retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week, MNB had a story about how "McDonald's has filed a trademark filing that suggests the fast feeder plans to sell bagged ground and whole bean. This is addition to a filing earlier this year that indicated McDonald's could start selling branded sandwiches, oatmeal and other food products in venues that are not covered by golden arches."

I commented:

McDonald's may just want to protect its trademarks. But my feelings is that if McDonald's tries to sell anything through supermarkets, no store should carry its stuff. This is about a hardball battle for share of stomach, and nobody should do anything to help McDonald's bottom line.

MNB user Steve Kneepkens responded:

I find this commentary very curious. I didn’t see you write anything obstructionist about Starbucks selling their items in grocery stores. Or TGIF selling potato chips.. or PF Changs selling frozen meals. This is driven by your clear dislike for McDonalds rather than having a business perspective on the potential success or failure of the brand.

McDonalds is truly one of the most successful business models in the history of mankind. They now sell more apples and salads than any other company in the world. They have made coffee a destination (It tastes better then Starbucks and it is significantly cheaper) and their smoothies aren’t bad either.

You may not like their product but millions – BILLIONS DO. You are constantly espousing the virtues of finding different channels – or creating channels – to build brand consumption, yet if the brand goes against your personal liking – lookout. It may not be cool for you to pull into a McDonalds and consume a Big Mac… but the playland would be right up your alley. Gotta go. There is a $1 freshly brewed McDonalds coffee waiting for me.

One MNB user responded:

We are concerned with our bottom line and this is the reason we carry the Starbucks line. These purchases represent two very different consumer behaviors and do not see the "share of stomach" issue here at all.

Actually ... longtime MNB readers will know that this position has nothing to do with my feelings about McDonald's, but in fact is a long-held (and to some, annoying) view about what products supermarkets should stock. And, in fact, I have suggested that supermarkets perhaps ought not carry Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts coffee, nor many of the other restaurant-branded items you mentioned.

I am being a little hyperbolic here, but my position is rooted in the belief that this is a hardball battle for share of stomach in which restaurant brands gain credibility, visibility and profit by selling branded items in supermarkets. I'm not sure it is in supermarkets' long-term best interests to cooperate.

On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

It strikes me for someone whom writes about retail that you don’t like to go to retail stores. While I agree that online shopping is getting bigger and better there is a whole segment that will always go to a brick and mortar stores, and the online shoppers still have to frequent brink and mortars from time to time.

Untrue, though I understand why you might think that.

I like good stores. I like stores that differentiate themselves, that are aspirational, that delight in the categories in which they do business. I like unexpected pleasures. I hate mediocrity. I hate stores that make shopping a chore. I don't like retail that settles, or that is just good enough.

When I write about online shopping, it is to point out how companies like Amazon are doing a better job than many traditional retailers, and to suggest ways in which they can be competed with.

I sort of teed off last week on a guy who seemed to suggest that it is best to hire white, heterosexual christian males because they won't sue you.

Which prompted another MNB user to write:

Clearly the reader has a world view you don’t appreciate.  Got it.  It’s hilarious that you claim to embrace diversity when you don’t accept much of a difference in thinking.  Your intolerant attitude confirms your desire to disdain this reader's thoughts, and demean a group you identify as less than desirable.  You realize that the whole basis of race, age, and gender protection laws required the definition of groups of like individuals who were being discriminated against.  Hmm, with thinking like yours, maybe some day white, hetero believers can get some legal protections against the like of you.

Do you really think there are just a couple of kooks out there who don’t agree with you?  It's likely there are lots of us.  Fortunately, you don't represent the majority.   But you do get the last word in this blog.

I'm not sure how long I'm going to let this discussion continue on MNB….at some point I'll move things in another direction because my sense is we've exhausted the conversation, at least for the moment, and I don't want people to get bored.

However, I thought your email deserved a reply.  In short, I think you are missing my point.

All I am really arguing is that I would never assume that all gender discrimination lawsuits are frivolous or baseless.  I'm sure some are, just as I am sure are not.  And while I hate litigation and litigiousness, I'd rather live in a system where people have legal recourse than in one where they do not.  Abuse of the system from time to time, it seems to me, is the price we pay for our system.

A few other things…

• I know that white, heterosexual christian males are not a legally protected class.  In fact, that is the precise point I was making.  I just think that some of the people who fall into that demographic would like to be protected from people who don't.

• I do not think that there are just a few "kooks" who disagree with me.  I would never describe someone that way just because they disagree with me.  There are kooks out there, but there are probably as many who agree with me as disagree with me.  By and large, I think that MNB provides a forum in which a wide variety of opinions are aired, and to suggest that my disagreement - sometimes profound - is the same as intolerance is to suggest that you are not paying attention.  I give tons of space to people with polar opposite views from mine.  (If I didn't, then I would not get into these kinds of discussions after I've disagreed with them.)

• Yup.  I do get the last word.  But I try to be fair about the stories I write, specific and accountable for the commentaries I make, and evenhanded about choosing the email I run.  And then I get the last word.

Finally, thanks to all of you who responded to my "OffBeat" column from last Friday. There were dozens of emails, including many from people who were dealing with loss and feeling the same emotions that I was. One was from a fellow reading MNB on his smartphone while waiting for a funeral service to begin; several were from people who had lost friends and relatives at a young age. Almost all were from people who, like me, just wanted to go hug their kids...

KC's View: