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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

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The Innovation Conversation: No Limits Thinking



Content Guy's Note: The goal of "The Innovation Conversation" is to explore some facet of the fast-changing, technology-driven retail landscape and how it affects businesses and consumers. It is, we think, fertile territory ... and one that Tom Furphy - a former Amazon executive, the originator of Amazon Fresh, and currently CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners (CEP), a venture capital and venture development firm in Seattle, WA, that works with many top retailers and manufacturers - is uniquely positioned to address.

This week's topic: How e-commerce dealt with the holidays, the challenge to bricks-and-mortar stores, and the advantage of no-limits thinking.

And now, the Conversation continues...


KC: Just a few subjects with which to start the new year…to begin with, I’ve had a couple of MNB readers point out to me that in some ways, the e-commerce silence was deafening over the holidays.  There weren’t any reports that I’m aware of about broad outages or websites collapsing under the weight of increased internet traffic.  And there weren't even very many complaints about products not getting to people on time for the holidays.  (Okay, there was one I’m aware of, from my wife … but that more fell into complaining about having to spend extra on expedited shipping because she waited too long.)  And yet, the e-commerce numbers were pretty strong.  I guess I’m wondering is this means that we’re actually at a point where the e-commerce infrastructure has largely gotten to the point where it is keeping up with even expanding demand.  And whether this is likely to be a semi-permanent situation, or is it likely to be just a lull before another storm?

Tom Furphy:
You’re right, it was a pretty quiet holiday. I do think it’s because we’re at a point where the infrastructure has matured to the point of being able to handle demand. Both the underlying technology platforms and the distribution infrastructure have been heavily upgraded over the past few years.

The technology has benefitted from improvements in core functionality as well as improvements in architecture. The technology stacks have become much more efficient. Early e-commerce systems were monolithic applications that became severely stressed and would buckle under the pressure of high volume. All the elements of functionality, like content, search, inventory, and payments all worked together in the same stack. When volume ramped up, these functions would try to work with each other and processing power could not keep up. Sometimes they would crumble under the weight of the data or a glitch with one piece of functionality would take down the whole stack.

KC: It seemed like every year there would be a story about a couple of major retailers - think Toys R Us - that collapsed under the weight of e-commerce expectations. What always was interesting to me was the range of reactions. Some thought it was incontrovertible evidence that e-commerce was a flawed business model, but others thought that it was just a matter of building a strong and deep enough foundation to support a growing segment of the business. I always was part of the latter group, and you were actually in there helping to build the foundation.

TF:
Over the past few years, the “big data” infrastructure to support these systems has dramatically improved. Also, these e-commerce stacks have migrated into “services architectures” where each discreet piece of functionality works on its own and efficiently connects to the others. This all allows for processing capacity to be distributed across the services and is far more efficient than everything being coupled together.

As far as on-time delivery goes, I think we’re realizing the benefit of all of the investment in the physical infrastructure over the past few years. We know Amazon added dozens of warehouses in 2016, hundreds over the last several years. This gets more inventory into the system and places it closer to customers. Also, Amazon is bearing more of the load by using their own planes, trailers and local delivery staff. Couple this with improvements made by other retailers and third parties such as FedEx and UPS and you have enough capacity and efficiency to meet demand.

Barring a crazy spike in e-commerce in the coming years, I think that technology and delivery capacity will continue to improve enough to generally keep up with demand. We will see some stresses, but I think overall we’ll see mostly smooth sailing going forward.

KC: It was interesting to me to see stories in recent days about the increasing visibility that e-commerce-oriented AI seems to be getting, largely because of Amazon’s Echo/Alexa system which pretty much sold out over the holidays, as well as about how we’re likely to see more and more store closures during 2017 - and not just by perennial underperformers like Sears.

To me, this reflects a couple of things in the bricks-and-mortar world.  One is an inability to compete in the technology arena, but the other - and this is critically important, I think - is the absolute necessity of creating bricks-and-mortar stores that compete against tech-driven companies.  The ad we posted on MNB from Monoprix, emphasizing the importance of so-called “human technology,” seems an almost isolated effort among bricks-and-mortar retailers to a) be who they are, and b) own it.  Thoughts?  (I would expect that this will be something that you’ll discuss when you participate in the keynote panel at FMI Midwinter later this month..)

TF:
Technology is certainly changing the game. AI and other shopping utilities are becoming part of everyday life and fundamentally changing the way shoppers discover and procure products. It is to the point where people can easily order from their phones, or with the push of a button, the mention of a product to their device or passively when their appliances trigger it. The traditional stock up trip, the very bread and butter of the grocery business, will become automated to the point where replenishment orders are ready before shoppers even think of it. Retailers that fail to embrace this reality and aren’t acting on it now will certainly be left behind.

The other day I heard Jim Cramer on CNBC say that retailers are the cavalry, on horseback with muskets, fighting against Amazon who has tanks, jets and long-range missiles.

KC: It is like the line from The Untouchables - you don't want to bring a knife to a gunfight. Which is exactly what a lot of traditional retailers are doing. Instead, they should follow the advice of Jimmy Malone - "He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!"

TF:
That is so true, and retailers have no idea how far behind they are falling. Retailers lose technological ground to Amazon every day. Their evaluation cycles are longer than Amazon’s innovation cycles.

Here’s the reality. Retailers cannot compete technologically head to head with Amazon. There is no retail roadmap as powerful as Amazon’s and there is no retail IT team as strong as Amazon’s. Retailers cannot innovate and develop technology on their own, head-to-head vs Amazon. They will lose. I know we get knocked for constantly touting Amazon in this column, but that’s the cold hard fact.

In my opinion, the best way for a retailer to effectively differentiate against Amazon long term is to truly think about their own customers and work backward. Who are these shoppers? What is important to them? What unique and compelling value can you provide to help solve their problems? When they do this, I think they will find their stores and their people to be pretty important parts of the service equation and areas where they have an advantage over Amazon.

Leveraging stores and people, then layering in technologies that both serve their customers and empower their employees is critical. Retailers with a compelling mix of physical assets, people and technology can do well against Amazon. It’s important to have all three.

To me, incumbent food retailers have just as much right as Amazon to define the next generation of shopping. The capabilities are there for retailers to automate the replenishment trip, ramp up services and experiences in the perimeter, empower teams to be experts in helping shoppers and to make sure there are easy delivery or pickup options. Each retailer can put their own twist on this. But some combination of these can be a compelling answer for everyone.

KC: Finally, I have to ask:  what the hell is going on with Amazon’s super drones and floating warehouses?  When I see these kinds of stories, it has gotten to the point where I sort of shrug my shoulders, laugh, and figure that regardless of whether Jeff Bezos is just playing with us or whether this stuff represents real potential advantages, it is just a perfect reflection of Amazon’s attitude and culture.  As in, “Normal just begs to be messed with.”  What do you think about this stuff?

TF:
There truly are no limits on Amazon’s thinking. To them anything is possible. It is a culture where people are encouraged to be bold and to take chances. This is ingrained their strategy, planning and budgeting processes. They will take some swings and misses. But they are also going to hit a lot of home runs.

If super drones and floating warehouses are even remotely possible, and Amazon’s analysis shows them that these will help better serve customers, it’s not surprising that they are seeking patents for them. And considering Jeff Bezos’s other passion is space travel, these things seem entirely possible.

Remember, as successful as Amazon is, they don’t sit back. Every day they come in to work believing that “Today is Day 1”. They operate as if they are a raw startup and anything is possible. That takes them into some pretty interesting places. And it is that kind of thinking that will be required of retailers in order to compete effectively against them.

The Conversation will continue...

Walmart Plans More Corporate Layoffs

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Walmart plans to eliminate close to a thousand corporate jobs before the end if its fiscal year on January 31, as the company moves "to cut costs and shift its focus to e-commerce ... The plans mark one of Wal-Mart’s largest rounds of corporate job cuts as it works to preserve profits while making the company more efficient and responsive to fast-changing consumer behaviors."

The job cuts, according to the Journal, "will fall broadly but are expected to focus on Wal-Mart’s US operations, including the human resources department, as well as the technology and e-commerce divisions."

The Journal notes that "Wal-Mart employs roughly 18,000 Bentonville-based staff. But the series of reductions show how the retailer is working to maintain profits at a time of change in the industry. Wal-Mart has spent heavily over the past two years to fend off Amazon.com Inc. and smaller, fast-growing discounters like Aldi."

KC's View: It seems to me that this is illustrative of the tightrope that Walmart is walking these days. It needs to make major investments in e-commerce, but also has a cultural imperative to hit certain profit numbers (unlike Amazon, where profits routinely are reinvested in initiatives designed to drive the company forward).

So, as it makes cuts in the organization as a way of trimming costs, Walmart has to be careful not to do things that will hurt the stores and their appeal to shoppers. If the cuts indeed are happening in departments where it can impact the company's people and technology, there is at least the potential that it could push Walmart in a direction that may not be optimal for long-term success.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

From the National Grocers Association...

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Instacart Business Model Appears To Struggle

Re/code has a story about how grocery delivery service Instacart is looking to improve its profitability by cutting the pay of its employees.

Here's how Re/code frames the story about how Instacart is targeting "some of its best-performing front-line workers" in the cost-cutting strategy:

"Over the last few weeks, the startup has notified thousands of contractors and employees who shop for, and deliver, groceries to Instacart customers that their pay is significantly changing, sources told Re/code.

"In some cases, the changes amounted to huge pay cuts for the company’s lowest rung of workers, resulting in hourly rate decreases of 40 percent or more, according to six current Instacart employees and contractors. A high-performing Instacart worker in one major city once made more than $25 an hour thanks to their speed; that person will now make $15 for the same work.

"Several of these people say the cuts are emblematic of a wider divide at the company, where the people doing the grunt work are often treated like second-class citizens. Instacart customers order same-day delivery of groceries from local stores, which are then picked off shelves and delivered to people’s doors by a network of thousands of workers."

Instacart has responded to the critical stories with a statement:

“Attracting and retaining shoppers is vital to running our business. We have made some recent rate changes to reduce variability in how much shoppers earn, and we are constantly innovating to help shoppers get more orders. After these changes our shoppers will earn, on average, an effective rate of $15-$20/hour, which is both in line with historical levels and strongly competitive within our markets.”

KC's View: It shouldn't surprise anyone that workers and management see these moves from different perspectives, but I do think that the story raises specific issues about Instacart's business model.

It always has concerned me that some retailers were outsourcing the fulfillment aspect of e-commerce to Instacart, which was doing the same thing for numerous retailers in the same markets. Delivery people don't care about who whey are delivering for, because that isn't their job. And now, by changing the economics for those delivery people, Instacart may have created an us vs. them relationship with the very people who are representing all these retailers when they make deliveries.

I've argued here for a long time that I thought the Instacart model was unsustainable, that the goal always was to generate enough revenue to make some larger company want to spend an enormous sum to buy Instacart. I've always argued that it was a race to see if the company could be sold before the model went off the rails.

I'm not sure that this story proves me right. But it doesn't prove me wrong.

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Corporate Drumbeat

From MyWebGrocer...


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Card Fees Could Hinge On Free Speech Interpretation

Really interesting piece in the New York Times about a US Supreme Court hearing this week that focused on whether merchants should be allowed to impose a surcharge on credit card transactions; there are some 10 states where such surcharges are banned, even though discounts can be given for cash transactions.

The merchants making their case to the Court argue that the ability to impose surcharges is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Deepak Gupta, a lawyer for several merchants challenging the law, tells the Times, "This case is about whether the state may criminalize truthful speech that merchants believe is their most effective way of communicating the hidden cost of credit cards to their customers."

According to the story, "The justices’ view of the case seemed to turn on where they stood in a rolling debate at the court about how the First Amendment applies to laws regulating economic matters, an issue that generally divides the justices along ideological lines. Some of the more liberal justices said that the law was an unexceptional and permissible economic regulation." But, "Some of the more conservative justices saw a threat to free speech."

KC's View: To be clear, I'm not a lawyer, and my understanding of constitutional law is miniscule. But from a common sense perspective, I'm on the free speech side here ... retailers ought to be allowed to impose card surcharges, and explain in detail to consumers why they are doing so.

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Corporate Drumbeat

From ReposiTrak...


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Chipotle Tries To Get Back To Its Traditional Brand Story

Advertising Age reports that Chipotle plans a shift in strategy in 2017 as it continues to try to rebound from the food safety crises that hit its sales and profits hard last year.

Included in its plans are the sponsorship of a new scripted television series for children and a marketing campaign that will focus on taste and ingredients. What is not included is a continued reliance on deals and promotions that it hoped would get past and disillusioned customers to return and give the fast food chain a second chance.

"The food safety incidents replaced our carefully crafted brand narrative with negative stories and we're working hard to rebuild our brand story," Mark Crumpacker, the company's chief marketing and development officer, said this week.

KC's View: Still haven't been back to Chipotle. Just don't trust them.

This move probably makes sense, though. If people don't trust the food, BOGO doesn't have much appeal ... it just creates the possibility that they'll get twice as sick. So it probably is a better approach to focus marketing efforts on taste and ingredients.

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Corporate Drumbeat

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


From MorningNewsBeat, September 15, 2016:

A US Department of Labor report recently revealed that there were 5.2 million jobs available in the United States ... which was said to be the highest level of job availability since these specific numbers started being tracked back in 2000. This despite the fact that there remains considerable debate, much of it cacophonous, about national unemployment and under-employment.. The problem, one expert said, is that what we have in this country is "one of the biggest mismatches between skills and lack of qualified help available in the nation's history."


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The kind of match that can help a business achieve new heights and higher levels of differentiation by identifying the people who don't just fit into a culture, but help create a culture of excellence. The kind of match that can help individuals identify companies where they are empowered to make a difference, and move the needle on customer service, product development, marketing, merchandising and/or technological advancement.

Don't just settle. Don't just make the easy choices. Allow Samuel J. Associates to work for you. We don't just believe in such people and companies. We actually put them together. And we have the track record to prove it.

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Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Taking Stock: Gloomy Economic Outlook For Millennials

The Washington Post this morning offers an assessment of where the stock market may be going in coming years, reporting that "a roundup of the figures shows that strategists project the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index will gain 4 percent on average in 2017 — the lowest expected annual gain for the stock market since 2005, according to an analysis by Bespoke Investment Group."

The story goes on to say that "while it’s impossible to predict exactly what the stock market will do, investing pros over the past several months have been reducing their expectations for what they think the stock market will return, not only in the next year, but potentially over the next couple of decades ... The reason for the dismal view is that stock market gains were so robust over the past 30 years that it will be pretty tough for the stock market to match those returns going forward, some economists say. Stocks have grown pricier as the market has climbed higher, giving them less room to grow."

Having made that point, the Post suggests that "if those gloomier outlooks hold true, workers saving for retirement today may not get as much from their portfolios in the long term as previous generations did. Advisers say that millennials, who are decades away from retirement, will need to save more — in some cases twice as much as they were saving before — to make up the difference ... The pessimistic predictions come at a time when younger workers are already struggling to save for retirement while they pay off student loans, face high child-care costs or deal with rising rent. But firms such as McKinsey predict that U.S. stock markets may not deliver as much as they have in years past, putting more pressure on millennials to save as much as they can."

KC's View: I get the point about this analysis, though I'm a little skeptical about the ability of investment professionals to project this far out. After all, who would've guessed that the stock market would've doubled in the past eight years?

But I think the cautionary note is worthy of consideration - that it is at least possible that millennials are going to have to be a lot more careful about their money as they age, which will mean less disposable income, which will affect how they spend money on food, clothing, technology, etc...

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

From WAFC...


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Corporate Drumbeat

Harris Teeter Chooses MyWebGrocer For Next Generation Digital Grocery Capabilities

Kroger-owned Harris Teeter announced that it has chosen MyWebGrocer, described as "the leading provider of eCommerce and digital marketing solutions to the grocery and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industries," for MWG's "Digital Experience Platform (DEP) to power its omni-channel shopping experience."

According to the announcement, "Using MWG’s grocery-specific software and services, Harris Teeter will optimize shopper engagement by providing an integrated omni-channel experience. This includes support for the retailer’s online grocery ordering program, seamless shopping list management across devices, advanced merchandising capabilities, circulars and personalization modules, as well as on-platform advertising and outbound email marketing."

For more information about how MWG is helping grocery retailers and brands enhance their digital presence, as the only end-to-end digital ecosystem for grocers and CPG brands in a modern retail world, click here.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Study: US Fresh Product Consumption On Rise

A new study says that "compared to three years ago, Americans are consuming more fresh products, including fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses ... The study shows that nearly half of Americans (48%) consume more fresh products than they did three years ago and 41% say their consumption has remained stable over that period."

Other findings from the study:

• "Age is a determining factor in the preference for fresh products. Young people under the age of 35 are far more likely to choose fresh items than people aged 50 and older (58% vs 38%)."

• "Income is also a contributor. Only 45% of individuals in the lowest income group (less than $50,000/year) said their consumption of fresh products had increased over the last three years, as opposed to 53% of people in the highest income group (over $75,000)."

• "Fresh is strongly associated with quality. Respondents said fresh products are more flavorful (75%), healthier (74%), better quality (74%), and contain more healthy ingredients (74%)."

The study was done by the OpinionWay institute for Bizerba and Invatron.

E-conomy Beat

Search Marketing Daily reports that Amazon is "taking search market share from engines as the preferred place to begin researching for information about products and services," with Raymond James analysts suggesting that 52 percent of these searches took place on Amazon in December 2016, compared to 26 percent on more traditional search engines. This represents an enormous shift in just two years - in December 2014, 28 percent of these searches were on Amazon, and 55 percent of them were on traditional search engines.


tED Magazine reports that Amazon Business, the company's B2B offering, has grown to 400,000 customers, up from 300,000 six months ago. The magazine also says that the devision created more than $1 billion in sales during its first year, and is doing business with 45,000 suppliers on the B2B side.

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Industry Drumbeat

Energize your Digital Circular

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Are You Attending NRF 2017?

The annual National Retail Federation (NRF) "Big Show" is scheduled to take place next week, from January 15-17, in New York City's Jacob Javits Convention Center ... and I'm planning to spend some time there next Monday, January 16.

If there are any MNB readers who'd like to get together, I'll be camping out from 1:30-3 pm at the MyWebGrocer booth, #612 ... I'll have some copies of my books to give away, and I'm always happy to catch up with members of the MNB community.

Hope to see you there...

FastNewsBeat

• The Omaha World Herald reports that Fresh Thyme, which has one store in that market, "will add two more stores in west Omaha next month ... The west Omaha stores are part of the Chicago-area grocer’s push to expand quickly throughout the Midwest. The chain has 48 stores now, including one that opened last summer along West Maple Road and another in Lincoln.

"The company said it expects to have a total of 70 stores by the end of 2017."


• The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is out with its regular Consumer Fuels survey, saying that "consumer optimism remains very strong at the start of 2017 despite a continued rise in gasoline prices. For the third month in a row, a majority of consumers (57%) say they are optimistic about the economy - despite gas prices rising all three months."

The survey goes on to say that "consumers were least optimistic in the Northeast (50%) - the region more likely have reported higher prices - and consumers were most optimistic in the West (60%) - the region least likely to have reported higher pump prices.

"Also, in a noteworthy shift from monthly findings in the past, consumers over age 50 are more optimistic about the economy than those ages 18 to 34 (59% vs. 54%)."

Executive Suite

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart CIO Karenann Terrell will leave the company at the end of February. No word on what Terrell will do after leaving the company, nor about the specifics of how Walmart plans to reorganize its technology leadership in the wake of her departure.

The Journal provides the following context for the leadership shifts: "Wal-Mart reorganized its IT operations a year ago, combining corporate IT with e-commerce into a single unit reporting to its then-head of e-commerce Neil Ashe. Mr. Ashe then left Wal-Mart in November as the retailer completed a $3.3 billion purchase of e-commerce startup Jet.com Inc. Marc Lore, founder of Jet.com, took over Wal-Mart’s e-commerce business.

"The Jet acquisition, along with the earmarking of $11 billion for e-commerce, digital initiatives and store remodels this fiscal year, are part of Wal-Mart’s plan to compete with Amazon.com Inc. Wal-Mart is the biggest corporate spender on IT, according to market researcher International Data Corp. It remains unclear whether the spending is enough to dampen the effects of competition..."

Your Views: On Fleek

On the subject of Sears' variety of issues, one MNB reader wrote:

I too remember going to Sears as a kid and it was a special event.  You could get your clothes, your shoes, your appliances, and tools all in one place with a knowledgeable staff.

Something really struck me on 12/26/16.  We had gone to the mall for the after Christmas sales.  I always like to get there early to avoid the crowds and have the best selection.  Many of the stores didn’t open until 10 am which I have no problem with.  I went to Sears to buy some tools and tool box liners.  I was shocked to see that they didn’t open until 11 am.  I left because we had already done our shopping and I wasn’t going to wait another 60 minutes.  I wonder how many potential customers Sears lost the opportunity to sell something because of their late opening?

If it weren’t for the Craftsman tools I would never go into a Sears anymore.  Their stores are unkept, understocked, and usually understaffed.  It saddens me to see such an iconic brand slowly go out of business, but they didn’t change with the times and as many retailers who are in a declining state, they cut staff to levels that make it very frustrating and not worth the pain of buying something.


From another reader, a somewhat more optimistic view:

I don’t particularly care for Eddie Lampert but he is no dummy… He is running Sears into the ground but watch where all the “key” parts of the company are going… Offshore account to avoid taxes (the better land/buildings, the client database, and most importantly the warranty business). When the demise of Sears happens - the public will be holding the ashes and the “value” will be held by Eddie in a tax efficient manner-which will produce for years.
 
And yes, he has driven the company into the ground with his ego and being the only person who knows what to do- but look down the road and see where all the chess pieces are moving….


Maybe so. And how much value and how many lives will he have destroyed in the process?

From MNB reader Gail Nickel-Kailing:

So Fast Eddie wants Sears to be "a tech company that collects and sells customer data through the Shop Your Way program.” What if they don’t? (Shop at Sears, that is…)

That strikes me as the problem with the strategy. To compile data, you actually have to have customers.




Responding to a recent story and commentary about diversity, one MNB user wrote:

You said that pretty much every religion believes the other religions are wrong in some way. True enough. But Muslims (not all, but some) are the only ones in the 21st century who killing people who don't agree. I haven't heard of any Jehovah's Witnesses throwing anyone off a cliff lately.

True. And as long as we all agree with the "not all, but some" reference, we're on the same page.




On the subject of Amazon, one MNB reader wrote:

While I do, at times, enjoy the convenience of online shopping, my experience with Amazon leaves me with the impression that they are a bit overrated. I tried to use Amazon about 10 or 12 days prior to Christmas to get a robot kit for my son. Unfortunately, their site indicated that they would be unable to deliver it until December 28. This is not the first time they have come up short for me. Unfortunately, for them, this happened during a free trial period for Prime. They didn’t win me over.

At least they told you the product wasn't available. Letting you down would've been promising it and not delivering.

As for being overrated, I think Amazon is overrated like Meryl Streep is overrated. Which is to say, when it comes to core expertise, not in any way, shape, or form.




Regarding executive moves at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, one MNB reader wrote:

I'm doing a lot of consulting to Wall Street (hedge funds, mutual funds, etc.) who for the last six months or so are trying to figure out if Dollar Tree is going to prosper or die due to their acquisition of Family Dollar. My standard line is that Dollar Tree has very smart people that know a lot about crafting and stationery, and importing $1 retail items from China, but very little experience with Grocery. And Gary Phillbin hasn't gotten the job done (not surprised his Grand Union experience hasn't helped). They needed a grocery person to compete with Aldi, Lidl and Dollar General. With hiring Duncan Mac Naughton, Dollar Tree gets a real solid veteran who knows grocery better than most. Hiring Duncan was one of the smarter things they could do.




Responding to our conversation the other day with an MNB reader who had been the victim of sexual abuse, and who wrote that "it would have been nice to know that there was at least one person who cared," MNB reader Ed Weiser wrote:

Heartbreaking.

I suspect (and fervently hope!) there are many millions, but I know for sure there are now at least two people who care.





Responding to yesterday's reference to a story about how PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is trying to even the playing field among men and women in business, one MNB reader wrote:

PepsiCo CEO is on fleek….Preach, sister, preach!  Double standards, micro aggressions, all the b.s. that comes with higher positions.  You know what, nine times out of ten, I’d hire a working mom over anybody else, and plan to continue doing so.  We are dedicated, get sh*t done, and balance more projects than any man I’ve worked with---C-suite included.  We aren’t allowed to be subject to a debilitating man cold—we just get up, keep going and get after it.  Glad I’m not alone in my sentiments.  Sometimes it feels like it—because, well, there aren’t a whole lot of women near the top when I look around.




We had a piece yesterday about sanctuary restaurants, that are pledging to be safe places for people who may be discriminated against, and it prompted one MNB reader to write:

Your commentary on sanctuaries has me doing some reflecting. I’m assuming one side will embrace these places as havens while the other boycotts them because of what the needs for them insinuates. And it will give us one more reason to turn to our friends (who all think like we do) and say of the other side: “Those people ought to be a little more like us!”

This brings me to my grandparents. Grandpa is so conservative he makes the folks over at Breitbart seem like doe-eyed liberals. Grandma is so far left that she barely qualifies as a capitalist. And they’ve been happily married for 68 years. Through 17 presidential elections they’ve affectionately discussed their differences over the dinner table with no rise in blood pressure. And together, they’ve taught me something important: That hard-lining is dangerous because it’s self-reinforcing. It’s a short leap from “I won’t shop there because of their politics” to “people who don’t think like me are less entitled to success… or patriotism… or representative government… or liberty.”

I think you’re doing the right thing bringing these types of conversations forward. I agree we have to keep our eyes open, and I hope that somewhere in the business cycle, there’s reward for moderation and for kindness.


On the broader subject of paying attention to such issues as part of MNB's regular coverage, MNB reader Larry Burns wrote:

Our customers are real people who live in and are impacted by the entire context of life.

I encourage you to continue to include thoughts on "what might THIS mean for business" even on hot button topics.

Our 2017 reality requires attending to culture even a bit more than in the past!
 




Finally, this email from MNB reader Mike Griswold:

I know you and Michael seem to find business lessons everywhere, here are several I pulled from Monday’s College Football Championship:

• Never underestimate the power of passion and leadership. Down at half-time, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said “we are going to win, don’t know how, but we are going to win."

• Create a culture where every opponent (challenge) is respected but not feared. Alabama’s defense was touted as one of the best ever, yet Clemson went toe-to-toe with them, ran more than 90 plays, and eventually wore them down on the winning drive.

• Success is a team sport; winning teams (organizations) feed off each other’s successes.  Throughout the game Clemson’s offense, defense, and special teams all had big plays that kept the team in the game despite being down 14 points. Each part of the team rose to the occasion at the appropriate time so that at the end of the game, the offense was in position for the game winning drive.
 
Keep up the great work.


You too. These are all great points.
 

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Industry Drumbeat

A Brand New Presentation from MNB "Content Guy" Kevin Coupe...

"GOOD IS NOT GOOD WHEN BETTER IS EXPECTED"

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.

"Kevin inspired our management team with his insights about the food industry and his enthusiasm. We've had the best come in to address our group, and Kevin Coupe was rated right up there.  He had our team on the edge of their chairs!" - Stew Leonard, Jr., CEO, Stew Leonard's

Constantly updated to reflect the news stories covered and commented upon daily by MorningNewsBeat, and seasoned with an irreverent sense of humor and disdain for sacred cows honed by Coupe’s 30+ years of writing and reporting about the best in the business, "Good Is Not Good When Better Is Expected" will get your meeting attendees not just thinking, but asking the serious questions about business and consumers that serious times demand.

Want to make your next event unique, engaging, illuminating and entertaining?  Start here: KevinCoupe.com. Or call Kevin at 203-662-0100.

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