retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB yesterday took note of a Washington Post story about how France, "in an effort to reduce food waste," has made it illegal for supermarkets to throw out food "considered edible," forcing them instead to donate it to charity or make sure it is used for animal feed.

One MNB user responded:

Good. But this is America. You can’t tell us what to do ;-) 

Our stores compost. Our offices compost. We donate scratch & dent fresh produce to various places from soup kitchens to farmers to even a local wild life rehab. We plan what we produce in our delis to limit waste without impacting sales. We recycle. We build ‘green’ stores. We run alternative fuel vehicles. We offer car charging stations. We use native landscaping and even grow food at one of our locations. Plus, we build human-scaled stores that will have a life after our grocery business if we choose to pull out.

Frankly, I’m disgusted that multi-billion dollar grocery corporations in our country are not also doing or that it’s not required by our country. It’s the right thing to do and if we can do it with our 50 million dollar organization certainly the national chains can figure out how to do it. There’s no excuse anymore. None.

And from another:

Not sure what the position of the food industry is currently but at one time supermarkets were concerned about donating food because in the event of illness, or even "made up" illness they could face lawsuits.

I saw a lot of perfectly good perishable food thrown out. I thought it was a shame then and still do if it's still a policy in some places, however I think that may have changed by now.

And another:

As a Food Broker, I am astounded at the waste factor.  We have local chains that throw out enormous amounts of food from their grab-n-go sections as well as the buffet-style service department because of the legal implications associated with giving it away.  The legalities are what we need to address.

On the subject of corporate - and corporate executives' - responsibility when there are food safety issues, MNB user Jessica Duffy wrote:

I like that “criminal intent” is not necessary for a conviction…that sloppy production practices and bad training are to be held accountable as well. If lack of conscientious cleanliness procedures makes people sick, then that company should be made to pay, because they are betraying the trust of their customers.


On the subject of an increase in the minimum wage and wage disparity in the US, MNB user Chuck Jolley wrote:

The continuing effort by those that are against any kind of increase in the minimum wage – if $15, why not $30 – is ridiculous.  I’ve always rejected logical absurdity arguments as silly and counter-productive. And no one questioned the rapidly increasing cost of labor when all those extra profits were going to the front office.  It was just the necessary cost of doing business.  Now that our labor force, meaning the men and women in the trenches, have become much more productive and capable of turning out much more product per man/hour and, therefore, less of a real cost, why are lost profits suddenly becoming an issue?  BTW, checking inflation against my first minimum wage job in 1965, the current minimum should be at least $12.50.  Add on the vastly increased productivity of an average worker during that half century and maybe that $30 isn’t so ridiculous.

From another reader:

I worked at a CPG company and every year would get my budget for employee salaries. Many many years we had to deliver a message to my region sales personnel that raises would only be 2% or some times no raises. There would be a communication from or CEO about the company's performance not being what what we needed, committed to or below our peer competition performance therefore salary increases would be impacted.

As the sales leader for my region I would have no problem delivering such news especially when we did not hit targets or were out performed by competition.

However, inevitably the timing of the news of raises came out with the announcement of executive pay the message got clouded by the announcement the our CEO base salary was going up by twice as much as the regions percentage in pay increase and her total comp package (bonus and options) would be going up even more.

Obviously, it made our job more difficult trying to get our region's sales people to understand why their performance was being tied to company's performance but our leader's comp was not?

That is why I love companies like Costco that seem to understand what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

To be honest, it is my suspicion that this scenario is typical of more companies than not. Which is awful.

From another reader:

One of "Your Views" comments on the move to higher wages referred to wage increases being "socialism".  It is not; it is a movement by workers who are in this country—still allowed to organize and protest conditions.

The "socialism" aspect is actually more like reverse socialism in that they companies paying low wages socialize the cost of filling in the economic gap between wages and needed costs like food and rent by relying on government to fill the gap.  That is socialism.  But the benefit: higher profits from reduced labor costs, is not social.  The benefit accrues to owners and shareholders of that profit.

The cost of that benefit is socialized.

On another subject, MNB user Larry Ishii wrote:

I do not applaud Walmart for many things but I certainly have to tip my hat to them for taking a strong position to hire veterans. I agree with the comments of Chris Sultemeier relative to their very positive traits. Those traits are very conducive to building a strong and productive organization.
But I also understand that once into management levels the military style of management techniques are not often effective in today’s work force – especially for millennials. These veterans deserve the best treatment and opportunities and I hope that Walmart will give them the benefit of excellent management training.

Got the following email from MNB reader Lisa Bosshard about a certain e-commerce giant:

I wasn't first on the Amazon train, but have thoroughly embraced it and here's insight into why....

I work full time (full-time being 45+ hours weekly) and commute 3 hours a day.  My husband works 50+ hours weekly in addition to his 1.5 hour commute.  Between us, we have about 3 hours in the evening to grab dinner and prepare for bed leaving weekends to get everything done in our 'personal lives'.  What that looks like to us, is gym, grocery shopping, time with family and general house errands.  What we don't have time to do is shop and in particular go to stores to hunt, kill and drag something home.

Perfect example yesterday; hubby needs a new wallet.  Pre-Amazon days, we would have headed to brick/mortar stores to shop killing a Saturday in the process.  First stop would have likely been JCPenny.  If nothing there to fit the need, would have headed to Kohl's or Macy's to find something.  If still nothing, Burlington Coat Factory and so on.   So, when this subject came up, hubby mentioned we needed to run around this weekend so he could shop for a new wallet.  I listened and then suggested he review Amazon first.  Last night, in 5 minutes, he found exactly what he wanted, at a price he was willing to pay and all with free shipping to arrive in 2 days.  WHAM, sold!

In today's busy hustle of life, and in my humble opinion, it's not that Brick & Mortar stores aren't relevant, it's that busy families simply don't have time to shop (hunt, kill and drag it home).  Stores need to get with the on-line revolution quick, or get left behind.  I don't see anyone working less hours or commutes getting shorter.  Families have to cut somewhere or lose more family time.

Finally, more comments about the "Millennial Mind"piece written last week by Portland State University student Chelsea Ware.

One MNB reader wrote:

First, I have to admit that I didn’t read Chelsea’s piece on Friday, but I am planning to do so shortly. That said, I did read the response from one of the fellow MNB readers that I thought was a bit off base. After the tailspin that McDonald’s has found itself in recently, I think that having patience with them is a bit myopic. I’m not saying I would never visit McDonald’s again, but I have no intention of taking my business there while they try to figure out what they’re doing. In the few visits I have had there in the past 6 months, I’ve ordered their more ‘premium’ items only to find myself wishing I had either saved the $5 or taken it to a Chipotle and gotten 2x the food with 10x the quality for $3 more.

One specific point I specifically disagreed with was this reader’s sentiment, “It’s interesting to read how her generation makes assumptions about Brands based on a couple of experiences, rather than to understand what these Brands might be testing around the world.”
Frankly, why wouldn’t I form an opinion about a brand based on my own few experiences? I don’t really care what McDonald’s is doing in Spain if the chicken wrap I buy in the U.S. leaves much to be desired.
I think your previous reader may have missed the point. He/she is right… forming opinions once you have experience in the workforce is valuable. Having to go do the things you’re asking others to do gives weight to your experiences. That said, Chelsea’s (and my) generation will have more spending power than Boomers by 2017. A good business lesson would be to take Chelsea’s opinions and sell her what she wants to buy. You may not give her opinions much thought, but her $1 bill is worth the same as your $1 bill.
As a note, I’ve been in the workforce for 5 years now, yet I have been looked at with some disdain for being one of the “entitled” generation. I’m hoping my fellow millennials and I can have some positive influence on our country (and economy) in the coming years, but know that it won’t be in the same way as previous generations. And that’s ok…

From another reader:

I LOVED what Chelsea wrote and love to see you featuring someone who is a young millennial. They are always the topic of conversation, however we rarely hear directly from them! I also loved that the topic was McDonalds – generational divides really become evident when talking about that place. I am a millennial but on the older end of the generation. I won’t feed McDonald’s to my toddler son. Period. In fact, when we drive by one he will say “yuck, that’s bad for you.” Have I brain washed him? Yes. Am I happy about that? Yes. I agree with everything Chelsea said and for me, a busy working mom on the go, I need solutions that make life easier AND help keep us healthy. I am not worried about the cost of food, I am worried about the quality and health benefits. I want to give my son everything I can, including a healthy start.
The first commentator sounds like he’s had battles with his 20yr old son. I get it, my sister is 23. However, what really bothered me was his frequent mention of Social Security. I would be willing to bet that there are few millennials who wake up each day and are motivated to work so that they can pump money into SS. I can promise you I don’t. Honestly, I’ve always just operated under the assumption that all entitlements will be eliminated by the time I reach that age. My husband and I approach our 401Ks with the attitude that we need to save now to live like we want to later. It just another line item that comes out of my paycheck. Like taxes, it’s inevitable. I’ve accepted it and don’t lose any sleep over it.

When Baby Boomers retire we will have higher percentages of people taking care of elderly parents, versus children at home. I have great respect for older generations, but, to be frank, the commentator sounds a little grouchy. No one hesitates to call Millennials the “me me me” generation, yet the idea that I need to achieve his standards of success to better fuel Social Security sounds a bit “me me me” too. To that point, what efforts are older generations making to learn with, educate and embrace younger generations? Sure, they don’t know everything but NO ONE DOES. We should ALL be open to learning at all times. It’s fair that he wants to see what Chelsea will say when she is out of school, but I’d venture to say her opinions won’t change. I am likely 10 years older than her and I agree with every word she wrote.
My challenge to that commentator is this – what are you doing, in your own profession, to host a dialogue with other generations? Is you company engaging at the university level? Do they offer internal mentorship / leadership opportunities so that millennials can work alongside him. I hope he’s actively pursuing that engagement because, if not, then he is doing nothing to help foster knowledge sharing, learning and acceptance.
Maybe he should hire Chelsea after she graduates….

A lot of folks should hire Chelsea after she graduates.
KC's View: