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    Published on: April 28, 2009

    by Michael Sansolo

    Living in a glass house, I should never be surprised when a stone comes through the window. But this time I got hit with one that provides too many wonderful examples to ignore.

    Last week I wrote a column critical of Walmart’s new Marketside format for, in part, failing to communicate clearly what it actually sells. The column got me the strangest response e-mail ever.

    It came from an industry insider who told me he loved that particular column, but on the whole wasn’t a fan of mine. It wasn’t because of anything I wrote; rather it is the name of this column that puts him off. He found Sansolo Speaks pretentious, especially in how it played on the old commercials for E.F. Hutton.

    At that moment, I realized two important things: first, I made the same mistake that I criticized in Walmart, and second, I’m older than I like to admit. Luckily, I think I can share the lessons with all of you.

    The first lesson is simple: don’t assume. If you don’t know this saying, write it down: When you assume you make an ass out of u and me.

    Jokes, like facts, don’t work without context. The play on words in Sansolo Speaks is simple. For years I delivered a speech for FMI called Speaks and I was honored to speak for FMI in that manner. When I left FMI and started speaking for myself, Kevin Coupe and I thought this column’s name would explain that perfectly.

    Only there are far more people reading this column than were in any audience who ever heard the speech, so the joke was probably lost on most of you. Better yet, here I often write (and complain) about the industry not fully explaining things. I opine for greater information on produce items or menus to help our shoppers try new items and buy more product. I still think that’s a great idea because we shouldn’t assume that anyone knows exactly what we know. This time, I have to absorb my own point.

    The second lesson is more painful. I totally remember E.F. Hutton, a powerhouse Wall Street firm. Hutton had a great series of ads in which two investors would be discussing financial advice in a shopping mall, a park, a stadium or a restaurant. After hearing advice from the first investor, the second would always explain that his broker was E.F. Hutton and as he would start to speak he’d notice that all movement nearby had ceased and everyone was listening to what his broker had told him.

    In short, when Hutton spoke, everyone listened. (Sadly, the same does not happen to my columns. Then again, when I call my dog he doesn’t come either.)

    Here’s the pain point though: many of you reading this column have no recollection of that ad because Hutton disappeared in 1988, merging into Shearson Lehman Hutton. So the great ad that the MNB user referenced and that triggered this column actually disappeared more than 20 years ago (and let’s not discuss what happened to that combined investment house.)

    It was a stark reminder to me that the cultural references I think of so easily are completely foreign to a staggering number of people who I hope are reading this column. It's probably an issue we all have with associates, customers, business partners and certainly our children.

    So the lesson is simple: Explain, don’t assume. Assuming only leads to trouble. And in glass houses it leads to broken windows.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com .

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    Alfalfa sprouts are the latest product to be suspected of being contaminated with salmonella, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are recommending that people not to eat them raw.

    Salmonella infections have been identified in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia.

    The contamination, according to one report, appears to be in seeds, so simply washing the alfalfa sprouts may not solve the problem.

    KC's View:
    On the surface this seems to be a smaller issue that the salmonella contaminations connected to peanuts and pistachios…but it contributes to the overall cacophony that makes people lose faith in the integrity of the food supply.

    The seriousness of this broader issue cannot be understated.

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    The New York Times reports this morning that FreshDirect, the pure-play New York City-based online grocery service, has reached an agreement with New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office that will lead to the installation of “shutoff systems that will keep the trucks from idling longer than permitted by city law.”

    NYC regulations require that trucks and buses not run with their engines idling for more than three minutes, while the state has a five-minute idling law. Complaints had been lodged about the FreshDirect truck engines idling for longer than is acceptable.

    However, FreshDirect tells the Times that “the upgrade would not affect the equipment that has led to occasional complaints about the company — a smaller motor that runs refrigeration equipment to keep the food fresh. The new equipment will shut off only the engine that powers the drive train. The two operate separately.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    The Los Angeles Times reports that two United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) locals – 1036 and 770 – plan to merge next month, creating what is called “the single largest local in the grocery workers union, with more than 40,000 members working at stores in a region that stretches from Los Angeles north to Santa Maria and Bakersfield.”

    It is said that the move will allow the union to spend more time efficiently organizing non-union shops.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    Marketing Daily makes the point that the ongoing recession is giving momentum to the notion that people should simplify their lives…a concept that certainly applies to food preparation and consumption.

    The story quotes Margaret Kime, director of innovation with brand-building consultancy Fletcher Knight, as saying that “simplicity is the new sophistication.”

    Kime says that successful brands in 2009 stress "quality, purity, authenticity, superior taste and optimum nutrition and health,” and require ease of preparation. "Our research suggests that brands that celebrate the aesthetic beauty in real ingredients, simple preparation and artful presentation will be aligned with the driving philosophy that good food is eaten fresh and prepared unpretentiously."

    KC's View:
    We all define simplicity differently, but here would be the Content Guy’s recipe for a simple meal: a salad made from a thick juicy tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese and a bit of pesto…some crusty bread dipped in olive oil with red pepper…and a good bottle of wine.

    Don't know how sophisticated it is…but it works here, and takes about five minutes to prepare.

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    Dow Jones reports that Walmart Canada’s newest supercenters tend to be about 100,000 square feet, far smaller than the typical 140,000 square foot supercenters that the company typically has opened.

    "It's cost-efficient in terms of land, construction and equipment, thus lowering our operating costs, resulting in lower prices for our customers. It also fits well with our focus on environmental sustainability because it decreases the size of our footprint," Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Andrew Pelletier tells Dow Jones.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    • Supervalu-owned Acme Markets has followed the lead of Supervalu’s Albertsons stores and decided to eliminate home delivery of groceries. Instead, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Acme will only offer pickup service at 40 stores in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
    KC's View:
    Most brick-and-mortar retailers that I talk to seem to feel that the pickup model is the best way to achieve online profitability, so this is a sensible move.

    However, Acme should be careful to make the order process as convenient as possible for shoppers, allowing consumers to place their orders very close to the time when they will pick up their groceries. I’m thinking two hours is about right – this allows someone to place an order while still at work and then swing by the store to pick things up on the way home. That may stress the store infrastructure a bit…but it is important to be shopper-centric in building these models.

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    • Tesco reportedly has reached an agreement with UK insurance company Friends Provident that will allow the insurer to sell its products in Tesco stores there.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    USA Today reports that $5 seems to be the magic number at lunchtime for some sit-down casual dining restaurants, which have been struggling with how to maintain sales during a recession when brown-bagging seems like a more financially appealing option.

    Case in point: TGI Friday’s has introduced a $5 lunch menu that lowers prices on items that apparently have not been priced so low since 1965. The goal is to help the chain compete more effectively with the likes of Subway and Panera Bread, which have lower prices and greater recessionary appeal.

    • The Seattle Times writes that Starbucks is out with its Global Responsibility Report, saying that it “bought 2.7 billion paper cups last year and figures that by using cups with 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber, it saved 118,754 trees.

    Not good enough, however. Starbucks also says that it “wants to have a recyclable cup available by 2012 and to have all its cups be reusable or recyclable by 2015. It also wants to reestablish ceramic mugs as the standard for people who drink their coffee in stores.”

    • There are published reports out of the Czech Republic saying that Ahold plans to merge its two chains there, Albert and Hypernova, and close more than 20 stores that have been underperforming. The moves are part of a reorganization initiative that, the company says, is not aimed an eventually divesting the stores there.

    • Kirin, the Japanese brewer, reportedly will pay the equivalent of $2.5 billion (US) to acquire the 54 percent of Lion Nathan, Australia’s second largest beer manufacturer that it does not already own.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    • Ingles Markets said that its second quarter net sales increased to $789.2 million, from $782.8 million during the same period a year ago. Q2 net income decreased to $7.8 million, from $13.0 million a year ago.

    • Canada’s Jean Coutu Group reports that its fourth quarter revenue was $603.1 million (US), more than doublet the loss declared during the same period a year ago. Q4 revenue was the equivalent of $495.4 million (US), compared to $451.3 million a year ago, on same-store sales that were up 6.4 percent.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2009

    will return.
    KC's View: