retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to our story about Target;’s expanding loyalty marketing efforts, one MNB reader wrote:

I also have become less than thrilled with Target stores in the past couple of years.  I was a frequent, Red Card holder and did much of my grocery, HBA and household shopping there.  But constant out of stocks has led me to other retailers, and Amazon on line.   Their prices were ok, but after too many trips that ended with me leaving the stores empty handed, there are just better alternatives.  Ominous sign, I would think.

Oh, and nobody has contacted me to ask why I haven't used my card in the last 8 months or so…

From another reader:

I think that Target is simply moving slow with loyalty, store format and getting the sexiness back that they had prior to 2005. Last year they hired a Kroger blue blood to run the grocery business, don’t be surprised if they come out strong with a new store format and strong loyalty program in 2018. He has the creativity and drive, if allowed to execute.

We had a reader the other day who argued, in the context of stories about retailers becoming more restrictive about who they sell guns to, that “it is not the responsibility of retail to make federal law … When the federal government move to create the 21 age to purchase all firearms and ammunition then retail will be obligated to follow the laws of the nation.”

Another MNB reader rejected that notion:

I wholeheartedly disagree with this assessment. Is CVS trying to change the federal law by not selling tobacco or Chick fil A trying to change federal law by closing on Sundays?

If CVS helps to save a few lives of people dying from cancer or Dick’s/ Walmart by denying an 18 year old the ability to buy a gun, it seems like a win/win.

I agree.

Edward W. Stack, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, which was the first company to tighten its rules about who could buy guns, has a Washington Post op-ed piece today in which he writes about corporate and personal responsibility.

Some excerpts:

As a gun owner, I support the Second Amendment and understand why, for many, the right to bear arms is as American as baseball and apple pie. But I also agree with what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his majority opinion in 2008's landmark Heller case: "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." It is "not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

It is clear we have a problem with the gun laws in this country. They are not squarely focused on keeping all of us safe - especially our children.

There continue to be mass shootings - at our schools, churches and entertainment venues. Following each of these senseless, tragic events there's a great deal of idle, fruitless talk in the halls of Congress, and then the conversation quickly comes to an end. It's our great hope and belief that this time will be different. It has to be different.

Maybe it's because the survivors of the Parkland, Fla., massacre - and the thousands of students who made their feelings known for 17 minutes last week - are standing up and shouting "enough is enough" and "never again." They are demanding that our elected officials come together to find solutions. These brave young men and women are not going away.

We understand this is a complex issue and Congress has a number of constituencies with broad agendas. But we hope Congress will take notice of not only what students are saying but also what the private sector is telling it. Two of the three largest firearms retailers in the country have publicly said we are implementing our own policies for the sale of firearms.

This issue transcends our company's bottom line. We suspected that speaking out would have a negative impact on our business. But this was about our values and standing up for what we think is right.

After we announced our new firearms policy, we were gratified that Walmart, Kroger, L.L. Bean and REI showed courage and leadership by announcing their own new policies. We hope others in the private and public sectors join us in this effort.

A group of us in corporate America have taken a stand, made hard choices and enacted reforms on our own because we firmly believe it's the right thing to do for our kids and for our country.

It seems to be that this reflects both a respect for the Constitution and a desire to do the right thing. I respect that.

Folks can disagree with the position, but I wish they’d at least respect the motivation.

Regarding the gender inequality survey published the other day by the Network of Executive Women (NEW), one MNB reader wrote:

Gender equality has been a hot topic for decades in the CPG industry (all industries). Has it dawned on anyone that companies especially the fortune 500 are actually committed to gender equality and are hiring female leadership. But in the rush to support this worthwhile effort, like with any hire female or male bad hire or promotion decisions are made and turnover occurs? The bottom line is, who can run the business well is #1, who is best qualified. The real question here is are the fortune 500 companies picking and training high potential female and male employees to succeed?
Change involves a process, it’s not an event. We can’t go from fossil fuel to electric, wind and solar overnight, it’s a process that no one has the patience or vision to understand.

We had a story the other day about how Whole Foods is telling its suppliers that buying into a new buying program was a way for them to grow, which prompted MNB reader Ken Wagar to write:

OMG….How many times have I heard this said over the past 50 years in the food industry! It brings to mind so many programs over the years designed to pad retailer and wholesaler bottom line profits by squeezing the vendor for participation dollars. Is this different? Maybe, but only if the “support” reflects actual efficiency for the vendor, increases the vendor’s profitable sales, and applies to only that share of product sales that actually pass the discount through to the ultimate customer.

I’m a huge fan of Amazon but this smacks of going backwards rather than forward. Are the small vendors they talk about going to be able to bear the weight of this program or be closed out of it for lack of additional “discretionary” funds.

And finally …

Yesterday, MNB took note of a New York Times report that as part of its renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trump administration is trying “to limit the ability of the pact’s three members - Canada, Mexico and the US - “to warn consumers about the dangers of junk food.”

A draft proposal put forward by the Office of the US Trade Representative, the Times wrote, “is pushing to limit the ability of any … member to require consumer warnings on the front of sugary drinks and fatty packaged foods.” Specifically, the US wants to “prevent any warning symbol, shape or color that ‘inappropriately denotes that a hazard exists from consumption of the food or nonalcoholic beverages’.” The The Trump administration’s position, the story says, “reflects the desires of a broad coalition of soft-drink and packaged-foods manufacturers in the United States.” And, the story said, it “reflects an intensifying battle among trade officials, the food industry and governments across the hemisphere. “

I commented:

And, in a related story, the US government reportedly is considering no longer requiring the placement of health warnings on tobacco products, a position being urged with some effectiveness by major tobacco companies.

Just kidding. (If April 1 had been a weekday this year, that might’ve been one of my April Fools jokes.)

That said, the Times story does note that “some experts have likened the fight over food labeling to that over tobacco — and the fierce if ultimately unsuccessful opposition and lobbying that industry waged to prevent the imposition of health warnings on packaging.”

Obesity and resultant health problems continue to be enormous issues. I’m not sure that putting restrictions on what other countries can do to deal with them in potentially effective ways is exactly what we ought to be doing, even if we don’t want to do it ourselves.

To which one MNB reader responded:

Kevin, you have to be a complete idiot to think that a warning on a candy bar would stop obesity. I also think you would be quite cozy to live your life completely controlled by the government.

What you and most far left individuals want is to tell people what to do and when to do it. I just don't understand why people want to live like this.

Well, I don’t think I’m a complete idiot. I also don’t think I’m a “far left” individual who would be happy to have his life “completely controlled by the government.” But you are entitled to your opinion.

I don’t want to tell people what to do. I do, however, think that sometimes it makes sense to tell corporations what to do, especially when it comes to being transparent about what is in the products they sell.

Information is not regulation. Information is just information. People still get to make their decisions, except that maybe those decisions are a little better informed. At least some of the companies that fight against this kind of transparency, I think, may have something to hide.
KC's View: