retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding the price rollbacks being promoted by Walmart, MNB user Vonnie Veldman wrote:

If you believe the latest television ad campaign that Walmart is spending big advertising bucks on, all of the rollbacks and lower prices are because Walmart truck drivers are filling up their trucks and taking more efficient routes to bring the product to the shelves. This angle is completely misleading, as rollbacks are typically always funded in part or in whole, by suppliers. Whether it is just covering the normal margin, or funding the actual retail reduction, manufacturers are contributing to the reduced retail cost in some form or another. The truth in advertising is that yes, freight costs are high-diesel fuel is back to $3 or more per gallon, and companies-including Walmart have spent a lot of capital investment dollars to reduce transportation costs overall. Simple equipment upgrades that limit the maximum speed on trucks can improve fuel efficiency significantly across a fleet of trucks. Manufacturers continue to reduce overhead costs wherever they can, employees lose their jobs, plants are closed and operations are consolidated, in order to compete. Simply giving credit to the partnership with manufacturers in bringing rollbacks to the shoppers would have been a more palatable campaign approach, and it wouldn’t depend on consumer lack of knowledge as to how those prices ‘fall’ in the first place.

Another MNB user wrote:

How does Wal-Mart get the message across that they are cheaper? With their everyday advertising they are stating that they are the lowest. To me the message will be lost. Thankfully. With the visits I see at our local Wal-Mart their in stock position is terrible, that has got to be one of the reasons their same store sales are down. I also believe that other retailers are doing a much better job competing against them.

We also got email regarding the food safety bill that is likely to become law within a matter of weeks, and the argument by some small suppliers that the new rules could create financial pressures making it hard for them to stay in business - the debate is whether there ought to be different standards for big and small companies.

MNB user Phillip Bradley wrote:

This food safety bill is simply one in an endless number of actions that show that it is big agribusiness which drives the government.  Keep in mind that almost all the infamous salmonella outbreaks, etc., from the past two years, have been caused by large agribusinesses or farms--not to say that it can't be caused by a small producer, but that's the case.

Second, the small farmers and producers, and in particular the organic ones, tend to have operations that are much less focused on the mass movement of food in the shortest time possible, and thus less susceptible to mass scale outbreaks.

Exempting small farms (under $500,000) from the majority of the requirements for tracking, registering, etc., makes sense on all counts.  Small farmers are somewhat marginal operations, and burdening them with expensive and time-consuming requirements is a bad idea.

Another MNB user wrote:

Food safety is paramount. I've seen national headline grabbing failures and local quiet violations.    Both have the same end results - unsuspecting sick consumers.

A few years ago, one of my friends purchased a muffin at a local fundraising bake sale for the local pet shelter.    She was horrified to find an actual hypodermic needle in the muffin.      Seems the woman who prepared these donations, also had a quasi-vet clinic in her kitchen for her own dogs.      My friend was alert enough to get the muffin out of the hands of her young daughter before something more serious.   While everyone involved had the best of intentions...... it does not translate to safe food.

At the Fresh Forum in San Antonio this week, Leanne Skelton, senior policy analyst with the Office of Food Safety, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, made the point that the FDA wants the rule to be “scale appropriate,” but that this means that regulators need to work with smaller producers to help them meet the same standards as big producers, not set different standards.

A couple of other quick points...

Earlier this week, we posted an email about the challenges of business travel from MNB user Deborah J. Maestu that said, in part:

We could all use FedEx or UPS to send our overnight bags to our destination hotel. Let's face - there's almost no such thing as a business day trip anymore.

I responded:

I disagree with your suggestion that there are no business trips anymore...

Well, I got a ton of emails coming to Deborah’[s defense...noting that she wasn’t saying that people didn’t take business trips, but business day trips ...and that I was out of line in my response.

You’re right. I was wrong. I missed her point. I apologize.

Finally, I wrote the other day that a company seemed to rationalizing a new policy, and added:

Of course, rationalizations are necessary, even if they are delusional. Remember what Jeff Goldblum says about how important they are in “The Big Chill.”

Which led one MNB user to write:

No we don’t. And it’s irritating that you continually make these obscure references without including the specifics. Please include the actual quote so we can all be in on the joke.

Obscure references? We’re talking The Big Chill
here. Hardly an obscure reference. However ...

What Goldblum’s character says is that "I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex ... Ever gone a week without a rationalization?"

The reason I did not use the quote - and sometimes only reference quotes without using them - is because certain words like "sex" get caught in spam filters and create issues for some folks trying to access the site from work computers.  It isn't me being prudish or overly cute. Though, to be fair, I’m certainly capable of both, depending on the day and my mood.
KC's View: