retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB broke the news with a special email “Wake Up Call” on Friday about the Whole Foods settlement deal with the Federal Trade Commission, which led MNB user David Diamond to write:

I totally agree with your overall assessment of the Whole Foods/Wild Oats mess – this is just a face-saver for the FTC – which clearly needs to focus on other things.

But I do think there is value in the Wild Oats name – If I were Supervalu I would look at buying the name to put on private label organics and to brand the natural foods department of their stores – It is a quick way for Kroger, SV or Ahold to “catch up” with Safeway/O Organics.

Another MNB user wrote:

If Whole Foods can’t sell the real estate, maybe they can ask for some bail out money like everyone else. I wonder how many of those types of responses you’ve gotten already.

Also, your comment about there being too little money to spare… I disagree. Apparently, there are billions and billions, if not trillions and trillions, of dollars out in the economy. That money just hasn’t trickled down to people like you and me. I do agree that there is sufficient competition in the organic foods industry for Whole Foods to have kept the Wild Oats brand and gone about their business. But since they’re the largest organic foods grocer in the industry, I can see how their acquisition caused a stir.

I wrote last week that while coupon redemption may be up, I remain appalled that so many coupons are not targeted.

One MNB user responded:

Your views are from the retailer end ... which I understand and appreciate. But how would you suggest national distribution manufacturers target consumers?

Retailers don't provide loyalty card information to us (at least in my industry) and there is no way for us to directly gain this type of information.

I assume your answer will be something along the lines of manufacturers and retailers being partners. As you'll see in my next point, it is hard to partner with some retailers.

While we've been running more and more coupons ... we are considering using other vehicles for our ad dollar. The reason: fees and fines by retailers on coupons. A $.50 coupon can cost us over $6 each after some retailers place all their fees on it. When we deny the charges ... the fees end up deducted on the next invoice. Good thing redemption isn't higher ... we'd go broke with the fees. There are some areas of the country we no longer drop coupons in due to this practice.

There was a story last week about how Minnesota’s food safety apparatus seems to be more efficient and effective that those elsewhere in the US…and I joked, “there are only two things that I can think of that are negative about Minnesota. It has a winter that lasts about nine months, and it only has one Senator.”

MNB user Doug Campbell wrote:

It could be that Minnesota is so good at dealing with food safety issues from the regulatory perspective because it has just about the best educational system in the nation.

MNB user Tom Redd wrote:

The other point on this is that Minnesota is known for as the world leader "hot dish" or bring a "casserole" meals. Thus, food is safe there unless cream of mushroom soup is tainted.

I grew up in a family of nine, and because our father was a teacher, tuna fish casserole was a staple – it was cheap and fed a lot of people. I must admit, however, that I haven't eaten casserole of any kind since I left home. Just can't do it.

MNB user Bob Vereen said there is a third negative about Minnesota:

You forgot to mention our Paul Bunyan-sized mosquitoes.

And MNB user Tom Schaefer chimed in:

I suppose it’s how you define winter, but come and visit in April when the ice is going out and things are greening up it’s quite nice and refreshing and the September and October are really beautiful. Of course, summer is great with all the trees, rivers, lakes, etc. It’s not that unlike Vermont, with which you are more familiar -- we just have more lakes and no mountains. I won’t get into the political similarities or anything about our Senatorial demise.

Finally, in “OffBeat” last week I wrote about my trip to Burlington, Vermont:

So there I was in a French bistro, eating scallops and drinking good wine, a listening to a couple of musicians play standards from the forties while I read chapters in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” that actually take place in Paris. It was sort of a surreal evening that could have been happening in another place and at another time…except that I was reading the book on my iPhone.

It’s a good life.

To which one MNB user responded:

So, were there no other patrons in this establishment? You would rather cocoon yourself with your iPhone than interact with the people around you? Sounds narcissistic to me, or far more anti-social than I would have expected from you.

Anti-social, maybe. Narcissistic, I’m not so sure.

For one thing, I may have been the only single person in the place...everyone else was paired off. I chatted with the bartender and a couple of waiters...but to be honest, I’d been “on” all day because of the video project that I was working on. And I knew I was going back to my room to spend 3-4 hours working on MorningNewsBeat. Sometimes, I need to spend a little bit of time collecting my thoughts, having a glass or two of wine, and reading Hemingway or Parker or somebody else.

This may sound probably is defensive...but the criticism stung.
KC's View: