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    Published on: November 2, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    Chalk up another industry that is being helped by the social media revolution.

    The breaking-and-entering industry.

    According to a story on Yahoo! News, there is a new poll in the UK saying that 78 percent of burglars say that they’ve used social media services to determine when and where to commit their crimes, and 74 percent of them say that they use Google Street View to reconnoiter neighborhoods before they make their moves.

    An interesting counterpoint to this story is a posting on the Washington Post website saying that “millions of underage children are signing up for Facebook, and a survey released Tuesday shows parents are helping their children lie to get online.

    “The minimum age Facebook sets for its social network is 13 — in line with federal laws to protect children’s online privacy. Yet according to a study funded in part by Microsoft and universities, more than half of all parents with 12-year-olds said they knew their children were signed up for the service. One in five parents of 10-year-olds knew of their children’s activity on the site.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    Bank of America yesterday that it is canceling its plans to charge its debit card customers a $5 fee if they use their cards to make purchases. The move comes just a month after the new fee schedule was first announced as a way of compensating for an expected $6.6 billion loss of revenue that all banks will suffer as a result of new financial regulations that limit the hidden and usurious swipe fees that were charged by banks on each transaction.

    The New York Times reports that “the reversal follows a huge backlash from customers, one of whom collected more than 200,000 signatures urging the bank to rethink its plan.

    “The bank listened, but only after other large banks had indicated that they would not impose similar fees. Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, SunTrust and Regions Financial have all pulled back on their plans ... Wells Fargo said Friday that it was canceling a test that would have imposed a $3-a-month charge on debit card holders in Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington and Oregon. JPMorgan Chase, which was testing a $3-a-month charge, decided it would not impose a stand-alone debit card use fee. And SunTrust and Regions have both said they would no longer charge the fees.”

    While the other banks were testing fee programs, Bank of America became the poster child for what is perceived as a tone-deaf financial services industry.

    The banks moving away from new debit card fees were also facing heightened and aggressive competition from smaller banks and credit unions, which were seeing an influx of new customers as they advertised the fact that they were not charging such fees.
    KC's View:
    We win.

    And by “we,” I mean all the businesses and trade associations and even yodelers like me that have been slamming Bank of America and its brethren for the new fees.

    I would, however, express one caution. If indeed the banks are going to lose $6.6 billion in revenue, don’t expect that they will go gentle into that good night, simply accepting the fact that they will have less money to invest and hand out in bonuses to senior executives. They are, I’m quite sure, already scheming, trying to find new ways to make up that shortfall. And if they can find a way to make a new program to be both hidden and usurious, so much the better.

    So watch your bills, folks.

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    by Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI Group, Inc.

    Whether the neighborhood is blanketed in snow or flush with palm trees, the holiday season brings with it many universal things, including family, friends, festivities, and this year in particular, financial fear.

    According to recent results from SymphonyIRI Group’s Holiday Shopping 2011 survey, 82 percent of respondents indicate that increased concern about the economy is negatively impacting holiday budgets. Clearly, a strong majority of consumers are shaken by the current instability of economic conditions, and they intend to tweak holiday habits as a result.

    About half of consumers plan to spend similarly to last year when it comes to gift budgets, and about two-thirds expect to spend about the same on food and non-alcoholic beverages for holiday celebrations. However, consumers reined in their spending habits already last year, and many are now indicating that they’re bracing for another round of belt tightening, the result of so much fear and negativity when it comes to ongoing economic issues.

    In fact, one in four consumers will trim back spending on holiday gifts this year, and slightly less, 16 percent, will reduce celebration-related food and beverage budgeting.

    Coping Mechanisms, Often Online

    For a majority of consumers, nearly 75 percent, gift-giving budgets will top out at $800 this year. But, most say they do not want to sacrifice gift giving entirely or minimize the fun and sentiment of the season. They’ll just be working a little harder to focus on value.

    To get the most for their money, consumers are turning to the Internet to help with their money-saving strategies. Interesting findings from the survey include:

    • 44 percent of consumers will use more coupons from retailer Web sites versus 54 percent, who will use about the same as last year

    • 42 percent of consumers will use more coupons from manufacturer Web sites versus 54 percent, who will use about the same as last year

    • 61 percent of consumers will use more coupons from group couponing Web sites versus 33 percent, who will use the same as last year

    • 43 percent of consumers will compare products on the Internet more often (consumer forums, blogs, etc.) versus 54 percent, who will do the same comparison shopping as last year

    Consumers Tightening Their Belts at the Holiday Table

    During the past few years, consumers have been eating out less and cooking more at home. These behaviors are expected to continue on this path in the coming year. For holiday celebrations this season, 71 percent of consumers say they want to prepare the best meals possible, but they will be keeping a close eye on their food and beverage bills. Overall, 71 percent of consumers say they will spend the same on their holiday meals as they did last year, but 18 percent are tightening their belts a bit more and plan to spend less.

    With affordability top of mind, consumers will still be leveraging some tried and true money-saving tactics in addition to turning to the Internet. For instance, 79 percent of consumers will be making their grocery purchase decisions before entering the store, 24 percent plan to buy more products in bulk this year than they have in the past, 37 percent will redeem more “reward points” for products, and 20 percent will rely more heavily on private label products.

    So, where will consumers be shopping for their holiday meals? Grocery stores remain the most popular outlets for shopping and will attract 88 percent of shoppers. Forty-five percent of consumers say they will shop in club stores, 41 percent in mass merchandisers, 37 percent in supercenters, 8 percent in dollar stores and 7 percent in drug stores.

    Overall, ‘tis the season to eat, drink, shop, spend and be merry. And, consumers expect to do so, though are tenuous about spending and thus making concerted efforts to make wise purchasing decisions. For CPG marketers, tapping into this more conservative, yet still festive, mindset means identifying critical trends and delivering with appropriate and appealing price points.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    Forbes reports that while unemployment remains high and a large number of people think the US is still in recession, there is one “sunny spot” in the economy - the e-conomy.

    The story says that “according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, online sales in the second quarter increased a whopping 17.6 percent from the same quarter last year. Contrast that with the total retail sales increase of 8.1 percent for the same period, and you see that online sales growth outpaces offline by a wide margin. The final Q3 numbers aren’t in yet, but Channel Intelligence reports that online sales, average order value and average selling price all dipped slightly in July before rebounding in September. Overall, early returns show the trend of strong e-commerce growth continuing into the second half of the year.

    “With the curtain about to rise on holiday shopping, online retailers have good reason to be cautiously optimistic about Q4. Even with growth slowing slightly in recent months, they can probably look forward to a 12 percent year-over-year gain compared to Q4 2010.”

    According to the piece, there is a core reason for this level of performance. “What consumers really want in a difficult economy are options. E-commerce satisfies that desire because shoppers have the opportunity to choose from an almost endless supply of products, brands, styles and price-points. No brick-and mortar store can match the massive virtual inventory of an e-tailer now that we are a society of choice. Even the most well-stocked big-box retailers have sparse coverage compared to what’s available online.”
    KC's View:
    As has been my practice in recent years, if I can do all of my Christmas shopping online this year, that’s what I’ll do - my goal is to never put one foot in a traditional store if I can help it. I just absolutely convinced that I’m going to get better prices and greater selection by shopping via my laptop ... and the consumer population is increasingly made up of people who feel the same way.

    A quick story. When I got home from a trip last Saturday night, Mrs. Content Guy mentioned that we were almost out of toilet paper and asked if I could go to the store on Sunday to pick some up. Because I had other things to do on Sunday - like watch football and make lamb and artichoke stew (for which I already had the ingredients) - I decided to go to Amazon and order the toilet paper. On Saturday night. I’m not quite sure how this happened, but a case of the stuff showed up on Monday afternoon. And it didn’t cost me more than it would have if I’d gone to Costco.

    And that’s why everybody needs to be competitive in this area.

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    Advertising Age reports that Procter & Gamble has created a virtual supermarket for its products - ranging from detergent to diapers, razors to shampoo - in the Prague subway system, where consumers can “capture QR codes for whichever items they'd like to purchase, and the orders are submitted to Mall.Cz (the biggest online store in the Czech Republic). Consumers then receive a message to confirm a delivery time -- all while waiting for the next train.”

    The system is similar to one used by Tesco in South Korea, which you can see by clicking here.

    According to Ad Age, “The stores P&G have set up in Prague similarly place images of the products, and their prices, on oversize displays, mimicking supermarket aisles. But in P&G's case, the shelves will be stocked almost exclusively with the company's own products -- such as Ariel detergent, Gillette Venus razors, Old Spice deodorant, Pantene shampoo and Pampers diapers. The company in an announcement Friday did note, however, that it would add a few other products, such as small electronics and toys, around Christmas to help consumers check items off their shopping lists. P&G is also guaranteeing second-day delivery of products.”
    KC's View:
    Extending the shopping experience to new and unusual places is an enormous opportunity. I can easily visualize food retailers installing these kinds of virtual stores in shopping malls all over the country ... they have the potential of growing sales with very little infrastructure cost.

    Two interesting things.

    One is that this is yet another example of a manufacturer disintermediating traditional retailers ... who need to pay attention to this trend, regardless of what continent they are operating on.

    Second, I found this paragraph from the Ad Age story to be illuminating:

    “While there's no lack of interest from marketers, just how viable subway shopping is in the U.S. remains a major question, given infrastructure issues. New York City, for example, is only just beginning to flirt with cell service in subways, with AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers on select routes beginning to receive service as of this month.”

    Amazing. In South Korea and the Czech Republic you can do your grocery shopping in the subway using a smartphone ... and in New York, you can’t even make a cell phone call. And you wonder why the entire country needs an infrastructure upgrade...

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    Marketing Daily reports that despite the tough economy, “the pet industry is expected to maintain a steady pace of growth, increasing by 33% over the next five years to reach $67.7 billion in 2016, according to Mintel.

    “Collectively, the pet industry is expected to generate $50.8 billion in total U.S. 2011 spending, according to American Pet Products Association figures. This will represent a new high for the industry, as the market has consistently posted annual gains during 2002-11 ... The industry’s ability to grow despite a tough economy speaks to owners’ commitment to their pets and manufacturers’ ability to develop products that resonate with pet owners. In fact, 76% of dog/cat owners consider their canine/feline companions to be part of the family. This closeness creates marketing and sales opportunities that go far beyond basics such as food to include apparel, toys, treats, vet care, grooming, boarding, and other pet-related items.”
    KC's View:
    Call me crazy, but when I saw this story I could not shake the terrible feeling that the people who are spending more money on their pets are the same ones who are said to be buying fewer diapers and more diaper rash cream, because they are trying to save money.

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    The Huffington Post reports that a deal company called Midtown Row has come up with a new promotion - you can order two frozen In-N-Out double-double burgers, either regular or animal style, and have them shipped to you anywhere in the US. The promotion is designed to appeal to In-N-Out addicts who cannot get the burgers, which are mostly available only in California, and no place east of the Mississippi.

    There are, however, two things you need to know about the offer.

    One is that there is no guarantee that the burgers will be fresh, and the company takes no responsibility for the defrosting/cooking process.

    The other is that the two burgers will cost you $56.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    • The Kansas City Business Journal reports that 300 Walmart locations around the country will soon be offering tax preparation services from H&R Block, which already has some 11,000 offices around the country.

    Last tax season, the Journal notes, “H&R Block competitor Jackson Hewitt Inc. offered tax services at 2,000 Walmart locations, dedicated to electronic filing.”

    Reuters reports that Walmart plans get a jump on the holiday shopping season by offering “an early preview of its Black Friday deals starting Wednesday and will also hold an early holiday sale beginning Saturday. The Saturday sale will start on November 5 at 11 a.m. and will go on till midnight, the company said in a statement.

    “The Black Friday preview for specials in electronics, toys and apparel will be available to shoppers who sign up at or the store's Facebook page.”

    Black Friday is the term used to describe the day after Thanksgiving, which has been the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season.
    KC's View:
    It was not that many years ago that folks I knew at Walmart told me that they hated Black Friday because the whole deal nature of the promotion violated their “always low prices” message ... but they felt they had to play because everybody else was.

    These days, I suspect that the Bentonville Behemoth doesn’t have any such qualms, simply because its message has become so muddled in recent years.

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    Wine Enthusiast magazine has named Stew Leonard’s nine wine shops as “Retailer of the Year,” saying that “their legendary customer service and great pricing, combined with a great selection of wines, creates a friendly, affordable entry point into wine for customers not really comfortable with such purchases. And there’s plenty for the more experienced wine lover as well.”

    The announcement notes that “Stew Leonard’s Wines was given the award in recognition of their commitment to customer service, Team Member training, and their offerings of unique and innovative products at competitive prices.  Each store offers an exciting depth and breadth of collection and features excellent signage suggesting food and wine pairings, tasting notes, and history, as well as an environment that is comfortable and inviting for wine lovers of all levels ... Managers and buyers at each store location visit wineries, trade shows and major tasting events around the globe to learn more about the wines and find exciting values for the customers.  More than 200 Team Members have attended training classes over the past year, and top-tier wine makers are invited to teach classes, educational seminars, and even lead in-store customer tastings.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    • Food Lion announced that it “will unveil its fourth Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) store located at 7537 Richmond Road in Norge, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 2, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony ... The store, which is built to certification standards, will feature a number of environmentally friendly construction and energy-efficient services, including an educational kiosk and preferred parking for carpool vehicles. Food Lion is in the process of attaining LEED certification for the store.”

    • The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks stores around the country are encouraging customers to contribute $5 to the Opportunity Finance Network, which the company already has funded with a $5 million donation and which is designed to jumpstart local growth by making loans to small businesses and community organizations. Starbucks is making the promise to shoppers that “every $5 they contribute will result in $35 in loans in communities across the country.”

    In addition, the Times reports that “after eliminating 39,000 jobs during a two year period that ended last fall — about 22 percent of its autumn 2008 workforce — Starbucks says it is adding jobs again.

    “The company expects to add more than 3,500 jobs — mostly baristas — in the United States this year, spokesman Jim Olson said. That's net new jobs, which doesn't include replacing workers who leave. Job growth will continue next year, he said, as Starbucks ramps up store remodeling to 1,700 locations next year and adds at least 200 stores.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    • Hannaford Supermarkets announced that Heather Paquette, the company’s district manager in Portland, Maine, has been promoted to the role of vice president of retail operations for the company’s eastern division.

    • Target Corp. announced that longtime CFO Doug Scovanner will retire next March. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the retirement “will deprive the Minneapolis-based retailer of its de facto chief operating officer and financial brain at a time when Target faces rising costs, shrinking profit margins, and an expensive foray into Canada ... Scovanner's exit in 2012 means Target will be down three top-level executives in about four months. Chief Marketing Officer Michael Francis recently departed for J.C. Penney Co. and President Steve Eastman left to ‘pursue other opportunities’ after a series of embarrassing problems with the newly revamped website.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    Yesterday, responding to a story about Walmart’s decision to move its fashion office from New York to Arkansas, we posted an email from an MNB user who wrote:

    Wal-Mart has an expansive view of the world. It is just viewing it from Arkansas! How would you like to be an employee in New York offered a chance to transfer to Arkansas? Wow ... talk about culture shock.

    Another MNB user was offended:

    I believe that those that choose to transfer into an area with a low cost/high standard of living and a world class art museum will welcome the shock.

    And this writer referred me to coverage of the Crystal Bridges art museum, which is said to be absolutely top of the line.

    And another MNBV user wrote:

    In response to the comment from one viewer on the “cultural shock” of a New Yorker being transferred to Arkansas.  I think this viewer would be shocked at what has gone on in the four communities that make up Northwest Arkansas in the past 15 years. Having had the opportunity to take up residence there it has everything to offer and is one of the most progressive areas in the country. I loved it there and would not hesitate to go back.

    On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

    Loved your article on Indian American cooking.  A few years back, while shopping at a reservation trading post in Arizona, I bought a southwestern Indian cook book that had just been awarded a James Beard seal.  It has become one of my go to cookbooks. There isn’t anything I make from that cookbook that isn’t just top notch. And while at the trading post, I had some green chili w/fry bread in the dining room.  I try to avoid white flour/white sugar.  But that fry bread, whoa, should be illegal because it is absolutely addictive.

    And another MNB user wrote:

    I actually have a shot at making it out to Denver in the next month or two.  Thanks for the dining tip.  As I was reading about Tocabe I remembered a thought I had last time I was at Soaring Eagle—a casino/resort owned by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe:  Why aren’t there any menu offerings (or a whole restaurant) from the tribe’s culture?  I think I’ll forward your article to them.  I realize the cuisine varies from Nation to Nation.  But, if the Chippewa tradition has anything like the Osage tradition, I’d love to have a restaurant like Tocabe within driving distance.

    And MNB user Robert Dyer wrote:

    There is nothing like a homemade green chile stew, with New Mexico Hatch chiles and fresh corn tortillas!  I know where I am going next time I am in Denver.

    Finally, an email from MNB user Rick Brindle about the passing of Fred Ball:

    One of the best of the best! A true innovator, industry leader and gentleman. Fred will be missed. My thoughts and prayers to the Ball family.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 2, 2011

    See MyWebGrocer's online sales trends for candy during the month of October.

    Click here to see a full sized version of this infographic.

    We welcome the opportunity to speak with you about how MyWebGrocer can support your company's success in the digital grocery space.   Please contact us at or call 888.662.2284.

    KC's View: