business news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of Sears' variety of issues, one MNB reader wrote:

I too remember going to Sears as a kid and it was a special event.  You could get your clothes, your shoes, your appliances, and tools all in one place with a knowledgeable staff.

Something really struck me on 12/26/16.  We had gone to the mall for the after Christmas sales.  I always like to get there early to avoid the crowds and have the best selection.  Many of the stores didn’t open until 10 am which I have no problem with.  I went to Sears to buy some tools and tool box liners.  I was shocked to see that they didn’t open until 11 am.  I left because we had already done our shopping and I wasn’t going to wait another 60 minutes.  I wonder how many potential customers Sears lost the opportunity to sell something because of their late opening?

If it weren’t for the Craftsman tools I would never go into a Sears anymore.  Their stores are unkept, understocked, and usually understaffed.  It saddens me to see such an iconic brand slowly go out of business, but they didn’t change with the times and as many retailers who are in a declining state, they cut staff to levels that make it very frustrating and not worth the pain of buying something.

From another reader, a somewhat more optimistic view:

I don’t particularly care for Eddie Lampert but he is no dummy… He is running Sears into the ground but watch where all the “key” parts of the company are going… Offshore account to avoid taxes (the better land/buildings, the client database, and most importantly the warranty business). When the demise of Sears happens - the public will be holding the ashes and the “value” will be held by Eddie in a tax efficient manner-which will produce for years.
And yes, he has driven the company into the ground with his ego and being the only person who knows what to do- but look down the road and see where all the chess pieces are moving….

Maybe so. And how much value and how many lives will he have destroyed in the process?

From MNB reader Gail Nickel-Kailing:

So Fast Eddie wants Sears to be "a tech company that collects and sells customer data through the Shop Your Way program.” What if they don’t? (Shop at Sears, that is…)

That strikes me as the problem with the strategy. To compile data, you actually have to have customers.

Responding to a recent story and commentary about diversity, one MNB user wrote:

You said that pretty much every religion believes the other religions are wrong in some way. True enough. But Muslims (not all, but some) are the only ones in the 21st century who killing people who don't agree. I haven't heard of any Jehovah's Witnesses throwing anyone off a cliff lately.

True. And as long as we all agree with the "not all, but some" reference, we're on the same page.

On the subject of Amazon, one MNB reader wrote:

While I do, at times, enjoy the convenience of online shopping, my experience with Amazon leaves me with the impression that they are a bit overrated. I tried to use Amazon about 10 or 12 days prior to Christmas to get a robot kit for my son. Unfortunately, their site indicated that they would be unable to deliver it until December 28. This is not the first time they have come up short for me. Unfortunately, for them, this happened during a free trial period for Prime. They didn’t win me over.

At least they told you the product wasn't available. Letting you down would've been promising it and not delivering.

As for being overrated, I think Amazon is overrated like Meryl Streep is overrated. Which is to say, when it comes to core expertise, not in any way, shape, or form.

Regarding executive moves at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, one MNB reader wrote:

I'm doing a lot of consulting to Wall Street (hedge funds, mutual funds, etc.) who for the last six months or so are trying to figure out if Dollar Tree is going to prosper or die due to their acquisition of Family Dollar. My standard line is that Dollar Tree has very smart people that know a lot about crafting and stationery, and importing $1 retail items from China, but very little experience with Grocery. And Gary Phillbin hasn't gotten the job done (not surprised his Grand Union experience hasn't helped). They needed a grocery person to compete with Aldi, Lidl and Dollar General. With hiring Duncan Mac Naughton, Dollar Tree gets a real solid veteran who knows grocery better than most. Hiring Duncan was one of the smarter things they could do.

Responding to our conversation the other day with an MNB reader who had been the victim of sexual abuse, and who wrote that "it would have been nice to know that there was at least one person who cared," MNB reader Ed Weiser wrote:


I suspect (and fervently hope!) there are many millions, but I know for sure there are now at least two people who care.

Responding to yesterday's reference to a story about how PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is trying to even the playing field among men and women in business, one MNB reader wrote:

PepsiCo CEO is on fleek….Preach, sister, preach!  Double standards, micro aggressions, all the b.s. that comes with higher positions.  You know what, nine times out of ten, I’d hire a working mom over anybody else, and plan to continue doing so.  We are dedicated, get sh*t done, and balance more projects than any man I’ve worked with---C-suite included.  We aren’t allowed to be subject to a debilitating man cold—we just get up, keep going and get after it.  Glad I’m not alone in my sentiments.  Sometimes it feels like it—because, well, there aren’t a whole lot of women near the top when I look around.

We had a piece yesterday about sanctuary restaurants, that are pledging to be safe places for people who may be discriminated against, and it prompted one MNB reader to write:

Your commentary on sanctuaries has me doing some reflecting. I’m assuming one side will embrace these places as havens while the other boycotts them because of what the needs for them insinuates. And it will give us one more reason to turn to our friends (who all think like we do) and say of the other side: “Those people ought to be a little more like us!”

This brings me to my grandparents. Grandpa is so conservative he makes the folks over at Breitbart seem like doe-eyed liberals. Grandma is so far left that she barely qualifies as a capitalist. And they’ve been happily married for 68 years. Through 17 presidential elections they’ve affectionately discussed their differences over the dinner table with no rise in blood pressure. And together, they’ve taught me something important: That hard-lining is dangerous because it’s self-reinforcing. It’s a short leap from “I won’t shop there because of their politics” to “people who don’t think like me are less entitled to success… or patriotism… or representative government… or liberty.”

I think you’re doing the right thing bringing these types of conversations forward. I agree we have to keep our eyes open, and I hope that somewhere in the business cycle, there’s reward for moderation and for kindness.

On the broader subject of paying attention to such issues as part of MNB's regular coverage, MNB reader Larry Burns wrote:

Our customers are real people who live in and are impacted by the entire context of life.

I encourage you to continue to include thoughts on "what might THIS mean for business" even on hot button topics.

Our 2017 reality requires attending to culture even a bit more than in the past!

Finally, this email from MNB reader Mike Griswold:

I know you and Michael seem to find business lessons everywhere, here are several I pulled from Monday’s College Football Championship:

• Never underestimate the power of passion and leadership. Down at half-time, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said “we are going to win, don’t know how, but we are going to win."

• Create a culture where every opponent (challenge) is respected but not feared. Alabama’s defense was touted as one of the best ever, yet Clemson went toe-to-toe with them, ran more than 90 plays, and eventually wore them down on the winning drive.

• Success is a team sport; winning teams (organizations) feed off each other’s successes.  Throughout the game Clemson’s offense, defense, and special teams all had big plays that kept the team in the game despite being down 14 points. Each part of the team rose to the occasion at the appropriate time so that at the end of the game, the offense was in position for the game winning drive.
Keep up the great work.

You too. These are all great points.
KC's View: