business news in context, analysis with attitude

We took note the other day of a Wall Street Journal report that while the prices of fresh foods in the nation's supermarkets have been coming down from inflation-fueled highs, center store prices for CPG brands continue to "stubbornly" rise.

I commented:

In some ways, retailers ought to see this as an opportunity to innovate around fresh foods and point out when and how they can replace CPG items in a way that is more healthful for shoppers.

The fact is that most retailers carry all the same CPG items - there is very little variance from store to store.  But if retailers are smart - and aggressive - they can compete more effectively by differentiating in their perimeter/fresh food departments.  

If manufacturers won't lower the price of potato chips, then use the potatoes in your produce department and make your own.  Same goes for applesauce.  There have to be tons of opportunities to compete effectively with recalcitrant manufacturers, but retailers have to be surgical and dedicated to taking advantage of the moment.

One MNB reader responded:

I  see your reasoning on this, but it may be a tad rose colored.  Retailers can provide all kinds of info for consumers to “make their own” but ultimately it is the consumer’s acceptance that drives this opportunity.  Personally, I don’t know of anyone that is willing to of take, or have, the time to make their own potato chips or apple sauce.  You are suggesting a major shift in consumer purchasing to accomplish such a direction for any item.  Example: Smoothies.  How many people buy frozen vs fresh berries for their smoothies? 

Only a tad rose-colored?  I think I was suggesting something downright radical - but I'll stand by my larger point - that retailers ought to differentiate more and complain about CPG companies less.

From another reader:

I applaud the idea of finding substitutes for high priced CPG products. But how long would it take to make a bag of potato chips in your home? - that are as good as a kettle cooked Frito Lay.     CPG food to a large extent is about convenience and some level of quality. Not sure the pricing is yet at that level to move away from that basic “value” proposition.

I'm not suggesting that consumers make their own potato chips.  I'm suggesting that retailers do it and, where appropriate, charge a premium.

BTW - and this shouldn't surprise anyone - Stew Leonard's has long done it.  And they're excellent.

We had a piece the other day referencing a New York Times story that said "wages, as measured by average hourly earnings for workers, rose 0.4% from the previous month and 4.4% from June 2022. Those increases matched the May trend but exceeded expectations, a potential point of concern for Federal Reserve officials, who have tried to rein in wages and prices by ratcheting up interest rates."

One MNB reader was nonplussed:

All these articles that tout wage increases drive me crazy!  Who's getting these raises?  It certainly isn't anyone where I work!

Reacting to Monday's FaceTime about how Wimbledon has changed a longtime policy - allowing women players to veer away from the all-white rules and wear different colored underwear (visible under tennis dresses) if they're concerned about having their periods, one MNB reader wrote:

Nice review of the women’s “undergarment issue” at Wimbledon. I’m guessing this will create quite a racket amongst your readers, but personally, I enjoy listening to your daily briefs.

Tennis and underwear puns in one email.  Impressive.

Another MNB reader wrote:

I respectfully believe you missed the boat on this one ... about Wimbledon changing their dress code to allow women to wear other than white underwear - you said often for women "it's that time of the month" and wearing white underwear " ... "can be a little bit stressful for them" and that "it's very difficult for them to deal with that at that particular time" and the "powers that be said you don't have to wear white underwear" and "nobody really thought about it before" and "they listened to the players!" ... "that's really important they did this in consultation with the players!"

You then offered the lesson by saying "tradition is fine" ... "but sometimes it gets in the way of people doing their jobs".  The only tradition here is misogyny.  How long has there been a women's championship at Wimbledon? The first was 1884.  And I would suspect Wimbledon traditions date back as far.  Do you really believe 2023 was the first time women requested to wear underwear other than white?  The real lesson is that misogyny is so embedded in our culture that we are blind to so much.  We need to open our eyes and ears and examine everything we do, how we do it and why we do it and demand equity, understanding, compassion, respect and dignity.  And remember the words of Susan B. Anthony who in 1853 at the New York State Teachers' Association tried to speak but was told it improper for women to speak in public, instead rose to say, "Do you not see that so long as society says a woman is incompetent to be a lawyer, minister, or doctor, but has ample ability to be a teacher, that every man of you who chooses their profession tacitly acknowledges that he has no more brains than a woman."  

Yes, we men, there is so much we don't know!

On another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

Thank you Kevin for continuing the interesting discussion about remote work.  One topic which is surprisingly typically absent is including the global work force.  My teams have historically had people from Europe and Asia.  Being in an office will always exclude those team members and so many of our future teams will continue to be international - the ultimate definition of remote.

Great point.

And finally, responding to my piece about the New York Times' decision to close its sports desk and turn all its print and online sports coverage over to the staff of The Athletic, which it acquired 18 months ago for $550 million, one MNB reader wrote:

You are spot on about lack of communication!

Two other thoughts :

Sadly, in the words of David Crosby, this has been “A long time coming. A long time gone. “

And as for the Athletic’s journalism excellence, well, to borrow from The Dude, that’s your opinion man!

To be clear, I don't think The Athletic's coverage - or standards - are the same as those at the Times, a paper that I revere.  I think there will be growing pains, inevitably some missteps, and adjustments will be necessary.

But I do think they've done a pretty good job of covering my New York Mets, with some excellent analysis.