Published on: July 6, 2009
What a week.
It started with the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, followed by the deaths of Billy Mays, Karl Malden, Steve McNair, Herb Klein, Harve Presnell, Fred Travalena and Gale Storm.
And if that wasn’t enough, Sarah Palin decided not to run for re-election in Alaska’s gubernatorial race next year and to step down from the job later this month, and Minnesota now is represented by Senator Al Franken.
There also was some stuff that happened in the retail business. (Appropriate – or even inappropriate - commentary is in italics.
• It has been reported that Safeway and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) plan to return to the bargaining table next week, and that the two sides have agreed to extend the current – and expired – contract to July 18.
went on holiday, Safeway employees rejected the retailer’s latest contract offer and re-authorized a strike that was first authorized on May 8. These two sides can keep extending deadlines and negotiating as long as they want. Neither side can afford a labor action, whether a strike or a lockout, especially in this economy. Of course, it’s possible they’ll keep negotiating until there is a recovery, in which case all bets are off…
• The Wall Street Journal
reported that Procter & Gamble plans to test a cheaper version of its flagship Tide brand – the products will cost roughly 20 percent less and contain none of the bells and whistles (like fragrances) of the regular product. The initial test will be conducted at Walmart and Kroger stores, and will endeavor to see if the product can boost sales during recessionary times.
Tide Basic will be sold only as a powder, and in yellow packaging that will differentiate it from Tide’s usual orange boxes.I understand this in theory, but I have to wonder if this hurts Tide’s brand equity in the long run. I know that P&G will do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen, but it sort of minimizes the importance of the bells and whistles in which P&G has invested so much money, time and effort. But then again, what do I know?
• Crain’s Chicago Business
reports that Walmart is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of opening a second store within the Chicago city limits. An amendment to a development agreement that would have allowed Walmart to open a store in the 21st Ward has been stalled in committee, but Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. – who has been fighting to bring a Walmart to his community – says he expects that a vote will take place later this month and that he believes he can garner the necessary votes to make it happen.
Walmart only has one store in Chicago, and has said that it can generate both jobs and sales tax revenue for the city, but union interests have thus far prevented it from achieving expansion plans there.
• The Wall Street Journal
reported that coupon fraud is on the increase – in 2007, there were just nine cases of investigated or prosecuted coupon fraud, but in the past eighteen months there have been a whopping 93 – and the numbers are expected to continue to grow. The cost of the fraud is estimated to be tens of million of dollars, and experts say that continued hard economic times make it likely that things will get worse before they get better.
• The Dallas Morning News
reported that 7-Eleven is offering military veterans the opportunity to purchase franchises for fees that have been reduced by 10 percent.
"This is the first time we have offered a reduction like this in our franchise fees, and I can't think of a better group to receive this benefit than the men and women who have so selflessly served to protect the freedoms we enjoy in America," said 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto.You can't help but love this. It just seems like the right thing to do.
reports that Walgreen “may open ‘several thousand’ work-site health clinics in coming years to tap into the $7.3 billion market for employer-provided care, a company executive said.
“Walgreen, which currently has 373 employer-sponsored workplace clinics, will slow retail store expansion to focus in part on the initiative, Peter Hotz, president of Walgreen's Take Care Employer Solutions Group, said yesterday in a telephone interview. The facilities provide primary-care physicians, nurse practitioners, nutritionists and other services, he said.”
According to the story, Walgreen currently “is the largest provider of workplace health clinics, with a 20 percent market share.”Add this into the contextual discussion of how health care needs to change in this country. Old boundaries are breaking down, and companies like Walgreen are finding new ways to make new connections with new customers. It’s very smart.
• USA Today
reported that some health experts are alarmed at the increased use of energy drinks, especially by high school and college athletes, saying that “athletes who consume too many energy drinks could suffer from dehydration, tremors, heat stroke and heart attacks.”
There are calls for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require warning labels on energy drinks, but the FDA says it does not have the legal authority to require such labels. And the manufacturer of Red Bull – the biggest and most successful in the category – says that it does not believe that such labeling is necessary.I’ve been saying here for years that eventually there will be a major investigation into the health impact of energy drinks, and the news will not be good…and it will leave purveyors of these drinks open to all sorts of litigation. These things are a disaster waiting to happen.
• McDonald’s announced that it has begun selling its premium Angus Burger – one third of a pound of beef on a high-end bun that comes in three varieties and costs $4 – on a nationwide basis…and will use the rollout to determine whether it should be a permanent menu item. The goal is to compete with fast casual chains such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Smashburger, according to a Dow Jones
story.Okay, I’m making an admission here. We went to McDonald’s while on vacation last week while on vacation, and I ate one of the Angus burgers. And it wasn't bad.
It wasn’t Five Guys. It wasn’t as good as any of the burgers that made the list of great burger joints that the MNB community put together some months ago. (At least, the ones that I’ve tried.) And I’ve never had a Smashburger. But my kids would say, it didn’t suck.
• Starbucks finally delivered on long-promised menu improvements, eliminating trans fats from all of the food items being sold in its US stores. The retailer also is eliminating artificial flavors and dyes, cutting down on artificial preservatives, and using whole grains and berries as a way of appealing to more health-conscious consumers.
• Baskin-Robbins, according to a story in the Patriot-Ledger
, is “trying out two new store concepts designed to appeal to value-conscious customers and more of an upscale.”
The upscale version is called Cafe BR and “is getting a test run at Patriot Place in Foxboro. Baskin-Robbins is using the store as a proving ground for menu novelties such as ice cream bombes and chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick.” The value-driven model is called BR Express, and was “designed with today’s harsh economic conditions in mind. Start-up fees are just $1,000. BR Express stores will specialize in soft-serve ice cream available in unusual flavors such as pralines and cream and toppings such as ‘magic sprinkles’ that change colors.”Retailers, no matter what business they happen to be in, have to find new ways to connect with shoppers…and there is no reason that Baskin Robbins should be any different. We approve.