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    Published on: August 22, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Last Thursday, commenting on a story about how Coca-Cola was bringing out a new can design for Diet Coke and was sending cases of it to trendsetters around the country, I wrote:

    I think I’m hurt. How come MNB didn’t make the cut as a trendsetter?

    I’ll put it out there right now. I’ll trade an MNB t-shirt, three MNB canvas shopping bags and a half-dozen MNB canvas wine bags for an advance case of this new Diet Coke.

    On Friday, FedEx tried to deliver something to my office, but I wasn’t there, so the driver left a door tag. Saturday morning, I went to the local FedEx office with something less than enthusiasm; you’d be amazed how many PR people send press releases via FedEx and require a signature, which only serves to annoy me when I have to drive a few miles to pick up what amounts to junk mail.

    But not Saturday.

    I handed the door tag to the woman behind the counter, she went into the back, and a few moments later came out carrying a box with the Diet Coke logo on it.

    I busted out in laughter. Because I knew exactly what it was, and was amazed that not only had Coke sent me a case of the new Diet Coke, but had done so seemingly within hours of seeing my MNB commentary.

    It was what I would call a ‘Wow!” moment.

    The clerk retrieving the box was startled by my reaction, and asked what was so funny. Which prompted me to tell her the story behind the case of Diet Coke ... as well as tell the other people in the office, who were intrigued by how fast Coke has responded and interested in checking out the new can design when it ends up in stores next month. (I suppose I could have given them some of mine, but I’m not that generous a guy.)

    So not only did I have a “Wow!” moment, but I shared it with other people. Just like I’m doing now.

    That’s the real point.

    These days, especially, marketers have to specialize in “Wow!” moments. They connect marketers to the customer, and - if done right - create something that will be shared over and over, giving the “Wow!” moment a long shelf life.

    It’s what manufacturers have to do. It’s what retailers have to do.

    “Wow!” moments get us to open our eyes, and pay attention a little bit more than we might have otherwise. They create a climate in which connections and forged and sales are made.

    They should never be underestimated, and always be pursued.

    That’s what Coke did. And it worked.

    And by the way ... I love the new can design. I think that Coke gets it right ... it is stylized enough to be both cool and different, familiar enough to be recognizable (in the way that icons often are), and manages - both through smart design and by avoiding the spectacle of having the designer doing media interviews proclaiming himself to be god-like in his abilities and taste - to avoid the problems faced by other manufacturers in recent years that tried to overhaul their package designs with disastrous results.

    (One more thing ... they didn’t even ask for anything in return. The card was just signed, “The Diet Coke Team.” So I don’t know who gets the MNB tchotchkes....)
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    by Michael Sansolo

    COLORADO SPRINGS - Michael Eisner, the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, opened the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) Executive Conference at The Broadmoor here with a message on management that runs counter to advice you get from most such speeches. In short, Eisner talked about the benefits of thinking inside the box, micromanaging and failure.  Of course, there was a reason for all of those statements.

    For example, on thinking inside the box, Eisner talked about the importance of setting boundaries to guide the creative process, while not stifling creativity as you do it.  He talked about tight budget controls put on specific movie projects he oversaw at Disney and Paramount and how that enabled some of the most creative minds in films to work.  Micromanagement is frequently decried, but Eisner defended it, saying engaged bosses like Steve Jobs at Apple demonstrate their caring and commitment through their constant involvement.  Some might see that as over-managing, but Eisner sees is as the type of passionate leadership that produces results.

    And failure, he said, is essential to success.  Companies and individuals that don't fail are doomed to mediocrity because they are never taking chances or pushing limits.  Eisner also talked about the importance of business leaders having partners who they enjoy working with and who also complement their own skills to bring a dynamic tension to their companies.

    Eisner spoke at the opening general session of the annual Executive Conference.  Earlier in the session two former CEOs - Doug Conant of Campbell's and Rick Wolford of DelMonte - were honored for their long service to GMA and the entire food industry, especially for their efforts to build industrywide cooperation on a host of important initiatives.

    The GMA Executive Conference runs through Tuesday.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    Unionized employees of Southern California’s three biggest supermarket chains have voted overwhelmingly “to reject a health care proposal from major supermarket chains and authorize their union leaders to call a strike,” according to a story from the Associated Press. “More than 90 percent of voters from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, which has about 62,000 members, rejected the proposal from Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons stores.”

    The vote means that union officials are empowered to call a strike after 72 hours. The union said it plans to bring the results today to the federal mediator working with the two sides.

    The Los Angeles Times reports that “since the latest contract governing wages, healthcare benefits, and workplace rules expired in March. union and management negotiators have met more than 53 times. Healthcare benefits are a major area of contention.

    “Both sides said they would like to avoid a repeat of a four-and-a-half-month strike and lockout in 2003.”
    KC's View:
    Man, it doesn’t look good. I can’t imagine in this environment that a strike or lock out would be good for either side, but it certainly seems like that’s where we’re heading. (Though anyone running stores not called Vons, Ralphs or Albertsons may actually see this as a real opportunity to build a little market share.)

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    Kantar Retail is out with its semi-annual pricing study, finding that “Walmart has regained its edge as the retailer's overall basket price registered 1.2% less expensive than Target's. Given that the number of price promotions in Walmart's basket has declined since June 2010, these findings reinforce Walmart's increased emphasis on Everyday Low Price (EDLP) positioning on a given basket.

    “At the same time, Target's overall reduction in TPCs since January 2011 made it less competitive in this study, a reminder of how important TPCs are to Target's ability to compete with Walmart. However, If a shopper used a REDcard to purchase the items in this study, then Target's overall basket would have registered about 4% less expensive than Walmart's.”

    One other interesting finding from the study: “26% of up-market ($85K+) Walmart shoppers who are shopping Walmart less often than a year ago report shopping at Target more often—higher than at any other single retailer.”
    KC's View:
    I wonder if at some level, the real problem for Walmart here is that it has let other players into the game ... that it no longer has the clear price advantage that it used to have. Target is in the game, Costco is in the game, Amazon is in the game ... and so “always low prices” doesn’t have quite the same resonance it used to have.

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    The New York Times has an interesting piece this morning about the Rev. Michael O. Minor, pastor of the Oak Hill Baptist church in North Mississippi - an area where people love to consume what is called the “Delta diet,” described as “a heavenly smorgasbord of things fried, salted and boiled with pork.” Minor, the Times writes, has for more than a decade “waged war against obesity and bad health. In the Delta this may seem akin to waging war against humidity, but Mr. Minor has the air of the salesman he once was, and the animated persistence to match.

    “Years into his war, he is beginning to claim victories.

    “The National Baptist Convention, which represents some seven million people in nearly 10,000 churches, is ramping up a far-reaching health campaign devised by Mr. Minor, which aims to have a ‘health ambassador’ in every member church by September 2012. The goals of the program, the most ambitious of its kind, will be demanding but concrete, said the Rev. George W. Waddles Sr., the president of the convention’s Congress of Christian Education.”

    Minor was born in the Delta, but left the area for Harvard and time spent in New England. When he returned, as a pastor, something immediately stood out to him: “There were a lot of people not only in this church, but in churches that we fellowship with, that were ... of good size,” he tells the Times.

    “When he began preaching his health gospel right from the start, he was met not by outright resistance — that would have been rude — but by a polite disregard,” the Times writes. “This is the way people have always cooked here, church members said, and they ignored him.

    “He argued that while the food may be the same, people’s lifestyles had changed, and few put forth the physical effort that life in the Delta once required. Preparing pork chops used to involve raising and slaughtering a pig; now it requires little more than a trip to the grocery store.” Over time, he began to wear down people’s resistance by using the pulpit as well as by sponsoring tasting parties that focused on healthier food. He also drew people’s attention to the heart attacks, strokes and other obesity related medical problems that were affecting locals.

    There’s also a practical reason for pastors to talk about the body as well as the mind and spirit: “Your sick members can’t tithe,” Minor says with a laugh.
    KC's View:
    Body. Mind. Spirit.

    Or, as they say in the song...

    The foot bone connected to the ankle bone,
    The ankle bone connected to the shin bone,
    The shin bone connected to the knee bone ...
    Now hear the word of the Lord.

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that US District Judge Charles Breyer has given women who were part of the massive class action suit against Walmart that was dismantled by the US Supreme Court have until the end of October to file individual lawsuits against the retailer.

    The women charged in the now defunct class action suit that the company denied them raises and promotions because of their gender. The Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have enough in common to qualify as a class action, and that Walmart’s written policy banning gender discrimination was enough to protect it from the class action as filed.

    According to the story, “Plaintiffs must first take up claims with the EEOC before being able to file a lawsuit in federal court. Other potential plaintiffs who never filed a charge with the EEOC against Wal-Mart have until next year to do that.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    The New York Times reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has rejected a proposal by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “to bar New York City’s food stamp users from buying soda and other sugary drinks with them.

    “The decision derailed one of the mayor’s big ideas to fight obesity and poor nutrition in the city. Mr. Bloomberg and the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, were quick to criticize the ruling ... as a disservice to low-income residents.”

    According to the story, “Jessica Shahin, an associate administrator in the Agriculture Department, wrote that the waiver the city sought was denied because of the logistical difficulty of sorting out which beverages could or could not be purchased with food stamps and because it would be hard to gauge how effective the step was in reducing obesity. As an alternative, Ms. Shahin suggested the federal government could work with the city on other efforts to encourage consumers to make ‘healthy choices’.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    Bloomberg Business Week has a story about the cooperative grocery store movement, which it says is booming:

    “As more Americans look for more ways to control their spending -- as well as where their food comes from -- small grocers that are owned by their "member" shoppers and focus on local and natural foods are back in vogue.

    “Around the country roughly 300 cooperatives already run 330 stores, with at least another 250 under development, everywhere from New Orleans to Fairbanks, Alaska, according to Stuart Reid, executive director of Food Co-op Initiative, a nonprofit that provides resources and support for organizing groups.”

    "The economy is certainly part of the reason, but another part of the reason is Americans are looking for ways to own and control the means of providing the services they want," Andrea Cumpston, a spokeswoman for the National Cooperative Business Association,” tells Business Week. "For example, in the food co-op industry they're looking to be able to own the store that provides them with their local foods and to know and trust where those foods are coming from."

    And, the story continues: “As co-ops have evolved, they've shed some of their old image. A focus on local and artisanal goods -- including locally raised or produced meats, cheeses, beers and wines -- as well as the addition of delis and prepared foods have attracted a whole new food-centered generation of shoppers. This is a long way from the organic dried beans, granola and tempeh that once seemed to define these stores.”
    KC's View:
    I wish I had a coop near me; I’d definitely be a member.

    The thing is, coop food stores make real something that many stores aspire to - their customers actually think of them as “their store.”

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Walgreen has unveiled “a new store brand called Nice! as it mothballs an assortment of a dozen in-house brands and refocuses its private-label strategy.

    “The Nice! brand name, two years in the making, began to appear on Walgreens store shelves last month on food products from soup to nuts. The rollout of more than 400 items, mostly grocery and paper products, is scheduled to accelerate this month and wind up at all 7,742 Walgreens and Duane Reade drugstores nationwide by January.”

    The company says it plans to manage Nice! as a brand, not as a product line, and has ambitions of making it competitive with national brands.
    KC's View:
    I hate to be a naysayer here, but I really dislike the Nice! design - it is white packaging, black print, and simple product photos, and looks like low-quality generics rather than national brand-quality private label. The company seems to think that they are easily differentiated, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing - they also will be easy to avoid.

    Nice! seems to ignore all the advances that have been made in private branding over the past few years.

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Target is taking back its website operations from Amazon, and is ready to go online with a new site that CEO Gregg Steinhafel says is “easier to shop, has faster checkout and more closely resembles the store shopping experience.”

    The move comes after a decade in which Target outsourced its online operations to Amazon, and seems to reflect a conviction at Target that it can grow its online sales and profits and become a bigger player in this space.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    The Irish Times reports that the Competition Commission there has delayed making any decision on the proposed acquisition of Superquinn by Musgrave, which now has until the beginning of next month to provide additional information to the regulators.

    According to the story, “The decision to request further information is believed to centre on possible regional competition issues generated by the Superquinn-Musgrave case. While the takeover may not breach competition thresholds in terms of Musgrave’s share of the national grocery market, legal sources suggest there may be issues surrounding the enlarged entity’s dominance in specific local economies.

    “The authority’s decision also means that suppliers who were left out of pocket following the Superquinn receivership face a delay in accessing the €10 million fund established by Musgrave and the receivers.”

    Superquinn, which is owned by Select Retail Holdings, has accumulated the equivalent of more than $70 million (US) in debt since it was bought from founder Feargal Quinn, who has endorsed the sale to Musgrave.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    • The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that Winn-Dixie “is discontinuing its SaveRite-branded grocery stores and is converting them to the Winn-Dixie banner.” CEO Peter Lynch says that “phasing out the SaveRite banner supports the company’s neighborhood marketing strategy,” the story says. There are just six SaveRites operating in Florida and Mississippi.

    “We strive to customize our product assortment to fit the lifestyles of the communities we serve,” Lynch says in a prepared statement. “By aligning all 484 stores under one Winn-Dixie banner, we will be able to ensure a more consistent shopping experience for all of our guests — regardless of the type of neighborhood in which we operate.”

    • The Journal News reports that D’Agostino’s is in the process of closing its suburban New York stores and plans to focus exclusively for the time being on its Manhattan units.

    • Published reports say that Costco plans to open two membership clubs in southern Taiwan this week, bringing its total store count there to eight. The company has said that its goal is to have between 15 and 18 stores there eventually.

    • The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports that Schwan's Food Service “has expanded its school lunch options by more than 50 percent with the introduction of a new line of pizzas and other foods that meet federal school meal rules.” The new line of more than 50 products - which the company says is its largest product expansion in its history - is called “LiveSmart Schools.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Barnes & Noble’s “shares plunged 17.5% Friday, after a takeover offer fell apart, leaving the bookseller without a deep-pocketed parent in its battle against Internet giants Apple Inc. and Inc.

    “Barnes & Noble said on Thursday that its recent suitor, John Malone's Liberty Media Corp., had ended discussions of its $17-a-share bid.”

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that CVS “has agreed to pay more than $2 million in fines and other costs to settle a consumer protection lawsuit alleging that the drugstore chain overcharged customers for sale items and engaged in misleading advertising.” CVS does not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    • The St. Cloud Times reports that Coborn’s has named Becky Estby, a former human resources executive with Atterro Inc., to the newly created position of vice president of organizational development.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 22, 2011

    ...will return.
    KC's View: