retail news in context, analysis with attitude

One of the great side pleasures of traveling the country to speak at conferences has been the opportunity to visit almost all the Major League Baseball stadiums, plus a number of minor league ballparks. This week, I added to my total, with a visit to Chase Field in Phoenix - where I got a chance to watch a truly terrible game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals in which it seemed like the pitchers simply could not get anyone out. (People who like slugfests probably enjoyed it, but I hate games that seem like they last forever ... I much prefer a crisply played 2:30 game with great pitching, crisp defense and strong offense.

The game aside, I very much enjoyed the ballpark. For $40 I ended up sitting 25 rows behind home plate, and the food was wonderful - especially the Niman Ranch Chipotle Cheddar Sausage sandwich, covered with salsa, and the Mirror Pond Pale Ale. I engaged the woman serving me the beer in a conversation, told her it was my first time at this park, and she urged me to try the garlic french fries ... and she wasn’t wrong.

I suspect the experience was improved by the fact that it was a gorgeous night, and the roof was open; indoor baseball is a less pleasurable experience, I’ve found. My big complaint would be about the scoreboard, which I actually think provides too much information - sometimes it looked like the back of a baseball card, with data to spare. Now, I’ve never been a stat guy - I prefer the poetry of baseball to the numbers - so this informs my opinion. But this is the big thing I’d carp about.

Chase Field probably does not make my top five or six stadiums. But it was an entirely pleasant experience.

Just FYI...there are just six MLB stadiums I have not yet been to.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium. The Florida Marlins’ Sun Life Stadium. The Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park. The Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field. The Minnesota Twins’ Target Field. And the new Yankee Stadium.

(Stadium construction hurt my track record. I’d been to the old Yankee Stadium, the old Busch Stadium, the old Astrodome, and the old Metrodome in Minneapolis. Oh, well. Man’s gotta have goals.)

My top six, to this point? In no particular order ... Petco Park in San Diego, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Camden Yards in Baltimore, Safeco Field in Seattle, and, because I’m a traditionalist, Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston.

Can I ask a favor?

Raphel Marketing, which published our book under its Brigantine media imprint, is writing a book about online couponing that it plans to publish this summer. The focus will be on the rise of companies such as Groupon and Living Social that offer groups of people discounts on services and products, including travel, spas, and restaurant offers. The  deals are heavily discounted from retail price, and are often distributed by people to their friends and colleagues. It's a different and interesting way for merchants to reach out to new customers.

Raphel Marketing is conducting a 3-minute online survey that will help in the research for the book ... and if you provide your email address (which will not be given or sold to anyone else, and not used for any other purpose), the Raphels will send you a summary of the survey results.

The survey can be found here.

I saw Limitless, the new Bradley Cooper-Robert De Niro movie, the other day, and liked it. Didn’t love it, but liked it. Limitless is about what happens to a struggling, down-on-his-luck writer when he takes a pill that allows him to access his entire brain, turning him into someone who is a fast and brilliant novelist, a canny and successful financial investor, multi-lingual, and devastatingly attractive to women. The moral question that it poses is how far a person is willing to go in order to achieve his or her dreams, and the film - directed by Neil Burger - is extremely well done, with sharp cinematography and dovetails nicely with the characters’ various dilemmas.

At some level, I thought the film was a little too fast-paced; they could have taken a little more time with the concept, let it breathe a little more before plunging into the chase elements that define the end of the movie. But that may be an age thing; movies today almost never take a leisurely approach to character development.

What is interesting to me is the similarities that Limitless shares with two other movies I’ve seen recently - The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon, and Source Code with Jake Gyllenhaal. All three movies feature strong leading men who combine youth with some level of maturity; in some ways, I can see any of the three headlining any of these three movies. And all movies are about testing the limits of human capabilities, and they explore, to varying degrees, the definition of ethical behavior. I liked Source Code the most, and Limitless the least ... but enjoyed them all, especially because they all seemed, in their own ways, to be about something more than just sex and explosions and car chases.

In today’s moviemaking environment, being about something is a quality to be savored.

My wine of the week: the 2009 Diemersdal Reserve Chardonnay from South Africa, which my wine guys quite rightly describe as having “mouth feel that is rich and buttery.” I would have said it is “yummy,” but that’s just semantics.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: