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    Published on: December 20, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    MobileShopTalk reports on a new survey by Marketing Land that looks at what people are doing on their smart phones while shopping in bricks-and-mortar retailers. According to the survey…
    • 31% of shoppers "compare prices of products through Amazon and other online retailers."
    • 30% "look for offers and coupons."
    • 28% "call friends or family for advice."

    • 27% "look for product reviews."

    • 18% "found other stores that have a desired product in stock."

    • 15% "scan barcodes or QR codes."

    • 13% "look for gift ideas."

    The survey also suggests that only about two-thirds of shoppers are using their smart phones when it stores. ("Suggests" because what the survey actually says that 34% "don't use their phones in stores at all.")

    What's interesting about this to me is the extent to which bricks-and-mortar retailers do not control the shopping experience anymore … that shoppers have access to so much more information and so many more influences, that it becomes ever more critical for retailers to create compelling and relevant shopping experiences.

    Retailers can't just be sources of product, but also must be resources for information.

    And, retailers have to make sure that their stores are strong enough that when the shopper walks in the front door, the smart phone in his or her hand is not the most interesting thing to look at.

    And here's the ultimate challenge … that with every passing day, there will be more people with smart phones, with more options, and greater access to options that can diminish or dilute allegiance to the traditional shopping trip.

    Retailers can embrace the challenge, or deny it. But to paraphrase Jeff Bezos, if they don't embrace these challenges and opportunities, it won;t be the competition that will disrupt their businesses.

    It'll be the future.

    And it'll be an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    So much for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets being converted to a different format, now that the chain no longer is owned by Tesco and instead is controlled by Yucaipa Cos., which hired former 7-Eleven Inc. CEO James Keyes to run the company.

    Fresh & Easy has confirmed that the 150 stores bearing the banner will stick with the name, and that its stores will now have longer hours.

    Stores in California and Arizona will be open from 6 a.m.-midnight starting Dec. 30; they used to close at 10 pm. Stores in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, will be open 24 hours.

    And, the company has said that it will send out fewer coupons.

    Company spokesman Brendan Wonnacott told the Orange County Register, "We're shifting to providing greater value throughout the shopping trip, not just money off at the checkout."
    KC's View:
    It would appear that Keyes' c-store roots are showing … and that';s not necessarily a bad thing.

    I'm going to venture a guess here … that the next time I'm out west and get the opportunity to visit a Fresh & Easy, I'm going to find that it is a very different shopping experience. That doesn't mean it'll be successful, because it has to create first impressions for a second time. But I have hope.

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    The Los Angeles Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to revise new food safety regulations that focus on "rules addressing food-borne illness in production sites and farms … The proposed regulations have been criticized by proponents of local, organic and sustainable farming as being too invasive and unnatural. The rules call for stringent barriers to fence wildlife away from farms and scrutinized natural manure, which is favored by organic growers."

    Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, wrote in a blog posting:

    "We have heard concerns that certain provisions, as proposed, would not fully achieve our goal of implementing the law in a way that improves public health protections while minimizing undue burden on farmers and other food producers … And because of the input we received from farmers and the concerns they expressed about the impact of these rules on their lives and livelihood, we realized that significant changes must be made, while ensuring that the proposed rules remain consistent with our food safety goals."

    The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) said yesterday that it commended FDA "for listening to and acknowledging significant concerns raised by produce stakeholders about the proposals issued in January 2013."

    And David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology at the United Fresh Produce Association, said, "We are encouraged that FDA took seriously the extensive input they received from produce farmers and others in the agricultural sector with respect to the proposed Produce Safety and Preventive Controls rules. We appreciate FDA’s willingness to rethink these provisions and propose requirements that are more science and risk based. It is critical that FDA gets these FSMA rules right, and we believe this is a step in the right direction.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    • In New Jersey, the Courier Post reports that a federal judge has ruled that "Walmart can't be held responsible for a teenager who commandeered an intercom system and ordered black shoppers to leave one of its stores."

    The case was brought by one of those shoppers, who was offended and sought $1 million in damages.

    The teen was not a Walmart employee, and the judge said that Walmart had no responsibility for what he said. Walmart has said that it has upgraded its intercom system so that similar events cannot take place in the future.

    The attorney for the plaintiff said that an effort will be made to reinstate the complaint.
    KC's View:
    Good decision by the judge, I think. There's no common sense reason why Walmart should've been held responsible for what this moronic teen did, much less hit with a $1 million judgement.

    I also have to wonder about the ethics of an attorney who would advise a client to pursue such a case.

    And while some disagreed me when I expressed this opinion when the case was first filed, I still think that if I had a child who did such a thing and expressed such a thought, I would feel like a total failure as a parent.

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    Lots of second-day stories following up on yesterday's revelation by Target that it is "aware of unauthorized access to payment card data that may have impacted certain guests making credit and debit card purchases in its U.S. stores.

    USA Today reports that Target is warning people who have shopped in its stores since Thanksgiving to keep a close eye on their credit and debit card statements, to see if they have been affected by the security breach that it said resulted in 40 million names, card numbers, security codes and expiration dates being accessed by hackers.

    CNBC reports that while the security breach goes back to Thanksgiving and was not disclosed until yesterday … by internet security standards, that's pretty quick. Companies have specific legal requirements, the story says, that determine how they inform both local and federal authorities … and if there was a delay in public notification, it may have been because law enforcement officials wanted to conduct a probe under the radar as long as possible.

    • The Associated Press reports that "potential victims of credit card fraud tied to Target's security breach said they had trouble contacting the discounter through its website and call centers.

    "Angry Target customers expressed their displeasure in comments on the company's Facebook page. Some even threatened to stop shopping at the store. Target apologized on Facebook and said it's working hard to resolve the problem and is adding more workers to field calls and help solve website issues."
    KC's View:
    I can't imagine that any of this is going to help Target's numbers for the last weekend before Christmas.

    Maybe it's time to rethink its position and actually stock that new Beyoncé album…

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    From The Hartman Group, there is another in a continuing series of "Hartbeat" pieces looking at the shifting American food culture, and what this means for every segment of the food industry.

    An excerpt:

    "Consumers love local. They also appreciate Whole Foods’ organic, sustainable, seasonal, ethnic and authentic (food with a story) offerings. All of these attributes and more are part of consumers’ broad evolution toward higher-quality foods. The terms change in meaning and popularity, but taken together, they reach a large cross-section of shoppers who together are marching toward better eating."

    You can read the entire piece here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that the Darden Restaurants company plans to spin off its Red Lobster chain, stop building new Olive Garden restaurants, and halt any acquisition efforts "for the foreseeable future."

    The reason? The Times writes that "Darden has struggled recently along with the rest of the casual dining sector as price-conscious consumers moved into the cheaper fast-casual tier that includes chains such as Smashburger and Panera."

    I know this is not the most generous-of-spirit reaction, but somehow I can't find it disheartening when mediocre dining experiences stall out.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    Every year, we get requests from readers for a compilation of all the wines that have been recommended here. And so, compliments of my daughter, who went through every OffBeat written in 2013, here's the list, pretty much in chronological order of their mentions…

    2009 O'Shaughnessy Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
    2010 Pascual Toso Reserve Malbec
    2010 Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
    2008 San Lorenzo Rosso di Montalcino
    2008 Isabel Mondavi Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
    2011 LaZarre Albarino
    2010 Caulino
    2010 Willamette Valley Vineyards Dijon Clone Chardonnay
    2008 Piaggia Euiserva Carmigano
    2010 Padrillos Malbec
    2011 Carlton Cellars "Proposal Rock" Sauvignon Blanc
    2011 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand's Craggy Range
    2009 Rainstorm Pinot Noir
    2001 Cabernet Sauvignon from California's Mettler Family Vineyard
    2010 Brancaia Tre, a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon
    2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Dry Rose 2006 Francis Ford Coppola Captain's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
    2009 Field Stone Convivio
    2011 Griffin Creek Viognier
    2010 NxNW Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Basilicata Re Manfredi Bianco
    2011 Mar de Vinas Albarino
    2010 Lange Three Hills Cuvee
    2010 Argyle Reserve Series Eola Amity "Nut House"
    2011 Domaine Drouhan Oregon Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
    2008 Proprietor's Reserve Cabernet Franc, from Washington's Maryhill Winery
    2011 Verdicchio di Matelica from Italy's Bisci
    2009 Cape Lookout Pinot Noir from Oregon's Carlton Cellars,
    2011 De-Classified Pinot Noir from Oregon's Patton Valley Vineyard
    2012 Carlton Cellars Pinot Blanc
    2011 Legado del Conde Albarino
    2010 Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
    2009 Villa Puccini Toscana (90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot)
    2011 Willamette Valley Vineyard Pinot Gris
    2011 North Valley Pinot Noir from Soter Vineyards
    2010 Jovino Pinot Noir from Oregon
    2011 Tin Barn High Vista Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
    2012 Longboard Sauvignon Blanc
    2012 Carmine Granata Semillon from Argentina
    2012 Carlton Cellars Pinot Blanc
    2011 Licia Albarino, from Spain
    2008 Aster Crianza, also from Spain
    2010 Roads End Pinot Noir from Oregon's Carlton Cellars.
    2012 Carlton Cellars Auxerrois
    2008 Monte del Fra Ca Del Magro Custoza Superiore
    2009 Field Stone Cabernet Sauvignon
    2011 Planet Oregon Pinot Noir
    …and Evolution White, a blend of nine different varietals from Oregon.

    All in all, it's been a pretty good year. (The only thing that scares me about this list is the ones that didn't get mentioned because I didn't like them very much.)

    The thing about wine is that we all have different tastes, so the wines I love may not be the ones you prefer. As I peruse the list, it is obvious that I like Oregon wines, that I have a thing for the wines of Willamette Valley Vineyards and Carlton Cellars there … who could ask for anything more?

    Wine is a great, fun, lovely adventure. I hope you enjoy your trip through the wine world as much I enjoy mine.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    American Hustle is a big, sprawling, fun movie from director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook) that is a fictionalized version of the Abscam sting scandal of the late seventies, and totally worth seeing for the terrific performances and entertaining view of that period's morals, political peculiarities and poor wardrobe choices.

    Christian Bale gains 50 pounds and sports a combover to play Irving Rosenfeld, a con man who teams with Amy Adams' Sydney Prosser to peddle forged artworks. When they're caught by an ambitious FBI agent played by Bradley Cooper, they are compelled to participate in a federal investigation designed to trap politicians for taking bribes. From almost the beginning, the effort spins out of control, with pretty much everybody playing everybody else … and displays of conscience coming from the most unlikely places.

    There are even business lessons in American Hustle, as we see people who let their ambitions dictate their actions, which almost always is a mistake … people rarely say to themselves, "Just because we can do this, should we do this?"

    There are elements of The Sting here, with echoes of movies such as Saturday Night Fever and even The Godfather. But mostly, American Hustle is a movie that has its own voice and own attitude, both of which are enormously entertaining.

    A quick word here about "Homeland," which completed its third season last Sunday night. (I've gotten a bunch of emails from MNB readers who I turned on to "Homeland," and who were curious what I thought of both the season and the finale.)

    In many ways, "Homeland" reminds me of "24," which as the years went on, was forced to make questionable plotting decisions just as a matter of delivering on the promise of doing 24 one-hour real-time episodes that took place over the course of a single day. While "Homeland" has not faced that logistical issue, it had in some ways a bigger problem - delivering on the fact that the most compelling and yet most unlikely part of the series was the relationship between CIA analyst Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Body, the former Marine turned Arab terrorist. That was hard to do … but necessary, since these two wounded people seemed like the only ones who could bring the other peace.

    I'm going to be deliberately vague here, just in case there are readers who have not seen the finale, or plan to binge watch season three. But I will say that even when "Homeland" took unusual plotting turns, I enjoyed it; I never forget that these things are TV shows, and when necessary I'm willing to suspend disbelief. I thought the finale was both perfect and inevitable. I thought, as I have all along, that Mandy Patinkin's Saul Berenson is the most interesting character of the series. And I can't wait to see what the producers come up with for season four.

    "Double Down: Game Change 2012" is the new book about the Obama-Romney campaign from Mark Halperin and John Heileman, who authored the successful "Game Change" about the 2008 Obama-McCain race (that was adapted into an award-winning HBO movie).

    While "Double Down" does not have the Sarah Palin pick to examine, it is an illuminating look at how to play and win at the game of politics … though I would never accuse it of being a thoughtful treatise about the intersection of politics and public policy. It is almost all about the game - the strategy, the tactics, and the inevitable maneuvering that typifies every campaign, but that goes on steroids at the presidential level.

    I'm not sure I like it as much as I liked the snarkier "This Town: Two Parties & A Funeral, Plus Plenty of Valet Parking, In America's Gilded Capital," by Mark Leibovich; that book had a real attitude about politics and the media, which appealed to me. But "Double Down" is both entertaining and educational, especially if you have any interest in the political milieu.

    One thing that it has in common with "This Town" … after reading it, you'll want to take a shower, and maybe think about whether it is even possible to fix what's wrong with our politics.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 20, 2013

    Today's edition of MNB is the final one for 2013.

    As is the custom around here, I'm going to take a little time off to catch my breath, sleep a little late, read some books, go to a bunch of movies (including my annual viewing of Love Actually), and just generally recharge the batteries. I hope you’re able to do the same...or whatever it is that makes you happy...during the next week or so.

    (As always, the MNB archives will be open.)

    MNB will be back on Thursday, January 2, 2014 … and I trust that the coming year will be eventful, energetic, prosperous and most of all, fun for all of us.

    Michael Sansolo and Kate McMahon, as well as Mrs. Content Guy and the entire Content Guy clan, join me in wishing you a happy and safe holiday … however and whatever you celebrate.

    KC's View: