business news in context, analysis with attitude

Weighing in on the conversation about "compete is a verb" is a worthwhile attitude to bring to retailing - one MNB reader described it as "one of the seven dumbest things I have ever read," though he did not say what the other six are - MNB reader Craig Espelien wrote:

For me, the key is to figure out how to instill this into the culture that gets down to store level. I help people understand this by focusing on the only three levers available for improving business:

Doing things that drive top line sales growth.

Traffic: things that either draw new customers in or things that expand trips for existing customers.

Basket: things that encourage folks who are in your store (a bit different if you are in the B2B space - but that is a different conversation) to add more things on every shopping trip.

Doing things that maximize profitability - this focuses most on truly knowing how to leverage your customer’s desire to find “solutions” and not just items.

Doing things that aggressively manage the expense line (we can talk about a recent play here where I changed the conversation on food waste from deli departments by exposing the fact that “good garbage” is still garbage…).

The relevant word in your email:  doing.

As opposed to waiting for good things to happen, or for problems to solve themselves.

I think it was Thomas Jefferson who once said, "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."

After reading my Eye-Opener yesterday about Stew Leonard's terrific email and video highlighting all the kinds of burgers they have available, and a video about how to best cook them, MNB reader Tim Callahan wrote:

It would be a 2 hour drive to the closest Stew Leonard’s store but it may be worth the trip to sample his cheeseburger variations. I am one of the 90% that ALWAYS adds cheese.

Thanks for helping me become a cheeseburger expert.

BTW, what Stew Leonard's did regarding hamburgers is a great example of compete-is-a-verb thinking.  

Regarding Costco's decision to test fresh sushi making at one Washington State store, with expectations that the program could be rolled out selectively if it works, one MNB reader wrote:

You cannot be everything to everyone. Costco had sushi a few years back for a very short period of time, I don’t think they prepared it in the store but it was horrible. They quickly got out of it. A sushi customer is not necessarily looking at price for this product. I would be shocked if this worked but Costco doesn’t do a lot bad or make many mistakes. 

MNB reader Monte Stowell had some thoughts about Kroger's Q1 financial statement:

The one thing that stands out for me is the 50% increase in quarterly earnings versus year prior. Marginal sales improvement versus a 50% increase in earnings. It is quite obvious that Kroger is fattening up their cash position to pay for a possible acquisition of Albertsons. The loser with the increased earnings was the consumer because of higher prices at the shelf. Many of my retired cohorts in the food industry and many of our neighbors have left Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Albertsons, and are shopping at Winco and Walmart as their primary retailers for their food purchases. 

Yesterday we took note of an Associated Press report that "unionized UPS workers voted overwhelmingly on Friday to authorize a strike, setting the stage for a potential work stoppage if the package delivery company and Teamsters can’t come to an agreement before their contract expires next month."

I commented, in part:

I would hate it if a UPS strike created broad economic problems, but on the other hand, the drivers do seem to have a point.  Here's one passage from the AP story:

"In addition to addressing part-time pay and what workers say is excessive overtime, the union wants improvements to driver safety, particularly the lack of air conditioning in delivery trucks, which has been blamed for the death of a driver and hospitalizations of others.

"On Tuesday, the union and the company announced they reached a tentative agreement to equip more trucks with air conditioning equipment. Under the agreement, UPS said it would add air conditioning to US small delivery vehicles purchased after January 1, 2024."

Really?  Air conditioning is an issue in a business where people drive around all summer in dark brown trucks wearing dark brown uniforms?

Shame on UPS.  They should've added air conditioning to all their trucks years ago.

MNB reader Steven Ritchey responded:

I understand how the workers feel.  Decades ago I worked as a service merchandiser for  guaranteed sale rack jobber doing non foods and HBC in supermarkets.  Our service merchandiser vans were not air conditioned.  This was in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.  They had divisions all over Texas, and Oklahoma.  Eventually I got put on the installation team, or the set crew. which did a lot of travel.

Imagine my surprise when I went to do some work in West Texas, the region not the town, and all their service vans were air conditioned.   When I asked the are VP why this was the case he said it was because they drove such long distances between stops.  I asked what the difference in them driving two hours and us in Dallas sitting in traffic for 2 hours.

The next year all the service vans got AC installed.

The company went under a few years later because ownership tried to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, enriching themselves off the workers, and not taking care of business.  The stories I could tell.

MNB reader Doug Larsen wrote:

Someone at UPS must have some common sense.  AC may not be critical in Maine or in Seattle, but where I live outside of Phoenix, it would seem to be a necessity.  You are right; a brown metal truck out in the heat all day, has to be really hot in Southwest, South and Midwest.

One MNB reader commented on my FaceTime video approving of a nascent move to eliminate ubiquitous right-turn-on-red laws that correlate to pedestrian and cyclist deaths that have hit their highest levels in 40 years:

Agree with your point. Think there should be some sort of “sunset review” on all rules/ laws/processes, to determine if they still fit the need of the day. As for right turn on red, suggest it fits for less urban areas. My heartburn is bigger on U turns being allowed at major intersections !! Another thing that should be only in less urban areas.

Yesterday we cited a New York Post report that grocers in New York City are fighting back against a proposed bill that would ban the use of facial recognition technology without customers' written consent.

There are two forces behind the ban.  One is from legislators who believe that use of the technology facilitates racial profiling.

The other is from legislators angry with James Dolan, owner of Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers.  It has come to light that Dolan "has used the tech to bar his legal enemies from events at his sports and entertainment venues," even if they had tickets, and Dolan is one of the more controversial and polarizing figures in New York politics.

One MNB reader wrote:

Find myself agreeing with you on two key points : 

1)  Your opinion of James Dolan is spot on.

2)  Shoplifting has to be stopped or reduced.  (Now, if grocers are using it to identify people and send them advertising, not a fan.)  But, if you put up a notice, people have a choice. 

I think that prominent notification could serve as sufficient discouragement.

Finally, in Friday's "OffBeat" I wrote:

Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the release of "Bull Durham," still one of the two best movies ever made about baseball.  (I'd argue that "Field of Dreams" is the other, though a very different kind of film.  But I recognize that this opinion can ignite an avalanche of emails castigating me for not including "The Natural" or "Major League" or 'Eight Men Out."  Feel free.)  If, by some weird confluence of circumstances you've never seen "Bull Durham," you need to watch it.  This weekend.

One MNB reader responded:

Baseball nerd so I love all the movies you note, but also enjoyed “For the Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner.

As my son said when "For Love Of The Game" came out - it was 1999, so we would've been 10 - it had "too much kissing and not enough baseball."

I agreed with him at the time.  Not sure if he would feel the same way today.