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    Published on: May 20, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Apple Store is consistently pointed to an example of state-of-the-art retailing for its pared down approach to merchandising, Genius Bar, and the high sales-per-square foot numbers that it generates.

    But now, as the New York Times reports, Apple is giving its stores a makeover, unveiling this weekend in San Francisco a new store design: "Wide aisles, including one with special displays devoted to photography, music and other thematic uses of Apple products, give visitors more room to wander, learn and play with the latest iPhones, iPads and Macintoshes. An open space that Apple calls the forum provides room for presentations as well as small classes on various topics.

    "And then there are the trees. The back of the second floor is filled with ficuses, each encircled by a leather bench, where customers can wait or sit next to Apple’s 'geniuses' as they work on the customers’ gadgets."

    Apple seems to be looking to give people in San Francisco's Union Square a place to hang: "A courtyard next to the store, which has a separate entrance and is open to the public 24 hours a day, has more trees, a fountain, free Wi-Fi and seating for about 200 people."

    Now, not all these innovations can be replicated at all of the Apple Stores around the world. But Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and online stores, clearly wants to create a town square kind of vibe, almost along the lines of Starbucks' vaunted "third place" approach. (Come to think of it, the only thing the new San Francisco store seems to be lacking is an espresso bar.) She says she wants to "make the Apple store a destination, not just a place to shop."

    It is hard to know how successful the new store format will be. I tend to think that Apple Stores only are as good as the products they are selling ... if the products stink, it doesn't matter how many ficus trees there are or how comfortable the leather benches happen to be. The good news for Apple is that even though it seems to be on a creative plateau at the moment, and sales have reflected this, it still is selling products that are incredibly intuitive, beautifully designed, and highly desired.

    But I do think there is something to be said for tinkering with a winning formula and trying to figure out what the next iteration should be - even if you have the iconic image that Apple does.

    Being iconic, after all, only gets you so far. It describes what you were yesterday ... but not what you are today, and certainly not what you'll necessarily be tomorrow.

    And that is the kind of Eye-Opening approach to business that keeps some retailers relevant.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    Walmart yesterday released its results for the first quarter, saying that total revenue increased about seven percent $115.9 billion, while US same-store sales were up one percent, and profit was $3.08 billion, down from $3.34 billion a year earlier. The improved sales reflect stronger inventory controls and billions of dollars invested improved wages for US employees, the company said, as well as in the efficacy of a price cut program that Walmart has rolled out selectively and has bigger plans for in the near future.

    The Wall Street Journal characterized Walmart's performance this way: "After a string of disappointing results from retailers including Target , J.C. Penney and Macy’s , the Wal-Mart numbers were a shot in the arm. Its stock climbed, with other retailers’ shares showing sympathy gains.

    "But Wal-Mart’s first-quarter success may not reflect a better retailing environment than investors have lately been reckoning on. Rather it could signal a renewed willingness on Wal-Mart’s part to take back market share, even if it comes at the expense of slimmer profit margins."

    And the New York Times wrote: "The results were particularly striking after dismal earnings reports by several retail chains last week, and Walmart’s shares shot up nearly 10 percent. Investments in everything from employee wages to store layouts had led to higher customer satisfaction, the company said. Shoppers filled more prescriptions, purchased more over-the-counter products and showed more of an appetite for apparel and other general merchandise."

    However, CEO Doug McMillon conceded that a seven percent increase in e-commerce sales was "“too slow.” It was the lowest growth in e-commerce sales that Walmart ever has reported, the story said.
    KC's View:
    The thing is, Walmart's e-commerce growth is less than the national average, and far less than Amazon's. Which means that despite the many millions of dollars spent on e-commerce, Walmart is losing ground in this segment ... and Amazon is putting even more distance between it and many of the other players.

    I continue to believe that Walmart is in the position where at least in this segment, it has to make the big, sweeping, game-changing, needle-moving, strategic move that will redefine it. I'm not sure what that is ... but at least for the moment, the evidence suggests that what it is doing in e-commerce is not working to the degree Walmart needs it to.

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    CNBC reports that new legislation has been introduced in the US Senate and House of Representatives "that would make expiration date labeling more consistent and coherent." The end goal of establishing a federal standard for expiration dates, the story says, "is to help reduce a key trigger of consumer food waste in America," which currently "accounts for about 31 percent of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers."

    The new standard for expiration dates, the story says, would be keyed to when food no longer is safe to consume, as opposed to the current standard, which is for when it is at peak quality and freshness.

    The story notes that "the companion bills were introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in the Senate, and by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, in the House.
    KC's View:
    Maybe every product should carry two dates - one that says "best by," and one that says, "expires on." And the nice thing about it is that you wanted to legislate it, the bill could be written on an index card.

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    MarketWatch reports that the former chairman of Dean Foods has been charged with insider trading by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

    According to the story, Thomas Davis passed along insider information about "Dean Foods earnings results, outlook and the spinoff of Whitewave-Alpro, a Dean subsidiary," to a Las Vegas gambler, William Walters, who traded on the info and then gave the information to professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who also conducted trades. Davis is said to have owed Walters money, and was providing the insider info as a way of paying off his debt.

    Davis and Walters have both been indicted. Mickelson is named in the charges, but is not charged with any crime, though he will be required to return a million dollars in ill-gotten gains.
    KC's View:
    Not a great day when you wake up to see a headline with your name - or the name of your company - in a headline that also features the word "indicted." Among other things, I have to wonder what this will do to Mickelson's endorsement business ... because at least for a while, I'm not going to be able to see him without wondering how he got so far into debt to a Las Vegas gambler...

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    The New Yorker has a nicely written piece about how Anheuser Busch InBev, a company not made in America, has decided to change the name of its Budweiser flagship brand to "America" for the rest of this year, in what it says is a recognition of the patriotic fervor that will engulf the nation during a year which the Olympics will be played (though not in America) and a presidential election will be held.

    "The new beer can looks like a sleek, jingoistic bullet, or like a metallic Old Glory, on steroids, its eyebrows plucked into a mishmash of modern fonts, made up to star in an over-loud summer blockbuster," the story says, adding, "The America evoked by the can is an America that ... exists only in advertisements. You find it in commercials for pickup trucks and lawnmowers, jeans and mass-produced beer."

    I think it is an assessment worth reading ... here.
    KC's View:
    I must concede that probably the reason I liked this piece is that it reflects some of my own attitude toward the renaming. From the moment I read about it, it struck me as a hard-core cynical play on the emotions of customers ... as if a great American company, having been sold to a foreign business, was now reduced to pandering in order to reclaim the perception of its birthright. The beer is no more or less American for having changed its name ... though it does reflect the belief of a notable American, who once said that "a sucker is born every minute."

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    The Organic Trade Association is out with its annual report, saying that "total organic product sales hitting a new benchmark of $43.3 billion, up a robust 11 percent from the previous year's record level and far outstripping the overall food market's growth rate of 3 percent."

    The report goes on to say that "the industry saw its largest annual dollar gain ever in 2015, adding $4.2 billion in sales, up from the $3.9 billion in new sales recorded in 2014. Of the $43.3 billion in total organic sales, $39.7 billion were organic food sales, up 11 percent from the previous year, and non-food organic products accounted for $3.6 billion, up 13 percent. Nearly 5 percent of all food sold in the U.S. is organic."

    The high points in the category included organic produce, with sales of $14.4 billion, up 10.6 percent ...  dairy, the second biggest organic food category, with $6.0 billion in sales, an increase of over 10 percent. ... and the organic snack food category, with sales of $2.3 billion, up almost 14 percent from 2014.

    The report goes on to say that "increased consumer demand for organic products in 2015 could also be attributed to greater access to these products from mainstream retailers. As supermarkets, big box stores, membership warehouse clubs, and other outlets continued to up their organic offerings, organic options have become more available than ever before.

    "The growth in the organic market, however, did not come without continued challenges to the supply chain. Dairy and grains were two areas where growth could have been even more robust in 2015 if greater supply had been available. There is an industry-wide understanding of the need to build a secure supply chain that can support demand. This goes hand-in-hand with securing more organic acreage, developing programs to help farmers transition to organic, and encouraging new farmers to farm organically. "
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    • The Houston Chronicle reports that HEB's Central Market in Houston is about to enjoy a $10 million renovation that will add 10,000 square feet to its sales floor, add an atrium, expand the produce department, enlarge the specialty foods offering, and create a single-lane-access checkout area similar to what one would find at an airport or bank.

    All of which will make one of the country's best stores even better.

    • The Washington Post reports that Gap "plans to shutter about 75 stores across its Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, a move aimed at helping the company get on stronger footing amid sagging sales." Most of the closures will be overseas, with the total shut-down of all Old Navy stores in Japan.

    The story goes on to say that Gap "has largely been attacking its problems by trying to offer better products with a more consistent fit and reliable quality. And yet the work doesn’t seem to be boosting sales. In the quarter, sales sank 3 percent at Gap stores open more than a year and 6 percent at Old Navy. Banana Republic saw the steepest decline in comparable sales, 11 percent ... the strategic moves revealed Thursday indicate that the company believes that revamping its clothes alone will not be enough to gird itself for a retailing climate that is being upended by digital commerce and changing consumer preferences."

    There's a line that I remember from an old issue of Fast Company that I always remember, and that seems appropriate her ... that "the companies that fail to reinvent their business models can quickly become vulnerable to commoditization, obsolescence,or business failure.” As Jimmy Malone would say, "Here endeth the lesson."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    Morley Safer, who just last week announced his retirement after sixty years as a journalist, most notably with "60 Minutes," which in turn devoted an hour on Sunday to recognizing his achievements, has passed away. He was 84, reportedly had been in declining health, and died from pneumonia.

    Safer, who yearned for a career as a foreign correspondent after reading the works of Ernest Hemingway, first came to fame while covering the war in Vietnam for CBS News. When he moved over to the then-two-year-old "60 Minutes," replacing Harry Reasoner, he brought with him a talent for elegant writing, a wry wit, a talent for incisive profiles (of people like Jackie Gleason and Katherine Hepburn), and an ability to turn out stories like “Lenell Geter’s in Jail," in which his investigation of the conviction of a black man in Texas resulted in the man being freed and the conviction being tossed. He also wrote the famous "60 Minutes" story about the so-called French Paradox, which posited that the French were able to eat fatty food but avoid heart disease because of their consumption of red wine. Safer was never sentimental, always was willing to be combative when the moment called for it, and never seemed to settle for the easy line or the cheap shot.
    KC's View:
    If you want to spend an hour in the company of one of the nation's best broadcast journalists, go find last week's special "60 Minutes" tribute to Safer online. I found it to be utterly captivating.

    When you look at the work that Safer, Mike Wallace and Ed Bradley turned out for "60 Minutes" over the years, the vast majority of it for founding producer Don Hewitt, it adds up to a remarkable legacy. Now, all of these guys are gone ... and while there are new reporters and producers working at "60 Minutes," I can't imagine that it'll ever be quite the same ... though I hope that they remember the four words that Hewitt used to say that were most important in the creation of the program: "Tell me a story."

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    There are a bunch of emails that I've received over the past week or two that didn't make it onto MNB, and I thought this was a good time to catch up.

    On the subject of Best Buy and the fact that the majority of the people on its top management team happen to be women, one MNB user wrote:

    This has been bugging me since I read this article with Best Buy and their recent hiring of women in their senior mgmt. I have been in this retail world getting real close to 4 decades now. When I started out in the stores and then at HQ’s, when interviewing I always looked for the person with the skill set, and the personality that fit the position to be filled. I never based anything on if the person was male or female or of color, if that person was capable for the position they got it. Maybe I am too much of a glass half full person, and I’m going to go with Best Buy had that same thought of mind and hired the right person for the job. So I wonder now why any type of racism needed to be added to this article in the first place. Are we simply getting out of control with the increasing politically correct world we now live in?

    I reject the notion that by noting the absence of black people in senior management the original article was being racist. It was just a simple acknowledgement that "diversity" is complex, and that companies need to be aware of it and maybe not pat themselves on the back too much or too soon.

    Regarding the ongoing controversy about transgender bathroom access in North Carolina and elsewhere, one MNB user wrote:

    It boggles my mind that this transgender bathroom issue is still being fought over. It seems to me that there is a really simple solution. Most places have a "family restroom" these days. You know the one where you go in as a single occupant and can lock the door.

    Stores just need to have one of those available and make it clear that anybody who doesn't feel comfortable sharing the restroom with somebody has the family restroom option.

    From MNB reader Ben Loy:

    If an individual identifies with a gender other than the one endowed at birth and dresses in accordance with such gender identity I do not see a problem with such and individual using the public restroom designated for use by their gender identity. I would really find it unnerving if someone entered the men’s restroom dressed as a woman if I were using such facilities. However, if an individual choose to dress as their birth gender then they should use the restroom designated for their birth gender. Most men’s and women’s public restrooms have stalls which should afford some privacy. Additionally, most states and cities have laws that address the use of public restrooms and if a person who appears to be a man enters a restroom designated for use by women then that individual could face charges irrespective of a company’s policies.

    Another MNB reader had a thought about the fact that Target finds itself in the middle of this controversy:

    Who would even use a bathroom at Target?  As a guest, I have never seen such disgusting looking doors.  Next time you are exiting the restroom, look at the filth on the door (Maple Grove, MN)!  I wonder if the CEOs bathroom looks like that…

    From MNB reader Jackie Lembke:

    Out of curiosity I checked on the history of public restrooms segregated by gender. In the US this did not occur until the late 1800’s because of lack of facilities for women in the workplace. I find the whole issue tiresome and a lot of noise about nothing. How many women have used a public restroom designated as “Men” when the only “Women” restroom is full, the line is long and the need is urgent? If you are concerned for the safety of your child or yourself, don’t go alone or send the child alone. I believe we have larger issues to deal with than which restroom to use. I am more concerned with the fact that student debt is so high that entry level jobs even at the professional level do not offer enough income to support one person let alone a family. To me that is much scarier than who is in the stall next to mine.

    Ah, student debt. I also got email about that piece.

    One MNB user wrote:

    The ONLY debt which you can't walk away from via bankruptcy in the US is student loan debt .  An individual must demonstrate earnest effort to repay the loans for 10 straight years before the debt can dismissed.  Not true for banks, car companies, supermarkets, or presidential candidates.  And the artistry of the colleges and banks is that people (students and parents) don't actually see/feel a bill until 6 months after graduation.  That's when it begins to become real.  A colleague of mine has a daughter who graduated from college last May.  She finally got a job making $38,000.00 per year.  Her loan payments are over $1,400.00 per month.  Almost half of her pre-tax income is going to student loans.  New car?  TV? Vacation? Good luck.  And this is with her for at least 10 years.

    From another reader:

    The issue with college debt and linking that to the plight of millennials having less $ to spend in the future……I think you were addressing the symptom vs. the problem. The symptom is debt/ability to pay/impact on future disposable income. The problem is the choices that they and their parents made to get them into the financial mess in the first place. A four year degree is no guarantee of employment (e.g. your daughter –congrats on that). And, there are options available: junior college, get a job and work while going to school, trade school, etc. The premise that student loans are unavoidable is a myth (and remember that one of the few recession-proof industries is 4 yr colleges). Your comment about government attention to help with this – just look at our national debt -- don’t get me started! Mix in some millennial impatience and instant gratification, and you have a mess.
    Let’s teach our kids how to make good choices about financial responsibility, saving for goals (how antiquated, right), hard work, and setting reasonable expectations for their success. I would hardly paint millennials as victims, although I do agree that the ability to afford a college education is a huge challenge for many families.

    And another:

    I live in Iowa, which ranks in the top eight states for the highest level of student debt held by its college graduates.

    While going through the process of helping two children select a college, we found very little guidance when it came to the topic of borrowing money to pay for school.   Finally, we had an advisor at private school share his philosophy regarding student loans:  they told students to not borrow more than what they would expect to earn as a first-year starting salary in their field.    If the student was going to be an English teacher, they would not exceed $30K in loans.  If the student was going to be a pharmacist, they would not exceed $100K in loans.   He felt confident that rule of thumb would prevent the student from immediately being overwhelmed by loan payments after graduation and (in extreme cases) a student could live at home one additional year and have the majority of the debt paid off before going out on their own.

    I’m guessing there are lots of graduates out there who would have benefited from that kind of information before they started college.    Whether it be consumer debt, home mortgages, or student loans…..our society is very quick to help us borrow money when needed but not as quick to help us manage the debts we incur.

    From MNB reader Ken Wagar:

    I sure wouldn't argue directly with your thoughts on the impact of college debt, it is a real and a serious issue but at the same time, in my 67 years I have watched significant parts of each generation face financial obstacles and/or limitations yet find a way to prioritize their purchasing in a way that spends the money where it brings them the most satisfaction. That doesn't mean it's the smart choice always but they do make choices. Often food and housing are major parts of that. For others it may be a fancy car, a bass boat, exotic vacations or any number of other things.

    My guess, and it is a guess, is that food will remain very important to millennials and they will continue to focus some significant dollars there. They may eat different things, it's highly likely they will support lower price retailers, etc. but if they are going to require greater information about their food, refuse GMOs, support fresh food delivery services etc., there is a good chance they will be spending more for the food they buy than earlier generations.
    They will always find a way to buy or lease the latest version of the technology they have grown up with and I suspect they will find a way to eat pretty well also.
    Obviously this is completely separate from the fact that those providing food to them will have to make significant changes in the way they go to market.

    From MNB reader John Phillips:

    Your comments struck a nerve with me. Having put 3 kids through Northeast private colleges (over the past 8 years) I have observed with great interest what I feel is a real shell game with private colleges and their price lists for student services, rights and privileges.

    My kids, like yours, are leaving school debt free but I see the strain in my kids' friends, who have substantial loans and are trying to figure out how to manage all of their living costs (and hopefully save a bit) over the next few years.I had 2 kids attend the same private university and their costs have risen 12 % since the first child started in 2010. I just received another price increase letter from this university for a 3.5% tuition increase and a 3.0% residential increase in the 2016/2017 school year. I wrote the dean a letter expressing concerns for these increasing costs and the viability for them (in light of domestic flat wage growth and a stagnant US stock market). As expected I have yet to get a response. This particular Catholic school has a fine academic standing but is lacking in the quality of student housing and food service (which I pointed out to them).

    The cost/benefit here has reached a breaking point. Kids are leaving schools with grown maturity, increased skills and competencies and are well educated but they are challenged to secure viable employment that match these skill sets.They are also deeply in debt and are in a financial spiral they may never get out of. Private colleges need to take more responsibility over these costs given present circumstances. For instance a quarterly P&L showing how tuition and room and board are being spent and how schools are seeking to raise quality ( Food Service) at the same time as cutting costs would be one thing in the right direction.

    Hopefully Hilary or Donald will place this important topic on their platforms. I won’t be holding by breath on this one.

    Me neither.

    From another reader:

    One of the underlying problems I feel,  is the fact that we are now in the times of instant gratification and people do not plan for the future.   I realize that college has gone up tremendously from 30 years ago when I attended, but how many parents today plan for their kids’ college or instill upon their kids the means to learn to save to afford going to college? 

    One could make the argument that there are more financial vehicles available today for households to save for college education than ever before but are they being fully utilized?  Are kids being taught in school the future value of simple compounding of money and what it could purchase in the future instead of buying the latest Apple phone? Who says you have to attend an expensive college anyway?  Also I can’t help but shake my head when I hear the amount of money being spent on degrees that are so limitless they verge on being worthless or requiring grad school just to have that individual to become qualified so they can find a job which means more debt.  I remember when the kids coming out of school with debt were in the medical field after 8 + years of schooling, at least there was a payoff point in the not too distant future them, unlike some of the crazy degrees you hear of now. 
    Advice to kids today would be go into the trades, you are going to make a whole lot of money and you won’t be in debt.

    When I was a little kid, my Uncle Larry told me that if I wanted to have the best job on the planet, I should become a night watchman - they get paid and since nobody is around, they get to sleep during the night. Which I think illustrated my Uncle Larry's lack of ambition more than anything.

    I don't think everybody should go to college. But I think if we as a nation are going to compete in the global economy, we have to find a way to make more education and better education available and affordable to more people, not fewer.

    MNB reader Mike Nichols had a comment about another story:

    couldn’t help but notice your comment about the new Walmart two-day shipping service. You said, “What Walmart is doing makes sense, and it illustrates the degree to which Amazon is setting the rules of the game, challenging its competitors to play the game as well as it does.”

    That comment strikes me as being out of character with, if not outright contradicting, your usual position. You typically say that companies should not get sucked into playing by their competitors’ rules; they should differentiate themselves by playing their own game. Now you are saying that it makes sense for Walmart to play by the rules being set by Amazon. I’m sure you have a deeper point that reconciles these seemingly opposing positions. Care to elaborate?

    Another reader made a similar point:

    This also illustrates Walmart's mistake. By playing according to Amazon's rules, they can never expect to be better than Amazon - by definition, the best they could ever achieve is parity. If Walmart were to wipe the slate clean and start with how the shopper wants to shop, they would no doubt identify several ways to define their own go-to-market strategy, instead of using Amazon's.

    I guess I'd refer you to the quote from Scott Thompson, CEO of ShopRunner, that we had in "The Innovation Conversation" on Wednesday: "You’re crazy if you compete against Amazon and you don’t recognize they are bigger, stronger, faster ... They’re playing their sport on their field with their referees and their fans." The thing is, you have to play their game to some extent if you're going to be in the e-commerce business, just because they've become the standard ... and then you have to differentiate yourself by innovating around the edges until you can come up with the single, big game changer that allows you to reset the rules.

    On another subject, from MNB reader Jeff Reinartz:

    I was going to stop at a Chipotle in Rochester, MN last Sunday, but I opted not to when I pulled in and found the parking lot full and a line of people out to the door waiting to place their orders. Granted, it was around 12:30-1:00 in the afternoon, but at least at that Chipotle you'd have never known there was a problem. I was glad to see it.

    Consumers are giving them a Mulligan. Not sure if they'll get another one.

    Responding to the story about San Francisco's decision to require health warnings on soft drink ads, one MNB user wrote:

    Totally disagree with San Francisco requiring the health warnings for soft drinks. Control of soft drink consumption, as much as possible, should be a parental function. If anything, there should be warnings on video games, televisions and internet devices for children under 12 that when they open those devices says “It’s a beautiful day in the Bay Area, go out and play!”

    I commented that it seemed to me that the warnings will counteract to some degree the fantasies created by millions of dollars in advertising for soft drinks, which prompted one MNB user to write:

    Come Kevin, are you kidding me? Soft drink companies deserve this because they create a “fantasy world”?  What do you mean by that?  That they simply invest in the ubiquitous practice of advertising?  What advertisement and messaging have you seen that does not offer some consumer need that is aspirational?

    If that is your criteria for the need for government intervention, you must have a very long list for who’s next…

    We had a story the other day about a report from the National Academy of Science concluding that GMOs are safe to eat. MNB user Jeff Weidauer responded:

    I agree that this report probably won’t solve anything, as both sides are firmly entrenched in their beliefs, and no quantity of facts is likely to change anyone’s position this late in the game. The major problem with GMOs is really no longer the safety or lack thereof – it’s the ocean of rhetoric from both sides, and the resulting distrust from consumers. The default position outside the industry is that GMOs are bad, either inherently or due to the pesticide use they allow. Either way, it’s a bell that can’t be unrung. And the industry’s perceived unwillingness to be transparent about their use has only fanned the flames of that distrust.

    MNB reader Gary Loehr chimed in:

    I don’t see how scientists, or anyone else, can make sweeping conclusions about GMO’s.  It seems to me that there are so many different applications of the science that each would need to be evaluated on an individual basis.  The idea that GMO’s are good or bad seems to oversimplify a much more complex issue.

    And regarding the new government ruling extending overtime pay provisions to millions of salaried employees, one MNB user wrote:

    This rule will have no affect on our salaried workers. We will just figure their hourly rate based upon their current salary with their previously scheduled 45 hours and have them punch the clock. With the labor market as tight as it is currently, it is another waste of time by Obama and company.

    And I'm sure your salaried employees will love and respect you for it, and feel an ever-deepening investment in the success of your company.

    On another subject, from MNB reader Tom Murphy:

    While the demise of Sports Authority certainly can be blamed on a myriad of factors, one of the key causes was that SA tried to build its multi-channel customer experience on the cheap…resulting in a miserable experience that eventually destroyed credibility impacting both store and e-commerce sales.

    A large number of retailers have failed to upgrade their technology foundations and operational practices for 10 to 15 to even 20 years.  They then try to cobble together a customer experience based on human intervention, work-arounds, and quite frankly, hope!  Basic building blocks for enterprise inventory and enterprise order management, cross-channel supply chains, singular merchandising and pricing practices…as well as updated core technologies such as POS and wireless networks, were ignored in favor of the “shinny object” of the day, e.g., mobile apps, in-store kiosks, etc.  The underlying infrastructure and operating processes could not support it.
    This is similar to ignoring any maintenance on your house for 20 years, and then trying to spruce it up on the cheap…the foundation crumbles, the pipes are rusting, and the wiring is deteriorating.  And there are a lot of retailers, particularly in the grocery and department store segments, that continue to roll these dice.  Stay tuned for more…

    Another MNB user had some thoughts about the impact e-commerce had on Sports Authority:

    Another example of the evil know as Amazon putting thousands out of work and contributing to the de-socialization of America. Certainly Amazon is not going to add to their payroll to off-set this latest round of (mostly) low wage job cuts. Not to mention the collateral damage caused by the large vacant space in the mall and the damage to the other mall retailers in terms of foot traffic….Can the Gap be far behind?

    Evil? Really?


    Funny that you don't blame Sports Authority for being unable to compete in a changed retail environment. They were built for yesterday ... not today, and certainly not for tomorrow.

    Nobody is evil in this scenario. Just good at their jobs, and not so much.

    I got a number of emails about what will happen to Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver now that the company is shutting down, and they all were like this one, from MNB reader Dave Duley:

    A great chance for one of Colorado's legal marijuana companies to buy the Broncos field naming rights….After all, it is 'Mile High'.

    Finally, we had an email yesterday from MNB reader Chuck Jolley that took exception to a characterization made by another reader, who said that millennials ought to be referred to as the "snowflake generation," because "they melt in the face of any heat, they cannot be faced with any opinion that differs from what they are spoon fed by the liberal professors and an even more liberal media. Chuck wrote:

    Spoken like a true old fogey who has reduced himself to standing on his front porch and yelling at the neighborhood children to get off his damn lawn.

    Well, that original reader had a response:

    Maybe you and reader Chuck Jolley should understand where the snowflake comment came from. My statement is based on the fact that colleges are having to create "safe spaces" so students can go someplace where they won't hear anything they disagree with. The comment comes from hearing of universities that have traumatized students because someone wrote the word "Trump" in chalk on the sidewalk. The comment comes from seeing students shout down any speaker that comes to campus that they don't agree with (if the speaker even gets to speak).

    I'm not the old guy yelling "Get off my lawn." I'm the old guy yelling, "Life isn't always going to be fair, and everyone you meet isn't going to agree with you - face it and get over it."

    I think you think less of colleges and college students than I do.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 20, 2016

    Money Monster, the new thriller from director Jodie Foster, is an interesting movie that attempts to take advantage of national outrage about the behavior of big banks and the once-percenters who run them.

    The movie stars George Clooney as a Jim Kramer-type TV personality who makes a living hyping stocks and preaching the gospel of savvy investment; Julia Roberts is the program's director, who has grown tired of his act and is losing interest in the financial much in which he seems to luxuriate. The problem is that a company that Clooney has been hyping suddenly has crashed, and a young Queens man, played by Jack O'Connell, has lost his life savings - and he shows up on the set of Clooney's program, during a live broadcast, with a gun, an explosive vest and a desire to find out how a stock so highly valued could go so far south so quickly. His sense is he - and the rest of a gullible American public - has been lied to ... and he's out to expose the chicanery.

    As Money Monster progresses, both Clooney's and Roberts' characters begin to believe that perhaps there is some truth in the claims being made by the angry young man ... and it is from there that the plot unfolds in crisp fashion.

    If there is a problem with the movie, it may be that it tries to do too much - the movie has a little bit of Dog Day Afternoon and Inside Man in it, mixed with some of the financial savvy of last year's hugely entertaining The Big Short. But it isn;t quite audacious enough to pull it off, and it ends up feeling somewhat overstuffed and under-conceived.

    That said, the performances are strong, the ideas are mostly plausible, and the outrage is deserved. I enjoyed money Monster, but not quite enough to recommend it ... though if you're looking for a non-superhero movie that is made for adults, you could do a lot worse.

    Got an email the other day that posed a movie-related question:

    Since you are a movie buff and tied to the written word on a daily basis– just wanted to hear your broader perspective on watching movies based books.

    Do you typically read the book first and watch the movie 2nd or vice versa or do you find that you usually just watch the movie? Or does it depend on the situation?

    It depends, sometimes on who the author is, and frequently just on how my schedule breaks. I'm not one of those people who thinks that books always are better than the movie; The Godfather and Jaws are prime examples of two classic films made out of books that I thought were kind of mediocre. The same goes for pretty much every Tom Clancy book turned into a movie, at least for me; some would complain the the movies stripped away all the techno babble that make the books so detailed, but I always get lost in the techno babble - give me the stripped-down plots any old day.

    Then again, with a few exceptions (Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and TV's "Justified"), pretty much all of Elmore Leonard's books were better than the movies they were turned into. On the other hand, having loved the movie version of The Big Short, I now want to read the original Michael Lewis book to learn more.

    So it depends. I can enjoy both, or either, and it doesn't always matter in which order.

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

    KC's View: