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    Published on: October 16, 2013

    by Kate McMahon

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

    Gentlemen, it’s time to talk turkey.

    For the first time in 32 years, Butterball is recruiting men for its toll-free holiday Turkey Talk-Line and the chance to become the company's official spokesman.

    Last year, some 60 trained Talk-Line experts fielded more than a million calls from harried home cooks from early November through Christmas eve, with nary a male voice at the receiving end of the 800-line.

    But about one in four callers seeking advice on thawing, roasting, stuffing or deep-frying a big bird were men, which prompted Butterball to launch the nationwide “Man the Talk-Line” search.

    “Today’s kitchen and American family are evolving which has led to a shift in cooking responsibilities overall as well as at Thanksgiving,” Talk-Line director Mary Clingman told MNB.

    When the Talk-Line commenced in 1981, six home economists responded to some 11,000 calls from mostly young women and mothers preparing their first turkey. Only about 9% of the calls were from men.

    A new Butterball survey found that 84% of men are involved in some aspect of holiday meal preparations and 42% say they take on the role of preparing or cooking the turkey.

    Hence, the active search. “Are you the man we’ve been looking for?” Butterball asks on its Facebook page. Applicants with unique cooking experience and passion are asked to write three essays and film a video of themselves about how much they love turkey. The deadline is this Sunday, and a panel of judges will decide the winner on Nov. 11.

    One spokesman will be chosen, and receive a $4,000 cash award plus media opportunities, and other men may be tapped to work in the Chicago call center. All need to pass the “Butterball University” program on all things turkey.

    To its credit, Butterball is also expanding its outreach this year to include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and live chats. And while a toll-free call line may seem anachronistic in this era, connecting with a live person to help solve a turkey crisis is true real-time customer service. I find “live computer chats” with a distant person on the computer can be more frustrating than helpful.

    Moreover, it’s an opportunity for Butterball to establish a dialogue that transcends the holiday meal, and hopefully get consumers to its Facebook page for turkey chili recipes for the Super Bowl or turkey sliders on the grill. 

    I’m also wondering how much of the turkey prep shift is generational – at our house I cook the turkey and my husband (the master griller) carves the bird. But my 40-year-old nephew prides himself on deep-frying the Thanksgiving turkey for his family, and proudly posts pictures on Facebook.

    Ironically, I read about the search the same day President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to run the Federal Reserve Bank. I figure if we finally have a woman controlling the nation’s purse strings and a man on the Turkey Talk-Line, that’s progress on the gender equity front.

    Who cooks the Thanksgiving turkey in your household? We’re conducting an informal MNB survey. Shoot me an email at .
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Fast Company reports on a new study from Visa suggesting that "40% of Americans, on average, carry less than $20 in their wallets. Even though women are prone to giant-purse syndrome, 30% of them have less than $10 in cash (compared with 16% of men) while 21% of men carry more than $100 (compared with 5% of women)."

    The study also reveals:

    • "Only 12% of respondents saying they visited a retail store once a month to check out a product in person with no intention to buy. In contrast, 53% reported never visiting a physical store before making a purchase online."

    • "Overall, 27% of smartphone owners and 24% of tablet owners have shopped using their mobile devices in the last year."

    • "The survey found 15% of respondents said they have scanned a QR code to make a purchase in the last year."

    • "About 20% to 30% of respondents said they would use their smartphones to pay for public transportation, parking meters, tips, and gas station purchases if they could."

    Our economic lives in transition ... it's an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    Walmart US CEO Bill Simon said yesterday that Walmart is testing in three markets a plan that will use its large stores as distribution centers for its smaller stores, a program that it hopes will both cut costs and improve in-stock positions.

    That means, MarketWatch reports, that "after 50-foot trailers arrive at the supercenters from distribution centers, goods on pallets marked for smaller stores then get loaded to smaller trucks to deliver to those smaller stores, lowering costs. As Walmart expands fulfilling online orders from supercenters, they also will be able to send daily shipment to the smaller stores for shoppers to pick up things they order online that aren’t carried there."

    MarketWatch also notes that "the company plans to open 300 plus supercenters in the next three years, but it’s adding more than 400 Neighborhood Market locations, similar to a supermarket, to be a 700-plus store chain with $12 billion in sales by fiscal 2017. The 20-unit Express chain will allow Walmart to compete effectively with dollar stores."

    In other Walmart news:

    • Simon says that the US government shutdown is affecting business. "We’re operating in a very uncertain environment. We build a little momentum and then we see 800,000 people furloughed, which isn’t helpful, because if people aren’t getting paid they aren’t shopping."

    MarketWatch reports that Walmart, "which had made its name on offering everyday low prices instead of temporary discounts,  said it is planning to drum up sales by offering a series of October 'special buys' where it offers discounts on items on individual weekends."

    Reuters reports that "Wal-Mart is not waiting for the holiday season to get aggressive on pricing. Walmart U.S., its largest business by far, is promoting low prices on everything from Kraft's Velveeta cheese and PepsiCo Inc's Doritos chips to Procter & Gamble Co's Pampers diapers and Bounty paper towels this month, while Sam's Club will have another discount booklet for members starting on October 30, as both chains try to boost sales early in the fourth quarter.

    "More than 1 million people have already signed up for holiday layaway, which allows Walmart U.S. shoppers to put items on hold and pay for them over time. Four of the top five items on layaway are devices including Google Inc Nexus tablets, HP's HP 2000 laptop, the Hisense Sero 7 tablet and Fuhu Inc's nabi 2 Kids' tablets."
    KC's View:
    There's a lot to be said for Walmart being willing to adjust its strategies and tactics as a way of compensating for societal and competitive changes, and for the fact that companies have learned how to compete more effectively with Walmart.

    I don't think the Bentonville Behemoth has any choice.

    But some will suggest that Walmart is getting away from the things that make it unique, and are its differential advantages.

    We'll see.

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    The Fayette Advocate reports that Walmart "plans to expand its same-day grocery delivery service called 'Walmart To Go' to a new market: Denver, Colorado. This move follows the company’s ongoing grocery delivery tests which have been taking place over the last couple of years in San Jose and San Francisco. The Denver area test is currently a closed beta, meaning customers will be allowed to trial the new service on a first-come, first served basis only."

    The story says that customers can "designate a two-hour slot for their delivery, then the orders are fulfilled by local Walmart Supercenters and delivered in Walmart To Go trucks ... The company is still experimenting with price points for this service, it seems, as they note that the Denver area delivery fees will be 'in the $5 to $10 range'."
    KC's View:
    You have to look at this expansion in the context of Amazon Fresh's expansion to Los Angeles, likely to San Francisco, and probably eastward from there.

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    Bloomberg Businessweek reports on a study focusing on wage disparity, looking specifically at "the total cost to American taxpayers of a large, low-wage workforce." That cost is calculated to be an average of $7 billion a year, and overall, "52 percent of families of fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public assistance programs, compared with 25 percent of the workforce as a whole."

    The story goes on: "That’s the amount of annual public assistance families of fast-food workers received between 2007 and 2011, according to a new report written by economist Sylvia Allegretto and others, sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and funded by Fast Food Forward, the group that helped organize the summer’s labor strikes. The authors used publicly available data.

    "The report calls out the fast-food industry for its low wages, citing a median salary of $8.69 an hour and a history of offering part-time work. That might have been fine when those behind the counter were mostly teenagers living at home. These days, though, 68 percent of fast-food workers are single or married adults who aren’t in school—and 26 percent are raising children."
    KC's View:
    There will be some who will question the study because of the institutions that conducted it, but I have to say that the general tenor of the conclusions seem fairly reasonable to me, especially as it concerns the changing face of fast food employees.

    There is no easy solution to this, but I do think that it points up a continuing and growing problem in America - wage disparity that is creating a kind of underclass that works hard, works long, tries to raise families and impart solid values to their children, and yet cannot support itself even while doing honorable jobs. That's not just bad for this underclass, but for the retailers and manufacturers that would like to sell it products and services that they cannot afford.

    Published on: October 16, 2013 has a story suggesting that Delhaize could be about to lose yet another senior executive, as CFO Pierre Bouchut is seen as a likely candidate to become the CFO at Veolia, a water and waste management colossus.

    The story notes that if Bouchut leaves, he will be the third Delhaize exec to depart - first Roland Smith, CEO of Delhaize America, who left when he did get not get the top Delhaize Group CEO job that went to Frans Muller. Shortly thereafter, European CEO Stéfan Descheemaeker announced he was leaving the company.
    KC's View:
    I really feel bad for all the good, hard-working people on the front lines at the various Delhaize banners who must be feeling a little seasick from all the shifting and swaying going on at corporate.

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    Starbucks said yesterday that its Come Together petition drive, "urging elected leaders in Washington, DC to reopen the government, pay our debts on time and pass a bi-partisan and comprehensive long-term budget deal by the end of the year," has generated close to two million signatures.

    "Petitions are continuing to arrive from Starbucks nearly 7,000 company-operated stores in the US," the company said. These petitions are slated to be delivered to Congress and the President today, and will be joined by additional petitions that arrive over the next few days from other organizations and the remainder of Starbucks company-operated stores.
    KC's View:
    Full disclosure here ... I signed one. Because I am so tired of the high wire act that seems to be SOP in Washington, DC, and it becomes increasingly difficult to see how this ends in anything other than disaster.

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    • The Chicago Tribune reports on a new survey sponsored by Goldman Sachs suggesting that "McDonald's appears to be less able to convert advertising into customer visits. The world's largest hamburger chain is spending more on advertising, especially promoting a wealth of new products such as Mighty Wings, while sales at its stores slow ... McDonald’s also ranked last in perceived quality, healthiness and consumers' willingness to pay more for certain menu items among major fast food chains, according to the Goldman survey."

    • The Bellingham Herald reports that Haggen Inc. has decided to close three more of its TOP Food & Drug Stores, in Auburn, Kent and Yakima, Washington. Haggen previously announced the closure of five Washington State stores, in Tacoma, Lacey, Federal Way, Bellevue and Shoreline.

    The announcement leaves Haggen with 20 stores overall, including four TOP units.

    “We continue to drive against our plan to transform all of our stores to deliver the best in quality and service to our valued customers. Unfortunately, this transformation necessitates the closings we are announcing today,” said Clement Stevens, co-president and senior vice president of merchandising, in a prepared statement.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Empire Co. CEO Paul Sobey plans to retire from his position in December, to be succeeded by Marc Poulin, current CEO of Empire’s grocery chain, Sobeys.

    Poulin plans to continue serving as CEO of the Sobeys chain, as Sobey plans to remain as an Empire company director.

    The story notes that "Sobey retires after leading the company’s acquisition of Canada Safeway Ltd. amid intense competition from domestic rivals such as Loblaw Cos. and Metro Inc., as well as foreign brands including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The CEO is the son of David Sobey, chairman emeritus of Sobeys, and grandson of Frank Sobey, who expanded his father’s original meat-delivery business into a countrywide chain of grocery stores."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    • Hans Riegel, longtime CEO of the Haribo candy company in Germany, has passed away of heart failure at the age of 90. If you've never heard of Riegel, you've probably eaten a product created by his company: gummi bears.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    • In the American League Championship Series, the Boston Red Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers 1-0, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

    • And in the National League Championship Series, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2, taking a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    If you've never read Roger Angell's baseball pieces in The New Yorker, you should. Angell is a kind of poet laureate for baseball, composing thoughtful and lyrical pieces about the national pastime that have run for years in the magazine (which still, to my mind, is one of the best magazines in the country, and one that has done a good job of adapting to the digital world).

    Speaking of adapting, and remaining relevant and active ... Angell may be 93 years old, but he continues to write, and even contributes short blog entries to the magazine's website ... the latest of which you can read here.

    Take a minute. It'll be worth it. And then check out his various books and columns, and enjoy this national literary treasure.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 16, 2013

    On the subject of Safeway's decision to get out of the Chicago market by selling its Dominick's stores, one MNB user wrote:

    It has been extremely interesting reading the comments in the Views section. Most of them are typical, expected, and cliched. What is not clear to me is why, with all this community support, did Dominicks sell in the first place? I am a vendor that was introduced to the Safeway version of Dominicks about two years after the purchase. Even after two years, I witnessed first hand the anti-Safeway attitudes at store level. I heard discussions with check out help and customers bashing Safeway and the way they ran the stores. I am not disagreeing with the mentality that the stores were turned "cookie-cutter". But Safeway owned the stores and therefore was within their right to run them accordingly.

    However, at the same time, accepting that weekly paycheck and openly discussing the displeasure at the checkout is hypocritical, unethical, and some might consider insubordinate. My point is that the people at store level were/are a significant part of the success or the failure of this operation. Let me repeat, I heard the conversations personally at multiple locations. These front line people chose to stay and work at these stores. They did not choose to quit and go to work some where else. It's the people that make change work, or not. The original Dominicks would still be around today if more PEOPLE shopped there and made it a cash cow. The Safeway version of Dominicks would still be around if more people shopped there and made the division profitable. Who's to blame? Really doesn't matter now, does it?

    Regarding the decision by Delhaize America to outsource much of its IT functionality, one MNB user wrote:

    As a 9 year veteran of the Hannaford and then Delhaize shared-service IT department I can personally attest to competitive advantage Hannaford and other DEG banners enjoyed because of its nimble and innovative team of seasoned IT staff.  It was that very unique historical knowledge of “how we got here” that acted as the special sauce on our recipe for success.  You will not find that in a third party resource. Like my grandfather always said,  “you get what you pay for.”  That especially rings true when considering the incremental short term savings they may reap here.  I am afraid however the irreparable damage to that recipe was done long before this decision and the great company that Hannaford was will never be again.

    We had an Eye-Opener yesterday about changing attitudes toward aging, work and retirement, based on a study saying how people plan to work longer, and how retirement may be out of reach for many Americans.

    I commented:

    I think this study has important messages to both retailers and manufacturers, who need to realize that there is this important demographic to which they can market their products and services; this also could be an important source of talent for some companies, especially those that see value in people who have some life experience.

    Some will find this trend to be alarming. I would not be one of them.

    People are living longer. People generally are healthier. And I think the whole notion of "older Americans" and retirement has to be reconsidered, both personally and in terms of public policy. (The public policy component, because of lobbying by special interests intent on preserving entitlements, will be a lot tougher for a government that increasingly seems to be personified by people with no interest in governing.)

    Personally, I plan on working until I drop. Not at the exclusion of all else, certainly, but work is not a four-letter word in my mind. Now, I recognize that I'm lucky. I have a great job, I love what I do, it is fun a lot more often than it is not, and there's absolutely no reason to stop. (Unless, of course, you all decide to stop reading.)

    MNB user Ellen Groff responded:

    Medical insurance is a huge factor when considering retirement and it wasn't even mentioned in this article.  Most of our parents generation retired with company paid medical benefits (when unions were strong).  That's not happening today.  Plus, I believe a higher percentage of women baby boomers have had a prolonged absence from the work force in order to raise the children.  Which normally equates to less savings and less Social Security benefits at retirement age.

    Good point.

    MNB user Mark Boyer wrote:

    When what you do is fun and challenging, why would you want to do anything else? I suspect your readers will let you indulge in a sabbatical or extended leave as the years go on. Of course, it will help if you have cultivated a junior Content Guy, and continue to do things like the interview series that you run during your absences.

    Presumably, as you travel for business or leisure you can still report in on the things you are seeing and doing. I think people expect that of you. I have used your recommendations for books, movies, places to visit, restaurants and wine on numerous occasions, and was glad to have had them.

    Good to know.

    MNB user Mike Franklin wrote:

    I absolutely intend on working through retirement…but not because or for money…I intend to work for an NGO that supports my values and special interests and can use my experience and life skills.

    From another reader:

    I understand your desire to work as long as you physically can and think that is great, for you. I am among the many with a different view. I started in the work force when I was 15 and hoped to retire in my late 50’s or early 60’s. Unfortunately, I’ve had to adjust those plans to where I now look forward to retiring in my early to mid 60’s. I view the money I’ve contributed to social security for the past 35 years as part of my retirement, as this is what it was designed for and how it was presented. I also have a pension and a retirement savings, so I should be able to live modestly until I die.

    I have always viewed work as a means to an end. That is, I work to support my family and myself. While I like my job and my company, my greatest interests are outside work and I barter my time spent at work for money to support my interests. I have no problem accepting your desire to work until you drop but take offense to any suggestion that I am somehow part of the problem because I choose not to.

    I don't think I said that people who want to retire are part of the problem.

    Far from it.

    I recognize that there are some social contracts involved here, plus expectations like the ones you describe, and attitudes won't be changed overnight.  But I sure think we have to start redefining the issues so that 20 or 30 or 40 years from now, we're not having the same discussion, and life expectancy is in the nineties.

    It isn't hard to imagine that we could get to a point in this country where people work, say, from age 20 to 65, and then are retired from 65 to 90. That means they are working for 45 years, and retired for 35. If you add in the years before they went to work, that means that they spent less time working than not.

    I'm reasonably sure that the nation's socio-economic infrastructure is not sufficient to handle such a ratio. And speaking for myself, I'm not even sure that this is a healthy balance ... though I concede that this is a lot easier to say because I love what I do.

    Finally, responding to our piece the other day in which I apologized for not having taken note of the WNBA finals while reporting on NFL and MLB games, MNB user David Livingston wrote:

    Don't forget to cover the Triple Crown horse races along with the Breeders Cup.  Keep in mind that every 20 or 30 years a female horse will win one of those Triple Crown races.  Actually from reading your executive interviews, one would wonder if their are any men executives left in the business.

    This particular MNB reader consistently puts the "jerk" in "knee-jerk."

    And it continually amazes me that any company with a woman in a senior position would hire someone who, despite his denials, seems to exhibit tendencies toward women that are condescending at best and misogynistic at worst.

    Then again, there are a lot of things that amaze me.

    But Mr. Livingston also needs to get his abacus checked.

    Because during our two series of executive interviews, there were a total of six women featured, and nine men.

    For the record, I was a lot more interested in interviewing people in interesting and influential jobs, with progressive and provocative ideas, and who just seemed like they might have compelling personal observations.

    And why anyone would want to take an implicit shot at people like Larree Renda, Trudy Bourgeois, Cathy Green Burns, Lisa Sedlar Leslie Sarasin, and Laurie Demeritt is beyond me.

    Also for the record ... there will be some of you who will wonder why I would give this person and attitudes any attention at all. Good question. I thought a lot about it. Hard.

    I decided to use the email because I suspect - actually, I know - that there are more than a few men out there with attitudes that reflect a "Mad Men" mentality, and so in this case it was important to point out that there are still dinosaurs among us.

    The good news is that these dinosaurs are well on their way to becoming extinct.
    KC's View: