business news in context, analysis with attitude

Wonderful email from MNB user Steve Panza:

I'm writing this after enjoying my morning snack (MNB) combined with my newest favorite snack - cheese croissants - purchased from my local Tom Thumb this morning. I'll stop off there to get a bagel (the closest thing to a NY bagel nearby) on the way to my "office," or local coffee shop with wifi. Yesterday when I purchased my sesame-seeded bagel, the cashier was talking to the customers in front of me. As they were departing, she told one of them that she was expecting some cheese croissants. Jokingly, I mentioned that they sounded pretty good. The cashier replies "She’s a baker here, I can have her make you some tomorrow" and then she calls out to the departing customers that I wanted some as well. They laughed and waved as they exited the store.

This morning as I walked to the baker counter, the baker I saw yesterday in line called out and said the croissants were in the oven and would be ready in a few minutes. Talk about service. Apparently, these things are a special order item as not all the bakers will make them. And as I was paying for my aromatic purchase, the cashier says "Those cheese croissants go great with tomato soup." I guess I know now what I'm having for dinner as well.

That store has won itself a customer, even if I don't eat another cheese croissant. But I will.

Great retailing isn’t rocket science. But it does require much work, attention and nurturing.

Thanks for giving us an example.

Responding to last week’s story about Publix getting more value oriented, and my comment that this makes sense as long as the company doesn’t dilute its core values and disenfranchise existing customers, MNB user Al Kober wrote:

Smart thinking. Lower your prices and not quality. Offer more value on the same quality. Many retailers are making the mistake of lowering quality in order to offer lower prices. For a retailer that has a high quality image because customers have learned that their quality is consistently high, consumers will continue to shop there. That retailer must find other way to increase the value they deliver. The retailer that lowers its quality in order to offer better value is in reality doing the exact opposite. Consumers are not dumb. It may look like it is working, because it may take 3-6 months for consumers to realize that their poor eating experience was not just a one-time thing. And when they do, they will go somewhere else. So the message is, during these more difficult times, go home with the one you brought to the dance. If consistent high quality got you to where you are , stay there. Now more than ever, consumers’ needs are the same. They want the best they can get, the same high quality, at the lowest cost. Is your business up or down? The taste of quality remains long after the flavor of low price has faded away.

On the subject of small store formats and the coming battle between Walmart’s new Marketside store and Tesco’s Fresh & Easy, one MNB user wrote:

As a critic of Tesco, I to must say that this format will not work for Walmart either. Some of the reasons are the same, other are different. Biggest factor the lack of talent to buy and run these formats. The talk is that they will be hiring from the outside to run these stores (hopefully supermarket folks as they have no experience in this area, maybe Whole Foods people.. ) helps prove my point. Anyone who has been in the business (knows) small stores are tough and they haven't make the Neighborhood Markets work and now they are entering into fresh. Fresh where margins are higher but so is shrink and this company’s biggest weakness in food is fresh…

Responding to our ongoing discussion about the generational divide that sometimes creates communication problems, especially about technology, MNB user Steve Ritchey wrote:

I see problems on both sides of the age issue. The young kids need to realize they don’t know everything there is to know about running a business, the older people need to realize they have some new things to learn.

In my job, I see too many kids who come in fresh out of college and are ready to take over the company, then when the company insists they learn something about the business before they suggest radical changes, they leave. Too often I also see older people who dismiss the younger generation out of hand as having nothing to contribute yet. They have something to contribute, but they also need to realize, they aren’t ready to run the company, and maybe, just maybe there is something to learn from us old guys still.

The young man who wrote in saying he worked in Finance, yet he was a technology guru and a food expert struck a chord with me. He may be a food expert, but does that mean he knows how to market food, is he a real expert, or a self proclaimed one, how does he try to present his ideas, is he dripping with arrogance and disdain, or with some respect for someone who’s maybe been in the business since before he was born.

The point I want to make is, we can learn from each other, put aside the arrogance of youth or longevity and communicate with each other, you may be surprised.

Got an interesting email from MNB user John Montzingo:

I saw an Interesting article from Harvard Business Publishing about companies pursuing a “middle of the road” strategy. Here’s an excerpt:

First, high-performing companies understand that it’s not enough to be “pretty good” at everything anymore. As a company, you have to be the most of something—the most exclusive, the most affordable, the most responsive, the most friendly. Companies used to want to be in the middle of the road—that’s where all the customers were. But now, in an age of hyper competition and non-stop innovation, the middle of the road is the road to ruin. What do they say in Texas? “The only thing in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos.” To which we might now add: “And once-great companies that are slowly going out of business.”

Among manufacturers and retailers, how many can really saw they’re not in the middle of the road?

I don't know…but I do know that I’ve written “the mainstream is where you go to drown and the middle of the road is where you find roadkill” so many times that I actually stopped for fear of boring you.

And now the same thing is being written by Harvard Business Publishing.

Go figure.

Lot of emails last week regarding the signing of Brett Favre by the NY Jets…

One MNB user wrote:

I can see the sales of Direct TV’s “NFL League Pass” increasing dramatically in the state of Wisconsin.

I myself as a Wisconsin-ite will be looking for ways to see Brett play in a Jet’s uniform (does Dish Network have a similar program for the NFL season???). Hmmmm…it will be an interesting season for Packer’s fans for sure!

Another MNB user wrote:

As a Packer stock holder, I’ll take Brett, the Jets can have our coach and GM…

Thanks…but as a Jets fan, I’m pretty happy the way things are.

And another MNB user wrote:

Brett Favre gave up too many key interceptions in the last couple of years, as far as I'm concerned. I give coach Mike McCarthy credit for standing behind a decision that
was made months ago. It shows his level of integrity.

MNB user Bill Drew chimed in:

There is an entire generation of Green Bay fans that know nothing of the Pack other than the Brett Favre era, and as a result, his trade to the Jets is a bitter pill to swallow for some. Even some "old-timers" are unhappy that he's leaving for the Big Apple. As a resident of Green Bay since 1990 and a Packer fan since 1967, I'm conflicted - three years ago, I watched a quarterback who had lost a step and was a second or two late in his reads. But last year, Favre treated fans to a dream season but then spoiled it in 10 below zero weather with an interception of an ill-conceived pass in overtime in the NFC championship game.

The public administration department of St. Norbert College here in Green Bay conducted a scientific survey on Tuesday, and nearly 60% of those polled agreed that the Packers needed to move on and that Favre was a distraction. Perhaps there's some lessons to be learned from this - keep your mouth shut and discussions private, and for heaven's sake, try not to let egos get in the way of business.

Can he still compete? Yes. Will he made some bad on-the-field decisions and cost the Jets a game or two? Probably. Will Green Bay miss him? That remains to be seen.

KC's View: