retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to last week’s story about how Bruno’s employees who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reportedly have taken steps to authorize a strike that could take place if the bankrupt retailer is sold, one MNB user wrote:

It never ceases to amaze me how unions continue to use the same tactics and ultimately cause their employer to go under. The net result is that they lose jobs. Seems counter productive.

Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result?

We had a number of emails regarding the story last week saying that five chains operating pharmacies in New York State have agreed – under pressure from NY Attorney General; Andrew Cuomo – to provide prescription instructions in five languages other than English: Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian and French.

One MNB user responded:

The main reason for this is to save lives. The main issue is more than the standard drug information, which the drug companies provide, it is the directions for taking the medication. The directions must be printed in both the person’s selected language and in English so the pharmacist knows that the code they entered for the instructions is correct; they put in a shorthand code that is expanded to something readable.

The retailers implementing this valuable feature will not be limiting this to NY. Once you do the work to support this feature you might as well roll it out across the country and market it as a service.

You may also want to note that CVS already supports 150 languages via 800 number support.

But another MNB user disagreed:

From a moral sense, yes, it does seem like the right thing to do, but to add these additional languages there is a cost. Those cost get passed on to all consumers. So then I have to ask while we are talking about what is fair, let’s look at the other side of the coin and ask if is it right for everyone else to have to pick up the tab? I think not. After all, isn’t English still official language of the US. Should I expect the French to require bi lingual labels and packaging because I want to shop in a Carrefour when I’m over there and need to get a bottle of aspirin, but don’t speak the language? We’re a country that loves entitlements, or call them what you will, but we forget that there is a cost associated with them that we all pay. Hopefully if anything good comes from the current economic conditions it just might be that realization. Cynically I doubt it.

I get your point. But New York is not France.

(What was it Gene Hackman, as Detective Popeye Doyle, said in “French Connection II?” Oh yeah…”I’d rather be a lamppost in New York than the president of France.”)

Another MNB user wrote:

I have mixed feelings about forcing pharmacies to be able to communicate in so many languages in New York State. Part of me says, that if you live hear you should learn English. The part of me that once volunteered as a teacher at an ESL program at my church realizes that no matter how well an immigrant learns English, it will always be their second language. Just think, if you or I migrated to say Russia, even if we learned to speak Russian fluently, we would always be most comfortable in English as that is what we grew up with, it is what we are most nuanced in. That being said, I would think in a place like New York State, businesses would make an effort to communicate in several languages, it would make good business sense.

And still another MNB user wrote:

Why can't "the market" drive this? Or if Mr. Cuomo thinks it's so important, why doesn't the state pay for this service? And what about access to the same languages when you talk to your doctor about your treatment? What about when you buy a house; can you get all the documents in Russian? And a car? And your extended warranty? Can you file your New York state taxes in Russian, and are all the tax codes available in these five languages? How about basic services like transportation? Are there subway maps in Russian? (are there any maps available!?) Will the state provide a Russian interpreter for your court hearing should you get arrested? Where does it stop? The Pharmacy business is important and this service critical. But why doesn't Mr. Cuomo call it what it is, a tax on the Drug store companies?

Then again, I forget it's politics, not government service....

We’ve had lots of stories about the growth of private brands lately, which led MNB user Bob Anderson to write:

For all the great suppliers and Retailers who have work so hard for many years to improve the quality of most Store Brands this news is well earned. I hope that not too much is made to the point that the recession is why Store Brand continue to grow, as this TREND had been taking place for years. I would hope that credit is being given to the customer for being better educated on value, quality and the "why pay more " philosophy. In addition manufactures have done a much better job of improving quality, packaging and yes understand " their" store brand. I would also like to point out that the PLMA, their management team and members have done an outstanding job of helping all better understand the role and needs of Store Brands. I sure that this TREND will continue to build much into the future.

Another MNB user wrote:

I have been involved in the private label business for over 15 years working with manufacturers and retailers developing new items, improving quality and packaging while maintain a value proposition to the brands. The recession certainly gave the private label industry a boost but is not solely responsible for the current state of the business. The retailers and the manufacturers need to be given the majority of the credit for investing the time and money in developing their products and label to the point it is today. The recession is enhancing the state of the private label industry which will only help us grow for years to come.

And another MNB user chimed in:

We are a national company that manufactures both our brands and private label. Our research shows that where retailers stock only private label in a category (in this case perishable prepared foods) that category sales decline. It’s fair to say that overworked buyer/merchandisers at big retail chains do not have the opportunity to romance and connect the consumer emotionally with their store brands, therefore store-brand-only simply fulfills pre-existing demand. Retailers also don’t have mechanisms for product or package innovations that help drive category interest. The best scenario is at least 2 brands: PL and national. I agree if you are brand #3, 4 or 5 you are in danger.
KC's View: