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    Published on: July 31, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Yesterday, Michael Sansolo's column focused on a rather dispiriting study painting "a truly unhappy picture of America in 2013, where four out of five people live in fear of falling into poverty or actually in poverty at some point in their lives."

    Well, there must be something in the air. Because Prosper Insights & Analytics is out with an "American Pulse" study saying that just two in five (38.6%) Americans are satisfied with their current job situation - meaning they are happy with benefits, work/life balance, compensation, and position/job within a company.

    The report says that "with a Job Satisfaction Score of 102.6, Millennials have a markedly higher rating than Boomers (92.6).

    "Millennials seem to be more satisfied on all employment fronts when compared to Boomers," the report says. "Higher satisfaction regarding benefits, work/life balance and compensation drives the Millennials’ Job Satisfaction Score. On the other hand, Boomers tend to be less satisfied regarding each of these different categories. Additional analysis reveals that dissatisfaction with insurance, stress level, and growth opportunities are negatively impacting Boomers’ overall score.

    "While Millennials tend to be satisfied with their job, they are not necessarily happier with their life. This month’s Happiness Indicator (indexed to Adults 18+) for the youngest generation is tracking at 93.1, which is the lowest of all groups. Boomers are happier than the younger generation with a score of 102.8."

    Of course, it helps to have a job.

    The Boston Globe this morning on a Gallup poll saying that "the number of US adults aged 18 to 29 who reported working full time dropped to 43.6 percent in June 2013, a dip of more than three points from the same time period last year ... Gallup also found that younger Americans are less likely to work full time, regardless of whether they have college degrees. Last month, 65.4 percent of young college graduates reported working full time, compared to 68.9 percent in June 2012, 67.4 percent in June 2011, and 67.9 percent in 2010."
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    Say this for New York City Michael Bloomberg, whether you agree with him or not. He doesn't give up, and he isn't leaving office quietly.

    Reuters reports that New York State's Supreme Court Appellate Division has ruled unanimously that Bloomberg's plan to ban the sale of jumbo sugary soft drinks by certain retail venues is indeed unconstitutional, and that the city's Board of Health overstepped its authority in imposing the ban.

    "The decision," the story says, "upholding a lower court ruling in March that struck down the law, dealt a blow to Bloomberg's attempt to advance the pioneering regulation as a way to combat obesity. Beverage makers and business groups, however, challenged it in court, arguing that the mayoral-appointed health board had gone too far when it approved the law."

    Bloomberg had pursued the ban as a way of addressing the city's obesity crisis, and was part of a broader concern voiced by the mayor about public health issues. During his tenure, the city has imposed laws "prohibiting smoking in restaurants, bars and parks; banning trans fats; and requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts," Reuters writes.

    But just because the courts have ruled against the jumbo soft drink ban doesn't mean that Bloomberg is backing down.

    On National Public Radio (NPR), Marketplace has a story about how Bloomberg now is "nudging architects to design buildings that encourage New Yorkers to take the stairs ... Bloomberg wants to require new buildings to have a visible, continuous stairway and signs at the elevators that prompt people to climb instead of ride. The mayor also wants to change the building code to allow stairwell doors to stay open, making them airier and more inviting, provided they have a mechanism to close in case of a fire."

    The concept is called "active design," or the development of design elements that encourage physical activity and better health.
    KC's View:
    It is hard for me to be too negative about Mayor Bloomberg's efforts, since I think what's been done to eliminate smoking in public places has made NYC a far more livable city. From restaurants and bars to sports venues and concert arenas, the lack of smoking has been one of the most positive changes in the city, and the fact that it has spread to many other cities has been an enormously positive change. And I have no problem with changes like requiring the posting of calorie counts - I've always thought that requiring transparency is to provide consumers with data that they can act on, or not. It is up to them.

    But I never was comfortable with the jumbo soft drink ban. There were just too many inconsistencies, and ultimately, I thought, it sent the city government veering into "nanny state" territory. I never questioned Bloomberg's motivations, but I just thought he went too far.

    While I'm not sure that mandating "active design" in private buildings is constitutional (I'm not a lawyer), I do think the impulse is intriguing. Bloomberg won't be mayor long enough to make this stick, I suspect, and I'm not sure any of the candidates to replace him are driven by the same impulses. (In one case, we know way, way too much about one candidate's impulses. And I'm not talking just about the impulse to send erotic text messages and pictures to women not his wife. I'm talking about the impulse to think he deserves to hold public office, no matter how much public humiliation he and his family have to endure. But I digress...)

    The fascinating thing is that this kind of design can happen in the private sector ... witness the Bullitt Center in Seattle, which is not just so environmentally friendly that it is almost completely self-sustaining, but also has what is called an "irresistible stairway." The New York Times writes that the building has a glass-enclosed stairwell that "rewards climbers with panoramic views of downtown and Puget Sound. The behavioral carrot, aimed at promoting both health and energy conservation, has been juxtaposed with the stick of a slow and less conveniently sited elevator that requires key card access."

    It can be done. I'm just not sure we need Mayor Bloomberg to require us to do it.

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    Advertising Age reports on how a loyalty marketing program begun by kellogg's just a year ago now "touches more than 90% of Kellogg's products, and the company's customer-relationship-management team expects to expand it outside the US ... The sprawling initiative, known as Kellogg's Family Rewards, relies on codes printed on product packages from Froot Loops to Keebler FlipSides crackers. Consumers submit the codes online in exchange for points -- say, 100 points for a box of Special K -- that they can use to collect discounts and prizes like toys or sports gear."

    According to the story, "Kellogg's 16-digit loyalty codes, unique to each package, signal product type, size, and flavor, in addition to the store where consumers purchased items and store location. The codes are on around 2.5 billion individual packages." What this means is that when a customer registers a purchase, he or she is connecting personal information to highly specific product information, which then allows the company to understand precisely who is buying specific items, and then respond with relevant marketing communications and offers.
    KC's View:
    As long as the communications are relevant, to a great extent consumers are going to be highly accepting of the program. Kellogg's has to make sure it doesn't abuse the privilege of having all that information, but it seems to me that this kind of program is an intelligent move by the company. (It also is notable, I think, that Kellogg's is basically going around retailers to connect with its shoppers.)

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    The New York Times reports that unlike last year, when the southern US suffered from a drought, this summer has brought soaking rains that are having an enormous impact on farmers, with tomatoes, watermelons, corn, pecans, peaches and peanuts among the fresh produce items being negatively affected.

    "While the contiguous United States as a whole is about only 6 percent above its normal rainfall this year, Southern states are swamped," the Times writes. "Through June, Georgia was 34 percent above normal, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. Both South Carolina and North Carolina were about 25 percent above normal. Alabama’s rainfall was up 22 percent."

    And the problem is not likely to go away. Jake Crouch, a climatologist at the National Climatic Data Center, tells the Times: “Whenever we get in a pattern like this, we kind of stay in the status quo. When we’re hot and dry, we stay hot and dry. When we’re wet, we stay wet.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    The Boston Globe has an interesting piece about how some retirement homes in that region are sponsoring classes designed to teach elderly residents how to use the internet, especially social media. There are indications, the story says, that the trend is national:

    "While seniors are still less likely to use Facebook than younger people, they are increasingly signing up for the social networking site, said Mary Madden, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. According to the center’s latest report, released in February, 34 percent of people over 65 are now on Facebook, up from 28 percent in 2010. The percent of older adults who use the Internet is also going up: Pew estimates that 56 percent of people at least 65 are active online, up from 47 percent in 2010. Madden said retirees use Facebook to keep in touch with their grandchildren, reconnect with old friends, and even network with other people who are suffering from similar chronic diseases."
    KC's View:
    This isn't really a new trend, and it only is going to become more pervasive, especially because many of the people becoming senior citizens actually are pretty computer literate. Not to put too fine a point on it, but gradually the percentage of people who don't know how to use computers is going to die out ... which is going to leave everybody else. Marketers, prepare.

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    Two US senators - Dick Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut - have reintroduced legislation that would "require supplement makers to register new products with the FDA within 30 days and include a list of all ingredients plus a copy of the label," in the wake of reports that Craze, described as a "pre-workout powder," contains amphetamine-like substances.

    At the same time, Walmart has pulled Craze from its website, saying that it will "allow us time to look further into not only the safety of the product, but also the integrity of the supplier." Craze was only sold by Walmart online, not in its stores.

    USA Today instigated these moves with an investigative report last week saying that "tests of Craze by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and a Swedish national lab have found amphetamine and other amphetamine-like compounds." The company that makes Craze, Driven Sports, is reportedly owned by a man named Matt Cahill, who is described by the paper this way:

    "Craze is the latest in a series of products Cahill has put on the market, including weight-loss pills made from a highly toxic chemical pesticide banned from human consumption and a designer steroid linked to serious liver damage. Cahill was convicted in 2005 of felony charges for the sale of the weight-loss pills and served a two-year prison sentence. He's currently facing a federal criminal charge for selling another dietary supplement, Rebound XT, that prosecutors allege contained an unapproved new drug."

    Driven Sports has denied any wrongdoing.

    The USA Today piece notes that "under current laws, dietary supplements -- including vitamins and herbal remedies -- are treated like foods and assumed to be all-natural and safe. They do not require testing or approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before being sold. Registration would give the FDA an early warning when supplement makers start selling products listing unusual ingredients."

    While Democratic Senators Durbin and Blumenthal are calling for new regulations, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) a member of the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus, says that all that is needed is better enforcement of existing regulations, not new regulations. And Frank Lampe, vp at the United Natural Products Alliance, agrees: "FDA has full regulatory power to take products that are illegally sold off the market immediately."
    KC's View:
    I have no idea if current laws are sufficient or not. What I do know is that any system that allows companies like this to market products like these has a major flaw in it. And somebody ought to fix it. Fast.

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    The Boston Globe reports that a new study from Technomic suggests that consumers “are eating burgers more often than ever before," with 95 percent of respondents (saying) they eat burgers at least once a month."

    Technomic EVP Darren Tristano says that so-called "better burgers" are driving the trend.

    “Burger-chain value menus are evolving from a sub-$1 pricing model to one that emphasizes high quality, variety, and craveability for a low price,” Tristano says. “The ‘better burger’ sector continues to thrive in the overall burger category and that shows no signs of stopping. As the burger category evolves, consumer demands are changing. Consumers expect ‘something extra’ when dining out, and better burgers - with quality ingredients and customer-chosen toppings or specialty preparations - can really help deliver that as part of a solid value equation.”
    KC's View:
    At least once a month?

    Amateurs.

    I have a daughter who probably could eat burgers once a day, if we'd let her. Though she'd occasionally replace the burgers with meatballs, just for variety's sake.

    Some of this is connected to the recession. Several years ago, there were studies saying that people were eating more gourmet burgers out because they wanted to treat themselves, but couldn't afford steak. Burgers became an affordable indulgence.

    Apparently, the trend continues.

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    • The Albany Times Union reports that Whole Foods is taking over a retail space formerly occupied by Sears in Colonie, New York, and plans to have its first store in the region open by the middle of next year.

    "We're looking forward to finally getting a store in the Capital Region," says Michael Sinatra, a spokesman for Whole Foods.

    According to the story, "Whole Foods will be arriving in a market crowded with competition. Shop Rite has added stores to compete with the long-standing stalwarts of Price Chopper and Hannaford, Target and Walmart are selling groceries. There's also Trader Joe's and The Fresh Market. And the Honest Weight Food Co-op is in a new building."


    • Albertsons LLC-owned Shaw's announced yesterday that it is closing six of 34 stores in New Hampshire by September 2, saying that the units have been unprofitable for some time.

    The company said that the closing are not related to broader viability issues at Shaw's and Star Market, which were acquired from Supervalu by Cerberus Capital Management earlier this year and returned to supervision by Albertsons.

    The affected stores are in Seabrook, Goffstown, Manchester, Tilton, West Lebanon and Keene.

    The closings come just weeks after the company said it would close six stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and as the company is in the middle of negotiating a new contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The old one expires this weekend.


    • In Maine, the Portland Press Herald reports that while "the big, traditional supermarket chains that dominate the Maine market, such as Shaw's and Hannaford, still draw plenty of shoppers ... competition for the dollars that were predominantly spent in those stores has heightened sharply in recent years. Today less than half of consumers' food budgets are spent at supermarkets, down significantly from just a few years ago.

    "And now Shaw's and Hannaford are facing another challenge: Market Basket, a Massachusetts-based chain known for its low prices, will open a store in Biddeford in a few weeks, its first in Maine and 72nd overall."

    The story adds that "it's not just lower-priced competition that traditional grocery stores have to fend off. On the higher-priced end, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, for instance, attract customers focused on organic foods or those interested in particular house brands. And retailers Walmart and Target got into the grocery mix in the past decade, enlarging or even replacing existing stores to accommodate grocery sections that are as extensive as those in traditional supermarkets."


    Reuters reports this morning that Accenture, the management consulting firm, is in negotiations to acquire rival Booz & Co., "a deal that would beef up its strategy and operations consulting services."


    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced that it is now accepting applicants for its annual Supermarket Chef Showdown.

    Supermarket Chefs can enter their recipes at www.SupermarketChefShowdown.com in up to five categories including: Healthy Meals, Family Meals, Ethnic Meals, Dessert and Side-Dishes/Mini Meals/Snacks. All recipes must use at least three eligible ingredients and take 20 minutes or less to prepare (not including baking or cooling time). The top-25 finalists will compete live in front of celebrity judges in a special kitchen stadium created on the convention floor at FMI Connect on June 11, 2014 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    • Walmart announced that it has hired Jim Lewis, the onetime president of the Walt Disney Company's time share business, to be vice president and regional general manager of operations for Central Florida. He succeeds Cheryl Lester, who has been promoted to vice president of operations strategy and support for Sam's Club in Bentonville, Arkansas.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    • Eileen Brennan, the character actress whose film roles included notable turns in films as varied as The Last Picture Show, The Sting, and Private Benjamin has passed away of bladder cancer. She was 80.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 31, 2013

    ...will return.
    KC's View: