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: February 16, 2012

    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with The Content Guy.

    Want more evidence about the power of social media? You don’t have to go any further than the case of Tommy Jordan, a North Carolina man who, I think it is fair to say, quite literally went ballistic when faced with behavior by his 15-year-old daughter that, to say the least, he viewed as objectionable.

    Perhaps you’ve seen it. After all, as of right now, more than 25 million people have seen the video on YouTube. You can see it here.

    Here’s what happened. I gather that Jordan’s daughter posted a diatribe against her parents and their treatment of her on her Facebook page. It does not seem to be the first time she’d done it, but coming after Jordan spent money to upgrade her laptop, it was a bridge too far. So Jordan videotaped himself reading her diatribe, rebutting her points one by one, and then, saying that he had no idea how to correct the situation and get his daughter to behave appropriately, he proceeded to put nine bullets in her laptop.

    Let me repeat. More than 25 million people have seen the video. And a lot of them not only think that he did the right thing, but they’ve posted messages for him, saying that he is their hero.

    Now, you’ll have to judge for yourself how you feel about this. I happen to have a 17-year-old daughter, so I’m sympathetic to his position. Though I’m not sure that public humiliation of one’s daughter is the most productive way to go. That said, having heard her profanity-laden diatribe, maybe she should feel lucky that he only shot the laptop. It seems pretty clear that there is a lot of history here, a complicated backstory ... and I think it has just gotten a lot more complicated.

    But can you imagine? Twenty-five million people have seen this video. For better or for worse, this family’s life - and its troubles - are now out there for all the world to see. Tommy Jordan used social media has turned their life into a kind of reality show, and now he’s going to have to live with the short-term and long-term implications of that decision.

    I hope that Tommy Jordan knows what he’s doing. I hope his daughter turns out okay. I hope that their family survives this turmoil and finds happiness.

    Because now, like it nor not, more than 25 million people are paying attention.

    That’s the power of social media, and it is what’s on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    And one more thing...

    We have kind of a cool addition to the MNB, on, there is a complete portfolio of all the “FaceTime with The Content Guy” segments that we’ve posted. Just go to

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Let me be up front about something. I’m not a big basketball guy. I’ve been to maybe a couple of college games in my life, one pro game (albeit one in which Michael Jordan played), never watch it on TV and routinely get beaten in “21” by my wife and kids out in the driveway.

    And yet there I was last night, watching pieces of the New York Knicks - Sacramento Kings game on TV. How could I not? The rest of the world - save for the folks in NYC who have seen the games blacked out because of a cable company dispute - seems to be.

    It seems to be a great lesson in having the right person in the right place at the right time. It also seems to be a great lesson in the importance not just of scoring, but of making assists ... of passing the ball to someone else when it seems appropriate.

    As I understand it (and true basketball fans are wincing right now), Jeremy Lin is a relatively uncelebrated professional basketball player and Harvard University graduate who played briefly for the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets before being claimed by the Knicks off waivers. Since becoming a starter - only because somebody else was hurt - Lin has helped propel the Knicks to seven straight wins. With their win last night, the Knicks got back to .500 for the first time in almost a month. And Lin has become one of the most celebrated players on the court - igniting people’s enthusiasm for the Knicks, the ratings, and even the stock price for the company that owns the team. He may even have saved the job, at least temporarily, of Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. And, amazingly, just says before Lin became the starting point guard, the team was thinking about cutting him.

    All of which speaks to the power of both ability and execution, and the importance of allowing people to achieve their potential.

    But here’s what I only really understood after watching last night’s game.

    In the previous six games, as Lin was inflaming the passions of basketball fans, he was doing it by scoring. But last night, he only scored 10 points. But he finished the night with 13 assists, which experts say was even more important because a) he is making the people around him better, and b) and it shows he knows how to run the offense from the floor.

    Here’s how the NY Daily News describes it this morning:

    “For the first time in three games, there was no need for Lin to produce a last-second miracle or manufacture a fourth-quarter bailout. In fact, Lin watched the final period from the comfort of the Knicks’ bench after having done most of his damage before halftime. More important, he beat the Kings with his vision, passing and smarts. Yes, the Knicks really do have a point guard.”

    My eyes have been opened. I think I’m a fan.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    The Dallas News reports on the opening of the new mini-Central Market there, which looks “as if someone took the CM concept and squeezed it up and in: You’ll see most of the products found at the larger stores, but tighter stocks stacked high — a narrower trough of sweet potatoes, apples in a vertical display or a smaller selection of Milano’s cured meats.

    “Incredibly, an on-site bakery is shoehorned in, with new features to include traditional boil and-bake bagels as well as the familiar, house-made flour tortillas. The deli will feature more New York deli-style dishes and NYC-based Charlito’s Cocina salami.

    “Like a true urban market, not an inch of the 30,000 square feet is wasted. A wine display hugs a support pillar. A tiny, high shelf runs the length of the dairy case, holding items such as CM Organics applesauce and loose tea. Even the shopping carts are smaller. The store is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and you can wake up with the coffee bar at 7 a.m.”
    KC's View:
    Can’t wait to see this store, because you can count on pretty much everything HEB does to move the needle on grocery shopping and move the industry forward.

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    Safeway has announced a first-of-its-kind competition in which chefs from across the nation can compete for a job with the Safeway Culinary Kitchens and have their recipe included in the Open Nature(TM) Skillet Meal line sold in stores nationwide.

    According to the company, “The competition will culminate in a final cook-off at the Safeway Culinary Kitchens in Pleasanton, Calif., where chefs will cook their original, delicious and nutritious skillet meals. Executive Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli, who appears on Food Network's ‘Chopped’ and ‘Iron Chef,’ will join an experienced judging panel of Safeway chefs and executives to select the winning chef who will join the culinary team.”

    Safeway will be hosting the regional cook-offs at the following three campuses: California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago on April 23rd, 25th, and 27th respectively.

    Safeway says that “this opportunity begins on Facebook where candidates and fans alike can follow the entire process, including the call for submissions; a national ‘People's Choice’ vote, running April 9-20; regional cook-offs during the end of April; and the final cook-off at the Safeway Culinary Kitchens on May 15. The winner will be awarded a full-time position at the Safeway Culinary Kitchens think tank, which is committed to developing best-in-class store brand foods that help shoppers find inspiration for affordable meals. And, their winning recipe will be sold as an Open Nature Skillet Meal in stores across the country.”
    KC's View:
    Love it.

    We have the Safeway cooking competition. The FMI cooking competition coming up at its 2012 show. And I hope lots more...because food is what the industry really ought to be all about, and will, I firmly believe, be the core value upon which smart retailers will build their cultures and create a sustainable and innovative culture.

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    The Business Journal reports that private equity group Willis Stein & Partners is trying to sell its majority stake in Roundy’s Inc., just says after engineering a $187.5 million IPO designed to help pay down Roundy’s $800 million in debt.

    The story notes that “Willis Stein bought Roundy’s for $750 million in 2002 and tried to sell it in 2007 and again in 2011.”

    The IPO launched at $8.50 per share, and the company’s stock price was $9.90 when the markets closed yesterday.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 16, 2012 reports that Tesco suffered dual blows yesterday - finding out that its UK market share dropped 0.5 percentage points in the last quarter, to 28.6 percent, at the same time as longtime executive Andrew Higginson said that his departure date would be February 27.

    As the story notes, “Higginson, who joined the Tesco board in 1997 and played a big part in setting up the firm’s banking arm, said he would quit last year, soon after Philip Clarke took the reins. Graham Pimlott will replace him as chair of Tesco Bank later on 27 February, the firm said yesterday.”

    • The Financial Times reports that Tesco plans to refocus its attention on its food business as it looks to re-energize its UK fortunes.

    Experts tell FT that “Tesco planned to invest in staff hours, especially in the fresh food departments, notably in fruit and vegetables, meat and the service counters. Fruit and vegetable and meat departments would be given dedicated teams in identifiable uniforms.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    USA Today reports that brunch seems to be the new national passion, with “brunch clubs” becoming popular in many markets.

    According to the story, “This hybrid meal is clearly an American passion, as many similar groups are meeting and eating their way through the weekend in restaurants and homes across the country (Google the name of your town and ‘brunch club’ to find out if anyone has already gotten the ball rolling).” In addition, the paper says, “brunching tends to be a wallet-friendly endeavor, whether eaten out or cooked at home” - it is seen as family-friendly, wallet-friendly, and not requiring the time or investment of a dinner party.
    KC's View:
    Smart food retailers, it seems to me, ought to be not just reaping the sales from such clubs, but also arranging them, enabling them, hosting them ... doing whatever is possible to nurture and grow the concept without being overly commercial. Again, it is about the food...

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart may be ready to spend $2 billion to acquire the Karusel hypermarket chain in Russia from X5 Retail Group there. Neither company is confirming the report.

    The story notes that Walmart “hired former X5 Chief Executive Officer Lev Khasis as senior vice president and chief leverage officer last year.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    Some closing news from the 2012 National Grocers Association (NGA) Show, which just concluded in Las Vegas...

    • According to NGA, “The annual four-day event was the largest in the trade association's history, with more than 2,400 independent grocers, wholesaler and industry partners attending. The NGA Show featured nearly 35,000 square feet of exhibit floor space, a 25 percent increase. More than 200 exhibitors participated in the EXPO, a 10 percent increase from the previous year.”

    • The Women Grocers of America (WGA) named Barbara Thomas, Director of Training of K-VAT Food Stores, Inc./Food City of Grundy, VA, as the 2012 Woman of the Year. The WGA Woman of the Year award recognizes an industry woman whose leadership has contributed to the success of her company.  

    • Also announced at the conclusion of the NGA Show was the winner of the annual Food Industry University Coalition Student Case Competition hosted by the Asparagus Club. Louisiana State University (LSU) won first place, winning $8,000 in cash and scholarship prizes. Arizona State University (ASU) came in second place, winning $1,000. Seven universities competed in the competition, which provides students attending the NGA Show the opportunity to analyze a real world contemporary retail business challenge. Working in teams, students worked collaboratively to examine, present and then respond to questions posed by a panel of judges.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    • The Lakeland Ledger reports that “in yet another effort to get the attention of Publix Super Markets, members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will lay down their forks and spoons and go on a five-day fast at the company's Lakeland headquarters starting March 5, as part of the farmworkers' Campaign for Fair Food ... The group wants Publix to sign its Fair Food Agreement, which has been signed by 10 other corporations, including McDonald's, Burger King and Whole Foods Markets, agreeing to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes.”

    Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten says, "We're more than willing to pay a penny more per pound or whatever the market price for tomatoes will be in order for us to be able to provide those goods to our customers, but we suggest that they put the cost of the tomatoes in the price they charge the industry.”

    • The Journal Star reports Nebraska State Sen. Brenda Council has reintroduced legislation there that would expand access to healthy foods by offering “grants and loans to individuals and businesses that want to build, renovate or expand grocery stores in areas considered to be ‘food deserts’. The measure also seeks to establish ‘farmers' markets, food consumer cooperatives, community gardening projects and distribution projects that enable food retailers in underserved communities to regularly obtain fresh produce’.”

    A similar measure was vetoed last year by Gov. Dave Heineman, who said that it redundant, replicating programs offered by both federal and state agencies.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    • Convenience store chain The Pantry has announced that Dennis G. Hatchell will become President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, effective March 5, 2012. Hatchell previously served as Vice Chairman of Alex Lee, Inc. headquartered in Hickory, North Carolina, which is a holding company for Lowe’s Food Stores, Merchants Distributors, Inc. and Institution Food House. Hatchell will succeed Edwin J. Holman, who served as interim CEO since Terrance M. Marks resigned as CEO last October.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 16, 2012

    I got some very different reactions to yesterday’s NGA coverage, in which I suggested that one session talked about how to compete with “alternative formats” by making 10 recommendations (better produce, variety, employee engagement, etc...) most of which could have been made 20 years ago.

    One MNB user who was in the room wrote:

    I think the breakfast session yesterday on “how compete against non-traditional formats” was very good.  Was there much that was new or different, perhaps not.  But I question how many of those retailers in the room are actually incorporating the top ten recommendations mentioned in this presentation ... So while many of the recommendations may not be new, I’m not sure how retailers are actually listening.  I often find them to be way too operations focused, rather than consumer focused.

    But another reader offered:

    To read the NGA’s suggestion of ten ways to “win” the competition with non-traditional formats made me cringe. And you are spot on in your observation that “many of the retailers liked the presentation because it made them feel good about the tactics they are using to combat non-traditional formats.

    The fact is that most mainstream grocery retail chains performance in these areas is weak, if not appalling, compared to many best in class examples. Most bakery departments are content to produce cakes from the 1970s and the same ready-bake bread SYSCO has been pitching for decades. One major retailer seems to believe employee engagement is about thanking the customer by name after clumsily looking at the receipt. They still call me by my ex-wife’s last name (my last land line was in her name and I use the phone number for my loyalty ID).

    Event merchandising rarely moves beyond the level of inviting local beer distributors to set up 12 pack boxes in the shape of a field goal during the playoff season. Oh, and why not drop a potato chip display there? My local Kroger banner regularly fills the front of store displays with things like motor scooters, hot-tubs, foosball tables and BBQ grills. My friends try to guess what bizarre stuff will show up next.

    Very few meat departments do much more than repackage the decidedly average quality product. One local grocery chain put in a small meat cooler with “fancier looking” cuts of meat, but  the counter closes at 5pm when the department manager leaves.  Visiting retail grocers around the country, I find that 75% of the time if I ask for skirt steak they either look confused or tell me that they cannot even order it.

    Of course there  are always exceptions, but the bottom line is that these retailers are delusional if the believe their current performance—as a class—in these areas will differentiate them from any competition.

    Let me make one more point about this ... that the very phrase non-traditional formats is antiquated, anachronistic and retailer-focused, as opposed to being focused on the consumer experience.

    Shoppers don’t think that way. Dollar stores, convenience stores, superstores...none of these are “non-traditional formats.” They’re just places where people can get what they want and what they need.

    The very idea that a grocer would think of himself or herself as “traditional” is a mistake. It buys into an old-world way of thinking and behaving. And they ought to ban the whole concept of “traditional; formats” and “non-traditional formats” from their vocabulary and way of thinking.

    KC's View: