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    Published on: April 19, 2011

    by Michael Sansolo

    There are so many things I don’t know that I frequently learn things that are old news to others. If this happens to you, too, remember that it’s not really a problem. It’s an opportunity to find business opportunities.

    Let’s start though with something I actually know. I was recently in Vancouver, BC, for the IGA Global rally. On the day after the rally I was surprised that the lead article in Vancouver’s largest newspaper detailed problems local doctors have diagnosing Lyme disease. Now I lived relatively near Lyme, Connecticut, when the tick-borne virus was first identified more than 30 years ago. So I couldn’t believe I knew things Vancouver doctors did not.

    When I mentioned this to some friends from IGA, they had a different reaction. Many of them live in places where Lyme disease is relatively unknown so what was old news to me was eye-opening to them. It happens all the time.

    When my daughter, Sarah, recently moved out on her own, she started opening my eyes again. Sarah in many ways is a dream shopper. She loves cooking and loves supermarkets, but living as a single person in a small apartment she is finding plenty to dislike.

    Sarah frequently takes sandwiches to work to save money on lunch and that means she needs to buy bread. Her problem is that none of the four supermarkets in her new area sell anything but regular sized loaves (along with other packages for large families.) When it comes to bread, Sarah would willingly pay more than half the cost for a half-sized package. And she’d do it throughout the store because smaller packages fit her living space, her budget and her needs. But it isn’t an option.

    That’s not good because Sarah isn’t alone. New US Census data shows that marriage rates are at an all time low as an increasing percentage of young people postpone marriage. Swedish professor Kjell Nordstrom, who I saw speak at the TCC international marketing meeting in Spain last week, said the postponement of marriage is a trend throughout the developed world and it’s one that that marketers of all kinds had better understand.

    Nordstrom says there are three key global demographic trends that seem irreversible and all three have impact for the supermarket industry. The first is the rise of single person households, who now make up enormous percentages (near or above 50 percent) of the population in major cities in Europe and North America. That means a major market for consumers like Sarah, with households that may never be large enough for that full loaf of bread.

    The second is a global trend toward urban living, fueled by the massive move to cities in places like China and India. Again there are lessons for American supermarkets operators who watch large companies like Walmart and Tesco work diligently to build small store models. That’s a good model for an urbanized world.

    Lastly is the rise of women in non-traditional roles. If you’ve been on a US college campus lately you see clear evidence of the rise of female students that Nordstrom talk about. It’s an obvious trend at any of the schools offering food management programs in the US. And that means the future of leadership looks very different as does the future needs of our traditional shopper.

    In other words, Sarah’s problem with the loaf of bread is your problem too. But it ought to be your Eye-Opening opportunity.

    Because if you are retailer, selling half a loaf is better than none.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    Walmart announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Kosmix, described as “a social media technology platform that filters and organizes content in social networks to connect people with real-time information that matters to them.”

    According to the announcement, “the Kosmix team will operate as part of the newly formed @WalmartLabs and continue to be based in Silicon Valley. Walmart plans to expand the @WalmartLabs team and expects this new group will create technologies and businesses around social and mobile commerce that will support Walmart's global multi-channel strategy, which integrates the shopping experience between bricks and mortar stores and e-commerce ... Kosmix's innovative technology platform searches and analyzes connections in real-time data streams to deliver highly personalized insights to users. The platform powers TweetBeat, a real-time social media filter for live events with more than five million visits last month;, a site to discover social content by topic; and RightHealth, one of the top three health and medical information sites by global reach.”

    "We are expanding our capabilities in today's rapidly growing social commerce environment," said Eduardo Castro-Wright, Walmart's vice chairman. "Social networking and mobile applications are increasingly becoming a part of our customers' day-to-day lives globally, influencing how they think about shopping, both online and in retail stores. We are excited to have the Kosmix team join us to accelerate the development of our social and mobile commerce offerings."
    KC's View:
    Once again, the big question is whether this is a strategic move or another “spaghetti against the wall” effort.

    To me, it sounds like strategy. It sounds like Walmart wants to get a better handle on the connectivity between its brick-and-mortar and virtual operations, and a stronger read on who its customers are and what they are buying.

    Some will argue that this yet again takes Walmart away from its core competence, and serves as an MBA-led distraction from the serious challenge of offering low prices to its primary customer demographic. And while I understand the feelings behind that argument, I’m not sure that you can play the retail game in 2011 without being invested in the social media and virtual environment.

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    There have been a couple of interesting stories in recent days about cause-related marketing...

    • The New York Times had a piece about Noah Fradin, an 18-year-old “high school senior and budding entrepreneur” who has created a new venture called, which is designed “to make it easy for consumers to give money to the charities of their choice.”

    According to the piece, “Here’s how CherryCard works: Participating retailers will hand out business-card-size vouchers to their customers after a purchase. ‘Redeem this card at to give $0.25 to the cause of your choice,’ reads a typical card, which is printed with a code.

    “Later, after a consumer logs in to the CherryCard site via Facebook and types in that code, the card’s monetary value is deposited in their account, which they can draw upon to give to charities (which are not charged to be listed on the site). Right now there are 35 charities, and Mr. Fradin hopes to add many more.

    “So who pays? The retailers do — a minimal fee per card goes to CherryCard (though Mr. Fradin is waiving it at the moment to encourage companies to sign on). When a consumer redeems a card, the retailer who distributed it is also charged its face value. Mr. Fradin believes CherryCard can be financed out of retailers’ marketing budgets because it identifies them as socially conscious enterprises. Their logo will appear on the CherryCard site and will pop up on consumers’ Facebook pages when they donate.”

    CherryCard is just a start-up, and while NBC Universal and the Milwaukee Brewers are testing it, Fradin is meeting some resistance to his business model. “One business owner said, ‘I just don’t see any big retailer wanting to take the chance on an 18-year-old kid,’” he tells the Times. “But who better to get people excited about something than kids? We’re excited about everything!”

    (If CherryCard doesn’t work out, Fradin does have other things to do. He starts at Brown university in the fall.)

    • Meanwhile, the Deseret News has the following story:

    “Times are tough, and when it comes to philanthropy, businesses across the country have tightened their belts. But while most companies are making smaller cash donations, others are giving more. Many are compensating by increasing in-kind donations and pro-bono work.

    “All things considered, according to a recent study by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, giving levels have remained relatively stable since the recession began. Experts attribute the phenomenon to rising scrutiny from consumers, who are considering social responsibility more and more when making buying decisions.”

    The story uses as an example of a company that actually has expanded its philanthropic efforts during the recession - especially by investing some $65 million to help artisans in third world countries to learn basic business skills and gain access to the US market.

    "A company's first obligation is to make a profit," says Patrick Byrne, CEO at "After that, we need to look around and ask ourselves, 'What can I do to help?'"

    Beyond altruism, the story notes that corporate philanthropy can act as a sort of ‘insurance policy" for businesses. Paul Godfrey, a professor of strategy at Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management, says that “giving builds goodwill within the community, so when something bad happens to a company, people are less likely to villainize business owners and more likely to attribute the misstep to bad luck.”
    KC's View:
    I absolutely believe this - that progressive companies can create stronger connections with their customers by integrating cause-related marketing efforts into their broader strategies. Some of these causes will be determined by the retailer, and some by the shopper (if the retailer is smart enough to make sure the consumers has some skin in the game).

    Done right, and done consistently, it gives companies a differential advantage.

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    Fast Company Design has a long piece about the importance of marketing to women, saying that they are a “surprisingly often ignored group of consumers” and arguing that “women are the next global emerging market.

    “Their economic power is truly revolutionary, representing the largest market opportunity in the world. Just look at the numbers: Women control 65 percent of global spending and more than 80 percent of U.S. spending. By 2014, the World Bank predicts that the global income of women will grow by more than $5 trillion. In both emerging markets and developed nations, women’s power of influence extends well beyond the traditional roles of family and education to government, business, and the environment.

    “Women control more than 80 percent of U.S. spending.”

    The story goes on, “Today, it is the woman in a household who makes the decisions in the majority of purchases - not only in the home with food and cars, but with services such as banking and health care. This is extremely challenging for many companies to understand, as it requires a huge shift in thinking and how business has historically been done. Add to this the fact that we often have a strong emotional connection to the women in our lives, so we hate to admit that we might not understand them - causing more ignorance than necessary, even if we are women ourselves.”

    Fast Company Design offers five suggestions for how best to engage with women, but perhaps the most important one is to “join her circle.” An excerpt:

    “Throughout the entire consumer journey, women use each other as experts, and themselves as the ultimate experience filter.

    “Women are heavily influenced by other women’s opinions throughout the purchasing journey and they look to each other as sources of advice and for real-time reviews of products. As a result of this powerful communication, businesses can quickly decline or improve based on how they adopt to these new realities.

    “In the U.S., women rule the blogosphere--managing, creating, and sharing consumer opinions on products with every keystroke. In fact, a recent ComScore report on women and the web found that their influence online is gaining massive momentum globally. They reported that, ‘Once women connect, they engage; once they engage, they embrace; once they embrace, they drive. And that’s the future. The internet: It’s women’s work’.”

    The entire story can be read by clicking here.

    • A somewhat more pedestrian - though no less relevant - approach to women-oriented marketing comes from Business News Daily, which reports on a new study from Consumers Union saying that “over three quarters of women (76 percent) consider themselves to be bargain hunters, with 10 percent admitting they enjoy the challenge of finding the best deal.

    “Money is the shoppers' main motivation, with 40 percent of women saying they bargain shop because they are on a limited budget ... Even if money were no object, 83 percent of women polled said they would seek out a deal. And when they’re bargain-hunting, they’re not shy about using coupons. Nine out of ten (91 percent) of women use coupons to get a better deal (including 51 percent who print coupons from the Internet), 29 percent use competitor coupons and 11 percent use coupons directly off their cell phones.

    “Female shoppers also hate to overspend, according to the survey. Two-thirds of women (65 percent) typically wait for a sale to purchase items. And 37 percent feel guilty if they pay full price without trying to get a deal.”
    KC's View:
    Hard to imagine that women are “often ignored,” but maybe the real argument is that their evolution is under-appreciated. I found the Fast Companypiece to be fascinating, and worth reading.

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    The Associated Press
    “This sets the record straight about the high quality of our seasoned beef and the
    integrity of our advertising,” said Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed said in an interview. “We took great exception to the false claims made about our seasoned beef and wish the attorneys had contacted us before filing and publicizing a lawsuit that disparaged our brand.”

    However, the lawyers who filed the suit said that they were satisfied with Taco Bell’s response. “From the inception of this case, we stated that if Taco Bell would make certain changes regarding disclosure and marketing of its ‘seasoned beef’ product, the case could be dismissed,” attorney Dee Miles said in a statement.
    KC's View:
    I guess the scientific analysis demonstrated that there was enough beef there. Whether it tastes enough like beef is another issue. But not a legitimate subject for litigation.

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    The Dayton Business Journal reports on a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey showing that 58 percent of Americans find Pizza Hut to be their most favorable pizza option, followed by Papa John’s (54 percent), Domino’s (48 percent), and Little Caesar’s (42 percent).

    According to the story, “Pizza remains a regular staple of the American diet. The report - which polled 795 people - shows 18 percent of adults claim to eat pizza at least once a week, 22 percent eat pizza at least once a month. However, 17 percent of respondents said they rarely eat pizza.”
    KC's View:
    I know these are all chain pizza joints, and so my expectations should not be very high.

    But I see these polls and all I can think is that they represent yet another victory for mediocrity.

    Somebody calls me and asks me this question, and I’m not sure I rate any of these options to be “edible,” much less “favorable.”

    I’ve been spoiled. I’ve actually eaten the best pizza in the country - at Serious Pie, in Seattle. (Go ahead. Call me a food snob. I can take it.)

    Now, Sansolo would argue that the best pizza is to be had at Sal’s in Mamaroneck, NY. And you probably have your own favorites. (I can’t wait to see some of the nominees. If the list is as interesting as the list of best burger places, it should be something.)

    But my larger point is that we shouldn’t live in a world where the likes of Pizza Hut is acceptable.

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced today nine finalists in FMI’s 12th annual Store Manager Awards competition.  Three grand prize winners will be selected from the finalists and announced on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 during the Future Connect leadership conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, TX.  

    The finalists are...

    Category A (1-49 stores):
    • Shawn Commons, store manager at PriceRite Supermarket in Reading, PA
    • Tom Gordon, store manager at Byerly’s in Maple Grove, MN
    • Bill Skeard, store manager at The Gardens in Corner Brook, NL, Canada

    Category B (50-199 stores):
    • Ray Brose, store manager at Sweetbay Supermarket in Cape Coral, FL
    • Allan Bussey, store director at Brookshire Grocery Co. in Tyler, TX
    • Tracey Hershenhorn, store manager at Shelburne Road Price Chopper Supermarket in Burlington, VT

    Category C (200+ stores):
    • Kristi Masterson, store director at Hy-Vee, Inc. in Sioux Falls, SD
    • Rusty Stewart, store manager at The Kroger Company in Newnan, GA
    • Ray Waldrop, store director at BI-LO Supermarket in Rock Hill, SC

    According to FMI, the finalists were selected “based on their ability to develop programs that achieved positive growth and customer satisfaction in their stores during the past 12-18 months,” as well as their ability to lead, communicate, and execute in an innovative fashion.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    • The Daily Courier reports that “New Frontiers Natural Marketplace is discontinuing the use of plastic bags at checkout stands in its Arizona and California stores.

    “Jake Collier, vice president and co-founder of the natural food retailer, sent out a news release explaining that the move to remove plastic bags came about after more than a year's consideration. Collier said the chain was already cutting back on plastic bags in their stores. But seeing a bunch of plastic bags stuck in a fence while recently driving between two stores made an impression on him to make the change.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Nestle SA “has acquired a 60% stake in Chinese food maker Yinlu Foods Group Co., expanding the Swiss company's instant food offerings in a key growth market to help compensate for more sluggish sales in developed countries.

    “Family-owned Yinlu is a well-established brand in China and a major distributor of ready-to-drink peanut milk and instant canned rice porridge. The deal extends cooperation between the two companies, as Yinlu is a co-producer of Nestlé's Nescafé coffee in China.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    • Kellogg’s has hired Steven Sterling, former group VP operations for PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, to be its new SVP global supply chain.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    Got a number of emails responding to yesterday’s story about accusations that sugar may be toxic. Here’s one:

    I don't think this requires further discussion. It doesn't take fancy credentials or expensive studies to recognize the flaws of the argument. All you have to do is ask a simple question. If sugar is truly toxic, as this article claims, and sugar consumption is truly on the rise, why do life expectancies continue to rise? I find articles like this, and the similar article you ran Friday (Were they the same article?) very concerning. It was stated that heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers are classified as lifestyle diseases and they have surpassed communicable diseases as the leading contributor to death.

    What I find most concerning about this is the classification of lifestyle for what are known to be, in large part, hereditary diseases (heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers), while separating out the ones that are truly, for the most part, lifestyle diseases (communicable diseases). Maybe I'm overly skeptical, but I sense the forming of seriously flawed political and economic arguments.

    I strongly believe in everything in moderation. I also strongly believe that I am the best qualified to make decisions for me and my family. The more government and politically motivated business leaders try to influence my decisions, the more I will resist…with my vote and my wallet.

    But MNB user Chuck Burns had a different take:

    I believe Robert Lustig's condemnation of sugar and high fructose corn syrup is correct. If you look at the rising incidence of "diseases of modern civilization" in this country you will see that the increase parallels the increase of sugar consumption from about five pounds a year in the mid1800's to 150-175 pounds a year today.

    If we couple that with abandoning the consumption of natural animal fats that the human animal  has consumed for eons and replacing them with industrial vegetable seed oils (such as soy and corn) you have a potent assault on the human animal. I feel that anyone who consumes more than very small amounts of sugars and vegetable oils has no right to expect to be healthy.

    For a trifecta let me throw wheat in the mix. It is my opinion that the diseases of modern civilization (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer's to name a few) are not diseases per se but symptoms of malnutrition. By throwing out the USDA food pyramid and concentrating on eating real ancestral foods with actual nutrients in them we could cut our health care costs in half. Of course we would also cut the profits of the food processing industry by a huge amount too.

    Don't believe me? Try a three month period where you eliminate sugars, vegetable oils (coconut and olive oil are ok) and wheat and make your own decision. The proof is in the pudding.

    Listen, I get both positions ... though I disagree that the issue is not worth discussing.

    I have no doubt that if I took sugar completely out of my diet, I’d feel better. I’m not sure I’m willing to do that.

    But that doesn’t necessarily make sugar toxic. But I want more discussion, not less.

    Got the following email from an MNB user:

    I'm beginning to wonder if you are heavily invested in Amazon?  If so, you may want to disclose that at some point.  I agree that Amazon has been a very successful model of how a new business idea could come about, but unlike you (and apparently many others), I still prefer to go shopping for bigger ticket items and make comparisons in a store.  I don't mind the human contact and I look forward to Black Friday shopping with my wife every year (did you just get goosebumps?).

    Occasionally I will make my big ticket purchases through Amazon if I can get free shipping, in order to avoid the sales tax.  I have also used Amazon for hard to find items.  Anyway, I don't think a day goes by when you don't mention Amazon in some form or another and now you've even resorted to calling it an 'unhappy ending' when Amazon did not get a book deal they bid on and you are even providing links to their website.  The only reason I read electronic books is because they are easier on airplanes.  Otherwise, I go to Barnes and Noble because you can browse the assortment so much easier and something about relaxing with a tablet just doesn't seem the same for me.  Yes, I am too old to be classified in the younger, information-age, generation, but I have a smart phone and use so many apps that I do find myself getting anxious if I can't find it.  I've even used a shopping app for many months that allows me to scan barcodes for items to add to my shopping list (this is an area that retailers should be scrambling to get their private label UPC's in the database), so I don't think you can call me tech-adverse.

    As I said, I think Amazon is a great success story and as you've said many times, retailers need to be developing their online presence now.  However, I think there are many more opportunities for retailers to set themselves apart in their physical stores and marketing, and this will have even more immediate impacts on their customer loyalty and bottom line.

    First of all, I don’t have any ownership of Amazon stock. I wish I did ... though I wish I’d bought it 10 years ago.

    This is sort of the same argument that sometimes is made that I reference Walmart too often.

    My response is the same. I’ll stop mentioning Amazon when they stop making news, or stop doing things that influence how people shop and other retailers come to market.

    I don’t think Amazon is for everyone. But I do think it can be argued that there has been no other company that has had as much impact on the shopping experience during the past decade. I also think that you are right that one of the ways that retailers compete with Amazon is to create a more compelling in-store shopping experience ... and combine it with a strategic approach to e-commerce.

    MNB user John R. Hurguy wrote:

    One of the things that makes your site so interesting to me is that I never know what I am going to be exposed to for the first time…!

    I was unfamiliar with the phrase you referenced today, “McGuffin,” so I did some quick research.  Wow…the topic was very interesting which exposed me to something I know nothing about.  …MNB is unlike any other site…and as you constantly hear from the community, “keep up the great work!”

    Thanks. This is the mind of email that makes my day.

    BTW....the “McGuffin” was the term coined by Alfred Hitchcock to describe the item in any of his films that sets the plot rolling and provokes action by both the protagonists and antagonists, but that ultimately is unimportant in terms of its actual existence. (Think of the money stolen at the beginning of Psycho, or the uranium in Notorious.)
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 19, 2011

    Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya won the 115th Boston Marathon yesterday, recording a time of 2 hours 3 minutes 2 seconds that was the fastest marathon ever run by nearly a minute, and the fastest Boston Marathon by close to three minutes.

    However, as the New York Times reports, “The time is not considered a world record ... because the Boston course is not sanctioned as being record-eligible by the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s world governing body.”
    KC's View:
    It is almost impossible for me to conceive of running that fast. I’ve run two marathons in my life - and unless I get bionic knees, I’m done - and it took my almost five and a half hours to complete each of them. It is just an extraordinary accomplishment ...