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    Published on: October 14, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    It seems to me worth noting that over the weekend, Seattle's Museum of History & Industry opened the Bezos Center for Innovation, which was funded in part by a $10 million gift from Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Seattle-based Amazon.com.

    According to the Seattle Times, the museum "features nearly 4 million artifacts and historic photographs," as well as "multimedia and interactive exhibits that salute Seattle innovators big and small.

    "It includes a Patent Tree loaded with inventions from Seattle. The center will sponsor an annual community innovation competition. And it will offer insights from innovators in lectures, workshops and displays that predict the next big ideas."

    Bezos tells the paper that he's not sure why Seattle generates so much innovation.

    “It’s undebatable that when you look at innovation in Seattle per capita, it’s off the charts,” Bezos says. “We joke that maybe it’s the rain. But maybe it is the rain,” which keeps people inside, where they have more time to think and innovate.

    Personally, I can't wait to see it ... I suspect that so much of what Bezos has done, it'll be an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    Crain's Chicago Business reports that three companies have emerged as likely suitors for all or some of the 68 Dominick's stores in Chicago that Safeway has decided to sell.

    According to the piece, Kroger is interested in at least 15 stores that it wants to convert to its Food-40-Less banner, already a presence in the market with 17 stores. Roundy's is said to be interested in 20 stores; it already has a dozen Mariano's stores in the Chicago market."

    And, the story says, "the Jewel/Osco chain, whose parent New Albertson's Inc. announced yesterday it has bought four Dominick's, is hoping to land perhaps another 10. The chain, which ranks No. 1 in metro Chicago in grocery sales by a wide margin, is moving cautiously out of concerns that the Federal Trade Commission could raise antitrust objections."

    Crain's writes that "analysts think that Safeway executives have been shopping Dominick's for the past three or four months to both competitors and to regional chains. Two likely candidates, Hy-Vee Inc. in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Schnucks Inc. in St. Louis, have expressed no interest in Dominick's before now."

    Complicating matters is the fact that landlords that own Dominick's locations will want to buy out the leases so they can control who gets the stores. Small, independent retailers are seen as too small to buy batches of stores, though it remains possible that they could pick off a location or two. And finally, it is likely that at least a few non-desirable locations won't go to competitive food chains.
    KC's View:
    It will be interesting to see what happens to Dominick's. It sounds likely that a series of deals will be cobbled together that will lead to various companies taking over locations, converting formats, and looking to extend their connections to Chicago-area consumers.

    Phil Rosenthal, a columnist for the , had a piece over the weekend about these connections, musing that people have an "intimate relationship" with their supermarkets:

    "We're together regularly, maybe more than once a week. We keep lists so we can make the most of each visit. We clip items we see in the paper that we think will be appreciated. What we take away sustains us and satisfies our hunger. We touch it, taste it, smell it, feel it, drink it in, lick, chew and swallow ... That's why the demise of longtime Chicago supermarket chain Dominick's, heralded by last week's announcement by California-based parent Safeway that it is going to pull out of this market, has resonated with so many of us. It doesn't matter whether we're still taking long walks up and down its aisles or we've moved on with the memory of days when it better met our needs and desires ... Once that committed, engaged relationship takes hold, it's tough to break.

    "Once broken, it's harder still to repair as chains such as National Tea and A&P learned here years ago, and Dominick's and Jewel have learned of late."

    The expectation seems to be that Safeway is going into a retrenchment mode, that it is going to get rid of the stuff that is not making it any money or that does not offer great expectations. In the end, Safeway may be a smaller, leaner company, and perhaps a more profitable one. Better to be proactive about such things than to let events overtake you and have less room to maneuver.

    And lessons learned? From all the email I've gotten (and you'll see some of it in "Your Views") and the stories I've read, it appears that Safeway's miscalculation was that it could impose its culture on Dominick's, which had the final result of distancing it from the customers with whom it should have been forming tighter, more sustainable relationships.

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    Crain's Chicago Business reports that when Eataly opens in the River North neighborhood in the Windy City in late November, the 65,000 square foot will feature eight restaurants as well as "fresh produce, seafood, meats and cheeses; prepared foods and sandwiches; an in-house brewery; wine and cocktail bars; and specialty items like cured boar's meat and $227.80 bottles of balsamic vinegar." However, "unlike in New York, this Eataly will offer fried foods and a 'Nutella station,' too. A customer might spend $2 for a slice of fresh focaccia or $200 for a truffle-based dinner."

    Some context from Crain's about the new store:

    "Eataly's partners chose River North on purpose. The neighborhood is home to 52,000 residents, nearly a third of them between 25 and 34 years old. The median income is $62,803. During weekdays, the area also is crowded with office workers. Eataly expects 70 percent of business to come from people who live or work nearby. And, of course, there are all those tourists, whom Eataly is counting on to pack its markets on weekends.

    "Eataly's domestic owners, who include celebrity chef Mario Batali and restaurateur (and 'Master Chef' judge) Joe Bastianich, scored with that same customer mix when they opened their first U.S. location in New York's Flatiron district in mid-2010. It pulled in $70 million its first year.

    "Chicago has one other thing going for it: The city is close enough to New York that Eataly can use the same suppliers for both imported and domestic products."
    KC's View:
    The thing I like best about Eataly in NYC is the way it celebrates food, putting preparation front and center and integrates eating and shopping. There's just something energizing about it ... and I think this is an approach that ought to be emulated by more food retailers.

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., described as "the Chinese e-commerce giant," is investing $206 million in ShopRunner Inc., which offers unlimited two-day shipping from a number of retailers - including Toys R Us, RadioShack, Brooks Brothers, GNC, American Eagle Outfitters, and Drugstore.com - for a $79 annual fee.

    ShopRunner, according to the Journal, is being positioned as a way to help retailers compete more effectively with Amazon.com: "ShopRunner, founded in 2010 and based in San Mateo, Calif., is small compared with Amazon, though it has more than doubled its membership rolls in the past year, to about one million. Amazon doesn't disclose membership of its Prime two-day shipping service, but Morningstar estimates it has about 10 million members, which could grow to 25 million by 2017."

    "The new investment comes as Alibaba mulls an IPO in coming months that could net it $10 billion," the Journal writes. The company "has had designs on the U.S. for years. It operates two U.S.-facing websites, traditional online marketplace Aliexpress.com and Alibaba.com, a business-to-business sales site. In 2010, it struck a deal to sell goods through eBay's marketplace."
    KC's View:
    It is going to take a lot of time and money to catch up with Amazon, but I do think that Alibaba has the kind of resources to provide retailers with a way to engage in an effective battle with the e-commerce giant. And I wonder if at some point, Alibaba might start try to find a way to help retailers compete with Amazon Fresh, especially if that service starts to roll out nationally.

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    MNB has obtained an internal Delhaize America memo saying that the company has decided to outsource "certain functions" within its Technology Services department, suggesting that the move will allow the company to be both more effective and efficient.

    It has been a rough couple of months for Delhaize. Less than two weeks ago, Stefan Descheemaeker, CEO of Delhaize Europe, has resigned. No reason was been given for his departure. That move came just a month after Delhaize Group announced the simultaneous departure of Roland Smith, who took on the job as CEO of Delhaize America a year ago, and naming of Frans Muller to succeed Pierre-Olivier Beckers as CEO of Delhaize Group. Smith reportedly left because he did not get the top job.

    Just last week, Bi-Lo Holdings announced that when it closes on its acquisition of Sweetbay, Reid's and Harveys stores from Delhaize, it intends to convert the Sweetbay stores to the Winn-Dixie banner and the Reid's stores to the Bi-Lo name.

    So there is enormous change taking place at the company.

    Here is the memo, from Deb Dixson, Chief Information Officer, Delhaize America:

    Today, I announced that we, the Delhaize America IT Leadership, have made the difficult decision to outsource certain functions within our Technology Services department. This will further enhance our service to the company, while enabling us to deploy our internal resources more effectively. The functions include:

    • The data center operation to a world-class provider, IBM: Over the next several weeks, we will begin transitioning the data center services, with the goal of being fully transitioned by mid-month.

    • Network Services, help desk, and desktop support by year-end: We are working to formalize partner negotiations and expect to share additional details on these functions in the near future.

    Approximately 80 employees total from both Salisbury and Scarborough locations will be impacted. We are taking great care to ensure that all associates affected by this decision are treated with dignity and respect throughout the entire transition process.

    Additionally, we have solid plans in place to ensure business continuity throughout the transition. All associates who are impacted by Data Center Operations will be offered employment for a minimum of six months with IBM.

    These types of decisions require extensive consideration and are never easy. We appreciate the many contributions of our IT associates – both those who will continue to support our business internally, and those who are transitioning into new organizations.

    We believe outsourcing key functions to trusted partners will enable us to focus our internal IT resources on supporting key business initiatives while being able to activate new technology and innovation to deliver the best services for Delhaize America. While these changes are large in scale to the IT organization, there will be no change to the business. Your points of contact will remain the same. Business Relationship Managers will continue to provide strong partnership while we remain focused and are striving to provide world class service and support.

    We look forward to a powerful working partnership with these new organizations, and hope that you will join us in support of this new delivery model for IT. This transformation will require significant change for every IT associate to think, act and operate differently, with the goal of fortifying our IT infrastructure in a way that positions Delhaize America as an innovative grocery retailer.

    While we do not anticipate any further outsourcing announcements this calendar year, we will continually review our IT business model to ensure we are delivering on our mission and vision of fueling retail growth for Delhaize America.

    KC's View:
    I'm not smart enough about such things to judge whether this is a good or bad idea. But it probably is fair to say that there likely continues to be a lot of people with frayed nerves at Delhaize, which used to be a model of stability and now seems like a company that has put everything and everybody on the table.

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    Internet Retailer reports on a new Forrester Research study saying that "free shipping trumps fast shipping for web shoppers."

    According to the story, "The preponderance of free shipping offers available from top retailers—92% of the top 50 e-retailers studied for the report offer some form of free shipping—has consumers shopping around for shipping deals. 53% of survey participants say low-cost shipping is an important reason why they would switch to a different online retailer.

    "59% of consumers say they consider shipping costs when making online purchase decisions. Those costs stand as the most cited consideration in the survey involving purchases.  Other considerations are product ratings and reviews from other customers (43%), product information from the retailer (34%) and the retailer’s shipping policy (26%). Respondents could select more than one answer."

    Far less important to consumers - fast shipping, which ranked only 14th on the list.
    KC's View:
    Actually, I think people want shipping that is both free and fast.

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    Bloomberg has an interesting piece about how upscale housewares retailer Williams-Sonoma is combatting "showrooming," the practice of going into the store and using one's smartphone to find out if featured products can be bought online for less.

    The story says that "while the practice typically afflicts chains such as Best Buy that sell commodity products, Williams-Sonoma was long immune because it fielded exclusive merchandise. Now a host of rivals from Web upstarts like Cutlery and More LLC to entrenched players such as Macy's and Amazon.com sell much of the same gear for less as they tussle over a market worth about $12.3 billion." Now, the company "is introducing more proprietary products, including rapid-boiling pots and iPhone- connected cooking thermometers; pricing goods more competitively; and adding cooking classes to make Williams-Sonoma a foodie destination once again."
    KC's View:
    Maybe it is just me, but I've always seen Williams-Sonoma as being kind of precious, while Sur la Table has a kind of vitality that is much more attractive and enticing. Now, it sounds like Williams-Sonoma has gotten the message...

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    WHEC-TV News reports that "Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. and Teamsters Local 118 announced Saturday that after months of negotiating that included weekend meetings, the two sides have come to a tentative agreement that will be put before the members of the bargaining unit for ratification ... The two sides resumed negotiations on Friday, October 11, to resolve the expired labor agreement covering 900 warehouse workers, drivers and skilled tradesmen at the company’s headquarters in Rochester."


    • The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that "Remke Bigg’s will drop the Bigg’s name and become Remke Markets, the company has announced. The name change will allow the supermarket operator to clarify its brand for customers at its 13 locations in Ohio and Northern Kentucky ... Remke has been owned and operated by the same family that started the business in Covington since 1897. In 2010, it acquired seven Bigg’s stores from Supervalu, which doubled the company’s size."


    • The Los Angeles Times reports that Del Monte Foods "is selling its consumer products business, which includes canned Del Monte pineapple and Contadina tomatoes, to Del Monte Pacific in Asia for $1.68 billion. It will then begin catering solely to the tastes of furrier consumers through its pets business, which includes brands such as Pup-Peroni, Meow Mix and Milk-Bones."


    • The Seattle Times reports that negotiations are continuing between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and supermarket chains that Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway and QFC stores in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties which are engaged in talks about a new contract that will cover 20,000 employees.

    According to the story,"last month, 98 percent of union members voted to authorize a strike. Their contracts expired in May. Since then, the union and grocery chains have been battling over a new three-year contract. The companies’ proposal would reduce holiday pay, hold wages at current rates and have part-time workers get health benefits through the federal Affordable Care Act."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    First of all, let's get the news out of the way...

    Last Thursday night, in the WNBA Finals, the Minnesota Lynx defeated the Atlanta Dream 88-63 to complete a three-game sweep of the best-of-five series, winning a second WNBA championship in three years.

    The thing is, this is old news.

    The game was Thursday. But I didn't report the news here on MNB on Friday, even though we had a "Sports Desk" section with both MLB and NFL scores.

    And I should have...if for no other reason than I'd received an email from reader Vicki Schwartz earlier in the week, saying:

    Let’s not forget the WNBA playoffs.
     
    Last night the Minnesota Lynx beat the Atlanta Dream 88 to 63 to lead the 5 game series 2 – 0.  Next game is this Thursday night in Atlanta.


    So she warned me.

    On Friday morning, after I forgot to do the WNBA scores again, she wrote:

    Still no mention of the WNBA finals where the Minnesota Lynx defeated the Atlanta Dream for the championship.
     
    Very disappointing.


    And MNB user Paul Cimmerer chimed in:

    I am surprised and disappointed at your failure to mention that the winner of the WNBA Championship were the Minnesota Lynx. If this had been the men's NBA Championship I'm quite sure it would have been mentioned by you. The Lynx are an outstanding professional basketball team where "team" means something, as opposed to the "me" in the NBA. I'm hoping this is just an oversight on your part and not another example of the "less than" attitude taken by many towards women's sports. And don't forget Maya played for Connecticut, a state you have some vested interest in.

    Just to be clear, I am not at all condescending toward women's sports. It's just that I'm not a basketball fan, and so the WNBA was not on my radar ... though you're right when you suggest that the NBA finals probably would have been.

    But I should have had it on Friday, because I'd been given fair warning.

    And I missed it.

    Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2013


    • MNB received late word this morning that Orville Roth, who opened the first supermarket bearing his name in Silverton, Oregon, in 1962 and grew it into a nine-store chain serving the Mid-Willamette Valley, has passed away after suffering a heart attack while on vacation in Hawaii. He was 79.

    Roth was, in our experience, a man of indefatigable good cheer and energy, clad in green ("the color of money," he's say) and a happy warrior in the supermarket wars. And he will be missed.


    • Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth and one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts who personified the US space program during the 1960's, an effort chronicled in both the book and film versions of "The Right Stuff," has passed away. He was 88, and had suffered a stroke last month.

    Carpenter's passing leaves John Glenn, now 92, as the only surviving member of the original astronaut corps.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    Commenting on stories about Mariano's growth in the Chicago market, I wrote:

    Love the Mariano's stores. But I continue to find it hard to believe that the model is economically sustainable, mostly because the prices seem so low that there's no way that the company won't have to raise them at some point. But they're great stores, making a dent.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    I would agree with your comment about the economic sustainability of Mariano's concept. The stores are very nice and for obvious reasons, remind me of Dominick's in the pre-Safeway years. Two are opening near my home soon.

    But there are real local concerns about Mariano's labor practices, particularly among the wealthier consumers that they wish to attract. There are also constant rumors that prices will increase once their market position is better established.

    The Chicago area remains a highly competitive market, but there are many established local grocers and ethnic markets that serve their communities well.  Many of us will continue to support them, despite Mariano's aggressive expansion plans.


    From another reader:

    I can tell you from being a vendor of Roundy’s that Mariano’s is only able to work because the margins are different for Pick ‘n Save and Copps than Mariano’s. I joke that the PNS and Copps charge Chicago prices so the Mariano’s can charge WI prices.

    And another:

    Kevin, you may want to do a little research regarding Bob Mariano's Dominick's history. When he led the Dominick's operation prior to its takeover by Safeway, in a far less competitive environment than exists today, Bob introduced an upscal-ish makeover of a number of Dominick's stores - modified store name, sophisticated graphics package, distinctive merchandising. The concept was pricier, and it failed. Price was at least a critical issue if not the only one. It was the last straw in the pre-Safeway effort to overcome a rapidly declining market share in Chicago.

    Those of us who competed with Dominick's (I worked for Jewel's broadcast advertising agency at the time) predicted that the effort wouldn't succeed.

    I think Bob was in love with his idea, and that the Mariano's stores are a better executed version of the scaled up Dominick's that he introduced perhaps 15 or so years ago. I love the Mariano's format. I live within a mile of the store near Grant Park and visit it occasionally. I think your comment today about pricing is spot on. I'm hardly infallible but I'd bet that when the time comes to boost prices, we're likely to see a repeat of Bob's original outcome.


    And still another:

    Couldn’t help but weigh in on the Mariano’s story, since several have recently popped up where I live in suburban Chicago. This is anecdotal of course, but when the closest Mariano’s opened, their prices were so low (even cheaper than Walmart in many cases, if you can believe it), that shopping there was a no-brainer, especially given the quality. They decimated the local Jewel and Dominick’s, and after building up a loyal customer base, many of the items that used to be cheaper increased significantly.
     
    The local Mariano’s is still packed, but I’ve since switched back to Jewel. And I’ve noticed that Jewel has been a little busier too. On a slightly related side note, my local Jewel is in the middle of a huge renovation that’s made it look suspiciously similar to Mariano’s…


    Still another MNB user wrote:

    You commented that at some point the prices at Mariano's would have to increase. You would be correct about that. I gave too many years to that organization and saw their flagship stores start out the same way and succumb to higher prices and lower labor presence. You can be assured that Mariano's will suffer the same fate.

    So, how will this affect the customers you ask?  I witnessed lower customer counts, lower sales volume, lower market share, and lower employee moral.

    They know how to put up great stores, but have a real problem with the people side of the business.





    Because life has symmetry, we also have emails about Safeway deciding to sell off its Chicago-area Dominick's division.

    From one:

    Safeway’s acquisition of Dominicks from the outset was a disaster.  Classic example of a National Account seeking National efficiencies, thirsting for National reach at the expense of a Local flavor.  Unlike Kroger, who left major local leaderships in place when acquiring chains (i.e. Ralphs), Safeway chose to run all their operations out of Pleasanton.  Their cookie cutter approach and homogeneous clean store format alienated Chicago residents in droves.  I knew it was over in 2002 when all the Private Label was converted to “Safeway Select” which confused consumers, as the nearest Safeway banner store was 800 miles away!  The last ten years was a long, somber death march.

    From another, addressing the possibility that Safeway itself could be on the market:

    Safeway will be around here on the west coast in Seattle, Spokane, Portland, Southern California, Arizona, and Northern California for a long time.  They have great locations, and they have upgraded all their stores to Lifestyle Stores. The real key for them to have an identity with the customer. For the most part, they have really clean stores, friendly employees, low out of stocks on their key ad items, but they still must do a better job convincing the customer about improving a lower price image. They are still having problems with this issue, especially against Kroger banner stores like Fred Meyer in the NW, Fry’s in Arizona, and the likes of Winco and Walmart. Safeway can procure their goods at costing similar to the low price chains, but they still are stuck in the high-low game on too many highly consumable items. Safeway will still be a viable entity here on the west coast for many years to come.

    Still another MNB reader wrote:

    It would not be surprising to see Safeway sell or close the Randall’s division in Houston.  What seems apparent is that they are not even trying to compete in the market, as Kroger, HEB and good independents have crushed them with superior merchandising and pricing focused on the Texas Consumer .  The stores have become irrelevant in the market, and will not be missed when they are gone.

    And another:

    It wasn't Bird's inhibition that kept him from selling Dominick's it was his ego. A couple companies - including Willis Stein were interested a few years back and from what I understand, made fair offers. Bird feeling that he overpaid for it to begin with wouldn't sell-especially NOT to Mariano.  Steve  seemed to not want to admit that when he replaced all execs at Dominick's , Genuardi's and Randall's that their inability to grasp how to run more unique/upscale operations through "Safewayization" wasn't working out so well. When decision making starts with maximizing shareholder value at the top of the pyramid the results can't be a shock. The poison pill offered Safeway some immediate protection against a takeover, however, the continued sale of assets is probably imminent… Randall's should start packing boxes.

    And another reader wrote:

    My guess is that Ron Burkle will make strong bid for the Dominick’s stores, despite his recent Fresh and Easy transaction with Tesco.

    A reader who serves as a Safeway vendor wrote:

    Regarding the Dominicks’ sale or closure:  This was a customer we made a great living on until Safeway came in and purchased them.  I’ll never forget a comment from a senior Safeway person:  “We didn’t buy Dominick’s to learn from you and we’ll tell you how to operate a successful grocery chain”.  About 60 days later they pulled all of the ethnic deli products out that shoppers had been buying for 40 years, and there was outrage at the counter….IMHO Safeway alienated exceptionally loyal shoppers, and did nothing to understand the Chicago consumer. The stores are like Stepford Wives—great looking with nothing going on inside them….

    And from still another reader:

    This has been coming for a long time.  It did not take long to see that Safeway was out of their league when they bought Dominick's, Randall's and Genuardi's.  All three have been disasters, although not as big as the SUPERVALU/Albertson's disaster.  Safeway proved it did not have the merchandising know-how to operate in these three new markets and that their success in CA is primarily due to their long history there.  They are a distant second in Baltimore/Washington DC and their position will continue to erode as Wakefern and Harris Teeter/Kroger continue to make inroads into those markets.  I agree that they will get sold and the longer they wait the lower the value will be.




    We had a couple of stories recently about the increase in tablet ownership and usage, which led MNB user Christopher Gibbons to write:

    Interesting stats on US tablet ownership. I found the numbers to be surprising and was sure they were somewhat inflated, as no one in my household, including my college-age daughters, have one. However, after a brief survey among my peers, it appears the numbers may be correct, esp. when you include Kindles, Nooks, etc.

    So in a little over three years since the first iPad was introduced, tablet market penetration has reached 40% of all US adults. Amazing.

    My wife and I were recently discussing this phenomenon, the speed of "technology adoption" in the new era we live in. We wondered about its effect on the household budget. We thought back to 15 years ago when almost no one we knew owned a cellphone, few had a computer and households were just signing up for the latest innovation: satellite TV.

    In 1997, the average US household spent about $50 -$70 per month for "technology, entertainment  & communication services" ($30 phone, $20 basic cable television.) Few were paying for internet services at that time and if they were, it was likely $20 per month for AOL. So $70 monthly was on the high end.

    In 2012, the average US household spent closer to $300 per month for these services ($175 phone, $70 basic cable television, $50 internet.) In many cases, they spent much more.

    That's a 400-600% increase in 15 years. Or $3000 more annually in out of pocket costs!

    This doesn't include the costs for devices that most US households didn't have in 1997 - computers, laptops, cellphones, smart TVs.

    And now tablets.

    The average household likely spends $1000 or more on these devices annually.

    Fifteen years ago, you purchased a phone or a TV and it would last you 20 years or more. Today, consumers replace or upgrade these devices every few years. 

    So, US households today are spending $4000-$5000 (or more) annually on these services and devices that fifteen years ago, they may have spent $1000 on. For the median household, that equates to 8-10% of their take home pay. 

    And during that time, US household income has gone down.

    In 1997, the median household income in the US was $51,704. In 2011, it was $51,017. 

    This begs the question: how are people able to pay for these products and services? 

    In 1997, our family's income was at the median household level for the time. After paying our bills and putting some away in savings, there was a little left over for discretionary use. We chose to spend our discretionary income on the things we valued most: outings, travel, vacations, family time. We went on vacations every year, usually 3 or 4 weeks spent traveling; always by car or train. Our daughters had visited over 30 states (and Canada) by the time they were in middle school. There was little left to spend on new technologies (or as my wife would call them, "the shiny things.") We were OK with that. Our money, our choices.

    So what lifestyle choices have people made to their budgets to afford all of these new innovations? Cutting back on eating out? Eliminating travel/vacations? Reducing savings? Getting a second job? Or a third? Going into debt? There has to be a tipping point. Are we already there?

    And what will these budget choices mean to the food industry? We all know the correlation between the price of gasoline and retail spending. As little as 50 cents per gallon increases can have devastating effects on consumer spending and retailers' bottom lines. Imagine the effects of a $500 purchase for an iPad on a household's spending.

    There are always going to be trade-offs. People will always have to make choices about spending and prioritizing. Those choices are getting harder all the time as consumers try to find money for new innovations that rapidly become "indispensable" necessities.

    I have no illusions. Consumers have voted with their pocketbooks. They love their laptops, smartphones and iPads and they are not giving them up. It's a brave, new world.

    We have crossed the Rubicon.

    But I do wonder what life experiences present and future generations may miss out on because of those tough choices.

    One last thought: What will the next big thing be?

    The new technology that will come along in the next three-five years that most of us have never heard of, but that marketers and society will tell us we can't live without? ("Look! The shiny thing!")

    The one that we will likely adopt even more quickly (50% penetration in two years?)

    And how much will it cost?


    I think I don't agree with the notion that the technological advances that you describe as just "shiny objects" that distract us from life experiences. I actually think that as a culture, we are more mobile and informed than many earlier generations ... people want to go more places, see more things, and go through more experiences precisely because technology makes all these things seem more available and accessible.

    Will people have to make choices sometimes? Sure.

    But I think that broadly speaking, we are better off for these advances.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 14, 2013

    • The Boston Red Sox last night staged a late inning comeback to beat the Detroit Tigers 6-5, evening the best-of-seven American League Championship Series at one game apiece.

    And the St. Louis Cardinals go into tonight's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven National League Championship Series.




    • In Week Six of the National Football League...

    Green Bay 19
    Baltimore 17

    Cincinnati 27
    Buffalo 24

    Detroit 31
    Cleveland 17

    St. Louis 38
    Houston 13

    Oakland 7
    Kansas City 24

    Carolina 35
    Minnesota 10

    Philadelphia 31
    Tampa Bay 20

    Pittsburgh 19
    NY Jets 6

    Jacksonville 19
    Denver 35

    Tennessee 13
    Seattle 20

    New Orleans 27
    New England 30

    Arizona 20
    San Francisco 32

    Washington 16
    Dallas 31
    KC's View:
    I've gotten some emails from folks wondering how come I haven't been commenting on the MLB playoffs, or making picks.

    The problem is that I don't really have a rooting interest in any of the teams in the playoffs, but have personal fondness for all of them...

    I like the Cardinals because my friend Joanie Taylor (one of the best people on the planet) is as dedicated a Cards fan as one could find, plus she took me to the game when the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011.

    I like the Tigers because I have friends at Westborn Markets there who are enormous fans, plus, how can I root against Detroit, a city that could use a World Series champion?

    I like the Dodgers because I remain a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan, mostly because of Jackie Robinson, one of the most important people (not just athletes) of the 20th century.

    And, I like the Red Sox because they're the Sox ... the team of Spenser and Robert B. Parker and Ted Williams and because Fenway Park in summer is my idea of a religious experience.

    Since none of the teams are the Mets or the Mariners, I've decided to just sit back and enjoy the games, because it's baseball, which reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.