business news in context, analysis with attitude

Next week, it is expected that the governor of Wisconsin will sign a bill that will make it possible for supermarkets and liquor stores to hand out free beer samples of not more than six ounces. This puts beer on a par with wine, samples of which already can be given out.

What is remarkable is that it has taken so long for Wisconsin to enact such legislation.

I mean, it’s Wisconsin. Isn’t that almost the place where beer was invented?

This got me thinking…

When I was attending Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles back in the late seventies (just imagine me with curly hair down to his shoulders, wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirts and, of course, pukka shells), I spent a good part of my senior year working for a winery tasting room in Marina del Rey. Brookside Winery. Great place. No longer in business. (As a matter of fact, none of the retailers where I worked my way through high school and college are in business anymore. I like to think of this as just an unfortunate coincidence.)

Now, one of the great advantages of this job was that I got to drink with the customers, which may explain why I don’t remember as much about wine as I should. But I’ve never forgotten the essence of the experience, and it has partly informed my view of retailing for all these years. The whole point of the tasting room is summed up this way:

A person walks into the winery. Says he or she is having lamb and couscous (or whatever) for dinner, and needs a wine. He or she goes back to the tasting room, samples a few to see what works, makes a choice, buys the wine, and leaves. With any luck, he or she repeats the experience. Often.

Isn’t what the retailing experience is supposed to be like? Creating connections with customers with both the product (in this case, the wine) and the personnel (me)?

Retailing with personality.

It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but much of US retailing would suggest that maybe it is.

Here’s my favorite headline of the week (from USA Today) that I didn’t get a chance to use on MNB, though I would have if I could have figured out an excuse:


It doesn’t get any better than that.

Don’t know about you, but I am loving the final season of ‘The Sopranos.” The first episode was a little strange and moody, but last Sunday’s was extraordinary – full of foreboding and metaphor and darkness. With its echoes at the end of “The Godfather,” and the strong suggestion that a bloodbath is coming, the show is building toward its finale with real power and momentum. “The Sopranos” is a real wow.

Not so much is the current season of “24,” which I am sort of watching out of habit and expectation that, as in past seasons, I am going to be enthralled by some plot point or twist. But it hasn’t happened yet, and in some ways the new season seems to be a “best of” revisiting of plot twists done better in earlier seasons. It is hard to maintain quality and live up to expectations for six years, and “24” may simply be showing its age with an off-year. I’ll stay with it, but they need to do better.

On the other hand, I can’t wait for ‘Heroes” to start again – it has been off the air for far too long, and so far has been the new show that has most intrigued me and captured my imagination.

(I know it seems like I watch way too much television, but in my defense I never, ever watch so-called “reality television.” Everything I know about “American Idol” I learn from listening to Tony Kornheiser…because this way I can keep up with this new cultural force without actually having to watch it, plus Kornheiser is funny beyond words.)

Yesterday’s obituaries for Kitty Carlisle Hart noted that, in addition to being a well-known panelist on television game shows back in the fifties and sixties, she was married to playwright Moss Hart, was in the 1936 Marx Brothers movie “A Night At The Opera,” and was a vocal champion of the arts and tireless performer until her death this week at age 96.

And all I could think was, “Now, that’s a life.”

I think that there’s a national tour of “Spamalot” making its way around the country, and while I must admit that I’ve not seen its version of the Tony Award-winning musical “lovingly ripped off” from the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” I can tell you that it is about as much fun as you can have at the theater…tunes you can hum, and jokes you’ll revisit over and over afterwards. I know this because last night, I took Mrs. Content Guy and the Content Kids to the Broadway version, which I first saw in previews last year. And I enjoyed it every bit as much.

I love live theater. Always have, going back to when I was an acting student in the early seventies. (Before my winery days.) I love dramas, I love comedies, I love musicals (except those by Andrew Lloyd Webber). I think that’s part of the reason I love really good retail – at its best, it has a kind of theatricality.

Last night, leaving the theater, Mrs. Content Guy said she couldn’t imagine having to do the same show over and over, eight times a week.

I looked at her and said, quite seriously, that I can’t imagine a better life.

Not that my life is anything to complain about. Next week, I hit the road again…first to Miami Beach, where I’ll be speaking at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Advertising Marketing Executive Conference, and then to Oslo, Norway, for a gig at the Spar International Human Resources Conference.

I probably won’t break into song. But then again, I may.

That’s it for this week.

Have a great weekend.

KC's View: