retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB yesterday took note of a new JP Morgan analysis saying that not only is Whole Foods working hard not to play the price game in the face of new competition, but that the average 'on-shelf price' at Whole Foods in January, was 34% higher than at Kroger.

Got the following email from a Whole Foods executive who also is an MNB reader:

Admittedly, I do not have insight into that side of the business, but from my personal experience, Whole Foods products are generally more expensive because they are more expensive food. You can’t compare Whole Foods store brand to a Kroger store brand because the Whole Foods 365 brand uses better, more expensive ingredients. For example, the semolina flour in the mac and cheese would not be bleached and bromated or contain corn syrup solid fillers like other store brands might. And for identical name brand natural and organic products, in many grocery stores these items are in a separate section of the store and the prices are really jacked up. Are they comparing overall prices across the store, or certain products that are the same across all stores? Apples and oranges….another example, when Whole Foods sources cherries, they source the ones with higher meat to pit ratios and higher sweetness factors. It’s not just a matter of prices at checkout. Whole Foods quality standards make the products it sells more expensive to produce.

Plus, the products at Whole Foods are vetted at a whole different level than conventional products and (if anyone cares), I believe the team members are also paid better.

We continue to get email about other readers' reactions to the New York Times report that the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that "a florist who refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding cannot claim religious belief as a defense under the state’s anti-discrimination laws." Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the ruling made the point that “sexual orientation is a protected class — just like race, just like religion.”

MNB reader Jeff Gartner wrote:

Kevin, I continue to be astounded (but really not surprised) by those who claim their "religious freedom" is usurped by others INTOLERANT of their prejudice against gays, blacks, Asians, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, etc. 

Your reader who states "Tolerance must to be a 2 way street" to legitimize her prejudices is making an unconstitutional claim when it's applied by businesses serving the public. We should NOT be tolerant of such prejudice.

Religious freedom is misdirected to serve as an excuse to persecute and discriminate. It makes me want to join the Pastafarians in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster … is it really any more ridiculous than the religious practice of that letter writer?

Thanks for the column, it's good to vent.

MNB reader Mike Moon wrote:

I always thought those merchants who would refuse their goods or services to ANY customer who was willing to pay for it were foolish and needed to be in another line of work. I also thought that those who were refused service would simply vote with their pocketbooks and take their business elsewhere.

Your recent comment, however, that blacks who were refused service at lunch counters also had other options really got my attention; I had not thought of things that way.  I'm never in favor of additional regulation, or government intrusion, but this may be one of those instances where it may be needed.

On the subject of digital advertising, and why companies are spending more on it without necessarily getting commensurate returns, one MNB reader wrote:

>b>Perhaps marketers should talk with their targets and find out what they’re doing when their ads pop up.  They might find “less is more.”  I stopped looking at ads years ago.  It’s too much.  I’ve been driven away from websites because of pop-ups and auto-play videos (if there is a way to turn those off on my computer, I’d love to hear the secret).  I’ve made mental notes to NOT buy a product because I’m tired of being bombarded with their ads.  I’ve turned off the TV a number of times because I’ve had to sit through sooo many commercials that I’ve either lost interest in the show I was watching or even forgotten what show I was watching.
Some of us remember the days when commercial breaks were only 30-60 seconds long.  They weren’t even long enough to get up and get a drink of water.  You watched the commercials.  Nowadays, you take a shower, cook a meal, and phone your loved ones during commercials.  Now it’s the show that interrupts your activities; not the commercials that interrupt your show.

I responded to yesterday's news about Toys R Us laying off HQ personnel with a comment about how I always hated going there when my kids were young, which prompted one MNB reader to wrote:

I am certainly well past my child raising years and I haven’t been in a Toys R Us store for decades, until this past holiday season. We had both of our grandsons and their parents for Christmas and New Year’s. I went toy shopping at the Toys R Us in Manchester, CT and found the store in great shape, ready for business and staffed very well. The front end service was fast and courteous. There was even a Lego representative in the isle helping geezers like me choosing the proper age specific items. Just possibly, Toys R Us is spending their labor dollars where they are the most effective, in their stores.


I still think I'll stick with Amazon when the time comes.

One MNB reader wrote in the other day about what I had called "the risks for companies and business leaders that may be associated with taking political positions," and pointed out that Trump dominated the popular vote everywhere except metropolitan California, the Northeast or the Northwest. Businesses catering to the rest of the country may not be risking anything by associating themselves with Trump policies, he said.

Prompting another MNB reader to write:

We’ll see how happy people in those 31 states are if a border adjustment tax raises prices of imported products by 20 %.

Or retailers in Texas or Florida who suffer due to mass deportations of their customers.

I live in Georgia, one of the 31 states that voted for the president and personally have never been more disappointed in the role model we have leading our nation.

The various town halls taking place around the country, in which elected officials seem to be facing some push-back from voters, suggest that all may not be as it seemed in some of those 32 states. The situation is fluid, and there are a lot of moving parts ... and this remains a remarkable time in US history.
KC's View: