business news in context, analysis with attitude

One of the interesting things about the MNB community is how we get emails from folks that clue us in on what they see happening around the country and in the industry, even if not directly related to a story we've recently written/

For example, we received the following email from a member of the MNB community yesterday:

I have become an avid reader of your pages for the last several months. One of the impressions that comes through is that you feel that Supervalu is doing a great job.

I must tell you that since their consolidation of the buying offices to Minneapolis last August, they have lost touch with the accounts in the outlying areas. It has been made clear through the lack of reaction to issues experienced by these accounts that service is no longer an option and the desires of these account are no longer a concern. The loud and clear message coming out of the buying offices in Minneapolis is “buy what we tell you”.

It is has not been said in so many words of course, but the lack of reaction, requests going unanswered, voice-mails never being responded too, and general carry-through issues have made it more than clear, that if you are more than 500 miles from Minneapolis, you don’t matter. This seems to sound familiar. Is it that Supervalu is well run, or that they are just not yet as far down the slippery slope as Fleming?

The “Big-picture management” of the company may be headed in the right direction but if you ask Supervalu customers, “Are you better off now than you were a year ago?”, you will hear a resounding “NO!!!”

The “Big-picture” is no good unless the “small-picture” piece is working. Right now, the customer is unhappy and there does not seem to be any concern about fixing it. The attitude is, “Where are they going to go?”.

Supervalu has always been a bloated bureaucracy that made it difficult to get things done on a timely basis, but in shrinking the bureaucracy, they have gone from slow reaction to no reaction.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

We think, to be fair, that it should be pointed out that Supervalu has not been dealing with the same kinds of probes and investigations that have plagued companies like Fleming and Nash Finch. That doesn't mean that Supervalu doesn't have some of the same sorts of problems, but we imagine that the folks in Minnesota probably are trying to deal with those even as we speak…

If they are not, Supervalu no doubt will face some of the same problems as its brethren.

And, on an entirely different subject, we got this email from another member of the MNB community:

Walked in to a Tom Thumb (Safeway) to stock up after a long business trip. The freezer section was severely shopped down with lots of out-of-stocks across many categories. Asked a manager about one specific item. He said that whatever stock he had was on display. "They" had recently cut from frozen food three to two weekly deliveries.

Never a good sign, especially when customers walk away disappointed because the freezer section or other dry grocery departments are depleted. It reinforces some of what you hear about Tom Thumb's operations, that it is being squeezed by tough competition ion the Dallas area.

You have to wonder if these same sorts of signs have been evident in the recent past at Genuardi's and Dominick's.

In response to our story the other day about the high level of shrink due to theft by employees in supermarkets, MNB user Jerry Jewett wrote:

I have always wondered how the Industry comes up with these numbers. There may be some assumptions in their calculations that are just a bunch of bull. All inventory shortages are the stores problem? I was told several times that the Accounting Dept. and Warehouse did not make mistakes that would cause shortages.

If that much money is being lost per store, in the store there isn't a store manager out there walking around their store with their eyes open. I was a store manager for 23 years & I had a few bad apples in that time. I had a lot more problems with Accounting problems from the division office contributing to my shrink. I suspect that since most of the larger companies have moved all their accounting to one central location with the lowest possible labor cost the stores problem has not improved.

In a story yesterday about how the Walt Disney Co. will begin renting DVDs later this summer that cannot be played two days after they are rented, and do not have to be returned, we asked if anyone out there still uses VHS tapes.

One of our MNB users clearly found this question objectionable:

Shame on you Kevin...I realize the DVD is the technology of today, though given we don't have kids and with the number of movies we rent/watch, is doesn't justify buying a DVD player and 'junking' the old. Our society has gotten so used to a disposable mentality and needing the latest and greatest, that it's no wonder that consumerism is rampant in North America.

Guilty as charged.

Another MNB user, Josh Culhane, wrote to speculate about the difference between Digital Video Recorders (like TIVO) vs. DVD Recorders:

It will be interesting to see which of these technologies will be successful (and last) in the consumer marketplace. The major benefits in DVD technology come with the portability of the disc itself. I couldn’t see myself lugging around my DVR to a friends home, or even to another room in my own house to view the 10 Seinfeld episodes that ran on digital cable yesterday. Yet I think today DVRs have three major benefits: Cost, Convenience, and Integration with existing technologies. Like a computer file, if you want it… save it. If you don’t want it… delete it. Not to mention the VCR-like options; pause, rewind, fast-forward, etc. That’s easy considering I know people who have owned a VCR for more then 10 years and still do not know how to record there favorite TV programs.

Personally, I’m hoping that both will work together. If you think about it, that’s how many folks enjoy with their music libraries. They store the MP3s on their computer hard drive, and then burn it to CD for the portability and integration of existing technologies.

Ideally, all these technologies should work together. The only people who don’t believe that are the folks who still listen to eight-track tapes and record programs on their Sony Betamax machines.

Another MNB user had his own ideas:

TIVO is they way to go - forget the VHS tapes. We bought our unit over two years ago and bought a second one for our bedroom set. It's absolutely awesome and incredibly easy. I highly recommend to anyone!

As for the 'self-destructing' DVD's, sounds like a great idea - except what are we going to do with the millions of used DVD's once the 48-hours is expired. Like the mounds of obsolete computer parts in parts of Asia that have been profiled on 60 Minutes, I can see these used disks piling up quickly. Can they be recycled or re-used?

And MNB user Brad Morris had a recommendation:

You mentioned that the only reason to have a VCR is to tape CSI, etc. It is arguable that even this is unnecessary.

Since 2001, I have subscribed to a satellite service. Included in my receiver is a digital video recorder. I never watch live TV anymore. I tape everything I might desire to watch and view what I will at my convenience. The only reason I still have a VCR is so the kids can watch the few movies we have that we have not bothered to repurchase as DVDs. If my VCR were to break tomorrow, I wouldn’t bother to replace it.

And another MNB user chimed in:

Does anyone remember DIVX? This service provided a 48-hour window to watch DVD materials. You would buy a DIVX movie; the technology was installed on some DVD machines and through a phone connection, the viewing window would start once you decided you were ready to view the DVD. You had to buy a DIVX-capable machine, which at the time was an additional $100.

The now, watch later. No disc to return or late fees. DIVX costs were competitive with rental. After you were done, you could throw it away or for an additional fee, you could convert your DIVX to a normal DVD (unlimited viewing).
KC's View: