business news in context, analysis with attitude

I continue to get email responding to last week's "FaceTime" commentary, which was about how Kraft gave Target an exclusive, Halloween-themed Oreo, made with a vanilla cookie and candy corn-flavored creme, and when I went to find it, I discovered that Target buried it with no mention of it being special or exclusive. I wrote:

"I do think it is worth pointing out that when you have something unique, or exclusive, or distinctive, or differentiated, it is your job as a retailer to draw attention to the damned product! Sell, damn it!"

One MNB user wrote:

I was in Targets from Las Vegas to Arkansas and saw the Oreo's out in mass on either a front end cap, in the Halloween section and in some cases dual location.

So I don't think it's a Target issue. Buying a pack, I'm not sure the taste is all that great. Too bad the Kraft or what ever their calling themselves theses days can come out with truly a New item and not just another favor to all to its line extension.

Another MNB user wrote:

Your story about in-store execution at Target has become too commonplace amongst all retailers, regrettably. It goes to show that shelf / display placement is assumed (when gaining agreement with the retailer to purchase product) rather than planned and executed against. The in-store execution responsibility by the manufacturer, retailer and often their in-store agents, is prioritized as secondary in importance (if even at all considered).

Undoubtedly, there were some stores where the execution was probably better than what you saw. However, my point is that retail execution is rarely prioritized as much as getting the order for the special pack and so what you saw occurs everyday, across the worlds’ best retailers and manufacturers.  While not the sexiest of work to do, flawless retail execution often means the difference of whether or not special pack programs meet the success criteria both manufacturers and retailers set for a program.
In an era where everyone wants to talk about Shopper Marketing – and Category Management – success always comes down to retail execution. Everyone thinks they know what it is but stories like yours remind us all that assumptions are just that. The old saying “what gets measured gets done” is a mantra every Team Leader working with Divisional Merchandise Mgr’s and District Mgr’s, for every retailer, needs to keep front & center. In-Store execution needs to be prized as much as getting the large special product purchase order itself.

I'm sure that there are all sorts of ways to analyze this, and all sorts of ways to slice the blame.

But let me suggest that, in the end, the responsibility lies with the retailer to make sure that the products it sells are properly merchandised. Not the manufacturer, not the wholesaler, not anyone else.

If you own a store, it is your job to make sure that the things you sell are actually being sold, that you are merchandising them in a way that is timely and effective, that you are taking advantage of exclusives, that you are sampling whenever possible, and are building a store experience that tightens the connection to your shoppers whenever and wherever possible.

If you wait for the manufacturer to do it for you, or to pay you to do it, then in many ways, you are abdicating your responsibility. It is your store. They are your customers. And "compete" is a verb. (Sorry. Couldn't help myself.)

Chiming in on a discussion we were having here last week about gender discrimination suits, MNB user Jenefer Angell wrote:
Thank you for your reasoned response to the MBN user who described the women bringing the grievance against Costco as “troublemakers.” In NO state in our Union, do women make the 100% equivalent pay to what men do – and he (obviously he) really wants to claim that if women just work harder they will be rewarded commensurately? I also dislike litigiousness and hope that this isn’t just a play for lower reasons, but is it really so hard for someone to believe there could be a legitimate claim here?

God bless the “troublemakers”! Without them, women wouldn’t have the vote (less than 100 years), the right to a sexual harassment–free work environment (I am old enough to remember my mother’s complaints about butt-pinching at work and more as late as the 1970s), and even the right to consider working in fields beyond teaching and nursing (I am also old enough to remember the backlash from male coworkers that my mother’s friends experienced when venturing into non-traditional workplaces).

I hate the litigiousness of our society. But sometimes, when there is discrimination and inequality, that can be the only way to get justice. Misused, the ability to sue can be annoying as hell. But it beats living in a society without such options.

I also think that it is a lot easier to say that women should simply shut up, work harder, be patient and stop being troublemakers if you have testicles. And the problem with people who make such arguments is that they think with their testicles instead of with their brains.

On the subject of GMO labeling, one MNB user wrote:

I know people will discount this because it goes against the tide, but did you know that carrots have been genetically modified for hundreds of years? Carrots are not supposed to be orange, they were modified in the 16th century by the Dutch in honor of the House of Orange. The crazy thing is that the genetic modification, while done purely for cosmetic reasons, introduced much higher levels of beta carotene into this vegetable and that in fact is one of the primary reasons we are encouraged to eat them today.

My hypothetical question is: I wonder if carrot producers were forced to label their produce as GM, how many people would just stop eating them all together?

I do not doubt that mandated GMO labeling would create a number of situations in which companies would have to explain things that they would prefer not to explain.

But that does not mean that consumers are not owned the availability of information. And I continue to believe that to fight this is to fight the inevitability of where history is headed.

Responding to another recent MNB story, a reader emailed:

In regards to the story on Adidas AG limiting 3rd party sales as a condition of their business with Amazon, this is something that has become increasingly of concern in the movie/DVD industry (dying breed or not).  It actually has less to do with pricing controls, and more so about brand erosion resulting from counterfeit/pirated product being sold.  I’ll spare the gory details, but a disproportionate percentage of DVD sales on Amazon via third parties are actually pirated versions of movies (hence, also the very deeply discounted costs…).  I suspect that Adidas is seeing a similar trend on copy-cat footwear being sold on the site.  The reality is that Amazon’s business model is one that is appealing to consumers because of their low costs, many of these low costs come at a steeper price and second-rate quality.  I can certainly appreciate why Adidas would want to limit that exposure.

Amazon actually makes more profit in third party sales than they do in buying and selling product directly (even they can’t compete with deeply discounted knock-off product), so they’re in an interesting position ... To say that it’s “complicated” matters in dealing with Amazon directly would be an understatement.

Regarding another recent story, an MNB user wrote:

It is possible to opt out of phone book delivery - at least here in Seattle. I filled out the form specifying all the companies that had been delivering to our house and didn't get any last year. 

Let's see if they can keep it up this year.

And, from another reader:

I was traveling through the Atlanta airport last week and noticed a curtain over the Blackberry Store in Concourse B with a sign reading, “Please excuse us during our remodel.”  I thought, wow, Blackberry is revamping things and is going to come out with a totally new store.  I was in the Atlanta airport again yesterday passing through and noticed that the remodel work was complete. The results of that remodel were far different than I had imagined.  An Apple “authorized” store, iTravel, sells iPads, MacBooks, MTV headphones and other mac peripherals.

This is an interesting departure from the Apple store vibe that I am used to seeing. You are not greeted upon entering and the employees are definitely not as trained to provide the same kind of experience that you receive in an Apple store.  It quite honestly appears to be just like any other airport electronics  store (Bluewire, inMotion, etc.) except that it sells Apple products. It will be interesting to see if this licensed model picks up.

I just kept thinking, all that work just to have to make a big assortment change when all of the new, smaller port accessories flood the market…

And, from MNB user Danny Woodson:

Thanks for mentioning R.A. Dickey’s 20th win this week. Dickey's book, “Wherever I Wind Up," is a must read for baseball fans. The inside story of his journey is amazing. I highly recommend the read.

It is on my Kindle.

Responding to last week's posting of a Samsung ad that aimed to demystify and make fun of the iPhone 5, one MNB user wrote:

THANK YOU for sharing. That ad is brilliant. Apple, post Steve Jobs, seems to be going the way of Microsoft. My husband just upgraded his iPhone, to the 4S, the day they released the iPhone 5, mostly because of the stupid adaptor decision that Apple made. WHERE was the customer in that decision? When you kowtow to the accessories suppliers and lose sight of your customer, it’s  a sign that your focus is slipping.  I love my Apple products but I fear for their future.

I'm not sure that's the reason for the adaptor change. But your perception that this is the reason should be troubling to Apple.

And fromMNB user Jackie Lembke:

I love this commercial and keep waiting for the Apple comeback commercial.

And finally, this email:

I have to say I was somewhat disappointed at your lack of mentioning the passing of the late Herbert Lom.  As a consummate film buff, I was surprised you missed that one.

Though no Hollywood legend, he will stand forever as one of my favorite comedic actors.  His role opposite Peter Sellers’ bumbling Clouseau as the maddened, frustrated Inspector Dreyfus will always be one of my favorite comedic acts.  The opening scene of Return of the Pink Panther where Clouseau visits him in the loony bin he is expected to be released from as well as the castle scene where Clouseau, poorly disguised as a country dentist, comes to treat Dreyfus’ agonizing toothache are pure, unadulterated comedy genius.  Comedy is not my genre of choice, but I watch that movie on a regular basis and laugh just as hard every time.

Lastly, it should be noted that Lom left this earthly plane in the way that we all hope to:  at the ripe old age of 95, quietly, in his sleep.  Rest in peace, Mr. Lom.

My apologies. I am such a minkey.

The fact is, I saw the stories about Lom's death last week, made a note to myself, and then blew it.

You're right about Lom. His various performances as Dreyfus, in seven different Pink Panther movies, were inspired, and a portrait of tightly coiled lunacy just waiting to explode. And as the various obits made clear, he had a long and diverse career in movies good and bad, but he always was seen as bringing high talent and professionalism to his roles.

BTW... Every once in a while, I get an email from someone asking why I do obits about people who have nothing to do with the business sectors that I cover. The simple answer is that I do it because I feel like it; I think it is worth noting when the cultural touchstones of our lives pass on. As Arthur Miller wrote, attention must be paid.

And emails like this one make me think that other people feel the same way.
KC's View: