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    Published on: August 16, 2017

    by Kate McMahon

    The time-honored and now time-challenged family meal has an unlikely ally – social media.

    I’m sure anyone who has noted and/or complained about the omnipresence of mobile phones at the table and everywhere else is questioning that assertion right now.

    But research from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) found that online and social channels helped boost the awareness and efficacy of its National Family Meals Month initiative. More importantly, Nielsen data showed that consumers who saw the campaign on social media said their consumption and/or shopping behavior changed, with an emphasis on eating together as a family more often and advance meal planning.

    FMI launched National Family Meals Month in September 2015, encouraging households to add one more breakfast, lunch or dinner together each week. Studies have repeatedly shown that children who regularly share meals with their family achieve higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and weight, and less risky behavior.

    According to FMI, 70 percent of respondents in a 2017 survey are committed to participating in National Family Meals Month this September, up from 40 percent in 2015. The most successful efforts in the last two years have employed omnichannel marketing campaigns, utilizing traditional and social media and in-store promotion to provide a seamless access to products, services and information.

    Last year, Hy-Vee took it to a new level. More than 302,000 families posted photos of themselves having a meal together, using the hashtag #HyVeeFamilyMeals. In return, the Iowa-based employee-owned chain donated $100,000 to Meals from the Heartland, a non-profit dedicated to feeding the hungry. Nearly 2.5 million people received messages about the program from Hy-Vee and its more than 240 Midwest stores vie email, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

    Additionally, more than 41,500 kids had a free meal at one of the 90-plus restaurants in Hy-Vee stores when dining with an adult. Rounding out the effort, Hy-Vee dietitians conducted in-store cooking classes and were interviewed on radio and TV, and collateral materials were distributed in the store and to the print media and local school districts.

    Citing the Hy-Vee campaign as a leader, FMI Foundation program and development manager Tom Cosgrove said successful social media campaigns are blossoming across the country and will continue to drive positive change.

    For retailers that do not have an in-house social media team, FMI is offering a toolkit that can be customized for social media and in-store promotion.

    It’s important to note that social media is but one piece of the omnichannel marketing puzzle. Retailers need to further engage the customer. That’s where targeted in-store engagement comes in to play. The folks at Dorothy Lane Markets last year provided weekly “What’s for Dinner” displays with recipe “hacks,” showcasing all the products necessary to prepare the dish in the front lobby of each store and sampling it one evening a week. Not surprisingly, sales of those products increased. And I’m betting the parent in charge of dinner that night was appreciative.

    It’s clear the goal for all parties should be to highlight family meals in September, but emphasize offering healthy options and meal prep advice throughout the year. Because the evidence continues to show that the more families come back to the table together, the better it is for their children and the culture.

    We’re always interested to learn what retailers, marketers and manufacturers are doing to promote healthy family meals – on social media and in the store -- so please share your examples by emailing me at
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    Walmart CEO Doug McMillon yesterday used an internal memo to the company’s employees, a note that subsequently was released to the media, to criticize President Donald Trump for not “unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.”

    McMillon wrote Monday night - following the violence perpetrated by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend - that Trump’s original comments blaming “all sides” for the violence “missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together.”

    On Monday, Trump named the neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the violence, which McMillon said “were a step in the right direction and we need that clarity and consistency in the future.” However, McMillon’s comments came before Trump’s Tuesday press conference in which he appeared to once again grant equivalence to both sides, arguing that there were “many fine people” on both sides.

    The white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville carried tiki torches and weapons while chanting anti-semitic and racist slogans, all to demonstrate against the removal of a state of General Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate army during the Civil War. Those slogans included “Jews will not replace us,” and “blood and soil,” a phrase used in Nazi Germany.

    Trump also used Tuesday’s press conference to suggest that Lee, who led an armed rebellion against the United States government, was the same as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who helped to create that government.

    According to the Washington Post, McMillon and Walmart did not subsequently comment on Trump’s Tuesday press conference.

    Walmart has said that McMillon plans to remain on Trump’s economic advisory council.

    In the wake of the Trump administration’s response to the Charlottesville violence - which resulted in the death of one woman at the hands of a white supremacist - a number of business executives have resigned from manufacturing advisory council, including Kenneth Frazier of Merck, Brian Krzanich of Intel, Kevin Plank of Under Armour, Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and Richard Trumka and Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO.

    The New York Times reports this morning that PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is under pressure from some circles to resign from the presidential advisory council on which she serves because of Trump’s remarks.

    And, the Times wrote, “The departures represent a rare spectacle in which prominent executives are looking for ways to pull back from an American president who campaigned, and won, partly on the strength of his pro-business stance. This has created an unusual calculus: Whether or not to stay on as advisers to a president, a role that traditionally is a coveted position with little to no attendant risk.”
    KC's View:
    I’d bet that it won’t be long before McMillon and Nooyi resign from their councils, simply because they won’t be able to abide the symbolism of standing by a president who is now seen in many quarters as being sympathetic to a segment of society that is largely - and rightly - reviled for a hateful and bigoted belief system. They won’t be able to stay in part because this will violate their own sense of decency and justice, but also because their companies’ stakeholders won’t be able to stomach it.

    One of the interesting things about this situation is how people publicly identified as being part of the white supremacist/neo-Nazi/KKK demonstrations may be at risk of losing their jobs.

    According to MarketWatch, “At least one alt-right marcher has already been fired by his company for reportedly attending the march; he worked as a cook for the Berkeley, Calif., hot dog chain Top Dog.”

    The story notes that while employees are protected from being fired because of discrimination related to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, some experts believe that they can be legally terminated if they make statements or financially support causes with which their employers disagree.

    I have to admit to being a little troubled by this, if only because it also would mean that people who oppose the white supremacist movement also could be fired. But … it is hard to imagine wanting someone working for me who held views that people of color are somehow inferior to them just because of their skin color. Or their religion.

    We’re in scary, uncharted territory here, folks. And I suspect it all is going to get uglier before it gets better. The New Yorker had a story online yesterday noting that a survey of national security experts done five months before Charlottesville concluded with a consensus that there is a 35 percent chance that the US will have a second civil war.

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    Reuters reports that Amazon is in the process of “rolling out U.S. pickup points where shoppers can retrieve items immediately after ordering them, shortening delivery times from hours to minutes in its latest move into brick-and-mortar retail.

    “The world's largest online retailer has launched 'Instant Pickup' points around five college campuses, such as the University of California at Berkeley, it said on Tuesday. Amazon has plans to add the program to more sites by the end of the year … Shoppers on Amazon's mobile app can select from several hundred fast-selling items at each location, from snacks and drinks to phone chargers. Amazon employees in a back room then load orders into lockers within two minutes, and customers receive bar codes to access them.”

    The story notes that “Amazon's ability to shorten delivery times has been a sore point for brick-and-mortar retailers, who have struggled to grow sales as customers have turned to convenient online options. Until Instant Pickup, Amazon shoppers could expect their orders within an hour at best via the company's Prime Now program, or within 15 minutes for grocery orders via AmazonFresh Pickup.”
    KC's View:
    Companies largely have discussed this issue in terms of “the last mile” advantage. It is just like Amazon to try to convert “the last mile” to the last 20 or 20 feet.

    Stories about this rollout yesterday stressed a couple of things - that this is part of Amazon’s focus on food, which requires it to be responsive to consumer impulsivity (which I agree with) and that there will be limits to how fast and how much Amazon will be able to quickly deliver (which I think risks underestimating how aggressive and ambitious Amazon may be).

    There may be limits to implementation in the early days; Amazon likely will need a lot of population density to make this work. But that’s okay … targeting consumer density is a good thing. It makes sense.

    But let’s face it. Amazon is really good at taking unlikely ideas and turning them into unique differential advantages.

    Walmart, the next move is yours, I suspect.

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    Salon reports on a new startup, MoviePass, created by Mitch Lowe, a co-founder of Netflix, which he says is designed to address the trend toward plummeting ticket sales at the nation’s movie theaters.

    Noting that 2016 was the “worst year for Hollywood” in history, and that 2017 may end up being even worse, Lowe wants to create a system that allows people to spend $9.95 for a monthly pass that will allow them to see one movie in theaters every day of the month. According to the story, the fee would cover “the costs for all movies a subscriber attends, excluding 3D and IMAX screenings, as long as the theater accepts debit cards.”

    The premise for the business model is that people don’t go to movie theaters because of ticket prices, as opposed to the availability of streaming options. Investors believe that the development of a robust subscriber list will allow them to market those names to advertisers in a highly targeted fashion, because they will have information about demographics, entertainment preferences, and frequency.

    MoviePass currently has 20,000 subscribers, but an investment from a pair of data and analytics firms is expected to ramp up marketing efforts.

    The Los Angeles Times, however, writes that “AMC Theatres on Tuesday criticized the service in a sharply worded news release with bold type proclaiming, ‘Not welcome here.’ AMC called MoviePass a ‘small fringe player’ whose plan was ‘not in the best interest of moviegoers, movie theaters and movie studios.’ AMC also said it will try to block the service from its theaters.”

    This is an interestingly disruptive business idea, though my inclination is to disagree with the basic premise. I don’t think movie theaters are all that expensive - in most cases, one can get a couple of hours of entertainment for less than $15. That’s not so bad. (The Twizzler prices are way out of whack, but that’s not the issue here.)

    To me, the problem is the content - if movies aren’t that good, people don’t go to the theater. Even ten bucks a month is too much if there’s nothing to see.

    I say all this as someone who probably sees 40-50 movies a year … it is what I do, and an art form I love. But I recognize that I’m in a minority that is getting smaller all the time.

    Still, the MoviePass is an Eye-Opening idea … if only because it reflects the a disruptive mindset that can affect everyone and anyone.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    The Boston Globe has a story about how the rapid growth of e-commerce has created a boom for the cardboard business, as boxes are filled and shipped and delivered and then recycled. Ironically, though, “beyond a temporary bump, the box industry may not benefit as much in the long term from this huge shift in retail,” the Globe writes.

    “For one, the surge in demand also has pushed up prices manufacturers pay for raw materials, which eat away at the gains from e-commerce. Meanwhile, they risk losing business outright as online commerce companies explore packaging alternatives to keep their shipping costs under control.”

    Some interesting context: “Prices for the raw materials used to make most boxes, known in the industry as old corrugated containers, or OCC, have surged. Prices during the second quarter of 2017 averaged $149 a ton, compared to $85 a ton a year ago, according to a report from BMO Capital Markets. One reason is that supplies of the material in the United States has dropped, down 2.3 percent this year through May, while demand for boxes has gone up.”
    KC's View:
    I always think it is interesting to consider the unexpected impact of cultural and economic trends. I, for one, never thought about the cost and availability of cardboard.

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    Politico reports this morning that President Donald Trump posted a message on Twitter early this morning that accused it of hurting “tax paying retailers” and destroying jobs around the country.

    The message read:

    Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt - many jobs being lost!

    The Politico story notes that “Trump did not specifically accuse Amazon of any particular crime or tactic in his Wednesday morning post to Twitter, but he has in the past accused the retailer of reaping a competitive edge by not paying enough in taxes.” However, the story also points out that the accusation is imprecise, since Amazon currently collects sales taxes in every state that has them.

    Trump has frequently conflated Amazon with the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in a personal investment; the Post has been aggressive in its coverage of the Trump administration.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    Forbes has a really good piece about how Amazon manages to maintain its “today is Day One” mindset and culture, even as the company enters its third decade in business.

    The process, the story says, is called “working backwards” and “it takes its cue from Amazon’s long-established leadership principles.”

    Chief among those principles: “Customer obsession. Leaders start with the customer and work backwards …”

    It is a great lesson for any business, and especially for retailers, and you can read about it here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon plans to sell $16 billion worth of bonds to finance its planned $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods.

    For Amazon, the story says, this represents “a relatively rare trip to the debt market as it looks to become a major player in the grocery industry.” The story also says that “earlier this week, Moody’s Investors Service affirmed Amazon’s Baa 1 rating and changed its outlook to positive from stable, saying the benefits of the Whole Foods acquisition outweighed the extra debt being taken on to fund the deal. The debt sale is just Amazon’s fourth since 1998 and first since Dec. 2014, according to Dealogic.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) is out with its FMI Retailer Contributions to Health & Wellness 2017 report, concluding that 81 percent of the food retailers surveyed “currently view supermarket health and wellness programs as a significant business growth opportunity for the entire industry in the years ahead.”

    In addition, “72% of respondents also view health and wellness as a significant growth opportunity for their own store brand,” and “89% of food retailer respondents have established health and wellness programs for customers, employees or both,” with 96% “committed to expanding programs in their stores.”

    The report can be downloaded here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2017

    Yesterday MNB took note of how, as all hell was breaking loose in Charlottesville, Virginia, with neo- Nazis, members of the KKK and assorted other white supremacists and hate groups engaged in a rally that turned deadly, a Wegmans that was just a couple of miles from the epicenter of the violence was instrumental in preparing and donating food for first responders.

    MNB reader Deb Faragher wrote:

    This is a great story, Kevin. It demonstrates a point you make frequently about culture within an organization. It would not occur to many to take the steps necessary to pull this off, let alone the the expense of it. Great job by this team of people and by showing, once again, that Wegman’s truly cares about the communities in which they do business. It may be one of the reasons Wegman’s is at or near the top every time there’s a survey or study that puts them at the top of great places to work and shop.

    Another MNB reader wrote:

    Thank you for writing about this.  I really needed to hear something positive about last weekend…

    And another:

    And not only did they do the right thing -- selflessly working so hard to help so many -- it didn't break in a press release, Wegman's FB page, or their website -- it was just quietly done, and nobody outside of the immediate circle would ever have known had Metro Richmond fire not mentioned it on their page.

    Doing for others for the sake of doing for others.  Well done, Wegmans.  Hope those managers and their employees are well rewarded (but I'm sure they will be).

    MNB reader Jeannine Wilkins wrote:

    I agree with you 100% that in times of crisis what those Wegman’s employees did will stand out as a beacon – and I’d add that those police officers will NEVER forget what they did. A few more examples of retailers doing the right thing include an experience I heard about at BJ’s Wholesale Club. Years ago I was in charge of their insights department and often did focus groups in different markets. I was doing just that in the Orlando FL market a few years after a serious hurricane had hit the area. Apparently during the aftermath of that hurricane many local retailers jacked up the price of water while the BJ’s manager took the initiative to donate water (lots and lots of water) to the relief efforts. The people who lived in the area took note and still had positive feelings about BJ’s years later as a result. On the other hand, some not so bright person in finance once decided that if they put a stop to people using other people’s membership cards they would be able to sell a lot more memberships. The way they executed this initiative entailed confiscating cards at the register. As you can imagine that didn’t go over well and many people just walked away from their full carts. This too was a situation that people remembered well – just in a bad way. Six months later I was doing focus groups with Hispanics in NY city – we had a translator in the back room since the groups were in Spanish. Well, one of the attendees mentioned the card confiscating fiasco and all of a sudden the whole room was up in arms – the translator couldn’t translate – just kept saying crosstalk, crosstalk. It didn’t matter, ability to speak Spanish wasn’t necessary – viewing the videotape was enough to show what a mistake that was.

    More recently also got positive responses for a customer service experience one of their customers received during a tough time for her. She purchased dog food on auto-ship from Chewy and sadly, the day after she received a large shipment her dog passed away. She emailed Chewy to cancel her subscription and mentioned it was because her dog had passed away. They emailed her back very quickly, gave her a full refund for the bag she had just received and told her no need to send back but could she donate it to a local shelter. (She hadn’t even asked for a refund). Then, they went further and sent her a bouquet of flowers with a condolence card for her loss. She posted the experience on FB and it went at least somewhat viral. And, you know she’ll get another dog and can you imagine her ever buying pet food from anyone other than Chewy after that experience? Only if PetSmart really screws up their customer service.

    I firmly believe ALL retailers should have a plan for emergencies – whether weather related or like what happened in Charlottesville and make sure the local management have the authority and training to be sure they handle the situation with compassion and an understanding that doing the right thing in moments like these isn’t just the moral thing to do it’s also the best thing they can do for their brand in the long run

    But, there was also this email:

    Unfortunately, when this story gets airplay, it will be bad for Wegmans. The hate filled antifa movement will not like hearing that a grocery store did something for the first responders. Look for Wegmans to be targeted by this truly horrible group within the next few days and weeks.

    I’m not all that familiar with all the nomenclature having to do with various extremist groups, but recent events have prompted me to do a little research.

    There seems to be no question that the “antifa” or “anti-fascist” movement looks to physically confront the white supremacist movement … but my sense is that there is no way that there should be any sort of moral equivalency ascribed to these two sides. That’s not to say that everybody on the anti-fascist side was perfect or engaged in exemplary behavior. But there are no good fascists. There are no good Nazis. There are no good white supremacists.

    I would hope that neither side would think badly of Wegmans for catering to first responders. But I suspect that if either side were to “target” Wegmans, it would be the white supremacists … these are truly evil, despicable people, and they are capable of almost anything.

    I’m with Sen. John McCain on this: There is "no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry,” he wrote.
    KC's View: