retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    by Kevin Coupe

    Merriam-Webster, the dictionary publisher, this week announced its annual list of words that it is adding to its pages, signifying that they have now entered both the popular consciousness and the official lexicon.

    Among them "selfie," "hashtag," "catfish"(as a verb), "tweep," “big data,” “fracking,” “freegan,” “gamification,” “hashtag,” “pho,” “poutine,” “social networking,” “steampunk,” “turducken,” "crowdfunding," “tweep,” and “Yooper.”

    I have to admit, that I didn't know some of these.

    Catfish, for example, "refers to a person who sets up a false social networking profile for deceptive purposes.”

    Tweep is "a person who uses the Twitter online message service to send and receive tweets."

    Yooper is “a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”

    But the Eye-Opening question: How did it take this long for "social networking" to make it into the dictionary?

    And another question: Aren't we sort of at the point where we don't need an imprimatur from Merriam Webster to make a word a word? In fact, this all happens organically … and usage in social media is a far greater indication of a word's legitimacy than approval from some dictionary editors.

    Which is yet another lesson in the power of the consumer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    The Associated Press reports that residents in Oregon's rural Jackson County have voted by a 2-1 margin to ban genetically modified crops, while a similar measure in neighboring Josephine County reportedly is well on its way to passage, though only two-thirds of the ballots have been counted.

    The Jackson County ballot measure attracted a lot of outside campaign money - almost a million dollars was spent to defeat it, while about $300,00 was spent to support its passage.

    According to the story, the votes "won't start an immediate trend in Oregon because Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill last fall that prohibits local governments from regulating genetically engineered crops. An exception was made for Jackson County because its measure had already qualified for the ballot.

    "Despite the bill, opponents of GMOs in Josephine County went ahead with their own measure, saying they'll let the courts decide if the vote is valid."

    The Reuters story says that the ban "is supported by a coalition of more than 180 farmers and community members, who have been pushing for the vote on the issue for more than two years. Supporters say the area's organic and conventional crops are in danger of contamination by genetically engineered crops, which typically are altered to withstand pesticides or resist insect damage. They also fear widespread use of pesticides associated with the crops."

    The AP story goes on to note that "since 2004, counties in California, Hawaii and Washington state have adopted bans. In 2012, agribusiness groups defeated ballot measures in California and Washington state to require statewide GMO food labeling … The effort to ban GMOs in Jackson County started two years ago when organic farmers learned the Swiss company Syngenta was growing sugar beet seed in local fields that was genetically altered to resist the popular weed killer Roundup. They wanted to protect their crops from being cross-pollinated by genetically modified ones.

    "Though genetically engineered crops are common and no mainstream science has shown they are unsafe, opponents contend GMOs are still experimental and promote the use of pesticides. They say more testing is needed."
    KC's View:
    Here's the next ballot initiative I think GMO opponents ought to start pursuing, whether on a local or a national basis. They ought to pass laws saying that if GMO seeds are blown by the wind onto the fields of farmers who didn't buy them, didn't plant them and don't want them, the biotech companies that made the seeds ought not be able to sue those farmers. From everything I read and hear, that's a major bone of contention between pro-GMO and anti-GMO forces, and it seems to me that some level of protection ought to be forged for those who do not want to be in the GMO business.

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    Market Force Information, which describes itself as a "customer intelligence solutions" company, is out with its annual supermarket satisfaction study, concluding that "Trader Joe’s is North America’s favorite grocery retailer based on satisfaction. Publix and Aldi were ranked second and third. All three were lauded for their courteous and fast service, as well as the quality of their private-label brands."

    The report goes on to say that "Market Force discovered what sets the leading grocery brands apart from the pack, as well as potential areas for industry differentiation, by looking at why shoppers spend the majority of their grocery dollars at one store over another. Publix and Trader Joe’s scored highest in many of the operational attributes that matter most to consumers, including courteous service, fast checkouts and inviting atmosphere. Aldi was the clear leader in low prices, ShopRite received the highest marks for its sales and promotions, and Walmart was lauded for offering a one-stop shopping experience. Hy-Vee and H-E-B also ranked in the top five of many of the categories."

    And, Market Force writes, consumers were asked "to rate their customer experience during their most recent grocery shopping trip and while 50% said they were delighted, the remainder rated their experience either just OK or bad. This could point to a missed opportunity for grocery brands that are failing to capitalize on their operational expenditures or to foster customer loyalty."

    Two other points of interest from the report:

    • "More than half (59%) said that local sourcing of meat, produce and dairy products is important or very important, and 65% are more likely to buy these products if they’re locally sourced. What’s more, one-third of respondents reported that they buy at least a quarter of their produce from farmer’s markets in their area."

    • "Although GMOs have been prominent in the news, half of those surveyed have little-to-no familiarity with this breed of food – 38% indicated they’re unfamiliar with them, compared with 13% who said they’re very familiar with them. Of those who indicated they’re very familiar with GMOs, 69% expressed a concern about their use."
    KC's View:
    This is such an individual thing. I, for example, am surprised by this … I have a Trader Joe's near me, use it with some regularity for certain specific items, but would never rank it as being one of the nation's best supermarkets. For me, it would not even make the top ten.

    But I recognize that the stores that I would consider the best are not necessarily the ones that would be ranked that way by the general population. I'm privileged to have seen more than most people, and I am a bit of a retail snob.

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    The Hill reports that a US House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee has approved language in new legislation that "would require the Agriculture Department to waive requirements to serve fruits, vegetables and low-sodium and low-fat foods for schools that can show their lunch programs are losing money.

    Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama), chairman of the subcommittee, tells The Hill, "If your schools are successfully implementing the nutrition standards and operating in the black, they would not qualify for or need a waiver. However, for schools suffering economic hardship and needing more time to implement and adjust to the new standards, this waiver gives them that flexibility schools are asking us to provide."

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded: "The House bill would undermine the effort to provide kids with more nutritious food and would be a major step backwards for the health of American children, just at the time childhood obesity rates are finally starting to level off. USDA has continued to show flexibility in implementing these new standards, and Congress should focus on partnering with USDA, states, schools, and parents to help our kids have access to more healthy food, not less."

    United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel issued a statement that read, in part:

    "Members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee who voted today to roll back school meal nutrition standards that benefit the health of millions of American children should be embarrassed.  We are disappointed in the vote to move the bill out of subcommittee, but are pleased that so many members raised strong objections to this provision, and will continue to fight any rollback that jeopardizes children’s health.

    "USDA reports that 91% of schools are already complying with these nutrition standards.  Congress should focus on helping those schools that may face challenges in implementing the standards, not creating an 'opt-out' clause just because some find it difficult.  This is unfair to those thousands of schools across the country who are doing a great job and providing healthier meals to their students."

    Aderholt said that the move was not a response to industry concerns, but rather to all the "lunch ladies I talk to."
    KC's View:
    The whole "lunch ladies" line is laugh-out-loud funny … it seems just so transparently false, unless, of course, Aderholt has found that in Alabama, lunch ladies are a part of the donor class.

    What a crock.

    I agree with Stenzel and Vilsack. Anybody who voted for this should be embarrassed, because they've voted essentially in favor of a mindset that says ketchup is a vegetable, and that does not put a premium on how children are fed in school. I recognize that it is not a perfect system and that it is hard to get kids who eat crap at home and in between meals to appreciate healthy and diverse foods at school. But y'know … we teach them history and math and literature and science (except, of course, in certain districts) that they may not appreciate, and helping them understand food and nutrition issues ought to be part of their education.

    Just another case of misplaced priorities.

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    The New York Times reports that Target Corp. has fired Tony Fisher, president of the Target Canada division, just two weeks after the forced resignation of the company's CEO, Gregg Steinhafel.

    The move was made one day before Target was to announce its Q1 financial results. It is know that Target lost $941 million in Canada alone last year.

    The Times writes that "while the enormous security breach last year that exposed customer data may have attracted far more attention, the company’s bungled expansion into Canada, its first venture outside the United States, has also probably caused the retailer — and its high-ranking executives — extensive damage."

    Target opened more than 100 stores in Canada "in a matter of months in 2013, a move some analysts questioned, and inventory problems made it difficult to keep merchandise on all those shelves," the Times writes. "Customers complained that prices were too high and some of the exclusive brands sold in America were not available to its northern neighbors."

    Fisher is being replaced by Mark Schindele, the company's senior vice president for merchandising operations.
    KC's View:
    Heads on pikes! That seems to be the attitude at Target these days … and I wonder if things will get better anytime soon.

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) is out with its 10th annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Survey, which its says make sit clear that "the $30 billion a year problem still poses serious threats to retailers of all sizes throughout the country … eight in 10 (88.2%) retailers report that they have been a victim of ORC in the past year, down slightly from 93.5 percent last year."

    According to the survey, "three-quarters (74.7%) of those surveyed say they are allocating resources. Of that group, one in five (22.7%) are adding staff resources, 34.7 percent are adding technology resources and 17.3 percent are adding budget resources. Additionally, when it comes to personnel, a number of retailers report investing more than 1 million dollars annually on staffing ORC investigation teams. When asked about their company’s overall ORC case value for the past 12 months, 13.2 percent of retailers estimate the value to be more than $5 million; the average case value for those who have lost money to organized retail crime is $2.8 million."

    As of May 2014, 24 states have enacted laws against criminals who are found to be associated with an organized retail crime gang. The survey says that "three in 10 (30.6%) of those polled said they have noticed a reduction in ORC activity in states where laws are present. Additionally, of those retailers who have a presence in states with existing ORC laws, more than half (52.1%) noticed a positive impact on their ability to prosecute ORC offenders more effectively; nine in 10 (88.5%) said they have noticed an increase in support from law enforcement agencies when actively investigating organized retail crime cases. Specifically, 51.9 percent said they’ve noticed an increase in support from local/county law enforcement, 26.9 percent said state law enforcement and 9.6 percent said federal law enforcement. In states without ORC laws and where retailers have a presence, six in 10 (63.5%) say they haven’t noticed any changes in support from law enforcement."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    The Hartman Group has published a new, worth-reading report entitled "The Future of E-Commerce in Modern Food Culture" suggesting that "online grocery today is tapping into pure convenience drivers, not the higher-order ones that are driving early adopters’ increased spending in the brick-and-mortar side of grocery. This is not necessarily bad for long-term growth, since it suggests a broader, midmarket hook relevant to many households. But it does suggest that, unlike the iPhone, the current providers aren’t really innovating much in terms of the grocery shopping experience itself."

    Online shopping, the report says, "potentially reduces the inconvenience of grocery selection by eliminating all the walking around the store we are habitually used to performing. It theoretically enables you to shop much more quickly by occasion or for targeted fill-in trips, precisely when the grocery store is a time-wasting pain in the rear. For consumers whose shopping behavior is full of dull, fill-in and pantry-stocking trips, online has interesting potential to remove the drudgery or condense its invasion of their personal time. For others who are not so tired of shopping, online grocery will most likely not seduce them until super-fast delivery becomes reliable and feasible."

    To find out more, and get free access to the entire report, click here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    The Associated Press reports that Petco, the 1,300-store pet food retailer, says that it "will stop selling dog and cat treats made in China by the end of this year due to ongoing fears that the imported treats are making pets sick." It will replace them, the company says, with products made in the US, New Zealand, Australia and South America.

    According to the story, "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t been able to identify why pets are getting ill. Since it launched an investigation late last year, the FDA said it received more than 4,800 complaints of pet illnesses and 1,000 dog deaths after eating Chinese-made chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    • The Detroit Free Press reports that federal regulators are concerned that 1.8 million pounds of ground beef possibly tainted with E. coli O157:H7 and shipped from Detroit "might have been sent to grocers and other retail outlets," and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is saying that it "will issue a public list of retailers that have, or have had, the tainted products."

    So far, the story says, "11 people in four states — Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio — have been sickened in connection with the Class 1 recall, a classification denoting a high risk, with the 'reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death,' according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service."


    USA Today reports that McDonald's will add yogurt as an option in its Happy Meals, and this summer will begin offering "a 50-calorie version of Go-Gurt Low-Fat Strawberry Yogurt as a Happy Meal side option. This Go-Gurt is made specifically for McDonald's by General Mills with 25% less sugar — about 6 grams — than conventional Yoplait Go-Gurt."

    Advertising Age reports that to mark the new entry, McDonald's has created a new character, Happy, a square-faced mascot that sort of looks like a yogurt box with big teeth that is described by the company as being a "Happy Meal ambassador" who will "encourage kids to enjoy fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and wholesome beverages such as water or juice."

    The problem is that the character is sort of odd-looking, and McDonald's is being roasted for his appearance in some corners of social media, with Tweets saying things like "Happy: It's the meal that eats you."


    • Burger King is changing its longtime slogan, "have it your way," and instead will use the slightly adjusted, "Be your way."

    While the slogan is seen as being Millennial-friendly, USA Today notes that this is just the latest in a series of slogans that Burger King has marched out, including "Aren’t you hungry?," "Your way right away," "This is a Burger King town," "Wake up with the King," "We do it like
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    Internet Retailer reports that Robert Price, the senior vice president/chief marketing officer at CVS Caremark, is moving to Edible Arrangements, where he will serve as president of the online retailer that sells fresh fruit arranged as flower bouquets.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 21, 2014

    …will return.
    KC's View: