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    Published on: October 18, 2016

    by Michael Sansolo

    Just two months after they ended, there’s a good chance you remember only two things about this year’s Olympic games.

    First, that US swimmer Ryan Lochte did something strange at a Brazilian convenience store. And second, that you really, really hated the television coverage on NBC. I’m not going near the former issue, but as for the latter, there’s a lot to say and possibly something to learn about why today’s emerging competitive threats are so different and unsettling.

    In many ways, NBC’s coverage was the most ambitious ever undertaken by the network that has pretty much owned the Olympics for decades. They used a large number of affiliated cable channels, allowing all of us to see an incredible number of hours and events.

    And yet, the coverage disappointed. Too often events were shown well after the results were widely known and far too frequently the real drama of competition was drowned in endless backstories on the athletes. Sure, those stories are impressive, but there’s a point of saturation and we passed it.

    I have learned that there is, in fact, another way.

    (I recognize, by the way, that it may seem a little late in the game to be talking about Olympics coverage. But I only learned about the other way of covering the games when I spoke last week with a colleague in London.)

    In the UK, the Olympics coverage was widely celebrated and not just because the local team did so surprisingly well. Rather it was because the BBC did everything NBC did not.

    During the Olympics, the BBC both accepted and enabled the new world of consumer choice by letting viewers pretty much watch whatever they wanted and whenever they wanted. Every event was streamed into the BBC website as it happened.

    Every event. As my English friend explained, if you had a cousin who was eliminated in the first judo match, you could easily find that video online and watch it. No sport and no athlete were deemed insignificant.

    The BBC let viewers truly decide what and when they wanted to watch and everyone (according to my friend) cheered. NBC managed the experience and got quite a different response.

    No doubt NBC spent countless hours and resources trying to determine the tastes of the American audience and that research led them to the schedule they gave us this summer. It could be easily argued that they did the best broadcasting job ever, providing more hours and more sports than any of us could have imagined years ago.

    Only now it somehow feels wrong because the world - and our expectations - have changed.

    I think this is both a powerful and unsettling lesson for all kinds of businesses, but most especially retail. Whether you agree or disagree with the phrase, retail does essentially serve as a purchasing agent for the shopper, offering products that serve the needs of the local population. Yes there are all kinds of kinks in the system, but for the most part that is how it works.

    Amazon - just like the BBC during the Olympics - demonstrates the power of no limits, essentially providing everything all the time. There’s no doubt that an enormous percentage of Amazon’s limitless variety consists of items that rarely sell, but that’s not what matters. The customer is in charge and if they really want something odd - akin to that first round judo match - they can find it.

    In turn, that means the challenge for retailers - just like for NBC - NBC - is to learn how to both explain and curate choices better than ever or figure out how to battle a competitor with no limits.

    Winners will get gold medals. Losers, I'm afraid, will be largely forgotten.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    by Kevin Coupe
    Minnesota Public Radio has an interesting story about how Glen Taylor, described as "the billionaire owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves," is investing in a new food business that will make transparency a key business value.

    According to the story, "Taylor and a group of investors are spending millions of dollars to convert a former beef plant into a hog processing facility, Prime Pork. They plan to open by January ... Robots will do some of the butchering, including a robotic arm designed to remove ribs."

    And, MPR says, "The plant will process more than 6,000 hogs a day, which makes it a medium-sized operation."

    But perhaps most importantly, "Hogs from each farm supplying the plant will move through the plant together as a group. That will make it easier to keep track of where each cut of meat originated."

    Taylor says that customers who want more information about their food will be able to get it. "The customer can know which farms the hogs came from. How they're raised, what they're fed, how they're treated."

    The goal is to develop a business model that is responsive to growing customer concerns about "where and how our food is produced," MPR says, and growing suspicion about "big food" companies in general.

    Which I think is smart. Which I think acknowledges modern realities. Which I think is an attitude that ought to be emulated by more companies. Which I think is an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    The Cincinnati Business Courier reports on analyst speculation that Kroger "could open more than a dozen of its Main & Vine fresh and local small-store locations in Greater Cincinnati."

    The first Main & Vine store opened south of Seattle, in Gig Harbor, Washington, earlier this year. You can see MNB coverage of the format here.

    The speculation hinges on what the analyst says is "Cincinnati’s penchant for organic food, market size and demographics," which he says "make it a likely candidate." In addition, the analysis suggests that Cincinnati is "one of 16 markets around the country that would likely be suitable candidates for a big expansion of Main & Vine if Kroger decided to do that."

    The speculation is that "Kroger could open 300 Main & Vine stores across its chain."

    Kroger is not commenting on the report.
    KC's View:
    The most important word here is "speculation."

    I think Main & Vine is an interesting piece of a complicated puzzle that Kroger is assembling, but I think it would be a mistake to think that it is a piece that is finished ... Main & Vine is an ongoing experiment, and I suspect it will get a lot of tweaking before the format is seen as ready for prime time. After all, Kroger is not known for rushing in where angels fear to tread.

    But let's be clear. I'm speculating, too.

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports on how Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is taking the retailer's image issues very personally - so personally that he has appeared in the chain's commercials.

    According to the story, "More CEOs are raising their public profiles, speaking out on issues and appearing in ad campaigns, but it remains an unusual move for the world’s largest retailer. In what is believed to be a first, Wal-Mart cast a CEO in a commercial that aired on social media and television for about three months through the end of September. The ad, starring Mr. McMillon, touts the company’s commitment to employees, not the latest deals."

    The Journal notes that McMillon is a good messenger for Walmart, since he started working for the company in one of its warehouses in 1984, and worked his way up the ladder to the CEO job. McMillon also has been active in social media in presenting the company's message.
    KC's View:
    I think it is an effective commercial, which, by the way, you can see here. Not sure it will make non-Walmart shoppers make a beeline to one of its stores, but I think it makes one of the points it needs to make as Walmart looks to chain its stores' image while simultaneously improving how it battles against Amazon.

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    Fast Company has piece about the burgeoning meal kit business, describing them as "the Ikea furniture of cooking. They arrive in boxes as disassembled meals, with pre-portioned ingredients, step-by-step instructions, and some assembly required."

    And, it writes, increasingly "there's a version for absolutely everybody." Fast Company profiles a company called Chef'd, which it says "isn't trying to build an identity solely around its brand. Instead, it wants to build an Amazon-like store that houses meal kits for every lifestyle. Its website tagline is 'The First And Only Meal Store'."

    You can read it in its entirety here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    Reuters reports that during the most recent fiscal quarter, Tesco grew its UK market share to 28.2 percent, from 28.1 percent a year earlier. That is the first time since 2011 that Tesco has earned any sort of market share increase in a competitive climate where it has seemed like only discounters Aldi and Lidl were able to make any headway.

    Second-ranked Sainsbury also saw a market share increase, to 16 percent from 15.9 percent, as did Waitrose, to 5.4 percent from 5.3 percent.

    Walmart-owned Asda's market share declined to 15.6 percent from 15.7 percent, while Morrisons stayed even at 10.4 percent.

    Aldi and Lidl saw their market shares remain stable at 6.2 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
    KC's View:
    It will be interesting to see how this shakes out in coming months. We've already seen some of the tumult created by post-Brexit vote economic shifts, and as these continue, chains will have to try to find solid footing on uncertain ground.

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    Reuters reports that Netflix increased its global subscriber base by more than 50 percent during the third quarter, adding 370,000 customers in the US alone.

    The story notes that Netflix seems to building its subscriber base largely through the development of original programming that attracts viewers in the US and abroad, on which the company spent $5 billion this year. Netflix reportedly plans to increase that spending by 20 percent to $6 billon in 2017, believing that original content such as "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" gives it a differential advantage as it competes with everyone from the broadcast networks to Amazon to HBO and Showtime.

    Netflix also says that it believes that it can harvest "material global profits" beginning next year as it grows significantly outside its home market.
    KC's View:
    I always think that stories like these are instructive to retailers because you can easily substitute the words "private label" for "original content." Companies compete successfully where they are different, not where they are the same.

    And I think the vast majority of retailers would be better off if they looked at every square foot of sales floor and asked themselves, "How and where are we different in this space? And where we are not, how can we be?"

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    USA Today reports this morning that PepsiCo has announced that it plans to "significantly reduce the amount of sugar, sodium and fat in many of its products by 2025," which it says is "in response to the growing demand for healthier, more nutritious foods."

    PepsiCo says that it is aiming "for a series of goals, including ensuring at least two-thirds of its drinks will have no more than 100 calories of added sugars per 12-ounce serving. Additionally, at least 75% of its food products will have no more than 1.1 grams of saturated fat, per 100 calories, and no more than 1.3 milligrams of sodium per calorie."

    • We've had a number of stories recently about stores and malls planning to remain closed on Thanksgiving, saying that they wanted to make it possible for employees to spend the holiday with their families.

    But not everybody.

    The Associated Press reports that Macy's not only will be open on Thanksgiving, but plans to open an hour earlier this year. It is scheduled to open its doors to holiday shoppers at 5 pm on Thanksgiving, remain open until 2 am on Friday, and then reopen at 5 am on Friday.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: October 18, 2016

    In the American League Championship Series, the Cleveland Indians defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2, taking a commanding 3-0 game lead in the best-of-seven series.

    And, in NFL Monday Night Football action, the Arizona Cardinals utterly destroyed the NY Jets 28-3.
    KC's View: