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    Published on: August 12, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    On National Public Radio, Marketplace reports on a new study from Credit Karma saying that given a choice, significantly more Americans (72 percent) would rather be skinny and have personal debt than be debt-free and carry an extra 25 pounds.

    According to the story, "Results of the survey also showed that 43 percent of adults think their weight is more important than their debt. Not surprisingly, the importance of physical appearance differed among age groups. People between the ages 18-34 were more likely to worry about their looks than Americans over the age of 55."

    One of the reasons people feel that way? Experts say that "very few people see your debt balance, but everyone sees your weight"

    I posed this question to Mrs. Content Guy this morning over coffee, and she said she'd rather be debt-free than thin. "If I'm debt free, I can hire a personal trainer," she said.

    Practical woman, my wife.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has decided to rejoin the AFL-CIO eight years after the two organizations split.

    According to the story, "The move will add one of the nation’s largest unions to the 56 already on the AFL-CIO’s roster, potentially giving the federation more heft to advance its political agenda ... The shift follows several rocky years for organized labor. Union membership numbers have declined as state lawmakers facing budget shortfalls have eliminated public-sector jobs. Unions have also had to pour resources into battling Republican-led state initiatives aimed at scaling back collective bargaining rights. Political battles have taken center stage, overshadowing organizing activity."

    Back in 2005, a number of unions - including the UFCW - quit the AFL-CIO, saying that it hadn't done enough to organize new workers and unionize new companies, and formed a coalition called Change To Win. The Journal notes that "Change to Win still counts as members the Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union and the Farmworkers union."
    KC's View:
    Seems to me that while one of the problems that organized labor faces these days is declining influence, this has less to do with numbers than approach. It often seems, when reading about management-labor conflicts, that the two sides are debating using old paradigms rather than recognizing the realities of doing business in 2013.

    I've long felt that the best companies are the ones that link compensation to performance at all levels of the business, that emphasize the critical importance of the people on the front lines and that give everybody skin in the game. That doesn't always seem to be the way the debate is framed ... and old battles just get refought using different numbers.

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    Good piece in The New Republic about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his $250 million purchase of the Washington Post, which represents a fascinating - and potentially game-changing - convergence of new technology and old media.

    You can read the whole thing here, but here's the lede that caught my eye:

    "What’s intriguing about Jeff Bezos, who purchased The Washington Post this week, is not that he’s a digital guy or that he has a lot of money—though both certainly help—but that ever since he founded Amazon, he’s specialized in the long view. The company lost money for nine years, and Bezos continues to prioritize long-term investment over near-term profit. That's how great, enduring companies are created or transformed—by building a strong infrastructure, products, brand, and deep relationships with customers. And to their credit, Amazon shareholders are rewarding this strategy and vision. They know there will be time enough to see returns on these investments, returns that will reflect the massive value Bezos is building,

    "By contrast, too many news companies have been paralyzed by the tyranny of short-term horizons. Media executives under-invested in digital not because they were stupid but because it was actually more rational for them to focus on slowing the decline of their traditional revenue lines—more rational, that is, in the short run. In the long run, of course, that thinking is suicidal."

    If one is willing to entertain the notion that this kind of convergence can take place in virtually every industry, then one has to start thinking about one's own short-term vs. long-term thinking ... and whether one is being "paralyzed by the tyranny of short-term horizons."

    Check it out. And then think about it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    The Financial Times reports that Tesco - among other companies - is being characterized as typical of a breed of "unscrupulous" employers in the UK that "exploit cheap foreign workers and exclude Britons from their staff."

    The charges are being made by members of Britain's Labour Party, who are looking to use immigration issues in the next general election.

    Tesco has described the accusations as “wrong," saying that it works "incredibly hard" to recruit local employees.
    KC's View:
    Does it seem sometimes like Tesco, which just a few years ago seemed to be able to do nothing wrong, these days seems unable to get a break?

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    ChicagoGrid.com has a piece about a free mobile phone application called Easy Eater, described as "interactive, fun and built to reward kids for good eating behavior ... Kids go to the game after dinner and list the foods they ate, earning 40 points each for asparagus, apricots and artichokes, for example, and, for protein, 30 points for fish and 20 for beef. The goal is to earn 100 points and win a gold star.

    "Players win badges for trying new foods and receive trophies for keeping their diets varied. After earning seven gold stars, kids get a prize. Parents decide the prize, whether it’s a trip to the beach, a new board game or time off from chores."

    The business model, ChicagoGrid.com writes, "assumes the game will attract advertisers and paying sponsors, and that players will want to buy characters and other add-ons from inside the game."

    The story says that "the timing is ripe for a game like 'Easy Eater.' Childhood obesity is in the news in part because of first lady Michelle Obama’s highly publicized Let’s Move campaign, which focuses on improving the health of U.S. children - one-third of whom are overweight or obese, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
    KC's View:
    I'm intrigued by the idea that Easy Eater can be sponsored by an outside entity ... it strikes me that this could potentially be a smart move for food retailers looking to establish a presence in the health and nutrition space. (Especially because you;re making connections with kids who could evolve into customers.)

    The other interesting thing about Easy Eater is that it was developed by a young man named Dennis Ai, the child of Chinese immigrants who found himself dealing with obesity issues. His parents had what are called "brutal, lifelong" experiences with hunger, so when they came to the US they allowed their son to eat everything and anything he wanted. It was only in middle school that Ai got himself in shape, an experience that shaped his approach to Easy Eater - focusing on the positive, not the negative.

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    Reuters reports that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is saying that calls to replace Myron Ullman as CEO of JC Penney are counterproductive, and that William Ackman - the shareholder and board member agitating for Ullman's removal - should be kicked off the JCP board.

    "Mike Ullman came back really to try and save the company, and what's so perverse here, is that he's trying to save the company that Bill Ackman has basically done severe damage to," Schultz says.

    Ullman, in addition to being JCP's CEO, sits on the Starbucks board of directors. He was the CEO replaced by Ron Johnson, formerly of the Apple Stores, who was brought in - at Ackman's behest - to reinvent the department store chain and move it away from its discounts-and-promotions approach to marketing. When that didn't work out - sales, traffic and profits plummeted - Johnson was fired and Ullman was rehired. But Ackman remains dissatisfied, and he released a letter to the media in which he said that a new leader should be found within a matter of months, but that a search committee and headhunter firm hired by the board "have barely begun their work."

    "If I was sitting on that board, I would be asking for Bill Ackman's removal," Schultz said.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart.com is promoting today as its first-ever "Back to Class Cyber Monday" event, saying that the promotion will give "parents and students the opportunity to save up to 60 percent on nearly 300 of the most popular back-to-school items."

    Savings are available, the retailer says, "while supplies last."

    The story notes that "according to a National Retail Federation survey, families plan to spend less on back-to-school shopping this year."


    Bloomberg reports that Massmart Holdings, the South African company that is 52 percent owned by Walmart, is engaged in discussions with a number of companies that would allow it to expand into Kenya. None of the companies said to be targeted by Massmart - including Naivas Supermarkets, Nakumatt Holdings, and Tuskys - have said that they are willing to be acquired.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that "food-stamp use rose 2.4% in the U.S. in May from a year earlier, with more than 15% of the U.S. population receiving benefits."

    The good news is that the growth in food stamp usage has slowed since the depths of the recession. But the bad news is that usage continues to grow, despite the recovery that seems to be taking place.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    • The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the opening of a new Giant Eagle Market District store in Solon, Ohio, the first of the breed opened in Northeast Ohio, which features an expansive wine selection, gourmet charcuterie, and "specialty items, like dry-aged beef, to which restaurateurs or other industry professionals often only had access."

    CEO Laura Karet "describes the store as a destination," the story says. "One can buy groceries. Have a drink at the bar. Eat at the restaurant. Or even visit with a dietician and aesthetician in the health and beauty section."


    • The Birmingham News reports that the judge overseeing the Belle Foods bankruptcy proceedings in Alabama has approved the auction process that will allow the company and C&S Wholesale Grocers, its primary creditor, to sell Belle's remaining 44 stores.

    The judge also approved $5 million in new financing that will allow Belle to "stock shelves and spruce up" the stores in preparation for the sale. Expectations are that dozens of bidders are likely to materialize with a desire to buy blocks of stores or individual units.


    • The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) has presented the Harold W. Pratt Award to Dennis F. Wiesner, senior director for privacy, pharmacy and governmental affairs with HEB, at its 2013 NACDS Total Store Expo.


    • The Irish Mirror has a piece about Senator Feargal Quinn, who founded the Superquinn chain back in 1960. Superquinn, now owned by Musgrave, has been in the news lately because ownership has decided to fold it into its SuperValu chain, eliminating the Superquinn banner completely.

    Quinn is philosophical about the decision: "From my point of view, I’m happy that it lasted 53 years. I would have loved the name to have stayed for another couple of hundred years but you don’t win them all and I think that Musgrave know what they are doing. It’s eight years since I left so it’s no longer my baby."

    He goes on: "I've been kept up to date by the Musgrave people. And at least, even if it’s only the Superquinn sausages that stay, well, that’s something. But I still hope they might consider maybe the Superquinn name is worthy of keeping in some other forms as well. But whatever way it is, I recognise that’s business and that’s what happens.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    • Spartan Stores said last week that Alan Hartline, who has been serving as Executive Vice President Merchandising and Marketing, has left the company. Larry Pierce, currently Vice President Center Store Merchandising, will lead the merchandising and marketing  teams on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is named.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    • Eydie Gorme, a popular nightclub singer who rose to fame when she teamed with singer Steve Lawrence, who later became her husband, on the old Steve Allen version of "The Tonight Show," has passed away at age 84.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    Jason Dunfer this weekend won his first major with a two-shot win over Jim Furyk at the 95th annual PGA Championship golf tournament.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 12, 2013

    In the past 52 weeks, the Wholesome Sweeteners brand is up 26% in conventional grocery according to AC Nielsen ... despite the 1.4% decline in the total sweetener category.

    Fact:

    More consumers are choosing organic, Non-GMO, and Fairtrade sweeteners in an effort to make the world sweeter. They are voting with their dollars for healthier less processed foods, for a sustainable environment and ethical sourcing practices.

    Do your stores carry the full assortment of Wholesome Sweeteners to drive profitable growth? Maximize margins; call or email us for more details on growing profits in your baking aisle.

    Contact us today: 1-800-680-1896 or email CS@OrganicSugars.biz.
    KC's View: