retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    by Kate McMahon

    Just a quick heads up to the marketing geniuses at Dr Pepper Ten, a new “macho” soft drink that proudly boasts “No Women Allowed” on its man-cave Facebook page.

    Who do you think does most of the grocery shopping across America today? Judging by your new television ads, your hot-wheeling target audience is far too busy wrestling jungle snakes and bad guys while firing laser guns to be pushing something as pedestrian as a grocery cart.

    Which would leave the purchasing power in the hands of the very gender your new ad campaign clearly eschews – women.

    Dr Pepper introduced the new 10 calorie soft drink earlier this month, citing research that many men are dissatisfied with the taste and image of diet drinks. The big boys in the carbonated beverage biz went after the same market with Coke Zero and Pepsi Mac. Unlike zero-calorie, no sugar Diet Dr Pepper, the new version has 10 “manly” calories, 2 grams of sugar, in a gunmetal grey can riddled with bullets. And a marketing campaign that states: “It’s not for women.”

    Which begs the question – are they serious or just trying to stir up publicity and a social media firestorm with this approach?

    The certainly accomplished the latter. Within hours of the ad campaign’s launch, the blogs were buzzing about the overt exclusion of women and the Dr Pepper 10 Facebook page (including a manly shooting gallery to take out “girly stuff.”)

    Even Dr Pepper’s main Facebook page had fans stating they were offended by the commercials and would boycott all products. Typical posts included:

    “I have been a Dr Pepper fanatic for year but will now choose to switch drinks.”

    “Did you really mean to offend 80% of the buying population in the stores?”

    Countered another: “It is called a joke and it is out there for those with a sense of humor.”

    The debate spilled over to the shopping mom blogs as well. Said one:

    “I will never buy a product with a sexist advertisement. Forget it Dr Pepper. All your products are now out of our cart. Apologize.”

    Even Ellen Degeneres chimed in on her show, asking, “Do you really want to offend half the population? The half that buys the groceries?”

    New statistics from YouGov’s BrandIndex, a daily measure of brand perception among the public, shows that buzz about Dr Pepper Ten has been on a decline with both sexes since the Oct. 10 launch. It found that men don’t like to feel self-conscious about their purchases, and women’s distaste for the exclusive campaign may adversely impact sales of all Dr Pepper brands.

    Dr Pepper marketing exec Jim Trebilcock had earlier defended the campaign as a “conversation starter” between the sexes.

    "Women get the joke," he told the Associated Press.

    As previously noted in this column, I do get the joke – when the joke is funny, as in the witty and wildly successful Old Spice guy commercials. But not when the joke is sexist, demeaning, offensive or part of a lame marketing strategy that falls as flat as day-old soda.

    What are your thoughts? Send me an email at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Tony La Russa, the legendary manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, is being criticized in many quarters for what is seen as mismanagement of the eighth inning in Monday night’s fifth game of the 2011 World Series.

    There have been questions about hit-and-run plays, intentional walks, and relief pitching choices. All of which are legitimate, though I confess that I tend to be charitable in how I criticize major league managers; while it is the right of all fans to whine and inveigh against teams and players, I always try to keep in mind that I am completely unable to do what they do.

    But what intrigues me - and the real Eye-Opener - is one of La Russa’s excuses for bringing in the wrong pitcher. He said that when he called the bullpen, they couldn’t hear what he was saying.

    What was interesting about this was that just a few days ago there was a story in the New York Times about how baseball is the last bastion for landline telephones - that while everyone else on the planet uses cell technology to call, text or email, major league baseball uses the same equipment that it was using decades ago. Apparently the headsets that are used by football coaches - in far noisier stadiums - simply are not available to baseball managers.

    Why not text or make cell phone calls? Someone told the Times that they were afraid of losing the signal ... which seems funny, since that does not seem to be a problem affecting thousands of people in the stands.

    Two points here.

    One, there is no excuse for not having up to date technology, especially for businesses generating millions of dollars a year in profits. Nobody in baseball would consider not using modern video technology, or computers, or medical care. Technology is a tool, and how effectively you use it determines your differential advantage. If, as a manager, improper use of technology or having the wrong technology means that you have the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, then you’ve made a major mistake. You haven’t been beaten. You’ve beaten yourself.

    Two, when you screw up this way, don’t make excuses. Especially the convoluted kind that La Russa seemed to be making in the wake of game five. The more he talked, the less sense he seemed to make. Sometimes, when things go bad, the guy at the top has to say, “I screwed up. No excuses. I have to do better next time. Next question.” That kind of attitude also sends a great message to everyone on the team about how to comport themselves.

    For the record, I’m rooting for the Cardinals here. But it is time to reach out and touch someone.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    The Chicago Sun Times that at a conference yesterday hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and First Lady Michelle Obama, it was announced that there are “plans to open 36 new grocery stores in communities across Chicago: 17 traditional grocery stores and 19 expanded Walgreens Co. stores that include fresh food. The majority of the stores will be located in communities with food deserts, as part of the Administration's ongoing commitment to expand access to fresh and healthy foods across in the city. The Mayor also announced that one of Chicago's major urban farm networks, Growing Power, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Walgreens Co. and Aldi to increase access not only to locally grown produce, but to job opportunities and economic development across its farm locations in Chicago.”

    According to the story, “Supervalu Inc. will open a new Sav-A-Lot store by the end of 2011 in North Lawndale, and is working on new Sav-A-Lot stores in the Grand Boulevard, Austin, Near West Side, West Pullman, Morgan Park, Calumet Heights, West Englewood and Englewood communities. Roundy's Supermarkets Inc. announced plans to build three new Mariano's Fresh Markets stores in Bronzeville, South Chicago and Forest Glenn. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is finalizing three new stores on the south and southwest sides. And Aldi's Store Inc. will build a store in Roseland.”
    KC's View:
    The part of this announcement that intrigued me was the inclusion of Mariano’s as an answer to food deserts. Before I actually saw one, I would have said that the format sounded a lot more upscale than would seem appropriate ... but having visited one, I think that it is an interesting choice. Not only is there a real focus on price, but there’s also an effort to expand people’s palates and make good food more accessible. It’ll be an interesting way to approach the food desert problem, and I’ll be curious to see how it works.

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    The Conference Board yesterday said that its consumer confidence index was down to 39.8 in October, down from a revised 46.4 in September, far worse than the 46.0 that was expected by economists.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that confidence is “back to recessionary levels as individuals turn more pessimistic about labor markets ... Consumer expectations for economic activity over the next six months dropped to 48.7 from a revised 55.1, originally reported as 54.0.

    “The present situation index, a gauge of consumers' assessment of current economic conditions, fell for the sixth consecutive month to 26.3 from a revised 33.3 in September, originally put at 32.5.”
    KC's View:
    What’s really interesting about this is that consumer confidence is down at the same time as the stock market seems to be doing pretty well. On the other hand, maybe it is precisely that discrepancy that seems to have inflamed so many passions around the country.

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    Time magazine has a story about a University of Minnesota study suggesting that people don’t actually look at nutrition information on food packages as much as they say they do.

    Using an eye-tracking device with a group of designated shoppers, the study found that there was “a big difference between what the eye tracker said people looked at and what the participants self-reported they typically looked at while shopping. Thirty-three percent of participants said they ‘almost always’ looked at a product's calorie content on the Nutrition Facts label; 31% said they almost always looked at total fat content (20% said they looked at trans fats); 24% said they studied products' sugar content and 26% said they paid close attention to serving size.

    “What the eye-tracking data showed: only 9% looked at calorie count for almost all the items in the experiment; 1% looked at each of the other components, including fat, trans fat, sugar and serving size, for almost all of the products.”

    There was some encouraging news: “More than 70% of the participants viewed at least one component of the average Nutrition Facts label at least some of the time. And more than half viewed each of ve label components (servings, calories, total fat, saturated fat and trans fat) on the average label.

    “Surprisingly, while only 26% of people self-reported that they almost always look at Nutrition Facts labels at the grocery store, 37% of them actually looked at at least one component of the label for almost all food items.”
    KC's View:
    These are just snapshots of the moment. The thing is, technology makes it possible for the industry to provide vast amounts of information ... nutritional, scientific, even artistic (in the form of recipes). The food industry should embrace the opportunity - it creates teachable moments, sales opportunities, and, ultimately, trust.

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    Environmental Leader reports that McKinsey is out with a new survey suggesting that corporations are taking a new approach to sustainability issues: “Cutting costs is now companies’ top reason for addressing sustainability, bumping corporate reputation down to second place. New growth opportunities have also jumped in popularity as a reason for sustainability initiatives.

    “McKinsey found that mission and values are the most common business area in which companies have integrated sustainability, followed by external communications. But companies are still not doing much to integrate sustainability into their internal communications or employee engagement, the consultants said ... They say most companies’ approach still focuses on launching individual initiatives to enhance their reputation, comply with regulations or deal with ‘emergencies,’ instead of treating sustainability as an issue that directly affects business results.”

    The story goes on: “Compared to 2010, larger shares of executives said sustainability programs make a positive contribution to their companies’ short- and long-term value. But McKinsey said the relationship between sustainability and value is still unclear in executives’ minds, with about a third of respondents saying they don’t know how much sustainability initiatives add to shareholder value at their companies.”
    KC's View:
    It is moving in the right direction. The first step in making sustainability a truly sustainable business strategy is understanding that it has long-term fiscal implications. Step two is being strategic, not just tactical.

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    • The Miami Herald reports that Walmart is on track to open its first store in midtown Miami, on a five acre tract that won;t need any rezoning for the retailer to open a 155,000 square foot store there that will include a full supermarket.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    Computerworld reports that “a federal appeals court has cleared the way for a class-action lawsuit to proceed against grocery chain Hannaford Bros. over a 2007 data breach that exposed millions of customers' credit and debit card numbers.

    “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit last week ruled that consumers who took proactive steps to protect themselves against fraud and identity theft in the wake of the breach may seek compensation for their expenses from Hannaford. The decision overturns an earlier decision by a district court in Maine which had held that consumers could not seek compensation from Hannaford because their alleged injuries stemming from the breach were too speculative and unforeseeable.”

    • The Washington Post reports that Wegmans is being hit with “federal workplace safety citations carrying potential fines of nearly $200,000 ... mainly for inadequate safeguards to prevent machinery from starting up unintentionally during maintenance. It says machines must be completely shut down before workers carry out maintenance.

    “Wegmans says it immediately tackled most issues raised by inspectors and is reviewing the citations.”

    • The LaCrosse Tribune reports that members of the Good Food Co-op in Rochester, Minnesota, have approved a merger with the People’s Food Co-op of LaCrosse, which will now take over management of Good Food.

    According to the story, “The official merger should come in early January, after both boards approve final details, People’s Food Co-op General Manager Michelle Schry said. The next step is to work with the Rochester employees as they prepare to double in size and likely staff when the store relocates, Schry said. The Rochester store will be an anchor tenant in a mixed-use downtown Rochester building being developed by La Crosse-based Gerrard Corp.”

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Coca-Cola plans to introduce a new, limited edition Coke can for the holidays that will be all-white, instead of the iconic red, and that will be “part of a marketing campaign aimed at protecting polar bears and their habitat.”

    Coke is not commenting on the plan, but sources tell the that this reflects a longtime use of polar bears in advertising by Coke, and a commitment that Coke has made to support the World Wildlife Fund’s efforts to protect the species.

    • Gladson, which provides syndicated consumer packaged goods (CPG) product images and nutritional information, announced that it has become a member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a national, CEO-led coalition of over 180 retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, restaurants, sporting goods and insurance companies, professional sports organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), trade associations and the U.S. Army dedicated to leading Americans to reduce obesity – especially childhood obesity – by 2015.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    • Vicki Cantrell, former COO at Tory Burch, has joined the National Retail Federation as senior vice president, communities, and executive director of, NRF’s digital division.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    • Yesterday, MNB reported that Theo Epstein will be taking over as general manager of the Chicago Cubs. However, as an MNB reader pointed out, his actual title will be “president for baseball operations.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    We continue to get email about the Fast Company story focusing on the “Fab Four” of technology companies - Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

    MNB user John J. Toner V wrote:

    Great article, glad you mentioned to your readers – it will be interesting to see how 5 years from now the food retail business will be influenced by these companies.  They are already starting to change how the 1% shop with Amazon Prime for staples, Facebook for recipe referrals, Apple for well creating a smart phone that allows people to geotag where they purchase items, and Google for search.

    On the subject of Netflix’s eroding market value and consumer enthusiasm, one MNB user wrote:

    The problem with Netflix is that they’ve lost a lot of their streaming content so it changed their value proposition.  From my perspective as a consumer (streaming + DVD by mail), they raised their prices significantly (60%), but now they offered less.  If they had added a bunch of new streaming content that wasn’t made up mostly of B movies from the 1990s, I might have stayed a customer.  Even their survey asking why I left is flawed.  It asked if you left because of price or content; you could only choose one.  They seem to have forgotten the value equation.  If I had gotten more, I might have been willing to pay more.  You can’t increase price, lower quality and expect to be successful.

    And another MNB user chimed in:

    As a non-Netflix user, my take on the complainers is that they are a bunch of spoiled brats who didn't want to give up their "good deal",  just like I didn't want to give up my Chase Rewards Visa card that gave me 5% back on grocery and drugstore purchases.  I suspected that wouldn't last forever.  It looks like about 95% of subscribers still think the service is worth the money at the new price.  Personally I am not looking forward to all these movie buffs hogging the internet bandwidth and thereby adversely affecting my internet surfing experience.

    I am fixing up a house to resell.  I have an old but working clothes dryer.  I asked my real estate advisor if I should put that with the house.  He said no, if the buyer sees the dryer they will also demand a washer.  Sort of like a Netflix junkie.  I am waiting to see happens when Target reduces the 5% "Red Card" discount.  Will there be protest camp outs in the parks?

    We’re also getting a lot of email about whether smokers should pay more for their health care premiums, which Walmart says they should (and I agree).

    One MNB user offered:

    Here we go again--the smokers.  I don't smoke, so an increase will not effect me.  I don't have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart condition, etc.  I am blessed with pretty good health.  I do however, try to eat right, exercise everyday, drink no soda--but have red wine with my dinner.  I take responsibility for my health.  Do I get a discount?? 

    What about obese people?  Should they pay more?  It is their fault they are fat, just like smokers.  No one made them smoke, no one made them eat in excess.   What about drinkers?  Should they pay more for insurance?  The list goes on and on.  Let's be fair here.

    I am so tired of everyone punishing people who are buying a legal product.  Punish them, but watch out--you might be next.

    But MNB user Brant Borchert wrote:

    You always order the special for $10. Your friend always orders an appetizer, steak and lobster, and a dessert for $50. Then, when the check comes, you split it evenly. How does that make you feel? Is that fair? Wouldn’t you prefer your friend to kick in more because he/she is choosing a more expensive option? To take the analogy further, let’s also say that your friend goes out to eat several times each week without you, but you are still expected to split those bills, too. Doesn’t this situation sound ridiculous? It should. Health insurance is no different – some people are knowingly and willingly making choices that negatively impact their health and increase associated healthcare costs, and everyone else helps pay for it.

    Also, for those who are not yet aware, many companies already set premiums rates and/or ! deductible amounts based on other behavior related metrics (i.e. weight/BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, etc.).

    From MNB user Tim McGuire:

    Fascinating to see the inherent contradiction in the note from one of your readers that first says that there's no way we can/should charge people who make poor lifestyle decisions (smoking, obesity) higher medical insurance premiums - but then says "this country has to address the insanely high, unsustainable costs of our byzantine health care system."  We have to bring down health care costs, but we can't use the world's most proven method of supply/demand management - charge more for things that cost more and people will "consume less" of those high-cost items (or in this case, make fewer unhealthy and expensive lifestyle choices)?

    If you're concerned about the "slippery slope" of charging people more because they make bad lifestyle choices that cost more in healthcare costs because they won't want to admit that they make bad choices, then turn it around and charge everyone more, but give discounts/rebates to those who prove they make better, lower-cost lifestyle choices.  If you charged everyone a "list price" that was twice what they are paying now, but then gave them the chance to get up to 75% of that back by making healthy lifestyle choices that reduce health-care costs (which means people committed to healthy lifestyle could end up paying half of what they are today and a quarter of what the folks who continue to smoke, eat to obesity, etc. have to pay) then two things would happen.

    First, many people would be happy to pass a physical once a year that, among other things, tests for nicotine, illicit drugs, body mass levels, etc. - wouldn't you do that if it could save you a few thousand dollars per year?  Second, some of the unhealthy people who don't want to pay those higher costs would actually change their lifestyles in order to save money - and lives would be saved in the process.  If that's an invasion of your privacy, then just go on and pay the higher costs.

    That's how we could truly reverse the incredibly damaging downward spiral of personal health choices that is causing the unsustainable healthcare costs.

    From another MNB user:

    How do you prove a person is smoking if they simply SAY they aren’t at work?

    Simple, there is a nicotine test that involves a swab to the mouth.  The key is to charge more for behavior, not genetic conditions.  Yes, insurance is a pooled resource, but should that pool be used to distribute the costs of genetics-based health issues (that people can’t control) or should it also include behavioral issues (that people can).  For myself, I have no problem at all subsidizing someone who is predisposed to cancer due to heredity.  However I have a BIG problem subsidizing someone who drives up costs for everyone by smoking, sedentary lifestyle, etc. 

    For the past several years (two companies), open enrollment has included a quick trip to the cafeteria to get my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol measured, and my nonsmoking status verified.  The trip is voluntary, but I save $$ on my premiums.  I know several people who have had serious health issues uncovered by these routine checkups and have been able to make changes in their behavior to be healthier. 

    The key is focusing on behavior and things that are measurable at a low cost.  It’s the 80/20 rule that actually works.  If it isn’t at your company this year, chances are that you’ll see it in the next couple of years.

    And, from another reader:

    In today’s commentary on higher health care premiums for smokers, many comments asked if higher rates for obesity is next.  That is exactly what is happening to my company’s plan next year.  Users get a discount for low BMI (Body Mass Index), low cholesterol, low blood pressure and for not being smokers.  Blood tests with physicals are preformed at the office.  The low BMI is new for 2012.  In other words, the unhealthy and overweight have to pay a higher premium.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 26, 2011

    If there’s one thing our clients all have in common when they first start working with us, it’s that they don’t realize they have things they should worry about. They think they’re covered. But when they step away from their cash office process and really look at it, they see everything that’s looming over them. Things like keeping track of cash, time, wasted time, reporting, labor, loss — you name it.

    At Balance Innovations, we help them solve that. We’ve been able to streamline the entire cash office - automating time-consuming tasks and providing systems that give them access to their money even faster.

    Watch our video to learn more.


    Boscov’s Department Stores streamlined the cash office management and check processing with VeriBalance and vbEPIX.

    “By taking control of our cash, we saved money in a lot of different places.”
    - Bonnie Katzaman, Manager Corporate Policies and Cash Office Operations, Boscov’s Department Store, LLC

    Contact us at or visit

    KC's View: