retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding inefficiencies in the US Postal Service (USPS), got the following email from MNB reader Kerley LeBoeuf:

There are 11,500 people residing in Lancaster County, Virginia. We are served by 11 post office buildings and regulated by 8 traffic lights. While those data are a great indicator of a wonderfully casual life style, they are also a signal for an inefficient USPS. My favorite facility is Nuttsville, VA 22528, which has a handful of farms, a stop sign and not one residential street. Nuttsville indeed!

Within the context of a story the other day about a soft drink marketing executive taking a leave of absence to go work for a politician, I lamented the fact that political ideas are being sold like soda, and that politicians increasingly seem to be all hat, no cattle.

Which led one MNB user to write:

I get what you are trying to say…that citizen’s get little from politics…but…in politics there are big hats & plenty of cattle, unfortunately they all belong to those contributing $$$…Just ask Hillary how much money the Financial Industry has given her so far…don’t be surprised when she says roughly 350 million to date with more than $400 million in promises…but…not to worry…her first responsibility will be to citizens…not business…or at least until after the vote.

One of the great tragedies in US politics - and perhaps the country's eventual downfall - is the fact that we don't have total disclosure about who contributes to political campaigns, political action committees, and any organization that takes a position in any election. For me, it is very simple - the source of every donation of $100 or more ought to be identified.

I expressed a certain inner conflict about pot legalization the other day, which prompted the following email from a Boulder Colorado, reader:

One of the undiscussed stories about legalization in Colorado is the increase in the homeless population in communities that have opened recreational marijuana shops.  It has doubled in my community in the past two years.  Homeless are actively selling meth and marijuana to high school students close to the high school grounds.  There are restrictions on where a retail outlet can be located so they are not near schools, but the homeless are free to go anywhere.  I have no problem with medical marijuana’s legalization, but recreational represents the continued decline in our society.  The fact that there is new tax revenue from it is not a legitimate argument for me.

As citizens and taxpayers, we all have a responsibility to contribute to services that support all of us.  Legalizing marijuana isn’t the best way to do that.  I am also dismayed by the marketing of food products with marijuana.  The fact that a person can now buy marijuana disguised as GummiBears or cookies in all kinds of flavors that both children and dogs have had bad experiences with here in Colorado should be enough of a warning to everyone that this is not a business that is good for us.

If they ever make pot-laced Twizzlers, I'm in big trouble.

I suggested yesterday that as The Fresh Market looks for a new CEO, they ought to consider Beth Newlands Campbell, who recently left Food Lion.

One MNB user responded:

I've got to think that BILO is also pursuing Beth; she turned around the Titanic at Food Lion, and BILO needs a life preserver for sure.  The problems BILO are much deeper than the course correction that Fresh Market might need. What we all don't will know is what her non-compete, if there is one, may look like …. and whether it might require her to displace to a market territory that doesn't overlap with any of the current Delhaize operations.  She's an unbelievable talent.  She attacked price ferociously and unrelentingly at Hannaford, and that made it a much more competitive chain – well positioned for the long-haul. Then she took her talents to Food Lion, and the results of the turnaround at Food Lion speak for themselves.  She's not afraid to make the tough decisions, nor do what's best for the organization long-term.
Something seems a little suspect in that BILO stated that they have selected a new CEO, but that person won't be on board for a few months. Could that be the timeline that has to run under a non-compete, whether for her or for some other recently-departed supermarket chief?

Another MNB user wrote to suggest that Cathy Burns, who preceded Beth at Food Lion, also would be a good choice for The Fresh Market ... though Cathy currently is COO at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), and I'm not aware of any desire on her part to go back to retail.

And I have two more names to throw into the discussion - Larree Renda and Diane Dietz, both of whom are leaving Safeway as it is acquired by Albertsons, and who are highly skilled leaders who could bring innovative thinking to either The Fresh Market or Bi-Lo.

Responding to Michael Sansolo's column yesterday about how the food industry needs to respond to terrorist threats, one MNB user wrote:

Earlier today, before I read this column, a cross section of managers from our stores were in a training on how to handle workplace violence and shooters.

I was in a meeting with my team in an adjoining room and we could overhear some of the training. Very basic things to do and what to watch for - snippets of words leaking under the door until all of us stopped talking and found ourselves listening, feeling anxious. We'll go through that same training.  Every manager will.

It's a sad statement about our world that we have to use our resources teaching our staffs how to handle this instead spending that time figuring out how to offer things like better service and lower prices.

I guess I just wanted to say that some businesses are thinking about this. More that we'd like to.

On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

I don’t understand the big ruckus over free community college.  When I graduated in the early 70’s there was no tuition.  This was in California so I don’t know what it was like for the rest of the country.

Most of the people who went were still try to find out what they wanted to do with their life and some of them were just delaying growing up.

The bigger issue is that the nation needs a better educated workforce ... and this may be one way to accomplish it.

Finally, I responded to a reader from Portland, Oregon, who lamented the fact that there are no Dunkin' Donuts there by suggesting that he should go to the vastly superior - and local - Voodoo Doughnuts and Stumptown Coffee.

Which led to an email from another reader:

I think the thing you fail to understand about the success of a place like McDonalds or Dunkin' Donuts is that most people aren't as pretentious as you.  Pretentiousness turns off most people.  That's why these places do well despite your preferences.

Can I be pretentious sometimes? Probably.

I wanted to make sure I had the definition right, so I checked. Webster's defines the word as "attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed." I wish I weren't pretentious, but I have to concede that I'm not all that important and probably don't have that much talent.

But when it comes to doughnuts or coffee or hamburgers, I think better is better. I think that Stumptown coffee is better than Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and that In-n-Out and Shake Shack burgers are better than McDonald's. Good wine and beer is better than cheap wine and beer. Does that make me pretentious? I don't think so ... because preferences often are a matter of taste, not better. I also think that when it comes to issues like this, it isn't pretentious if I'm right.

Though just saying that probably makes me pretentious.

C'est la vie. (In the interest of full disclosure, that's most of the French I know.)
KC's View: