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    Published on: December 6, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    It's Friday, so let's keep things light…

    I have two links you ought to check out this morning…

    • First, from an Arkansas satirical site called the Rock City Times (that bills itself as "Arkansas' 2nd most unreliable new source") comes a story about how Walmart has decided to compete with Amazon's developing drone delivery program.

    An excerpt:

    "Walmart today announced plans to install mini surface-to-air missile batteries on the rooftops of all 4,786 store locations across the United States. The missiles will exclusively target Amazon Prime Air drones."

    Very funny. And you can - and should - read the whole thing here. (I just wish I'd thought of it…)

    • Second, check out this bit of funny performance art - with a very specific movie reference - that take splice in a Starbucks store. When I saw this YouTube video, it made me happy.

    I hope it'll do the same for you.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    All Things D reports that Amazon seems ready to launch its AmazonFresh service in San Francisco next week, expanding it from its current operations in Seattle, where it started, and Los Angeles, where it was rolled out six months ago.

    The speculation, the story says, is based "on information that AllThingsD received from a source, as well as several AmazonFresh truck sightings in recent days in San Francisco, and a recent job posting."

    In Los Angeles, when the service was rolled out, Amazon offered Fresh as a free 90-day trial to Amazon Prime members. After a free 90-day trial, memberships were automatically upgraded from a Prime membership to a Prime Fresh membership and customers were charged $299 for the next year and annually after that. This included all the benefits of Prime, plus access to AmazonFresh.

    In San Francisco, All Things D writes, Amazon will face competition from major etailers such as Safeway, Walmart, Google Shopping Express and Instacart, a Sequoia Capital-backed startup that recently expanded to Chicago, and was founded by a former Amazon employee."
    KC's View:
    No real surprise here … it was all a matter of "when."

    I have to wonder if AmazonFresh is rolling out to San Francisco because LA is profitable, or because it feels ti needs to maintain momentum. I've heard some complaints in Los Angeles about product availability, and I think there is a reasonable argument to be made that the what they are charging for Prime Fresh memberships seems a little high. But I'm guessing that the folks at Amazon see a clear path to profitability and productivity … especially because they may only need Fresh to break even because Fresh customers tend to be high-use and profitable users of Amazon in general.

    I'm only disappointed that there are no drones involved in the announcement.

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that "in a new twist on giving," Kroger is "rolling out a nationwide program that lets loyalty card holders select charities to which Kroger will donate, based on dollars they spend in stores.

    "Strategy, not sentiment, is driving the move. The desire to easily contribute to a favorite good cause is becoming an increasingly important motivator of human behavior, the experts say. 'Our objective is to find ways to make our shoppers even more loyal,' said Lynn Marmer, Kroger’s group vice president for corporate affairs."

    The story goes on to say that "by the end of next year, most Kroger divisions will contribute to a combined $50 million that will be given to schools and other nonprofits based on local shoppers’ charitable preferences and their shopping habits. Kroger’s Community Rewards program will account for one-fifth of the grocer’s total $250 million-a-year charitable activity."

    Kroger, the Enquirer reports, has "quietly" rolled out the program to about half its operating divisions, preferring to let community groups and churches to the marketing of the initiative. Next year, as the program expands to the West, Pacific Northwest and Southeast US, the company says it will get more aggressive.
    KC's View:
    Not an entirely original concept, though it is said the national aspects of the Kroger initiative will really make it different. I think it is a very good idea - as a customer, I'm willing to change my shopping habits if I am convinced that one retailer or another is listening to me when it comes to giving to - and investing in - specific charities.

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    A nice story in the Baltimore Sun about how an Atlanta couple, dismayed to find it difficult to find a spice that appealed to their 5-year-old daughter, turned to the manufacturer's CEO for help.

    The spice was McCormick's Mediterranean Herb, and "McCormick CEO Alan Wilson not only personally responded, on the same day, but also offered to have his team search the warehouses for any remaining supply. If it was gone, he told them, he would send them the recipe.

    "Within a week, McCormick found a case of Mediterranean Herb and shipped it to the family." And he refused payment for the spice, saying, We understand getting children to eat."
    KC's View:
    This was the right thing to do, but the most important thing to remember is that events like these no longer take place in isolation. Treat one customer right, and potentially millions of people will know about it. Treat one customer wrong…

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    • As anticipated, walkouts and protests by fast food employees looking for higher wages took place all over the country yesterday, as advocacy groups looked to crate momentum for a national minimum wage of $15 per hour, more than double the current $7.25.

    According to USA Today, "In Washington, D.C., dozens of people carried signs and marched while singing 'Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, it's no fun, to survive, on low low low low pay.'

    "In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums as they marched into a McDonald's chanting 'We can't survive on $7.25.'

    "And in Detroit, more than 100 workers picketed outside two McDonald's restaurants, singing 'Hey hey, ho ho, $7.40 has got to go!'"

    • The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Kroger Co. announced yesterday that "net profit in its latest quarter fell nearly 6%, thanks in part to one-off gains in the same period last year, while revenue rose about 3% … For the latest period, Kroger reported a profit of $299 million, or 57 cents a share, down 5.7% from $317 million, or 60 cents a share, a year earlier.

    "Last year's results included a gain from a settlement with Visa and MasterCard and from a reduction in the company's pension funding obligations … Total sales grew to $22.51 billion, and were up 4.7% excluding fuel sales … Kroger's identical-store sales, which includes locations open at least 15 months, rose 3.5% excluding fuel in the latest quarter."

    Bloomberg reports that not only is Dish Network closing all its Blockbuster stores in the US, but that every Blockbuster store in the UK is likely to close in the near future.

    According to the story, "Sixty-two of the 153 outlets that remain were today condemned to close by Moorfields Corporate Recovery LLP, which has already shuttered more than 100 stores since being appointed administrator Nov. 11. No acceptable offers have been made for the outstanding 91 units, which may also have to shut, it said."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) said yesterday that it has hired Douglas E. Baker, most recently vice president of sales at Federated Group and a former executive at Fry's Food Stores and Kraft Foods, to be its new vice president of private brands, charged with advancing "FMI’s commitment to investing in brand equity and strengthening the FMI private brands community."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    Nelson Mandela, the South African revolutionary and freedom fighter who, after 27 years in prison emerged as a remarkably inclusive and dignified figure of reconciliation, who became the president of South Africa and who never lost sight of his ultimate goal - the abolition of apartheid policies in South Africa - passed away last night. He was 95.

    Former Secretary of State James Baker this morning called him "a beautiful human being … a man of endearing and enduring dignity."

    There are four Mandela quotes that I would like to share this morning, that I think illustrate both his unique ability to go through a public maturation and to equate economic and social justice in simple yet elegant terms:

    • "What has become of our rationality, our ability to think? We have used our reason to make great advances in science and technology, though often using those for warfare and plunder. We have placed people on the moon and in space; we have split the atom and transplanted organs; we are cloning life and manipulating nature. Yet we have failed to sit down as rational beings and eliminate conflict, war and consequent suffering of innocent millions, mostly women, children and the aged."

    • "When I was released from prison I announced my belief in nationalization as a cornerstone of our economic policy. As I moved around the world and heard the opinions of leading business people and economists about how to grow an economy, I was persuaded and convinced about the free market. The question is how we match those demands of the free market with the burning social issues of the world."

    • "There is at times a tendency to view civil liberties as distinct from socio-economic rights. They are sometimes postulated as the more abstract part of democracy and as of less immediate relevance to the masses of people who are poor and in want. There can be no more forceful refutation of that false distinction than the manner in which President Roosevelt formulated the generic freedoms of democracy."

    • "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    Not surprisingly, I'm already getting emails about the death of Nelson Mandela…and this morning, I'd like to share one of them, from MNB reader Mike Bach:

    I had the opportunity to work in South Africa during his Presidential years and in the years since. Mandela’s leadership was very visible to the world, as evidenced by the Invictus storyline. I was fortunate enough to meet him (albeit briefly) and he spoke the same way to everyone who shook his hand regardless of their position in the company. He always knew that it was the corporations, like the one I where I worked, which would deliver BEE and other initiatives that would move South Africa beyond Apartheid.  He very smartly counted on the global corporations to be among the first to lead the business community out of Apartheid. I think back to those days and consider the “culture changing” work we had to do some of the toughest change work I’ve ever done. And, the most gratifying.

    Madiba was well quoted; I’m sure that in the coming days, we’ll see many remember him with his quotes that touched their heart. I’ve got an example, one that I personally took to heart. Ironically, its exactly opposite to what I had been taught but his belief (and approach) was, to me, a better way.

    Madiba said “"Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front."

    As you know well, there are countless books on leadership and methods, but often we are led to believe that for leaders who want enduring change, to not hesitate to get in front, to mentor / drive change as a component of transitioning others to lead. Particularly for those in ex-patriot roles, this is essential if the change you want is to last and be enduring.

    Madiba’s approach, far more selfless, requires EQ and confidence to execute.  In a world where Presidents worry about their legacies and whether or not their leadership will be remembered, Madiba built his legacy from the back and never looked back to keep score.  (It’s a lesson that his family never absorbed, sadly, but that storyline will play out in the coming weeks.)  For MNB readers who visit Johannesburg, a “must-see” is the Apartheid Museum, which takes a walking tour through what really went on during those dark years. I have been 4 times and learn something new every time I go.

    It is my hope is that, one day, we have a global holiday in recognition of Madiba’s contributions to the World. He’s earned it. I can’t imagine we’ll ever see another leader like him.

    Thanks, Mike. We all appreciate the perspective.

    Just saw another quote from Mandela that struck me as enormously insightful:

    "I am not a saint, unless you think that a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying."
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    In Thursday Night Football action, the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Houston Texans 27-20.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 6, 2013

    When Django Unchained originally came out last year, it was shortly after the Newtown school massacre, and I decided not to see the Quentin Tarantino movie because of what clearly seemed to be a celebration of gun violence that I would find disturbing at any time, but thought was particularly distasteful at that particular moment.

    As it happened, Django Unchained was Tarantino's most successful movie, and won two Academy Awards - best original screenplay, for Tarantino, and best supporting actor, for Christoph Waltz. But I never saw it.

    Until the other day. My son the actor/writer, who is an enormous Tarantino fan, got me a Blu-Ray copy of the movie for my birthday and when he was home for Thanksgiving, urged me to sit down and watch it, to give the movie a chance on its own terms. So we did.

    What I found was a movie of undeniable craftsmanship, filled with nods to pop culture icons of the past (Tom Wopat and Michael Parks and Don Johnson in the same movie?), and with solid performances by Jamie Foxx as a slave turned bounty hunter and Kerry Washington as the enslaved wife who he tracks down, and outstanding performances by Waltz as a bounty hunter, Leonardo Di Caprio as a plantation owner, and Samuel L. Jackson as a house slave of questionable motives.

    But I cannot shake the feeling that the movie celebrates violence and that, in many ways, Tarantino uses all the splatter as a kind of crutch that helps him to avoid any real consideration of the collateral damage of all the violence. I'm no prude, and I like a good, well-plotted action movie as much as the next fellow, but Django Unchained was disconcerting without seeming to make a larger point.

    Maybe that's just me. Maybe I'm getting too old for this stuff. Then again, maybe I'm just finding that with age comes perspective, and perspective often means having to consider context and consequences.

    I've written often in this space about the importance of companies like Netflix and Amazon developing original content that help them transcend their traditional roles as delivery systems. I've had a chance, over the past week or so, to watch the five episodes now available of "Alpha House," the original series created by Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau.

    "Alpha House" is based on an actual situation - four US senators who share a house in Washington, DC, though I'd like to think (though I am not entirely hopeful) that the actual senators behave with greater decorum. "Alpha House" isn't a breakthrough effort, and can be uneven, but it does have moments of genuine humor and a sharply satirical view of how government and politics work. It's as good as any similar effort that might run on HBO or Showtime, and features a broadly drawn and very funny turn by John Goodman as a GOP Senator from North Carolina who is being challenged in a primary because his conservative ranking "has plummeted to 98 percent."

    The only thing I don't understand about "Alpha House" is why Amazon is rolling it out, after an initial flurry, at the rate of one episode a week. I think that they should've gone the Netflix route and just made the whole thing available at once. But again, maybe that's just me.

    Speaking of Netflix … good news this week, as the company announced that the second season of "House of Cards," it breakthrough political drama starring Kevin Spacey, will be released as streaming video on February 14, 2014.

    Which makes me think that I know what Mrs. Content Guy and I will be doing the evening of Valentine's Day next year.

    That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    KC's View:

    Published on: December 6, 2013


    For more than nine decades, that's what the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) has delivered at its annual convention - the opportunity for industry leaders to expand their networks, open their minds, and together create new opportunities for growth and profitability.

    And, that's what's on the agenda for 2014, at the 93rd Annual WAFC Convention.

    Among the program headliners…
    •  Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.
    •  Robert Edwards, CEO, Safeway Inc.
    •  Patrick C. Haden, Athletic Director, University of Southern California
    …and many more.
    Experience this unique and unrivaled “top to top” opportunity for learning, networking and business collaboration, April 5-9, 2014, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Click here for program and registration details.

    KC's View: