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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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Sansolo Speaks: Falling Into The Generation Gap

by Michael Sansolo

Talk about stepping on a third rail. Last week I wrote about and provided a link to a Washington Post article written by a reporter about her extreme dislike of supermarket shopping and stumbled on something much bigger: a lot of people really dislike millennials.


Here’s the thing: the Post article and author were clearly off-putting. The reporter came across as entitled, spoiled and worse. After all, she admitted she would rather steal milk from a coffee shop (oh, the horrors!) than go to a store and walk to the dairy department to buy her own.

I totally understood all the e-mails we got criticizing the writer and her attitude, but things went much further. Many notes I got used the writer’s attitude as an opportunity to criticize her entire generation of millennials and nearly everything about them.

And that’s where I have to say enough is enough. Sure there are entitled millennials, but there are also countless entitled members of every generation. So let’s not use our anger at one person to attack an entire group. Especially when that group is so incredibly important.

A division of Bank of America did an article recently on the generational battle between boomers (my team) and the millennials. The bank talks about the shift of wealth to millennials and what that will mean and the simplest and most important of all facts: millennials now outnumber Boomers, meaning they are that largest generation in the population and will be so for a while to come.

Now, back to the Post article. While the author might be annoying, she made some really big points if they project out to her cohort. She finds supermarket shopping far too difficult, with the stores simply too large and an overload of choices. Those problems plague her even with on-line shopping.

It would seem that shoppers like this would gravitate toward a company offering smaller stores and limited assortment. That might not please Amazon or Walmart, but I have to imagine that single sentence will be very welcome news at, say, Aldi. And that, in a nutshell, is why we can’t let ourselves get distracted.

Millennials, without question, will be the target shopper of the next 20 years and if you’ve been reading my columns over the last month you’ve see some troubling signs for the future. First, they associate on-line shopping with Instacart, not the stores they are actually ordering from, which portends a dangerous erosion of brand equity. And second, they are looking for a simpler and less stressful shopping trip, which plays into the hands of small, limited assortment stores.

Taken together, that means we need to consider how to best position ourselves for tomorrow’s shopper. Sure they might be entitled and addicted to their phones, but isn’t everyone these days. Let’s stop throwing insults and start examining how to win this coming battle.

Otherwise, it’s current businesses that are most in danger of falling into the generation gap. It’s time to start building bridges.

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.

Walmart Looks To Simplify Checkout Experience Through Technology

Business Insider reports that Walmart plan to deploy mobile device wielding employees in stores around the country, each of them with the ability to process consumer payments without them having to go through traditional checkout lanes. According to the story, “These employees will be able to swipe customers' credit or debit cards and provide paper receipts using Bluetooth printers strapped to their waists. It's meant to allow shoppers purchasing a small number of items to bypass long lines at store registers.”

The story notes that “Walmart started testing the service, called Check Out With Me, in the lawn and garden departments of 350 stores earlier this year.”

It is all part of a broader effort to make the upcoming end-of-year holiday shopping season as consumer-friendly as possible, as Walmart also is “touting its newly updated website this holiday season, which now features more curated content and an expanded assortment of products.”

At the same time, as reported yesterday, Walmart-owned Sam’s Club is opening a new store in Dallas called Sam’s Club Now that is designed to be a testing ground for new technologies that can be used in the membership club’s stores as well as in other Walmart formats. Among those technologies is an app that will allow customers to skip the checkout line by scanning their groceries with their smartphones as they walk the store.

KC's View: One of the things that I noticed yesterday was that the new Sam’s Club Now store is being positioned as a response to the checkout-free Amazon Go stores. Which it may be, but only sort of.

Sam’s Club Now, just like the Check Out With Me system, looks to short-circuit the traditional checkout experience, not eliminate it, which is what Amazon Go does. I’m not minimizing the potential impact these technologies can have, but it is important to be clear about what they are and what they are not.

That said, I suspect that Walmart is looking for ways to eliminate checkouts, and this is just one step in a continuing journey.

Blue Apron Bets On Jet Fuel To Propel Its Future

The Los Angeles Times reports that Walmart-owned Jet has begun selling Blue Apron meal kits on its website, allowing consumers to “make the meals part of their regular grocery order without having to subscribe to Blue Apron’s service.” The Blue Apron meals “each serve two people and can be prepared in about 30 minutes, the companies said. They’ll range in price from $16.99 for the Italian farro bowl to $22.99 for the seared steaks meal.”

The service is for the moment only available in New York City, which is part of Jet’s more urban-focused marketing approach.

The Times writes that this is “Blue Apron’s latest move to expand beyond its subscription business, which is reeling from customer defections as more companies - including Jet’s parent Walmart - enter the meal-kit space … Jet offers Blue Apron a source of new revenue at a crucial time. The number of people ordering Blue Apron’s signature boxes of ingredients to make home-cooked meals dropped 24% in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, leading CEO Dickerson to look for new channels to sell his wares, such as Costco Wholesale Corp. and online delivery services like Seamless and GrubHub.”

The story points out how “Jet is making a play for busy, affluent city dwellers who already shop on Jet for general merchandise and household goods. The company plans to open a fulfillment center in New York’s Bronx borough this year, and grocery deliveries will be handled by Parcel, a New York logistics company Walmart bought last year.”

And, Reuters writes that “the partnership brings new credibility to Jet’s grocery ambitions and amps up the fierce battle for New Yorkers’ online food budgets. Jet’s up against Inc.’s Prime Now service, Ahold Delhaize’s Peapod and closely-held market leader Fresh Direct, which are all investing to capture more customers.”

KC's View: One of the things that this does is eliminate the subscription model, which is seen by many consumers as being simultaneously limiting and requiring too much commitment. I think this is smart of Jet, and a near-requirement for Blue Apron if it wants to survive.

FDA May Require Sesame To Be Labeled As Allergen

CNN reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may require sesame to be listed on food labels as an allergen.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says that “we're beginning to see evidence that sesame allergies may be a growing concern in the US. A handful of studies, for example, suggest that the prevalence of sesame allergies in the US is more than 0.1 percent, on par with allergies to soy and fish.”

The story notes that at present, “eight major food allergens must currently be declared on US labeling using their common names: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.”

CNN goes on to quote Lisa Gable, CEO of the nonprofit group Food Allergy Research and Education, as saying that “research suggests that over 300,000 Americans are affected by sesame allergies,” with a growing consensus that “sesame is growing into being a national problem and should absolutely be added as one of the allergens to be disclosed on labeling.”

KC's View: Not having any food allergies, I must admit that I haven’t paid all that much attention to such labels over the years, though that has changed recently because of my daughter’s nit allergy. (When in stores doing sampling, I’ll often check to see if the products they are sampling contain nuts; if they do, and there aren’t any signs advising customers of this fact - which happens more often that you’d think - I inform the sampling personnel and management. You can imagine how well this goes over.)

But in reading this CNN story, I actually was a little surprised. An old friend of mine had a severe sesame allergy, to the point where one seed could send him to the hospital. It never even occurred to me that sesame wasn’t listed as an allergen … I’m glad for this bit of consciousness-raising.

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From Export Solutions...

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E-conomy Beat

• Amazon said yesterday that it “has donated more than $100 million to charitable organizations through the AmazonSmile program,” which allows “customers to support their favorite charity every time they shop with Amazon, at no extra cost,” as Amazon donates “a portion of the purchase price of eligible items to the charity they choose.”

The company said that “to thank customers for supporting charities through AmazonSmile, starting today through Friday, November 2, AmazonSmile will donate 5% - 10 times the typical donation rate - of the purchase price of eligible products to the charity customers choose when they shop on"

The MNB Walmart Watch

Canadian Grocer reports that “in the ongoing battle to win over Canadian grocery shoppers with e-commerce and pickup alternatives, Walmart made a big move Tuesday by expanding its offering in new markets and with new options. Walmart is adding click-and-collect to 22 locations across Victoria, Regina, Quebec City, Moncton and Halifax. This is the first time the service is being offered in Atlantic Canada after introducing it at select locations in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba.”


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

Fox Business reports that home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool wants its inventory back from bankrupt Sears.

According to the story, Whirlpool “sent a letter to Sears last week asking that the retailer return items it had received from Whirlpool in the 45 days leading up to its Oct. 15 bankruptcy filing … Whirlpool said that Sears has no right to the products since the company was insolvent when it ordered them, requesting the retailer refrain from selling or disposing of them.”

Sears is saying that it plans to remain in business with a smaller number of stores and a reduced debt. But I wouldn’t bet a nickel on this likelihood, just as I wouldn’t spend a nickel in its stores.

USA Today reports that “Nordstrom shoppers will be able to pick up gifts before stores open their doors this holiday season – and sometimes even in the middle of the night – as the retailer ramps up convenience to compete with its rivals. From Dec. 3 through Christmas Eve, Nordstrom is offering ‘early bird’ pick up, enabling shoppers who check off their gift lists by clicking a button to get their presents starting at 8 am. Though the stores will still be closed, staffers will bring the items out to the curb.

“And for those shoppers who want to make a midnight run, Nordstrom is bringing back its round-the-clock curbside service at 23 locations. That means customers can head to one of those stores at any time of the day or night between Dec. 16 and 24 to pick up an online purchase.”

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From Samuel J. Associates...

"It’s a bad time to be in the business of selling groceries, and the headlines are as bleak as you’d expect: "The Retail Apocalypse Is Coming for Grocery Stores" ... "Grocery Retail ‘Bloodbath’ Is Here" ... Conversely, it is a great time — arguably the best time ever — to buy groceries."
- New York Magazine/Grub Street

At Samuel J.Associates, we have a response to this assessment:


We think it is a great time to be selling groceries, whether you are a retailer or a supplier. That’s because a more educated and demanding consumer, no matter the demographic, will reward businesses that are innovative, disruptive, and in touch with what people need, even if they don’t know they need it.

And, we know this: Those businesses require, and are fueled by, great people.

People who don’t just get the job done, but who set the tone in an organization, establish cultural and business priorities, who build teams, and who are able to not just adapt to competitive realities, but see the future and thrive in it.

And yes, ignore dire warnings about a "retail apocalypse" and see opportunities.

At Samuel J. Associates, we have a winning record of connecting great talent and innovative businesses ... as well as innovative talent with great businesses. We exceed your expectations so that you can do the same thing for your customers.

No bull.

Click here to find out more.

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Executive Suite

• Hain Celestial Group has named Mark L. Schiller, most recently EVP and Chief Commercial Officer at Pinnacle Foods, to be its new president/CEO, succeeding founder president/CEO Irwin D. Simon.

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From City of Hope...

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From ReposiTrak...

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From The MNB Politics Desk

Content Guy’s Note: Stories in this section are, in my estimation, important and relevant to business. However, they are relegated to this slot because some MNB readers have made clear that they prefer a politics-free MNB; I can't do that because sometimes the news calls out for coverage and commentary, but at least I can make it easy for folks to skip it if they so desire.

The New York Times reports that Campbell Soup has accelerated the departure of a senior executive who had shared via Twitter a conspiracy theory about how a migrant caravan in Mexico was being funded by billionaire philanthropist and liberal activist George Soros and his Open Society foundation, which supports human rights and democracy.

The executive, Kelly Johnston, vice president of government affairs for Campbell for the past 16 years, was scheduled to retire next month. He left the company last week, as the company’s CEO assured Open Society that his comments did not reflect corporate beliefs or policy.

The Times notes that “conspiracy theories about Mr. Soros have been spread against a backdrop of increasing hostility toward Jews in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League said there was a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States last year compared with 2016. On Saturday, a man who told police that he ‘wanted all Jews to die’ killed 11 people in a rampage at a Pittsburgh synagogue.” And, Soros was one of 14 people who received pipe bombs last week - that did not go off - sent by a Florida man who has been arrested and charged in the case.

KC's View: People with public companies - especially executives who are perceived as speaking not just for themselves, but for and about their employers - simply have to be careful about what they say online, no matter what side of the political aisle they may be on. This has nothing to do with political correctness; it has to do with degrading the discourse and fueling incivility.

Your Views: Relationship Matters

We had an Eye-Opener yesterday about how there is a new trend in Silicon Valley - parents who work for tech companies are requiring their nannies to guarantee that they will severely limit the amount of time their children spend looking at screens of varying sizes.

Which struck me as ironic, and maybe a little hypocritical.

One MNB reader responded:

I think your overall point about screens is valid, and thank you for sharing it.  A couple of additional considerations on your nanny state commentary…

I work full time outside the house, as does my husband.  I wasn't/am not willing to give up a career that I worked hard to pursue, and really enjoy doing (most days, anyway!).  We have a full time nanny, and I'd never consider her to be "raising" my kids.  Sure, she spends time with them, and sure, she has some influence over them.  At the end of the day, though, my husband and I are the ones raising them.  We are the ones instilling the values of kindness, compassion, giving back, sharing, etc.  We are the ones who make family dinner (screen-free) a priority, and who make sure everybody feels love, warmth, and appropriate course correction.

Your note today struck a chord with me. Granted, I do not work the hours of those in Silicon Valley, so maybe a nanny is "raising" those kids.  But rest assured, I am raising my kids, and I try to do an OK job at it.  Just food for thought, and maybe relevant to how you can support your daughter as she begins navigating professional/personal/family/job stuff.  It's not always easy, but in large measure, it's well worth it!

I certainly didn’t mean to be glib about nannies “raising” people’s children, or to be dismissive about parents who hire them. Making that decision often is a difficult one and parents agonize over it … it never is a simple process, for lots of reasons.

One other thing. You mention that these are the kinds of issues that my daughter will have to face as she “begins navigating professional/personal/family/job stuff.” I have two sons, too, and I hope they are just as active in making these decisions and instilling values and priorities in their children as they navigate professional/personal/family/job stuff.

Just sayin’. I hope we raised them right.

From another reader:

Limiting tech to techies children. its like the tobacco crowd telling their kids not to smoke~ What a joke..Technology is destroying the world!

Of course, I received this note via email, and I’m assuming that this reader accesses MNB via computer (since we don’t have a dead-tree edition). So maybe tech isn’t always destructive.

I’ve raved here from time to time about City Girl Coffee, which happens to be a women-owned company that sources its beans from women-owned coffee plantations.

Which means that I was happy to receive this email from MNB reader Susan Kemp: 

Based upon your comments regarding City Girl Coffee, I ordered a few items from them, both for myself and for gifts. When I received the UPS shipment notification, I noticed that my shipping address was incorrect. (I assume my dusty, rarely used laptop pre-filled with old information.) I contacted City Girl and they quickly changed the shipping address. They were charged $15 by UPS for the change. I asked them to please pass along the charge to me as this was my error and I did not expect them to pay for my mistake. They sent a lovely reply that they would not pass along the charge as “they didn’t want to start a new relationship that way”. Not only was the coffee absolutely delicious, but they hooked me as a forever customer with their kind reply. This had nothing to do with $15 and everything to do with their kindness.
Thank you for mentioning them in your column.

My pleasure.

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“RETAIL 2020: What’s The Future (WTF)?” - A New Presentation by Kevin Coupe

In this fast-paced, interactive and provocative presentation, MNB's Kevin Coupe challenges audiences to see the fast-evolving retail world through a radical new technological, demographic, competitive and cultural prism. These issues all combine to create an environment in which traditional thinking, fundamental execution, and just-good-enough strategies and tactics likely pave the path to irrelevance; Coupe lays out a road map for the future that focuses on differential advantages and disruptive mindsets, using real-world examples that can be adopted and executed by enterprising and innovative leaders.

Constantly updated to reflect the hand crafted news stories covered and commented upon daily by MorningNewsBeat, and seasoned with an irreverent sense of humor and disdain for sacred cows honed over 30 years of writing and reporting about the best retailers and retail strategies, “RETAIL 2020/WTF” will get your meeting attendees not just thinking, but asking the serious questions about business and consumers that serious times demand. See a sample at left…

Here’s what Lori Stillman, Executive Vice President - Analytics, Insights and Intelligence, Advantage Solutions, has to say about a recent appearance:

"Kevin joined us as a moderator and facilitator for a two-day client executive event we hosted. His role in the success of the event went far beyond his time presenting and sharing his great wisdom and content. From the moment our planning process began and we selected Kevin as a key part of our program, he dove in and worked with our team to review session topics, ideate on programming and help ensure our overall event delivered on the goals we had established. His quick wit, deep industry knowledge and ability to synthesize conversations into key take-aways enabled us to hit a home run!”

And, from Joe Jurich, CTO of DUMAC Business Systems:

”Kevin recently participated in and spoke at our Annual User Conference.  Our group consisted of independent retailers, wholesalers, and software vendors – a pretty broad group to challenge in a single talk.  While his energy, humor, and movie analogies kept the audience engaged, his ability to challenge them to think differently about how they go to market is what really captured them!  Based on dinner conversations afterward, he appeared to have left everyone thinking of at least one new approach to their strategy!”

Want to make your next event unique, engaging and entertaining? Contact Kevin at , or call him now at 203-253-0291.

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From The MNB Sports Desk

In Monday Night Football, the New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 25-6.

PWS 54