retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding the Kroger-Walgreen alliance, one MNB reader wrote:

I've said to anyone who would listen that Kroger's sheds will disrupt markets without ever opening a store. Pick a metro area in the USA where they don't have a footprint, and they'll find a player like Walgreen's to help build out the volume until they get autonomous home delivery perfected to  the urban and rural markets. Walmart will use their existing infrastructure for distribution, while Amazon is, frankly behind the fresh home delivery curve. Watch the food deserts shrink! (and, sadly, the small rural independents who won't have the technology to compete.)

MNB reader Ron Melton had a thought about another Kroger story:

On the subject of Kroger adding fees to cash back. Our first thought was,. when we need cash back we’ll shop down the street at Safeway, Albertsons, Costco and on down the list until there is on one left. As they adjust so will we as consumers.

See my FaceTime above.

Responding to our store about McDonald’s “new” takeout-only format, one MNB reader wrote:

Got a chuckle from your comment, “My first thought was that it was sort of amazing that this is the first of its kind for McDonald’s.”

I’m old enough to have visited that format when I was a kid.  Of course, the technology wasn’t there, so employees took orders.  But there was no eat-in dining; you took it to go.  There was a limited menu including hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, soft drinks, and shakes; and that was all.  Of course, back then, they made fries from whole potatoes, so you always had to buy at least one extra order of fries for the ride home.

MNB reader Chuck Potter wrote:

You are too young to remember, but the first McDonald’s were carry out only. The order/pick-up windows were even outside.  Not a single table in sight. You ate in your car, or took it home.

I wish I were too young to remember.

Got a lot of nice response to yesterday’s Eye-Opener about Trestle, the start-up that makes it easier for consumers to buy from companies who are connected to important ethical values, and can help companies establish their bona fides when it comes to values and matters of conscience. You can read the interview with CEO Jennifer Johnson here.

One MNB reader wrote:

The world changes fast, Kevin. I’ve tried to make conscious decisions for decades now, searching for products that are not only good for me and my loved ones, but also good for the world. A case in point is “Tom’s of Maine.” I’ve used their Lavender Deodorant for years because I thought it was “Natural.” It’s in my gym bag, and I just used up a tube. One the shelf at the drug store, I noticed it at the top of the display, sporting several different types. All of them use aluminum sulfate now, which I consider harmful. They didn’t used to, that’s why it was so “natural.” I know P&G bought them . . . so is that the legacy of big business? Buy up some successful smaller company, rely on the brand heritage, but change it to make more money?
P&G . . . we’re watching. Now I’ve switched to a brand that doesn’t use aluminum sulfate. When are the MBAs going to realize that bottom line stuff can/will destroy their brands?

MNB reader Sandy Voit wrote:

I would like to point out that food co-ops have been leaders in values-driven missions, and having more bottom lines than just financial (social, environment, for example). Our members and shoppers have placed their trust and shopping dollars with us as we are looking out for their best interests, not shareholders, nor Wall Street. We have earned that faith and trust over many years of curating products to ensure our members and shoppers that they can have confidence not just with their product selection, but in knowing that our profits (yes, we are for-profit entities) remain in the community through providing great wage-paying jobs with great benefits, through supporting organic farmers and producers with fair prices, through supporting community-based initiatives and other issues, through protecting our environment, and so on.

Other retailers are late to this process - and we welcome them and  hope that all companies invest in this thinking... Kudos to Jennifer Johnson for taking the initiative to focus a spotlight on these important matters…

From MNB reader Carl Jorgensen:

I too was struck by the nice confluence of your interview with Jennifer Johnson of Trestle, and the story about Unilever looking for the purpose behind its brands. If your brand has to go looking for its purpose, it’s already in trouble. You shouldn’t have to look! Legacy CPG brands are almost by definition made-up brands, free of any authentic origin story, higher purpose or larger benefit other than solving for an immediate consumer need.

I was, however, happy to see the quote from CEO Alan Jope: “If a brand can’t find its purpose, we may sell it.” After all, if the 28 brands Unilever counts as ‘purposeful’ contributed almost two-thirds of revenue and drove 75% of sales growth in the first half of 2019, then NOT selling the others would be business malpractice.

And, from MNB reader Kelly Dean Wiseman:

Speaking of greenwashing, a big driver of opposition to any significant movement toward carbon reduction and other environmental laws, not to mention women’s health, prenatal care, preschool funding, and a giant list of other issues is the money being funneled into various dark political action groups. These groups, including most especially those funded by Koch Industries, buy Congress which in turn loads the Supreme Court to uphold the laws keep dark money dark. It would be enlightening to know what PACs large companies fund because that is the center of the rot in American policy. It’s not open giving by Company X, it’s where they quietly send their support. Until a light is shone on this I find it hard to believe very many claims by the giant corporate players.

I’ve always been a big believer in utter transparency on this stuff. If you give more than $100 to a candidate or political cause, it needs to be posted somewhere. And any organization that gives any money to a political candidate or cause needs to be required to post all of its donors on a monthly basis. No exceptions. Ever.
KC's View: