retail news in context, analysis with attitude

An MNB user responded yesterday to my commentary about coupons by writing:

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.

Which led MNB user Jerome Schindler to write:

Now this is something the FTC should investigate, rather than squander their limited resources on matters such as the Whole Foods/Wild Oats combination. A retailer who invents these "fees" and deducts them from their invoices is competing unfairly with other retailers who do not. The Robinson-Patman Act could certainly be interpreted as applying to such conduct. I have often wondered what motivates a company to place a restriction such as "may not be doubled" on their coupons. The only logical reason is pressure from retailers who double coupons. I hope someone at the FTC reads your column.

MNB user Craig Espelien had some thoughts about the manufacturer-retailer pricing tensions:

I think a price war is coming – but the grocery industry executives who are shouting it loudest may want to look inside first. In my conversations with manufacturers, they are offering similar pricing to the mass channel – who has been much more open during the entire commodity run up to price advances and understanding the manufacturer’s true cost to produce product – and the fact that they (the manufacturers) need to make money as well. Most major manufacturers had a plan in place on how to raise (and lower) prices with their largest customer (you may be able to figure out who I mean) and it was executed very well by all sides. Also, this large customer has a habit of executing against the plans created with the manufacturers – which makes them an easier customer to deal with. The grocery channel has a bad habit of squeezing pricing and then not executing – or at least not growing their business.

The grocery segment has become inefficient with a shrinking sales base. Manufacturers will invest their funds with the companies that will provide them with the largest returns – and grocery companies need to figure out how to do that. Mass operators, dollar stores and the drug channel seem to be better at this than the grocery channel – and interesting change from 10 years ago!!!

Great line from an MNB user who had a thought about companies that might be interesting in acquiring the “Wild Oats” brand name from Whole Foods:

Maybe a Nevada brothel will bid on the "Wild Oats" trademark - seems fitting.

I love it. All natural, all organic.

Besides, Nevada brothels may be the only companies with money to spend these days.

I mentioned yesterday that MNB’s CFO (who happens to be Mrs. Content Guy) won’t let me bid for any of the three corporate jets being sold by Starbucks.

Which led MNB user Jerry Sheldon to write:

Had to laugh as you refer to your wife as your CFO. As we work for small companies we often humorously refer to our wives as CPO’s – Chief Procurement Officers.

If I called her that she’d hit me.

And MNB user Ron Pizur wrote:

I love the humorous slant you put on your comment. Personally I think you deserve the jet - with the amount of time you spend flying around the world you should be able to fly in a little luxury. Maybe if you took your CFO on more of those trips you could get the approval (no, she did not contact me to put the pressure on you).

I’d take her, but there are 25 third graders who would object to her absence.

KC's View: