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    Published on: January 13, 2023

    I returned to Gig Harbor, Washington, yesterday, to a site where a half-dozen years ago Kroger ran what it called Main & Vine, an experimental store that in the end suffered because the people running it didn't seem to have a commitment to the format or the food on which it was supposed to be focused.  Now, however, Metropolitan Market has opened a store there, one that demonstrates a real commitment to celebrating food.

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    by Kevin Coupe

    Today, we turn the Eye-Opener over to MNB reader Paul Martinez…

    While in a WinCo this weekend I noticed that Claire's had a display at the end of one of the check stands. My wife starting looking through the merchandise and even texted a pic of an item to my daughter and eventually ended up buying it. I also saw another young girl walk up and glance through the display.

    This was genius to me.  As a father of 4 daughters I’ve been dragged through Claire's stores in malls all over America…..It seems like perfect marketing for Claire's whom I’d imagine has suffered in sales since malls have become ghost towns where I live in North San Diego county. Many stores have shut down or been replaced by knock off retailers, math tutors and seasonal shops. I think it is imperative for all businesses to take a lesson from this, you can sit and cry over missing AOP due to whatever headwinds are in your way or you can reinvent yourself and find new ways of getting in front of your target consumer.

    Also, I think, smart for WinCo, which suddenly may some fresh appeal to a customer base that has not traditionally found it fun or productive to go to supermarkets.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention … it is an excellent Eye-Opener on a number of levels.

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    Walmart yesterday made a deal with Salesforce to sell "technologies and solutions that power frictionless local pickup and delivery for shoppers" to other retailers.

    According to the announcement, "Both Walmart Commerce Technologies Store Assist local fulfillment app and Walmart GoLocal local delivery solutions will be available through Salesforce AppExchange to help retailers thrive in today’s hybrid shopping world."

    Here's the context:

    "Customers today expect seamless in-store and online experiences with convenient fulfillment options, but creating and managing these complex in-house, omni-channel solutions can be a challenge for retailers. For over a decade, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has pioneered and scaled innovative omnichannel technologies. Walmart’s partnership with Salesforce will provide retailers access to the same scalable technologies that Walmart uses. These solutions will enable personalized and easy commerce experiences with real-time order visibility and reliable local pickup and delivery.

    "The Walmart Commerce Technologies Store Assist app helps retailers leverage their local stores as fulfillment centers. With Store Assist, retailers can optimize in-store fulfillment by increasing picking accuracy, speed and efficiency. The app will provide a seamless handoff experience between employees and customers or third-party delivery drivers. With Walmart GoLocal, retailers of all sizes will have access to white-label, delivery-as-a-service technology to power a frictionless delivery experience for their customers."

    The CNBC analysis:

    "Walmart’s latest push to commercialize its tech comes as the retail environment gets tougher. Inflation has forced shoppers to spend more on necessities, driving higher sales of Walmart’s groceries. But the company is also selling fewer higher-margin items like electronics, clothes and other discretionary merchandise … With the moves, Walmart is taking a page from rival Amazon’s playbook. Over the past two years, Amazon has licensed its cashier-less checkout technology, called 'Just Walk Out,' and signed up airports, sports stadiums, arenas and a Missouri grocer to bring the technology to their stores. It’s also looked to sell its palm-scanning payment system and launched an analytics service where brands pay for data on how their products perform in Amazon’s physical stores."

    KC's View:

    These moves by Walmart and Amazon to license out what was designed to be proprietary technology is, I think, rightly described as a way of improving the bottom line by creating alternative revenue streams.

    I guess it makes sense, though I do wonder when the definition of words like "proprietary" and "differentiated" changed.  Maybe it is just an acknowledgment that there are limits to what Walmart and Amazon can do on their own. Or, just maybe, it is a move to generate short-term dollars without too much regard for what it means in terms of long-term competition.

    Just asking.  (Not that Walmart and Amazon are interested in my advice for how to run major retail businesses…)

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    A new survey suggests that more than half of respondents said that in the past 12 months, they've actually walked out of stores where they intended to purchase items because the lines were too long.   Of those, the survey says, "84 percent said they have done so at least twice in the last year alone" and "80 percent of shoppers said since the pandemic they have had to stand in line more often when shopping in a retail store."

    It is a phenomenon retailers are aware of - 92 percent of retailers admitted "that wait times at busy periods have had a negative impact on their companies’ revenues."

    These lines, according to the survey, are at least in part are being created by the tight labor market, with two-third of retail respondents saying that they believe that the combination of lost shoppers and higher labor costs are impacting their bottom lines.

    However, "only 14 percent of retailers are planning to address the issues with additional hiring … 45% have reduced opening hours (e.g. eliminating early or late shifts) on an ongoing basis … 41% have executed a short-term temporary closure (e.g. at least a few hours) of at least one of its stores … 26% have canceled expansion plans (e.g. the opening a new store) … (and) 21% have permanently closed stores including 9% who have closed multiple stores."

    Technology, the survey suggests, "is the most favored solution with 79 percent planning to implement either self-checkout (47%) or checkout-free (32%) to win back consumers who are tired of friction-filled in-store experiences."

    The survey was commissioned by checkout-free technology company Zippin and conducted by market research company 3Gem.

    KC's View:

    To be clear, it isn't surprising that a company like Zippin would be behind a survey with these kinds of results - but that doesn't make the results any less legitimate or the concerns any less alarming.

    The thing is, technology probably will be seen by many retailers as a preferred solution because it is more sustainable - hiring people takes more time and is a less reliable approach, simply because many of those people can leave.

    MNB readers won't be surprised that I'm a big believer in these technological solutions, and have been since I went to my first Amazon Go store back in 2018.  Since then, I've interviewed senior executives at checkout-free tech companies Zippin and Standard AI, and while the trend has not accelerated as fast as some thought it might (in late 2018, Amazon foresaw as many as 3,000 Go stores, which was, shall we say, overly ambitious), I still think at some point checkout-free will be as ubiquitous as scanning.

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    Home Depot has released a new short documentary entitled "Hope Builds," which details the impact of three major natural disasters - Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri in 2011, and a California wildfire in 2018 - on communities, and how the retailer enabled both disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.

    KC's View:

    The point of the video, it seems to me, is that Home Depot wants to be seen not in terms of the nails and wood and tools it sells, but in how those things come together, in the hands of caring people, to serve communities in their time of dire need.

    It is an approach that food retailers should note - the meat and the pasta and the veggies and all the other items they sell should not be seen in a vacuum, but rather as components in a larger effort for people to feed and nurture themselves and their families.  To see them in a vacuum ignores the bigger picture, and misses the nobility of what food retailers do every day.

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    Food & Wine has an interesting piece about black limes, a product that, to be honest, I'd never heard of before.

    An excerpt:

    "Black limes, also known as dried limes or black lemons, are often used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. They add a sour and salty flavor to stews, tagines, and other dishes. The versatility of black lime, which gets its dark, dried appearance from being sun-dried until it turns black in color, makes the fruit a delicious addition to any cook's arsenal.

    "What Is a Black Lime?  A black lime is a type of lime that has been blanched in a salty brine, then dried in the sun until their flesh and peel have turned black and have hardened. The drying process concentrates the lime's natural flavors and aromas, making black limes a powerful and flavorful addition to a wide range of dishes."

    You can read the entire story - complete with recipe recommendations - here.

    KC's View:

    I bring this up because to me, it illustrates an area in which retailers can play a larger role.  I'll bet that there are a lot of people out there who never have heard of black limes, and might want to add them to their kitchen repertoire.  Educating people about their use is one way to sell more product, and create a differential advantage when compared to less ambitious retailers.

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Forbes reports that "Nike has partnered with Netflix on an initiative called the Nike Training Club, which consists of an initial 46 videos of exercise content that are now available on the streaming platform, according to Deadline. The entire series will feature 30 hours of “motivating exercise sessions” and is available in multiple languages.

    "The Nike Training Club content on Netflix is broken out into segments with titles like '10 Minute Workouts,' '20 Minute Workouts,' 'Bodyweight Burn' and 'High Intensity Training,' each of which contain multiple short episodes. The series offers an array of different types of guided exercise, such as cardio and yoga."

    The stalling out of the streaming trend - still significant, but running into headwinds because growing competition and inflationary costs - means that companies like Netflix are well advised to find new content that will bring in viewers/subscribers.  Ideally, it is non-replicable content, like live sports and entertainment.  Creating a training club like this one with Nike, which has its own substantial customer base, is a smart way to differentiate oneself.

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    •  Sheetz announced that Stephanie Doliveira, the company's vice president of human resources, has been promoted to the role of executive vice president of people and culture.

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    …will return next week.

    Published on: January 13, 2023

    Monday being a federal holiday to celebrate the birthday - and, more importantly, the life - of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MNB will be off.  But we'll be back Tuesday with fresh news and hand-crafted commentary.

    Have a good weekend.