business news in context, analysis with attitude

Writing about the seeming success of Wal-Mart “Site To Store” online program, which allows customers to order from the retailer’s website and get free delivery to a local Wal-Mart location, one MNB user responded:

We have been doing this at Lunds & Byerly’s ever since we stared our on line shopping. The customer logs on to our online shopping site, places their order and then chooses the option of delivery or pick up. In both cases the orders are fill by in store personal and either loaded for delivery or staged for pick up, were the customer simple drives through a lane in the parcel pickup that is reserved for online customer only!

The choice is the customer’s and they love it!

MNB user Doug Gammage wrote:

Too often when ordering online, especially when you are a working family there is no one at home to receive your deliveries and businesses may object to having personal deliveries arrive at the mailroom.

A few years back a Toronto start up by the name of offered a service for downtown office workers whereby their internet purchases were sent to a mailbox facility. Consumers would be notified when purchases had arrived and they would simply pick them up en route to their commuter trains.

The idea of quick and secure delivery and pickup is one whose time has arrived, and will be successful especially if retailers can leverage additional impulse and convenience purchases.

Keys to ongoing success are free delivery and the ability to pickup purchases larger than a mailbox.

One might also learn from IKEA, which offers limited-use car racks, prearranged home delivery or hourly rental trucks to take home larger items.

MNB user Mike Spindler wrote:

No real surprise here on the popularity of the pickup-at-store model, nor the attraction of new consumers, at least for those of us steeped in the FMCG online model. Store pick-up has always been a viable model for grocers offering online shopping. In some cases it works better than the delivery option when both are offered in the same store. Further, when both models are offered in the same store, consumers tend to pick their deliver favorite (pick up at store, deliver or in some cases both) and they tend to be very different folks.

In FMCG the consumer is often rushed, and the task is redundant and tedious. Waiting by the door for the delivery guy to show up with groceries or other sundries can be more of a time constraint than swinging by the store (on every corner) punching the drive up speaker and having the customer service people schlep the XXX bags out to your minivan.

I was reminded yesterday by a friend in the business that as a proponent of “long tail” marketing, I should have been more positive about the “Site To Store” concept, which gives consumers access to products not stocked in brick-and-mortar units.

What can I say? I goofed.

MNB had a story yesterday about new research showing that kids who watch food commercials tend to eat more afterwards – and I commented that it seemed to me that this was obvious, since food and beverage commercials are supposed to make people hungry and thirsty.

One MNB user wrote:

Unbelievable … Instead of trying to blame the food commercials on why are children are overweight maybe parents, and yes I am one, should take a look at what they put in their homes for their kids to snack on. The child is not the one who buys the groceries. Get your kids out from in front of the TV... chores, play, homework, reading.... give them something to do instead of letting the TV babysit. We as parents have no one to blame but ourselves if our children at the ages of 5 to 7 and 9 to 11 eat too many snacks.


Another MNB user wrote:

What they did not mention is that after watching the toy ads that the parent’s frustration went up 72% because their kids were now begging for the toys, which only bolsters your statement that this is the entire principle of advertising. Duh!

On the subject of Wal-Mart’s toughening of its shoplifter prosecution policy, one MNB user Geoff Harper wrote:

I would wholeheartedly endorse Wal-Mart's policy change. Put yourself in the position of the manager.

1. The kid was caught stealing. (And you'd better be sure or there will be consequences.)

2. Until a parent or police officer shows up, someone has to sit with the kid. And in today's society of two working or single parents, hours is a real possibility. If the parent can't be reached for hours, why should the store have to baby-sit?

My guess is that the manager will exercise judgment anyway; this just gives them an out when they need it.

Another MNB user wrote:

Which commandment number was it? “Thou shalt not steal” - but it's okay if the store policy allows for leniency.

I never said that stealing was okay – just that I hope the right amount of discretion is used.

There are kids who do stupid things, and there are hardened criminals.

You can quote the Bible, but I’ll quote Shakespeare:

The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle of rain from heaven upon the earth beneath. It is twice blessed. It blesses him that gives and him that takes.

Regarding the difficulties of buying American, one MNB user wrote:

This article did make me think. Originally I thought that the issue was where do my cherries come from and at that point I was a little angry that this was arising from the concerns with foods from China. I do think that is a big issue after the pet food and toothpaste scare, but there have been so many other issues lately with food home grown in the U.S. For instance, If I were to buy spinach I might be concerned that it was grown in California, so saying we'll only buy American might not be a good thing either.

But what really got me to thinking was that we are also talking about processed foods with ingredients from all over the world. At this point I got worried and thought we are going a little to far. Honestly, if I want to buy pop tarts I'm not going to really care about what country originated the coloring in the sprinkles on top. The thought is in the right place, but is this just going to be another administrative labeling nightmare for producers that will not add any value to a vast majority of consumers. Will producers have to stop production of an item until the packaging can be relabeled just because all of sudden they can get a component cheaper from another country?

All important questions. Here’s another one:

What will the consumer demand?

On the subject of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), and the email from Wayne Barrett yesterday that said his family tries to only buy food that it knows from whence it came, MNB user Matt Byham wrote:

For over a year now (and well ahead initial mandatory laws), Wegmans has implemented COOL guidelines into their seafood display signs and log books. All pertinent information is available to the customer concerning where things are caught and the methods of catch. Because of this information, the customer is able to make an educated decision on what and what not to buy.

While COOL labeling is a major step in the right direction (with the recent events out of China reinforcing this fact); it is only a small piece to the puzzle. There is a portion of the buying public that may not know how to use all that information placed in front of them. It is therefore of the utmost importance that stores people choose to shop at be staffed with employees who are experts in their field of service, leaving no doubt or insecurity with the customer about the products they’re being offered. A store needs to be an educator using COOL, not just a provider of information required by COOL.

I’m not certain where Mr. Barrett lives or shops of course and respect his decision to be wary of seafood retailers. I will add that it’s also dangerous to assume that fish caught by private parties is always safer to consume than industry grade varieties. In example, how many weekend warriors take water samples from the areas they fish?

That all being said, Wegmans does provide their customers the ability to purchase fresh and frozen seafood (both wild and farmed) from all over the globe in an educated, worry-free fashion. Hopefully Mr. Barrett can find a retail resource that meets his family’s demands for information, quality, education, and food safety in a similar fashion.

In his “Sansolo Speaks” column earlier this week, Michael Sansolo made a fleeting reference to the ECR project…which led one MNB user to ask:

What is the ECR project?

This question is a good reminder that it is important to have long memories…and to see the initiatives of the present in the context of similar initiatives in the past.

Anyway, since he was with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) during those halcyon ECR days, I asked Michael to respond to the question:

ECR or efficient consumer response, was an industry wide effort launched in the early 1990s to create greater industry cooperation and problem solving to remove waste from the industry supply chain. Common tactics today such as category management began with ECR. Many of the reports and materials can still be found at the FMI store at

For most of the 1990s, ECR dominated industry discussions and was credited with major improvements in operations.

Thanks, Michael.

I would add one point: There also are those who would suggest that the ECR initiative put so much focus on efficiency that many people forgot about effectiveness.

In his column, Michael also said, “Rachael Ray turns me on,” which led one MNB user to question whether this was a sexist remark. Which led one MNB user to write:

"Rachael Ray turns me on." just has no place in this piece or on a business site. (And, Kevin, you made a similar statement about Rachel in the past -- and I do suggest you re-read your comments on the lingerie coffee joints you were so enthused about.)

I understand that testosterone being what it is, guys just can't understand why these comments upset women...or comprehend why comments like this just MIGHT have something to do with the lack of gender diversity in the industry (and in upper management as a whole.)

But they do.

The undertones of even what you obviously consider an innocuous statement are damaging in ways you can't imagine. They minimize, they devalue, they pat on the head and pinch on the bottom.

And before you dismiss this as strident, stop and think.

How do you explain to a daughter that no matter how smart she is, how hard she works, how clever or creative or powerful she becomes, the first thing men will say/think about her is whether she turns them on, whether she excites them sexually? (And God help her if she isn't attractive enough to turn them on -- the scorn heaped upon her will generally bury her other qualities in the eyes of many men.)

You say you value women. I will take your word that you truly believe that. Please, just do your readers the favor and courtesy of attempting to leave your sexual turn-ons out of a business site.

Another MNB user wrote, however:

Not to belabor the "a little sexist" comment, but I just have to add that when it comes to families and working moms, Michael is all about respect. He totally gets it.

KC's View: