Chrysler. But MNB user Ken Wagar disagreed:

While I understand your promotion of Lee Scott for “car czar” particularly from an efficiency perspective and the size of the organization do we really want to buy cars based on a Wal-Mart business model? I’m not so sure. Other than being retired what makes Lee a better choice than say Danny Wegman or someone from Publix both of which I would suggest have shown more capacity for consumer responsiveness as well as high quality and a pleasant shopping experience-something the auto companies desperately need?

I would think Lee would bring as much negative baggage along as he would positive attributes although that might also be true of anyone else.

Nothing at all against Lee but other than efficiency I’m not sure there is a great deal of relevance.

Another MNB user wrote:

Yeah, he’d be good…but it is really different to build a company than to oversee a mess---he might be at a profound disadvantage. But I doubt he be beholden to getting some Congressperson’s son a job---which probably disqualifies him. Here’s another idea, get Chris Dodd to resign the Senate, give up his pension, and work for $1 a year…he seems to know everything wrong. If he is successful, he gets his pension back, if not he has to go out and get a real job or unemployment as the case may be.

MNB user Kevin Sheehan wrote:

I’ve got a life size picture of Lee Scott being appointed to be the government head of the auto industry after the way organized labor supported Obama’s candidacy!

Agree, good choice, but the snowman’s got a better chance in …. than this does of happening……

On the other hand, Obama kept Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Anything is possible.

There was another email yesterday that criticized me for paying too much time praising Whole Foods and not enough time focusing on chains such as Walmart, Wegmans, Harris Teeter and HEB…an assessment that I actually disagreed with.

To which another MNB user responded:

John Kenneth Galbraith said, “Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”

In your coverage response on the topic of GMA gets a new CEO, you stated, “there had been some expectation that with so many changes taking place in industry and government, this might be an interesting time for more unorthodox choices.”

The person’s “Whole Foods” response in Your Views to’s daily muses about creativity and innovation within the industry in the context of companies making those innovative changes…his only response was to develop an argument against change. This person’s response is perhaps why your call for a more unorthodox choice is most appropriate. Keep up the good work. It may seem like a daily routine of beating your head against a brick wall, but some of us listen to the higher concepts expressed rather than getting mired in minutia and fighting change.

Y’know what I may love most about MorningNewsBeat? That it is the kind of website that in any given week will have references to both “Ghostbusters” and John Kenneth Galbraith.

And, speaking of “Ghostbusters”…

Earlier this week, commenting on a story about adding cranberry concentrate to ground beef to fight E. coli, I commented:

The problem, of course, is that if you start adding cranberry concentrate to beef, cows start thinking that they are turkeys. And then, you head down the road toward a disaster of biblical proportions, real wrath-of-God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - MASS HYSTERIA!

In other words, something strange in the neighborhood.

The bulk of this commentary, of course, is a direct steal from the original “Ghostbusters,” still one of the funniest movies made during the eighties, with Bill Murray delivering one of the funniest performances ever.

Now, it was interesting. Almost immediately after the website was posted, one MNB user emailed me:

Your use of Bill Murray's quote from "Ghostbuster's" was probably not well recognized but it did add that certain bit of 'Coupe charm' to this morning's MNB.

But that’s the funny thing. I got dozens of emails from people responding specifically to the “Ghostbusters” quote. They included:

• Do you have a concept to shop to the studios? Is Bill Murray still available?

• You made my day this morning when I read your reaction to the idea of adding cranberry concentrate to ground beef. As I started to read your view, I was hoping you would get to the “dogs and cats living together” line. You didn’t disappoint. Thanks for the laugh! I little Bill Murray humor never hurt anyone.

• Well played, Kevin.

• Thanks for the “Ghostbusters” reference and a quick chuckle on an ugly weather day in Chicago.

• Your “Ghostbusters” reference completely made my day!

• LOVE IT when you use movie quotes!!!! The “Ghostbusters” line is one of my favorites!

• This is the Kevin we all know and love…

And this is just a smattering of the emails.

Just proving that the MorningNewsBeat community is made up of cool, savvy, funny people who have a sense of humor.

I never had any doubt.

Who ya gonna call?

KC's View: