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    Published on: January 25, 2012

    by Kate McMahon

    For shame, Paula Deen.

    No amount of syrupy Southern charm can sugar-coat the simple truth: The celeb chef’s cash-related revelation last week that she has Type 2 Diabetes left a decidedly bitter after-taste across the country.

    That’s because she waited three years to go public, and her announcement was paired with a “multi-platform” drug endorsement deal that put Deen and her two sons on a Big Pharma publicity payroll.

    While the silver-maned, butter-lovin’ Georgia gal still has her stalwart supporters, her news set off a firestorm of criticism across the internet.

    Chef Anthony Bourdain, who once called Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America” for her calorie-laden recipes – tweeted: "Thinking of getting into the leg breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later."

    This post, one of more than 1,000 responses to a New York Times article, summed up many: “Paula Deen is the Kim Kardashian of celebrity cooking: a shameless sham who continued to hide her diagnosis until she got a pharmaceutical sponsor yet continued to hawk her dangerous recipes with abandon all the time.”

    There is a story in the New York Daily News this morning that has her former publicist saying she quit “because she couldn’t see the logic in Deen’s decision to get behind Victoza.” Says Nancy Assuncao, “I couldn’t understand why they thought this was really good for the brand.”

    Deen, 64, a Food Network phenom whose TV/appearance/cookbook revenue topped $10 million in 2011, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years ago. She delayed announcing it until she “had something to bring to the table.”

    That included a deal with the Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk, whose injectable non insulin diabetes drug Victoza she uses. (It also costs a steep $500 a month.) Deen refuses to disclose how much she and her sons are being paid to promote the company’s “Diabetes in a New Light” campaign, which advocates use of Victoza, healthier “diabetes-friendly” recipes and more exercise. (Son Bobby just launched a new TV show, “Not My Mama’s Meals).

    Deen, a known cigarette smoker, concedes she is not making any major lifestyle changes, just practicing “moderation,” giving up her “beloved sweet tea” and taking more walks.

    When pressed, Deen said she would donate some of her compensation (reportedly $6 million over two years) to the American Diabetes Association.

    Well, I’m just saying, y’all, (to paraphrase Paula), it’s just not good enough.

    I think she wasted a unique opportunity to make a difference in our nation’s fight against obesity and devastating diseases such as Diabetes 2, which affects 23 million Americans – or 8.3% of the population. Even closer to home, some 11.3% of her neighbors in Savannah, Georgia, suffer from Diabetes 2, which left unchecked can be fatal. Diet and exercise can help prevent the disease, and reverse some symptoms.

    As one doctor posted online:

    “Boy, does this sadden me that a person who is so well liked and respected by so many is missing the opportunity of a lifetime: to help people. As a physician, I see diabetics every day and try to educate my patients till I am blue in the face and behind by an hour and all I am trying to do is help one person at a time. She could help MILLIONS.”

    I am not blaming Paula Deen for the nation’s obesity crisis, or her diagnosis (as many online critics did). Just because her Lady’s Brunch Burger recipe calls for a hamburger, fried egg and bacon sandwiched between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts doesn’t mean you have to eat it. And I do believe that individuals are responsible for what they eat and their personal health.

    Paula Deen is reportedly shocked by the public backlash and lack of support from her fellow chefs. Hmmm. If Deen had been forthcoming about her diagnosis, publicly committed to educating her fans about healthy cooking and signed on as an unpaid spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association, this story might have a different ending.

    Just food for thought, y’all.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    The numbers are startling, both as a barometer of how engaged people are in new technology, and a measurement of what people will spend money on even during recessionary times.

    Apple Inc. said yesterday that it sold 37 million iPhones over the holidays, contributing to a total of 183 million phones that it has sold since bringing the first iteration of product onto the market in 2007.

    The company also sold 15.4 million iPads over the holidays, more than twice as many as it did during the same period a year earlier.

    In addition to being an indicator of what people’s technological and fiscal priorities are, the sales figures also suggest the extent to which Apple has evolved - the kind of evolution that is necessary for companies to remain relevant and vibrant in a changing world.

    The New York Times notes that “revenue from the iPhone and iPad - neither of which could be bought five years ago - now accounts for 72 percent of Apple’s total revenue, underscoring the transformation of the company.

    It’s an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    The Chicago Sun Times reports that Groupon coupons will now be available on touchscreens installed on some 30 kiosks throughout the city, with the deals “targeted to each kiosk’s location, so that a daily deal at a Navy Pier kiosk could include a discount for the IMAX Theatre, while those at the Soldier Field kiosk could offer a deal for a youth sporting event ... Users may pay for the Groupons with a credit card or can email or Facebook them to themselves to consider later.

    According to the story, “The expanded Groupon access - the number of the so-called SmartKiosks will grow to 100 by March - stems from Groupon’s partnership with SmartDigital, a two-year-old, nine-employee South Loop business that aims to offer free, accessible interactive technology.”

    The Sun Times says that the Groupon-kiosk arrangement is slated to be expanded to Miami and New York.
    KC's View:
    This tells you a lot about Groupon’s go-to-market strategy - that it is looking wherever possible to help companies sell whatever inventory they happen to have, and that they are looking to aggressively build their market share. This is also really smart when it comes to helping tourists access Groupon’s offers, by putting them in front of consumers in new and different places. Smart move.

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    Supervalu announced yesterday that it has named Michael Moore, who joined the company last year as business transformation officer, as its new executive vice president/chief marketing officer.

    Moore succeeds Julie Dexter Berg, who said she is leaving the company and returning to the West Coast.

    Before joining Supervalu, Moore spent almost a quarter-century at Procter & Gamble in roles with sales, marketing, finance, operations and human resources.

    “Michael has a terrific understanding of the food industry and the challenges we face as a grocery retailer in today’s environment,” said Craig Herkert, Supervalu’s chief executive officer and president.  “I am confident that he will move quickly to build marketing programs that are effective and efficient while ensuring that we continue to drive traffic and sales through innovative and engaging consumer marketing programs.”
    KC's View:
    Some will say that Moore’s CPG experience will be critical in helping Supervalu expand its private brand business, but others have suggested to me that marketing private brands is a very different business than marketing national brands...and that CPG experience isn’t always relevant. We’ll see.

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal writes this morning about how fast food chains are staying open through the graveyard shift, hoping “to feed a burgeoning market of night owls and ultra-early risers and help wring more sales out of their existing restaurants.”

    McDonald’s, for example, says that the midnight-to-five period is the fastest growing daypart in its business. And chains like Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts also are working overtime to exploit hunger pangs that many people suffer during those hours.

    "Whether it's taking on an additional job or just working a late shift, we're seeing more people out later at night," says Steve Levigne, McDonald's vice president of consumer and business insights.
    KC's View:
    This trend says a lot about the economy. I’d guess that part of the increase in graveyard shift traffic comes from people who are working second jobs, or working in jobs that they might not have taken when the economy was healthier.

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    • The Chicago Sun Times reports that Walmart is slated to open its second supercenter within the city limits today, a 157,000 square foot store in the South Side Chatham neighborhood.

    As the story notes, “The Chatham store will be Wal-Mart’s second supercenter in Chicago and its fifth location overall. The first full-sized store — since it was converted to a supercenter — is located in Austin. There’s also a Wal-Mart Express across the street from the Chatham supercenter, a Wal-Mart express in Wrigleyville and a Neighborhood Market at Presidential Towers in the West Loop ... Later this year, Wal-Mart plans to open: the Pullman supercenter; Neighborhood Markets in Lakeview and Auburn-Gresham and Wal-Mart Express stores in West Englewood and River North.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    Advertising Age reports that Meredith Corp., which has recently acquired Every Day with Rachael Ray and Eating Well magazines, now is buying from Reader's Digest Association for $175 million.

    "We see strong growth in the digital food category overall," Liz Schimel, exec VP-chief digital officer at Meredith, tells Ad Age. "Very importantly, we see more and more women seeking information digitally about food and cooking, and what they want to eat and shop for. So with this acquisition, the tremendous scale we have in print is mirrored by the tremendous scale we have on the digital side."
    KC's View:
    This kind of investment and statement of priorities ought to have food retailers and manufacturers thinking about what they ought to be doing in the digital space to gain access to their shoppers, helping to shape their food choices and create a more potent and lasting connection with them.

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    Interesting piece on, reporting on a new survey saying that teens “are slow to adopt e-books, in part because they do not see e-books as a social technology and they think there are too many restrictions on sharing digital titles.” The story notes that “sixty-six percent of 13- to 17-year olds say they prefer print books to e-books, 26 percent say they have no preference and only 8 percent prefer e-books.
    There are several factors in this trend. One is that the act of discovery that takes place in traditional bookstores still is a strong lure for parents and children; another is that only 37 percent of children’s books are bought new for the household - the rest of gifts, hand-me-downs or library books. And finally, parents seem to prefer to have their kids reading print books, or think that their kids focus better on print books.
    KC's View:
    Interesting that the lack of social connectivity is what tends to put kids off e-books; when you think about it, this makes a lot of sense.

    I would argue that as e-books become more interactive, offering new features and options to readers, this could change. (How about virtual book clubs? This could be a smart idea that also could sell more e-books that are relevant to people’s previous choices.)

    I have a 22-year-old who prefers printed books. However, the other day I linked his iPad to my Kindle account, which means he now has access to my entire library of e-books ... and this seems to have shifted his attitude a bit. Attitudes change.

    BTW...check out the first exchange in “Your Views,” below ... which is all about the use of tablet computers by young people. It is interesting.

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that “makers of meat substitutes, such as vegetarian turkey and fake sausages, are working to more closely mimic the taste and texture of the real thing. They're also tinkering with mouth feel, the sensation a food creates when chewed. Their goal is to win over more of the group marketers call ‘flexitarians’ - health-conscious adults, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who share many characteristics of vegetarians, with one big exception: They eat meat sometimes.”

    Vegetarians, the story says, make up just five percent of the US population, “but include ‘semi-vegetarians,’ people who consume meat with fewer than half of meals, and the number represents a sizable one in eight U.S. adults.” So we’re talking about a lot of people.

    The story goes on notes that “meat free” products in the US grew 21 percent over the past two years, and that the general image of meatless products is improving, from “prison-issued protein loaf or elastic chicken” to something more palatable and tasty, as well as something that may be safer and more environmentally friendly.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Roundy’s Supermarkets is working to arrange $800 million in loans as a way of refinancing its debts.

    This move comes after the company’s announcement last year that it plans to launch an initial public offering as a way of raising $230 million to pay down debt and pay existing investors. No date for the IPO has been announced.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    • Published reports in the UK say that there is rife speculation across the pond that Tesco may be planning to shut down its Home Plus furniture-and-furnishings chain of 13 stores - in part because of disappointing sales at the stores, in part because broader fiscal issues are forcing the company to refocus its attention on what is perceived as its core business.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    • The Detroit Free Press reports that Meijer and Michigan State University are working together to launch a “Made in Michigan” initiative.

    According to the story, “The effort will begin when the new grocery items will fill designated areas in 33 Meijer stores statewide. The products include marinara sauce, blueberry butter, gluten free baking mixes and gourmet seasoning. The new items are in addition other Michigan products currently available at Meijer stores. Meijer worked with the MSU Product Center and others for about a year on the project, which starts with 22 vendors.”

    • The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that Marsh plans to build a new supermarket as part of “a massive project that would replace a block and a half of surface parking lots in the northwest quadrant of downtown Indianapolis ... The new grocery store would be a welcome amenity for the neighborhood and nearby IUPUI campus, and it represents a significant milestone for the Fishers-based supermarket chain. It would be the first new Marsh store since 2004.”

    • The Moscow Times reports that Russian supermarket mogul Andrei Rogachyov plans to build a chain of 400 small-format discount grocery stores (up to 7,500 square feet) in southern Florida. Sixty of the stores are slated to be opened by the end of the year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    • Target said yesterday that it is promoting John Mulligan, senior vice president for finance, to be its new chief financial officer. He succeeds Doug Scovanner, who has been CFO at Target for 18 years.

    Advertising Age reports that Dave Peacock, president of Anheuser-Busch and 20-year veteran of the company, is resigning, to be replaced by Luiz Edmond, a Brazilian citizen who is the brewer's North America zone president.

    As the story notes, “Peacock was one of the few remaining holdovers who had stayed with the company after it was acquired in 2008 by Belgium-based InBev, creating global parent Anheuser-Busch InBev. His departure comes in the wake of other big changes at the brewer's U.S. division, which continues to lose market share in a tough economic environment and new competition from spirits that has hurt most big beer brands.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 25, 2012

    Earlier this week, responding to an email suggesting that a move to replace printed school textbooks with tablet computers would disenfranchise poor and disadvantaged students and create a greater gap between the haves and the have-nots, I said that I thought we have a societal responsibility to make sure that such a gap does not exist.

    One MNB user really, really disagreed with me:

    Your reply regarding the comments about the underprivileged students being unable to afford iPads speaks volumes. Allow me to dissect it.

    It will be our responsibility as a society to make sure that this gap does not exist.

    How is it the responsibility of society to manage any economic gap of its citizens? We are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There is no guarantee of prosperity or economic equivalence. In fact, I’d argue, it’s the gap that motivates us to pursue success via education, investment, etc.

    One of the ways to do this would be to view such a shift as an investment, not a cost ... an investment in having a better educated citizenry that is better equipped to work and contribute productively to society.

    More appropriately, philanthropic organizations can drive this investment by helping corporations, like Apple, to see the value of such investments. By making visible contributions to college students, these corporations will not just be helping society, they will be marketing their product and driving growth, which equates to higher profits and ROI. This is the sole purpose for the existence of a corporation.

    I did a quick check, and it costs more than $5 million to build one drone aircraft for the military. Let’s make the math easy and assume you can buy a tablet computer for $500. This means that for the cost of one drone, you could buy 30,500 tablet computers. Which is a better investment?

    Since the government’s role is to provide infrastructure and defense, the better investment from tax dollars is the drone. Tablet computers for college students would be a good investment for the companies that make and market tablet computers (see above).

    And could there be a lot of other places where you could economize as a way of helping to educate these underprivileged students?

    You shouldn’t begin a sentence with “and.”

    And that’s all you have to say?

    Before I respond, here is an email on the same subject from another reader:

    If the citizens are willing to pay for it and the local school administration is willing to implement it, a “one-to-one” program to provide every student with a personal computer could go a long ways toward better preparing our students for the economy of the future.

    We live in a town of 5000 in Iowa and recently had our school district approve spending for just over $1.1 million to lease/purchase 1100 Apple laptops for every student in grades 4-12.   All the K-3 classrooms will be outfitted with iPads that do not leave the building.   The laptops purchased for the students are not the same as what you would purchase directly from Apple as a consumer; however, they have all the bells and whistles necessary for academic programming.   Students are assigned a laptop that is in their possession 24 hours a day from the beginning of the school year to the end of the year.   Each summer students turn in their laptops for cleaning, maintenance, etc., and receive them back the following fall.    At the end of the four year lease period, the district has the option to keep the laptops (as they are essentially “paid for” at that time) or to start another lease of newer equipment for another period of time to be determined.

    While we believe that this is the right thing to do at this time, there have been a few hurdles to clear.   First and foremost, there are faculty members who don’t like the idea of having to convert their classroom curricula into a format that can be used on a computer.   Some of those teachers are retiring, but not all of them.   Then there are the issues of monitoring the usage of the laptops and attempting to block inappropriate websites.   Most of all, there is the question of where students will find Internet access away from the school building if they don’t have access at home..…..will they go to the public library?   to McDonalds?

    All in all, it has not been a completely smooth or painless process……but in the end, we believe that we will graduate students who will be better prepared to deal with today’s technology, no matter what career path they choose.

    I think it is instructive to hear about a tablet computer program that is working, albeit with some bumps in the road.

    I have no problem with public-private partnerships that make such programs possible, nor do I have a problem with private contributions that enable kids of have access to such technology. How we get there is less important to me than making sure we arrive at the destination.

    I think the first email writer missed my broader point. (Or maybe I didn’t make it clearly enough.)

    Think of it this way. We as a society have no problem investing in printed textbooks. we have no problem investing in desks and chairs and libraries. I view an investment in technological replacements for print textbooks as being along the same lines - except that it may be smarter because it will better equip kids to deal with a technological society, and can provide kids with constantly updated information relevant to their educations.

    My wife is a third grade teacher. She still has a blackboard, but the district also invested in a smart board that allows her to be more inventive in presenting lessons to her students. Would anyone argue that our schools ought not make such investments, that it is a bad use of money to better equip our teachers?

    BTW...if I’d had used a tablet computer, maybe I wouldn’t have screwed up the math on that drones vs. iPad comparison.

    We also got some emails yesterday responding to a letter about customer service at a golf store.

    One MNB user wrote:

    The example of Golf Galaxy sounds a lot more like a shopper who felt overly entitled rather than poor customer service.

    At any golf store where I’ve tested clubs, they always put tape on the club face to keep it pristine.  Knowing I had the wrong clubs, I wouldn’t hit over a dozen balls with any comfort that I could get an even exchange.  It wouldn’t be surprising that the store manager would have to get involved.  Once the decision was made, I would be thrilled they were willing to make the exchange (side note: I did find it odd that they were trying to peddle extra merchandise, though the exchange didn’t seem conditioned on the additional purchase).

    The result of a store agreeing to exchange a set of used clubs for a $1,000 set of new clubs?  A nasty e-mail published on MNB and who knows where else.  All because they didn’t apologize enough?  It may not be sterling customer service, but I’m not sure they did anything wrong.

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    I believe the email from the fellow who received the wrong set of golf clubs says more about him than Golf Galaxy.  He realized that the clubs were not the ones he purchased, but had his son "hit a few balls" with them anyway.  Now he had a used set of clubs and expected Golf Galaxy to give him a new set.

    I have breakfast most Saturdays with a large group of guys, and frequently the waitress will set the wrong order in front of some of us.  We figure out who should get which order.  I guess the golfer would "take a few bites" and ask for his original order!

    Taking a broader view, MNB user Amy Miller wrote:

    With many years in retail I am thoroughly enjoying all your retail stories your readers are sharing– both good, the bad and the crazy.  I find them entertaining and educational of course.  Retail is hell on the sidelines and sometimes it rears its ugly head on the field (was that a good pun, as I don’t know football? LOL).  The irony is there are always 2 sides to every story.  I am surprised you haven’t had any stories sent to you about outrageous customers, because they DO exist as well and can make you shake their head just as these do.   But ahem, the customer is always right.

    I am sure your getting emails to stop posting them but they are, like I said -- educational.  Anyone could take any one of these stories to their employees and do training with them - today.  These are scenarios that EVERY retailer has encountered, or will.  I call these good ‘weeding tools.’  They weed out your bad, good, better, best employees.

    Actually, people seem to like the customer service emails. No calls to stop them, at least not yet.

    As for the golf thing...I have to be honest here. I know almost nothing about golf. I’ve played the game exactly once, and the two people I shared the course with would tell you that there ought to be a law against people like me going anywhere near a golf course.

    It never occurred to me that you couldn’t hit a couple of golf balls with a set of clubs and then not return the clubs if they were not what you wanted - especially if the store gave you clubs different from what you thought you bought. I gather, from these emails, that this is bad form. Which I did not know.

    So maybe Golf Galaxy doesn’t deserve all the scorn that was heaped on them.

    As Amy Miller suggests, sometimes the customers isn’t always right.
    KC's View: