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    Published on: September 25, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    We all know about the success of the Apple Store. And how it begat the Microsoft Store.

    What I didn't know was that there were a number of other consumer product manufacturers who thought that they could apply the lessons of the Apple Store to their own product lines.

    Hence, the Spanx Store. (I missed that one. Completely.)

    And now, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters - the company that makes Keurig coffee makers and K-cups - has exactly the same thing in mind, starting with a single unit in a Massachusetts mall.

    "So far the company has said little about the shop other than letting coffee drinkers in the area know it will offer all of the company’s brewers, as well as refill packs that shoppers can piece together themselves with a full variety of flavors," the story says. "Fans and followers can reasonably assume the Keurig store also will be an experienced-oriented setting, complete with lots of hands-on demonstrations, wonderful smells and plenty of well-qualified salespeople.

    "In other words, it’ll be the Apple Store of the coffee world."

    The feeling seems to be that because the lowest level Keurig machine costs more than $100, a store dedicated not just to selling the machine, but communicating the experience, might be a good idea, and that "Green Mountain Coffee Roasters will be able to shape its retail locations as a vanity-driven, premium experience."

    Of course, this is only a one-store test, and I'm not sure that the Keurig Store can be the Apple Store. After all, to this point at least it seems pretty evident that not even the Microsoft Store can be the Apple Store.

    But the broader impulse, I think, is right - that if you are going to sell something as being special, you actually have to go out of your way to make the whole experience special. It will be interesting to see if the store is successful enough to lead to some sort of expansion.

    Either way, it'll be an Eye Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    Internet Retailer reports that Walmart.com has unveiled five weekly web videos "highlighting products invented by the 20 finalists in its Get on the Shelf contest. Done in the style of a reality TV show, the videos last about 15 minutes apiece, during which four finalists present their creations to a panel of Wal-Mart judges who give comments and ask questions. Consumers have 72 hours to vote on their favorite products after watching an episode, with one vote allowed per day, Wal-Mart says. The winning products from each week will then become available on Walmart.com."

    The Get On The Shelf project started with 4,000 product submissions; more than one million votes were cat to winnow the group down to a final three. Voter are to be cast on Facebook.

    The story notes that "the first episode of the web series features products in the 'Live Better' theme, meaning they are designed to help improve the world ... The other themes are 'Around the House,' 'Kid Stuff,' 'Great Gadgets' and 'Made in America'."
    KC's View:
    More and more, whether it is consumer products or Tv series, online retailers such as Walmart and Amazon are using online forums as a way of getting a better sense of what appeals to consumers. Which is very smart.

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    Advertising Age reports that Dunnhumby, the Tesco-owned data marketing and analytics firm that provides highly customized and actionable data to both Tesco and Kroger, "is launching a venture fund to back startups in retail data, analytics and marketing technology -- including some that potentially challenge its own business or that of its clients."

    The new fund, called Dunnhumby Ventures, reportedly has made investments of between $250,000 and $500,000 and can go higher when necessary. As many as 10 investments a year are planned.

    According to the story, "Running Dunnhumby Ventures as global head of investments is David Balter, the Boston-based founder of BzzAgent, the word-of-mouth marketing marketing company acquired by Dunnhumby two years ago."
    KC's View:
    It is almost a cliche, but that doesn't make it untrue - the best, most competitive and relevant companies are the ones that are consistently trying to figure out how to put themselves out of business. After all, if you can come up with a way to put yourself out of business - or fund a company that can do it for you - then you have an advantage. If you let someone else do it, that someone else may be the competition. And that'll be bad news.

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    The Conference Board is out with its monthly consumer confidence index, saying that it dropped to 79.7 in September, down from an adjusted August index of 81.8, and down just a bit from July's 82.1, which was the highest it has been in more than five years.

    "While overall economic conditions appear to have moderately improved, consumers are uncertain that the momentum can be sustained in the months ahead," says Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators and surveys at The Conference Board. Franco suggests that continued concerns about wages and the job market seem to being weighing down consumer expectations.
    KC's View:
    I almost don't care what happens in Congress over the next month. It'll be like watching sausage being made, and all the economic dithering, and a possible government shutdown, is likely to hurt consumer confidence even more.

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    The Nielsen Co. is out with its latest "Trust in Advertising" report, concluding that:

    • "Word of Mouth recommendations from friends and family are still the most influential, say 82% of North American Consumers."

    • "North Americans also trust their fellow consumers  -  68% said they trust the opinions of other consumers posted online, turning to other consumers for their recommendations."

    • "Brand sponsorships aren’t as trusted with only 57% of North Americans citing that they trust those endorsements."

    • "Traditional media such as TV, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines remain important: 61% say they trust TV ads, 63% say they trust ads in newspapers, 58% say they trust radio ads, and 62% say they trust ads in magazines."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    The Boston Herald reports that a Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Superior Court Judge has ruled that the board of directors at Market Basket there can distribute some $300 million to shareholders - despite the fact that the company CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, and a lawsuit by some shareholders sought to have the distribution halted.

    The CEO has said that such a distribution of cash - roughly 60 percent of the company's cash on hand - would affect prices, new stores, employee compensation and profit sharing.

    The distribution is yet another step ion what has been a bitter family battle, as Arthur S. Demoulas, the CEO's cousin, has complained about questionable deals made by management, while supporters of the CEO said that the dissidents just wanted to take more money out of the company at the expense of employees and the stores’ reputation for low prices.
    KC's View:
    What a mess. And the thing is, Market Basket always has been a feared and respected competitor in the markets its serves ... and it sounds like this payout will take some of the edge off. All for a few bucks.

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    Chicago Tribune reports that bankrupt gourmet grocer Fox & Obel has once again closed its doors. It is unclear whether it will be reopening anytime soon.

    Fox & Obel filed for bankruptcy less than a week ago, and that was just months after it was closed down for significant food safety problems - it was a sixth time in three years that the retailer flunked a health inspection. Now, Bill Bolton, head of the investment group that bought Fox & Obel, is being sued by investors for allegedly using money meant to bolster the retailer's operations for other purposes.

    Other than being in debt for between $1 million and $10 million, there is no evident reason for Fox & Obel to now be closed.
    KC's View:
    A bigger mess than Market Basket, by far. Oy.

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    Seattle Weekly News reports that member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in western Washington are voting this week to authorize a strike at Safeway, QFC, Albertsons and Fred Meyer. The vote comes after three days of negotiations that reportedly made no progress.

    The story says that unionized employees "are unhappy with their latest contract proposals due to shortcomings in health care offerings for employees working under 30 hours a week, a lack of time-and-a-half pay on holidays, inadequate sick pay provisions and a lack of wage increases."


    • The Associated Press reports that shareholders in Smithfield Foods have approved a proposal that will sell the world's largest pork producer and processor to Shuanghui International Holdings, a Chinese company, for $4.7 billion.

    According to the AP story, "The deal, which is expected to close Thursday, will be the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm, valued at about $7.1 billion including debt. Its sale to Hong Kong-based Shuanghui comes at a time of serious food safety problems in China, some of which have involved Shuanghui, which owns food and logistics enterprises and is the largest shareholder of China's biggest meat processor."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    • London-based Pret A Manger, the sandwich and coffee shop chain, has named Robert Naylor to be president of US operations.

    According to the story, "Naylor comes to Pret with over 30 years of retail experience, most recently having overseen operations for both Starbucks Asia Pacific and Starbucks France. With oversight of Pret's U.S. locations, Naylor will also focus on the company's ongoing and future retail expansion."

    Pret A Manger currently has 300 locations worldwide, including 53 in the US.


    Advertising Age reports that McDonald's USA CMO Neil Golden is leaving the company, with retirement planned for early next year.

    No replacement has been named.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 25, 2013

    ...will return.
    KC's View: