business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got some immediate reactions to yesterday's announced acquisition of Winn-Dixie and Harveys by Aldi.  One MNB reader wrote:

I believe the Aldi/Winn Dixie /SE Grocers deal could be a significant milestone for discount channel in USA.

Aldi/Lidl and hard discount has struggled in USA, tough to reach above 2% market share threshold with product range primarily of private label.

The larger Winn Dixie format may motivate Aldi to offer a more hybrid discount model including a wider range of national brands similar to to the successful Canada discount model.

Loblaws manages No Frills, it's top banner with 280 stores. This mid size store offers discount prices through  heavy private label assortment but also low prices on  #1 and #2 ( bigger categories) national brands........not all the sku's , just the best selling sizes of national brands.

Sobeys has similar model with Fresco/Price Chopper, and Metro Canada with Food Basics.

In Canada, this hybrid discount format represents about 20% of sales....much larger than the combined 2 % of sales of Aldi /Lidl ( using 1.5 trillion as total USA base)

Could this be a recipe for Aldi ( & Lidl) to appeal to more customers looking for their favorite national brands, low prices, and more service departments?

I think the Canadian comparison is a good one, and I wish I'd thought of it.

Years ago, under different leadership, Save A Lot hired a consultant to spend time in Canada to research that country's discount chains to see where the model could be adapted in the US.  They never did it, but the interest was there and this could be what Aldi is thinking.

(I know about what Save A Lot did because I was the guy they hired.)

A different perspective from MNB reader Steven Ritchey:

My first thought upon reading about Aldi buying Wynn Dixie / Harvey Stores is that they really are getting away from their core competencies here.  Wynn Dixie and I guess Harvey are gull service, full selection operations, where Aldi's es a small format, limited selection largely private label retailer who at lease in my area is open limited hours as well.

I also hope that the Wynn Dixie's in that region are better run than the ones in the Dallas, Fort Worth, TX area were.  Those stores were dirty, smelly, poorly stocked and just not hospitable, customer friendly places to shop.

If Aldi indeed wants to play in that market segment with full service operators, they will need to hire or develop the kind of expertise needed to make it work, and understand, they will largely be dealing with a different customer base as well.

On a different subject from an MNB reader:

I was thinking of the Target article you posted, and also the Minneapolis Star Tribune article I read yesterday. At first, I was more forgiving of Target because of the of what happened after the George Floyd murder. During the rioting a nearby Target store was looted and Minneapolis is where Target is headquartered.  It made it more personal to the high ups in the corporation, it where they live and they saw it on the local news. I think that figured prominently in their initial reaction. However, they have not said or done anything since then, they have not reached out to the community and so far, as I know, no one has been charged for the violence they committed that day. On the flip side I was at Market Days in Chicago last weekend, which is a Pride Street fair held there yearly and Bud Light had a presence there, even though a Target store was only a block away. Communication is critical in situation like this, people need to know that they are valued, when the time comes you will stand next to them, Target is not showing that.

Regarding the story about the New Hampshire woman and her husband who have taken legal action against Eataly Boston LLC for an ankle injury that she says she suffered from slipping on a piece of meat in the Italian market," one MNB reader wrote:

Just want to chime in to say that your response reminded me of the cultural backlash against the woman who sued McDonald's way back in the 90's (?) for serving scalding hot coffee that burned her. So many people joked, as you did, and lamented the "litigious culture" we live in, without really knowing that she was served coffee WAY hotter than it should have been, boiling actually, and that it gave her third degree burns in her crotch, something that we can only imagine was incredibly painful, humiliating, costly, and of course then she had to deal with the entire world ridiculing her.

In today's world, this woman who slipped on prosciutto and broke her ankle may have incredible medical debt just from this incident. She may have damage that will incapacitate her for the rest of her life, depending on how old she is and how bad the fracture was. You don't actually say anything about those details in your blurb. 

Just pointing out that sometimes our "litigious culture" really is just people who can't afford to be injured seeking the only recourse they have. 

MNB reader Beatrice Orlandini sent me an email about my commentary about Dorothy Lane Markets' 75th birthday:

I am very proud to be able to call Norman and Calvin Mayne my friends. 

Years ago, when I had many store tours in the USA, I always made it a point to take my groups to Dayton.

We always received outstanding welcomes. 

One day we were having a Q&A session in the Far Hills cooking school, one of the guys asked Scott Fox, DLM’s bakery manager, if he didn’t feel lessened since he was working “for” someone instead of being his own boss.

Scott laughed, explaining how free and respected he was. He could do everything he wanted, provided the results kept coming.

Norman then added: my managers are great. They are the very best. They could find a job anywhere else.  I need them much more than they need me. 

That - to me - was what you would call an eye opener. 

I never found such a wonderful group of people anywhere else. 

On another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

Regarding your article on Amazon using AI to enhance customer product reviews, it sounds great on its' face until I think back to all the articles on how business's find ways to manipulate positive outcomes on reviews. Unfortunately I treat reviews with a large grain of salt. Adding AI to the mix may result in some unusual outcomes given recent stories about AI's ability to go down some deep rabbit holes.

MNB reader Danny Silverman chimed in:

Regarding AI in shopper reviews, this feels premature. 

Given reviews are still so heavily loaded with fake reviews, they aren't generally all that reliable unless you dive into the 1/2 star reviews and consider them against the 4/5 star reviews. AI can't do that, which means the AI generated snapshots will likely be equally unreliable and potentially draw attention to the lack of credibility in the reviews. I also have an egg timer running until the first article breaks about an AI generated snapshot that is offensive and/or patently incorrect about the product, and the first article about how someone has found a way to exploit the new feature to further undermine the credibility of reviews by falsely amplifying products against what the also might otherwise recommend. 

And finally, from another MNB reader:

Caught your article about Robbie Robertson, one of my favorite Canadian artists (I'm a Canuck myself).  If you haven't seen it, there is a terrific documentary that Robbie made a few years ago with Martin Scorsese called "We were Brothers" that is excellent.  It covers their roots, their Bob Dylan connection, and their breakup.  It's streaming on Amazon and others, you would enjoy it - as always, the music is great!