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    Published on: May 2, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Amid all the hoopla about the Royal Wedding last week came a reminder of why people have to be careful about the information they post on social media sites.

    There was a Palace Guardsman there named Cameron Reilly who was supposed to work the Royal Wedding. But he was suspended last week, the Washington Post reports, after he posted on his Facebook page that the then bride-to-be was “stuck up” and wrote that ““she gave him only a brief wave while she looked the opposite way.”

    The Post writes:

    “A spokesman for the Scots Guards said the guard has been suspended and the situation is under investigation.

    “Let this be a lesson about the potential impact of things you post about your job on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Employers - or even people who don’t mean you any good - are watching.

    “So ask yourself before posting: Is revealing this picture, criticism or thought worth losing my job?”

    Or worth not getting one.

    And that is a royal eye-opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports that “as labor talks between union officials and Southern California’s three leading unionized grocery chains have slowed to a crawl, the federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has been contacted and a mediator is being brought in to meet with both sides in the coming weeks.”

    No word on which side reached out for mediation.

    Last week, unionized employees at Safeway-owned Vons, Kroger-owned Ralphs and Supervalu-owned Albertsons voted overwhelmingly to allow union leaders to authorize a strike in the event that negotiations with management cannot be successfully concluded. The labor contract that was reached in 2007 expired March 6 and is being extended day to day.
    KC's View:
    Hopefully, sane heads will prevail here. I’d like to think that the two sides will realize that it does not make sense to collectively go over a cliff - that it would be bad for the chains and bad for the employees.

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    Fast Company offers a list of what it calls the world’s 10 most innovative retailers, and interestingly, it puts Groupon -which isn’t actually a retailer - at the top of the list. However, it says that Groupon deserves the accolade “for integrating web and the real-world shopping experience, changing consumer behavior, democratizing small businesses, and spawning an entire new category. The fastest-growing company in web history, Groupon's flash deal site marries cents-off coupons to a Friday-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy. The company broke into the black just seven months after inception; globally, more than 500 copycat sites have already sprung up.”

    Also making the list, in order:

    • Trader Joe’s, “for becoming bigger than Whole Foods while retaining its down-home image ... Its 344 U.S. stores sell an estimated $1,750 in merchandise per square foot, more than double Whole Foods' tally.”

    • Marks and Spencer, “for its aggressive pursuit of sustainability.”

    •, “for leading the way into the digital book market with the Kindle--and setting off a major shift in the public's reading habits.”

    • eBay, “for leading the charge on mobile commerce.”

    • Apple, “for creating platforms and products that breed entirely new businesses, including the App Store, the new iTunes 10, the Apple TV digital storefront, and the iPad, a screen that's better suited than the iPhone to leverage online buying.”

    • Starbucks, “for listening to its customers - really. Although the feedback site was originally panned, almost 98,000 ideas have been submitted, and 100 have been adopted. Among them: donating unsold pastries to local homeless shelters and food kitchens, giving baristas name badges, selling reusable sleeves, and bringing back Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.”

    • Shopkick, “for bridging the in-store and mobile retail experience. Beyond rewarding users with perks as soon as they enter a store, Shopkick's location-aware smartphone app also guides users through physical retailers, letting them see reviews and multimedia content. Best Buy, Macy's, and American Eagle have already signed on as partners.”

    • Ikea, “for attacking waste by selling its used furniture online in Sweden, and making its venture capital unit's first investments. Ikea Greentech is dedicated to supporting ventures in alternative energy solutions and lighting that might lead to the development of products for Ikea. The company has also bought German and French wind farms to cut its carbon footprint.”

    • Urban Outfitters, “for nurturing very distinct, successful, and quirky retail brands, including the youth-oriented Urban Outfitters, the romantic and sophisticated Anthropologie, and the high-end, bohemian Leifsdottir.”
    KC's View:
    You probably could quibble about the companies on the list and maybe even the rationale, but it seems to me that what they all have in common is a willingness to engage in game-changing tactics and strategies. They’re not accepting the status quo, but also are willing, to varying degrees, to challenge conventional thinking and go for the big, dramatic move.

    Which I think is a prerequisite for survival in 21st century retailing.

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    The Oregonian reports that Walmart has acquired a former Haggen store in Beaverton, Oregon, but says it has no immediate plans to develop it.

    "At this time," Walmart spokesperson Jennifer Spall tells the paper, "it is being added to our real estate portfolio."

    Haggen closed the store earlier this year after the Haggen family sold the chain to the Comvest Group.
    KC's View:
    There may be no immediate plans to develop the old Haggen store, but you have to think that Walmart won’t want it sitting empty for very long. Perhaps the Bentonville Behemoth wants to take a bit of time to figure out what format it wants to open there ... though it almost certainly will be one of the small-format food stores that Walmart is playing with.

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    In Ireland, the Sunday Business Post reports that Select Retail Holdings has been actively - though quietly - looking for a company to buy its Superquinn supermarket chain. To this point, the paper reports, there have been no takers.

    The move comes after the chain has closed a couple of stores and its chairman, Simon Burke, stepped down.

    Select Retail Holdings acquired Superquinn from its legendary founder, Feargal Quinn, in 2005.
    KC's View:
    There’s no question that it has been tough sledding for Superquinn in the years since its acquisition, as the Irish economy has gotten rockier and the competition has gotten tougher. But it seems to me that the new ownership hasn’t made it any easier by not understanding the fundamental magic of what Feargal Quinn had created. They may have understood the tangibles, but not the intangibles ... and in Superquinn’s case, the intangibles were of extraordinary importance. Quinn was a leader; the new company had managers.

    There have been rumors for several years that Superquinn was for sale, if Select Retail Holdings could just get an acceptable price. The guess here is that the number that management has in mind is getting lower with every passing week.

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    The New York Times reports that the food and beverage industry are hunkering down to do battle with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who as part of his broader battle against obesity wants to prevent residents from using food stamps to buy sugared soft drinks.

    According to the story, “Food and beverage lobbyists see the mayor’s plan as a well-intentioned but misguided and paternalistic effort. They say it would create a logistical bottleneck at checkout counters and stigmatize poor people using food stamps.

    “They also fear that restrictions on soft drinks would set a precedent for the government to distinguish between good and bad foods and to ban the use of food stamps for other products - an issue sure to come up next year in the Congressional debate on a new farm bill.”
    KC's View:
    I know there will be folks who will say that this is yet another example of “nanny government,” that it is an unnecessary intrusion by government into people’s personal behavior.

    I understand this thinking, and respect the rationale behind it. But there also is the matter of public policy, and a legitimate discussion needs to take place about whether public money should be used to support lifestyle decisions that could create health issues that could cost money down the line in terms of health care costs, and that could certainly qualify as a discretionary purchase, an indulgence. I just hope that the discussion is mature and measured, not hysterical and purely ideological.

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    Marketing Daily reports that a new study from Jacobs Media adds another voice to the cacophony of reports lately about shifting gender roles and who is most crucial when it comes to making purchasing decisions.

    Among the results:

    “The study shows that three of 10 men are single, and more than 80% of them make the sole or key big-ticket decisions in their households. This segment of the male population is a hidden opportunity for marketers --- they profile equal to or better than women in their decision making power and are a significant opportunity for growth.”

    “The study also indicates that women agree that men should have major input in decisions about buying big-ticket items. In fact, six in 10 women say a recommendation from a spouse or partner is a deciding factor when making major purchases.”

    “Six in 10 men play a key role in the big-ticket item buying process. They either are the sole decision makers or play a key role in the purchase of items like homes, cars and major appliances.”

    However, the results may have a certain bias, since “the web-based survey” was of “13,000 American adults who listen to rock, alternative, classic rock and sports radio stations.”
    KC's View:
    I’m sort of fascinated not so much by the specific results of this study - which strike me as interesting if not terribly ground-breaking - but by the fact that there seem to have been so many studies lately of gender roles in making buying decisions.

    Not sure what’s going on. Maybe it is because of the impact of the recession on men, or the growing importance of women in the workforce. Maybe its because more women are getting graduate degrees than men, which certainly says something about the future of intellectual leadership in this country. Or maybe it is because there are marketing companies that have nothing else to do, or are looking for new clients.

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Target Corp., as it prepares to enter the Canadian market with its discount department stores, is going to federal court in Canada to ask it “to impose a preliminary injunction against Canadian merchant Isaac Benitah and his company, Fairweather Ltd., which owns 15 stores across Canada called Target Apparel and has a logo similar to that of Target Corp. ... The court hearing is the latest volley in a battle that Target Corp. and Mr. Benitah have been waging for close to a decade over who owns the rights to the Target name in Canada.”

    As noted in the Journal, “In mid-January, Target Corp. said it was entering Canada by purchasing the leases of as many as 220 Zellers stores from Hudson's Bay Co. for $1.8 billion. Target since has said it plans to open its first Canadian stores by 2013, and within seven years the company expects its Canadian franchise to produce about $6 billion in revenue.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    USA Today reports that according to a new study, “the U.S. food system is about as energy inefficient as it gets. And it's only getting worse.”

    The story goes on: “A fall 2010 report by the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, ERS, called ‘Fuel for Food: Energy Use in the U.S. Food System,’ found that while energy consumption per capita fell by 1 percent between 2002 and 2007, food-related energy use grew nearly 8 percent, as the food industry relied on more energy-intensive technologies to produce more food for more people ... And estimates for 2007 suggest the U.S. food system accounted for nearly 16 percent of the nation's total energy budget, up from 14.4 percent in 2002, according to the report, which measured both the direct energy used to power machines and appliances (like trucks and microwave ovens) as well as the ‘embodied’ energy used to manufacture, store and distribute food products.”

    ª In Phoenix, Fox News reports that Bashas’ has reversed course from the staffing cuts that it made during its bankruptcy, and now is holding a series of job fairs to staff back up in response to improving sales. The company emerged from bankruptcy protection last September.

    ª The Los Angeles Times reports that Coinstar-owned Redbox is expanding into the video game business.

    According to the story, “The kiosk DVD rental company said that after testing video game rentals for nearly two years, it will on June 17 begin offering titles such as Call of Duty and Super Mario Galaxy in more than 21,000 of its 31,800 locations around the country. Games will cost $2 per night, compared with $1 for DVDs and $1.50 for Blu-ray discs.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    Bloomberg reports that former Cadbury executive Jim Chambers will leave Kraft Foods in July, in what it describes as “the latest departure since Kraft’s $23 billion takeover of the U.K. candy maker last year.”

    The story says that Mark Clouse, currently the global category leader for biscuits, will replace Chambers. No replacement for Clouse has been named.

    According to , “In October, Kraft said it lost Cadbury veterans Ignasi Ricou, who ran European sales and the gum and candy business, and Tamara Minick-Scokalo, who had run Kraft’s European chocolate business. Both left for personal reasons, Mitchell said. Mark Reckitt, who was Cadbury’s chief strategy officer and co-head of the integration team, left his post in July.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    • In Massachusetts, The Republican reports that “Jeanne E. D'Amour, a philanthropist and widow of Big Y Foods Inc. co-founder Gerald E. ‘Gerry’ D'Amour, died on Saturday.

    “She was 90. Funeral services were held in private at the D'Amour Chapel here.

    “Her husband died in August, also at the age of 90.”

    • “Star Trek fans” (and there are many of them in the MNB community) are mourning the death of William Campbell, who passed away over the weekend at age 87.

    Campbell played protagonist roles in two episodes of the original “Star Trek” series - as the Squire of Gothos in an episode of the same name, and as Klingon Captain Koloth in the popular episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles.” He reprised the Koloth role three decades later in the “Blood Oath” episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    Responding to last week’s story about proposed voluntary federal guidelines on what can be advertised to children, MNB user Elizabeth Archerd wrote:

    Absolutely, it is up to parents to have the backbone to choose what goes in the grocery cart.

    But it would be helpful if food producers stopped creating this tension to begin with. Stop marketing to very young children, who have no ability to tell an ad from a show from reality, and limit food ads to older children as well. Let's face it, certain food companies are part of the problem - their ads attempt to get around parents to get children to demand stuff that is not particularly good for them.

    The same people who want the government to leave family choices alone should be demanding the same thing of corporations: Stop advertising to my kids and leave my family to make good decisions without your interference!

    There is nothing like listening to tired pre-schoolers melt down in public because Mom or Dad didn't pick up the brand of candy-for-breakfast as seen on TV. Don't we all enjoy that.

    One MNB user disagreed:

    I think you knew you were going to hear from me on this. The government can pass all the regulations they want and it will not make a difference. First of all parents are going to feed their children what they decide and not what the government tells them.

    Second, people who do not have a decent income are going to feed their children what they can afford. I have said this before - fruits and vegetables are way overpriced and the average “working stiff” cannot afford them. If you want people to start eating healthy bring down the cost of goods. I remember when lettuce was .39 cents a head. Now it is what 2 or 3 dollars??

    As for me I will continue to feed my children anything I choose regardless of the nutritional value. Big brother will not like it, but to use a movie quote, “Quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

    There is no regulation - proposed or extant - that I know of that would prevent you from feeding your children anything you want. I might question your parenting skills for not caring about nutritional value, but that’s ultimately up to you.

    I do think that it seems reasonable for the government to require that companies be transparent about ingredients and nutritional values, so you can make informed decisions.

    But since you’ve made clear in previous emails that you are against most of not all government regulation, let me pose this question. What if the government could somehow impose regulations that would make healthier food more affordable? Does that sound like a good idea?

    Regarding Walmart’s decision to once again sell guns in some of its US stores, one MNB user wrote:

    It's nice to know that the powers that be at Wal-Mart are participating in Mayors Against Illegal Guns Campaign. The problem is that all MAIG wants is to punish the millions of responsible, legal gun owners in America. They are against the Second Amendment.

    It makes me think that I will never shop at Wal-Mart. When all guns are outlawed the criminals will still have guns.

    Methinks I do not want to get myself involved in the gun debate.

    Though I do find it amusing that Walmart is now getting criticized by this reader not for selling too many guns, but for being willing to engage in a discussion about responsible gun ownership.

    May I suggest that Walmart could not engage in a national urban strategy without being willing to deal with the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Campaign. It would just not be politically possible. And I don’t think it would be responsible.

    MNB took note last week of a Wine Spectator report that a new study published in Movement Disorders suggests that “a lifetime of drinking red wine significantly reduces the risk of essential tremor, the official name for a pattern of involuntary, continuous movements that intensify with age.” According to the story, “four or five glasses of red wine per day, for 30 years or so, provides the most benefit.

    I must have had other things on my mind last week, because I did not even think to comment along the lines of this MNB user:

    Listen, I'm for anything which finds health benefits in things I enjoy but 4 or 5 glasses of red wine daily seems a little too good to be true. Almost like reading that sitting on the sofa watching sports has the same effect as exercise.  Can that be right?

    And another MNB user chimed in:

    It’s hard to have tremors when you are passed out!

    And, from another MNB user:

    At four to five glasses DAILY, essential tremor may not be the biggest issue!

    I wrote last week praising MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” for its approach to reporting on the Royal Wedding, saying that “they used their weeklong visit to London as an opportunity to compare the politics and cultures of the US and UK, to talk about the two nation’s economies, and actually focus on legitimate news stories, all the while including some wedding news and poking gentle fun at the proceedings.

    “Joe Scarborough actually said at one point that at a time of economic austerity and budget cuts in the UK, it hardly seemed like the right time to be celebrating excess. And truer words may not have been spoken in the mainstream media this week.”

    MNB user Joe Davis wrote:

    While I love ‘Morning Joe’, I think they packed one too many bags of cynicism when they jumped the pond this week.  Even in tough economies, people need to celebrate and be uplifted to remind themselves that not everything is doom and gloom all the time.  A wedding – of any kind – is a great example of something that rallies people together in the spirit of good will and high expectation for the future.  I’ll gladly toast to that over sitting in a corner with everyone and bemoaning the times.  One of the morning shows quoted Winston Churchill’s comment on the 1947 wedding announcement of Elizabeth and Philip, when he said that the event would be “a flash of color on the hard road we have to travel.”  And things were a lot bleaker back then.

    It costs British citizens practically squat today to maintain the monarchy and its charity, cause awareness, and good will work more than covers the difference.  Not to mention its tourism draw.  I personally think it’s a wonderfully uplifting experience to immerse oneself for a few days in a joyous event like this which the royal couple is truly sharing with all the world.

    I guess I’d disagree. I never thought that “Morning Joe” was trying to rain on anybody’s parade ... I just thought that they had their eye on the bigger picture and were placing the event in a larger context. Which is what I want from my news programs.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 2, 2011

    I just want to thank all of you for your kind emails last Friday and over the weekend, commenting on my short piece about the passing of my father-in-law. They meant much to Mrs. Content Guy and me, and yet again are proof that the MNB community is far more than just an audience of readers. You are special.

    I won’t post them all, but thought it was worth taking note of this one, because it makes a broader point:

    I am sorry to hear about your father-in-law passing. Your story has prompted me to plan a trip to my in-laws home next weekend, and my own parents the following week. Thank you for being open and sharing your loss. There is nothing like a death to make us appreciate life and those we love.

    You’re not alone. I make sure that I have lunch alone with my dad 8-10 times a year, and last Friday I called him to set up a lunch date for this coming Thursday.

    We all have to grab the moments when we can. Hopefully, one family’s loss can be other families’ gains. I’m glad MNB could be a small part of that.
    KC's View: