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Friday, October 28, 2016

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Friday Morning Eye-Opener: From Boob Tube To I-Know-You Tube

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times has a story about the proposed merger of Time Warner and AT&T in which it suggests that the combined entity would be able to access "the vast trove of consumer data" that they own, allowing them to target "people with individualized TV commercials."

The story goes on to note that "targeted advertising has become commonplace on streaming services like Hulu or platforms like YouTube, where, for example, women in their 20s may see ads for birth control, pregnancy tests or certain movie trailers. Advertisers hope things could potentially move even beyond that on TV, with people seeing ads based on, for instance, their location or individual interests, much like what happens on the internet."

While there is some skepticism about whether an AT&T/Time Warner combo could achieve such a result, the general consensus seems to be that this is what advertisers want ... and a result for which they would be willing to pay.

I also think that it is something that viewers ultimately will want, and for which they might be willing to give permission. I don't know about you, but the vast majority of commercials that I see on television are completely irrelevant to my life, and if someone told me that I could see only things that were useful or interesting to me, I'd like that a lot.

There is, of course, a downside to this. We already live in a society where one is able to access only the so-called "facts" that one agrees with. This kind of technology might be increasingly isolating, and that's not a good thing.

But it seems like a likely evolution, just based on history. And, in its own way, an Eye-Opener.

Amazon Sees 2,000 Grocery Stores In Its Future

Business Insider reports that Amazon is laying out a future in which it could be operating as many as 2,000 Amazon Fresh grocery stores within the next 10 years. It expects to have 20 of them up and running in a pilot program by the end of 2018, and they are expected to be some combination of fresh-oriented convenience/grocery stores and pick-up depots for online grocery orders.

One other possibility is that they could be tied to Amazon Prime memberships, with only members allowed to shop there.

The news came as Amazon reported third quarter profit of $252 million, more than three times the profit of $79 million that it had in the same period a year ago, and revenue for the period that was up 79 percent to $32.7 billion.

KC's View: The irony, of course, is that while Amazon's numbers were way up, they weren't up enough for the investment class, and so its stock price went down somewhat yesterday. You can't please all the people all the time...

The thing is, if Amazon's profits were not up to investors' expectations, it is largely because the company continues to invest - in distribution facilities, original content, faster distribution initiatives, and, apparently, more bricks-and-mortar stores.

This is a race. No sense in letting off the gas now.

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Corporate Drumbeat

From ProLogic Retail Services...

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From the National Grocers Association...

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Reports Of Black Friday's Demise May Be A Little Exaggerated

USA Today this morning has a story about how Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving that has served as the traditional beginning of the end-of-year holiday shopping season - "has lost some of its mojo."

The argument seems to be that a) in-store traffic and sales are down on Black Friday over the last couple of years, while b) online sales on that day are up, though not the equal of what now is called Cyber Monday.

While promotions for Black Friday and overall holiday sales have already begun, and it "remains a critical promotional event particularly for traditional retailers who bring in the lion's share of their revenue from in-store, rather than online, purchases," holiday sales seem to spread out over a longer period of time.

USA Today writes that "nearly two-thirds of consumers indicated they will begin holiday shopping before the start of Black Friday week, while 29% will have completed most of it by then, according to consultancy PwC's holiday forecast. And a Deloitte holiday survey found that 52% of respondents say they won’t rely on Black Friday as much this year as they used to, up from 47% in 2014."

KC's View: Call me crazy, but I think that anything that moves the culture away from a situation in which people will step on each other to save five bucks on a video game probably is a good thing. Black Friday isn't dead yet, and not even on life support ... but the trend clearly is moving to it being a less intense experience.

Wegmans Announces New North Carolina Location

The Triangle Business Journal reports that Wegmans has locked in a deal that will lead to the opening of what is likely to be its first North Carolina store - in Raleigh, on a 22-acre property located in between a Costco and a Trader Joe's.

Wegmans already had announced two other stores for North Carolina - in Cary and Chapel Hill - but the Raleigh store is expected to open as early as summer 2018. The story notes that "the expected construction timeline" for Cary and Chapel Hill "could push building into late 2018 or 2019."

KC's View: I think Wegmans is going to find a highly receptive customer base in North Carolina, and it will be very interesting to see what happens when, inevitably, it faces off against Publix ... not to mention begins to have an impact on formats as diverse as The Fresh Market and Food Lion. Because Wegmans has a big footprint and casts a big shadow.

Walmart Tests A New Locker Concept - And It's Yuge

Business Insider reports that "Walmart has built a giant tower inside one of its stores that acts as a vending machine for online orders ... The machine is so big that the company had to remove a chunk of the ceiling to fit it inside the store. It's located right inside the store's entrance."

Here's how it works, according to the story: "When a customer orders something online for in-store pickup, the customer gets an order number. When the person arrives at the tower, he or she enters the order number into the machine. Then the machine spits out the customer's package the way a vending machine can do with a bottle of Coke.

"The machine's giant size is due to the fact that it holds tons of packages inside. While it requires a lot of space, it's more versatile than pickup lockers — which Walmart has also tested — because it has the ability to adjust the size of the compartments where packages are kept, our source said."

The tower is being tested in a single Bentonville, Arkansas, store.

KC's View: This essentially sounds like Amazon's locker program, except on steroids. It sounds like a good idea, though not inherently as nimble, and I have to wonder about its scalability.

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From MyWebGrocer...

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Irish Response To Discounters Offers Lessons To US Retailers

Interesting piece in Forbes about how Tesco is trying to block the expansion of discounters Aldi and Lidl in Ireland by filing repeated objections to construction permits being sought by the two German retailers there.

While the discounters say the objections are anticompetitive, the Forbes piece says that they actually reflect a heightened sensitivity to the damage that Aldi and Lidl can do to traditional retailers. They were taken too lightly in the UK, and it is a mistake that Tesco, for one, seems unwilling to make again.

And, the story says that it "is a lesson for Aldi and Lidl in the United States. These two aggressive food discounters will not be welcomed with open arms by their competitors. Even more so as the competitive threat is broadening as Aldi and Lidl begin to sell fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as frozen products through offerings on the Internet available for quick home delivery. Supermarket chains like Kroger, and discounters like Walmart and Target, must prepare a competitive response."

KC's View: Excellent point. My general position is that if you are in a business where a discounter could impact your sales, you need to begin competing against the likes of Aldi and Lidl even before they open in your neighborhood.

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From Samuel J. Associates...Better To Light A Candle Than Curse The Darkness...

From MorningNewsBeat, September 15, 2016:

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Whole Foods Adds Plant-Based Burger To Meat Counters

The Washington Post this morning reports that Whole Foods is adding the Beyond Meat Burger - described as a plant-based protein that looks and tastes like a traditional hamburger - to the meat departments in 51 stores on the east coast, expanding on what apparently was a successful test of the product.

The story notes that "Whole Foods is the exclusive seller of  the Beyond Burger through the end of the year, and it is stocking the product in both the meat department, where it hopes to capture traditional meat eaters, and in the dairy/alternative foods section where vegans traditionally shop."

Among the investors in the Beyond Meat company are General Mills, the Humane Society of the United States, and Tyson.

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From iControl...

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The MNB Walmart Watch

The Street writes this morning that Walmart "is about to put the sleepy supermarket industry on notice," and will "have its new online grocery ordering option available in 100 U.S. markets, touching 600 stores, by the end of the year."

Walmart continues to maintain that "about 90% of online grocery users are repeat customers, and more than 90% of the orders include fresh grocery items such as dairy, produce and meat."

E-conomy Beat

• HEB said yesterday that it is expanding its delivery partnership with Shipt, saying that early next month it "will add 4 additional H-E-B stores" to its Houston coverage area, "reaching 22 additional zip codes across Conroe, Humble, Pasadena and Baytown."

The story notes that "through the Shipt app, members shop a full selection of groceries offered at local H-E-B or Central Market stores, note any preferences, choose a one-hour delivery window and pay for their order. Shipt connects members with a community of shoppers who hand pick their items and deliver them as soon as one hour after the order is placed."

New members in Houston "who sign up for an annual membership prior to November 3 will receive $25 in grocery credit. Shipt memberships are available for an annual fee of $99 and members have access to unlimited free grocery deliveries." reports that "after a successful pilot program with Publix in Miami this summer, the online delivery company Instacart is expanding into Tampa Bay," and will begin allowing shoppers there to use its app to order goods from Publix, Costco, Total Wine & More, Petco and other companies.

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From Webstop...

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• Wakefern Food Corp. said this week that its annual sales in the just-completed fiscal year were up 4.2 percent, reaching $16 billion for the first time in its seven-decade history.

• The Boston Globe reports that Eataly has finally set a date for its planned opening in Boston - Tuesday, November 29. It will be Eataly's fourth USA location - there are two in New York and one in Chicago.

The story notes that the Boston Eataly will be 45,000 square feet in the Prudential Center, taking over what used to be its food court, and "will take over what used to be the entire Prudential Center food court, will feature three casual sit-down restaurants - La Pizza & La Pasta, Il Pesce, and La Piazza - and a number of to-go stations offering pizza, flatbread sandwiches, salad, and prepared antipasti, primi, and secondi meals. The space will also have a Lavazza coffee bar, a pastry lab, a housemade fresh mozzarella station, salumi and formaggi, a fresh pasta counter, a baker, a fishmonger, a butcher, and more than 10,000 retail products."

• The New York Times this morning reports that PepsiCo is returning to its roots - Pepsi was first made in a drugstore as a drink that would help digestion and boost energy - by investing in research and development initiatives that would "improve the taste of tuberculosis drugs."

The story says that "about 10.4 million people each year contract tuberculosis, and 1.8 million of them die, or roughly 5,000 each day, making it one of the world’s 10 deadliest diseases. But only recently have public health officials woken up to the prevalence of tuberculosis among children, and even now, they say their figures on youngsters with the disease are more guesstimate than estimate."

Tuberculosis drugs are generally made for adults and are difficult for children to swallow, and so PepsiCo "will be working to improve the flavor and sensory perception of 17 drugs used in treating tuberculosis. The company is donating ... its time, expertise and any intellectual property associated with the flavors and sensory innovations it comes up with to make the drugs more palatable."

Salon reports that as Chipotle tries to come back from food safety issues that hurts its sales, growth and image, it is revamping its menu and is adding desserts. They also are "altering their digital ordering system so as to provide faster service, and advertising their brand in a more aggressive fashion, one that will almost certainly include the franchise’s first ever nationally televised ads."

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From the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC)...

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Executive Suite

Internet Retailer reports that Boxed Wholesale - which positions itself as an online alternative to warehouse club stores, offering bulk packages and low prices - has hired Heather Mayo as the company's first chief merchandising officer.

Mayo is a a veteran of Walmart-owned Sam's Club, where she most recently served as senior vice president of operations, and BJ's Wholesale Club, where she held a variety of positions over 10 years.

Your Views

...will return.

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Stater Bros. Adopts ReposiTrak Food Safety Compliance Management Solution

SALT LAKE CITY - Stater Bros. Markets announced today that it has chosen ReposiTrak, Inc., the leading provider of Compliance Management and Track & Trace solutions for food and dietary supplement safety, to manage regulatory and business documentation compliance within its supply chain.

“Our top priority at Stater Bros. is to provide the safest and highest quality products for our customers,” said Dennis McIntyre, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Stater Bros. “ReposiTrak’s automated system will enable us to better manage our growing list of documents we require from our approved suppliers in order to verify their good business and safety practices.”

ReposiTrak, a wholly owned subsidiary of Park City Group, helps manage regulatory, financial and brand risk associated with issues of safety in the global food, pharma and dietary supply chains. Powered by Park City Group’s technology, the platform consists of two systems: Compliance Management, which not only receives, stores and shares documentation, but also manages compliance through dashboards and alerts for missing or expired documents; and Track & Trace, which quickly identifies product ingredients and their supply chain path in the unfortunate event of a product recall.

For more information about how to join the rapidly expanding community of retailers and suppliers using ReposiTrak's robust safety and compliance solutions, go to

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From The MNB Sports Desk

In Thursday Night Football action, the Tennessee Titans defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 36-22.

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In this fast-paced, interactive and provocative presentation, MNB's Kevin Coupe challenges audiences to see Main Street through a constantly evolving technological, demographic, competitive and cultural prism.  These issues all combine to create an environment in which traditional thinking, fundamental execution, and just-good-enough strategies and tactics likely will pave a path to irrelevance;  Coupe lays out a road map for the future that focuses on differential advantages and disruptive mindsets, using real-world examples that can be adopted and executed by enterprising and innovative leaders.

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OffBeat: Gone In Sixty Seconds

It has been a crazy week, and I've hardly watched any television, haven't been to the movies, and didn't even get the opportunity to start a book, much less finish one so I could review it.

I did, however, see something that I simply have to share with you - one of the best political commercials I've ever seen. in fact, it is one of the best commercials of any kind that I've ever seen.

The set up is simple.

In Texas, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty is running for re-election in his district, which includes the city of Austin. He's a Republican, but that doesn't make him a shoe-in by any means. The rest of the commission is dominated by Democrats, and Texas Monthly writes that antipathy toward the top of the GOP ticket could mean that "the sort of conservative, college-educated suburban voters who help propel a candidate like ... Daugherty to a commission otherwise dominated by Democrats may well end up staying home this year, and that would spell trouble for Daugherty’s reelection bid."

And so, they came up with this 60-second spot. It is brilliantly executed. And every commercial should be so skilled at packing so much information and attitude into so little time.


That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.


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