retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    Now available on iTunes…

    To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    Just to follow up on last week’s rant about generational differences...

    I got a reminder the other day of just how much we have to pay attention to the fact that the younger generation simply has an entirely different set of reference points than we do.

    We were out to dinner, my wife, daughter and me. And my daughter made some innocuous comment about something - I have no idea what - that implied that whatever it was she was talking about would affect us as much as it would affect her. And so I looked at her, grinned, and said:

    What you mean ‘we,’ kemo sabe?”

    From the look she gave me, I might as well have been speaking Greek. She seemed to have no clue what I was talking about.

    It’s from the old joke, I told her.

    She continued to stare at me.

    So I started to tell her the joke, and then realized that for her to understand the joke, she’d certainly have to understand the context. So I asked her if she knew who the Lone Ranger was.

    Nope. No idea.

    Let it go, my wife said. It doesn’t really matter.

    But I’m not particularly good at letting go. Sometimes I sort of get like a dog with a bone. So I started to explain the legend of the Lone Ranger to a Texas Ranger named James Reid, along with a bunch of other Texas Rangers (and, of course, I had to explain what Texas Rangers were) got caught in an ambush, and that only James Reid survived, and was nursed back to health by an Indian named Tonto...and that Reid decided that to be more effective, he would fight against the bad guys by wearing a mask and calling himself the Lone Ranger, striking fear into the hearts of criminals everywhere by traveling the west with his faithful companion, Tonto. (I even told her how Reid was, if you follow such fictions, the ancestor of Britt Reid, who became the Green Hornet, with his own faithful companion, Kato.)

    By this point, she’s looking at me with something between incredulity and total disdain. In fact, so’s my wife, who cannot believe that I know this level of detail and am sharing it with a 16-year-old girl.

    So then, because now I’m on a roll and cannot stop myself because somehow I’ve convinced myself that this is an important pert of her cultural education...I proceed to tell her the old joke about how the Lone Ranger and Tonto are surrounded on all sides by hostile Indians, and how the Lone Ranger looks at Tonto and says, “I guess we’re in real trouble now,” and Tonto responds, What you mean ‘we,’ kemo sabe?”

    Now, to be fair, she smiled a bit. But it was a pity smile. I know this because she also rolled her eyes. (Just for the record, I got no such pity smile from Mrs. Content Guy.)

    The thing is, I love that joke. Always have, even though it is about as corny as you can imagine. But my daughter, not so much.

    She’s 16 years old. She may be the customer, or will be soon enough. She may be the employee, or will be soon enough. Either way, we have to learn to talk to her in a language that she understands, using metaphors and references that are relevant to her. Some will say that it is her responsibility to learn to speak our language, but I don’t think so. Not really. We’re the adults, we’re the ones who want to communicate with her, motivate her, inspire her, teach her. So we’d better learn to be relevant to her.

    And all the other people out there like her.

    For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    A simple one today.

    We all struggle with how to motivate our people, and most folks adhere to certain basic principles. But according to author Daniel H. Pink, who has written several books about the world of work, much of what people believe about motivation may be wrong.

    Click here to watch a short video in which Pink explains research that challenges much of what people think about incentivizing and employees and creating a motivated workforce.

    It is terrific. It certainly opened my eyes.

    And a shout out to MNB user Tom Kroupa for bringing it to my attention.

    That’s our Thursday morning Eye-Opener.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    The New York Times reports this morning that Walmart is asking the US Supreme Court “to review the largest employment discrimination lawsuit in American history, involving more than a million women workers, current and former, at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores. Nine years after the suit was filed, the central issue before the Supreme Court will not be whether any discrimination occurred, but whether more than a million people can even make this joint claim through a class-action lawsuit, as opposed to filing claims individually or in smaller groups.”

    The class action suit already has been allowed to go ahead by four courts, most recently in April by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

    “The stakes are huge,” the Times writes. “If the Supreme Court allows the suit to proceed as a class action, that could easily cost Wal-Mart $1 billion or more in damages, legal experts say.”

    The suit began almost a decade ago, and argues that only a third of Walmart managers were women while two-thirds of its employees were; the plaintiffs say that Walmart was more likely to give out promotions and raises to men than women.

    Walmart has denied the charges, and also has maintained that it would be more proper for each of the various complaints to heard individually, rather than as a class action.
    KC's View:
    As I’ve said before, I can certainly understand why Walmart would like to have each complaint heard individually. While I have no idea what the law is on this, common sense suggests to me that the suit depends on what the plaintiffs say is systemic bias...and the courts ought to consider it on those terms.

    Then again, who knows what the Supremes will rule?

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    AdWeek reports on a new study by The Hartman Group about how people define “wellness.”

    • Sixty-seven percent of people surveyed said they defined it as “not being ill.”
    • An identical number of people said that to them, wellness means :”being able to deal with stress.”
    • Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said wellness translates to “being physically fit.”
    • Seventy-four percent said that it meant “feeling good about myself.”

    The real point, AdAge notes, is that wellness is not perceived in exotic terms, but in a concrete, easy to understand and “authentic” context.

    "While the notion of quality of life is very broad, consumers are still looking to markers of quality on a category-by-category basis, as they determine whether or not the product or service is authentic and can play a role in their wellness toolkit," Shelley Balanko, vp/ethnographic research at The Hartman Group, tells AdAge. "Consumers are becoming more attuned to authenticity cues to discern the 'real' from the 'fake.' Authenticity is communicated through compelling product/company narratives with products containing whole, real and clean ingredients created by knowledgeable people who genuinely care."

    In addition, Balanko says, "More than ever, consumers view fresh, real and clean food as the foundation for [health and wellness],” and perceive food as a way to proactively prevent disease states and achieve a measure of wellness.

    The Hartman study also suggests that marketers have to be careful in how they communicate a wellness message to shoppers. “Consumers have been marinating in health-and-wellness information for the past decade,” Balanko tells AdAge. “Unfortunately, a lot of this information has been contradictory. Unless Core, consumers are confused by all the information available, and are resorting to intuition and pragmatism to determine what products will serve their needs. Marketers need not cut through ignorance, but rather emphasize their products' differentiators and authenticity."
    KC's View:
    Wonder how many people, when asked what wellness meant to them , replied, “Breathing”?

    In tough times, the bar gets lowered. Nothing wrong with that, if it allows people to maintain some level of optimism that gets them through the day. And then the night. And then the next day. It is all about momentum.

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    Meijer has announced that it has launched a new “Find-it” mobile application that allows shoppers to “see the location of more than 100,000 items in a retail supercenter using their smartphones. Shoppers no longer need to ask store employees the common question `Where is…?’ as items’ locations are represented as pins placed on an interior map of the store. The application also provides updated information on weekly specials and product promotions available in the store, with the ability to instantly locate sale items.”

    The application is being piloted at four Meijer stores.

    The company said that “in addition to locating specific items, and perusing current sales and promotions, shoppers can view a list of services available in the store and determine their locations, such as the customer service desk, restrooms, or even Sandy the penny pony. Another feature is ‘Remember My Parking Spot’, which shows the location of your car in the Meijer parking lot, allowing you to quickly navigate to the correct exit when your shopping is done. Finally, location and contact information for all Meijer stores is available.

    Meijer’s ‘Find-it’ app is available for free for Android devices in the Android market and also for iPhone and iPod touch.
    KC's View:
    Love it!

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    Reuters reports that “U.S. food prices are forecast to rise at their lowest rate since 1992, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday, showing the recent surge in agriculture prices for everything from hogs to wheat so far has not been felt at the dinner table.

    The USDA revised its food price prediction to an increase of 0.5% to 1.5% in 2010 from its forecast in late July that called for a rise of 1.5% to 2.5%. The increase could be the lowest since food prices rose 1.2% in 1992.

    • The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that Publix is launching a flu immunization program in all of its stores with pharmacies, offering shots for $25 apiece and accepting medicare Part B and other insurance plans.

    Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that “Dunkin' Donuts opened 338 net new locations around the world in the first half of this year, including 75 in the U.S., a rate that reflects an expanded presence in both existing markets and new markets for the company.

    Dunkin’ Donuts currently has more than 9,000 outlets in 31 countries, generating more than $5.7 billion annually.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    Dow Jones reports that Dean Foods Co. has promoted Joseph Scalzo, the company’s COO, adding the company’s presidency to his responsibilities.

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced that Patrick J. Walsh has been promoted to Senior Vice President, Industry Relations, Education and Research. Walsh has been with FMI for 11 years and previously was vice president of industry collaboration and education. 
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    As is my habit at this time of year, I'm taking some time off between now and Labor Day to recharge the batteries, do a little bicycling, spend some time with my daughter before she goes back to school, and just generally relax.  So MNB will be on hiatus for the next week or so...but we'll be back on Tuesday, September 7, with all-new, handcrafted news in context and analysis with attitude...not to mention plenty of Eye-Openers designed to challenge conventional thinking. Hope you enjoy these last days of summer...I know I will.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    Got a number of emails responding to Michael Sansolo’s “Eye Opener” piece about the sounds of silence at the beach these days, and what this tells us about mass marketing.

    MNB user Dave Tuchler wrote:

    I thought your using the beach experience as a metaphor for the death of the mass market was very apt.

    And as someone who spent part of most summers as a kid in Ocean City (the original 'OC'), I hope you were able to have some Thrasher's fries - fresh cut, vinegar and salt - still the best anywhere.

    MNB user Greg Trelease wrote:

    I noticed the same thing this year at the beach in Rhode Island. You are spot on in your recollection of music heard at the beach in the ‘60’s. It was very cool to have all the radios tuned to the one station that came in good at your particular beach. But be careful what you wish for. Imagine the noise if everyone had boom boxes again playing 100 different rap and 100 different country songs at once! With the state of popular music today it’s better people keep it to themselves.

    Regarding the test of no-cash stores in the Netherlands, MNB user Ron Pizur wrote:

    I really don't understand the push back about the no-cash stores.  Doesn't everyone first get their cash from a machine using their debit card?  So what's all the fuss about cutting out a step and just buying your groceries with a debit card?

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I have a couple of observations to contribute from the Netherlands (where I live). There already is at least one supermarket I am aware of, that only takes cards (not even 1 lane for cash). The store is called Marqt ( (sorry, only in Dutch, but they do have a tab about 'no cash')  (Think farmers market meets Whole Foods).   Another interesting observation (at least it was for me when I first moved here), is that there are NO cheques in Holland. There are no cheque books, and if you happen to be given one (only would happen from someone outside the country), you have to go to your banks central branch, submit it in person, and will be deposited to your account within 8-10 weeks! If you need to send money to an individual, you use web banking to transfer funds straight to their account.

    Having said that, it would be VERY interested to see what Albert Heijn does, especially since they currently only take cash and PIN (a Dutch-only debit card), and no international credit cards. Does that mean that they will finally have to give in to Mastercard/Visa/etc, or is this going to be a store that you can only shop in if you have a Dutch bank account?

    MNB user Geoff Harper wrote:

    You would vote for a cash-only line, in order to not disenfranchise a group of customers.  But that is exactly what has made Trader Joe, Aldi and Stew Leonard’s successful.  Many years ago I was part of a group that toured Stew’s then-only store.  Stew Jr. was our host.  I asked him how they could rationalize not having small meat packages for the elderly.  He said “My father says ‘F- them, we don’t need them’”.  Unexpectedly blunt, but point taken.  Stew decided early to have a limited, and very desirable, selection.  I think the same may apply to not having a cash lane.

    As a 25-year shopper at Stew Leonard’s, that response surprises simply does not jibe with the company’s popular image.

    In general, I am a big fan of the notion that stores need to stand for something specific, speak with a specific voice, and appeal to a specific customer.

    My only concern about a no-cash store is that last time I checked, cash was legal tender...and I’m not sure I’m completely comfortable with not accepting it at all. But, hey, maybe I’m being too old world about this, too rooted in traditional ways of doing business. If so, then maybe my perspective is best ignored.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 26, 2010

    There was a story the other day in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Coca-Cola’s Venturing and Emerging Brands team, and the effort it is putting into finding the next big thing. It was an interesting story, but being something of a media junkie, I found it fascinating how the story ended. After the final sentence, there was a section entitled “How we got the story,” which read like this:

    “Reporter Jeremiah McWilliams had his first real exposure to the work of Coca-Cola's Venturing and Emerging Brands business unit when he tried a Dixie cup of Kvass at Coca-Cola's annual meeting this spring. Since then, he has interviewed Coca-Cola executives, trade journalists, consultants and entrepreneurs to get a sense of how VEB operates, and how it is changing Coca-Cola. For two days during the writing of this story, McWilliams was the best-hydrated reporter in the AJC's newsroom, sampling VEB's work: soft drinks, coconut water, chilled coffee and yet more Kvass.”

    That’s extraordinary. I’ve never seen anything like it before. An actual explanation of how the reporter got the story.

    It seems to me that it is yet another example of the kind of transparency that people expect in 2010, and how different companies are responding to it.

    There are a lot of examples of how the phrase “how we got the story” might be applied to other industries. Retailers and manufacturers need to think about that. Because that’s what customers are going to expect, and that’s where other companies are going to place the bar.

    I know this, because I read it in the newspaper.

    This movie tanked when it opened last weekend, and I only went to see it because Mrs. Content Guy wanted to. (I owed her one. Actually, more than one.)

    But as it happens, I liked The Switch very much. And I think a lot of people would, if they’d just give it a chance.

    The movie stars Jennifer Anniston in the story of a woman who wants to become a single mom, and how it ends up that the father of her child isn’t exactly who she expected it to be. Rather than being the handsome, athletic stud she hand-picked, the father ends up being her nerdy, caustic and neurotic best friend, a financial analyst played by Jason Bateman.

    And go figure, Bateman ends up being the real star of the movie. His performance is delightful as he goes from being caustic and suspicious to the beginnings of a relationship with the little boy who he believes his son. The movie - and Bateman’s performance - recall one of my favorite movies, About A Boy, which starred Hugh Grant.

    Maybe the movie didn’t do well because the ads seem to focus on Anniston; she’s okay in the movie, but quite frankly, the part could have been played by dozens of actresses, and she still doesn’t seem like movie star material to me.

    But The Switch is well written, nicely acted, and, in the end, remarkably touching. I liked it a lot.

    I have two wines to suggest this week:

    • the 2009 Nessa Albarino, from Galicia, Spain...a bright and refreshing white wine that is great with seafood.

    • the 2008 Vigneti Zabù Inzolia from Sicily, which also is wonderful white wine that is perfect for warm summer evenings.


    Well, that’s it for this week...and, as it happens, for the summer. As noted above, as it is my tradition at this time of year I’ll be taking a few days off and will be back the day after Labor Day, Tuesday, September 7.

    Have a great week.

    Fins Up!

    And Slainte!
    KC's View: