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    Published on: April 5, 2016

    by Michael Sansolo

    As readers of this column know, I make it a point never to comment on politics unless there’s a compelling business lesson to be found. So believe me, there’s a point causing me to write the next line:

    Donald Trump will win the Presidency and do so easily!

    First off, that’s not my opinion. It comes from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, who freely admits he isn’t a fan of Trump. However, Adams thinks Trump is connecting with voters in a way that is far more human than his opponents and that’s where we find the business lesson.

    Secondly, keep in mind that Adams wrote this specific blog predicting Trump’s victory before the candidate’s recent headlines on punishing women for abortions, allowing Japan and South Korea to have nuclear arms, and the indictment of his campaign manager on an assault charge. Obviously, the state of the campaign might change with the results of today's Wisconsin primary. Or it may not. It’s not like Trump is new to controversial moments.

    So that is why we have to consider the broader point of why Adams thinks Trump has done so well so far and, leaving our personal politics aside, consider what he tells us about business today and making lasting connections with consumers.

    “Trump knows psychology,” Adams wrote in a piece for the Washington Post. “He knows facts don’t matter. He knows people are irrational. So while his opponents are losing sleep trying to memorize the names of foreign leaders - in case someone asks - Trump knows that it is a waste of time. No one ever voted for a president based on his or her ability to name heads of state. People vote on emotion. Period.

    Now let’s explore that point. Whether you love or loathe Trump you have to accept that he is doing something unexpected in the political environment, certainly at least up to this point. He’s struck a chord with a substantial group of voters in a way that, as Trump himself has joked, would survive the candidate even shooting someone. That’s a strange, but powerful connection.

    Connections, especially emotionally driven ones, are extremely powerful. We know that all people - and obviously that includes shoppers - behave on these types of feelings.

    Emotion can include long ingrained food likes and dislikes. It explains why shoppers have a gut reaction to specific ideas (think local foods, irradiation, gluten-free or GMOs) without fully understanding the specifics of any of those issues.

    It even explains why our expectations of certain products or services are so incredibly and irrationally different than others. Admit it: there are items you gladly spend extra money on regularly and others where you hunt for savings. There are times when nutrition is everything and other times when it simply is not.

    Today it’s possible to argue that emotional connection matters more than ever.

    As companies examine the potentially cataclysmic changes to the competitive landscape as e-commerce takes hold or new discount players enter the market, emotion connection might matter more than ever as will understanding what your shoppers think is most important and serving that need.

    Emotional engagement, experiences and both authentic and important connections might well be the key to on-going success.

    So while emotional connection might not be the best way to select a president (and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time emotions overwhelmed that decision) there is a lesson in the world of politics that we all need learn.

    It may not be logical, but emotional connections are hard to beat.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    The great Tony Kornheiser likes to say that the whole point of having a radio program is to be able to help your friends, crush your enemies, and have free food.

    I wouldn't go that far about a blog like MNB, but I get his point. I'd admit that when there are people and ideas that I like, I'll pay more attention to them than the people and ideas that I don't; I'd rather be positive than negative, though there are exceptions. After all, this is news in context and analysis with attitude. I'm very comfortable with that. (As for free food, I have to admit that I've been the recipient of some amazing largesse over the years, for which I thank you. Especially the folks at Graeter's Ice Cream, who are at least partly responsible for ten of the extra pounds that I'm carrying around.)

    I say this because I'm going to help a friend right now, and I want to be transparent about it.

    The friend in question is a young man named Jack Schlinkert. I coached Jack and his brother Sam in Little League about a thousand years ago. (Or maybe it is just 15 or so years ago, and just seems like a thousand.) These are two of the best kids I ever coached - they have great parents, they had terrific attitudes, and while Sam was one of the best pitchers I ever coached, Jack had the sweetest swing ... smooth and slightly elevated and capable of ripping line drives down the line.

    I haven't talked to either of them for years, though I bump into their folks in town from time to time, and always am keen to get an update on their lives. But just the other day, I got an update direct from Jack ... because he is starting a company and using Kickstarter to get going.

    And I'm going to help him.

    What Jack and his business partner have developed is a waxed canvas and leather bag designed to address what they believe are the shortcomings of most bags that people wear when riding bicycles ... it is a simple, classy looking bag that latches onto the frame of a bike and can double as a briefcase when the cyclist gets to where he or she is going. Not only is the bag cool, but I think the way they describe it on Kickstarter is cheeky and confident, loaded with youthful entrepreneurial brio.

    You can check out the bag and the site by clicking the picture above, or by going here.

    Now, for the record, Jack has no idea that I'm promoting his new product to the MNB community. He didn't ask me to, I didn't check with him before doing this, and I have no financial interest in his business. But I'd like to see him succeed, just because he was a great kid, and even today, when I think about his swing, it makes me smile.

    Mostly, I love it when young people do something cool and different and ambitious. And if I can help them, I'm happy to do help open people's eyes about them.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    The Hill reports that the US Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by Walmart that hoped to challenge the $187.6 million verdict brought against it in a class action suit.

    The suit, originally brought by hourly employees of both Walmart and Sam's Club, successfully charged that the retailer "failed to compensate them for rest breaks and off-the-clock work as mandated in their policies," which violated Pennsylvania state minimum wage laws.

    Walmart said that it was disappointed but respected the court's decision, though it noted that "the claims in the lawsuit are over10 years old and policies have been put in place to ensure all workers receive appropriate pay and break periods."
    KC's View:
    I'm not sure that it is entirely fair for Walmart to complain that it is being penalized for actions taken a decade ago and policies that it has corrected. After all, it could have ended the whole thing years ago by simply saying "uncle," settling with the plaintiffs and moving on.

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    The Sacramento Bee reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown "signed legislation Monday raising California’s mandatory minimum to $15 an hour by 2022, casting the gradual increase over the next seven years as a "moral imperative ... The California legislation will raise the statewide minimum to $10.50 on Jan. 1 for businesses with 26 or more workers, the first of several incremental increases to $15, with future raises tied to inflation. Smaller businesses will have an additional year to phase in each increase."

    Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo "signed into law a minimum wage increase that takes a two-tier approach," the New York Times writes, "setting a higher $15 per hour minimum for New York City and its environs and a lower legal minimum for less-costly areas ... In New York, the minimum wage rises to $15 per hour from its current $9 by the end of 2018 for most businesses in New York City. Commuter counties of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester will reach $15 by the end of 2021, while the rest of the state will reach $12.50 by the end of 2020."

    The Bee notes that "Brown, a fiscal moderate, had previously expressed reservations about a wage increase. But amid growing concern about income inequality in California and the national thrust of the labor-backed 'Fight for 15' campaign, his hand was forced. Public opinion polls showed strong support for increasing the state’s mandatory minimum beyond its current $10.

    "The compromise Brown offered lawmakers – then celebrated with a bill-signing in Los Angeles – includes a provision allowing the governor to postpone a wage increase in the event of an economic downturn. It replaces a ballot measure that, if passed, would have raised the minimum wage to $15 by 2021, a year faster."

    Interestingly, the Washington Post has a story reporting that "internal research conducted by a leading consultant for state chambers of commerce" suggests that "80 percent of respondents said they supported raising their state's minimum wage, while only eight percent opposed it."

    The story notes that business leaders at the state level don't view as a minimum wage increase as being a sole priority; they would say, for example, that job creation is more important. And the Post reports that a number of chambers of commerce around the country push back against the poll, saying that its conclusions do not match the opinions of their members.

    But at the very least, the Post writes, business leaders are not as united in their opposition to a minimum wage increase as some of the rhetoric would suggest.

    The survey was conducted by LuntzGlobal, which is owned and run by Republican pollster Frank Luntz.
    KC's View:
    The argument against the minimum wage increases will be that they cost jobs, that companies will eliminate people if they have to spend this much money on wages. The argument for the increases will be that workers need to be paid a reasonable wage, and that better compensated employees will be more productive, leading to businesses that are more successful and hiring more people, not fewer.

    I hope the latter is true. And I also think that high-level executives who would like to hold down minimum wages are perfectly happy to argue that they deserve to earn maximum wages ... which to my mind reflects a disconnection from the reality that the people on the front lines are often most responsible for companies' successes.

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    The Telegraph reports that there is speculation that Ocado, the UK-based e-commerce service provider, "may be close to agreeing a technology deal" with a US retailer.

    The story notes that "the online grocer hopes to boost its profits by licensing its grocery logistics technology, which is used in the UK by Waitrose and Morrisons." Prominently mentioned in the speculation as a possible Ocado US partner is Publix, which has tried to get into the e-commerce business several times and most recently has outsourced fulfillment to a service provider called Shipt.
    KC's View:
    I have no idea if Publix is going to throw in with Ocado, but I certainly wouldn't bet the farm on it. The sense I've always gotten from Publix is that e-commerce is something that they're not persuaded is important to their business model, and they're doing it out of compunction, not conviction. I think that would be a mistake, if that indeed is how they feel. But I'm not sure it leads them to an Ocado relationship.

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    The Connecticut Mirror writes that "big food's surrender to tiny Vermont on the issue of labeling foods produced with genetically modified organisms is prompting activists to make a late-session push to amend Connecticut's labeling law.

    "In 2013, Connecticut became the first state to pass a law requiring GMO labeling, but the requirement never took effect because of a trigger provision: four other states with a combined population of 20 million first had to adopt a similar standard."

    Following the failure of the US Congress to pass legislation that would have prevented states from mandating labels for foods containing GMOs, the story says, "Campbell Soup, General Mills, Kellogg, ConAgra Foods and Mars all intend to change their labels to satisfy Vermont, the nation's second-smallest consumer market, reasoning it was best to have consistent labeling even if that meant bowing to a small state." Now, activists say that it makes sense for Connecticut to simply go ahead and mandate GMO labeling, and abandon the trigger provision.
    KC's View:
    It is a reasonable point. Since companies seem capable of adjusting on their own, states like Connecticut might as well move away from their previous position ... which at the time seemed entirely appropriate.

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    GeekWire reports that the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post is launching "a new collaboration" with Jeff Bezos-founded Amazon.

    According to the story, "Users of the Amazon Echo smart speaker can now access election news and content 'written exclusively for Alexa,' the company’s virtual assistant, by Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza ... Echo users can enable the content by going to “Settings” in the Alexa App, choosing 'Flash Briefing,' and turning on the Washington Post. Then they can ask, 'Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?'"

    The story notes that "this is just part of an array of news content available to Echo users via Alexa, but the notion of a blogger writing exclusive content for a virtual assistant is an interesting development that underscores how experimental The Washington Post has become under Bezos’ leadership."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    MarketWatch reports that "Chipotle Mexican Grill is trying out a new craft beverage program, including alcoholic drinks and sodas, at a Denver, Co. Chipotle." The test includes frozen margaritas, organic sangria, a draft beer, watermelon agua fresca, Izze sodas and Evolution Fresh juices.

    The story notes that the test was planned before Chipotle encountered food safety issues that sickened customers, and hurt its reputation for "food with integrity." Along with the recent report that it is planning to test a burger format, the beverage initiative is seen as a way in which chipotle can change the conversation and get control of its brand narrative.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    Yesterday on MNB, in the Sports Desk section, I noted that on Major League Baseball's opening day, in a rematch of last year's World Series combatants, the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets 4-3.

    However, I neglected to mention that earlier in the day, the Pittsburgh Pirates Pirates defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1, the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 ... facts of which I was quickly reminded by MNB viewers who seemed amused and maybe a little annoyed by what they viewed as my Mets-centric reporting.

    To be honest, I'm not sure that was the problem. I'm in the Pacific Northwest this week, and quite frankly, I simply missed the fact that the two earlier games took place. I think it may have been a time zone issue ... but whatever caused me to miss the earlier two games, I apologize. It was my goof, no excuses.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    Got the following email from MNB reader Andrea Meurer about the minimum wage debate:

    Minimum wage is an entry level wage.  Nobody should stay at that level for long.

    We just increased our entry level wage here – and we had to adjust everybody’s wages upward to make it all fair.  If the entry level wage were $15/hr and we adjusted up everybody above entry level accordingly – we would have to drastically change something in our business model.  Most likely, the change would be a reduction in force and in increase in automation.

    The thing I like the most about minimum wage is that it is low enough so the employer is not making too much of an investment on training someone new who may or may not work out.  After 60 days of successful employment – nobody should still be at that entry level wage.
    Also, the 16-year-olds working 2-4 hours after school:  I would hope the minimum wage laws would accommodate them so that their minimum wage is less than those over the age of majority. We have some here, and I think the work they do is as valuable a piece of their education as it is valuable to our production.   I don’t remember seeing any 16-year-olds working at Costco, which is fine – I just hope there will be jobs available for the youngsters.

    On another subject, from MNB user Deb Faragher:

    You’ve struck a chord.  After many years in the retail business, I have great respect for the value of a positive personal interaction with the customer and the role it plays in projecting the image of the company.  I recognize there’s a cost involved and it sometimes means having to forego that human interaction and use the tools the company offers to communicate issues.  Many companies have gone out of their way to make it difficult to figure out how to reach a human.  

    Case in point.  We’re long term subscribers of the Wall Street Journal.  They will probably lose us because of too many frustrating customer service experiences. 

    The first issue involved our credit card being compromised.  Before I had notified Dow Jones of a new card number, they attempted to put through our monthly payment and it failed.  Instead of notifying us of a problem, they cancelled our subscription (who does that after one attempt and no notification?).  I attempted to use the online Customer Center.  I find it is always slow to load and it yields a standard form response with, apparently, no action.  Live Chat was no better.  When I finally got someone, they were unable to help and referred me to the 800 number.  No help there either.  I finally went online to identify the SVP of Customer Service and sent an email.  That was promptly acknowledged and turned over to someone for follow up.  Hooray, subscription restored—only took 10 days.  And what it also yielded was a contact number where I can talk to a real human being.  I learned after the second issue that this is the best place to resolve customer issues and the online features really are not effective.  Huh?  Kevin, I was trying to pay them money and get my paper.  How hard should they make that? 

    That brings me to the second issue. For some reason, about 4 weeks ago, we started getting our paper every day except Wednesday and Thursday (found that neighbors are still getting their paper so the original feedback that a fill in delivery person couldn’t find the address proved unfounded).  I’ve gone through the Customer Center online to report it but apparently no action was taken.  Based on my previous experience, I skipped right to the “magic” number I had gotten.  I have now spoken to two different people to resolve this delivery problem but, alas, though they were very friendly and professional, no paper this morning and I have no confidence that there will be one tomorrow.  Despite promises to get to the local distributor and get back to me with resolutions, we’ve heard nothing.  We thought of going totally digital with the Journal, as much as I’m resisting, but they don’t even offer enough of a break to give up the paper version.  

    So, in way too many words, the delivery on the promise seems to be lacking here and the ultimate price is a subscription cancellation—for us and the WSJ.  In this case, I tried using their “non-human” resolution with no result.  The humans, unfortunately, did not do better in fulfilling their promise.

    Regarding Chipotle's plans to test a burger chain concept, one MNB user wrote:

    If they open a burger chain, I hope they learn to lay off the sodium.  I was an avid Chipotle fan, even through their food safety challenges, until my 27 year old son asked me if I knew how much sodium was in their food.  I used their nutrition calculator to build my "veggie" bowl, and was shocked that what I thought was healthy, had over 2900 mg of sodium.  The salsas alone had over 1300 mg of sodium (FDA guidelines are no more than 1500 mg/day over the age of 51).  
    Yikes!!! This was an eye opener and I haven't been back.


    And finally, from MNB reader Daniel Hogan:

    I wanted to thank you all for always expanding my vocabulary. Just in the past week I’ve learned two new words: contretemps & anathema ... I appreciate what you all do, & thank you for insuring that I’m always learning!

    Our pleasure.

    Finally ... I received a couple of emails from an MNB reader who wanted to comment on two recent stories.

    First, about our reference to a New York Times report that major US companies - including Walmart and Coca-Cola - are re-evaluating roles that they planned to play at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, concerned about the possibility that they could be implicated in what increasingly seems likely to be a raucous, divisive, even racially charged event. At the heart of the problem is Donald J. Trump, the real estate speculator and reality TV program host, whose "divisive candidacy has alienated many women, blacks and Hispanics." If Trump is the nominee, it is expected that there could be massive protests; if he is not, Trump himself has suggested that there could be rioting started by his disappointed and angered supporters. And some companies are concerned about being associated with such events.

    The MNB reader wrote:

    The First Amendment of the US Constitution does state that people have the right of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble. Just because some people find what Mr. Trump says is "offensive" they do not have the right to silence his and his supporters right to voice their opinions. Also, Mr. Trump and his supporters can lawfully assemble and they have done so ... Those that oppose Trump's views can protest his views, but they must respect Trump and his supporter's right to lawfully assemble and voice their concerns.

    For the record, I don't think the Times story was about that ... it was about corporations being protective of their images. As for Trump and his supporters having the right to assemble and express their opinions, I don't know of anyone who disagrees with that. What some folks have a problem with is the creation of a climate that they believe encourages violence and bullying and intolerance.

    And speaking of intolerance, this same reader had some thoughts about yesterday's story about the "growing list of company heads and municipal officials voicing opposing to North Carolina's new law that prevents specific anti-discrimination rules for LGBT people for public accommodations and restroom use."

    We noted here that "proponents of the law say there is significant support for it both in the business community and among voters."

    I commented, in part:

    What I don't understand about the list of executives who abhor the North Carolina action is how come it isn't longer? To put it in crass commercial terms, I don't understand why any business or business leader would come out in favor of legislation that actively engages in discrimination against people who might someday be their customers.

    To me, not saying anything in this case is as bad as saying the wrong thing.

    Putting aside the commercial aspects, though, it would appear that some folks would like to roll the clock back to another time, and would also like to make sure that nobody else tries to make progress in this area. They may be successful in the short term, but they are on the wrong side of history, in my view, and history will not be kind to them and their decisions.

    The MNB reader wrote:

    Maybe the other business leaders don't want to get involved in such a sticky situation? Maybe, perhaps that they might agree with N. Carolina's GOP lawmakers and that is why they are silent on this manner. Your statement in regard to this is another example of how if you don't agree with today's lefty principals then you are automatically a bad person. I think the left forgets that there are other people in this society that do hold different values and just because they do, doesn't make them bad people.

    I'm a little confused. Am I being accused of promoting "lefty" principles or principals? Or both?

    To be clear, I never said that the people in favor of the law were "bad" people. Never said that. I would, however, argue that there is plenty of demonizing of people holding opposing views by folks on both sides of the aisle.

    My comments yesterday were largely focused on the business argument against the North Carolina law, which is being made by people many of whom would probably be shocked at being described as leftist.

    But just to be honest about my own position - just in case there is any ambiguity - I will say that I have a problem with anybody or any institution that promotes or accepts intolerance or discrimination, no matter how they justify it. It is not up to me to say whether they are bad or not, but I do think, as noted yesterday, that in the end they'll be seen as being on the wrong side of history.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 5, 2016

    In the NCAA men's basketball final last night, the Villanova University Wildcats defeated the University of North Carolina Tar Heels 77-74 with a buzzer-beating three-point shot that gave Villanova its first title since 1985.
    KC's View: