business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got a number of emails regarding our story yesterday about the deaths of frozen food magnate Harrison McCain, 76, and Brian Maxwell, 51, who helped create the PowerBar. In our commentary we wrote, "Not to make light of either death, but it is indeed ironic that the father of the frozen French fry lives to 76, and the father of the PowerBar only gets to 51" and dies of a heart attack.

MNB user Gretchen Murdock wrote:

Just another aspect in the confusion over what is and isn’t good for you…

Another MNB user wrote:

Causes me to recall the running guru James Fixx. Died from a massive heart attack while running.

Reinforces my belief: that by taking care of yourself you really don't live any longer, just seems that way because you are so miserable.

One MNB user wrote:

I intend no disrespect for Brian Maxwell, but have you ever consumed a PowerBar? That stuff could glue your guts together (or pull fillings from teeth)! I'd consume French fries any day if my choice were those or a PowerBar!

And MNB user Martin Healy wrote:

You should have gone with your first instinct and not made light of either death. You do get credit, however, for being sophomoric and insensitive.

Guilty on both counts. Sorry.

MNB noted yesterday that Starbucks is testing a new Chocofino concoction, "a steamed drink, made with cocoa powder, cocoa butter and whole milk - definitely not for carbohydrate-obsessed or calorie-conscious consumers." To which MNB user Kathleen Whelen wrote:

I have often wondered why Starbucks hasn't experimented more with Splenda - since it's heat stable - to produce drinks that would appeal to the carb-obsessed and calorie phobic crowd. Seems to me that they're missing an opportunity. I would certainly enjoy a "diet" Chocofino with my low carb biscotti!

We wrote yesterday about how Wal-Mart will host an outdoor Fishing and Automotive Clinic prior to the Wal-Mart FLW Tour’s $1.25 million Wal-Mart Open event in Rogers, and just was named the nation's top corporation in terms of offering opportunities to minority-owned businesses. (Oh, year…Wal-Mart also made the top position on the Fortune 500 for the third year in a row.)

We wrote:

So, Wal-Mart wants to sell more fishing gear, and what does it do? It teaches people how to fish. It wants to create a strong image for itself in minority communities, and it dedicates itself to diversity.

There are a lot of things that one can criticize about Wal-Mart, and we're certainly not shy about any of them. But Wal-Mart does a lot of things rights, and competitive retailers need to stop whining about the Bentonville Behemoth and start getting aggressive.

Otherwise, we'll all be living in the Nation of Wal-Mart.

One MNB user wrote:

Regarding your article today on Wal-Mart and the Outdoor Fishing and Automotive Clinic they will "host":

Check with your resources as to who will actually pay for this event. More than likely, the event will be paid for by all of the fishing and automotive manufacturers. Having exhibited at many W-M shows over the years (and in two different industries), the manufacturers/suppliers pay an astronomical exhibit (extortion) fee and "donate" all of the food and merchandise. Wal-Mart virtually pays nothing for these shows and on top of it all, W-M confiscates all of the food and merchandise at the end of the shows. Attendees may have to pay an entry fee, but it will go into W-M's pocket. W-M will "host" this show, but that's all they do. They stick it to the manufacturers. W-M is not the benevolent retailer you make them out to be in this article. W-M is a shameless extortionist, and they are the worst.

Extortionate though it may be, that wasn't the issue we were addressing. We just think that Wal-Mart was participating in the teaching of skills to people who can then go out and buy its products. That seems to make sense. (Note to supermarkets: Maybe you should try teaching cooking skills to people who shop for food!)

Responding to the "we'll all be living in the Nation of Wal-Mart" crack, one MNB user wrote:

Nothing could be finer........

Well, we can think of a few things that would be finer than living in a land where one entity has dominant control over commerce and, by extension, social and cultural values.

On a related subject, we wrote yesterday that the US House of Representatives has passed legislation preventing companies like Wal-Mart from getting into the banking business…to which one MNB user responded:

Wal-Mart as a bank? There must be a real fat cat source for the House of Representatives to get involved. Just think of banks operating with the service principals of Wal-Mart, a dream made in Bentonville.

Regarding the closing of Festival stores in Milwaukee, one MNB user wrote:

When I saw the headline "Festival Closes in Milwaukee" I honestly thought it was one of our many summer festivals held the lakefront!

Festival Foods quietly opened their doors in Milwaukee - so quietly that no one heard. They had no identity in our area and they weren't seen as an alternative to anything.

I think they're a good example of differentiate or die. A lesson for all of us...

And MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

I live just a mile away from one of the Festival stores. After Fleming took some very successful Sentry stores, they converted them to Super Savers and they still did about the same volume. Then they converted them back to Sentry and spent a ton of $$$ or remodels. Then for no particular reason they gutted the stores, removed the perimeter departments, and converted the stores to first generation warehouse markets but without the low pricing. Sales dropped - as much as 75%. Then a local group purchased the stores and changed the name to Festival. Obviously lacking funds, inventory levels remained at very low levels. Not a good impression to make at grand opening.

There were no meaningful changes made to the stores so consumers only saw the horrible Rainbows get worse as Festivals. From day one the stores appeared to be going out of business. In Pewaukee it took Festival a month after opening just to get a sign on the building and they never even bothered to turn the light on at night giving the impression the store was closed.

Finally the most comical aspect of this store was the over emphasis of potato salad. It was everywhere. It seems one of the owners was also the owner of a company that produced potato salad so therefore they used the Festival stores basically as a factory outlet for their product.

Finally, one MNB user wrote:

You said that other retailers need to stop whining and get aggressive. I agree about stopping the whining. Not trying to wordsmith here. You used "aggressive." Wouldn't it be better if retailers were "proactive" instead? Be first to market with new and innovative products, merchandising and promotion. Sell meaningful solutions not just low prices. As a marketer, I always hoped my competitors would be focused on low prices. That left all of the other strategies for my brand.

We don't mind a bit of wordsmithing…we've always been a believer in editors. (They've generally made us look better than we are.)

That said, we've always hated the word "proactive." We use it sometimes, but we hate it. It always seems like a word that is a reaction to "reactive."

But that's just a personal idiosyncrasy. (Mrs. Content Guy calls it an "idiot-syncrasy"…and we try not to argue.)
KC's View: