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    Published on: December 23, 2009

    As part of its end-of-the-year issue, Newsweek features an interview with e-tailing pioneer Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com. Some excerpts:

    On why Amazon is successful... “We start with the customer and we work backward. We learn whatever skills we need to service the customer. We build whatever technology we need to service the customer. The second thing is, we are inventors, so you won't see us focusing on ‘me too’ areas. We like to go down unexplored alleys and see what's at the end. Sometimes they're dead ends. Sometimes they open up into broad avenues and we find something really exciting.

    “And then the third thing is, we're willing to be long-term-oriented, which I think is one of the rarest characteristics. If you look at the corporate world, a genuine focus on the long term is not that common. But a lot of the most important things we've done have taken a long time.”

    On working backwards from customer needs... “There are two ways that companies can extend what they're doing. One is they can take an inventory of their skills and competencies, and then they can say, ‘OK, with this set of skills and competencies, what else can we do?’ And that's a very useful technique that all companies should use.

    “But there's a second method, which takes a longer-term orientation. It is to say, rather than ask what are we good at and what else can we do with that skill, you ask, who are our customers? What do they need? And then you say we're going to give that to them regardless of whether we currently have the skills to do so, and we will learn those skills no matter how long it takes.

    “Kindle is a great example of that. It's been on the market for two years, but we worked on it for three years in earnest before that. We talked about it for a year before that. We had to go hire people to build a hardware-engineering team to build the device. We had to acquire new skills. There's a tendency, I think, for executives to think that the right course of action is to stick to the knitting - stick with what you're good at. That may be a generally good rule, but the problem is the world changes out from under you if you're not constantly adding to your skill set.”
    KC's View:
    Bezos may be speaking specifically about Amazon and using the Kindle as an example, but these words ought to be taken very seriously by anybody in the retail business.

    Focus on the customer. Maintain an eye on the long term. And keep adding to your skill set.

    Makes sense to me.

    Published on: December 23, 2009

    The Green Bay Press Gazette reports that Festival Foods will spend $1 million to renovate the Apple Creek Inn, the banquet facility and catering business in northeastern Wisconsin that it acquired earlier this year.

    The goal, according to Mark Skogen, Festival’s president/CEO, is to centralize some of the company’s catering business and alleviate the pressure on individual deli departments. “On Friday, for example,” the Press Gazette writes, “Festival and Apple Creek employees were assembling 700 cheese baskets in one of Apple Creek's banquet rooms for a customer in Oshkosh. The assembly line operation would have been difficult to manage in the grocery store and the volume could have overwhelmed a single deli department.”
    KC's View:
    Here’s what I like most about what Skogen said to the paper:

    “We want to be known as a great food place.”

    Too few supermarkets realize that being a great food place - no matter what economic demographic they may cater to - ought to be job one. Supermarkets ought to be category killers...and food is their category.

    When I walk into a store, I want to be made hungry. I want my senses tantalized.

    BTW...what Festival Foods is doing is what Bezos is talking about in our first story.

    Published on: December 23, 2009

    Great little piece in the Seattle Times about Toni Keene, a longtime employee in the Home department at the Macy’s store in downtown Seattle, who makes sure during the Christmas shopping season that she is “creating good smells, sound advice, a cup of coffee and a warm cookie before you shop some more. And take a recipe, too. Save yourself some time.”

    "I want people to feel better," Keene tells the paper. "And right now, I think everybody is going through some difficulty. If I can put a smile on people's faces, then I go home knowing my job is done."
    KC's View:
    The irony is that Toni Keene used to work at Larry’s Market before moving to The Bon Marché two decades ago. When Macy’s took over The Bon Marché, Keene stayed...and the new owners have cannily turned her into a marketing asset. She may be selling pots and pans and small appliances...but she’s actually selling a lot more than that.

    She’s selling attitude. She’s selling values.

    Here’s the simple question I’d ask of MNB’s retail readers.
    When people come into your stores, do they smell good smells? Can they get a cup of coffee or a warm cookie that make them feel better? Do they feel like you are on their side during tough times?

    Ask yourself. It’s never too late.

    Published on: December 23, 2009

    • Tesco is getting good reviews in the UK for its new iPhone application there that helps people choose appropriate wines - by taking a picture of the wine bottle label and instantly being given access to wine tasting notes, food pairings and other relevant information.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 23, 2009

    • The Consumer Goods Forum - the organization created earlier this year with the merger of CIES, the Global Commerce Initiative (GCI) and the Global CEO Forum - announced this morning the hiring of Jean-Marc Saubade, a former senior executive at Cadbury and Kraft, as its new managing director, effective January 4, 2010.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 23, 2009

    • The New Mexico Business Weekly reports that Sunflower Farmers Market will open its second Santa Fe store on January 13.

    “We are eager to further expand our ‘Serious Food at Silly Prices’ grocery store concept in Santa Fe,” Sunflower founder and CEO Mike Gilliland tells the paper. “We bring a high-quality, affordable grocery option to residents, offering a superior way to grocery shop, especially during tough economic times.”

    According to the story, the 27-store Sunflower “recently announced it received $35 million in incremental financing that will be used directly for growth in existing markets in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico. Officials say they want to have more than 50 stores in the U.S. by 2013.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 23, 2009

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 23, 2009

    Today marks the final MNB of 2009. As is the custom around here, we’re going to take a little time off to catch our breath, sleep a little late (though not tomorrow morning, since I’ll be at Stew Leonard’s at 6 am picking up filet mignon and trying to avoid the crowds), go to a bunch of movies, and just generally recharge the batteries. I hope you’re able to do the same...or whatever it is that makes you happy...during the next week or so.

    MNB will be back on Monday, January 4, 2010, for the beginning of what we trust will be an eventful, energetic, and, yes, even prosperous year for all of us. In the meantime, the MNB archives will be open, as always.

    Be safe, and have a great holiday - whatever you believe in, and however you celebrate.

    P.S. Our Christmas wine, BTW, is going to be the 2007 Roads End Pinot Noir from Oregon...which I’ve been saving for a special occasion.

    Slainte!
    KC's View: