retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB user:

I read with interest your comments on Steve Burd’s address regarding Health Care at Safeway. As a participant in the Safeway Healthy Measures program I can testify to how powerful the empowerment piece is in managing your own health. Since starting the Healthy Measures approach I have lost 100 pounds & now weigh the same as I did in college. I have done that by exercise, change in diet & making better choices when it comes to my overall health. I knew I needed to make the change, but the implementation of Healthy Measures was the nudge I needed to make the needed changes. Ownership has been a key to my success.

I was a little negative about KFC last week, and was unimpressed by the idea of its new Kentucky Grilled Chicken offering. One MNB user offered the following story:

I opted to try some of the "Kentucky Grilled Chicken" from KFC this afternoon. I should have taken the order receipt process as a bad sign. The "Restaurant General Manager" was who put the order together. I ordered white meat. First, I received dark meat. When I noted this to him, he threw the box in the trash, got a new box, and put two pieces of original fried white into the box. When I again told him that was not correct, he said he was out of grilled white and it would be a couple minutes. I waited. I received the order; very hot in temperature. The flavor was almost non-existent. Not salty, but not seasoned either. The odor emitting from this product resembled a bad TV Dinner. I tried to taste it; near tasteless. I hope the cat enjoys it.

Regarding Walmart’s apparent success during these recessionary times, one MNB user observed:

Ah, don't count your chickens quite yet. It seems that besides selling groceries all they can sell are televisions and Rx ( both with slim profits and hopefully they picked up some market share from Circuit City.. ). What I heard their CEO say is the 1st and 15th are the busy days.. which means to me food stamps and a customer who has little to no extra money to spend. Old retail trick, stand up by the checkouts and see what the customer is buying. I did and it’s not hard lines or soft lines, and that is where the profits are. One thing this Bentonville Behemoth DID NOT want to become is a grocery store selling general merchandise vs. a general merchandise store selling groceries.

Seems the marketing folks are getting a lot of high praise, I would just love to see at the end of the day just how much they have spent vs. the ROI.... Buying market share is not all that tuff, just ask the cola guys, keeping it is a different story...

Walmart CEO Mike Duke said last week that he expected no quick end to the recession, prompting one MNB user to write:

Regarding Mike Duke’s comments about the recession: I didn’t see the interview so maybe this is just out of context so you may think I’m being too cynical but….There has been a lot of talk about the possibility that the economic crisis perhaps bottoming out, if not improving just yet. I’ve seen numerous comments about the mental aspects of the recession. It seems to me that it is in Walmart’s best interest to perpetuate the dour mood and even to prolong the recovery. If I was making profitable lemonade out of lemons, I’d want to keep the lemons coming so to speak. Going on national TV and telling everyone how bad things are but if you’ll only shop with us, we can help seems pretty shrewd but self serving.

I don't think you are too cynical.

On another subject, MNB user Tom Kroupa wrote:

I would take issue with you calling the new FTC attorney David Vladeck "anti business". When a business does not serve its customers well --as so many have done in these past years-- wanting them to change does not make us consumers "anti-business" does it? For example, if I don't like shopping at K-Mart I can choose another retailer to five my business to. But what if all the other retailers are like K-Mart? This is what has happened to certain industries in our country for the past twenty years such as the financial industry, food companies and credit card issuers. In this way, David Vladeck could be said to be "pro-business" because he was chosen to make business more accountable to consumers than they have been. Being pro-business is being pro consumer in my mind!

For the record, MNB reported that “By almost any measure, Vladeck is perceived as potentially one of the most consumer-oriented people to serve in the FTC post, and he is expected to pursue an activist agenda in areas of consumer and advertising issues especially when it comes to the food industry, marketing to children, privacy issues and financial products.

And I commented: This was to be expected from the Obama administration. The anti-business mood of the country right now is bound to create an even tougher atmosphere for some industries, which no doubt will find the next four years to be long ones.

I never said that Vladeck was anti-business. I in fact said that he was “consumer-oriented,” and that the country is in an anti-business mood.

To be clear about this, if MNB has been about anything for the past eight years, it has been about the belief that being pro-consumer is good for business.

We had an email critical of Tesco’s Fresh & Easy last week, which led MNB user Tom Murphy to write:

If anyone wonders about the viability of Fresh & Easy and their ability to impact competitor sales in a market place, I suggest they contact Bashas in Phoenix. They are being hurt by Fresh & Easy (in full disclosure also by Frys, Safeway, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and Sprouts Farmers Markets) in terms of sales and gross margin. By no means is Fresh & Easy killing competitors, just eating away at their sales and profits. As an industry, we have to realize that anyone who sells food, and this includes CVS, Walgreens, 7-Eleven & various restaurants, is our competitor.

And finally, I want to thank everyone who wrote in on Friday to say that they didn’t know what “tea bagging” was, either.

I feel better now.
KC's View: