business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got the following email from an MNB user…

I find it interesting the love affair with Whole Foods. While the format that they use is a very good format, it has its flaws. It was not so long ago that only praise was heaped upon Wal-Mart. Now, holes are being poked into the format, however crazy that sounds.

For Wal-Mart it is the weakness of their perishable/fresh program. For Whole Foods, it appears to be a two-headed issue. First, people. One of the things that made them great is the passion that their people had for the format, and what they brought to the table. Growth has out-stripped their ability to staff their stores with teams full of passionate people who understood AND believe in the format.

Second the market is catching them. There plenty of retailers...especially independent retailers…who are already better at this niche than Whole Foods. As Whole Foods expands their marketing area, into markets that contain these retailers, Whole Foods in some cases is at best a me-too offering in the market. As intelligent retailers gain confidence in their ability to compete against these two (Wal-Mart and Whole Foods) you will see the love affair end…. Both Whole Foods and Wal-Mart are great companies and operators. But, get ready. The market is poised and ready to compete. Let the games begin.

Regarding Wal-Mart’s new investment in a solar power test, one MNB user wrote:

So they want to buy solar when Wal-Mart roofs are a wonderful expanse for panels…in an expanse of asphalt with not much shade? Seems to me they could home grow it, and maybe offer home systems to boot. And sell back to the grid to get MORE people using renewable energy.

Unless this is just marketing?

For a greenie nothing stops the brain so fast as the Wal-Mart distribution center with a turbine spinning in the constant breeze. But if the behemoth of sales can do this, what impact would the renewable energy industry see?

We noted yesterday that we’d tasted Diet Coke Plus, a fortified soft drink, at FMI, and described it as a soda without the guilt. One MNB user begged to differ:

Coca-Cola's idea to fortify an otherwise vitamin-free beverage with niacin, zinc, magnesium, and B-6 and B-12 is theoretically laudable. But there are a few key problems.

The full spectrum of B vitamins must be consumed in its natural synergistic ratio or certain health problems are known to ensue. The same holds true for magnesium, which must be consumed in a synergistic ratio WITH potassium and absorbable forms of calcium (which are not cheap) and sodium. Most people I know who drink diet soft drinks have a few of them a day, not just one. Non-absorbable forms of calcium, combined with a lack of potassium and elevated magnesium levels have been shown to increase arterial plaque, raise blood pressure and cause imbalances in the sympathetic nervous system. And we all know what these symptoms lead to.

And I'll bet that the B-12 chosen not from a yeast-free source (which has been shown to increase cravings). Nice concept but spin has not, to my knowledge, ever made or kept anyone truly healthy, nice blue cap or not. A more aware chemist might be advised and something considerably beyond the traditional comparative taste testing...

This is way beyond our pay grade. Aware chemists or Coca-Cola representatives are invited to respond.

We were pretty harsh in our judgment of new marketing programs being announced by Sears and Kmart…and MNB user Philip Herr agreed:

Agree wholeheartedly with your assessment on the marketing programs announced by S/KM. They are mired in the past. But the really bad news for me is the expansion of Land's End stores in Sears stores. This is a vendor I have loved for many years, but I fear that they will become contaminated by the negative imagery rubbing off from Sears.

KC's View: