retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding the possibility that wine could be sold in plastic bottles, MNB user Mat Weeks wrote:

I see this as a provocation, and a great one. We should challenge the wine merchants to direct their plastic bottle manufacturers to come up with a stiffer, more glass-like "feel" so that the tactile experience is more what we expect. However, I fear, subsequent generations will be more interested in the Green aspect and bio-degradable "features" than the "problem" with the look and feel of the container. I propose that if great wine were to be shipped in a box or big plastic jug, the opportunity that confronts us is to a) defend the taste in blind tastings (99% of the population would fail, both because our taste is not as highly developed as some, and also because the taste is truly not that different), and b) why not be entrepreneurial and create a new line of reusable glass decanters and wine bottles for use at home. We could re-enter an era in which fine glassware was used to serve wine that came from our own property, from our own hands, from our own labors. It may even be that wine stored in said "new-fangled" containers would keep longer if the closures were designed with up-to-date fittings and vacuum features. How's that for making vinegar into salad dressing, or something like that?

Y’know, this is intelligent and innovative thinking. I still have a knee-jerk reaction to plastic wine bottles, but you may excellent points.

One MNB user said that my reaction was elitist, and MNB user Philip Herr responded:

I really don't think you were being elitist, just lamenting one more marker on the way down to the lowest denominator. A parallel can be found in blister packs. Most convenient for retailers (hanging displays rather than stacking and of course discouraging "shrink"), but not at all for the shopper. Interesting that Amazon has chosen to eliminate them wherever possible. The key issue here is keeping the shopper/consumer in mind when making these kinds of changes and asking whether or not it makes for a better brand experience.

Got the following email from MNB user Tom Murphy:

You mentioned some of the challenges that Bashas has in your blog. But one that might not be too obvious is the need to compete in a market with rapidly changing dynamics.

Phoenix is arguably the toughest, most competitive market in the U.S. Key players include Kroger (Frys), Safeway, WalMart (Supercenters, MarketPlace, etc.), and Tesco (Fresh & Easy). All of these companies are supported by reams of data, numerous technology tools for analysis/action, and a mindset of skilled, experienced resources to use these to respond quickly to market forces, e.g., economic, competitive, and consumer changes.

While Bashas is a good company and a good community neighbor, insiders indicate that they are woefully lacking in the data, tools, and mindset to keep up with the changing market place. In today’s world of grocery, especially in markets like Phoenix, the old mentality of “buy it low, stack it high, watch it go” is a recipe for Chapter 11.

These days, business as usual is almost never an option.
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