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    Published on: March 22, 2017

    Content Guy's Note: The goal of "The Innovation Conversation" is to explore some facet of the fast-changing, technology-driven retail landscape and how it affects businesses and consumers. It is, we think, fertile territory ... and one that Tom Furphy - a former Amazon executive, the originator of Amazon Fresh, and currently CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners (CEP), a venture capital and venture development firm in Seattle, WA, that works with many top retailers and manufacturers - is uniquely positioned to address.

    This week's topic: The vulnerability of the "mass" anything model.

    And now, the Conversation continues...

    KC: I was driving the other day listening to a program on POTUS, the politics station on SirriusXM, and they were having a long conversation about how mass media remains effective especially when it comes to news and live sports - in other words, the suggestion was that in these two categories, disruption was less possible because of the nature of their existence.  Which struck me as interesting in a couple of ways.  First, the discussion was taking place on Sirius XM, which itself was created as a kind of disruption to traditional terrestrial radio.  (Granted, satellite radio has gone through some growing pains, but as someone who drives cross country and back every summer, I cannot imagine what I’d do without it.)

    The other thing that I found interesting was that I’d just read a piece in Advertising Age in which Les Moonves, the chairman/president/CEO of CBS, conceded that sooner rather than later companies like his will be doing battle with “cash-rich digital overlords” for the rights to show major sporting events.  "I think they'll be part of any further deal that we do,” he said. "We will be sharing or splitting or doing stuff, but I still think of broadcast as being really important to the NFL.”

    Tom Furphy:
    That’s interesting. The “mass” anything model has been vulnerable for a while now in favor of personalization and choice. While mass media does have certain benefits in live news and sports, I’d say that it’s far from immune to disruption by new channels.

    How does Mr. Moonves think the digital overlords became cash rich? Many are receiving investment based upon the market’s belief in their potential to disrupt the mass media market. In retail, Amazon is the disruptor and investors have certainly been patient with them. They have been very good at experimenting, iterating and then deploying capital to scale. The company throws off incredible free cash flow, then reinvests it in innovation and growth.

    There is absolutely no reason that CBS or any existing company cannot do this. Yes, shareholders are looking for returns. But the balance of innovation investment versus spending on the core business can be struck by companies. And shareholders will increasingly demand innovation strategies from leadership. Without it, they are in for declining cash flow leading to a gradual death.

    KC: It seems to me that we’ve seen this movie before - the CEO of a legacy business talks about the “sanctity” of a traditional model, not realizing that the disruption has already begun.  I don’t know about your kids, but mine would have absolutely no reaction to the World Series or the Super Bowl or even the Final Four being shown on Apple TV or Netflix or Amazon or Google.  They’d just adapt…and, in fact, they’d adapt without even being aware they were adapting, because this has become second nature to them.  In your role as someone who nurtures small, disruptive companies - primarily in retail - I wonder if you see senior execs being more aware of their vulnerability than just a few years ago, or if perhaps things haven’t changed that much.

    I would argue that our kids expect productions to be available across multiple screens. They are already experiencing it as such, even if it’s not delivered that way. My kids watch Netflix several times per week. When they are watching an event or show on live TV, they have their phones out and are snapchatting and tweeting throughout. I’m finding that I have had a second screen open during March Madness this year. I find that watching the game on the big screen, while looking at stats, scores and streaming the concurrent games on my device makes for a great experience.

    To answer your question, I do think executives are more aware of their vulnerabilities today. They’ve all seen Amazon take a piece of their volume, which is now measurable in CPG. Many execs are grappling with the full extent to which Amazon has impacted them and, more importantly, how Amazon’s growth will threaten their share in the coming years.

    Unfortunately, almost all really have no idea how to compete against Amazon. We’ll often see executives that say “We know we have to offer e-commerce.” But most are still stricken with incredibly long budget, decision and implementation that cause them to fall further behind the market.

    It’s not easy. And a couple forces work against most retailers. First, they don’t truly understand what it is about Amazon that is pulling shoppers from them and taking their share. So they work on things like click & collect or delivery, which are obvious and important, but are not silver bullets. Second, they are not agile enough to experiment as broadly as they need to, so they miss out on opportunities. It is rare to find an executive that sees a shifting shopping dynamic, such as voice ordering, automated replenishment or predictive shopping, and is able to appropriately test and develop capabilities for their shoppers. Those executives are out there, but they are few.

    KC: BTW … I give Moonves some credit for at least acknowledging that change is coming.  It would be worse if he said that the day was far off in the future before major sporting events would be licensed by digital streaming services.  He’s even gone farther than that at CBS, creating an “all-access” streaming service that currently is exclusively showing “The Good Fight,” the spinoff from “The Good Wife,” and plans to show the new “Star Trek” series later this year.  He’s accepting, and he’s trying new iterations … which is what we talk about here all the time on MNB and in our “Innovation Conversations.”

    I cannot overstate the importance of iterating. Amazon is a machine at understanding the customer and innovating on their behalf. They iterate, often for years, before a capability takes root and scales in the market. If competitors, basically all other retailers, are not relentlessly doing this today, they are conceding share loss to Amazon.

    The problem with fighting Amazon is that once you can measure your share loss to them, it may be too late to stem the tide. Their flywheel is already spinning – volume creates data, creates personalization and marketing, creates more transactions and engenders loyalty. While slower overall than many other categories, it’s now coming on fast in CPG and it will be painful to incumbents.

    So it behooves retailers to make bold bets today. And just because a bet is bold, doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Using partners it’s easy to make small bets toward bold capabilities, then measure, iterate and measure again.Capabilities can be scaled with more investment once they are proven. That’s how we did it at Amazon and how we do it in our companies today. It’s forced us to be patient with retailers, but it’s worked very well.

    KC: Along these same lines, I got an email from an MNB reader the other day making me aware of something that I don’t remember hearing about before - a service called Amazon Channels that, if I understand it correctly, allows users to subscribe to cable networks such as HBO and Showtime on an a la carte basis … so if I want to watch “Game of Thrones” and “Homeland,” I can do so by streaming them via the Amazon app … conceivably playing a lot less than I would a cable provider and getting a lot more portability via various devices.  This sounds to me like a solution to a lot of people’s problems with traditional cable providers … which, no doubt, will start putting pressure on the cable networks to stop allowing Amazon to do this.  Again, this is the kind of disruption that seems made for the moment … and there’s no reason to think that anyone will have loyalty to Cablevision or Time Warner or Comcast if they can have greater control of their content via Amazon or Apple or Netflix or Google.  These people all compete, but they also have a common interest, which is to build their own businesses at the cost of the people who have been doing it for a long time.  And again, this strikes me as a great metaphor for what is going on in retail and pretty much everyplace else these days.  Thoughts?

    Amazon has shown that they can be a competitive avenue for the content providers. Amazon is a platform with access to a few hundred million regular users. Within that, it has been reported that they have roughly 80 million Prime members. This makes Amazon an appealing access path for the providers. They can provide a good bid for the content and they can channel it to customers that are willing to pay an appropriate amount for the service. Amazon gets to add value to Prime and the platform overall, and customers get more value out of their relationship with Amazon. It’s perfectly on strategy with Amazon’s platform approach to meeting their customers’ needs.

    In retail, we can think of manufacturers like the content providers, products like content and we can think of retailers like the cable providers. Traditionally, manufacturers have had to rely on retailers to reach the shopper. But now, thanks to Amazon and other new models, brands have a choice. Retailers are less powerful as gatekeepers than they once were. Retailers that still act this way are ripe to be circumvented by new models. These models, including Amazon, are already taking meaningful share. This is no longer a metaphor.

    Nielsen says that 20% of the grocery channel and 40% of center store will move online by 2025. There is no way this will happen based upon the traditional retailer-manufacturer dynamic and the traditional shopping experience. The shift will be driven by disruptors from outside the traditional channel that improve the way shoppers discover, buy, replenish and receive products. That can happen through or around the traditional retailers. It’s really up to them.

    The Conversation continues...

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    Terrific piece on about a food that has evolved into an addiction for many players in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The site frames the story this way:

    "The NBA is covered in experts, obsessed with peak performance -- and still this pillar of grade-school cafeteria lunches is the staple snack of the league. An exorbitantly wealthy microclique, backed by an army of personal chefs, swears by a sandwich whose standard ingredients boast a street value of roughly 69 cents."

    That's right. The food addiction is to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. writes about its beginnings...

    "The legend has been passed down by NBA generations, chronicled like a Homeric odyssey. The tale they tell is of Kevin Garnett and the 2007-08 Celtics, and the seminal moment of a revolution. Bryan Doo, Celtics strength and conditioning coach, recalls it as if it were yesterday, how before a game in December of that season, an unnamed Celtic - his identity lost to history, like the other horsemen on Paul Revere's midnight ride - complained to Doo of incipient hunger pangs.

    "'Man, I could go for a PB&J,' the player said.

    "And then Garnett, in an act with historical reverberations, uttered the now-fabled words: 'Yeah, let's get on that'."

    Garnett had not, to that point, made the PB&J a part of his pregame routine. But on that night in Boston, as Doo recalls, Garnett partook, then played ... and played well. Afterward, from his perch as the Celtics' fiery leader, Garnett issued the following commandment: 'We're going to need PB&J in here every game now'."

    The trend has spread through the years and throughout the league, with teams offering a wide variety of options - organics and non-organics, different kinds of jellies and breads, smooth and crunchy. (One team, looking for a PB&J advantage, has an array of options in its home locker room, but provides defrosted Uncrustables in the visitor locker room.

    It is a really entertaining piece, which you can read here. I read it while eating a smooth Skippy peanut butter-and-Smucker's grape jelly-on toasted oatmeal bread sandwich, washing it down with chocolate Lactaid milk.

    My three-point shot still sucks. (Actually, so does my two-point shot.) But the meal was wonderful. And the story, an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2017

    The New York Times reports this morning that Sears Holdings, parent company to both Sears and Kmart, said yesterday that because of continuing losses ($2.2 billion during the last fiscal year) and a lack of confidence that things can be turned around, there is "substantial doubt" about its ability "to continue as a going concern."

    The story notes that Sears has been making a series of moves to try and shore up its precarious finances - closing stores, selling brands such as Craftsman, streamlining its organization and borrowing money (much of it from Edward S. Lampert, the hedge fund manager who invested in and started running the company more than a dozen years ago). But it largely has been for naught, as it lost more than $5 billion over the past three years, with every indication that the losses were only going to get larger.

    Sears' structural inadequacies were only exacerbated by the fact that the retail segment was undergoing dramatic change, with Walmart continuing to grow and Amazon pioneering a broader shift away from bricks-and-mortar stores and toward e-commerce.

    Sears' total liabilities are said to be in excess of $13 billion.
    KC's View:
    The only amazing thing about this concession by Sears is that it took so long. Most of us have had a lot more than substantial doubt about the company's future for a long, long time. If only Sears were able to sell the stuff that its top execs must've been smoking to maintain that level of self-delusion, maybe it would've had a shot.

    Turn out the lights
    The party's over
    They say that all
    Good things must end
    Call it a night
    The party's over...

    Published on: March 22, 2017

    CNBC reports that Costco has struck a deal with home delivery service Shipt to deliver groceries for the retailer in the Tampa metro area.

    According to the story, this is seen as a significant move for Costco, which in the past has seen delivery of its products to consumers handled by Instacart; the Shipt deal would appear to give it greater control over the process, and could indicate a growing interest on the part of Costco management in e-commerce.

    It also is a big deal for Shipt. The CNBC story reports that "Shipt said it plans to offer its services to 50 markets and over 30 million households by the end of the year. Shipt already operates in more than 35 cities and has grown in part by offering what some observers perceive as a more flexible model than some of its service competitors."
    KC's View:
    I've been arguing here for some time that Costco probably needs to get more aggressive in the e-commerce sector, and I'm only more certain of that now, since Walmart is being so aggressive in the sector. I think Shipt is a good way to test the waters a little bit, but to be really successful against Walmart and Amazon, Costco needs to figure out a click-and-collect model and take real ownership of its delivery mechanisms.

    Published on: March 22, 2017

    The New York Times reports on a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, saying that "Americans cut their beef consumption by 19 percent — nearly one-fifth — in the years from 2005 to 2014 ... consumption of chicken and pork fell as well, though less drastically, as Americans ate more cheese, butter and leafy greens."

    According to the story, "The council is hailing the plummeting popularity of beef as a victory in the fight against climate change, because greenhouse gases are produced when cattle are raised. The group estimates that the resulting reduction in pollution would equal the emissions of 39 million cars, or about one-sixth of the number of cars registered in the United States in 2015. (Some of those environmental benefits, the group says, were erased by increased consumption of other foods that also create emissions.)

    "The research, which is based on data from the Agriculture Department and calculations using the same methodology as the Environmental Protection Agency, found that changes in the overall American diet reduced emissions by the equivalent of pollution from 57 million cars — despite population growth of about 9 percent."

    The Times story goes on to say that, "Asked what prompted them to eat less beef, 37 percent of consumers surveyed cited its price as the No. 1 reason in research published in January by Mintel, a consumer research firm. Thirty-five percent of the respondents said they were eating more protein from other sources, like chicken or tofu. But more than a quarter ascribed the change to their concern about cholesterol and saturated fats."

    The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, however, says that the primary reasons for the decline was a) competition from chicken and pork, and b) increased exports of US beef to foreign countries.
    KC's View:
    I think we're also going to see decreases in meat consumption with the growing availability of better-tasting imitation meat.

    Published on: March 22, 2017

    Nielsen is out with a new study saying that in the US, "one in four adults has purchased a meal kit, for delivery or in-store, in the last year, and 70% continue to buy them after making their first purchase. In addition to saving time from shopping, preparation and cooking, many consumers continue buying meal kits because they offer new and healthy recipes. With 60% of Americans using diet to help prevent ailments, the inclusion of fresh foods and easy-to-follow recipes make meal kits a simple option for those looking to manage their health and diets."

    Indeed, "for the year ended March 4, 2017, meal kits in U.S. grocery stores generated $80.6 million in sales, up 6.7% over the previous year."

    There also appears to be a market-in-waiting for the meal kits: "Almost half (46%) of U.S. consumers say they would be more likely to purchase a meal kit if it were less expensive, 86% would like the ability to add dessert to their meal kit and 36% would like to be able to buy kits in their local grocery store."
    KC's View:
    Which is why Whole Foods is testing the sale of Blue Apron meal kits in Massachusetts stores, and why Amazon Fresh is testing the sale of Martha Stewart meal kits.

    Published on: March 22, 2017

    CNet reports that Amazon, as soon as next month, "will start a registry for companies to list their logos and intellectual property," a move that will allow Amazon to "remove listings and potentially cancel seller accounts if counterfeit products are spotted."

    The registry is being tested now, the story says. The announcement of the registry came from Peter Faricy, vice president of Amazon Marketplace, at the Shoptalk retail conference in Las Vegas.

    "The effort to protect intellectual property is the e-retailer's latest step to combat a rash of knockoffs, including bogus Birkenstock sandals and phony iPhone chargers," CNet writes. "The company has also required third-party merchants to pay listing fees for top brands and prove their inventory came from the manufacturer or an authorized distributor. It's also filed lawsuits against alleged counterfeit sellers.

    "Amazon is also developing a suite of digital tools, known as Brand Central, to help sellers protect their brands from fakes and knockoffs."
    KC's View:
    A critically important move for Amazon, which needs to do everything possible to maintain credibility with both its shoppers and the companies that sell products on its Marketplace. To use a Latin proverb I often quote here, Trust, like the soul, never returns once it goes.

    Published on: March 22, 2017

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

    • The Seattle Times reports that "users of’s Alexa will now be able to order items for near-immediate delivery using the voice-activated digital assistant, another sign of how the e-commerce giant is trying to transform what recently was just a bold technological bet into a cash register.

    "Prime Now, as the one- to two-hour delivery service is known, offers a more limited selection of items than the all-encompassing website, but it’s geared to satisfying immediate needs ... The move underscores Amazon’s knack for wrapping together seemingly disparate parts of the multipronged company to turn a buck. It also shows the profit-making potential of a talking artificial-intelligence experiment that’s still in the early stages of learning how to bring home the bacon."

    Exactly. That's an incredibly important observation ... so let's repeat the phrase here for emphasis: ... Amazon’s knack for wrapping together seemingly disparate parts of the multi-pronged company to turn a buck.

    It is all those prongs that Amazon feels will give it a differential competitive advantage in the coming war against Walmart.

    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2017

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

    • The Chicago Tribune has a second-day piece about the report earlier this week that Albertsons is in preliminary discussions about a possible acquisition of Sprouts, the value-driven organic supermarket chain.

    There likely are a couple of things at work here, the story says. One is that Albertsons is beefing up in preparation for an IPO; a deal would mean taking Sprouts private, and adding it to the list of assets that it would hype in its public offering.

    But, perhaps as important, Albertsons may be looking to add expertise in the organic and fresh foods area, which become increasingly important as the center store experience is absorbed by e-commerce companies.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. I think that buying Sprouts could be a smart idea for Albertsons, but it is what happens after the acquisition that will dictate the success or failure of the deal. Albertsons can offer some efficiencies and economies of scale to Sprouts, but it has to be careful not to screw the company up by imposing too much of its culture on Sprouts'.

    The movie reference here is "Charlie Wilson's War," in which the title character, played by Tom Hanks, says at the end, "These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we screwed up the endgame."

    You can't screw up the endgame.

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that Meijer plans to close two Chicago-area grocery stores, in Berwyn and Melrose Park, "because of lagging sales."

    According to the story, "Spokesman Frank Guglielmi said both stores were underperforming in terms of sales volume, but declined to provide any additional details on why the sites will close ... The Berwyn and Melrose Park stores, both about 90,000 square feet, are considered smaller-format stores for Meijer, which has been more successful in the Chicago suburbs with its 'supercenters' that are typically closer to 200,000 square feet, Guglielmi said."

    Meijer currently has 21 stores in the Chicago market.

    • The Shoptalk retail conference in Las Vegas announced yesterday the winner of its inaugural "Heretic Award," designed to be a recognition of "champions of disruptive innovation who have driven significant improvements in the operational efficiency of their organizations."

    The winner: John Thrailkill, Executive Vice President of IT and Business Development for The Container Store, described as responsible for "overseeing a nationwide rollout of the Theatro voice-controlled IoT wearable and apps for store employees, resulting in streamlined operations, enhancing the customers’ experience and improved staff efficiency across more than 80 locations of The Container Store."

    • In the UK, the Mirror reports that Tesco has eliminated many of the beer brands owned by Heineken - including Amstel, Sol, Tiger Beer and Kingfisher - from its store shelves, and has reduced the "sizes and variations" of other Heineken-owned brands, including its eponymous beer. The goal is to trim 53 brands and/or sizes down to 22.

    According to the story, "Tesco is going through a massive revamp of what it sells, called Project Reset, and is getting rid of products it feels do not sell well in order to make choices simpler." The company also is trying to eliminate brands where the UK's exit from the European Union could result in price increases; an ongoing price war among UK supermarkets, driven in part by the success of discounters such as Aldi and Lidl, has made any kind of price increase problematic.

    I have to wonder if a realization that a lessened beer selections would've resulted from the Brexit vote would've had an impact on how British citizens voted.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 22, 2017

    • Chuck Barris, variously referred to as “The King of Daytime Television,” “The King of Schlock” or “The Baron of Bad Taste” - depending on who you were talking to, has passed away at age 87.

    Barris created a game show empire that at various times produced daytime and nighttime programming that included “The Dating Game,” ‘‘The Newlywed Game," “The Parent Game,” ‘‘The Family Game” and “The Game Game.” The epitome of his creative output may have been something called "The Gong Show," which featured participants of questionable talents, second-rate celebrity judges, and Barris himself as the emcee who would "gong" people offstage when they flopped.
    KC's View:
    Barris also wrote an autobiography, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” in which he claimed to have once been a CIA assassin. I've never read the book ... but it was turned into a really neat little movie directed by George Clooney (his first big screen directing effort) and written for the screen by Charlie Kaufman. If you've never seen it, it is worth finding ... the movie is entertaining, subversive, and has a terrific cast.

    Published on: March 22, 2017

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal report that Target has hired Jeff Burt, most recently the most recently president of Kroger-owned Fred Meyer, to be its new senior vice president of grocery, fresh food and beverage.

    This is, we wrote, the second time in two years that Target has turned to a supermarket industry veteran to help it revive its flagging food business:

    The question that needs to be answered is whether Target is nimble enough to accept real change. It is hard to create change in any environment, in part because a lot of people don't think it is needed, and a lot of other people give change a kind of lip service because they've grown too complacent. Burt has to not just get past these problems, but has to do so fast enough to satisfy internal and external constituencies ... because the competition continues to move forward.

    I continue to believe that it may make more sense for Target to do in grocery what it did with CVS in HBC - create an alliance with a retail brand that will give it heightened credibility but take away the operational responsibilities. And I wonder if Burt, with his Kroger lineage, could be exactly the right person to make this happen.

    MNB reader Larry Ishii wrote:

    It strikes me that the mass discounters that try to do grocery do not realize that they need to have a totally different mindset, a different mentality to successfully be a grocery retailer.

    I see that most clearly when I see all the out-of-stocks at the likes of Target and Walmart.

    Grocers realized many decades ago that maintaining a high level of in-stock at shelf is a key to success.

    There is no reason that the mass retailers cannot accomplish that as well except it is not in their mentality.

    Until they are able to attain such proficiency, they will always struggle.

    MNB reader Bob Vereen seems to agree, to a point:

    It seems to me that Target sees food as an add-on category, whereas Walmart, when it added food, saw it as a major new department  that would drive traffic to its stores.

    Target’s attempts at adding food are years too late, in my estimation.

    From another reader:

    Mr. Burt might be just the person Target is looking for. When he came to Fred Meyer, all lip service about change pretty much ended over night.  I’ve been with Fred Meyer for many years and I have never seen such a heightened level of intensity occur so quickly.

    MNB reader John Couch commented on my speculation:

    That would be a Back to the Future movement. When Target opened, their partner was Applebaum’s Grocery, moved to no groceries, then Target operated grocery.

    MNB reader Duane Kolsrud wrote:

    Seems like a great hire but you are so right regarding accepting change. Until Target can be thought of as more than a place to buy detergent and HBC items (this is still the feeling in Minnesota), grocery will never prosper.

    There was a comment in the Star Trib a few months ago about a goal to get customers to visit one more time per quarter.  If they promote and drive the grocery side of the business, how about 50-100 visits per year instead.

    Avoid the out of stock situations that have plagued them and start carrying the same skus as a normal grocery store- too often do we not find what seems like an everyday kind of item and then end up running to a competitor for that item- after that happens more than once, you tend to avoid their grocery dept altogether.

    The heat is on here in the Twin Cities with Hy-Vee building 4-5 new stores every year in this market- they don't mess around and once they dot the landscape, it may be too late. It's time for Target to step up and hopefully grabbing a guy from the largest grocery retailer in the country is a step in the right direction. But, it isn't going to happen overnight and the Target brass needs to quit worrying about investors and start worrying about their customers.

    From another reader:

    I think Target will eventually have to acquire a company with supermarket expertise, or be acquired by such.  They continue to force a general merchandise culture in a perishable world. The results will not change if they continue to do this.  Meijer would be a great fit aside from the union vs non-union presence.

    Finally, a terrific email from MNB reader Rich Heiland:

    This is too long to publish but thought I would share it.

    In my previous life as a newspaper publisher I was CEO of the Hanover Evening Sun in Hanover, PA. In 1991 Walmart came to town in a big way. When the announcement was made local business owners reacted as they always do - wanted to keep Walmart out, started begging me, as the publisher, to use the might of the newspaper to somehow protect them.

    Walmart did something interesting. It joined with the Chamber of Commerce to take a busload of interested merchants to the nearest Walmart. They got a tour during which Walmart basically said "we carry these. if you do, you can't compete with us. Find something else."

    We had two men's stores. One owner refused to go and continued to curse Walmart and the descending darkness. The other went. When he came back he threw out everything he carried that Walmart carried. He reinvented his store. He began carrying formal wear, for sale and rental and used local high school guys, my son among them, as models.

    Within a year the guy hiding in denial was gone. Today Hanover still has a downtown men's store.

    A local hardware store changed its hours, offered "how to" classes and if you bought a tool would send someone to your house to show you how to use it. They survived.

    I have rethought my knee jerk "Shop Local" position. My family and I shopped from advertisers even when it cost us money, even when service was lousy. Today, I am not sure I would.

    What I would do is use the newspaper to sponsor quality workshops for our merchants on competition, innovation, WOW customer service (which is one of the things I teach now) and basically help them find ways to "change the game." I think as newspapers reinvent themselves they can't just be cheerleaders, they have to be coaches.

    As I said, too long to publish but I just wanted to point out that as Amazon changes the face of things, so too did others 25 years ago. Then as now those that innovated, remade themselves tended to survive. Those who whined and sought protection did not.

    Not too long to publish. Not at all. In fact, it may be one of the best emails we've had here in a while, offering concrete, real-world lessons for how to compete in a very tough marketplace.
    KC's View: