retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to a survey the other day about when it is to early to start advertising for Christmas, I rather crankily said that Christmas is like presidential elections - it goes on way, way too long.

Which led MNB user Stephanie Allen - who sounds irrepressibly sunny - to write:

Even as materialistic as the Season has become, our American tradition still incorporates the values of giving, family, peace, togetherness, good cheer, and overall feelings of childlike-nostaglia. All year long we’re pummeled with garbage & nastiness on TV (whether it’s trashy reality shows or horrific news events) - so when my TV chimes with Santa’s bells a tiny bit of excitement stirs inside of me…

And have you ever noticed that during the “holiday season” (even in October!) that cashiers, bankers, DMV employees, etc seem happier to help? And then to finalize a sale or transaction, the chipper “Happy Holidays!” or “Merry Christmas!” many times isn’t so much a habit of speech, but actually a connection between two strangers saying “I don’t know who you are, or what your situation is, but I wish for you to be happy, at least for this season.”

MNB reported yesterday about a new line of private brand fresh salads from Kroger that includes innovative new technology on the packaging that enables customers to learn where the produce was grown as part of the retailer’s "Quality You CanTrace" program. I waxed rhapsodic about it because the program promotes transparency, but not everybody was impressed. One MNB user wrote:

I read MNB every day and really enjoy your point of view, comments and even your rants.

Regarding your Kroger CanTrace program piece, this seems like only a first but very inadequate step.

A customer has to buy the product, take it home look up its origination on the web and then take it back to the store if he/she is not satisfied.

I guess this is not something you can buy and eat at the park!

Doesn’t look transparent to me! Put the origination on the package and then we have transparency and actionable information.

And another MNB user chimed in:

OK... let's see....... we have just added a nice chunk of overhead costs and added costs to run the program and answer questions and concerns and challenges by a vast minority of customers. We all have to pay the costs when the majority want what you described is a trust factor from the company we buy from. Oh my god!!! The iceberg is from California but the onions are from Peru!!! I can't eat this..... because I don't trust Peru. What does the consumer do then... stop buying from the store (whole chain?) what does the retailer do .... stop buying from the supplier? Most of us want the trust factor to be with the exchange ..... money for a product that is guaranteed by the seller. So if overhead is to be added I would rather see it go to food safety at the retailer to supplier level not consumer to supplier.
PS- family so busy with work and raising kids checking out the computer for product source. Then having to follow up if they have a question/concern ..... boy that is realistic!!! I think you need to get away from your nice restaurants and fine wine perspective and do a segment on the average middle class American family perspective. Puulllleeeease ........ getting on the computer to check a 16 digit code!!!!  "Kudos to Kroger for getting ahead of the transparency wave. It will serve the company well in the long run." The people I am talking about just want to trust Kroger with their families health and well being NOT transparency.

For many people, trust is equated with information. While I understand your skepticism, there are limits to what can be put on labels, and providing this kind of information via the computer is a smart move. Eventually, it’ll be available via smart phones or some other mobile technology tool. But to underestimate the power of this kind of program - especially its value to young consumers - is a mistake. don’t have to use the system if you don’t want to. But you shouldn’t trust Kroger any less because of it, and in fact its food safety systems will have to be better because of the transparency factor. other thing. I had to laugh when I read about my “nice restaurants and fine wine perspective.” For the record, I spend most of my time working and raising kids...just like most people. And we only have a butler come in four times a week; it is, after all, a recession.

Regarding the ongoing World Series, MNB user Tom Devlin wrote:

Well at first I thought that there is nothing worse than being a Met fan for this World Series. Until... The starting pitching for Game one as both EX- Cleveland Indian pitchers  were the starting for the Yankees and Phillies.... OUCH !!  THAT hurt even beats the Mets faithful..... Well at least they still have Lebron James....

At least until he goes to the Knicks...
KC's View: