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    Published on: May 18, 2012

    E-Commerce as a Deflationary Influence: Part 3 of a 12-Part Series

    This morning, MNB continues a series of videos culled from a presentation that I did at the recent Food Marketing Institute (FMI) 2012 Show in Dallas. The session, entitled "From Amazon to Zipcar: Innovations from the E-Revolution," featured an extended conversation with Tom Furphy, CEO of Consumer Equity Partners and the guy who helped get into the grocery business.

    Today: Why e-commerce creates transparency, which in turn drives down prices, and why this creates an environment in which, to compete, retailers have to focus on something else.

    This series is made possible by MyWeb Grocer, the leading provider of digital grocery and CPG solutions.

    For more information about how you can fight an efficient and effective battle in the e-revolution, email MyWebGrocer by clicking here, or call  (888) 662-2284.

    KC's View:

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Not a great week for Safeway's senior vice president and general counsel Robert Gordon, who stood up at the company's annual shareholder meeting and told the following joke:

    You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that's doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter.

    The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, "Nice pigs, sir."

    And the president said, "These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."

    And the Secret Service agent said, "Excellent trade, sir."

    Now, he told the joke right before he called the meeting to order ... so it technically was not part of the meeting. But it apparently was on an official recording of the session ... and all over the blogosphere after it happened.

    Now, I asked Mrs. Content Guy about this joke, and she said while she didn't find it to be particularly sexist, she thought it was kind of stupid, and not funny. I told her about some conversations I'd had with some people yesterday it which it was suggested that Gordon ought to lose his job, and she thought that seemed a little excessive ... though she did think he ought to be prevented from ever again telling jokes at public events.

    I tend to agree with her on this. To me, this does not rise to the level of career-ending. It was dumb, but to me, the real crime is that it was not funny.

    Here's the deal. There are a lot of us who make a living talking and writing, often on short deadlines or in front of live audiences. Do it enough, and you're going to screw up - you are going to tell a joke that isn't funny or is somewhat offensive, or you are going to tick someone off, or you are just going to go off the tracks.

    For some of us - like me - that is part of the job description. But for others - like general counsels at public corporations - this can be treacherous territory.

    There was a time when such a joke might have been told, there would have been some chuckles and groans, and then it would have been forgotten. But that's not the way things work these days. Make a misstep, and the world will know it. And maybe never forget it.

    Now, Gordon has issued a statement:

    "I sincerely apologize if the opening comments I made at the recent annual stockholders meeting offended anyone. As these comments have been interpreted, they are not a reflection of my personal beliefs or that of my employer. I understand how my comments have impacted others and I hope they will accept my apology."
    Gordon made a bunch of mistakes here. He told a joke that wasn't funny. He told a joke that could've alienated women shareholders, employees, customers and business partners. He seemed to forget that some of his shareholders could be (gasp!) Democrats. And he forgot that in today's world, there is no such thing as a short memory.

    Let's not overreact. But also, let's not forget the lesson.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    USA Today reports that the cash-strapped Millennial generation is using "alternative financial services" such as payday loans, check cashing services, and prepaid debit cards rather than traditional banks and financial services. Furthermore, the story says, "Nearly half of young adult households, those ages 15 to 34, are considered under-banked, according to a survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 2009, the latest year for which there is data."

    Among the reasons cited in the story: "Lack of financial literacy, mounting debt, poor credit and no savings."
    KC's View:
    There's also another reason cited in the story - convenience. And I find this particularly appalling, since there apparently are young people out there who would rather pay one-to-four percent of a check to a check cashing service in order to get it cashed immediately, rather than pay for gasoline and drive to the bank.

    This is amazing, since these days, many banks make smart phone applications available so that all you have to do is take a picture of a check in order to deposit it.

    Clearly, we all have to do a better job as parents teaching our kids about money. And maybe the schools should add some basic money management to their programs. But it also points to a mindset that marketers should consider in developing programs to appeal to this generation.

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    Environmental Leader reports that "Walmart has announced plans to install solar photovoltaic arrays on 27 of its Massachusetts stores as early as August, adding on-site generation to more than half of its outlets in the state."

    According to the story, "Walmart has installed, or announced plans to install, a lot of solar power in recent months. In September last year, the company announced plans to complete rooftop solar arrays on more than three quarters of its California stores, with projects planned for up to 60 locations. The projects will bring Walmart’s total number of solar installations in California to 130. Each store’s array will provide 20 to 30 percent of its electric needs."

    Walmart also has solar projects in various stages of development in Colorado, Hawaii, Arizona , New Jersey, and Puerto Rico.

    Wall Street Cheat Sheet reports that Egan Jones, a proxy advisory firm, is recommending that Walmart shareholders vote against the re-election of CEO Mike Duke and former CEO Lee Scott to the company's board of directors, citing their implication in a bribery scandal at the company's Mexico business and a subsequent coverup.

    According to the story, "Egan Jones also wants shareholders to vote against a nonbinding proposal on executive compensation, and vote in a proposal requesting regular reports to shareholders on the company’s political spending."
    KC's View:
    Duke and Scott will get re-elected to the board ... but this is just the beginning of death by a thousand cuts, IMHO...

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    The Washington Post reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is saying that US retailers should not sell and consumers should not eat shellfish from South Korea, and that it may launch "an extensive recall" of the product.

    The story says: "An agency analysis of the Korean shellfish program found unacceptable water pollution levels in shellfish-growing areas and periodic detection of norovirus, a common cause of acute gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

    "Although the FDA lacks the authority to regulate retailers and their suppliers, it can seize contaminated products that are not removed from commerce. The agency has recommended that stores and distributors stop selling Korean shellfish. The advisory does not affect Korean crab or shrimp or any shellfish grown and produced domestically."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    The New York Times reports on a new study suggesting that so-called "good cholesterol" may not be so good.

    Here's how the Times explains the new revelations about HDL, known as the "good cholesterol":

    "A new study that makes use of powerful databases of genetic information has found that raising HDL levels may not make any difference to heart disease risk. People who inherit genes that give them naturally higher HDL levels throughout life have no less heart disease than those who inherit genes that give them slightly lower levels. If HDL were protective, those with genes causing higher levels should have had less heart disease."

    In fact, the study says, there may be other, collateral factors affecting heart disease rates - such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, etc...
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    National Public Radio reports on a new study saying that people who drank at least two or three cups of coffee a day were about 10 percent or 15 percent less likely to die for any reason during the 13 years of the study. Indeed, "coffee drinking appeared to cut the risk of dying from heart disease, lung disease, strokes, injuries, accidents, diabetes and infections."

    You can read the whole story here.
    KC's View:
    If this is accurate, I may live to be 200.

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    • The Detroit Free Press reports on the groundbreaking today for a major retail center in Detroit that will feature, among other things, a Meijer supercenter.

    As the story notes, "The Gateway center groundbreaking follows by just days this week's groundbreaking in the city's Midtown district of the Whole Foods grocery store scheduled to open in early 2013. The coming of major retailers like these to a city long thought to be short on shopping opportunities marks for many a hopeful sign of redevelopment."

    • The Associated Press reports that in a bid to return to turn around its US business, Sears Holdings plans to spin off a stake in its Canadian operations, though it plans to retain a 51 percent interest in the company.

    This move seems to be part of a broader strategic direction. As the AP notes, "Earlier this year, Sears also announced that it was spinning off its smaller Hometown and Outlet stores as well as some hardware stores in a deal expected to raise $400 million to $500 million. That transaction is still expected to close in the third quarter."

    USA Today reports on a new study conducted by the Rand Corp. and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finding that "a whopping 96% of main entrees sold at top U.S. chain eateries exceed daily limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

    One interesting note from the story: "Family restaurants fared worse than fast-food. Entrees at family-style restaurants on average have more calories, fat and sodium than fast-food restaurants. Entrees at family-style eateries posted 271 more calories, 435 more milligrams of sodium and 16 more grams of fat than fast-food restaurants..."

    • The Associated Press reports that members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in Colorado and Wyoming have approved a new two-year contract that covers King Soopers, Safeway, Albertson's, Smith Foods and City Market stores.

    • Supervalu announced that it has opened its first save-A-Lot store in Atlantic City, NJ., becoming what it calls "the first full-service grocery store within a 21 mile radius of the city."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    • Campbell Soup Company announced the appointment of Adam Kmiec as Director, Digital Marketing and Social Media. Kmiec joins Campbell from Walgreens, where he served as Director, Social Media.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 18, 2012

    The announcement this week that Aaron Sorkin, who won an Academy Award for writing the screenplay for The SocialNetwork, now will be adapting Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs into a film, somehow seemed absolutely perfect. You just know that the film's structure will be unusual, the dialogue will be crackling, and that he will manage to find new ways to illuminate the character of one of our generation's most provocative and revered figures.

    I'm not sure he's written a word, and I have no idea who they'll cast in the lead or who will direct ... but I'd buy a ticket to opening night right now.

    BTW...I know I've plugged it before, but I can't wait to see Sorkin's next project ... an HBO series called "The Newsroom," and you can see the trailer for the show here. Anybody who liked "Sports Night" or "The West Wing" will have something to watch this summer...

    I've only seen the previews, but it looks like Tom Selleck has another winner on his hands this Sunday with "Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt," the eighth movie that he's done based on the character created by the late, Great Robert B. Parker. These movies are anachronisms for network television - they're character driven, moody, and made for adults. The rumor is that this could be the last of the series, at least on CBS, but I hope not. Once a year, it's nice to catch up with Jesse Stone, who resembles nothing so much as the sheriff of a western town, seeking personal redemption while being as focused on justice as much as the law.

    I was disappointed to see that NBC has cancelled "Awake," the drama about a cop who is in a car accident and then seems to find himself splitting his time between two realities - in one, his wife is alive and his son has died in the accident and in the other, exactly the opposite is true. Jason Isaacs has been terrific in the leading role, and the plot has showed promise of spinning off into new and conspiratorial directions. But now we can just add it to the list of other series that ended after one season, and should have lasted longer.

    My personal list of such series, by the way, includes "The Prisoner," "Journeyman," "Strange Report," "Nowhere Man," and "Kidnapped." (I'd be willing to bet that there won't be more than three people in the MNB audience who know "Strange Report" without checking it out on Google.)

    My wine of the week: the 2011 Edetana, a lovely white that is a blend of 70% White Garnacha and 30% Viognier, and is just perfect with a good risotto.

    And, I should mention, this wine was available through the MNB Wine of the Month Club, which you can find out about by clicking here.

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

    KC's View: