business news in context, analysis with attitude

Continued dialog about our story focusing on declining same-store sales at Wal-Mart.

MNB user Glenn A. Cantor wrote:

One must question the wide-spread use of monthly, same-store sales comparison as a barometer of retailers' financial health. First of all, monthly comparisons to prior years are usually inconsistent because of the timing of weekends, holidays, and weather from year to year.

Secondly, and more meaningful, is the very definition of "same store sales." The indicator measures sales increases/declines in stores that have been open for one year or more. It does not, however, take into account that most "new stores" are still growing and developing for up to five years. In large, national chains like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target, and CVS, new stores are strategically planned built while taking into consideration the existing same-chain and competitive store base. They draw customers from defined geographic markets. They don't open new stores in isolation of existing stores. (Actually, it should be quite difficult for Wal-Mart to open any new stores in new, untapped markets at this stage in their development.) Rather, they know that a new store will draw customers and business away from existing stores on a permanent basis. The hope, however, is that sum of the parts will increase at the expense of competition.

It appears as though the "same store sales" measurement falls into the same, short-term trap as does the quarterly sales and profit measurement. Both are meant to provide indicators to equity markets and investors, but both are not true measurements of the financial health and growth of a retail business. To use same stores sales for anything other than short-term investment indication is short-sighted.

On the other hand, one MNB user found our piece about Wal-Mart’s declining same-store sales to be heartening…

You know that feeling one gets just after that first sip of Starbuck's or just after Buffalo put it on the Rangers............Thanks!!

We also got a number of emails about our ignorance regarding Zingerman’s Deli.

MNB user Amy Buttery wrote:

I thought I'd add that Zingerman's in Ann Arbor is a fabulous place to work, or so says my niece. She aspires to have a bakery someday, so Zingerman's was her dream job. When she got it, she was amazed at the higher level of training and overall employee standards that they have there. She would talk of being bone-tired at the end of the day, but totally happy and thrilled with her colleagues/friends/mentors, the learning, and the very nice "perks" of the job--a loaf of Zingerman's bread each week, discounts on other Zingerman's products, and great meals when a shift included mealtime (a staff chef makes meals for workers). She went on to college out of state, but said that was the best job she's had (and all her jobs have been in food service, often in bakery depts). I imagine they have lines around the block when they say they are taking new applications to work there.

MNB user Paul Schlossberg wrote:

Have been to the deli - about 10 years ago and still recall it as being exceptional...they really think about delivering a great experience for their customers. And I heard yesterday from a friend who had just seen one of their gift baskets and was really was the first time he had heard of Zingerman's.

And, regarding our milk story yesterday, one MNB user wrote:

You are a very bright, well informed guy (although I still can’t get over that Zingerman’s thing). So before you decide that you have not been duped by Milk Lobbying muscle, you need to do a little more research about how milk may actually be the CAUSE of osteoporosis. Consider the following facts: No other mammal continues to consume milk beyond weaning. In countries with limited dairy consumption, the average incidence of hip fractures in women is only 18% as opposed to the US where the incidence is 35%. More than 70% of the world population is lactose intolerant.

Here’s how my doctor explained it to me: 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones and only 1% is in the blood stream. When we consume milk, it raises the calcium in the blood causing the body to think that it has too much calcium. So the body releases calcium from the bones which is excreted through urine. The calcium in milk is more likely to cause this reaction. If you must consume dairy products, cheese and yogurt are better sources because of the active cultures and that the “raw” calcium has been modified through the process. But your best bet is to eat green leafy vegetables and legumes.

I am not a vegetarian. I eat dairy products (thanks to Lactaid). My mother raised me without drinking milk and I don’t allow the kids to drink milk. I eat junk food, and probably do not exercise enough. So I am no preacher for crazy diets or animal rights. All I know is what I can see around me in nature…mother’s milk is for the very young animals of that particular species.

Don’t underestimate “The Milk Lobby,” they are a powerful group. How else do you explain that they have a formal government subsidy program and that most states have a Milk Board that sets minimum retail prices? If all the retailers got together and decided that no one could buy milk for less than $2.99 a gallon, there would be a public uproar as well as indictments.

It is in the milk industry’s best interest to make sure that the general population stays duped.


We thought we were drinking milk because it tastes good, not because we’ve been victimized by a vast dairy conspiracy.

Next thing you know, somebody is going to say that all those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we’ve been eating also have been bad for us.

We had a story yesterday about some of the interesting alternatives being created or fliers looking to bring their toiletries on board airplanes in their carryon luggage, which prompted one MNB user to write:

Interesting stuff. Instant toothpaste, just add water. Pretty soon they will restrict powder substances as they can be turned into bombs by just adding the water from the planes restroom.

Don’t even say it.
KC's View: