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    Published on: June 15, 2010

    A special Monday column by Michael Sansolo

    Demographics and marketing tell us who the hot consumers are: they are young (under 30) and ethnic (likely Hispanic.) There’s good reason for this as both those groups are growing fast in number and marketing power.

    The logical side of me says anyone would be silly to ignore those trends as those two groups likely hold the keys to future success. But let’s remember there are a ton of people who fit in neither group.

    Recently, I hung out with close to 19,000 of them and got a reminder that the Baby Boomers haven’t gone anywhere yet and are ignored at great peril. The occasion was the Washington, DC, stop of the Carole King/James Taylor “Troubadour Reunion” concert tour. I have to believe that there has never been an event at the Verizon Center that packed in more people, but the real story is who those people are.

    The concert was special to me for two reasons. First, I got proofed when I bought a beer, which is an experience I haven’t had in maybe 25 years. (I’m still smiling.) Secondly, I actually felt on the younger side of an audience that clearly contained a lot of people who now answer to the name Grandma or Grandpa.

    But it was special in so many other ways. I can say without exaggeration that I haven’t listened to King or Taylor on an album, cassette, CD or MP3 in 20 years. Yet it only took a handful of notes for me to know the next song was Carolina on my Mind or Natural Woman. What’s more, I could almost instantly conjure up the lyrics from the recesses of my mind.

    While the memories were thick, so were the concessions to age. Carole King was always a better song writer than singer, but what blew my wife away was the sight of the now 68 year-old King looking extremely fit as she danced around stage in sky high heels. The image projection system wasn’t always kind to her, but no one minded. The same went for Taylor who looks all of his 62 years.

    It simply didn’t matter. What caught all of us - more than nostalgia - was the sight of two icons clearly doing what they love and doing it so well after all these years. It was the memories of all those amazing songs, including one hit written by King more than 50 years ago. It was gathering together and remembering when we were all kids listening to those tunes for the first time.

    And every marketer should go see it. They should go see aging Baby Boomers reaching deep into their wallets for tickets and jumping on their feet to sing with and cheer each song. Hopefully it will remind them that Baby Boomers still make up a huge and lucrative market, one that doesn’t spend every moment of their day worrying about various medical ailments. It will remind them that Boomers don’t feel or act old.

    Market to us with vigor and excitement and it’s possible, to quote Carole King, that we will love you tomorrow.

    But you have to try.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    ...sponsored by TCC, “changing shopper behavior”

    It is late Tuesday night here, and I’m holding up pretty well after the 13-hour flight, which I coped with by sleeping for roughly half of it. Some brief notes from Down Under...

    On track...

    We landed at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney a little after 6 am, and I have to say that despite what seemed to be more stringent security precautions than I’ve seen at other international airports, the process was amazingly smooth. We were going through passport control about 15 minutes later, had luggage 15 minutes after that, and before 7 am I was taking the escalator down to the airport railroad station that takes people into the city. I could have taken a cab, but I love airport railroad stations - they strike me as a really good indicator of how modern a city happens to be.

    In this case, very modern. Eight minutes after I got onto the platform I was on what appeared to be a new, quiet train...and 20 minutes after that, with just one train change, I was trudging up the street to my hotel, the Kirketon, which is located in the King’s Cross section. And the trip into the city cost me less than three bucks.

    The number of US cities in which one good accomplish this is, in my experience, few. Boston. Washington, DC (if you fly into Reagan National). Chicago (though the trains are slow and dilapidated). San Francisco. Portland, Oregon. Seattle. (These last three are at the top of my list for new and efficient train service from their airports.) Maybe a few others that I’ve missed.

    But Sydney has what most European cities seem to have - an instinctive understanding that it makes sense to link your various forms of mass transportation, to make it easy and cost-effective to move people around this way. It is strategic thinking and municipal planning, not tactical and reactive.

    A pleasing start to my trip.

    Parrots & Bats...

    Of course, when I got to my hotel before 8 am, my room was not ready. So I checked my luggage, grabbed sunglasses, a camera and a map, and headed out for what would be an almost five-hour hike.

    It is winter here, but the temperature topped out at about 60 was a marvelous, clear day with hardly a cloud in the sky. While some folks took the whole “winter” thing seriously, and we dressed in coats and hats and gloves, most people were dressed as of for a spring day. (Me, too - I was in standard uniform - jeans, t-shirt, New Balance cross-trainers and my favorite cotton LL Bean jacket with lots of pockets.)

    I walked up through the Woolloomooloo section and then cut down to the water, where I strolled around Mrs. Macquarie’s Point. It was early, so there were not too many people out; just some joggers, brimming with sweat and vigor and making me wish for a day when my knees were less fragile.

    Then, it was a walk through the startlingly green Royal Botanical Gardens, where there seemed to be hundreds of wild parrots flying through the air, nesting in trees, and making a ruckus - I’ve never seen anything like this before, and commented on it to one of the friendly rangers who was nearby. He grinned, and pointed to what seemed to be dark pouches hanging from tree limbs all over the park. “See those? They’re bats,” he said. “At about 5:30 at night, they all wake up and start flying north together. thousands of them.”

    According to the man, the parrots and bats live together nicely. No trouble. No worries. Go figure.

    Then, I continued to walk along Farm Cove, making my way to the Sydney Opera House, chatting with a few folks (including one Sydney native who is planning to move to Brooklyn, NY, later this year to make his way as an artist) along the way. The Opera House is an extraordinary sight, majestic and distinctive against the Harbour. From there, it was over to The Rocks section, where I investigated the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, which I plan to take later this week despite a mild fear of heights; what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

    Then, it was south along George Street, the main business and shopping area. Lots of coffee shops, though not one Starbucks that I could see, and every one of them was busy. An Apple Store, which was pretty impressive. A couple of Krispy Kremes, which surprised me, and even more McDonald’s, which did not. Hung a left at one point, and found myself, well after 12 noon, walking up the street to my hotel.

    Time for a nap.


    One store I visited while on my hike was a city Woolworths store on the corner of George and Park Streets, and while I have nothing here to compare it to, I found it to be impressive in how much stuff was crammed into three floors of space. (I wouldn’t give the store high marks for design, but that’s not the point - this was might best be called High Street Utilitarianism.) The main floor was dedicated mostly to convenience items and HBC, with the basement (which has the advantage of opening onto the Town Hall railway station) offering a full grocery selection. There were fewer chilled prepared foods than I expected, but a much bigger fresh service deli that I would have thought. Maybe that’s a city location thing - people here want hot food they can consume at their desks, and don’t want the kind of chilled prepared foods that might need to be cooked.

    As the week goes on, and I see other stores - especially during the store tour component of the NACS Global Forum that I’m moderating here in a few days - it’ll be interesting to compare.

    My Web Grocer

    BTW...I’ll be posting some pictures from my Sydney trip on our MNB Facebook page. Stay tuned.

    Thanks to TCC ... which is sponsoring “The Content Guy On The Road.”

    TCC offers customized retail marketing programs that change shopper behavior - attracting new customers and building customer loyalty...generating 4-5 percent sales increases and expanding basket sizes...generating in-store excitement and creating real and tangible differential advantages for your stores.

    For more information, Click here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 15, 2010 is out with a new consumer spending report, suggesting that consumer confidence may, in fact, be improving and could be indicative of an end to the recession. Among the findings, which are said to be snapshot of consumer responses during February 2010 compared to the same period a year earlier, are:

    • “52 percent of consumers surveyed believe the recession will end before January 2012”;

    • “The employment groups most optimistic about the end of the recession are full-time employees and students”;

    • “57 percent of urban residents believe the recession will end by January 2012”;

    • “44 percent of rural residents believe the recession will end by January 2012”;

    • “When comparing spending habits in the beginning of the recession with current spending habits, 65 percent of consumers are spending less now than at the start of the recession in December 2007, while 6 percent indicated they are spending more”;

    • “Moving forward in 2010, plans to spend are moving in a positive direction; fewer consumers (47 percent) are planning to spend less now compared with the start of the recession in December 2007, while twice as many consumers (12 percent) plan to spend more”;

    • “56 percent of those surveyed already have purchased a big-ticket item in 2010”:

    • “In early 2010, 35 percent of consumers purchased a big-ticket electronic product, and 24 percent said they have plans to purchase one in the next six months”;

    • “19 percent of consumers already have made a big-ticket home improvement purchase, and 16 percent are planning to make one in the next six months”;

    “Other big-ticket purchases on consumers’ shopping lists include items for their kitchens (11 percent) and laundry rooms (5 percent), as well as indoor furniture (11 percent) and outdoor equipment (11 percent).”

    PriceGrabber is a division of Experian, the credit check and credit rating agency.
    KC's View:
    Of course, the sad reality is that the consumers interviewed by could be delusional and that their confidence is nothing other than wishful thinking.

    One hopes not. But you never know.
    Another thought. It strikes me as at least slightly ironic that if the consumers that PriceGrabber talked to are wrong, and they spend their way into financial troubles because there are underlying economic problems that even unbridled consumer delirium won’t fix, then the organization that will certify the fact that they have been mistaken will be Experian, PriceGrabber’s parent company.

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    Brenda Barnes, the chairman/CEO of Sara Lee Corp. who went on medical leave about a month ago for unspecified reasons, has confirmed that she had a stroke.

    "I know there has been a lot of speculation on my condition, so I want to take the opportunity to provide some details," Barnes, 56, said in a statement. "I suffered a stroke a few weeks ago, and I am now in the process of recuperating."

    During the recuperative period, CFO Marcel Smits is serving as interim handling CEO and board member James Crown is serving as chairman.

    The company says it will not make any decisions about Barnes’ future until mid-August, when it makes its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call.
    KC's View:
    My heart goes out to Brenda Barnes. We’ve been dealing with both a family member and a friend who have had strokes of varying degrees during the past few months, and we know the road back can be tough. It has been somewhat sobering to see people who are my age suffering from strokes, which I always sort of thought of as something that hits old people.

    Good luck to Brenda Barnes. And, while I’m at it, to my friends and family who are fighting this battle every day.

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    The Richmond Times Dispatch has the results of a new market study indicating that during the year in which Ukrop’s was said to be on the market - despite numerous denials from the family that owned the once-iconic supermarket chain - “Ukrop's share of the Richmond area's $3.08 billion in grocery sales sank 3.5 percentage points from April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010. Its sales declined by $107.8 million ... According to the study, Ukrop's market share stood at 14.02 percent, down from 17.58 percent in last year's study.”

    At the same time, “North Carolina-based Food Lion LLC maintained the top spot in the annual study with 19.29 percent of the market share. That's down slightly from the previous year, when it had 19.31 percent of the market.”
    KC's View:
    While increasing market share won’t be easy pickings for Delhaize-owned Food Lion (which also has other weapons to deploy with its Bloom and Bottom Dollar formats), one has to assume that it might be even harder for Ahold, which bought Ukrop’s through its Giant-Carlisle division and has converted them to its Martin’s banner. There’s plenty of other competition as well - from the likes of Walmart and Kroger - and so we can expect to see a certain amount of market churn in coming months and years.

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    USA Today reports on the varying benefits and liabilities that are being ascribed to coffee, which is consumed by 56 percent of US adults. Here’s how it breaks out.

    • “Coffee contains over 2,000 different chemical components, including cancer-fighting anti-oxidants."

    • “Recent research suggests caffeine could help protect against cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's disease and other dementia.”

    • “Research online this month in Neuropsychopharmacology suggests frequent coffee drinkers develop a tolerance to the anxiety-producing and stimulatory effects of caffeine. A study last month suggests those who consume caffeine perform better on the job.”

    • “Coffee exacerbates bad breath ... It also can give teeth a yellow tinge.”

    • “Although research suggests drinking five or six cups a day might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, other studies show caffeine can exaggerate blood sugar problems in people who already have it.”

    • “High levels of caffeine can exert a laxative effect in some people but constipate others ... Heartburn and peptic ulcer patients should steer clear, too.”

    • “Too much coffee at once can increase blood pressure, but a cup or two a day generally does no harm to heart health ... Rarely, overindulgence can increase heart rate and cause heart rhythm disturbances.”

    • "Coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer.”

    • “Coffee can ease migraines in some people.”
    KC's View:
    All I know is this. Without coffee, MNB sin’t getting written most mornings. I may be addicted,m but that first cup of coffee at about 5:30 each morning is one of the nicest moments of the day - it is just me and the dog and the laptop, and if this be an addiction, well, I’ll just have to learn to live with it.

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    • The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has met privately with senior Walmart officials in Oklahoma City while attending the the US Conference of Mayors conference there. Daley is trying top help the retailer overcome concerns of neighborhood activists and organized labor that has been preventing Walmart from opening a second store within the Chicago city limits.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that despite all the marketing muscle put behind its gourmet coffee drinks, McDonald’s sale of hot coffee drinks dropped from an average of 55 per day per store in May 2009 to about 25 per day per store a year later.

    However, there is good new about the company’s burgeoning frappe business: Crain’s writes that “McDonald's is already selling more than 80 frappes a day per restaurant after rolling out the slushy drinks this spring.”

    "The McDonald's customer may not be a latte or cappuccino drinker," Larry Miller, an analyst in Atlanta at RBC Capital Markets, tells Crain’s. "It makes sense that frappes would do better because they are basically coffee shakes, and McDonald's customers like shakes."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    • In Indiana, the Journal Gazette reports that Kroger “is in the midst of a major expansion and renovation project involving its local Kroger and Scott’s locations that the company said could cost up to $100 million. Some stores will be renovated, expanded or built new. But each will feature upgraded, ready-to-eat food areas, company spokesman John Elliott said.

    • Sam's Club announced that it is offering its consumer Advantage Plus Members access to early shopping hours from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays, and 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturdays, in all of its U.S. locations. The change is said to be “part of an effort to help families juggle busy schedules and increase the benefits Sam's Club Plus Members receive. Plus Members may now experience the convenience of early shopping along with Business Members. Plus Members pay $100 annually to shop at Sam's Club and also have access to personalized digital offers through its eValues program.”

    • Beginning July 1, Starbucks will begin offering free wi-fi internet access in all of its 6,700 US company-owned locations, as the company moves to meet the offering made by McDonald’s, which is increasingly seen as a competitor.

    KC's View:
    I’ve been arguing for years that Starbucks ought to offer free internet. Glad to hear that they finally listened. (Even if they don’t admit my considerable influence in their decision-making process...)

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    • Jeff Attoh has joined NACS as an information technology coordinator. Before joining NACS, Attoh worked for Emmatech Inc. in South Riding, Virginia. A native of Ghana, he had previously owned and operated a computer repair and servicing shop in Accra, Ghana. 
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 15, 2010 on hiatus while the Content Guy deals with time zone issues Down Under.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    Yesterday, I made the point here on MNB that a) I know almost nothing about the World Cup, and b) that I understood that a 1-1 tie between the US and the UK was perceived as almost as good as a win for the US.

    The seconds statement, at it happened, proved the first.

    I got numerous emails yesterday pointing out to me that the US had tied England, not the UK, 1-1 ... and that there are separate national teams for Scotland and Wales.

    Apologies for the error. Here in Australia, I remain blissfully ignorant...though I did note that there is a pub down the road with an inflated soccer ball the size of my house sitting on its roof, and much of the conversations I’ve overheard seem to be revolving around what sounds like a devastating loss by Australia to Germany. (I think I have those countries right...)
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 15, 2010

    Time reports that “according to market researcher Nielsen, sales of 3-liter boxed table wine increased 19.9% during the one-year period ending April 3, while overall sales of table wine edged up just 3.5%. But savvy producers are trying to widen boxed wines' appeal with a second generation of boxes that look a whole lot nicer sitting on a counter or in a fridge for a month and a half.”
    KC's View:
    See, this is what happens. First you lower your standards and accept the notion that a screw-top is somehow okay when used to replace a cork, and then, suddenly, you have people talking about how cardboard boxes can somehow be made to be both attractive and acceptable for the nectar of the gods.

    Yes, I know I am a snob about this stuff, and some will say this is about the democratization of wine, making it accessible to more people.

    As accessible as what? Chocolate milk? One of the wonderful things about wine is the fact that it is special. It makes you feel good, from the moment you pop the cork to when you pour it slowly into your glass, and then sip it, taking in the sometimes complicated flavors that the best wines can offer.

    Sounds to me like this box thing is yet another sign of the apocalypse. Next thing you know we’ll start seeing disaster of biblical proportions...real wrath of God type stuff...forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria...