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    Published on: August 12, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Published reports this morning say that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he is considering a ban on the use of social networking technologies and messaging services as the government there tries to quell violent unrest and rioting that have been taking place there.

    "Free flow of information can be used for good, but it can also be used for ill," Cameron has said. "When people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them."

    Which was ironic because it wasn’t that long ago that dictators like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were being criticized for the same thing, as they looked to stop freedom-seeking citizens from using things like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with each other.

    Not to draw any sort of moral equivalency between the English and Egyptian governments, nor to make any sort of political statement, but this would seem to be an approach that will only inflame protestors, because it ignores the fact that these technologies are almost as important to the people using them as their arms and legs.

    It is a tough reality, but an inescapable one.

    Now, Cameron has not made a final decision about whether to try to block such communications, and from all reports the UK government is still trying to figure out what is feasible. And this morning, the rioting seems to have subsided, at least for the time being. And so it may not happen.

    But it is a business lesson as well as a political one. These technologies cannot be denied, no matter how much you try. Engagement with them is the only option.

    It is a tough reality, but an inescapable one. It is life.

    And, as Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) says in Jurassic Park, “If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, expands to new territory, and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously ... Life finds a way.”

    Which is something about which we should always keep our eyes open.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    Marketing Daily reports that “according to consumer research firm Scarborough Research, coupon usage for household items such as groceries is up 24% since 2006. And although more than a fifth (22%) of these coupon users are using digital media such as email, text messaging and the Internet to get coupons, the primary channels continue to be Sunday newspaper inserts (49%), in-store coupons (43%), direct mailings (33%) and in-store circulars (26%).”
    KC's View:
    I have to believe that the people using these coupons represent an aging customer base that is, in the long run, unsustainable. In addition, there is the simple fact that newspaper reading is declining, especially among young people. And the pressures of the recession also may have caused a blip in favor of FSI usage.

    I believe that the next generation of consumers will respond to targeted, user-friendly discounts delivered via their smart phones, discounts that are keyed to their shopping behavior and needs - not random and largely useless pieces of paper that fall out of the newspaper when you pick it up.

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that a new study by Mid-America Real Estate Corp. reveals that “Chicago’s food deserts are getting more aisles of groceries, with square footage increasing 11% over the past two years. But these areas remain underserved,” the study says.

    According to the story, “Mid-America’s study, which surveyed the entire Chicago area’s grocery scene, also found that while the number of food retailers in the city and surrounding suburbs increased 8.8% since 2009, the jump was largely due to discount and premium-priced players rather than traditional grocers.”

    And, Crain’s goes on: “Discount stores ... significantly increased their presence, tacking on 19 stores for a 28% jump in overall square footage. The expansion was led by Batavia-based Aldi Inc., which opened six stores and planned to open three more in 2011, and Save-a-Lot of Earth City, Mo., which added four locations with plans for another five this year. In addition, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s plans a slew of new, smaller-format stores that stock mostly food.

    “The number of full-service grocers such as Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco, meanwhile, lost ground, posting six fewer stores and 2.5% less square footage this year vs. 2009.”
    KC's View:
    Increasingly, Chicago looks like it is going to be a hotbed of supermarket competition over the next few years. It is going to be fun to watch and write about...

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    The New York Times reports this morning that Zabar’s, the legendary Upper West Side grocery store, has changed the name of its lobster salad to “Seafare Salad.”

    Why?

    Well, for one thing, it doesn’t have any lobster in it. Never has, at least not for the past 15 years. Just wild freshwater crawfish, mayonnaise, celery, salt and sugar.

    The recipe came to light when a New Orleans reporter vacationing in New York stopped at Zabar’s for lobster salad on a bagel - but realized, upon close visual inspection, that there was no lobster.

    The store’s 83-year-old co-owner, Saul Zabar, says that crawfish was used because it often is referred to as a kind of lobster. (It isn’t.) And he says it wasn’t a deliberate misrepresentation, and that he has received few complaints over the years. (To be fair, the ingredients are on the label.)

    But Zabar’s now has changed the name because it was pressed to be accurate by the Maine Lobster Council, which read a piece written by the New Orleans reporter.
    KC's View:
    Score one for transparency.

    I know I’m getting old and cynical, but I don’t believe for a second that this wasn’t deliberate.

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Zediva - an online DVD rental service that challenged traditional business models - has suspended operations because of a copyright infringement lawsuit.

    According to the story, “Zediva, which launched in March, bought new DVD movies when they were released to the home market, then placed them in a bank of Web connected DVD players. Customers would then rent and playback the DVD over the Internet.

    “Company officials believed they were protected under previous copyright rulings. But members of the Motion Picture Association of America sued Zediva claiming the company was illegally streaming movies without obtaining licenses from the movie studios.”

    In a letter to Zediva users this week, the company wrote:

    Dear Zediva Member,

    You may have heard by now that we're having to lay off our DVD-changing monkeys... 🙂

    A couple of years ago we came up with an idea for the next generation of DVD rentals. It seemed to us logical and evolutionary that if a customer was able to rent and play a DVD in his home, there should be no reason why he or she could not do that from the Internet cloud. After all, you can do that with a DVR, so why not with a DVD player?

    Well, it turns out to have been a little more complicated than that ...

    We are suspending Zediva's operations to comply with an order by the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

    While we hope to be back online soon, we don't know when (or whether) that will happen. We are disappointed by this turn of events, and that we are not permitted to serve you.

    We are quite aware that some of you have unused credits with us and appreciate your patience as we figure out our next steps. Stay tuned for more information via email.

    Thank you again for your great support. It has been a blast serving you.

    KC's View:
    Listen, I have no idea whether what Zediva was doing was legal.

    And ultimately, I’ve heard plenty of stories from people who had trouble with the Zediva service.

    But I respect the effort to change the model ... to play the game a different way.

    When I first wrote about Zediva in an Eye-Opener last March, I started the story this way:

    There is a scene in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” in which Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow defeats Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in a sword fight, and Turner says, “You;’d never beat me in a fair fight.”

    To which Captain Jack responds, “Hardly an incentive for me to fight fair.”


    I still feel that way.

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    Fox News reports that “the Walmart Foundation will spend $3 million on job training programs in the District of Columbia over a three-year period. Walmart is trying to win city permission to build four 80,000-square-foot stores in the city.

    “The training programs would concentrate on adult literacy, customer service skills, and basic information about retailing. Participants -- as many as 2,000 city residents -- would be steered toward entry-level jobs at Walmart and elsewhere.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    • In the UK, the Guardian reports that Tesco plans to take legal action against the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), challenging the panel’s finding that it was one of several retailers that was guilty of coordinating cheese or milk prices. The OFT found that a number of supermarkets - including Sainsbury and Walmart-owned Asda Group - indirectly exchanged retail price plans through the dairy processors’ information exchanges in 2002 and 2003.

    Tesco was fined the equivalent of $16 million (US) by OFT, and the retailer now says it will go to court to fight that fine.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    • The San Francisco Business Times reports that Safeway “has begun a fight with paid petition-signature gatherers who set up shop outside its stores,” and in some cases is seeking court injunctions.

    “The grocery giant says the gatherers fail to abide by its policies and block entrances, harassing customers,” the story says, while the signature gatherers say that Safeway is trying to infringe on their right to freedom of speech.

    • The Hartford Courant reports that Target Corp. is adding grocery sections to many of its Connecticut stores. According to the story, “Seven stores in metro Hartford and New Haven were renovated with expanded food layouts earlier this year and six more were due to open in June and July, or later this year. The stores will offer meats, fresh produce, dairy products and a variety of pre-packaged baked goods. Target says it hopes the expansions will make their stores a ‘one-stop-shop,’ capable of meeting the weekly grocery needs of consumers.”
    • The Wall Street Journal reports that “American consumers can expect bigger grocery bills in 2012, even as commodity prices are forecast to fall.

    “The U.S. is expected to churn out more staples like corn, wheat and soy, which would drive commodity prices lower in 2012. However, it takes several months for a commodity such as corn to make its way down the production line and into a box of cereal, so consumers next year will be buying food made from raw materials bought this year, when crop prices reached multiyear highs ... Weather problems including frosts, floods and droughts have driven commodity prices this year. Corn futures in Chicago reached a record high near $8 a bushel in June, while wheat almost touched $9 a bushel in February, and arabica coffee futures in New York topped $3 a pound, a 14-year high, in May.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    Responding to yesterday’s Eye-Opener about Apple becoming the highest-stock-value company in the US, MNB user Blake Steen wrote:

    So when does Apple become “BIG” software/hardware since it has toppled “BIG” oil?

    You’re right. Apple is obviously a BIG company. Its greatest challenge will be to maintain a sustainable entrepreneurial culture, despite the stock price ... to continue to push for imaginative and innovative and envelope-pushing products and never forget or take for granted its connection to the consumer.

    I also think it is dangerous to think that just because Apple is bigger than the oil companies that it somehow will take on their characteristics. (Rush Limbaugh was arguing that point yesterday on his radio show - that big oil obviously isn’t so bad because it is now smaller than Apple. Which strikes me as hogwash.)




    And, in response to yesterday’s FaceTime commentary about my visit to Charlotte, NC, one MNB user wrote:

    I admit to not expecting the direction that the "Southern Hospitality" viewpoint took.  I was anticipating something like Paula Dean style.  I enjoyed your humor and very much appreciate your point that retail today needs to be distinct in order to survive let alone thrive.

    I firmly believe in business distinction strategy.  The term is broad laced with regard to the possible tactics with a retail model.  It’s the difference maker to accomplishing competitive if not formidable market position. 

    Some of the possibilities are with exterior presentation  regarding sight lines, business character and marketing options.  Features and signatures certainly count. "Qualities" have become so watered down in the wake of the down economy and resulting business cutbacks especially by corporate operations and big-box customer affair or lack thereof, and have been directly affected by labor cutbacks which most certainly have weakened if not trashed employee moral. 

    Unless you're a part of the Google, Starbucks, Costco, etc. teams there isn't much love given to those responsible for managing retail and customer affairs...which opens what would seem to be a no-brainer opportunity for "distinction".

    We're in a new era of competitive structure and more practical consumer mindset for expenditures and shopping choices.  Price is most often up front with interests but I believe that today's demand is coming back around to wanting more rounded values. 

    There is opportunity to step out of the mainstream and to garner improved market shares from the variety of business sectors that a retailer can be exposed to.  And the opportunity comes by way of your point for distinction, Kevin. 

    P.S.  Seems like you have another entertaining and promising market researcher in the family.


    And MNB user John Fritz wrote:

    Kevin, thanks for an entertaining video of your Charlotte experience. I live in Charlotte and have for 9 years. I have moved 8 times with Kraft and this is definitely the best location out of the 8. Interestingly enough I remember the rain last Friday because I had met some BI-LO folks in Augusta Ga and I drove back to Charlotte that afternoon through that storm. The ark was needed. Anyway I let my 22 year old son watch your video tonight. He loves the Epicenter as we all do due to the many restaurants/bars, etc. He did mention he has never seen a hooker downtown but is now going to check out the Epicenter movie theater.

    If he asks you to borrow $300 before going downtown, I think it might be worth asking him a few more questions...
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2011

    Somehow, it seems like a metaphor.

    Reports are that the Statue of Liberty will close at the end of October for a year’s worth of renovations that will make the building safer, more accessible, and up to code.

    Which just sort of seems appropriate in terms of the entire debate that the country is having right now.




    Forgive me for this, but I am so tired of people turning every little thing into an opportunity to make a political point.

    This week, it seems to be folks on the internet calling for Bert and Ernie to get married on “Sesame Street.”

    Oy.

    The cries for gay nuptials to take place on “Sesame Street” reached the point this week where the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) actually had to post a response on its Facebook page:

    Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.

    Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and  characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.


    One would hope that this would put an end to it. But it probably won’t.

    They are puppets, for heaven’s sake. Can’t people just leave them alone and let them do what they’ve done for decades - educate and entertain kids?




    I was really looking forward to The Change Up, mostly because I’ve become a big Jason Bateman fan. I’ve grown tired of movies in the Big and Freaky Friday mold, but I was willing to give this one a shot, especially because it looked like it was going to be a little edgy and irreverent.

    But to be honest, it went way over the line, at least for my tastes. It’s rude, dirty, vulgar and labored.

    That’s not to say I didn’t laugh. I did. Plenty of times. Often in spite of myself. So I won’t argue that this story about a lothario and suburban father switching bodies isn’t funny.

    (I’ll also say this. In the past few weeks I’ve seen actress Olivia Wilde in two movies - The Change-Up and Cowboys & Aliens. I’m willing to go on the record right now that as far as I am concerned, Hollywood can put her in every movie it produces. Wow.)

    It seems to me, though, that the filmmakers, whenever faced with a choice between plot/character development and a gross-out joke, went with the gross-out joke. And that’s too bad, because it ends up wasting good performances and a tried-and-true premise.




    I’ve always been an enormous When Harry Met Sally fan. (By the way, when seen next to The Change-Up, it is almost impossible to believe that When Harry Met Sally was rated R when it first came out.) And so it was with great delight that I learned just yesterday that a sequel is in the works:

    Click here for a preview that is laugh-out-loud funny.




    My wine of the week: the 2010 Honig Sauvignon Blanc, which struck me as having a nice fruity thing going for it with just a hint of vanilla. Loved it.




    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

    Fins Up!
    KC's View: