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    Published on: August 1, 2013

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is Face Time with the Content Guy.

    Still in Portland, Oregon, and this morning, I'd like to offer a snapshot of customer service done absolutely right.

    The retailer in question is called Salt & Straw,a celebrated and much-hyped ice cream parlor with three locations here. The other day, I was strolling by the Salt & Straw on 23rd Street. coming back from a meeting and a quick bite to eat, and I noticed that for once, there was no line streaming out the door and around the corner at the Salt & Straw. Well, I'm no fool...and dashed over there for a quick cone.

    Now, the thing about Salt & Straw is that the people who work there could be like the Soup Nazi ... yelling at everybody, taking advantage of popularity to be abusive, and generally believing that poor and boorish behavior is acceptable. But they're not.

    No matter how long the line is, the folks who work there come out from behind the counter, greet the customers, and ask if you'd like to sample something before buying. And not just sample one thing ... you can pretty much sample any flavor you like, and take all the time you need. I asked the fellow who was taking care of me how come they were so relaxed, and he said, "This is ice cream. it is supposed to be fun."

    True enough.

    I think this is a really good lesson for retailers - that there's never any excuse, no matter how long the lines are, no matter how much the pressure is building, for anyone to be abrupt or abusive or anything less than cheerful.

    Even if you have to fake it.

    Let me tell you something else. Good behavior and a pleasant mood can be catching.

    I chose my flavor at the Salt & Straw the other day - Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero - and stepped up to the counter to pay. "You've been paid for," the checkout person said. Huh? By whom? She pointed to a woman who was there with her children, someone I've never seen before. So I wandered over to ask if there had been some mistake, or if I was having one of those great Content Guy moments.

    No, she said: "I had a gift certificate, and there was enough for one more cone on it after I bought ice cream for my kids. So I bought yours. Enjoy."


    I'll betcha that doesn't happen much at the Soup Nazi's place. Maybe it is that whole Portland vibe...

    Good moods are catching. They ought to be a minimum requirement for anyone working at retail.

    That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to know what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    There is a terrific piece in Forbes by Jason Nazar entitled "20 Things that 20 Year Olds Don't Get," that as soon as I read it, I instantly emailed it to my kids. You ought to do the same.

    You can read it here.

    One of the things I like about it, beyond the fact that it seems so savvy about both the marketplace and young people, is that it does not strike me as either mean or condescending. The author, in fact, makes the point that we all mistakes when we're young. The least we can do is help young people avoid making the mistakes we made ... so they can make mistakes that are all their own.

    Good stuff. And an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that a US District Court Judge has ruled that the Federal Reserve exceeded its authority when it set a 24 cent-per-transaction cap on debit card usage, Including the improper use of data that made the cap too high.

    According to the story, "The ruling could force the Fed to slash fees banks collect from merchants when they swipe customers' debit cards, further crimping a once-lucrative profit center for banks and companies like Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. The Fed's rule capped fees at 21 cents per transaction, much higher than the initial 12 cent cap it proposed, a fact noted by the judge. Before the rule went into effect, banks charged an average of 44 cents per transaction."

    The story goes on: "In a strongly worded opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington said the Fed rule amounted to an 'utterly indefensible' interpretation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law. The Fed rule, he said, 'runs completely afoul of the text, design and purpose' of a Dodd-Frank amendment authored by Sen. Richard Durbin, (D., Ill.) to limit the fees."

    The banks and credit card companies said they were evaluating the decision.

    The Associated Press reports that "the Consumer Bankers Association, which represents large U.S. banks and regional banks, said the new ruling 'will create even more chaos for consumers and small banks.' And it quoted Richard Hunt, CEO of the association, as saying, “Congress ought to save families from this uncertainty by repealing this government mandated price-fixing. We certainly hope retailers return to their free-market principles as they did when opposing the proposed government ban on big gulp sodas in New York.”
    KC's View:
    Gee, that's the best this banker came up with? Regulating usurious fees is like not allowing people to drink from gallon-sized containers of soft drinks!

    Well, here's the analogy I'd suggest. Maybe, just like NYC forced fast feeders to post calorie counts on menu boards, the federal government could require retailers to post a breakdown at checkout and on receipts of exactly how much of the bill is going to the banks that issued the debit and credit cards. That might have a remarkable impact on shopper behavior. And then maybe the federal government ought to allow Walmart to get into the banking business, something that the financial services industry desperately wants to avoid, and we all know why they spend millions of dollars lobbying to prevent such an occurrence.

    The only reason the government has gotten into this problem is because the banks often act with all the integrity of a street corner loan shark, except with better suits and haircuts.

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    Just weeks after Bellingham, Washington-based Haggen Inc. closed its Tacoma store, which itself was the third store closure in six months, the company said yesterday that it will close its stores in Bellevue and Shoreline, Washington. In the official notification to vendors, the company said that it will "continue to close a number of underperforming locations in order to improve Haggen’s overall business performance and strengthen our position in an increasingly competitive market."

    The move will leave Haggen with 23 stores.

    The three earlier closures had been of Top Food & Drug stores, but these new closures are of Haggen Northwest Fresh formats. Northwest Fresh was a concept that the company has been counting on to revitalize its image in the marketplace, and the company said yesterday that "even in the shadow of these difficult announcements, we will continue to transform many of our TOP Food & Drug stores into Haggen Northwest Fresh stores, and are examining potential new store locations."

    In the letter to vendors, Clement Stevens, Haggen's co-president and senior vice president of merchandising, said that one of the goals is to unite all the Haggen stores under the Northwest Fresh banner.

    "Going forward," Stevens wrote, "we will continually engage in an ongoing, thoughtful and thorough examination of all of our stores and identify opportunities to strengthen our overall business. While a difficult decision, closing underperforming stores allows our team and our supplier partners to focus on building a stronger and more viable store base. It also allows us to allocate resources against already-planned future store remodels and other growth initiatives over the next year. The transformation that is underway is part of the evolution of any healthy business. We are confident it will drive Haggen’s growth and success in the years to come."

    The Seattle Times writes that Stevens says that the company tried to turn the closing units being around, but to no avail. "Instead of closing these stores when they were struggling as TOP branded stores," he says, "we decided to do all we could do to try and turn these stores around. We invested in both remodeling and rebranding, dedicating our collective resources to give these locations one last chance. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we were unable to turn these stores around."

    Haggen reportedly has another Top store about to be converted to the Northwest Fresh format, in Olympia, Washington; the grand reopening is scheduled for mid-August.

    It has been a turbulent few years for Haggen, which as an independent has had to compete in a market that it concedes is highly competitive. Last December, Clarence Gabriel stepped down as president/CEO of Haggen Inc. No reason was given for the departure, except to say that Gabriel - a former PepsiCo and Albertsons executive - would be pursuing other opportunities. Gabriel took the job in February 2011, succeeding Jim Donald, the former Starbucks and Pathmark CEO who was brought in to run Haggen in October 2009 and get the company into shape so that a majority ownership in the company could be sold to Comvest, a Florida private equity group. Haggen then created a new Office of the President, and the company has been run by three people: Clement Stevens, senior vice president of merchandising; John Turley, chief operating officer, and Ron Stevens (no relation to Clement Stevens), the chief financial officer and chief information officer.
    KC's View:
    Tough times at Haggen. I hope, for the sake of the company and the good and hard-working people employed there, that this kind of radical surgery can save the patient. I like the Northwest Fresh stores that I've seen during my Pacific Northwest sojourn, though I have no idea if they are quite enough to provide Haggen with the differential advantage it needs to survive. You can't just compete some of the time ... you have to be perceived by the consumer as being competitive every day, and if you get off track, the consumer knows it, and remembers, and goes elsewhere.

    These closures may help. But they also may create the wrong kind of momentum. We'll see.

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    Interesting piece on about how Google is struggling to "boost its central search business by providing shoppers who are researching products and looking for nearby retailers with additional services such as price comparison tools and ways to pay for purchases." The story notes that Google is shutting down "the Google Shopper app, which enables users to scan products or use voice and text search to compare prices for products. The services will be integrated into Google’s search apps, with product reviews, photos, details and other information being a part of these apps going forward."

    This integration, the story says, will be designed to encourage mobile users to take advantage of Google's price comparison services, as opposed to Amazon's - which currently are used twice as often.

    At the same time, the company is hoping to be able to drive more business to Google Wallet, which it had hoped to position as an alternative to PayPal, though to this point this strategy hasn't gained much traction, at least in part because retail realities haven't caught up with the technology. (Or vice-versa.)

    Still, Google seems to remain confident, if only because consumption realities seem to be working in its favor: "Using a mobile device to compare product prices while inside a store is a popular mobile activity with consumers, with 58 percent of adult smartphone owners and one-third of all adults in the United States showrooming regularly, according to a recent report from parago."
    KC's View:
    If I'm understanding this correctly, one of the big wins for Google will be if it can tie all this stuff together with advertising - connecting the search for competitive product information with ads that drive the shopper one way or the other, and then allowing people to use Google technology to pay for their purchase, no matter where or how they buy it. Not only does that seem like a pretty streamlined purchase chain, but it also puts real meat on the bones of a purchase, with marketers able to determine precisely what worked and maybe even why.

    The story suggests that this is all going to happen, one way or the other. And the mandate at Google is that it has to be part of it.

    And speaking of being part of the broader world of commerce, check out our next story...

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    Starbucks announced yesterday that it is dropping AT&T as the provider of WiFi to its more than 7,000 stores in the US, and will overt the next 18 months convert all those locations to Google-supplied WiFi that will be as much as 10 times faster than the AT&T version.

     Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, is quoted as saying that “Google has always invested in projects that help the Internet grow stronger, including projects that make Internet access more affordable and more widely available. We hope that speedier Internet will make the time customers spend at Starbucks even more enjoyable and productive.”
    KC's View:
    I'm sure that Google would like to be providing WiFi service to the millions of people who get their lattes at Starbucks each day ... it gives Google a direct line into their habits and preferences, which can be enormously helpful as it continues to evolve.

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    The Financial Times reports that in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ADA) has ruled in favor of Tesco in a complaint that was filed against the retailer by rival Sainsbury.

    According to the story, "Sainsbury had challenged Tesco’s claim, made under its Price Promise scheme, that 'You won’t lose out on big brands, own-label or fresh food.' Sainsbury alleged this was misleading in relation to own-label and fresh food, as important product attributes, such as animal welfare and the provenance of ingredients, had not been taken into account."

    The ADA said that the fine print in Tesco's advertising acknowledged these differences, and incorporated them into its comparisons.

    “We’re disappointed that the ASA couldn’t challenge Tesco’s view that customers don’t care all that much about where their food comes from or how it is produced,” said Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s commercial director. (No relation to the Content Guy, at least that we know of.) Sainsbury said that it will launch a new ad campaign that will also draw comparisons, and will emphasize the provenance of its products.
    KC's View:
    It sounds like Tesco won on a technicality. (Sainsbury would probably agree with that analysis. Tesco, not so much.)

    But I have to say that the older I get and the more I do this, the more it seems important to know where products come from and how they are produced. Information is important. You can choose to pay attention, or not. So I kind of like the idea that Sainsbury is going to center an ad campaign on the subject of product provenance - I like it when companies decide to talk about values, and not just value.

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    My newest Forbes column has been posted, and you can read it


    The title: "Must-See Consumption Realities," and it looks at how consumer consumption patterns are changing in fundamental ways, with the potential for an enormous business impact.

    Hope you enjoy it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    The Associated Press reports that Caballero Video, a producer of pornographic videos, has agreed to stop producing movies with names based on ice cream flavors manufactured by Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry's, and using packaging that imitated the ice cream maker's cartons.

    Among the titles that prompted Ben & Jerry's to file a lawsuit: "Boston Cream Thigh" and ''Peanut Butter D-Cup," which were part of a 10-part series called "Ben & Cherry's."
    KC's View:
    So I guess imitation isn't the sincerest form of flattery?

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    • The Fresh Grocer, an eight-store independent supermarket chain operating in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, has announced that it will be joining Wakefern Food Corp. as its 50th cooperative member.

    Upon joining Wakefern, The Fresh Grocer location in Drexel Hill, Pa., will transition completely to the ShopRite banner while the seven additional locations will remain Fresh Grocer stores. Wakefern will now own The Fresh Grocer trademark.

    • The back-to-school selling season has begun to roll, and CNN reports that 17 states are greasing the wheels, offering shoppers tax breaks of between four and seven percent on back-to-school related purchases of items that include apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics.

    The story goes on to say that the savings "could come in handy. Economic uncertainty, unemployment and a recent surge in gas prices are forcing parents to focus on necessities this school year, says Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation. Still, families with school-aged children are expected to spend an average of $635 ... during this year's back-to-school shopping season, down from $688 last year, the industry trade group found."

    • The New York Times reports that "former Apple store employees in New York and Los Angeles have filed a class-action lawsuit charging that they were forced to wait in line for 30 minutes a shift for their bags to be searched for stolen goods. They say that they are not paid for the time standing in line, which amounts to $1,500 a year. The suit ... was filed in the Federal District Court in the Northern District of California."

    The story notes that "Apple’s retail stores take in more money per square foot than any other United States retailer. But employees in Apple’s retail stores enjoy little of that wealth, the majority of them earning about $25,000 a year."

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that "Target Corp is testing a baby section with trained staff at 10 Illinois stores in a push to gain a bigger share of the shrinking but highly competitive market for baby gear ... The Target test stores feature the same products, but the redesigned baby areas will operate a bit more like specialty shops, with trained staff members assisting shoppers."
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    • The Financial Times reports that as part of its efforts to turn around its UK business, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke has said that 50 senior and middle managers have been "made redundant," and are being let go. Many of the 50 people - including Roger Fogg, chief executive of Tesco Mobile, and Ian Crook, marketing director for Tesco’s Clubcard loyalty scheme - are said to be among the top 150 executives at the company.

    At the same time, the story says, Clarke tells Retail Week that he plans to bring in new talent that can help the company live up to its goals of being a true multichannel retailer. "“A lot of retailers claim it, but creating individually perfect shopping experiences, however a customer shops, is difficult to achieve," he says. "Becoming a multi-channel leader is about more than just putting iPads in stores. It needs investment in new types of skills and not just in the information technology department. From marketing, finance and operations through to commercial and corporate affairs, the skill sets required by retail leaders are changing. That means bringing in outstanding talent with these new skills to work alongside the best of Tesco.”
    KC's View:

    There are few adjectives that I can imagine being more dispiriting than "redundant." "Obsolete," maybe. "Or "irrelevant."

    Being called "redundant" must really hurt.

    Published on: August 1, 2013

    We got a lot of email responding to Michael Sansolo's column this week about uncertainties in people's economic lives, and the likely impact on retailers.

    MNB user Mark Raddant wrote:

    Statistics are maddening things.  If you read the definition used of those of us whose economic lives are “uncertain”, it would include ME, since at one point in my early thirties I was out of work for a brief time and filed for benefits.  I don’t believe I stayed unemployed long enough to GET benefits, but if I did, it wasn’t long, there wasn’t much out there but I got by selling cars for a while, moved up, and then moved on.

    My point is that life has uncertainties, but just simply having had a setback or two in life may just mean one was temporarily sidetracked, the benefits did what they were supposed to do and provided a temporary minimal level of support, and people grow and move on—and up.  That’s how the system is supposed to work.  The researcher’s stretched definition of “uncertainty” and “at risk” would cover nearly all of us—which is why the numbers are so extreme.  Makes for a good headline, but obscures the real story—that of those whose plight isn’t temporary and circumstantial, but chronic and a product of systemic issues that run deep.

    From another reader:

    The economic reality you write about and the importance of a strong value proposition are spot on. But it's critically important that folks in any business not confuse value with price. During the recession years of 2008-2010, Whole Foods enjoyed record profits and same store sales growth while Walmart sputtered, with declining same store sales for 7 straight quarters. Starbucks sales, and share price, are soaring--the stock price is up 80% in the last 2 years. Let us not forget about the fast-casual trend. And the luxury car market has never been better.

    And finally, adjusted for inflation, consumer spending is once again at record levels. Indeed, because of our looming economic instability it is more important than ever to deliver a high value product or experience, but don't think that lowering your prices will accomplish this goal. The absolute worst strategy possible for mid-market retailers enjoying record success such as Publix or Kroger would be to refocus their brand proposition on what they perceive to be a frugal shopper.

    MNB user Diane Letson wrote:

    In response to Michael Sansolo’s article about the growing scope of poverty.

    When I began working at Feeding America in 1996, we knew through USDA food insecurity rates that 1 in 10 Americans was facing hunger.  Feeding America is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization so those food insecure Americans were most likely relying on our nationwide network of food banks and their partner agencies for food.
    In 2013, 1 in 6 Americans is facing hunger.
    I work in an industry that wants to put itself out of business.  However, we are headed in the wrong direction with regard to hunger and food insecurity increases which are directly tied to poverty rates and issues.

    MNB user Brian Blank wrote:

    The Big Study being reported by all news outlets this week (including MNB) painting such a dour picture of the American attitude:  It really seems to have been painted with an excessively broad brush.  While I have not read the report itself, several news reports indicated that the respondents were not only reporting current financial woes and/or worries, but also if they had EVER fallen on hard times or worried about falling into poverty.  That’s just horse hockey, as Col. Potter might have said.  I fell on some pretty hard times years ago, but I am pretty comfortable now and have a pretty confident outlook for myself and the national economy.  So that would put me as one of their “4 out of 5”, despite the fact that economic worry or pessimism does NOT represent my current view—that’s twisted.  And what’s worse:  now I’m very suspicious of the 4 out of 5 dentists who recommend sugarless gum!

    MNB user Mike Franklin wrote:
    Michael ... Your best think piece yet. Thanks for sharing.

    From another reader:

    It is also not a coincidence that the only the polar ends of the food business seem to be growing, that is the "price" end with Aldi and the big boxes and specialty, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, etc.  This is a pure reflection of the growing gap between the haves and the have nots.  We are debating which economic policies or missteps contribute to this phenomenon, but as this gap grows, so will the polarity of the supermarket viability.   The consequences of this trend is the continued pressure on traditional supermarkets to stand for something beyond convenience.  They must be able to attract a mix of both the frugal and the regal shopper.

    As this last email suggests, Michael's piece tied in with another theme we've been working pretty hard here on MNB, which is the economic disparities that often exist between top executives and the front lines, which hard-working employees putting in a lot of hours in respectable jobs unable to support themselves and their families.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I think more companies (maybe ALL companies) should take a look at the business model in place at Whole Foods.  At Whole Foods the salaries of co-CEO’s Walter Robb and John Mackey are capped at 19 times the salary of the average full-time employee.   Both men have been very vocal about what they call “conscious capitalism” and the idea that companies should aspire to a higher purpose than just being profitable.
    In 1950 the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was about 20-to-1.  Today the S&P 500 CEO salaries are 204-to-1.  That’s outrageous. 
    But I don’t think this idea should stop with CEO’s.  I would like to see my elected officials tie their salaries to the economic conditions in their respective areas.  Maybe then we could get some sensible economic policies out of Washington.

    A bunch of stories have erupted around this issue. There's the "living wage" taking place between Walmart and the washington, DC, City Council. There's McDonald's putting up a financial advice website for its employees that seemed woefully disconnected from those workers' needs and concerns. And there have been the strikes by fast food workers in various cities as they call for higher wages.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Fast food workers striking to get a $15 an hour wage need to grow up.  First it would be incredibly unfair to the people who have chosen to work harder and smarter to get to $15 an hour or more. How would you feel if you worked hard to get to $20 an hour only to see the most unmotivated among us simply handed a higher wage?  Complaining about wages and making excuses is a cowardly, immature, and classless.  Brave people go out work everyday for higher wages because they made a personal decision to take a job that requires skill, responsibility, and are often put in danger.  Cowards make excuses, complain, whine, and go on strike.  People serious about making higher wages use their brain and figure it out.  They can start by working two more jobs and put in 60-70 hours a week, hmmm kind of like the way successful do.  The worse thing we can do is reward mediocrity.

    And then, that same user wrote in about yesterday's story concerning the declining number of US adults aged 18 to 29 who reported working full time. It dropped to 43.6 percent in June 2013, a dip of more than three points from the same time period last year.

    Here's what this particular MNB user had to say about that:

    Young people today just don't seem to have gumption and drive.  Thirty or so years ago, me and many of my fellow college graduates simply moved to where the jobs where.  Instead of mooching off our parents we "manned up" and took jobs in Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.  Living with parents and sucking off their health insurance was not an option.  We did not have access to 2 years of unemployment and an endless Food Stamp buffet.  We need to go back to the days where being unemployed was a living hell and not a lifestyle choice.  There are plenty of good jobs available for everyone .  If you ain't working, you ain't trying.  No excuses accepted.  So please don't offer any.

    It must be nice to live in such a black and white world. It is a world, apparently, in which everybody has the same opportunities ... where everybody who does not make a living wage is unmotivated, lazy or cowardly ... where young people don't have the gumption of their elders ... and where people who are not successful simply are not trying hard enough.

    What a load of crap.

    You paint with such an enormously broad brush, and you only know two colors.

    But the facts are that life is not that simple. There are plenty of hard-working people who are doing the best they can, putting in as many hours as they can, who simply cannot support their families ... and more often than not, they don't complain. They just work. And sometimes, they get exploited. Not all the time, but sometimes. And y'know something? Sometimes it takes real courage to stand up and say that perhaps there is something wrong with the system.

    And it takes compassion - something with which some people are unfamiliar, or count as some sort of character flaw - to recognize that for some people, the system has not worked.

    I'm not saying for a moment that there aren't people who try to game the system,or who want something for nothing, or who are not willing to do the work necessary to be successful. Of course there are. In all generations.

    But I think most people do their best. Sometimes, life works against them. That's not an excuse. It is fact.

    Sometimes people can't go to other markets because they are married to people who also have careers, and they can't afford to give up that existing job. Sometimes they have aging parents to care for. (Pity you when you get old and want to have your children around, they move away because, hey, it's the job. When you get lonely, you can always listen to Harry Chapin sing "Cat's in the Cradle" for company.) Or, there can be a variety of other reasons - some good, some not so good. My point is that life is not simple.

    I cannot conceive of being the kind of person who would simply dismiss so many people as being mediocre and somehow not worthy of concern.

    Regarding the bankruptcy at Mi Pueblo, which has been linked in part to immigration probes that forces the company to fire a number of employees and then replace them at a higher cost, one MNB user wrote:

    The way I read this article, the company struggled with higher payroll costs since caught employing illegal aliens. Aside from being completely unfair to these workers, this gave the company an unfair competitive advantage. I feel for the illegals who lost their jobs, they want a better life; however, I feel nothing for the company officials who made the decision to do business in this manner.

    We had a piece the other day about how Procter & Gamble is in part hoping that the manscaping trend will help it reinvigorate Gillette sales. One MNB user responded to my comments this way:

    Regarding "manscaping," you're once again precisely right to note that you feel so old, as do I. One of the things that has always bothered me is that the vast majority of analysts are always talking about the same things w/r to Millennials--frugality, helicopter parents, entrepreneurial, digital generation, blah, blah, blah. And with all of the repetition one gets the sense that they aren't spending time with them as much as they are writing about them. Being my age and getting to hang out with my friends' Millennial children, I've been nothing less than floored by what I have learned, much of which has been documented by research that often flies under the radar of most analysts.

    Several examples. In the vast majority of US high schools, openly gay students can be seen walking the hallways holding hands with their partners without incident because to this generation it is viewed as "perfectly normal." And while the age of one's first sexual encounter is actually increasing, the amount of people experimenting with multiple partner encounters in college is astounding. Most research points to roughly 40%. And finally, around 75% of kids under 30--boys and girls alike--participate in this practice of man & woman-scaping. The worst part is that when you speak with them they equate the opposite proposition to something that reminds them of "creepy people from the 70s" We are indeed old.


    I wrote glowingly of WinCo the other day, which prompted MNB reader John Domino to send the following email:

    It would be hard to argue that WINCO is not one of the strongest and best competitors not just in the West, but across the country.  But they are not alone, there is Market Basket here in New England, Shop-rite in the Mid-Atlantic, Trader Joe's, Costco, HEB, Whole Foods and Publix and I am sure a few others.  What is it that makes them all successful.  In my view two things:

    One: they have very strong and courageous leadership.  They promote from within and most importantly are either privately held, or (and this is where the courageous comes in) in the case of Costco and Whole Foods (and often Kroger) they are willing to totally disregard what Wall Street says and make decisions that are right for the company in the long term versus the next quarter.  They focus the company on meeting customer needs and build the rest of the organization to make that happen. They gain efficiency by having a long term vision and sticking to it, and they grow their sales by trying new things, but not necessarily abandoning their core processes and foundational principles.  Jim Collins has talked about this for over 10 years in his book, Good to Great.

    Two: and here I sound like MNB, they invest in and find ways to engage and reward their front line employees.  Whether it is the ESOP at WINCO or a very aggressive profit-sharing plan at Market Basket, or great benefits at Costco; they have lower than average turnover and a staff that is in a good mood when they come to work and therefore, are friendly and helpful to their customers.
    This is not rocket science.  Yet why do so few companies follow it.

    Good question.
    KC's View: