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    Published on: March 17, 2010

    The Chicago Tribune reports on a new study from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) saying that over the past century, Americans have been “cutting back on beef and milk but have beefed up on cheese and chicken. Soft-drink consumption has soared from about 15 gallons per person to about 45 gallons in the last half-century.

    The story also says that “The USDA's national consumption maps show that areas around Chicago and northwest Indiana; Atlanta; San Antonio; Austin, Texas; New York; Baltimore; New Jersey; Philadelphia; and Washington had the highest levels of in-home fruit and vegetable consumption. These areas also had some of the highest in-home meat consumption.

    “Packaged sweets, though popular around Chicago and the New York area, also found some of their biggest consumers in upstate New York, Utah and parts of Idaho, Nevada and Nebraska. Chicago scored near the middle in soft-drink consumption, which is highest in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Three of those states also have the highest adult obesity rates in the nation.”

    Analysis of the USDA story by Harry Balzer of the NPD consumer research group suggests that many of the shifts can be seen as money-related. He says that items like chicken and soft drinks are cheaper than beef and milk, which has helped drive consumption changes. And the growing popularity of cheese? Balzer says, “"The No. 1 meal we eat today in America is the sandwich, and whether it is turkey or roast beef, it can come with cheese.” In addition, he notes, pizza has become a national meal...and it almost always has cheese on it.
    KC's View:
    At least until those damned liberals decide to start taxing every slice of pizza sold in America as a way of controlling as much citizen behavior as possible. When they succeed, it won;t just be a victory for socialism, but it’ll also have a negative impact on cheese producers.

    The end of the world may be at hand.

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    The Grand Rapids Press reports that Walmart is facing some criticism - and even some calls for a boycott - over the decision to fire a 29-year-old cancer patient who tested positive for marijuana while working for the company at a Battle Creek, Michigan, store.

    According to the story, the employee was a registered medical marijuana user who tested positive “during a worker's compensation screening after he sprained his knee on the job.”

    In a statement, Walmart said, “In states, such as Michigan, where prescriptions for marijuana can be obtained, an employer can still enforce a policy that requires termination of employment following a positive drug screen. We believe our policy complies with the law and we support decisions based on the policy." The company also reportedly is contesting the employee’s attempt to claim unemployment benefits on the grounds that “any marijuana use still is a violation of federal law, even if states are allowing it in some cases.”

    Walmart’s position is being disputed by a number of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which argues that it is “immoral and it's illegal to fire somebody for treating their disease with a medicine that's legal and recommended by someone's physician."
    KC's View:
    The paper makes the excellent point that this is probably just the beginning of what will be an ongoing debate about this particular drug use by employees. I understand that Walmart and a lot of other companies probably will feel hemmed in by what they think of as traditional values, and will not be accommodating.

    However, I have to say that I think Walmart is wrong on this one. I think when you have an employee suffering from cancer, you do everything possible to make their situation tenable.

    My mom died of cancer a little over 12 years ago. It started with lung cancer, brought on by 40 years of smoking. (She’d actually managed to quit after numerous agonizing and failed attempts and hadn’t had a cigarette for five years when she had her first seizure, caused because the cancer had spread to her brain.) A tough broad, my mom managed to survive for about four years before finally passing away...and at any point during those extraordinarily tough years, had she wanted and had access to medical marijuana, I would have fully endorsed her use of it.

    I understand laws. I understand traditions. But how do you say no to someone who is suffering? How do you take away their ability to support themselves and have access to health insurance at the most vulnerable point in their lives?

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    The Danbury News Times has a story about how in Darien, Connecticut, Stop & Shop has acquired one of the Shaw’s stores being sold by Supervalu...which will give it two stores serving a town of fewer than 20,000 people. It is one of five Shaw’s stores in Connecticut that Stop & Shop is buying, with the balance being acquired by ShopRite.

    However, at this point Stop & Shop isn’t divulging its plans for the new Darien location, other than saying that it will operate the location and assume the Shaw’s contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
    KC's View:
    I’ll reiterate something here that I told the reporter who wrote this story - that Stop & Shop has the opportunity to do this store right, if it turns the mediocre Shaw’s unit into a first class shopping experience. But if it is half-hearted about this conversion, it will only reinforce the opinion of Stop & Shop in town...since the store it already operates there is one of the oldest and crappiest stores in its fleet. (I know this. I’ve lived in Darien for almost 26 years, and it is the location of MorningNewsBeat Global Headquarters.)

    It is also an area that is about to get a lot more competitive. In addition to a Grade A ShopRite and Stew Leonard’s a few miles up the road, and a very competitive independent called Palmer’s. There also is a new Whole Foods going in this spring, and an enormous new Fairway opening a few miles down the road in Stamford. (Can’t wait for that one - it is across the street from the gym where I box.)

    So Stop & Shop’s presence may be bigger, but stronger competition could actually make it diminish. The challenge to the company is to raise its game...because the bar is almost certainly going to be higher.

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    The Pennsylvania-based Sheetz convenience store chain has signed a deal to install NCR-operated Blockbuster Express DVD rental kiosks in almost all of its 365 stores.

    The Blockbuster kiosks are positioned as competition to the McDonald’s-owned Redbox DVD rental kiosks.

    NCR has recently signed similar deals with Basha’s, Duane Reade and Brookshire’s.
    KC's View:
    The cautionary note here is about Blockbuster - which was a vital, expanding retailer just a few years ago...and now seems to be trying to retrench because it was being battered by Netflix on one side and Redbox on the other. The retrenchment may work...but it also could be too little, too late and too tactical with not enough strategic backbone.

    There was a time that the Blockbuster store looked like a permanent fixture on America’s main streets. Now, it looks more like a dinosaur. There’s a lesson there for every retailer...

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    Marketing Daily reports that Procter & Gamble has “unveiled plans for a major public awareness campaign called Future Friendly that will encourage consumers to save energy, waste and water ... It will also tout brands such as Tide laundry detergent, Pampers diapers, Duracell batteries and PUR water purifiers.

    "We're trying to educate mainstream consumers on how to conserve natural resources in their homes," Melanie Healey, P&G's group president for North America, tells Marketing Daily, which reports that “Tide Coldwater detergent, for example, will be promoted as saving energy because it's made to be used in cold water.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning on free giveaway contests being sponsored by various food companies as a way “to stretch their marketing dollars during the recession. Contestants also tend to brag about the sport of entering free food contests, something that's easier than ever with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter,” which then spreads the marketing message even more.

    Some examples:

    • Denny’s is running a “Grand Slam for a Year" promotion, in which winners “can order 52 servings of a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast, or two eggs, two strips of bacon, two sausage links and two pancakes. That's a stack of pancakes four feet high, with 17,680 calories, not counting the syrup.” Some 600,000 people have entered the contest, two-thirds of whom have joined the company’s loyalty marketing program.

    • “Subway in February announced a food giveaway to promote its ‘Five Dollar Footlong’ sandwich. In it, 71 winners will win free sandwiches for a year, amounting to a $260 gift card. Subway was able to add 400,000 customers to its marketing database with the promotion, says Tony Pace, the company's chief marketing officer.”

    • “Krispy Kreme offers a dozen free doughnuts a week for a year to the first customer at new store openings. The next 11 customers get one dozen free doughnuts a month for a year, but the terms vary by location.”
    KC's View:
    Denny’s and Krispy Kreme, at least, ought to throw in free cholesterol testing and maybe free bypass operations as a grand prize.

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that PepsiCo announced yesterday that “it will remove full-calorie sweetened drinks from schools in more than 200 countries by 2012, marking the first such move by a major soft-drink producer. PepsiCo announced its plan the same day first lady Michelle Obama urged major companies to put less fat, salt and sugar in foods and reduce marketing of unhealthy products to children.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    The US Congress has been releasing numbers for how much various companies and organizations spent on lobbying the federal government during the fourth quarter of 2009. Here are some of the listings...

    • Safeway - $620,000
    • Amazon.com - $570,000
    • Supervalu - $260,000
    • United Fresh Produce Association - $210,000
    • Kroger - $75,000
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that it taking public comment on Whole Foods’ plan to sell the Wild Oats brand name - acquired as part of its purchase of Wild Oats, and now on the market as part of its resolution of antitrust issues with regulators - to Topco Associates.

    • The Honolulu Advertiser reports that Hawaii is seeing a resurgence in a format that seemed to have a short life span a few years ago - fast food joints that sell only cereal. Two of them have opened on the island of Oahu in just the past few weeks, and the entrepreneurs involved seem to enthusiastic about their potential.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 17, 2010

    We continue to get emails about the subject of regulation, bans and taxation when it comes to various food products. One MNB user wrote:

    I believe in individual responsibility.  I personally don’t think I need the government to be my “parent” and do what “it” thinks is best for me.  Guess what….do you have high blood pressure and shouldn’t consume salt?  Cook your own food or seek out restaurants that will accommodate your special needs.  Are you or your kids are overweight?  Avoid sugar, fat and eat less plus exercise more!  Are you are susceptible to food borne illnesses?  COOK your food and don’t eat it raw…..BINGO….problems solved.  For God’s sake, do we need LAWS to affect ALL of us just because some people can’t think for themselves??? 

    As for smoking, you DO need regulations because it isn’t something that affects only the individual, but the people around you and unfortunately, bad manners do need policing.  You cannot compare that ban to the craziness they are trying to regulate.  I bet if your health care costs were reduced if you are in good health and increased if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you will either decide to fix it or pay the consequences in more ways than one!!


    An MNB user critical of government interference in private enterprise and personal behavior suggested that California was an example of liberal excess, and that the entire country could learn from Texas’s approach to personal freedom.

    Which prompted another MNB user to write:

    ...That may be difficult going forward since they're re-writing school textbooks to reflect the political views of a few:

    "After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."  --from the New York Times
     
    What they may forget is that most kids take their textbooks with a large grain of salt, and are more likely to question these views.


    MNB user Hortencia Espinoza wrote:

    I was at a baby shower this weekend at a home in Pacifica that has a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean.

    My girl friends and I were talking about going out to dinner this week when one of my friends mentioned she didn’t want to go to this one restaurant because their food tastes too salty, which prompted me to let them know about the proposed ban on salt in the state of New York.

    My friend who owns the house overlooking the Ocean and is a wedding planner bursts into a laughing fit, tears and all, about it. After she calmed down brought this up:

    Is the state of New York going to stop people from breathing? When you live next to water, Ocean water, you are going to have a high concentration of salt in the air you breathe. AND, she went on, no more sea side weddings or festivities of any kind since the closer to the water you are the higher the concentration of salt in the air is. Not only are you breathing it but as they prepare the food, you cannot stop the salt in the air or the water from “contaminating” the food. That can be seen as adding salt to food.

    The blender went off in the back ground and my other friend stood up in mock 50’ horror movie fashion and screamed “I am never going to NY ever again. No more margaritas!” We all exploded in laughter.

    Thought you could enjoy a chuckle, too.


    I never even considered the margarita angle. Yikes!

    And MNB user Vicki R. Borof wrote:

    I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone mention that New York mines salt.  I found the following with a quick Google search:  “The salt industry is important because it provides an essential commodity, and employment either directly or indirectly for thousands of New Yorkers. In 1995, New York salt production ranked first in the United States in value at 185 million dollars and third in tonnage mined at 4.9 million short tons.” 
     
    A New York politician wants to ban salt??


    Not a very smart NY politician. (Which seems to be a fast-growing club.)

    On a related subject, I suggested yesterday that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), now 20 years old, is an example that government regulation can be compassionate, appropriate and effective. Which prompted MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf:

    At first I thought unnecessary government intrusion was a definite possibility. Then on a trip to London  I realized that nearly every pub I visited had the men’s room in the basement, down a narrow stairs through a 20”door. That’s when it dawned on me a person in a wheel chair may not be able to “go” anywhere in London. Suddenly the politicians had a brilliant idea!

    It happens occasionally.




    On the subject of the Huffington Post blog by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey about the importance of creating a “High Trust Organization,” MNB user Chris O’Brien wrote:

    Thanks for sharing that piece on “Creating a High Trust Organization.” Some great points in there, and perhaps the underlying theme is that successful organizations ultimately need to have employees at the ground level who believe in the company’s core goals, and also believe that they have the power/ability to help meet those goals.

    On a related note, I finally saw “Capitalism: A Love Story” last night. There’s an interesting point about how, in a country that supposedly values democracy, many American workers are perfectly willing to accept business models that are basically dictatorships. That may be an oversimplification, but certainly food for thought.


    MNB user Carolyn M. Beeley wrote:

    I'm currently enrolled in CTI Leadership program and I was delighted to have the Whole Foods and The Container Store articles to share with my tribe.

    One small comment in response to your comment:  " if I were creating an organization, these would be the standards to which I would aspire."

    You are creating an organization........it's how you define organization.  We are all leaders in our life.
     
    Thank you again for your insights.


    And thank you for yours.

    MNB user Jenny Keehan had a thought:

    Isn’t this a little ironic coming from a guy who was blogging under a pseudonym to lower the stock price of a company he wanted to acquire?

    True.




    Finally, about the passing of Peter Graves, MNB user Gary Harris wrote:

    My earliest memory of Peter Graves was as the father on the Saturday morning series, “Fury” about a boy and his horse. Great stuff in Airplane, and if you listen to the voices, he sounds just like his brother.

    Over, Oveur.
    KC's View: