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    Published on: April 17, 2012

    by Michael Sansolo

    According to Benjamin Franklin, “Three people can keep a secret so long as two of them are dead.” While Franklin’s famous Poor Richard’s Almanack would be a terrific blog in 2012, in so many ways the Founding Father is really lucky he’s no longer around.

    In the age of constant communication the only question on secrets is when, not if, they get exposed, even if just one person knows it. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the world of social connectedness is changing the world of work just as it is changing relationships, marketing and pretty much everything else you can name.

    For the past few months I have written here repeatedly about the growing power of social media and the need for companies to start internal discussions about what it means when it comes to building better relationships and communication with customers. But it’s obvious that the same changes are facing management when it comes to the workings of your company.

    The democratization of information has changed so much that it shouldn’t surprise us that it is changing the world of recruiting, hiring and retention. This week the fifth segment of “Untangling the Web,” the newest study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America is available for download by clicking here. (And because we at MNB are all about transparency, keep in mind that I am research director of this council and worked on this study.)

    This segment of the study examines the changing nature of recruiting and business networking thanks to the social web. Both job holders and seekers today view social media as the single best path for information about advancement, companies and even simply openings. Not surprisingly, social networking is becoming the prime avenue for recruiting with some 85 percent of companies using LinkedIn and more than 50 percent using Facebook.

    No doubt a significant portion of that growth comes simply because social media has grown so quickly in the past few years. Yet there’s also a clear impact from the higher unemployment rate of the past four years. LinkedIn, the largest business social media site, saw its population of users grow to 130 million, up from 32 million in 2008, when the recession began.

    But the numbers are just a part of the story. What also comes through is how social media changes the nature of research by job seekers and companies. Job seekers, like shoppers of any product, use the social web to learn a lot about a potential employers policy, environment and more. Websites like glassdoor.com make this process even easier by providing in-depth information from current employees about everything from salaries to the company environment.

    Likewise, companies can learn a lot about prospective employees through the social web. Nearly 15 percent of companies report rejecting a prospect after learning that he or she embellished skills on a resume or bad-mouthed previous companies. And they do this by simply checking in on comments on the social web. (This level of information comes without controversial methods, such as asking candidates for social networking passwords. This information came from simple checking.)

    It’s the new era of transparency, which means you need an entire new mindset on information. Even Ben Franklin never predicted that.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University announced the winners of the annual Pulitzer Prizes yesterday and in a marked shift from tradition, two news services primarily viewed online won their first Pulitzers while no awards were given in the editorial writing and fiction categories.

    The online winners were Politico and the Huffington Post. Politico won for the editorial cartoons of Matt Wuerker, who focused on partisan political debates. The Huffington Post won for a series on wounded veterans written by David Wood, a series later expanded into an e-book.

    It just shows in yet another way how the world is changing, how the ways in which people get information are changing, and how disruptive businesses are affecting traditional institutions. in this case, it is journalism...but the lesson needs to be learned everywhere.

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

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    Supervalu announced yesterday that Sue Klug, president of its Albertsons Southern California division since 2007, will leave the company this month, setting in motion a series of leadership changes at three chains owned by the company.

    • Replacing Klug will be Dan Sanders, current president of Supervalu’s Acme division in Philadelphia.

    • Keith Wyche will become the new president at Acme; he currently serves as the president of Supervalu’s Cub Foods division.

    • Brian Audette,who has been serving as Supervalu’s group vice president of merchandising transformation and process improvement, has been named president of Cub Foods.

    No reason was given by Supervalu for Klug’s departure.

    “Sue has been a champion of diversity and environmental stewardship for the company, and has been honored within the industry and community for these efforts,” said Pete Van Helden, Supervalu's executive vice president of retail operations. “We thank Sue for her years of service and leadership in Southern California and wish her well as she moves on to dedicate her talent and attention to long-time personal and professional ambitions.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the National Association of Letter Carriers is scheduled to release a report today making recommendations about how to save the US Postal Service and describing steps suggested by the USPS as being too timid and misdirected to succeed.

    The union position seems to be that closing post offices, laying off workers and reducing delivery days will only succeed in eliminating the USPS’s biggest competitive advantage - it visits virtually every home in the US every day. According to the union, the USPS should actually raise stamp prices, described as among the lowest in the world, and also should “replace its multilayered governance system with a corporate- style board of directors whose members have entrepreneurial experience.”

    The postal carriers union “also indicated it would be willing to ask its nearly 300,000 members for more ‘tough sacrifices’ to get the Postal Service out of the red. It didn't specify what concessions it would seek from members,” the Journal writes.

    The story notes that “the proposals are the opening salvo in what is expected to be a long series of negotiations as pressure mounts on Congress to approve legislation to restructure the Postal Service, which has said it is in danger of becoming insolvent without changes to its business model.

    “The union's plan is one of several competing proposals - including the Postal Service's and bills in Congress - that are promoting rescue ideas, and it illustrates the deepening divide over how to remake the 236-year-old institution for modern times ... The Postal Service is facing historic losses - more than $5 billion in its most recent fiscal year - that it attributes to a shift in communication habits in the digital age and to an unusual requirement imposed by Congress in 2006 that it fund retiree benefits decades ahead.”
    KC's View:
    With some justification, there are plenty of people who will cast a jaundiced eye on the union recommendations because it is a union making the recommendations. And there’s some good reason for that; the suggestions might have more credibility if there were greater specificity to the “tough sacrifices” it promises to make.

    That said, there is a certain logic to the argument that you don’t make yourself more relevant by making cuts that reduce your biggest competitive advantage.

    What the USPS needs to do is rethink its business model within the context of a changing communications marketplace and economic realities. Maybe what they need to do is make a pilgrimage to Seattle, sit down with Jeff Bezos, and say, “How can we work out a deal to become Amazon’s exclusive shipper on every product it sends?” That would certainly have some impact on its bottom line.

    And if that doesn’t work, then they ought to trek to Bentonville and make the same pitch to Walmart.

    The USPS needs to be thinking in unorthodox ways. The union recommendations should not be dismissed out of hand.

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    Interesting piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution saying how Atlanta is getting a new entry in its food scene - the Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market, which will have, “in addition to 2000 square feet of both covered and open-air dining,” a number of other features including “1.5 acres of green space with a playground, picnic area, bocce ball court and a lawn for movies and concerts.”

    According to the story, “Food trucks may number 10-15 for any given meal, with different trucks for lunch and dinner and possibly breakfast. Sweet Auburn Barbecue, Yumbii and Tex’s Tacos will be permanent vendors. Among those rotating into the park are Honeysuckle Gelato, Nana G.’s Chick-n-Waffles, Yum Yum Cupcake & More, The Fry Guy and King of Pops ... On the weekends, the park will also host the Howell Mill Farmers Market from 9 a.m .- 1 p.m. Vendors include Georgia Farm to Table, Hayden Grove Farms and MasLeon Cakes and Pastries. Others selling jewelry, antiques, clothing, art, novelty items and more will also set up shop at the market.”
    KC's View:
    The traditional food retail business would be in better shape competitively if food stores that show little or no enthusiasm for food could somehow capture some of the passion and enthusiasm being generated by the food truck boom.

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    Apple Insider has a report on Walmart’s new Apple store-within-a-store concept, saying that the section strongly resembles the “clean and ordered” approach used in Apple Stores.

    According to the story, “Products sit atop a wooden tabletop, in this case with shelf space for stock storage ... The main area consists of two large tables with corresponding backlit one-sheets for Apple's main product lines and is set apart from its surroundings with a dark carpet. Accessories and tertiary products are arranged outside the carpeted area on regular Walmart shelving.

    “In order to concentrate the maximum number of products into one small area, Walmart had to choose which item to feature as display models. Hot-sellers like the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone 4S units are available to test-drive, while other products like the iPod nano and iPod shuffle are locked behind glass security doors beneath the tabletop displays.”

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that Walmart plans to open one of its Neighborhood Market grocery stores in Panorama City, California, described by the paper as “part of a big push by the nation's largest retailer into the highly competitive Southland grocery business.”

    The story notes that Walmart “has announced plans for 14 smaller-format grocery stores in California, including two in Orange County, another in Ventura County and one in San Diego.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    • Published reports say that Delhaize Belgium has re-launched its e-supermarket, which has been optimized for usage with mobile devices and allows customers to order online and then pick up items at their local store.
    KC's View:
    Both of which ought to be SOP for every retailer.

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced its selection of nine finalists for the 12th annual Store Manager Awards competition, which it says “identifies exceptional store managers who generate sales growth, provide great customer service, lead outstanding store teams and serve the community in unique ways. Among the nine, three winners will be named on May 1 in Dallas at the FMI2012 convention and retail trade show.”

    The nine finalists represent companies that include ShopRite, Meijer, D&W, King Soopers, Hy-Vee and Harris Teeter.

    “Thanks to an earlier Easter holiday and unseasonably warm weather through much of the country, retailers in March witnessed solid sales growth,” according to the National Retail Federation, which said that March retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from February and 6.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.”

    • Family Dollar Stores announced it has agreed in terms to a multi-year partnership with PepsiCo to sell its beverages in its 7,100 stores across 45 states ... Starting today and by May of this year, Family Dollar shoppers will have access to a variety of products from PepsiCo's North America beverage portfolio, including Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist, Aquafina and Lipton teas. Family Dollar already offers PepsiCo's Gatorade, Frito-Lay and Quaker products.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Tim Fenton, president of McDonald’s Asia, Pacific, Middle East and Africa division, has been named the company’s COO, succeeding Don Thompson, who has been promoted to the CEO job.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    Responding to yesterday’s piece about how Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb has promised that the company’s new store being built in economically troubled Detroit will represent the company’s “A game,” one MNB user wrote:

    It's clear from Mr. Robb's comments that he understands that presenting a Whole Foods store in Detroit will require "stretching it a bit". Going into the core of any major urban area in the United States requires "stretching it a bit". Detroit is no different.

    There is, in spite of perception, some really great things happening in Detroit. Quicken Loans has brought thousands of jobs downtown. Chrysler Group, LLC is bringing 1,200 jobs downtown in the very near future. Several colleges and universities are thriving in the city's core.

    Every smart retailer should tailor their presentation to the demographic, market, and other influences, where they are. It only makes sense.

    Mr. Robb and the Whole Foods organization deserves commendation for their commitment to enter a market that few would or have. The major Michigan and regional food chains have not. Meijer has just recently, but they are at the fringes, not at the city's core. Spartan Stores has quite a few of their supplied independent stores operating inside the city limits. Yet, it has taken a national to recognize the opportunity that exists there.

    Detroit has taken so many hits for so long. No one in Michigan or nationally can afford for it to fail completely. The automakers are not the sole answer. They have already all but left besides administrative centers. Detroit has a rich history and to a great extent provided the industrial might that delivered the freedom that we enjoy today.

    There is some grit left. Those of us in Michigan welcome anyone whom wishes, to visit and see once it opens. I will plan a visit myself. It will be a great combination trip along with a visit to Comerica Park. I'm not sure if the Mets are on the schedule, but we'd also welcome anyone to visit one of the great places in the country to see baseball.

    The Detroit attempt by Whole Foods certainly deserves some skepticism from the outside. It deserves praise and support from those here in Michigan. Let's watch and see this experiment. We all may learn much from it.





    Regarding yesterday’s piece about Amazon.com, in which someone suggested that its business model might not be sustainable, one MNB user wrote:

    Whenever I read articles like this, I am just struck by the similarities to some of the MNB WalMart discussions of a few years back.  Most of the same criticisms were being leveled against them as well.  Retailers who want to stay in business had better stop whining and start finding new ways to compete because just like WM, Amazon isn't going anywhere.

    Exactly.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 17, 2012

    N.G.A. is now accepting applications for their Executive Leadership Development Program at Cornell University and the University of Southern California. This program provides rising grocery industry executives with the knowledge, tools, resources and inspiration necessary to lead their companies and drive them to long-term success. This highly successful program helps prepare independent retailers and wholesalers to effectively respond to business challenges in the marketplace while helping prepare the next generation of industry leaders.

    “I know of no other grocery specific program as comprehensive or as informative as N.G.A.’s Executive Leadership Program. The difference between good leadership and good management and why both are so critical to a company’s long term success are covered in depth by the best and brightest in the field.”
    - Dean Sonnenberg, President/CEO, URM Stores

    For more information, visit www.nationalgrocers.org.
    KC's View: