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Last week, I did a commentary about the importance of retailers not just stocking product, but also aggressively selling it, especially when products are items with which shoppers may not be familiar or aware. I used Ohio-based Graeter’s ice cream as an example - though they didn’t ask for the attention, and they knew nothing about it in advance.

Some MNB readers thought I was hopelessly naïve in my commentary, and I got the following email from George Denman, whop is Grater’s Vice President of Sales:

You surely have created a fire-storm of feed-back from your column regarding your comments on the responsibility of retailers in supporting niche differentiated brands like Graeter’s and then leveraging that differentiation. I don’t disagree with many of the feed-back from retailers and consumers on your column. Graeter’s firmly believes it is incumbent on our brand to earn that coveted real estate with retailers like Wegman’s, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Mariano’s, Whole Foods, Giant Eagle,  Fresh Market, Meijer and many more coast to coast that made the decision to carry our brand. We invest not only millions in trade and marketing spend each year with these retailers but also have invested millions into food safety achieving SQF level 3 Certification and millions into plant and logistics infrastructure to ensure quality is maintained throughout the supply chain to the end consumer.

Yes, there are local solutions in ice cream in every city but do they have the resources and capability to make these investments to ensure that their product is safe, can meet the retailers turn requirements, and quality isn’t compromised? Look at the number of food recalls that have occurred in this category in the past three years related to listeria, which did little to advance the growth of the category. Graeter’s has a 148 year legacy of being family owned and has an ownership that understood what it took to scale the company up from $8 million to over $65 million in just few years.

That is where so many small companies fail, with owners not willing to invest in resources to help them grow beyond their capabilities and capacities. Graeter’s success in the market is directly related to the passion of its owners and employees that are committed to an un-compromised commitment to quality and a commitment to maintain production to our exclusive French Pot small batch process. Yes, we could make ice cream cheaper and faster through co-packing in modern equipment. But we wouldn’t have the texture, creaminess, and massive signature chocolate chips that differentiate our brand from everyone else. It is that differentiation is why Graeter’s is carried in 45 states coast to coast in select retailers that have agreed to collaborate with Graeter’s to provide and support our unique product to their discerning customers. That is also the brand has such a passionate fan following across the US not just in Cincinnati and why our robust mail order business is the largest in the ice cream category with LA and NYC being our largest markets. That is why Graeter’s has 56 scoop shops across the Midwest across multiples cities spanning from Chicago to Pittsburgh. Graeter’s is not just a Cincinnati brand as some of your readers have claimed and clearly we have never considered ourselves to be an “out of towner,” even in Fred Meyer.

Graeter’s is the one of the world’s largest purchaser of black raspberries that are grown right there from the Willamette Valley in Oregon supporting hundreds of local farmers that support and shop every day at Fred Meyer. Graeter’s is not for every retailer, and we believe that 100%. We support all the other brands trying to compete in this tough retailing environment and offer one bit of advice. Know who your customer is and never deviate from what makes you different. Graeter’s doesn’t focus on the competition. We just focus on maintaining a quality and experience that fulfills our consumers needs and wants. This in turn ensures that the competition remains irrelevant to them.

On another subject, I got the following email:

I’m continually shocked at the level of customer service of brick and mortar stores that I experience in an ever increasing competition with online sales. Last week I found myself in an O’Reilly Auto Parts needing a new headlight. I would typically just order on Amazon but was driving past an O’Reilly. I walked in, was greeted by a very nice employee asking if I needed help, I turned, saw the headlights and said no thank you. Grabbing the bulb, I walked toward the counter where the same employee followed me and politely said she could quickly ring me up. 
This is where this simple transaction took a strange turn. The phone rang just as she was about to scan my item. She answered and began a 3-4 minute conversation helping the customer on the phone. Once she hung up the phone, she profusely apologized to me, explained that corporate had enacted a policy to prioritize phones calls above customers in store as potential sales over a guaranteed sale of someone in-store.
After this experience, it is unlikely that I will ever shop O’Reilly again. I have been getting my automotive parts from Amazon for years now due to better pricing and quality name brand parts rather than cheap imported or remanufactured units. New windshield wipers are waiting for me on my doorstep as I write this. Thanks Amazon Prime. I’m good with the price increase and can’t wait for the new Amazon exclusive shows!
In an article on O’Reilly’s competing with Amazon here. CEO Greg Henslee said that, when it comes to "the transition to online," the company has "not seen much in our business that's led us to be very concerned about it." Online retailers "will continue to take a little bit of market share here and there," but "I don't see them nearly as one of our most prominent competitors." 
Countless other retailers have said the same thing… The difference between healthy growth and a slow death are often only a few percentage points.

Finally, we took note yesterday of a CNBC story about how Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), is saying that there is “no evidence” that the recently passed federal tax cut is really helping US workers.

“There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they're going to take the money they're saving and reinvest it in American workers," Rubio told the Economist. “In fact, they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker.”

I brought it up in our “Politics Desk” section because:

… it reflects a theme that I’ve tried to return to frequently here on MNB. I’m in favor of tax policy that enables companies to be more profitable, but my concerns about this from the beginning has been that the rewards would be enjoyed by top execs and shareholders, and not so much by front line personnel who make companies, especially retailers, successful.

By the way, we took note here the other day of a story about a company where this does not seem to be the case - Kroger says it is investing in wages, benefits and employee education, not just in its shareholder rewards. I think that’s admirable.

One MNB reader responded:

Senator Rubio might be right but remember that companies need to replace all the profits lost under the crushing regulations of the previous eight years. Trump delivered one of the biggest tax cuts in history and 4 months is not a very long period to start making judgment on how well they were received. It took Obama 8 years to destroy the economy and it will take eight years for Trump to correct it.

I firmly believe that the nation’s economy always can be made stronger, more stable and more growth-oriented.

But I do want to understand your premise, just in the interest of fairness and accuracy. You are arguing that Obama took a healthy economy and destroyed it during his eight years in office?

I just want to be clear about this. In the interest of fairness and accuracy.
KC's View: