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    Published on: March 15, 2012

    I’ve been traveling a lot over the past 10 days, with time spent in Boston and now in Southern California. For the most part, the weather was better in New England than it is here in the Los Angeles area...and that tends to make the natives a little cranky.

    So I was trying to come up with something a little different to relieve the overall crankiness, and decided that since Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, I would use the occasion to tell the best irish joke I know.

    There’s just one catch - I’m not offering a text version. (Trust me. It won’t work.) So you can either watch it here, or go over to the MorningNewsBeat Channel on YouTube.


    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is out with some new research about social networking sites (SNS) and one statistic stands out: that 38 percent of social networkers, or almost four out of ten, “have discovered through a friend’s posts that his/her political beliefs were different than the user thought they were.”

    The report goes on to note that “among the SNS users whose friends post political content, 25% always agree or mostly agree with their friends’ political postings; 73% of these SNS users ‘only sometimes’ agree or never agree with their friends’ political postings. When they disagree with others’ posts, 66% of these SNS users say they usually ignore the posts; 28% said they usually respond with comments or posts of their own; and 5% said it depends on the circumstances.”

    It is, in fact, an Eye-Opening lesson, especially for the younger generation - that all those posts, whether about politics or culture or romance or whatever - can add up to a distinct portrait of what he or she is all about. It may be accurate, it may be mildly inaccurate, or it could be wildly off-base. Regardless, the wrong picture could cost you a job.

    But the reality is that we all have to be careful about what we post, because it can come back to haunt us. (I can get away with being occasionally inappropriate because that’s sort of the business model. But as they say, don’t try this at home...)
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) said yesterday that it has completed its financial restructuring and is emerging from bankruptcy with a new management team and refurbished stores designed to cater to core markets, Bloomberg reports.

    According to the story, “The company won court approval Feb. 28 for its plan to restructure and leave bankruptcy with $490 million in debt and equity financing from an investor group that includes Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos. The Montvale, New Jersey-based chain operates 320 stores and has about 34,000 employees, according to its website.”

    “We have completed a thorough restructuring of A&P’s cost structure and balance sheet to build a strong foundation for the company’s future,” CEO Sam Martin said in a statement.
    KC's View:
    I’ve met and chatted with some of the new A&P folks, and I know that they think the company has turned a corner. For the moment, let’s assume that they are right and wish them the best of luck as they try to carve out a new and sustainable niche for A&P.

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    Someone sent me a link to a long piece in the Dallas Morning News about the continuing challenges of America’s supermarket checkout lanes, which essentially comes down to this:

    • Other than the invention of scanning, checkouts haven’t changed all that much.
    • RFID was to expensive to make them obsolete.
    • Self-checkout hasn’t been the panacea that some expected.
    • Smartphone scanners may put consumers in greater control, but they don’t necessarily alleviate long lines.
    The best solution to long checkout lines is attentive store managers, not technology.
    KC's View:
    It is an interesting piece, which you can read in its entirety here.

    Here’s what I’m waiting for, and it is by far the biggest challenge. Forget technology - I’m waiting to see a supermarket that finds a way to reward its best customers with express lines, offering speedy service to people who buy lots of products, and not to those who buy the fewest products.

    For my money, that’ll be the killer app.

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    The Los Angeles Times reports on a new study from Perception Research Services reporting that “36% of shoppers in 2011 were likely to choose environmentally friendly packaging, a 29% increase over 2010. Half of the shoppers polled said they were willing to pay more for such packaging. One-third of the shoppers said they bought more of a product if its package was labeled ‘recyclable’ or ‘made from recycled material,’ and a quarter of the shoppers said they have switched brands for more eco-friendly packaging.”

    However, the story goes on to say that some 20 percent of shoppers found environmental packaging claims to be confusing or insufficient.
    KC's View:
    Sure, people say they would pay more for environmentally friendly packaging.

    Isn’t it pretty to think so.

    I think that most people want or prefer environmental packaging, and would like information about it to be transparent and easily understood. But pay more for it? Not so sure.

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    Burger Business reports that while the economy has not been kind to the restaurant industry, with more than six thousand - or one percent of the overall US restaurant population - closing between the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2011, the number of quick service burger restaurants actually grew.

    The research, which comes from The NPD Group, suggests that “the number of QSR Burger chain restaurants increased by 275 or 0.6% between 2010 and 2011. The overall QSR Burger category was up 0.7%. That compares with a 1% decline overall for all QSR restaurants (all menu types).”
    KC's View:

    I seem to recall that we had a story not that long ago on MNB about how burgers in general remained a hot commodity even as the recession hit, since burgers - even the high end, expensive variety - tend to be seen as an affordable indulgence. Even fast feeders were finding that investing in a better burger could be a smart move.

    I have to wonder, though, if all the “pink slime” publicity might manage to cool this off a bit. Burgers may be an affordable luxury, but if companies - whether supermarkets or restaurants - start getting the reputation for sticking filler in there that does not belong,then it may not do much for the burger boomlet.

    That said...for those who may be new to MNB (and there are a lot of you, since we get a minimum of between 50 and 75 new subscribers each week, I want to point out that more than three years ago, the entire MNB community collaborated on a “best burgers in the country” list. If you’re interested, you can find it here.

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    Advertising Age reports that Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s has renamed its Oh My! Apple Pie ice-cream in the UK. From now on, it will be known as “Apple-y Ever After" as a way of supporting the proposed legalization there of same sex marriage. According to the story, “it has also redesigned the product's packaging with a motif of two grooms atop a wedding cake.”

    Ad Age notes that “the move echoes its 2009 effort in the U.S., when it renamed Chubby Hubby to ‘Hubby Hubby’ to celebrate the legalization of gay marriage in its home state of Vermont.
    KC's View:
    The funny thing is that I did not even remember the “Hubby Hubby” thing. Then again, that may precisely be the game plan - those who don’t care about this stuff don’t notice, and those who are irritated by it get all up in arms and draw even more attention to what they view as the offending product.

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    • Schenectady, NY-based Price Chopper Supermarkets this week unveiled its new “Xtreme Values” concept in five Central Connecticut stores (Southington, Bristol, Vernon, Newington and Windsor).  Price Chopper calls “Xtreme Values” its “newest answer to the consumer’s battle cry for value.” It “piles high deeply discounted items and distinctively signs them to stand out in specially merchandised areas of the stores. With Clear Value, Price Chopper’s popular economy line as its base, Xtreme Values is poised to live up to its name by featuring an ever-changing assortment of opportunity buys, limited edition products, lesser known brands, truckload sales, and closeouts, as well as not seen before deals on corporate and national brand products.”

    At this time there are no plans to expand Xtreme Values to the chain’s other 123 locations in the Northeast, the company said.

    • Safeway announced that its “consumer brand Softly bath and facial tissue and Ultra Thirsty paper towels are now produced to the high environmental and social responsibility standards of the Forest Stewardship Council(TM) (FSC®) and the Rainforest Alliance. Shoppers can identify FSC-certified and Rainforest Alliance-certified(TM) products by the respective FSC logos and seals on every package.”

    • Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in the western US announced that it has “received the Platinum-Level Store Certification Award from the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill Partnership for green refrigeration technology at its new store located in Folsom, California. The platinum award puts Fresh & Easy in an elite group among the nation’s 36,000 grocery stores. This is just the second store in California, and one of just four grocery stores in the nation, to achieve these challenging standards.”

    One of the initiatives that earned Fresh & Easy the recognition: “A typical supermarket in the U.S. uses approximately 3,500 pounds of refrigerant. The Folsom Fresh & Easy store uses just 70 pounds – a 98 percent reduction that earned it GreenChill’s highest award.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    • Dollar General Corporation announced that Gregory A. Sparks has been named executive vice president – store operations.

    Until earlier this week, Sparks was Safeway’s Seattle division president.

    Reuters reports that Richard Brasher, CEO of Tesco’s UK operations, may be about to step down, a victim of slowly diminishing market share numbers.

    According to the story, Brasher’s job responsibilities will be absorbed by Philip Clarke, CEO of the entire Tesco empire.

    • The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (A&P) announced the promotion of Raymond P. Silcock to the role of Chief Financial Officer reporting to President and CEO Sam Martin. Silcock succeeds Frederic F. Brace, who is resigning from his roles as Chief Restructuring, Financial and Administrative Officer in conjunction with A&P's emergence from Chapter 11

    • Best Buy reportedly has hired Starbucks Chief Information Officer Stephen Gillett to oversee its digital operations.

    He succeeds Robert Stephens, who founded the Geek Squad 18 years ago and who stepped down as Best Buy’s chief technology officer just a couple of days ago.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2012

    ...will return.
    KC's View: