retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I suggested the other day that if Target really wants to make headway in the grocery business, it needs not to focus on building so-called "traditional" grocery departments but rather should do something radical and differentiated. If you want to move the needle, I wrote, you sometimes have to create an earthquake.

Which prompted one MNB user to write:

Want to move the needle? Create a tidal wave?

How about disrupting the status quo with this: What if Target linked with Trader Joe's to provide an in-store grocery department? They don't really compete head-on, but net gain for both!

Talk about disrupting the traditional grocery channel.

Interesting idea. They could team with Trader Joe's in some markets, and Aldi in others, where appropriate.

We had an email the other day from MNB reader Michelle Graham, who wrote about how Vons had changed her life by creating a supportive work environment, as opposed to trying to exploit her and other employees. (It was a great can read it here.)

MNB user Mark Boyer responded:

I read the comments from Ms. Graham, and immediately went to LinkedIn to try and connect, but could not find her there. (Ms. Graham should write a book on her life; she seems as solid as they come.)

I want to know more people like her.

I do, too.

The interesting thing is how her Vons experience contrasts with what Tesco is doing in the UK - telling its in-store staff to get in shape because healthier employees are not just more productive, but also "give a more appealing look than a bunch of sweaty, overweight workers wheezing around the aisles."

One MNB user wrote:

Seriously, did that memo actually happen, or is this some belated April Fool’s Day joke?  Can that actually be effective in the UK?  Can you imagine the firestorm here ... This is so the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the wonderful story you had recently about Vons and being flexible to help employees.

From another reader:

Not only am I sure that I would find such a message as “Let's be honest, trim workers are less likely to take days off sick, plus they can stack shelves more quickly than fat ones. But this also ties in with attempts to smarten up Tesco stores. Healthy workers will give a more appealing look than a bunch of sweaty, overweight workers wheezing around the aisles.” offensive as an employee, but I also find it offensive as a consumer. Considering the mess that is Tesco hearing this/reading this from upper management would have me looking for employment elsewhere and taking my sweaty, wheezing self away from the premises and that includes where I purchase my groceries.

And another:

My one word reaction to your Wednesday Eye-Opener, Tesco's "Fitness Regimen"…. Wow!  It is simply amazing to me that the leadership of any organization, let alone a major player like Tesco, would have the narrow-mindedness to approach their employees in this manner.  As an overweight individual myself, I read this story and took this very personally, even though I do not work for this company.  As I am sure all of the employees of Tesco are feeling as well.  And the big picture view?  Tesco just denigrated a large segment of their customer base!  If I'm an overweight customer of Tesco, how could I not think that Tesco believes I'm "fat & sweaty"?  Makes me think of the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO that didn't want to sell clothes to fat people.  Not so good for public relations.  This one is going to blow up on Tesco… and it should.

MNB yesterday took note of a Law360 report that a number of retailers - including Macy's and Amazon - as well as the Citizens of Humanity jean company must defend themselves in a lawsuit charging that they falsely labeled jeans as "Made in the USA" when they were not. The story says that U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino ruled that the California law requiring such label accuracy was neither unconstitutional nor superseded by federal law. The defendants had sought to have the case tossed out, but the judge refused.

I commented:

I'm always sort of amused when companies and/or people try to defend on technicalities the fact that they've been lying to their customers. As if the technicalities made it okay...

This is a soapbox I've been on for a long time. I believe in Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). I'm in favor of Made in the USA labels as a matter of both marketing savvy and also bolstering American economic self-interests. I also think that companies better do it right, better be accurate in their labeling, and have the materials that will back up their claims.

Anything less is a kind of malpractice.

One MNB reader chimed in:

Perhaps the  “made in the USA” the issue could be addressed by companies that import components of their products to use the phrase “assembled in the USA” and reserve the “made in USA label” for products that contain 100% USA labor and materials.

The problem, in my view, is not that companies don't have these options available to them ... it is that they take the easy way out, don't know or don't care about the facts, and end up cheapening the whole "made in the USA" concept.
KC's View: