business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB reader about Lidl's US operations:

I was scrolling through some posts on LinkedIn and came across one from a Lidl District Manager. I was taken aback by how young she looked, so I checked out her page. I had applied at Lidl for the same position a year or so ago (they were advertising heavily). It was more out of curiosity than anything else. In any event, they turned me down within a day, which was a little surprising, given my 30 years in specialty, mass, and natural grocery. I thought I might at least get a phone screen and learn more about them, but no dice.

It was thus somewhat shocking to see that the District Manager I was looking at had essentially zero grocery experience. There was one year at a clothing chain, and 8 months at McDonald's, and nothing else. Oh, and a BA in criminal justice too. Wow, I thought, what are they thinking? So I checked out several more DM resumes. All the same - very young, no direct experience of any length or gravity. This went for higher executives as well. Clearly this is intentional, but how do you run a grocery chain without any grocery people? I know they all got like a year of training, but that can never replace hands-on, in the trenches experience.

What are your thoughts on this? Seems like a recipe for disaster operationally. Who will they rely on when the stores struggle, as surely some of them will?

My guess is that there is so little room for latitude or innovation at store level that they're not really worried about it. That's not how I'd want to do business, but it has worked for them elsewhere.

Another email from an MNB reader, this one about Wegmans:

As a Rochester NY resident, I’ve spent years watching the evolution of Wegmans. While the advent of Amazon, wholesale clubs, dollar stores and others has no doubt had an impact on their store growth, their in-store shopping experience continues (at least for me) to be the key to their ongoing success. Translating that into a home delivery service seems counter intuitive to their past history.

I have noticed some steps taken away from the “luxury” shopping experience that they were known for, as they try and expand their appeal into the wider marketplace. they now have a bulk grocery section for instance, and their perishables departments have taken a step backwards in my opinion. On the other hand, their prepared foods efforts have helped them no doubt land a lot of time starved customers.

Evolution is still needed in any grocery shopping experience, but I would hesitate to move too far away from the shopping experience that drove their success. Their site selection still appears to be peerless, and those people that I have talked to that have experienced Wegmans for the first time, are enraptured by their shopping experience compared to their typical supermarket. Understanding why that is, expanding on it, and driving that home to their customers seems to me to be a better road to be on.


Regarding the Amazon-Whole Foods deal, MNB reader Melissa Setser wrote:

I’ve read a lot about this one—as we all have—and I’ve yet to see this train of thought out there (maybe I just haven’t read enough!).

Consumers seem to inherently trust Whole Foods—we know that 365 is a good, trustworthy label.  I think about Amazon/ private label---I would hesitate to buy my kids’ formula or other kid consumables from Amazon (3rd party sellers make me very nervous, and one complaint about Amazon is the inability to tell whether something is sourced directly by Amazon or whether it’s 3rd party—and that delineation makes a difference, at least to me).  My family lives and dies by Kirkland’s/Costco, and, locally, Schnucks…I have to think that some of the synergy/”get” for Amazon is beyond the consumer data and beyond the b/m component—part of what they’re buying is the brand equity that comes with WF.  Sheer genius.

And regarding Kate McMahon's column yesterday, one MNB reader wrote:

Very good article from Kate on the digital wallet. Any where there is "money to be moved" there is "money to be made".


KC's View: