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    Published on: October 11, 2016

    by Michael Sansolo

    Do you hate baseball?

    I have to believe there is a percentage of the MNB readership who would say “yes” and for that reason may be missing one of the most interesting ongoing discussions I think we’ve ever had on this site.

    That’s because the discussion has nothing to do with balls and strikes or the World Series. It has everything to do with the incomprehensible emotional connections each of has to various things in our life.

    And those connections are something no business should ever ignore.

    Let’s back up. Two weeks ago, Kevin wrote about how he completed a life goal to visit every major league baseball stadium and then he ranked them all. None of that’s a surprise because we all know (me especially) that Kevin loves baseball and is loaded with opinions.

    But then e-mails started coming and I hope that you, like me, have been reading them. MNB readers have shared stories of their favorite stadiums, including details why. None of the stories had to do with wins or losses.

    Each story was about an experience or a memory; about going to games with family and friends. In many ways those stories explained perfectly the truth behind James Earl Jones’ wonderful speech at the end of Field of Dreams, which so incredibly captures our endless yearning for memories of simpler times. (You can see it here.)

    Each of these stories is also a terrific reminder to every company out there that while people are buying your products or shopping your stores, there is something else really going on. They are buying experiences. Understand that and you can make connections that strengthen customer ties more than any sale.

    Kevin had another fascinating piece this past Thursday about the last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in the US and what an incredibly mediocre experience he had when visiting there. As Kevin rightly said, the restaurant is missing an amazing opportunity to use its status and nostalgia to drive traffic.

    In other words, it could be providing amazing experiences and reaping business from parents and grandparents wanting to show their kids what eating out was once like. It could be, in the words from Field of Dreams, like they've dipped themselves in the magic waters of the past. Instead, the opportunity is going to waste - which stood out in stark contrast to another story that Kevin wrote about independent bookstores finding a way to carve out a niche.

    There again are some powerful lessons.

    First, let’s be totally honest about nostalgia. Everyone loves reliving memories, but that love goes only so far. None of us are giving up our smart phones and moving back to wall-mounted dial phones to relive our childhoods. We both like and complain about the modern stuff because that’s human nature. We want all that was great about the past…just done the way we like it today.

    So no one would argue for supermarkets to dump scanners or modern refrigerated cases, just as we shouldn’t return to spreading sawdust on the floor. But there are elements of emotional connection we can make as we build new memories in much the way that baseball stadiums today entertain patrons all around the game. In that way a purist like me can follow the play, while my eye-rolling daughter can check out the strange promotions and contests.

    We can do it through special promotions and merchandising events to celebrate moments from the past. We’ve seen such efforts succeed when manufacturers offer products in “classic” or “throwback” designs. Memories and emotional connections get stirred in all kinds of ways.

    We can do it with recipes to highlight long time family staples with modern touches, such as finding new ways to make macaroni and cheese or meatloaf. There are loads for us to learn from places like Five Guys and Shake Shack that have essentially resurrected our love affair with comfort foods in a new and substantial way.

    Mostly we can do it by giving staff the time, training and resources to make it happen. If they can help create those emotional connections the efforts might well pay for themselves.

    Remember, there’s never a guarantee that “if you build it, they will come,” as promised in Field of Dreams.

    But if you find a way to tug those emotional strings from the past you might find some interesting answers for the future.

    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: October 11, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Seattle Times has a story that indicates the degree to which Amazon is ramping up to compete with, well, pretty much everybody.

    According to the piece, "Washington’s Employment Security Department says that between May and August, posted 11,042 job openings online in King County, double the number from the same period last year. The runner-up was the University of Washington, with 2,757. Microsoft had 1,611 ... At the end of the second quarter, Amazon had 268,900 employees worldwide, a 47 percent jump from the previous year, putting it on track to surpass every other Fortune 500 company except Wal-Mart in a couple of years."

    Amazon's hiring numbers, the Times writes, "mean that the tech and retail giant’s Pantagruelian appetite for workers dwarfs that of every other employer in Seattle’s red-hot market for tech skills." And, "about two-thirds are newly created positions. It’s a good example of the transformative impact of Amazon in the Puget Sound region, where median salaries are being pushed up by frenzied demand for tech talent."

    First of all, I have to admit that I had to check to see what Pantagruelian means. The word, just FYI, comes from a 1532 novel by Rabelais, and refers to the huge son of a character named Gargantua. And, it means huge.

    These numbers are Eye-Opening and just another sign of Amazon's growing size and power. And I thought they were worth noting, just in case there was anyone out there in denial about Amazon's intentions.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2016

    The New York Times reports that meat processing giant Tyson has invested "an undisclosed amount" in Beyond Meat, described as a California-based company "that makes 'meats' from protein sources like soy and peas," and that "aims to reduce consumption of chicken, beef and pork by replacing it with plant proteins."

    In other words, investing in a company designed to replace it.

    The story notes that "Americans are eating more plant-based foods, leaving conventional food companies scrambling to catch up. The Plant Based Foods Association said businesses in the United States, which include Beyond Meat, Califia Farms and Heidi Ho, rang up $4.9 billion in sales for the 12 months through June, and grew faster than the food business over all."

    Among the other entities that have invested in Beyond Meat are General Mills and the Humane Society of the United States.
    KC's View:
    Assuming that Tyson's goal is to cover its bets and maybe a few other things, this is a play that would seem to make a lot of sense. We talk a lot here about the importance of trying to figure out what strategies would put you out of business, and then adopt them. That's really the only way to do business these days ... because the alternative is to allow the competition to do those things and actually put you out of business.

    Published on: October 11, 2016

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that in an effort to be more competitive, regardless of whether it is spun off or sold off by Supervalu, discount chain Save-A-Lot "is boosting the number of national brands on its shelves, remodeling to highlight fresh foods and adding stores."

    The story says that Save-A-Lot, which currently has more than 1,200 stores around the country, plans to open 75 new stores next year, and believes it could eventually have more than 3,500 stores in the US.

    While private label traditionally has accounted for 60 percent of Save-A-Lot's sales, the chain's corporate and majority of franchised stores have begun carrying 130 national brands described as "must have" items that " attract and maintain new customers ... To attract more brand-conscious customers," the story says, Save-A-Lot is "consolidating its myriad private label offerings to one primary brand, America’s Choice, which it acquired earlier this year."

    Canadian private equity firm Onex Corp. is said to have made the highest bid for Save-A-Lot, which could be worth as much as $1.8 billion. A decision by Supervalu is expected before the end of October.
    KC's View:
    I've said this before here, and I absolutely believe it. I think that Save-A-Lot has a window in which it can do the kinds of things necessary to improve its marketing effectiveness and operational efficiencies. I think it has to move quickly and decisively if it is going to be competitive with retailers such as Aldi that are expanding fast. This won't be easy, but it really is the only choice that Save-A-Lot has, not matter who owns it.

    It all starts with a vision. That seems to be what is happening here. Next comes the hard part.

    Published on: October 11, 2016

    The New York Times has a story saying that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo "have given millions of dollars to nearly 100 prominent health groups in recent years, while simultaneously spending millions to defeat public health legislation that would reduce Americans’ soda intake."

    The story is based on a report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and it documents, the Times says, "the beverage industry’s deep financial ties to the health community over the past five years, as part of a strategy to silence health critics and gain unlikely allies against soda regulations ... The report found a number of instances in which influential health groups accepted beverage industry donations and then backed away from supporting soda taxes or remained noticeably silent about the initiatives."

    The story can be read in its entirety here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2016

    Bloomberg reports thatAmazon may be worried about warehouse capacity during the upcoming holiday season, and plans on "restricting merchant access to its warehouses ... freezing new merchants out of its fast-delivery service Fulfillment By Amazon until Dec. 19, preventing them from sending inventory to its fulfillment centers in advance of the holidays."

    By doing so, Amazon actually will trim the number of products available through Amazon Prime, its two-day shipping service.

    "Amazon usually has cut-off times for merchants in select categories - such as toys - to get inventory to warehouses in advance of the holidays," Bloomberg writes. "This year, however, for the first time the restrictions on new sellers apply to all categories of items and came without advance warning."

    Amazon has not commented on the report.

    The story notes that "the move is the latest step Amazon has taken to make more efficient use of warehouse space during the peak shopping season. Earlier this year, the company changed its fees to penalize merchants who store slow-moving or off-season merchandise in its warehouses during the height of the shopping year and reward merchants who send in fast-moving products such as a hot-selling Christmas toy. Amazon makes more money from the revenue share with merchandise than it does for storing products, providing an incentive to ensure its warehouse space isn’t cluttered with products that don’t sell during the holidays."
    KC's View:
    I think that this is kind of thing that potentially is risky for Amazon. I understand that they have to be careful about not making promises they can't keep, especially during the holidays, but if Prime becomes less important because of lack of availability, that won't be good, either.

    It seems to me that Amazon has to be careful not to give companies like Walmart - especially now that it owns Jet - an opening. Because Walmart will take that opening and run with it.

    Published on: October 11, 2016

    MarketWatch reports that while Walmart has said that it plans to slow down its new store opening plans as it invests billions in e-commerce development, experts continue to believe that "Wal-Mart’s physical locations are an asset - not an obstacle - that the retailer will maximize in its market share struggle with Amazon."

    In one analysis, Cowen & Company wrote earlier this week, "We expect Wal-Mart to leverage physical assets to drive seamless shopping across online and offline channels ... Customer loyalty across multiple channels, a broadline product offering, un-Amazon-able service options (pharmacy, auto, health care visit, others) should drive attractive overall spend and basket size economics ... Walmart’s retail footprint remains a powerful asset given 90% of the U.S. population lives within 15 minutes of a Walmart store. In turn, we believe a better shopping experience should aid traffic and continued comp store sales growth of 1% to 2% over the next few years.”

    In a note published last week, MarketWatch reports, UBS said that Walmart "needs to act with a sense of urgency as Amazon gains scale every day in logistics, purchasing and membership."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2016

    • Safeway announced that it is partnering with Lindora Clinic, described as "a national leader in the medical weight loss arena," to open Lean for Life clinics in five Safeway stores.

    According to the announcement, Lindora, "already operating more than 35 clinics throughout Southern California, will become the first medically based weight loss clinic to provide services within California grocery stores. These 400- to 500-square-foot clinics will be adjacent to Safeway’s in-store pharmacies. In addition to clinicians who work one-on-one with patients, these new clinics will feature Lean for Life food coaches, who will show clients how to make healthier food choices and develop better eating habits."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2016

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 11, 2016

    In the American League Division Series, the Cleveland Indians defeated the Boston Red Sox, completing a three-game sweep of the best-of-five game series and moving on to the AL Championship Series, where they will play the Toronto Blue Jays.

    In one of the two National League Divisional Series, the Washington Nationals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 to take a 2-1 game lead in the best-of-five series,

    And, in 13 innings, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Chicago Cubs 6-5; the Cubs now have a 2-1 game lead in the best-of-five series.

    And, in Monday Night Football, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers 17-14.
    KC's View: