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Monday, April 22, 2019

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Monday Eye-Opener: North Star

by Kevin Coupe

Today is Earth Day, and one outdoors-focused company is doing more than pay lip service to the moment.

Marketing Daily has a story about how North Face is closing all of its 113 stores in the US and Canada, as well as its corporate offices, “so employees and customers can spend time outdoors.”

The story points out that “lots of companies make an Earth Day gesture, but Alameda, California-based North Face has a nature-loving image built into its product line of outdoor sports gear and activewear. Last year the company featured a new collection of T-shirts and totes made from cotton and recycled bottles that it sourced from three National Parks’ trash, and donated $1 from every sale to the National Park Foundation to support sustainability projects.”

This reminds me of what REI has done the past few years, closing its stores on Black Friday - traditionally a huge shopping day - and telling its customers that they would be better off going out to take a hike than spending time in stores shopping. Patagonia has also become more overtly political ion recent years, from closing its stores on Election Day 2018 to allow its employees plenty of time to vote to filing lawsuits against Trump administration efforts to roll back what the company sees as necessary environmental protections.

It is always a risk - such positions can alienate some customers even as it entices others. But for these companies, I think, it represents a pretty good sense of what their customers think and how their customers feel. These positions are keyed to and reinforce their brand identities.

And that’s the Eye-Opener.

After 10 Day Strike, Stop & Shop, UFCW Reach Tentative Agreement

Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract for some 31,000 union members who walked off the job 10 days ago, severely hurting the retailer’s ability to compete during the run-up to the Easter and Passover holidays.

The strike affected about 240 stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, with some estimates suggesting that the retailer’s business in the affected areas was off as much as 75 percent. It also generated a lot of sympathy - and resultant media coverage - among candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, with the likes of former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, voicing support for organized labor.

In addition, the Boston Globe notes, “A number of rabbis in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island advised their congregations not to cross picket lines to buy Jewish holiday essentials.”

The sticking points between the two sides, not surprisingly, were said to be wages and benefits, with health care and pensions said to be at the core of the union’s bargaining position.

In its statement announcing the tentative agreement, the UFCW said that it “preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.”

No additional specifics were provided about the contract, which is subject to ratification by union members. Workers are expected to go back to work as early as today.

KC's View: Tough time for Stop & Shop to be essentially sidelined … it seemed to me that in my town during the past week, the competition was a little busier than it might ordinarily would have been. The question is whether the competition did enough during that time to change shopping habits for any sustained period of time … I wouldn’t think so, if only because I don’t think they made their case as strongly as they could have.

My feeling is that when the competition has a weakness, you go after it relentlessly. If you miss the moment, you may never get it back.

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Sears Sues Lampert Over $2 Billion In ‘Siphoned’ Funds

The Financial Times reports that “the bankrupt estate of Sears Holdings is suing Eddie Lampert, the US retailer’s longtime chairman and billionaire backer, arguing he and other shareholders ‘siphoned’ more than $2 billion from the company before it filed for Chapter 11.”

The Washington Post reports it this way: “The lawsuit, filed this week, accuses Lampert of a ‘multiyear and multifaceted scheme’ to siphon more than $2 billion of the company’s assets to himself, his hedge fund ESL Investments and other insiders.”

And Fox News writes: “The 110-page complaint filed with the US Bankruptcy Court in New York, also names a slew of former Sears directors, including Lampert’s former college roommate U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as well as several executives at the billionaire’s hedge fund, ESL Investment, who acquired the bankrupt retailer in a $5.2 billion deal earlier this year, as culprits in the looting.”

Mnuchin is a former vice-chairman of Lampert’s hedge fund.

The Post writes that “the ties between Sears and Lampert’s businesses — which also include Seritage Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust that in some cases has effectively become Sears’s landlord — have long raised concerns among shareholders. In 2017, Lampert and Sears’s board paid $40 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that Lampert had tried to sell off the company’s best real estate to Seritage. Sears shareholders argued that the ‘highly conflicted transaction’ would ‘plunge the company into insolvency’.”

FT goes on:

“The legal action is the latest twist in a protracted fallout over the demise of Sears, which was once the country’s biggest department store chain. The company, which struggled to adapt to the rise first of big box rivals such as Walmart and later internet shopping, racked up more than $10bn in losses since the turn of the decade and filed for Chapter 11 in October.

Sears only narrowly escaped an outright liquidation, and the court gave Mr Lampert the green light in February to buy hundreds of its stores out of bankruptcy.

“The new lawsuit centres on a series of transactions involving Sears and Mr Lampert, who created the modern-day company when he engineered an $11 billion merger of Sears and discount store rival Kmart in 2004. The estate’s complaint pointed to various assets that Sears spun off over several years, including real estate as well as a stake in the company’s Canada arm and clothing chain Land’s End.

“ESL and Mr Lampert were the ‘primary beneficiaries’ of the transactions, claimed the lawsuit, which argued proceeds from the disposals were ‘grossly inadequate’. It said the defendants knew the company was insolvent and turned to ‘asset stripping’.”

quotes ESL as issuing a statement in which it said that “all transactions were done in good faith, on fair terms, beneficial to all Sears stakeholders and approved by the Sears Board of Directors, made up of a majority of independent directors, as well as the company’s Related Party Transactions Committee, which was itself comprised of independent directors and advised by separate independent financial and legal advisors.”

KC's View: Gee, what a shock … Eddie Lampert gets sued for essentially plundering a company that he owned for $2 billion - a company that he demonstrated absolutely no talent for running during the time that he owned it. He has enough money, so he must’ve had a talent for something … and now maybe we know exactly what that talent was.

It reminds me of the moment from Casablanca, when Captain Louis Renault, played by Claude Rains, says, “I am shocked- shocked- to find that gambling is going on in here!” And then they hand him his night’s winnings.

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Worth Reading: Kroger Gets Its Butt ‘In Gear’

“We’ve got to get our butts in gear,” Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen tells the Wall Street Journal in a long piece out today. “There was no doubt we were behind.”

Here’s how the Journal evaluates Kroger’s current market position:

“Not since Walmart Inc. first pushed into groceries in the late 1980s have traditional chains faced so many challenges. E-commerce is transforming the business, forcing cash-strapped companies to overhaul their operations and invest heavily in technology and talent to keep customers from straying to Amazon.com Inc. At the same time, they have to keep food prices as low as consumers have come to expect.

“The transition has proven rough for Kroger, which stayed focused on store sales long after mass-merchant competitors were investing in online-ordering technology and delivery services. Executives have debated which investments to make and how drastically to change the company’s business model. Some would-be technology partners have been turned off by what they see as the grocer’s conservative culture—including members of one group who stormed out of a meeting in protest.

“Mr. McMullen knows it is a pivotal moment for the company and that investors are concerned … To catch up, Kroger has budgeted $4 billion for investments, including warehouses managed by robots, a meal-kit company and digitally enabled shelves that market products to customers through LED displays. Last year, it formed a partnership with an autonomous-vehicle startup, Nuro Inc., and started selling its line of natural and organic products on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Tmall site in China.

“Those investments are denting its profits at a time of intense competition to sell groceries cheaply. Its shares are down 17% since June 2017, when Amazon said it would buy Whole Foods, and have dropped after five of Kroger’s eight latest quarterly earnings reports.”

You can read the entire story here.

KC's View: It is worth pointing out that it was just the other day that USA Today had a piece about how, while Kroger has been “battered,” it also has been increasing sales and gaining market share.

I’ll repeat here what I said in response to that story … The thing about these battles and wars is that they’re never going to end, never going to be resolved. There will always be new battlefields and new hills to take, new weapons to employ, and new competitors.

Is Kroger playing catch-up? Sure. But I think Kroger also is proving to be more nimble lately than it was just a few years ago. It is an ongoing process, never pausing.

Walmart, Amazon To Pilot Online Food Stamp Program

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a pilot program with Amazon and Walmart that will allow food stamp recipients to shop online and use their public benefits to pay for their purchases.

“People who receive SNAP benefits should have the opportunity to shop for food the same way more and more Americans shop for food — by ordering and paying for groceries online,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “As technology advances, it is important for SNAP to advance too, so we can ensure the same shopping options are available for both non-SNAP and SNAP recipients.”

The pilot is scheduled to last two years.

Vox writes that “there are currently about 38 million food stamp recipients in the US, according to the USDA. In order to qualify, participants need to be at or below the poverty line. (A family of four, according to these guidelines, earns around or below a gross monthly income of $2,665.) Participants in the government-funded program receive benefits on payment cards, which can be used like debit cards to pay for groceries; the average family of four receives $465 a month.”

KC's View: This is a big market - the story notes that “$52 billion worth of food stamps in 2017 went to big-box stores and grocery chains; Walmart and Amazon will now gain access to this new stream of revenue. The two companies have long been locked in a battle over shoppers’ wallets, so it makes sense that they’d want to expand their customer bases.”

It only makes sense that the same benefits available to people off-line would be available online. Welcome to the 21st century.

Gillette Hopes It Has A Hot Hand To Play

Glossy has a story about how Procter & Gamble-owned Gillette’s GilletteLabs division is debuting its first new product - a $200 heated razor, that will only be sold online and at 100 Art of Shaving locations.

According to the story, the 2018 launch of GilletteLabs “marks a changing tide at the larger company, which has been losing market share for years. In 2010, Gillette dominated the men’s shaving category with a 70% market share, but since 2016, it’s only accounted for 54% of the market, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. In April 2017, it began price cuts of around 12% across all of its products to deal with defecting customers.

“The Art of Shaving, which was acquired by P&G in 2009, has allowed the conglomerate to broaden its approach beyond shaving, and into beard oils, fragrances and shaving services.”

“Elevating the experiences of the everyday routine is the goal,” Stephanie Niezgoda, a senior product innovation engineer for GilletteLabs, tells Glossy. “Other brands care about doing cost-saving [tactics], but bringing our technology and our understanding of the consumer together can add up to a big difference.”

KC's View: By “other brands,” Niezgoda is referring to the likes of Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s…which keep pushing Gillette to innovate. I just don’t know that a $200 heated razor would be the way I’d go. To me, it only makes the likes of Dollar Shave Club more attractive, not less so.

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The MNB Walmart Watch

Fortune is out with its list of the world’s greatest leaders, and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and the retailer’s Senior Director, Strategy & Design for U.S. Benefits, Lisa Woods, are ranked at number 10.

Here’s why:

“Health care costs in the U.S. have reached astronomical levels - spending hit $3.7 trillion in 2018 - and they continue to climb, weighing on patients and the employers who help foot the bill. As America’s largest employer, Walmart is all too familiar with these trend lines - which have led McMillon and Woods to innovate to do health care better.

“For the company’s 1.1 million U.S. employees and their families, Woods launched the Centers of Excellence (COE) program in 2013, enabling workers to travel to top hospitals Walmart contracts with for select procedures. The company foots the bill and has found it’s worth it. More than half the employees referred by their local doctor to get spine surgery, for example, have learned from a COE that they don’t need it. For those who do, an operation at a COE decreases the chance of readmission by 95%. Walmart has found that ­employees treated at a COE recover faster, too, returning to work three weeks earlier.

“Walmart has now expanded the COE model to almost a dozen types of care. It’s a blueprint that others have started to emulate and one that might shake up the nation’s dysfunctional health care system.”

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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:

Bull.

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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FastNewsBeat

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

• The Dallas Morning News reports that 7-Eleven has opened a new 700 square foot store - about half the size of its traditional stores - in Arlington, Texas, located in between the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium and the Texas Rangers' Globe Life Park.

The story says that “the store is located on the plaza of Texas Live, a $250 million entertainment district that opened last summer and is backed by the Texas Rangers, The Cordish Companies and the City of Arlington … The store will be open limited hours, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Operating hours will expand to accommodate events in the entertainment district.”

It is the retailer’s second effort in opening a targeted store in a sports-centric location; the News writes that “last fall, 7-Eleven opened its first location in a sports venue at Texas Motor Speedway and said it's been a success. It's a much larger store to stock more things to accommodate race week campers.”

The most interesting thing about this article to me was how it let me know where I am going next spring - it points out that Globe Life Park, which opened in 1994, is in its final season as the home of the Texas Rangers, with a new version scheduled to open nearby in March 2020. I’ve been to every major league ballpark, and so next spring I’ll be heading to Dallas - along with my friend Stu Upson and my son, Brian - to keep my achievement intact. Man’s gotta have goals.


• The New York Times reports that American Media Inc. (AMI) is selling supermarket front end mainstay The National Enquirer to James Cohen, a son of the founder of the Hudson News franchise. The sale is said to have brought AMI $100 million.

According to the story, “The money-losing title was put up for sale several weeks ago, after its principal owner decided it no longer wanted to be associated with the magazine, according to several people familiar with the matter. The publication attracted the scrutiny of federal investigators for its role in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“American Media had been in talks with several potential buyers, including the California billionaire Ronald W. Burkle. After those talks fell apart last week, Mr. Cohen, whose father started the chain of Hudson News shops, swooped in to buy the troubled tabloid. As part of the deal, American Media, led by David J. Pecker, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, has also agreed to sell two of its other tabloids: the Globe and the National Examiner.”

From my point of view, iut would’ve been more appropriate to move the Enquirer from the front end of the supermarket to a more appropriate location. I’m thinking maybe the toilet paper aisle.

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Report From The Grass Roots

• Ben & Jerry’s may be owned by multinational Unilever, but that doesn't mean the brand has lost touch with its roots.

USA Today reports that on Saturday, 4-20, “the day of the year that unofficially celebrates cannabis culture, Ben & Jerry's is giving away free ice cream to people who buy pot … the deal on its Half Baked ice cream (was) only available in California, which was one of the first states to legalize the medical use of the plant in the ‘90s.”

At the same time, the ice cream company is teaming up with Caliva, a San Jose-based cannabis dispensary, to call for marijuana-related criminal justice reform.

GQ writes: “While several states now recognize legal marijuana use, across the country, someone's arrested for it on average every 48 seconds according to the FBI. And the millions of people swept up in the drug war are predominantly people of color.

“So Ben & Jerry's, the famously socially conscious ice cream company, published a video over the weekend to highlight that massive discrepancy. The company's main Twitter account posted, ‘It’s hard to celebrate 4/20 when so many people of color are still being arrested for pot. We have to do better.’

“A handful of U.S. cities have started expunging the criminal records of people with marijuana-related convictions, even in states like Maryland where recreational pot isn't legal yet. But there's still a long way to go, and hopefully corporate do-gooder campaigns can help to make that road a little shorter.”

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Your Views: Tireless

Regarding the growing number of autonomous delivery robots that seem to be popping up, MNB reader John Rand wrote:

Call me a cynic but my frequent reading of dystopic science fiction just ran away with this thought in mind:
 
Stay alert for the story of the first of these being hijacked on the street, kidnapped and broken open, scavenged for parts (which may be more valuable than the contents.
Then the arms race will ensure. Better tracking and monitoring, countered by monitor blocking techniques. Alarms and locks versus crowbars and hackers.
 
A dark landscape with hovering drones standing in for vultures.
 
Sorry, I couldn’t help it.


Okay, you’re a cynic. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong, though.



I’ve written here about the importance of, as retailers adopt robotic technology in-store, making sure that it isn’t about just replacing people and reducing labor costs; I think it is important to redeploy those people to positions in which they can provide critical connections to the shoppers.

One MNB reader agreed:

You are dead on here. I worked at The Home Depot for 11 years in the 90's and early 2000's. In the late 90's is when GE Bob (Nardelli) took over for Arthur Blank. As we added more and more tech, hours to the sales floor decreased. Customer service took a big hit and it has taken a very long time for HD to recover. Companies need to walk that fine line of adding tech and removing store hours.



Responding to last week’s piece about the annual Consumer Reports survey of Americans’ favorite supermarkets, one MNB reader wrote:

It’s so cool to see my local grocery store growing up, Market Basket (also known by the family name DeMoulas), punching above its regional weight class to land on the Consumer Reports Best Food Stores list. Yes they are the local, family-owned place, but they also really do have great prices and I miss them every time I shop for groceries in northern NJ where I live now. Everyone here is obsessed with the recently arrived Wegmans, which feels like a cross between an amusement park, zoo, and labyrinth and is almost completely unappealing to me for those reasons.

I do have to admit that I had a great customer service experience at Wegmans when I left feedback that I was disappointed in their lack of free-range eggs and sustainability information in their seafood department: I got a very polite voicemail from someone saying that they were adding signage, etc, which I appreciated. Interesting to see them both on the same list (repeatedly! In 2017 Wegmans was #1 and Market Basket #2) when they are so different.




Also got the following email regarding Michael Sansolo’s column last week:

When I was in college in the late 70's I was a night attendant at a local mortuary. There was a bedroom where I would sleep at night, I answered the phone and called a mortician when needed. Yes, it was creepy at times but it was a good job when you are going to college.

One of the first things I was told by Paul, one of the morticians, funerals are for the living not for the dead, I have yet had a dead person complain about their funeral.  Some year's ago I went to a friends funeral at an Art Museum, it was because he was a huge supporter of the local art scene.  Maybe because of that and I worked at a mortuary 40 years ago, I like the idea of having a more uplifting event than solemn. in any case Morticians are going to give funerals, visitations, parties(?) that the living want.




Got a lot of email about my FaceTime piece about Record Store Day, including this one from MNB reader Callie Martin:

I LOVE Record Store Day! As a millennial collector of the vinyl, I spent the majority of my 20’s volunteering on a weekly shift at a collectively-run record store and serving on their board of directors.

This store heavily relies on RSD, and the occasion is supported in store with live music, free coffee and treats, a raffle, and other little perks. While I no longer am active in the store, I did help run the register at open this past Saturday because I love watching the line form in front of the door and down the block, and getting to nerd out with fellow collectors. For the first two hours open, a steady stream of customers flowed through the store, buying not only the special RSD releases, but also picking up tons of new and used records from the regular stock.

This event is really important to the large concentration of record stores here in the Twin Cities, and is even supported by a bus that transports customers from store to store, each location offering unique events and incentives to the heavy flow of collectors traversing across town. This particular store sells as much in the one day event as they normally do in almost a month! The event gets people, for at least one day, to not buy their vinyl online, but to hit the brick and mortars, and support the local record shops, food trucks, and musical acts. Those in-person perks do something that online can never do- offer live experiences and camaraderie around the shared passion for the analog!

PS: if you’re looking for a turntable recommendation, I do favor the Audio Technica brand. I cannot stress the importance of also owning some quality record cleaning and dust removing supplies!


From MNB reader Frank Fay:

I own 4 turntables and just bought a Jensen all around device with another turntable.  My 1961 Fischer cabinet provides stereophonic music that cannot compare to today’s Bluetooth speakers, but boy does it echo in our A frame home!  I also have an Ion that allows me to take cassettes and vinyl and download them onto my I-phone for travel.  You just can’t get every song from 1950-2019 digitally…and really who would want to?  Love album art and occasionally I like to hear the skip of a record I’ve scratched!  All good, now time’s a wasting, GET IN LINE…some interesting audiophiles on that line that might have even been to the original Woodstock!  Got your 50th anniversary tickets yet?

From another reader:

Buy a turntable...buy an Album...turn the volume to 11…Same thrill as dropping the clutch at a red light...well almost…

And another:

Great coverage and acknowledgement of Record Store Day.  You should get yourself a “turntable” as I think you’ll find it a lot of fun to go analog with music as a change of pace.  Pick up a copy of  Living and Dying in ¾ Time on vinyl and give it a try.  We live in a world of highly compressed music that gives us a very sterile rendition of the original recording.  While hardly perfect, vinyl provides a listening experience, and helps you concentrate on what you enjoyed about the music or the artist in the first place.

The business lesson here is built around the nostalgia and alternative enjoyment that analog gives us.   Trends move forward, but they don’t always provide us “quality” experiences.  Moving faster and more efficiently, sometimes can leave the best part of the experience behind.


And still another:

Kevin, so glad you finally became hip to this. I know about it because my son has worked at Amoeba Records in Hollywood for years and this is one of their craziest days of the year. Huge resurgence in Vinyl and Turntables.

Another MNB reader chimed in:

Just a note on this topic….as an avid record collector for most of my life (I suspect that records are as important to me as movies are to you!) (seriously, I started my collection with the Beach Boys 45 rpm/When I Grow Up [To Be A Man] when I was about 5) I was pleased to see that you included some words about Record Store Day (RSD to record geeks like me).  I waited in line at different Tulsa, OK retailers (different opening times) last week with scads of other collectors and exchanged text messages with a friend in St. Louis who was waiting in a line at Vintage Vinyl.  To collectors like me, this is a BIG DEAL!  Why?  Cause many re-issues or 1st issue rare records come out on this day and the retailers are celebrating the day in ways totally unimagined 5 yrs ago.

You know why?  Cause one store employee (not the owner) at 1 independent record store thought it was a good idea, began to promote the idea, and now there are hundreds of unrelated stores and 100’s of new pieces that were released and SOLD OUT in hours across the country.  The trend will no doubt continue…

The “eye opener”?  Its retail – and it was an employee who started the concept.  So ask yourself about your company….what can you do to promote your retail establishment??  Could there be a “Grocery Store Day” movement to promote (for example) locally grown products brought to market, what about Organics?  What about the Certified Angus Beef with no pink slime….I’m not saying, I’m just sayin’!


From MNB reader Tom Redwine:

May I humbly suggest a Crosley record player? I don't work for 'em and won't get anything by recommending 'em; my wife and I have had a Crosley for many years and it's worked great - even used it to convert some out-of-print LPs into MP3 files for listening on my phone & laptop.

Yeah, the kids these days are into vinyl. Whodathunk?


From MNB reader Alan Finta:

You often note how the aroma of a store can bring you back to great memories…I found the same thing recently with music, after purchasing a turntable for my 17 year old daughter.  As I researched different options, I found that turntables have indeed returned to the marketplace.  I didn’t go big, and ended up buying the $100 special at Best Buy, thinking my daughter would be enthused for a couple months and then move on to the next “thing.”

What I had forgotten about, was the box of old albums I had sitting in the garage, that is now roughly 37 years old.  Some of the albums were mine…Van Halen, Queen, and Rush among others.  The rest were my sister’s, who passed away at 22 (when I was 14)…Pablo Cruise, The Eagles, The Doobie Bros, and Billy Joel to name a few.  Needless to say, her musical interests influenced me greatly…

As I set up my daughter’s “surprise” birthday gift, I was amazed at how the simple act of holding the album cover in my hands could take me back to my youth.  Let’s not forget the pictures and lyrics printed on the inside, or in a “special” insert.  Lifting the needle to put it on the album was the final “mind blown” moment.

It is not easy for a dad to connect with a 17-year-old daughter on most days.  But that turntable, and those old albums brought us together.  I hadn’t heard Billy Joel’s “Vienna” for years and years, but it’s now a song that will cement memories with my daughter in my mind for life (we can knock out a pretty solid duet with “air piano” thrown in at the end of the song).  I get a few precious memories, and my daughter gets to know her Auntie just a little bit.

For you, get the turntable…for your millennial readers they can find Vienna on You Tube…get the version with the lyrics…lots of good stuff that stands the test of time




I wrote last week about the passing of Jane Golub, which prompted a number of emails.

MNB reader Maureen Rowan Murphy wrote:

Your beautifully expressed tribute captured the remarkable woman that Jane Golub was. Her zest for life, tireless energy, (I often said she reminded me of the Energizer Bunny), her extraordinary ability to make everyone feel special, and her unwavering commitment to making the lives of others better and brighter is being remembered as we mourn her passing.  As a member of the Price Chopper Market 32 family, I have been blessed to have known and worked with Jane for more than 30 years. She left her handprint on my heart, and the hearts of many. Her leadership, mentorship and friendship will be forever missed!

From another reader:

A beautiful piece about a beautiful person. Truly one of a kind.

From MNB reader Angie Criswell:

As a former store manager with Price Chopper, I was deeply saddened to hear of Jane’s passing.  Jane was all you said, and more.  When she visited a store, she made a point to meet and shake hands with everyone who worked there.  Baggers, cashiers, cart retrievers, meat cutters, deli clerks, plus the customers.  Every single soul working got a personal greeting and handshake from Jane, and Neil as well.  They are real people.   They love the business they have made into a legacy, and it shows.  Hopefully the next generation will follow in their footsteps.

From MNB reader David Orgel:

Great piece on Jane Golub. I was very sorry to hear of her passing. I enjoyed spending time at FMI Midwinter this year talking to Jane, and we discovered we are both alumni of the same high school: Bronx High School of Science (different graduation years!). I totally agree with your comments about the twinkle in her eyes. The industry has always been better off because of the leadership and good works of Jane and Neil. There is nothing else like it!

And from MNB reader Dagmar Farr:

I just read your wonderful piece on Janie Golub. You are so right, she made everybody feel important – truly a very rare quality. She was my FMI “Jewish” mother and we would laugh about it all the time.

I know Neil and Mona will miss her terribly, as will many of us.

I know I join many in thanking you for noting her passing.

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Industry Drumbeat

“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 kc@morningnewsbeat.com , or call him now at 203-253-0291.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

A Retail Tomorrow Podcast: Storytelling & Influencer Marketing, From AI To Pop-Ups

Hooray for Hollywood! This podcast comes to you from GMDC’s Retail Tomorrow Immersion conference in Los Angeles, which may have more storytellers per capita than any other place on earth. With visits to Google’s new campus in Playa Vista, in the converted hangar where Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose once resided, and to some of the most interesting and experiential retail spaces in the city, this conference also featured several sessions that, now as podcasts, bring this fascinating content to you.

First up - a discussion of disruptive storytelling - told through stores, pop-ups and, coming soon, AI and VR - that is changing the way marketers connect with and influence existing and potential customers.

Our guests:

• Cody Rapp, CEO of Calmist, a fascinating and growth-focused retail concept recently featured on MorningNewsBeat.

• Lori Schwartz, founder of Tech Cat, which helps marketers shape their narratives in a fast-evolving environment.

• Amanda Solosky, co-founder/CEO at Rival Theory, which is developing game-changing AI capabilities that definitely will impact the relationship marketers have with shoppers.

• And Mariya Zorotovich, director of Responsive Retail Strategy and Incubation, at Intel Corporation, which helps to make all this possible.

The host: Kevin Coupe, MorningNewsBeat’s “Content Guy.”

You can listen to the podcast here, or on iTunes ands Google Play.

Pictured, from left to right:

Kevin Coupe, Mariya Zorotovich, Amanda Solosky, Cody Rapp, Lori Schwartz.






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