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    Published on: October 13, 2009

    by Michael Sansolo

    DALLAS - It’s hard to imagine a toy that is simpler than a yo-yo. Basically you have a length of string loosely attached to the axle between two discs. Yet, thanks to physics that I don’t understand, you can do wonderful things with a yo-yo.

    Apparently you can also do great things to a yo-yo. A decade back, when my kids were younger, technology changed the yo-yo. Called something like “the brain” the yo-yo gained intelligence that would allow it to gauge when the spinning discs were slowing and magically the yo-yo would rise back up the string.

    Raising children these days is a lesson in ever advancing technology and humility. I easily remember when my kids’ proficiency at video games dwarfed mine. (They were very young.) More importantly, I remember them getting the latest in graphing calculators that allowed them to take mathematics to places I couldn’t comprehend.

    It’s easy for us to say the younger generation has it easy and I often did. I’d explain how I worked with a slide rule and, in retrospect, I probably sounded like an old crank. Plus, I was wrong. Sure, they have tools that were unimaginable a generation - heck, even a decade ago - but those tools have also come with challenges. Today’s young adults have the ability and challenge to raise their game to an entirely different level. Simply put, it’s a difficult new world.

    I’m getting a taste of that this week at the food marketing Institute (FMI) Future Connect conference, a project geared at building skills for the next generation of leaders in the food industry. (If you haven’t seen this full disclosure before, let me say it again: I have a huge bias on this issue. I helped FMI conceive and plan the entire meeting and I’m currently in Dallas helping FMI run it.)

    Management’s challenge as we move into the next decade - amazingly, the second decade of the 21st century - is much like mathematics with a graphing calculator: it is a mix of the old and the new. The old is pretty straight forward and as challenging as ever. Tomorrow’s leaders, much like today’s and yesterday’s, have to master a range of skills as managers. They have to learn to hire, to train and to mentor. They need to master feedback, communication and decision making. And, of course, they need to learn flexibility to make their skills constantly fit the changing needs of the market, the competition, the workforce and the times.

    That’s just the beginning. As students traverse the Future Connect agenda they are also learning about the emerging skills that promise to challenge them daily into the future.

    For instance, they have to learn to master the new forms of communication to both employees and customers. Ad Age reported recently on the growing power of independent tweets and blogs to influence the success and failure of movies to a larger extent than traditional reviews. No doubt every business and every manager will learn this truth too. It’s now on the agenda.

    They’ll have to learn to master the intricacies of complex issues such as food safety, nutrition and the changing value equation. They’ll need to understand the shifting tastes and fashions of every day to make sure their business is current, relevant and important. And they’ll need to master issues many of us today cannot even conceive of, much as we couldn’t have predicted so much in the past.

    It’s a challenge that’s not for the weak. Lucky for me, I get to travel to many meetings at many companies, where I’m getting to see the beginning of a generational shift. Though it bothers me that I recently had an audience more conversant with Miley Cyrus than Led Zeppelin, the truth is that shift is overdue.

    Hopefully as these new leaders come along, we Baby Boomers can teach them about management skills and they can help us understand the new tools. Together we’ll do better.

    And maybe I’ll finally get this stupid yo-yo to work.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    Notes & Comment from The Content Guy

    DALLAS - It is a much exploited of science fiction writing that the universe in which we live may be just one of numerous realities, and that in those various alternatives, there are multiple futures that may or may not play out the same way ours does.

    This literary conceit - which may or may not be scientifically accurate - was on my mind yesterday during the first day of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Future Connect conference here, postponed from lat May because of concerns at the time about a H1N1 flu pandemic. Most of the sessions that I attended at the education-oriented event implied that there are two possible futures for the food industry.

    There’s one version in which companies are led by compassionate, modest, yet driven leaders, staffed by diverse and committed employees, selling healthy and nutritious food, and focused on a strategic vision of the future in which retailers are highly relevant to their customers. And then, there’s the other which the paths laid out by speakers are seen as well-intentioned but too hard or too improbable or too long-term to be applicable, and nothing changes.

    Some moments from the day’s sessions:

    Tim McGuire, a director at McKinsey & Company, told a general session that while 72 percent of consumers are looking to save money, it remains critical for retailers to “compete beyond price,” a strategy that can include a strong and loyalty-inducing private label program, a commitment to fresh foods, and format innovation that responds to differentiated consumer insights.

    Knight Kiplinger, editor-in-chief of the Kiplinger family of financial publications, urged senior executives in attendance to practice ethical leadership that does not create pressure on employees to use questionable practices to meet financial targets, and that avoids excessive executive compensation. “Everybody needs to have some proportional ability to share in the success of a company,” he said, criticizing current practices that in some cases awards CEOs salaries and benefits that are 300 times the level of the average employee. An ethical leader, he said, “inflicts on others no pain or sacrifice that he has not already inflicted on ethical CEO cuts his own pay earlier and deeper than anyone else in the company.”

    “I’ve never scored a point for the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, and we have 1,005 wins,” said Lady Vols coach Pat Summit in urging executives to both be smart coaches and respectful of team contributions as they lead their companies.

    In a breakout session on health and nutrition moderated by yours truly, author Dr. Wendy Bazilian and Karen Buch, director of lifestyle initiatives for Weis Markets, told attendees about how - by using super foods and super spices - they could create healthier meals and educate shoppers about how to cook and eat more intelligently. The consensus in this session was tat this is as much a marketing issue as a health problem - that retailers need to be more aggressive about explaining healthy solutions to consumers in easy-to-understand and actionable terms.

    Rob Bell, president of Focus Consulting, stressed to his breakout session the importance of mentoring in an industry where dramatic consumer shifts and demographic changes create a need for more relevant and informed leadership.

    In a session on “The Path To The Executive Suite,” in which CEOs including Ric Jurgens of Hy-Vee and Don Knauss of Clorox agreed that the qualities needed in the corner office is an ability to give let other people get the credit, having a sense of compassion, but also maintaining a fire in the belly for competition and winning.

    And, in the annual “FMI Speaks” presentation, FMI CEO Leslie Sarasin stressed the importance of continued growth and education: “You are here because in spite of this (economic) downturn, you see a chance to raise the quality of your most importance asset - your human capital. You are emphasizing how important it is to learn. We are here because as we address leadership development and training today, tomorrow and into the future, we will better be able to retain our promising future executives once the economy begins to turn around. And you see that as a competitive advantage.”

    But implicit in all these urgings and admonitions was the idea that chains have a choice - they can practice enlightened leadership, or they can fall back on traditional methods of management that may be both inappropriate and inadequate for 2010 and beyond.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    Advertising Age reports on a new white paper that it has published that anticipates the results of the 2010 US Census, which is says is likely to say that the “average American” and the “typical US consumer” are obsolete concepts, “replaced by a complex, multidimensional society that defies simplistic labeling."

    Among the probable conclusions that the Census is likely to reach:

    "This census will show that no household type neatly describes even one-third of households," writes demographics expert Peter Francese, author of the white paper. "The iconic American family -- married couple with children -- will account for a mere 22% of households."

    "One fact says it all," Francese writes. "In the two largest states (California and Texas), as well as New Mexico and Hawaii, the nation's traditional majority group -- white non-Hispanics -- is in the minority." And in the nation's 10 largest cities, he writes, "no racial or ethnic category describes a majority of the population."

    “"White non-Hispanics will surely account for fewer than half of births by 2015,” Francese writes, noting that next year, Hispanics will be both the nation's fastest-growing and, at 50 million strong, the nation’s largest minority. In addition, there continues to be geographic as well as demographic shifts, as people leave the Northeast and Midwest for southern and western states.

    “Our nation will be older and more diverse, and consumer markets more complex," Francese concludes - which will create both opportunities and challenges for marketers since they will have to understand these new consumers and hire members of these growing demographic groups to assure that they remain relevant to their shoppers.

    The white paper is for sale on the Ad Age website.
    KC's View:
    There is a lot of discussion about how the economic downturn is creating changed consumer consciousness that is likely to have some degree of permanence, but those expectations have to overlaid on the demographic changes that are taking place - to say the least, we live in a complicated world, getting more so all the time.

    BTW...I’m now beginning to understand why some wingnuts are out there suggesting that people should refuse to be counted in the 2010 Census, that they should not cooperate when they are asked questions because of some weird perception that this is an invasion of their privacy. I suspect that it is not just because of paranoia about the information, but because they really don’t want to know about a “complex, multidimensional society” because it conflicts with their vision of America. Which is, I think, another kind of paranoia.

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    The New York Times reports this morning on the rising popularity - and cost - of chicken wings: “In seven of the last 11 months, wholesale wing prices have been higher than breast prices, a reversal in a market where breasts usually reign supreme. In September, the average wholesale price for whole chicken wings in the Northeast was $1.48 a pound, according to the Agriculture Department.” And in a reversal, boneless chicken breasts have come down in price and now are cheaper than wings.

    The Times says that the recession is to blame: “Restaurants, normally big buyers of breast meat, slashed orders as millions of people cut back on eating out, and breast prices slumped. But demand for wings has remained strong, partly because people perceived them as a cheap luxury.”

    What this means is that “boneless chicken wings” have grown in popularity - and that they have a price advantage for retailers because they actually are shaped and sliced chicken breasts. At the Buffalo Wild Wings chain, they represent 19 percent of sales, compared to 20 percent of sales generated by traditional wings.
    KC's View:
    Have to be honest here...while it makes perfect sense, it never occurred to me that the boneless wings at Buffalo Wild Wings (a new favorite of mine) weren’t actually wings at all. But I do love them...though I haven’t yet decided which sauce is my favorite. (Still have a few more to taste...)

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    The Baltimore Sun reports that vegan is going mainstream - “vegan cookbooks, complete with glossy, gastro-glam pictures and sassy attitude, are sprouting like wheatgrass,” and “vegans, it seems, are the latest high-profile foodies.”

    According to the story, “vegan” actually is a term created by Englishman Donald Watson in 1944 when he was “convinced that a diet completely free of animal products, including dairy and eggs, was the ‘beginning and end’ of a true vegetarian lifestyle ...Things have changed over the past 65 years. These days, about a million Americans identify themselves as vegan, according to a 2008 Harris Poll commissioned by "Vegetarian Times."
    KC's View:
    I respect the choice. I respect the people who make the choice. But I cannot imagine a life without seafood or eggs. Or ice cream.

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    Starbucks, long the champion of the “third place” philosophy of retailing, now may find itself in a fourth place – court.

    Singer Carly Simon, represented by the famed litigation lawyer David Boies, is suing the coffee company for unspecified damages related to the failure of her last CD, “This Kind Of Love,” in 2008. The album was produced by Starbucks’ Hear Music division, which had turned albums by artists such as Ray Charles into hits. However, shortly after Simon signed her deal with Hear Music, the company reduced its involvement in the music business as it dealt with the erosion of its core business because of economic challenges created by the recession; Simon’s suit charges that not only did the company not pay her an agreed-upon advance, but Starbucks didn’t even initially stock the CD at all of its stores and when it finally did, it was at a discount price that Simon says stigmatized the album

    Starbucks replies that it met all of its contractual obligations and that the album didn’t sell because consumers didn’t like it.

    According to a New York Times article about the lawsuit, Simon apparently hoped that “The Kind Of Love” would be her last album. But now, like a lot of baby boomers, she finds herself unable to retire because of financial pressures and now has to produce another album that will be out later this month.
    KC's View:
    Y’know what I don’t understand about this story? (i’m not taking a position on the legal question, because I have no idea who is right or wrong.)

    What I don’t get is why Carly Simon is retiring at age 64.

    If I had that kind of talent - if I could sing and play an instrument and write songs and touch people’s hearts - I’d never quit. Even if I couldn’t have best-selling albums anymore, I’d keep playing, keep doing concerts (even in saloons if I had to), keep making music wherever and however I could...because that ability is a gift and a privilege and a kind of magic.

    I love what Bob Dylan is doing - playing country fairs and small venues that one might think are below his legendary talent, but that he obviously finds rewarding in some way. I suspect they’ll have to drag Dylan off the stage kicking and screaming, and I respect that.

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    • The Courier Post reports that Safeway-owned Genuardi’s has joined the long list of food retailers that are reducing prices, with cuts on a wide range of items that mimic what Safeway has been doing elsewhere in the company. A Genuardi’s spokesman tells the paper that the company is maintaining its profitability by negotiating better prices with manufacturers and by finding labor and energy efficiencies in-store.

    Numerous published reports say that Sara Lee Corp.’s board of directors has agreed, under pressure from a pension fund with holdings in the company, to split the jobs of CEO and chairman. According to the stories, CEO Brenda Barnes will give up the chairman’s title when her current tenure ends, and an independent chairman will be recruited.

    BrandWeek reports that the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group plans to launch a new ad campaign to support its 7Up brand, the first new commercials in three years. The move is designed to reverse the brand’s sales slippage of more than eight percent last year and 7.7 percent during the first half of this year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    Marketing Daily reports that Dunkin’ Donuts has named John Costello - formerly the EVP of merchandising and marketing at The Home Depot, senior EVP of Sears, chief global marketing officer of Yahoo, and president of Nielsen Marketing Research US - to be its new chief global customer and marketing officer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    Obesity, nutrition and public health policy continues to be the subject of a lot of email from the MNB community...

    One MNB user wrote:

    How many people actually know the definition of a calorie? How many people understand how the body uses calories and what an appropriate amount of calories is for their metabolic type, height, and weight? Giving people information is great when the information can be easily understood. However, providing information that a low percentage of Americans actually understand is just another way of saying, "Hey... we did our part. It's not our fault they don't know how to monitor their calorie intake."

    If food companies in this country REALLY cared about the health of their customers, then they wouldn't serve the crap they happily sell to the public now. AND if the government really wanted to help the obesity epidemic in this country, then they would quit subsidizing corn and soy so that farmers could grow some honest food and not the eventual high fructose corn syrup that ends up in thousands of products on our shelves today. The effects of industrialized agriculture are seen yet again in the form of obese Americans.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    When it comes to health care costs, I really appreciate your "open dialog" however, while everyone seems to be talking, NO ONE seems to be considering those of us who are ALREADY doing our part.  Already playing by the rules.

    Given that everything comes down to a dollar value, why am I penalized for NOT smoking, avoiding fried foods, having lowered my cholesterol, exercising regularly.  Should I start smoking so the government will pay me to stop?  Should I gain back the 45 lbs. so I can get "incentivized" to re-lose it?

    It's the same for the mortgage market, I buy a house I can afford, I pay my bills, I even pay off my large credit card balances & then I'm taxed to bail out those who don't.   Just how obese do I have to be to be "Too BIG to Fail"?  Trust me, I could GET THERE.  😉

    Now, why can't we say "You're 100+ lbs. over weight, you get diabetes, then YOU pay a big health care expense".

    Skinny people will NOT be taxed to bail you out.  You had the same meal/exercise "opportunities" that we had, & you chose to ignore them. Sure it's not the "Pelosi-cal Correct" stance, but it IS the fair stance.

    In my humble opinion.

    Not sure what health care bill you’re reading, but I’m not sure where it says that people will be paid to lose weight and get in shape.

    MNB user Gary Ritzert wrote:

    Punishing the obese in not the answer.

    The last time I looked, the thin so called healthy people are also a burden on the health care system and other programs.  Thin people get cancer, have heart attacks and other diseases too.  They also drink too much, use drugs and drive too fast causing accidents and creating a burden on society.  What are we going to do, create a score card.

    I would also point out that all of our politicians (check out their life style) who want to impose these rules are not people you would see on the cover of Health Magazine.

    And regarding chef Jamie Oliver’s efforts to change the eating habits of a city in West Virginia labeled the least healthy place in the country, as chronicled in the New York Times this weekend, one MNB user wrote:

    You have to hand it to Jamie Oliver for picking big challenges and experimenting with ideas.  It sounds like it didn’t completely pan out for him in the British schools.  Although you could argue that even if a handful of kids learned to eat more healthfully, it was well worth it.  I have a friend of mine who has started a meal service for local schools in Portland that only makes fresh, local foods from scratch.  It costs a little more, but the kids love it. Only two years old, the company is now serving hundreds of kids every day. Its people like these that are willing to go against the trend, stick their necks out (try something new) and help people in the process.  That’s what business ought to be doing more of.  And quite frankly where the government should be investing some of its energy on the health care issue.  Why not create some kind of incentive program for healthy eating establishments?

    I agree.

    There was a piece yesterday about how there are some folks in Southern California who want to restrict the opening of c-stores in South Los Angeles because of concerns that these stores are selling too many products that contribute to obesity (the same impulse that led the city to restrict the opening of fast food chain restaurants in the same neighborhood). MNB user Al Kober objects:

    This is just more of the elite mentality that the average person is too ignorant to think for themselves so the government has to take away their choices. Not good.

    On the subject of the Baltimore school system creating a “meatless Monday” policy that looks to use one day a week to educate kids about alternatives to their usual diet choices, MNB user Ken Hillman wrote:

    Keep in mind that meatless Mondays is as much as anything. a cost saving move...the single biggest cost component in a school lunch is the mandated 2z of protein. Using cheese, Great White Northern Beans, Black Beans and other sources of lower cost protein (that are also readily available as part of the USDA's bonus commodity program) is smart, healthy and economical...gym class is good too, but that ADDS to the terrible budget crunch schools are facing...

    I wrote yesterday in a commentary that executives in supermarket companies ought to be required to do all the family food shopping once a week as a way of staying in touch with the experience, which led one MNB user to write:

    I agree with you on this one. Every executive needs to mingle with the rank and file, see how their policies affect customer service and store conditions.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 13, 2009

    In Monday Night Football action, the Miami Dolphins beat the New York Jets 31-27, scoring a touchdown with just six seconds left by finding vulnerabilities in the Jets’ vaunted defense.

    And, in the MLB National League Divisional Series, the Philadelphia Phillies overcame an eighth inning comeback by the Colorado Rockies by scoring three runs in the top of the ninth, and winning the game 5-4 and the best-of-five series 3-1.

    The Phillies now travel to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, while the Los Angeles Angels travel east to face off against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series beginning on Friday night.
    KC's View: