retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to one of my commentaries last week, MNB reader Mike Moon wrote:

Yes, the funeral home business is struggling. Not just because of the pandemic, but also due to the increasingly high price of caskets/embalming/burial. Funeral homes are getting cut out of the death business, as more and more people are opting for cremation, with visitations/celebrations of life in other venues. Like bars.

And why not? I'd rather celebrate a life well lived, than attend a gathering focused on death. If I was a funeral operator, I would have a full cash bar in my operation, with many places for people to sit and talk and share stories. Maybe a few food offerings, also. I'd have it hidden from view for those families not interested in that kind of gathering, but well stocked with a trained bartender for those that do. I think this would be a great way to generate additional revenue. Surely someone has thought of this already?

That's what I'll want when I go.  Have a party.  Of course, there will be some who will want to poke my body just to make sure I'm actually dead.  But I'm okay with that, too.

Another MNB reader thought my criticisms of funeral homes for not posting prices online was a little unfair:

Kevin, my recent experience with the funeral home was as painless as that could be..  No, I didn't shop around on line, nor would I.  But I was informed up front what the charges were and  what services would be rendered, which were mandatory by State law, etc.

I'm glad.

Regarding the role of private label and how retailers use to compete with their own suppliers, MNB reader Philip Herr wrote:

To weigh in on the conversation, my career in marketing was devoted to supporting national brands (KO, UL, JNJ among many others). To that end I looked at retailers as an insidious competitor. Private label offerings were and still are, parasitic. Invariably, the chain knocks off the national brand and undercuts pricing. Frequently imitating, if not outright stealing, trade dress. And the manufacturer has little option but to suck it up.  So for these reasons and the myriad fees and penalties levied by retailers, I support disintermediation and direct selling whenever possible.

Got the following note from MNB reader Tim Callahan:

I know you say that you miss traveling.  It will be a long time before I will think about getting on an airplane for a two hour flight or even a 30 minute puddle jumper.

I miss it.  Desperately.  (Mrs. Content Guy may miss my being on planes even more.)  But that's different from being in a hurry to get on a plane again.

A note from MNB reader Bob Vereen:

As a journalist covering the hardware/home center industry, Kevin, it has been kind of amazing to see that sales in hardware stores and privately owned home centers have been running at rates up to 50% greater than the previous year.  As people had to stay at home, they decided to do some home repairs, painting, other upkeep and do some outdoor yard work.

And, reacting to a video from a few years ago - from Northgate Gonzales Market - that I posted last week, one MNB reader wrote:

I tried to listen to what you were saying but found myself completely fixated by the fact that I didn’t see one person wearing a mask (including yourself).

I know.  Seems like a lifetime ago.

Responding to last week's conversation between Michael Sansolo and me about baseball lessons for retailers, one MNB reader wrote:

As I listened to you and Michael speak about the current impasse in MLB and the adversarial effect in retailer-manufacturer relationships, I was reminded of the adversarial relationships Trader Joe’s has with the food broker community. Brokers have played and continue to play a very important role in business transactions world wide for thousands of years. They provide a cost effect method for principals to “go to market” and the food industry is a prime example of the value food brokers have played in the principal-retailer relationship. 

Under the guise of disintermediation and sourcing direct for the benefit of their customers, Trader Joe’s has eliminated a valuable resource in sourcing new items for their customers. In addition to finding new items from world wide sources, food brokers serve a valuable role in finding suppliers who many times provide better quality products than some existing suppliers.  In the end, as you stated, customers don’t care how the product gets on the shelf… they want the best product at the best price and the best selection. It’s a shame Trader Joe’s has such an adversarial relationship with food brokers who have played such a vital role in the development of the Trader Joe’s brand. 

MNB reader John LeTourneux wrote:

Another view regarding the triumvirate of supply chain, retailer and customer:

The crack of the bat, the smell of the Carmel corn, the gentle murmur from the stands erupting into a fevered pitch as the runner slides home.  What makes that so great? The competition between the two teams coming together for a game on one field. That is a game I want to experience.

The hum of the registers, the fresh baked bread smells mixing with the brewed coffee from the snack bar and the aroma of garden fresh strawberries from the produce department. What makes that experience so great? The competition between teams coming together in order to produce a game that their fans pass the minor leagues to enjoy.  That is a store I want to experience.

But of course, in my world we all play with sportsmanship.

And finally, a lovely note from MNB reader Scott Young:

I have known you and Michael Sansolo from my days as a senior executive at Coca-Cola for a long time.  I still religiously read your retail newsbeat each morning, and now as a business owner occasionally have to read it in the afternoon/evening.  As an African American, I was truly touched by today's post on Juneteenth.  We need more words, listening, and action by people of all races to make this world a better place.  Thanks for the part you are playing to enlighten people of all races on the history that a lot of people in this country are unaware of.

Proud of you dear friend, keep up the great work!

I am touched.  Thank you.