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: October 26, 2010

    by Michael Sansolo

    Brand power in all its forms is one of the most discussed topics in business today, but the simple truth is there are few simple truths. Everything comes with complexity and nuance, which is why a clear brand position of any product, store, service or individual is so hard to attain. It’s why the mythical “elevator speech” - the simple one paragraph explanation - is so hard to build, but it’s also why we keep trying.

    Luckily, the world possesses a perfectly clear brand model. His name is Jimmy Buffett, the singer, songwriter and performer with a brand so simple, so clear and so easy that it can almost instantly be understood, enjoyed and passed on to others. Jimmy Buffett, to use his own words, is the endless summer vacation.

    Think of what that conjures up. Summer vacation in my youth was the time that always went by too fast, full of fun and free of care. It’s something we can all relate to and Buffett’s brand sits exactly in that space. In that is a huge lesson.

    Let me explain this epiphany. Truth be told, I knew only a little of Buffett’s music. I’ve been to a Margaritaville restaurant, tried many of the name-sake drinks and eaten many cheeseburgers. And I knew a little bit about the legendary concerts filled with devoted fans dressed in varying degrees of tropical wear.

    But really I knew nothing. That is, until last week when Kevin Coupe took me to a Buffett concert in Portland, Oregon. I entered as maybe the only non-fan in the crowd of 14,000 and I left changed. What I experienced was more than fun. It was energetic, enthusiastic and silly. It was summer vacation.

    If you have never seen Buffett in concert, be warned: this is not a concert in the traditional sense. For long stretches it seems meaningless that Buffett and his band are playing hard on stage. While many devoted fans religiously sing along while watching their favorites perform, Buffett’s fans go many steps further. They sing, dance and act out almost in unison around a chock full NBA arena. Buffett gleefully leads them.

    The concert is a party in every way and at the center of it all is Buffett, now in his 60s and clearly having a great time performing for his fans in a t-shirt, shorts and barefoot. It’s the endless summer vacation for a man who found a talent that enabled him to live a dream life.

    The reality is that Buffett’s fans don’t have his talent or his charmed life. Their lives are filled with work, mortgages, bills and even jam-packed rail cars and roads to leave the concert. They can’t approach every day looking for a salt shaker to make margaritas, but in their minds, Buffett can take them there briefly. Buffett’s brand keeps giving and giving, reinforcing itself as it goes.

    A day later as I waited for my bag to show up at another airport, I realized I was humming a Buffett song and the brand came back to me. It occurred to me that marketing classes should be taken to a Buffett concert because there on display is a great brand with simple clarity. Buffett concerts aren’t about the quality of music, stage sets, costumes or lighting. His concerts are about summer vacation. The experience delivers on its promise and does so with passion that oozes off the stage.

    What’s more, it’s a brand that allows devotees like Kevin to confidently bring a neophyte like me knowing the result is sure to please. That’s the truest test of the brand.

    So ask yourself if your fans/customers feel the same way about your product, your store or your service? Do you and your associates understand what customers come looking for each and every time? If the answer isn’t an emphatic yes to both questions, get to work. Margarita time comes later.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . 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:
    I would have paid real money to have been standing next to Michael at baggage claim when he started humming a Buffett song...he’s obviously come a long way since the concert, when he was seated next to this guy who hardly ever sat down, and spent almost the entire time singing, clapping and dancing in the aisles.

    The point is that Buffett enables people to change their attitudes. In fact, he facilitates it. And Michael’s right ... that ought to be the goal of every brand.

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    There was a long (1,700+ words) and fascinating piece in the Washington Post about Gifford’s Ice Cream, which for years has been the gold standard for ice cream parlors in the nation’s capital. The story noted that when Neal Lieberman, who “owns the Gifford's wholesale business, which had recently sold its retail ice cream outlets to a flashy Baltimore-area investor who promised he would keep alive the tradition of cozy parlors dipping Gifford's super creamy flavors.

    “But that afternoon, the scoops Lieberman said his family was served at the Chevy Chase store were impostors. The sign said Gifford's, but the ice cream was not. It was Hood, a mass-market brand anyone can buy in a supermarket, although a staffer said it was a premium variety of the brand.”

    Now, the article details the brand’s tangled history of family feuds, financial problems, business and creative miscalculations, and people of dubious character and falsified resumes. These days, the stores are closed, and the drama is playing out in the court system. (Note: the DC Gifford’s company is not related to the New England ice cream company of the same name.)

    But what was fascinating was the comment made to the Post reporter by one of Gifford’s competitors: "Gifford's is the name you could never really compete with around here," said Susan Soorenko, owner of Moorenko's Ice Cream Cafe in Silver Spring, Maryland. "It's what everybody around here grew up with. It's amazing to see what's happening now."

    Those sentences speak volumes about the power of a brand. Despite all the travails, Gifford’s remains a brand with great consumer loyalty and good will.

    But that’s no excuse for negligence. No matter how powerful a brand may be, it has to be nurtured. You have to protect the quality, not make substitutions that will hurt your brand equity. Above all, you have to remain completely focused on how you are perceived by the consumer.

    And if you don’t, the public will go away, and the Washington Post ends up writing a story that reads more like an obituary.

    And that’s my Tuesday Eye-Opener.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    • In the UK, the Guardian reports that Tesco has introduced a new iPhone application that works as a barcode scanner, “enabling householders to scan any grocery item and add it to a home delivery order instantly.”

    Laura Wade-Gery, chief executive of Tesco.com and Tesco Direct, tells the Guardian: "We're always looking for ways to make life easier for customers and for busy mums in particular. The barcode scanner will make online ordering much quicker for those that have an iPhone. Customers can simply scan the barcode of grocery products stocked by Tesco whilst on the go and add them into their online shopping basket.

    • The New York Times reports that in Albany, New York, an interesting test is being conducted using 2-D bar code technology. According to the story, “Albany’s transit system has been blanketed with the bar codes — also called quick response or QR bar codes — which consumers can scan with their smartphone and, within seconds, connect to a Web site, photo or video. In the Albany test, users access QRiousAlbany.com, where they can register for a contest to win an iPad.”

    According to the story, “For marketers, ‘this is the holy grail of advertising — interactive media in public places,’ said Michael Becker, North American managing director for the Mobile Marketing Association, the industry trade group. But he said the technology had challenges. One is connectivity in places like subways, he said, but added that ‘a lot of information can be embedded in a QR code, and accessed later’.”
    KC's View:
    It was just 10 days ago that Amazon unveiled an updated free iPhone app that allows consumers in virtually any store that carries any product sold by Amazon to comparison shop using bard codes ... and if Amazon offers a better price (which it often does) or the convenience of home delivery, the shopper can instantly order online using the application.

    The rules are constantly changing, and retailers need to adjust to the challenges or the opportunities.

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis announced that it will distribute $1 million in cash to its 14,500 members in what is called “likely the largest-ever patronage refund provided by a single-store grocery co-op.”

    Patronage refunds are a major benefit that The Wedge and other co-ops nationwide distribute to their members in profitable years. The Wedge, whose annual sales have increased every year since its 1974 founding, has given $6 million in cash back to its members since 2000.

    Wedge also noted that during this profitable year, it “also gave $458,000 in cash and in-kind donations to community charities. In the face of the recession, the co-op avoided layoffs, continued to offer raises and continued to provide health insurance to its full-time staff.”
    KC's View:
    This only works out to about $68 per member (if my math is right) ... but that’s $68 more than I’ve ever gotten from any food retailer that I’ve patronized over the years.

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    • The St. Louis Business Journal reports that the 220-unit, fast casual restaurant chain Fazoli’s will open its first location inside a Walmart early next year.

    The location, in St. Louis, will be 2,000 square feet and seat about 50 people; it also will offer a take-out menu.

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart CEO Mike Duke said yesterday in a New Delhi press conference that he is “optimistic” that the Indian government will eventually relax restrictions on foreign ownership of retail chains there.

    “The opening of dialogue the ministry has initiated is very productive, and I view that as progress,” Duke said, adding that he believes that “easing the rules on foreign investment in retail will help curb inflation and may lead to the creation of 3 million jobs in India.”

    Walmart currently operates wholesale cash-and-carry units in India with Bharti Enterprises.

    Bloomberg also notes that “Duke’s trip to India comes ahead of President Barack Obama’s first state visit to the country. The U.S. president will address a conference sponsored by the U.S.-India Business Council Nov. 6 in Mumbai, India’s financial capital ... Obama is expected to bring the largest U.S. business delegation to India and the Obama administration will probably push for greater access for foreign retailers.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    • ShopRite of West Hartford today that it will offer its customers a new, convenient service – ShopRite from Home - which allows people to place their grocery orders online from home or via a mobile device. Purchases are delivered to the customer’s home at a pre-selected time or customers can pull up to a specially designated parking spot at the store for curbside pick-up and have their groceries brought right out to the car.  Curbside delivery is $9.95 and home delivery is an additional $5.95.
    KC's View:
    This is what retailers have to do, to be relevant to the customer of the fast-approaching future who will expect to have this option from the place they buy their groceries.

    Full disclosure: The ShopRite service is powered by MyWebGrocer, which is a longtime and valued MNB sponsor.

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    Internet Retailer reports that Amazon.com has been hit with - and, not surprisingly, is contesting - a $269 million tax bill sent to it by the Texas Comptroller’s Office. The bill supposedly is for uncollected sales taxes on purchases by Texas residents on Amazon between December 2006 and December 2009.

    According to the story, “The tax bill was the result of a routine audit that the Texas Comptroller’s Office conducts of retailers as well as other companies conducting business in the state, a spokesman for the Comptroller’s Office says. The audits are designed specifically to determine whether companies have a physical presence, or nexus, in the state that requires them to collect sales tax from Texas customers ... The Dallas Morning News has reported that the state’s audit of Amazon’s operations followed the newspaper’s queries in 2008 regarding why the retailer didn’t collect sales tax when it operates a distribution center in Irving, TX. The newspaper also reported that the Texas distribution center was operated by Amazon.com Kydc LLC, an entity separate from the Amazon retail organization.”

    • The New York Times reports that D’Agostino supermarkets in New York City is rolling out the carpet for its shoppers - redoing its floors with “a vinyl-backed commercial nylon broadloom carpet that lends a wall-to-wall plushness to an otherwise ordinary shopping expedition.”

    The carpet is similar to that used by Sendik’s in Milwaukee, as well as by Byerly’s in Minnesota and D&W Foods in Michigan, the story notes. Not only do customers seem to like it, but the Times notes that while they require a different kind of upkeep and maintenance than hard floors, they also reduce the costs associated with breakage.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    • The Kroger Co. announced that Jeffrey D. Burt, the company’s Vice President of Deli/Bakery Merchandising and Procurement has been promoted to Group Vice President of Perishables Merchandising and Procurement.  

    • Publix Super Markets announced that John Frazier, the company’s real estate vice president, is retiring after 44 years of service to the company. He will be succeeded by Jeff Chamberlain, who himself has been with the company since 1972 - starting as a front-service clerk - and most recently serving as director of real estate market strategy.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    Not a good day for veracity yesterday, I’m afraid...

    • MNB noted an Olympian report that WinCo Foods has three new store openings planned for Sunday, November 7 - in Lacey and Everett, Washington, and Tracy, California - which, according to our count would bring the chain’s fleet of low-cost supermarkets to 76.

    Well, my math teacher father would not be surprised. I got the count wrong. The three new stores brings the entire WinCo fleet to 78. Sorry about that.

    • I’m about two-third through a two-trip, mostly through the western US. And I’ve been writing MNB at odd hours...like yesterday, I finished it up at 2 am PDT. Which can be the only explanation for why, when I posted MNB yesterday, I said that this would be the first year that the San Francisco Giants had gotten to the World Series since 1954.

    It didn’t take an earthquake to correct me. Just a couple of dozen emails reminding me that the Giants went to the World Series in 1962 (lost to the Yankees in four games), in 1989 (lost to the Oakland A’s in the series affected by the earthquake), and 2002 (lost to the Anaheim Angels in five games).

    So I fixed it. But enough people saw the error that I thought I ought to get the mistake - and the facts - on the MNB record.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    Regarding a piece about the diabetes epidemic in this country, one MNB user wrote:

    Responding to your piece on diabetes, you fail to make the distinction between the two types of Diabetes: Type 1, which used to be known as juvenile diabetes, and Type 2, which is adult onset diabetes which generally is a result of poor diet, lack of exercise, resulting in the patient being overweight. Type 2 is the form that is at risk for great increase from the increase in obesity and we are now seeing children with Type 2 which was previously unheard of.

    Type 1 is a genetic disease over which the recipient has no control when they get it. That said, both forms of the disease need to be managed carefully.  My husband was diagnosed at age 32 with late onset Type 1 diabetes and is in excellent control, thin, a regular exerciser with no complications. I am fortunate in that he is thoughtful, disciplined and takes managing his disease seriously. As he says "If I weren't a diabetic, I'd be perfectly healthy". What is a shame is that Type 2 is generally totally preventable with proper weight control and exercise and your comments are accurate when applied to Type 2 diabetes.  Given the complications and risk factors associated with diabetes (either type), you would think that it would be strong motivation to change your behavior, but sadly, it isn't.  This is a disease, that when not managed, ultimately kills you, but not quickly and with many, many awful complications along the way.   If our industry has a mandate, it should be to become actively involved in solving our obesity epidemic in this country.





    On the subject of the World Series, MNB user Don Williamson wrote:

    I born at the beginning of the 1954 baseball season, the year the Giants last won the World Championship.  Mark Twain was born during a year that Halley's Comet flew by (1835) and died in the year it next appeared (1910) almost 75 years later.  Using the same principle with the Giants and the World Championship, nothing personal, but I will not be rooting for them in this year's World Series. 

    BTW ... I'm driving from my Southern California home to see Game 1 on Wednesday.  It will be my eleventh World Series game and the first without the Angels or Dodgers.


    Enjoy. And try not to worry too much about what happens if the Giants win.

    MNB user Barry Card wrote:

    Even though I live in Texas, I won't hate you for rooting for the Giants.  Just one more fan for the Rangers to win over.  I did want to share some irony with you that all of us Texas fans had a good laugh over.  Back when he signed with the rangers, Tom Hicks said that the Rangers would win a championship with Alex Rodriguez on the field.  In case you missed it, Rodriguez was called out on strikes for the final out in game six that gave the rangers the ALCS.  Talk about poetic justice!
     
    Go Rangers!


    And MNB user Steven Ritchey, annoyed that I referred to National League baseball (no designated hitter!) as “real baseball,” wrote:

    Not only are you a food snob, you’re a baseball snob as well.
     
    Actually, I don’t care if we have a designated hitter rule or not, I can make a good case for having it, or not having it.
     
    But, don’t you dare say the American League isn’t real baseball.  It’s a different set of rules, you still have to be able to pitch, hit, field and throw.


    Actually, you don;t have to hit if you are the pitcher ... which means that more than a third of an American league team’s roster doesn’t have to hold a bat, until they play in a National League park.

    To me, that makes National League baseball superior. Even at the risk of being called a “baseball snob.”

    Actually, you call me a food snob and a baseball snob like that’s a bad thing.

    Some call it snobbery.

    I call it standards. 🙂
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2010

    In Monday Night Football action, the New York Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys 41-35.
    KC's View: