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    Published on: June 27, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    It isn’t exactly Sir Terry Leahy vs. Donald Trump. But it’s close.

    In the UK, the Daily Mail over the weekend reported that the former Tesco CEO criticized the way that the media portrays business, especially in shows like “The Apprentice,” as not reflecting the challenges and opportunities of the real world.

    “It's not a good reflection of what's needed for success in business,” Leahy said. “Success in business is about good manners, the ability to work in a team, to motivate others, to give more in than you take out, about integrity...”

    According to the story, Leahy “called on businesses to engage with schools and universities to help raise standards and teach youngsters 'emotional intelligence'  to use in the workplace. He said he wanted schools to celebrate business and end the growing belief that 'people who go into business and entrepreneurship are selfish people doing it for themselves’.”

    Now, the version of “The Apprentice” that Leahy was referring to is not the US edition that features the bombastic real estate executive; he was specifically talking about the UK version, which features Sir Alan Sugar, and which seems to be a little less sensationalistic than the American original.

    Still, Leahy was making a good point - and it is about time that someone point out that so-called “reality shows” like “The Apprentice” have very little to do with reality, and often have little to do with the way business is conducted on a day-to-day basis. (Unless you happen to be working for a narcissistic, egomaniacal employer who increasingly seems to fit the description, “big hat, no saddle.”)

    Success in business is about good manners, the ability to work in a team, to motivate others, to give more in than you take out, about integrity...

    Now there’s an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Meredith Corp. “is adding two food magazines as it expands into a category the company says is ripe for targeting cost-conscious consumers.

    “Meredith said it acquired EatingWell Media Group, which publishes the bimonthly magazine EatingWell, and this week is starting Recipe.com, which will consist initially of a quarterly magazine, a website and other digital assets ... The centerpiece of Recipe.com is a website with more than 20,000 recipes that link customers to store and manufacturer coupons. The magazine, which makes its debut Tuesday, will start with 350,000 copies distributed on newsstands.”

    Terms of the Eating Well deal were not disclosed.

    According to the story, “The initiative is a relatively low-risk bet for Meredith, whose existing portfolio of magazines already devotes more space to food than any other topic. The Des Moines, Iowa, company's existing food titles will supply the bulk of the content for the new property. Meredith executives said the company's niche of 75 million, mostly middle-income women are underserved by a genre that industrywide tends to focus on high-end food and celebrity chefs.”
    KC's View:
    These are smart moves, and reflective of a greater truth taking place in the marketplace - that people want to both eat well and save money where they can. Sometimes they’ll want to do both in the same shopping trip, and sometimes they’ll be thinking more about one priority than the other. But at least for the immediate future, I suspect, this is the center-of-the-target consumer for many retailers. And Meredith is doing a good job of defining him/her.

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    USA Today has an interview with Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, in which he addresses the competition between his company and Walmart. Some excerpts...

    • “On any like or similar item to our primary competitors in the marketplace — typically, Walmart is the price leader — we are going to be priced very competitively with them in stores that are within local markets.

    “We have approximately 30,000 items in our store that we shop on a very regular basis in the marketplace. We're constantly shopping Walmart and our other competitors.

    Some (customers) are very value-focused, some are feature- and product attribute-focused, and some are quality focused. We have to deliver the portfolio of goods and services that resonate with a broad consumer base. We look to be price competitive on those non-discretionary items that our guests expect to be priced right —100-ounce liquid Tide, food items, those kinds of commodities. The price of entry is to be competitive on those kinds of items.”

    • “Walmart would be the one competitor that competes broadly in the same kinds of categories that we have. When we talk about apparel, accessories and home, we would also look at Macy's, J.C. Penney and Kohl's as our primary competitors. When we look at what we're trying to deliver in terms of groceries, we would look at Walmart, Safeway, Kroger and other national chains. As we look at our health and wellness and pharmaceuticals, we're focused on CVS and Walgreens.”

    • “Walmart is a very formidable competitor, and I think it's appropriate to compare Walmart and Target across the enterprise. But we believe our retail experience all in is unlike any other competitor's. It's not a zero-sum game between us and Walmart. They can gain share and Target can gain share and other retailers can donate share. We often see that those are the dynamics within the marketplace. Walmart and Target are gaining share, and independent or other retailers are the share donators. We aspire to be America's favorite store to shop.”
    KC's View:
    And yet, there have been reports that Target has been so focused on competing with Walmart on price that it has begun to lose some of its cheap-chic appeal. It will be a tough line to walk... though it actually sort of falls into the “eating well/saving money” model defined by meredith in our story above.

    The question is whether Target can pull it off long-term.

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    Washington State-based winemaker Hogue Cellars has announced that based on research, it will “move 100 percent of its production - which includes its premium-tier Genesis and Reserve wines - to screwcap closures with Saranex liners. By the 2009 vintage, all wines in The Hogue Cellars portfolio will be under this closure type.”

    According to the research, which took place over a five-year period, screw top wine bottles using Saranex-lined screwcaps “were proven to hold fruit flavors and aromas without significant reductive character compared to natural cork.”

    "Until now, acceptable wine aging standards have been defined by the cork closure," said Coman Dinn, Hogue Cellars’ director of winemaking. "However, this study shows that wines aged under the right screwcap closure over five years were better preserved, aged well and were deemed the highest quality ... "Our studies prove that high quality white and red wines can be sealed and preserved with screwcaps and we believe that our extensive research and proven results will help to positively shift the perception of screwcap closures with consumers."
    KC's View:
    As much as I lament the move away from corks as indicative of the death of romance, I have to admit that I’ve begun paying very little attention to what kind of top my wine bottles have. If the wine is good, that’s what I’m paying for.

    So, when it comes to proponents of screwtops, I guess the mission to some extent has been accomplished.

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    The Wall Street Journal reports that “U.S. cattle prices soared this week as the number of steers and heifers being fattened for slaughter fell, a sign of shrinking supplies and higher beef prices ahead ... Cattle prices have climbed more than 4% over the past week, driven by strong wholesale prices - those paid by grocery-store chains and restaurants - and data foreshadowing a decline in the number of cattle available to packers, who butcher and ship cuts to stores.”

    However, the Journal writes, “the question remains how consumers will respond as cattle supplies decline and retail prices continue to climb. The USDA estimates the average retail price for beef already has risen 9.1% in the last year to $4.43 a pound.”
    KC's View:
    Seems like an easy question to answer. We’ll eat less meat and cheaper cuts.

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    MarketWatch reports that Tesco “became the first U.K. retailer to cut its fuel prices Friday, prompting other retailers to follow suit after wholesale oil prices dropped after the release of oil reserves by oil consuming countries, the Daily Telegraph reports over the weekend.

    “Tesco took three pence off the price of a liter of petrol and diesel after oil prices fell following the opening of emergency reserves by the International Energy Agency.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    The New York Times yesterday had an interview with John W. Rowe, chairman/CEO of Exelon Corp., who made a couple of interesting observations about leadership...

    Action is everything... One (key lesson) is how important action is - to always be looking for something to do that moves the ball. Don’t sit still. My aphorism for it is, better a moving turkey than a sitting duck. If you’re just standing still, whatever you’re doing is going to get shot apart. I also learned that you have to act on the best information you have, and to not wait for the nonexistent perfect level of information.”

    On what he looks for in job interviews... “I’d probably ask them if they’d seen the old Gregory Peck movie of Moby-Dick where the Quaker sea captain says to Ishmael, ‘Are you man enough to pitch a harpoon down a live whale’s throat and jump after it?’

    “That’s probably what I’d ask. And Ishmael of course gives the perfect answer. He says, ‘Well, I am, sir, if it be absolutely indispensable that I do so.’”

    Rowe adds, “I want people who take responsibility seriously. Responsibility’s a very big word to me. I know too many people who think that smooth is a substitute for deep, and just don’t see their work as responsibility. And I like people who don’t feel good if they haven’t done a job well.”
    KC's View:
    I love that...Too many people think that smooth is a substitute for deep.

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    USA Today reported over the weekend that Cheerios is celebrating its 70th birthday this year, and that seven decades after it was launched, it remains the nation’s most popular cereal brand, with one of eight boxes of cereal sold in the US bearing that brand name. Of course, there are a lot more varieties now than there were 70 years ago - Honey Nut (which began outselling the original in 1979), Multi Grain and Chocolate, among others - but the General Mills product remains a perennial favorite on America’s breakfast tables.

    • Continuing the morning’s breakfast theme, Kellogg’s is out with a survey saying that while 54 percent of people would like to eat breakfast each day, only 34 percent of Americans actually do.

    The survey also says that 89 percent of moms want their kids to eat breakfast, but that only 40 percent say that their kids actually eat what generally is described as “the most important meal of the day.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    The Associated Press reports on the big hit at this year’s San Diego County Fair - deep fried Kool-Aid, made by a concession owner named “Chicken Charlie” Boghosian, who specializes in finding new things to fry.

    This year it is Kool-Aid: “He uses flour, water and Kool-Aid powder to make a batter that scoops into little balls that he then plops into hot oil. Boghosian says he can't go into more specifics because he has plans to come out with a cookbook that will explain it all.

    “He said he has fried up about 500 pounds of Kool-Aid powder so far.”

    Among the other concoctions developed by Boghosian: “Deep-fried offerings such as Klondike bars, Girl Scout cookies, Twinkies, avocados and the ultimate cholesterol-builder: A Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich. Yes, it's two deep-fried doughnuts with a chicken breast squashed between them ... Boghosian, who weighs about 300 pounds, said he has sold 100,000 fried Klondike bars last year and 2 million fried Oreo cookies over the past decade. But the $5.95 fried Kool-Aid is quickly becoming his top seller.”
    KC's View:
    I think I’m going to be sick. Just reading this makes my stomach churn.

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    • Sunflower Farmers Market announced that it is launching a new mobile shopping application, compatible with iPhones and Android phones, that “ allows shoppers to view circular specials, in-store specials, recipes, and mobile offers based on this week’s deals from their mobile smartphone.”

    The new application for the 34-store Sunflower is driven by Grocery Shopping Network.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    • The Detroit News reports that Whole Foods has held a second community meeting about possibly opening a store in the Motor City.

    “While the organic and natural foods grocery company has emphasized that it has not made a decision about whether to open a store here, one of its representatives today went to great lengths to talk about the merits and philosophy of the upscale chain,” the News writes. “The company is emphasizing that its stores create jobs with benefits, use local foods and reach out to the community.

    “‘If we ever get to the spot that we choose a location in Detroit, we want to emphasize how much interest and care you all think about a store here,’ said Red Elk Banks, director of operations in Michigan and Indiana for Whole Foods.”

    • The Toronto Star reports that “T&T Supermarket, Canada’s largest Asian grocery store chain, has shut down its website after a cyberattack that may have exposed the personal information of 58,000 people.”

    According to the story, “T&T, which is owned by Loblaws, says affected customers could have had their user names, passwords, email addresses, cellphone numbers, street addresses as well as their names compromised.

    “But the company says it does not collect credit card information, driver’s licenses, birth dates or social insurance numbers through its website. T&T said it temporarily suspended its website and has brought in security experts to conduct an investigation.”

    Reuters reports that “Coca-Cola Co plans to raise prices on its soft drinks by 3 to 4 percent in July, in addition to a 2 percent increase earlier this year, a company spokesman said on Friday.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    • Salt Lake City-based Associated Food Stores announced over the weekend that Dick King, the company’s senior vice president, is retiring.

    King joined Associated after a three-decade-long career at Albertsons, which culminated his being the company’s president/CEO. He retired from Albertsons in 1999.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    Peter Falk, who played television’s Lt. Columbo on and off from from 1968 to 2003 and turned the rumpled but perceptive and dogged homicide detective into an immortal TV character, died late last week after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He was 83, and had a long career that included two Oscar nominations, five Emmy Awards, two independent films directed by John Cassavetes, and theatrical appearances in plays written by such divergent talents as Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, and Paddy Chayefsky.
    KC's View:
    Sure, we all know idiosyncratic detective characters from recent shows such as “CSI,” “Monk,” and “The Mentalist,” to name just a few. But in so many ways, they all start with “Columbo” and a title character that, by the way, originally was conceived as a role for Bing Crosby. And with Peter Falk, who created an indelible portrait of a regular guy who happened to be as smart as Sherlock Holmes, and who proved with every episode that eventually the rich, famous and powerful would get what was coming to them, and that justice would be served by an unassuming guy with one eye, in a tattered raincoat and a half-smoked cigar.

    It should be noted that dozens of actors have played Sherlock Holmes. But it is a pretty good bet that nobody else will ever play Lt. Columbo.

    Published on: June 27, 2011

    More email on the subject of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which has been reintroduced this year in the US Congress in the wake of the Supreme Court decision decertifying a class action gender discrimination suit against Walmart.

    One of the things I wrote last week to people objecting to the ERA was:

    I’m okay with a 10-word Constitutional amendment:

    “No discrimination against anybody. Ever. For any reason. No exceptions.”

    Just to make sure everybody gets it.


    MNB user Jeff Beliveau wrote:

    I always enjoy your thoughtful commentary, but I’m not sure you REALLY want your proposed amendment of “No discrimination against anybody. Ever. For any reason. No exceptions.” Think of what that would end:

    • Senior citizen movie discounts - price discrimination based on age.

    • Kids Eat Free On Tuesdays! and similar promotions – again price discrimination based on age.

    • Discounts to uniformed military – discrimination based on military service.

    • Married, Filing Jointly – a tax advantage rooted in discrimination based on marital status.

    • Ladies Night promotions – gender discrimination (a hot topic, but recently declared legal at the Federal level by the 2nd Court of Appeals).

    • Senior citizen only housing – no kids meaning discrimination based on...well, okay, you get the point by now.

    In reality these were all instituted for “good reason”, some market driven (seniors have less disposable income, so give ‘em a break), some on public policy initiatives deemed to be “good”. But all would be banned due to “For any reason”.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    So does that mean we can't refuse to hire people who have body piercings?  "For any reason, no exceptions?"  What about a person with felony theft convictions applying for a bank teller job?  Child sex offender for a preschool?

    I get your point.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Erma Bombeck has always been one of my favorite writers and people.  She was a money making machine who wore her heart on her sleeve.  She loved being a mother, wife, daughter, and uber-successful writer.  When the ERA amendment was doing its rounds of the states, Erma took a year’s leave from her extremely lucrative speaking tour and went on a national speaking tour promoting passage of the amendment.  I don’t remember the average number of performances she would give in a year promoting her books, but they were all 5 figures.  She took that year instead and toured the US speaking for/promoting passage of the ERA amendment.

    When it failed, I recall reading that she had never felt more totally down in her life.  She had really put herself into the battle, left it all there, and was terribly saddened when it didn’t pass.  One of the groups that, on whole, had truly disappointed her as to non-support was younger females.  She felt that they did not comprehend how far women had already come—i.e. they did not view this as a moving target.  One of her comments was, “ they can’t remember a time when an entire family turned out the lights and went to bed because the father was tired”.

    So, whenever the subject of this amendment comes up, I always think of Erma Bombeck.  My question would be:  if discrimination against all could be fixed w/an amendment so easily, then what’s the harm in just doing it?


    MNB user Lori Burns wrote:

    If the phrase “All Men are created equal” in the constitution stands for everyone (even women) why did women have to fight for the right to vote? If we were all equal in the eyes of the founders, I think we would have all had the same rights. Pass the amendment already. Or the short version that you proposed would work for me as well!

    MNB user David Livingston chimed in:

    I think all of this discrimination talk is nonsense.  I suggest reading Warren Farrell's book "The Myth of Male Power."  Warren Farrell is the only man elected to the board of directors of the NYC chapter of the National Organization for Women.

    The way I see it at Walmart is women have been systematically undercutting men on wages to where they now control nearly 70% of the employment positions at Walmart.  Many women do choose to opt into management.  However like many jobs that are dangerous, long hours, the kind that that you away from your family more than you would like, women tend not to pursue those jobs.  One thing I have learned about people is if they want a job or position bad enough they figure out a way to get it and its usually out of court.  I have a gut feeling if one of those Walmart whiners applied for a job with you, that you would not hire them either for the same reason Walmart didn't promote them - plain and simple, they are whiners and complainers and nobody likes them.  Just the fact that they were working for Walmart at store level in the first place indicates that they are basically unemployable.

    Nearly all of my support staff is women.  They work as hard and as smart as men but they have undercut their male counterparts in the wages they have offered to work for.  I have no choice but to hire them and discriminate against the men.  My accountant charges $50 and hour and her male counterpart wants $65.  My attorney charges $175 and hour and the male in her office charges $225.  My IT person charges $50 and hour and her male counterparts want $75.  My last real estate deal my female agent agreed to drop her commission to 4% and a cash kickback,  while the males acted insulted and wanted to stick with 6%.  My housekeeper charges $25 an hour and I can't find a male servant at any price if I tried.  I go down to the Mexican barber shop where pretty and talented women will cut your hair for $10.  Its a 45 minute process that includes a shave and shoulder massage.  They have undercut all the men hair stylists and are busy all the time.  Even my female doctor will take my insurance which only pays Medicaid rates.  Her male partners in the practice won't accept Medicaid patients or my insurance because they can't make enough money.  My female dental hygienist cleans my teeth for free if I will take her out to dinner afterward.  To find a male hygienist I'd probably have to drive to Chicago.

    KC, your daughters shouldn't need any kind of ERA laws to keep them from being discriminated.  That's for losers and I'm sure your daughters would never fall into that category.  They will excel because they are competitive and intelligent.


    I don’t even know where to start on this one...

    I’m not sure I’ve ever run into the argument before that women are in fact dominating the marketplace by undercutting men on wages and benefits ... and that this is the real reason that women don’t get paid the same as men for the same jobs.

    It is an innovative argument. But somehow, I suspect that it only seems logical to people with testicles.

    But only, I hasten to add, some people with testicles.

    The problem with your argument isn’t that it is wrong for people to undercut other people on wages or benefits and get work that might not be available to them otherwise, but that you turn a competitive tactic into an issue of gender. It is telling, I think, that you make a point of having a female accountant, attorney, barber and dental hygienist ... and that in each case you pay them less than a man asks for. Are these women being competitive in a tough marketplace? Are they being taken advantage of? Or do they feel this is the only at to succeed in a man’s world? (Or at least your world?)

    I am, to be honest, a little taken aback by the objectification of women in your email. Ten bucks for a haircut, shave and shoulder massage from someone you clearly describe as a Mexican woman? I don’t know about anyone else in the MNB community, but I’m a little weirded out by this.

    Finally...If my daughter becomes a dental hygienist and then comes home and and tells me that she’s begun trading free cleanings for a dinner out, I’m going to question her sanity. And choice of careers. And maybe her self-respect quotient.

    Maybe that’s just me. But if I did any of the things that you describe and then talked about them in the way you do, I’d feel like I was exploiting people. (BTW...I have a woman accountant, and I pay her more than I paid my last accountant, who was a guy. It has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with the fact that I like her work, and she is a pleasure to deal with.)
    KC's View: