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Responding to our story yesterday about the woes being experienced by the warehouse clubs, and our suggestions that they may have to do a better job in terms of product selection, we got a number of emails.

One MNB user wrote:

“I am reluctant to admit it - but I'm a Costco - aholic! I love that place. And whatever they're doing about impulse buying is certainly working on me! I constantly go in there for 1 or 2 specific things but end up buying a basketful! That's probably the norm. But I've really noticed a much greater selection of things to choose from this Holiday Season (isn't it sad that it started quite a while ago?) They've brought in things this year that are much different than I've seen in years past. Things you certainly don't need - but are induced to buy. Embroidered tree skirts, table runners, holiday rugs, serving platters, cake holders, etc. And all at great prices! So what do I know? Not much. But it seems to me that they have made changes this year in their inventory and are responding to what the consumer wants. (Maybe not printer ink - sorry about your luck on that one).”

MNB user Matt Keller had a similar experience to the one we wrote about:

“I had a similar experience this Tuesday at a NJ Costco. They had many two-packs of the color print cartridges but NO black and white cartridges for my Epson printer. This "treasure hunt" was no fun. It forced me to make an additional stop (in this case at Comp USA that only carried single units at a premium). Costco did not meet my expectations in this case and they can't afford to do that too often or I, and many other customers like me will invest (spend) our money elsewhere...”

And not everyone is enthralled with the warehouse club experience. MNB user Glenn Cantor wrote:

“The problems, as I see it, with purchasing high-ticket items in our warehouse club relate to little or no service.

“First of all, I have to schlep the thing through the store, wait in line, and then load it into my car. That's just not going to happen while I have 4
kids in tow.

“Secondly, what do I do if it breaks. Circuit City advertises the ease of returns and service. Even Wal-Mart makes it pretty easy to return something. But what happens if I am not satisfied with a big-ticket item purchased at a warehouse club? I am just not comfortable…

“Finally, we usually make monthly shopping trips to our membership club, to stock up on bulk consumables. There is no room in the cart, or on the rolling cart, for something big. And, I am just not likely to make a special trip to my club for this kind of purchase- not when another retailer will deliver it for me.”

Fair enough. But we have to mention that the other day we saw two different people buy high-definition, $5,000 television sets at our local Costco. So not everyone feels the same way…

On the subject of who or what will buy Dominick’s from Safeway, we continue to hear rumblings about Robert Mariani, the company’s former president and CEO, could be a bidder. One member of the MNB community had his own analysis:

“Of all the national players, it appears that Kroger is the best equipped to make Dominick’s whole again. For obvious reasons, Albertson’s is out of the discussion. Although Supervalu supplies stores with a similar role and equity to Dominick’s, they do not operate any. Ahold is having other problems.

“Additionally, Kroger seems much more levelheaded regarding recent acquisitions than Albertson’s or Safeway. They appear to be taking a little more time and effort to understand what makes a market unique before altering the landscape. This can be seen in the fact that Ralph’s and Fred Meyer are still very much Ralph’s and Fred Meyer. They are not Kroger-west, not yet anyway.

“They also compete with other-channel-competitors more effectively than either Albertson’s or Safeway.

“Although Kroger should certainly be thought of as the leader in the pool to guess who will buy Dominick’s, it is nice to see that operators such as Schnucks and Marsh are being considered as possible contenders.

“I agree that Schnucks would be biting a lot off to purchase Dominick’s, however, there are many synergies to be considered.

“Schnucks is the leader in their own market, and they know how to leverage the kind of concentrated ACV a Dominick’s acquisition would give them. They are not the most upscale retailer, even in St. Louis, but they offer large, clean stores with excellent selection. Their role is NOT to be the low price leader.

“Schnucks already has involvement in Chicago through their arrangement to supply their Logli stores in Rockford through Central Grocers. The last I heard this gives them about 11% ownership of that grocery coop.

“Schnucks and Dominick’s were very closely aligned in the days when Dominick’s was privately-held and locally-managed. The cultures were similar, and long-time Dominick’s employees would see a return to a more family-as-team work environment. Having worked in St. Louis for many years, the Schnucks employees I know are some of the happiest in the industry. The Schnucks family takes a personal interest in their employees. There is a lot to be said about a quality of life other than just the paycheck. I didn’t know how nice Schnucks was to work with until I left St. Louis and began to learn about customer interaction and retailing environments on a national basis.”

Not everybody feels that way, though. Take, for example, MNB user Tom Russell:

“Not sure Schnuck's would be any better. Several years ago, they bought Logli's, a chain in Rockford, IL northwest of Chicago. The locals are still grousing about a number of the same issues you hear from Dominick's shoppers about Safeway.

“And if Kroger pushes hard for central buying, Chicago could be trading owners with the same strategy.”

It’ll be interesting to watch…

On that note, we’ll see you Monday. Have a great weekend.
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