retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    MSNBC reports that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has signed into a law new regulations requiring most restaurant chains display calorie, fat and other nutritional information.

    According to the story, “The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2010, and follows similar = legislation in New York City, California and elsewhere.

    “The Philadelphia ordinance applies to restaurant chains - including coffee shops, ice cream parlors and convenience stores - with a total of 15 or more stores, whether in the city or elsewhere. It will require their outlets in the city to tell customers about calories, saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates and sodium.”

    The good news, at least from one perspective, is that the cheese steak joints that have made the city famous won’t have to comply with the new regulations – most of them are small stand-alone and therefore are exempt.

    KC's View:
    Of course, at least one of those stand-alone cheese steak shops – Geno’s - probably wouldn’t have room to put up nutritional information, since so much room has been dedicated to signs saying that if you can't place your order in English, don't bother.

    But that’s a debate for another day…

    FYI…While out doing a little Christmas shopping over the weekend, Mrs. Content Guy and I went to a Wendy’s (her idea, not mine) to grab a quick burger, and she turned to me and asked, “Wait a minute. Where are the calories posted?” I told her that there was no such law in Connecticut, to which she replied, “How do we get one?”

    The point is this. While there remains resistance in some quarters, I’m guessing that has the number of places with nutritional posting regulations grows, customers more and more are going to expect it. And excuses for why there aren’t such signs will fall on deaf or uninterested ears.

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    Published reports say that a California state judge has upheld a regulation in the city of San Francisco that prohibits the sale of tobacco products by stores that also feature a pharmacy – the first such law in the United States.

    The judge, ruling on an appeal brought by Walgreen, said that it is a legitimate exercise of government authority to say that a store that specializes in health-related products cannot also sell products proven to be cancer-causing, such as tobacco.

    Tobacco companies reportedly are appealing to the federal court system.

    KC's View:
    I have no idea about the constitutionality of such a regulation, but it certainly seems sensible…and, from my admittedly biased perspective, laudable.

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    Newsday reports that Penn Traffic is selling its wholesale business to C&S Wholesale Grocers for $43 million. According to the story, “the all-cash transaction … includes the sale of about $13 million in accounts receivable to C&S (and) is expected to close by the end of the year. The wholesale operation supplies more than 120 independent supermarkets in New York and Pennsylvania, accounting for $210 million, or about 20 percent, of Penn Traffic's revenues in fiscal 2008. ”

    The deal will leave financially troubled Penn Traffic with a core business of 91 retail stores, and in a better economic position to focus on that business.

    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    HealthDay News reports that Hong Kong researchers are saying that “low doses of melamine did not cause severe kidney problems in children exposed to the industrial chemical during the recent tainted milk scandal in China.” The report does not absolve the Chinese dairy industry of culpability in the recent scandal, which resulted in more than 54,000 Chinese children being sickened and three killed by the presence of melamine in baby formula. However, researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that the amounts that sickened and killed the children were much higher than those found in other areas, including Hong Kong and the United States.
    KC's View:
    I am not convinced, and I’m not sure how many people will be.

    According to the story, the researchers “examined slightly more than 3,000 children aged 12 or younger. All of them had consumed melamine-tainted products for a month or more. Every child was given a urine test, and an ultrasound was performed on their kidneys. Only one child had a kidney stone, and seven had possible melamine-related deposits in their kidneys. An additional 208 tested positive for blood in their urine, a possible sign of kidney troubles.”

    They may think that these sound like acceptable odds. But not in my book.

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart plans to appeal a ruling by the Quebec Labour Board, granting union certification to a store in Gatineau. According to the story, “Wal-Mart will argue in its appeal that only 63 of the Gatineau store’s 194 current employees were working in the location four years ago when employees signed union cards seeking representation.”

    And Bloomberg writes, “The Wal-Mart location is among a few in the province already represented by a union. Earlier this month, a Wal-Mart store in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, also was granted union status after more than four years of legal challenges. The retailer closed a unionized tire and lubrication shop in October, citing costs tied to a labor contract imposed by the Quebec board.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    The bad news: Projections by TNS Retail Forward say that retail sales are expected to be weak through 2009 and not rebound until 2010.

    The good news: The same projections say that when tings get better in 2010, they will go on a roll through 2013.

    In the Food/Drug/Mass categories, according to TNS Retail Forward, “The FDM channels will be the least affected by the dramatic letup in retail sales growth during 2008 and 2009. However, nominal sales growth for the combined FDM channels convenience stores, discount department stores, drug stores, food service, small-format value retailers, supercenters, supermarkets and warehouse clubs—is forecast to slow to a 4.6% average annual rate from 2008 to 2013, a decline of 0.7 percentage points from the prior five-year period.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    The New York Times reports that Walmart is looking to acquire D&S, Chile’s largest supermarket chain, which would give it a chance “to gain a major foothold in one of Latin America’s most competitive retail markets.”

    A formal offer is expected to be made in 10 days.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    Bloomberg reports that France-based Carrefour plans to open as many as four new stores in Brazil, and at the same time is interested in making acquisitions in that country that could lead to it being the company’s second-biggest market. (It currently is number three for Carrefour, behind France and Spain.)

    According to the story, Brazil is perceived as being a market with a lot of room for growth – and at the same time, prices may be dropping there because of a broader economic softening in South America.

    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    Dow Jones reports that Target is preparing to get more aggressive in its ongoing battle against Walmart, and has already started making changes that include better in-store signs, television commercials and newspaper circulars. The goal, according to the story, is to be aggressive without creating a price war,” though the company is cagey about explaining exactly what this means.
    KC's View:
    I would only point out that it is more likely to be up to Walmart than Target when it comes to deciding whether there will be a price war. I wouldn’t bet against it.

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    Product of the Year USA (POY), designed to be North America’s largest and most representative consumer-voted programs for recognizing product innovation, announced that this year’s winners will be unveiled at the 2009 Awards Night, scheduled to take place at The Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center in New York City.

    Phil Lempert, food trends editor for NBC’s “Today Show” and founder of, will serve as master of ceremonies for the event.

    POY says that 100,000 consumers have weighed in with their opinions on more than 40 products in a wide range of categories.

    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    It is, in its own way, yet more evidence of the death of traditional media.

    Numerous sources tell MNB that Nielsen Business Publications has decided to cut and merge the editorial staffs of two of its food industry trade publications, progressive Grocer and Gourmet Retailer.

    The sources say that Stephen Dowdell, editor-in-chief of PG is leaving the company, and that Michelle Moran now will serve as editor of both publications.

    KC's View:
    First of all, condolences to my journalistic brethren. Been there, done that…and I know it isn’t fun.

    The simple fact is that the world is changing, and that old world business models that depend on print publications and run-of-press advertising buys simply may not make sense anymore. Sure, I have a vested interest in talking and writing about such changes – I’d be willing to bet serous money that MNB gets more email in a week from its highly engaged community than most traditional trade publications get in a year or more. And clearly I think that new models with a differentiated perspective – the ones that stretch to be unusual and provocative - are going to be the ones that not only survive, but thrive.

    This isn’t just a trend affecting trade publications, of course. There is hardly a newspaper or magazine out there that isn’t trying to figure out the new media world, and there are a lot of them that are facing enormous changes. (The Detroit papers have started cutting out home delivery on certain days of the week…which is a move that has a feel of desperation to it.)

    These problems have been long in the making, and have occurred largely because a lot of companies simply didn’t see or ignored what was happening around them.

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    Marketing Daily reports that US consumption of seafood is dropping, in part because fish prices are going up but mostly because 70 percent of fish consumption in the US takes place in restaurants, and US restaurant visits are down because of the ongoing recession.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    There were a couple of piece son MNB last week that mentioned the fact that over the past two years, Walmart’s sole Chicago store has generated more than $10 million in incremental sales tax revenue…and I have suggested that in a time when both shopping and government revenues are down, it might be tough to deny Walmart the additional stores it would like to open within the city limits.

    To which one MNB user responded:

    Kevin, Kevin, Kevin....what isn't to be understood about how Walmart is driving the smaller specialty shops out of business? Sure, the price and selection and most times product are good, but why make it too convenient? It should be a contender, but not to the point of shutting everyone else out. My husband and I haven't stepped in a Walmart in 5 yrs in Jan of 09. Sure, we could have saved money but is it really worth it in the long run? They have every right to be there, but use common sense on location.

    I would simply argue that smaller specialty stores don't have a constitutional right to survive…they have to compete aggressively and bring a differential advantage to the marketplace.

    And while I know you didn’t mean it this way, your phrase – “the price and selection and most times product is good, but why make it too convenient” – sounds like an endorsement to me.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Got to admire Walmart. It is taking it right to the Obama folks. It is assumed that an early priority of the Obama administration will be some Walmart bashing. Their union backers will demand some return on their campaign contribution investment … So Walmart is going on the offensive and declaring that they are making a significant contribution to the President’s hometown. That’s $10 million worth of tax money that Chicago won’t easily replace. May take the steam out of the union bashing of the folks from Arkansas. Nice move.

    You’re right…this certainly plays in Walmart’s favor. Though it is unlikely that when Walmart opened the store two years ago, it was thinking that Obama was likely to be the next president of the United States.

    I wouldn’t count on anything about Obama’s future decisions, however. If he’s proven anything through his appointment of people he doesn’t necessarily like or agree with to his cabinet, he’s full of surprises.

    MNB user Aaron Algazy wrote:

    It sounds like you’re saying that if Walmart was not there that the people who paid $5.3 million in sales taxes would not have spent that money at all; so in essence you’re saying that the money spent was extra income? I guess, and it’s also purely a guess as well, you’re incorrect.

    If that Walmart would have been any other retailer they may have also made as much in taxes, but other retailers in the same area would probably have also seen increases in sales tax revenue, I’m guessing. And speaking of other retailers…what about all the little retailers in the nearby surrounding area; did they see losses of income; which means that they also posted less tax revenue for the same city? What was the total tax income for the same area last year to this year or before Walmart was opened to after its opening? Were there other circumstances that might have caused an influx of extra revenue…a new housing tract, the closing of other retailers, maybe there wasn’t any other big box retailer nearby for those that live there?

    I’m guessing, again, this article was more of a Walmart strategy to send information to the media to show how great they seem to be. I guess, again, that if they were not there, the city would still have received the same (or close to it) amount of tax revenue without them.

    You’re right. We’re both guessing.

    But my guess continues to be that Walmart generates sales by dint of its marketing and merchandising approach that other stores might not get.

    Got a number of emails responding to Friday’s “OffBeat” piece about the excellent profile that “60 Minutes” did of USC football coach Pete Carroll, which, I wrote…

    ...looks not just at his unique approach to molding the way young men behave on the gridiron, but also the way he spends much of his free time interacting with street gangs in Los Angeles. It is a remarkable story, and Carroll strikes me as a remarkable man – a winner in many ways, not least because he brings an unbridled enthusiasm and optimism to his various fields of endeavor.

    It seems to me that in many ways, Carroll defines the very nature of leadership, appealing to people’s best natures rather than the lowest common denominator. That appeal ranges from scholar-athletes that he deals with in his job, as well as young men who wander the mean streets of Los Angeles, fully expecting that they could be dead before turning 30. That’s something that more people in leadership positions ought to do…realizing that leadership is different from management, and that real leaders find ways to connect with a wide variety of people and attitudes, not just those who look like them and think like them and live like them.

    PM Meadows wrote:

    A friend of mine sent your website’s link to me as he noticed you had a comment about Pete Carroll. I read the comment and wanted to take the time to email you. I’ve been connecting with street gangs in Compton and throughout Southern California for years. Pete is, as you state, a true leader. He doesn’t just “talk the talk, he walks the walk”. It’s been my privilege to have Pete “in the trenches” in Compton for years. Often times a celebrity will show up to speak with “at risk” kids whether they are gang members or just in the ‘hood’ trying to survive.

    The worst thing you can do to an inner city “at risk” youth is show up and not come back. Magic Johnson is famous for that. Magic, though I’m sure a great guy, is not well thought of by the “at risk” population because he tends to show up where the cameras are. Pete is nothing like Magic or any of the other celebrities. Pete does not have an agenda, rather he has a genuine heart to pour into the youth.

    When I first started going into the streets I found my experience to be life changing. Some of the most intelligent kids you could imagine are in the gangs. Most of them just want to be part of something but rarely have the opportunity. As a “white, successful business man” the streets were cold to me for several months until the youth started to realize that I kept coming back. Now, I have some very good “young” friends that know they can call if nothing more than to talk.

    I’ll end this email on one comment. You mentioned in your article that the “young men of the streets fully expect that they could be dead before 30”. Actually, their goal is to make it to 18. That’s from the ‘mouths of babes’ directly to me.

    Thanks again for recognizing Pete. He deserves the accolades.

    MNB user Michael F. Parker wrote:

    I gradated from Notre Dame in 1967 and have always hated USC until “60 Minutes.” Pete Carroll is incredible and I wish him even more success because he is the human being that we all dream of being. He is positive, filled with love and committed to growing young people. In a world of me sports, Pete takes me back to the 60’s when team and pride were meaningful and “I” didn’t exist. It is truly interesting that eternal values always win.

    Several readers pointed out that people who want to know more about Pete Carroll should turn to Art Turock. Art, one of the smartest industry consultants and observers out there, has studied Carroll’s leadership techniques…and actually has written a couple of pieces about his experiences at USC’s football fantasy camp for MNB. To read the most recent of his pieces,
    Click Here

    To receive a complimentary copy of the complete USC self-study white paper Art wrote for the USC Coaching staff that applies the elite performance research, with additional adaptations to business, call Art at 1-800-473-8997, or email him at:

    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2008

    In Week Sixteen of National Football League action…

    Cincinnati 14
    Cleveland 0

    Miami 38
    Kansas City 31

    San Francisco 17
    St. Louis 16

    San Diego 41
    Tampa Bay 24

    Houston 16
    Oakland 27

    Atlanta 24
    Minnesota 17

    New Orleans 42
    Detroit 7

    Arizona 7
    New England 47

    Pittsburgh 14
    Tennessee 31

    Buffalo 30
    Denver 23

    NY Jets 3
    Seattle 13

    Philadelphia 3
    Washington 10

    Carolina 28
    NY Giants 34

    Baltimore 33
    Dallas 24

    Indianapolis 31
    Jacksonville 24

    KC's View: