retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Michael Sansolo last week wrote about how retailers have to take advantage of the opportunities to get shoppers to come back to their stores time and again. Which prompted MNB reader Deb Faragher to write:

I was interested in your comment that supermarkets have so many opportunities to make customers want to return to their stores.  I agree wholeheartedly that personal attention, eye contact and banter are welcome in interactions—the friendliness and professionalism of the staff is important to the overall experience.

Having said that, I thank technology every time I am going shopping for the ability to place my deli order online and pick it up in store, thereby skipping the deli counter visit.  It’s the bane of my existence. To have to wait for a long period of time for my turn then to wait longer to have my order prepared taking upwards of 20 minutes (for 4-5 items of 1/4 to 1/2 pound).  In that time, I could have completed my entire shop.  So, kudos to Publix for giving me the opportunity to sit quietly at home sipping my coffee while placing my order online.  I drive 3 times further to get to Publix when I have Kroger within a mile.  Kroger offers technology to place deli orders but standing in the lobby placing an order at a kiosk is not really saving me time and the store is so large that by the time I finish shopping I then have to walk a football field length of store to get back to the deli to pick up the order.  I will admit that, on occasion, when the online order system has been down I have gone to Kroger due to the proximity.  I know I pay more, in general, at Publix but for the deli convenience alone, I am willing to do so.  I do appreciate other conveniences made possible by technology offered by Kroger that Publix does not including self-checkout, very targeted marketing (electronic and snail mail) of products I actually buy, savings on gasoline and yet that deli draws me to Publix nearly every time.

On another note, I was an early adopter of Open Table and love to see more and more restaurants participate.  While I appreciate the phone interaction and, generally am made to feel very welcome when reserving, it’s nice to be able to go online at my convenience to see when a table is available, make the reservation and get a confirmation in very short order without having to think if I am bothering someone at the restaurant with my call at what may not be the most convenient time for the person on the phone or the customers in the restaurant. I have yet to have an issue with any reservation made on Open Table so I am a believer.

We had a piece last week about the rise on consumer debt, and one MNB user responded:

Consumer debt is on the rise, up around 3% the last couple of years and currently about $12.100 trillion.  However, if you look at the components driving the increases, its mainly housing, auto and student loans, while credit card and home equity lines of credit have been more stagnant.  Student loans in particular have been growing at about 10% a year to $1.200 trillion, and have a default rate of about 10%...this can’t be good for the future of retailers.

Not at all. The level of student debt, I think, is going to have an enormously detrimental impact on the economy in coming years. Addressing this issue ought to be a primary focus of the federal government.

I said last week that a Walmart-Procter & Gamble Super Bowl promotion targeting women, but doing so by talking about planning parties, struck me as condescending.

One MNB user agreed:

In agreement on the condescending perspective – it may be more universal then you think!  Why do the middle aged men behind these concepts think that all women are interested in is cooking, cleaning, parenting and hosting parties?

Because they are middle-aged men who apparently pay absolutely no attention to their wives, daughters and sisters ... or who have wives, daughters and sisters who are nothing like mine.

On another subject, MNB reader Duane Eaton wrote:

It’s interesting that Lidl’s and Aldi have announced new stores in my little town of Middletown, DE, population around 20,000.  The population did grow 206% between 2000 and 2010 and continues to grow as transplanted retirees flee the high taxes of surrounding states.  It will be fun to see how the new stores compete with the existing Wal-Mart Supercenter, Acme, Giant, Food Lion and Dutch Country Farmer’s Market.

P.S.  Yes, the same Middletown that’s home to St. Andrews School, location for Dead Poet’s Society.


Regarding Amazon's testing of kiosks that sell gift cards for specific books, MNB user Jill M. LeBrasseur wrote:

I think this is a great idea! I have always felt that books make great presents and I love to both give and receive them. But with e-books, unless someone else gives you access to their device, I know of no way to make a gift of a book using this format. Amazon now offers me this choice again.

Responding to the story about people trying to revive the Circuit City chain, one MNB user wrote:

Wow! What a killer concept!! If this was still 1997...

MNB user Lyle Walker chimed in:

Could not agree with your commentary more.  What I remember about Circuit City was their sales people were commissioned and pushy.  To your point, I've no idea what positive equity there is in the brand, so am really curious of the thought process behind this.  If this story ran on April 1, it would at least make sense.

And, we got the following email from MNB reader Harry Graham:

Amazon's Echo is probably one of the most entertaining products I have purchased from Amazon. I got mine last week, and the wife and I, and kids and grand-kids have enjoyed talking with Alexa the entire week.

I have not yet invested in the hardware to turn off light, control the temperature in the house or the like- but Echo has answered questions like weather, Who is Donald Trump, who was the 24the president, and what is 354 divided by 1.55.

Set up was easy to do, engaging with my router/Wi-Fi.

What a fabulous product that has new features/applications added weekly. I am thoroughly impressed with the product.

And finally, from MNB reader Rich Heiland:

I want to toss in a little bit of a spin on Millennials.

We now have, in most organizations, four generations in the workplace which to my knowledge is unique, and you can even add in post-70-year-olds still working.

Much of my work with leaders, managers and staffs deals with the complexity this can cause, but also with the wealth of opportunities.

But, there is peril I think in looking at "a generation." I have found that when working with more urban clients much of what is said about Millennials in terms of smaller living space, renting vs. buying, less driving, living near friends, favorite locations etc. tends to bear out.

However, not so much with my more rural or smaller city clients where driving is less about choice (fewer public transit options) and more about making do. The same can apply to living spaces and shopping habits.

I do think some generalizations can be made about different social values in a larger scale sense, though even those can vary some rural to urban, one part of the country vs. another.

I think marketers will be making a mistake if they base all their marketing on "selling to Millennials" without accepting that if Millennials are in fact a market, there are markets within the market.

I will also add that when working with line staff, which has become my focus, I find Millennials to have a good work ethic, though focused differently than my Baby Boomer generation. I enjoy their company and find it stimulating. My challenge is to get each generation to realize the assets of the other and get past the stereotypes and misunderstandings.

KC's View: