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    Published on: November 1, 2010

    As they so often do,various sports provide the eye-opening metaphors for business this morning.

    In the golfing world, Tiger Woods is, for the first time in 281 weeks, not the world’s number one golfer. He was supplanted over the weekend by Brit KLee Westwood after a year in which relatively poor play by Woods seemed to be affected by revelations about a sordid personal life. The lesson: It doesn’t matter how long you are number one. Anything can happen ... and usually does, especially when you think you are most invulnerable.

    In football, there were two examples.

    The New York Jets went into the weekend coming off a bye weekend, a five-game winning streak and chatter among the sports punditry class that they might be one of the best two or three teams in the NFL. But a 9-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers proved that it is too early to measure the Jets for Super Bowl rings. Lesson: Don’t believe your press clippings. To achieve, you have to execute.

    And the Brett Favre situation with the Minnesota also provided food for thought, though it certainly is a complicated scenario. On the one hand, you have to question whether Favre, playing on a fractured ankle, was putting his consecutive game streak ahead of the interests of the team, and whether his coach, by allowing him to do so, had effectively ceded control of the team. On the other, who among us wouldn’t like to have an on-the-field leader who says, no matter how much pain he is in, “give me the ball, I can help us win.” The lesson: Leadership is hard. And complicated. And not for the faint of heart.

    (The corollary here comes from our favorite Vulcan: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”)

    And finally, this year’s World Series - at least so far - illustrates yet another lesson: In sports, as in life, anything can happen. And often does.

    And those are my Monday Eye-Openers.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    Supervalu announced on Friday that it has sold its 14-store Bristol Farms division in Southern California to a partnership made up of Kevin Davis, the company’s longtime president/CEO, the division’s management team, and Endeavour Capital, an investment firm experienced in grocery and retail businesses.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    According to the internal memo, by Brian Huff, senior vice president of Specialty Retail, circulated within Supervalu, “Under the terms of the sale, the stores will change ownership effective today, but will continue to operate under the Bristol Farms name, and the existing management and associate base will continue to serve customers without disruption.”

    Davis tells the Daily Breeze, "While we don't expect any sudden changes, we look forward to remodeling a couple of our stores, including the Rolling Hills store, and we'll continue to focus on growing our chain in Southern California.”

    The Breeze also notes that Davis sees “the purchase as a way to leverage consumer demand in the ‘fresh and natural organic and specialty food segment,’ and cited the growth of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.”

    In the Huff memo, the company said that “like any retailer, Supervalu continuously evaluates its operations to identify opportunities to strengthen its overall business and, when necessary, makes decisions that involve the sale of some locations. This move will ultimately allow Supervalu to operate more efficiently and effectively and focus on improving the shopping experience throughout its entire network of owned and supplied stores.”

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Bristol Farms was sold to Albertsons in 2004 a way for the bigger company to both differentiate and diversify. However, when Albertsons was sold to Supervalu a couple of years later, it left Bristol Farms as a kind of “corporate orphan.”
    KC's View:
    This move - hardly unexpected, and predicted for some time here on MNB - hopefully will free Kevin Davis and his team to get aggressive in sharpening their offering so that the company is even more differentiated in a highly competitive market. Bristol Farms always has been a strong player, but I cannot imagine that it has been easy for the company to keep justifying and explaining itself to a company that sees Bristol’s upmarket approach to be anathema.

    As for Supervalu...well, this suggests that the company is all-in on its strategy to focus on discount formats such as Save-A-Lot as the primary retail sales driver in coming years. It could be argued, I suppose, that it might make sense to have different kinds of formats, to have ways to appeal to different sorts of demographics and communities. But from everything we are hearing, that doesn’t seem to be the Supervalu approach these days.

    (Though there are also some who say that while Supervalu has defined for itself what it does not want to be, it isn’t quite clear on what it wants to be.)

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, has a blog post on the Atlantic website in which she writes about the proposal from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) last week to create a front-of-package labeling initiative.

    She writes, in part:

    “Forget the consumer-friendly rhetoric. There is only one explanation for this move: heading off the FDA's front-of-package (FOP) labeling initiatives.

    Only two weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine released its first FDA-sponsored FOP labeling report. The IOM committee recommended that FOP symbols only mention calories, sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat. This led William Neuman of The New York Times to summarize its approach as: ‘Tell us how your products are bad for us.’

    “GMA and FMI would much rather label their products with all the things that are good about them, like added vitamins, omega-3s, and fiber. If they must do negatives, they prefer ‘no trans fat’ or ‘no cholesterol.’

    “What they especially do not want the FDA to impose is ‘traffic-light’ symbols. These U.K. symbols, you may recall from previous posts, discourage consumers from buying anything labeled in red, and were so strongly opposed by the food industry that they caused the undoing of the British Food Standards Agency.

    GMA and FMI, no doubt, are hoping the same thing will happen to our FDA ... This move is all the evidence the FDA needs for mandatory FOP labels. GMA and FMI have just demonstrated that the food industry will not willingly label its processed foods in ways that help the public make healthier food choices.”

    And, Nestle concludes:

    “FDA: You should be outraged by this move. Say so!”
    KC's View:
    I said last week that I was sure that part of the reason the FMI/GMA proposal would have appeal is that it “emerges from the private sector, avoiding dreaded ‘government interference’.” (Not bad...and I’m not even a professor.)

    I do not believe that trying to pre-empt government regulation is necessarily a bad thing. As long as the labels are accurate, I have no problem with industry efforts to do the right thing before the bureaucrats get involved. If, on the other hand, the industry tries to use the labels to “spin” a message, well, then they’ll get the regulation and bureaucrats that they deserve.

    I also think that the labels should tell me what I need to know - not necessarily good news or bad news.

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    Inner cities - often referred to as “food deserts” - are beginning to appeal to a number of retail chains, according to a story from Bloomberg Business Week, as they look to find a way to drive new domestic growth.

    “Wal-Mart Stores is gearing up to open small outlets next year in U.S. cities, where it hopes to sell a lot of groceries. Trouble is, at least a half-dozen others are also seeking accelerated growth in urban America. CVS Caremark, Walgreen, Supervalu, and Family Dollar Stores all are offering more fresh food at their urban outlets or opening small stores in neighborhoods with limited access to nutritious grub ... The big grocery store chains largely abandoned the cities in the 1970s and followed their customers to the suburbs. There they found abundant, cheap land and built superstores and parking lots large enough for 1,000 cars. Now they have saturated that market and are turning their attention back to urban neighborhoods that have long been served by mom-and-pop stores—or not at all.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    Bloomberg has a long (3,600+ words) piece about Coca-Cola’s focus on Africa as a potentially enormous driver of new business. “With Coke sales stagnant or plodding in most of its developed markets -- North Americans bought $2.6 billion worth of Coke in 1989 and $2.9 billion 20 years later --Coca-Cola Co. will rely on some of the poorest nations to generate the 7 percent to 9 percent earnings growth it has promised investors.

    “That means, from the dukas of Nairobi to the ‘tuck shops’ of Johannesburg, Africa’s mom-and-pop stores are a major front in Coke’s growth plan, for the flagship soda and the company’s stable of waters, juices, and other soft drinks.”

    CEO Muhtar Kent tells Bloomberg, “Africa is the untold story, and could be the big story, of the next decade, like India and China were this past decade. The presence and the significance of our business in Africa is far greater than India and China even today. The relevance is much bigger ... You’ve got an incredibly young population, a dynamic population>”

    And, he adds, Africa’s “$1.6 trillion of GDP is bigger than Russia, bigger than India. It’s a big economy, and so rich underground. And whether the next decade becomes the decade of Africa or not, in my opinion, will depend upon one single thing -- and everything is right there to have it happen -- and that is better governance. And it is improving, there’s no question.”
    KC's View:
    Clearly Walmart has come to the same conclusion.

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    Target announced that it will have a four-day pre-Thanksgiving sale, looking to pre-empt the traditional Black Friday beginning to the end-of-year holiday season.

    In addition, the company said that it will have a special online-only sale on Thanksgiving Day, featuring special one-day prices. And, from November 21 through December 11, Target said it will offer free shipping on all orders of $50 or more.
    KC's View:
    I’m not sure what is going to be more mind-numbing. All the ads we’re going to be subjected to during the holidays. Or all the political ads we’ve been watching for the past two months.

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    Advertising Age reports that Domino’s Pizza has embraced a “radical transparency” campaign, seeing it as the best way to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace.

    “In a series of ads, the pizza company admitted its old pizza sucked, introduced a new recipe by showing it to its staunchest critics,” Ad Age writes. “It continued the transparency theme by encouraging customers to alert Domino's when the pizzas they ordered were not up to par ... So far, the company has seen only positive results; most recently, its third-quarter same-store sales were up 11.7%.

    “Additionally, the ‘Show Us Your Pizza’ campaign, in which Domino's asked customers to take their own photographs of the food to be used in ad campaigns, has resulted in 13,000 submissions. Domino's also responded in ads to customers whose photos showed a pizza that didn't arrive, well, photo-ready.”
    KC's View:
    Domino’s was one of the least transparent companies out there, which was reflected in its response to those two clowns who worked for Domino’s, picked their noses, put the pickings on the pizza, and then put it all on YouTube. Domino’s responded by saying, “No more cameras!”

    They learned a hard lesson.

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    In Ireland, the Grocer reports that after a couple of tough years in which it closed one store and laid off 12 percent of its workforce, Superquinn has opened a new Dublin store, is hiring, and even considering further expansion.

    Company chairman Simon Burke tells the Grocer that an “upturn in business has given us the confidence to start looking again towards expansion, rather than contraction."
    KC's View:
    The long game for Superquinn, IMHO, is a sale. The economy has made it tough for the company that owns Superquinn to sell it, and contraction didn’t improve its chances. Now, it is hoping that the perception of optimism and an upturn could make the chain more attractive.

    One can hope.

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    Theodore Sorensen, the aide to President John F. Kennedy who helped to write what is arguably one of the great speeches of all time, died yesterday at age 82.

    There were at least four great passages from that 14 minute speech that live in memory:

    • “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

    • “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

    • “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

    • “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

    As the Associated Press writes, “Soaring rhetoric helped make Kennedy's presidency a symbol of hope and liberal governance, and the crowning achievement for Mr. Sorensen was the inaugural address that was the greatest collaboration between the two and set the standard for modern oratory.”

    It was often rumored - and always denied - that Sorensen was the ghostwriter for Kennedy’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    MNB reported last week that “Seattle University announced ... that it is ‘the first college or university in the state of Washington to go bottled-water free. The university has removed bottled water from vending machines, concession stands, the campus bookstore, on-campus restaurants and catering.”

    I commented:

    A limited protest from a bastion of liberal thought? Or a reflection of things to come? Not sure. But you can’t entirely eliminate the latter as a possibility.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Your prediction of bottled water bans may not be far away, but it makes me question why some of the same supermarkets who have great sustainability documents on their corporate web sites are featuring bottled water sales on the cover of their circulars.  It reminds me of the poor positioning of cigarette sales by drug stores and others in the health and wellness marketplace.

    MNB user Paul Schlossberg wrote:'s not the first among colleges...and there are more than a few other examples (state and municipal governments)...

    • Washington University in St. Louis - January 2009 (I think that's the right date)...that's the first one I have among colleges/universities.

    • NY State Government agencies (offices) - (I think that was May 2008).

    • Harvard School of Public Health

    And there are more...

    MNB user Ellen Feldman-Ornato wrote:

    At a minimum the bottle tax should be extended to plastic water bottles in all states. That would create a disincentive for purchase and a much higher likelihood of return. At the most basic level it would also give a bonus to the folks on the streets who pick through the trash for bottles and leave the plastic water bottles behind. Another step would be for regulators to require that the caps on the trillions of plastic water bottles produced each year be recyclable so that they don’t end up in the ocean, blocking the intestines of marine mammals. The pendulum is definitely swinging on plastic water bottles.

    Between the BPA that leaches into the water when the bottles are either too hot or frozen and the plastic waste that gets left behind after 2-4 minutes of active use, they should be banned everywhere. Check out “BagIt! the Movie,” an environmental documentary making its way through film festivals this year. The movie shows that the petroleum needed to manufacture and transport water bottles = 2/3 of the volume of a basic bottle. Shameful!

    I was ranting last Friday in “OffBeat” about how one of the problems in America is that parents take their kids to the beach for vacation during school weeks, sending the wrong message about priorities. Man, did that prompt an avalanche of email...

    One MNB user wrote:

    I don't know about the vacationers you mentioned but on two occasions over about 18 years I took my kids out of school to take vacations because it was the only time either I, my wife, or both of us could go.  The kids did all of their homework assignments and other work on the trips.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I have no idea why the children weren’t in school.  Maybe they are home schooled.   Also, both of my children have upwards of $30,000 to pay on their educations, that’s what I did not help them with.  I think I would have a hard time telling them that school is the most important thing.  I did teach them that when they were young but had to retract when their grandmother was older.  I told them to take the time off and go see her.  They argued, repeated all the things I had told them when they were young.  (kids have a way of doing that to you)  They went.  She died a couple of months later. That is not every case; the point is that as I have gotten older I have realized that there are far more important things in life.  I will miss one day for my nephew’s boot camp graduation….but show up for work every day unless I am deathly ill.

    And, from another MNB user:

    Guilty.  My son misses as much school as legally possible.  Yet not a single sick day.

    I agree that some folks are frivolous about their kids education, but don't lump all parents together.  My 12 year old goes to Florida for 9 days over Thanksgiving every year, and he misses another 5 days for a Western ski trip in February.  I don't think that "worldliness" is a character trait you can learn in a classroom.

    My son is a straight A student.  We take school very very seriously.  He is aware that school is his "full time job".  By the time he heads back into the classroom after these trips, he is actually ahead of the class.

    Just because they are frolicking in the pool, does not mean they aren't hitting the books in the evenings.  If I could have my salary and home school too, I would do it in a minute.

    PS: Don't ever retire.  You all are such a big part of my mornings.

    MNB user Linda Rivard wrote:

    The kids in the pool last week were probably from Minnesota.  They had a 4 day weekend for the annual teachers’ convention.  Many families take off for warmer climes from here that weekend.

    MNB user Martin Maenza wrote:

    I can easily explain the kids vacationing with families at Florida schools at the end of October – year-round schools.  When we lived in a different part of NC, our son was in year-round school.  He would go nine weeks on, three weeks off.  This included the traditional “summer” months of June through August.  Year-round schooling allowed the school to maximize the facilities by always having three of four “tracks” in school at any given time (it also helped with overcrowding of schools).  Our son would often have three weeks off in October – which was nice.  It allowed us to take family vacations around non-typical times where resorts, etc. wouldn’t be so crowded by the regular school year families and we wouldn’t have to compete with co-workers for “prime vacation” weeks.  And, by not having a huge summer break of two plus months, the kids tended to retain things between “years” and got to avoid those first few weeks of the new school year spent recapping everything the kids forgot.  We loved it.

    And, another MNB user wrote:

    In the Indianapolis school system they have what is called a balanced schedule, a term is followed by a 4 week break, 6 weeks in the summer. They went back to school in July, this month they are out on break.  This has been found to be a fairly good plan, the kids remember more of what they learned and there is less “catch-up” work needed.

    Other systems in our area have a fall break of 2-3 days.  This is a carry over from the agricultural heritage of “flyover” country.  Kids were needed at home to help with the harvest. Now the harvest is fully mechanized and actually pretty well done for the year, but the tradition of having the break in the academic schedule lingers on.

    And, from yet another MNB user:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, but…any chance they’re home-schooled kids? Or maybe kids from a city/town where they’ve adopted a three-months-on-one month-off school attendance schedule?  Just food for thought!

    Okay, okay....I got it.

    Maybe this is an example of my tendency to “ready, fire, aim.”

    But while there may be reasons for these kids not to be in school, I’ll stand by my basic premise - that too many parents take their kids out of school because it suits their schedules, and therefore send the wrong message about the importance of school.

    We had a story last week about how Kimberly Clark is coming out with a new tubeless toilet paper roll. Which prompted one MNB user to write:

    Sure, it's "innovative, sustainable and cost-reducing."  But what are all those kids gonna do when they need a quick, improvised device for consumption of certain recreational organic materials?  It's the end of an era... or so I am told.

    See, this is why I love the MNB community. Where else are you going to read these kinds of emails? Where else are you going to fine people who would write them?

    Regarding a recent book recommendation in “OffBeat,” MNB user Kari Mitchell wrote:

    I just finished reading “The Film Club” the other day.  (Using my local library)  This is a great book!!!!  I recommended it to a couple other people as well.  I have a 15 year old son, so it probably resonates with me more than most.  I now am on a mission to check out a few of his movies.  It also made me (mentally) list my recommended movies (not quite the same as his at times) and guilty pleasures.

    Thanks for the recommendation and keep recommending!!  (Keep the obits and “entertainment” news as well, enjoy those along with the industry news...)

    There apparently is a new Blu-Ray version of Psycho coming out...I have to get it and show it to my daughter...

    Was there ever a scarier movie?
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 1, 2010

    In the Major League Baseball World Series over the weekend, the Texas Rangers beat the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night 4-2, only to have the Giants come back on Sunday night and beat the Rangers 4-0....leaving the Giants with a 3-1 lead in the best of seven series. Game five is tonight.

    In Week Eight of the National Football League...

    Denver Broncos 16
    San Francisco 49ers 24

    Jacksonville Jaguars 35
    Dallas Cowboys 17

    Miami Dolphins 22
    Cincinnati Bengals 14

    Buffalo Bills 10
    Kansas City Chiefs 13

    Carolina Panthers 10
    St. Louis Rams 20

    Tennessee Titans 25
    San Diego Chargers 33

    Minnesota Vikings 18
    New England Patriots 28

    Seattle Seahawks 3
    Oakland Raiders 33

    Washington Redskins 25
    Detroit Lions 37

    Green Bay Packers 9
    NY Jets 0

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38
    Arizona Cardinals 35

    Pittsburgh Steelers 10
    New Orleans Saints 20
    KC's View: