Published on: November 1, 2018
Responding to this week’s story about the new Sam’s Club Now store, where the company is testing some new technologies, one MNB reader wrote:The idea of Sam's Club Now is interesting to me, not in the concept, but that they are bothering with it. I have already been using their Scan & Go app for months - sign into the app on your phone with your membership info, scan items as you put them in your cart, checkout using your saved payment info, go to the door where you present a barcode on your phone which the person at the door scans on their device (which I assume brings up a copy of your receipt), then they counts your items just as they would with a paper receipt. It is great.
MNB reader Andy Casey wrote:Not sure if they are testing something different in Texas but I have been using the mobile scanning app at Sam’s for a while now. It keeps a running total, very easy to use and lets you avoid unloading the cart at checkout. When you are done shopping, it simply pings your attached credit card, displays a bar code to show the greeter and you are out the door.
In other words, I guess, it is time to roll it out. Seems to me that it would be one way to raise the bar in the competitive battle with Costco.
We also noted that Walmart is planning to convert some parking lot space to virtual town centers, complete with small retailers and green space.
One MNB reader wrote:Walmart is no stranger to charging fees for shops who’ve elected to be inside their stores. Outside the US (Brazil comes to mind) Walmart collected 13% sales commission from non-Walmart branded retailers located inside their stores, for example, because of the foot traffic Walmart created.
What is interesting about this story is how the real estate developers are going to respond. Typically, landing a Walmart lease required a subsidized rate that developers would be made up by charging other retailers more, reasoning that these other retailers rarely leased the same size footprint.
Many times, Walmart parking lots are used by truck drivers for overnight parking. I can see this decision impacting truckers. The biggest question is how Walmart will maintain locally-required parking ratios?
And, from another reader:Not sure why you don’t see the value in Walmart is doing to stay relevant in these communities. It is all about providing what the consumer wants, to bring on-stop shopping to their marketplace. Note the businesses are not necessarily price driven but brands appealing to those that know the difference.
I see the value … I just think the irony is rich, since many of the communities in which Walmart operates had actual town centers, replete with small retailers and green space, that Walmart wrecked with its approach to retailing.
What goes around comes around, I guess.
On the subject of what makes grocery shopping appealing to millennials, one MNB reader wrote:I had the opportunity to be in a Mariano's store near O'Hare airport earlier this week...the parking lot was full, which considering the fact that it was Monday at noon, was a bit of a surprise. Once inside it was evident that the vast majority of shoppers (hundreds) were gathered in the "food court" area on the right hand side of the store, buying lunch, sitting at tables eating with friends, (both on the main floor and up on the balcony area overlooking the many food stations below), checking out at the multiple "quick checkout" area set up explicitly for this occasion......it was an eye opening experience, made me think of the line, "if you build it, they will come".....if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say 90% of the shoppers in the store fit neatly into the millennial category. It's all about the experience.
MNB reader Glenn Cantor wrote:There is an interesting conundrum in the “Innovation Conversation” discussion about changing grocery store formats to attract younger shoppers. Many shoppers are loyal to their familiar store because they are comfortable with the existing aisles and formats. Even the smallest resets and moves will cause these shoppers to vocally complain. However, younger shoppers who might prefer updated and exciting formats will not offer criticism to retailers who don’t update their formats. Indeed, there is no way for these consumers to make their attitudes known. Instead, they will silently seek out newer and innovative formats. Their business is lost to traditional chains, but the decision makers in these companies won’t be able to identify from where the slippage comes. Grocery store managers feel as though they have to respond to those who vocalize their complaints without trying to understand the unknown.
And, from another reader:One last thought on the millennials. If they irk the boomers so much (and I am in between the two as a gen X’er), it might be because they are so similar. What “the kids” are doing on subjects such as gun control are exactly what the hippies did, no? Fear them? Look at how smart, articulate, dedicated and united this generation is in pursuing change on issues which they are passionate about because they impact them directly. The world is shrinking faster than our tolerance is growing, and I for one am heartened this is the generation that will be in charge of the world when I’m old because they seem to be the only generation doing something about it. Caught in between the “me generation” and the millennials, I see so much more in common than different. The only difference between the author of that article and Timothy Leary or Jack Kerouac is she’s writing about the annoyances of everyday life, not about escaping the drudgery of everyday life.
I suspect this won’t be the “last thought”…
We had a story the other day about how home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool wants its inventory back from bankrupt Sears. Fox Business
reported that Whirlpool “sent a letter to Sears last week asking that the retailer return items it had received from Whirlpool in the 45 days leading up to its Oct. 15 bankruptcy filing … Whirlpool said that Sears has no right to the products since the company was insolvent when it ordered them, requesting the retailer refrain from selling or disposing of them.”
One MNB reader reacted:That’s a really interesting request from Whirlpool. Having had the unpleasant experience of working for a company that went through bankruptcy, there is no doubt that part of the strategy of any company looking to emerge from bankruptcy is the revenue and profits generated from the new found “free inventory” on hand at the time of filing. I believe Whirlpool is right on in their request to have inventory returned, especially goods that have not been paid for. Why should Whirlpool, or any other vendor be on the hook to have to pay for any portion of Sears bankruptcy emergence plan?
Got the following email from MNB reader Jason Truss:I grew up in Milwaukee WI, home of Kohl's. For many years they had Kohl's department stores located right next to a Kohl's food store - usually with an enclosed atrium in-between the entrances. The one my family shopped had a Hallmark store in-between the two, and I would park myself in the atrium next to the shopping carts to sell Cub Scout candy bars for $1.
According to Wikipedia, the Kohl's food stores were closed in 2003.
Anyways, point being if the Kohl's of today is bringing on Aldi grocery stores right next door to their Kohl's department stores, there is historical precedent. Maybe some old-timers remembered the old set-up (and the traffic it generated for the department store)!
The more things change…
Finally, on another subject, from an MNB reader:When I was in the Air Force and later on a Federal Employee we always had to be concerned about the image we presented to the general public. We could get into trouble for getting into the news and identified as an Airman or Federal Employee and the higher up you went in the ranks the more you have to be careful about it.
I use to think that it was a kind of double standard and that Companies like Ford, 3M and Campbells wouldn’t care about that. Well I guess I was wrong at that point at lease if you are a Vice President of the company.
On another point, since about a third of the country is blue, a third purple and a third red it seems to me companies should stay under the radar when it come to politics. Why would you want the possibility of ticking off 2/3 of the country?
I agree that businesses - and business people - have to be careful, but I do think that there are times when staking out a position can be on-brand.
One example is Ben & Jerry’s. (See our story above.) In fact, if the company didn’t
take certain positions, its brand equity would be eroded. (I think Unilever has been brilliant in taking a c’est la vie
approach with Ben & Jerry’s.)
In the case of Land O’Lakes pulling its support from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), it definitely was on-brand in the sense that the company is marketing itself using a celebratory anthem about how women are contributing to an age-old industry like farming. (One-third of American farmers are women.) Its CEO is the first openly gay woman to run a Fortune 500 company. And so when King’s linkage to the white nationalist movement became front and center of his re-election campaign, they probably felt that they needed to plant a flag.
You have to choose your moments. You have to be connected to the authenticity of your brand. You have to really, really know who your customer is. And you have to be willing to take the risk.