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    Published on: March 15, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    US workers, it seems, won't be hitting many three point shots for the next few weeks...

    The Los Angeles Times reports that a poll by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimates that the almost monthlong NCAA basketball tournament "will cost American companies $134 million in 'lost wages' as an estimated 3 million workers spend between one to three hours watching hoops ... As online streaming has made it possible to watch sporting events practically anywhere -- phones, tablets and desktops -- many workplaces have told employees to get back to work."

    And, the survey says, seven percent of those polled "said they plan to take time off work to watch the tournament."

    March Madness starts Tuesday.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2013

    Good piece in Forbes about the omni-channel trend, with bricks-and-mortar retailers going online, online retailers looking for physical footprints, and customers enjoying all the advantages.

    An excerpt:

    "Offline to online. Online to offline. Today’s consumers live multi-dimensional, multi-platform lives –and their buying behaviors reflect that same complex dynamic. In many ways, retailers are now racing to catch up."

    You can catch up with the trend yourself by clicking here.
    KC's View:
    I'm not sure I buy the idea that retailers like ought to get into the bricks-and-mortar business ... in so many ways, physical stores saddle you with legacy issues that online retailers don't have to deal with. But it is interesting to think about it.

    Published on: March 15, 2013

    Think of this as a societal change that isn;t just affecting families, but also could be having an impact on who retailers and suppliers need to be marketing to, and why.

    The Washington Post reports that "fathers with children younger than 18 are now about as likely as mothers to say they feel pressed for time and have difficulty balancing the demands of work and home, according to a major report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

    "Although mothers and fathers feel the strain, stressed fathers are unhappier about it. Far more fathers say they feel they aren’t spending enough time with their children: 46 percent, compared with 23 percent of mothers. Although fathers’ time with children has tripled since 1965, fathers still spend only about half as much time with their children, on average, as do mothers. The Pew Research report found that fathers are also less likely than mothers to think that they’re doing a good job as a parent."
    KC's View:
    There is a wonderful line in Skyfall, when M (Judi Dench) says, "Regret is not part of our profession."

    And that's sort of how I feel about this story.

    I've been lucky over the years. I have three kids, and only one of them has any real memory of my spending a lot of time going to an office where I was employed by someone else. Because I was self-employed, I was able to coach games, pick them up at school, even have lunch with them at school from time to time. (Memo to younger parents. Want to be a hero? Bring pizza or McDonald's to your kid at lunchtime every once in a while, and make sure you bring extra so that his or her friends can have some, too. Then stick around to play with them on the playground. That's the stuff they remember for the rest of their lives.)

    But, I've also traveled a lot. I've managed to only miss one or two birthdays over all the years, and I did miss one high school graduation (I was in Shanghai). But it is important not to spend too much time rethinking that stuff or replaying it in your mind. You do what you can do, you do what you have to do, and you make sure that whether you happen to be there or not, your kids know that you love them, respect them, and that they are a priority. Feeling stress about it seems counter-productive, though entirely human. (And it probably says something positive about dads that, for many, Don Draper is not a role model.)

    I had a college professor named Joe Stone, who had worked previously as a professional boxer and boxing referee as well as a screenwriter. He once said something I've never forgotten, and that I tell my kids: "The only things I regret are the things I didn't do."

    Published on: March 15, 2013

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Target "plans to open three new clinics in Chicago area stores," in Willowbrook, South Elgin and on Peterson Avenue in Chicago.

    According to the story, "The new health clinics are among 14 new clinics Target is opening in the next few months across the country, bringing the total number of Target Clinics to 68. The clinics also provide services such as acne treatment and sport and camp physicals among other health-related services."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2013

    • Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets, operating in California, Arizona and Nevada, said this week that it is donating more than $2.1 million to local schools as a result of its annual Shop for Schools fundraising program.

    Fresh & Easy, which has donated more than six million dollars to schools since 2009, also pledged to bring back the program this fall ... though it is at least possible that Fresh & Easy won't be in business or won't be owned by Tesco by the time September 2013 rolls around - Tesco has said it is looking for an exit strategy in the US, whether it is selling all or part of the US division or just closing down the stores.

    • The San Francisco Examiner has a blog post that speculates that Walmart is in discussion to acquire all or some of Fresh & Easy's Northern California stores, saying that reports to this effect seem to be circulating in both political and union circles.

    Walmart denies any plans to acquire Fresh & Easy units.
    KC's View:
    I'd be surprised - and I think Tesco would be disappointed - if it still owns Fresh & Easy by the time the 2013-2014 school year begins. And while Walmart probably wants to downplay its interest in either all or specific Fresh & Easy locations so it does not end up in a bidding war, I would not be at all surprised if it jump-starts its small store initiatives with a Fresh & Easy acquisition.

    Published on: March 15, 2013

    NACS is out with its monthly Consumer Fuels Survey, concluding that "consumer pessimism related to gas prices and the economy remains high but did not increase in March ... While 59% of U.S. consumers once again indicated that they are 'very' or 'somewhat' pessimistic about the economy, the percentage saying that they are 'very pessimistic' about the economy seems to have peaked; 20% of consumers said that they were very pessimistic, compared to 23% the month prior. Pessimism about the economy remains highest in the West, with 27% of consumers saying that they were 'very pessimistic'."
    KC's View:
    Obviously, these folks are not heavily invested in the stock market.

    Though I would not for a moment want to suggest that the stock market reflects the real US economy.

    Published on: March 15, 2013

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) yesterday announced its support for H.R. 845, the SHIELD Act. The bill, currently before the House Judiciary Committee, is described as establishing "new rules for intellectual property litigation that would require the loser of a patent infringement suit to pay the winner’s costs in certain circumstances where it is clear the asserting plaintiff did not invent the technology in question and has no plans to bring the technology to market."

    FMI said the legislation "would constrain the use of patent litigation by non-practicing entities, commonly referred to as 'patent trolls,' solely for financial gain."

    Reuters reports that Target Corp. will acquire Chefs Catalog and, deals that it says will "boost its ability to sell cooking products and kitchenware online."

    Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

    • The Associated Press reports that bankrupt Hostess Brands has picked McKee Foods as the buyer for its Drake's Cakes brand "after nobody stepped forward with a qualifying bid to top its $27.5 million offer." Which means that the maker of Little Debbie cakes will also now be making and selling Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles and Yodels.

    Reuters reports that Nestle has published a list of social and environmental goals it plans to achieve by 2020, "including better labelling of its products, only using sustainable palm oil and ... it also pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of product by 35 percent by 2015 compared to 2005, and cut direct water withdrawal per tonne of product by 40 percent."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2013

    ...will return next week.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 15, 2013

    I've gotten a few emails from folks who, considering the occasional religious discussions that come up on MNB from time to time, wondered what I thought of the new Pope, Francis I.

    So here goes...

    Not being Catholic, I have no dog in this hunt. But, being a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, not to mention the product of 16 years of Catholic education, I'm glad he's a Jesuit (the Catholic religious order that actually encourages thinking and questioning), though I'm less happy - though not at all surprised - with what appears to be his doctrinal conservatism. At his age, he is probably a short-term and transitional figure; however, one of the most influential popes of the 20th century was Pope John XXIII, also a short term pope who was elected largely as a transitional figure. Go figure.

    While I am pleased with the fact that Pope Francis I does not seem to be impressed with himself, and seems properly focused on the dispossessed, I do think that he's got a few months to gain credibility in one critical area. Before too long, Pope Francis I essentially has to say that there's a new sheriff in town, and say that any priest found to have abused any child will be immediately defrocked, stripped of any role in the church, and turned over to authorities for full, fast and vigilant prosecution. No questions, no debate, no doubt.

    Because if he does not do that, he will have allowed the diminution of what is left of the church's moral authority to continue. There are plenty of areas in which many people would like to see Pope Francis I act - elevating the official role of women in the Church, a more accepting attitude toward gays, rethinking celibacy in the priesthood, reforming the Curia. But that stuff strikes me as far less likely, and it is in addressing the abuse scandals that have roiled the Church that Francis I has an opportunity to seize the historical moment.

    At least, that's what I think.

    I saw two movies over the past week that could not be any different, and that ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.

    The ridiculous was Ted, the Seth MacFarlane comedy about the teddy bear brought to life by a young boy's wish, and who grows up into a foul-mouthed, pot smoking, hooker-chasing bear that inhibits the boy's ability to grow up even when he turns into the thirtysomething Mark Wahlberg.

    Maybe I'm just getting old, but I found the humor a little wearying ... it just seems to be pretty much one-note, with the primary goal being to scandalize. That said, it is pretty funny ... and Wahlberg continues to be one of those actors making consistently interesting choices. And I'm fast becoming a big Mila Kunis fan - not only is she gorgeous, but she seems willing to make fun of herself, which I like. So I can recommend it, with reservations and warnings.

    The sublime was Beasts of the Southern Wild, the Oscar-nominated film about a young girl growing up in a Louisiana bayou area called the "bathtub," which is physically and culturally cut off from the rest of the world and the 21st century. The entire film is seen though the eyes and imagination of the girl, called Hushpuppy, as she deals with a missing mother and a sick father, all the while mixing up reality with her fantasies about prehistoric creatures being freed from frozen captivity with the melting of the ice caps. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a strange and captivating piece of work about the clash of cultures, filled with metaphor and wonder, and featuring a lovely performance by the Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy.

    I have several wines to recommend to you this week...

    To start with, the 2011 Proposal Rock Sauvignon Blanc from Carlton Cellars in Oregon - one of my favorite wineries, a bright and cheerful wine that just seems made for spring days that aren't quite here yet, but are around the corner and filled with possibility.

    I also enjoyed, during my visit to Southern California this week, the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand's Craggy Range winery - terrific, if I may say so, with the fish tacos from Simmzy's Pub in Manhattan Beach.

    And finally, thanks to the folks at VinMotion Wines, who sent me the 2009 Rainstorm Pinot Noir - a nice light pinot that is an enjoyable sipping wine.

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

    KC's View: