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    Published on: April 3, 2009

    The Denver Post reports that Nash-Finch plans to discontinue to controversial pricing program that has prompted consumer complaints, regulatory and press inquiries and lawsuits against the retailer.

    Until now, Avanza has been using a “shelf plus 10 percent” price policy, essentially saying that the shelf price is “cost” and that the 10 percent being added at checkout is gross profit. Nash Finch has defended the pricing policy as not being misleading, and has said that it is “well accepted” by its customers.

    Nash-Finch says that it opting for a “new strategy.” Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuits say that the cases will proceed regardless of the policy change.

    KC's View:
    Call me silly, but it never seemed to me that it was a high percentage play for Nash Finch to be so resolute about a policy that seemed to be causing it so much trouble. While I wasn't nuts about the policy, it seemed fairly clear to me…but there seemed to be no real advantage in telling customers that they were wrong and that the company was right.

    There usually isn’t.

    I don't know about you, but if I were to tell a retailer that something it was doing confused me, and the retailer told me that I was wrong, my response would be simple. I’d shop elsewhere.

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    In Maine, the Portland Press Herald reports that a US District Court judge plans to rule in the next few days whether Delhaize-owned Hannaford Bros. “is potentially liable for damages because of a data breach that exposed more than 4 million credit and debit card numbers to computer hackers.” The breach took place between December 2007 and March 2008 and resulted in some 1,800 fraudulent charges.

    According to the story, “The case boils down to a couple of central questions: To what extent are merchants responsible for securing the electronic data that gets processed with every noncash purchase, and what should the consequences be when that data is stolen?”

    Plaintiffs in the case are seeking class action status and want the case to go forward, while Hannaford Bros. has asked Judge D. Brock Hornby to dismiss the case. The plaintiffs maintain that Hannaford knew about the breach for three weeks before going public, and therefore ignored the best interests of its shoppers; Hannaford argues that because none of the shoppers lost any money in the case – credit card holders are protected by agreements with Visa and MasterCard that require them to be reimbursed for fraudulent charges – there is no basis for a lawsuit.

    KC's View:
    Tough one. If I recall correctly, Hannaford actually exceeded the requirements of all disclosure rules…and made the point that one of the reasons it delayed telling customers was that it might have compromised an ongoing investigation.

    Which seems reasonable to me.

    On the other hand, the judge could decide that this needs to resolved by a jury in open court, because larger issues of transparency and disclosure are at stake here. In which case, even it eventually wins the case, Hannaford is facing months of unpleasant headlines.

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the Commack, New York-based sister company of the California firm that has been implicated in the current pistachio-related salmonella outbreak.

    According to the story, “Last month, New York agricultural authorities discovered nearly two dozen dead cockroaches, rodent droppings and one live cockroach on an ingredient rolling rack inside the Commack plant, which failed its state health inspection. Inspectors went back for a second visit Wednesday to swab the plant and take food samples to be tested for salmonella and other pathogens as part of the pistachio recall … The test results are pending.”

    There still have been no illnesses reported connected to the contaminated pistachios, but federal authorities continue to recommend that consumers not eat them until the situation has been clarified.

    Meanwhile, USA Today writes this morning that in California, Setton Pistachio – the company that manufactured the contaminated pistachios – reportedly “had been receiving positive salmonella tests for as long as five months,” and had been destroying not distributing the contaminated product. However, those reports are not confirmed.

    Meanwhile, some food experts say that stronger food safety regulations need to be in place that would require companies to be more vigilant and enforce more specific responses to such findings.

    KC's View:
    Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. New York agricultural authorities “discovered nearly two dozen dead cockroaches, rodent droppings and one live cockroach on an ingredient rolling rack,” and this didn’t set off major alarms and cause the immediate closing of the plant until it could be discovered how serious and systemic a problem this happened to be?

    I don't get it. Common sense seems to be in short supply here.

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the Maine Department of Agriculture is investigating Quality Egg of New England, the region’s largest egg farm, for allegations of animal cruelty that include charges that it has too many hens stuffed into cages.

    The company, which has more than four million egg-laying hens and sells more than 65,000 cases of eggs each week, says that it is adhering to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines. However, the case made headlines when videos and still photos of alleged mistreatment were made available to authorities by Mercy for Animals, an animal welfare organization.

    KC's View:
    However this turns out, the lesson is clear – in today’s culture, you have to be precise and prescient about following all the rules and making sure that you are not vulnerable to criticism or attack. Because somehow, some way, if you are making a mistake, it is going to end up on the Internet, in the court system, and certainly in the court of public opinion.

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    Newsday reports that on Long Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has signed legislation banning the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in empty beverage containers for children under the age of three. The measure, which actually contradicts the federal government’s position that BPA is safe, carries a $500 fine.

    Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said that he plans to introduce similar BPA-banning legislation in Congress.

    BPA has been the subject of some controversy. As previously reported here on MNB, there have been a series of studies linking BPA with health problems that include diabetes and heart disease. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a draft assessment saying that BPA does not pose a health hazard when people are exposed to small amounts, and that conclusion has been confirmed by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Authority, Health Canada, the World Health Organization, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission; the European Chemical Bureau of the European Union; the European Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavorings, Processing Aids, and Materials in Contact with Food; and the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, as well as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the American Chemistry Council.

    However, that hasn’t stopped the Canadian government, Consumers Union (CU), the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Walmart from disagreeing with the FDA decision; in Walmart’s case, it is not selling children’s products containing BPA. In addition, an independent panel of scientific advisors has told the FDA that its reasoning was flawed when it issued a provisional ruling that BPA is safe.

    KC's View:
    It is worth noting that at the IRI Summit last week in Las Vegas, the panel of “Mommy Bloggers” came out against the use of BPA in baby bottles and essentially said that this was a position widely held by concerned mothers nationwide … or at least the millions of activist mothers who share information online.

    This ends up looking, by the way, like the FDA is on the side of the manufacturers making bottles with BPA, and that Walmart is on the side of the consumer. Which may be great positioning for Walmart, but it doesn’t appear to say much for the judgment of the FDA.

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    In Arizona, Bashas’ announced a promotion that will respond to recessionary times by reducing prices on 10,000 everyday items, plus a contest that will result in the grand prize winner getting enough Bashas’ gift cards to give him or her $100 worth of free groceries per week for an entire year.

    "In the 77 years that Bashas' has been in business, we've weathered countless economic downturns," said Mike Proulx, the chain’s president/CEO. "Not only was our company formed during the height of the Great Depression, but we've survived the ups and downs of the supermarket industry, increased competition and national economic fluctuations. As Arizona's hometown grocer, we knew we needed to do something more for families looking to stretch their dollars during these tough economic times."

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    • In Arkansas, the Morning News reports that Bill Simon, Walmart US executive vice president/COO, recently told an analysts meeting that the company is reducing its inventory and changing layouts to emphasize a “fast, friendly, clean” message.

    The inventory reductions – while not said to be part of a broader effort to reduce national brands in favor of its revised Great Value private label – is part of the company’s broader goal to make it easier to stock shelves and maintain the flow of product through the supply chain. The layout changes are aimed at reducing clutter in the stores and make it easier for customers to find the items they want.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    The Los Angeles Times reports that drug store chain Rite Aid plans to close as many as 117 of its 4,901 stores in an effort to cut costs and reduce losses; this follows the closing of 200 stores during the previous fiscal year.

    For the just ended fourth quarter, Rite Aid reported a $2.3 billion loss, compared to a $960.4 million loss during the same period a year ago. Q4 sales were off two percent to $6.71 billion.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    HealthDay News reports that a new study funded by the National Institutes for Health finds that high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets like the famed Atkins plan is tougher on the heart than the Ornish and South Beach diets.

    According to the story, “researchers evaluated cholesterol levels and other cardiac risk factors. They also looked at three-day food records at the end of each diet phase. And they checked blood vessel functioning by measuring blood vessel dilation in the arm.” And what they found was that high fat diets reduce blood vessel flow, which is unhealthy.

    Officials with the Atkins plan criticized the study, saying that the sample was too small and the results too imprecise to be taken seriously.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    • Safeway announced that it has launched a month-long fundraising and awareness campaign to support what it calls “two of the most respected organizations providing services and hope for people with disabilities: Easter Seals and Special Olympics.”

    The company said that the April campaign “is designed to fund regional rehabilitation services and autism programs, job training grants, and athletes participating in Special Olympics games. For the second year running, Safeway is celebrating with its nearly 10,000 special needs employees and urging other businesses to provide job opportunities for this important part of the workforce.”

    • Sprouts Farmers Markets announced that it is celebrating Earth Day this year with a “Stand Up for State Parks!” campaign that will have the company hosting educational events and raising money to benefit the state park systems of Arizona, California, Colorado and Texas, which it says are being threatened by budget and staffing cuts.

    Sprouts has pledged to match donations in each of its stores up to $31,000 chain-wide.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    Sometimes, you can see consumer trends in the oddest places. MNB user John Chesak offers an example:

    I often get a good chuckle about articles and perspectives shared on MNB. Today's unrelated articles about recessionary consumer spending and HEB's recycling efforts give me a reason to get on my own soapbox to share a perspective. People do buy cheap stuff in times of crisis (including alcohol) and when it comes to recycling they would rather throw it out their car window as litter than be responsible enough to reduce waste.

    As a market researcher and retail consultant who is trying to do more to clean up the environment in my own community I can report on a completely unscientific 'dust bin study' about what people buy and the sorry state of recycling to illustrate my point. Not being a big fan of treadmills, I prefer to go for a morning run outdoors along my area roads. To pass the time (as running is largely dull) I play a mental game of "Who buys this stuff?" as I come across their litter - especially when it comes to alcohol. Increasingly I find two products: really cheap vodka (in plastic fifths, no less) and cheap brands of beer (in cans, of course). Litter has always been a pet peeve of mine but what I have started to notice more than anything is the lower quality/price points of the booze they are buying, drinking while driving, and discarding. In just the 5 miles of roads that I run on we have gone back to pick up dozens of bags of aluminum cans for the local Girl Scouts to redeem as part of their recycling fundraiser.

    My observations always start me wondering: how many people trade down? and, what's so hard about recycling the container? In a tough economy people still drown their sorrows. I just wish they could do it in ways that are cleaner and more safe for the rest of us. Tell 'em to pick up their trash!





    MNB user Richard Lewis also had some thoughts about the 8.2 million people who last year decided to stop shopping in supercenters:

    Very interesting piece and thanks for sharing those numbers. I think this is about trade-down. What I've been saying is that, in the current climate, whether you are a retailer or a brand manufacturer, you need to offer a trade-down alternative as part of your brand family. Shoppers who were previously choosing more upmarket channels have clearly traded down to the supercentre channel, creating that massive influx. However, 8.2 million existing supercentre customers also appear to have found some way to trade down, which cut supercentres out of the picture. Thing is, I don't think the new customers want to trade down too far. Otherwise they too would have gone to wherever the 8.2 million have gone. (My hunch is that they went to hard discount.) To win, I think the supercentres need to find out where their old customers have gone and offer that experience AS WELL. (That might mean ramping up the private
    label, for example ...) Then they are serving both consumer groups. That would also, I imagine, allow them to encourage the 8.2 million to trade back up, either later on when money's easier, or right now on a few treats they may not find at the other place. The little treats that keep you sane when money's a worry ...

    Premium brands that don't want to compromise their positioning can still offer a trade-down by reducing pack size and charging less. And while we're on treats, don't underestimate the power of frugality chic and recession nostalgia among the more affluent consumers. I think recession cuts both ways and not everyone is out of money. Repackage your simplest, most frugal products with a retro design and sell them at
    a mid- to premium pricepoint with a brand story about simplicity. That appeals to the "downshifter" mentality, the backlash against greed and conspicuous consumption brought on by the financial crisis, while allowing the consumer to maintain a certain lifestyle perception. I think these consumers still want premium but are afraid to flaunt
    indulgence in the current social climate ... there's a margin opportunity for suppliers here, I think. If simplicity is the new indulgence, less could really, finally, mean more.


    On the same subject, MNB user Dan Jones wrote:

    The thrust of your article is correct – there are millions of consumers in play, and the aggressive retailers can attract them. Personally, I pass a Target, Trader Joes, Ralphs, Albertsons, Smart & Final, Costco, Fresh & Easy and WalMart (to name a few) on my 15 mile commute every day. So every trip I take is a fight among these retailers and more.

    However, a churn of 8.2 million consumers in Mass Merch must be looked at somewhat skeptically. Because there is no loyalty card in Mass Merch, they are measuring consumer retention via tender on each transaction. So…

    If I change from my MasterCard to Visa, I look like a new consumer (and a lost consumer).

    If I shopped with my wife for Christmas, and used my card, then never went again on the weekly trips, I look like a lost customer, even though my household continues to spend.

    If I used a check after my Credit Card was stolen, I look like a new customer.

    Shopping on vacation or paying in cash are other ways these numbers will be inflated.

    That said, even if IRI overstates the number by 3X, there are 2.7 million consumers changing behavior!

    Retail is a dogfight - every day. From my perspective, there are 100 million households in play at all times.


    Fair enough. And the bottom line is the same.




    Responding to yesterday’s news about the lawsuit filed by the owners of Marsh Supermarkets against former CEO Don Marsh for misuse of funds, MNB user David Livingston wrote:

    I think sometimes we forget that Marsh was Don Marsh and family's company and they have the right to run it as they please. If the other stockholders didn't like it then they didn't have to own the stock. Marsh stock barely traded because it was so thinly held. Marsh stock was not an investment but rather a novelty. Obviously Don Marsh had the blessing of the board of directors. This sounds like sour grapes. Maybe things are not going so well for Sun and they are looking for a scapegoat.

    I do my best, with few exceptions, not to pass judgment on positions taken by MNB users. After all, I get my say, and you get yours.

    This is one of those exceptions.

    This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read, and I’m going to assume that David Livingston wrote it to get a reaction rather than to be taken seriously.

    You don't have the right to run a company the way you please if you’ve sold stock in it. That’s the trade-off. You get cash to play with, but you also have to live up to certain rules.

    If you run a company and sell stock in it, you have a responsibility to the shareholders, whether they think it as an investment or a novelty. You have a responsibility not to fly off to Cuba and other far-flung places on personal pleasure trips that are being funded by the shareholder’s dime. You have a responsibility to behave in a way that does not put the corporation at risk of being sued for personal and self-indulgent behaviors,.

    To say that investors in a company do not deserve such consideration, and that they can be treated in a near contemptible fashion, is absurd…and it is hard to believe that someone who wants to be taken seriously by public companies (as he does when leveling criticism at them here and in other places) would have such a cavalier attitude toward the responsibilities of public corporations and the rights of shareholders.




    Yesterday, MNB reported that Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s had created a fictitious dairy company, Cyclone Dairy, that supposedly was only going to sell products made from 100 percent cloned cows – a ruse that it perpetrated through a website and supposed street sampling. Ben & Jerry’s said it lifted the veil on the hoax to make its true point – that people have a right to know whether the foods and beverages they are consuming come from cloned animals or the progeny of cloned animals.

    I commented that I’m with Ben & Jerry’s 100 percent on this – both on the need for labeling of cloned food, and on the use of the occasional hoax to get attention.

    One MNB user responded:

    Sorry Kevin, but you've bought into the Luddite line on animal cloning. There is no scientific evidence of danger from cloned animal progeny. Mandatory labeling only serves to encourage irrational fears of the sort of folks who would oppose the horse if it was invented tomorrow. The planet is only getting more crowded every day and we aren't going to feed those people without using science.

    Foe the record, I don't think I have any problem with consuming cloned foods, or foods made with genetically modified ingredients. I just think that for the moment, such things ought to be accurately labeled…in the same way that I also believe in Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). It’s called transparency.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    You're with Ben & Jerry's on the occasional hoax to get attention and to make a point, but you slam PETA when they do the same thing.

    Well, yeah.

    I like Ben & Jerry’s. I find PETA to be sort of annoying, dogmatic, and humorless. And I’m not big on dogmatic.




    Speaking of dogma…yesterday we had a story about a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee who was forced to give up the business he’d owned since 1979. The reason? Walid Elkhatib is a Muslim, and is forbidden by his faith from handling any pork products. When he invested in a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in 1979, it did not sell breakfast sandwiches. When the company did introduce them in 1984, it allowed him to not carry them, and to post signs that said “no meat products available.” But it changed its mind, and Elkhatib lost the franchise…and I commented that “You’d think that there would be a better way to handle this. I would argue that Dunkin’ Donuts would look a lot better if it could find a way to accommodate this man’s religious beliefs, even if it meant deviating from the strict franchising agreement. Sure, there would be complications … but isn’t it better to actually be a little tolerant, especially these days?”

    One MNB user responded:

    You must also believe that pharmacists should have the right to deny prescription drugs based on their beliefs. That employer should cater to all the various religious beliefs in the country? Restaurant Chain stores rely on the sameness and quality of every store in the chain. I do not know but I would guess that franchisees have a contract and that the court case Dunkin Donuts won was a validation of their contract.

    Further, should Catholic pharmacists be allowed special privileges? Should companies be forced to hire someone who cannot handle meat because to not do so would be constitutional violation. Perhaps the franchisee should have been more tolerant.

    Another example might be a chain that reduces staff due to economic times and now has to ask a “Vegan” to work the meat department or the dairy department and that person refuses to do so because their personal beliefs. If one’s personal beliefs get in the way of a job or work then it should be the worker’s responsibility to change jobs. I am general left of center but not on this issue.


    In general, what I am saying is that reasonable people ought to be reasonable.

    In your first example…and this is usually good for a few hundred outraged email responses…my problem with the pharmacist metaphor is that last time I checked, the availability of a bacon and egg sandwich is a little less important than the availability of certain prescription drugs.

    I have less of a problem with individual pharmacists not wanting to dispense certain medications than I do with corporations that make those judgments, or don't insure that their pharmacies have people on duty with fewer qualms or less of a desire to impose their moral compass on other people. This can be an issue in small markets where there is only one pharmacy, and people’s access to certain medications is limited. Besides, pharmacists have a public trust…at least in my opinion.

    I say it again. Reasonable people ought to be reasonable.

    On the same subject, MNB user Al Kober wrote:

    Tolerance and compromise are similar to preference and conviction. I have tried to be tolerant about my preferences, but I will never compromise my convictions. If a conviction can be compromised it is not a conviction, it is a preference. You must be willing to die for your convictions which leaves no room for tolerance. Having an understanding that allows for the convictions of others to exist and be accepted and not changed, is where tolerance should be applied.

    Yikes!

    The problem with that argument is that it doesn’t look quite as persuasive when you realize that the guy on the other end of the gun or the sword or the bomb also feels the same way about his convictions. Of course, you can argue that you are right and he is wrong…and this is how wars are started and why people get killed and how civilizations collapse.

    Maybe I have too many preferences and too few convictions. My father, who thinks I am a hedonist, would think so. I can think of a few priests and nuns who probably would agree as well. But I still think that people should believe in whatever gets them through the night, and not worry so much about what other people believe.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 3, 2009

    It must have been 15 years ago that many of us were first exposed to Encarta, the digital encyclopedia that did more than just provide information on a variety of subjects, but rather spoke by its very presence of a world where printed books no longer would serve a central role in how people learned.

    And so, it was something of a shock this week when reports emerged that Encarta itself has been rendered obsolete and will be shut down by owner Microsoft. Encarta was made irrelevant by search engines such as Google and websites such as Wikipedia. It took a lot less time for Encarta to fall victim to technological realities than it did for the World Book Encyclopedia and its brethren, and it makes me wonder what the next iteration will be. Because we’ve haven’t reached the end of the line, not by any means…we’re barely into chapter two, and the book is endless.

    But it isn’t printed on paper.

    Many people will respond to statements such as these by recalling fond moments spent thumbing through the World Book or some other encyclopedia, and how those times led to unexpected knowledge. Which is true. I remember those times myself. You have to remember, though, that we were doing essentially was surfing a knowledge base. Which is precisely what young people are doing when they surf the web. They end up smarter than us, with access to infinite sources of information that isn’t artificially given boundaries by hardback covers. And they don't get paper cuts.

    The broader point is this. At one point in time, encyclopedia sets seemed like they had earned a permanent place on the cultural landscape; after all, they’d been around, in one form or another, since the mid fourteenth century. And then they were pretty much replaced by a technology that seemed at the time to be wondrous and futuristic. Which has itself been replaced – rendered obsolete – in the space of less than two decades.

    No mater what business you are in, this is the cold reality with which you have to grapple. Irrelevance and obsolescence are inevitable…unless you constantly are engaged in the act of reinvention, innovation, and renewal that embraces the fact that the world is changing, that customers are evolving, and that nothing stays the same.

    You can look it up.




    Last June, I took note here on MNB of a story that ran in Time magazine about the changing hotel scene, and that took particular note of an innovation by the Starwood chain:

    “The company that started the industry's bedding wars is looking to define a new segment called ‘lifestyle’ hotels: chic, sociable and affordable. The first Aloft outpost opened in Montreal in June, and a further 17 openings are planned this year. Aloft is focused on attracting the road warrior, a customer who has grown up with the irreverent, friendly service of Southwest Airlines, the open office, the work-among-the-crowd Starbucks culture, and is accustomed to innovative design, via Target and Ikea, at a good price. The next generation of business travelers may have meetings with Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Ark., but they don't want to be separated from their hip, urban social lifestyle.”

    Well, on a trip to Minneapolis this week, I stayed in an Aloft Hotel, even though I am not exactly the hip and urban traveler that the chain is seeking. (They took the reservation and didn’t turn me away at the door, so I guess I passed. Must’ve been the jeans and black turtleneck.)

    I am here to report that these guys are onto something and that retailers should pay attention to the ways in which Starwood is rethinking the hotel business for the next generation of consumers. The Minneapolis Aloft has a futuristic look to it, all glass and metal. Walk into the lobby, and you actually find a kind of “great room” – the front desk is circular and near the middle of the room, and there is a large bar, a pool table, plenty of flat screen televisions, a news feed running across the top of the wall, and lots of conversation pits where people were engaged in animated and sometimes intimate conversation. It has a kind of neighborhood vibe to it, with real personality and energy, and not at all antiseptic.

    The rooms have a neat kind of minimalist décor, dominated by a very comfortable bed and a 42-inch flat screen television (which I’d rather look at than the crappy art you generally find on hotel room walls). The emphasis is on comfort and function rather than form, and it works.

    There was a terrific exercise room and pool just off the lobby (neither of which I had time to use, unfortunately, since I spent a bit of time at the bar). Also off the lobby was a self-service snack shop with lots of options (there was a great ham and egg sandwich for breakfast) at affordable prices. Again, function and convenience over form.

    Here’s where it got even better. I’m sitting in the lobby sipping a cup of coffee with breakfast, and the woman who was working at the front desk came over and asked if she could top off my cup for me. Unsolicited. With a smile. (It didn’t hurt that she looked like a young Gwyneth Paltrow.) I engaged her in conversation, learned that her name was Rachel, and asked about other locations…and when it was determined that I actually will be visiting another city with an Aloft, she volunteered to call and make me a reservation for the dates in question. Which she did, confirming the reservation with an email later in the day.

    I don’t know whether Rachel is typical of the people who work at Aloft, but if she isn’t, they should clone her. But my sense is that Aloft is hiring differently, that they recognize that the next generation of customers is going to want to deal with people who actually seem to enjoy their work and share their priorities. And, by the way, put a delightful and engaging face on the business.

    My point here is much the same as in my discussion of Encarta. Old business models are dying, and we all have to figure out what the new ones are…or invent them ourselves.

    Aloft is doing that. We all need to pay attention.




    One other note. I had a wonderful wine at the Aloft bar – a 2007 French Maid Pinot Noir. Light, delicious, and perfect for sipping while watching the night unfold.




    One more thing…

    I got a couple of emails last week because I failed to sign off with my usual “Sláinte!!” – best I can tell, it was the first time that has happened since I launched MorningNewsBeat back in 2001.

    I guess I was tired. Or distracted. Or both.

    But I’m here to tell you that it was an accident, not a subtle hint that something was wrong. All is well.

    So…

    That’s it for this week.

    Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Sláinte!!

    KC's View: