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Got the following email from MNB reader Brian Carpentier:

In your mention of Hannaford having one of the best training programs, there is another who recently surfaced again that I do believe you previously mentioned: Rick Anicetti, who has taken over as head of Fresh Markets. It will be interesting to see where the players land in the merger of Hannaford and Stop & Shop here in the northeast in 2016.

I have very little confidence about this, but I'd suggest that if the merger is concluded, top leadership needs to come from the halls of Hannaford.

By the way ... there's also Steve Campbell, a former Hannaford guy who is founder and CEO of Pro-Voke, a highly regarded management consulting firm. And Cathy Burns, a former Hannaford exec who is president of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

The list goes on.

On the subject of the Fresh & Easy debacle, one MNB user wrote:

I have admired Ron Burkle’s success for years, but frankly, no one in the trade that I know did not predict this almost from the very beginning.

First, why allow the future namesake of your stores (Wild Oats) to be sold as a quasi-private label at Wal-Mart?  Unless the intention all along was to flip the stores to Wal-Mart… but regardless of whether that brand worked at Wal-Mart or not, it was not a good move for Fresh & Easy.

I visited the Las Vegas store soon after the remodel.  Inside I wasn’t sure if I was in a 7-11, a Chevron, a neighborhood grocery store, or a Starbuck’s.  Once outside though, with only four cars in the parking lot, I knew I was at F&E.

From another reader:

You're right on. I've been in the grocery industry for 40 years in Southern California and I know there are people smarter than me running these companies, but I gave Fresh & Easy five years when they entered the market, there was no rhyme or reason to the site selection and despite all of their research into the So. Cal. market, they did what Tesco wanted to do.   They lasted a little longer than the five years I gave them, not much longer.

MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

I think your point about “how all these smart people missed it”, is fascinating and brings these considerations: 1) Yucaipa is made up of too many old-timers and white males who have been passed over by the new world of consumer-led retail; 2) there are lots of egos involved here, i.e., “if I can think it, it must be right” (see Haggen, A&P, Pathmark and an increasing growing number of other stories); 3) the cost of entry is cheaper, the ability to attack on the edges (home delivery) and stealth marketing all increase the speed of disruption; and 4) it is never about the deal, it is about the human experience, both consumers and employees.  Unhappy, inefficient or bored employees leads quickly to NO CUSTOMERS.  It is called CHANGE, it is happening faster, behind closed doors and it is harder to see it coming…welcome to today’s retail industry!

We also got lots of email about the Starbucks Christmas coffee cup controversy.

MNB user Mike Griswold wrote:

As they say on talk radio, long time reader, infrequent contributor …
99% of the time I am on the “Team Content Guy” bus, but not completely on this one. In general, I don’t have an issue with the Starbucks cup. While I think the term “war on Christmas” is hyperbole, to think that there is not a concerted effort to eliminate the spirit of the season is a bit naive. And no, I am not playing a “victim” card. In my opinion, we have let a minority (the 30%) of non-Christians dictate policy because they might be “offended”. Have we started “Christmas” too soon, for sure. Would I prefer someone say Merry Christmas of course, do I lose sleep if they say Happy Holidays no. Will I patronize retailers that force associates to use Happy Holidays, absolutely not! In general, we have let a vocal minority dictate policy by playing the “offended” card. If a shopper finds the term Merry Christmas so offensive, than shop somewhere else.
Interested to see how this plays out. I’ll take the over on how many responses this generates.

From another reader:

Conservative Christian here…  Much ado about nothing.

MNB reader Jim Swoboda wrote:

In reading your story on the Starbucks controversy, I just had the same conversation with my wife as I was drinking my typical Venti Bold Brew of the Week.  Although I do think, contrary to your thought, there have been instances of overly reactive retailers taking “Christmas” out of messaging for fear of whatever, this one simply does not fit that bill.  

It’s total hogwash!

From MNB reader Tom Herman:

We are not overly religious people, but my wife and daughter commented to me about the red cup just yesterday.  To them, it was seen as trying not to offend anyone.  I think when companies try not to offend anyone, they offend just about everyone.  Pretending that Christmas isn’t about Christmas is just silly.  I am not offended by Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, I think it’s kind of cool.  Why would anyone be offended by Christmas?  For what it’s worth, my wife said just put a snowflake, reindeer or wreath on it and no one would have thought twice.

Nothing puts the "Christ" in "Christmas" like a snowflake, reindeer or a wreath.

And from another reader:

Give me a break.  Those that celebrate Christmas should happily celebrate it.  And those who don't  can enjoy the "holiday season" any way they like.  That's  the beauty of our free society...we get to choose for ourselves.  Any questions?

I'm sure the debate will continue.
KC's View: