business news in context, analysis with attitude

We reported on Friday that Delhaize-owned Food Lion has launched a new series of television commercials – featuring as a theme song a new version of the old Partridge Family hit, “C’mon, Get Happy,” entitled, “Come In, Shop Happy” - to support its roll out of Bloom supermarkets in the Washington, DC, area.

Our comment was that while we love the Bloom concept, we wondered the Partridge Family was the right note to hit for a modern take on the traditional supermarket.

We got a number of emails suggesting that we were mistaken.

MNB user Alexander Ntekim wrote:

One of the new commercials is already online on the Bloom website. It seems like a really nice and well-developed campaign. Yes it is a little corny, and I understand going with a remake of a song from the 60s' seems like going in the wrong direction, but it's not bad. Plus keep in mind many of Bloom's customers are middle aged, so the commercials may create so loyalty for reminding people of "the good old days". Just a thought.

MNB user Kimberly M. Brackett wrote:

I have shopped Bloom while visiting its Seneca S.C. store . The concept of a hip 60's -70's feel appeals to the "girl" in me that loved David Cassidy. The store had an air of groovy -sophistication. The shop happy seems like a great fit.

And MNB user Martin C. Maenza chimed in:

If women ages 34 to 50 are part of the demographics that Bloom supermarkets is trying to reach with those commercials, a variation on the Partridge Family’s “Come On, Get Happy” is perfect. Consider: the women would have seen the show either in first run as young girls and teens or via syndication since. As someone who is 42 that song conjures up fond memories of my youth that included pleasant shopping trips in a simpler time. Plus, it is catchy and familiar. They could certainly do worse.

Okay, okay. Maybe we’re wrong on this.

It wouldn’t be the first time we’d be accused of not understanding women in the 34-50 demographic…

We reported last week on a column written by Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein in which he was critical of cutbacks being engineered by Giant.

One MNB user responded:

As I was having breakfast this AM, I noticed the Washington Post article about Giant and Circuit City and could not wait to hear your comments about Giant.

I'm not sure there is hope for Giant. When you open a new store, you have plenty of "customer service". I would go back to that store in 3 months and see if it's still adequately staffed. Once the bean counters start cutting the labor, it will be another plain, vanilla Ahold store. At this point Ahold's only advantage is location and possibly convenience. The business model that Izzy Cohen built and nurtured is gone - "Take care of the customer and they will support you". The good news is that there are other places to shop.

Another MNB user wrote:

The stores have gone south. Pearlstein has been kind.

Service is at best spotty. Usually you are faced with people who do not want to work there and have no trouble letting you know this. From my experiences they resent the Stop & Shop mandates.

Fresh produce selections vary by store. The store closest to my home has a produce section that would make Izzy cry….I go out of my way to shop elsewhere. Small selection, wilted product, bad signage.

The stores are clean…that’s a plus. But there was a time when their slogan rang true to most shoppers – “That’s my Giant!” I no longer can say these words with affection. Now it’s just a store and I shop there.

Regarding Publix and some of the criticisms it has received here on MNB - especially about its new pay-for-performance program that includes pay cuts for those who do not make the grade - one MNB user wrote:

I have now worked for Publix nearly 25 years. I am honored to work with the finest group of retail-focused people on the planet. What really made me think was how my own history with this company has gone. I was promoted up through the ranks to Manager many years ago and was subsequently demoted back to Assistant Manager after a couple of years. It was demoralizing, humiliating, frustrating, embarrassing, and a downright kick in the gut. But I learned a lot from it. I persevered. I grew. I changed. I got promoted back to Manager after a few years and further up the ladder with this company. My outlook on how associates should be handled and treated has changed though that process. Publix is EXTREMELY generous with what they give their associates. I personally believe more associates should have to be put under this kind of scrutiny. If they want the kind of benefits that Publix has to offer, then they should have to prove their 'worthiness'.

I know how generous Publix is, compared to others, because when I got demoted, I went looking. I checked the normal competition. I checked with suppliers to Publix and other retailers. I went to other retailers other than food retailers. I did a lot of personal investigation. I even went as far as filling out applications with other companies. In the end, I learned that Publix was the best place to be. I, personally, had screwed up a great job. It was up to me to correct my wrongdoings and get myself promoted back to where I wanted to be. I had to show others how good I was and even how good I could be. Complacency has no place in a competitive business environment. You cannot let down your expectations to meet those around you.

You should expect your associates to reach for the stars and help them to get there (but don't be completely upset when they only get to the moon). Expectations are one thing. Results are another. If your expectations are low, you will only get low results. If they never get off the ground, then they deserve whatever consequences are given. In the real world, those companies that never get off the ground get run over and go out of business. Why should any person expect any business to give them a free ride? Free rides should not be part of the program.

We waxed rhapsodic in “OffBeat” about our new Apple TV and iPod Shuffle, which prompted one MNB user to write:

Just another great installment!!!

I bought an iPod Nano just last week and got it working in about 10 minutes without the aid of a teenager, I with the same could have been said for my Kodak DVD recorder.

First I had to justify purchasing such a young trendy item by a middle-aged man but I do love it. It was partly by your glowing endorsement, partly a desire never to grow old but thanks for the shove.


One of the great things about Apple is that it offers technology for everybody, no matter how old or un-trendy one happens to be.

Regarding Wal-Mart and its seemingly shifting priorities, one MNB user wrote:

One of our sister companies sells private label to Wal-Mart, and up 'till a year or so ago they had a laser-focus on "can I sell this for $1.97?" All of a sudden, we got "develop something new and unique and we'll worry about cost later." I sold my Wal-Mart stock that day.

After reading Friday's excepts (on MNB), I'm buying again.

On another regular subject here on MNB, one MNB user offered:

My economic analysis on loyalty cards: I don't think they are used for the purpose of offering discounts to regular customers, I think they are primarily used to not give discounts (weekly sale prices, gas discounts etc.) to a small but not insignificant number of customers who for one reason or another do not use loyalty cards. Examples might be a homeless person, a mentally challenged person, Donald Trump or Paris Hilton.

Why give a discount to 100% of your customers when 20% of them will buy without a discount. At the end of the day/week/year the money's got to be there for the retailer or manufacturer to stay in business. Those who do not use loyalty cards (or clip cents off coupons) really subsidize those who do. A similar economic model is at work in the auto retailing industry.

Finally, we quoted a piece from the Los Angeles Times on Friday about how there are calls fro more extensive labeling on wine bottles. Those who object to changes argue as follows:

“It might be disenchanting if the label also listed the chicken, fish, milk and wheat products that are often used to process wine. And it would be hard to maintain the notion that wine is an ethereal elixir if, before uncorking, consumers read that their Pinot Noir or Syrah contained Mega Purple (a brand of concentrated wine color), oak chips or such additives as oak gall nuts, grape juice concentrate, tartaric acid, citric acid, dissolved oxygen, copper and water. The mention of bentonite, ammonium phosphate and the wide variety of active enzymes used to make some wines would end the romance.”

Which led MNB user Geoff Harper to write:

Just wondered whether "Bentonite" is what Wal-Mart uses to weaken the competition…

The secret is out.

Red bentonite gets the competition to behave in bizarre ways, like raising prices.

Gold bentonite robs the competition of all their marketing savvy.

Blue bentonite only affects companies competing with Sam’s Club, while white bentonite only affects supermarkets competing on food prices.

And green bentonite, the most common kind, just kills the competition. Slowly. Painfully. And finally.
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