retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding the expected Amazon announcement that it will begin selling a smartphone that will make it even easier for people to buy stuff from it, creating a path of least resistance, one MNB user wrote:

I know this is a huge extrapolation from what you were reporting and commenting on but in the back of my mind came the thought of the corporate business in Rollerball;  a business “which dealt with nominally-peer corporations in controlling access to all transport, luxury, housing, communication, and food on a global basis”.  With Amazon continuing to explore and move into other business venues as it extends its grasp (read: influence) it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that Jeff Bezos has become Mr. Bartholomew after all and that eventually all commerce of any type would be “managed” for the good of the people by a single entity.

While I'm not sure see any resemblance between Jeff Bezos and John Houseman, it is an interesting idea … and you get extra credit for the movie reference. (If people haven't seen the original Rollerball, with James Caan, they should … it is in some ways an eerily prescient movie.)

On the same subject, from another reader:

“Think different”: It certainly benefits us in the MNB community. Bezos already has a tablet device for as low as $99 vs. Apple’s $599.  He has shown a propensity to build direct consumer connections.  What better device to offer than a smartphone?  Verizon & AT&T have $250B annual revenues with 80% market duopoly with 200M US customers.  Some estimates indicate Amazon touches 100M US customers/year and $74B worldwide revenue.  I don’t expect Amazon to convert 100M people to an Amazon smartphone but I do expect the pricing pressure will change the mobile landscape.  How soon before Walmart “Straight Talk” phones get more attention?  

“Think different – Part 2”: I am particularly curious about AT&T’s new home internet service venture.  They are using their data fiber backbone with a local community wireless service to deliver wireless  25 Mbps internet into the home.  That’s equivalent to Comcast cable and way beyond phone line DSL service (2 Mbps).  AT&T with sat-TV, wireless phones, and soon fast local internet … could be a huge game changer.  Netflix becomes a big winner.

When all the hardware and networks gel into one big homogenous offering, I think Google and Facebook come out on top.  Perhaps Netflix #3 if Facebook or YouTube don’t preempt them.  Apple should buy Netflix.

This assumes that anti-trust doesn’t get in the way, of course.

And to think much of this was made possible by Michael Powell, who put in place the portability of phone numbers back in the Bush administration.

On another topic, from MNB reader Bernie Ellis:

The announcement of Chris Michael's retirement is a real loss to all independents in the Northeast. As the former President of AWI under Chris, I can attest to his passion for the independent and knowledge of the business. When he recruited me eight years ago, it was obvious that he wanted the Independents to be aware of what the Chains were doing and for the Independents to incorporate into their strategy the best of the chains with their own core strengths. He was never wanted the Membership to be playing catch-up. He embraced Card Marketing, Websites for stores, Electronic communication to consumers and more before many chains. And he executed on the vision.

 His focus was always on being competitive on price while building the business on the unique strengths of each Independent. I learned the Coop business under his tutelage and hope the knowledge and passion he has for the Independent carries on after he leaves.

Responding to our story about Ben & Jerry's eliminating GMOs from their ice cream, one reader offered:

Sure, Ben & Jerry’s did the right thing with GMO’s.  In fact, the phrase “there’s no wrong way to do the right thing” comes to mind.
That being said, the protest doesn’t surprise me.

Seems that if a non-GMO philosophy really were “in line with the brand,” as you wrote, they would have gone non-GMO earlier and not worked against the ballot initiative. 

Unilever and other mammoth multinationals need to know that when they buy the “granola-crunchy” niche brands, that they own it all, including the customers and the values.
The one wrong way to do the right thing?  Having to be reminded by your customers of what’s right and wrong.

MNB reader Steven Ritchey wrote:

I understand the non-GMO crowd wanting to boycott the GMA members, but, use your brain.  If a GMA member is bucking the trend and reformulating to not use GMO  products, support them.  I find the entire GMO debate to be pretty complex.  Some GMO  product may actually be good for us, in increasing yield, making plants be disease and drought resistant.  However, I want my foods properly labeled and I don’t like the idea of a giant seed producer forcing its seeds on anyone.

I mentioned yesterday that the fanatics who can only see one side of the GMO issue, wanting to boycott Ben & Jerry's - which is trying to do the right thing - because of its ownership by Unilever, make me a little nuts.

Which prompted one reader to write:

After watching the international news this morning I am grateful that our fanatics are merely obsessed with GMO's.

I doubt anyone here is going to execute me because I am not on their side when it comes to GMO's.

One can hope.

Finally, following up on some of last week's coverage of the Food Marketing Institute / United Fresh shows in Chicago, one MNB reader wrote:

As an exhibitor (for many years) as well as a previous retailer attendee, I’d be curious to get honest feedback from your readership community on the effectiveness of the FMI show.  To spark the conversation, I would list the following comments:

FMI is trying really hard to make this show a success….BUT:

Attendance by retailers was dismal.  The aisles were never busy because the people were not there.

The floor was littered with booth spaces that had gone unsold.

Most major CPG companies have pulled out of the show years ago because of the lack of attendees.

Most exhibitors would tell you privately that they feel like they need to be there, but that the show is a bust.  Many have moved to minimal presentations in 10x10 booths.

Understand that no one faults FMI’s desire to make this show a success, but if retailers don’t see the value in this event and thus don’t attend, what’s the purpose?  We all know that trade shows have been on the decline for many years, with the exception of the NRF Tech show in January, which seems to still be holding its audience.  I think that resurrecting the FMI show as an annual event (again) is like trying to resurrect the local newspaper by offering morning and evening delivery (for people that remember those days).  Times have changed, whether they are acknowledged or not.

The MNB floor is open. Comments, as always, are welcome.
KC's View: