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    Published on: April 28, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and I’d like to tell you about one of the cooler things that we’ve done lately here on MNB.

    I’m happy to announce the launching of the MNB Wine of the Month Club. The reason for this is very simple ... one of the questions I get asked most frequently is, “Where do you get the wines that you write about?”

    Many of them come from my local wine merchants, Nicholas Roberts Ltd., where over the years they’ve introduced me to many different kinds of wine, educating both my mind and my palate. And now, we’ve made a special arrangement for Nicholas Roberts to power an MNB Wine of the Month Club...

    It works very simply. Sign up, and each month you’ll get three wonderful wines - either three reds, three whites, or a mix, and all of them will be wonderful, unusual and often from some vineyard you’ve never heard of, but that makes wonderful wine that has been tasted and vetted by the folks at Nicholas Roberts. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the adventure...

    By the way, there’s a great retailing lesson here about the power of information-based retailing and the importance of differentiating yourself through both products and services.

    And here’s a little MNB bonus. While supplies last, you’ll get this special reusable MNB wine bag ... so you get to enjoy wine and be environmentally minded at the same time.

    If you are interested in more information, you can CLICK HERE.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Ticketmaster, a division of Live Nation Entertainment, plans to “introduce technology enabling artists and sports teams to raise or lower ticket prices depending on demand.

    “In other words, if there's huge demand for a Lady Gaga concert, prices could go up. If demand is weak for, say, an Osmond Brothers reunion tour, prices could go down. Economists call this ‘dynamic pricing’.

    “The idea is to not leave any money on the table - to ensure that all seats are filled for an event. Airlines and hotels routinely do this when they lower prices for empty seats and rooms.”

    The Times suggests that it is not an enormous leap to a time when movie pricing could also become dynamic - that movies of lesser popularity/quality (like, say, the remake of Arthur) could be priced lower than movies like The King’s Speech. Or that older movies could cost less to watch than new movies ... which could make sense at a time when people often will wait until a movie comes out on DVD or on cable so they can watch it at home for less.

    So, could a Priceline-like model find its way into the movie business?

    According to the Times, “Theater owners appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to Ticketmaster's move. A spokesman for AMC Theatres declined to discuss dynamic pricing. Representatives of other theater chains and the National Assn. of Theatre Owners didn't return calls for comment. “Movie pricing is complex. The studios take the lion's share of the ticket's cost, leaving theater owners to fall back on overpriced popcorn and soda. So it's clear that any dynamic pricing model would require the cooperation of all concerned.”

    But it is an interesting development, and Eye Opening in the sense that all pricing decisions affect consumer attitudes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    ShopRunner, the coalition of retailers that is looking to develop a competitive response to’s Prime program, announced this week that it has added seven more online retailers to its roster, which now numbers 37.

    Both the ShopRunner and Prime programs offers two-day shipping for one year for a single price.

    The new retailers are Lord & Taylor,, Domino’s Pizza, David’s Cookies and Olly Shoes had joined its network.
    KC's View:
    It is funny how many people refer to this as “free shipping,” when it actually is just the illusion of free shipping; what it actually works to be is incredibly cheap shipping if you place a lot of orders. (And, conversely, expensive shipping if you only place a few orders.)

    Still, I am an enormous fan of Prime and a longtime user; it may be one of the best drivers the company has for frequent usage by its shoppers.

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    Internet Retailer reports that a new study from The E-tailing Group suggests that mobile commerce is becoming increasingly important to retailers.

    According to the story, “In the first quarter of 2011, 49% of 200 merchants surveyed by the research firm said mobile initiatives were important to achieving their strategic goals. That’s up 26 percentage points from 23% in 2010.”

    There is, however, one potential problem. These retailers don’t seem willing to put their money where their mouths are: “While merchants are saying mobile commerce is important to advancing their strategic goals, they’re making cautious investments. 39% will invest $25,000 or less in m commerce in 2011, the survey says. 10% will invest $26,000 to $50,000; 7%, $51,000 to $75,000; 6%, $76,000 to $100,000; 4%, $101,000 to $150,000; 4%, $151,000 to $200,000; 2%, $201,000 to $350,000; and 6%, more than $350,000. 22% will not be investing in mobile commerce.”
    KC's View:
    There’s nothing wrong with being cautious with one’s money, but it is important not to be so cautious that one is unable to compete ... especially with new players that tend to come out of the woodwork in this sort of environment.

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    Meijer announced that as it looks to merge online and instore shopping, it is introducing “a program where shoppers can place an order on and have the merchandise shipped - at no cost - directly to their local Meijer store for pick-up.”

    The online program, called "Order-to-Store," will include thousands of items found on, including furniture and home products, sporting goods, kitchen appliances, garden and outdoor items, toys, and health & beauty items.
    KC's View:
    Retailers not playing in this space will be at an increasing disadvantage. It is becoming more prevalent with almost every passing day, and not to have some option could position many retailers as being irrelevant.

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    Advertising Age reports that Facebook is taking a page out of Groupon’s book, launching a test of its new Deals deal-of-the-day program in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco.

    According to the story, “If Facebook does Deals right, this move can mean a significant monetization strategy for the social network that isn't based solely on advertising, though it appears that companies may be able to pay for sponsored deal units. And consumers' hunger for discounts appears to be growing by the minute -- BAI/Kelsey Group estimates the deals market will reach $3.9 billion by 2015 ... Facebook wants to differentiate itself from the pack by offering deals that are meant to be shared and experienced with the user's social circle.”

    Google tried to buy Groupon for $5 billion last year, but was rebuffed.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    Business First of Buffalo reports that 7-Eleven is acquiring the 188-store Wilson Farms convenience store chain in western New York.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    The announcement noted that the stores will gradually be converted to the 7-Eleven banner.

    Wilson Farms used to be owned by Ahold as part of its Top Foods division; the c-store segment was sold to an investor group in 2005.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    Fox News reports that Taco Bell “is demanding an apology from the law firm that brought a recently dismissed lawsuit alleging the fast-food chain misled consumers about the content of its beef -- and says it’s even considering legal action against the firm.”

    The company is said to be concerned that the withdrawal of the suit - it wasn’t actually a “dismissal” - did not get as much attention as the original filing, which had an impact on its sales. The company took out a series of ads trumpeting the end of the suit and its vindication, but there hasn’t yet been a discernible effect.
    KC's View:
    The real crime here is lousy food. But I guess that can’t be litigated.

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart “is quietly bringing back rifles, shotguns and ammunition to hundreds of U.S. stores as the hurting retail giant seeks to reinvigorate its one-stop shopping appeal and attract more male customers.”

    According to the story, “The world's largest retailer stopped selling hunting rifles and bullets at all but a third of its U.S. stores five years ago, citing diminishing sales.”

    The story notes that Walmart is looking to bring back so-called “heritage categories” that it had eliminated as it sought to upgrade its image and attract new shoppers: “The retailer acknowledged that it may have underestimated the importance of carrying hunting and fishing gear, as well as items such as sewing fabric, to its traditional clientele, and that the slower-selling items were more crucial to driving customer visits than it had originally thought.”

    The story also points out that “as the largest seller of firearms and ammunition in America - even when guns were available in just one-third of its stores - the company has sometimes come under criticism from gun-control groups who say it makes weapons too easily accessible. It has also been rapped by gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association who say it has caved to pressure from liberal activists.

    “Wal-Mart garnered fresh attention earlier this year when authorities disclosed that Jared Lee Loughner, the Arizona man accused of trying to kill U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Jan. 8 rampage that left six people dead, had purchased 9mm ammunition for a Glock pistol earlier that morning at a Wal-Mart store.

    “Ms. Giffords, shot in the head at point-blank range, is slowly regaining her speech and movement, but doctors aren't certain she will ever fully recover.”

    Walmart has not sold handguns in its stores - except in Alaska - since the early 1990s, but it has continued to sell handgun ammunition.
    KC's View:
    BTW ... Reuters reports that more than 60 protestors showed up at Manhattan’s Bryant Park Grill, where Walmart CEO Mike Duke was being interviewed by the WSJ, to give voice to their preference that Walmart not be allowed to open stores in New York City.

    Duke, to his credit, took it in stride: "This is probably just a greeting," he said, laughing.

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    • Ahold-owned Stop & Shop will announce tomorrow that it has established a relationship with Shell Oil that will allow consumers to get discounts on gasoline prices depending on how much money they have spent in the company’s supermarkets, using the chain’s frequent shopper card.

    The move gives Stop & Shop the ability to extend its gas discount program - which it has had in place for some time at locations with gas stations on the premises - to areas such as Westchester County in New York and Fairfield County in Connecticut where real estate issues have prevented it from opening gas stations.

    • PCC Natural Markets (PCC), the nation’s largest natural foods retail cooperative, announced that it will open its tenth location in late 2013, in a new mixed-use project currently referred to as Green Lake Village.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Coca-Cola “is raising prices on its beverages in North America, betting consumers won't gag as it tries to offset surging commodity costs and the hit its business is taking from the Japan disaster ... The globe-trotting maker of Coca-Cola, Sprite, Minute Maid orange juice and Dasani bottled water said Tuesday it is aims to boost prices by 3% to 4% this year in its single largest market, including increases of 1% to 2% enacted in the first quarter.

    “Coke is banking on selling more drinks in convenience stores, where beverages typically cost more per ounce than in supermarkets, as more Americans take to the road despite rising gas prices. To soften sticker shock, it is also tweaking packaging sizes and adding price choices. The company recently began selling 1.25-liter bottles of cola at supermarkets for 99 cents apiece while raising the price on its two-liter bottles, which had been selling at 99 cents.”

    UPI writes about a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that “thirty-two states and the District of Columbia scored at or below the national average on an index that calculates the number of food retailers selling healthy foods.”

    The story goes on: “Forty-nine percent of middle and high schools permitted less healthy foods such as candy, soft drinks and fast-food restaurants to be advertised to students on school grounds. In Ohio, nearly 70 percent of middle and high schools allowed such advertising versus 24 percent in New York.”

    Advertising Age reports that “Procter & Gamble Co. is preparing to launch what it describes as its biggest laundry innovation in more than a quarter century with Tide Pods: a line of highly concentrated liquid detergent tablets, backed by a massive $150 million marketing budget ... P&G has told retailers that, ultimately, liquid-filled tabs could take a 30% share of a U.S. laundry market that industry executives said totals $6.5 billion, making them a multibillion dollar product proposition. In the U.K., currently the most-advanced market for unit-dose laundry tablets, all forms of tablets including powder now exceed 30% of the market, according to an executive familiar with the matter.”

    Bloomberg reports that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says that the company “is developing a wider range of ready-made food and beverages after it sold more Via instant coffee than expected. “Via will be a portfolio of products,” he says.

    • Target Corp. announced that it has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) GreenChill program, which it says will further the company’s “efforts to reduce refrigeration emissions by adopting green refrigeration technologies in its stores.”

    Bloomberg reports that “ Inc., responding to a trademark lawsuit by Apple Inc. over its use of the words ‘App Store,’ said the term is generic and denied that the iPhone maker has exclusive rights to the phrase. Amazon described the phrase as “unprotectable.”

    Apple’s position is that its application to trademark ‘App Store” has been approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office, and therefore Amazon cannot use the term.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that MillerCoors LLC CEO Leo Kiely is retiring, effective June 1. He will be succeeded by Tom Long, the former Coca-Cola executive who was CEO of Miller Brewing before the merger with Coors.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    Responding to yesterday’s piece about Kroger’s growth, one MNB user wrote:

    I wonder how much Dunnhumby has to do with Kroger's recent performance in gaining market share?

    I don’t. That kind of data collection and analysis is an enormous advantage.

    Regarding Walmart’s troubles, one MNB user wrote:

    Let’s be clear. It has taken WalMart under Eduardo Castro Wright “leadership and hate of EDLP” to get WalMart where it is today. There are no quick fix for a company this size. What is need is leadership and RETAIL ( not manufacturing, not foodservice) experience to help change course. Adding small store formats, colleges formats will do little to move any numbers and will only slow other progress by taking their eye off what the real problems are. It will add additional work for buyers, planners, suppliers, system etc.

    Having put signs in the store saying here are the items you wanted back does nothing to get the customers back who now shop with other chains. In fact it only allows suppliers and Wall Street to count them easier and see what has or has not been brought back not to mention helping the competition still know where the opportunities are. Last, the customer who it is all about in the first place comes in and see some items but not THEIR items in THEIR WalMart and just gets upset all over again.

    What I’m seeing is a chain that from a merchandise standpoint is stuck half in Project Impact and half in the old look. A chain where store morale is down and many of its merchants have left or want to. While the CEO talks a good game, much of what he talks about has not happened. I know that he has been told by many what the issues are and gets it, but just doesn’t have a handle on fixing it..

    But tell us how you really feel....

    From another MNB user:

    Kevin, you and Michael have referred to 5 Guys Burgers a number of times.  I have not eaten there, so had to defer to my two sons for their opinion (one lives in Davis, the other in DC).  They both agree that our local restaurant is better than 5 Guys, and probably worthy of your list.  The restaurant is Burgers and Brew in Davis, CA, at the corner of 3rd and C Streets.  The bacon and jalapeno cheeseburger is excellent.  The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and the beer is good.  The next time you or Michael are in the Sacramento area (Davis is about 11 miles west on I80), you should give it a try.

    We will.

    BTW....if you want to see the original list, click here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 28, 2011

    Members of the MNB community who are fans of the late novelist Robert B. Parker - and based on your emails, there are many of you - will want to know that the Parker family has chosen two writers to continue his work.

    Ace Atkins, a former newspaper reporter and Mississippi resident who has written a number of mystery novels, will write a new series of books featuring Spenser, the Boston private detective who is Parker’s most famous creation. His first effort,m as yet untitled, is scheduled to come out next year at this time.

    Michael Brandman, a longtime collaborator with Parker on television programs who also has worked with Tom Selleck on the successful series of TV movies about Jesse Stone, the alcohol-challenged small town police chief, will begin writing a series of novels about the character. His first, called Robert B. Parker’s Killing The Blues, is due out on September 13.

    Sixkill, described as Parker’s last Spenser novel completed before his death, is due out next week.
    KC's View:
    The discussion on Facebook - both for and against - demonstrates the connection that so many people have to Parker and his iconic characters.

    A number of people seem worried that these new books will somehow diminish Parker and his work, which I think is nonsense. Parker used to say that he did not worry about the Spenser TV series because the books were his and the series was something else. The existence of new novels about Spenser and Hawk and Jesse does not have any impact on his books, which remain his.

    A lot of people also are kvetching about how these new writers will change the series. My feeling is that any fan of the genre should hope that Atkins and Brandman will bring something new to the franchises. Their job descriptions, I’m guessing, do not include keeping watch over mummified characters. They almost certainly will add new colors and new shadings to the series. They should. Then, we readers get to decide. That’s how it should be.

    I am cheered by one small coincidence in the naming of Atkins as Parker’s successor. In the memoir-ish Three Weeks In Spring, co-written with Joan H. Parker (his wife), it is noted that when he was younger, Parker’s nickname was “Ace.”

    For those of you who have not read it and may be interested, an interview that I did with Parker a number of years ago can be found here.

    Published on: April 28, 2011

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    KC's View: