business news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of meal kits, now becoming more visible in supermarkets as the independent subscription model seems to lose traction, MNB reader George Denman wrote:

Why aren’t the savvy retailers creating a demonstration station near the meal kit offerings to show consumers just how easy these kits are to prepare, and creating the same “popcorn” experience and smell you get walking into a movie theatre.

The savvy ones will. But more won’t, and then will wonder why they’re losing sales and market share.

Regarding the fast fading MoviePass, one MNB reader wrote:

Sounds a lot like the Blockbuster online moves shortly before disappearing altogether.

Chiming in on our discussion of the cost of credit cards, one MNB reader wrote:

Last night, I was paying my son’s college tuition for the upcoming semester.  I was going to pay by credit card, until I saw that the additional fee was $110.  So, I chose to pay by debit for no fee.  It was a good reminder that credit card usage is not free.

One MNB reader last week suggested that Aldi will be a significant disruptor, but another MNB reader begs to differ:

Aldi a disruptor? Not yet, maybe not ever. I have two near me, both with a Market Basket and Shaw's to compete with. They have been there for years now, doing around 100k a week.(5 mil a year, so not bad) Same store sales have not been affected at either competitor.
I'm sure they are glad to take a small chunk of business, but a major disruptor? No.

Not everyone agreed with the study we mentioned last week into companies identified as most ethical. Most MNB reader wrote:

I literally snorted when I read the list of top ethical companies. I’d love to know what criteria people used besides, “Oh, these are my favorite places, so since I think I’m ethical, these places are too!”.

I guess my definition of ethical includes different things.

From another reader:

Wal-Mart??? To a lesser extent: McDonalds? I wasn’t trained by Jesuits, but apparently I take ethical behavior more seriously than the people who answered the survey.

Last week we took note of a Reuters story about how Kroger “is experimenting with a variety of technologies as it battles and Walmart Inc to find a profitable formula to serve customers who want milk and eggs whisked to their doorsteps.” One interesting tidbit from the story:

“Chief Financial Officer Mike Schlotman revealed for the first time that the company never made money on Home Shop, a roughly 30-year-old delivery service it shuttered in April. Kroger offered it in just 20 stores in the company’s King Soopers division in the Rocky Mountain area, for prices ranging from $10.95 for an internet order to $20.90 for telephone orders. That was not enough to cover the cost of labor and the expense of operating a fleet of refrigerated trucks … Kroger replaced Home Shop with Instacart, one of a handful of third-party delivery firms that now serve more than 1,200 Kroger stores.”

One MNB reader wrote:

Was surprised today by the fact that you missed an opportunity to take a shot at Instacart. As a former retailer who launched Instacart in NYC, I resemble Schlotman’s remark for independents however was frankly shocked that you didn’t lay into Kroger for saying that in light of past commentary.

Still think that there is a place for Instacart especially in a world where grocery retailers are still eons behind in technology and have zero attention span. Their first focus needs to be the IN STORE experience because that is where they are going to win. They are not going to be better at home delivery than Amazon (it’s their freaking core competency) and based on the fact that the grocery industry is allergic to tech investment, they should leave the mechanics of delivery to others until they figure out how to revolutionize the in store experience. Most retailers still don’t even mine their front end data, so they don’t truly know who shops their store. If they are going to invest, they need to invest those tech dollars into understanding who their customers are and how to sell more to them. Spending them instead on outdate in-house platforms for e-commerce has buried many execs (I know a few!!) and yielded next to nothing.

On another subject, from MNB reader Mike Bach:

Great of you to share the Globe story on civility. It’s always good to read things on MNB which challenge and inform us on the retail landscape.  We need personal growth stories woven in to remind us that how we do things matters as much as what we do.

As one who’s worked in the most kind place on Earth (Kansas) before and early in my working career, the change is most noticeable.  Parents definitely have to instill the “civility” quality early on for any “stickiness” to exist.  I often think that people show civility today only when they want something.

What I attribute the change to is social media.  Humans are (becoming even) more disconnected. I wish I would have known social media would become so pervasive, when my Son was younger.  (Even though I really wonder what I’d have done differently…)
It’s not all about social media, though.   I’m guilty as charged and I don’t use social media.  I want to be #1 in the zone assigned on my airline boarding card.  I hustle on the plane to put my bag/s overhead before others get to same row so I can easily retrieve my bags after stretching my legs for the duration of the flight.  I see it as a badge of honor to use the HOV lane (when I’m late somewhere).   I can’t blame my Parents for that – its on me.   I’m thankful to you for the “Friday reminder” to live better.

From Portland, Oregon, last week, I mentioned the fact that Bon Appétit named Portland, Maine, the 2018 Restaurant City of The Year.

MNB reader Thomas Gordon wrote:

As someone who grew up in Portland, Maine, its been fun to watch the last decade as my hometown has started to get recognized nationally.  It has won most liveable city (Forbes), Best town in the East (Outside Magazine), voted one of the coolest small cities in the US (GQ), and there have been a bunch of other awards as well.
Plus, you should love the original Portland (as the two founders of Portland, Oregon were from New England, and named the city after the original Portland.
I would have thought you would have been up on Portland, Maine given your time in the Northwest.  You might have seen the Seattle Sounders marketing campaign about how they love Portland (Maine).
I think you need to make that road trip happen so you can check it out!  Let me know if you want some insider restaurant recommendations!

I will.

One MNB reader had a thought about a study by Nielsen about how - and how much - American adults interact with media … and the numbers were a little Eye-Opening:

When I read any survey, I like to see who wrote/paid for that survey.

So when a media company surveys a media outlet, itself, I wonder how valid their results are? Are their results self serving?

I would normally share your skepticism, but this is what Nielsen does. I see no reason to doubt their numbers.

And finally, last week we noted a Chicago Sun Times report that “a Chicago Walmart store was temporarily closed Wednesday after a health inspector found over 400 rodent droppings throughout the store … According to the health inspection report, there were 405 mouse droppings throughout the store, including 35 droppings under the cereal and snack shelves, 100 droppings along the wall of the dog food and toilet paper shelves and 25 droppings in the bakery section.”

Leading MNB reader Kerley LeBoeuf to write:

"100 droppings along the wall of the ...... toilet paper shelves” suggests the rodents of Chicago are more sophisticated than those in Virginia.
KC's View: