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    Published on: August 10, 2010

    by Michael Sansolo

    The best part of having a column like this is I pretty much get to say what I want. Sometimes, people listen. That can be the hard part.

    Last week I wrote about looking at your own management style from both sides. That is, consider how you liked to be managed earlier in your career vs. how you manage now. My suggestion was this: make a list of the best and worst traits you experienced and remember to use the best list far more than the worst. And someone wrote and asked for my personal list.

    It was shockingly easy to write, which makes me feel worse about never doing this before, but I guess that’s inspiration also. Here goes:

    The best managers gave feedback often and straight. Now, I had a job that made such feedback easy. The process of writing and editing is constant and a good editor will always tell you why they are changing your prose in hopes that you won’t make the same mistake twice. Thanks to really good editors I think I became a better speller, writer, interviewer and more. Their feedback educated, inspired and helped.

    Of course, I also had managers whose feedback was strange, impossible to understand, random and completely indefensible. (I’m betting this translates to your experience too.) Good editors changed my writing to make it better; bad editors changed it to show they were doing something. Good managers taught; bad manager confused. Good managers knew that positive feedback is incredibly important and needs to come more often than the negative. The bad never figured this out.

    My best managers knew how to inspire me by explaining the importance of the job and my role. By doing so they got me to try harder. My best managers set lofty goals, challenging me to improve, learn and grow. They seemed to find a way to push me and, better yet, get me to push myself. And they made an entire team try harder by aiming for that goal, not by thinking others had to lose for me to win.

    The best managers I had led with fairness toward the entire team, even though we all required somewhat different handling. The rules were simple and straightforward and everyone knew them. Even the stars were held to the same standards of basic behavior. Lastly, my best managers supported my goals to get ahead. They viewed my success as a reflection of their coaching and applauded a promotion, even if it meant I was leaving their team.

    And, sadly, it wasn’t always that way.

    In addition to useless or negative feedback, my worst managers tended to micro-manage, making it harder for me to do my own work and always leaving me wondering if they had enough to do. The tactic made me feel useless and incompetent. Training is important and feedback matters, but there’s an ocean between that and micro-managing.

    Poor managers played favorites and it was always obvious. The rules somehow seemed different for everyone on the team. These managers let both the stars and the slackers get away with murder. The former seemed to get by on past accomplishments and the latter never seemed to do enough work. And in both cases, all it did was cause the rest of us to count the minutes until we were out of there.

    Worst of all, poor managers depressed rather an inspired. Their words were too often negative, unhelpful and confusing.

    Reflecting on all this, I know I can’t say I navigated my management list the right way each time. One thing I tried to do was learn from my staff. For instance, I learned a ton about how to do better, more informative and fact-based employee evaluations from Ernie Monschein, a long-time member of my staff at FMI. He’s an independent management consultant now and he challenged me to write this article.

    By doing so, he kept me learning.

    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: August 10, 2010

    Seven years after it shut down its Publix Direct online shopping service, Publix Super Markets said yesterday that it is testing a new e-grocery service - Publix Curbside - in one of its Atlanta stores, with plans to also test it in a Tampa unit “soon.”

    This time around, Publix is working with an outside company - MyWebGrocer - to provide the technological backbone of the service, while picking orders from the individual stores and providing in-store pickup for a $7.99 fee, though the chain is waiving the fee for first time customers as an introductory offer. There is no minimum offer required, and delivery is not an option at this time.

    (Full disclosure: MyWebGrocer is a longtime sponsor of

    “As we continue to provide our customers with the service they have grown to expect, we need to provide new and more advanced ways to meet the needs of their growing and changing families,” said Maria Brous, Publix director of media and community relations, in a prepared statement. “Publix Curbside is a natural extension of our service commitment, especially for time-starved families. ”

    In the press release announcing the test, Publix said that “conducting a test in two different markets will afford the company an opportunity to review data, look for similarities and study the differences.”

    No minimum order amount is required and a $7.99 service fee per Curbside order will be added to the total. As an introductory offer, the $7.99 service fee is waived for first time users. The site will allow for multiple shopping lists to be saved under the customer sign-in for subsequent purchases.
    KC's View:
    This is a smart move by Publix - the company knows that it ignores the online component at its own peril, but instead of trying to reinvent the wheel this time around, it just found a partner with a really good car and lots of driving experience.

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    So, did you read about the Jet Blue flight attendant who had a Howard Beale moment yesterday?

    Here’s how the New York Times described the story:

    “On Monday, on the tarmac at Kennedy International Airport, a JetBlue attendant named Steven Slater decided he had had enough, the authorities said.

    “After a dispute with a passenger who stood to fetch luggage too soon on a full flight just in from Pittsburgh, Mr. Slater, 38 and a career flight attendant, got on the public-address intercom and let loose a string of invective.

    “Then, the authorities said, he pulled the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute and slid down, making a dramatic exit not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career.

    “On his way out the door, he paused to grab a beer from the beverage cart. Then he ran to the employee parking lot and drove off, the authorities said. He was arrested at his home in Belle Harbor, Queens, a few miles from the airport, and charged with felony counts of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.”

    While there’s nothing funny about this story (well, some if it is kind of funny), Slater is being hailed in some places as a kind of working-class hero, saying once and for all that the customer is not always right.

    But here’s the sobering part of this story.

    Slater worked for Jet Blue.

    Not United. Not American. But for an airline that has prided itself on being a different sort of experience for passengers and employees alike, and that has spent a lot of money promoting this quality.

    And, it took place after a flight from Pittsburgh to New York - not exactly a long haul.

    And Slater is described as a guy who was a “leader of JetBlue’s uniform redesign committee and a member of the airline’s in-flight values committee” - not someone likely to go rogue. (He apparently was under a certain amount of personal pressure, having just lost his dad to Lou Gehrig’s disease and just having learned that his mom has terminal cancer.)

    (We can - and will - have another discussion about how awful customers can be. I’m just warming up on this one, and will come back to it another time.)

    The overarching lesson here is simple: a business is only as good and successful as the people on the front lines.

    You can’t always control the people on the front lines, and you certainly cannot control all the circumstances in which they find themselves. But you have to acknowledge their critical importance to the business, put yourself in their shoes, and work tirelessly to put them in a position and mindset where they can succeed.

    And that’s my Tuesday morning Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    Reuters reports that Bi-Lo has been put up for sale by its owner, Lone Star Funds, just months after the retailer emerged from bankruptcy. The report suggests that the company could be broken up, with units dispersed to competitors that include Kroger and Publix.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    Brenda Barnes, the CEO at Sara Lee for the past five years, resigned Monday three months after suffering a stroke.

    According to various published reports, the company’s board of directors not only has to choose from both internal and external candidates to succeed her, but also needs to make decisions about the company’s direction. During Barnes’ stewardship, Sara Lee shifted from a diversified holding company to a food and beverage company, and now the company needs to decide whether to put itself up for sale or merger, or how to continue to process begun by Barnes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    Interesting piece in The Atlantic about how and why McDonald’s entry into the smoothies business worked, to the point that it had to cut back on a free sampling promotion because executives were concerned about running out of product. Among the elements cited by The Atlantic that worked in McDonald’s favor:

    • The price was right - cheaper than most competitors and not significantly higher than a soda.

    • The value proposition seemed good - the McDonald’s smoothie is perceived as being healthy, even though “a 16 ounce smoothie actually has 73% more calories and 30% more sugar than a Coca-Cola of the same size. McDonald's also doesn't use as pure ingredients as some smoothie chains like Jamba Juice. But perception is reality.”

    • McDonald’s has a lot more locations than a competitor like Jamba Juice, which give sit the ability to dominate the market.

    And, finally, it has been an incredibly hot summer in much of the US, which made a cold smoothie appear to be a refreshing, economical and healthy option.
    KC's View:
    I’ve actually had one of Mickey D’s smoothies, and thought it was pretty good. But now that I know that “a 16 ounce smoothie actually has 73% more calories and 30% more sugar than a Coca-Cola of the same size,” I think I’ll be sticking with water or Diet Coke.

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    HealthDay News has a piece about the “eat local” movement which essentially makes the following points:

    • Local foods are not always healthier for you...but often are.

    • Good nutrition has more to do with eating unprocessed foods as opposed to packaged, processed foods: "A local apple may or may not be any better than an apple grown farther away, but it is most definitely better than an apple-flavored product you get from a package."

    • Fresh produce shipped from far will be less nutritious mostly because such items lose nutrients with every passing day. A local apple bought on a Monday but left on a counter until Saturday has the same issue.

    • When it comes to meat, chicken and eggs, local sources are less important than how the animals have been raised and what they have eaten.

    According to the story, dietitians say “that people should not get hung up on the question of whether their food is locally grown. A healthy diet that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lentils should be a person's first focus, before they start worrying about where their food comes from.”
    KC's View:
    All of which just sounds logical. There are no magic bullets. Just carefully considered battle strategies when it comes to trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    • The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that “Sam's Club is making a big bet on Internet-connected television sets—and hopes that providing free Wi-Fi in its stores will help draw customers to the new technology ... By providing Wi-Fi, Sam's Club says it hopes to help customers better understand such products, which are still relatively new to the market. ‘This will allow a member to walk up to a Samsung LCD Internet-enabled TV and see how to find his Facebook page or stream video from Vudu,’ said Sam's Club Chief Executive Brian Cornell in an interview. ‘It is an intimidating category with lots of complexity’.”

    Wi-Fi access also will allow Sam’s Club customers to check the competition’s prices on similar or identical items, the Journal writes, which Sam’s believes will work in its favor.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    • The Charlotte Observer reports that Charlotte Center City Partners “plus the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Coca-Cola and Harris Teeter all announced a stepped-up recycling initiative for uptown. Helped by some money from a $6.4 million Energy Block Grant the city received, they're installing 15 recycling bins along Tryon Street between First and Eighth streets. In addition, an incognito Prize Patrol will be prowling, and if they see you recycling you may win a $25 Harris Teeter gift card. Further, Bank of America is providing 10 recycling containers for the uptown Transit Center in coming weeks.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    NACS announced yesterday the passing of John Hervey, the former NACS employee and PCATS executive director who had a long and distinguished career in the convenience and petroleum retailing industry. His 40-year-plus career began at Mobil Oil Corporation, where he served in a variety of capacities for 25 years, including providing retail automation solutions for its 1,000-plus convenience stores. He retired from Mobil in 1992 and began a second career as an industry consultant.
    In 1995, he joined Minit Mart Foods in Bowling Green, Kentucky, as its director of IT, where Hervey was an early proponent of data standards. In 1997, he returned to consulting with Gerke and Associates, where he led the industry standards initiative that was to become the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS). Hervey also was a retired U.S. Navy Captain, having served more than 35 years both active duty and in the Navy Reserve beginning in 1955 as a seaman recruit.
    Hervey’s career at NACS began in 2000 as its chief technology officer, where he took the helm of the NACS Technology Standards Project. In 2003, the NACS Board of Directors agreed that a spinoff of the project into its own organization was appropriate, thus forming PCATS. Hervey was named executive director of the newly formed association and guided its growth and standards adoption work until his retirement in 2009.

    "John knew how to make things happen. He moved our industry from being laggards to having state of the art technologies. He brought all the relevant players together to develop the standards that allow technology to more effectively support our businesses and our customers. John's impact on technology standards was instrumental to our success and he will be truly missed," said NACS President/CEO Hank Armour.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 10, 2010

    We’ve had a lot of coverage here on MNB about a report conducted by the University of California, Davis Olive Oil Chemistry Laboratory and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory that found that almost 70 percent of imported extra virgin olive oils and 10 percent of domestic extra virgin olive oils did not meet the International Olive Council and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture taste, smell and chemical standards for extra virgin olive oil. All of the brands tested were bought in a variety of US supermarkets. The results of the report have been challenged by both the International Olive Council (IOO) and the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), which have argued with the report’s methodology and the size of its sample.

    One of the things that I have consistently noted is that the UC Davis study was partially funded by California Olive Ranch, which is an MNB sponsor, though the company had no influence over the methodology and results. (Though I said that I would have funded the study, too, if I were confident that I’d pass the test.)

    MNB John Richards took issue with me on this:

    You don’t see how a study that is funded by a private company could be biased toward that company? Your journalistic integrity is being undermined by your thirst for advertising dollars.

    Listen, I’ve been about as transparent on this issue as I can be...just as I try to always be upfront when news stories and commentary concern a sponsor. I know and trust the people at California Olive Ranch, and so I believe what they say about not influencing the methodology and results. If you choose not to, there isn’t much I can do about it.

    I have to admit, though, that I had to chuckle at the crack about my “thirst for advertising dollars.” (My accountant, who thinks of me as an under-achiever, might disagree.)

    This is a business. For me to do it, I need to generate revenue from somewhere...and I chose an ad model rather than paid subscriptions. I work hard to insure that my sponsors get good value. But I don’t think I am craven about it, and I like to think that by being open and transparent, I always put the readers first ... which is a policy that, I believe, ultimately benefits my sponsors.

    But again, if you choose to disagree, there isn’t much I can do about it.
    KC's View: