retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader (and, I am happy to say, recent Portland State University graduate) Justin Booth:

I know this subject has been approached before, but I feel that going into the fall season, it may be more relevant than ever.

In my last few trips to Whole Foods, I couldn't help but notice the increase in workers shopping for online orders. It seemed that they outnumbered the employees working registers, stocking, etc... I have to admit that my shopping experience was not enjoyable. I felt like I was fighting for position to examine vegetables, make a decision about which pasta sauce to buy, etc.... With the quick turnaround promised by Amazon, the online shoppers are in a hurry and are basically barging in front to fulfill their orders.

I feel that with fall and winter coming along, more people will be staying home to cook, thus going to grocery stores more often or doing more online shopping, adding to the amount of people in the store. Also add-in the potential increase in Covid cases coupled with flu season, it is more imperative to keep socially distanced. 

I think it is time for Whole Foods to create dark stores for their online shopping. If they want to stay in the neighborhoods where their stores are at, there are plenty of larger spaces that have been vacated due to the pandemic. This way they could still serve the locals and others who cannot drive too far to get their groceries.

Whole Foods did that during the early days of the pandemic, and not only do I agree with you, but I think this is precisely the direction that Amazon-Whole Foods is likely to take.


Yesterday I did a FaceTime rant about holiday catalogs that are starting to crowd our mailbox … it just seemed so 20th century.

Some folks agreed with me, some didn't.

One MNB reader wrote:

Kevin, all I can say in response to your latest “Pile of Christmas Crap” is WOW. Not everyone sits in front of a computer (or phone) 24/7 ordering gifts, food, pet supplies, and clothing.  How narrow minded. Maybe if you took a few minutes and looked at these catalogues, something would peak your interest. You might discover a new company with products that do “talk to you”.  If you like something you see, you can then go directly to the website for more information or even order something. And that’s their point!  Amazon is no fool – that catalogue idea will reach children as well as parents or grandparents or some of us who would like to purchase a gift for a child. It’s a great idea and don’t see why you are so negative. FSIs and catalogues have their place in marketing. In fact, FSIs and catalogues often stimulate new business.  I am surprised at your attitude.

MNB reader Mark Thorngren wrote:

Hi Kevin.  I have 2 10 year old grandsons and they like nothing more than going thru catalogs and picking their wishlist for Christmas.  Just need to insure that we have a lot of lead in the pencil as they circle a lot.

Pencil?  What's a pencil?

(Just kidding.)

MNB reader Jackie Lembke wrote:

I understand what you are saying but would actually prefer the catalogues over the political ads I am getting almost daily. They don't even make it in the house, straight to my dumpster. You might enjoy the Fat Brain catalogue if you like puzzles and such. My husband likes looking at catalogues so we receive them, he looks at them. I trash them. Enjoy the season.

Well, if you're going to compare them to political ads…

I specifically pointed to an Amazon toy catalog as being counter-intuitive for a company such as Amazon.  One MNB reader responded:

Yes! Very effective**. My 5 year old son grabbed this thing and wanted to show me all the things he wants. Paged through it like it was his coloring book.

** Effective for who? Not old dad that thinks we have too much plastic junk already!! Jerks!

MNB reader Diana Roberge wrote:

Dead on!  Great post as always.  I too received the Amazon Toy Catalogue…I doubt my 23 year old wants to sit down and make a list from this catalogue.  The “Christmas Crap” is starting to replace the “Election Crap” that I get daily.  Better targeted marketing would be the way to go and be less of a negative impact on our environment.

It is the targeting - or rather, lack of targeting - that happens with catalogs that I really object to.

So many of the catalogs that we got were unsolicited and completely irrelevant to our lives.  In other words, a waste of money … they went right into the dumpster.

It just strikes me as such a waste.