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    Published on: April 9, 2010

    The Washington Post this morning reports that Ahold-owned Giant of Landover is considering selling one its local grocery warehouses.

    According to the story, “the region's largest supermarket chain operates two warehouses in Jessup -- one that stocks perishable foods and one that stocks dry groceries. The company, which is owned by Dutch conglomerate Royal Ahold, said it has tentatively agreed to transfer ownership of the dry groceries warehouse to Jessup Logistics, an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers, by the end of the year ... Giant said it hopes to finalize the agreement with Jessup Logistics within three months and that the deal would allow the grocery to streamline its supply chain and focus on delivering fresh foods. Customers would not experience a change in service, it said.”
    KC's View:
    The question is whether such a move will make Giant - a company that many perceive as having abandoned many of its local roots - better able or less able to cater to local needs and desires.

    The folks I talk to suggest that the latter is a lot more likely...

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    Couple of interesting stories about Apple’s new iPad...

    Internet Retailer writes that since more than 300,000 people have purchased the iPad, “for retailers, the big question about this super-hyped machine is what does it mean for mobile commerce? Fundamentally, it is another device to add to the growing list of devices for which retailers can design an app, all the rest being smart phones like the iPhone or BlackBerry. However, an iPad user can just as easily shop an e-commerce site on an iPad because the screen is much larger than that on a smartphone (9.7 inches for the iPad versus 3.5 inches for the iPhone). An app simply enables a retailer to optimize the customer experience for the iPad user, if the retailer chooses to make the investment, which the handful of merchants with iPad apps today decline to disclose.”

    According to the story, the size of the iPad may make it easier to see the screen and use the applications, but it also may make the device harder to use as a mobile device - it is not as portable as a smart phone. However, that has not stopped some retailers from developing applications for the iPad ... like Amazon and eBay, which have an interest in staying current with such technologies.

    • The other interesting story was on, in which writer Todd Lapin talks about the iPad in a different context - he handed it to his two-and-a-half year old daughter ands told her to play with it.

    Remarkably - and this is all seen in an accompanying YouTube video - the child almost immediately figured it out. She found its attributes and identified its weaknesses (like not having a built in camera).

    Lapin writes, “She uses my iPhone a lot, so she was already familiar with the basic elements of the interface. But she also mastered the new aspects of the iPad instantly — including figuring out how to 2x enlarge some of her favorite iPhone-legacy apps to display full-size on the iPad screen. If you’re good at understanding kid-speak, you’ll also notice that she immediately saw its potential as a video-display device.”

    The point Lapin makes is that as anyone goes to market with software or hardware, it is critical that they understand the importance of simplicity and consistency ... and that the next generation of consumers has an instinctive understanding now just of how technology works, but of ways in which it can make their lives easier.
    KC's View:
    In other words, to quote the Borg, resistance is futile.

    If you are not trying to figure this stuff out, or working with companies that can help you do so, then you are making a mistake. You don;t have to get there tomorrow. But you have to be on the entrance ramp, and have some idea about where you are going.

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    In Ireland, the Herald reports that one of the television networks, RTE, has suddenly gotten a boost in the ratings ... compliments of Senator Feargal Quinn, the founder of the iconic irish supermarket chain.

    The Herald describes him as “74-year-old supermarket tycoon Feargal Quinn,” and here’s how it reports the story:

    “Quinn, who is best known as the driving force behind Superquinn, has become one of the broadcaster's unlikely stars after a successful stint as host of retail programme, Quinn's Retail Therapy.

    “Most of the half-hour consumer segments have landed in the top five most watched programmes on the network, and he has been attracting impressive audiences since the show debuted earlier this year for a six-episode stint. The retail magnate has secured audiences of more than 500,000 viewers, catering to a public that is eager to learn about his recession-proof business skills.

    "’The show has proved a huge hit with viewers, thanks to Feargal's warm and down-to-earth presenting style, and the fact that the programmes are positive news stories for a change in this recession,’ RTE said.

    “The supermarket king-turned-politician has fascinated viewers, who have witnessed him rescue a number of struggling businesses.”
    KC's View:
    I cannot tell you how much this story pleases me.

    Feargal is an old friend and a longtime supporter of MNB, and the idea that he is now an Irish television star is hardly surprising.

    It is a lot more surprising that he is 74 years old - his energy is of a man eternally youthful. And he is the least likely “tycoon” that I can imagine. That word ought to be reserved for people like Donald Trump. Except for his choice of socks, Feargal is about as low-key and approachable as a successful businessman and politician can be.

    Great guy, terrific idea for a show...and a wonderful story to report here on MNB.

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports on how Costco has found a successful business model in Asia. Take, for example, a Costco store in Taiwan:

    “Inside are aisles of merchandise stacked floor-to-ceiling. But mixed in with such familiar U.S. products as Tide detergent and Pepperidge Farm cookies are local favorites such as sea cucumber, mahjong sets, and stewed and braised beef noodle soup.

    “Offering an experience that's authentically American while cultivating local tastes has proved a successful formula that has made the store, located in Taipei's high-tech Neihu district, the 567-store chain's second most profitable, behind a Korean outlet.”

    “‘What we've done here is reflective of what we do in all of our international markets,’ said Richard Chang, Costco's Taiwan chief in an interview in Taipei. ‘We want to make it as authentic as possible, but we also want to localize. It's proven to be a successful combination’.”

    The Journal writes that “Costco is planning further expansion in all of its Asian markets, including doubling its Taiwan store count in the next five years from six and opening a distribution center. It also is accelerating its expansion in Australia.” And, the newspaper notes, “Taiwan offers a nice template should Costco decide to enter an even bigger market: China.”
    KC's View:
    Want evidence of globalization? The Journal reports that the Taipei Costco’s top bakery item is bagels, made from dough imported from New York, an selling more than 50,000 a week.

    Costco has a lot of work to do if it is to keep pace with the Asian growth efforts of companies like Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco. Then again, Costco never seems driven by keeping up with the other guys ...

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    Terrific little story in the Boston Globe about how the King Arthur Flour Company “almost reluctantly” ventured into the gluten-free market, a development process that took several years after requests started coming in from customers.

    According to the story, “Among the new products are multipurpose flour, cake mix, pizza crust, brownies, and cookies. Mixes use a combination of flours milled from rice, tapioca, and potato. King Arthur goes to a certified gluten-free co-packer for manufacturing its gluten-free products, which are free of milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. The mixes are kosher and certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization.”
    KC's View:
    I found this particularly interesting because there also was a story in the Baltimore Sun this week about how Camden Yards - the beautiful home of the Baltimore Orioles - has added gluten- and casein-free Asian noodle salads to its food options. (On opening day alone, the Sun writes, it was projected that fans would consume a lot of what purists would think of as traditional ballpark food...9,200 hot dogs, 4,500 pounds of french fries, 3,700 soft pretzels, 2,500 Boog's pit beef sandwiches and 1,500 hamburgers.)

    But the Orioles are looking for additional options for people seeking new flavors and healthy options, or those with food allergies. (Fans also might like a better baseball team...but that’s a different department.)

    The simple point here is how the nation’s food life has gotten far more complicated...but also richer, more diverse, and much more interesting. A couple of weeks ago, I noted that the Minnesota Twins would be offering Byerly’s excellent wild rice soup in their new ballpark, and I got a few emails that were a little sarcastic about such ballpark offerings. But let me tell you, if you’ve ever had some of the excellent ethnic foods at Safeco Field in Seattle, or the fish tacos at Petco Park in San Diego, and you may not want to go back to hot dogs again.

    Food companies that do not take advantage of this trend - that do not invest in foods that reflect growing diversity and cultural richness - are missing an opportunity, I think.

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    Published reports say that Remke Markets, which just recently agreed to buy six Bigg’s stores from Supervalu, has now decided to acquire a seventh store, in a suburb of Cincinnati.

    Supervalu had previously decided to sell six to Remke and close the other five.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    The MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse report is out, saying that e-commerce in the US was up 18.4 percent in March 2010 over the same month a year earlier - the eighth consecutive month that the category has experienced a double-digit increase.

    This follows an end-of-year holiday shopping season - November 1, 2009 through
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    • As predicted here on MNB earlier this week, Dave Hirz, who just resigned as president of Food 4 less, has agreed to become president of Smart & Final.

    He will report to George Golleher, who will remain as chairman/CEO.

    • Supervalu announced that it has hired Wayne Shurts, most recently the global chief information officer for Cadbury, as its new executive vice president/CIO.

    "Wayne is a strong and proven leader who understands the grocery industry as well as the systems behind supply chain and logistics within retail organizations," said Craig Herkert, Supervalu’s president/CEO, in a prepared statement. "He is an outstanding addition to our team, and will be invaluable as we continue our focus on becoming America's Neighborhood Grocer."
    KC's View:
    The small irony, if course, is that just recently Supervalu filed a lawsuit against a number of chocolate manufacturers - including Hershey, Mars, Nestle and Cadbury - accusing them of a conspiracy to fix chocolate prices between 2002 and 2008. The conspiracy, the company says, resulted in it being overcharged for products during that period, and cites specific examples when all the accused companies raised their prices in similar percentages.

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    Earlier this week, I explained how and why some folks who write emails to MNB are identified, and why some are not. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few days, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while I think the policy is a good one, I made a mistake that is too late to rectify...but at least ought to be acknowledged.

    As I said, while I know where emails come from, my policy is not to use the name if there is not a signature at the bottom, and to use the name if there is. Occasionally, someone will ask for anonymity even if they have signed their name, and I have no problem with that. Sometimes I will not use a name even if it has been signed, simply because I have a gut feeling that the person might get in trouble or even lose their job if their name were to appear - and that isn’t good for anyone. And rarely I will not use names even when people sign their emails, simply because I think they are using MNB to promote a personal agenda or business, and I try to be careful about that stuff.

    However, early this week I posted an email from a former Daymon employee who clearly was disgruntled, and who challenged the legitimacy of his former employer’s business practices. In retrospect, I should not have posted that email without identifying the source - the allegations were simply too serious to allow for anonymity.

    I try to weed out the personal attacks, on the premise that the only person around here who is allowed to get personal is me - because my name and face are clearly identified. I screwed up on this one. And I owe you all an apology for that.

    I’ll try to do better in the future.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 9, 2010 > Click here.
    KC's View:
    The great thing about viral marketing is that we’re now at the point where we have no idea who these folks are, but they’re taking the book and running with it. The other great news - this blog got picked up in a bunch of places, including on the USA Today blog.

    Now, if we could just get Jon Stewart or Joe Scarborough to read the book...

    Published on: April 9, 2010

    I mentioned recently that I am going to be in San Antonio next week at the Fresh Forum, where I’m doing the opening keynote at a barbecue - which sounds like my kind of gig.

    After I wrote about San Antonio, I got email from a number of folks there who are MNB readers, who asked if there would be an opportunity to get together during my visit. I love this idea, so I asked for some recommendations, and here’s what was suggested.

    Next Thursday evening, April 15, I’ll be at Beto’s Comida Latina, located at 8142 Broadway Street in San Antonio, from 5:30 pm to 7 pm...and maybe longer. Come by, have a beer, buy me one...and we’ll can chat about the business, baseball, movies, whatever...

    The nice folks at Beto’s have said that they’ll supply some nachos on the patio if I can give them some idea of how many people might be there. So if you can send me an email to let me know you’ll be stopping by, that’d be great...though hardly required.

    We’ve had a fair amount of discussion here on MNB in recent months about the viability of the US Post Service business model, and whether, when it proposed five-days-a-week mail delivery it is attempting to use a band-aid when it really needs major surgery.

    So it was somewhat amusing the other day when I noticed a sign in my local post office saying that it no longer had the ability to take passport applications, that only certain offices would now have people who could perform that function. I always thought that the ability to apply for a passport at the post office - as opposed to standing on line at a passport agency office - was a smart move in terms of adding functionality to a building that was losing relevance. (Of course, you can apply by mail ... but doing it in person fast-tracked the process, especially if you were in a hurry.)

    But now, instead of expanding functionality, the USPS apparently is limiting it.

    Makes you wonder who is in charge of developing a progressive, innovative business plan at the USPS.

    Some people are saying that they have mixed reactions to the new Tiger Woods commercial for Nike. But I’m not at all conflicted - not only does it seem way too soon, but it also seems extraordinarily exploitive by using the disembodied voice of the golfer’s deceased father.

    Last night, BTW...Steven Colbert did a great bit how how they chose that particular voice. Further cementing my feeling that the best “reality shows” on television are, in fact, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report”.

    I find “Lost,” now in the final episodes of its unusual and mind-bending run, to be compelling television. I have no idea where things are going and I find it difficult to separate metaphor from reality, and yet I cannot stop watching. The characters are painted in vivid colors with subtle shadings, the notion of parallel universes is fascinating, and the show more and more is not so much about being physically lost as about being morally and emotionally lost, trying to find one’s way through a complicated world. It is great TV, gaining momentum in its final hours. (This past week’s episode, “Happily Ever After,” was amazing.)

    If you haven;t watched “Lost,” nothing about it will make sense to you. But if you’ve followed it throughout its six-season run - even if, like me, you can’t remember all the turns the plots have taken - I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.

    I have sort of a sentimental fondness for “24,” and will watch its final season as it winds down. But far from gaining momentum, “24” seems to be going out with a whimper of a plot, leaving me to notice when, as happened this week, they had the sun rising over Manhattan in the west.

    I know global warming has had dramatic impact, but I’m pretty sure that the sun is still rising in the east.

    Replacing it as a favorite action show of the moment is “Human Target,” on Fox, which is very good and getting better. (Though I cannot get over how much star Mark Valley looks like the late Christopher George, who starred in “Rat Patrol” and “The Immortal”. Not that anyone younger than a half-century old is likely to notice.) Check it out.

    My wine of the week: the 2008 Trumps Shiraz from Cimicky in Australia...which is full-bodied and delicious with a spicy steak or burger...and that I recommend despite the fact that it comes with a screw-top.

    I have not read the book “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” but I really liked the movie a lot. Sure, it is a 2.5 hour Swedish language movie with subtitles - but it also is a moody thriller featuring actors that, unlike American stars, look rumpled playing characters with skins that are lived in.

    It also is a disturbing piece of work. It features some scenes of sex and violence that are hard to look at, but that are never gratuitous and move the plot and characters along in important ways. The scenery is stark and unfamiliar, keeping the audience off balance and absorbed. I liked it a lot.

    Now, Mrs. Content Guy has read the book, and while she quibbled with some of the choices made by the producers, she also liked the movie. Just FYI...

    Finally, I hope you’ll come join our “Fans of MorningNewsBeat” group on Facebook by clicking here. It’ll be yet another venue for discussion, conversation and connections ...

    That’s it for this week. See you Monday.

    KC's View: