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    Published on: March 30, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    A company called J&D’s, which has the stated business goal of making “everything taste like bacon,” is out with a new product that, I think it can be fairly stated, pushes the boundaries just a bit.

    This new product is a bacon coffin, and it retails online for $2,999.99.

    Here’s how the company describes it:

    Is there a better way to show your love of bacon forever than to be buried wrapped in it? We don't think so.

    This genuine bacon casket is made of 18 Gauge Gasketed Steel with Premium Bacon Exterior Interior, and includes a Memorial and Record Tube, Adjustable Bed and Mattress and Stationary and Swingbar handles. It also includes a bacon air freshener for when you get that buried-underground, not-so-fresh feeling. 

    There are all sorts of unusual caskets out there - motorcycles, PBR cans, iPhones, tanks, Star Trek themes and more. We think that your final resting place deserves the eternal glory that is bacon.


    And, the site adds: No returns accepted.

    Now, this may seem like a little out there.

    But what can you expect from a company that just a couple of years ago came up with a product called BaconLube, which is variously described as “the gold standard of meat flavored massage oils” and “the world's first bacon-flavored personal lubricant and massage oil.”

    (No joke. Apparently J&D’s came up with the notion of BaconLube as an April Fool’s prank, and then got more than 3,000 serious demands for the product so they had to create one. One can only imagine what the R&D process was like...)

    You have to admire the J&D’s business model. The company has a unique niche, and is creating products that will get you going and coming.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    Bloomberg has an interesting statistic, courtesy of the folks at Kantar Retail...

    “Five years ago only about one quarter of Wal-Mart’s customers also shopped online at Amazon.com, the world’s biggest web store. Now half of Wal-Mart shoppers say they also shop online at Amazon.”

    “If the trend continues, with Amazon up and Wal-Mart down, by the 2012 holiday season Amazon could well be the most shopped retailer,” Anne Zybowksi, a Kantar analyst, tells Bloomberg.

    And the story goes on: “When it come size, there’s no question that Wal-Mart still towers over Amazon, with $419 billion in revenue in its most recent fiscal year, compared with $48 billion for Amazon. But Amazon is growing rapidly, while Wal-Mart is showing all the signs of maturity.”
    KC's View:
    I’ve made the point here before, but it is worth making again...

    There are projections out there suggesting that by 2020, Walmart and Amazon will be the same size. It could happen earlier; some say that these are conservative projections.

    If these projections come true, it will mean that where these two retailing titans do battle, there is likely to be a lot of collateral damage. (It will also be interesting to see if and how Walmart responds to what I think is Amazon’s biggest advantage - intimate knowledge, customer by customer, about what and when all of its shoppers are buying.)

    But it also means, I would argue, that other retailers have a terrific opportunity here to differentiate themselves with products and services that the two biggies don’t offer. It won’t be easy and it won’t always be pretty ... and it will be up to these other retailers to raise their games and get really aggressive.

    There is, however, no real alternative.

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    VegasInc.com has a story about two new WinCo Foods stores opened in Las Vegas this month, noting that when they opened, “lines of shoppers flanked the building, and the parking lot swarmed with cars.”

    However, as the story says, “in a metro area that is home to at least 185 grocery stores, can WinCo establish a successful long-term presence in Las Vegas with its 24-hour-per-day, warehouse-style discount formula? Can it succeed where the almost-forgotten Raley’s chain failed to establish a foothold, and where Fresh & Easy is still trying to come up with a winning lineup of stores?”

    The piece establishes that “the WinCos are smaller than Costcos and Sam’s Clubs, which run 130,000-plus square feet, but are larger than Fresh & Easy — typically 20,000 square feet — and such chain supermarkets as Smith’s, Albertsons and Vons, which run 60,000 to 65,000 square feet.” And it suggests that while it will be tough for WinCo with so much competition, it does bring a strong price-driven image to the marketplace that is an enormous competitive advantage.
    KC's View:
    I have a lot of confidence in WinCo’s ability to compete, in part because I’ve been told that WinCo is one of the companies that keeps Walmart executives awake at night. If you’ve ever been in a WinCo, you know why. The company may need to develop greater penetration in places like Las Vegas, but it is in the for the long haul.

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    The Star Tribune reports on a new study, published in the British Food Journal, saying that “U.S. consumers know surprisingly more about the fat content of the foods they buy than their French counterparts. Paradoxically, the obesity rate is nearly three times higher in the United States (35%) than it is in France (12%). In light of these results ... the researchers cast doubt on the notion that providing nutritional information is an effective way to encourage healthy eating habits.”
    KC's View:
    Two reactions to this story.

    One is that apparently the researchers talked to a whopping 300 consumers. So maybe it wasn’t the biggest sample.

    Second - and this is actually more important, IMHO - just because people may not use this information does not mean that the food business should not make it available. Maximum transparency is a good business policy, regardless of whether consumers actually are making use of the information. Otherwise, when things go bad, one can be accused of obfuscating the issues.

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    Fortune has good piece about Amazon.com, noting that “if such a thing as corporate DNA exists, it has animated the rise of the last decade's most successful technology companies. Google had a relentless focus on data, Apple a Zen-like obsession with simplicity, and Facebook a world of social connections to mine. Amazon has relied on an altogether more prosaic trait: thriftiness.”

    The theory is that by being frugal internally, Amazon can charge its customers less, which becomes one of its keystone competitive advantages.

    “For Amazon, savings are more than a competitive matter,” the story says. “Indeed, the company holds ‘frugality’ up as one of 14 leadership principles. (It ‘breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention,’ the company says on its corporate site.) That goes back to 1994, when CEO Jeff Bezos jump-started the e-commerce company and jury-rigged a desk out of a door. ‘Door desks’ became a popular staple within the company years after it went public, and remained ‘the quintessential example’ of Amazon's frugality, ex-employee Greg Linden explained in 2006. The company still hands out the ‘Door Desk Award,’ a title given internally to select employees who have a ‘well-built idea’ that creates a significant savings for the company and enables lower prices for customers.”
    KC's View:
    The complete story is worth reading by clicking here.

    Frugality is not a new corporate virtue; it certainly has been a core value at Walmart for decades. But at a time when there are a lot of stories out there about companies where top executives seem more concerned with their own compensation packages and the trappings of office than they are with the people on the front lines and the very real day-to-day problems that they face, maybe it is fair to suggest that some folks ought to rethink their priorities.

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    The Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal reports that a federal judge has ruled that Supervalu was within its legal rights when it schemed to block the development of stores by rival retailers such as Walmart.

    According to the story, lawyers representing developers “had claimed the retailer engaged in fraud when it secretly organized citizen opposition to shopping centers that would have included Walmart stores, even paying for a lawyer who helped block the deals.

    “The judge basically acknowledges that Supervalu was being sneaky, but said that was allowed.”
    KC's View:
    Sneaky but legal. Helluva legacy.

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    The New Haven Register reports that “the largest grocery workers union in the state of New York has filed federal charges against Ahold and Stop & Shop Supermarkets, accusing them of implementing a social media policy that violates federal labor laws ... The union is charging Ahold/Stop & Shop of having a social media policy so broad that it could lead to censorship and other First Amendment violations.”

    Stop & Shop responded: “"The guidelines simply remind associates that what they post on social media sites may be available to others and that they should keep in mind reasonable guidelines when they elect to post information about themselves, co-workers, customers, or the company online. The guidelines themselves inform associates that their rights under the National Labor Relations Act are protected, even on-line, and that the guidelines would not be used in a way that violates those rights. Stop & Shop does not wish to interfere with the private lives of its associates, even when they are on-line. Stop & Shop does not request associates to give it access to their social media sites.”
    KC's View:
    Not sure exactly what the facts of the social media policy are, but I thought one of the smartest things I’ve seen a retailer say about this issue was actually posted here on MNB earlier this week by the executive who said that he likes it when his employees use social media tools like Yammer, even to complain.

    “Last I checked, if it's available...use it.. I found that one can gain more information by listening and reading then ‘imparting knowledge that you think is important’...”

    Wise words.

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    Best Buy said yesterday that because of poor quarterly sales and a less than promising outlook, it plans to close 50 of its 1,100 stores and lay off 400 employees.

    According to the Reuters story, “A Best Buy spokeswoman said it has yet to finalize the locations and timing of the store closings. The company expects the restructuring efforts to cut costs by $800 million in the next three years, including $250 million this year.”

    Reuters notes that analysts seem to agree that these moves are not enough - that the company needs to make a lot more cuts to return to profitability.
    KC's View:
    I hate to say it, but is there anyone out there who would be shocked if Best Buy did not exist in its current brick-and-mortar form in five to ten years?

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    CNBC reports that “a franchisee will launch Chick-fil-A’s first food truck that will serve customers in the Washington, D.C., area. Currently, there is only one traditional Chick-fil-A restaurant in the nation’s capital,” and this is seen as a way of growing the company’s presence while taking advantage of the food truck rage.
    KC's View:
    This is not seen as the beginning of a major effort ... but I suspect that if it is a huge hit, we’ll see a lot more of these food truck efforts in the near future.

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    ...with occasional, brief, italicized, and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

    • Safeway announced that “it has reached tentative agreements for new collective bargaining agreements with UFCW Locals 27 and 400. The agreements cover employees in Safeway's Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. area stores. The local unions will be presenting the tentative agreements to the company's employees covered by the agreements for ratification at meetings to be scheduled by the unions.”

    • Price Chopper’s Director of In-Store Marketing Programs Jane Golub and Executive Chairman of the Board Neil Golub were honored with the Lifetime Philanthropy Award at the 15th Annual Housewares Charity Foundation Gala, held in conjunction with the International Home + Housewares Show at the Hilton Chicago. They are the only supermarket executives ever to be honored by the organization.

    According to the announcement, “The Golubs were praised for their active involvement with their ‘Family in Business.’  With 128 stores located in six states (New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont), the American-owned, family-managed Price Chopper Supermarkets prides itself on longstanding traditions of innovative food merchandising, leadership in community service and cooperative employee relations.”

    It would be hard to find two nicer people that Jane and Neil Golub, so I am happy whenever good things happen to and for them.

    • The Boston Globe reports that “a group led by Dallas Cowboys Football Club owner and Jerry Jones and former quarterback Troy Aikman plan to open at least 50 new Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth region over the next five years.” There currently just 19 Dunkin’ Donuts in North Texas, so this is a significant expansion there for the doughnut-and-coffee purveyor.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    I continue to get emails regarding Kate McMahon’s Wednesday column about how men are often ridiculed in advertising, and how some Daddy Bloggers have been fighting back.

    One MNB user seems to think we are having entirely the wrong discussion:

    Biblically, God has intended, I should say mandated that the husband is the spiritual leader of the home.  If Satan is able through media, or any other manner, to degrade the man, to remove him from the home or at least lower him to a position other than He had intended, the family unit has been destroyed and Satan wins.   We have moved through a few generations of continual degrading and it is easy to see on the nightly news the results of us men not taking our full responsibility as we have been charged.  If we men take our responsibility seriously, other members of our family would gradually accept there appropriate positions within this family unit and true happiness would bloom.  Society would win and our country would be incredibly blessed.

    While you are certainly within your rights to create a household that adheres to what you see as the Biblical view of male-female roles, assuming the folks at home agree with your views, I would take the position that nobody is being degraded by shifts in what have been seen as traditional roles ... I’d like to think that such shifts, taking place in the 20th and 21st centuries, actually celebrate human potential that has nothing to do with gender.

    I’m also reasonably sure I couldn’t get your view of things to fly in my neck of the woods.

    For example, I could quote Scripture and say, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.” (1 Timothy 2:11).

    Or, "For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." (I Corinthians 11:8-9)

    Or, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    I could quote such passages all day long. In the end, I’d be talking to myself.

    Not a lot of silence, subjection or submission going on in my house - and I happen to think that my life is richer for it. And while sometimes the women in my household, especially the 17 year old) scare the hell out of me, I’m not sure Satan is winning anything.

    In fact, they’d probably scare the hell out of him, too.




    My piece about what Jet Blue’s recent travails teach us about leadership made the following observation:

    In the end, it appears that Jet Blue may have a credibility problem - and maintaining credibility may be job one for every leader. If one appears out of touch with events, or trying to shift the blame or focus, or not in synch with one’s employees and customers, then you run the risk of losing credibility. (It could be argued that the CEO of a major US retailer/wholesaler is facing that problem to some degree, if the tone of some of the emails sent to MNB recently are to be believed.)

    One MNB user responded:

    All I can picture is Craig Herkert running down the halls of SVU screaming for employees to say their prayers….after so long of failing to recognize the "local market" from a product, pricing, placement and promotion perspective, it must feel like a bomb is about to go off or perhaps feeling the SVU plane's momentum as it is on an ever faster fall to the rocky ground below…




    Yesterday, we took note of a Star Tribune story about how Walmart is getting aggressive in the Twin Cities market with ads that engage in a direct shopping cart comparison with Cub Foods, and how Cub may be conceding the price advantage.

    One MNB user responded:

    I was particularly struck by the Cub Foods article. I "sharpened my teeth" in this industry at Cub Foods in Chicago several years ago. As it happened, I was in a Cub Foods earlier in the week in Minneapolis and was somewhat conflicted. The store looked terrific in terms of selection, cleanliness, and the helpfulness of the staff. The prices, however, were a complete other story. I left the store somewhat disappointed that the value strategy which brought it its original success as a banner was being undermined by both Target and Walmart. Not sure that bodes well for the long term.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 30, 2012

    I have to tell you, I was deluged with responses yesterday to my “FaceTime” piece about Apple, and how the company seems utterly unable to deal with the fact that my wife has a five year old computer that works just fine, but is being left behind by new technology advances that could leave her unable to synch her iPhone and desktop computer. (I thought that the notion of technology advances was interesting philosophically, though I also thought that Apple was not doing a good enough job dealing with longtime and loyal customers. Like us.)

    The net result of yesterday’s emails was that I was inspired to do a little research, and I reached out to Computer Supercenter, an independent store in Greenwich, Connecticut, that we used to patronize before the Apple Stores came into being. There, they assured me that that could install more than enough RAM in my wife’s computer to allow her to make the requisite upgrades in her operating system that will then allow her to transition to iCloud. They said they do it all the time, and while it may negate the computer’s warranty, the iMac is more than five years old and isn’t covered under warranty anyway.

    The cost will be about $100, including labor for installation. (I gather that some people do this sort of thing themselves. I would not be one of those people.) And it apparently will take about 15 minutes.

    I’ll be doing this next week, and will report back. And, as always, I appreciate the kindness and enthusiasm of the MNB community. You’re the best.




    I finally caught up with My Week with Marilyn, a film that somehow I managed to miss when it was in theaters. The pieces, I think, are more interesting than the whole - there are wonderful performances, especially by Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier; and the fifties British milieu is fascinating. But somehow I found the whole package to be just a little lacking ... but then again, maybe that’s because I could not help but hope for a happy ending, and there are no happy endings when it comes to Marilyn Monroe.




    I have three wines to recommend this week:

    2011 Laxas Albarino ... lovely and a little spicy, a wonderful example of one of my favorite wines.

    2008 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon, big and bold and perfect with steak (or, dare I say, a pink slime-less hamburger).

    2010 Santa Cruz de Alpera, from Spain, Mrs. Content Guy’s new favorite, a bright white wine described as being “elaborated from Verdejo grapes.” Just great.




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

    Slainte!
    KC's View: