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    Published on: March 19, 2010

    Delhaize-owned Food Lion has decided that four Bloom stores that it planned to open in Raleigh, North Carolina, will instead open under its Food Lion banner. According to a story in Drug Store News, the company will focus more on expanding Bloom’s presence in markets where they already are open rather than bringing the more upscale format to new markets.

    Bloom currently operates 66 stores.
    KC's View:
    One of the great advantages that Delhaize has in its Food Lion division is a multiplicity of formats - it has different looks for different markets, and can make prudent moves like this one when the evidence suggests that it should.

    Raleigh will always be there. It can bring Bloom to the area later, if it seems like the right time.

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    This number may or may not realistic and defensible, but it is interesting nonetheless...

    According to a new Ovum survey commissioned by STELLAService, which describes itself as “the first completely independent customer service ratings agency,” the value of great online customer service in 2010 is $17.3 billion.

    According to the press release, the survey “paid particular attention to the way in which great service impacts the buying decisions of online consumers. It was concluded that consumers in the online retail category are willing to pay an even higher premium for great service (10.7%) than they would in most other categories. Based on the average amount spent by online consumers each year, the survey found that $17.3 billion of value can be created in 2010 by Internet retailers that offer excellent customer service. Due to the seemingly distant and remote nature of online shopping, it makes sense that consumers would pay a higher premium to have the comfort and peace of mind that they
    KC's View:
    Regardless of whether this number has any connection to reality, this story made me think about the issue of sales taxes being levied on online purchases. If online customer service is that good - and I would argue that in many cases, it is superior and even more customized than that in many brick-and-mortar retailers - then maybe the online folks shouldn’t be concerned about taxes. If they offer a positive and customized experience, with sharp prices, the taxes may not matter.

    Just a thought.

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    Coming in the wake of the news this week that Walmart has fired an employee who tested positive for marijuana, and being criticized in some quarters because the employee is suffering from cancer and had a prescription for medical marijuana, there is a story in the Wall Street Journal about how some weed purveyors want their grass to look greener.

    According to the story, “Medical marijuana is now legal in 15 states for patients suffering certain conditions, including, in Colorado, chronic pain. More than 60,000 Coloradans have doctor recommendations allowing them to buy marijuana; physicians are approving about 400 new patients a day. Pot shops have popped up all over, including at least 230 here in the Mile High City.

    “Many of the new dispensaries are dingy and cramped, with bars on the windows, psychedelic posters on the walls and a generally furtive feel.

    “But a growing number of potrepreneurs have gone upscale, investing as much as $100,000 to launch ‘wellness centers’ that look like spas—and just happen to sell weed. This new breed of marijuana ‘pharmacist’ is pushing hard to professionalize the industry.

    “That means promoting a voluntary code of conduct at odds with the traditional buck-the system stoner culture. The new pot professionals look down on neon cannabis-leaf signs, wince at tie-dye Bob Marley posters, and cringe at the in-your-face swagger of the names traditionally used to differentiate varieties of marijuana.”
    KC's View:
    This probably is an important image shift that has to take place if folks are to take medical marijuana seriously as a treatment for cancer symptoms.

    When we had the Walmart story earlier this week - and my commentary suggesting that the Bentonville Behemoth should have showed more compassion - there were more than a few emails suggesting that people supporting the use of medical marijuana had a social agenda in mind, and that the employee was a stoner looking for an excuse.

    The business has to change it those kinds of reactions are to go away.

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    HealthDay News reports that 61 percent of USA adults describe themselves as drinkers, though 25 percent of Americans say they have been abstemious their entire lives.

    In addition, the study - conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics - offers some details about how the numbers break out:

    • While 68 percent of men say they drink alcohol, 55 percent of women say they do.

    • Thirty-one percent of women say they are teetotalers, while just 18 percent of men describe themselves that way.

    • “Higher education boosts the likelihood of alcohol use,” the report says. “Among respondents, nearly three-quarters with graduate degrees drink, compared to 44 percent of those who lack a high school diploma ... Richer people drink more: Just 45 percent of adults in families with incomes below the poverty level reported drinking, compared to 73 percent of those who have incomes four or more times the poverty level ... the report also noted that adults with higher levels of education are less likely to smoke, to be obese and to sleep less than six hours a night.”
    KC's View:
    Guilty on almost all counts. Except the sleep part. Six hours, I’m afraid, seems elusive.

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    A new survey by KPMG says that more than 75 percent of university students said job security was more important to them than pay and benefits. Security also outpolled such job factors as “real opportunities to learn new skills and develop themselves personally and professionally,” “challenging and exciting work,” and “working with and learning from talented colleagues.”

    What this suggests, according to the survey, is that organizations able to offer new employees a definitive career development program, as well as some sense of security, will be in a preferred position for many students looking to start their careers.
    KC's View:
    I thought young people wanted constant challenge, a level of autonomy, and a real sense that they were affecting the conduct of business.

    A lot of people would disagree with me, and I concede that the Great Recession probably has altered a lot of mindsets. But I think security is vastly overrated, especially as a primary goal.

    If you find work that you love so much that it doesn’t seem like a job....or even like work....and you are willing to dedicate yourself to being the best you can be while doing it...then security will follow. At least, it will in most times and in most places.

    But few things are better than really loving what you do. And all the security in the world won’t compensate for a job that isn’t rewarding and challenging.

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    • MNB reported yesterday that Walmart has issued a public apology for the public address announcement made at a Washington Township, New Jersey, store last Sunday that “all black people” should leave the store immediately, even as it tries to figure out who made the announcement.

    However, an apology may not be enough. The Washington Post reports that Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton has launched an investigation into the incident. And Walmart has promised to insure that in the future, phones with access to store intercom systems will be less accessible to the public.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    EnvironmentalLeader.com reports that the Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park, Chicago, has earned the took the top prize for Project of the Year at the second annual A.R.E. Sustainability Awards.

    According to the story, the Whole Foods Market “won for Project of the Year and a Grand Prize in the category of Sustainability – Standalone for its complete integration of sustainable strategies and green building practices. The store was built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold standards and Energy Star standards for buildings. The store is packed with sustainable features including ozone-friendly water-cooled refrigeration system, destratification fans, night curtains on refrigerated cases, LED lighting in exterior signage and freezer cases, motion-activated lighting controls in frozen food cases, and a HVAC system that reduces air flow when the space is unoccupied.”

    • Nebraska Grocery Industry Association Executive Director Kathy Siefken received the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Donald H. MacManus Association Executive Award in recognition of what was described as “her professional skills, knowledge and passion for the industry she represents and her tenacity of purpose in the legislative arena.”

    The award was presented at the industry’s Washington Public Policy Conference hosted by FMI, the National Grocers Association and Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE).

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that McDonald’s is trying to convince its franchisees that they should embrace a soft drink promotion this summer - $1 per drink, no matter what the size. If it can get its franchisees to say yes, the promotion would run for 150 days, starting on Memorial Day weekend ... practically guaranteeing that the campaign will dominate the airwaves for five months.

    Agence France Presse reports that France-based Carrefour “plans to enter India's vast retail market in 2010 following years of delays.” The entry is likely to come in the form of a cash-and-carry wholesale outlet opened in partnership with a local company...local laws make it impossible for foreign retailers to operate independently in India.

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Kraft Foods, best known for Cheez Whiz and Velveeta, has won first place in a global cheese contest, winning in the mozzarella, fresh mozzarella and spreadable cheese categories of the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    • The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced the appointment of Todd A. Turner, formerly the vice president of membership and urban affairs at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), to the position of vice president of industry affairs.

    • Carrefour has named Vicente Trius, who has been running Walmart’s Latin American business, to run all its European operations except for France.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    Fess Parker, who went from playing Davy Crockett in a series of Walt Disney TV shows in the mid 1950s to playing Daniel Boone on an NBC TV series from 1964 to 1970, and then became a successful vintner in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, died yesterday at age 85.
    KC's View:
    Let’s not forget Old Yeller, which has moved more than few of us to tears.

    One of the stories I read noted that when his Davy Crockett portrayal was at its height, there were more than 5,000 coonskin hats being sold each day. Which is extraordinary.

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 19, 2010

    Just some random thoughts this Friday morning...

    I’ve been spending a little time on the road this week, and it has been the first time we’ve had the chance to try out our Garmin GPS gizmo in unfamiliar places. I’ve never really used one before, but now that I have, I’m wondering how I survived without one.

    This is one of the best pieces of technology that I’ve ever used. You tell it where you want to go, and it gets you there. It helps you get around traffic. It does everything but drive the car.

    Now, most of you have probably used GPS technology before, and are wondering what took me so long. But if you haven’t...you gotta get one of these puppies. Because it is really, really cool.




    I was getting a cup of coffee the other day, and had the opportunity to listen in on a job interview being conducted with a very attractive young woman. (She reminded me of my daughter...it was like seeing what she’s likely to look like in about 10 years. All I can say is that she is going to be a heartbreaker. And the first one she’s likely to break is mine.)

    Anyway, the question from the interviewer struck me as a good one: “Can you give me an example of a time when you found yourself completely overwhelmed, and how you dealt with it?”

    And the answer, after a moment’s thought, started like this: “Well, it was probably my first day in China...”

    I couldn’t hear the rest of the answer, but it occurred to me that any answer that starts out with “it was my first day in China” has to be a pretty good answer, and one likely to advance the likelihood that she was going to get the job. (Just one of many good reasons for kids to spend a semester abroad.)




    Internet Retailer reports that LL Bean saw a significant shift in its business model last year - online sales surpassed catalog sales for the first time.

    That’s pretty interesting. I’ve always said that LL Bean is my favorite fashion designer, and I’ve been impressed with the level of its online communications over the past year ... it isn’t wildly surprising that online sales have grown to that extent.

    Lately, the retailer has been promoting its new Signature line of clothes, which it has said would bring a little more style to its traditional look. I was very excited about this - I can use all the style I can get. (It has been pointed out to me that I am wearing essentially the same clothes these days that I was wearing 25 years ago - not the same size, I grant you, but the same basic style. Jeans. T-shirts. New Balance cross trainers.)

    But when the line became available for purchase this week, I came to the crushing conclusion that “a little more style” may be just a little bit too much style for me. Signature is for a younger customer...and, alas, I no longer fit in that demographic.

    Sigh.




    I’ve noticed something this week, and I’m wondering if there is a reason for it. Whenever you go to a McDonald’s to use the rest room, the men’s room is almost always on the left and the ladies’ room is on the right.

    I know this is a silly thing to think about, but I’m just curious.




    It was with some sadness that I finished “Split Image,” which may be Robert B. Parker’s final Jesse Stone novel. (Parker, who died in January at age 77, was usually four or five books ahead, and so it is hard to know precisely how many manuscripts may be sitting in his publisher’s offices.) Each Parker novel now will bring with it a certain finality, and for those of who love his work, that is a sobering reality.

    But if “Split Image” is it for Jesse Stone (at least in print...Tom Selleck reportedly has a couple more TV movies about the character in the can), it is a fitting end. Jesse continues to struggle with alcohol and an almost obsessive need for control...he has a couple of murders to solve...there is sex and depravity, but not so much so that you feel like you need a shower...there is a cameo appearance by Susan Silverman (better known as Spenser’s squeeze in that iconic series of Parker novels)...and there is plenty of great dialogue and minimalist narrative.

    In other words, it is typical Parker. No breakthroughs here, but that’s not what we want at this point. It is good stuff.




    My wine of the week: the 2007 Point Break North Coast Red Wine from Longboard Vineyards, which is a terrific and versatile little red.

    And I have a beer of the week: the Red Snapper Amber Ale from the Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor, Michigan...which is terrific, especially when served with one of the brewery’s delicious burgers and sweet potato fries. Yummm....




    I don’t know why, but there is a lyric I cannot get out of my mind this week...Jerry Jeff Walker came up in my iPod rotation, and “The Cape” was first up:

    He’s one of those who knows that life
    Is just a leap of faith
    Spread your arms and hold your breath
    Always trust your cape...


    We should all do that more. Spread our arms, hold our breath...and trust our cape.




    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Slainte!
    KC's View: