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    Published on: September 4, 2013

    by Kate McMahon

    "Kate's Take" is brought to you by Wholesome Sweeteners, Making The World a Sweeter Place.

    "Beyond" took on new meaning when readying my daughter for her freshman year at a university 650 miles away. Packing light is a foreign term to her. We debated how much, and what, to ship ahead. A conundrum, particularly when the school didn’t accept packages early nor did it allow campus deliveries on freshman move-in day.

    Fortunately, Bed Bath & Beyond anticipated this shared parental dilemma and offered several innovative options to ease the schlep from home to dorm room. While college specific, these strategies (including well-timed pop-up shops) have broader retail applications.

    For starters, the website has an entire Shop for College tab with numerous check lists, 13 advice videos and more, including all-in-one beddings sets with the necessary Twin XL sheets. You can shop online and then choose your ship date.

    I know several families who opted for the “Shop Here. Pick Up There” option, in which the student creates a registry at the local BB&B and then picks everything up at the store nearest their campus, for free. You can find the closest store simply by entering the college name on the website. (One customer service rep at a store near Tulane University in New Orleans “edited” the order when a friend arrived with her 18-year-old son, replacing any and all glass items with plastic. “Trust me,” she said. “I’ve got boys.”)

    Additionally, BB&B had “pop-up” shops on campuses across the country – tents selling fans, bed risers, door mirrors, hangers, pillows, area rugs, bedding, desk lamps – all the basics. At Wake Forest University, the fully-stocked tent was located across from the freshman dorms on move-in day, and gone the next.

    While BB&B wouldn’t release specific numbers on campus “pop-ups,” a quick Facebook check showed its presence at huge universities such as Michigan State and Arkansas and smaller schools such as Middlebury in Vermont. Jumping on the bandwagon this year was Target, which said its “pop-up glass dorm room” would visit five schools and shoppers could purchase the bedding and accessories in the room by scanning barcodes on the wall with their phones.

    Interestingly, I was debating where to purchase certain dorm room items when I read a Yahoo Finance article touting BB&B’s prices. An analyst for BB&T bank put together a market basket of 30 items (glassware, cookware, small appliances) and found that BB&B’s prices beat out Amazon for the first time, coming in at 6.5% lower even without the ubiquitous bright blue 20% coupons. And I’ve never had a coupon rejected because it was past the expiration date. So it would appear that BB&B is trying to take a more consumer-centric approach.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the growing pop-up trend this holiday season, with national retail vacancy rates running at about 10%. Toys R Us found success with its Express stores. Target has opened pop-ups with panache, such as the two-story life-sized dollhouse it built in Grand Central Terminal for two days this spring to promote its new furniture and home décor collection.

    Clearly, on college campuses, if you build the right pop-up, they will come. I’m sure savvy food truck operators have already determined that outside the quad or Student Union is place to park on Friday and Saturday nights. For students who do not have cars, I’d bet that a satellite grocery truck stocked with Gatorade, granola bars, Tostitos, Kraft Easy Mac and other staples of the college diet every Saturday morning would be a winner as well. And during exam time, Reese’s cups and 5-Hour Energy drinks.

    Comments? Send me an email at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    Belgium-based Delhaize Group announced this morning the simultaneous departure of Roland Smith, who took on the job as CEO of Delhaize America exactly a year ago, and naming of Frans Muller to succeed Pierre-Olivier Beckers as CEO of Delhaize Group.

    Beckers' retirement was announced last May, and so the naming of a replacement was expected. Beckers will remain with Delhaize as a non-executive member of the board of directors.

    According to this morning's announcement, no replacement for Smith has been named, and "the company's U.S. operations will report to the Delhaize Group CEO."

    Muller, Delhaize says in its announcement, "has more than 15 years of senior leadership experience in retail and brings to Delhaize Group a strong track record of managing complex, global organizations.Most recently, Mr. Muller served as Member of the Management Board of Metro AG, an international retailing company, and CEO of Metro Cash & Carry, with direct responsibility for approximately 740 stores in 29 countries and sales of EUR31.6 billion. His extensive operational experience, from supply chain management to procurement, and proven ability to drive growth will be critical to Delhaize Group's continued momentum."
    KC's View:
    Hard to know at this point what to make of these new changes at Delhaize America. It has been a tumultuous year for the US operations, what with the retirement of Ron Hodge, the appointment of Smith, the shifting around of top management at the various banners and then the decision to sell the Sweetbay, Reid's, and Harvey's chains.

    The announcement thanks Smith "for his significant contributions to the success of Delhaize America, particularly the energy and focus he brought to the business," but it has only been 12 months ... so one has to wonder if he has been forced out, whether because of some dissatisfaction with his leadership or just because Muller believes that management needs to be streamlined. (One also has to wonder if Muller has the expertise to oversee US businesses.)

    Bloomberg Businessweek notes that there is at least some analyst speculation that Smith is leaving because he wanted the top job and did not get it. It also quotes Andrew Gwynn, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, as questioning the wisdom of Muller's hiring: “Though Delhaize clearly saw something in the man -- they flag his international record along with his understanding of the supply chain -- his critics would accuse him of being ‘asleep at the wheel’ when he ran Cash & Carry," suggesting that it was "a business that did well in new markets, but struggled to mature gracefully."

    Interesting times for Delhaize, a company that for a long time had consistent, stable management, and that now is experiencing considerable upheaval. The company has to be careful that its competition does not take advantage of this upheaval to make market share inroads.

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    We love innovation here at MNB ... and also love it when readers draw our attention to cool ideas that we're not aware of.

    Which is exactly what the video at left is about ... a cool, innovative idea that addresses what clearly was a problem in Japan - a lack of parking spaces for the plethora of bicycles that people ride there.

    This strikes me as a terrific example of original thinking ... and it also is enormously entertaining. Have fun watching it ... because it is an Eye-Opener.

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    In western New York, the Democrat & Chronicle reports that Wegmans has decided to discontinue it strategy of seasonal price freezes, believing that the economy has improved sufficiently to take a different approach.

    According to the story, "The freeze on staple food prices began in 2011 in response to what Wegmans saw as a difficult situation for shoppers — higher food prices amid joblessness and a weak overall economy in the United States. The list was renewed at quarterly intervals each year thereafter and was changed to accommodate seasonal shopping needs. The summer list took effect in April and expired Aug. 24."

    In an online column, Mary Ellen Burris, Wegmans' senior vice president of consumer affairs, writes that the company "decided to eliminate the seasonal list with an end date, and focus on our basic philosophy of consistent prices all the time on items families use most in our new 'Seasonal Family Favorites' list.

    "How do we know our prices are as low or lower than other stores? We hire independent services to check our prices weekly to make sure we stay on target. That gives us confidence we’re offering customers best value year ‘round and pushes us to keep operations efficient and lean, so we can stay in business while offering the best prices ... When you can count on everyday low prices for items you use, we think it’s a simpler way to shop.  You can budget realistically, since the cost for the same cart of goods changes little from week to week, if at all.  You also don’t have to take time and trouble to comparison shop to get the best value."
    KC's View:
    The best thing about the decision is how Mary Ellen Burris just lays it out, clearly and simply and sensibly, in her online column.

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    The New York Times reports that will announce today a new program called Kindle MatchBook, which will let customers "buy the electronic versions of books they have already purchased in print form for either $2.99, $1.99, $0.99 or free. That’s far less than the $11 or more that Amazon typically charges for standalone purchases of the latest Kindle titles."

    The program will be retroactive, and will apply to books purchased as far back as 1995, which is when Amazon went into business; it also will apply to future book purchases. However, not every publisher is participating in the Kindle MatchBook program - there initial will be 10,000 books included, Wired reports - though the company says it believes more will sign up when they realize that it can only bring them incremental revenue - people will essentially be buying second copies of books they already own.

    Wired also reports that "the digital versions of the books will only work with Kindle e-readers and the Kindle mobile app."
    KC's View:
    Love the line from the Times story about Kindle MatchBook, in which the writer notes that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "is fiendishly good at selling people things they didn’t necessarily know they needed. If he can’t sell two books for the price of a bit-more-than-one, then it’s unlikely anyone can."

    Ain't it the truth.

    The other reality is that Amazon is essentially creating a sampling mechanism, looking to get people more comfortable with the use of e-books. In the long run, I suspect that this means a stronger e-book business for the company.

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    The Washington Post has an interview with Jeff Bezos - founder/CEO of and the man who is in the process of buying the Post for $250 million - in which he talks about what he thinks he can bring to the journalism business.

    “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” Bezos says. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.”

    According to the piece, "Bezos said his major contribution to the business will be in offering his 'point of view' in discussions with the paper’s leadership about how the publication should evolve. He also said he provides 'runway' - financial support over a lengthy period in which the management can experiment to find a profitable formula for delivering the news. 'If we figure out a new golden era at The Post . . . that will be due to the ingenuity and inventiveness and experimentation of the team at The Post,' he said. 'I’ll be there with advice from a distance. If we solve that problem, I won’t deserve credit for it.'"

    Bezos says that he decided to buy the Post because he could bring an increasingly irrelevant business model "some skill in technology and the Internet and a point of view about long-term thinking, reader focus and the willingness to experiment.”

    You can read the entire story here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    Arkansas Business reports that anti-Walmart activist group OUR Wal-Mart plans to mount a 15-city protest this Thursday, designed to call for the retailer to raise its ages for front line employees. The protests also will call attention, the story says, to what it says is retaliation by the company against close to 80 members of the group who remain employed there.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 4, 2013 reports that "for the seventh consecutive year, consumers have chosen as their favorite online retailer.

    "More than half of the 5,600 consumers surveyed - 58 percent - cite as the 'most preferred online merchant' for both apparel and non-apparel items. The survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, indicates that the online retailer is the hands down favorite; it was chosen three times as often as No. 2 (18 percent)."

    The rest of the top 10 list is occupied by,,,,,,, and

    The story goes on to say that "while the top 10 online retailers have remained relatively constant since 2010 — a testimony to consistently delivering on e-commerce essentials — a handful have risen appreciably since 2012. The biggest movers are, which moved from No. 44 a year ago to No. 27, and (a division of Abercrombie & Fitch), which jumped to No. 33 from No. 45 in 2012."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Procter & Gamble is planning a low-priced Tide that may be called Tide Simple.

    According to the story, "A decision to offer a lower-priced version of the premium brand carries the risk that buyers of regular Tide could trade down and stay there. Indeed, three years ago P&G scrapped a lower-priced powdered detergent called Tide Basic, which was tested for about a year. P&G said consumers were having a hard time distinguishing between the bargain version and the regular priced variety. The company's concern was that regular Tide users would trade down to Tide Basic, for instance, but be unhappy that it didn't clean as well as regular Tide."

    However, CEO AG Lafley is said to be taking the position that the consumer is in charge, the consumer wants lower-priced detergents, and P&G's job is to satisfy the consumer and to figure out how to make it work.

    • Spartan Stores and Nash Finch Company announced that the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) waiting period for the pending merger of the two companies has expired with no action by the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice, which "satisfies one of the conditions necessary for the transaction to close. Spartan Stores and Nash Finch expect that, subject to the remaining regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions, including the approval of Spartan Stores and Nash Finch shareholders, the transaction will be completed before the end of calendar 2013."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    • The Associated Press this morning reports that Teri List-Stoll, senior vice president/treasurer at Procter & Gamble, has been named to succeed Kraft Foods CFO Timothy McLevish.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 4, 2013

    We got a lot of email regarding last week's second series of MNB Interviews, featuring folks such as Trudy Bourgeois, Larree Renda, Tom Furphy, Leslie Sarasin, Mark Batenic and Lisa Sedlar ... all of whom I'd like to thank for their participation. I appreciate all the compliments, but would like to run just one of them, from MNB reader Brian Blank, who wanted to refer to two answers from Lisa Sedlar:

    What is your favorite movie (and is there a business lesson in it)?

    Lisa Sedlar: I'm a movie fanatic so I'm going to stick to the "business" genre and because I'm a child of the 80's I'm going to go with "How to Get Ahead in Advertising".  The business lesson it conveys is don't worry too much.

    Content Guy's Note: Okay, Lisa got me on this one. I'd never heard of this movie, so I had to look it up. For those of you as equally in the dark as I was, "How To Get Ahead In Advertising" is a 1989 British farce that looks like it may owe more than a little to Monty Python. I'll have to check it out...

    Kirk or Picard?  And why do you prefer one's management/leadership style over the other's?

    Lisa Sedlar: I have a picture of Jean Luc on my nightstand (yep, I'm a Sci-Fi nerd, well probably just "nerd" is more accurate). While Kirk had some good qualities, like speaking. very. clearly. his leadership was all about him and with Picard it was all about everyone else.

    Which led Brian Blank to write:

    Lisa Sedlar had me at “speaking. Very. Clearly.”  By the way, it’s tough to convince co-workers that you are reading a business blog when you bust out laughing.  Just sayin’ is all.
    While I still haven’t actually seen “How to Get Ahead in Advertising”, I am amazed that you’d never even heard of it!  Silver lining:  it’s still possible for you to find something new.  I expect that’s a pleasant surprise for you.

    You're right.  Lisa's evocation of William Shatner's speaking style may have been the funniest line of the whole series, but you had to pay attention to get it.

    As for How To Get Ahead In Advertising, what can I say?  I haven't seen everything (though there was a year - I think it was 1981 or 1982 - that I actually saw 150 movies.

    It is nice to know there's stuff I haven't seen or heard of.

    Got the following email from a reader about the Dunkin' Donuts ad in Thailand that was accused by Human Rights Watch of being racist:

    Maybe it’s just me, but simply because somebody at the Human Rights Advocacy group says it is “Bizarre and Racist…reminiscent of 19th and late 20 century…blah blah blah…” does not make it so.

    I saw the ad before all the hubbub and thought it was striking, dynamic, and creative.
    While I understand HQ has killed the ad before they get anymore domestic backlash, I applaud the Thailand division president for maintaining his position; in HIS country, it was not perceived as racist, and it had been a very successful promotion.

    When I saw the ad, it made me a little uncomfortable ... it struck me as being a little too close to someone being painted in blackface.

    But I think the larger point is that there's no such thing as "his country" anymore. Not in a world of instant communications ... because ads in Thailand can be instantly shown anywhere and everywhere. It is a new reality, and companies have to be conscious of it.

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Business Insider report that Target is getting ready to launch a new video streaming service designed to compete with the likes of Amazon, Netflix and iTunes. Target Ticket, the story says, has been tested by employees but now will be rolled out across the country.

    The story reports that "Target Ticket promises instant access to 15,000 movie titles, new releases, classic movies and next-day TV shows. Target says it will work with Windows, Macs, Xbox, iPhone/iPad and Android ... A bunch of content providers have already agreed to participate including ABC, AMC, CBS, CW, Fox, FX, HBO, The WB, NBC, Showtime, Starz, and USA."

    My comment:

    I guess that as companies like Amazon encroach on the business being done by Target and Walmart, it becomes incumbent on these retailers to go beyond their traditional business models and fight back. After all, they're going to have to find a way to replace the DVD business - and even DVD player business - that is being made obsolete by streaming.

    It better be significantly differentiated, though. Because I'm going to need a real good reason to stream videos from Target, a company that strikes me as having little expertise in this area.

    This prompted Robert Hemphill to write:

    The VuDu online movie streaming service was acquired by WalMart in 2010.  VuDu was recognized as having a large video rental library with thousands of movies available in HDX format, a very high-res movie download that's equivalent to blu-ray 1080p, the gold standard for home movies.  Apple iTunes and others were much later in the game with equivalent quality for VoD (video on demand) movies.

    Acquired by Walmart, yes. But I'm a movie buff, and it would never occur to me to go to VuDu for anything ... so at the very least, I think they need to do a better job of marketing.
    KC's View: