retail news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a piece last week about how Jim Donald, the former CEO of Starbucks, Pathmark and Haggen, currently is reinvigorating the company and culture at Extend Stay America, the hotel chain, with a strategic plan called "DANCE," which is an acronym for a variety of changes being made within the company.

Well, MNB user Michael Schillo was not impressed:

Can Jim Donald do no wrong in your eyes??

DANCE is dis-ingenious.  Another corporate acronym that is aimed to motivate the troops….when in all reality motivation comes from within.

Here is the issue in my mind. 
"D" is for delighting guests through property refreshes and enhanced service.
What does delight me?  My definition of delight will be different.  I may prefer a 24 hr snack bar like aloft where others may want room service.  Delight is a consultant term for “don’t piss off”.  Refresh and enhanced?  Again…vs. what  vs. doing nothing?

"A" is for activating associates and preventing slack.
I read this as hey all you desk clerks,  “get off your butts and work”.  Activating?  Haha….nice one.  I should use that in my reviews.

"N" is for neutralizing costs through cost-containment measures.
Read:  layoffs, less soaps, no free water, etc.  Hey, the economy is rough.
"C" is for caring for the community of both guests and employees.
Ahhh…caring for community.  Who doesn’t love that.  I don’t want a caring hotelier.  I want a nice clean room with free wifi, an opportunity to get a snack…and leave me alone.

"E" is for expanding revenue.
Read:  raising prices…but not too high as people will go to Courtyard or 4 Points.  Oh yeah, that water is now $3 too.  Welcome, enjoy your stay.

Okay, that's one perspective.

But MNB user Lindy Bannister wrote:

This man never ceases to amaze me. I worked for him years ago when Albertsons was a company  that we were all very proud to work for. He connected with every employee. I remember him out jogging early (very early) in the mornings and stopping in to the nearest store to throw freight with the over night crew. He said it was the best way to find out what was happening in his division! We would have followed him anywhere.

And from MNB user David Logue:

Jim was another one of the Great Albertsons Team members when it was a GREAT company. I had the honor of spending 3 days with him while I was on a training program. He is a GREAT LEADER!! Great story today!

I suppose you can be cynical about what Jim Donald is trying to do ... but I have to say that when I talk to people who have worked for him over the years, the broad consensus is that when he develops these kinds of programs, it isn't just talking points and manipulation. And my sense is that he is a master motivator, especially at companies where people feel like leadership has been sadly lacking.

Regarding the layoffs at Delhaize America, we have a report from the front lines:

I was one of those let go...You were absolutely right the other day - sitting in your cube, trying to work like everything is normal, while loss prevention and HR folks are swirling around smiling and offering boxes for those who need them and waiting for a tap on your shoulder was HELL. Then those who got the ax emerge from the conference room with a giant (you could hang-glide with the thing) envelope full of materials, so everyone pretending to not stare at the door out of the corners of their eyes knows exactly what just happened to you.

It was the most undignified thing I have ever been through in the workplace. Classic Food Lion: the plan made a lot of sense on paper but the execution was thoroughly screwed up.  That said, the severance packages and outplacement services are more than generous.  The company is trying to do right by us.  There are hundreds of smart, kind people there who taught me tons about real estate, so I hope for everyone's sake Delhaize turns it around.  I haven't heard the final body count, but I'll bet you lunch it was more than 350. You can look at the parking lot and know that.

We continue to get emails about the Super Bowl ads.

MNB user Jeff Gartner wrote:

Good afternoon Kevin, you replied "You're entitled to your own opinion" to one of your readers when they disagreed with your own review of some of the Super Bowl ads. Those words "entitled to your own opinion" are characteristic of successful branding and advertising.

Very few successful products and their ads have universal audiences. Indeed, most successful brands and their ads choose a particular audience, which also means not selecting other audiences. That's difficult for many organizations to accept, and why too many brands (which includes retailers as well as products) are not distinctive from their competitors. So my first thought when I see or hear or read an ad that doesn't appeal to me is that I must not be the target audience. 

You often say "compete is a verb," and the first steps to successfully compete are to be distinctive and choose (another verb) your audience.

And from another reader:

I don't think the person who made the comment that all the people in the farmer ad were men actually understands the American Farmer. I come from a family of farmers. The American Farmer is predominately male, one of the few professions that still is. It also takes a special woman to be married to a true farmer because its not an easy life.

All the great farmers at the farmers market are women? I hate to burst your bubble but the people selling at farmers markets are rarely farmers. They have a small sub plot
of land (often called a victory garden) where they raise various vegetables and flowers for the specific reason of selling at a farmers market. I see these plots all over Minnesota. I don't believe that makes them a farmer. The real American farmer is working his land and livestock and does not have time to bring a couple of bushels of apples, potatoes or what have you to a farmers market, there is not enough money in that for them. And for those that do, the reason the women are there is to sell the product while he is back tending to the farm. I'm not saying women don't help out on the farm, they do, but everyone helps on the farm, that's the way it is.

Whether you think its right or wrong, the fact is that RAM did the commercial correctly, ask any farming family and they will tell you. The sole purpose of that commercial was to remind Americans what the American farmer really is.

Another reader chimed in:

In response to the comments on Go Daddy commercials, I don't care for them either but it was reported that they had their biggest day ever on Monday, over 10,000 in new clients. The only thing I can say is I'm not their target market ... And they DID hit their target!

Good point.
KC's View: