retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I was thinking this week about a piece I wrote for “OffBeat” not that long ago in which I was rhapsodic about our new Garmin. After being resistant to buying one for a long time, it took me about five minutes to fall in love with it once I installed it in the car.

I got a bunch of emails responding to that piece, many of them in agreement but a few pointing out that the device has its limits...and that complete faith in its functionality is not always a good idea.

I now know what you mean.

One of the things we have discovered is that the Garmin seems to be almost totally useless in Manhattan. Not sure why, since the grid there hasn’t changed much in decades. But there have been times recently when the Garmin has been suggesting that we get off the FDR Drive four or five exists too early, even though there has been no traffic; once or twice, it has suggested making a left turn that would resulted in the car ending up in the East River.

Go figure. Technology has its limits.

This came together for me this week when I was thinking about my MNB Radio piece, which focused on a New York Times online column written by former major league baseball player Doug Glanville, in which he talked about the fact that while technology allows for scouting to be far more granular than ever before, information is useless to a player without an instinct for the game.

Same goes for the Garmin. Sometimes you have to know, in your gut, what turns not to take, and what paths will take you where you want to go.

Sounds like a business metaphor to me.



One of the interesting things about Seattle is the fact that despite the heavy concentration of chain coffee shops, there also is a plethora of successful independents proving that there is always room out there for a entry that offers a quality product and experience.

Case in point: The Coffee Crew, where owner Louise and her team made me an excellent latte and perhaps the best lemon muffin I’ve ever had in my life. (I am impressed by such things.) The cafe is a small one, but seems to be a magnet for local residents who like the neighborhood feel; it is just a few blocks away from the University of Washington main campus.

Differential advantages have nothing to do with size. In this case, they have to do with a warm, melt-in-your-mouth lemon muffin.



A big shout-out to the folks at NACS, who invited me last week to do an early morning breakfast session at NACStech about our book, “The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies.” The hour may have been early, but the crowd was large and enthusiastic, and I appreciated the opportunity.

By the way, while in New Orleans for the NACStech conference, I had a wonderful dinner at Emeril's original restaurant in the warehouse district.  Started with Homemade Andouille and Boudin with Southern Cooked Greens, Beer Braised Onions, Whole Grain Mustard and Emeril's Worcestershire Sauce...then moved on to Warm Mississippi Rabbit Remoulade with Fried Green Tomatoes, Benton’s Bacon, Citrus Salad and Horseradish Gastrique...and finished up with Creole Marinated Calamari Flash Fried with Olive Salad, Smoked Tomato Sauce and Parmesan.  Wow!

I was drinking an Albarino (which seemed appropriate to the humidity) until the guy next to me, a guy named Jimmie Vaughn from North Carolina,recommended a 2007 Duckhorn Merlot, which was rich and thick and somehow perfect...

I’m not a snob, though. While in the Big Easy, I also found my way to the Acme Oyster House, where I had charbroiled oysters, an oyster Po-Boy, and couple of glasses of Abita Amber.

All great stuff.

No desserts, though. Even though I live for New Orleans bread pudding. The rule is, if I drink I don’t eat dessert. Most of the time, I actually keep the rule.



Which was a good thing, since Neil Golub of Price Chopper told me this week at FMI that I needed to lose a little weight. I agree with him, though I prefer to think of myself as entering my Alec Baldwin phase.



Also this week, while on a brief sojourn to the Pacific Northwest, I had a terrific crab cake sandwich at Etta’s while Morgan - one of my favorite bartenders on the planet - poured me an excellent 2008 Corvidae Mirth Chardonnay, which was perfect with the gorgeous Seattle weather - warm and sunny.



I was in Seattle to talk to a really interesting group - the local chapter of Marketing and Communications Executives International (MCEI), which was kind enough to ask me to do an after-dinner speech about our book, “The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies.” MCEI basically is comprised of an equal number of agency folks and clients, in a wide variety of business segments - including the food business (Diana Crane of PCC Natural Markets is a member, and the person kind enough to get me the invitation).

My point in mentioning this is to suggest that these kinds of cross-functional groups are an important part of being an enlightened business person. Which in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, we all need to be. At least, that’s my not-so-humble opinion.



BTW...speaking of NACS...I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have been asked to moderate the organization’s Global Forum in Sydney, Australia, next month. I’ve never been to Australia, and so I’m looking forward to going down a few days early to see the sights. (Michael Sansolo is after me to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge climb...which scares the hell out of me since I have a thing about heights. But I may have to grit my teeth and do it...)

Not sure how to pull it off yet, but I hope that at some point during my visit I’m able to get together with some of the MNB users from Down Under for a pint or two. If anyone has any ideas, let me know...




Here’s another one for you...a little closer to home.

On the evening of Friday, May 21, the Darien Public Library in Darien, Connecticut, will sponsor a talk by yours truly about “The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies,” followed by a free screening of Bottle Shock, which was featured in the book. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come by and say hello.



Speaking of movies...

“Green Zone,” starring Matt Damon and directed by Paul Greengrass - the duo that brought us the Bourne thrillers - is an excellent war movie that takes place during the early days of the Iraq invasion by the US, when soldiers were trying to find WMDs. While the movie has a political context, it mostly serves as a frenetic, edge-of-your-seat thriller...and Damon gives yet another superior performance as a soldier trying to do what’s right and get at a truth that some interests do not want exposed to the light of day.

This movie is yet another Iraq war film that did not do well at the box office, but it deserves a better fate - rent it when it comes out on DVD, or download it when “Green Zone” becomes available. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.



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

Slainte!
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