retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email in response to our piece earlier this week about how people now use mobile technology to decide what movie to go see, where and when to see it, and even to buy tickets - making newspaper movie ads almost totally obsolete:

It’s amazing how quickly we adapt to new technology and take it for granted.  I pull up Rotten Tomatoes to decide which movie, where and when.  It’s second nature and until you mentioned newspapers, I had forgotten that former resource even existed. Convenience that meets your needs is all it takes to make you a former customer.

MNB user Mark Boyer wrote:

I typically use Flixster to help me decide what to go see. And I am way more interested in how much the Audiences liked a movie than I am with what the Critics thought.
Are traditional movie critics relevant anymore? When was the last time you saw a movie because of what a critic said?

I actually read Roger Ebert with regularity. I like the way he thinks about movies, and I admire his personal journey. But you're right ... consumer reviews tend to mean more than critic reviews. (Am I a "consumer" or a "critic" or some sort of hybrid when I write about movies?)

From another reader:

You left out the best part of online movie selection – at the Landmark Theaters and many others you can select your seats on line.  So  you never have to fight to find 2 seats together or sit in the front rows if those are the only seats available.
Along the same lines, an MNB user wrote:

A friend of mine in New Hampshire just posted this on his Facebook page:

Small biz use of technology: The chimney cleaning company shows up today, does their thing and the guy pulls out an iPad. It has an app that itemizes the work, which I can sign, and I get the receipt in my email a couple minutes later. I didn't think to ask if he used Square for people paying with a card, because I just wrote a check as I always have, but I suspect he could take a card, too.

The chimney-sweep, for pete's sake

Mobile is definitely changing how we do business!

Think about how the chimney sweep dance from Mary Poppins would have been different if Dick Van Dyke and all the other sweeps had been carrying iPads...

Got the following email from reader Michael Freese after I wrote about how much my 18-year-old daughter likes Kroger stores she has visited:

My wife and I were visiting our daughter in Seattle last week and stopped into a Fred Meyer to pick up a few things.

When we left I mentioned to my wife how much I loved the store and she said "You would swear they had just staged that store for a grand opening it was so perfect"

Every shelf full, clean everywhere, huge selection in all areas.

Man……what a store!

MNB user Lisa Bosshard wrote:

Good article and comments regarding the Kroger expansion today.  My take on this comes from living in an area where I have access to multiple store formats across retailers.  With in 3 miles from my home, we have a Walmart supercenter, Albertson's and Kroger market place stores to choose from.   My family's personal take and weekly decision goes something like this; what do we need - if large bulk items, paper products or dog food, we head to Walmart and buy grocery items along the way.   If just food items, we head to Kroger - much fresher, local produce selection and good meats.  With weekly ad specials, pricing runs comparable to Walmart plus they have fresh sushi and a great alcohol selection with specialty beers.   As for Albertson's, can't recall the last time we went there, likely 10 years ago when the Walmart opened....   Go a few miles further and we also have a Sprout's to visit, several more Walmarts, Central Market, Tom Thumb and a few other stores that I could name.

The point is, our grocery needs determine which store.  Frankly, if Kroger was priced more competitively on paper products, we would choose to shop Walmart less frequently.   If you ask why - it's simple, I hate the shopping experience and dealing with the people shopping at Walmart.   When I do go there, I put headphones in to get in and out as quickly as possible.  It's pretty miserable and not something I'm sure they can fix.

An MNB user wrote in the other day to suggest that people do not have a constitutional right to drink jumbo sugared sodas, which led MNB user Terry Pyles to write:

No right to a super-sized soda?

I beg to differ with the constitutional scholar who wrote this.  It is a right.  In fact it's more than a right.  Not just any right.  It's an inalienable right.  The constitution says we all have the inalienable rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".  If a 24 oz. soda makes me happy then I assert it as my constitutional right.

Silly?  You bet it is.  As silly as the law and as silly as many of the other assertions I have read on this issue.

First of all, I don't think this is a silly example. I think you need to get out more, but it isn't silly.

But I also think of a whole bunch of things that might make me happy, but to which I do not have the inalienable right.

On the subject of online shopping and price-matching, an MNB user wrote:

For the last many years, Christmas has come in Amazon boxes delivered to my home, shipping free and tax free.

Even if Target matches the price, I have spent at least $20 in gas to drive there (we live in the boonies), fought the crowds and paid 9% in sales tax.

How does that matching price help me?

But then I’m cynical.  Don’t get me wrong, I shop year around in our bricks and mortar stores.  But I am not about to fight the crowds at Christmas and get trampled for a Lego!

We wrote yesterday about two intertwined stories - one about a college professor who objects to the idea that the US Department of Education is pushing the idea that e-books should replace traditional textbooks, and another about how is shifting to an all-digital distribution strategy.

Which led MNB user Dennis Barthuly to write:

Tying your Eye-opener and FaceTime pieces together today...

Perhaps it’s a good thing that Prof. Hollander had his article “printed” in the times – if he had waited to have it published in Newsweek in a couple of months, it would have proved embarrassing for him, “digitally” speaking of course...

Another MNB user wrote:

You overlooked the possibility that the good professor could also experience a financial loss if his text book(s) are available on e-readers.  My youngest son just graduated and we’re enjoying not having to pay $500 for books each semester. One course my son had used a “textbook” that was a compilation of articles, essays and other writings that was edited by his professor – bound with plastic spine and a paperback cover – something you’d create at Kinko’s. cost of this “book” was $125 – and the prof “updated” it each semester he taught the course, so there was no way to sell it back to the bookstore or to other students at the end of the semester.

Boy, do I agree with you. My daughter is dealing with the same nonsense right now.

I'm so sensitive to this issue that when I taught at Portland State University last summer, I donated a couple of cases of books and handed them out to the students in my class. (I actually used the moment to tell the students that I would trade them a book for one piece of information about themselves that made them special ... I ended up learning a lot about them in a very short time.)

From reader Brian Blank:

I think you hit the nail squarely on the head with your Face Time commentary today.  The advantage of e-texts’ ability to be instantly and continuously updated and corrected is incredible.  Who among us didn’t go through school using a hodgepodge of dated and outdated text books?  No school system could hope to have the most up-to-date text books for every subject and every student—besides the incredible expense, a print text book has the same problem as a phone book:  it is out of date as soon as it is committed to paper.  (In all my time in grade school and high school, I can only remember one subject in which I had new text books:  German.  That was in the mid-80’s, and we were taught about the BRD and the DDR [West Germany and East Germany]…I’d love to know how long after the Berlin Wall fell that my alma mater was still using those books!)  In college, when we students had to buy our own text books, we were very resentful of the professors who demanded the most current version of a text each year, preventing us from saving money with used text books.

Beyond that, putting “printed” information into a highly portable, highly user-friendly format such as iPad or Kindle, definitely makes the material more accessible, which is “what we’re seeking”, as you suggest.  For myself, since getting my Kindle, I have increased my book reading tremendously because I can do it nearly anywhere, anytime.  Now then, I will also admit to some dinosaur-ish  tendencies as well:  I will NOT give up my print edition newspaper, for instance.  Among the reasons why I find the print edition better: it doesn’t require Wi-Fi or a good 4G signal to operate (neither of which I have in the break room at work), nor does the online version have a comic section or crossword puzzle or the other features I enjoy.  The stories in the paper may have already been on the TV news, but usually without as much detail.  (And I can get breaking news as text messages or Facebook posts if I want to supplement.)  Also, every now and then there will come a book that I deem to be something I want to have on my bookshelf in physical form for one reason or another.  Amazon, if you’re listening…how about offering a Kindle version downloadable when buying the physical book, like some of the studios do with DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Copy combo packs of movies?

By the way, Kevin, you should check out the Penny Marshall bio.  I recently finished it (Kindle!), and I think you would appreciate her insights and behind-the-scenes peeks into the making of her movies, and would probably be entertained by the rest of the book as well.  I’m confident you could even glean some business lessons!

MNB user Steve Deveau wrote:

So, in about 5 years I can expect to go into my Doctor or Dentist’s office and in the waiting room I will find a couple of first edition Kindles with the 2013 Newsweek issues loaded?

I get your point.

But you'll bring your own e-reader. All you'll need in the office is free WiFi.

And finally, my favorite kind of email:

I wanted to let you now during my upcoming trip to the Orlando, Florida, area next week I am planning on visiting the Ravenous Pig.  I would not have known about this restaurant had it not been for Morning News Beat. I have been a loyal reader for many years, and really appreciate all the great information you report on.

Eat well. Drink well. Have a great time.
KC's View: