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    Published on: August 20, 2009

    Now available on iTunes…

    To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    It has been an interesting week for shoppers to engage in unique dialogues, both with each other and with companies that they feel strongly about.

    First, you have all the discussion taking place on the website of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where there is continued local reaction to the possibility that Ukrop’s Super Markets could be sold, either to a competing supermarket chain or a private equity group.

    The contributions on the site’s message boards are all over the map. Some people are criticizing the Ukrop family for even considering the sale of the company, which has been a longtime and generous community supporter. Some think it is a matter of money, some believe it is a generational issue. Some argue that whoever or whatever buys the chain, they should stick with the longtime policy of staying closed on Sunday and not selling booze; others feel that such policies are outmoded and make life inconvenient for shoppers. I think I detect greater concern about a private equity firm buying Ukrop’s as opposed to another chain, with worries that a equity group will focus only on the bottom line and not on the corporate culture.

    There even are some folks on the paper’s website who seem intent on refighting the Civil War, with wanton attacks on Southerners for being slow and unsophisticated and Northerners for being crass and annoying. Maybe it’s because I spent a few days at Gettysburg last week – a trip, by the way, that I heartily recommend – but some of this didn’t surprise me…a visit to those battlefields and listening to various descriptions made me think that a lot of the antagonism between North and South hasn’t really gone away, and recent news stories have sort of cemented this notion.

    At the same time, as already covered this week here on MorningNewsBeat, there has been a lot of debate back and forth via the Internet about the column opposing health care reform that was written for the Wall Street Journal by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey … a column that has thoroughly irritated and perhaps even disenfranchised a number of Whole Foods shoppers who thought the company stood for liberal values like health care reform and have been startled to discover that maybe the company isn’t everything they thought it was. Of course, maybe it never was…maybe they have been projecting their own values on the company all along. But they are disappointed, and it shows.

    Now, we’ve had a lot of this back and forth on MorningNewsBeat as well…you’ll see more of it below in “Your Views.” And I have to say that as I read the emails – both the ones that are posted and the ones that didn’t make the cut for reasons of space and time – the good news is that they are making me think about the issues in different ways.

    But here’s the really, really good news…

    While neither company is likely taking any pleasure in all the public discussion of their decisions and positions, they should feel good that the very debate points to the fact that both Ukrop’s and Whole Foods matter.

    The rumored sale of a lot of retailers around the country and the world wouldn’t get their shoppers up in arms the way that the Ukrop’s speculation has. And the public policy opinions of a lot of CEOs would hardly raise an eyebrow in most households, let alone create a call for boycotts.

    But that’s what happened here. Both companies matter.

    That means that both companies and their leaders actually have a greater responsibility in their work, not just to employees and shareholders, but also to their shoppers…who consider these stores to be part of the fabric of their lives. It means they have to nurture these feelings, not ignore them … even when those feelings are more a projection of other people’s values onto their corporate structure. It doesn’t matter, because it is that projection…that intensity of passion…that makes their businesses special. And hopefully enduring.

    It doesn’t mean that everybody is going to love you. And sometimes you simply have to do business the best way you can, even if it means you have to disappoint folks from time to time.

    The passion that these shoppers feel for Ukrop’s and Whole Foods is palpable, and the leadership of both companies should feel encouraged that whatever their next steps, it gives them a terrific foundation on which to build.

    But they should build carefully, and with a sense of responsibility, respect and even humility.

    For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    Bloomberg reports that Nestlé is once again distributing its Toll House cookie dough to supermarkets, two months after a recall cased by concerns about E. coli contamination resulted in a voluntary recall of all the product in the US.

    However, the new packaging will carry a label that says “New Batch,” and also will warn consumers that they should not eat the product raw.

    The source of the E. coli contamination remains uncertain. While packaging from a Virginia Toll House plant was found to be tainted with E. coli, it wasn't the same form of the bacteria that made more than 70 people sick.
    KC's View:
    Getting my daughter to stop eating raw cookie dough is going to be a little tough…but I’m going to have to lay down the law. Tell you one thing, she’s going to be thrilled when the product is back in the refrigerated section of the store – she’s been asking me when it’ll be back pretty much once a week since the recall.

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    Business Week reports on the ongoing battle between Walmart and Target, which seems to have favored Walmart during a recessionary climate where people were looking for any and all ways to save money. One of Target’s problems, the story suggests, is that it relied too much on discretionary purchases, which accounted for more than half of sales.

    “For investors and even executives, the crucial question is what happens next,” Business Week writes. “Those who are expecting an improvement in the economy and a recovery in consumer spending tend to favor Target.”

    Of course, Target apparently remains committed in general to its “cheap chic” strategy – while it is putting more of an emphasis on low prices, it is being careful not to engage in deep discounting that could erode its brand equity. And Walmart remains focused on its always-low-prices philosophy.

    So the central question, analysts say, seems to be what the economy will do – and to what extent consumers will be willing to spend a little bit more money on discretionary purchases: “A slight recovery in the economy could be enough to get shoppers buying again,” Business Week writes. “But it may not be enough to send customers back to pricier specialty and department stores.

    “In any environment, the competition between Target and Wal-Mart will remain cutthroat. The onus is on Target to prove it can stop the slide in sales and customer traffic. And, Wal-Mart, with its global reach and deep pockets, is not known for taking competition lying down.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    There was a fascinating piece on the website yesterday that looked at the tricks employed by winemakers to improve the quality of a vast number of wines.

    “Trick No. 1 is something called Mega Purple,” the report says. “Not figuratively literally. Produced by the same company that gave us Manischewitz, Mega Purple is a grape concentrate that adds fruit and color to red wine. You’ve surely consumed it. Winemakers use an estimated 10,000 gallons of the stuff every year—because only a tiny amount is needed to fix an entire barrel, Mega Purple is probably being added to over 25 million bottles of wine annually.”

    The story suggests that adding Mega Purple to wine could be considered akin to baseball players using steroids – what people are drinking may taste good, but it hasn’t been arrived at through methods that would be considered traditional. And the question is whether somehow consumers are being duped, sold something that isn’t quite what they are being told it is.

    “Creating deliciousness from the raw ingredients of nature is the calling of the winemaker,” the report says. “You cannot fault him for using every tool in the toolbox to make the best possible wine. However, the race to gain popularity with the wine-drinking public and higher ratings from Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate has forced winemakers from around the world to all use the same set of tools. This road ends at a paradox: Never have there been so many good-tasting wines, and never have so many of them tasted so much alike.”
    KC's View:
    I’m not sure this is exactly like the lowest common denominator product development that afflicts so much of our culture, but it is, to be honest, uncomfortably close.

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    There is a great piece on the Washington Post website by David Zinczenko, editor of Men’s Health, in which he notes that a recent study on obesity determined that overweight people tend to share a number of characteristics:

    • They use larger plates.
    • They like to look at food while they eat, and prefer restaurant seats overlooking the buffet table to seats looking out a window.
    • They choose efficiency when picking utensils – preferring, for example, forks and spoons over chopsticks.
    • They clean their plates.
    • They chew faster than skinny people.
    • And they skip breakfast, which Zinczenko says increases the likelihood of obesity by 450 percent.
    KC's View:
    One of the points that Zinczenko makes is that to a great degree, the restaurant industry has studied consumer eating habits to such a meticulous degree that it understands how to get people to eat more. Which results in a national obesity problem.

    (Based on some of the emails I’ve been getting this week, I feel like I should add, not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

    The point here is that this could give supermarket retailers a point of differentiation, if they choose to use it: In the battle against obesity, we’re on your side. This may not be the most elegant marketing construction…but you get my point.

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    • The St. Petersburg Times reports that discount grocer Aldi is getting more aggressive in Florida: “With six new stores set to open by year's end in the Orlando area, the German grocer has turned its attention to filling in holes in the bay area and entering South Florida for the first time. By the time the dust settles in two years, Aldi's 26 Florida stores are planned to double, and nine Aldis in the four-county (Tampa) bay area promises to be closer to 20.”

    The strategy pits Aldi not just against Walmart, but also directly against Save-A-Lot, the limited assortment discount store that is owned and operated by Supervalu.

    • Supervalu announced yesterday that its remodeled La Habra, California Albertsons store “has been awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver established by the by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) making it the first major retail grocery store to receive such recognition for an interior remodel.”

    The company notes that “this 55,221 square foot format’s interior energy saving measures include: water saving faucets, fixtures and sensors installed in the restrooms to reduce the amount of water by over 45%; Internet energy monitoring of refrigeration, lighting, air-conditioning and heating equipment; New carbon dioxide sensors and high grade air filters to keep air inside the store clean and fresh; (and) over 40 skylights combined with photo sensor controlled dimmable lighting on the sales floor that create a comfortable shopping experience while reducing the store’s electricity usage.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    • Dave Norton, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Haggen and its TOPS supermarket chain, reportedly plans to retire next month. No replacement has yet been named.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    • BJ’s Wholesale Club said that its second quarter earnings were $35.1 million, down from $36.5 million during the same period a year earlier. Q2 revenue fell roughly 5 percent to $2.57 billion, on same-store sales that were down 7.7 percent with gasoline, but were up 2.9 percent excluding gasoline.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    • Don Hewitt, the pioneering television news producer who created “60 Minutes” as well as serving as director and producer of the first Kennedy-Nixon televised debate in 1960, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. He was 86.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    More email, as promised, about Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s opposition to federal health care reform, and the subsequent negative reaction of some Whole Foods customers who seemed to feel that he was betraying values that they thought were important and held by the natural/organic food retailer.

    One MNB user wrote:

    You say in your view on the debate, "I wish we lived in a country where reasoned and rational political discourse could take place, but we don't." I disagree. As consumers, the only way to express our opinions is to either support a company by purchasing their goods and services or not, otherwise known as a boycott. This is democracy in action and the definition of "rational political discourse." Former customers aren't throwing bricks through Whole Foods' windows, they are choosing not to make a view they don't agree with more powerful through boycott. If a company's leaders remain neutral in social and political debates and reinvest the profits made by the company solely in the company, then consumers should either support or not support that company based on its operational merits. However, if a company chooses to weigh in on political and social issues, attempting to sway the debate and influence the outcome (as John Mackey did) then customers have every right to make their voices heard by supporting or boycotting said company.

    Corporations hold so much power in our lives today - influencing social, political and environmental policy - however, we don't get to vote on who runs these corporations. The only power we have is to vote with our dollars and to elect representatives that will protect citizen's rights. Why should Mackey and other executives have a voice in the debate, but not elected government officials (i.e. Mackey's op-ed "...criticizing the Obama administration’s health care initiatives and suggesting that the government should not get involved.)? We need to stop viewing government as the enemy and start using government for what it was designed as - the voice and will of the people.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I’m not as disillusioned with America as you are regarding the reaction to free speech. Accountability is vital to free speech as a check and balance. While I don’t support a boycott of Whole Foods based on the remarks of John Mackey, he should be held accountable to his consumers who feel strongly on this issue.

    I will not patronize businesses that advertise certain positions. They are free to express those views, but I make the leap that they likely financially support those views and I’m not willing to contribute to that.

    MNB user Ron Bartlett wrote:

    You wrote: “Whether liberal or conservative, it would be my perception that Whole Foods customers probably tend to be an educated lot…and so I find it ironic in some ways that they would find any sort of open sharing of opinion to be unacceptable.”

    It isn’t irony, the plain fact is that whatever the subject, liberals are only ever tolerant of people who either agree with their point of view, or hold views even more liberal. Any opposing view is not allowed to be heard… ever.

    Most so-called right wing people (ignoring the extremes) are tolerant, to a point, of liberal views. Most liberals are intolerant, and take offence at the slightest provocation.

    However, if you position your brand as espousing liberal values, then upsetting your core customers in not too smart.

    I would disagree with this. I haven't noticed that right wing people have any greater levels of tolerance than left wing people … and I get plenty of email from both sides.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    KC - you missed the point of the Whole Foods debate - it's not about being rational, it's about understanding your brand and how consumers see you. It's not what you say you are, it's what they say you are...

    When you have dedicated fans, like Whole Foods does, they put the company on a pedestal. Good retailers intimately understand what that pedestal entails and endeavor to shore it up. They missed on this one. Sorry, but when you're a CEO, it's not about free speech or open political discourse, it's about your image and leadership and how that enhances and builds the brand.

    If you want a political discourse, run for office. Or be willing to take it in the teeth when you run afoul of your brand.

    No argument.

    MNB user Annette Knapp wrote:

    Before - I wish I could have afforded to shop at Whole Foods to support their liberal leaning values. That's why many shop at whole foods and pay them that extra money - to support their cultural and political aspirations - i.e. way pro environment, mega composting, healthy foods, we take great care of our employees.... Hello, that's why I paid extra for a Prius (naive or not). If Toyota's CEO came out and said (like Exxon's does) - yeah, these cars are a cute diversion, but we're interested in keeping you tethered to an oil-based economy for the next 100 years - I sure would be less inclined to buy another one. You've got to be kidding me that these companies shouldn't know their audience. You can't sell your groceries with an agenda and then try to separate that agenda from your sales all the sudden. This was a mistake pure and simple.

    i>MNB user Jeff Foster wrote:

    The old expression "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts." seems to be at work here. Is this CEO being persecuted for his thoughts? As you stated, we need a rational discourse on the whole health care subject.

    On the subject of Walmart making a deal to exclusively sell the new album – the first in a decade – produced by Kiss, one MNB user wrote:

    Well there is the reason I will not purchase Kiss’s new CD. Anytime an “Artist” signs exclusively with Walmart I will not support them. It makes it even easier for Walmart to stay #1 (this case #2) when you shut your competition out with contracts instead of head to head battle. You always say do what you do best, or what separates you from Walmart to compete against them. When they lock up exclusive contracts, it isn’t a level playing field.

    MNB took note yesterday of a story in the Oregonian saying that the state’s Department of Agriculture has begun a public awareness campaign to remind both retailers and shoppers that there is a law against people bringing their dogs into the supermarket.

    According to the story, there has been a growing trend toward people bringing their dogs to previously off-limits places – ranging from hotels to brewpubs – as pets are perceived by some as being members of the family rather than as, well, pets.

    According to the story, “Dogs stand accused of urinating in aisles, licking meat packages, sniffing food items. Every once in a while, a complaint involves a snake around someone's neck or a rabbit carried in a purse, but canines are the primary offenders.”

    I agreed that dogs don't belong in stores…but not everyone felt the same way.

    MNB user Barbara A. Wunder wrote:

    I’d rather see a dog in the meat aisle than dying in a parked car on a hot August day in Florida. How about an area by the front door that’s staffed where people could drop their dogs off when they shop? Bet they could find kids who would love a summer job like that!

    Not a bad idea. Not bad at all.

    MNB user Alex Drew wrote:

    My Dogs are better behaved than many kids I see running around in supermarkets and other accounts. So does that mean that we can ban kids from these places too? If that ever came up for a vote I would be the first one to pull the "yes" lever.

    But, one MNB user wrote:

    I couldn’t agree more – dogs belong in places like parks and beaches and backyards, not in the grocery store!

    A few weeks ago I was at my neighborhood (regional banner of national chain) grocery, where I watched a woman yanking her aging German Shepherd through the produce section on a leash. I thought about the meticulous effort and no small amount of expense growers in our industry dedicate to food safety, just to have the lovely heads of iceberg (or tomatoes, or apples) drooled upon by Fido minutes before they land in someone’s grocery cart and I about flipped.

    I complained to the produce clerk who looked at me blankly and suggested I fill in a shopper comment card. Really?

    And another MNB user wrote:

    Having worked in supermarket industry for most of my life I can tell you all the things people are saying that they saw dogs do, I have seen people do them as well......Like allowing their kids urinate in the trash cans, eating and not paying for food, opening jars and boxes and trying items then putting them back on the shelf, breaking off stems of produce items so they don't have to pay for it, etc…

    Got a lot of emails yesterday about our report that a proposed 20-cent fee on all plastic and paper bags handed out by retail stores in the city of Seattle has been defeated in a referendum.

    The city’s council had approved the fee about a year ago, but a petition drive forced a mail referendum; there are reports that in recent weeks the plastic bag industry spent upwards of $1.4 million in advertising to defeat the proposed fee.
    One MNB user wrote:

    It is interesting that the defeat probably came because of the spending done by plastic people which I believe was $1.4 million to zero. I do not know if the “evils” of plastic bags are worse than dirty air but I think every little bit helps. Unfortunately, we have become a society (and we are not the only one) where money buys more votes than “right ideas”. Free speech has been overtaken buy “Money Talks”. Those that have the money to make us “afraid” of what’s right will now win the battle most of the time. This is why we have PR firms – planted articles in newspaper extolling non existent virtues of products and people, ad agencies knowing just how to push the next drug rather than the virtues of healthy habits. The business community will always have more money and reach than the environmental community or those concerned with product safety. It would also do well for public groups to stay focused on the truly important stuff.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I am an active supporter of the environment in many ways, including carrying a supply of multiple canvas bags in the trunk of the car for those times I don’t plan a trip to the store. You would think that someone like me would support this. I didn’t. Cost was not the issue. Nor do I believe it was for many others who voted…possibly it was the result of an informed voter instead?

    To me, it was simply a poorly written law that seemed laden with agendas that had little to do with reducing the use of plastic or paper bags. There were plenty of loopholes that excluded certain types of businesses, provided for some businesses to keep the tax money with certain revenue volumes, with little to no focus on education and encouragement for consumers to make the change. As a matter of fact, for the store I shop at, they all give an unsolicited bag credit for not having to supply the bag(s). This suggests that the consumer is already paying for disposable bags they use even before the addition of a tax such as this, which is simply good cost management and standard business practice.

    Many local food stores have already made efforts to reduce disposable bags and have done so successfully. Those customers, who have changed, have done so not because of the cost, but for informed, concerned choice. They will likely never return to using disposable except for rare circumstances. The stores have a benefit too. Many bags have their store’s branding out in the marketplace, for their reusable bags they gave away or sold at cost are used in many other stores and circumstances too.

    As citizens we have the responsibility to look beyond the headline, to understand what we are choosing. Things are not always as they seem.

    MNB user Ellen Feldman-Ornato wrote:

    Washington, DC enacted a $.05 tax on fee but New York’s failed. Seattle’s bag fee failed but the Outer Banks of NC recently outlawed plastic bags to overwhelming support and San Francisco had one of the first bag bans in the country. Why is this?

    People have emotional responses to issues and make emotional decisions, right? So at a time when the economy is weak, why propose new fees? When people are clipping coupons, eating at home and taking stay-cations, why would elected officials think that their constituents are going to vote for what can only be seen as new taxes/expenses? The bag fee/tax has been hugely successful in Ireland but was enacted when the economy is different.

    Proposals to enact fees & taxes play into the plastic lobby’s marketing campaigns because it gives them “fear of loss” as a motivator to use in their campaigns. When the Canadian plastic lobby came out with a study about germs and reusable bags most said “consider the source,” washed their bags and kept using them. However, the money that the plastic lobby has spent fighting fees (and positioning them as new taxes) has taken advantage of a weakness; people do not want to spend money on bags and suspect the elected officials who would vote to tax more in the current economy. That’s been effective.

    Why not focus, instead, on the negative environmental impacts of plastic bags? Why not use the abundant photo examples of bags stuck in turtles’ mouths, hanging in trees and cluttering storm drains to elicit a more positive impact, a “what can I do to help” response? In the areas where bags have been eliminated by legislation based on the environment, the plastic and paper lobbies have spent time and money fighting with each other, trying to compare which is worse. The good news is that the obvious conclusion is “neither” and the legislation has usually moved to approval.

    I’ve rarely met someone who’s indifferent to abhorrent plastic soup in the Atlantic Ocean. And I’ve yet to meet someone who sees a picture of that turtle choking on that plastic bag that doesn’t say, “why are we using these things?” So, if our goal is a cleaner earth let’s approach that goal based on eliminating single use bags as well as other forms of excessive & toxic packaging. I encourage your readers, the leaders in the supermarket industry, to take a positive leadership role in this ongoing discussion.

    It should be noted that the writer is with EcoBags.

    MNB user Chris Brown wrote:

    While I am ecstatic about the defeat of the bag tax, I am not excited about the move to 'reusable' bags. I, as I am sure most retailers are, am waiting for the first big salmonella sickness linked to someone’s canvas bag. While this will be a small, limited outbreak, it will not be a fun time for the retailer involved. Customers do not clean their bags. Today Mrs. Smith buys chicken, a little juice gets on the bag, the bag goes in the trunk for a few days and then we buy a cantaloupe or ??. The possibilities for cross contamination are endless. I only pray my name is not on the bag. As I said, I will be happy it is only a small outbreak. I see this as a when issue, not an if issue.

    I think the biggest problem with the bag tax was that it was not a tax on all plastic shopping bags. Only grocery, drug and convenience. If you are going to tax bags, make it fair and equitable to ALL retailers in the affected area.

    This notion was seconded by another MNB user:

    I sure would like to see what the bacteria count is in some of these bags after they have been used 10 plus times. Your leaky chicken, this week in a bag and next week your fresh produce. YUK!!

    But another MNB user chimed in:

    It's simple, I think retailers need to stop offering bags for free. Charge consumers for bags and they will quickly learn the cost of bag - develop an education program around it and make sure you offer reasonably priced reusable bags for purchase. If you talk about it right, consumers will embrace it.

    I realize I work in a bubble, but the majority of our shoppers for years have been using their own bags and we recently stopped offering an incentive (10¢ per bag) for them to do so. The result? Barely a ripple unless you count our shoppers who've begun asking us to charge for bags to encourage even more shoppers to reuse bags. Like other innovative food cooperatives in America, we will probably start charging for paper bags within the year. (We don't use many plastic bags).

    We don't need a referendum to do the right thing!

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    Last week in this space, you may recall, I wrote about what appears to be the steady decline of the suburban New York Gannett-owned newspapers where both Michael Sansolo and I got our start three decades ago. In writing about the layoffs and readership declines that have plagued the papers, I noted that it seemed to me that at some level they are victims of a world where newspapers simply are going out of fashion, are becoming irrelevant to the people who used to read them.

    We’ve been talking about this a lot over the past week or so, and one of the ways that we’ve identified as taking the papers off the rails is that they got progressively less local, less connected to the community.

    Thirty years ago, there were eight or nine Gannet newspapers in Westchester County, each one having its own editorial staff and news section. Sure, they shared some staff, stories and resources…but the Daily Times was not the same paper as the Reporter Dispatch.

    Now, over time, this changed. They merged all the papers into one, the Journal News, hoping that this would give the company efficiencies that would pay off in the long run. But precisely the opposite seems to have happened – by being less special, less distinct, less differentiated, the papers lost whatever appeal they might have had…and the Internet actually made the situation worse.

    In other words…and you’ve heard this gospel here before…Gannett chose efficiency over effectiveness. And while it might have looked good on the balance sheets for a little while, ultimately it did not work.

    There is a lesson to be learned here by anyone in the retail business – that even today, when cost-cutting and finding efficiencies are high priorities in almost every organization, it is critical not to lose the local edges that give one a differential advantage. It is critical not to become so efficient that one is no longer very effective.

    Sure, they’re selling news and you’re selling food. But you’re both selling…and it is essential to remain intimately in touch with the audience/customers that you need to survive.

    By the way…and this is important to the metaphorical construct I’m building here…there have been a number of stories recently about how organizations such as MSNBC and the Huffington Post increasingly are looking for was to localize their news coverage. They may be national news organizations, but they understand that in many ways, news – like politics – is mostly local. They want to be in the game…and in doing so, may make the likes of Gannett’s network of local newspapers even more irrelevant.

    Think about that for a moment. Can businesses like actually use their national strengths and marketing muscles to create a more localized shopping experience, one that could eclipse so-called local retailers?

    I’m betting yes…unless local retailers decide to confront the challenge head-on. Tomorrow will be soon enough, though I would have preferred that they had done so yesterday.

    But waiting longer than that may be an unacceptable option.

    It was interesting to read in the San Jose Mercury News this week that CD sales still outstrip music downloads in the US…a fact that surprised me because the growth in downloading has been so much faster.

    But the balance of power is shifting. Experts believe that next year, the two will be neck-and-neck…and by 2011, music downloads will be greater than CD purchases in terms of dollar volume.

    USA Today reported this week on a new study saying that binge drinking, long considered to be the province of the young, actually is a growing problem among aging Americans.

    According to the story, a study by Duke University suggests that “22% of men and 9% of women ages 50 to 64 engaged in binge drinking — five or more drinks at a time — within the past month of the survey.” And, the same study found that 14% of men and 3% of women over 65 had engaged in such risky behavior.

    USA Today also notes that the survey also found that 19% of the men and 13% of the women between the ages of 50 and 64 “had two or more drinks a day, considered heavy or ‘at-risk’ drinking under American Geriatric Society guidelines for older people.”

    Now, I may be right in the middle of this demographic group, but I have to admit that I find it annoying that the American Geriatric Society is even analyzing behavior by people my age.

    I define “geriatric” in very specific terms – anyone 25 years older than me.

    And I intend to persist in that definition until the day I drop. No matter how old I am.

    So what were the odds two weeks ago that on August 20, I’d find Michael Vick to be a more sympathetic character than Brett Favre?

    Just asking.

    My wine of the week is the 2007 Vouvray Chenin Blanc from Yves Breussin in France…a delightful wine that is great with shellfish or just sipping on a hot August night.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 20, 2009

    I hope nobody will mind too much, but I’m going to take a day off tomorrow, Friday the 21st, as I take my son to college. I’ll be back on Monday, August 24, and appreciate your understanding.

    Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week.

    KC's View: