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    Published on: November 18, 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 a Thursday Eye-Opener on MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    An MNB user sent me an interesting story the other day, a “Business Owners Blog” that ran on Bnet and detailed what happened when two guys decided to open a hardware store in Penfield, New York - just two miles from a Home Depot. I found this particularly interesting because I can remember when I moved to Connecticut, there were maybe a half-dozen hardware stores within a few mile radius; Home Depot opened, and now there’s maybe one independent left.

    According to the Bnet blog, however, these two guys have managed to be a rousing success - apparently because of five central observations that they made about their customers:

    Most people in a hardware store are doing small projects, not building houses. So Beyond Hardware doesn’t sell building materials, but does carry “a wider variety of fasteners and cabinet hardware than Home Depot, since do-it-yourselfers are more likely to regularly need — and return for — nails, screws and knobs than, say, sheds.”

    Location matters. Beyond Hardware is in a shopping center with the area’s biggest supermarket and other destination stops. This makes it utterly convenient for the customers it is looking to target.

    Half of its hardware shoppers are women. Which means that Beyond Hardware is designed to appeal to them - it smaller, brighter, quieter, user-friendly and as unlike a warehouse as they could make it. Women have responded.

    Customers will respond to points of difference. According to the Business Owners Blog, “Beyond Hardware doesn’t sell tractors, but it does have things that Big Orange and Big Blue don’t, like comprehensive departments of top-of-the-line work clothing and pet supplies. (They) keep a keen eye on what really sells and turns. They know the local market, they can react instantly, and they zig when the big stores zag.”

    Price matters, though not for everything. Beyond Hardware is part of the True Value co-op, which gives them access to greater buying power. But the store does not focus on price competition — “they know that customers will allow them to make a fair profit in exchange for convenience and personal service.”

    Good lessons, I think, and applicable to any retailer. The one I like the best: Zig when the other guys zag.

    Words to do business by.

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

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    by Kate McMahon

    The brick-and-mortar behemoths start their clocks at midnight on Black Friday. The online giants aim to eclipse previous holiday season sale records on Cyber Monday.

    And beginning this year on November 27th, the independents get a day of their own on Small Business Saturday.

    Not the catchiest name, perhaps, but part of a national effort to drive shopping traffic to the local emporiums - from bookstores to gift shops to drug stores to supermarkets. And it’s notable in that the medium for connecting traditional mom-and-pop stores with their customers is non-traditional – namely Facebook, with an assist from Twitter.

    The program was launched by American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, with support from more than a dozen groups ranging from city visitor’s bureaus, community organizations and New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It is designed to appeal to both cardholders and proprietors.

    Here’s how:

    • American Express will give $100 of free Facebook advertising to the first 10,000 business owners who sign up at to encourage shoppers to buy local. The deadline for registering is 11:59 p.m. tonight. (To be eligible, the fine print states a small business must have a website or a Fan Page on Facebook and $10 million or less in annual revenue. Other restrictions apply.) Independently owned supermarkets and gourmet shops fall within the parameters ... but chains are specifically excluded. The ads will be geo-targeted and run on Facebook from Nov. 22-27.

    • Additionally, AmEx is giving a $25 statement credit to 100,000 card members who register their card on line and shop on Nov. 27th at any locally-owned, independent small businesses that accept American Express. (Full disclosure: I registered my card and plan to purchase the new Mickey Mantle biography “The Last Boy” at Elm Street Books in New Canaan, CT).

    • Facebook has donated $500,000 in Facebook credits for the participating small business owners to use in the future.

    • For every person who “likes” Small Business Saturday on Facebook, American Express is donating $1 up to $500,000 to Girls Inc., which encourages entrepreneurship among young women.

    In the last 48 hours, the number of “likes” jumped from 140,000 to more than 223,000, so the movement is clearly gaining traction on Facebook. The majority of the comments are positive, with “shout-outs” for small business in general and local favorites.

    Will the initiative succeed in drawing shoppers to Main Street, in lieu of a mall or the ease of online shopping from home, or in the case of Cyber Monday from the office?

    Unlike the eagerly awaited numbers from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it will be difficult to measure. One proprietor who signed on Leslie Allick of Lola’s Tea House in Pelham, NY, which offers light fare and sells gourmet teas. She encouraged the merchants on her block to do so as well. “I thought why not give it a try,” she said.

    This being the unedited internet, there is also criticism of American Express, notably from those who complain that the firm’s fee structure is prohibitive, particularly for small businesses.

    One of its online defenders is spokesperson Cinda Baxter, a retail consultant blogger who is founder of The 3/50 Project, which encourages consumers to commit spending $50 a month to three locally-owned businesses.

    She responded to critics that the program had already generated “a whole lot of ink and air time we wouldn’t otherwise have. Major win for the little guys here.”

    Comments? Send me an email at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    The Washington Post reports that Walmart has unveiled “an aggressive strategy to open four stores and hire 1,200 people in the city by 2012 ... Wal-Mart said it expects to create 400 construction jobs, generate in excess of $10 million in tax revenue for the District and expand its charitable activities here, focusing particularly on job training and efforts to combat hunger.”

    The announcement by Walmart is viewed with great skepticism by organized labor, which charges that the world’s biggest retailer pays too little and provides too few benefits. However, current realities may make the company’s plans more palatable; the Post writes that “with an unemployment rate above the national average and many neighborhoods lacking the basic goods and groceries that Wal-Mart says it will offer, several city officials and neighborhood leaders said they would consider supporting the plans.”

    And, the Post adds, “The blueprint is part of a national effort by the chain to expand beyond rural and suburban areas, where its low prices and massive stores transformed the retail landscape, into urban markets. Although Wal-Mart already operates stores in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, it has never had a store in the District.

    The story notes that the four announced stores in DC stores will range from 80,000 to 120,000 square feet, but that Walmart says it is looking for other opportunities, including an ideal location for “a new pilot format of fewer than 30,000 square feet.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the United States Senate “gave the go-ahead Wednesday to a bill that empowers the Food and Drug Administration to order food recalls, raising the chance that it will become law by the end of the year.

    “The Senate, in a 74-25 vote, agreed to limit debate on the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) said he expects a final vote by Thursday.

    “The bill would give the FDA more authority, including ordering recalls, keeping better track of fruit and vegetable shipments and setting standards for food manufacturers.”

    Still controversial is an amendment being introduced by Tester that would exempt “small farms and food processors that have annual sales under $500,000 and sell their products directly to consumers or to restaurants no more than 400 miles away.” Some supporters of the legislation have said they cannot support the amendment.

    If the bill passes, it is expected to be signed by President Obama.

    Jennifer Hatcher, senior vice president of government relations at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), responded to the vote: “The Food Marketing Institute commends the U.S. Senate for moving forward on legislation to protect our food supply. Consumers are counting on America’s food retailers, wholesalers, and the entire supply chain and government to work together to improve the safety of our food supply. We support the focus on preventing foodborne illness by providing the Food and Drug Administration the necessary resources and authority to help the agency protect our food supply. We urge swift passage of this bill.”  

    And Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) President/CEO Pamela G. Bailey chimed in: “We applaud the Senate for its vote today to proceed to consideration of S. 510, FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, bringing us one step closer to passage of this important legislation.  GMA and the food and beverage industry are committed to partnering with Congress, the Administration and the FDA to strengthen and modernize our nation’s food safety system.  The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will provide FDA with the resources and authorities the agency needs to help strengthen our nation’s food safety system by making prevention the focus of our food safety strategies.  We urge the Senate to vote on this important, bipartisan bill as early as possible during the lame duck session.”
    KC's View:
    It is about time we do something about the food safety problems in this country. I need to understand the Tester amendment better before I judge it, though on principle I have no real problem with it. I just hope this thing doesn’t get bogged down in partisan bickering.

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    The National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance (NFVA) has released a report card that “evaluates the critical players impacting our food choices and their contributions to our nation's public health over the past five years,” and concluded that “the average American's fruit and vegetable consumption remains far below recommended levels, despite repeated warnings from high-level federal officials about the impact of diet-related disease.

    “In fact, only six percent of individuals achieve their recommended target for vegetables and only eight percent achieve their recommended target for fruit in an average day. And while food consumed away from home makes up about a third of the average American's daily calories, it accounts for only 11 percent of all fruit and vegetable consumption. To put this in perspective, eight of the states with the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption are also in the top 10 states with the highest obesity rates.”

    The story goes on: “The report card assigned an 'A' grade to the WIC Fruit and Vegetable Vouchers program, which was introduced as part of a special supplemental program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC allowed broad inclusion of fruits and vegetables, which had been previously excluded for 30 years. School food and restaurant menus received a 'C' grade for making slight progress over the past five years, particularly with greater availability and variety in fruit and vegetable choices in fast food establishments and cafeterias. Last, a failing grade was assigned to the healthy food advertising category, due to the decrease in nutritious food advertising over time.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) is out with a preliminary survey prognosticating about likely shopping patterns on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally serves as the beginning of the end-of-year holiday shopping season - and the news looks good.

    According to the survey, “up to 138 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), higher than the 134 million people who planned to do so last year. According to the survey, approximately 60 million people say they will definitely hit the stores while another 78 million are waiting to see if the bargains are worth braving the cold and the crowds.”
    KC's View:
    I hope that they all have a good time. But not me. I may wander city streets with my honey, sticking our noses into shops and having a pleasant, non-pressured good time. But actual shopping and buying? Not me.

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    Time reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to Phusion Projects and three other companies that manufacture and market premixed caffeine-and-alcohol drinks, saying that their products post a public health concern.

    The companies have been warned that if they do not reformulate their products within 15 days - something that Phusion already has promised to do - the agency may seek to ban the sale of their products.

    As Time writes, “The problem with mixing alcohol and caffeine is that it prevents people from feeling how drunk they really are. The caffeine masks the effects of alcohol, creating a feeling of being ‘wide-awake drunk.’ This often leads people to drink more than they normally would — or to engage in unsafe behaviors out of a feeling of invincibility.”
    KC's View:
    I got accused in an email yesterday of allowing my “inner communist” to emerge when I’ve agreed that these drinks ought to be regulated. But when you read the way that Time frames the issue, you could argue that they are engaging in deceptive marketing. Which ought to be regulated. And I’m okay with that.

    BTW...I’m okay if the government doesn’t get involved, because retailers simply decide not to carry this stuff. But that’s not going to happen, and I’m worried about young people ending up in emergency rooms or worse.

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    Pat Boone - once described as the man who made rock n’ roll safe for white people,” and described on Wikipedia as “a motivational speaker, a television personality, a conservative political commentator, a Republican, and a Christian activist, writer and preacher” - reportedly has launched a line of mail order beef, competing with Omaha Steaks, called Pat Boone All-America Meats.

    The 76-year-old Boone says that he was inspired by Paul Newman’s philanthropic efforts, and says on his site that for every purchase made on his site, five percent of the total “goes directly to fund the efforts of organizations, at home and abroad, that help feed and sustain those in need. These organizations are all pre-screened and endorsed by the Pat Boone Foundation to ensure they meet our high standards for efficiency, integrity and results.”

    Wikipedia also notes that “in 1978, Boone became the first target in the Federal Trade Commission's crackdown on false claim product endorsements by celebrities. He had appeared with his daughter Debby in a commercial to claim that all four of his daughters had found a preparation named Acne-Statin a ‘real help’ in keeping their skin clear. The FTC filed a complaint against the manufacturer, contending that the product did not really keep skin free of blemishes. Boone eventually signed a consent order in which he promised not only to stop appearing in the ads but to pay about 2.5% of any money that the FTC or the courts might eventually order the manufacturer to refund to consumers. Boone said, through a lawyer, that his daughters actually did use Acne-Statin, and that he was ‘dismayed to learn that the product's efficacy had not been scientifically established as he believed’.”
    KC's View:
    Listen, I would never say anything negative about someone who wants to help feed the hungry ... especially in view of the startling statistics reported earlier this week about how 15 percent of US households went hungry at some point last year. So kudos to Pat Boone on this score.

    I suspect his efforts are not going to be as successful as Paul Newman’s, in part because Newman started his philanthropic efforts when he was still a pretty big star - and let’s face it, Paul Newman was the epitome of cool until the day he died. I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of the US population has no idea who Pat Boone is or was, and so he doesn’t bring that “cool” quotient to his efforts.

    There’s another difference between Newman’s efforts and Boone’s. Newman gave all his after-tax profits to charity - close to $300 million to this point. Boone is giving five percent to charity.

    But anything that anyone does is a good thing, especially at a time when the economy has had a generally negative impact on philanthropy.

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    It was just a few months ago that Alec Baldwin told David Letterman on the air that he could not get his aging mother to move out of upstate New York because she wouldn’t leave Wegmans.

    Now, Wegmans has enlisted Baldwin to do a couple of commercials for its stores - one in which he talks about how much one can buy for $6 at Wegmans (and jokes that he can’t get a cup of coffee for $6 in New York), and another in which he rhapsodizes about Wegmans’ various products and services.

    You can watch the commercials by clicking here and here.
    KC's View:
    I think it is pretty cool that Baldwin did the commercials...but I have to be honest, I wish he’d been funnier in them. He is, after all, one of the funniest comic actors working in America today. It might have been worth the money to hire a “30 Rock” writer to add a couple of yuks.

    But maybe that’s just me.

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart plans to begin online sales in China, though no timetable was provided.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    • The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that “members of the Washington state Teamsters union said they’ll honor a strike by Puget Sound grocery workers, if a strike takes place.

    “The unions that represent about 17,000 Puget Sound grocery workers will head back to the bargaining table later this week with management from the four big area grocery chains - Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway. If the unions and stores can’t hammer out a deal, Teamsters union members said they’ll honor a strike.”

    • Published reports say that BJ’s Wholesale Club will raise its annual membership fee from $45 to $50, a move that is expected to generate as much as $20 million in revenue that the company said would be invested in store remodels.

    • Carrefour CEO Lars Olofsson said yesterday that he has decided not to sell the company’s Malaysian stores, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, because they have not generated the kinds of bids that would have justified a sale. Olofsson said that the company would instead invest in the Malaysian unit and try to build sales.

    Carrefour earlier this week sold its Thailand business to Casino for the equivalent of $1.17 billion.

    • In Australia, The Age reports that the Woolworths supermarket chain is “‘way ahead of schedule’ to secure 150 sites for its big-box stores by 2014 as it prepares to break into the nation's $36 billion hardware sector.”

    CEO Michael Luscombe says that “Woolworths would emulate the high level of customer service offered by its US partner Lowe's in its own markets in North America. Woolworths and its US partner Lowe's have already run up costs of $12 million associated with their plans for a national rollout of a big-box hardware chain.”

    • The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Australian Senate is about to consider a bill that would require that accurate labeling of food containing genetically modified material.

    “Truth in labelling is vital to enable Australian consumers to have an informed choice about the food they eat and the products they consume," said Senator Nick Xenophon, who introduced the bill. “Otherwise, we are literally shopping in the dark.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    • PepsiCo announced the appointment of Timothy P. Cost to the newly created position of executive vice president, global corporate affairs. Cost joins PepsiCo from APCO Worldwide, a public affairs and strategic communications firm, where he was executive vice president.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 18, 2010

    ...will return.
    KC's View: