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    Published on: February 13, 2015

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    by Kevin Coupe

    A thought this morning, if I may, about the connective tissue that runs through four stories that got a lot of attention this week.

    I was thinking about the death of Bob Simon, the CBS News and "60 Minutes" correspondent, who was killed in a car accident in New York City. It was ironic; Simon was the real deal, a guy who spent much of his almost five decades as a reporter in war zones, he'd been kidnapped and tortured for 40 days by Iraqi forces at one point, and he he gets killed while in the back of a cab on Manhattan's West Side Highway. And it occurred to me that the other big media story this week was about the precipitous fall from grace of Brian Williams, the NBC anchorman who apparently felt the need to puff up his resume. In retrospect, as I happened to find myself driving through New Canaan, Connecticut, where Williams lives, I wondered if it was almost like he wanted to be seen as being like Bob Simon without actually being Bob Simon.

    And it occurred to me that in life, as in business, there are show horses, and there are work horses. We all have the choice of which kind of person we want to be, or what kind of legacy we want to leave behind. The comparison of Bob Simon to Brian Williams, it seems to me, sort of brings the choice into sharp relief.

    It may be an imperfect comparison, but I also was thinking about the deaths this week of two college basketball giants - Dean Smith and Jerry Tarkanian. And I found myself wondering if Dean Smith was to Jerry Tarkanian what Bob Simon was to Brian Williams.

    This isn't to diminish Tarkanian's basketball achievements, but everything I've read about Smith this week suggests that he was a man who transcended the basketball court, that he played an enormous role not just in the lives of his student/athletes, but also in the great public policy and social justice debates of his time.

    Again, we all have a choice. In our lives and in our businesses.

    I've thought a lot about that this week. It has been an Eye-Opener.

    KC's View:

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    The Los Angeles Times reports that "the Mexican government and Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, have announced steps to improve the lives of the nation's farmworkers, two months after a Los Angeles Times investigation detailed labor abuses at Mexican agribusinesses that supply major U.S. supermarket chains and restaurants.

    "Mexico's secretary of agriculture, Enrique Martinez y Martinez, announced the creation Thursday of a 'historic' alliance of produce industry groups that will focus on enforcing wage laws and improving housing, schools and healthcare for the more than 1 million laborers at export farms. The group represents growers and distributors that handle 90% of Mexico's produce exports to the United States, which have tripled over the last decade and now exceed $7.5 billion a year."

    The story goes on to say that Walmart said "it is taking action to ensure that workers are treated with 'respect and dignity,' reminding its in-house buyers that they should buy produce only from farms that meet the company's standards for decent treatment of workers ... 'We do not want to work with suppliers unless they share this commitment'," Walmart said.
    KC's View:
    A few things occur to me here...

    One is that this is a long way from spreading around bribe money to grease the wheels of expansion, which Walmart has been accused of. While various probes into these allegations have not yet been completed, it seems to me that what Walmart is trying to do here is working to be a good citizen, and be perceived as a good citizen (which is not exactly the same thing).

    The broader issue is that retailers need to take responsibility for all these kinds of issues, even if they are not directly responsible, because the public and the media are going to hold them responsible. It is that simple. Be a good citizen. Do the right thing. If for no other reason than if you don't, you risk doing enormous and sustained damage to your brand.

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    Costco announced yesterday that it will stop accepting the American Express card in its US stores on March 31, 2016, ending a longtime exclusivity that one analyst said generated as much as eight percent of Amex's annual revenue and 10 percent of its cards.

    Amex said that it had been negotiating with Costco to continue their exclusive arrangement but had been unable to make the deal.

    Costco made a similar decision last year for its Canadian stores, and it had been broadly speculated that it would make the same move in the US. In Canada, it is replacing Amex with Capital One and MasterCard, and once again, the speculation is that a similar decision will be reached for its 470 stores in the US.

    USA Today writes that "Costco, where customers tend to buy in bulk, will be in the driver’s seat as it negotiates with its next credit card partner. Selling a wide range of goods from fresh produce and gasoline, the retailer has a loyal base of members who pay annually to be able to enter the store and shop."
    KC's View:
    This is all about power ... and it seems pretty clear that Costco has a lot more of it than Amex.

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    • Personal shopping service Instacart announced yesterday that it is expanding its footprint in Portland, Oregon, striking a deal with Natural Grocers, a 15-state retailer, which will have the company picking and delivering products from its Portland-area units.

    Natural Grocers has said that it would like to expand the service to its other markets in the future. Instacart already is working with four other retailers in Portland - Whole Foods, Costco, Uwajimaya, and Green Zebra Grocery.
    KC's View:
    Yet more evidence of how e-grocery is picking up momentum, despite some naysayers who think that in the long run, grocery is going to be less affected by the e-commerce trend than other retail segments.

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    WAAY-TV News reports that Walmart has expanded its click-and-collect e-grocery test to the Huntsville, Alabama, market, offering it out of a supercenter and two Neighborhood Markets there.
    KC's View:
    I've said it before and I'll say it again ... Walmart is going to be national with this initiative sooner rather than later. Which has the potential of being a game-changer not just for Walmart and not just for Amazon (its major competition in this area), but for everybody who is competing for share of stomach.

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    • The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports that Mark Schindele, who was sent by Target to Canada to rescue is struggling business there, is now being brought back to the US now that his efforts proved to be too little, too late, and CEO Brian Cornell has pulled the plug there.

    Schindele, the story says, "has been moved back to the retailer's Minneapolis headquarters ... His new job is senior vice president of Target Properties, where he'll lead 'a broad and diverse team responsible for: store planning and design, real estate, corporate real estate, property management, construction, strategic sourcing and procurement and Target Commercial Interiors'." At least, that's what it says on his LinkedIn page...

    Reuters reports that Kraft Foods CFO Teri List-Stoll will be leaving her role effective Feb. 28, while Chief Marketing Officer Deanie Elsner and Chuck Davis, executive vice president of research and development and quality and innovation, also are leaving the company.

    Jane Hilk, president of the enhancers and snack nuts division, has been appointed interim chief marketing officer.

    The moves are seen as part of a shakeup by new CEO John Cahill, who made the announcements as Kraft reported a net loss of $398 million, for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 27, compared with a profit of $931 million a year earlier.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    David Carr, the media columnist for the New York Times who brought a tart and critical mindset to his beat, charting with sardonic affection the connections and disconnections between new and old media, passed away yesterday. He was 58, and was said to have collapsed at his newsroom desk late last night.
    KC's View:
    If you don't read the Times with any sort of regularity, you may not know who Carr is ... but you should. Carr was a remarkable writer, and lived a remarkable life. He had survived several bouts of cancer, as well as an addiction to crack cocaine that he chronicled with clear-eyed reportorial fervor in "Night of the Gun," one of the best nonfiction books that I've ever read. Coming out of the fog of addiction, Carr wrote, he realized that “I now inhabit a life I don’t deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end soon.”

    In a commencement address at UC Berkeley last year, Carr reflected on his chosen career: “Being a journalist, I never feel bad talking to journalism students because it’s a grand, grand caper. You get to leave, go talk to strangers, ask them anything, come back, type up their stories, edit the tape. That’s not gonna retire your loans as quickly as it should, and it’s not going to turn you into a person who’s worried about what kind of car they should buy, but that’s kind of as it should be. I mean, it beats working.”

    The first thing I read every Monday morning in the New York Times was David Carr's column, "Media Equation." I'm going to miss it enormously.

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    ...will return next week.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    I finally caught up with Boyhood this week, and can recommend it to you unconditionally.

    It is a remarkable movie. In case you are somehow unfamiliar with the premise, Boyhood is the story of Mason Evans, Jr. ... it follows him from age six to age 18, and writer/director Richard Linklater accomplished this by bringing together the cast and crew to shoot for a few days every year for 12 years. It is a remarkable trick, but more than that ... there is a kind of sobering magic in watching the characters and actors (Ellar Coltrane as Mason, Lorelai Linklater as his slightly older sister, and Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as their parents) age, without vanity or reservation, growing into themselves and also dealing with the truth and consequences of their life decisions.

    One of the things one has to get used to with Boyhood is that it is a drama that in some ways is drama-free. It has none of the traditional dramas that we think of when we think of movies and TV shows. Nobody ends up hurt or dead. There are no car accidents or fatal diseases and big dramatic tragedies that alter people's ives. Rather, it is full of the small moments and decisions that alter life's trajectories, and I found it easy and natural to fall into the rhythms of the piece. And as I left the theater, and since, I've found myself wishing that Linklater and his cohorts would make another movie about Mason's next 12 years ... it is that sharply observed and constructed.

    There is a business lesson in all this, by the way. In business, one of the most important things that people do is hire the right people to run and populate their businesses. It is a cliche, but true - a business's most important assets are the people on the front lines. In a movie, casting is like hiring ... and Linklater is to be congratulated for his savvy casting choices. Nobody died, or went into rehab, or lost a limb or had a career-ending stroke, which could have ended the project mid-way. Rather, they all stayed with Boyhood, committed and engaged and totally involved with the movie's success. (The same thing goes for the Harry Potter movies - credit the casting folks who picked all those folks, especially the kids, who with one exception were able to so ably populate the films for the entire saga. The only exception was Richard Harris, as Dumbledore, who passed away but was replaced seamlessly by Michael Gambon, who was younger and spryer and actually better for the later movies.)

    Casting is like hiring, and hiring is like casting. It is a great business lesson, and it is on full display in Boyhood. See it.

    Starting today, Amazon is streaming 10 episodes of "Bosch," a series based on the great Michael Connelly novels about LA police detective Harry Bosch. I have no idea when I'm going to find time to watch them, but I loved the pilot and I'm just going to have to figure it out. (I just wish that Amazon and Netflix would allow customers to download series like "Bosch" and "House of Cards" so we could watch them on iPads while on planes ... it would be a huge advantage.

    I have one wine and three beers to recommend to you this week ...

    the 2012 Three Valleys Zin Blend, which is luscious and rich and all mouth-filling pleasure;

    Breckenridge Agave Wheat beer, which is perfect for a warm evening;

    Hunter Belgian Amber Ale, which is a little more complex but absolutely delicious;

    and Lycanthropy, one of the house brews at Cask & Larder in Winter Park, Florida (which means you can't really get it anywhere else) ... worth mentioning because it is described as a 100% Brettanomyces fermented pale ale, which I don't really understand, but it is nevertheless absolutely wonderful.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 13, 2015

    Next Monday, February 16, is a federal holiday here in the US – Presidents Day, which is sort of a combination of George Washington’s birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and a time when a lot of mattresses and cars seem to be on sale.

    Still, it is a federal holiday and a school holiday … which means that I’m going to take advantage of the calendar and take the day off.

    See you Tuesday…have a great weekend.

    KC's View: