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    Published on: June 18, 2010

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

    Dux, Dux, Goose...

    Saw a wonderful supermarket today called Thomas Dux, one of eleven neighborhood stores operated here in Australia by Woolworths, the market leader. Dux is a small format store, with the center and right wall dominated by fresh foods, mostly produce, and a smattering of grocery products - many of them identified as “local” or “organic” - along the left wall. The store has a Whole Foods vibe, with a little Trader Joe’s thrown in for good measure. There’s also a “foodie” expert in the store who is cooking up samples, answering questions and even doing a bit of selling to curious shoppers.

    Here’s how Woolworths is framing the Dux stores: “It's about great quality & local food and inspiration. It's about being 'just around the corner.’ It's the way things should be.”My Web Grocer

    (Woolworths actually launched the format two years ago with a single unit, but then ramped up its presence dramatically by buying nine Macro stores and changing their name to Thomas Dux.)

    Interestingly, the store I saw was in the upper middle class suburb of Lane Cove - located right next door to a Cole supermarket and down the street from a classic Woolworths store. To be honest, the Thomas Dux store has a lot more imagination and character than both of them - the prices may be a bit higher, but this is a store that clearly is not in the lowest-common-denominator business. It seems to me that Woolworths is making a smart bet by having a unit like this appealing to a different kind of consumer; at the same time, it may be able to learn some things from the format that it could add to its traditional format that might make it more interesting and formidable.

    A bicycle built for two...

    Some businesses succeed because the leadership sees a niche that the competition has not exploited. But others succeed because someone has a bright idea that nobody else seems to have thought of, at least in that market.

    I encountered just such a business on Friday when I decided to rent a bicycle and take the ferry out to Manly, north of the city, where I wanted to ride along the beaches and cliffs. I went to a rental shop called Bonza Bike Tours in the Rocks section of the city, and encountered Mark Gooch, a very nice young man who, as it happens, is from Louisiana by way of Texas.

    Mark told me that his brother in law, Michael Herrmann, decided to start Bonza during a trip to Australia when he discovered that there was nobody in the city offering bike tours. He did some research, consulted with a friend of his who owns Fat Tire Bike Tours in Paris, and started the business about five years ago. Previously, he’d been an IT consultant in the US, and was looking for a change...and he found that the local tourism authorities were eager to help him.

    Since then, Bonza has expanded to Melbourne, now offers private tours in various languages for foreign visitors, and even has started an offshoot business that uses bicycling as a way of team-building for companies. All very exciting, and all because an American guy saw opportunity where nobody else did.

    There is, of course, a postscript. When the Sydney Morning Herald wrote about the business in 2007, it was with the following sentence: “It took a pair of outsiders to think of it.” Since then, there is new competition, as local businesses crop up to take advantage of the opportunity that Bonza created.

    Which is okay with Gooch, who told me, “Competition makes us better.”

    I’ll buy that. In fact, I did. And had a great time renting the bike and riding around Manly.

    My Web GrocerPie off the charts...

    Sometimes, I just get lucky.

    I was walking on Friday afternoon along the water, and saw a small building with the following, completely irresistible sign: “Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.” I immediately checked it out and discovered that Harry’s has been selling meat pies of various kinds since the thirties - and has become such a Sydney institution that the National register of Australia has classified it as having social significance for this and future generations.

    They also, as it happens, make one hell of a pie - thick meat seasoned with spicy Indian curry and served in a small, flaky shell and topped with just a bit of tomato sauce. No wonder people were lining up for them in the middle of the afternoon.

    Wonderful.

    Another wine recommendation...

    The 2007 Shirley’s Paddock, a blend of cabernet, cabernet franc, and merlot...and utterly delicious. (And, of course, from Australia. Natch.)

    My Web Grocer

    BTW...I’ll continue to post pictures from my Sydney trip on our MNB Facebook page.

    Thanks, as always, 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 18, 2010

    BJ’s Wholesale Club announced that it is launching a new bakery program designed to upgrade its presence in this fresh foods category.

    "BJ's Wholesale Club is proud to debut our collection of Wellsley Farms pastries, breads and muffins that are baked fresh throughout the day and bring unparalleled taste and quality to our Members," said Michael Coppola, Vice President and Divisional Merchandise Manager for BJ's Wholesale Club.  "We worked with some of the finest bread makers and leading pastry bakers to create the perfect blend of old-world traditions with the latest technology.
    KC's View:
    I hope that customers are able to smell the baked goods the moment they walk in the front door. That, to me, is always the key - making people hungry the moment they set foot on the premises.

    Few things annoy me in the food business as much as a food store that does not smell like a food store, or a bakery that does not small like a bakery. Might as be selling widgets if you can't make a food store smell good.

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    In the UK, the Telegraph reports that the European Parliament has voted to create a new system for nutrition labeling of foods, which will “give shoppers information about how much salt, fat, sugar and calories each product contains as a proportion of the recommended daily amount, but does not use any colour coding.”

    However, consumer groups criticized the government of caving in to business interests that did not want a “traffic light”-style system, which some activists say is the easiest way of communicating which foods are healthiest to eat.

    Once the new rules are finalized, companies will have between three and five years, depending on their size, to integrate them into food labels.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that “the signs barring the carrying of concealed weapons inside Schnucks quietly came down earlier this month — more than six years after they first went up in the grocery chain's Missouri stores following the passage of a state law allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons.”

    Lori Willis, a Schnucks spokeswoman, tells the paper that “we decided to make the change in policy based on the idea that any customer who has a valid license to carry a concealed weapon should be allowed to do so. It really seemed to us as if it were
    a nonissue."

    According to the story, “In 2003, the Missouri Legislature passed a law allowing residents with permits to carry concealed weapons, but court challenges delayed implementation until the following year. Under the law, private businesses were allowed to ban firearms on their premises.” Six years later, Willis said, the policy has become a non-issue...hence the change.
    KC's View:
    I feel like I should have a comment on this story, but I simply do not know what to say. The notion of carrying a concealed weapon is so foreign to me - mostly, I suppose, because of the places I’ve lived - that I don’t even understand why this debate exists.

    It probably would not take much for me to push us into a vigorous and extended (and probably vitriolic) debate about guns ... but that’s probably not a useful way to go.

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    Advertising Age reports that “if Argentina wins the World Cup, Pepsi Cola plans to follow the example of Argentina's coach Diego Maradona, who says he'll celebrate by running around naked in Buenos Aires.

    “Not to be outdone, Pepsi announced that the company's soft drink bottles will be sold for a week in Argentina with no label if that country wins the soccer tournament ... Argentina isn't tipped to win the World Cup, but the country isn't a long shot, either. Brazil and Spain are considered the tournament's favorites, but Argentina boasts star player Lionel Messi and the odds on Argentina emerging next month as the champion are about 6-1.”
    KC's View:
    Forget about Pepsi’s pledge. I just think it is a good thing that in American football, coaches like Bill Parcells, Andy Reid, Mike Holmgren and Rex Ryan don’t make similar pledges if their teams win the Super Bowl.

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    • Campbell Soup reportedly is recalling 15 million pounds of SpaghettiOs with meatballs because of concerns that they may have been “underprocessed.”

    • The Boston Globe reports that “Whole Foods is removing a fermented, sweetened tea called kombucha from its shelves because of concerns over slightly elevated alcohol levels. Whole Foods spokeswoman Kate Lowery said Thursday that a couple dozen kombucha suppliers agreed to a voluntary withdrawal of the products after conversations indicated the alcohol levels may be elevated.”

    • The Associated Press reports that “ConAgra Foods is recalling all Marie Callender's brand cheesy chicken and rice frozen meals after they have been possibly linked to a salmonella outbreak in 14 states. The company said it was recalling the meals after it was informed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a possible link between the meals and 29 illnesses. Eight of those sickened reported eating the product in April or May 2010.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    • Unified Grocers has awarded its 2010 "Ben Schwartz Retail Grocery Visionary Award" to Seattle-based Town & Country Markets, citing the independent retailer for being a “pioneer in the development and implementation of new ideas that have since become standard within the world of grocery retailing, according to Unified CEO Al Plamann.

    The Schwartz award recognizes retailers who, “through their practice and example, have consistently demonstrated initiative, creativity and leadership within their businesses and, in the process, have inspired others to think and act creatively and with passion in the grocery field,” Unified said in its announcement.

    • Winn-Dixie announced that it will “distribute approximately 6.8 million shares of its common stock, which represent substantially all of the shares that had been held in reserve to settle outstanding unsecured pre-petition bankruptcy claims. The shares will be distributed to persons previously holding allowed claims, including, but not limited to, noteholders, landlords, vendors and suppliers, retirement plan participants and other unsecured creditors ... The share distribution is based on the Company’s determination that its bankruptcy share reserve contains more shares than will be necessary to resolve the remaining unsecured pre-petition claims against the Company.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    The New York Times reports that Limited Brands - which owns chains like Victoria’s Secret - will sell its 25 percent stake in The Limited to private equity firm Sun Capital Partners for about $32 million.
    KC's View:
    I know this story is way outside the retail venues with which we usual concern ourselves here. But I couldn’t help myself, because I wanted to ask the following question:

    Shouldn’t Limited Brands now change its name to Unlimited Brands?

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    ...will return. (Probably around the time that I do.)
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 83-79 in the seventh and deciding game of the NBA finals to win its second consecutive title and the 16th in the team’s history.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 18, 2010

    I’m not going to hit you with a long “OffBeat” this week because I realize that my “On The Road” filings have in some ways resembled nothing so much as a long series of “OffBeats.” But just a few comments, if I may, on a few non-Australia-related items...

    • Roger Simon is the chief political columnist for Politico.com, which covers, as one would expect from the name, all things politics from a wide variety of angles. It is a terrific site that has been a major success in DC and around the country.

    However, Simon’s voice has been missing from the site for the last eight months, because he developed an infection that led to blood poisoning that resulted in the amputation of his lower right leg and most of his left foot. Last Friday, however, Simon returned to Politico with a column that described what he’d been through in terms that were alternately self-deprecating, extraordinarily funny, and even touching. You can read the whole thing here.

    I was blown away by the grace of this column. I like to think of myself as a halfway decent writer with a reasonable sense of perspective and a good sense of humor, but on my best day I’m pretty sure I could not pull off what Simon does in this piece, or even in his life.

    He’s back to work now, writing about politics. In the end, that is the real achievement. I am impressed.

    • In addition to developing his own brand of wines, Francis Ford Coppola also has developed a wine label for one of his friends - a fellow named George Lucas. (You may have heard of him. Used to be a filmmaker.) The Lucas wines are made from grapes grown on his Skywalker Ranch in Northern California.

    Well, before I left home I dug out a 2002 Skywalker Ranch Viandante de Cielo Chardonnay of my wine cellar. (Okay, it isn’t a wine cellar, It is a basement with some wine racks. Allow me to dream...) I have no idea how long it has been down there - I’m guessing at least seven years - but it was amazingly good - fresh and mouth-filling, with just the right amount of oak. Almost graceful.

    I think you can only get the Skywalker Ranch wines from the Coppola wineries or its . But it is worth the effort.

    • Somehow I lost track of “Burn Notice” this year. It was on Thursday nights, but I always seemed to be doing other things and never watched it. For this trip, however, I downloaded it on iTunes...and man, am I glad to be all caught up. The Miami adventures of burned spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) continue to fascinate as they take unexpected twists and turns (I’m still not sure who the hell John Mahoney is playing, but it really doesn’t matter) amid lovely scenery and clever dialog. Great supporting cast, with Gabrielle Anwar and Sharon Gless, and especially the incomparable Bruce Campbell as a former Navy Seal gone to seed and loving it because he gets to wear Tommy Bahama shirts and drink mojitos.

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

    Fins Up!