retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The events in Japan over the past week have been enormously eye-opening, though it was probably inevitable that there would already be political jousting in the United States over the future of nuclear power here; at this point in the process, maybe it makes more sense to simply agree that we don’t really know anything yet and reserve judgements - one way or the other - for down the road, when we know more about both the causes of the disaster and the reasons the nuclear plants were vulnerable.

But two things stand out from our perspective.

One is the importance of transparency. There has been a sense throughout the process that the Japanese government has been downplaying the problems and not being upfront with the citizens there about the dangers they are facing. On the one hand, it is kind of understandable - they don’t want to create broad panic in the streets. But the problem has been that with each successive announcement that things are worse than they thought, the government seems to lose a little credibility ... which is the one thing it needs right now.

That’s a business lesson. Sure, you have to balance “need to know” with “ought to know,” especially in times of crisis. But especially today, when everybody is talking to each other via various forms of technology, institutions cannot afford to be in the position of being anti-transparent, because they then out their own credibility and sustainability in jeopardy.

The second lesson comes from the always extraordinary outpouring of support - financial and otherwise - that has come from this side of the ocean, and can be seen in the various charitable efforts established by a wide range of supermarket chains - from the biggest to the smallest independents - that are both giving money and enabling their customers to donate.

I often make the point on MNB that “American exceptionalism” is not a divine right, but rather something that needs to be earned every day through our actions and our core values. There are few greater indicators of American exceptionalism, I think, than the astonishing generosity of the American people.

And those are our Eye-Openers for today.
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