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    Published on: January 12, 2010

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    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    by Michael Sansolo

    Some days, I feel like the little kid in the movie The Sixth Sense. Only I don’t see dead people. I see irony and contradictions everywhere.

    Consider the issue of privacy. We all know what a big topic it is and how widely concerns range about what people do and don’t know about us. And at the same time, we willingly give up information that frankly, no one has a right to know.

    Over the past week there has been a huge amount of discussion about the new full-body scanners that will be employed at airports and each report talks about all the methods that will be used to conceal the identity of those being scanned. Some welcomed the news while others decried the notion of strangers looking under their clothes.

    And then something happened on Facebook.

    On January 7th I noticed that many of the women who are listed as my “friends” were identifying themselves by a color. I had no idea why. It’s important to point out this time that neither did my wife or my daughter.

    It turns out that the colors on Facebook referred to the color bra the user was wearing that day, information I never, ever expected to run across quite so easily. Apparently it was part of an idea to emphasize breast cancer awareness and the importance of self-exams. Now this might have been my favorite day ever if I were back in school. Instead I was left asking: “Did I really want to know?”

    The answer is an emphatic yes and for all the right reasons. Getting the enormous population of Facebook to suddenly stand up and take notice of an important issue like breast cancer exams is possibly the best possible use we are ever going to hear from Facebook. I have to imagine that somewhere in that universe of 300 million-plus people there were thousands who actually learned something valuable. No doubt there were mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and more who discussed a topic they usually avoided. In fact, the Washington Post reported two days later that some cancer foundations said donations went up and clearly their topic got a lot of focus…and all without any official effort.

    (There might have even been some guys who got into a discussion they needed to know about, although I am proud to say that none of my male friends showed up with a color next to their names.)

    Right there is a sign of the power of social networking and a strange look into the crux and contradiction of the privacy debate. When information is collected and distributed for no discernible gain to the shopper, the individual or the general population, people get wary and angry. They question why anyone needs to know anything. Yet, when the benefit is clearly demonstrated, things change and suddenly we witness a very open public discussion.

    Years ago I had a radio debate with a privacy advocate who summarized her fear of RFID (radio frequency identification device) chips as allowing someone to scan her from a distance and know the color of her bra under her clothes. I could understand someone not wanting to share that information, but when that exact same information was linked to the cause of disease prevention, the information flowed without hesitation. Sure that seems both contradictory and ironic, but it isn’t.

    The privacy advocate’s complaint was that information could be taken without her consent and without benefit. Likewise, I don’t want naked pictures of me showing up anywhere (even in the mirror), but I feel completely fine as a frequent flyer if airports do full-body scans and it keeps me safer when flying. In short, I get the benefit. (In fact, a new Gallup poll shows that 78 percent of Americans feel the same way, approving of the use of full body scans as a way of keeping airline travel safer.)

    Here’s hoping that this also triggers some thinking in the food industry about all the data we’ve been collecting and using primarily to drive coupons, inventory management and specials. Is it possible that the same shoppers walking our aisles in multi-colored bras might be willing to engage in meaningful exchanges of recipes for health issues, menu ideas, budget stretcher and more if they see the benefit? I’m betting they would

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:
    Color coding on Facebook as a way of raising awareness about breast cancer? I just hope they don’t decide to do an awareness campaign about prostate cancer...

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    The Los Angeles Times reports that a new study done by researchers at Tufts University says that calorie counts on food packages and on menu boards may not be accurate, and that people paying attention to them may be consuming more calories than they think.

    According to the study, the researchers “took commercially prepared foods - both prepackaged and from restaurants - and analyzed them using a bomb calorimeter. The measured energy values of 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets averaged 8% more than originally stated, and foods from 29 restaurants (both fast food and sit-down venues) were on average 18% more than reported.”

    Two examples cited in the Times story: “A Lean Cuisine shrimp and angel hair pasta label says it's 220 calories (which works out to 250 calories of gross energy, the study calculates). The Tufts team pegged gross energy at 319. Denny's dry toast lists 92 calories. Instead, it let off a whopping 283 calories.”
    KC's View:
    Dry toast was 283 calories? What the hell was in the bread?

    At its most basic, this isn’t just inaccurate information. It actually is the kind of study that can result in the erosion of consumer trust. And it isn’t good for the food industry.

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    by Michael Sansolo

    NEW YORK - When it comes to blending on-line, mobile and in store shopping, marketing expert Paco Underhill has a simple message for retailers. “The consumer is three steps ahead of you.”

    Underhill and his workshop co-presenter, Dave Selinger of Rich Relevance, appearing at the National Retail Federation (NRF) show here, talked about the new shape of shopping in which an individual shopper will change shopping channels to make purchases and decisions. The result is that sometimes a shopper is in one store, while using a mobile device to check prices at a competitor, or is shopping an individual retailer in different formats (web, mobile or online) and finding contradictory information, products and prices.

    Using a series of hidden camera intercepts, Selinger demonstrated the problems caused in retail today when a shopper visits a store armed with information that store employees either don’t know or aren’t allowed to recognize. The result is a disgruntled shopper who cannot understand why the exact same item is a different price on line or in store or why a mobile coupon isn’t accepted at the front end. And employee explanations of why pricing is different or an item can’t be found or returned to the store frequently came off as both comical and awkward.

    As Underhill explained, shoppers don’t see the silos in a company separating on-line and in store. They expect every channel of the same company to function the same way and he and Selinger recommended companies focus on creating alignment between the channels.

    While the examples offered were all in non-food retail, it’s easy to see how the same issues could occur in food stores. Employee interaction is seen as the great advantage of traditional retailers with a good on-line presence. But that advantage disappears if the alignment is missing. One benefit cited was how in-store employees who know of specific specials could lead to suggestive selling that could increase sales.

    NRF’s annual meeting - it’s 99th - features a wide variety of workshops along with a large exhibit hall dominated by technology vendors. Many vendors said this year’s attendance seemed relatively strong, despite the weakness in non-food retailer sales and the economy.
    KC's View:
    Michael’s piece raises an interesting question that retailers - especially food retailers - perhaps should ask themselves:

    In today’s technology-driven communications-focused culture, do most people who walk into the supermarket have more information about products and pricing than most of the people who work there?

    My guess is that the answer is yes, at least in many cases. And I’m think this could put these supermarkets in an untenable situation, especially in the long-term.

    Stores worry about cutting costs and getting efficient...but they don’t seem nearly as concerned about making sure that the people working there make the store as much a resource for information as a source of product.

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    The Chicago Sun-Times reports that efforts to remove the obstacles preventing Walmart from building new stores in the Windy City fell apart yesterday.

    According to the story, on the table was an ordinance that would have required retailers that have more than 50 employees and that benefit from city subsidies to pay “a living wage” of at least $11.03 per hour. At the last minute, support for the ordinance fell apart, with opponents resisting in part because they viewed it as a “job killer.”

    The biggest concern seems to be that Walmart has enough money to not have to accept city subsidies, while smaller retailers do not - which some people believe would allow Walmart to pay less money to its employees than smaller, less prosperous competitors.

    There is only one Walmart within the city limits at the moment. Interestingly, researchers at Loyola University have come out with a new study saying that since that store opened, 82 businesses within a four-mile radius have closed down, and almost 300 jobs have been lost - which is about as many jobs as Walmart has added.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    The New York Times reports that Cadbury has renewed its objections to the $16.5 billion acquisition bid for the company being pushed by Kraft foods, once again describing it as a “derisory” effort to steal the company.

    Nothing that its most recent growth numbers surpassed expectations, Cadbury described Kraft in a letter to shareholders as ''an unfocused, conglomerate business model with significant exposure to lower growth categories and a track record of missed financial targets.''

    And, in an interview with the BBC, Cadbury chairman Roger Carr said that ''for Kraft to make this pay for their shareholders, they have to attract huge synergies. Synergies is a euphemism for heavy cost cuts and inevitably plants and jobs would be lost.”

    While Kraft has refused to back down or increase its offer, so far Cadbury’s efforts seem to be gaining traction, with early reports saying that relatively few Cadbury shareholders seemed inclined to accept Kraft’s offer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    Walmart announced yesterday that it will close 10 of its Sam’s Club stores around the country, a move that will result in the loss of 1,500 jobs. The company said that the stores were underperforming, “despite the best efforts” of employees, and that it would do its best to find the people losing jobs other positions within the company.

    The stores are scheduled to close on January 22.

    California will lose four stores, while Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New York, Idaho and Illinois will lose one each.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    Good piece this morning in the New York Times about how DoubleTree Hotels and Midwest Airlines have been using chocolate chip cookies for about a quarter-century to differentiate themselves among consumers - warm cookies, served either to guests checking in or passengers settling into their seats, are seen as a way of creating a warm, inviting atmosphere that appeals to consumers.
    KC's View:
    I’m not sure to what extent people are choosing to stay at a DoubleTree or fly Midwest because of the cookies. On the other doesn’t hurt. And it always is a pleasant moment when I get offered a cookie at a hotel front desk. (Though I’m not big on walnuts or the calories, so I usually turn them down. In fact, I wonder why DoubleTree uses walnuts, since there are so many people with nut allergies.)

    But the larger point is that these two business are doing something small and translates into something big. It takes a little effort, but it does become a differentiating and distinguishing advantage.

    And the largest question is obvious:

    How come more companies - especially food retailers - don’t do the same kinds of things?

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    • A new UK market study by the Taylor Nelson Sofres World Panel says that Tesco’s market share in the most recent quarter edged up slightly to 30.5 percent, compared to 30.4 percent during the same period a year ago. Second-ranked retailer Walmart-owned Asda Group saw a similar increase, to 16.9 percent from 16.8 percent a year ago, as did third-ranked Sainsbury, which saw its market share grow to 16.3 percent from 16.1 percent a year ago. And William Morrison Supermarkets’ market share grew to 12.3 percent from 11.8 percent a year ago.

    The study says that discount retailers -- Aldi, Netto and Lidl -- have a combined market share of 6.1% compared with 6.2% a year ago.

    • The Sacramento Business Journal reports that Target Corp. has launched a new and exclusive line of cookware and specialty foods branded with the name of Giada De Laurentiis, the cookbook author and Food Network star. De Laurentiis also will serve as a commercial spokesperson for the company - a move designed to bolster its food store credibility.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    • Family Dollar Stores said yesterday that it has hired Don Hamblen, the former chief marketing officer at Sears, to be its new senior vice president of customer marketing.

    • McDonald’s Corp. said yesterday that it has promoted Don Thompson, who has been running its US business, to the role of president/COO of the global business. He succeeds Ralph Alvarez, who resigned last month because of health concerns.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel saying that Publix has decided 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, said.

    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.

    In fact, 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.

    My comment, in part:

    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.

    I got a couple of emails hitting me hard on this:

    You're the one trying to be a bully using the MNB format to propagate your crappy politically correct point of view. You're ridiculous. Joyce Kaufman is right on target. Shame on you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her for calling out Publix, because they failed to include Pearl Harbor Day.

    And another MNB user chimed in:

    It was Muslims that bombed the WTC in 1993 (not as “effective” as intended) and 2001 (not as they planned, but still tragic..).  .It was a Muslim who had the bomb in his underwear on Christmas day – and it’s only because it didn’t go as planned that we aren’t talking about another tragedy.  Be sensitive to that fact. It’s fresh in most people’s minds.  You of all people should be aware of this, with all the flying you do, and all the TSA requirements.

    And, talk to any veteran of WWII – it’s offensive to miss acknowledging Pearl Harbor and it is not surprising this was noticed in this year in particular.  It is not surprising it was missed in years past though. First of all, many vets have died since WWII so they aren’t around to bring it up.  Perhaps younger relatives aren’t as aware or sensitive to that fact, which is too bad – history forgotten has a tendency to repeat itself. 

    Thankfully, we still have freedom of speech, so you can voice your opinion, and radio talk hosts and I can voice ours also.  I respect yours.  Don’t agree with this particular one, but I respect yours and am grateful we can have this dialogue in this country.  I have the utmost respect for our Constitution that ensures us of these freedoms, and frankly I am concerned that freedom of speech is threatened, with all the political correctness going around.

    A couple of things, if I may.

    I am not trying to deny this talk show host freedom of speech, or bully her in any way. She can say whatever the hell she wants. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize her for what I believe in an irresponsible accusation/implication - that Publix somehow isn’t patriotic because of this calendar. I just think it is an easy accusation that requires no thought and fewer scruples.

    And I don’t think it is politically correct to say so. I just think it is thoughtful and decent.

    I think it also is worth pointing out that it wasn’t all Muslims who committed those acts of terror. It was Muslim terrorists who did it. And I think there is a difference.

    MNB user Chuck Blackledge wrote:

    I have a copy of the 2010 calendar from King Sooper (a division of Kroger), and they do not identify Pearl Harbor or the Islamic New Year.  I doubt there are many calendars that do.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I guess my question would be; What would be the reaction if the two events were reversed? Pearl Harbor Day is acknowledged and the Islamic New Year wasn’t?

    Nothing. Nobody probably would have noticed. And the radio host would have some other issue to demagogue.

    BTW...You could make the argument that, considering that there is a growing Muslim minority in the US and that most of us simply are unfamiliar with their beliefs and observances, noting on a calendar when the Islamic New Year begins actually isn’t a dumb thing to do.

    And you could make the argument that it’d be nice to remind people when Pearl Harbor Day is, especially since the younger generation may have less familiarity than we’d like with such historic events. (Though I’m guessing that there are very few such young people who use paper calendars - they’re using their computers and cell phones. But that’s a different debate.)

    My point isn’t to take either side of this argument...but just to say that the tenor of the accusations leveled by the talk show host, best I can tell from the coverage, drove the discussion to the lowest common denominator.

    There could have been an interesting discussion about whether we do not pay enough attention to our history. We could talk about how the growing minorities in America and the challenges they present in terms of acculturation and assimilation.

    But no. Those kinds of discussions don’t generate ratings. It is easier to level accusations and stoke people’s anger.

    It is irresponsible.

     Another MNB user wrote:

    The Publix calendar issue is the sort of garbage that makes me question why I'm in retail and dealing w/the 'public' some days.

    You just can't win sometimes. I agree, what a crock!

    Can't these people direct this passion into something more useful like cleaning up a river or feeding a hungry kid?

    MNB user J. Schindler wrote:

    As for the Publix calendar - if Publix would have just ignored it I think it would have gone away in a week or less.  Now we have all of those calendars in the landfill - or maybe they are being recycled.  A better reaction if any was deemed necessary at all would have been to make a donation to a Veteran's charity.   I think Publix lost points from the vast majority of us by caving in to that radio talk show host.

    MNB user Myron D. Winkelman wrote:

    I fully agree with your opinion!!  There should be a special purgatory for people like Ms. Kaufman.

    One MNB user from Florida wrote:

    Great analysis. Too many hate mongers are out there spouting this garbage. Unfortunately they seem to abound in the "bible belt".

    Funny line from another MNB user:

    Good thing Publix is not in Indiana.  December 7 is Larry Bird's birthday.

    Also the birthday, as it happens, of Tom Waits, Johnny Bench, and Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scotland from 1560-1587.
    Gonna need a big calendar if all the special interest groups are to be catered to. Especially those cranky Scots.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    Mark McGwire, the former slugger for the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals who in 1998 broke the single season home run record set by Roger Maris in 1961, yesterday admitted that he used steroids during his baseball career, including during his record-setting career.
    KC's View:
    What really was amazing about this study is that when it came across the wires, it was classified as “breaking news.”

    This story didn’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to the steroid issues that have roiled baseball over the past few years. I’m pretty sure that McGwire’s admission of the obvious won’t do anything to help him get into the Hall of Fame, though maybe it will take off some of the pressure from the media when he joins the Cardinals as hitting coach in spring training.

    I don’t feel at all sorry for McGwire, who made this decision and now has to live with the consequences. I don;t even feel sorry for baseball in general - the management and leadership of the sport turned a blind eye to this problem, preferring to luxuriate in the publicity that home runs gave them rather than deal with the long-term implications. (Boy, is this a lesson for every business that thinks short-term rather than long-term, that behaves tactically without thinking strategically.)

    The only people In feel sorry for are the people who rooted for McGwire and his brethren, and who now may feel betrayed by his actions and subsequent dishonesty.

    To use a Latin proverb oft quoted here, ‘Trust, like the soul, never returns once it goes.”

    Published on: January 12, 2010

    The National Grocers Association (NGA) announced yesterday that Mike Jackson, the former Supervalu senior executive who had agreed to succeed the retiring Tom Zaucha as the trade association’s president/CEO, has changed his mind “for personal reasons and will not take the job and move to Washington, DC.

    According to NGA, the search committee that recruited Jackson will now move onto the other “very qualified professionals” who were candidates for the job. Zaucha is not scheduled to step down until June, and so the committee is said to have plenty of time to accomplish its work.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 12, 2010

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    KC's View: