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    Published on: May 23, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    I’m writing this, and you’re reading this, so the Rapture did not happen on Saturday, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people believed that Judgement Day was scheduled for May 21. They had been influenced in that belief by the millions of dollars spent by the Family Radio company, which has used the airwaves, billboards and a growing army of believers to spread the word that the apocalypse was at hand.

    It didn’t happen.

    Not surprisingly, some folks are disappointed, especially those who had quit jobs, abandoned relationships and otherwise put their lives on hold to prepare for Judgement Day.

    Others are bewildered, even mystified.

    There were anecdotes like this one, from the Los Angeles Times: “Keith Bauer, a 38-year-old tractor-trailer driver from Westminster, Md., took last week off from work, packed his wife, young son and a relative in their SUV and crossed the country.

    “If it was his last week on Earth, he wanted to see parts of it he'd always heard about but missed, such as the Grand Canyon. With maxed-out credit cards and a growing mountain of bills, he said, the rapture would have been a relief.”

    Some folks are angry. Again, from the LA Times: “Family Radio's AM station in Sacramento had been ‘severely vandalized’ ... with air conditioning units yanked out and $25,000 worth of copper stripped from the equipment.”

    Harold Camping, the civil engineer and minister who was the chief prophet of doom via the Family Radio media empire, is said to be in seclusion, mystified by the turn of events. Or the lack of turn of events.

    The thing is, there is a business lesson in all this. (Not to mention a life lesson.)

    You have to be careful who you follow. And you have to keep your eye on the bigger picture.

    In this case, it is startling to read that people who believed that Judgement Day would result in their being among the “saved” were - in some cases, not all - people who would do things like quit their jobs, pile up credit card debt, and not pay attention to the basic requirements of everyday living. People who would, apparently, act out their disappointment with acts of vandalism. People would view the Rapture as a “relief” from life.

    At the end of the day, it seems to me, you have to behave - in life and in the workplace - as if how you conduct yourself matters. As if living up to responsibilities matters. At the end of the day, you have to behave as if it doesn’t matter when End of Days will come. Eyes wide open, not eyes shut and hoping for the end.

    It’s like Andy Dufresne says in The Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    In the Uk, the Independent reports that Walmart plans to install a team in London charged with studying potential mergers and acquisitions that could help the retailer expand in continental Europe. The story says that Walmart is looking for office space near Heathrow Airport that will accommodate up to 55 people that will make up the European expansion team.

    Kevin Gardner, a Walmart spokesman, is quoted as saying that the story is “speculation dressed up as fact.”
    KC's View:
    Which is not exactly the same thing as an outright repudiation of the story.

    During the Watergate days, Washington Post editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee used to call this a “non-denial denial.”

    The fact is that US same-store sales are stagnant, and Walmart knows that it has to keep growing ... and so it will be looking at every possibility. Europe has presented its share of challenges to Walmart - think Germany - but that doesn’t mean the Bentonville Behemoth is going to stop trying.

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    Furniture Today reports that Kroger is adding Bombay Company “furniture, accents and gifts” to 180 of its Marketplace-format stores carrying general merchandise, with some of the stores creating branded shops dedicated to the line.

    The Kroger banners carrying the Bombay products include Dillons Marketplace, Fred Meyer, Fry's Marketplace, King Soopers, Kroger Marketplace and Smith's Marketplace.

    Bombay positions itself as standing for “value luxury and time-tested quality," according to the announcement. The items being carried by Kroger will range in price from $7 to $400.
    KC's View:
    Brief story.

    One of the first Kroger Marketplace stores I ever saw was in Ohio, when we brought our son out to college there. My then-12-year-old daughter was fascinated; she’d never seen a supermarket that big before.

    Earlier this month, we went out to Ohio for graduation. And one of her first questions was, “Can we go to Kroger?”

    True story.

    That format may not be right for everyone, but for some folks, it captures their imaginations.

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    USA Today has a column by Steve Strauss in which he looks at the importance of operating businesses that have values beyond just making money.

    Some excerpts:

    • “Businesses are run by people, people have values that are important to them, and those values are reflected in those businesses.”

    • “It's about values, priorities. As an employer, you can be a jerk slave-driver who drives people hard, fires them on a whim, and leads through intimidation, or you can be one that cultivates loyalty, dedication, and excellence by treating people with respect, even kindness.

    • “Every year, Fortune magazine lists the 100 Best Companies to work for. Inevitably, the best of the best live their values. That, in fact, is why they are the best. At Edward Jones Investments, a woman tells the story of how, when adopting a new child as a single mom, the company gave her extra time off, allowed her to bring her baby to work, and even offered an adoption reimbursement plan. That's walking the walk.”

    • “As a business partner, there are all sorts of ways you can treat your colleagues and associates. If making a buck is your bottom line, you will make different choices than, say, if building a brand or creating mutual value is your priority.”

    • “Look, we all love profit, but the best companies prove that you stand a better chance of making more money over the long haul if you run your business the right way, in a way that exemplifies what you think is important.

    “Now, it is true that not a few entrepreneurs think that having values and running a business are mutually exclusive, that running a business with distinct values is nice in theory but tough to do in practice. I submit that the opposite is usually true. Running your business based on integrity, on the values you deem important, inspires people, inspires you, evokes respect, and sets your business apart. It actually creates business.”
    KC's View:
    Unfortunately, the news lately has been too much about leaders - in business and government - who seem to have no clue about ethical and values-driven behavior. In one case, the behavior resulted in an attempt to flee the country and an extended visit to Riker’s Island. In the other, the result has been a fair amount of public humiliation and some business reversals (at least for the short term).

    Much of what this column says ought to be self-evident. But it ain’t.

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    The Los Angeles Times reports on how Santa Monica Place mall in California, which was redesigned, renovated and reopened last year as an open-air shopping center, is now using a new “gourmet bazaar” to attract customers.

    According to the story, “The roughly 15,000-square-foot space, reminiscent of San Francisco's Ferry Building, opened Friday and features cured meats, cheeses, freshly baked breads and seasonal produce. Merchants include an organic ice cream shop, casual trattoria, florist and artisanal chocolatier. There's also a cooking school.

    “Santa Monica Place, adjacent to the Third Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica, was already unique in its heavy emphasis on food — its entire third floor is dedicated to dining options, including an indoor-outdoor food court and six restaurants.”

    The gourmet bazaar is seen as a formalized reflection of and expansion on Santa Monica’s popular weekly farmer’s market, “a seven-day-a-week experience that would be part of the slow food movement, part of the organic food movement."
    KC's View:
    This may be high-end, but it sounds fascinating. And any market that uses the San Francisco Ferry Building as a role model has a head start - that facility has turned into a must-visit for anyone going to San Francisco.

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    USA Today reports that “Apple on Sunday unveiled a new look to its stores worldwide, using dedicated iPads by all its products as sales tools for comparison shopping and customer assistance ... A new in-store app on the iPad is there to answer questions from customers and keep them in the store - instead of leaving to research online at home.”

    “Apple executives are ‘keeping ahead of their competition by running their retail business the same way they build their devices, using technology and software to deliver the ultimate experience,’ says Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with researcher Gartner.”
    KC's View:
    Love this idea ... because it is yet another reflection of how information-driven retailing is gaining traction.

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    The Associated Press reports that the US Department of Labor has developed a new smartphone application that allows employees to “calculate regular work hours, break time and overtime pay to create their own wage records.

    “Department officials say the information could prove valuable in a dispute over pay or during a government investigation when an employer has failed to keep accurate records.”

    According to the story, some employers are worried that use of the application “could encourage even more wage and hour lawsuits.”
    KC's View:
    One would hope that if records are kept accurately, there would be fewer lawsuits. Information is supposed to be the great equalizers.

    Published on: May 23, 2011 reports that Tesco-owned Dunnhumby is acquiring BzzAgent, a website that recruits “BzzAgents – people who compete to be first in line to try free or discounted products. The more they chat about those products online, the more likely they are to get more stuff.” There are some 800,000 BzzAgents on the company’s roster.
    KC's View:
    One can only imagine how DunnHumby - which is best in the business when it comes to tracking shopper data and finding ways to use it - will be able to use this kind of additional capabilities. And how it will help Dunnhumby make its retailers in various venues even more ambitious and aggressive.

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    • Kroger announced that a contract agreement reached with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) covering some 2,400 employees working for its various banners in northeastern Indiana has been ratified.

    "We are grateful for our associates' service to our customers," said Bob Moeder, Kroger Central Division president. "Kroger and UFCW reached a good agreement that provides wage increases, affordable quality health care and a stable pension for our associates and their families."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart announced that “two senior vice presidents at its China operations resigned for personal reasons ... Roland Lawrence, who also served as chief financial officer in China, and Rob Cissell, also chief operating officer, left the company to ‘seek new development opportunities’.” Replacements have not been named.

    • The Atlanta Constitution reports that Coca-Cola Co. has named Bea Perez, the company’s chief marketing officer for North America, to be its chief sustainability officer in a new global Office of Sustainability, responsible for Coca-Cola's sustainability initiatives in packaging and recycling, water, climate protection and community.

    Advertising Age reports on the departure of two Anheuser-Busch executives, which it suggests is yet another consequence of the 2008 acquisition of the company by Belgium-based InBev.

    According to the story, “Gone are Dennis Galati, VP-creative development, and Eduardo Pereda, senior director for multicultural marketing. Mr. Galati had a close relationship with ad agencies, serving as a key liaison for creative work.”

    Replacements have not yet been named.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 23, 2011

    Got the following email from Bob Hermanns, who is running the Food Industry Programs at the University of Southern California (USC) is response to the dialogue on MNB about what I believe is the devaluing of higher education in America:

    Your Thursday FaceTime article brought shivers to my spine; we as an industry, and a nation, need intelligent, articulate, educated leaders.  In 1958 a group of food industry executives in California realized this need and established the Food Industry Program at the University of Southern California (USC) to educate future leaders of the industry. In its 53 year history many of the prominent leaders of retail, wholesale and CPG firms are among the 1,700 + people who have graduated from this program. In addition to USC, a number of other Universities across the country offer food industry specific curriculum.

    In 2000 a need to develop programs to reach and contribute to the education of industry associates in stores, distribution centers, CPG merchandisers and many other dedicated employees of the industry was developed at one community college in Cerritos California. Open to any U.S. citizen 18 years or older, the “Retail Management Certificate Program” is a flexible, affordable and easily accessible option to those in our industry who never had the opportunity for advanced education. Initiated and endorsed by the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC), thousands of industry employees have and are currently enrolled in the 10 class program at over 160 community college locations in 10 states.  The program is also available on line, making it virtually available to anyone in the US.

    If we do not engage and communicate the myriad of educational options to our employees, we are missing an enormous opportunity to impact the future success of the food industry. 

    To be complacent about education in our industry is a tragic mistake…I applaud and encourage you and others in the media and press to take every occasion offered to make a difference!

    Just FYI...I was privileged to spend a morning with a group of executives at USC earlier this year, and I was impressed not just by the intelligence and dedication, but also by the companies that thought it was important enough to send people there.

    Much of “OffBeat” on Friday was dedicated to considering the possibility of a weekend Rapture, and to questioning the whole nature of belief and unbelief.

    To which MNB user Gary Harris responded:

    As these things have come up from time to time over the past decades, I’ve always gone back to an early discussion I had with someone who was very excited about the possibility of the second coming being imminent. All I could ask was ‘Why?’ What does it matter? If we knew the end was coming in a few days, what would we do differently? What would we change? If there are some things we’d change, why not change them anyway? Because, according to Scripture, we really don’t know when the end might come. It might interrupt my lunch in a few minutes or wait several millennia.

    What matters more is, How are we supposed to live? Are we becoming the people we’ve each been called to be? Are we using our unique talents to make the world a better place? If Jesus shows this weekend, that’s what I hope he finds me doing. And if he doesn’t, I’ll be doing it anyway.

    Can I get an “Amen”?

    And MNB user John R. Hurguy wrote:

    Your comments in today’s Offbeat section regarding that you keep seeing signs on the road indicating that Saturday, May 21, is Judgment Day is another “perfect” example of why I enjoy MNB.  One never knows what they’re going to read each and every day.  It’s like going to your favorite diner, whether you’re hungry or not, just to see what the blue plate special is for the day.   Thanks…keep up the great work.

    Amen. And thanks.
    KC's View: