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    Published on: January 5, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    One can hope that the folks at McCarran International Airport are showing the way … not just for other airports, but for every consumer-facing enterprise.

    The Associated Press reports that ahead of the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) there, the airport has installed "a couple thousand outlets and USB ports under seats and inside bars and restaurants … for those looking for a power charge in Terminal 1." According to the story, "The airport had already installed free airport-wide Wi-Fi ahead of the electronics show 10 years ago at a time when travelers had either a laptop or personal digital assistant, if that, and were at most checking e-mail or finishing up a PowerPoint presentation. Now, there are movies to stream, virtual meetings to conduct, Internet games to play and books to download."

    More than 160,000 people attended the 2014 CES.

    The story says that "the 500 under-seat power supplies with two outlets and two USB ports each and more power outlet upgrades to come are expected to cost the airport $400,000."

    Which is a lot of money.

    But it is all about being relevant to consumers, and about continuing to upgrade tech capabilities so that they match the needs and desires of consumers.

    What's interesting here is that McCarran is doing this even though it isn't like consumers could choose a different Las Vegas airport to use. And that's the Eye-Opener: The folks there recognize that if the airport and the city are going to continue being attractive to shows like CES, they have to continue to innovate. They have to compete. Every day.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    Good piece in the Wall Street Journal about improved foodservice options at supermarkets and convenience stores, which are hoping to "woo eaters from traditional restaurants and burger joints and lead them to buy other goods the stores sell as well."

    According to the story, "Sales of prepared foods and baked goods at Whole Foods Market Inc., which pioneered the sale of fresh-cooked items in its stores, more than doubled to $2.7 billion in fiscal 2014 from $1.3 billion in 2007. That puts Whole Foods on a par with restaurant companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., whose sales were $3.2 billion last year. Other grocery chains are following suit. Industry giant Kroger Co. is experimenting with putting grilling stations between its meat and seafood areas, and Mariano’s, a Chicago-area unit of Roundy’s Inc., has opened new outlets with sushi counters and oyster bars.

    "Meanwhile, Sheetz Inc., a chain of 487 convenience stores and gas stations, has rolled out barista stations that offer fruit smoothies and coffee drinks, as well as full-service kitchens that can make items like mozzarella sticks and burritos and provide in-store seating. And Wawa Inc.’s more than 650 convenience stores have counters that make items from French onion soup to custom-ordered sandwiches. The Wawa, Pa., company aims to compete with fast-casual chains like Panera Bread Co. in terms of quality, but at fast-food prices, says Mike Sherlock, vice president of fresh food and beverage."

    The story also quotes Bob Mariano, CEO of Roundy’s, as saying that "that running a restaurant is an entirely different business than running grocery stores. It is more complex and requires employees with a different skill set, he said. It’s hard, he added, to get the interior design right, with lighting, ambiance and seating that will encourage customers to stay. Still, he said, margins are better at the restaurants than at the rest of the grocery store, even when the higher labor costs are taken into account."
    KC's View:
    In many ways, this is an old story. I've been doing this a lot of years, and it is hard for me to remember a time when food stores were not trying to use foodservice offerings to compete with restaurants. Indeed, there have been consultancies that have built businesses out of helping retailers find ways to do so. (And some of them actually worked.)

    I do think, however, that in the current competitive environment, it is critical for food stores to play hardball against the restaurant industry … it is all about share of stomach, and I think increasingly consumers think about getting something to eat, not about patronizing one format or another. It is the businesses that successfully create this kind of belly appeal that have a better shot of long-term success, I think.

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    The New York Times has a story about Apple Pay, the new products that "lets customers pay for items in retail stores with a wave of their iPhone," concluding that "experts say Apple Pay’s success lies in the hands of the people behind the counter," not the customers who have it on their iPhones.

    You can read it here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    The Street reports that Target CEO Brian Cornell, who has been at the helm of the retailer since last August, "is poised to make one of the biggest decisions of his professional career: whether to pull his new employer completely out of Canada, where it currently has 133 stores … Target Canada has been dead weight to the financial statements since the company spent $1.8 billion in the fall of 2011 to acquire the chain's leases from department store retailer Hudson's Bay. The stores were formerly occupied by defunct Hudson's Bay holding company Zellers."

    The story frames the moment this way:

    "The decision on whether to completely leave Canada by unloading stores or vacating the worst-performing spots will be made after Target threw the kitchen sink at righting the ship this past holiday season. According to Target, of the 70,000 items offered for sale in one of its Canadian stores, roughly 30,000 items were new for the holiday season. Target added more exclusive items and designer partnerships to boost what it calls 'newness'.

    "To address barren shelves in the food and household cleaning departments, Target retrained its employees to better identify when things had to be re-ordered. The company also ramped up efforts to comparison shop its prices vs. competitors on a greater number of items more frequently, and instituted a price match policy that included online and local competition."
    KC's View:
    Pulling the plug on Canada would be an extraordinary repudiation of previous management's priorities … it is all going to depend on what Cornell believes will be the impact on the bottom line. And if he's going to do it, better to do it now. Just rip the bandage off.

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    The Financial Times reported that Tesco CEO Dave Lewis, trying to recover from what Queen Elizabeth II might have called annus horribilis (a term she used in different circumstances), "is poised to take an axe to the company’s cost base — putting thousands of head office jobs at risk — and set out a plan to sell off assets in an effort to revive what was once Britain’s most successful supermarket."

    At the same time, the story suggested, Lewis is likely to announce a dramatic price cut program that is designed to attract customers back into its UK stores. These announcements, FT wrote, are aimed at beginning the process of rebuilding a company severely damaged by revelations that it was understating costs and overstating revenues as a way of improving perceptions of its books; the financial misstatements remain under investigation by UK authorities.
    KC's View:
    Lewis has to make the case to shoppers that have abandoned Tesco that it is time to give the chain another look. And that means, as much as possible, training all the attention on the stores.

    Everything else is just a distraction.

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    Before MNB went on hiatus, one of the last stories we covered was the contretemps surrounding The Interview, the Sony-produced movie about a pair of shallow, incompetent television journalists who score an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and then are enlisted by the CIA to assassinate him.

    The North Korean government expressed considerable outrage about the movie, and there subsequently was a hacking of Sony's internal website, which exposed millions of documents (including inflammatory emails, budgets, and film scripts). Threats against movie theaters planning to show The Interview resulted in the major chains deciding to cancel the showings; independent cinemas stepped into the breach, and Sony decided to also make The Interview available for home-viewing.

    The bottom line, as of now: While generating just a few million in ticket sales to this point, The Interview has generated more than $15 million in online sales.

    Which is creating a lot of discussion about whether The Interview actually has opened the door for shifts in how entertainment content is consumed, giving what Marketplace on National Public Radio (NPR) calls "a healthy nudge to a trend away from movie theaters."
    KC's View:
    When I finished watching The Interview, two thoughts immediately came to mind. One was it was an hour and 52 minutes that I'll never get back. The other was that because I rented it on iTunes and watched it with my son, we only had to pay $5.99 … and if we'd gone to a theater together, it would have cost us 20 bucks or more.

    But the thing is, we never would have gone to a theater to see it. At least I never would have, until the events of recent weeks led to a kind of "if you don't see 'The Interview,' the North Koreans have won" sort of mindset. The Interview actually took on a certain amount of geopolitical significance.

    Which is ludicrous. Because The Interview is one of the dumbest, tasteless, crassest, poorly executed excuses for a movie that I can remember ever seeing. And the ultimate joke here is that someone somewhere turned it into a poster child for free speech when they could have let it just wither and die of its own creative ineptitude.

    Listen, I'm sympathetic to the idea that it is in bad taste to make a movie about the assassination of a foreign leader, especially while that leader remains alive and in power. (I felt the same way a few years ago when filmmakers made a movie about the assassination of President Bush.) That said, North Korea is sort of ripe for satire … but The Interview isn't it.

    Instead, it is a juvenile treatment of what could have been a pretty decent movie. (I know I'm dating myself here, but I kept thinking that Bob Hope and Big Crosby could have done something with the concept. Or even Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty.) But the filmmakers go for cheap jokes, sex jokes, and violent jokes at every turn … this isn't to say that there aren't any laughs. There are. It is just that I found myself shaking my head ruefully almost immediately after laughing.

    I also found myself adding James Franco's name to the list of actors who, when they are in a movie, are enough to make me avoid that film at all costs. (Adam Sandler heads the list.) Franco is awful here. Just awful. Seth Rogen is okay, because he at least exhibits some traits of a normal human being. Franco, not so much.

    There is one way in which The Interview may prove to be useful. Because so many theaters decided not to show it (and I'm sympathetic to the decision, if only because these CEOs have fiduciary responsibilities), the movie has been shown online at the same time as it was shown in some independent theaters around the country. This usually does not happen for studio releases until a certain amount of time has gone by, but they didn't have much choice here if they were going to give the North Koreans the proverbial finger after all the finger pointing and threats. The thing is, there are a lot of movies that would do better if they were shown in theaters and were made available for home viewing at the same time. The economics have to be worked out, but this is the future of how entertainment will be consumed … the how, when, where and why will be determined by the consumer, not by contractual obligations that are beginning to seem antiquated.

    That's a good thing. However, if the future of movies is symbolized by the creative bankruptcy of The Interview, it won't matter. I'd rather stay home and watch "Downton Abbey," "Breaking Bad," "Homeland," "Newsroom," and all the other great TV that is available these days.

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    GeekWire reports that the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post "is coming up with a creative new way to make money," licensing "its own back-end content management platform to smaller media entities."

    According to the story, "Licensing technology is certainly a novel new way to create revenue for a newspapers that have seen their bottom line suffer over the past decade with the advent of online media." However, the story also notes that it isn't exactly surprising coming from a Bezos-led enterprise, since creating these kinds of deals has been one of the ways in which Amazon has been successful.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    Why "The Steve McCroskey Report?", you may ask.

    Well, it's because of a movie. Naturally.

    While I pretty much went off the grid for the past two weeks, there were stories happening upon which I normally would have commented.

    And when I came back, I could not help but think of the movie "Airplane," in which at various times the great Lloyd Bridges, playing an air traffic controller named Steve McCroskey, dealing with one crisis after another, says, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up drinking … to give up smoking … to quit sniffing glue …to quit amphetamines."

    Which would be exactly how I would have felt, if I hadn't been enjoying the break so much.

    So in honor of Steve McCroskey, here is a quick rundown of some of the stories that caught my eye as I was returning to action … with occasional and sometimes even gratuitous commentary in italics.

    Haggen Plants Magic Private Equity Beans, Grows From 18 To 164 Stores.

    Haggen, the Bellingham, Washington-based retailer that in recent years has closed stores and flirted with bankruptcy, said that it will use funding from the Comvest Partners private investment firm to acquire "146 stores as part of the divestment process brought about by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) review of the Albertson’s LLC and Safeway merger. With this acquisition, which remains subject to FTC approval, Haggen will expand from 18 stores with 16 pharmacies to 164 stores with 106 pharmacies; from 2,000 employees to more than 10,000 employees; and from a Pacific Northwest company with locations in Oregon and Washington to a major regional grocery chain with locations in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona."

    According to the announcement, "The company will be led by CEOs John Clougher and Bill Shaner. Clougher, CEO, Pacific Northwest, will have primary responsibility for the northern division of Washington and Oregon. Shaner, CEO, Pacific Southwest, will have primary responsibility for the southern division of California, Nevada and Arizona."

    Before joining Haggen in August 2014, Clougher was the CEO of Andronico's Community Markets and Northwest regional president for Whole Foods Markets. Shaner is a highly respected 27-year Supervalu veteran who ran its Save-A-Lot division from 2006 to 2011.

    "With this pivotal acquisition, we will have the opportunity to introduce many more customers to the Haggen experience. Our Pacific Northwest grocery store chain has been committed to local sourcing, investing in the communities we serve, and providing genuine service and homemade quality since it was founded in 1933,” said John Caple, chairman of Haggen's board of directors and partner at Comvest. “We will continue our focus on sourcing and investing locally even with this exciting expansion.”

    in its coverage of the story, Fortune wrote that "the new chain might represent the future of the grocery business … Haggen will transform the stores it is buying into the very kind that are posing major competitive challenges to the likes of Albertson’s, Safeway, and Kroger. As consumers continue to eschew mid-market grocers in favor of stores with more of a natural (Whole Foods) or specialty (Trader Joe’s) image, the big, traditional supermarkets have been slow to respond.

    "Haggen, which had been family-owned since the 1930s, sold itself in 2011 to the private-equity outfit Comvest Group, a Florida-based buyout shop. That firm immediately embarked on a rebranding campaign, renaming the stores Haggen Northwest Fresh, remodeling stores and giving them more of a local focus, and adding fresh and prepared products, many of them locally sourced."

    The Los Angeles Times wrote that "landing in the highly competitive Southland grocery market will be a challenge for Haggen, especially as traditional grocers are squeezed by local favorites like Trader Joe's and deeper competition from the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., which have both expanded their grocery offerings, analysts said … Haggen will face the challenge of introducing its unknown brand in places such as Los Angeles, where shoppers have different preferences and a multitude of supermarkets to choose from. Competition is fiercer than ever before, with newer rivals such as dollar stores increasing their produce aisles and online retailers such as testing grocery delivery."

    The Times went on, "Shaner said Haggen has distinguished itself with a heavy emphasis on fresh produce and quality meats and seafood. That focus will be reflected in the new stores once they are re-branded as Haggen starting in 2015, he said." The paper noted that "aside from Haggen, other buyers include Associated Wholesale Grocers/Minyards, which is picking up 12 locations in Texas, and Associated Food Stores, which is buying eight stores in Montana and Wyoming." The sale of all these stores should clear the way for regulator approval of the Albertsons-Safeway deal.

    And, in a related story, the Idaho Statesman reported that Albertsons expects to close on its $9 billion acquisition of Safeway in January.

    It is so often reported that small companies like Haggen are an endangered species - usually because they are actually endangered - that it is nice to see a company like this one do something that I think can fairly be described as unexpected, daring and a little bit outrageous.

    The thing about Haggen is that it is not that long ago that the company was in serious trouble - closing stores, dealing with a precarious financial situation, trying to redefine itself to a marketplace that seemed to have decided that in some ways it was irrelevant. Over the past few years, the company seemed to have established a certain amount of stability … previous management got the numbers right, and current management was doing a good job with the Northwest Fresh format.

    But … I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of skepticism about whether this deal creates a sustainable and viable retailing entity. It strikes me that there us not a lot of room for error; pretty much everything has to go right for Haggen - financially, competitively, culturally, and from a branding perspective- for this deal to work. They have to do it while being funded by a private equity group, and sometimes deals like these create a need to raise margins just a bit, and that can be the worst decision a chain can make. And somehow, the whole enterprise seems potentially unwieldy to me.

    From day one, Haggen is going to have to make its case to a lot of shoppers about why these new stores should be their best, first option for food shopping. And it is going to have to do so in a cauldron of tough, hardball competition.

    I hope it works. I've always sort of liked the Haggen stores, and the people who have run them, from the front office to the folks in the stores. But I think they have an enormous challenge in front of them, and I can't shake my skepticism. Everything has to go right … and that almost never happens.

    Kroger Expands Click-and-Collect Test In Cincinnati

    The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that "Kroger is expanding its testing of an e-commerce service in Greater Cincinnati.

    "It allows a shopper to buy groceries online then collect their bags at a pickup window without entering the store. Available only at a Liberty Township store, Kroger has invited dozens of customers to try the service.

    "So far, Kroger has only allowed store employees at the 7300 Yankee Road Marketplace to use the service in early testing that began in September. The service allows shoppers to buy thousands of items … The test program is modeled after a "click and collect" service used by 150 Harris Teeter stores, which Kroger acquired for $2.5 billion in January."

    MNB exclusively reported on the original piloting of an e-commerce model by Kroger back in September, and you can read that story here.

    We also had a story a few weeks later about how Kroger is prepared to go to the mattresses with other e-grocery purveyors, and you can read that story here.

    Report: E-Grocery Likely To See Big Growth In Next Few Years.

    Business Insider came out with a new report about online grocery shopping, noting that while it is "the category that has been the least disrupted by e-commerce" with "less than 1% of food and beverage sales currently occur online," it also is a category expected to see a lot of growth in coming years. The Business Intelligence report says that "between 2013 and 2018, online grocery sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.1%, reaching nearly $18 billion by the end of the forecast period. For comparison, offline grocery sales will rise by 3.1% annually during the same period."

    Among the advantages that could help drive this growth, the report says, are convenience and selection: "Only 15% of U.S. adults have purchased general food items online, but 25% said they have bought specialty food and beverages online, which are hard to find elsewhere." New startups and existing e-grocery businesses, the report suggests, will "focus on concierge shopping and subscription prepared meals … that really are differentiated from traditional grocery shopping," And, big tech names investing in online grocery shopping and same-day delivery - like Amazon and Google - also could drive traditional grocers to make greater investments in online capabilities.

    I totally believe this. I think that all the momentum is on the side of e-grocery … it has to do with technology, cultural trends, demographics and competition. It isn't like bricks-and-mortar stores are going to die. But offering an online experience is going to be as critical to being a modern retailer as having scanners.

    Amazon: Primed And Slimed.

    Amazon said that during the just-passed holiday season, its Prime membership grew by more than 10 million new people who were able to get access to what it likes to refer to as "unlimited free two-day shipping," pus get access to free video streaming and access to a Kindle lending library for 3-books.

    In addition, Amazon said that close to 60 percent of its customers "shopped using a mobile device this holiday.  Mobile shopping accelerated as customers got later into the shopping season."

    However, Amazon also came under attack for the ebook lending program, dubbed Kindle Unlimited, described in the New York Times as "a new Amazon subscription service that offers access to 700,000 books — both self-published and traditionally published — for $9.99 a month."

    The Times had a story last week about how the service results in authors making less money than they would if the books only were sold.

    The story noted that "the program has the same all-you-can-eat business model as Spotify in music, Netflix in video and the book start-ups Oyster and Scribd. Consumers feast on these services, which can offer new artists a wider audience than they ever could have found before the digital era." But once artists start developing an audience, their feelings can change: "Taylor Swift pulled her music off Spotify this fall, saying it was devaluing her art and costing her money. 'Valuable things should be paid for,' she explained."

    Study Casts Doubt On Click-And-Collect Efficacy

    Reuters had a story about a study conducted by retail-intelligence firm StellaService suggesting that click-and-collect options for online shoppers "often saves little, if any, time over in-store shopping … in-store pickup saved shoppers just 96 seconds on average compared with searching for items on their own. In a few cases, in-store pickup took longer."

    According to the story, "Shoppers spent an average of 5 minutes and 24 seconds in a store when trying to pick up their online orders. Those who did not use the in-store pickup feature spent an average of 7 minutes in the store, according to the study." The conclusion is that, at least based on the tests conducted, the amount of time saved is virtually insignificant.

    I think the mistake of this study is that they equate speed with convenience. They're not always the same thing. In the same way that "value" does not always been the same thing as "low prices." Sometimes, convenience has more to do with a seamless integration of the shopping experience into our online lives … it allows for focus and a lack of distractions.

    New Congress To Push Back Against Federal Nutrition Regulations.

    Politico had a story about how the new Republican-controlled US Congress plans to push back against Obama administration regulations "requiring school children to be served fruit to eliminating trans fats in doughnuts … As the opening bell sounds for the 114th Congress, don’t be surprised to see GOP lawmakers take on school nutrition. The $1.1 trillion omnibus this month included provisions to allow states more flexibility to exempt schools from the Department of Agriculture’s whole-grain standards if they can show hardship and to halt future sodium restrictions.

    "But that was only the opening salvo in the long-running fight over new reforms championed by first lady Michelle Obama … Battle lines will … be drawn on new nutrition standards on all food sold in schools, including vending machines and a la carte lines — standards that in some cases have led to lost revenue for schools — and debate will continue on whole grain and sodium requirements."

    To get a sense of the GOP game plan click here.

    Worth Reading: The Power of Authenticity.

    There was a terrific piece in the New York Times about the power of authenticity, suggesting that "consumers see three dimensions to brand authenticity: heritage, sincerity and commitment to quality."

    You can read the entire story here.

    I would point out that in addition to these three dimensions critical to both real and perceived authenticity is something else incredibly important - the ability to tell the story.

    “It’s storytelling,” one retailer tells the Times. “It’s people getting to feel that connection and wanting to be part of it.”

    Exactly. And a key factor that Michael Sansolo and I try to point to at every juncture, because the ability to tell a story is the thing that often differentiates great retailers from also-rans.

    Walgreen Gets The Boot, And It's A Good Thing.

    The Wall Street Journal reported that "its shareholders approved the company’s planned acquisition of the rest of European drugstore chain Alliance Boots GmbH and the subsequent reorganization into a holding company structure.

    "The move expands Walgreen, the largest American drugstore chain by number of stores, from a U.S. operation with 8,200 locations to a one with business in more than 10 countries and over 11,000 total locations. Alliance Boots runs the U.K. drugstore chain Boots and has a vast drug-distribution business in Europe."

    Publix Expands Health Insurance Coverage To Cover Same-Sex Married Couples

    Publix announced that it "plans to offer its gay and lesbian employees who are legally married health insurance coverage for their spouses beginning Jan. 1."

    "We are offering this benefit to associates who are married in any state where same-sex marriages are legal, regardless of the associates' state of residence," spokesman Brian West wrote in an email, as reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. "We hope this change makes spouse coverage decisions simpler for our associates."

    I think that not offering these kinds of benefits is going to be a competitive disadvantage for companies looking to attract good people. And that's part of the calculation that Publix has made.

    Hacking, Though On A Small Scale.

    Time reported that hackers claimed "that they leaked data associated with 13,000 accounts on Amazon, XBox Live and other sites. The hackers, who claim an affiliation with the group Anonymous, reportedly uploaded a now-removed document with credit card numbers, passwords and other data to the site GhostBin."

    According to the story, "Amazon and Microsoft, the maker of XBox Live, both denied that at a hack occurred on their end … Regardless, even if the 13,000 figure pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of people who use these sites, the news should underscore how important it is to change your passwords frequently."

    Instacart Raises $210 Million From Investors

    Bloomberg reported that personal shopping service Instacart has "raised $210 million from investors, as it vies with Inc. and others to win consumers too busy to shop in person.

    "Instacart has an option to raise as much as $220 million, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission … Google Inc., Amazon and some supermarket chains are getting into the grocery delivery business, creating increased competition for Instacart especially in urban areas. Amazon this month debuted its own one-hour delivery option for household goods like shampoo, starting in Manhattan. Instacart, which uses personal shoppers, partners directly with grocers such as Whole Foods Market, a strategy it plans to expand with the funding round."

    Walmart Gets Into Gift Card Trade-In Business

    Fortune reports that Walmart followed the 2014 end-of-year holiday season by "offering to exchange gift cards from over 200 merchants, and says it can give back up to 97% of the face value when exchanging for a Wal-Mart card. Customers can retrieve estimates here … The offer could potentially have broad appeal: 62% of shoppers earlier this year said they would like to receive a gift card, according to the National Retail Federation. The average person buying gift cards will spend $172.74 this year, the NRF said, with total spending expecting to reach $31.74 billion … And while a majority of Americans want to get a gift card, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be happy with that they receive, leading to a lot of waste. Americans have reported left $44 billion in gift cards go unused since 2008, according to a study published at the beginning of this year."
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    • The Buffalo News reports that Tops Friendly Markets has decided to offer yet another "price lock guarantee" - which has been a centerpiece of its promotional campaign since early last fall - through March 7.

    The story notes that "the list includes more than 300 items across several product categories, which will be sold at locked-in, discounted prices … That business strategy holds prices down across the board rather than using a 'high-low' strategy that marks some items up while offering sales and temporary deep discounts on others."

    CBS News reports that area customers "have less than two weeks left to shop at Bottom Dollar Food stores. The company says all 46 stores in the Philadelphia area will close January 15th.

    Bottom Dollar announced in November that the stores would be closing in early 2015 because its parent company is retiring the brand. Now, it has settled on a date less than two weeks away.

    "Rival grocery chain Aldi has bought all the Bottom Dollar stores but has not committed to re-opening them or to rehiring any of the 2,200 employees who will be laid off. Aldi said Friday that those employees will receive severance pay, and some will get job counseling."

    • Fast feeder Chick-fil-A said last Friday that it has gotten reports if what is called "unusual activity involving payment cards" used at some of its locations, leading to speculation that it may be the victim of a possible data breach. Company management said that it is working with tech firms and law enforcement officials to determine what happened and who was affected; “We take our obligation to protect our customer information seriously,” the company said in a statement.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    Stuart Scott, one of the best-known "SportsCenter" anchors on ESPN, and a man who helped to define the position with catch phrases like "Boo-Yah!" and "As cool as the other side of the pillow," passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 49.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    There are two things that I think of as being central to MNB - one is that what happens in the stores is ultimately what determines success or failure (as opposed to what happens at headquarters), and another is that the MNB community often offers the most interesting and provocative observations.

    Here's an email that is an example of both at work:

    I live in what might be described as an upper middle class Columbus, Ohio neighborhood but the nearest supermarket is a Kroger store in what might be characterized as an economically challenged neighborhood.  This Kroger store is subpar but has the advantage of being close by. 

    At a recent shopping trip I gave the cashier my Kroger shopper card on my key chain right away.  She told me she would wait to scan it until I had all my purchases on the belt.  The reason was that the cashiers are evaluated on how fast they move customers through and the time begins when that shopper card is scanned. Lower scoring cashiers get assigned fewer hours.  I told her I thought that was really unfair as a lot of factors beyond the control of the cashier affect the checkout time.  I often thank cashiers for their service in what I know is not the easiest of jobs, particularly those who show some enthusiasm and have a good attitude.   It upsets me that the Kroger Company uses this unrealistic metric to evaluate their performance.

    I wonder how many companies have evaluation standards that make sense on paper but might be less sensible in practice.

    I'm betting there are a lot.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    It was Wild Card weekend in the National Football League…

    Baltimore 30
    Pittsburgh 17

    Cincinnati 10
    Indianapolis 26

    Arizona 16
    Carolina 27

    Detroit 20
    Dallas 24
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 5, 2015

    "Your presentation was well-received, very thought-provoking and was a great lead-in to the overall theme of our show."  - Tim Myers, CMO, Affiliated Foods Midwest

    "Your presentation was unbelievable – everything we hoped for and much, much more!  Thanks for making our customers (and us) better!"
    - Joe Himmelheber, Director of Marketing and Merchandising, Caito Foods

    "Both of your presentations kept the audience engaged ... This was a difficult subject, but you made it easy to understand - and learn from. Everyone who has not yet seen one of your presentations, should know how informative and to the point your program is and how it will definitely enhance their event. "
    - John M. Dumais, president/CEO, New Hampshire Grocers Association

    "Kevin is an engaging speaker who really brought the content to life.  He customized his program to meet our needs to ensure our event was a success!"
    - Kim Richardson-Roach, Network of Executive Women (NEW), New England Region

    With a uniquely fast-paced, provocative and entertaining approach, Kevin Coupe identifies the ways in which consumers are changing, the reasons behind these changes (technology, the economy, culture, demographics), how new and unorthodox competitors are altering the marketing landscape, and what companies need to do to find and exploit differential advantages.

    Want to make your next event unique, engaging, illuminating and entertaining?

    Start here: Or call Kevin at 203-662-0100.

    KC's View: