business news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of online shopping, one MNB user wrote:

A recent purchase I made online taught me a bit about how some retailers are already adopting, in some ways, the model that Walmart is by leveraging their brick and mortar locations for an efficient supply chain. 

This may be something a lot of retailers have already been doing for some time, but it was news to me at least.  Recently I went online to find a new Minnesota Vikings hat and found that the major sites ( and Amazon) didn’t have the one I wanted in stock. did and I went ahead and ordered it.  The hat arrived just a few days later and I noticed on the receipt and the shipping label that my hat was not shipped from a DC or drop-shipped from the manufacturer; it was shipped directly from a mall location in Dubuque, Iowa.

I was impressed how the company is leveraging the inventory at its mall locations, which are probably under a lot of pressure from general traffic declines, to deliver product to consumers who shop online.  Again, not sure if this is old news but was an “eye-opener” for me.

Regarding Kroger's ClickList service, MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

It might be lost on your readers how long Kroger has been working on this.  It was not some strategy they dreamed up last year and launched this year.  In fact, Kroger got its biggest surge in the execution of this from its acquisition of Harris Teeter.  HT launched this program in trial form in Charlotte, NC in mid-2013.  I actually visited their launch store which was truly a pilot.  Their business and IT teams had partnered over at least a year prior to that to fine-tune business operations, processes and technology.  An both were built on the data and business model associated with their loyal programs…again, something that doesn’t happen overnight.

So, if you are a grocer who is just beginning to think about this…y’all better get on it because a lot of business can walk out of your doors the next 4 years while you prepare to engage.  By the way, in most cases, it is your most loyal and highest value customers who are seeking this service…a nice chuck of sales, but an even bigger chunk of margin!

regarding Kroger’s ClickList, MNB reader Doug Coop wrote:

Yes, you may have spent an hour in the store and maybe less on line but how much can we take sitting in front of the computer anymore. Walking around a store and actually seeing human beings and interacting with people, not to mention the exercise factor, I don’t know if I can
take being a computer vegetable anymore.

I don’t think I like the distance the electronic age has created in taking us away from social interaction, seems more & more unhealthy every day.

Just because one does a percentage of one's shopping online doesn't mean that one is forgoing social interaction. I like to think that I spend the time I don't have to go the store by cooking or jogging or hanging with my family or going out with friends or ... whatever.

We had a story yesterday about verbal search technology being tested by Google, which led to this email from MNB reader Brian Blank:

In your commentary on the verbal search technology being tested by Google you ask, “Who wouldn’t want this as an option?”  Well, I can’t possibly be the only person who finds it nearly impossible to make myself understood to these devices—Siri, my car, etc…oddly though, there are 2 devices that actually do respond and respond well:  my Apple TV and my Amazon Fire TV.  This isn’t to say that I think it’s a bad idea to offer it as an option, but it’s nothing I’m clamoring for.  (OK, mayyyyybe if they made the response sound like Majel Barrett I’d make a bigger effort….)

From MNB reader Mike Moon:

In the KC's View section of the Craft Beer Boom Slowing story, you wrote "...but I've no reason to think that the really good ones won't survive."

Survival in these markets may not who's the tastiest, but who has the most money. I met a man in a bar a couple of years ago, whose family owned a beer distributorship in Kansas. He managed the western half of the state, and his brother, the eastern half. I was asking about the growth of craft beers and how they were managing it, and how they chose which beers to warehouse and try to sell in an already crowded beer case. One thing he said was that there was no end to really good beers, but his company had to ultimately choose the ones who had the best chance at survival in the market. This meant marketing dollars, promotional monies, good facilities and production levels. if the brewer didn't have sufficient levels of any of these to support the product, it would wither and die. While I think many of us craft beer fans would bemoan the fact that a large brewer might buy up a little one, it may be the only way that the small one would survive in the market.

Regarding the New York Times piece about broken promises by the GMO business, MNB reader Dennis Sirianni wrote:

In another game of “3 cups and a ball", the concerned public once again has lost the ball (as I do often).  This initiative is not about reducing chemicals, nor is it about something more notorious.  It's about money!  Non-GMO seed is not eligible for crop insurance.  Farmers are (as a group) very risk averse.  The idea of have resistant crops, that are insured, and (as far as we can tell) safe, is a formula for success.

Now, the larger issue to the consuming public is, are they safe?  To arrive at that answer, we must speak with our $$’s.  Once we indicate that we will pay more for crops from unaltered seeds, and do so at a rate that eliminates the risk of crop devastation, well, then the problem will solve itself.  My concern is that we chased the rabbit (low cost grains), too far down the rabbit hole.

KC's View: