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    Published on: March 10, 2015

    by Michael Sansolo

    When examining the results of any survey it’s important to know the context of the question, the audience and the person asking the question. Consider what happened to me last week.

    In a presentation to the Food Shippers of America I was allowed to engage the 500- to 700-person audience in some quick electronic response questions. The last of the three responses gave me pause.

    I asked what percentage of food industry sales will own in five years and more than half of those responding voted for 15%. Think about that for a second: a group of industry professionals, many with decades of experience, predicted that essentially a company larger than Kroger is going to emerge in just five years.

    Let’s cut the group some slack. They had no idea what I was going to ask and were given only seconds to answer a question with no context surrounding it. Among their choices: 5% to 25%, 15% probably seemed reasonable. In essence, I set them up for the choice.

    And despite all that, we should still consider the answer. After all it is entirely possible that Amazon’s impact on food could be every bit as profound as its entry in books, movies and so many other categories. For all we know, 15% could be low.

    Plus no matter what the percent the reality is the competitive landscape is clearly about to change again. So every operator needs to consider the challenges such a competitive force would have. It challenges all of us to consider how to we sharpen operations more than ever, with a special focus on how to make the shopping experience more special than ever.

    But here’s the thing: not every statistic from the Food Shippers meeting was merely a guess-timate. In fact there was one number that the entire industry better consider with tremendous seriousness.

    According to current estimates the trucking community has 25,000 fewer drivers than are actually needed and because of demographics (the average age of drivers is mid-50s) the problem is likely to get worse in the coming decade. Considering how important drivers are to the entire supply chain, that’s a terrifying statistic.

    The people attending the Food Shippers conference understand the impact of this number, telling stories about postponing truck purchases simply because there is no one to drive the rigs. As a group they discussed some real challenges facing them including the need to better compensate drivers, better recruit women and minorities, and better use technology to improve travel times.

    But it isn’t just their problem. It’s also yours.

    Among drivers, the food industry has what could best be described as a terrible reputation. Drivers complain about poorly scheduled drop and pick up times, which result in long delays and waits. Worse yet is a contentious environment that at times results in cash fines for the drivers.

    As a result the best and most experienced drivers frequently request food industry-free routes, while some companies promise food industry-free routes as an incentive for new drivers. In other words, this critical part of the industry is under tremendous stress. Forget Amazon, this problem is here already.

    Fortunately, some of the discussions of the FSA meeting pointed up easy solutions many of which simply begin with cooperative discussions between supply chain partners to address these problems. And drivers say simply treating them better and offering benefits such as break rooms, showers and simple respect, can drastically improve the situation.

    Obviously it takes some effort and possibly some cost, but the result could be a better supply chain. On the flip side, doing nothing could create overwhelming handicaps for an industry so reliant on trucks.

    Especially if Amazon is on the way.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus's three-rings will be a little less crowded in coming years, as the company has announced its intention to stop using trained elephants in its shows by 2018.

    The Daily Beast story says that this is is a reactive decision: "Jurisdictions from Georgia to California have outlawed the use of 'bullhooks,' goads that animal rights people decry as cruel but circuses insist are humane and needed to control elephants.

    "However humane present-day circuses may or may not be, the history of elephants in America is dominated by unconscionable cruelty. The Ringling ban can be seen as a kind of retroactive victory for the hundreds of elephants that were beaten, tortured, shot, and hanged over the years."

    In fact, the Daily Beast writes, Ringling Bros. may "simply ... weary of fighting proposed bans in ever more cities, towns, and counties."

    The circus folks may be weary of fighting legal issues, but I have to say, as a guy who used to love going to the circus (even going once or twice by myself when I was young and single, just because I liked it), I'm weary of what more and more seems to be the wanton abuse of animals. I'll never go to SeaWorld or any of its ilk again after seeing Blackfish ... not because I'm entirely convinced that everything the movie says is absolutely true, but because I'm tired of animals being manipulated for my pleasure.

    The world has changed. We know more now about how these animals are treated by these profit-driven businesses. The magic is gone, and a greater level of transparency is in place, which affects how people feel and how they spend money.

    Every business should pay attention. It is about who controls the narrative, and it is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Roundy's has hired a new advertising agency to ramp up new campaigns for its Mariano's chain in the Chicago area, as well as for its Wisconsin-based supermarket chains.

    According to the story, "For Mariano's, it could represent the first big push into TV and other media since its launch five years ago ... Mariano's has 30 stores in the Chicago market, up from 13 at the end of 2013, with four more openings planned for this year ... Mariano's has relied mostly on word of mouth, social media and the buzz associated with its rapid expansion to bring in new shoppers. Executives say it's time to amplify that message through advertising, with TV and radio on the table for the first time."

    "We're looking at all our different advertising options," Don Fitzgerald, chief marketing and merchandising officer for Roundy's, tells the Tribune. "The main thing is to try to communicate the Mariano's experience across all the mediums we choose to use — social, digital, print, radio, TV, if we go there. But we want to make sure we have a consistent voice and extend that Mariano's experience into these other mediums."
    KC's View:
    Mariano's is now at the point where it has to start building a long-term plan. It no longer is the small, rogue operator taking advantage of a hole in the market. if it wants to be a player, it has to market its view and vision - its narrative - in a consistent and bold fashion. No room for reticence in this marketplace ... the ads have to reflect the Jimmy Malone philosophy to doing business in Chicago ... "If they bring a knife, you bring a gun ... if they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue ... that's the Chicago way."

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    The Chicago Tribune reports that a lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court against Abbott Laboratories and Walgreen charges that "a University of Chicago law student died after using diabetic test strips that were recalled days after her death."

    The story says that "Abbie Harper, 23, in her second year of law school, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a teenager, according to her family ... Harper used Abbott's FreeStyle-brand test strips and a blood glucose meter in conjunction with an OmniPod insulin pump made by Massachusetts-based Insulet, also a defendant, according to the suit. The suit stated that the products gave Harper falsely low glucose readouts for about two days. As a result, she didn't take enough insulin and she died Nov. 14, 2013, according to the suit. Four days later, on Nov. 18, Abbott recalled its FreeStyle test strips because they were found to provide 'erroneously low blood glucose results,' in some cases, according to the suit," which also maintains that "a Chicago Walgreens store filled Harper's prescription for FreeStyle brand test strips."
    KC's View:
    Again, a story about culpability to be taken seriously. Walgreen may have had no way of knowing, and yet it is held responsible by the consumer. The courts may not feel the same way, but that may matter less than the broader impression, which may persist for a long time.

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    The Toronto Star reports that Loblaw Cos., Canada's largest supermarket chain, "has big plans for expansion this year, as it increases its footprint in the competitive grocery market. According to the story, Loblaw says it "will build 50 new stores and renovate or improve more than 100 existing stores in 2015. The additions will be across the country ... The total amount Loblaw plans to spend in 2015 on these initiatives is expected to top $1.2 billion."
    KC's View:
    Target may be leaving, but Walmart remains ... and Loblaw has to play hardball if it is to compete.

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    • The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that "Costco's online sales grew 23 percent during the second quarter, despite the retailer remaining largely ambivalent about the online business ... Online revenue makes up about 3 percent of Costco's annual sales - about $3 billion."

    According to the story, "Costco didn't break out specific quarterly earnings for its online business.

    "The company sells about 8,000 products online, about 1,500 more than a year ago, which is far less than many online retailers.

    CEO Richard Galanti says he "doesn't see that number shooting up drastically any time soon," the Journal writes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    USA Today reports that "Burger King has dropped fountain drinks from its kids' menu boards and they are no longer merchandised as part of Burger King Kids Meals. The stealth, unannounced move late last month by Burger King – under pressures from advocacy groups – follows similar announced moves in recent months by McDonald's and Wendy's ... The move comes amid a recent whirlwind of activity among major fast-food chains to improve the quality off their food in response to growing demands by consumers and activists."
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    • Albertsons said yesterday that Susan Morris, who has been serving as president of the company's Intermountain division, has been named president of the Denver division, succeeding Paul McTavish, who is retiring.

    No successor to Morris in the Intermountain division has yet been named.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    • Sam Simon, who co-created the landmark TV show "The Simpsons" with Matt Groening and James L. Brooks, has passed way at age 59 after a long battle with colon cancer.

    Simon, an indefatigable animal rights advocate, actually left the show in 1993 after just four years with the series, but has remained listed as an executive producer, with experts saying that he helped establish the comedic tone of the show, which has become the longest-running situation comedy in TV history.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 10, 2015

    Yesterday, in the Eye-Opener, I wrote, in part:

    A story emerged out of one of the Sunday news shows yesterday that I think teaches a strong business lesson. Now, to repeat something that I wrote last week when I took shots at Hillary Clinton for not using an official State Department email address when she served as Secretary of State, therefore keeping all her emails on a personal account less vulnerable to prying eyes, let me just say for the record that I want to wade in a little carefully here, because the context is political ... but to be absolutely clear, I am not choosing political sides. But the example is too juicy to resist. Last week, when writing about Clinton, I wrote that she is just the latest example of a person who, believing that they can control the narrative, actually behaves in a way that subverts their best interests and hands control of the narrative over to others."

    ...Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who has said that he is considering a run for the presidency, said on "Meet The Press:" that there never will be a problem about looking at his email ... because he has never sent one.

    Not officially. Nor privately. Never.

    “I don't email,” Graham said. "You can have every email I have ever sent. I've never sent one.”

    Referring to his lack of email experience, Graham said, "“I don’t know what that makes me."

    Well, I do. The word Luddite comes to mind.

    And the question I would ask is whether there is a board of directors anywhere in America that would hire a CEO that never had sent an email. (This isn't a generational issue...Graham is younger than I am.)

    I remember that when I started MNB more than 13 years ago, I'd occasionally run into a CEO who did not read the site online, but rather would depend on an assistant or secretary to print it out. (One of them actually suggested to me that as much as he liked MNB, he thought it would be a lot more compelling if it were in color. I had to gently tell him that maybe he should ask his secretary to use a color printer. True story.)

    I'm glad to say that this hasn't happened for a long time. And as outrageous as I find Clinton's actions to be, I find Graham's admission also to be remarkable ... and in its own way, an Eye-Opener.

    MNB user John Ruocco responded:

    Maybe he actually talked to people. Why do you also join in to include a conservative to balance out any issues a liberal may have. Sorry you could not find a way to add in Bush.

    First of all, email is a great way to talk to people. And listening to people. And I really get tired of people who think that ignoring such basic tools of communication - even seeming to boast of their ignorance, like it is a good thing.

    But let me be clear. I was not looking for a story about a conservative to counter-weight the Clinton story. If Graham hadn't said it, I would not have written about it.

    Though I will concede that I felt more at ease writing about Graham's admission than I might have had the Clinton story not preceded it ... simply because I felt that in some way, it might inoculate me from being accused of being one-sided.

    Which, of course, it didn't. Go figure.

    Another MNB user wrote about the business lesson:

    If you don’t manage and lead your brand…your competitor will!

    Funny email story…working for a giant athletic shoe company in Beaverton (which will remain anonymous) the owner, leader & visionary of the company sent a memo around to all employees…beginning immediately (sometime around 1995) everyone was to begin using emails and not memos.

    I remember walking down VP row (VPs had offices with windows over-looking the lake & their admins. had cubicles outside their offices across the hallway) as I walked down the hallway and passed a particular VPs office, he hollered for his admin to come in and take an email…the VP was actually dictating his emails to his admin who in turn would then send out via email…

    And MNB reader Margaret M. Bigley chimed in:

    I watched MTP yesterday, and was amazed at Mr. Lindsey’s remarks.  He was proud as a peacock that he didn’t use email.  OMG  I thought back to Pres. Bush the first,  when he saw a POS scanner for the first time….  AMAZING.

    I'm with you. Not a great way to prove one is in touch.

    And by the way ... if one wants to prove that one is relevant to consumers ... or voters ... it probably does not make sense to say that one has not ever used a form of communication that the vast majority of people under 50 use on a regular basis. Would a politician be so cavalier to have said in the thirties or forties or fifties that he had never used a telephone? Because to my mind, that's exactly what he did here.
    KC's View: