retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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: