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    Published on: October 29, 2019

    by Kevin Coupe

    This morning's Eye-Opener also is a special FaceTime with the Content Guy, recorded yesterday at the new Wegmans in Brooklyn, New York - which opened on Sunday as the company's 101st store.

    Some notes about the store:

    • At 74,000 square feet, the Brooklyn Wegmans is smaller than most of the company's stores, but bigger than most New York City supermarkets. Yesterday it seemed like a sizable percentage of Brooklyn's 2.5 million residents had squeezed into the store, and the checkout person told me that it was a lot slower than it had been on Sunday.

    • For me, this store has a lot more natural energy than the two-level mall store that Wegmans opened in Natick, Massachusetts, in a former department store location. I think this store actually benefits from being squeezed a little bit … it forces Wegmans to be even more focused than it usually is. (The Natick store is, in my opinion, way too big, and the energy and creativity dissipate somewhere on the escalators.)

    • There are things about the store that New Yorkers, I think, will find to be incredibly attractive - such as the focus on how-you-want-them meals. For example, you can buy fresh pizza, frozen pizza, chilled ready-to-bake pizza, or all the makings so you can assemble a pizza on your own. Those options are available elsewhere … but rarely in the same space. Big win.

    • Love all the energy and animation - not animatronics, but actual people, like the chef who was teaching people how to make seared scallops and putting on a show at the same time.

    • Employees were everywhere. I was strolling around the store with my nephew, who asked me where the mozzarella was. Out of nowhere, an employee appeared, having overheard the question, and brought us over to the enormous cheese section. (Will this kind of employee presence persist in six months, nine months, two years? I hope so - it is one of Wegmans's secret sauces.)

    • Tons of foodservice. Pictures below. People seemed delighted. There's also a mezzanine with seating, and a beer-and-wine bar. (Not sure about the bar. This is Brooklyn, and there are a ton of local, authentic places where I might prefer to have a drink … but it will be interesting to see if this works.)

    • Bakery is terrific. Lots of great smells and interesting choices. Big win, I think … though there could be a dozen local bakeries nearby that would make it a problematic department. We'll see.

    • The Brooklyn store struck me as being filled with two kinds of people - those who never had shopped in a Wegmans-style before, and those who had been to Wegmans, and were delighted that they now have one nearby.

    • The neighborhood is growing - just the lunch business from Steiner Studios, the movie lot next door in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, ought to be healthy.

    Some concerns:

    • Parking is a nightmare. There's no subway nearby.

    • I have to wonder how easily it will be to get trucks in and out.

    • Lots of out-of-stocks. Maybe just because it was day two, but I was surprised by all the holes.

    • Not sure about the high level of grocery private label in some categories, like pasta sauce and pasta. This is Brooklyn, after all, and there is a lot of cultural/ethnic loyalty to certain brands on which people have been raised. This selection struck me as somewhat suburban … and I'm not sure about it.

    • Wegmans' private label pasta sauce comes in a plastic bottle, at a time when plastic has a bad reputation on environmental grounds. I wouldn't buy it for that reason alone.

    • Did I mention that parking is a nightmare?

    My conclusion:

    I've never had a Wegmans near me, so I've never been a regular customer. But my visit yesterday made me even more eagerly anticipate the store it is scheduled to open in Harrison, New York, next year - according to Wegmans;' website, it will be its 102nd unit. I can see myself driving past a lot of other stores to go there a couple of times a month. (And I hear they have designs on southwestern Connecticut, which would make Wegmans even more convenient for me and a lot of other shoppers.)

    There's little doubt in my mind that this is going to be a big win for Wegmans, and could be a template for an expanded urban presence for the retailer.

    By the way…

    There are some terrific stories about the new Wegmans that are worth reading, like this one in The New Yorker, which offers this assessment: "In virtually every region where it has a presence, it’s more than a store: it’s a place of delight and obsession, regarded with the sort of fervid, identity-entangled consumer allegiance that is more familiarly associated with dedication to a sports team, or a particular car manufacturer, or Wawa."

    Or, in the New York Times: "The zeal around the opening, and the lengths fans go to proclaim their Wegmans-philia, may confuse some New Yorkers. Isn’t Wegmans, which was founded in 1916 in Rochester, just a grocery store? Sure, at 74,000 square feet and with over 50,000 products, it is bigger than most in New York (although smaller than most Wegmans). And sure, it has prepared foods and a bar on the second floor, but Whole Foods has places to eat, too.

    "Is it the result of a marketing tactic, à la the Popeyes Chicken sandwich? Is Wegmans a nostalgia trip for those suburban transplants who miss massive grocery stores?

    "Whatever it is, people love it."

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    by Michael Sansolo

    Possibly the only puzzle more complex than understanding what’s on the minds of your customers is the challenge of assembling a work team that’s both efficient and effective working team. Too often, the best moves somehow defy all logic.

    Kevin and I got a joint lesson in this last week when we were told of the “Ewing Theory,” an idea created by a sportswriter who believed that teams featuring now-retired basketball star Patrick Ewing tended to improve once he left. The reasoning was that his absence caused the rest of the team to rise up and play better.

    (The theory isn't perfect. Ewing’s past teams - Georgetown University and the New York Knicks - also never achieved much success after him.)

    But the theory can still hold up. Consider this year’s World Series, currently heading into its deciding games. The Washington Nationals never made it this close to a championship before, which is all the more surprising considering that just this year the team lost Bryce Harper, its best position player and arguably one of the sports’ five best active players.

    Yet, minus Harper, they have actually done better. Experts following the team have speculated that Harper’s absence created a new dynamic on the team. Suddenly without his outsized presence on and off the field, new leaders stepped up and the Nationals became stronger as a group. No one player seems to possess Harper’s skills, but thanks to a strong organization the Nationals found a mix of players who actually improved on what they had in the past.

    (For non-sports fans, don’t feel badly for Harper. In the last off-season he signed a $330 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.)

    Now think about that with the teams you work on or with. Unlike in sports, we don’t have easily understood objective measures of performance such as batting average or runs batted in. But we have all worked on teams with co-workers who made us all worse despite their skills. (Hopefully everyone isn’t thinking of me right now.)

    This co-worker may be great at his or her own tasks, but lousy at the small things that help the entire team move forward. Or they may demand too much spotlight or credit, thereby diminishing the fabric of the entire team. Let’s be honest, there are countless ways one individual can hold back the entire group, whether by hindering the performance of those around them or simply making the entire group wish they were working individually.

    In other words, we are all aware of the “Ewing Theory” or maybe as it will now be called, the “Harper Theory.”

    And this again is where managers play such an important role. Team managers much recognize that strong teams are diverse requiring many varied talents and personality types. Not everyone is an extrovert and frankly that’s good. You need people who work in different styles and methods to push the team faster than ever.

    What’s more, managers must recognize that the best worker, the Bryce Harper of tasks, may not be helping the process along if they damage the ability of the team to perform. It’s an incredibly hard call to determine that a superstar performer may be doing that, but that’s what managers must recognize and confront.

    The Nationals may not win baseball’s championship this year (they still have a chance though) but they have provided a wonderful example of addition by subtraction.

    The Phillies, however, are hoping for addition by addition. Apparently recognizing that they need a stronger manager to handle Harper and his fellow players, the Phillies just signed Joe Girardi - who had a winning record managing the New York Yankees, taking the team to its 27th World Series title in 2009 - to manage the team next year.

    Team players. Great manager. The elements are there but, as they say, they still have to play the games.

    As. Do. You.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.

    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    MarketWatch reports that Amazon "is eliminating its $14.99-per-month fee for grocery delivery, making delivery from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market one more perk included in Prime membership."

    "Grocery delivery is available across 2,000 cities and towns that range in size from dense urban areas to more sparsely populated locations. One- and two-hour delivery windows are available in most cities, and the e-commerce giant said it will be expanding that geographically as well."

    A minimum purchase of $35 is required to avoid delivery fees. Prime membership costs
    $119 a year.

    Stephenie Landry, vice president of grocery delivery, describes the move as "a game-changing offer that members will come to value as a key part of Prime membership."

    Landry also called grocery delivery “one of the fastest-growing businesses at Amazon," though when "asked for metrics to quantify the growth, Landry didn’t comment, only saying the company thinks we’re 'at a turning point for fresh groceries,' in terms of customers’ growing willingness to order groceries online and have them delivered."

    In its story, the New York Times writes: "With its new announcement, Amazon is showing it is willing to spend heavily on delivery where its competitors have not, and make up the costs through other purchases made by Prime members, to undercut the value traditional grocers have been offering.

    "Amazon has made fast delivery a key to driving more retail sales. Last week, Amazon already said it expected to spend about $1.5 billion this quarter on one-day shipping for Prime customers, and it is now adding free grocery delivery within two-hours to its spending spree. They are long-term bets that Amazon can change customer behavior and expectations in ways that will create more loyalty for Prime customers, who buy more, and more frequently, than non-Prime customers."
    KC's View:
    It is just like Amazon to double-down on its strategy. Last week, when it said that its quarterly sales were up but profits were down, it was largely because it has spent so much money moving Prime deliveries from two days to one day … and now, just days later, it makes a move that inevitably will require even more investment.

    I'll be curious to see if this is a harbinger of what Amazon decides to offer when it opens the new chain of grocery stores later this year. The betting here is that it is.

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    The Wall Street Journal reports on a new study from the New York University School of Medicine, saying that "the closer a child in New York City lives to a fast-food restaurant, the more likely the child is to be overweight or obese.

    "It is the small distances - a half block or a block from a fast-food outlet—that matter the most, said Brian Elbel, of the Department of Population Health, NYU School of Medicine and Wagner Graduate School of Public Service … Researchers found that 20% of children in the data who lived within a half-block of a fast-food outlet were obese, and 38% were overweight. Among children who live within a half-block of a corner store or bodega, 21% were obese and 40% were overweight."

    The story goes on: "In recent years, studies of city schoolchildren have shown that, based on self-reported height and weight, more than 1 in 4 youth aged 12 to 19 are overweight or obese, according to data from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Black and Hispanic students are more likely to be obese, while severe obesity is highest among minority, poor and male children, according to recent research from the health department."

    The National Restaurant Association (NRA) had no comment on the study.
    KC's View:
    Here is the money line from the story, if you happen to be in another segment of the food business…

    There was, however, no increase in obesity risk in the distance a child lived from a grocery store or sit-down restaurant.

    Y'think that sounds like a marketing angle that could be used by these competitors.

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    In Canada, Sobey's announced that it "is bringing the first intelligent shopping cart to Canadian grocery stores with the launch of the Sobeys Smart Cart," describing it as "an innovative technology-enhanced shopping cart that provides customers with a highly-engaging, fun and fast way to shop." The cart "aims to enhance the in-store shopping experience with a focus on improving one of the greatest points of customer friction … The cart's groundbreaking technology scans and weighs products as customers place them in the cart, displays a running tally of purchases while the customer shops, and allows customers to pay on the spot with the cart. No waiting, no line-ups."

    The description goes on:

    "Equipped with AI and machine learning technology, the cart will continually evolve to improve beyond a speedy checkout. The cart's easy-to-read screen will eventually help customers navigate the store to complete a shopping list, highlight great-value promotions and make product suggestions to round out a favourite recipe. This pilot is part of Sobeys' customer-focused innovation approach to learn and continuously improve through customer feedback.

    "The cart will also evolve from "scanning" product, to 'identifying' product. The Sobeys Smart Cart includes multiple high-resolution cameras that capture 120 images per second as product is placed in the cart, which allows the cart to learn how to identify each grocery item. Supported by the cart's sensitive weight measures, customers will eventually be able to toss their items into the cart without having to enter any information or scan barcodes."
    KC's View:
    The two most important words in the announcement, in my opinion, are "customer friction." I don't care how you do it, but it is critical for every retailer to try to find ways to eliminate friction in the shopping experience, wherever and however it exists.

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    Fifty years ago today, in Room 3420 at Boelter Hall on the campus of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), something amazing happened.

    Fast Company writes that a half-century ago today, "A graduate student named Charley Kline sat at an ITT Teletype terminal and sent the first digital data transmission to Bill Duvall, a scientist who was sitting at another computer at the Stanford Research Institute (now known as SRI International) on the other side of California. It was the beginning of ARPANET, the small network of academic computers that was the precursor to the internet."
    KC's View:
    Y'think this internet thing might catch on?

    There's no question that the technology strides have been enormous, even incalculable. But I have to wonder if the impact on the culture, if also incalculable, has in some ways been in the entirely wrong direction.

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    Bloomberg reports that "a group of female Walmart Stores Inc. employees who allege systemic sex discrimination cost them promotions and better pay must pursue 18 separate lawsuits because of significant fact differences in their claims, the Northern District of California said in a ruling that’s part of the aftermath of a dismantled class action against the retail giant.

    "Each woman worked for a different supervisor at a different Walmart at different times, the court said. That means the circumstances of the bias each allegedly experienced didn’t arise out of the same occurrence or transaction, which is necessary for claims by multiple plaintiffs to be joined in one suit, the court said, granting Walmart’s motion to sever.

    "The outcome is similar to that in a pair of cases against Walmart in federal court in Florida, where a judge ruled in July that 79 other female current or former employees had to pursue their claims in individual suits. All three cases stem from the proposed about 1.5 million-member sex discrimination class action against the retailer that the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated in its landmark 2011 Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes decision."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    • The Associated Press reports that "Walgreens will shutter nearly 40% of the clinics in its stores as the drugstore chain cuts costs and shifts to other businesses it believes will draw more people through its doors. The company said Monday that it will close 150 Walgreens-run clinics by the end of the year, but it will keep open more than 200 that are run in partnership with health care providers."

    At the same time, Walgreen "is working on partnerships with other companies like the grocer Kroger Co. to improve its food offerings. Walgreens said Monday that it also will open 100 locations for the weight-loss company Jenny Craig at stores nationwide, starting in January."

    • Raley's has announced that it is closing 27 in-store pharmacies, citing challenging competition, and will transfer prescriptions from those stores to CVS, Walgreen, and Rite Aid locations. The company will continue operating 69 pharmacies in other stores.

    • The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that "the Nordstrom family will no longer try to increase its ownership stake in its namesake company.

    "In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company on Monday said that over the past several months, the co-presidents had presented board members with proposals that would have given certain members of the Nordstrom family an increase in stock from about 31 percent to slightly more than 50 percent of the company's shares." Those conversations now have ended by mutual agreement.

    The story notes that "the family had been wrestling for greater control for two years. They tried to take Nordstrom private in 2017, but that effort ended last year."
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    …will return. Really.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    Robert Evans, one of the most influential producers in the history of Hollywood, passed away yesterday at age 89.

    Evans was a not-very-good actor who eventually became the head of Paramount Pictures in the late sixties, and after that became an independent producer based at Paramount. The films for which he can justifiably claim credit include: Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, Serpico, True Grit, Harold and Maude, Marathon Man, Black Sunday, Chinatown, The Godfather, and The Godfather, Part 2.

    He was a legendary raconteur who was married seven times (once to Ali McGraw, who eventually left him for Steve McQueen), had one cocaine arrest on his record, and once was suspected of being involved with a murder of a film investor. (He was not charged, indicted or convicted, but it did make him a temporary pariah in Hollywood, where the hits you make always have been more important than the hits you may have ordered.)

    In its appreciation, Variety writes, "Evans represented a unique fusion: of the Old Hollywood and the New, of the desire to make hits and the desire to make art, of the producer as backroom wheeler-dealer and the producer as sexy media-age showman. Evans could be all those things at once because even at the height of his power, he never stopped regarding himself as an actor, as a player who succeeded by taking on the role of a player … the role of producer became the perfect fit for him. He was born not to tell a story but to sell it."

    And yet, he also was a pretty good storyteller - not just because he was adept at editing movies after they'd been shot (sometimes while battling with directors), but also as demonstrated in a documentary about him, The Kid Stays In The Picture, based on his memoir, which is enormously entertaining.

    The New York Times recalls that Evans was terrific at "personal mythmaking," once telling a reporter, "I’ve always been a gambler. “Craps. Poker. Pictures."
    KC's View:
    Evans once came to talk to a film class I was taking at Loyola Marymount University in 1976, bringing with him Marathon Man before it had been released. As I remember the evening, he was a hoot - tons of style, loaded with charm, overflowing with stories, a little bit full of it and himself, but also passionate about what he did for a living … and it is this last quality that I think has the greatest and broadest applicability, offering lessons for every business.

    Variety aptly sums his career up this way: "The ultimate truth of Robert Evans’ career is that it was his instincts as a producer that were legendary. He believed in the movies he was making. And it was his destiny to arrive at a moment when the revolutionary artists who were coming up in Hollywood needed someone to believe in them. Robert Evans was that someone. In producing the films he did, he changed film history, making himself a timeless character within it."

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    In Monday Night Football, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-14.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 29, 2019

    Emerging technologies in the health and wellness segment are empowering consumers who more and more are invested in self-care … which can best be defined as a cultural trend keyed to people who want to feel good, look good, live longer and live better. In this new Retail Tomorrow podcast, recorded in front of a live audience at the recent GMDC Selfcare Summit, we talk about the technologies and trends that we heard about there, provide insights into how consumers will interact with them, and offer guidance to companies looking to invest in this burgeoning segment.

    Our guests for this podcast are members of the regular Retail Tomorrow podcast family:

    • Tom Furphy, CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners.

    • Nancy Giordano, a strategic futurist who specializes in the post-digital world.

    • Sterling Hawkins, co-founder of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology.

    The host: Kevin Coupe, MorningNewsBeat’s “Content Guy.”

    You can listen to the podcast here, or on iTunes and GooglePlay.

    This edition of the Retail Tomorrow podcast is brought to you by GMDC, the Global Market Development Center.

    Pictured, below, from left: Kevin Coupe, Nancy Giordano, Tom Furphy, Sterling Hawkins

    KC's View: