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    Published on: December 19, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Who knew that the consumption of lion meat was a controversy in the US?

    Apparently it is.

    New Jersey resident Cheryl Semcer reportedly has launched an online petition on to get the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ban the sale of lion meat in the US, saying that it is not subject to the same regulations as most meat that is used for human consumption.

    “Restaurants shouldn’t be risking the health of their customers just for the attention that comes with serving exotic animal meat,” Semcer says. “I hope the USDA will see the more than 44,000 signatures and personal pleas for action and understand that this issue isn’t going anywhere until they ban the sale of lion meat once and for all.”

    Semcer says that she started the petition when she saw that a "surprising number of chefs across the country were cooking up everything from lion burgers to lion tacos," and she says that "it's hard to see the move to serve it for dinner as anything other than a publicity stunt that puts customers and the animals at risk."

    Who knew? Certainly not me.

    The question I keep asking myself is whether, if I were in a restaurant serving lion tacos, I would order them.

    For better or worse, the answer probably is yes. But I'd do so with the fervent hope that I was not eating Simba.

    (Years ago when my kids were little, I went on a trip to Stockholm and, for the first time in my life, ate reindeer. Which was really good. But my kids were horrified when I told them about the meal, and reported that when I was almost finished, I found this little red bulb at the bottom of the plate...)
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    Forbes has a piece in which it pulls together what analysts seem to think will be the next big retail trends likely to emerge in 2013...

    Mobile. The general sense seems to be that 2012 was the year in which "mobile became embedded into the lives of consumers" and the conduct of commerce, and that in 2013, a majority of retailers will invest in applications that will enable mobile commerce to an even greater extent.

    Integration. The focus will not be on e-commerce vs. bricks-and-mortar commerce, but rather on integrated, multi-channel commerce that will cater to shoppers who do not distinguish between the two. They are interested in compelling, relevant, aspirational brands and great values. And it is up to marketers to find balanced formula that works for them and their shoppers.

    Social. Experts appear to believe that social media will continue to be influential in terms of telling people about products and providing recommendations and information ... though social media won't necessarily be the engine of direct sales. Marketers will have to understand the difference, and make sure that they continue to invest in social media that won't necessarily be able to define a direct ROI.
    KC's View:
    None of this is surprising, but it all requires attention and vigilance. What it really comes down to is a highly fluid shopper ... caring about relevant products and services, looking to other consumers for information and recommendations, less concerned with the specifics of the venue and more concerned about the ability of the retailer to deliver.

    Specificity and ubiquity may become the defining terms of art. And, maybe, uniquity.

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    The New York Times this morning writes about how "after years of criticizing physical stores as relics, even e-commerce zealots are acknowledging there is something to a bricks-and-mortar location. eBay and Etsy are testing temporary stores, while Piperlime, the Gap Inc. unit that was online-only for six years, opened a SoHo store this fall. Bonobos plans to keep opening stores, and Warby Parker, the eyeglass brand, will soon open a physical location.

    "The companies say they are catering to customers who want to see what they are buying in person, and who see shopping as a social event. As they build the locations, though, the retailers are reimagining some long-established rules - carrying less inventory, having fewer staff members and embracing small and out-of-the-way locations. In the process, they are creating what could be a model for efficient in-store operations: the store as a showroom."

    Bonobos is cited as an example of how trends have shifted; it was just five years ago that its CEO, Andy Dunn, was giving speeches about the end of physical retailing and arguing that bricks-and-mortar stores were a bad economic investment. Now, Bonobos has six locations.

    "Mr. Dunn did not want a typical retail model that required carrying a heavy inventory, staffing for heavy foot traffic and paying for prime real estate," the Times writes. "Instead, he took 700 square feet in Bonobos’s existing fifth-floor office and converted it into a store, called a Guideshop. Customers make appointments, which generally last 45 minutes, so one or two employees handle the entire store at once. Most retail stores have to carry each item in a range of colors and sizes, a significant cost, but Bonobos does not, instead using the Web site as its virtual back room. Customers do not leave the store with merchandise; instead, the employees place an online order that is delivered to the customer, often the next day.

    "That means the stores carry only items for fit and looks. It has a dark-khaki chino in all 11 waist sizes and four inseam lengths, for instance, and employees use that to figure out what size a customer wears in other pants. But it does not carry, say, a red boot-cut chino in all sizes ... Mr. Dunn said the average in-store transaction was $360, double what it is online, and first-time store visitors buy again in 58 days, versus waiting 85 days between Web site purchases. And, he said, he has cut Web marketing expenses in half as in-store purchases have increased."
    KC's View:
    Online retailers are not just opening stores. They are identifying places and circumstances where a physical location can bolster brand identity and sales, and they are applying lessons about supply chains and customer needs and desires to the model.

    Bricks-and-mortar retailers in all categories would be well-advised to pay attention.

    Which is what the retailer in our next story seems to be doing...

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    Reuters has a great piece about how Nordstrom has found a role model for its online business.

    It started when Jamie Nordstrom, great-grandson of Nordstrom Inc founder John W. Nordstrom and the president of Nordstrom Direct, ordered a fishing tackle box fromAmazon, and then subsequently, "Amazon sent an email to buy an additive that is often used to preserve gasoline in boats stored over the winter -- an example of Amazon's strength crunching customer data to provide more relevant recommendations."

    "They got me and all I had to do was literally hit a button. That's incredibly valuable," Nordstrom said in a recent speech.

    The story continues: "Nordstrom, who already has his company's online business growing at a greater pace than its rivals, sees this 'personalization' as the new front in the retail wars, delivering the high levels of customer service that the department store is already known for.

    "That's why Nordstrom is going on the offensive against Amazon, spending heavily on technology and luring talent from Amazon and Microsoft Corp. to super-charge his family department store chain's growth ... The main difference between Jamie Nordstrom and other retail executives is his willingness to spend heavily on long-term projects, another Amazon trait, according to Josh Berman, co-founder of MySpace and CEO of online fashion start-up BeachMint.

    "At the start of 2012, Nordstrom unveiled a $3.3 billion, five-year capital plan of which about 30 percent was to be spent on e-commerce and technology. That is double the amount Nordstrom allocated to those areas in its capital plan a year earlier."

    "If you ask Jamie what he wants to be when he grows up, he wants to compete with the likes of Amazon," says one retail analyst. "That's setting the bar high and I think that's good."

    Reuters writes, "Before 2005, and the company's physical stores had different products and prices and separate marketing, human resources and accounting departments. Jamie Nordstrom combined the two, giving sales staff and customers access to any product in inventory at any time. Nordstrom can also fulfill online orders from stores, or order an item online that has run out in stores ... Nordstrom plans to show more relevant recommendations to customers online and to their smartphones. The best selling online categories include: women's and men's apparel, jewelry, and cosmetics. Such information will also show up in Nordstrom stores through sales staff using Apple Inc iPads and iPod Touch devices."
    KC's View:
    he piece essentially says that Nordstrom is learning from Amazon because it understands that at some level, Amazon is the competition ... and is likely only to become more potent as time passes.

    Which is a conclusion that a lot of retailers need to come to.

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    IGA has announced that it will continue to advance its global presence by partnering with Johannesburg-based Unitrade Management Services - an independent management services group - to bring the IGA brand back to South Africa.  IGA originally moved into South Africa in 2002, but there have been no IGA stores in the country since 2008.

    Under the partnership with IGA, Unitrade’s 110 Powertrade, Food Town and Best Buy grocery brands will adopt the IGA brand, and Unitrade has committed to growing its IGA store count to 250 stores within the next five years.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    Reuters reports that if allegations that Walmart engaged in systemic, systematic and aggressive bribery of Mexican officials as a way of greasing the wheels for its expansion there, which would be a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), it could be facing sizable fines.

    According to the story, "In the largest FCPA case to date, Siemens paid $800 million to resolve allegations of widespread bribery in 2008. In other sizable cases, KBR and its former parent Halliburton paid $579 million in 2009, and BAE Systems paid $400 million in 2010."

    Walmart is conducting its own internal investigation as well as cooperating with probes launched by the US Congress, the US Justice Department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
    KC's View:
    I remain fascinated by the idea that Walmart is conducting an extensive internal investigation and that it is going to take time to reach conclusions. That just strikes me as malarkey ... because they know what happened and who did what. Now, it is just a matter of circling the wagons and evaluating legal options.

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    A new "The Why? Behind The Buy" report from AMG Strategic Advisors, the consulting unit of Acosta Sales & Marketing, looks at Hispanic shopping behavior and concludes:

    • "Hispanic shoppers are optimistic and have a positive, forward-looking view that transcends today’s struggles: 32 percent of Hispanic shoppers expect their household income to increase over the next year (vs. 22 percent of non-Hispanics). 25 percent of Hispanic shoppers expect a positive change in employment in the coming year (vs. 14 percent of non-Hispanics)."

    • "Hispanic shoppers have integrated ‘savings’ strategies into their grocery shopping habits: Over the last year, 55 percent bought items on sale, and 45 percent used coupons. 59 percent of Hispanic shoppers purchase store brand products to save money."

    • "Hispanics are more likely to shop with others. Only 22 percent of Hispanics shop alone versus 46 percent of non-Hispanics."

    • "The Hispanic shopping budget is large, at an estimated $425 per month."

    • "Hispanic shoppers across all income brackets are spending more on routine trips, with the majority spending more than $100 per trip."

    • "Hispanic shoppers are increasingly using digital technologies for grocery shopping and planning."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    • The Boston Globe reports that independent research company STELLAService has evaluated the top 25 online retailers and concluded that Staples, Zappos and Office Depot were "tied for first place in terms of fastest shipping time in November 2012, with an average delivery time of one day."

    According to the story, "The study found department store JCPenney’s online division to be the slowest, with an average delivery time of nine days."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    • Tesco-owned, US-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market this week introduced the winning customer-designed reusable bag from the company’s 2012 Design-A-Bag Contest.  The limited-edition reusable bag was designed by Eimi Marritt of Las Vegas and is now available in stores for only 99 cents. 
    KC's View:
    Okay, Fresh & Easy has a reusable bag. Now all it needs is returnable customers.

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that "is reportedly preparing to launch its own smartphone next year," with a "a device in the $100-to-$200 price range" that will be available "in the second or third quarter of 2013."

    The Amazon smartphone will be manufactured by a company that also assembles Apple products, the story says, and will tie into the company's existing line of tablet computers and e-readers.

    • Safeway announced that it has "furthered its commitment to animal welfare by becoming the first major grocery retailer in the United States to make a national commitment to Certified Humane cage-free eggs and by surpassing its sourcing and sales goals for cage-free eggs."

    In 2008, Safeway began an initiative with existing suppliers to have all Lucerne Cage-Free and O Organics shell eggs sourced from farms that are Certified Humane.  In 2010, Safeway announced a goal of increasing sales of cage-free eggs from 6 percent to 12 percent of the shell egg category within two years.  Today more than 15 percent of overall egg sales in the category are cage-free eggs ... Safeway stated it will continue to expand the campaign as their customers respond to the initiative.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    • Michael Miles, president/COO of Staples, is resigning from the office supply retailer, effective February 2, to accept a new post with the Boston-based investment firm Berkshire Partners.

    A replacement has not yet been named.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 19, 2012

    We've had a lot of discussion and stories about beef over the past week or two, which led MNB user Mark Raddant to write:

    As a Kansas City resident, I have read the entire review/expose of the Beef Industry they published last week.  Several of your readers suggest steaks need only be cooked to temperature on the outside.  However, modern robotic tenderizing processes puncture the outside of the steak and inject fluids that make the steak more tender, but which also can drive bacteria from the outside to the inside, where if cooked rare, will not kill the bacteria.  Quite a few people have had severe problems and even a few fatalities as a result.  Even so, the US Food Industry is still among the world’s safest.

    On the subject of Walmart and the bribery scandal that is occupying much of its time, one MNB user wrote:

    Interesting, while reading the full version online of this very well documented report, I heard on TV, a lawyer who is an expert in bribery law state that in his opinion, "at the max and I’m stretching it, that Walmart will only pay a fine of 150 million dollars”. Seems a small fine for a company that has sales in the billions. If this is the case, I guess the old saying that “crime doesn’t pay” needs to be taken off the books.
    What will be interesting no matter what the fine and or jail time, will be how WalMart board and their Chairman deal with past and current leaders who had knowledge of this… and I don’t mean just taking back the bonuses…

    From another reader:

    I have been in the grocery retail and wholesale business for over 35 years and have watched Walmart go from a fringe grocery player in the late 80’s and early 90’s to the “King of the Grocery hill” in less than 20 years.  Throughout their history here in the states they have been masters at “wearing down” public resistance to new site locations across this country…. while only a small minority of citizens seem to care!  While their tactics in the US may not have been as blatant as in Mexico and other countries, they have found ways to convince even the most cautious city and county elected officials to approve site after site across the US…. while only a small minority of citizens seem to care!  Approvals in spite of clear past examples that many of those sites would drive numerous small “long term” local businesses out of business for good…. while only a small minority of citizens seem to care!.  Their sheer volume dictates that once any mid size or smaller CPG company “gets” the Walmart volume into their veins, they are indeed at the mercy of Walmart from that point forward!
    While many will look at these comments and consider them coming from simply an old timer that is too set in his ways, the true sadness is not about Walmart and their historic growth but about what we as citizens of the greatest country on earth settle for these days.  Most of the “values” of our constitution as well as those this country was founded upon have been replaced by how many billions we can generate and how fast we can influence and intimidate on our way to the top no matter what the cost.  While I can only hope the Walmart Bribery news does indeed slow down the ‘King of the Grocery hill” and wake up the masses to the reality of what Walmart has done to the US business society, the sad reality is as has been the case so far…. ONLY A SMALL MINORITY SEEM TO CARE!  I simply am one of those in the small minority.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I copied this......It is a quote from Alan Simpson the retired Senator.....Seems appropriate to me.

    "If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters."

    And, from MNB user Barbara Strickert:

    While I agree with you that Wal-Mart any anyone should show integrity by admitting to wrong doing, I think it is unfair for the media to continuously single out Wal-Mart. I would like to see a probe on the Feds, and other major retailers trying to do business in Mexico.

    I understand why some people will feel this way, but I disagree. This coverage strikes me as entirely fair.

    Walmart is the world's biggest retailer and one of the world's most influential companies. You want to be that big, you have to count on having a target on your back if you misbehave. In this case, the New York Times remains the paper of record (though that mantle means less than it used to). It seems entirely appropriate to me that the New York Times would pursue this story. (That doesn't mean it isn't looking at how other companies do business there.)
    KC's View: