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    Published on: October 9, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal this morning has a story saying that a new study from Reis Inc. says that “10.3% of the retail space at U.S. shopping centers -- open-air centers typically anchored by a grocery store or big-box retailer -- was vacant in the third quarter. That was up from 8.4% in the same period a year earlier and was the highest vacancy rate since 1992. At enclosed malls, the vacancy rate rose two percentage points to 8.6%, the highest rate since Reis began tracking mall data in 2000.

    “The hardest-hit retail properties were those completed this year. Of those, 30% opened half-empty or worse.”

    The story also notes that almost 8,300 stores have closed in the US so far this year.
    KC's View:
    They keep saying that even as the recession winds down, one of the serious problems is that unemployment probably will continue to get worse for as long as a year.

    But this real estate situation also sounds like a real problem…and it won’t help consumer confidence as we all walk by stores with “for rent” signs hanging in the windows.

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association have issued a joint statement urging the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to clarify multiple inaccuracies contained in its report about the Top 10 Riskiest Foods in the US.

    The list was topped by leafy greens, and followed up by eggs, tuna, oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts and berries.

    HealthDay News wrote that “along with salmonella and E. coli, other pathogens causing outbreaks associated with these foods include Campylobacter, Scombrotoxin, Norovirus and Vibrio. The report noted that foodborne illness outbreaks are becoming more common in the United States because of a complex, globalized food system, outdated food safety laws, and the rise of large-scale production and processing.”

    But in the letter, the two trade associations said that "by focusing your 'Top Ten' release solely on the food products listed, you are presenting a misleading picture to the American public. As you well know, food handling is often the cause of such outbreaks. And while you do provide some clarification in the full report, the reality is that most consumers and reporters will not go to the website for more complete information."

    CSPI, however, maintains that the consumer role in maintaining the safety of such foods is relatively small.
    KC's View:
    The industry groups make a legitimate point. The list should have been publicized as something like “the ten foods you have to be most careful about handling,” or something like that.

    Accountability is important…and that includes consumers. And the hardest part of the food safety chain to insure is how consumers handle the products they buy and feed their families…

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    The New York Times reports that Costco and Tyson Foods have reached a new agreement for the testing of ground beef for the pathogen E. coli.

    According to the story, Costco will “begin buying beef trimmings for making hamburger from Tyson, one of the largest beef producers, after an agreement reached with Tyson this week that allows Costco to test the trimmings before they are mixed with those from other suppliers.

    “The United States Department of Agriculture has encouraged such testing as a way to make hamburger safer, but some of the largest slaughterhouses have resisted the added scrutiny for fear that one grinder’s discovery of E. coli will lead to expanded recalls of beef sent to other grinders.”

    Just last Sunday, in a major front page story critical of the US beef industry, the Times reported that Tyson would not sell beef to Costco because it did not want to agree to expanded testing.
    KC's View:
    It would appear that Sunday’s Times story already has had an impact. Which isn’t surprising…because the charge leveled against Tyson in the piece, at least in my view, was pretty devastating.

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    Syracuse-based independent food retailer Green Hills said that it will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its founding by next week making every 75th transaction totally free – no matter how big or small the basket size happens to be.

    The content begins Sunday, October 11 and ends on Saturday, October 17.
    KC's View:
    Green Hills gets a lot of attention for the technology-based targeted marketing innovations developed by its CEO, Gary Hawkins…but this is an example of good old-fashioned marketing moxie. Great idea…and I’m guessing they are going to have a good week next week.

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    Fox News reports that the state of North Carolina plans to begin taxing state employees who either smoke or who are obese, a move that supposedly could save as much as $13 million in next year’s budget.

    State employees – 600,000 of whom could potentially be affected by the tax – reportedly are against the plan.

    Anne Rogers, director for integrated health management with NC State Employees Health Plan, tells Fox News, "Tobacco use and poor nutrition and inactivity are the leading causes of preventable deaths in our state. We need a healthy workforce in this state. We're trying to encourage individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles."
    KC's View:
    Accountability with compassion seems like an intelligent approach. See our next story…

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports on how one of the amendments in the health care reform bill passed by the US Senate Finance Committee this week is the so-called “Safeway Amendment,” which is designed to “incentivize Americans to lead healthy lifestyles in order to lower their overall health care costs," and “would allow companies with self-insurance programs to reward employees with bonuses and/or premium reductions of up to 50 percent if they follow health guidelines, like undergoing regular screenings, quitting smoking, losing weight, taking cholesterol-reducing medications and so on.”

    The amendment’s provisions resemble Safeway’s own health care program, called “Healthy Measures,” which has been applauded by President Obama and politicians on both sides of the aisle. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nevada).

    Critics, however – including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association – say that the approach is discriminatory.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    Advertising Age reports that Burger King will begin rolling out a new store décor package in 2010, described as “a high-ticket renovation project geared at building sales per store and creating a casual-dining experience.” The new store – the first of which was built at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam – is said to be black and white and have a “contemporary industrial” design…that will cost franchisees between $300,000 and $600,000, significantly more than the McCafé concept cost McDonald’s franchisees.

    The high cost, Ad Age suggests, could cause some pushback from Burger King franchisees.
    KC's View:
    Same observation here as I made yesterday about Wendy’s, which is launching a new ad campaign about freshness…

    It doesn’t matter to me so much what the ad campaign says or even what the color is on the walls. What matters is how tasty and nutritious the food is.

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    As part of what the White House calls an ongoing effort to reach out to US business leaders, President Obama had lunch yesterday with four executives – and as it happens, two of them sell food for a living.

    Kraft Food CEO Irene Rosenfeld and CEO Jeff Bezos were on the guest list according to reports, as well as Eastman Kodak’s Antonio Perez and Florida Power & Light’s Lew Hay.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    • The Seattle Times reports that a two-decade Costco employee has filed a lawsuit charging the company with discrimination tied to her gender, disability and sexual orientation. The Times writes that Tracy Abbott “was fired for gossiping in 2007 after requesting accommodation for a workplace injury,” and that she charges that her superiors “created a hostile work environment.”

    • The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that Kroger-owned Ralphs Grocery Co. has begun selling salsa manufactured by the Homeboy Industries' Homegirl Cafe & Catering job training program – a gang intervention agency designed to give young gang members in Southern California options that will get them off the streets and out of cycles of violence.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    • BJ’s Wholesale Club said that its September sales were up 4.1 percent to $928 million, on same-store sales that were off 0.5 percent.

    • PepsiCo said that its Q3 profit was up nine percent to $1.72 billion, from $1.58 billion during the same period a year ago. Sales slipped 1 percent to $11.08 billion.

    • Target Corp. said that its September sales were up 1.3 percent to $5.39 billion, while same-store sales were down 1.7 percent.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    In the MLB Divisional playoffs…

    Los Angeles Angels 5 (taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series)
    Boston Red Sox 0

    Los Angeles Dodgers 3 (taking a 2-0 lead in the series)
    St. Louis Cardinals 2

    Colorado Rockies 5 (evening the best-of-five series 1-1)
    Philadelphia Phillies 4
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 9, 2009

    Reuters reports this morning that “a Japanese company has invented a new form of protection -- the anti-H1N1 suit.” According to the story, “Menswear company Haruyama Trading claims the suit can protect wearers from the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, as it is coated with titanium dioxide, a chemical commonly used in toothpaste and cosmetics and that breaks down when reacting with light, supposedly killing the virus upon contact.”

    Wonder if I can get one in time for FMI Future Connect in Dallas next week?

    (We kid because we love.)

    Okay, which story is the strangest?

    The surprise announcement that President Obama won the Nobel Peace, an award that even a lot of liberals no doubt would agree seems a tad premature? (After all, the nomination deadline for the 2009 awards was just two weeks after President Obama took the oath of office!)

    Or the story that NASA bombed the moon this morning?

    And here’s my next question…

    Which body do you think is more bizarre? The Nobel Prize committee? Or the International Olympic Committee? Just curious…

    The airline industry seems to be doing its level best to give pundits like me lots to criticize.

    Not long ago, there was the story that RyanAir was considering the idea that it could or should charge passengers for visits to the on-board lavatories. And now, it appears that All Nippon Airways (ANA) in Japan plans to ask all of its passengers to go to the bathroom before they board its planes.

    The idea is that if every passenger empties his or her bladder before boarding, they would shed so much total weight that it would equal three average adult men, and therefore cut down on gas expenses and carbon emissions.

    ANA plans to test the policy for a month, and then make it permanent if it sees tangible results.

    Now, people in the US moan and groan about the so-called “nanny state,” but this story suggests that they haven't seen anything yet.

    There is no dearth of publicized commitments to the notion of a healthier US population.

    There was the recent launch of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a national, multi-year effort to try to help reduce obesity – especially childhood obesity – by 2015. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation will promote ways to help people achieve a healthy weight through energy balance, focusing on three critical areas – the marketplace, the workplace and schools.

    And now there is the ‘Healthy Kids – Healthy You” campaign, which will roll out in 2010 and is designed to help “individuals incorporate their specific health and wellness goals into the foods they choose and prepare at home. Initial partners include the Building Healthier America initiative, American Council on Exercise, and NutriStyle, Inc.”

    One of the components of the campaign is a free-of-charge online program that helps people select the foods, menus and shopping lists that fit their health and wellness goals.

    Surprising research from the University of South Carolina suggests that the notion of “comfort foods” may be overstated, and that when people feels stressed out they often will “pick unfamiliar, even healthier foods and lifestyle options,” according to a story from HealthDay News.

    If true, this could mean that at the end of this highly stressful recession, when employment has begun to come back, there will be a lot of people in this country who will have more expansive palates and healthier lifestyles.

    Which I somehow find hard to believe.

    Speaking of comfort foods…try the 2005 Chateau Plaisance Bordeaux Superieur. Which truly is superior…rich and lovely and perfect as the days get colder.

    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday.

    KC's View: