retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    Western New York-based Tops Friendly Markets announced on Friday that its bid to acquire a majority of Penn Traffic’s assets, including its 79 supermarket locations, has been accepted by Penn Traffic and recommended to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for approval. Tops said that it “submitted a comprehensive bid including cash as well as additional value created by substantial reductions in unsecured claims made against Penn Traffic by UFCW Local One Pension Fund and C&S Wholesale Grocers.”

    “From the very beginning of our transition to a locally operated company, we have pledged to invest in the markets we serve, and to grow and strengthen our position as the largest grocery chain in the region,” said Frank Curci, Tops’ president and CEO.  “This new opportunity allows us to further fulfill that pledge as we look forward to meeting the needs of our new neighbors and customers, providing them with a positive shopping experience that focuses on great variety, value and service.”

    Kevin Darrington, Tops’ CFO, said that the company plans “to invest in those stores that are in need of upgrades in an effort to best serve our customers and associates.”

    The Buffalo News reports that this is by no means a done deal, and that competing bids - especially from Price Chopper - could derail the Tops efforts.

    According to the News, “A U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing ended Friday without coming to a decision on Tops' $85 million offer. Recommended by Penn Traffic and its creditors, Tops is considered the preferred bidder, subject to higher bids.

    “Penn Traffic asked the court to require any competing bids to be submitted by Jan. 19, followed by a Jan. 21 auction and a hearing on Jan. 25 to approve a sale. The contract with Tops requires completion of the sale by Jan. 28.”

    And, the News writes, “Operating stores within a 250-mile radius of its Williamsville headquarters would allow Tops to easily maintain its current hands-on management style, said Burt Flickinger III, managing partner of retail consulting firm Strategic Research Group. Out-of town management has plagued Penn Traffic for more than 15 years, and has been cited as a major obstacle to the company's success. Tops would do a better job of tailoring its ads to individual markets within the chain than Penn Traffic did, Flickinger said.”
    KC's View:
    It’s probably fair to say that almost anyone could do a better job than Penn Traffic did.

    Still, this doesn’t feel over yet. Not quite.

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Ukrop’s-owned Joe’s Market, which was not part of the sale of most of the company’s assets to Ahold, has been sold to two longtime employees of the company.

    There will more than just a change in ownership. The store, which is on Libbie Avenue in Richmond’s West End, will have its name changed to Libbie Market and will now be open on Sundays and will sell alcohol.

    The two Ukrop’s employees taking over the store are David Taylor, the grocery chain's director of merchandising, and Buster Wright, its senior director of packaged goods.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it had to be arrived at fairly quickly since, if it hadn’t sold, Ukrop’s would have had to close the unit once the sale to Ahold went through.
    KC's View:
    One interesting tidbit from the Times-Dispatch story - a Facebook fan page looking to keep the market open had been created and there were more than 2,100 members. That’s the kind of loyalty that Ukrop’s has, despite some recent missteps that put the company’s independence in jeopardy.

    It also is worth noting that the sale means that at least two people who have been part of the Ukrop’s management team will not be staying with the company when Ahold takes it over. The question is how many others won’t be staying...and what that means to Ukrop’s operations long-term.

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Publix has decide to withdraw a free 2010 calendar that it has been circulating because of criticisms from a Miami talk show host who had been publicizing the fact that the calendar did not identify December 7 as Pearl Harbor Day and did identify that day in 2010 as the beginning of the Islamic New Year.

    "We regret that the day of remembrance, Pearl Harbor, is not noted and as a result of customer feedback, we will add Pearl Harbor to next year's calendar," Kimberly Jaeger, a Publix spokeswoman, tells the paper.

    The talk show host, Joyce Kaufmann, reportedly said on the program that the omission would offend World War II veterans, and that some Muslims - those who are "radical and want to destroy Western civilization" - are enemies of the United States.
    KC's View:
    Here’s the thing that also is noted in the story...

    In past years, the free Publix calendar never identified December 7 as Pearl Harbor Day. And it is a coincidence that in 2010, December 7 happens to be the beginning of the Islamic New Year.

    I am sympathetic to Publix. After all, the company is in the business of not offending people, and so management probably figured it had no choice but to withdraw the calendar.

    But what is really offensive is that some radio talk show host with no apparent moral scruples decides to generate some ratings not just by demonizing Muslims, but demonizing a supermarket chain by implying it had done something that was somehow un-American.

    What a crock.

    It’s too bad that we live in a world where a company like Publix couldn’t afford to tell Joyce Kaufman to take a flying leap. She sounds like a bully with a microphone. Bullies ought to faced down, not ceded to. Next year, Publix says, it will note both holidays, which probably makes sense...except that the bully thinks she got her way.

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    IGA has announced that Tony Clements of Olney IGA #442 in Olney, Ill., has been named as the 2010 IGA USA International Retailer of the Year. Clements was chosen from among IGA’s USA retailers for having achieved exemplary excellence in retailing and advancement of the IGA Brand in the industry, the IGA Alliance and his community.

    Clements will be honored along with fellow IGA Retailers of the Year from other countries at the 2010 IGA Global Rally Awards Banquet.

    “Tony Clements and his store associates bring IGA’s promise of a personalized, community-focused shopping experience to life for every customer who walks through the doors of Olney IGA,” IGA CEO Mark Batenic said. “No customer request goes unanswered at Olney IGA because to Tony, each of his customers is like family. Combine that individualized customer service with Olney IGA’s stellar operational standards, and you have a store that would be the preferred shopping destination in any city in the world.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    • Walmart reportedly has begun charging customers for reusable polyester bags that are distributed at checkout in three of its California stores - two in Sacramento and one in Ukiah. Small bags cost 15 cents and large bags cost 50 cents; customers can avoid the surcharge by bringing their own bags when going shopping.

    According to the company, the effort is both a test to see how customers react, and part of its overall effort to reduce its environmental waste by one-third by 2013. The customer reaction allows for it, the goal is to expand the policy to other stores.
    KC's View:
    These kinds of policies are really only going to get traction when companies like Walmart institute them, as opposed to smaller fringe companies that some might define as having a radical agenda. Besides, Walmart has the muscle to make it work...and the marketing savvy to make it palatable.

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    The Times of London reports that Tesco has dropped to the fourth position in the list of the world’s biggest retailers - Walmart is first, carrefour is second, and Germany’s Metro has now moved into third place.

    The study was done by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, the accountants and business advisers.
    KC's View:
    The irony is that they keep talking in the UK about concerns that Tesco has too much precisely the time that Tesco seems to be slipping, at least a little bit.

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    • The New York Times reports this morning that in New York City, the Bloomberg administration “plans to unveil a broad new health initiative aimed at encouraging food manufacturers and restaurant chains across the country to curtail the amount of salt in their products. The plan ... sets a goal of reducing the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant food by 25 percent over the next five years.”

    The goal of salt reduction is to reduce the incidence of high blood pressure that can result in strokes and heart attacks; the program is voluntary and for the moment, at least, there is no legislation on the table akin to the kind that the Bloomberg administration used to require restaurants to eliminate trans fats and to force chains to post calorie counts on their menus.

    The Times notes that the Subway sandwich chain has said that the city’s goals are achievable; at the same time, companies such as ConAgra and Campbell Soup already have been taking steps to reduce salt in their products.

    • In New Zealand, the Waikato Times reports that “Aldi is rumoured to be eyeing the New Zealand market and investigating sites as it looks to expand from Australia. The move would give Kiwi shoppers a third choice for their weekly groceries and break the duopoly held by Progressive and Foodstuffs.

    “Aldi has registered more than 100 trademarks with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand and has the New Zealand website domain name”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    • Supervalu announced that it has hired Steve Jungmann, senior vice president of consumer sales and marketing at the Solo Cup Company, to be its new executive vice president, merchandising. Jungmann will lead all of the company’s merchandising activities for its retail banners (excluding Save-A-Lot), including the Own Brands (private label) program.

    • Published reports say that Jim Jensen, who has been director of fresh foods at Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets since August 2008, has left the company. No replacement has yet been named.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    • PriceSmart, which operates membership warehouse stores in the Caribbean and Latin America, said that its first quarter profit was $10.4 million, down three percent from $10.7 million from the same period a year ago. Q1 sales were up three percent to $315.4 million from $305.2 million.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    Got a lot of reaction to Friday’s story about Tom Haggai stepping away from many of his day-to-day duties at IGA.

    MNB user Chris Banta wrote:

    Just a comment to say I had the pleasure of dealing with Tom for many years on the wholesale side of the IGA business.  He has long been a true gentleman and a cornerstone and spokesperson for the Independent retailer not only in the US but around the world.  I would also add that the IGA organization could not be in better hands as Tom steps away.  Mark Batenic has been involved with independent retailers in the IGA system for a majority of his career and his leadership skills and industry knowledge are second to none!  Mark is indeed the right person to be leading the IGA cause during these difficult economic times!

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I would not be the person I am today if it was not for people like Tom Haggai. Mark Batenic will lead IGA just fine, but I bet he feels like Benedict XVI. John Paul the great is a tough act to follow.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    Great insight & comments on Dr Tom Haggai. A dozen years ago, I had the privilege to travel with Dr Tom in Swaziland, where he was raising the IGA flag with store managers at the Royal Swazi Sun. In proclaiming the IGA religion, he made a comment that has forever stuck with me. (One I’ve shamelessly stolen from him; he’s forgiven me for not giving him credit for plagiarizing him). He said “Email only proves we can connect, not that we can communicate.” In those days, email was just launched & used very little in Africa. Dr Tom reinforced not to let technology become a proxy for a time-test & proven way of communicating, internally with staff & with suppliers.  I’ve often reflected on his comment, particularly when I email isn’t effective in getting the point across. I’m delighted to see that Dr Tom is still staying involved – I can’t imagine what a guy with his level of enthusiasm does retired….

    On the return of Michael Teel as CEO of Raley’s, MNB user Rick Domanski wrote:

    The family that stays together…..Raley's Board of Directors also has kin or two within its ranks, but make no mistake about it, management throughout Raley's is hard core grocery experienced and has survived many a price war, the blossoming of Costco and Trader Joe's , and the gold rush to Whole Foods.  The company is well-embedded with strategic real estate stretching from Nevada to Capitola, while their commitment to store remodels rivals Safeway's 'Life' experience.  And yet its constituency has sounded its satisfaction year after year proclaiming the chain to be the Number One rated supermarket for customer service in the country.  Great job Mr. and Mrs. Teel.  Keep up the good fight !  

    We had an email the other day from an MNB user who had bought a Kindle on our recommendation...and was thrilled with it. Which prompted another MNB user to write:

    I am glad to see your proselytizing about the Kindle is reaching the desired audience. But like so many other things in life there are inevitable consequences. The future is before us and change is inevitable but for every convert you create, there is one less reader of traditional books left on earth. My wife worked at a small used book store in high school. She saved and sacrificed and several decades ago she was able to purchase it. Sales have been steadily declining and she now supplements her income with a virtual book store on Amazon. I certainly can blame you for creating the new future of reading but it would be nice to keep in mind, that there are still people whose idea of reading consists of a comfortable chair, possibly with a cat on their lap enjoying the ambience of a good book printed on actual paper. And just to be fair, those books come from retailers and that is ultimately what MNB is all about. You could go to bat for the old school once in a while too!

    Listen, I’m an author now...and I love bookstores...especially the independent bookstore in my hometown that recently put the book written by Michael Sansolo and me in the front window. And I love Dorothy Lane Markets, which was the first brick-and-mortar retailer to stock the book.

    But I also love I love the Kindle. I think people should be able to read books in whatever format the like. What’s important is the reading, not the format.

    And by the way, in response to several questions we got, we don;t have a date yet for when our book will be available for the Kindle...but we’re working on it. We’ll let you know.

    In the meantime...if you’re interested in information about our book, “The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies,” Click here. >
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 11, 2010

    It was an exciting week of National Football League wild card playoff action, in which two underdogs won on the road and the one game without a point spread actually went into overtime before a winner was decided...

    Baltimore 33
    New England 14

    NY Jets 24
    Cincinnati 14

    Green Bay 45
    Arizona 51

    Philadelphia 14
    Dallas 34
    Next week, it will be Arizona vs. the New Orleans Saints...Baltimore vs. the Indianapolis Colts...Dallas vs. the Minnesota Vikings...and the Jets vs. the San Diego Chargers...
    KC's View:
    And let me say it again, just like I did last Monday...

    J-E-T-S...JETS, JETS, JETS!!!