business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story last Friday about how an army of litigators is targeting “big food” in the same way that they targeted “big tobacco,” which prompted one MNB user to write:

Not to be too cynical about where these lawyers are going, but we must look to the past. Settlements in lawsuits like these will generate potentially hundreds of millions for the lawyers.

What will the consumers in the class get? Perhaps it will be a few pennies each. Looking at settlements in so many consumer class action lawsuits, it seems that class members will get redeemable coupons - good for "cents-off" on the brands being sued. That sort of settlement will only bring them back the restaurants for the same food or to the supermarket to purchase more of the same brands.

It makes you wonder if Shakespeare was right.

Ah, yes… “All the world’s a stage, where every man must play a part.”

Or perhaps, “The quality of mercy is not strained…it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the earth beneath. It blesses him that gives, and him that takes.”

Or maybe, “The villainy you teach me I shall execute, and it shall go hard, but I will better the instruction.”

Or were you referring to that other ditty about “first, kill all the lawyers”?

We also had a story about how Wal-Mart wants to open its first Neighborhood Market in Colorado, but that “residents have expressed vigorous opposition to the project since news of it surfaced last month,” and a variety of petition drives and protests to stop the project are expected.

To which MNB user Joe Hall responded:

OK, you may need to explain this one to me. This is not a Wal-Mart supercenter coming to town, it's a normal sized grocery store. The position taken against Wal-Mart in this situation can't be the same as past supercenter cases can it? A normal sized grocery store isn't going to change the dynamics of an entire community is it? (I'm not Pro Wal-Mart, in fact, I'm pretty much on the fence when it comes to Wal-Mart expansion vs. local governments' rights to deny them.)

I'm not totally naive either...I'm guessing the local representatives are getting some input from Big Chain Grocery folks... ...but what argument are they crafting?

We think they’re probably relying on the old “Wal-Mart is the spawn of Satan” gimmick.

On the subject of competition in the UK, one MNB user wrote:

I was wondering if Morrison, Asda and Tesco are all improving sales double digit with retail price reduction, what is going on with all the other food stores. Are the butchers and bakers falling like flies? Are there concerns about the loss of town centers? Or, are selection and price what people want at all cost. Or at least at the cost of Harry the butcher (in Kinghorn). Who by the way makes the best Haggis in all of Scotland. Just wondering if people are concerned or not.

We’re suspect that there are a lot of concerned small businesses…and certainly the government seemed to respond to those worries in its extended examination of the Safeway Plc acquisition proposals.

As for us, we think that anything that negatively affects the best Haggis in Scotland is worth worrying about…

Regarding the possibility that Winn-Dixie could be on the market or go private, MNB user David Livingston wrote:

Looking at the weak sales per unit and the inability to keep with the competition, it could be too late for Winn Dixie. Going private is not going to change the eventual outcome. I think they will have to close hundreds of low volume stores. This is 2004 and you can't keep going doing only $3 per sq ft a week.

In a story about beer labeling last week, we joked that if how many carbs in beer was going to be an issue, “maybe we’ll just avoid beer. Or drink Guinness and say the hell with it.”

To which one MNB user responded:

Guinness only has 9 carbs. 6.6 carbs for a Bud Light or 9 carbs for a Guinness. I'm going with the Guinness! The difference is really not meaningful.

On Friday, we drafted a memo to all the retailers who worked against Wal-Mart in the Inglewood, California, vote, suggesting:

    It is time to step up to the plate.

    You helped to keep Wal-Mart out. But now you need to revaluate your businesses, take another look at your customers’ needs and desires, and to figure out how you can remain relevant to their lives. You have to create compelling and exciting shopping experiences that will keep your shoppers coming back for more.

    It isn’t enough to keep Wal-Mart out. You have to bring the customers in.

    Whether or not Wal-Mart challenges the results of the vote, you have a moment now in which you can take a deep breath and reinvent your businesses.

    Because if you were willing to fight Wal-Mart, you knew that you were vulnerable.

    Do something about it. Now. Because second chances are a rare gift.

    But one MNB user disagreed with our sentiments:

    Wow - that's deep.

    But I thought they 'beat' Wal-Mart.

    Don't you really need to send a note to Wal-Mart?!


    We think Wal-Mart is so big that successful that it makes its own second chances. But the possibility that the Inglewood retailers might get complacent strikes is a real one…hence our approach.
KC's View: