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    Published on: May 9, 2018

    by Kate McMahon

    When Harry marries Meghan next Saturday at Windsor Castle, the world will be watching - and brands ranging from salad dressing to hard cider to cereal will be looking to cash in on the royal festivities.

    All across America, where we declared our independence from England more than 200 years ago, an estimated 23 million-plus fans will be gathering for early-morning “watch parties” featuring tea and scones in front of a home TV or at more gala events at restaurants and hotels.

    After all, it’s not every Saturday that an American actress marries her British prince. In fact, royal weddings “occur on only a few occasions during a lifetime,” says Dr. Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University in New York. Which is why the May 19th Prince Harry/Meghan Markle nuptials create “a rare opportunity for brands to reach large global audiences” and for consumers to be part of the event.

    I’ve been keeping an informal tally of the royal-related products, events and marketing campaigns, which do indeed range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

    • In her cable TV show “Suits,” Markle’s character Rachel Zane always dreamed of being married at Manhattan’s iconic Plaza Hotel. On her real wedding day, the Plaza is hosting a formal $150 Champagne breakfast, livestreaming the event on big screen TVs with running commentary by a panel of etiquette experts. The best-dressed guest gets a free night at the hotel. Other big city hotels are following suit.

    • At the other end of the spectrum … the Queen likely would be less than thrilled with the package being offered by nearby Moxy Times Square Hotel, which includes a travel size bottle of gin, a dictionary of British slang and, ahem, prophylactics stamped with the Union Jack logo.

    • If you would like to have a royal wedding at a hotel, all-inclusive packages can run you anywhere from $30,000 at the Viceroy L'Ermitage Beverly Hills in California to $51,198 at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans.

    • The wedding is also an opportunity for brands that have received a “Royal Warrant” to trumpet the formal seal of approval from Buckingham Palace. Battle Creek, Michigan-based Kellogg’s has been the official cereal provider of the royal household for three monarchs (who knew?). To celebrate, Kellogg’s NYC Café has recruited former royal chef Darren McGrady to craft a multi-course breakfast for its viewing party, which begins at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time.

    • Strongbow Hard Ciders is inviting Americans to toast the happy couple with its new Rose Apple Hard Cider (Meghan reportedly is a fan of rose wine) developed specifically for the U.S. market. It has also created a limited edition Royal Rose Teacup Set, though last time I checked hard cider was best served cold in a tall lager glass.

    • British tea maker Harney & Sons has re-released its Royal Wedding Tea, a white tea with pink rosebuds. Party planners across the internet are touting this tea, along with the new Lemon Elderflower flavored soda just released by Trader Joe’s. Lemon-elderflower, of course, is the flavor of Harry and Meghan’s cake. Was Trader Joe’s prescient or just lucky with this flavor? We may never know.

    • While it may not have a Royal Warrant, Dunkin’ Donuts will debut its chocolate covered, heart-shaped “Royal Love Donut” next week, but it is available only through May 20th.

    • The folks at Hidden Valley Ranch, meanwhile, have given its plastic salad dressing bottle a “makeover fit for a princess” – complete with $35,000 worth of jewels. Twitter followers who “royally love ranch” and re-tweet a photo of the bejeweled bottle have a chance to win it – entries close May 19th.

    • On a smaller scale, Ample Hills Creamery, the hip Brooklyn-based ice cream maker, is reviewing some 1,500 customer suggestions (think lemon drizzle cake or stick toffee pudding-type flavors) for an official Wedding Flavor Ice Cream to be revealed next week.

    The pressing business question is whether these brands will benefit from the royal hoopla in the long term, or just a quick hit on social media. Brand expert Chiagouris notes that generally the most successful experiential marketing campaigns are very relevant to the event, in this case fine china and cutlery, dining and tourism in the U.K.

    But with an unusual, celebratory event such as a royal wedding, he said, any brand related to tourism, dining, food or entertainment “will make the most of it.”

    That said, if I were a retailer I would be setting up my Royal Wedding Watch Party displays right now, with products celebrating the bride, the groom and both nations.

    And yes, I’ll admit it, I’m ordering the Royal Wedding Tea today.

    Comments? Send me an email at .

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    KC's View:

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    Nordstrom Rack finds itself in the middle of a racial bias incident, as employees in one of its stores, in St. Louis, apparently called the police and accused three teenagers of shopping while black.

    Of course, that’s not exactly the accusation they made. The New York Times reports that “the teenage friends had stopped into a Nordstrom Rack in suburban St. Louis on Thursday to look for last-minute deals before a high school prom on Friday night. Two employees followed them throughout the store, closely monitoring their every move, and reported them to the police … When the police arrived, the men cooperated with the officers, showed them their receipts and let them look inside their shopping bags and car, he said. The officers stressed that they were called out only because an employee had called 911.

    “The police realized they were not thieves and let them go.”

    Once the incident became public, however, community outrage grew, and the Times reports that the president of Nordstrom Rack flew to St. Louis yesterday to apologize to the three teens and do a little public relations triage.

    The case is redolent of a recent incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks, where several African-American men waiting for a friend before ordering coffee were reported to the police by store employees. The case got national attention and drew attention to a continuing problem faced by African-Americans, who are subjected to scrutiny not seen by other citizens.

    “For many minorities,” the Times writes, “what happened at Nordstrom Rack illustrated a disheartening everyday truth about racial discrimination in the United States, where merely entering a store is enough to draw suspicions … The episodes can also quickly morph into disastrous situations for companies, spurred by bad employees in one store whose actions are caught on video and risk blemishing an entire organization’s reputation.”
    KC's View:
    Starbucks has decided to close down its US stores for an afternoon later this month so it can do some racial sensitivity training, and it remains to be seen whether Nordstrom Rack will do the same thing.

    I do think, however, that most retailers have to be aware that this could happen to them. They need to have plans in case it does, and they need to do what they can to create a company culture where it is less likely to happen.

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    Reuters reports that Walmart has decided to end its grocery delivery partnerships with ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, a move that the story says “undercuts a vision the ride-hailing companies laid out: a service that can efficiently deliver anything on-demand, including people and cargo, at the touch of a smartphone app.”

    The story also suggests that the decision is “a potential setback for the retailer's ambitions to challenge head-on with speedy delivery of groceries to people's homes.”

    According to Reuters, Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman “said Walmart will use other delivery service providers in the four markets where it had previously used Uber … Blakeman said the end of the partnerships will not impact Walmart's plans to scale grocery delivery as they are not tied to any single provider … Walmart has added startups Deliv, Postmates, and DoorDash to its list of delivery partners. These companies have the singular business of delivering goods, not people, and drivers have more experience safely transporting perishables.”
    KC's View:
    I am a huge fan of Lyft, and use it frequently when traveling … but I’m not sure I want them delivering my groceries. I was skeptical about this component of their business from the beginning, so I’m not hugely surprised by this.

    I continue to believe that Walmart is testing out a bunch of different delivery options as a prelude to buying one of them.

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    Target-owned Shipt, the grocery delivery company, said yesterday that it will work with Bi-Lo to offer delivery in certain North Carolin a, South Carolina and Georgia markets, while it also will expand its delivery footprint for Missouri-based Dierbergs.

    The markets that Shipt will now cover for Bi-Lo include Savannah, Georgia … Charlotte, North Carolina … and Charleston, Columbia and Greenville, South Carolina. In Missouri, it will expand to cover Dierberg’s Osage Beach customers.

    The company said that “with the addition of BI-LO to the Shipt marketplace’s existing retailer offerings, over 1.3 million households across the Southeast will have access to BI-LO products delivered by Shipt. To celebrate the addition, new Shipt members who sign up will receive an annual membership for $49 (regularly $99).” The same deal will be offered to 9,000 households in Osage Beach.
    KC's View:
    I guess the reason that Dierbergs and Bi-Lo are willing to work with Shipt is that they’re not worried about Target - which, last I check, sells some of the same stuff they do - having access to their customers.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Maybe this is a legitimate short-term approach as retailers look to take stopgap measures that they think will blunt the impact of Amazon in their markets. But I think it is dangerous to make these kinds of deals with companies that have their own brand priorities and that depend on expanding and growing their consumer relationships. I’m all in favor of outsourcing, but I think better choices are companies that have the retailer’s best interests as a priority, not their own.

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    CNBC had an interview with Pat Brown, Albertsons’ vice president of strategic business initiatives, in which he said that 80 percent of its customers want meal kits in stores - which supports the company’s decision to acquire meal kit company Plated and offer its products in its stores.

    Brown also said that 85 percent of meal kit subscribers in general want to be able to buy the products in stores.

    • Fresh Del Monte Produce has decided to invest $4 million in Purple Carrot, a plant-based meal kit company.

    In a prepared statement, Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, chairman/CEO of Fresh Del Monte, said that “Purple Carrot has tremendous growth momentum in the fast-growing plant-based food segment with a well-known brand and an authentic connection with its customers. We believe there will be significant opportunities for our teams to create increased value through product mix and channel expansion.”

    • Meal kit company Chef’d said yesterday that its meal kits will be sold at grocery stores nationwide - including Costco, Harris Teeter, Tops, Hy-Vee, Weis, and Gelson’s - as part of a deal that it has with Smithfield Foods.

    Sean Butler, Senior Vice President of Retail at Chef’d, said in a prepared statement, that “the expansion of Chef’d into retail enables us to serve the large group of shoppers who have never tried a meal kit but are eager for non-subscription solutions. Our goal is to give more shoppers more meals in more places to help them eat better, save time, and explore new flavors.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    CNBC reports on a new study by Telsey Advisory Group, which says that Amazon is “set to capture nearly 10 percent of total retail sales by 2020 … much of the growth will come from its investment in the grocery business following the acquisition of Whole Foods Market in 2017. Its share at the end of 2017 was 5.6 percent.”

    Analyst Joseph Feldman writes, “We believe food and drug presents the largest multi-year growth opportunity for Amazon. The shift to online grocery is being driven by consumers' increasing comfort with buying almost anything online, along with greater product availability and improvement in the supply chain to offer faster delivery.

    "The rollout of Prime Now grocery, a service that delivers products in one-hour and two-hours, should be a game changer.”

    Bloomberg reports that “since the launch of an October pilot program to accept Amazon returns in some stores, traffic at participating Chicago Kohl’s stores has been about 8.5 percent higher than others, according to geolocation data analyzed by Gordon Haskett Research Advisors … About 56 percent of those who returned Amazon goods to a Kohl’s location were new Kohl’s shoppers -- or they hadn’t visited Kohl’s at least since July 1, according to the study. That’s higher than in other locations, where less than 43 percent of those visiting were considered new to the chain.”

    Kohl’s has said that it is in conversations with Amazon about expanding the pilot.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    The New York Daily News reports that Starbucks, which has made creating a homage to the Italian coffee scene a centerpiece of its growth strategy, finally will open its first store in Italy - in Milan, in September, near the Duomo.

    "We are not coming here to teach Italians how to make coffee, we're coming here with humility and respect, to show what we've learned," says Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz.

    The News writes that “it joins more than nearly 29,000 Starbucks across the world, though it is unclear if Italians, who have an array of other coffee choices, will warm up to the mermaid from Seattle … Though Italy has a rich tradition of coffee brewing and drinking, its residents are only 13th on the list of highest coffee consumption, with roughly 11 pounds per person per year.

    “Scandinavian countries dominate the top of the list, with Finland's more than 26 pounds taking the top spot, according to the International Coffee Organization.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    • Weis Markets aid yesterday that its Q1 sales increased 2.8 percent to $876.1 million, on same-store sales that were up 1.5 percent. Net income for the period increased 36.8 percent to $16.2million compared to $11.8 million for the same period in 2017.

    Reuters reports this morning that Ahold Delhaize says that its Q1 net income rose 15 percent to the equivalent of $483.3 million (US), on same-store sales that were up 2.5 percent.

    Net sales in the company’s US stores were up two percent.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    • The San Francisco Business Times reports that Jeff Hansberry - who previously was the president of Evolution Fresh and president of channel development and emerging brands for Starbucks - has joined Caveman Foods as CEO.

    Caveman Foods is described as a “paleo snack company,” and its board has been looking for someone to “accelerate the company's double-digit sales growth over the past few years.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 9, 2018

    …will return.
    KC's View: