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 17, 2012

    Please moms and kids by offering better sweetener options in mainline sets.  Sales of Organic Agave, Organic Stevia and Organic Honey are growing by double digits and also have healthy profit margins.

    Wholesome Sweeteners has proven you can dramatically increase the profitability of your mainline sugar set by incorporating our Organic & Specialty sweeteners into your assortment.  Make it a destination!  Moms are increasingly looking for natural options for their families, and Wholesome Sweeteners’ line of sustainably harvested, Fair Trade Certified sweeteners offers families the unrefined sweetness they prefer.
    Contact us today to learn more about maximizing your sugar category revenue and shifting your mix to higher margin, value-added sweeteners:  1-800-680-1896 or e-mail us at
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Doing what I do for a living, I read a lot of news stories about what happens in the retail world.

    I’m not talking just about the innovations and inspirations. I’m also talking about the seamy underbelly of what happens in America’s stores and parking lots. I’m talking about the shootings and stabbings, the domestic disputes and the police calls, and wide range of stories that appear every day about life gone awry for people. It actually proves the notion that retailers serve as centerpieces for their communities, because almost everything happens there.

    But this one, reported yesterday by a local Fox News affiliate, just deserved a callout. (You have no idea how many of these kinds of stories I read each week. Besides, it’s Friday.)

    In West Whiteland Township, Pennsylvania, the story says, “police say they were forced to use an electric stun gun on a naked 6-foot-4-inch, nearly 300-pound man after he allegedly stole socks from a Walmart.”

    That’s right. This 300-pound guy apparently got out of his car in the parking lot, took off all his clothes, walked into the Walmart, grabbed a pair of socks, put them on, and ventured further into the store. That’s when he was approached by police and when he resisted, he was stunned into submission.

    Though not so stunned, I suspect, as the other people on line at the Walmart checkout counters, who had to wonder if this represented yet another change to the Walmart greeter program.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    Okay. Here’s a story that is probably going to make many in the MNB audience crazy.

    It comes from the Carolina Journal, which reports on how a preschooler at a North Carolina school was forced to eat three chicken nuggets when a state employee said that the lunch prepared for her at home by her mother did not meet federal nutrition guidelines.

    According to the story, “The girl's turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day.

    “The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs - including in-home day care centers - to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

    “When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.” And, the story notes, parents are then required to pay for the supplemental items.

    And here’s the kicker. The kid, being a kid, only ate the nuggets, and brought the rest of her lunch home untouched.

    Local officials are said to be looking into the incident.
    KC's View:
    Let’s get this out of the way.

    The move by the federal employee was profoundly stupid. First of all, that sounds like a pretty good packed lunch by almost any standard. The rules were put into place to protect kids with moronic parents who pack them a soda and a Twinkie for lunch.

    But I do think that people who are turning this into a political issue are over-stepping a little bit. Bureaucratic behavior can run amok at any time, but that doesn’t mean that you decide that all nutrition programs in public education are being put into place by food Nazis. Which is what some people would have us believe, because any gasoline that can be thrown on a political fire is seen as a good thing.

    A stupid person did a stupid thing. They should be instructed about the spirit of nutrition rules, and told to use their common sense.

    I personally have a bigger problem with the chicken nuggets. (I hope they were baked, not fried.)

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    The Portland Tribune in Oregon reports that New Seasons Market plans to “put its next grocery store in a North Portland neighborhood on the edge of what some define as one of the city’s ‘food deserts’.”

    Lisa Sedlar, CEO at New Seasons, tells the paper that “the success of her company’s inner-city stores shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, full-service grocery stores can make a profit in low-income neighborhoods.”

    However, the Tribune writes that “some national experts say that food deserts may not be as much of a public health issue as many believe. Instead, they say, erasing food deserts is equally about sustainability – supporting local farmers, keeping local money circulating locally and encouraging residents to walk rather than drive to get their groceries.

    “Last summer, Multnomah County began offering free refrigeration systems to small mom=-and-pop groceries so they can carry at least a small selection of fresh produce along with the beer, soft drinks and cigarettes that typically dominate their sales. Public money was used to assist the opening of the Village Market in New Columbia, a North Portland community that includes many public housing units. Federal money funneled through Multnomah County is being used to fund obesity prevention programs in schools, especially in neighborhoods where full-service grocery stores don’t exist.”
    KC's View:
    I think all those programs are fine, but it doesn’t replace the importance of having a neighborhood supermarket that offers diverse, tasty, nutritious food ... and does so while turning a profit, which is what New Seasons has done before and plans to do again.

    Here’s how the Tribune frames Sedlar’s approach:

    “New Seasons, she says, seeks to become a neighborhood store and address some of the underlying causes of poor nutrition in poor neighborhoods. Availability of fresh produce and healthy food choices isn’t the only barrier to eliminating diabetes and other diseases, Sedlar says. Another component is education.

    “Free samples of healthy food and kitchen demonstrations help, she says, as does placing healthier choices next to the traditional unhealthy snack foods. So does hiring from the neighborhood, because local residents will come in to see a friend or neighbor working in the store. Neighborhood residents also will know what the local shoppers want in the store.

    New Seasons gives 10 percent of its after-tax profits to community organizations or events and 20 percent of its profits back to its staff in the form of profit sharing. When some of those employees are neighborhood residents, that word can get around, too.”

    I’ve always thought that NewSeasons is one of the most enlightened companies I’ve ever run across, combining a passion for the local community with a highly developed food culture and a strong focus on health.

    It is a winning combination, and it is great to see that the company has found a sustainable way to bring it to inner city neighborhoods and food deserts.

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    In the UK, The Grocer reports that has quadrupled to 8,500 the number of grocery products included in its Subscribe & Save program there. Subscribe & Save, which is said to be extremely successful for Amazon in the US, allows shoppers to sign up for regular and discounted automatic replenishment in specific categories.
    KC's View:
    I’ve always thought that Subscribe & Save is one of Amazon’s smartest ideas, and I am amazed that nobody has tried to replicate it.

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Jewel-Osco has been successful in fending off a lawsuit brought against it by Michael Jordan, who apparently got upset when the retail chain took out an ad in Sports Illustrated congratulating the star for being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Jordan complained, the story says, because “the ad featured a pair of basketball shoes with the number 23 on the soles below the words ‘Jewel-Osco salutes #23 on his many accomplishments as we honor a fellow Chicagoan who was ‘just around the corner’ for so many years. The ad includes the Jewel-Osco logo and the grocery chain’s slogan ‘Good things are just around the corner’.”

    Jordan said that the ad implied some sort of endorsement, but the judge said it was “noncommercial speech” protected by the First Amendment. However, the judge also “deferred a ruling on whether to toss the case until the parties submit detailed briefs next month,” the Tribune reports.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    • The Associated Press reports that Publix Supermarkets has been cited for 16 safety and health violations in the case of a man who had his hand amputated while he was cleaning conveyor equipment at one of its warehouses.

    Proposed penalties total $182,000.

    Publix says it plans to appeal the OSHA ruling.

    • The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) welcomed the introduction of Resolutions of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, which would overturn a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that dramatically shortens the election period before a unionization vote.

    “We applaud the introduction of these resolutions and urge that Congress act quickly to pass them in order to protect the rights of workers. These resolutions overturn an ill-conceived NLRB decision that would deny employees access to critical information and time to consider the issues at hand prior to entering the voting booth in a union election,” said Katherine Lugar, RILA’s executive vice president for public affairs.

    • Kansas City-based Price Chopper has launched what it is calling its “Meal Central Solutions Center,” which it says “gives Price Chopper Shoppers a new meal plan each week in a central, highly-visible display. The meal always includes a center plate item, and an assortment of sides and/or a dessert. Also included in the Meal Central display case are a Meal Central recipe for one of the menu items (printed on a free recipe card or available electronically via a QR code), the main ingredients (protein, suggested sides and/or dessert), and a discounted package price for the entire meal.

    • The Associated Press reports that Mars Inc. has decided to stop making king-sized versions of its candy bars, and now will only market items of 250 calories-per-serving or less.

    According to the story, “Representatives from Mars declined to provide further details Thursday, noting that it has not yet finalized how it will reach its caloric goals. But the company said in an emailed statement that it has shown a ‘broad -based commitment to health and nutrition’ in recent years.”

    Food Safety News reports that “foods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were recalled 50 percent more in the fourth quarter last year and affected over 80 percent more units when compared with the previous period, according to the ExpertRECALL ™ Index.

    “The quarterly ExpertRECALL™ Index was released Tuesday, showing 2011 ended with a surge of food recalls led by undeclared allergens, which accounted for more than one in three food recalls during the quarter.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    Marketing Daily reports that Purina is launching a new campaign aimed at helping ”pet parents” to make their pets great.

    According to the story, “ the commercial shows dogs of all stripes going through their days, lying on the couch, sleeping in their beds, playing fetch. As the music picks up, the spot interweaves exceptional canines, such as rescue dogs, therapy dogs and assistance dogs, in addition to more typical dogs. The spot ends with the tagline, ‘Inside Every Good Dog is a Great Dog’.”
    KC's View:
    We’ve had purebred dogs and mutts. We’ve had rescue dogs. We’ve raised dogs that went on to become part of the “Guiding Eyes for the Blind” program. Loved them all. (Well, most of them. But right now, we’re blessed with a pure yellow lab named Buffett and a rescue dog named Parker. And maybe my favorite dog of all was our three-legged golden retriever-collie mix named Kipling.)

    And yet, when I saw that slogan, all I could think was that it really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, what is really inside every dog is a load of dog poop waiting to get out, and somebody has to clean it up.

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    • It has been announced that Thomas S, Rittenhouse, President and Chief Executive Officer of GS1 US from 1997 to 2004, when it was known as the Uniform Code Council, passed away suddenly on February 10, 2012. He was 70.

    “We’re deeply saddened to hear of Tom’s passing,” said Bernie Hogan, Senior Vice President, Emerging Capabilities & Industries for GS1 US. “Tom was the person most responsible for turning the UCC from a narrowly focused standards organization to one dedicated to supporting industry needs in multiple ways. He always stressed the link of standards to business benefits, and today we continue to build on his vision.”

    Rittenhouse further displayed vision in the creation of UCCnet, the predecessor to the 1SYNC Data Pool, which ultimately led to the formation of the GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).

    • Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who helped to give the Montreal Expos some degree of baseball legitimacy but who made his biggest mark as a happy warrior playing for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets, died yesterday after a nine-month battle with brain cancer. He was 57.
    KC's View:
    The Wall Street Journal this morning writes that Carter’s “love of cameras and microphones sometimes alienated teammates, who also may have resented his salary among the highest in baseball during the 1980s—as well as his celebrity endorsements for products like Polaroid and Ivory Soap. He had a squeaky-clean family life, professed born-again Christianity, trained as hard as anybody on the team, and made sure everybody knew it.”

    As a Mets fan, I’ll tell you this. He never embarrassed himself. He never embarrassed the team. He played as hard as he could, he seemed to get the most out of his talents, and I would have been thrilled if, later in his career, he’d been able to get the job he seemed to want as manager of the usually under-performing Mets.

    I don’t require all my baseball players to be angels. On the ‘86 Mets, it was probably a good thing that you had Carter’s approach balanced by Keith Hernandez. (Not so good, in the long run, was the way that Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden spun out of control in the aftermath.)

    I loved watching Carter play.

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    Monday, February 20, is Presidents’ Day here in the US, which traditionally means that all sorts of retailers put stuff on sale - everything from cars to mattresses - in order to pump up their Q1 sales numbers. But it also is a federal holiday, which means that Mrs. Content Guy and our daughter have the day off from school ... and so I’m going to take the day off, too.

    Be back Tuesday.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    More notes from MNB users about Supervalu, as one reader wrote:

    I have been at SVU for almost 20 years & am sad to say that I see things crumbling around us.

    Last year when a whole layer of BDMs was removed, the work was supposed to spread between the Directors & their teams. We had a mass exodus of BSMs (the next level down) and now as a company we are left with recent grads and promoted Admins making million dollar decisions in regards to negotiations and item selection. The Directors should own it but they are too busy justifying their sales figures to work on day-to-day. So imagine the decisions that are being made & why the Banners have no respect for the decision or direction from SV Store Support.

    Our CEO continues to get caught in the weeds. He is so worried about a Cub store's out of stock situation last week on Shoe Laces it's become joke. How many thousands of dollars of salary went into that deep investigation last weekend?

    The loss of our competent, experienced folks appears to be Target's gain. They are hiring a lot of them. Another one left today.

    And, I got the following email from MNB user Lizzie Busch regarding my commentary about Tommy Jordan, the guy who put nine bullets into his daughter’s laptop, posted it on YouTube, and generated more than 25 million hits, largely from people who thought he was expressing the frustrations of parents everywhere. (Not mine.)

    I'm glad that you question the admiration that youtube viewers have for Tommy Jordan and his response to his daughter's rant. I agree that social media has made this family's fights a lot more complicated.

    However, I think you could have even taken a stronger stand. In addition, with high rates of domestic violence and child abuse in the US, I don't think it's funny to joke about this man killing his daughter over a fight.

    I certainly did not mean to minimize the impact domestic violence. My joke was that based on what the daughter posted on Facebook about her parents, she’s lucky he only shot the laptop ... but I think/hope most people realize I was being sarcastic.

    As the father of a teenaged girl, I feel Jordan’s pain. But I think we should not forget that the daughter clearly is in some kind of pain, too. And I’m pretty sure that turning his family’s issues into a YouTube experience for 25 million people isn’t a surefire prescription for making things better.

    BTW...if Tommy Jordan ends up on a reality TV show sometime soon, all my sympathy for him goes out the window.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 17, 2012

    Mark your calendars now. Next Wednesday, February 22, has been designated National Margarita Day.

    This week, while in Las Vegas for the NGA show, I had a chance to stop by the local outpost of Jaleo, a wonderful tapas restaurant created by acclaimed chef Jose Andres. In fact, it was so good I went twice ... I had not been able to try all the dishes I wanted to try the first time around, and so I could not help myself. Among the dishes I tried - and loved - were Chistorra envuelta en patata frita (chorizo sausage wrapped in a potato chip, which was so much more interesting than that description sounds), Calamares al estilo Pelayo (seared squid stew served with caramelized onions and green peppers (which simply cried out for bread with which to soak up the broth), Huevo frito con caviar (a poached organic egg topped with caviar, which a beautiful young woman brings to you and cuts up for you ... nobody had cut my food for me in about 55 years, but I was okay with this), Ensaladilla rusa con atun en conserva (a salad of potatoes and imported conserved tuna...unbelievably good).

    I enjoyed a wonderfully crisp 2009 Pedralonga Albarino with my food, all the while considering the notion that I now have to add yet another restaurant to my regular rotation of places I like to eat when in Vegas. At the very least, I need to take Mrs. Content Guy down to DC, where Andres operates a number of restaurants a little closer to home. Drive 4-5 hours to eat at Jaleo? Absolutely.

    Also have a few more adult beverages to recommend to you this week...

    2008 Pinot Noir from Yamhill Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon...a pretty much perfect Pinot, with a little bit of cranberry, a little bit of vanilla, and a lot of flavor.

    2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Hyatt Vineyards in Washington State...seriously deep, seriously smooth, and seriously delicious.

    And finally, 3 Floyd's Gumballhead Beer, a wheat beer from Indiana that is seriously complex and tasty.

    That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Tuesday.

    KC's View: