business news in context, analysis with attitude

It’s the end of the week, and it seems that an awful lot of people have a lot of things to say…

For example, in response to our story yesterday about the new owners of Zagara’s looking to re-energize the company, one MNB user wrote:

“Zagara's should focus on its original strength, outstanding produce that is reasonably priced. That will get the customers in the door and in turn create ‘impulse’ purchases.”

We got an email from MNB user Eric Peabody in response to our story about the first Trader Joe’s opening up in the city of Chicago:

“Would you please direct them South of Chicago. There's this town called St. Louis....


In response to our story yesterday about ProdiGene's reported biotech missteps, which could contaminate the US food supply, MNB user Jem Welsh, president of Nutritional Sciences, wrote:

“This is only the tip of the iceberg of biotech buffoonery. How scary! The Frankenstein's in the GMO labs have other monsters up their sleeves and we as a public are taking a reactive position to policies that could allow the mad scientists (well-funded) to scare up some other monsters. (Do they mean well? Medicine in food - what a novel idea?) The motive is not our health and well-being, it is money and that is monstrous!

“One thing we have always been able to count on in life is knowing that we can plant a seed and something will grow. Biotech Bad Boys are hard at work with other methods of messing with nature. The new Terminator soy seeds, fresh from the GMO labs, are designed so that only one season of production will come from the seed. In this manner, not only will Monsanto (or others) control the crops, they will also control the farmer’s ability to continue to farm each season. Now, if these seeds cross-pollinate with the organic soy across the farm road, eventually all that will be left are the crops originating from Terminatorseeds. Talk about commercial dependence on monopolistic practice! Not to speak of the damage to nature's bounty we have enjoyed since pre history.

“We better get a handle on GMO biotech and set forth some stringent controls. That corn on the cob you enjoy at the picnic could be more than addictive (know what I mean?). What is to stop a terrorist (or profiteer) from crop manipulation for addictive dependence or poisonous efforts? If we can just use our imagination, all types of scenarios exist. Taking a "wait and see" when companies are exploiting nature for profit is just setting ourselves up for loss of freedoms we cannot even begin to imagine. Controlling biotech before it controls us only makes sense.”

We wrote the other day about Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, a DVD rental-by-mail company that is facing new competition from Wal-Mart. While he admits he is concerned, Hastings has decided not to be intimidated, saying that the Bentonville Behemoth will be “catalyzing interest” in the category.

MNB user Mike Shea thought we were smoking something:

“Hastings sounds like one of the myopic dot comers a couple of years back…just before hitting the wall with no skid marks.”

A couple of days ago, we had an edition of MNB that featured three our four stories about Wal-Mart. Now, one of our users complained, asking why we had to do so many Wal-Mart-related pieces…

Our answer to that is simple. Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer in the world. It makes a lot of news. MNB is just the messenger…and if we ignore Wal-Mart, we aren’t doing anyone any favors.

Also in response to that day’s stories, we got the following email from MNB user George Morrow:

“Is it just me or are we all not focused? Your lead story is that Wal-Mart's profits are huge, another story is that JD Powers rated them Number 1 in customer satisfaction and another story is about Safeway’s problems in Chicago etc. Does anyone see who is going which direction, and why??

“Another (story) I got this morning discussed Safeway’s plans for the coming
year…and all Steve Burd emphasized was their direction was to "counter other formats" and scale back union wages throughout the chain to combat "other formats" i.e. WAL-MART!!! although he did not mention Wal-Mart.

“Kevin, in my humble opinion, price is what drives most grocery sales and Safeway, Albertsons, Kroger etc. are not cutting it, plain and simple!! Unless they change dramatically in the very near future, as opposed to 10 years from now, they will continue to dwindle away and lose market share to you-know-who. To me, what is funny, and this is from someone who remembers A&P going from 4,000 stores to less than 2,000 stores, almost overnight, the grocery chains could fix this by cutting out the slotting allowances, truly centralizing their buying, not adding extra profit-centers between buying the product and selling the product, not putting a store every 1/2 mile like A&P used to do every other block in the Bronx and Manhattan and just managing their programs better. The bottom line is that Wal-Mart is kicking their butts by being smarter, quicker to adapt, more apt to take risks, more aggressive etc. well you get the idea.

“Somebody better wake up or, as I have been saying for many years, we will soon have 2 mass merchants (are we already there??), max 2 grocery chains, and max 3 drug chains plus a lot of independent business people who will fill in the gap with originality and make a lot of money…”

In response to our criticism of Visa and MasterCard yesterday, MNB user Catherine Lanna wrote:

“I'm so glad I'm not the only one who's passionate about this subject. Not only are the retailer-paid fees higher for this product, but the pin debit networks have all raised their fees to compete with Visa/MC. The retailers have been doubly hit...and the consumer loses.”

Well, that’s it for this week…we have to get out of here and see if we can score some “Harry Potter” tickets for tonight so we can look like a hero to the kids.

Have a great weekend…and we’ll see you Monday, bright and early!
KC's View: