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    Published on: August 11, 2014

    by Kevin Coupe

    Business Insider has a story about a new report from an organization called Flurry, which concludes that "women are dominating the mobile game space in terms of both time and money spent. Flurry found they make 31% more in-app purchases than men and spend 35% more time in gaming apps. Women were also more loyal to apps than men, with 42% higher retention rates."

    According to the story, "Flurry also looked at engagement based on the different types of games men and women were playing. The categories that skewed female were endless/runner, brain/quiz, social turn-based, bingo, match3/bubble shooter, casino/poker, slots, solitaire, and management/simulation. The categories that skewed male were action — RPG, shooter, sports, tower defense, strategy, and card/battle."

    To get the results, Flurry reportedly analyzed "1.1 million devices around the world."

    Not sure how they did that, exactly. But the numbers - if they are correct - certainly qualify as an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 11, 2014

    The New York Times reports that Amazon, which has been engaged in a pricing battle with publishing company Hachette for months, now is engaged in a similar tussle with Disney, blocking pre-orders of physical copies of both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Muppets Most Wanted, which are scheduled to come out in the next few months.

    Customers are being told that they can sign up to be notified when the movies become available, or can pre-order digital copies of the films.

    The Times writes that "preorders are a way for an entertainment company to gauge demand. Consumers have increasingly been trained to want something the moment it becomes available, so if they do not have the ability to order ahead, the companies worry, the customer will not buy a product when it hits the market.

    "Eliminating the preorder button is thus a potent weapon for Amazon. It declined to take orders for Warner Home Video for several weeks at the beginning of the summer. And it has been engaged in a pitched battle with Hachette for months, causing some of the publisher’s authors to see their sales on the site drop by half."
    KC's View:
    While neither Amazon nor Disney have commented on the dispute, it seems fair to presume that the argument is over money - Amazon wants lower costs so it can charge less, and Disney wants to preserve existing margins. And so Amazon is playing hardball, probably because it is under pressure to show stronger profits rather than continuing losses … though, to be fair, the losses exist because Amazon keeps investing in new products and services that it believes it needs to keep a sustainable lead in the e-commerce space. And, Amazon points out, it isn't doing anything that other big retailers don't do. All of which I am willing to concede.

    But … I wonder if Amazon is making a miscalculation by maintaining that its major advantage is price. I think having low prices is important, of course, but I also think there is an element of convenience and breadth of product selection that have been more important to Amazon's growth than always having the lowest price. I just wonder if Amazon is misguided about why it has so quickly gained such a dominant role in the retail landscape.

    Now, I recognize that Jeff Bezos is a genius gazillionaire, and I'm just the Content Guy. He's probably got a ton of algorithms that prove that low price is the be-all and end-all.

    But my gut tells me something different.

    Published on: August 11, 2014

    There were some new developments over the weekend in the Market Basket controversy…

    • Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, after a period of keeping his distance from the dispute, has now offered to step in as a mediator between the two sides of the Demoulas clan.

    “By any measure, the disruption caused by your recent change in CEO has gotten out of hand, and I am writing to urge you to find a prompt resolution,” Patrick in a letter to the company's board of directors. “Your failure to resolve this matter is not only hurting the company’s brand and business, but also many innocent and relatively powerless workers whose livelihoods depend on you."

    Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire had previously weighed in on the disagreement, expressing support for the employees who have been demonstrating on behalf of Arthur T. Demoulas, the deposed CEO who now is trying to buy the 50.5 percent of the company that he does not own from the side of the family represented by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

    • The Boston Globe reports that the part-time employees who have seen their hours cut down to almost nothing because of all the internal strife - management insists they have not been laid off, and will be given their hours back when business gets back to normal - are facing more than just a loss of regular wages.

    Also at risk, the story says, is their profit sharing, which some reports say can be as much as 15 percent of their annual income. If the employee protests and customer boycotts against Market Basket stores continue, it likely would put any profits the company might make in 2014 in jeopardy. One four-decade employee of the company said this would be a highly unfamiliar scenario, since, in his experience, that has never happened before.

    The irony, the Globe reports, is that one of the reasons the employees have supported Arthur T. Demoulas is that he is seen as being far more protective of the existing profit sharing program than the other side of the family; he championed a large contribution by the company to the profit sharing plan during the financial crisis several years ago as a way of protecting the employees.

    One of the core disagreements between the two sides of the Demoulas family has been over finances, with the Arthur S. Demoulas family saying that Arthur T. Demoulas has not spent wisely, and the Arthur T. Demoulas faction saying that the other side is more interested in taking money out of the business than investing in it.

    • In a related story, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance has said that the part-time workers who have lost virtually all their hours can apply to receive unemployment benefits, despite the claim by management that they have not been laid off and remain company employees.

    • A spokesman representing former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas released a statement over the weekend in which he addressed the current situation, suggesting that the board has been haggling over unreasonable counterproposals and calling for negotiations over the sale of the company to be quickly concluded. The statement reads:

    It was Arthur T. Demoulas’ hope and intent that this matter not be negotiated in the press. He does not believe that a war of press releases and statements is helpful to this very serious situation. However, he cannot allow false information to have a negative impact on Market Basket Associates and other stakeholders and therefore I will clarify the following on his behalf.

    1. Discussions continued today with representatives of the Board and their advisors.

    2. Arthur T. Demoulas reaffirms his desire and good faith for completing the purchase of the 50.5% of DSM. Those terms include an offer at their asking price, at a valuation determined pre-crisis.

    3. Thus far, his offers have been rejected, not on the basis of price, but with counterproposals that have been laden with onerous terms that are far beyond comparable transactions.

    4. It is Arthur T. Demoulas’ hope that the Arthur S. Demoulas family will come to the table to reach a final agreement on reasonable terms before it is too late to save this company.

    5. He further hopes that the next time either side is communicating in the press, it is to announce that his bid has been accepted and that he and his whole team are going in to stabilize the company.

    Insiders allied with Arthur S. Demoulas and the board have suggested that Arthur T. Demoulas has been negotiating in bad faith, and that he could return to the company in a non-CEO role as a way of stabilizing things while negotiations proceed. Arthur T. Demoulas has dismissed this as a "negotiating ploy," saying that the board is holding the company "hostage."

    • Here's a fascinating statistic. Last week, there were two crowdsourcing finds created online, one to support the victims of a tornado that hit Revere, Massachusetts, last week, and the other to support Market Basket employees.

    Both were started Thursday. As of this weekend, the Market Basket fund had pulled in twice as much as the tornado fund.
    KC's View:
    Sure, the board would like Arthur T. Demoulas to come back in a non-CEO role and stabilize things … because if they could get things back to some semblance of "normal," the employees likely would never get any sort of momentum back.

    I think that Arthur S. Demoulas, the co-CEOs, and the board of directors are under the mistaken impression that they are controlling the narrative. They're not, and should just wrap up the sale now and go away to count their money. I'm not sure they will, because there's a lot of ego involved here.

    Published on: August 11, 2014

    I did a "FreshTalk" video a couple of weeks ago about the Portland State University Farmers Market, and so it was interesting to see the column in the New York Times the other day by Mark Bittman, entitled "Farmers Market Values."

    "For most of us," Bittman writes, "there’s no better place to buy fruits and vegetables than at a farmers’ market. Period. The talk about high prices isn’t entirely unjustified, but it can be countered, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

    "What’s inarguable is that farmers’ markets offer food of superior quality, help support smaller-scale farmers in an environment that’s more and more difficult for anyone not doing industrial-scale agriculture, and increase the amount of local food available to shoppers. All of this despite still-inadequate recognition and lack of government support."

    I can think of a few retailers I know who would be happy to argue with the "superior quality" statement, but I still think the column is worth reading here, if only because it lays out what makes a great farmers market so compelling.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 11, 2014

    The New York Times reports that Amazon, looking to counter the letter signed by some 900 authors urging it to come to an agreement with publisher Hachette and get back to the business of selling books rather than blocking them from sale on its site, has created a new site called "Readers United" that urges customers to write Hachette's CEO and urge him to capitulate.

    On the site, the Times writes, Amazon makes the argument that "e-books need to be cheaper and Hachette is robbing readers by preventing this from happening. It also provided a list of recommended journalism on the topic — a very selective list.

    "For readers who are not quite sure exactly what to write to Hachette, Amazon included a list of talking points. The first one is, 'We have noted your illegal collusion,' always an ice-breaker in these sorts of chats.

    "The retailer argues that people against e-books are against the future, and talks about how the book industry hated cheap paperbacks when they were introduced in the 1930s, and said they would ruin the business when they really rejuvenated it. Unfortunately, to clinch its argument it cites the wrong authority…"

    Amazon quotes George Orwell, author of "1984," as once saying, when paperbacks came out, that if ‘publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.’ In other words, collusion is not new, but it is a loser for consumers.

    However, the Times also writes that when you look at Orwell's entire statement, it seems very clear that Amazon is taking his statement out of context - that he was actually a big fan of paperbacks, though he acknowledged that they might not be good for the publishers because it reduced the cost of books.

    What he wrote was this: “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.”

    Which is a little different.

    However, Orwell also argued that by making books too cheap, the possibility existed that instead of buying one hardcover book, people would spend less to buy two paperbacks, and then use the money saved on some other activity … which, when you think about it, is exactly what the publishers are worried about.

    You can check out the Readers United site here.
    KC's View:
    I expect intellectual honesty from Amazon. Not hucksterism. If this continues, I think they're going down a dangerous road.

    Published on: August 11, 2014

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    • The management of Fairway Markets last week said that it will cut back on its store opening program over the next couple of years, with just one new store planned for 2016 and one in 2017, though it possible that another store could be opened if opportunities present themselves.

    The retailer has seen growing pains since a controlling interest in the company was acquired from the founding Glickberg family by Sterling Investment Partners, a private equity group. It was little more than a year ago that Fairway was projecting an eventual fleet of more than 300 stores around the country, but expectations seem to have been tempered a bit.

    Here's my feeling. I think Fairway clearly has lost its mojo since the Glickbergs pretty much cashed out and handed control to a private equity group. And, we all know that private equity groups generally like to sell stuff as much as they like to buy stuff. So, let's get it over with … and figure out how to sell Fairway to Wegmans, which could rebrand the stores and instantly turn them into a marketing force to be reckoned with, not to mention enliven the NY metro area retail competition considerably.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 11, 2014

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 11, 2014

    Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship yesterday, closing with a 3-under 68 and becoming, according to the Associated Press, "only the fourth player in the last century of golf to win four majors at 25 or younger. The others were Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones, three of the game's greatest players."

    The win is McIlroy's second straight major win.
    KC's View: