retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday MNB took note of a Variety report that Meredith, publisher of print magazine titles that are familiar to anyone who has been to a supermarket front end - such as People, EW, Better Homes & Gardens and InStyle - "will become part of Dotdash, the digital publishing division of Barry Diller’s IAC holding company, under a proposed takeover deal. The terms give the deal an enterprise value of about $2.7 billion."

I commented:

I often find myself siding with the print-is-dead cohort, but this move suggests that there are some big money players out there who continue to bet on print, or at least some unique combination of print and digital.  This is important to retailers who are selling these titles, and who depend on the level of engagement that they offer to shoppers.

MNB reader Howard Schneider responded:

KC, I’m not sure any medium has ever died. Print, catalogues, direct mail, broadcast/cable – all have been repurposed but live on as parts of the media mix. Newspapers no longer run classified ads, but grocers and others still rely heavily on FSIs. Radio remains an important way to reach certain demos during certain dayparts. While text and other more immediate (and better targeted) forms of messaging have taken the place of a lot of email, email is still used (yes, overused) by advertisers. Commercial and residential developers still use newspapers and magazines to showcase new projects. Outdoor may use digital technology, but they are still just big boards along busy routes. Each of these legacy channels still has a part to play in reaching consumers, even though they may have lost their starring role.

On another subject, from an MNB reader:

My wife and I were recently bemoaning the WalMart online experience; searching seems to bring back such a vast variety of items, and it’s tough to tell which ones are physically in the store or not. Home Depot seems to have a much better handle on this, and our experiences with them have always been great, including recoveries when the inevitable ‘stuff’ happens. We recently remodeled our bathroom (drawing on my skills in my earlier career in the home center industry) and shopping online there is super, although it admittedly helps when you know what you’re looking for when doing the framing, plumbing, electrical, and finish work yourself. I farmed out the drywall work…a man’s got to know his limitations! (and if he doesn’t he may be blessed with a partner happy to remind him) We took advantage of curbside pickup which was always a pleasant experience. With all that, I hope these two stay separated. I remember what HD was like under Bob Nardelli, it wasn’t pretty from a customer or employee standpoint, and I fear the WM culture might prevail over the much improved HD culture I’m witnessing now.

There was an MNB reader the other day, by the way, who wrote about the Home Depot online experience this way:

I think if you start ordering hardware needs online, you give up man points.  Part of the joy of hands-on building and repair is looking in person.  Which BTW, is a much more pleasant experience at Lowes.

I responded:

Y'know, it is possible to be a man and have no interest in or talent for hands-on building and repair.  Right?  And so, "man-points" gathered that way are meaningless.

But another MNB reader makes an even better point:

You might want to mention to Mr. Manpoints that there is a fairly impressive number of us who do all our own DIY and aren't going to be mistaken for a dude EVER... Some of us have even been successfully selling the stuff he thinks makes him a bigger man for a few decades now.  

You're right, and shame on me for not making that point myself.  (FYI … Mrs. Content Guy is far more handy around the house than I am.  She fixes and builds stuff.  I cook.  Then we share a glass of wine.)

Regarding the "smart fridge" that Amazon is said to be developing, one MNB reader wrote:

We recently moved into a new home and as part of the process we purchased two new refrigerators.   Both of them can be connected to the internet, but I’m not certain that either of them would qualify as a “smart fridge”.   Besides, if the refrigerator truly was smart it would ensure that all the products in our possession were constantly within date, thereby robbing our adult sons of the entertainment they get from pulling all of our outdated products each time they come home for a visit.  

On the subject of attending live events in a time of pandemic, one MNB e=reader wrote:

Last month we had the pleasure of attending a Michael Buble concert in a smaller venue near our home (attendance for the show was between 4000 to 5000) and Michael required proof of vaccination for all attendees.   It took some additional people and planning to create areas outside the entrances where ticket holders could go to show their identification in order to get in.    Both of us have our vaccination cards stored in our smartphones and showing those along with our drivers’ licenses allowed us to receive a wristband to enter the arena.  The start of the show was delayed by about 30 minutes to allow the vast majority of people time to get into the building with the additional processing that was required.  Just the same, it was an incredible show and there were plenty of people indoors who were willing and able to wear their masks during the performance.   Most of all, we were supported by a performer who encouraged us to do so.

Under the current circumstances, there aren’t many events I would consider attending indoors with a large number of people, but with the precautions that were taken for this show we felt that we could participate and enjoy the music, which we did tremendously.   Michael had cancelled the show twice previously and rescheduled his tour; it was well worth the wait.   I gave the tickets as a gift to my wife…..for Christmas of 2020!

Yesterday I did a FaceTime video in which I talked about how Facebook - beset by media attention, Senate subcommittee hearings and a whistleblower bearing damaging internal studies - reportedly is pausing many of its initiatives to conduct "reputational reviews."  I said this is a good thing, as long as it is not just about optics, but also asked whether a "reputational review" is the same thing as nurturing one's value and brand proposition, and therefore ought to be part of the daily conduct of business.

MNB reader Bob Wheatley responded:

Great point. I would build on your observation about whether or not product and policies are really contributing to brand reputation. We have arrived at a time when brands and businesses actually need to care about the health, wellbeing and happiness of its core users. Company values and mission need to align with helping consumers on their life journey not just selling them a product, in what would be described as a more transactional relationship.

People can’t be treated as walking wallets any longer. Authentic corporate behaviors that operate with the consumer’s best interests at heart is now a requirement for business growth and sustainable success. Values, beliefs and deeper meaning should drive policies and behaviors. Facebook is an example of what happens when your values are upside down.

Yesterday we reported that "Steven Burd, who served as Safeway's CEO between 1993 and 2013, testified in the criminal trial of Elizabeth Holmes, founder and former CEO of Theranos, saying that a financial commitment by the company of $85 million to the startup was predicated on false information provided by Holmes."

One MNB reader responded:

$85mil without vetting. Wow!  She must of charmed him well. 

Earlier this week, MNB took note of a Bloomberg report that Walmart "has demoted the chief operating officer of its core U.S. business and installed a finance expert in the role, shuffling its senior leadership team just before the key holiday period.

"Dacona Smith, one of the retailer’s highest-ranking Black executives, will shift to become executive vice president and chief operations officer of Walmart’s U.S. stores …"

An MNB reader wrote in to ask why it was appropriate to point out that Smith was Black.

I responded:

I think this is a fair observation.

As an explanation - not an excuse - I'd point out that the reference was by Bloomberg, not me … though I'll own it, since I quoted it.

I think that Bloomberg would argue that because diversity is such a prized and much-talked-about priority in many companies, that made the reference appropriate.  But in retrospect, I think I agree with you, and I should've edited out the specific language.

Rich Heiland, an MNB reader who also happens to be an experienced journalist and a Pulitzer Prize winner, offered some sage advice:

From one old editor...OK..."older"editor to a fellow younger editor..

Had you edited out "black" in the Bloomberg story most of us would not have known Bloomberg chose to make race a part of it....

I totally agree with your point about race and I think if you had a failing it might be that you didn't make your comment in response to a reader a part of your initial in, "by the way, I don't know why they felt they needed to mention race...."

As always, your daily postings make me think. Keep it up....and don't retire. I did. Too soon. Now I am trying to get back to at least some part-time work....I didn't realize soon enough that work was also my hobby...

Point taken.  Thanks.

And finally, this email from MNB reader Monte Stowell:

Come on Kevin, you are too young to be exhausted after two playoff baseball games. Last nights Dodgers and Cardinals game was what baseball is all about. A walk off dinger by Chris Taylor to win a great game.  Now we are off to the second round of the playoffs and then onto the World Series. Personally, I have always been a lifelong Dodger fan and hope they go to the World Series again, but wouldn’t it be great to see Tampa Bay sneak into the World Series. Batter up! 

I agree that the two wild card games were great … but Monte, I would point out that I'm watching the games three hours later than you are, because I'm on the east coast and you're in the Pacific Northwest.  That's why I'm exhausted - not because of the games.