retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB user George Morrow:

Been part of your group since before MNB, and passed it on to everyone at Walmart.

Question, has the grocery/retail business gotten down to so few players that your articles are so many ads for Apple, Amazon etc.?  Doesn't seem to be much actual news about the industry as there used to be, could that be a sign that there are only a few retailers left and you have very little "hard" info to pass on to us???  Just wondering!!

I appreciate both the advocacy and the question.

First of all, there are no “ads” for Apple and Amazon. (I wish!) There are stories about both companies, with some frequency, because I think they are thought leaders that can provide inspiration and lessons for other retailers.

In the end, that’s my goal. To inspire and provoke, using whatever raw material happens to be available on a given morning.

There are other sites that offer minutiae ad nauseum about this initiative or that decision. Some of that is fueled by a feeling that this is what readers really want; some of it is fueled by what companies they may be selling ads or trying to sell ads to. (The word “adjacency” is one that ad salesmen love, and that most writers and editors loathe.)

Maybe we define “hard info” differently. I think that these days, when there is a glut of “hard info,” what people really want - and need - is a place that will help them think about issues differently, will help them frame their internal and external debates in a different context. (Not to mention a site that tries to be entertaining, illuminating, literate, reasonably well-written and never catering to the lowest common denominator.)

Sometimes I make it. Sometimes I don’t.

Or, as Crash Davis says in Bull Durham, “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”

But I thank you for the continuing challenge.

On the subject of supermarkets in malls, we got the following email from Italy, where MNB user Beatrice Orlandini wrote:

It's funny, because here in Italy we are discussing whether food stores should get OUT of malls.

From the start we adopted the French model: shopping center/mall with food store (large hypermarket).

But, the larger the malls are getting, the harder it is to combine the two trips.

It's becoming quite evident that the two trips are often made by a different shopper or - we can say - by the same shopper in very different moments of his/her life.

It's getting impossible to buy your grocery and also shop around.

Most stores in the center don't allow you to enter with your cart.

Entering a food store with all the items previously purchased can be a big nuisance.

We've been discussing what the ideal solution is.

Downsize the food store if the center is big?

Create different itineraries within the mall for the different shoppers?

It's maddening, if you just want to buy your groceries, to be forced to walk through the whole center in order to reach the food store.

Westfield has a very successful center in London.

The Waitrose store is right at the entrance and you can get in and out without having to visit the mall if you're in a hurry or not interested.

But, the center is huge and the store is small.

I cannot think that Westfield's great success is in any way due to Waitrose's presence (or M&S's).

So, go ahead with food stores in malls but be very careful where you place them.

Food stores can be a big anchor but they require extra thinking and planning. A good survey before making any move could be useful.

Regarding Safeway’s decision to sue the city of San Francisco over a law banning tobacco sales in stores containing pharmacies, claiming that the law gives an unfair advantage to markets that don't sell prescription drugs, one MNB user wrote:

I thought Safeway aspires to be portrayed as being a health conscience company.  This lawsuit appears to contradict their company’s ideology.  Could it be, profits are more valuable than principles?

MNB user Mike Spindler has some thoughts about a confluence of stories last Friday concerning the ways in which the competitive landscape is shifting, led by companies such as Walmart and Amazon, in favor of various new-style business models:

Interesting view of a combination of stories.  Nicely done.

It is interesting to me that grocery led this whole “pickup” model thing with Lowes Foods in N.C. being the pioneer.   It is also interesting at how slow development of OGS has been in terms of the numbers of stores (traditional Bricks and Mortar stores) given the proven profitability, growth and customer attraction.  I suspect that is because of the lack of true innovation in the area since 2005-2006.  Oh, there has been some nice little mobile apps and such but no real meaningful multi-channel, customer centric developments. 

I believe that is about to change with the combinations of some technologies, some data utilities and some labor models.   Your conclusion about grocer’s needing to play is absolutely correct.  Perhaps the developments of which I speak will give them a compelling reason.

MNB user Anna Stewart wrote in with the following thoughts:

If you remember I am the reader, follower, fan, whatever you want to call it, that said I would no longer subscribe because I felt you were becoming to pro-Wal Mart. I know you often say how well companies handle a complaint and that you admire that. I want to let you know I was amazed at how you handled mine. I felt you listened to my view and were completely respectful of my opinion. Thank you. That why I subscribe. Yes, I still follow you on MNB and Facebook, I find you are fair and balanced) for real.

Thanks for always hearing me out, even when it's not positive feedback.

And finally, thanks to all of you who wrote in about my piece regarding my days in Las Vegas with my 21-year-old son. I enjoyed hearing your stories, and I’m glad you liked sharing mine. Even though many of us only know each other through this little piece of space and time each morning, we’re all in this together ... as our similar stories make abundantly clear.
KC's View: