retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story last week about an argument taking place in Massachusetts, where residents in one community are concerned about Supervalu opening a Save-A-Lot store almost adjacent to one of its Shaw’s stores - worried, apparently, that the Shaw’s store will be put out of business by the lower priced competitor.

MNB user Rosemary Fifield responded:

I smiled when I read this. In our area, a Shaw's and a Purity Supreme grocery store were located across the street from each other, each in its own small shopping plaza. When Shaw's purchased Purity Supreme (10 years ago?), we wondered what they would do with that particular store. What they did was convert it to another Shaw's. Since then, the two Shaw's Supermarkets -- one medium-sized, one large -- have co-existed within a stone's throw of one another, each one in a shopping plaza with its own mix of stores. Seems to work for them.

Another MNB user wrote:

Regarding Supervalu possibly competing against itself in New Haven by opening a Save-a-Lot close to Shaw's: you report in your column that Supervalu's argument why the local (independent?) grocer shouldn't fear the Save-a-Lot market entry is because their own Shaw's unit isn't expected to be materially affected; all due to meaningful differences in typical customer types between Save-a-Lot & Shaw's.  And so, similarly, presumably so between Save-a-Lot and the local operator.  You comment that perhaps Supervalu really doesn't believe their own public argument -- that neither Shaw's nor the local operator has much if anything to fear from Save-a-Lot entering the market -- because privately, they may be planning to sell off the Shaw's division anyway, so who cares what happens to a Shaw's store in the meantime?

If I were Supervalu here, publicly and privately both, I don't think I would take such a scorched earth stance in relation to the Shaw's store, if I really believed a Save-a-Lot would inflict a significant amount of pain to my Shaw's store; regardless of whether I intended to dump the Shaw's banner or not.  Even if in my private heart of hearts, I was planning to sell off the Shaw's business, why would I purposely go & degrade the value of one of its units by opening a significant threat to it right down the street?  Wouldn't that simply lower the realizable value I could get for Shaw's, come disposal time?  I think it would make more sense, if I was intent on disposing of the Shaw's division, to try & get that done first, and only then turn seriously to the business of trying to get this Save-a-Lot permitted into the New Haven market.  (Because, once Shaw's isn't mine anymore, THEN I can truly not care if I hurt it or not.)

What all this says to me is that, by seeming to go straight ahead & seek permitting approval for Save-a-Lot while still owning the Shaw's banner, Supervalu is telegraphing their true inner beliefs here: they must actually not believe that Save-a-Lot -- in this particular case, at any rate -- does represent a material threat to Shaw's business, and so by extension, maybe it really is rather plausible that Save-a-Lot would not represent such a deadly threat to the local independent either.  I can't see Supervalu acting contrary to its own broader interests by publicly saying there's no real threat, if they felt differently in private, if in fact they were planning on possibly selling off the Shaw's division is short order, now with this one impaired unit in the basket.

And another MNB user chimed in:

All I can say is that our local Save A Lot sits right next door to our local IGA grocery, uptown the local family-owned grocery store is still in business as well, and they have all been operating for over 15 years in this particular constellation.  This in a rural Indiana community that boasts all of 22,000 in population for the entire county.  I would hope that New Haven, and the various grocery stores, can manage to survive.

General Mills said last week that it will reduce the sugar in its kids’ cereals. MNB user Mark Boyer has what he thinks is the real explanation:

Smart move. Have you seen the price of sugar lately? It went from low 30's to high 40's over the past couple months.

But another MNB user had a different take:

There is a great opportunity for marketers willing to stick to the strategy of great taste and not follow PC marketers.  I mean, c'mon, anyone eating Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms is after taste, right?  My son complained to me this morning about his Apple Jacks.  He said they didn't taste quite as good and he noticed that they added fiber.  My son has a 10% body fat and is captain of his high school basketball team;  he is the picture of health.  The added fiber will make no difference to him except that he will probably choose another brand.  Will the added fiber make any difference to inactive, obese children?  I guess time will tell, but they will probably switch, too.  My guess is GM will kiss their market share goodbye and make no difference in health outcomes.  Sounds like a lose-lose.

I wrote last week about what struck me as the odd decision by the Miami Herald to try to get people to take out subscriptions by giving away blankets to attendees at a Miami Dolphins-New England Patriots game in South Florida. I wrote that I’m not sure I’d build a promotion on the hope that South Florida residents occasionally might get cold while reading an actual print newspaper: It always is tempting ... reassuring, really ... to fall back on old world methods to reach an old world audience with old world products. After all, when you venture into the new world, there always is the worry that you’re going to fall off.

MNB reader Bob Niedt - who happens to be an excellent newspaper correspondent, had trouble with my characterization:

Man, Kevin, stick the knife in and twist it a little!

Some news organizations, such as ours, are working our tails off to find the next dimension. I get that this is all your opinion, but lately, you have been really running newspapers down. I get it. You get it. The poor woman hawking the subscriptions probably doesn't even work for the Miami Herald, but is a vendor working on commission. I might've goofed on her, too, but you were brutal, to her, and again to those of us trying to make sure we're not still making typewriters as Apple Computer is born... Without a free and independent press, whatever form it may take, our country will be torn apart by bias Twitterers and bloggers who ! call themselves "journalists."

To be clear, I was really nice to the woman at the ballgame. I would never be mean to someone in such a circumstance.

You’re probably right that I’ve been negative on newspapers lately... I love newspapers, but I think the industry needs tough love. And tough love means facing facts about the eventual obsoleteness of print and paper.

But I am guardedly optimistic about the future of journalism, even if I can fairly be accused of being a Tweeter and blogger.

MNB fave Glen Terbeek wrote:

Did they offer the Dolphin blankets to current, long term subscribers as well as a thank you for their business?

Good point. We all tend to treat new customers better than the people who have made us successful. Which never has made sense.

We had a story last week about Wisconsin’s Metcalfe’s Markets, which recently hired an executive chef who is acting like a Chief Food Officer...a role that more food stores ought to have.

Which led MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf to write:

Once again, kudos to the supermarket guru! The only reason I knew this market existed is because it happened to be within eyesight of the big hole in the ground that was going to be the new Whole foods in Madison. It never dawned on me that I should stop and look around. Looks like grocery shopping in Madison is on the weekend agenda! Thanks for the tip. Keep up the great work.

You’re welcome. And thanks.

But for the record, the “supermarket guru” is the other guy.

I’m the Content Guy.

Regarding Tiger Woods, one MNB user wrote:

Gatorade and others like Buick or Nike may drop him, but it’s a marketing opportunity for Viagra and Cialis!

Reflecting on the tenor of some of the discussion here lately, MNB user Jeff Gartner wrote:

Without a doubt, my favorite part of your daily column is the closing Your Views section. I especially like the ones who vehemently disagree with you and attribute your comments to a political agenda or mortal character flaws.

Reflecting on the the tone of some of these correspondents, too many now seem just so wound (that's wound as rhyming with sound or round) so tightly. They look for political innuendo or character assassination or subliminal agendas where none are intended. Everything is too black and white for them. It wouldn't surprise me if I soon read that you're also going to eternal damnation.

They really need to lighten up. (But please note, "lightening up" doesn't give one permission to start incorporating happy smiley faces in their correspondence. As marketing professionals, we do have our limits.)

MNB user Ron Cook wrote:

In our current atmosphere ...As a white male with a Catholic Christian background,,, you are as much a victim of the poor taste/discriminated against jokes as any. I would contend that a person in your demographic is the last pain free bastion for all comedians and "crackpots" the world over. The only way it could be worse is if you are Sarah Palin at a SNL convention.

As you carry on you blog remember that many of us enjoy the wit and perspective of your observations concerning retail news and the observation of social rest or unrest as it may be. I expect none of us agree with all your opinions ... but that does not take away from the fact you're the kind of person most would enjoy a conversation and drink with.

Thanks. I would enjoy the same thing.

And finally, this email from one MNB user:

Maybe you are in the wrong business .... get paid for your sense of humor. Jay Leno's show last night (12/10/09) used your Slim Fast joke!
KC's View: