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    Published on: April 12, 2016

    by Michael Sansolo

    If you are going to tell a story, tell it with some attitude.

    That’s one of the first lines in Miles Ahead, the new movie about jazz legend Miles Davis.

    Now truth be told, Miles Ahead isn’t a movie most people are going to embrace; it certainly doesn't fill us with warm feelings about Davis and the way he lived his life. Yet that line and many others uttered by Don Cheadle, who both directed and stars in the film, bring lots of wisdom for business.

    For example, Davis provides a great example about not resting on one’s laurels or past achievements. In the film, Davis constantly rejects praise for some of his universally praised past albums because the past is past. Even as he is struggling with a dry period in his music, Davis is looking to what comes next.

    Think about that: a man widely considered to have completely shattered boundaries in jazz talks constantly about what’s next, not what brought him fame. In fact, Davis even rejects being pigeon-holed as a jazz musician, saying labels are too confining.

    But it’s his line about stories and attitude that should really get us thinking. Story telling is a huge mantra in business and leadership these days. In fact, it’s a huge part of what we talk about here in MNB and is the foundation of "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies," the book Kevin and I wrote about using movies to tell better stories.

    We firmly believe that everyone has a story to tell and how you tell that story motivates your team and connects with your customers. But the key is how you tell it.

    Davis’ point is to tell it in your voice and with attitude so the world knows you are talking. The story is meaningless if it is told in a flat or uninteresting way.

    Coincidentally, Fast Company recently ran an article about the death of the cover letter, the one page note we all once wrote and attached to resumes to impress recruiters. If you were like me, you agonized over those letters to make them perfect and, when I was in the position of hiring, I read them carefully to get a sense of any serious applicant.

    And now they are gone, largely because most recruiting and applying is done on-line and the cover letter is unnecessary.

    Fast Company reminds readers that absence of the letter doesn’t change the goal. An applicant still needs to stand out, to tell a story and do it with attitude. Now it is suggested that the resume must do that.

    Bluntly put, your resume should open with your elevator speech to quickly convince the reader - someone you hope will hire you - to read on. Again, it’s all about storytelling with attitude.

    I would argue that the same holds true for marketing any product, service or person. Find a way to tell the story clearly and do it in a way that no one else can. Make it special because there are so many stories out there that yours must stand out.

    Kevin wrote a headline on MNB recently reminding us that "Special is as Special Does." Tell your story with attitude as to why you are special. Otherwise, no one is likely to listen.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . 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 12, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    The digital revolution strikes again.

    According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, Victoria's Secret has decided to abandon its print catalog business, bringing to an end an institution that has "been at the core of the Victoria’s Secret brand since it started four decades ago."

    It is expected that the move will save the company as much as $100 million in publishing costs, though some experts worry that the move could cause the brand to be "less top of mind with male and female customers long-term.”

    L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria's Secret, said the shift reflected strategic changes that include “evolving how the business connects with customers through more focus on loyalty programs and brand-building engagement rather than traditional catalogues and offers.”

    The story notes that this hardly is a uniform position within the catalog business. JC Penney, for example, dropped its catalog business in 2010 but then brought it back in 2015, believing it had lost customers. And "the Direct Marketing Association says 53% of consumers purchase from a catalog at least once a year, with 17% purchasing monthly or more often. After a steep decline, catalog mailings rose in 2013 for the first time in six years."

    For me, it is like paper coupons. I'm not sure they'll ever completely go away, and there may even be times when use will spike because of economic conditions. But it is hard to imagine that in an increasingly digital world, paper coupons and paper catalogs are growth industries.

    Change is inevitable. And while institutions like the Victoria's Secret catalog may go away, they will be replaced by new institutions. That isn't good or bad. Just change. And it is the companies that resist change that flirt with irrelevance.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 12, 2016

    The Street reports that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has received letters from more than 13,000 customers, including 5,000 members of Amazon Prime, asking that the retailer stop selling products from Donald Trump.

    According to the story, "the petition, driven by online women's advocacy organization UltraViolet Action, calls for Amazon to sever ties with Trump and 'stop profiting off of his brand of hate.'

    "'His hatred should have no place in the Amazon marketplace,' the letter reads, citing what it calls the GOP frontrunner's 'misogyny, racism, and outright bigotry'."

    In a prepared statement, Karin Roland, Chief Campaigns Officer at UltraViolet, said, "Donald Trump has consistently lobbed racist, sexist, and xenophobic attacks against entire groups of people, encouraged violence and vitriol against his political enemies and perpetuated a culture of violence against women. Amazon.com should want to distance themselves from this hateful rhetoric, but instead, they're profiting off his brand. Jeff Bezos needs to listen to his customers and ensure that Amazon doesn't profit off of Trump hate, and take immediate steps to dump Trump."

    The story says that Trump has been critical of Bezos in the past, accusing him of buying the Washington Post so he could have "political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That's not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They're going to have such problems." Trump also has accused the Post of being unfair to him in its political reporting.
    KC's View:
    A few things here.

    First of all, there is no way that Amazon pulls Trump's stuff from the site. Nor should it. Even if a lot of people find his opinions to be reprehensible, he's not going to be denied the ability to sell on Amazon. (Besides, if Amazon pulled his merchandise, it'd just increase his poll numbers because it would reinforce some people's opinions.) If you don't want Trump's stuff to sell, then don't buy it.

    Second, it is worth pointing out that Bezos' desire to influence the public debate hardly makes him unique. Trump did it for years .... and I sort of think there's a pretty good argument that he's doing it now.

    Third ... in a battle of Trump vs. Bezos, I'll take Bezos ... unless Trump means to use the power of the federal government to go after his political enemies. (I think I've seen that movie.)

    Finally ... there are a lot of retailers out there that sell Trump stuff, and I wonder how many of them have gotten this volume of mail on this subject. I think that one thing this indicates is the kind of relationship that Amazon has with its customers ... and it is impressive.

    Published on: April 12, 2016

    In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that Best Buy is making changes in some of its urban stores - starting with units in Manhattan - that are designed to make them m ore convenient for local shoppers.

    Best Buy "has been doing things like moving its Apple mini-shops, and expanding them, to prime real estate near the entrances of its Manhattan stores. It separated its in-store pickup areas from the rest of its customer service counter and boosted its staffing in that area to reduce wait times when customers come in to fetch online orders. And it added concierges who walk around with tablets in hand to help customers navigate its multilevel stores."

    The story makes clear that Best Buy, hit hard by competition from online retailers, has largely stopped opening new stores in recent years and rather has focused on improving existing units in larger markets where it believes it can maintain and maybe even build market share. And so it also is adding departments and high-end products and "has also included stepped-up training and pay for workers to help with recruitment and retention in the fiercely competitive market."
    KC's View:
    I wouldn't bet the house on Best Buy's ability to survive long term, but this is the kind of thing that retailers have to do in order to be relevant and sustainable. It may be too little, too late ... but it is necessary.

    Published on: April 12, 2016

    Bloomberg reports that an investor is challenging the $1.36 billion acquisition by Apollo Global Management of The Fresh Market, saying that "the deal unfairly favors the buyer."

    According to the story, "The proposed deal is the product of a flawed process that was 'designed to ensure the merger of Fresh Market with Apollo on terms preferential to Apollo and defendants,' the investor, John Solak, said in an April 8 complaint in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, asking that the transaction be barred as it stands. He is seeking to represent all Fresh Market shareholders."

    Neither Apollo nor The Fresh Market have commented on the lawsuit.
    KC's View:
    I have no idea whether this lawsuit is legit or not, but I do know this. Pretty much every time a merger or acquisition is announced, a series of press releases go out, usually from the same cadre of law firms, announcing that they are gathering plaintiffs to challenge the deal for this reason or that.

    Published on: April 12, 2016

    The National Grocers Association (NGA) yesterday announced what it called "a new education program that will provide in-depth training to develop a strategic business plan that addresses multifaceted business issues faced by independent supermarket operators."

    Dubbed the Sustainable Business Growth Strategies program, it is designed to "provide independent supermarket operators with the necessary tools and resources to help executives guide their organization through a rapidly changing grocery industry. Participants will explore a vast range of important issues, including consumer trends, identifying areas of differentiation, change management, and workforce diversity."

    Sponsored by Unilever, the first session in the program will take place September 11 – 15, 2016 at Cornell University. This event is open to NGA retail and wholesaler members.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 12, 2016

    The Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) is out with a new study saying that "store brands sales reached $118.4 billion in 2015, an all-time record and an increase of +$2.2 billion over the previous year. In the past two years alone, (own label) annual sales are up +5%, or +$5.4 billion, in the major retail channels."

    In supermarkets, the study says, "total sales of store brands were $62.5 billion, roughly even with the prior year. Over a two-year period, sales are up in the supermarket channel by +2%, or $1.1 billion."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 12, 2016

    • Ohio-based Buehler’s Fresh Foods announced that it "has enhanced their online grocery shopping service to help bring many of the perks and conveniences their customers suggested. Beginning mid-March, Buehler’s 'Click Load & Go' new online shopping site will be powered by Rosie, an online and mobile shopping application.

    The company says that new features include the ability to "shop online or use the new Rosie mobile app" ... a reduced service fee of $5.95 per order, down from $7.95 ... choice of payment options: pay online or at curb-side pick-up ... and site enhancements that include "larger photos, product recommendations and easier shopping cart management."


    Bloomberg reports that "Mondelez International Inc., seeking to boost e-commerce sales, is deepening its relationship with Alibaba Holdings Group Inc. to let Chinese shoppers order a wider variety of Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies, Toblerone chocolate and Trident chewing gum online."

    The story notes that "Alibaba offers access to more than 400 million Chinese consumers, making Mondelez brands more visible and accessible in the country. Alibaba is partnering with global retailers and brands to meet Chairman Jack Ma’s goal of getting half of company revenue from goods sourced outside of China."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 12, 2016

    • Ahold-owned Fresh Formats plans to build the third of its bfresh concept stores in Somerville, Massachusetts, in an 11,000 square foot space in a building in Davis Square there.

    Fresh Formats opened the first bfresh in Allston, Massachusetts, last year, followed by one in Fairfield, Connecticut. The small format is designed to focus on fresh foods and convenience in urban settings. This new store is expected to open later this year.


    • The Chicago Tribune reports that three remaining Joe Caputo & Sons Illinois stores - in Algonquin, Palatine and Des Plaines - will be auctioned off next month. The story notes that "in February, Caputo & Sons closed its Elk Grove Village store, which followed the shutdown of stores last year in Northbrook and Arlington Heights." The retailer "finds itself in this situation about two months after a federal judge froze its assets because of a $3.6 million debt owed to produce wholesaler Anthony Marano Co."
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 12, 2016

    ...will return.
    KC's View: