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    Published on: September 30, 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:

    http://www.morningnewsbeat.com/Radio/Radio_Listen_S.las


    MNB readers will recall that last week, I went on a bit of a rant about a bad experience I’d had with FedEx. My original complaint was that they had not delivered a package that I absolutely, positively wanted to get to its destination overnight; they said it wasn’t their fault, and would neither give me a discount on my charges or expedite it so it would get to the recipient as soon as possible.

    But I thought it made sense to use the experience as a lesson that is applicable to many companies. Here’s what I wrote:

    It seems to me that these are the kinds of encounters that slowly kill companies. By itself, not a big deal. But if they happen over and over, to a multitude of people, eventually it starts to wear on a company’s culture and reputation.

    FedEx is a widely admired company, and for good reasons. I have no idea if I ran into an institutional problem, or just an individual one. You know something, though? Institutional problems start out as individual ones.

    The question that all businesses need to ask themselves, on a regular basis, is if these kinds of disconnects exist in their organizations - promises of products and services that ought to be absolutely, positively delivered in an effective and efficient way...but are not.

    It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. It doesn’t matter who gets blamed. It only matters that the customer is dissatisfied and perhaps willing top go somewhere else next time.

    Then, the problem can be deadly.


    Well, someone at FedEx was paying attention.

    I got a call yesterday from Alice Hill, who identified herself as being from FedEx headquarters in Memphis, and she could not have been nicer or more apologetic. She said that she had been made aware of MNB, and that not only should the package have made it on time without excuses, but customer service folks should never not take responsibility when they drop the ball. Clearly, she said, there are some training issues that FedEx needs to address...and she promised to do so.

    I was told that my charges for that shipment would be waived, and that I would get in the mail several discount coupons to use for future shipments.

    All this made for a vastly more pleasurable experience than the previous phone conversation with FedEx.

    Am I completely convinced? No. But I certainly feel better about doing business with FedEx, and I’ll be curious to see how future transactions work out. And I continue to recognize that the emails I got indicate that I was hardly alone in my complaints ... and that FedEx needs to adopt a level of vigilance about its brand that may at the moment be lacking.

    We all should. Brand equity is a precious thing. We ignore our core value proposition at great risk.

    But at the very least, kudos to Alice Hill. She handled a discontented customer with style, and she represented the company with aplomb.

    Can;t ask for more than that.

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

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    I think we all forget that we are living history. No matter how old or young we are, our lives have been full of stunning events (good and bad) and lessons galore.

    A spectacular reminder of this was included in this past Sunday’s New York Times. It’s a section worth finding on line to read and consider. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of the Times Op-Ed page, where opinions from around the globe appear daily. And the paper celebrated the anniversary by running portions of some very famous articles from the past.

    The authors included Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, with others writing about Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama. Both Golda Meir and Yassir Arafat wrote about the Israeli-Palestinian issue while Mikhail Gorbachev and Colin Powell wrote about the end of the Cold War.

    But my favorite line came from Warren Buffett, about why he was buying stocks just as the financial crisis was exploding in October 2008. Buffett explained: “A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”

    That’s an Eye-Opener for today or any other day.

    - Michael Sansolo
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    There are several stories this morning that look at various facets of the Kroger Co. and how it is strategizing about its future.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports on an interview with CEO Dave Dillon in which he says, in essence, that if CPG companies want to raise their prices, that’s up to them - and that Kroger will simply pass those increases along to the consumer, which will in turn make the company’s private brand alternatives more attractive.

    "I don't see [rising manufacturers' prices] as a problem for us. It is a problem for them," Dillon tells the Journal. "Each national vendor must make a choice."

    And, the Journal writes, “‘We are not opposed to having higher gross margins,’ Mr. Dillon jokingly told investors. But fattening profits could cost Kroger shoppers and ‘dissipate brand equity,’ Mr. Dillon said. He expects Kroger will benefit from those shoppers' loyalty as the economy improves.”

    Reuters reports that Kroger is interested in making acquisitions, and has specifically been targeting manufacturing companies that could add both capacity and innovation to its private brand segment, but that to this point targeted companies have been asking for too much money.

    "People who are selling still have some idea of a big multiple in their head," Kroger Chairman and Chief Executive David Dillon said on Wednesday at the company's investor conference.

    The story also suggests that Kroger could be looking at some of the retail assets that the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) reportedly wants to sell.

    • The Cincinnati Enquirer has a fascinating story about the two Advantage Checkout machines that exist in the world, both of which are being used in Kroger’s Hebron Marketplace store.

    According to the piece, “The machines use a patented technology designed by the grocer's four-year-old research and development team. They're aimed to save customers time at checkout and to save the company operating costs and manpower ... Customers place items on the machine's quick-moving conveyor belt. Those items enter a tunnel lined with high-powered cameras to capture images of products and scan UPC barcodes. Items exit on another conveyor belt and are quickly bagged by Kroger employees. During bagging, customers visit one of four separate pay stations where they can scan coupons and pay for their goods.

    “The machine can read about 90 percent of items in the tunnel. Kroger continues to test the device and seek feedback from customers. It has yet to determine the optimal configuration in a store to remove all bottlenecks during the checkout process.

    “It also has installed Pro Scale machines in the Hebron produce section that let customers weigh and label items with printed barcodes while they shop. That also helps to ease congestion in the checkout line.”
    KC's View:
    Fascinating. It’s all about being willing to examine every facet of the shopping experience, and there’s nothing more ripe for dramatic change than the checkout, which can turn even a positive shopping experience into a drawn-out, make-your-hair-hurt nightmare. It just has to be efficient and effective.

    As for what Dave Dillon had to say...I think that it makes a lot of sense to think strategically about things like market share and margins. (Not that he cares whether I approve or not.) The most important thing in this climate is to build sustainable brand equity through every means possible, and that seems to be the Kroger game plan.

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    The Nielsen Company is out with its projections about consumer spending during the upcoming end-of-year holiday season, predicting that it will “closely reflect 2009 spending with flat dollar sales at approximately $89 billion, and flat to declining unit sales, down 0.15 percent.” One good sign: 36 percent of consumers said they plan to spend less this holiday season, an improvement over the 42 percent who said the same thing last year.

    “As we approach the holiday season, consumer confidence is up slightly, but below pre-recession levels,” said James Russo, vice president, Global Consumer Insights, The Nielsen Company. “Consumers are concerned about the jobless recovery and managing their personal finances. As a result, they are closely planning their spending and continue to reduce their shopping trips while placing more emphasis on value. Fewer shopping trips make every retail interaction critical this holiday season and retailers need to turn this increased but restrained optimism into sales.”

    Among the other predictions made by Nielsen:

    • Value retailers will do well, but online retailers are expected to see the greatest sales increases during the holidays.

    • Affluent consumers - those making $70,000 or more annually - will drive online sales increases. Dollar store increases will be driven by households making $50,000 a year or less, which is a higher ceiling than in recent years.

    • Nielsen predicts a strong season for technology products and gift cards, with some possible upside surprises in discretionary items such as apparel, toys, video games, books and even vacations, especially among upper income households ($100K+).

    • Discretionary items such as jewelry and DVDs are forecasted to see a slight uptick, as consumers express a desire to spend more on these items. Consumer spending on sporting goods, CDs, cookware, and bed and bath items will be flat.

    “Consumers’ desire for value continues into this year’s holiday season,” said Russo. “In this new normal however, consumers have redefined value. Value is not about price, it’s about the balance between price and benefits. Retail channels offering a clear value proposition and those that focus on consumers’ desire to plan as they manage personal finances, such as online stores, will do well. More and more, it’s about capitalizing on the interactions with an increasingly savvy—and at times disloyal—consumer. Those value propositions tailored around benefits beyond price will resonate with consumers.”

    These predictions would seem to be supported by recent statements from companies like Best Buy and Target, and both FedEx and Delta Air Lines (which carries more air freight than any other US airline), where executives recently have said that things are looking good for the holidays in terms of the shipping business. And William Simon, who runs Walmart’s US stores, has said that he anticipates “a very, very competitive and aggressive Christmas and holiday selling season, price-focused.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    Marketing Daily reports on a new Mintel survey suggesting that more than six of ten US adults believe that the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is “okay in moderation.”

    However, the numbers reported suggest that there remains considerable “public confusion and ambivalence,” as Marketing Daily puts it, about HFCS:

    • 46 percent of consumers said that they don;t know enough about HFCS to say whether it is good or bad, while 35 percent said they avoid products that contain it.

    • 65 percent said that the government should mandate that manufacturers disclose exactly how much HFCS is in any given product.

    • “While 35% believe that the government should limit HFCS content in food/beverages, 45% think that this should be up to manufacturers -- and 37% say that no one should be responsible for imposing HFCS content restrictions.”
    KC's View:
    Oy.

    I actually take almost every survey these days about what government should and should not do with a grain of salt, since there is such a strong anti-government sentiment out there right that skews almost everything.

    From my perspective, at the very least there has to be truth - and precision - in labeling. That ought to be the base line.

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    The Washington Post reports that 11 US senators have written a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking it to stop the approval process that could allow genetically modified salmon - engineered with a growth hormone that makes it grow faster - to be sold for human consumption.

    The letter maintains that the FDA is “using the wrong process for evaluating the safety of the modified fish and that the public is being left out (and that) the FDA is incorrectly treating the request for approval of AquAdvantage salmon as if it were a new veterinary drug and not as a new animal that humans consume. Under the current process, the company is allowed to keep private some of the data it submits to the FDA on the grounds that it is classified business information.”

    The senators signing the letter were Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) - as the Post points out, mostly from coastal states.
    KC's View:
    I suppose that these folks are trying to protect their fishing industries, but there just seems to be an anti-science tint to what they are suggesting. I hope that’s not true.

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    Walmart announced yet another change in its senior executive team, as CFO Tom Schoewe said he will retire on January 31, 2011. Schoewe will be succeeded by Charles Holley, currently the company’s treasurer and executive vice president of finance.

    Schoewe is 57. Holley is 54. According to the Reuters coverage, “a Wal Mart spokesman declined to provide details on Schoewe's future plans or say why he was retiring.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    Bloomberg reports that Ahold CEO John Rishton is leaving the company to CEO of Rolls-Royce Group Plc, and will be succeeded by Dick Boer, who has been serving as the company’s COO in Europe.

    In turn, Boer will be replaced by Sander van der Laan, who runs Albert Heijn. Carl Schlicker, currently head of Ahold’s U.S. retail operations, has been appointed chief operating officer of the U.S., succeeding Larry Benjamin, who will retire in early 2011.

    Early reaction from analysts suggests that Boer is likely to be more acquisition-focused - or, as one analyst put it, “empire building” - than Rishton, who was more focused on improving the balance sheet and restoring morale in a company that had been rocked by an accounting scandal.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    Kmart announced yesterday that it will expand its private brand strategy “with the introduction of the Smart Sense line, its new Kmart brand that includes a wide range of items including everything from snacks and beverages, to oral care, paper products, household cleaners and over-the-counter medications. The quality of the Smart Sense line is comparable to that of national name brands, and on average costs 20 percent less.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    The New York Times reports that Borders is hoping for an end-of-year holiday season comeback by using the pop-up store concept: “Making a push to sell e-readers and books during the holiday season,” the Times writes, Borders “plans to open 25 so-called pop-up stores in cities like Minnetonka, Minn.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and Scottsdale, Ariz., beginning in early October.

    “Most of the pop-ups will be in malls where Borders once had stores. The company has closed more than 200 stores in the last year, most of which were its smaller Waldenbooks outlets in malls.”

    The pop-up strategy is getting to be increasingly popular with retailers; Toys R Us already has announced that it plans to use the concept aggressively this holiday season.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    Dow Jones this morning quotes M. Susan Chambers, executive vice president of Walmart’s people division, as saying that she expects that the company will employ three million people around the world by 2015, compared to the 2.2 million it currently employs. Most of those jobs, she said, will be outside the US.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    • Pro’s Ranch Markets and Vallarta Supermarkets jointly announced that they have entered into an agreement for the sale of the four Pro’s Ranch Markets California Central Valley grocery stores to Vallarta Supermarkets. The transaction is expected to close before Thanksgiving 2010.

    “The Central Valley and the surrounding communities welcomed us with open arms from day one, and we have long-term team members who are like family, so this decision is especially difficult,” said Mike Provenzano Sr., Pro’s Ranch Markets President and CEO. Pro’s Ranch Markets continues to own 11 locations in the Southwest with stores in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico (including four currently under construction).

    • The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Giant Eagle Supermarkets’ “3-year-old experiment in operating its own plant to bottle water and iced teas will come to an end Friday when the company closes its Latrobe bottling facility. Talks are progressing with a possible buyer. The Chestnut Ridge Beverage Co. is closing the former LeNature's Inc. bottling plant to cut costs, Giant Eagle said in a statement. Giant Eagle is the minority owner in Chestnut Ridge, with the other unidentified investors.

    • The American Council on Exercise (ACE), the largest fitness certification, education and training organization in the world, announced an alliance with the NuVal, the nutritional ranking system that scores virtually every product in the supermarket on a scale of 1-100, allowing consumers to make more informed choices. The goal of the arrangement, the organizations said, is to “work together to combat the growing obesity epidemic, promote small steps to a healthier lifestyle, empower Americans to make healthier choices and provide tools and education to improve quality of life.” The first step will be a series of webinars that will empowerACE members with information that will allow them to counsel consumers more effectively.

    • Pennsylvania-based Weis Markets announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill Partnership recently presented it with three 2010 Environmental Achievement Awards. The Company received GreenChill’s “Most Improved Emissions Rate Award,” the “Superior Environmental Achievement Award,” and the “Exceptional Environmental Achievement Award.”

    The awards recognize the Weis’s efforts “to reduce the refrigerant discharged from the systems used to refrigerate the displays and frozen food cases in its 164 stores,” the company said. “These refrigerant emissions harm the earth’s ozone layer and contribute to climate change.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced the appointment of Carol Abel as Vice President, Education and Research. Abel will be responsible for the development and execution of FMI’s education programs and research initiatives.

    Abel comes to FMI from the American Pharmacists Association where she most recently served as Senior Director of Education Strategy and Compliance Officer. 
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    • Tony Curtis, who went from being born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx and getting through just one year of high school to an acting career that had him appearing in such noteworthy films as Spartacus, The Defiant Ones, Sweet Smell of Success and one of the best comedies ever made, Some Like It Hot, died yesterday. He was 85.

    • Arthur Penn, best known for directing Bonnie and Clyde but also the director of such films as The Left-Handed Gun, The Miracle Worker, Little Big Man and Alice’s Restaurant, died Tuesday. He was 86.

    Most recently, Penn was an executive producer on TV’s “Law & Order.”
    KC's View:
    This is almost heresy, since Penn directed Bonnie and Clyde, but my favorite film of his is actually Night Moves (1975), a thriller starring Gene Hackman as an LA private detective. It captures the seedy side of Hollywood perfectly, and Hackman is great as his character tries to navigate personal and professional dangers.

    As for Curtis...he may never have gotten the respect of his co-stars, but he certainly shared the screen with some notables: Laurence Olivier, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon, Sidney Poitier...the list goes on. And I think it is fair to say that he held his own with all of them.

    Published on: September 30, 2010

    A letter from an MNB user about my NEW coverage and other things:

    I consider myself to be pretty much an average guy. Most my everyday experiences and way of life are just like most guys I know. So when I read your notes and comments from NEW today, I was a bit taken aback. You see, like most guys I know, I too live in a parallel universe. Some recent examples from my personal experience include working from home to care for my sick 8 year old while my wife went to work and taking a vacation day to chaperone a field trip. Most guys I know have numerous similar examples from their lives. So I will argue that we do live these stories and our understanding of women's personal and professional lives is better than we're given credit for.

    There may still be gaps to close, though the data from GAO is outdated, given that it's from 2007, and I share your admiration of the accomplishments, both throughout their careers and through the daily challenges of all the individuals you highlighted. However, the assertion that men don't understand is off the mark.

    On another note, I've been stewing over your reply in Your views to the person who grew up in the 50's and argued that outdoor play prevented that generation from becoming obese. Sure times have changed, but it's far from fantasy or delusional to think kids can play outside. My wife and I actively limit our kids time in front the TV, computer, etc. and they spend a great amount of time outside riding bikes, sledding, organizing baseball and football games with other neighborhood kids and more. They even play outside at night.

    We prescribe to the notion of everything in moderation so our kids are allowed some sweet cereals, candy, chocolate milk, etc and guess what? They're far from obese. In fact, they're in great shape. We also strive to help our kids develop intellectually and I believe our kids are capable of making good choices. So I'm not threatened by marketing efforts aimed at them.

    If 2010 reality is that people cower in their houses because there's some bad people out there, that is a shame. I'd much prefer to live in my fantasy.


    Fair enough.

    Regarding your first observation ... I wasn’t suggesting that no men get it. In fact, I live in the same sort of parallel universes that you write about. But that’s because I am lucky enough to have a highly flexible work situation, whereas my wife is a teacher with little flexibility between 8 and 3. That said, when I am on the road - which I am about 30-35 percent of the time - my wife has to deal with a far more complicated balancing act than I ever do.

    That makes guys like you and me lucky. I think it is not as bad as it used to be...but I also continue to believe that the conversations I heard at NEW were different from almost all the conversations I hear at other conferences.

    As for raising children...I agree with much of what you said. But again, I live on a cul-de-sac in a nice community where on some days it might as well be 50 years ago. I’m not endorsing fear, nor am I suggesting that parents simply give up in the face of a changing society. I’m just saying that the world has changed. at the very least, we cannot ignore those changes, or the implications that they have for many families in many places.




    On the general subject of customer service, I got the following email from an MNB user:

    Customer service is fading and when I actually receive it these days, I acknowledge and reward it for sure...but is is far too scarce these days...

    Last week after work I called my local pizza shop for their 2 two-topping pizza special for $20. I asked for one pepperoni pizza and once cheese pizza.  I was told the price was $25.70.  I explained I wanted the special but did not need the extra toppings.  The person said they only could give me the special if I ordered two toppings....I told them to make the pizzas and I would be over to pick up.

    Upon arrival I asked again about the special, and the manager came over.  I was prepared to dig in and have a battle over this issue, and leave the pizzas.  The Manager said "Ok, sure we can fix that with no problem".  It was a good thing for me, and them :)  I know retail and I know how the customer should be treated, and I treat my customers well.  It is sad though that the employee is not trained or empowered to do the right thing.....and it came down to me needing to complain or be over-charged.

    It isn't rocket science....but I guess we are not hiring rocket scientists either.




    On the subject of the economy and pervasive attitudes, I wrote yesterday:

    Now, we’re still close to the cliff. The systemic problems weren’t fixed. And there are a lot of people who are still hurting, many of whom may never recover.

    I may be a cynic, but I refuse to be a pessimist. American exceptionalism is the result of daily hard work and at least some level of optimism...it isn’t a birthright.

    Frankly, I’m more worried about the pessimism than anything else.


    To which one MNB user responded:

    That's because you are working.

    That’s absolutely true.




    MNB user Lauren Klatsky wrote:

    I don’t doubt that e-readers are undermining “old-fashioned books” sales.  While I don’t have an e-reader, yet, you could put me in the ‘plan to buy one in the next 6 months” bucket.  However, I’d be interested in knowing if cookbook sales are impacted much by e-readers.  I think that food blogs and recipe sites like epicurious.com and allrecipes.com would have a greater impact than the newer technologies since people are likely more concerned about spilling liquids on an electronic  device than a book or recipe print out.

    I fully expect that the devices used in kitchens will be spill resistant. That’s the easy problem.




    And, from another MNB user:

    I work for a cereal company and would prefer that you not publish my name since everything needs to go through proper channels to get published nowadays so I hope you understand.
    I couldn’t help but notice the 1950’s nostalgic dialog from a MNB reader regarding the OECD report regarding obesity rates.  The reader honed in on sugar laden cereals.  I get a little sensitive about the easy references to “sugar laden cereals” and “junk food”, but the facts don’t add up.
     
    There are many misconceptions on cereal, here are some facts:

    Cereal is a typically low fat, nutrient-dense food that contains no cholesterol.

    Cereal accounts for just 4% of total caloric intake, while delivering important nutrients.

    Cereal with milk is the #1 source of 10 nutrients in the diets of U.S. children (vitamins A, B6, B12 and D; riboflavin; niacin; folate; iron; zinc and thiamin).

    Sugar in cold cereal provides less than 5% of kids’ daily sugar intake. A serving of orange juice contains more sugar. A serving of fruit yogurt contain twice as much sugar.

    Cereal eaters, including those who eat kids’ cereals, actually have healthier body weights

    The fact is, obesity is the result of an imbalance of calories in versus calories out. No single food causes obesity, including cereal. The average serving of cereal with a ½ cup of skim milk contains 150 calories; that’s 9% of the recommended daily intake of 1,650 calories for kids age 6-11.

    The research in this area tells the real story. Over the past 30 years, U.S. children age 6-11 have generally eaten the same number of calories, yet the percentage of overweight children has risen significantly. As a society, we need to focus on the “calories out” portion of the equation as much, if not more, than the “calories in” portion of the equation.
     
    Just needed to vent a little.




    On the moves in Florida to ban sugary drinks and even chocolate milk from schools, MNB user Bernie Ellis wrote:

    I think perhaps you are drawing too fine a line on sugary drinks. I seems everyone wants soda out of schools because of the sugar content. So why limit the definition to soda? Isn't the question, should all clearly unhealthy foods be removed from the menu? Of course there is another option, let parents decide if they want their children to have sweets and sell them only to those whose parents want their kids to have them. Of course then the rest of us pay the price through higher insurance prices when they get sick. Maybe we should ban these foods for the greater good. Wow, sounds like regulation and democracy... we are all part of a very integrated society where rules of conduct must be determined.




    MNB user Michael Stumpf had a thought about another subject:

    I agree that Ben & Jerry's made a good and honest decision to drop the "all natural" claim from its labels. How much better would it have been, though, to find a way to replace processed ingredients and really make their ice cream natural? It is a premium brand with a story of two hippies in Vermont making good ice cream. Why not remain true to that image?




    And MNB Kevin P. Nolan wanted to weigh in on supermarkets in malls:

    I’m not claiming to be the end all, be all on the subject but, let's take our academic and/or theoretical hats off for a moment and put on our “just regular people” grocery shopping hats.  Shopping for most people is about convenience.  I know we’d all like to believe that it about the shopping experience created by the retailer or the actual products provided by the particular retailer but, if you really look deep into the soul of most grocery shopper's it's mostly about convenience.  Prices come in to play even more these days but in many cases the typical Shopper will trade off all of the conventional motivators for convenience.  They want to get in, get out and get on with the other 20 important tasks they have to complete that day. 
     
    Let say we’re walking through the Mall and we cross paths with a Whole Foods store.  Surprised and excited, we remember that we need some milk, bread, a bit of produce, a bottle of wine and a refrigerated dessert for dinner tonight.  We think Wow! I’ll just stop in here and pick up everything I need and I won't need to stop a second time on the way home.  Then we realize that we actually parked on the other side of the mall and we’ll have to take our groceries on a 15 minute walk just to get back to our car.  Is the average shopper going to do that?  Are you going to do that?  The walk by business for a grocery store in the mall is just that…...they walk on by.  As for the times when the customer come to the Mall specifically for the grocery store visit and they have to wait 10 minutes to get a parking space reasonably close to the store, or even worse, it’s the holiday season and they can't find a parking space within 3 miles of the store.  Will the average shopper put up with that?  Will they come back?  Would you come back?   Just getting in and out of the Mall parking lot during the holiday season is a pain, much less finding a parking space.  Valet parking, order pick up, designated parking might help the situation but I believe that it’s just a “band-aid” on the inconvenience.  Can a retailer sustain their business with conditions like this when there are so many other options?  
     
    I think there’s a reason why most grocery retails aren't in the Shopping Malls today and like the old saying “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it!”.





    I wrote the other day that Stephen Colbert had a funny line about the best way to solve the migrant labor problem in this country - to stop eating the fruits and vegetables that so many of them pick. But, he noted, the nation’s growing obesity rate suggests that this already has happened.

    Which led one MNB user to write:

    Is he suggesting that fruits and vegetables have negative calories?  Or is he suggesting that people would eat more of same instead of fattening foods rather than in addition to?  Sounds like the gal who complained, 50 years ago, that Metrecal didn’t work because she was "drinking a can after every meal and still gaining weight."

    I think he was making a joke. I laughed.




    We had a story the other day that went like this:

    In Wisconsin, the Journal Sentinel reports that “Woodman's Food Markets Inc. has been accused of violating federal law by firing an employee because she was pregnant.

    “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Janesville-based company. In a statement, the agency said Woodman's fired Arianna Goodwin in January 2008. That happened after an assistant store manager in Madison asked Goodwin if she was pregnant, and then told her he would have to fire her, or she could quit and reapply after giving birth, the statement says.”

    Company officials apparently have not commented on the suit.


    To which MNB user David Livingston responded:

    Another nut attacking a good company.

    You have to be kidding me.

    Woodman’s can be a good company, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t necessarily have less-than-enlightened managers making mistakes. And this story, all on its own, certainly doesn’t suggest that this woman is right or wrong - or that she is a nut.

    Listen, Woodman’s may be right or wrong. She may be right or wrong. But here’s the deal...

    We have laws in this country that prevent companies from discriminating against people who are pregnant. These are entirely appropriate laws - and it is hard for me to imagine that anyone who has ever had a mother or a sister or a wife or a daughter would want them to be treated in any way other than fairly and lawfully.

    I’ll stick with my original comment:

    I hope, for Woodman’s sake, that this is a case of one assistant store manager with the sensibilities of a Neanderthal making a bad decision. You simply can’t be doing this stuff.

    Yet another illustration about how one person can have an impact on how a company is perceived.





    And finally, MNB user Shawn Ravitz wrote to note that I missed something in my sports coverage:

    You left one thing out of MNB... champagne and beer popped by the Phillies in DC last night.

    That's 4 division crowns in a row... home field advantage throughout the entire playoffs for the Phils!  H2O (Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt)...


    Congrats. (I’m a Mets fan. That’s about all you get from me.)
    KC's View: