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    Published on: May 10, 2016

    by Michael Sansolo

    It has nothing to do with marketing, competition, economics or personnel. Yet I found much to ponder in a recent Washington Post article about reducing traffic fatalities. Robert Thomson, also known as Dr. Gridlock, wrote the following:

    “The safety tip that comes up more than any other - and often first - is ‘Wear your safety belt.’ (Transportation experts) say it’s the simplest and most effective thing you can do to protect yourself from injury or death while driving.”

    Thomson went on to discuss and praise all the advances being made in vehicle safety from drowsy driver warnings to automatic braking, even while making them all secondary to the “one little thing that’s still under your control.” That’s your seat belt.

    I doubt we have many transportation safety experts or car manufacturers reading MNB, although anything is possible. However, I don’t think we need twist ourselves into pretzels to find something to learn from driver safety.

    The issue isn’t driver or food safety; rather, it’s about highlighting the simple and most obvious solution that somehow gets overlooked. I’ve been driving a long time and I can’t imagine moving without my seat belt buckled. And remember, I grew up in the 1950s and 60s when many cars came without belts, babies didn’t have special seats and we sat untethered with countless friends in the backs of station wagons.

    Somehow we survived, but that was then and this is now. Now we know better and we know that seat belts save countless lives. As Dr. Gridlock wrote, air bags are great except when people are ejected from their vehicle because the seat belt was unbuckled. In other words, simple solutions left undone can undermine far more complex efforts.

    Think about it: we’re all concerned about cyber-safety and yet things like ABCDEFG or password are still among the most used passwords. Likewise, why do so many of us (sadly, me included) open sketchy looking e-mails. Just some simple thinking would make such a difference.

    In addition, washing our hands properly can prevent so much illness and simple food safety handling techniques stop most food-borne illness. Best of all, eating better and more exercise would do far more to battle obesity than countless pieces of ill-aimed legislation.

    There are countless complex problems we all face in business and the solutions - if they exist - are anything but simple. Business rarely comes with an “easy” button when it comes to unraveling changing consumer preferences, new forms of competition, economic challenges, electronic commerce and many more issues are far more complex than clicking seat belts.

    But never overlook the simple ideas and solutions that might be right in front of you. After all, a simple solution won’t solve everything. But the problem it does solves is one less thing you have to deal with - in the car, or in the boardroom.

    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: May 10, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    Interesting story in Minnesota's Star Tribune about Best Buy's leadership team - which is now, for the first time, is dominated by women.

    The story details the development this way:

    "Best Buy reached the turning point last month when Trish Walker was hired from Accenture to become its president of services, including the Geek Squad. With her hiring, six of the 10 executives who report to chief executive Hubert Joly are women.

    "The other newest members of Best Buy’s C-Suite are Paula Baker, a longtime Best Buy employee who was promoted to be the human resources chief in March, and Corie Barry, who was elevated to chief strategy officer last year. They join Shari Ballard, a longtime Best Buy executive who oversees U.S. stores; Sharon McCollam, a former Williams-Sonoma executive whom Joly hired in 2012 as chief financial officer; and Mary Lou Kelley, who came to Best Buy in 2014 from Chico’s to lead e-commerce."

    While Best Buy says it has been committed to gender diversity, it also says that its bottom line commitment has been to identifying the best talent. And Nicholas Pearce, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, tells the paper that not only does gender diversity provide "role models for girls and young women, but research has suggested it also leads to better business outcomes and higher innovation."

    The fact that this is taking place at Best Buy is interesting, since technology-oriented chains traditionally have been seen as male-dominated venues. That said, companies like Best Buy - significantly challenged by online stores such as Amazon - have to broaden their appeal if they are to survive.

    However, the story also notes that diversity only goes so far; while a lot of companies are hiring more women for leadership positions, race remains a problem area: "On Best Buy’s 11-person executive team, only one is a person of color."

    It all is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 10, 2016

    Investor News Wire reports that Amazon is preparing to launch what is called "a new chef-inspired meal kits service," and will partner with Tyson Foods "to sell fresh protein and partner with the company for innovation."

    Tyson CEO Donald Smith said yesterday that "the new service will be called Tyson Taste Makers and will be launched this fall ... Though Smith did not share more details regarding Taste Makers, his description coupled with other comments made on his partnership with Amazon, the new services seem like a read-to-cook ingredients delivery similar to what HelloFresh and Blue Apron do."

    The Investor News Wire story says that "Taste Makers is going to be the Amazon’s latest effort to secure a larger share in the massive food and grocery markets. Stretching borders into the recipe-delivery market will be a nice way for Amazon to reach upper-income markets that are continuously receiving similar services like HelloFresh and Blue Apron useful. This will result in Amazon growing its market share in the United States Food and beverage industry."
    KC's View:
    I would work on the assumption that Amazon probably is working with a lot of different companies to create a variety of meal-oriented models, a bunch of which may well fail, but one or two of which will gain traction and move the needle. Which will be just fine with Amazon, as it builds the ecosystem that we talk about here so often, maneuvering itself so it is the first, easiest, and sometimes even the best consumer choice for just about everything.

    The question I would ask of everybody competing with Amazon - and let's be clear, everybody is competing with Amazon - is how much time, effort and money are you spending looking for alliances and models that could help transform your business, carving out categories and opportunities that will distinguish and differentiate you?

    This applies to retailers both big and small, and I'm not the only one who feels this way. In fact, Seeking Alpha has a piece suggesting that Amazon is ideally positioned to take down Walmart, which has seen its revenue derived from grocery climb to roughly half its total revenue. Everything that Amazon is doing these days in the grocery segment seems at least partly aimed at eroding Walmart's market share, and the story says that "if AmazonFresh and Amazon grocery delivery can draw even 10% of Wal-Mart's national grocery business ... you can see the market share starting to take shape for Amazon."

    Published on: May 10, 2016

    USA Today has a story about the recent poor stock performance by many grocery operators, noting that "the S&P 500 Food Retail industry group has lost 8% of its value this month, creating a nearly 15% hit for investors this year. The poor performance of grocery store stocks is somewhat of a surprise since they are in what's considered to be a defensive industry, which means business tends to hold up even during times of economic slowness."

    The story goes on: "Hardest hit have been the specialty groceries that operate in niches such as in organic food that are getting increasingly encroached upon by larger grocers like Kroger or mass retailers like Costco, says Phil Terpolilli, analyst at Wedbush Securities." Which is why companies like Whole Foods and Fairway - admittedly for different reasons - have been struggling in the public markets.
    KC's View:
    I normally shy away from stock market stories, since I think it is fairly well established that I'm more interested in Main Street than Wall Street. But I thought this was interesting since Kroger and Costco are identified as stronger performers because they're encroaching on territory formerly dominated by niche companies ... but Costco and Kroger also are companies that, I think it is fair to say, have succeeded on Wall Street precisely because they've done so well focusing on Main Street. Fairway made a Wall Street play that its diminishing returns on Main Street made hard to justify, and one has to wonder lately if Whole Foods has been too focused on Wall Street. To me, the winning formula seems pretty evident...

    Published on: May 10, 2016

    The Boston Globe has a story work taking a look at, about " a larger movement that is reshaping one of our most common and consistent shopping experiences: the supermarket ... Innovators, entrepreneurs, and establishment food retailers are beginning to imagine the supermarket of the future as a space that combines technology, personalization, and local color to satisfy consumers’ ever-growing hunger for health and convenience.

    "Among the visions already being planned and piloted: smaller stores heavy on prepared-food options, new packaging that makes it easy to understand a product’s ingredients, in-store scanners that instantly assess an apple’s nutrition, and even delivery services that let busy consumers skip the store altogether."

    Give it a read here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 10, 2016

    • The Charlotte Observer reports that online retailer/delivery service Instacart is launching this week in that North Carolina market, allowing customers to "order from Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Publix, Whole Foods, Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club. The company claims deliveries 'in as little as one hour' (your fee varies based on the time frame you pick.)"

    • At the same time, the Charlotte Business Observer reports that Walmart is expanding its grocery click-and-collect service to two more Charlotte-area stores, after a successful test at five units.

    The Street reports that "online grocery appears to have been successful for Walmart, which continues to report weak store sales as more people shop online and move back to urban areas. About 90% of online grocery users are repeat customers, and more than 90% of the orders include fresh grocery items such as dairy, produce and meat ... The chain's research shows diapers and baby products are top-sellers among Millennial moms using the service. The reason? They are able to get out of the house with the baby, pop their trunk, and have their diapers and other groceries loaded without unbuckling any car seats or seat belts."

    • Massachusetts-based Roche Bros. announced that it is developing a new online strategy that "will facilitate home delivery in eastern and central Massachusetts, and curbside pickup at a growing number of store locations."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 10, 2016

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    CNBC reports that the "Gilroy Garlic Fries" being tested at some McDonald's in the San Francisco area have proven to be so successful that the company, after just two weeks, is now "experiencing a temporary shortage of supplies." It could take a few weeks for the McDonald's store gets restocked.

    The garlic fries are part of McDonald's broader effort to expand its menu selections while not veering too far from its core identify.

    They better not fix the problem with garlic from someplace other than Gilroy...

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is kicking off "a review of the 1990s official definition of 'healthy' at the urging of food companies and lawmakers.

    "The regulator is planning to ask the public as well as food experts for comment on what should be the modern definition of healthy, setting off a process that could take years to complete. But the decision to redefine the term marks a major step in the FDA’s effort to catch up to changing ideas about health and eating habits ..."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 10, 2016

    • BJ's Wholesale Club announced that Lee Delaney has been appointed Executive Vice President, Chief Growth Officer, responsible for the company's merchandising and supply chain organization. Delaney has spent the last 20 years in the Boston office of Bain & Company, as a partner and a leader in the firm's Consumer Products practice.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 10, 2016

    William Schallert, who had an acting career that spanned more than six decades, encompassing such diverse roles as the father on "The Patty Duke Show" and, most notably to some of us, Nilz Baris, under secretary in charge of agricultural affairs for the United Federation of Planets, on “The Trouble With Tribbles,” one of the best episodes of the original "Star Trek" series, has passed away. He was 93, and had never retired; he recently played roles in series such as "2 Broke Girls," "True Blood," and "Bag of Bones."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 10, 2016

    Responding to yesterday's story about the transition to chip-enabled cards, and how the banks seem to be getting all the breaks and retailers seem to be getting one of them, one MNB user wrote:

    This just proves that when Banks are made the scapegoat from the Obama administration, they will find other income streams to fill the void. It’s called Capitalism.

    Really? You see no difference between capitalism and spending enough lobbying money to get the system rigged in your favor, harming consumers and retailers?

    And by the way, from my perspective, the banks haven't been targeted for anti-consumer transgressions nearly enough.

    Got the following email from MNB reader John Domino about our piece yesterday about a speech given by retired Kroger CEO Dave Dillon:

    David Dillon is so very right and you do not have to look very far to see how many examples of how profits before sales/customers brought down some very good retailers.  Fairway is the latest example, but A&P and my old company SUPERVALU are also prime examples.  Before the 2006 Albertsons acquisition, SUPERVALU had a culture throughout the organization of serving customers better than our competitors, and in general, it held true, although there were a few instances (Scott's Ft. Wayne & Cub Chicago) where we had to relearn it.   However, after the acquisition, we listened too closely to  Wall Street and the management consultants and streamlined the company, cut employee benefits (even though we had all of these programs that were trying to increase employee engagement), increased home office control at the expense of empowering the employees in the field and ultimately drove the company into the ground. 
    The industry needs more David Dillons and Jim Sinegals (Costco.)


    We had a piece yesterday about food labeling lawsuits, which prompted one MNB user to write:

    It was said that John Edwards, the infamous running mate of John Kerry, was responsible for driving up the cost of every prescription in the US by $1.00. His ambulance chasing tactics and ultimate lawsuits were simply added to the cost of doing business. Americans have long been consuming wood chips, chemicals, fillers, rat feces, bugs, dirt, hair and many other tastefully sounding things in their food for years. I for one could care less what additives are in our food, if I like it I will eat it. There is no denying that we have the safest food supply in the world and the lawyers will not be happy until it’s the most expensive.

    I want to be clear about something here. While the reader who sent this email signed his name, and I could've used it, I've decided not to ...because this person works in the bakery business. I didn't think it would do him - or his company - any good if he gets quoted as saying that he doesn't care what's in his food - including "wood chips, chemicals, fillers, rat feces, bugs, dirt, hair" - as long as it taste good. (I suspect that his company's official position may be somewhat different.)

    I actually think that list of additives - both deliberate and, I assume, accidental - is sort of disgusting. I also don't think we can attribute the nation's litigiousness just to John Edwards, though I'd also note that this particular reader is willing to blame any and all Democrats for everything and anything that he deems wrong with society.

    I'm think that some sort of legal reform absolutely is necessary to prevent and/or discourage frivolous lawsuits, but I'm not sure that filing suit over inaccurate labeling, or rat feces in products, falls into that category.

    Call me crazy.
    KC's View: