retail news in context, analysis with attitude

From one MNB reader:

I'm writing about your recap of Whole Food's new relationship with dunnhumby, You wrote, "I'm sure that one of the attractions for Whole Foods is the fact that Kroger did so well using dunnhumby technology, but Kroger had this success over a decade. Whole Foods doesn't have that kind of time. The success of this pairing will depend to a great extent on speed of execution, and Whole Foods' ability to integrate the dunnhumby offering into things like its nascent frequent shopper program."

Actually, Whole Foods' situation is fairly comparable to Kroger's, from over a decade ago. When dunnhumby began working with Kroger, Kroger had been suffering consecutive quarters of negative same-store-sales. Wal-Mart was booming, and many industry observers thought Kroger wasn't going to survive in the years to come. While improved results weren't immediate, it only took 2 - 3 quarters to reverse Kroger's negative SSS trends. And it wasn't a fluke, as Kroger's trends has been continuously positive since then.

My sense is that three factors made a difference: (1) Kroger's deep executive-level commitment to focusing on the customer and to the partnership with dunnhumby. Dave Dillon, then CEO, was reported to have said "I've bet the company on it." (2) A desire to change the company culture by putting the customer at the center of decision making at every level. (3) A willingness to fully enroll suppliers in the change by revealing a level of customer data and targeting capability that was previously unheard of. Underlying all of this was the (rare) combination of confidence, curiosity, and humility among key members of Kroger's executive team.

If Whole Foods' leadership is willing to go all in, run their business for their customers instead of Wall Street, inspire their organization, and enroll their suppliers, they should do very well with dunnhumby.

Responding to last week's piece about robo-banks, one MNB reader wrote:

It seems to me that bank tellers are already obsolete. I bank at a credit union out of state and have not stepped foot in a bank for my personal banking in about 20 years. Even the loan process for my last several cars was handled electronically.
KC's View: