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    Published on: March 10, 2010

    by Kate McMahon


    Please rob me.

    That’s exactly the message you unwittingly risk sending by sharing too much information on your whereabouts on social networking sites such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter and Facebook.

    And that’s exactly the name of the new website designed by three tech-savvy guys in Amsterdam to illustrate just that point. Since its launch last month, PleaseRobMe.com has been the talk of the town, from mainstream media to cyber-chatter. It’s been called satire, a spoof, and serious business.

    The site’s founders make it very clear they are not promoting break-ins, just awareness, stating: “Our intention is not, and never has been, to have people burgled.”

    They note that in our rush to embrace new technology and social engagement, we sometimes forget about privacy and common sense. Enter the newest Next Big Thing in social networking -- “social geolocation” services led by Foursquare.com and Gowalla.com. “Social geolocation” translates to “where are you?/I’m here.”

    Members are asked to “check-in” by using text messages or applications for iPhones or Android phones to cite their whereabouts and connect with friends. The locations are positioned on maps, similar to a game board.

    The “positioning” sets these sites apart from Facebook, which asks users “What’s on your mind?” and Twitter, which wants to know “What’s happening?”

    Posting “I’m at the farmer’s market” sounds relatively innocent, right? Not so, says PleaseRobMe.com: “The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you're definitely not... home. So here we are; on one end we're leaving lights on when we're going on a holiday, and on the other we're telling everybody on the internet we're not home.”

    Dubious? Well an Arizona-based video editor sent out an innocent tweet last June saying “We made it to Kansas City in one piece.” When he came home his house was burgled and his MacBook Pro taken.

    Boy Van Amstel, one of the founders of Please Rob Me, saw people foolishly listing their home address, or family members’ addresses, in their “check-ins” and thought it dangerous. His site is actually quite simple – it is essentially a page of Twitter search results that monitors the latest posts of users sharing their location via Foursquare. The listing reads “recent empty homes.”

    Not surprisingly, Foursquare reacted quickly, saying it takes users’ privacy “very seriously” and notes that people who opt to send their check-ins to Facebook and Twitter expose the information to a larger audience. Many bloggers jumped in to support Foursquare, including one who wrote: “You might as well argue that you should never tell anyone you have a job from 9-5 every day because people can use the white pages to find your home and rob you!”

    The lessons here?

    The rapidly changing social media world allows quick thinking entrepreneurs to execute ideas like PleaseRobMe.com, adding one more example to the “Why didn’t I think of that?” file. It also means that as users and providers of social networking, we all need to think very carefully about what we are posting on the internet. As we’ve told our children time and again, once it’s out there, anyone can see it.

    Do you use Foursquare or other geolocation services, personally or in your business? If so, please shoot me an email at kate@morningnewsbeat.com for an upcoming column.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that “Basic Food Flavors Inc., the Las Vegas company at the center of a recall of more than 100 food products, continued to make and distribute food ingredients for about a month after it learned the bacteria salmonella was present at its processing facility, according to a Food and Drug Administration report.”

    According to the story, Basic Food Flavors found out it had a salmonella problem on January 21, but continued distributing the suspect ingredients until February 15, the point at which the FDA began inspecting its facilities. “The FDA last week recommended companies recall products, from chips to soups, that contain a commonly used additive made by Basic Food Flavors that tested positive for salmonella,” the Journal writes. “The additive is mixed into foods to give them a meaty flavor.”

    More than 100 products have been recalled because of concerns about salmonella contamination linked to Basic Food Flavors’ products, though no illnesses have been linked to the recalled items.
    KC's View:
    I’m not sure what the precise punishment ought to be in cases like these, but I’m damned sure it ought to be a lot harsher for companies that know they have a problem and then ignore it - no matter what the reason. I have no idea if this is a Peanut Corp. of America-type situation, where they allegedly decided not to clean the feces off the equipment because they were more concerned about the bottom line than food safety, but that is at least one of the possibilities.

    Heads on pikes? Maybe. But willful negligence, especially when related to the public’s safety - and that can erode overall confidence in the safety of the food supply - is a very serious matter and ought to be treated as such.

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is out with a report card evaluating the efforts of packaged goods manufacturers to improve the nutrition levels of products marketed to kids. The report comes four years after a voluntary initiative was developed by the Council for Better Business Bureau that was designed to develop healthier advertising to children.

    According to the story, “No company received an ‘A.’ The highest score was a ‘B+’ won by Mars Inc., the candy maker that owns Chicago-based Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. Northfield-based Kraft was one of six companies that got a ‘B-,’ while Oak Brook-based McDonald's was one of six graded with a ‘C-.’ ... Two-thirds of the companies analyzed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest did not have a policy for food marketing to children, earning them an automatic ‘F.’ Sara Lee fell into that category.”

    The reason for Mars’ leading grade? The story says that the company has stopped marketing to children under 12, and has created a policy that covers all media, not just television and print.

    The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) issued a statement responding to the CSPI report.

    “The food and beverage industry has already changed the recipes of more than 10,000 products to reduce calories, sugar, sodium, and fat. We are working with experts at FDA and USDA to design new labels that make information about calories and nutrition facts clearer for busy parents. And, we have changed the way we advertise our products during children’s programming. Because our industry has applied nutrition standards to our advertising seen during children’s programming, two-thirds of advertisements viewed on children’s programming now feature healthy food and active lifestyles.” In fact, GMA said, studies have shown that between 2004 and 2008, ads for food, beverages and restaurants dropped 31 percent, while snack ads dropped by 60 percent and commercials for cookies dropped by 82 percent.
    KC's View:
    I actually sort of like it when companies are more sensitive about advertising to kids, the same way I like it when supermarkets create candy-free checkout lanes for parents to use.

    But I don’t worry too much about these issues.

    Ultimately, I figure, it is my job as the parent to monitor how much TV my kids watch, to not give into their whining about wanting this or that, and, ultimately, to raise children who don’t whine and who are downright skeptical about advertising claims (not to mention claims made by pretty much every institution or organization).

    I like that CSPI keeps the spotlight on these issues, and I think it is appropriate for CPG companies to pay attention and to be responsible. (After all, most of the people working for CPG companies are parents, too...and they ought not check their parental responsibilities at the front door.) But I’d actually be more in favor of an organization we might call CPAACBI - Center for Parents Actually Acting In Their Children’s Best Interests - except that it would be an organization, and therefore would merit considerable skepticism.

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    A new study suggests that “an enduring shift has taken place as a result of the recent economic downturn,” and that “retailers and suppliers will need to adapt to consumers' new shopping behaviors to succeed in today's evolved marketplace and during the post-recession recovery.” The report says that even as the economy recovers, “shoppers will be more deliberate and purposeful in their spending, as conspicuous consumption will give way to more conscious or practical consumerism.”

    The report also says that “retailers need to make promotion and savings-related information more easily accessible across all shopper touch points. Furthermore, the explosion of online resources and new mobile phone shopping apps has made it easier than ever for consumers to find a specific item. This makes it imperative for retailers and manufacturers to optimize their search engine and paid search vehicle activities.”

    The report, entitled “The New Consumer Behavior Paradigm: Permanent or Fleeting?,” is from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Retail Forward.
    KC's View:
    It also is projected that “the affluent segment of Generation X and the young Generation Y will lead spending in the recovery,” which suggests that the retailers and manufacturers that want to gain traction in the future will have to embrace the transparency and technologies that are so important to these generations. To resist - to believe that business as usual is somehow an option - would be a serious mistake.

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Ahold-owned Martin’s Food Markets will close down the 24 Ukrop’s stores it has just acquired and renovate them for a week before reopening them under the Martin’s name.

    According to the story, “The closing of the stores will be staggered on a rotating basis so customers can visit other stores. In-store pharmacies and banks will remain open during the renovations. When the stores reopen, they will sell beer, wine and be open on Sundays.

    “The closings will allow workers to paint, clean, re-merchandise and make other interior changes to the stores. Among the changes will be the addition of self-checkout lanes, improved lighting and new computerized cash registers. Martin’s also has said that cafes in 23 of the stores will get new chairs, tables and be wired for Wi-Fi. Only eight of Ukrop’s cafes now offer wireless Internet connection.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    Weis Markets announced yesterday that its hanover, Pennsylvania, store “is the first supermarket in the state ... to earn a certification award from the GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership, a voluntary Environmental Protection Agency alliance with food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease their impact on the ozone layer and climate change.

    “The store attained a ‘silver’ certificate by meeting tough benchmarks for cutting emissions that harm the earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to global warming.”

    “We’re pleased our Hanover store has achieved GreenChill’s silver certification level. While we have long focused on ways to conserve energy and lessen the environmental impact of our stores, this project represents an increased commitment on our part,” said David J. Hepfinger, Weis Markets’ president/CEO. “In the coming years, we will look for opportunities to incorporate these technologies into the stores we build or upgrade.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that an 18 percent tax on pizza and sodas could result in a a shift in eating habits that would reduce the average American’s weight by five pounds per year, which would go a long way toward having an impact on the nation’s obesity rates, which cost the nation $147 million a year in health-related expenses.

    "While such policies will not solve the obesity epidemic in its entirety and may face considerable opposition from food manufacturers and sellers, they could prove an important strategy to address overconsumption, help reduce energy intake and potentially aid in weight loss and reduced rates of diabetes among U.S. adults," the report says.
    KC's View:
    Pizza? Now they want to tax pizza?

    Seriously?

    These people are nuts. Seriously nuts.

    Pizza may be the eighth deadly sin (as a certain troubadour once sang), but it also one of the staffs of life.

    “Considerable opposition” to such a tax? That’s an understatement - and it won’t just come from manufacturers and retailers.

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    MSNBC reports that chef Daniel Angerer, who owns the Klee Brasserie in New York City, has developed a new cheese with a twist - it is made with human breast milk.

    According to the story, Angerer has a four week old daughter who was not drinking all the breast milk that his wife was pumping and saving in the refrigerator. Since breast milk has a natural expiration date, Angerer was faced with the prospect of throwing it out unless he could find another use for it.

    “With his wife on board with the plan to offer a bit of herself in the name of culinary art,” MSNBC reports, “Angerer began experimenting with making cheese out of his wife’s breast milk. Turned out it worked pretty well - two gallons of breast milk, some curdling and two weeks of aging produced a sweet cheese with a taste not far removed from the more familiar cow’s milk cheese.”

    Some people have been calling the restaurant begging for a taste of what is being called “My Spouse’s Mommy’s Milk Cheese,” while others have been turned off by the whole idea.

    There are two reasons it may not matter.

    One, this is a limited supply item. Eventually, the supply of breast milk is going to run out.

    Two, the New York City Health Department has advised him not to sell or give away products made from human breast milk, even while conceding that there is no specific law against it.

    However ... Angerer’s wife, Lori Mason, has one other idea: “She is urging her husband to try out another recipe before the mother’s milk supply dries up; she’d love to see a breast-milk gelato.”
    KC's View:
    I’ll try almost anything, and so I’d probably be willing to taste the breast milk cheese and gelato.

    But to be honest, if I have my druthers, if I’m going to be tasting breast milk, I’d prefer that there be an actual nipple involved...

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    • The Washington Post reports that Wegmans plans to open a new store in Germantown, in Maryland’s Montgomery County, possibly as soon as 2012. The store will be Wegmans’ ninth in the Washington, DC, region.

    • The Seattle Times reports that Jones Soda “has signed a ‘letter of intent’ that could lead to its acquisition by a Los Angeles natural-soda-pop company called Reed's for about $10.1 million in stock and cash.

    • Dollar General reportedly has filed a lawsuit against Fred’s Inc. another discount chain, charging that the company "unlawfully and deceptively" has adopted Dollar General's color scheme and typeface in a new advertising campaign. Dollar General says that the color and typeface represent its “most sacred” assets, and is seeking both a halt to the Fred’s campaign and monetary damages.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    • Kroger said that its fourth quarter earnings were down 27 percent to $255.4 million, from $349.2 million during the same period a year ago. Q4 sales were $18.6 billion, up seven percent from the previous year, on same-store sales that were up 1.2 percent.

    • Duane Reade Holdings Corp. said yesterday that it had a fourth quarter loss of $84.8 million, compared to a loss of $17.4 million during the same period a year ago. Q4 revenue was up to $465 million, from $464.5 million a year ago, on same-store sales that were up 2.6 percent.

    For the year, Duane Reade lost $124.3 million versus a loss of $72.8 million a year ago. Annual revenue rose four percent to $1.84 billion from $1.77 billion a year earlier.

    Duane Reade is in the process of being acquired by Walgreen for $623 million.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    ...will return. I promise.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2010

    We want to give a big shout-out to Tony Kornheiser, who was kind enough to mention our new book on his Washington, DC-based radio show yesterday.

    The reference came in the first two minutes of the show...and you can listen to it in Part One of the March 9 show...which can be found in the radio station’s audio vault:

    http://www.espn980.com/audiovault/#

    Thanks, Mr. Tony!

    FYI...

    “The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies” is available from the publisher:
    Click here.

    And from Amazon.com: Click here.
    KC's View: