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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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BREAKING NEWS: FMI Cancels 2017 Show

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) this morning announced that it is cancelling its signature 2017 FMI Connect show, saying that it had concluded in the months since the 2016 event that it is "not the right formula" with which to go forward.

FMI president/CEO Leslie Sarasin told MNB that the intention is to continue with and "reinvigorate" the Future Leaders conference that has been part of FMI Connect, as well as continue with "other events" that have made up the organization's show portfolio, such as the Midwinter Executive Conference, which she said continues to grow in terms of industry participation.

Sarasin said that based on calculations, the metrics for 2017 simply didn't work, and that ultimately "it will be a better deal for the FMI supplier community, as well as for our retailers and wholesalers," to cancel it.

"Obviously we'll have to deal with issues related to the cancellation," Sarasin said, but the economics simply were better if FMI cancelled the show and paid the various penalties and refunds that will be due as a result.

In response to a question from MNB, Sarasin said that despite the cancellation of the show, she remained convinced of the viability and purpose of an organization like FMI. "As everyone's business model changes within the industry," she said, "FMI becomes even more important in terms of where they should expend resources and time. In many ways it is the only legal way for competitors to sit across the table from each other" and work on common challenges and opportunities. Sarasin pointed to the organization's food safety initiatives and government relations/lobbying efforts as places where FMI continues to be - and must be - effective.

Sarasin conceded that between the 2015 and 2016 shows, changes happened that made this decision inevitable. The number of retailers and wholesaler who attended were down, in part because of consolidation and in part because of economic forces that reduced their willingness or ability to spend money on attendance. "There's a new mentality," she said.

in a prepared statement this morning, Sarasin said that "FMI aims at all times to be as agile and as bold as required to serve the needs of our members as well as the broader food industry. Therefore, we must design new occasions more appropriate to the faster paced rhythms of food retail, and in unique formats more attuned to the specific needs of our industry. With the elimination of having to fill football fields’ worth of space as ‘The Show’ configuration required, FMI will be liberated to explore new, focused and more flexible events."

KC's View: To those of us who attended the 2016 show, this does not come as an enormous surprise, since the diminishing returns were obvious in the low traffic that seemed to be walking the show floor. (I think I've missed one FMI in 30 years, and the lack of attendance was striking.) At some point, FMI must've done the math and seen that it was going to be less costly to cancel the show and deal with the consequences than it would be to take the show out for one last ride and be seen as out of touch with the current needs of an industry that continues to be in transition.

I do think that one of the things that FMI ought to do is consider bringing back two events that it used to do - MarkeTechnics, a technology show, and Meal Solutions, a foodservice-oriented event - that were folded into the main show years ago. I've heard from people in the industry that the advantage of targeted shows is that it is easier to determine return-on-investment, because the lines are a lot clearer and the responsibilities a lot more distinct. In the case of these two events, FMI could make them shorter, highly targeted, and develop relevant educational programming and an exhibition that would appeal to specific constituencies.

I saw firsthand this year how powerful a targeted show can be when I went to, for example, the Organic Produce Summit and the Global Market Development Center (GMDC) general merchandise show ... they are highly focused, and there was a ton of energy and enthusiasm at both events.

It'll be interesting to see how this decision by FMI affects the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show in 2017. I suspect that there will be a number of FMI exhibitors (I've already talked to a couple) who will use the dollars they were going to spend on FMI at the NGA event, since there is a lot of overlap in the audiences. And if I were NGA, I'd probably start saying that if you're not a top 10 retailer, you're an independent ... and promote its show that way. Full disclosure: NGA advertises its show on MNB.

In the end, I think, this is not just about a show. Business models are changing for everyone, and there's no reason that traditional associations should be exempt from this trend. What companies need in terms of industry representation and education is changing, and how it should be delivered and to whom can and must evolve.

I'm sure that after decades of doing the FMI Show,. this decision was a little like swallowing castor oil. But FMI did what it had to do, and now has to figure out how to be increasingly relevant to a changing world. And so, by the way, must every other organization that has a business model that is even remotely similar to FMI's.

Kate's Take: Target Retales

by Kate McMahon

After his first seven-hour shift as a cashier at Target, 20-year-old Tom Grennell decided to share highlights of a “pretty funny day” with his social media followers.

His “diary” for the first week told of selling lingerie to an 80-year-old woman, 15 gallons of kitty litter to a soccer mom who refused to break eye contact, and a bucket to an “intimidating farmer man in overalls and pigtails.” He marveled at coupon professionals, snagged some free frapuccinos from Starbucks and discovered that giving stickers to little kids was the best part of his job.

That was late August. Today, Tom is a veritable, albeit unlikely, internet sensation. His newly named "Target Retales – Daily Logs of Retail Work" is on Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. His personal Tumblr account has more than doubled to 25,000 followers. He has even launched an online retail store, including merchandise based on his experiences.

And most importantly - and perhaps improbably - he still has his job at a Target in suburban Virginia.

The affable, millennial storyteller wrote his first post for friends under the screen name kimpossibooty, and was stunned when the tales went viral and prompted positive reaction from readers across the country.

“I had no idea it would ever come to this!” he told me the other day.

He was very worried at first about how his supervisors would react, but he has their approval. The subtitle of "Target Retales" includes the words "Not a Representative of Target." And he has never named the specific location of the store, to prevent people from coming to his register just to land a mention in one of his stories.

When I first read Tom’s posts, I also wondered how a major retailer such as Target would react to an employee “telling all” online. I can’t imagine the PR department was thrilled with the story of an embarrassed customer reporting a pile of poop in the baby supplies aisle, which was definitely not from a baby.

The same could be said for the character Tom named “Mountain Drunk” and the subject of the first Target Retales t-shirts and mugs now being sold online. The description of his “personal hero” was:

"An elderly man in a fedora pushed two full carts into my lane. They were both filled to the brim. He bought 52 12-packs of Mountain Dew. 12 were diet. He repeatedly told me he was 80 years old. As I handed him his receipt, he leaned in and whispered, “I’m going to get DRUNK.”

I found his stories funny and engaging, though I’m sure there are those who would argue that some of the anecdotes push the envelope of good taste. Tom said he is determined to keep his stories 100% genuine and positive.

The broader question for retailers, and other companies, is control over what employees post Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, especially since millennials are inclined to share details of their daily lives on multiple social media platforms. What constitutes private versus public comments?

It seems to me that while this could be problematic in certain cases, Tom and Target are right on, well, target. Tom's comments humanize the chain, and show a slice of life that while it may not necessarily be complimentary, never is mean-spirited. And Target, which has its own problems, could do a lot worse than have such a person representing it - even if unofficially - in the public square.

As we say a lot here on MNB, it is critical for retailers to tell their story in a way that differentiates them. That's what is happening here. I'm looking forward to the next chapter, and am looking at Target differently because of the stories.


Comments? As always, send them to me at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .

Wednesday Morning Eye-Opener: Non-responsive By Design

by Kevin Coupe

The Associated Press has a story about how the CVS takeover of Target's pharmacy business has not gone completely smoothly, with consumers finding that one change has been less than optimal.

According to the story, "distraught customers have been asking - in some cases begging - the drugstore chain to bring back the retailer's red prescription bottles, which came with color-coded rings, labeling on the top and prescription information that was easier to read."

The Target bottle design "was considered groundbreaking when it debuted about a decade ago," the story says. "Target flipped bottle design on its head when it introduced in 2005 a red container with the opening on the bottom. That allowed the label to wrap around the top so it could be seen from above. It included a flat surface that customers found easier to read than the curve of a typical pill bottle, and it came with color-coded rings for the neck to help family members quickly tell their medicines apart."

CVS says that it is "working on designing a new system for dispensing prescriptions and helping people stay on their medications," but has not said it will bring back the Target bottle design.

Now, I'm no expert on the subject of medication dispensing. But it seems to me that at some level, this ought to be a no-brainer ... especially since Target's pharmacy customers seem so passionate about the old bottle design.

Sometimes customers hand you a gift. They tell you in unambiguous terms how you can be relevant to them, how you can do something that will resonate in their lives. In this case, they're not asking you to invent something new ... just to bring back something they loved.

As I say, that's a gift. It is an Eye-Opener. And CVS would do well to unwrap it, embrace it, and make the change.

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From ReposiTrak...

A Note from the Content Guy...

One of the real pleasures - and privileges - over the past 15-plus years of doing MorningNewsBeat has been being able to make connections with some wonderful and progressive businesses that share our mindset and goals about retailers and consumers, strategy and tactics, transparency and technology. Park City Group's ReposiTrak is one of those companies, especially because of its focus on and approach to food safety - which have made it the fastest growing food safety platform in the industry, with more than 20,000 supplier connections.

If we've learned anything in the recent past, it is that every single retailer and supplier up and down the food chain is susceptible to food safety problems. Just ask Chipotle. Just ask Blue Bell. And so ReposiTrak asked me to go to Southern California recently to talk to two smart, progressive CEOs - Bristol Farms' Kevin Davis and Frieda's Karen Caplan - about their shared commitment to the internal organizational disciplines necessary to insure a safe food supply, and to the expanded and improved record keeping necessary to comply with the dictates of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Those three videos, which have been running in rotation over the past few weeks on MNB, are below ... and are just the first in what we hope will be a continuing series. I hope you find them illuminating. And if you want more information about the ReposiTrak solution, click here.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Google Expands Express Service in Virginia

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Google has expanded its Google Express platform to a number of markets on the east coast, including Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The goal is said to be nationwide by the end of the year, after a long gestation that started in California in 2013.

The story explains that "with Google Express consumers can place orders online for products available at local stores — including Costco, Whole Foods Market and Kohl’s — and have those products delivered in under two days ... Google Express membership is $95 per year or pay-as-you-go at $4.99 per order for the delivery service. Customers can use a mobile app or go to the website google.com/express to see participating stores and place orders."

Those participating local stores include names such as Costco, Whole Foods, Sur la Table, Payless, Road Runner, Vitamin Shoppe, and Ahold-owned Giant of Landover - which also has its Peapod e-commerce offering, but is testing Google Express as an "opportunity to test a convenient, same-day delivery option on smaller, fill-in orders for our customers."

KC's View: Google clearly is positioning itself as a kind of middle-man that can help a wide variety of retailers find ways to compete with Amazon, but I think the Ahold approach is instructive. While I think Google Express certainly is an option that a number of retailers can offer, I'm not sure it makes sense to focus on it as being the sole answer to e-commerce challenges.

In the end, I think retailers have to embrace the e-commerce opportunity, really taking ownership of it ... consumers need to see it as an extension of the store's brand experience. There are plenty of options out there for retailers that need help, but they have to take responsibility.

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From MyWebGrocer...

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Lidl Increases Year-One US Store Opening Plans By 50 Percent

Lidl, the Germany-based discount chain, has increased its estimate of how many stores it plans to open in the US in 2018 by 50 percent, now saying it plans to open 150 units during its first year on US shores. Forbes reports that the decision to make a bigger splash in year one may be related to ramped-up expansion plans at Aldi, which now as some 1,600 stores in the US with expectations that "by the end of 2018, some 1,500 Aldi stores will be open in the area between Kansas and the East Coast alone," with plans to "open 80 to 130 stores annually."

The Forbes piece says that these expansion plans indicate "that Lidl and Aldi are now saturated in their original European markets, where they now dominate the low-price food sector.  Since entering Great Britain in 2012, these low-priced, rudimentary supermarkets have experienced spectacular success. As each gained market share, the profits of the major U.K. food chains, Tesco, Morrison and Sainsbury, were decimated.  With their confidence bolstered, the managements of these two retailers see the U.S. as the next great opportunity."

In a related story, Bloomberg reports that Aldi plans to spend the equivalent of $390 million (US) "developing more upmarket stores" that "will emphasize product quality, improve lighting and add refrigerator space for more fresh produce."

The story goes on:

"While cutting prices on 30 percent of its products so far this year, Aldi has also won favor with more affluent Brits, who have cast aside stereotypes of Aldi as a place where only hard-up consumers shop. The price war, sparked by Aldi and rival discounter Lidl, has seen profits tumble at larger rivals such as Tesco Plc, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s U.K. chain Asda posted its worst-ever sales decline this year.

"In chasing more upmarket shoppers, Aldi is following Lidl’s lead. Its rival began shedding its no-frills image last year by developing stores with wider aisles and baby-changing facilities."

KC's View: This is all serious stuff ... and at the risk of beating a dead horse, I think US retailers - especially those who depend on any sort of price/value-oriented image - have to take this as a kind of existential threat to their viability and existence. These guys mean business ... and mostly, they mean to take yours.

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From ProLogic Retail Services...



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Study: Americans Want Tougher Rules To Prevent Seafood Mislabeling

The Kansas City Star reports that a new survey by advocacy group Oceana "finds more than 4 of 5 Americans want new regulations to eliminate seafood fraud and mislabeling of fish in the United States, with support for such regulations cutting across partisan lines.

The study found that "71 percent believe seafood fraud is a problem, 76 percent would pay more to know their seafood products are legally caught and labeled correctly, while 88 percent feel it’s important to know the kind of seafood they’re consuming."

“American consumers have a right to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, and how and where it was caught or farmed,” Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana, said in a prepared statement. “Without full-chain traceability for all seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy.”

The Star notes that a "US presidential task force looking at the problem of seafood fraud announced a proposed rule in February to establish a tracing program for the international harvest of 13 types of seafood considered at risk for fraud."

KC's View: I'm glad to see that there seems to be broad-based support for such regulations, and I have to say that I think this is incredibly important across-the-board. People have a right to expect that labels are accurate and specific ... and both retailers and suppliers ought to be held responsible for the claims they make.

And not just seafood.

The MNB Walmart Watch

• The Financial Times reports that Walmart is in talks to spend as much as a billion dollars to purchase an ownership stake in Flipkart, an India-based e-commerce company.

The talks, FT writes, "come just three months after Walmart sold its Chinese e-commerce operation to local rival JD.com and completed its $3 billion purchase of Jet.com at home ... The move highlights Walmart’s attempts to remedy its slow start to investing in e-commerce, where its sales growth has lagged behind that of the broader market globally."

Flipkart, the story notes, "was founded in 2007 by two former Amazon employees, who emulated their former employer’s strategy by starting with book sales before diversifying into other products. Last week, it claimed to have become the first Indian e-commerce company to register 100m users, but analysts believe it has been steadily losing market share to Amazon," which has pledged to spend billions on the Indian market.

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From Samuel J. Associates...Why Career Success Is Not A Shiny Car

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E-conomy Beat

• The Canadian Press reports that "Online retailer Amazon says customers in Toronto and Vancouver that are signed up for its Prime service are now eligible for same-day deliveries as part of their premium plan. The offer is good for eligible orders over $25.

"The Seattle-based company says eligible purchases placed in the morning through Amazon.ca will be delivered by 9 p.m. the same day in areas with Vancouver and Toronto postal codes."


• The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber "plans to launch its food-delivery business in Tokyo on Thursday, preparing for a gradual rollout across Japan—a country where its main ride-hailing business is barred ... In a city where good restaurants are plentiful but delivery isn’t always available, UberEats bicycle couriers will carry dishes from more than 150 restaurants whose offerings range from inexpensive comfort food to high-end Michelin-starred fare."

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From the National Grocers Association...

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Worth Reading: How Amazon Is Competing With FedEx, UPS

The Wall Street Journal has a story this morning about Amazon's "grander ambitions" in the area of delivery logistics, that its goal "is to one day haul and deliver packages for itself as well as other retailers and consumers - potentially upending the traditional relationship between seller and sender."

It is a fascinating piece, and entirely in synch with Amazon's ecosystem approach to business. You can read it in its entirety here.

FastNewsBeat

Bloomberg reports this morning that Anheuser-Busch InBev NV has completed its $103 billion takeover of SABMiller, after more than 95 percent of the latter company's investors approved the deal, creating a company that "will generate revenue of about $55 billion and account for about one in every three beers sold worldwide."

According to the story, "AB InBev will dominate the combined entity, whose brands will include Stella Artois, Beck’s and Foster’s lager. The Budweiser maker will keep its name, ditching that of SABMiller, and only one SABMiller executive will be on the new company’s senior leadership team."

Executive Suite


• The Boston Globe reports that Staples has named Shira Goodman, who has been serving as interim CEO since the departure of Ron Sargent last June, to be the company's president/CEO.

Goodman departed after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was successful in preventing Staples from acquiring Office Depot because of antitrust concerns.

The Globe notes that Goodman "is the company’s third chief executive in its 30-year history and the first woman to hold the job, following Sargent and co-founder Tom Stemberg."


• Publix announced this week that Jeff Chamberlain has been promoted from vice president of real estate to senior vice president of Publix, and that Bob McGarrity, Publix's director of construction, has been named vice president of facilities. McGarrity succeeds Dave Duncan, who is retiring after 42 years with the company.


• Whole Foods announced that Angela Lorenzen, who has served as the company's vice president and executive coordinator of operations in Northern California, has been named its Pacific Northwest regional president, overseeing 22 stores in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

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Topical, relevant, engaging, thought-provoking...Who could ask for anything more?

When Kevin Coupe gets on stage in front of your company meeting, association conference, or any other event, the pace is fast ... the thoughts are provocative ... the focus is innovation ...the style is entertaining and interactive ... and the reviews are glowing...

"Kevin inspired our Stew Leonard's 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

"Our sales organization is a very skeptical bunch, and your presentation was both topical and relevant. The content was right on to address the meeting theme, and was presented in way that kept the audience enthralled. I had quite a few positive comments at the break, something that does not happen frequently. We appreciate the time and effort to help make this sales meeting one of the best we have had in several years."
- Jon Kramer, Chief Marketing Officer, WestRock Merchandising Displays

“Kevin’s presentation to our Phoenix group was very well received! The topic was very relevant to all the retailers in the room, with just the right amount of humor. The icebreaker at the beginning, and the personal interaction at the end was truly engaging!”
- Cathy Kloos, Director of Human Resources, Albertsons Safeway

“Kevin was an engaging speaker whose stories really brought the concepts to life. Although his lessons were focused on retail rules to achieve business success I found the lessons could be directly linked to enhancing my leadership style. “
- Jessie Thomas, Director Merchandising Solutions, MDM and PMO, Petsmart

And there's more...

"Your presentation was well-received, very thought-provoking and was a great lead-in to the overall theme of our show."
- Tim Myers, CMO, Affiliated Foods Midwest

"Your presentation was unbelievable – everything we hoped for and much, much more!  Thanks for making our customers (and us) better!"
- Joe Himmelheber, Director of Marketing and Merchandising, Caito Foods

"Both of your presentations kept the audience engaged ... This was a difficult subject, but you made it easy to understand - and learn from. Everyone who has not yet seen one of your presentations, should know how informative and to the point your program is and how it will definitely enhance their event. "
- John M. Dumais, president/CEO, New Hampshire Grocers Association

"Kevin is an engaging speaker who really brought the content to life.  He customized his program to meet our needs to ensure our event was a success!
-Kim Richardson-Roach, Network of Executive Women (NEW), New England Region


"The response to this session was overwhelmingly positive. The audience appreciated the lively and enlightening exchange between the moderator and panelists ... the spark you added to the panel as moderator contributed to the flame of excitement this event engendered ... Thank you for helping ground the material in a reality readily recognized ..."
-Leslie G. Sarasin, President/CEO, Food Marketing Institute (FMI)

Kevin Coupe uses his unique perspective as MorningNewsBeat "Content Guy" and more than 30 years writing about business, marketing and innovation to identify the ways in which consumers are changing, the reasons behind these changes (technology, the economy, culture, demographics), how new and unorthodox competitors are altering the marketing landscape, and what companies need to do to find and exploit differential advantages.

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

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Your Views: Catching Up

Sorry that "Your Views" has been missing in action the last few days; between traveling and some lousy internet connections, it has been hard to find the time to get through the email.

So let's start with a response to my piece about IGAS deciding to provide its retailers the option of offering online shopping, which I suggested was way too little for a fleet of stores that needs to do a lot more to achieve relevance.

The email was from Jim Walz, VP of brand development at IGA:

Thanks for sharing your comments about IGA GO and IGA overall. When you send a press release to morningnewsbeat.com, you know there’s not going to be any holding back on the commentary.

So why is our online ordering program presented as “optional” in a retail environment where, we agree, competitors like Amazon are knocking at our door? The short answer is that IGA is taking a similar approach as many chains which are gradually expanding their e-commerce roll-out as they continue to test and learn how to market and satisfy customers with this new strategy. Leading IGA retailers understand the importance and urgency of competing with e-commerce and we are making it as easy as possible for all of our retailers to get started with partners who have demonstrated they can make it work for independent operators.

But understanding your point was about “optional”, not e-commerce, we couldn’t agree more that success in the future for IGA will require new thinking about what is optional. That IGA is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year suggests that IGA Retailers have been able to change over time. But IGA and IGA Retailers know there is no guarantee for the future. The key to IGA’s future success is moving to a system that focuses more on interdependence than independence. That doesn’t mean every program will be mandatory. What needs to be mandatory is treating each shopper with an experience that when done right, attracts and holds their preference for the locally owned independent store over all others. IGA retailers are adapting more every day, aligning themselves with programs that put them in a better position to compete.


Fair enough.

But at the risk of seeming overly harsh, let me suggest to you that the changes that IGA retailers have seen take place over the last 90 years may pale in comparison to the challenges they will see in the next nine. And I would continue to argue that IGA needs to be a lot tougher about its minimum standards - there have to be minimums that every one of its retailers must meet if they want to keep the banner, and those minimums cannot be optional. And, quite frankly, I think you have to raise the bar every year.

Another MNB reader seems to agree with me:

I think you are being optimistic when you date the stores only 20 years behind the times. I have seen some that look like they haven’t been updated since the 1980’s or earlier. Narrow aisles, dark lighting, limited selection. The only positive seems to be friendly checkers.




Got the following email from MNB reader Rich Heiland:

You have written a lot about Tesco so I thought I would share a couple of experiences. We spent much of this month in England, Scotland and Ireland.

In Dublin we stayed in the Temple Bar area, using an AirBnB with a very small fridge so we became European shoppers - buying what we needed for the evening and next morning.

There was a Tesco Metro a five-minute walk away. I was very pleasantly surprised at the size and selection for an urban small market. The store was clean, well-laid out, easy to navigate. The selections seemed geared to an urban market - smaller packages of meat etc. They had more staffed registers than I think you would find in a store of similar size in the States as well as self-check. No bags unless you buy 'em so we used our back packs for groceries. One thing I noticed by shopping European is that we shopped for "what do you want to eat tonight?" more than at home where we just start piling stuff in the cart. Probably healthier?

I will add we stopped one day at a Tesco Express on the way back from a museum and I was surprised at how much this smaller store had.

We just had a Kroger Country Market open in our town, which I am spoiled on, but I have to admit that being in a small, well-laid-out and easy to navigate urban store was quite pleasant. So, in spite of some of the issues Tesco has going on, down on the ground we were very pleased.


I've always liked Tesco's small stores in the UK, which made it so surprising that it screwed up Fresh & Easy so badly. Thanks for the report.





Got the following email from MNB reader Bob Vereen about the growing competition from Aldi:

Shopping for groceries for us  (and I suspect many others) now is conducted down two pathways - for all the basics, Aldi, especially when milk is $1.29 a gallon; diet cola, $2.29 for a dozen cans, and a very decent Winking Owl cabernet sauvignon at $2.89.   (I know—you wouldn’t drink such a cheap wine, Kevin).   For specialty items and non-basics, Walmart or maybe Kroger.

I think many others. And for the record, you'd be amazed what I'd drink; one of my favorites is a good $8 chianti. (Though, to be honest, $2.89 for a bottle does seem a little low...I can't even get grapes for $2.89 a pound.)




Got several emails about the brewpub in Bruges, Belgium, that used crowdfunding to finance a beer pipeline under the town.

MNB reader Mark Boyer wrote:

My wife and I honeymooned in Bruges 24 years ago, and at the time the town was known mostly for their lace and chocolates. And it was a very beautiful and quaint town with boat rides though the river/canal that runs through the town.
 
Sounds like it might be time to go back.


From another reader:

This past week I was able to take a VIP tour of the new, New Belgium Brewery in Asheville, NC. It is new, it was built on a brownfield site with environmental issues, it is state of the art and environmentally sound. It is a beautiful facility, built on a tubing and canoeing river with a walking and jogging path, includes a ping pong area and a two story slide for employees. It is employee owned, was opened with just about 15 seed employees from Ft Collins and hired close to 170 locals. The employee benefits are significant.

It fits with so many of the issues you report on and also is a brewery so it is a perfect fit for you. I highly recommend you visit and tour if you get a chance.

This past week I was able to take a VIP tour of the new, New Belgium Brewery in Asheville, NC. It is new, it was built on a brownfield site with environmental issues, it is state of the art and environmentally sound. It is a beautiful facility, built on a tubing and canoeing river with a walking and jogging path, includes a ping pong area and a two story slide for employees. It is employee owned, was opened with just about 15 seed employees from Ft Collins and hired close to 170 locals. The employee benefits are significant.

It fits with so many of the issues you report on and also is a brewery so it is a perfect fit for you. I highly recommend you visit and tour if you get a chance. Our guide was Mike Craft and he was an amazing guide. If I were you I would try to contact him directly about a behind the scenes tour. That is part of what he does and he does it very well.

Noted. Just have to find a reason to go to Asheville.

And from another reader:

Kevin, loved that story and was wondering if you were aware of BrewDog, the Scottish Brewery that has raised over £25 million in the UK through a crowdfunding model and is now building a new US brewery in Columbus and attempting to raise up to $50 million in the same fashion ... The similarities are that at certain investment levels you get perks (% off at their bars or on-line, free beer, swag, etc).

Y'know, I drive through Columbus every June on my way to Oregon. Just found a reason to stop there for the night...




MNB reader James Tenser weighed in on the notion of robotic/mechanical clerks:

I too am fascinated with mechanical clerks ... What was a cute trend story a year ago has expanded to the next level. Soon we’ll be bumping into robo-clerks in the aisles, in malls and in parking lots.

Makes me think that young people looking for a lucrative career path may want to prepare for an emerging area of liability law – robo-torts.





Had a story recently about the number of bags Ahold said it has saved over the past few years, in both all its bricks-and-mortar chains and in its Peapod e-grocery operation. Leading one MNB user to write:

I find this hard to believe --- I get groceries delivered from Peapod weekly and EVERYTHING comes in plastic bags -- 8 to 10 per order. They are making NO effort to reduce plastic bags @ Peapod.




Regarding the bonuses that are being distributed to Walmart employees by management, MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

Wow, if my math is correct, it is an average of $215 per hourly employee…no doubt along the lines of what management received!

Irony noted.




Responding to our piece about how a sizable percentage of US CEOs could be characterized as psychopaths, one MNB user wrote:

They must have interviewed my former boss as he would have met all of those qualifications. At least he wasn’t the CEO.

The “dangerous, yet effective mix of a lack of empathy, self-centeredness, deviousness, and self-regard” can be described much more simply:  A BULLY.   Standing up to that bully led me to a much better career. I consider myself blessed every morning when I get out of bed.


Got a number of emails from people wondering if the decision by the Washington Post to run the piece about psychopath CEOs might be related to a CEO currently running for high political office in this country.

My answer would be yes ... though that CEO's name never was mentioned in the piece.




Did a FaceTime piece the other day decrying the fact that American Airlines is running ads suggesting that customers have to be responsible for their own happiness when flying, and how some hotels have begun charging for in-room coffee because, well, they think they can.

MNB reader Daniel McQuade responded:

Agree with you (as a frequent flyer) on the AA ad program....perhaps THEY need to put more latitude in their attitude!

Also on the smell the coffee...stayed at a CityFlats concept hotel in Grand Rapids, went down to down to the lobby early one morning, asked for a cup of coffee to go. As I went to pay I asked if the coffee was free. Was told no...it's complimentary. Point. Taken.


MNB user Brian Blank wrote:

I find it interesting that you are so fond of the in-room coffee experience in hotels.  Judging from my Twitter timeline, you are in the minority there.  Most people’s thoughts (that I’ve seen, at least) are that anyone presenting that liquid to be “coffee”—or even consumable—has a lot to answer for.  Of course, that just further supports the feeling that it shouldn’t be charged for.  IMHO, I’d say to just take the coffee makers out of the rooms if they don’t want to provide a free amenity.  (I’m sure there are plenty of Airbnb hosts who’ll provide actual good coffee to their guests for free.)

As for the American Airlines commercial—true, the airlines (not just AA) have brought so much of the hostility on themselves, but equally true is that, in the air or on the ground, people just don’t know how to behave these days! (See certain political campaigns.)  Do we need to go back to having those dorky How To Behave Like A Human films in school?  (If so, seems like American is leading that charge…)  Maybe the airlines just need to replace the inflight magazines with copies of Highlights so that Goofus and Gallant can teach us about window shades and being nice to flight attendants.


I didn't say the coffee was always good. Just that when I'm doing MNB, hot caffeine often comes in handy.




Regarding scientific studies saying that the five-second rule is bogus, and that any food that hits the floor ought not be eaten, one MNB reader wrote:

In our house, the 5 second rule is the time it takes for one of the dogs to pick up the tasty morsels!

Good point.




We had a piece the other day about how CVS is offering curbside pickup at a number of stores, prompting MNB reader Dan Mellyn to write:

Won’t this kill impulse purchases & decrease basket size if the consumer never gets out of the car and goes into the store?  Why not have the items bagged and ready to go at the register at least get them 10 feet into the store.  I can see the convenience for people who are disabled.
Hopefully CVS which discontinued selling tobacco as it was not a healthy offering draws the line on orders that call for two large bags of Cheetos, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and half gallon of Coke, those people need the exercise...


Another MNB user wrote:

This will be interesting to watch.  A lot of retailers offer this (BOCSPU) as well as buy online, pick up in store (BOPUIS).  While the concepts are simple, the execution is anything but.  Everything from order storage space, to parking and traffic issues, to no inventory in the store, to no employee available to bring it out.  Plenty of retailers give it a whirl in pilot mode only to realize these complexities.  It is a real opportunity for CVS to exceed customer expectations…or to step on a land mine!




Regarding the growth of Amazon Prime, MNB reader Gregory Grudzinski wrote:

I’ve always found the idea of “paying $99 for free shipping” to be an oxymoron and an example of how smart marketers (e.g. Amazon) can reframe the facts of the matter to fit a narrative.
 
Amazon could have positioned Prime as “the more you buy, the less you pay for shipping,” but the company understands that age-old axiom that FREE is one of the most powerful words in the English language.





Responding to our piece about Amazon taking over on-campus bookstores, one MNB reader wrote:

Delivery was noted, by me and others, as a trend with potential to disrupt providers of onsite foodservice, vending and other immediate consumption services operating at B & I (business and industry), colleges, hospitals, etc.

Amazon on campus will be much more than books and electronic stuff. Food and snacks will be more readily available for convenient delivery and then easy pick up on campus. Forget cookies from home. Now it will be snacks from amazon.com.

It's a very interesting evolution:

1. Colleges ran their own book stores.
2. Then Barnes & Noble et. al. came to campus,
3.  Next it was Walmart on campus.
4.  Now the ultimate disruption, Amazon.com on campus.

This will impact every retail store and food seller on or near campus.

Hope that I recall Jeff Bezos' quote correctly, "Your margin is my opportunity."





We had a piece the other day about how some supermarkets are being less strict about the number of items that can go through the express lanes, leading one MNB reader to write:

I noticed this for the first time a few days ago. I can't say I have ever used these express lanes because to your point, I don't think they move any faster than other lanes and I doubt that the average shopper cares to pay attention to how many items they have. People who truly only have a few items are more likely to go through the self-checkout anyways.

And from another reader:

As a grocery store veteran, it has been my experience that those who will give you hell if you get in the express lane with too many items is the customer behind you….and they can be a pretty rough lot….you don’t want to mess with someone in the express line…




Regarding the possibility that we could have self-driving tractor trailer trucks careening around the country, MNB reader Jackie Lembke wrote:

First movie that comes to mind is Maximum Overdrive, one of my favorite cult classics. If you take it further the movie included lawn mowers, tractors and other machinery working without benefit of human operators. It has been done by Stephen King.

Another reader had a similar observation:

I think that was the plot of a Stephen King book/movie from the early 80's - Maximum Overdrive - where machines went crazy due to an asteroid (or something like that).  Most of the story was about trucks and people trapped in a truck stop.




Finally, regarding a petition being circulated online calling for In-N-Out to begin offering a veggie burger, one MNB user wrote:

So I’m born and raised in So Cal.  In & Out is an institution in my book.  They cater to anything custom – so if I were the CEO, I would say we already carry a meatless option - cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion on a bun.  It’s funny,  I would never go to a Vegan restaurant and demand a beef burger.

Good point.

But another MNB reader had a different take:

Just my humble opinion but I’m guessing this is not an effort to draw customers in solely to eat a veggie burger at In-N-Out, but there may be other families similar to mine. We have two teen daughters, one of which is currently on a veggie kick. Trying to select a restaurant that would satisfy everyone’s needs while away from the house can be challenging. Offering a non-meat option, makes it viable for the 4 of us to eat at In-N-Out. In other words, In-N-Out has added an option that allows them to sell three additional burgers simply by offering a veggie burger.

Not to say that said daughter might opt in to a tasty beef patty once confronted with the odors wafting out of the restaurant, but at least she has the option, and we have 1 less “discussion” about where to eat.

PWS 20