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    Published on: January 21, 2010

    Now available on iTunes…

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    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    There was a story in the Wall Street Journal the other day that caught my eye: “Ten Mistakes Male Executives Make With Female Customers.” According to the story, “Women buy goods and services differently from men. They have more experience as shoppers, feel more passion about what they buy and bear the lion's share of responsibility for purchasing household items.”

    Okay, no big surprise there.

    The story went on to say that because most businesses are managed by men, there are some common mistakes that they make. For example:

    They don’t do enough research into why and how women shop, ignoring the importance of an emotional appeal.

    “They don't have personal experience of the time pressures that women, especially working mothers who have a full-time job at work and a full-time job at home, face.”

    Because men are more comfortable working with men, they collaborate with other men to develop brands and products that will be marketed to women.

    They fail to differentiate, and are generally clumsy about communicating.

    And, when all else fails, they make the product pink.

    Now, all I could think of when reading this piece is, don’t these guys have wives and daughters and sisters? Didn’t they have mothers? Haven’t they been paying attention?

    I don’t know about the other guys who are part of the MNB community, but when I go off the reservation and make a sexist comment - either as a joke or inadvertently - I hear about it. Instantly. And it often is my 15-year-old daughter who is the fastest and most insistent about setting me straight.

    I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that if men want to market to women, what they have to do first is open their eyes and ears, and pay just a little bit of attention to what is going on around them...especially to what their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are saying and doing.

    it isn’t that tough. Of course, maybe it could be argued that we’re just playing out in the workplace the same attitudes that get us in trouble in our personal lives - not listening, not being good at communicating, preferring the company of other guys, and thinking that when we’re in trouble, we just give the woman with whom we are having difficulties something pink, and that’ll make it all better.

    In other words, sometimes we’re morons.

    For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    Fortune is out with its annual “100 Best Places To Work” list this morning, and included on the list are a number of retailers and CPG companies. Some of the honorees are:

    #3 - Wegmans
    #5 - Nugget Market
    #15 - Zappos
    #18 - Whole Foods Market
    #36 - The Container Store
    #47 - JM Smucker
    #53 - Nordstrom
    #59 - Monsanto
    #64 - Stew Leonard’s
    #72 - McCormick & Co.
    #83 - SC Johnson & Co.
    #84 - Accenture
    #86 - Publix Super Markets
    #90 - General Mills
    #93 - Starbucks
    #100 - Colgate-Palmolive

    The number one company on the list this year is software manufacturer SAS, and here is what Fortune has to say about its culture:

    “One of the Best Companies for all 13 years, SAS boasts a laundry list of benefits -- high-quality child care at $410 a month, 90% coverage of the health insurance premium, unlimited sick days, a medical center staffed by four physicians and 10 nurse practitioners (at no cost to employees), a free 66,000-square-foot fitness center and natatorium, a lending library, and a summer camp for children.

    “The architect of this culture -- based on ‘trust between our employees and the company’ -- is Jim Goodnight, its co-founder, and the only CEO that SAS has had in its 34-year history.

    “Some might think that with all those perks, Goodnight was giving away the store. Not so. SAS is highly profitable and ranks as the world’s largest privately owned software company. Turnover is the industry’s lowest at 2%.”
    KC's View:
    It is interesting to read about some of the innovations that qualified certain companies for the list this year.

    Here’s what they said about Stew Leonard’s: The company “introduced phased retirement: In their last year of service, employees work three days, and get paid for five. Senior managers froze their salaries so that other employees could get raises (4% for hourly folks, 3% for salaried) and the company could maintain its no-layoff policy.”

    And Nugget Markets: “The tough economy prompted the supermarket chain to help associates by giving them cards good for 10% discounts on $500 of groceries every month. At one employee-appreciation event, the executive team surprised everyone by washing the cars of all associates.”

    And The Container Store (which struck me because of the subject covered in MNB Radio, above): “Women play key roles at this storage and organizer retailer: Females constitute 63 of 111 store managers, 12 of 14 vice presidents, and 30 of the 52 directors.”

    Nobody is doing business as usual. And for some companies, which put a premium on their employees, the differential advantage will get them through the tough times and give them an enormous leg up when prosperity returns.

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    Interesting story out of the UK, where Tesco has begun a promotion called “Buy One Get One Free Later.”

    The idea is that traditional Buy-One-Get-One promotions for perishable products often result in wasted food that eventually is thrown away - people take the free products because they can, but are unable to use them before the expiration date.

    So now, on certain products - such as melons, lettuce and other kinds of fresh produce - people can buy one this week and get vouchers which will allow them to get the same item a week later for free.
    KC's View:
    I think this is a very good idea, because it places the retailer clearly on the side of the shopper.

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that investment icon Warren Buffett, who holds 9.4 percent of the outstanding shares in Kraft Foods, said yesterday that he continues to object to the company’s $19.6 billion acquisition of Cadbury.

    Referring to Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld, who has been pushing relentlessly for the deal, Buffett told CNBC, “"Irene has done a good job in operations. I like Irene. I mean, I find her -- she's been straightforward with me, we just disagree ... She thinks this is a good deal, I think it's a bad deal. I think she's a perfectly decent person. She could be a trustee under my will. I just don't want her making this particular deal.”

    After four months of resistance, Cadbury accepted the Kraft bid earlier this week.
    KC's View:
    Maybe it’s just Nebraska folksiness, but does it strike anyone else that the “she could be a trustee under my will” line is a little disingenuous?

    Though I have to admit that if I had to make a choice between getting proceeds from the Kraft-Cadbury deal and being in Warren Buffett’s will, I’d definitely choose the latter.

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is out with its annual assessment of the ranks of the c-store business, concluding that their number dropped by 0.2 percent over the past year and stood at 144,541 as of December 31, 2009.

    The report, co-issued by Nielsen TDLinx, noted that “this is the second straight year the count has declined and only the fourth time in the last 15 years that the industry’s store count has declined. The industry count reached a high of 146,294 stores two years ago ... Despite the two-year decline, the convenience retailing industry has shown remarkable growth over the last three decades. In 1979 there were only 57,700 convenience stores in the United States.”

    Other notes from the report:

    • “The convenience retailing industry also continues to be dominated by single-store operators, accounting for 62.3 percent of the industry. While the overall industry store count declined 334 stores, one-store operators increased by 452 stores.”
    • “Texas once again led in terms of overall stores, with 14,226 stores, nearly one of every 10 in the country.”
    • “Convenience stores also outnumber the cumulative total stores count from competing channels in the United States. According to Nielsen TDLinx, as of December 31, 2009, there were 35,612 supermarkets, 37,654 drug stores and 27,247 mass merchandiser/dollar stores.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    The Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal reports that Supervalu “plans to consolidate its five Albertsons meat and grocery procurement offices in the western United States into one regional department in Fullerton, Calif. ... Produce procurement for those Albertsons distribution centers will be split between an office in Irvine, Calif., and W. Newell & Co., a Supervalu subsidiary based in Champaign, Ill.

    “This transition should allow us to increase efficiencies, better use company resources and expertise, and create single points of vendor contact, making it easier to do business with us,” Supervalu said in a statement. “The regional model is similar to what we have used for many years in other areas of the company.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that “More than 200 Aldi store managers in 32 states have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. division of the German discount grocer, saying they were wrongly classified as exempt from overtime and should have been paid for working more than 40 hours a week.

    “The U.S. District Court case was initiated by Howard McNelley of Elyria, who spent nine years working at the Aldi store in Brooklyn before being fired in June 2009. He is joined in the federal class action lawsuit by 212 other Aldi employees.”

    According to the story, Aldi has responded with the following statement: “Aldi prides itself on providing a work environment that respects each employee and rewards its staff with generous salaries and benefits that are significantly higher than the industry standard. As a testament to that, it's common for Aldi employees to celebrate 15, 20 and 25 years of service. As a matter of policy and practice, Aldi consistently adheres to all employee-related laws and regulations. We look forward to presenting the facts in court.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    • In the UK, Tesco reportedly is launching a new quarterly food magazine with a 60-page issue that offers cooking tips and recipes as well as money saving shopping ideas. The new magazine also has an online component that archives the content.

    The new magazine, called “Real Food,” is being published in addition to Tesco’s existing bi-monthly lifestyle magazine.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    • The Phoenix Business Journal reports that “during a hearing Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, (Bashas’) company officials and a committee of unsecured creditors effectively agreed on a plan for reorganization.

    • There are reports out of the Pacific Northwest saying that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has come to an agreement with Albertsons on a new contract, eliminating the possibility of a strike. Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

    • New York Gov. David Paterson reportedly is once again pushing for the state’s supermarkets to have the ability to sell wine, a deal that would bring the financially troubled state close to $100 million in estimated fees and taxes. Supermarkets reportedly are happy with the proposal, which continues to be opposed by liquor stores, which at this point have a monopoly on wine sales.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    • Rite Aid announced that Bryan Shirtliff, currently the company’s Senior Vice President of Category Management, has been named to the new position of Senior Vice President, Business Development.

    • The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) announced that Corey Fitze, a former political fundraiser for both the National Republican Congressional Committee and 3 Dog Consulting, has joined the association as director of government relations.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    • Royal Ahold this morning said that its fourth quarter net sales climbed 3.4 percent to the equivalent of $9.6 billion (US). At its US chains, same-store sales were up one percent at Stop & Shop, 2.4 percent at Giant of Landover and 2.8 percent at Giant of Carlisle.

    • Starbucks said yesterday that its first fiscal quarter income was $241.5 million, up from $64.3 million during the same period a year ago. Q1 revenue was up four percent, to $2.7 billion., on same-store sales that also were up four percent.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 21, 2010

    Got the following email from MNB user Jon Mellor:

    Your first letter writer in today’s Your Views, on the healthcare situation, writes about her husband, “Since he is unemployed, he is reluctant to spring for the test himself, which means he may go longer between such exams and run the risk of a future polyp having time to get dangerous. That is called health care reform. Go figure.”

    The conclusion this person comes to is so emblematic of the confusion that reigns in this debate, thanks mostly to the people who are against reform and are creating confusion.  She has pinned her husband’s loss of coverage on reform, when reform A) hasn’t taken place yet and B) would, most likely, fix the problem!   This isn’t too far removed from the people who say that they want “government out of healthcare -- and by the way don’t change anything about my medicare.”   How can there be a winner in this situation?

    I didn’t read her email that way. I thought that what she was saying is that some insurance companies have crappy priorities and crappier policies. (My adjective, not hers. But I feel strongly about this.)

    What she was saying, I think, is that we need a health care system that focuses more on prevention than treatment, and that is affordable and available even for those in financial straits.

    I have no problem with that position.

    We got a lot of email about Michael Sansolo’s piece about how the Yellow Pages may be an analog solution in a digital world.

    One MNB user wrote:

    It’s not like they are completely behind the ball, their is quite user-friendly and incorporates ‘popular searches’ and categories, while their mobile site is actually one of the better ones I’ve used, complete with an application for my new Droid phone. The main site has does in fact incorporate maps, user reviews, and directions. I’m usually one to blast print media as well, but there are still a large amount of people who like having their ‘directory’ in hand. Just giving credit where I feel its due; I think Yellow Pages is one of the more adaptive companies in adjusting to an increased digital age.

    MNB user Aaron Algazy wrote:

    I have used and will still use the ‘analog’ Yellow Pages for many reasons.  First: The kids are or seem like they are on the computer when I need it.  Second: I can write information on the pages when calling the place of business, i.e. how much a new radiator is going to cost.  You can’t write on the PC screen…well I guess you can, but it’s not the smartest thing to do.  Third: What if your PC or Internet is down?  Not everyone has an iPhone (like my wife and millions of others) or a Crackberry (that’s a Blackberry for those going through or needing to go through a 12 step program).  For a business to have one on hand is also helpful; when a Customer (or potential Customer) needs to look up a correct address because Google Maps sent them 100 miles (or more) in the wrong direction; oh, and their GPS is in their other car with their iPhone plugged in because the battery is dead.

    I understand what you are saying regarding being in a digital age and companies need to continue pushing forward with technology.  But in regards to paper books of the Yellow Pages, there are many different books by different companies, and many, many more Internet type Yellow Pages sites.  The difference is that the “Yellow Pages” are always on and never crash.

    MNB user Frank Urbaniak wrote:

    Michael raises interesting points that support the presentation that I co-presented with the Clinton Keay, the CIO from Sobeys at NRF this year on "A Fresh Future". Amazon and other leading multi-channel retailers have raised the bar on information that customers expect as part of their item selection process.  Thought leaders in grocery like Sobeys,  with their strong commitment to fresh, are considering the implications of the GS-1 Item Selection process:

    Product information-price, promotion, compare to other items, COOL, ingredients
    Health and Wellness-Is it good for me?
    Environmental/Ethical-is it good for the world?
    Certification-norms, organic, kosher
    Advice-how do I use it
    Community-what do others think of it
    After use-was I satisfied and will I buy it again

    The challenge for supermarkets, typically lagging behind other retail channels in multi-channel competency, and under-invested in technology,  is  and how to integrate their systems to support item information at whatever point the customer is encountering associates using technology, or standalone systems like kiosks, self-weighing scales and shopping assistants to support their shopping experience.  This requires a 'fresh roadmap' with 'fresh' thinking that many grocers have yet to address.  But you know that if Amazon were to open a 'fresh' store they would provide the customer with that information throughout the shopping experience.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Funny, I used the Yellow Pages yesterday. I needed the number of an orthopedic. I had forgotten the name and had not entered it into my phone, so the only other option I had was to go upstairs to the computer, boot up, go on line, go to Google and search for it. Of course, if I had a smart phone with internet, I wouldn't have to boot up, but I don't think it's worth the added cost. Using the yellow pages, I got the number in about 30 seconds.

    The point is, while I agree, to remain relevant, retail must adapt to new technologies, "old fashioned" processes don't necessarily become obsolete. Sometimes we need to use both wisely.

    My argument would be that while the Yellow Pages may have a certain relevance now for those of us who need orthopedists (and need glasses to read the absurdly small print), the larger point is that it will not be that long - and sooner than you think - before their traditional form will be obsolete.

    For a previous MNB column along the same lines, click here.

    Finally, we got a number of emails about our comments about the passing of author Robert B. Parker.

    MNB user Steve Ritchey wrote:

    There will be one less thing to look forward to every few months, soon, there will be no more of Parkers novels.  Another of life’s little pleasures is gone now.

    MNB user Chris Esposito wrote:

    I too loved the Spenser series.  While I enjoy others in the genre  (Connelly, Rankin, etc.), Parker’s Spenser novels were, as it says, addictive.  They were an easy read, but they were also something you could relate to.  He seemed to pick up on the nuances of everyday life, enjoying a beer, walking in a park, fixing a meal, etc. that other writers never touch upon.  It made the novels personal both from the perspective of the characters and to the readers.  I too will miss his stories.

    MNB user Patricia Berry wrote:

    I cannot express my sadness at the passing of Robert B Parker.  I loved his writing and own every book he has ever written.  I will truly miss him and all the characters he created that seem like family to me at this point.  I am so glad you talked about your interview with him, it confirms that he was truly a good guy too.  Thanks for the story.

    MNB user Bill Jensen wrote:

    Kevin, this is very sad news indeed. Over the weekend I rewarded myself with re-reading a few of his older Spenser novels, and have enjoyed the characters he brought to life. Even Pearl the wonder dog.

    I will raise one in his honor tonight, and crack open yet another one of his older books to revisit those rich characters.

    I did the same. I was thumbing through his first book, “The Godwulf Manuscript.” And I would recommend that anyone who wants to read first-rate detective fiction should go to “Early Autumn,” which I keep on my Kindle as a reference point.

    I noted yesterday that in an interview about our new book today, I’m going to treat the journalist interviewing me the same way that Parker treated me as a young journalist some two decades when I interviewed him. Which led MNB user Theresa Ruppert to write:

    What a touching and moving tribute!  Your comments brought tears to my eyes.  As an everyday reader I thought you could no longer surprise me.  That young journalist will never forget you either.  Thank you for the story and completing the circle of life.

    And MMNB user Chris Weisert wrote:

    One can only hope that your influence on this young journalist will be as lasting as Parkers on you. Hopefully the young journalist has the ability to understand  the weight of this opportunity as you did.

    Well, to paraphrase a well-known statement, “I knew Robert B. Parker. And I’m no Robert B. Parker.”

    But he was a man, it seems to me, who while he may have a sardonic world view that he expressed through his characters, he also was someone of personal kindness and generosity.

    Traits to which I can, and do, aspire.
    KC's View: