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    Published on: March 26, 2010

    The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Chicago’s Plan Commission will meet on April 15 to consider the possibility of allowing Walmart to build its second Windy City store, in the Pullman Park project. If it gets through the commission, it then goes to the Chicago City Council...where Alderman Anthony Beale, a supporter of the initiative, says he has the votes to win approval.

    And, there are reports that Mayor Richard Daley sent operatives to Walmart’s Arkansas headquarters to plot legislative strategy ... which could add to the impetus in favor of Walmart.
    KC's View:
    It sounds like the winds coming off Lake Michigan are favoring Walmart. It may take some careful negotiation and navigation, but I suspect that Walmart is going to get its second store.

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    Virginia Business reports that Ahold’s Giant-Carlisle division has released a schedule for converting 25 Ukrop’s Super Markets in Richmond and Williamsburg to Martin’s Food Markets ... Giant-Carlisle said today that the stores would undergo eight-day makeover sessions in six groups of four to five stores. The first stores would close on April 3 and reopen on April 12. The last stores undergoing renovation will close May 8 and reopen on May 17.
    KC's View:
    Inevitable? Maybe. A tragedy? Hardly. Sad? Yes.

    ‘Nuff said. Let’s see what Ahold does with these stores.

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    The Syracuse Post Standard reports that now that it has total control of Penn Traffic’s retail assets, Tops Friendly Markets plans to close P&C stores in Cortland, Ithaca, and White River, Vermont, as well as two Quality Market stores, one in Lakewood in Western New York, the other in Erie, Pennsylvania.

    Tops said that it considered “economic viability, current store condition and the ability for the store to successfully compete in the marketplace” as the criteria for which stores will be closed.

    Tops acquired the bankrupt Penn Traffic stores in late January.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    Dollar General announced yesterday that it has become the exclusive retailer for Rexall brand HBC products, saying that it “is a union of two brands that represent time-tested quality and commitment to caring for its customers and their families.”

    Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s chief merchandising officer, released a prepared statement: “Rexall spent decades caring for generations of families in communities across the country through its drugstores, pharmacies and by developing high-quality, reputable products, Dollar General is excited and proud to offer our customers that same heritage of dependable care and quality as we welcome Rexall products to our stores.”
    KC's View:
    I guess this a good thing in that for people of a certain age, Rexall will be a vaguely familiar name from being on drugstores all over the country. And it isn’t a bad thing for people too young to remember the name.

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Fairfield, Ohio-based Jungle Jim’s international Market has opened a new section of the store for wholesale produce sales.

    According to the story, “The department consists of refrigerated and dry space totaling 80,000 square feet. Thousands of American and ethnic items are for sale, ranging from fruits and vegetables to sugar and spices to water chestnuts and bottled water. The department allows businesses to buy items by the case at wholesale prices using a check or cash, a company spokesman said. No credit cards will be accepted. There are no monthly or annual fees.
    KC's View:
    Jungle Jim Bonaminio, it seems to me, has never had a small idea in his life. He only thinks big.

    This is yet more evidence that I am correct in this observation.

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports that drugstores are looking to more aggressively attract the same customers who patronize the upscale makeup and beauty counters found in places like Bloomingdale’s and Sephora.

    According to the story, “Duane Reade, a New York City-based drugstore chain, is one of several mass-market retailers, including CVS Pharmacy and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., that are glamming up their makeup sections, betting that women are willing to splurge on beauty in the same store where they pick up toilet paper and cotton swabs. The stores are sprucing up displays, adding lights to shelves, creating weeks-long training programs for their ‘beauty advisers’ or offering facials and massages on-site.

    “In addition to mass-market brands like Revlon and L'Oréal, they are stocking independent brands like 'Tini Beauty and POP Beauty - makeup which tends to cost more than Maybelline and CoverGirl, but has cool, sophisticated packaging and trendy colors. Lip gloss from 'Tini costs $16.50, compared with CoverGirl's range of $5.99 to $8.99.”
    KC's View:
    If she were around, I’d ask my 15-year-old daughter to comment on this story. Because I have absolutely no expertise in this area, beyond knowing that when I want to get her a present, a Sephora gift card is usually a pretty safe bet. I have no idea if a Walmart, Duane Reade or CVS gift card would carry the same cachet.

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    Business Week reports that rumors are circulating that Starbucks may be interested in acquiring Jamba Juice.

    Executives at neither company were willing to comment about the rumors.
    KC's View:
    I have no idea if this rumor has any basis in reality, though it does not sound like a bad idea conceptually.

    I do know one thing, though. It shoots down one of the ideas I was considering for next Thursday’s MNB.

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    Fast Company reports that the Apple Store Cube, located above the Apple Store located on 5th Avenue at 58th Street in Manhattan, is the 28th most photographed man-made landmark in the world, and the fifth most popular landmark in New York City...ahead of the Statue of Liberty.
    KC's View:
    Okay, it is unlikely that most retailers ever are going to achieve this kind of prominence.

    Let’s keep it in perspective. The Statue of Liberty, a gift to the United States from the people of France, was dedicated in New York Harbor in October 1886 - almost 124 years ago. The Apple Store on 5th Avenue opened in May 2006 - almost four years ago. Let’s see how gleaming the Apple cube is in the year 2130. (Actually, somebody else is going to have to see. I suspect I’ll be long dead by that point. Either that, or delivering MNB via hologram...)

    That said...

    It seems to me that one of the things that Apple reminds us of is the importance of elegance and design in our lives. Sometimes it is easier to move in the direction of sheer practicality and think that design doesn’t matter. But is there anything more practical and yet elegant than an iPod? Is there a store better designed and yet totally functional than an Apple Store?

    We cannot all be Apple. But we all can learn from Apple.

    (Of course, I say this as a total Apple disciple, writing these words on a 15” MacBook Pro...and I haven’t owned a computer other than an Apple in 20 years.)

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    The Boston Globe reports that after a quarter-century being based in Natick, Massachusetts, BJ’s Wholesale Club will move its headquarters 15 miles to the west, to Westborough, Massachusetts in 2011.

    The company said it has outgrown the Natick facility, which currently houses about 1,000 employees in five buildings.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Subway plans to begin selling breakfast sandwiches at its 22,000 US locations, creating yet another challenge to McDonald’s longtime dominance of the morning fast food business.

    The breakfast sandwiches -which include omelette sandwiches with a variety of toppings - will hit stores in early April after a year of testing in select markets.

    “There are a number of other competitors of ours that are trying to suss out the breakfast opportunity, and I'd rather be in the market before they get there,” Tony Pace, chief marketing officer at the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, tells Crain’s. “Is there going to be competition now? Of course. And it’s going to be fierce.”
    KC's View:
    They’re not just going to competing with McDonald’s for share of stomach. They’ll be competing with everyone who sells cereal, milk, bananas, yogurt, frozen waffles, etc...

    This is the point that Philippe Schaillee, senior vice president and chief marketing offer for Sara Lee, was making at the Symphony IRI Summit in San Antonio this week. Even while drilling down to get more specific about customer needs and preferences, it is critical for marketers to take the broad view of the marketplace, keeping a contextual view of meal opportunities, and fighting for as much share of stomach as possible.

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    The other day, MNB took note of a Baltimore Sun report on a new initiative in that city called the Virtual Supermarket Project, in which “residents of two Baltimore neighborhoods that lack supermarkets will soon be able to order their groceries through a free delivery system that operates with the click of a mouse from the library.” The goal is to give people living in so-called “food deserts” access to healthier and more nutritious products. Not only can the residents order from computer libraries, but they also can pick up the groceries at the library.

    We commented that in addition to creating a new market for retailers and new accessibility for shoppers, this also could be good for libraries:

    In an age when most of us can access as much information from our computers, laptops and smart phones as we can from the library, it is critical that libraries find new ways to be relevant to their neighborhoods, and not be reliant on what may be an obsolete business model. If that means offering different kinds of services - like grocery ordering and delivery - that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    Interestingly, there is a new study out - conducted by the University of Washington and underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - saying that some 77 million people, or roughly a third of Americans older than age 14, use public libraries “to look for jobs, connect with friends, do their homework and improve their lives.” While usage is higher among poorer families, it is by no means limited to the less affluent demographic - in fact, almost half of Americans between the ages of 14 and 18 reported using the local library last year, and 25 percent of all teens use a library at least weekly.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Campbell Soup Co. CEO Douglas Conant said this week that soup sales are picking up in the US in response to more aggressive promotional efforts. Despite the fact that soup has been a traditional strong performer during economic tough times, Campbell’s sales had been slipping over the past two years, which the company responded to with advertising and promotions.

    • In the UK, the Telegraph reports that there has been a new study released by the University of Western Ontario in Canada saying that many popular sauces and marinades “contain a range of spices, fruits and vegetables which contain natural antioxidants ... chemical compounds which fight diseases associated with old age such as cancer, heart problems, strokes, Alzheimer's, arthritis and cataracts.” In other words, marinating that steak, chicken breast or seafood also could be helping improve your health.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    • Tops Friendly Markets said yesterday that it has named its chief financial officer, Kevin Darrington, to be its new chief operating officer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    Earlier this week, MNB took note of a New York Times report that part of the health care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama is a requirement that ever big restaurant chain post calorie information on their menus, menu boards and drive-through signs.

    “In other words,” the Times wrote, “as soon as 2011 it will be impossible to chomp down on a Big Mac without knowing that it contains over 500 calories, more than a quarter of the Agriculture Department’s 2,000-calorie daily guideline.

    “The legislation also requires labels on food items in vending machines, meaning that anybody tempted by a king-size Snickers bar will know up front that it packs 440 calories. The measure is intended to create a national policy modeled on a requirement that has already taken effect in New York City and was to go into effect in 2011 in places like California and Oregon ... The measure was approved by Congress with little public discussion, in part because restaurant chains supported it. They had spent years fighting such requirements, but they were slowly losing the battle. Confronting a potential patchwork of conflicting requirements adopted by states and cities, they finally asked Congress to create a single national standard.”

    My comment: This is a smart requirement that will be good for people. It doesn’t tell people what they should or should not eat, it does not create taxes on so-called “unhealthy food,” and it doesn’t ban anything. It just gives people complete information. It creates transparency. And that is always good.

    Not everyone agreed. One MNB user wrote:

    I think the point you are missing is the nature of this process.  Calorie disclosure doesn’t sound so bad at first blush, but that will not be the end of the road.  It’s just a single step along a path towards ever increasing control.  Just look at the nonsense going on in NY.  It is wise to be suspicious as federal and state government come up with new ways to “help” us live our lives better.

    I’m not sure what “nonsense in New York” you are talking about. Sure, the state is a political mess...but what does that have to do with its calorie disclosure laws?

    You are right about “increasing control,” though. Except that what it does is give me increasing control over what I put in my body. How is this a bad thing? How does this put us further down the road toward totalitarianism? I don’t get it.

    However, another MNB user wrote:

    This is another example of how much government intrusion into our personal lives this massive Obamacare bill will create.  If it makes good sense to disclose calories, companies should make the decision on their own and find ways for it to create competitive advantage.  Government mandates like this do nothing but add cost and complexity to the cost of doing business, which we all have to pay for in terms of higher prices for the goods and services we wish to buy.  The Federal government should focus on national defense and making sure that interstate matters such as commerce are fair to all.  It should NOT be involved in regulating our personal lives telling us what to buy/not buy and making sure we have a healthy diet.  The absurdity of the government can be summed up by the fact that we still continue to provide government subsidies to tobacco growers so we can pay, via a national health care plan, to take care of those it harms.  Count me among the 90% of Americans who think Congress is doing a lousy job!

    I agree with you about tobacco subsidies. They should be stopped tomorrow.

    But I don’t agree with you about the rest of it. It would be nice if companies were transparent, but the simple fact is that they are not. Mandating transparency seems entirely reasonable. (Now, if only Congress were as transparent as I want business to be...)

    MNB user Trisha McRoberts wrote:

    In response to your post yesterday on restaurant's posting calories, you may want to check out the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler AZ on your travels. I have not been there, but the YouTube video touts it as "taste worth dying for". The menu includes single, double, triple and quadruple bypass burgers. The latter is 8,000 calories with 4 half pound patties, an entire tomato, half an onion, 8 slices of cheese and buns coated in lard. This is served with unlimited flatliner fries deepfried in lard. If you eat this the Hooters style "nurses" will wheel you to your car in a wheel chair. This sounds like home for the woman who is trying to be the fattest woman in America. The "doctor" who operates the restaurant claims he has the only honest restaurant in America.

    Still another MNB user wrote:

    The calorie posting should apply to all restaurants, not just those with 20 or more units.  Compliance shouldn’t be that difficult.  It doesn’t take a large operation to know how many calories are in a six ounce chicken breast, 1/3 cup of flour, one egg or anything else in a recipe. 

    It will be interesting to see if it turns out to be a competitive advantage for the chains leading to compliance by independent operators.  Consumers who want to know what they are eating may very well seek out locations that provide this information whereas they are unlikely to avoid a restaurant because it has calorie counts. They should make healthier choices, though.

    MNB user Terry Snook wrote:

    .. and Kevin carefully reaches out and touches the third rail of politics... and it's more highly charged than ever!  As well reasoned as your comments are, I'm sure tomorrow's "Your Views" section will be rife with opinion.  Always an entertaining read!

    I've always subscribed to the notion that knowledge is power, and this provision will put more power in the hands of customers (for those who choose to use it while making their food choices).  I think a few fair questions to ask are: Will adding nutritional information in-store or on packaging cost extra?  And... will these costs be passed to consumers?

    Reasonable questions. But I think it will be negligible, and companies will still be able to keep their prices as low as they wish to.

    I’ll tell you something else. It would not surprise me if Walmart at some point decides to get behind this initiative and make it a big deal and a part of its marketing programs. And they’ll manage to keep prices down. Trust me on this.

    As for your initial comment...

    There was nothing careful about my touching the third rail of American politics. I’m not running for anything.

    All I want is reasoned, reasonable, civil and passionate debate and discussion. And if that means risking a little electrocution from time to time, well...what the hell.

    And to all the people who wrote in about Robert Culp, I agree with you. He was good in “The Greatest American Hero.” But he’ll always be Kelly Robinson to me.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 26, 2010

    Sometimes you hear a story that just makes you cringe.

    Like the story I heard this week about a woman, aged 58, who had been working for a major beverage company for several decades. Who was one of the top people in the sales area, a fact both quantified and qualified by the awards she’d won. Who was just recently given a highly positive review.

    And who this week was asked to come to a meeting at a midwestern airport, told not to bring a suitcase, and then was summarily let go. (Sounds like a scene from Up In The Air.)

    Now, it is not like she walks away with no money and no options. She has both, and lots of years to be as creative and productive as she wishes to be. There are plenty of people who have been harder hit by circumstance, and who are equally or more deserving of our compassion.

    But there was a cold-bloodedness to this that disturbs me. The company that discharged this woman has had its issues of late, and I suppose at some level it made sense to get rid of one of the higher salaries, to make room for people who are younger and cheaper (though I suspect no such thing was said in the exit interview for fear of litigation).

    Maybe it is just because I am close to her age, but it is disturbing when companies decide that they can do without the years and the mileage that come with experience. I am not naive enough to think that this is a rare occurrence, nor that my railing against it will make any difference.

    I hope, a few years from now, this woman looks back on this moment and says that it was the best things that ever happened to her - that she feels creatively fulfilled, financially satisfied, and energized by the second wind that can come with such events. (Trust me on this one. I am an expert on second winds.) And I hope that it does not even take that long for the company involved to look back and realize that it needed her experience and wisdom. Maybe they’ll even ask for her advice and counsel.

    If it were me, I would cheerfully respond with Woody Allen’s last line in The Front.

    Over the past few weeks, I have noted in this space varying calls from different parts of this nation for the elimination of the senior year of high school (built on the misplaced belief that seniors don't pay much attention anyway, so it is a wasted year) and a move to four days a week of school (which would help save money for cash-strapped school districts).

    My argument has been that both proposals are misguided - that much of the rest of the world seems to understand that the path to prosperity, advancement and achievement is through an aggressive, sophisticated and comprehensive educational system.

    Well, here is what a column in a recent Wall Street Journal said about the same subject:

    “ Schoolchildren in China attend school 41 days a year more than most young Americans—and receive 30% more hours of instruction. Schools in Singapore operate 40 weeks a year. Saturday classes are the norm in Korea and other Asian countries—and Japanese authorities are having second thoughts about their 1998 decision to cease Saturday-morning instruction. This additional time spent learning is one big reason that youngsters from many Asian nations routinely out-score their American counterparts on international tests of science and math ... The typical young American, upon turning 18, will have spent just 9% of his or her hours on this planet under the school roof (and that assumes full-day kindergarten and perfect attendance) versus 91% spent elsewhere. As for the rest of that time, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that American youngsters now devote an astounding 7.5 hours per day to "using entertainment media" (including TV, Internet, cellphones and videogames). That translates to about 53 hours a week—versus 30 hours in school.”

    The story notes that there are plenty of critics who object to extending the school day or school year, and that they range from upper class parents who do not want to give up their family vacations to teachers unions that worry about being exploited.

    But the simple fact, it seems to me, is this. As I have said before, there is no such thing as inherited or innate American exceptionalism. Exceptionalism must be earned, every day...and to take it for granted is to make the kind of mistake that dooms cultures. (In the business world, I always think of what Norman Mayne of Dorothy Lane Markets told me...that while his company has been fortunate enough to have been labeled “legendary” by a lot of people, that is a description that has to be re-earned every day. “Legendary is what we were yesterday,” he says.”)

    You don’t get to be exceptional by learning less. You do it by learning more - learning facts, learning to think for yourself, learning to prize the value of intellect and an open mind.

    A big shout out to Symphony IRI Group, which invited me to speak this week at its annual Summit and arranged for the audience to receive copies of “The Big Picture: Essential Business lessons from the Movies.”

    And, another shout out to Western Michigan University and its terrific Food/CPG Marketing Program, which invited Michael Sansolo and me to talk about the book in an after-dinner speech at its annual Food Marketing Conference.

    Both events were a pleasure.

    There was a very cool story in the Chicago Tribune about the community of Klamath Falls, Oregon, noting that the town has tapped geothermal wells underneath the town to warm the sidewalks and keep them clear of snow, not to mention heat downtown buildings, power kettles in a brewhouse, and even keep the lights on in the local college campus.

    It is green. It is economically sound. And it shows that an innovative mindset - and the right set of circumstances - can create interesting and viable solutions that make sense.

    When I was in the San Antonio Airport this week, I had a few minutes to stop in a little wine bar called Vino Volo, which offers a delightful and unexpected respite from the pressures of traveling.

    Not only did I enjoy a refreshing 2007 Chardonnay Carneros from Napa’s Pine Ridge Winery, but also a spicy chorizo and white bean stew as well as meaty pulled pork barbecue served on corn tortillas. Wonderful wine and excellent food - proof positive that even in an airport terminal, you don’t have to settle for lowest common denominator food.

    I’ve said this before. I live a privileged life. I’m lucky to do what I do, and to have the experiences that I have.

    Such a day was yesterday. My friend Marv Imus, formerly the owner of Paw Paw Shopping Center, invited me to visit his wine cellar. Which was very cool. (My wine cellar is a basement with a few wine racks. His is an actual wine cellar.) While there, we split a bottle of 1997 Chateau Lafite Rothschild - which was quite simply one of the most wonderful wines I’ve ever tasted, getting better and more open with every bit of air and every sip.

    It always has been my belief that wonderful wines should not be saved for momentous moments, but rather for events like a late Thursday afternoon, spending a few hours with a good friend.

    And then, when we went to dinner at a place in Kalamazoo called Zazio’s, where I enjoyed - really, really enjoyed - shrimp and prawns served on a bed of risotto made with squid ink.

    It is a good life. Don’t tell my wife. She thinks I’m working.

    Have a great weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

    KC's View: