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    Published on: June 22, 2010

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

    One of the things that is most interesting about global meetings is the ability to visit stores, and the just-concluded NACS Global Forum in Sydney, Australia, was a great and well executed example of that. The mix of supermarkets and convenience stores that we visited offered some excellent marketing and merchandising lessons, and let me delineate some of them here.

    • A particularly endearing quality of a number of stores we visited is the way in which they seemed to be open to the environment, not using doors to separate them from the outside world. Sure, this is an advantage that Sydney has because of its climate; but you don;t always see stores embrace the light and take advantage of their space. The Woolworths-owned Thomas Dux Store that essentially has no front door at all ... a health food store called About Life that uses light extremely effectively ... and even an urban 7-Eleven convenience store ... all of them had a unique inviting quality. A special note about a Spar store that offers big windows and even an outside cafe ... which I liked a lot (though I thought a little more signage would have made it even more effective). Light and space = two of the more under-appreciated qualities of great retail.

    • Loved the signs. Big signs. Bold graphics. Clear wording. Just liked them a lot. No subtlety, all clarity.

    • There was one 7-Eleven store that we visited in a suburb of Sydney that was sitting on a strip that must have had seven or eight independent specialty coffee shops. It had a big sign out front - Lavazza coffee for a buck. We were told that coffee is a big item for the store, showing that there is a simple way to compete with the more upscale guys. Just undercut them on price.

    As soon as I can, I’ll post relevant retail pictures from my Sydney trip on our MNB Facebook page.

    Some of the other things I loved about my trip to Australia...

    • Circular Quay. This is the nerve center of Sydney’s public transportation hub, and the great thing about it is that ferries play such an enormous role. You can stand on the shore for a half hour and watch dozens of ferries of varying sizes coming and going from a half-dozen docks, all of them full of residents and commuters and tourists. There is something exciting and old-fashioned about such a bustling ferry terminal. Very cool.

    • The Odyssey. I couldn’t get to the wine country during my visit, but I found the next best thing - a wonderful wine bar with a terrific tasting room and a small bar and restaurant in the back. The selection of Australian wines was, as you might expect, extensive and the friendly staff was informative. As a result, I’ll be in wine recommendations for “OffBeat” for quite some time.

    • Foreigners. One of the most endearing things about Australia is how many people I met there who had moved to the nation-continent from elsewhere. They weren’t just immigrants, though - they were smiling and enthusiastic advocates for their country of residence. (A great lesson for any marketer, by the way. Employees can and should be treated in such a way that they become enthusiastic advocates for the business. To not do so is to miss a wonderful opportunity and ignore a great natural resource.) Whether it was a guy at the bike rental place from Louisiana, a waitress from Calgary, or a woman I sat next to at dinner from Mauritius - their attitudes spoke volumes about the kind of place that Australia is and wants to be.

    • The Sydney Harbour Bridge. See last week’s column about my climb.

    • “In A Sunburned Country,” by Bill Bryson. This book isn’t just a wonderfully funny and comprehensive travelogue about Australia that I read during my trip. It is also one of the best books I have ever read, and I cannot wait to download other Bryson books to my Kindle. Get it and read it even if you have no intention of traveling Down Under.

    • The Beer. Especially the James Squires ale. Wonderful, cold and just perfect.

    • The sense of limitless potential and possibility. I know that in visiting only Sydney, I have seen just a tiny percentage of Australia. I cannot wait to go back, and in my heart I am certain of this - if I’d visited Australia 25 years ago, I probably would never have left.

    My Web Grocer

    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 22, 2010

    by Michael Sansolo

    Okay soccer/football fans: prepare to get angry. Like the vast majority of Americans I would describe the World Cup in South Africa with one word: Dull!

    I’m one of those people who prefer American football, despite it capturing the two worst elements of life in the US—sporadic violence and frequent meetings. Soccer just doesn’t do it for me, even though I actually played the sport in high school. Any chance of my watching the World Cup is being killed by a combination of the strange crowd noises and the complete lack of scoring and shooting.

    By now, some of you are seething and are set to pound out a note telling me what a fool I am. You’ll tell me I simply don’t understand the “beautiful game.” You will tell me that I don’t appreciate the nuance, the passing and the intricacy of the entire event. Trust me, I’ve heard it before.

    Save your anger: I fully accept and agree with all your criticism. You are totally right. I just don’t get it.

    But here’s the funny thing: my favorite sport is baseball, which moves slower than soccer. (Much slower if the Yankees and Red Sox are playing.) However, I know baseball really well and I totally appreciate the nuance and intricacy and can watch it endlessly. So my problem isn’t patience, it’s education. If someone taught me soccer I might find I would like it much more.

    And in that we find a great lesson in marketing. Too often products are displayed, advertised and merchandised without any thought to consumer education. If we don’t take time to educate the shopper, we completely miss the opportunity to raise them from observer to buyer.

    Today’s stores increasingly have new and different items. In food stores there are countless products - from cheese to produce and artisan breads to balsamic vinegar - that consumers won’t appreciate unless they are taught how to use them. This problem is hardly limited to supermarkets. Electronics stores feature the never-ending parade of new technologies that many consumers barely understand. There are new features in cars, sourcing issues on apparel…well, you get the picture. Complexity keeps growing and the problem is the education of the shopper is lacking if not completely absent.

    We need to think about product marketing in the way World Cup fans need to think about their beautiful game. Don’t assume the rest of us get it and don’t scold us for what we don’t know. Instead, try to educate and lift us up. Help us understand what we should know and you may be surprised. If you take the time to teach us the complexity and the nuance, we can learn to appreciate it. In short order, we could become fans and customers.

    Once that happens, we might actually start talking to others. And that is the best form of shopper marketing for any product, store or even the World Cup.

    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 22, 2010

    Numerous reports say that Walmart has reached an agreement with the city of Chicago that will allow it to build dozens of stores there of various sizes over the next five years, employing more than 10,000 people and creating as many as 2,000 construction jobs. Once the stores are open, it is estimated that they could generate as much as $500 million in sales and property taxes.

    According to the stories running in places such as the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Sun Times, Walmart was able to get the majority of the Chicago City Council on its side by agreeing to develop $20 million worth of “charitable partnerships” over the next five years, donating as many as 1.2 million meals per year to the under-privileged.

    The agreement with the City Council reportedly guarantees local residents jobs at the Walmart stores,, promises that the stores will be built by unionized construction workers, and includes some sort of agreement on wages to be paid by the stores.

    The Sun Times writes that “the groundwork for a historic breakthrough was laid on May 3 during an unprecedented meeting between five Wal-Mart executives and five union leaders.”
    KC's View:
    There seems to be no question that not only does an agreement like this open the door for Walmart in Chicago, but also, potentially, in other cities and communities where it has met resistance from organized labor and neighborhood organizers.

    It could also create an environment in which Walmart will even more aggressively work to develop new formats, perhaps expanding on its Neighborhood Market and Marketside concepts, and likely even coming up with some new ideas that it hasn’t unveiled yet.

    In other words, it could be both the impetus and a template for the final piece in Walmart’s plan for world domination.

    (Just kidding. I think.)

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    The Financial Times reports that Tesco is acquiring the American operations of two suppliers that it brought over from the UK five years ago and set up in business to supply its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores in California, Arizona and Nevada.

    The two suppliers, Wild Rocket Foods and 2 Sisters Foods - provide fresh meat and produce to Fresh & Easy. Tim Mason, who is running Tesco’s US business, said that the acquisition cost “tens of millions of dollars” and reflects the company’s ongoing commitment to the US market despite slower that expected growth owing to the recessionary economy. Mason also tells FT that the the move would lead to “synergies and economies by putting the management teams of the units together. . . we think will be very beneficial for the business”.
    KC's View:
    Many observers would suggest that the other reason that Fresh & Easy hasn’t grown as expected is that management has fundamentally misread the US marketplace, creating a format that it felt comfortable rather than one that was comfortable for local shoppers.

    It isn’t hard to imagine that hidden behind Tim Mason’s verbiage is the likelihood that the two suppliers - both privately owned - simply could not afford losses that they were taking on in the US, and that Tesco had promised to indemnify them against financial problems here. It also isn’t hard to imagine that Tesco needs to do this as a matter of saving face - it has spent so much time, money and energy telling people that it is in the US for the long haul that it had to double down on that bet.

    I was talking to someone this week who told me that there continue to be reports - unsubstantiated, but nevertheless intriguing to think about - that Tesco-owned planes have been making regular visits to Minnesota...and that it is at least possible that it could be looking to acquire Supervalu if the right deal can be made. (Imagine if Tesco did such a thing and suddenly was in the Save-A-Lot business...)

    One other thing about Tesco. Nobody really wrote or said this when CEO Sir Terry Leahy announced his 2011 retirement, but I wonder if I was the only one who at least wondered if the US misadventures (I’m not sure they could be called a “debacle,” though there are those would disagree with me on that) had any role in his unexpected decision to leave the company at a relatively young age. Probably not, especially since Tim Mason is getting more responsibilities as jobs get shifted around for a post-Leahy era. But you never know.

    It certainly isn’t hard to imagine that Tesco isn’t telling us everything...and that there are still moves to be made that will at least surprise a lot of people.

    Of course, this could all just be unfolding in my imagination. But maybe not...

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports that there appear to be enough votes in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives to include the cutting of interchange fees charged by credit and debit card companies in financial overhaul regulation scheduled to be finalized by the US Congress later this week.

    According to the story, the agreement is “a loss for the financial industry, which had mounted a furious campaign to eliminate or water down the proposed regulations.

    “Though it is unclear how much the estimated $20 billion a year in debit card fees paid by U.S. merchants would be reduced under Congress's proposal to have them regulated by the Federal Reserve - or what impact consumers might feel - some experts believe they could be cut by half or more, saving Wal-Mart Stores Inc. alone, the world's largest retailer, hundreds of millions annually.

    “Retailers, restaurateurs and gas-station owners have long complained about the so-called interchange fees charged by banks for Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. debit cards, which average roughly 1% to 2% of the total transaction amount - far more than similar fees to process paper checks.”
    KC's View:
    Talk about timing. It was just on Monday at the NACS Global Forum in Australia where we heard a presentation by an expert of interchange fees, and he maintained that regulation by the Australian government - which moved to slash the fees several years ago - have helped consumers without cutting down on card-based transactions or hurting the banks’ bottom line.

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    The Toronto Sun reports on the case of Heidi Heise, an employee of a local Subway shop in Nova Scotia, who was fired “after giving free subs to a couple left homeless after an apartment fire.” The couple was looking for refuge after losing their home, and she made them a sandwich and didn’t charge them; she said she was planning to put the sandwich on her employee plan but forgot.

    Well, it didn’t take long for Heise to find a new job. She was hired by the local Quiznos.

    "Heidi is a person who was trying to do the right thing," Quiznos franchisee Steve Webber says. "I heard about the story and as luck would have it, my store had an opening ...I thought it was great timing, so we tracked her down to see if she was interested."

    Webber also said that Quiznos will make a charitable contribution to those displaced by the fire.
    KC's View:
    We can’t make this stuff up.

    Good for Webber, and a big Bronx Cheer to the tone deaf Subway franchisee who goes mercifully unnamed by the Sun.

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    The Associated Press reports that “Italian police confiscated some 70,000 balls of mozzarella in Turin after consumers noticed the milky-white cheese quickly developed a bluish tint when the package was opened.” So far, there is no explanation for the phenomenon - other than to note that the affected mozzarella was actually made in Germany for an Italian company. Test results are expected later this week.
    KC's View:
    This story raises one important question. What the hell is an Italian company doing importing mozzarella from Germany? Wurst, maybe. Bier, sure. But mozzarella?

    This is taking the whole global supply chain thing just a step too far.

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Marsh Supermarkets, “accusing the grocery chain of using illegal interrogation practices and unlawfully terminating a worker for exercising his right to organize a union.”

    According to the story, “The charges follow attempts by Marsh workers to deliver a petition to company headquarters signed by more than 5,000 people asking executives to meet with them about ‘the future direction of the company,’ the union said. The union alleges the coalition was met by security and was ordered off the company’s property.”

    Marsh has thus far not commented on the charges.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    Procter & Gamble has launched a new website that is designed to give men advice on parenting, cooking and cleaning. is described as offering “the kind of advice on child-rearing, cleaning and cooking more often found in women's magazines.” The belief is that the recession has led to more men than ever taking on household chores.

    The site will eventually be used to market P&G products to the male audience, which currently is being targeted with articles like “How To Speak Woman.”
    KC's View:
    It has long been argued here that retailers and manufacturers that traditionally market to women ought to consider that by marketing to men they have the opportunity to pick up incremental dollars. That makes sense even in good economic times, when more men are taking on their share of the duties that traditionally were undertaken by women.

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    • The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that a tentative agreement on a new contract has been reached between Giant Eagle Supermarkets and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), representing some 5,800 of the chain’s employees in western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. Terms of the deal were not disclosed pending ratification by the rank and file.

    • Sprouts Farmers Market, which says that it “offers right-from-the-earth foods at down-to-earth prices,” reportedly will open its newest store in Culver City, California, tomorrow - and it will be the first in the chain to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.  

    • Kroger employees in Michigan reportedly have ratified a new contract covering more than 12,000 workers at 118 stores in the state.

    ABC News reports that Frito-Lay is battling bandits “who are circulating fake Doritos coupons on the Internet, likely costing Frito-Lay millions of dollars.

    “The phony coupons, which offer consumers a free bag of Doritos tortilla chips without buying anything, first showed up on Web sites in 2009, but were quickly removed after Frito-Lay notified site owners, according to company spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez. Similar coupons have surfaced in the last two months and have spread through e-mail. Now the coupons are turning up by the thousands at retailers across the country.”

    • Mike Eardley, director of deli, cheese and prepared foods at HEB, has received the 2010 International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s President’s Award, recognizing his distinguished service, vision and dedication.
    KC's View:
    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    Dow Jones reports that J Sainsbury in the UK has shuffled its executive deck, “putting current Chief Financial Officer Darren Shapland in charge of future developments at the company, and promoting John Rogers to the CFO post ... Sainsbury's trading director Mike Coupe will become group commercial director and join the board, adding marketing to his responsibilities, while Helen Buck will take charge of the company's convenience store operations under Shapland.”

    According to the story, “Shapland's role, which sees him take charge of the convenience stores, Sainsbury's Bank, the property portfolio and group strategy, suggests a renewed focus on areas outside the company's main supermarket chain. Along with rivals, it has expanded in both convenience stores and financial services in recent years.”
    KC's View:
    Just a quick note. Mike Coupe is no relation to the Content far as we know.

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    Re-posted from yesterday’s MNB, for folks who may have missed it...

    One of the things that I’ve always tried to be careful about here on MNB was observing the old “church and state” rule that I learned when I started out in journalism. I try to keep the punditry separate from the sponsors, and when they get close, I try to at least note it so that we’re all clear about where the lines are. (This is as much for the protection of my sponsors as anything...I would hate for anyone to suffer because of some politically incorrect statement that I make.)

    That’s not to say that I am anything but thrilled about my sponsors. I’ve always been lucky that the people and companies supporting MNB are wonderful folks with whom I love being associated. I hope they feel the same way about me.

    Here’s the reason I am mentioning this today...

    MyWebGrocer, which is a long time MNB sponsor, has a new DrumBeat and tile ad starting today that feature, rather prominently, my name and picture. That’s because MyWebGrocer was kind enough to hire me to produce a series of videos about their company - which I was thrilled to do, not just because I have a video production business in addition to MNB, but also because I happen to feel strongly that MyWebGrocer is a terrific company that is making it possible for a lot of companies to be on the online cutting edge.

    How great is it to have a website that has a point of view that is shared by a sponsor like MyWebGrocer. It is like the best of all possible worlds.

    I hope you’ll check out the videos. I hope you’ll contact MyWebGrocer about their offerings. (Just like I hope you’ll check out all my sponsors...because they make it possible for me to continue to provide MNB to you each day.)

    And I hope you won’t get sick and tired of looking at my face.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    Just a reminder...the next couple of days may have MNB arriving at odd times.

    You are getting this on Tuesday - much later than usual - as I have just arrived in San Francisco after a 13-hour flight from Sydney, Australia. Shortly, I will fly from SF to London, arriving early Wednesday morning there, which will be really early Wednesday morning or very late Tuesday evening in the US, depending on where you live. I’ll get you MNB for Wednesday as quickly as I can...and then hopefully will be able to file more frequent reports from the Consumer Goods Forum in London through the end of the week.

    Thanks for your patience and understanding...
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 22, 2010

    ...will return.
    KC's View: