retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Following up on an email earlier this week that talked about how the phone message at A&P headquarters talks about, shall we say, relaxed workplace hours, one MNB user wrote:

The phone message at Montvale is no surprise. When I worked there in 1980's the 8:30 start was followed by 45 min of coffee and bagels. Only then did the day begin. Add to this, many execs would get up and leave the monthly sales meeting or pre-Board meeting (while Sir James
Woods, RIP) was speaking, so they could "Catch the train" back home to Long Island or other points. For a "Hardscrabble" guy from the Midwest, it was quite a shock. The only real shock to me is that they are still in business."

Y'think they have voice mail at A&P headquarters? Or are they still using answering machines?

Either way, it seems like A&P sends a message with everything it says and does. The message ain't a good one.

This week, we took note of an Advertising Age report that the introduction of the new Amazon Dash - a button with an adhesive strip that can be mounted on things like cupboards and washing machines, allowing people to press it and order with one click when they see that they are running low on specific products - could be a boon to major CPG companies, which ""could give big packaged-goods brands the edge they've been looking for on a playing field where the industry's traditional behemoths have been getting pushed around by smaller players ... Amazon hasn't said exactly how the model would work, but Dash could easily become a conduit for trade-promotion funds as brands bid for buttons, which would be like miniature end-caps in millions of homes."

I commented, in part:

I always get a little nervous when I hear about retailers angling for more trade promotion funds, since when I hear those words I tend to think about slotting allowances, which have been an enormously corrupting influence on the supermarket industry, compelling retailers to make money on the buy instead of the sell.

MNB reader Bill Bishop responded:

Think you’re right to be nervous about this being another way to increase manufacturer promotional support.  Shouldn’t expect that Amazon would provide more sales driving execution for a brand without a charge and this opens up two questions:

For manufacturers, will the benefit justify the incremental spend?
For retailers, will customers see this as an easier way to shop?
This is all about the increasing competition between channels for both manufacturer support and the customer’s purchases, and deserves careful attention regardless of how unusual it may appear.

One MNB user wanted to comment on the annual Consumer Reports ranking of the nation's best supermarkets:

Don’t know how you can take a Survey like this and be accurate since most of these stores are not in the same area and the shoppers who shop them have no idea how well Publix’s or HEB service their areas. Doesn’t work for us and we have been in all stores (agree with Publix). Walmart being on the bottom strikes us funny since all stores in this area are packed…which goes to show that price shopping will always win out over upscale offerings every time… especially when money is tight.

Agreed. I've never liked this survey, even if I don't have much argument with how good some of these stores are. But I can name a half-dozen retailers who are as good or better as serving their individual markets, and they didn't even make the list.

Regarding the power of Amazon Prime, one MNB user wrote:

Had to respond to your piece on Amazon Prime.  I am a loyal Amazon Prime member, I use Amazon for probably 90% of my online shopping I’d say (except for clothing).  But I think it’s WAY too early for anyone to count any retailer out of the game right now.  The thing I find amazing is that I shop solely on price and speed to ship when shopping online. So if Target and Amazon have the same item, same shipping speed, I will go with the cheaper option.  I found last Christmas, Amazon often wasn’t the cheapest option so if shipping speed didn’t matter, they didn’t win my shopping trip.  The big issue and opportunity is that store experience doesn’t matter here.  I tend to avoid shopping a Toys R Us at all costs…but when it comes to online shopping, they often win due to a special they are running.

So while I think the article got it right that Prime shoppers are loyal, I’m only loyal because it’s easy.  Other retailers will figure this out, it may take a while, but I truly believe this war is far from over.

MNB reader Kenneth Todd took notice of our Sports Bureau report...

All is back to normal when baseball is back!
Go Cardinals.  Nice Showing by your Mets yesterday!

And, from another reader:

When opening day has a Mets 3-1 win, and Yankees 6-1 loss, it is a GREAT day to be a Mets fan such as yourself.
My Red Sox had a good day yesterday too!!
Thanks for an awesome MNB!!

My pleasure.
KC's View: