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    Published on: March 12, 2015

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.


    Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you this week from Southern California. Many of you will not be surprised by that, since MNB has been coming out early all this week - the Pacific time zone really works for me. I'm standing right now midway between Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach ... a stretch of the California coastline that I've always loved, since I went to college just a few miles from here, at Loyola Marymount University.

    When I was in college, it was fun to come down here, park the car and go for a long walk on the Strand - there used to be a great place where we could get these enormous $2 burritos, $1 beers, and then walk up the street to go to a move for $1.50. Those days are gone forever, I'm afraid; standing here on the beach, one can hear the waves breaking onto the sand from one direction, and from the other, the sound of hammers and drills as yet another mansion goes up, replacing the beach houses that used to run along the Strand. Life goes on.

    I'm in Southern California for three good reasons. First, there's no snow. We still have about 18-20 inches of snow back home, and even though there's a thaw going on, it could take weeks to get rid of ... and me, I prefer sand and sun. The good news is that I have a business reason to be here - a speech that I had the opportunity to give this week.

    The third reason is kind of cool. My 20-year-old daughter is a criminal justice major and a junior at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut - she's a dean's list student, and she's beginning to toy with the idea of law school. So since I had to be here, and she was on break this week, I invited her to come with me, and we made a trip to see Loyola Law, just so she could get a taste of the experience.

    I have to tel you, we were both blown away - by the people we met, by the way in which the legal education is designed to meet the needs of the students and the needs of the community, and also by the Frank Gehry-designed campus, which is this wonderful oasis in downtown LA. When we were done, I was ready to apply to law school...

    Last night, my daughter and I were having dinner at a place in Manhattan Beach that we both like, called Simmzy's. It is just this small place just up from the pier - lots of regulars, always crowded, with interesting and really good food and a great beer and wine list. And she asked me, "Dad, if you were here by yourself, what would you be doing right now?"

    "I'd probably be here," I said. "I'd be sitting at the bar, but I'd probably be here."

    She thought that was really sad ... that I'd be sitting at the bar by myself, 3,000 miles away from home.

    But the truth is - and I told her this - that I have no problem doing that. As they say in The Godfather, Part Two, this is the life I have chosen. The other truth is that I'm never completely alone ... there always are people to talk to...bartenders, waiters and waitresses, other patrons ... and the experience is always richer for it. I get to hear their stories, wherever I happen to be, and that keeps me from being alone.

    Now, I'm lucky. I get to make my own hours and my own decisions, so I don't have to do what some people do - get off the plane, go to a meeting, go to the hotel, order room service, go to bed, and then do it all over again the next day. I've been doing this for almost 30 years, and I think I've ordered room service a total of three times ... there's always a reason to go out, and someplace to go.

    My daughter wasn't really convinced, so I tried again: "Y'know what's really sad? The people I see at places like this who are sitting there with someone else - maybe a first date, or maybe someone they've been married to for 40 years - and they don't talk. I've never really believed i that old line about 'a relationship so great that you don't have to talk'. To me a great relationship - and I have this with your mom - is that I can't wait to talk to her. There's always something to talk about, and that's my idea of a great relationship."

    I thought about it afterwards, and I think there's even a business lesson in here somewhere. (Go figure.) Part of being successful in business, I think, is being open to the new experience - the new conversation, the new story, the new person who can teach you something you didn't know before. When I walk out the hotel room door, my goal isn't just to eat and drink something that maybe I haven't had before (and sometimes to visit a place that may be 3,000 miles from home but where I feel like a regular, because that also has its charms). It also is to go learn stuff.

    Like I said, I'm lucky. Learning stuff is how I make a living. Stop doing that, and I'd die. Or, might as well die, because I wouldn't really be living.

    There's that great line from The Shawshank Redemption: "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

    I think it applies to life and business.

    That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    by Kevin Coupe

    It certainly has been a couple of weeks in which email has been top of mind.

    First it was revealed that when she was Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used a private email system, not the official State Department system ... which she explained this week as being a matter of "convenience," not an obsessive desire for secrecy. (She's about to be inconvenienced in a big way and give up a lot of her secrets. So much for obsession.) The business lesson here was simple - don't ever delude yourself that you can control the narrative by not being transparent. It doesn't work.

    Then, there was the admission by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a potential GOP presidential contender, that he could never find himself in a similar position, since he's never sent an email. I also found a business lesson in here ... as in, how many boards of directors would hire a CEO who had never sent an email? Wouldn't that at least create the appearance of being out of touch not just with modern technology, but with real life?

    Now, I've gotten some email on this subject, which you can read in "Your Views." But the New York Times had a story yesterday about how Graham is in a fairly sizable club, because there are a bunch of senators who use email rarely, if at all.

    Like ... Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware). (A bipartisan group, to be sure.)

    There was even a story this week about how former President Bill Clinton has sent only two emails in his entire life (though he a Twitter user). And the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)? When he was issued a Blackberry by the Senate leadership back in the day, he handed it to an assistant and it was never seen again. (The Times coins a name for the politicians who are technology-challenged: The Flip Phone Caucus.)

    I have to admit, this has been an Eye-Opener. It never occurred to me that so many people leading this country would be so against the use of a modern and ubiquitous technology, and in some cases would even take pride in their disaffection.

    Different people will view this mini-trend in different ways. Some politicians say that the use of email would get them in trouble, because it would allow them to say what they think and feel without a filter. Personally, I'm a little concerned that public officials are willing to admit so openly that they need a filter to keep them from being honest ... that their stated opinions are far more calculated than that. (I always knew this was the case ... but I didn't expect them to admit it.) For me, this is less about politics, and more about being relevant to and engaged with the time in which you exist and the people that you are supposed to be serving and leading. (Just as in business, it is about being relevant to and engaged with your customers. Get that wrong, and you're out of business.)

    Again, it is all about controlling the narrative. Except that now, the narrative is gaining its own momentum ... and I have to wonder if there will be electoral consequences to be paid by all sides.

    I hope so. But then again, maybe that's just me.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    Amazon announced yesterday that it is launching a new online store "that gives customers direct access to innovative new products from popular up-and-coming brands. Customers can explore a unique range of electronics accessories, toys, sporting equipment and much more. The new store will feature brands from new product inventors including some products featured on the TV program 'Shark Tank'."

    The announcement goes on: "To provide customers convenient access to new products, Amazon built the Amazon Exclusives store and worked with select brands to help bring their innovative items to Amazon. Many of these items have won innovation awards from industry associations. Products in the Amazon Exclusives store are only available on Amazon or directly from the brand's website or its physical stores. Items are fulfilled by Amazon which means they are eligible for Free Two-Day Shipping for current Prime members in the U.S."
    KC's View:
    It seems to me that whether or not this works, this is a smart idea that demonstrates the power of what Amazon can do - it has the ability to segment pretty much anything it wants to, without worrying about shelves or end caps or any of the legacy and infrastructure issues that bedevil traditional retailers.

    The other thing that's important is that Amazon is differentiating itself. Like with some of its new digital streaming programs, it is looking to provide differentiated product wherever and whenever it can.

    Smart move.

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning on how "newspaper circulars are hanging on even though they draw fewer and fewer eyeballs as readership shrinks. And they are expensive to produce, costing up to $1 million for a single run. Chain stores would love to be free of the expense and have tried dozens of experiments over the years to find an alternative, with little or no luck."

    Part of the reason: "Despite the withering of the newspaper business, the inserts still land in about 50 million households a year, according to Borrell Associates, a market-research firm ... Retailers from Wal-Mart to Walgreens have found that making changes to circulars don’t always deliver the desired results. The problem is digital alternatives have failed to lure as many customers into stores as the weekly deluge of paper coupons."

    The story continues: "Publishers have a lot on the line in keeping it that way. Circulars account for about a fifth of newspaper advertising revenue, Borrell Associates says, though the amount varies widely by paper. At the E.W. Scripps Co. , which owns newspapers in 13 U.S. markets including Memphis and Knoxville, circulars accounted for about a quarter of advertising revenues in 2013."
    KC's View:
    First of all, my personal bias: I hate circulars. Hate 'em.

    And that's not just because they just seem to be so much clutter, adding only to the piles of crap that we have to recycle each week.

    My biggest peeve is both personal and professional. Circulars are completely non-targeted advertising, which means the odds are enormous that each circular that comes into my house is going to be filled with ads for things I'm not interested in, don't need, don't want, and are completely irrelevant to my life.

    Like, anything to do with cats.

    Beyond that, it seems to me that circulars are being kept alive by a newspaper industry that knows they are going to go away as more and more people - especially young people - stop reading the newspaper in print form. So they're going to suck as much juice from advertisers as they can, with very little regard for whether this is an intelligent long-term play for their clients.

    Now, if these newspapers can to a better job at targeting, then maybe there will be some small amount of life left in this dog. But it escapes me how this is going to be done. If I go down to the local newsstand to pick up the paper, they have no idea who I am, so I'm going to get the same circular as everyone else. And as for the that gets delivered to my house every morning (yes, I get a paper copy...though I read my digital copy a lot more often), well, the guy who delivers it has trouble getting it anywhere near the driveway ... so it is hard to imagine that he's capable of offering any sort of targeting capabilities.

    This dog won't hunt. Advertisers need to get themselves a new and better dog.

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    Fortune has a piece about how analysts Cowen & Co. view the e-commerce prospects of both Walmart and Target, giving the latter a slight edge, largely, it seems, because it is smaller snd more nimble.

    The story says that both were latecomers to the e-commerce game, and "paid a hefty price for that tardiness, losing market share to online retailers like Amazon.com and nimbler brick-and-mortar competitors. While they both still have a lot of catching up to do—each retailer gets about 3% of sales through digital commerce, compared to 6% of retail being online industrywide—they have made huge strides. In the most recent holiday quarter, digital sales at Target rose 40%, while those at Walmart jumped 18%.

    Both companies will continue to pour a fortune into their e-commerce horsepower. Target last week said it would spend $1 billion this fiscal year on beefing up its digital capabilities—as much as it is spending on its 1,800 stores and expects e-commerce sales to rise 40% ... Wal-Mart, whose U.S. sales are four times greater than Target’s, plans to spend about $2 billion on e-commerce this fiscal year. Both companies are also preparing for the next frontier in e-commerce, such as same-day delivery."

    The story goes on to say that Cowen & Co. gives "Target a slight edge over Wal-Mart thanks to its lead in mobile commerce (shopping and purchasing done via a smartphone)," while warning that "Wal-Mart was a strong competitor. (Wal-Mart, which gets more than half of its sales from grocery, is already testing grocery pickup for orders placed online. For Target, that will come later because it will spend the next year or so updating its food offerings, which currently generate one-fifth of sales. Food is one of the least underdeveloped areas for e-commerce.)"
    KC's View:
    It never is good to be late to the party, though it matters less if you've got a ton of money with which you can buy your way into the competition. Hard to say which one will be a strong e-player in the long run, and maybe it really doesn't matter ... they're both going to spend lots of cash to drive their digital businesses so they can be relevant to their target customers. It will be the relevance of their offerings, I think, that will tell the tale of long-term success, as well as how well their sites use the technology to engage with shoppers and create a sense - even an unconscious sense - of a community.

    That's what I get with Amazon, and that is what they have to try to achieve.

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    Walmart announced yesterday that "as part of its overall strategy and goal to source more from women-owned businesses," it has worked with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WEConnect International, in collaboration with Rouge24, a women-owned graphics agency, to develop a “Women Owned” logo "to help customers easily identify products made by women-owned businesses sold through any retailer. All women-owned businesses that are WBENC and/or WEConnect certified are eligible to display the logo on their product packaging."

    "As the world’s largest retailer, we have the opportunity to use our scale, purchasing power and local presence to help others," says Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and senior vice president of Walmart Sustainability, in a prepared statement. “By sourcing more products from women-owned businesses and making it easier for customers to identify those products at the shelf and online, we are helping to empower women and their families. We are excited by the power of business, and retail in particular, to increase women's economic mobility.”
    KC's View:
    While I understand, at some level, why Walmart wants to talk about this effort as being a kind of philanthropy, I think it might actually be a lot more effective to say that this is a hard-nosed business decision that looks to make the company more relevant to the majority of its shoppers while at the same time taking advantage of women's ability to innovate in different kinds of ways.

    To my mind, this ain't charity. This is smart business.

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    The New York Times has a piece by columnist Mark Bittman about how and why the School Nutrition Association is trying to eviscerate and/or roll back the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

    "The new nutrition guidelines — which the School Nutrition Association once backed, and even helped develop — gently nudge school lunches into the 21st century," Bittman writes. "Of course one could nitpick the act to death: It’s a government decree, it doesn’t go nearly far enough and some of its standards are already outmoded. (The fact that McDonald’s is now outpacing federal agencies in demanding food raised with fewer antibiotics is simply surreal.)"

    Bittman argues - and his conclusion is based on a Politico report - that the obvious reason for the School Nutrition Association to take this position is money - roughly half its annual $10 million budget is provided by major food industry companies that may actually find the idea of more whole grains, fruits and vegetables to be threatening to their long-term business prospects. And even though there seems to be some evidence that the law's provisions are working, the School Nutrition Association continues to argue that it is too expensive and difficult to implement.

    You decide. The entire column can be read here.
    KC's View:
    Too expensive and too difficulty to implement regulations that address what some people is a critical national security issue, not to mention an economic problem? I don't get it ... but then again, it always seems like money talks.

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    Whole Foods magazine reports that "New York Attorney General (NYAG) Eric Schneiderman has escalated his probe of the herbal supplement industry, chairing a coalition of state attorneys general from Indiana, Connecticut and Puerto Rico to further investigate business practices not just in the state of New York, but potentially elsewhere as well.

    A formal statement from the office of the NYAG indicated the initiative’s aim is to 'enhance transparency and ensure that the herbal supplements industry is taking the steps necessary to validate their marketing claims, including as to authenticity and purity'."

    The New York Times writes that "the coalition would signal a shift in the way law enforcement agencies ensure the safety of herbal supplements, a $5 billion-a-year industry that has been plagued by complaints of mislabeling."

    The Times goes on: "Critics of the industry have argued that the Food and Drug Administration does not have enough power to keep fraudulent or dangerous products from reaching store shelves. The F.D.A. is restricted by a 1994 federal law — sponsored by Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who has strong financial ties to the industry — that prevents it from subjecting supplements to the strict approval process applied to prescription drugs.

    "As a result, unsafe herbal products generally are pulled from stores only after they have caused harm. But Dr. Arthur P. Grollman, an expert on herbal supplements at Stony Brook University, said he believed that greater action at the state level might pressure the supplement industry to address some of its safety issues."
    KC's View:
    I know I've annoyed some MNB readers with my position on this, but I simply think that there should be greater oversight so the bad players cannot bring down the honest and good citizens in the supplement industry.

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    • In the UK, the Telegraph reports that Ocado, which is in business with Morrisons on its e-commerce business, is claiming that "Morrisons.com is the fastest growing online business ever" and that "Ocado has helped Morrisons.com to grow sales quicker than any online company anywhere in the world. From a standing start a year ago, Morrisons.com is thought to now generate roughly £200m in sales."

    There have been rumors that because of a top management change at Morrisons, the company might decide to pull out of the Ocado tie-up; Ocado seems to be looking to put that speculation to rest with the new comments.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    The Associated Press reports that LL Bean, a catalog company that has successfully made the transition to digital with a strong e-commerce business, "plans to make a bigger push into brick-and-mortar retail by more than tripling the number of domestic stores over the next five years ... The Maine-based company, which is coming off five years of increasing revenue, will open four stores this year before accelerating growth with a goal of at least 100 by 2020."

    According to the story, the expansion will include a move into the Pacific Northwest, an area that would seem to be in synch with LL Bean's outdoors-oriented worldview, but where it currently does not have any stores.
    KC's View:
    I actually think this makes a lot of sense, because the retailer is being careful about where it opens, and is doing it in markets where there are some basic synergies with how people live.

    Speaking for myself, I'm very excited ... since I'm planning a move to the Pacific Northwest, and LL Bean is my idea of a fashion designer.

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    • The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is out with its monthly consumer confidence survey, saying that "rising gas prices are taking a toll on consumer optimism about the economy, with optimism falling to its lowest level since August 2014 ... Consumer optimism fell from 54% to 44%, the largest decrease in optimism in more than two years."

    According to the survey, "In the past month, gas prices rose 29 cents per gallon as refineries have begun the transition to produce the costlier summer-blend fuels that are required in many markets across the country ... Consumers expect the upward trajectory of gas prices to continue, as three in four (73%) believe gas prices will be higher in 30 days than they are today — a noteworthy increase from 58% in February."

    NACS says that "weather may also play a role in consumer optimism," since it "was the lowest in the Northeast (37%), which has been battered by storms and cold weather this past month."


    Advertising Age reports that "the Pepsi Challenge is back, with a twist ... Pepsi has signed a crowd of celebrities, including Usher, Serena Williams and Usain Bolt, to recruit consumers to participate in a series of challenges meant for the social media generation. The yearlong promotion begins on Wednesday."

    The story explains: "Every month, Pepsi 'ambassadors' will use social media to issue a new challenge — many of which blend social responsibility with popular culture — that encourages consumers to 'do something different.' Later this month, for instance, the fashion designer Nicola Formichetti will present the first challenge from Hong Kong to bring light to poor communities across the globe using plastic Pepsi bottles filled with water and bleach to refract sunlight."

    The original Pepsi Challenge, four decades ago, was a taste test in which Pepsi went up against Coke.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    Salon reports that on a new doughnut creation cooked up by a Krispy Kreme franchisee in New Castle, Delaware - a bacon hot dog doughnut with raspberry jelly drizzling, to be sold exclusively this season at Frawley Stadium, home of a minor league baseball team The Wilmington Blue Rocks.

    The only problem the doughnut maker and team are having? Coming up with a name for the delicacy ... so they are polling their fans and customers to come up with an appropriate moniker.
    KC's View:
    How about "Strike Four"? With the tagline ... "one bite, and you're really out...forever."

    Published on: March 12, 2015

    Okay, I promised email about email...so let's get to it...

    One MNB reader wrote:

    Like President Obama admitting a few years ago that he didn’t know how to use an iPod or Hillary Clinton recently revealing that she hadn’t driven a car in decades, Sen. Graham highlighted the fact that persons at the highest level of government and business aren’t like you and me.  What with tightly-packed schedules that take up all their waking hours, large staffs that attend to their every need, and the news media scrutinizing their every word and action, they don’t—and can’t—live normal lives.
     
    Sen. Graham (like Hillary Clinton with her e-mails as Secretary of State) might also have been acting out of an abundance of caution.  Knowing that one false step in an e-mail could end his political career, he may prefer to communicate orally as much as possible and thereby avoid leaving a paper or electronic trail.  As a lawyer, I often wish that my clients would follow that practice.
     
    As an aside, I think you were wrong in calling Sen. Graham a Luddite.  The original Luddites were weavers who destroyed textile machinery they thought was putting them out of work.  So, I think the term should be limited to persons who want to stop the use of new technology (persons opposed to GMOs, perhaps?) and should not be applied to persons like Sen. Graham, who aren’t opposed to new technology, but simply choose not to adopt it themselves.


    Fair points. Of course, that means that we end up with politicians who parse their words, edit their thoughts, and couch every movement within a political context that has more to do with getting re-elected than serving their constituencies.

    Of course, this is probably why I couldn't get elected dogcatcher.

    From another reader:

    Remember, hardly anyone under the age of 25 uses email – unless of course they are forced to (such as submitting college papers, etc.)  Most adolescents and young adults communicate strictly via Twitter, Facebook, Instant Messaging, etc. 

    Of course, I’m guessing Graham has never even heard of Twitter, Facebook or Instant Messaging – never mind ever used them.

    And from another:

    Without trying to sound political, isn't the key issue with Sen. Lindsey Graham not writing emails is that he hasn't done anything on which he can actually put his name?  I have the same view about Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, just to be fair.  None of these folks have anything meaningful to say....

    This may be true. But on the other hand, he's provided Jon Stewart with fodder. Gotta appreciate that...

    One MNB reader the other day compared Graham's anti-email stance as similar to when President George H.W. Bush seemed surprised when he saw a supermarket scanner, which prompted MNB reader Ron Margulis to write:

    I have to take issue with that last comment in today’s Your Views on the first President Bush. I was there at the NGA conference when this incident occurred and the NY Times reporter who said the president was amazed by the scanning technology got it only half right. President Bush was impressed with the scanner, but not because he hadn’t seen one before. Rather the NCR scanner on display employed 3-D technology which was brand new at the time. I have seen this issued raised time and time again, and as one of few the people who was actually there (the NY Times reporter wasn’t — the White House allowed only four journalists and the dispatches were pooled), it is annoying to see the truth constantly distorted.

    Point taken.




    Michael Sansolo had a column the other day that mentioned the lousy reputation that the food industry seems to have among truckers, and the impact that could have on the industry long-term. Which led one MNB user to write:

    This was very interesting ... I didn’t know this and found that to be an eye opener. I have a brother who drives a truck and left a construction company to go to work for a large national grocer. He stayed very briefly and quit—said the conditions and the work were not worth the upgrade in pay and benefits! He went back to hauling construction materials.  Thanks for the perspective.




    On the subject of the nutritional supplement controversy, MNB reader Bob Norman wrote:

    I find myself not only enjoying MNB every workday, but very much agreeing with your point of view about most things. The NY AG / dietary supplement “scandal” is one area in which I find your cynicism to be quite off-putting. I write this knowing very clearly that I am biased towards the industry, since I’ve been working in it for about 20 years and using supplements for twice that long. I know that there are, in fact, manufacturers who truly know what they’re doing, do follow the rules (or go beyond the rules in good ways), and make sure that what is listed on the label is really what’s in the bottle!

    Our company has no connection with the four retailers named in that legal action, nor with whoever makes their products. However, my gut has told me from the first morning this news became public that the end result would be that the AG used faulty testing methods and that the manufacturers and retailers would be vindicated. I expect that, in the end, the AG will at least apologize, if not face a lawsuit. It’s certainly true that there are bad apples playing in every industry, including the dietary supplement space, but it seems unlikely that manufacturers of the size that would manufacture for the four large retailers would be cutting such obviously testable corners.

    Your piece today about GNC is, I think, the first of several steps that will show that the products were what they claimed to be. Unfortunately, the industry keeps getting nailed by the media much more than it gets praised. So many Americans depend on supplements, along with good diet and exercise, to help them stay healthy longer, and with a very low adverse event record.


    Fair enough. First of all, nobody should agree with me all the time ... so I'm glad we found a subject on which we can constructively disagree.

    I've said from the beginning that if the NY AG's office is proven to be wrong on this, I will cheerfully apologize for having been wrong.




    On another subject, MNB reader Shelley des Islets wrote:

    In response to a reader's recollection of a student missing a class due to the time change, and your agreement that automated timepieces remove the excuse, you wrote: 

    I think the only things that don't change by themselves are old fashioned wrist watches, microwave ovens, and car clocks.

    In addition to our microwave (and HD radio/docking station and coffeemaker), we keep regular, round-faced, battery operated wall clocks in all the public areas of the house.  While it's nice to know the time when we've had a power outage (for above-mentioned electric clocks), the real reason is so that our children will grow up with a solid grasp of a host of colloquialisms that their peers cannot understand:  "a quarter 'til,' 'a quarter after,' 'half-past,' 'ten 'til,' 'clockwise,' 'top of the hour,' etc.  At least the switch from sun position to sundial and clockface left us with 'high noon' still understandable as the high point of the sun's trajectory (except for Daylight Savings time).

    When our youngest responded to a question about when we would leave the house to do something, she said, "I want to leave at 47 or 48."  My partner and I blinked, and then laughed to discover we both translated it to 'about a quarter 'til' or 'about ten 'til.'  Our daughter had left out the hour reference, which we would have too, but used those digits because they made sense to her.

    We want our kids to understand references in books, culture, (older) movies, instructions, etc. that they will run across.  Digital clocks do not create those references nor provide any understanding of them.  I haven't heard new references emerging--but I imagine I will as the clockface disappears from our daily world.

    Just an odd rumination I thought I'd share.  Thanks for the daily fodder!


    It's interesting ... all my kids wear watches ... and they all have traditional faces. I have no idea why, but they can tell time the old fashioned way, and they like having wristwatches in addition to their iPhones to tell them the time.




    Regarding a study saying that restaurant spending has edged past supermarket spending, MNB reader Brian Todd wanted to put the numbers in perspective:

    I don’t dispute people are eating away from home more these days but just to be clear, the numbers Yahoo used showing foodservice sales outpaced grocery stores were seasonally adjusted by the government. The actual numbers, which we prefer to use, show grocery store sales at $50.9 billion and all eating & drinking places at $48.2 billion. Even so, the latter was up a whopping 13% from a year earlier -- the largest such gain since February of 2004. So people are definitely eating out more either way, including Millennials who do so more than other segments.

    And according Food Institute analysis of consumer expenditure data from the 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics,   Millennials spent $50.75 weekly for food consumed away-from home, while Baby Boomers spent $47.67 – 6.5% more despite Millennials having overall expenditures 14% below those of Baby Boomer.





    MNB the other day took note of a Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) study suggesting that "consumers in the all-important 25 to 45 age group ... are increasingly demonstrating loyalty to the stores they use for household grocery purchases."

    I commented:

    I wonder if this is actual loyalty to a compelling shopping experience or two ... or if it has more to do with habit, and a preference to do other things with their time than shop.

    Again, my default skepticism kicks in. I'd guess the latter ... though it would depend on the part of the country, and the exact stores that seem to be benefitting from this trend.


    One MNB reader responded:

    I definitely fall into the “camp” of people that would rather do other things with my time as I shop, in the traditional manner, at only two brick-and-mortar stores.  However, what I can’t find at those two outlets, or feel I can get a better value on things I do buy, are increasingly going into my digital shopping experience (which I can do when I have idle time like my daughter’s martial arts lessons) via Amazon and Instacart.  Intuitively, I feel like many in the survey supplement “traditional” shopping with a virtual experience based on a mix of convenience and value.

    That would be my sense, as well.




    I wrote a piece yesterday about how HBO is looking to compete with Netflix and Amazon in the streaming realm, which reflects an enormous change in how people - especially young people - consume content ... which, I think, will affect how they acquire and consumer pretty much everything.

    MNB reader Rich Heiland chimed in:

    I agree totally with your piece this morning on cable. However, I disagree with your implication that it's the younger generation alone.

    I am 68. I do not plan retiring any time soon, however my wife and I are starting the discipline of living on what we think our retirement income will be annually. One of the things I am looking at is cable, which I now pay $180 a month for. We plan to travel a lot at some point and do I want to pay $180 a month for something I won't watch part of the  year?

    I am looking at a basic cable package plus internet service and exploring such things as Netflix, HBO, the new limited satellite package and even my laptop. I can attach my laptop to the smart TV and watch a lot of stuff directly off it (can't zap the commercials but I can live with that) and picture quality is excellent. I figure I can cut that monthly bill by $100 or so at least and still have plenty to view.

    I suspect it will be a combo of the younger consumers ditching traditional packages for the reason you note, but also older folks leaving traditional companies with the sandwich in the middle.


    Agreed. I'm right there with you. And there was a story in Variety yesterday about how Showtime is moving in the same direction as HBO.

    Not very good news for traditional cable companies ... who may see themselves disrupted right out of business, or at least see their virtual monopolies collapse. And the thing is, do you know anyone other than a cable company executive who will shed a tear when this happens?

    Not me. And not anyone I know.




    We wrote yesterday about a Business Insider story about how Walmart is trying to shut down a parody site called walmart.horse that, in fact, features a picture of a horse in front of a Walmart. That's it. No whiny copy. No insults. Just a picture of a horse. In front of a Walmart.

    The story noted that Walmart has sent the site owner, Jeph Jacques, a cease-and-desist order, claiming that the site infringes on its trademarks. Jacques, on the other hand, says that the site is parody, and therefore protected.

    I commented:

    While I'm sure that there are trademarks to be protected, Walmart should've found a way not to turn this into a bigger story than it was.

    In fact, they should have had some fun with it. Like maybe finding Jacques' address and delivering a couple of tons of Sam's Choice oats to his front yard, with a note of best wishes to the horse.

    Talk about having the last laugh...


    MNB reader Lisa Malmarowski agreed:

    Oh man, I wish someone would start a site with a horse and our store. We'd have so much fun with it. Talk about free advertising! Walmart is missing a fun opportunity.

    From another reader:

    Agree about the horse story, especially since the Walmart in my home town has a buggy stable for the Amish to park their horses while they shop.

    On second thought, if Walmart had sent the guy a couple of tons of hay and/or oats, the note should have read as follows:

    This is for you. And the horse you rode in on. Love, Walmart.

    They're missing a big opportunity here...
    KC's View: