retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: August 19, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    The world of television satire is a little smaller today, with the cancellation, effective last night, of "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore."

    "The Nightly Show" consistently focused on the issue of race during its 20 or so months on the air, with an abandon that was refreshing and occasionally, I must admit, a little discomfiting. But we're always talking in this country about the need for a "national conversation about race," and "The Nightly Show" actually dared to have it. And Larry Wilmore, the show's host, seemed committed to, in his words, "Keep it 100" ... which is code for no B.S.

    I didn't agree with everything they said on "The Nightly Show," but I often learned something - I got a sense of how other people viewed issues, in ways different than I viewed them. And that was valuable. Plus, the show often was very funny. Unfortunately, not enough people watched ... and the reality of television is that if you don't get the ratings or the so-called desirable demographics, you're not going to be on the air very long. On the other hand, Jon Stewart stopped by the last "Night Show" last night and made a salient point - that in TV, cancellation is not the same as failure.

    (Viewers can find solace in the fact that "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" and "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," direct descendants of Stewart's "Daily Show," remain very much in the game.)

    In recognition of "The Nightly Show" and the intelligence that it brought to the late night conversation, I want to offer you a link to a segment that they did some months ago, and repeated earlier this week - in which one of its correspondents, Jordan Carlos, went in search of a mythical food desert. It is funny, but pointed ... and worth watching here.

    It is an Eye-Opener, as Larry Wilmore was, almost every night.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2016

    Walmart came out with its second quarter results yesterday, saying that US same store sales were up 1.6 percent, about 50 percent higher than expected, its eighth straight quarter of same-store sales increases.

    In addition, same-stores sales at Neighborhood Markets was up 6.5 percent, while at the Sam's Club division they were up 0.6 percent, and outside the US same-store sales were up 2.2 percent.

    And, there was more good news for Walmart - online sales were up 11.8 percent, which ended nine straight quarters of slowing growth even before its $3.3 billion acquisition of e-commerce startup Jet was completed.

    “We have a plan, and we are executing against it, and customers are responding favorably,” CEO Doug McMillon said in a prepared statement. And Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart's US business, added, "We've got existing customers who are visiting stores more often and putting an extra item in their basket."
    KC's View:
    Even when things seemed to be going bad for Walmart, I've never quite believed that they were all that bad and certainly not irreparably so. It is interesting to see Walmart bucking what has seemed to be the retail stagnation trend, and it probably should worry Target a little bit that the same week that it announced disappointing sales, Walmart releases some pretty good numbers.

    As for its online business ... I think that Walmart can only get better, which is going to make its battle with Amazon tougher on both sides, and better for consumers.

    Published on: August 19, 2016

    The Seattle Times has a story about The Organic Coup, described as "a burgeoning organic fast-food chain" founded by Erica Welton and Dennis Hoover, a pair of former Costco executives.

    According to the story, The Organic Coup "bills itself as the first fast-food restaurant to qualify as Certified Organic under U.S. Department of Agriculture rules, and serves 'organic air chilled chicken breast' sandwiches, wraps and bowls as well as tater tots and caramel popcorn drizzled with chocolate."

    There are three Organic Coup restaurants open in the San Francisco area, with plans to expand quickly - five to seven are scheduled to open in Northern California by the end of the year, with another five in Los Angeles, five in Seattle, and two or three in Portland, Oregon.

    Among the investors in The Organic Coup are Jim Sinegal, the former CEO of Costco, and Richard Galanti, Costco's current CFO.

    The Times writes that The Organic Coup is committed to "the Costco philosophy of paying its workers well and promoting from within. Entry level workers at The Organic Coup’s San Francisco location, for instance, are paid $16 an hour, while those in other Bay Area cities make $14."
    KC's View:
    Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I have to think that The Organic Coup will only be as good as its food. I'm happy to eat certified organic food, but I want it to be tasty ... that's got to be job one.

    Published on: August 19, 2016

    The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story that details the ins and outs of the shipping game as played by retailers hoping to use it as a differentiating advantage, only to find that it can be dangerous to their bottom lines.

    "Free shipping is a dangerous game for retailers," the Journal writes. "Customers expect it: 75% said whether they will pay for delivery 'greatly impacts' their decision to buy a product online, according to a June survey by AlixPartners, a consulting firm. The average minimum order that qualified for free shipping was $50 at the end of last year, according to Internet Retailer, a trade publication and information service.

    "Someone still has to pay to pack your purchases and get them to your door. Reducing that cost by shipping orders in fewer, smaller boxes while getting bigger, more profitable orders will separate the winners from the losers online, analysts say."

    And here's a basic fact - the profitability of an item, and an order, often depends on the packaging and the shipping. And you can read more about it here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2016

    • Add Eddie Bauer to the list of retailers that have found their systems to have been hacked. The Associated Press reports that the clothing retailer is saying that "its retail stores' point-of-sale systems were infected with malware earlier this year, possibly giving hackers access to customers' payment card information ... It says an investigation conducted by forensic experts found that the intrusion in its stores was part of an attack directed at restaurants, hotels and other retailers."
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2016

    Bloomberg reports that Macy's, which just announced its intention to close 100 stores, or about 14 percent of its fleet, has hired Richard Lennox, formerly CMO at Toys R Us, to be its new chief marketing officer.
    KC's View:
    I don't know Lennox, so I have no idea how good he may be. But I'm not sure I'd hire anyone away from Toys R Us, a chain that is not exactly setting the world on fire.

    Published on: August 19, 2016

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 19, 2016

    To be honest, I think that Robert H. Patton's first novel (after a number of terrific histories and nonfiction books), "Cajun Waltz," is misnamed ... but only because it reads like a driving, soulful blues number that explores the desperate souls and misplaced desires of three generations in the Louisiana bayou.

    The great Ross Macdonald, once wrote about how "the past was filling the room like a tide of whispers," a quote that came to mind as I read "Cajun Waltz," a book that is thick with atmosphere and compelling in its description of both people and place; there were times that I could almost feel the humidity and storm clouds closing in on me. "Cajun Waltz" gives us characters who don't just commit their own sins, but are condemned by the sins of their forebears and the insularity of the place in which they live. Characters are always looking for an angle or looking for redemption - sometimes both - and Bob Patton gets inside their heads and hearts, peeling artifice away like the skin of an onion, and following them into the sometimes swampy darkness of their souls.

    There are few things I admire more than the ability to write a novel. And when that first novel is a really good one ... well, that's enough to lift my spirits and give me hope. "Cajun Waltz" is just like that, and I recommend it to you.

    During a brief stop in Minnesota this week, I did get the opportunity to visit a wonderful brewpub called Surly Brewing Co, where the Furious amber ale was absolutely wonderful and the Overrated west coast IPA was anything but ... there was nothing like sitting outside in the beer garden with friends after watching a Twins game, sipping beer and enjoying the summer weather.

    By the way .... the chilaquiles, built on a base of pulled pork, are pretty outstanding, too.

    I have two wines to recommend to you this week - both Albarinos, though one is from Spain and the other from Washington State. The first is the 2015 Alma Terra, which has a bit of spice and is great with pasta and seafood. The second is the 2015 Proprietor's Reserve from Maryhill Vineyards, which is just a touch more mellow but no less delicious. Enjoy...both a great during these hot August nights.

    As you read this, I'm heading to Chicago, where we are going to celebrate the 30th birthday of our oldest son, David. He's built a good life for himself there - he works in the marketing department of a broadcasting/cable company, acts in lots of storefront theater productions, is writing and directing a web series, and is about to have a horror film, 2 Jennifer, in which he stars (and - SPOILER ALERT - is disemboweled ... just what every parent wants to see), released on iTunes and elsewhere.

    So we're looking forward to dinner at Au Cheval, one of his favorites, and plenty of fun. I'll also have time to try to figure out how he possibly could be 30, which makes no sense since I'm only 35.

    Happy Birthday, Dave.

    That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.


    KC's View: